Alvin sticks out his tongue when he is nervous

Saturday, March 31, 2012

What Are You Lookin' At?

I am embarrassed to admit that I have had a committed a major oversight in regards to Alvin's talent.  I have been so concentrated on Alvin's burping talents that until now I didn't realize that Alvin needs to be entered into a staring contest because he could bank a serious sum of money.  Do you have any idea how many treats he could buy with his award money?  He could potentially make enough money to pay his own adoption donation and emancipate himself from foster care.  Whatever the case, his staring talents have reached a point where he could legitimately compete against any member of the animal kingdom, as well as be a very worthy competitor with humans, with the caveat that he would be allowed to bring in his own object for staring, which of course would be my mom.  We recently had a marathon TV session and Alvin stared at her for hours.  He continues to stand at her feet but she has become so used to it that she doesn't even notice him anymore.  However, he is engaging in a behavior that is driving her nuts!  When not staring, he taps with his nose progressively up her leg.  He starts at her feet and begins to lightly tap her, while going up her foot and then her shin.  When his nose it cold and/or wet it just drives her crazy but there's just no talking him out of it and once he has tapped as far as he can reach he then goes back to her foot and starts all over again.  If she doesn't pull her leg away he will continue it until something distracts him but after looking around, he goes right back to staring at her.  His fur around his muzzle has a very deep, plush feel to it and it is softer than rabbits fur.  He so gently taps her and it looks so tender and sweet - mindbogglingly odd but really sweet.

My mom has developed a new approach with Alvin, which that everything she picks up or has in her hand, she holds it where Alvin can see and sniff it.  He deeply inhales several times but once he has had the opportunity to investigate, he can move on.  They are sweet together because she rarely forgets to show him an item and is so patient with him while he takes his time tapping and sniffing.  Until today I thought that he was doing his usual autistic nose tapping but it all of a sudden dawned on me that he sniffs new objects to assess whether it is food or not.  His obsession with food has not diminished at all and it falls way outside of the normal cocker spaniel love of food.  It is clear that Alvin thinks about food every waking moment and I can only imagine that his dreams are filled with raw hides, beef sticks, and chicken breasts.  I suspected that before coming into rescue that he was a dog that was forced to stay outside and I am also starting to wonder if his owner forgot and/or just didn't feed him regularly.  Some of this food obsession reminds me of when I worked with children in foster care that had previously lived in neglectful environments and because they had often experienced times when they were not fed, food became one of the central issues for them when entering a foster home.  I think Alvin's former foster home was better for him in regards to food.  There were many other dogs in the home and as a consequence, his foster mother could not hand out treats because it could have started many a dog fight.  She had a baby gate up in her kitchen so that the dogs couldn't congregate in the kitchen and possibly start fighting.  She was very structured about when the meal times were and she told me that on the few occasions that she was late in feeding him that he started circling, while licking his lips and clearly knew that she was late.  Here at Camp Chaos, our schedule is far more flexible and often up for interpretation.  Plus, I tend to give a fair amount of tricks throughout the day.  I figure that if your happiness depends on walks, hanging out with humans, and eating that why not spread a little happiness throughout the day?  I am very careful about not feeding them to the point that they gain weight because that would not spread happiness but rather spread blimpiness.  Since Alvin is on the move so much, he quickly burns any extra calories.  I was hoping that over time when he realized that food was readily available that the obession would decrease because that works with kids but in Alvin's case, the only impact is that he very well may be more obsessed.  With that said, unless I come to find out that giving him extra treats is harmful to him, I don't have the heart to deprive him. 

Speaking of Alvin's love for food, I have finally found something Alvin won't eat and to preface this story, let me remind everyone that I am the one that once cheated on an IQ test and clearly I am not always the brightest light in the room.  So now that we have established that common sense sometimes escapes me, I recently found out that Alvin won't eat mint flavored Tums.  Yes, as in Tums the stomach medication.  I knew that Tums weren't harmful to dogs and sometimes even prescribed, after I tried to chew a mint-flavored Tums and I found the taste to be repugnant, I then offered it up to Alvin and for the very first time Alvin rejected something edible.  I then offered it to Stevie and she had it down the hatch in record time.  Similar to Alvin, I haven't been able to find anything Stevie won't eat, with the exception of the chewable pill she takes every night and one that tends to be popular with dogs.  Nope, she just won't eat it and so every night I have to hide it in a piece of hot dog and I never forget to do it because Alvin is quick to remind me when it's hot dog time because he then gets a piece too.  Alvin often reminds me of the importance of simple pleasures because every time I take the hot dog package out, he becomes nearly a blur because he is excitedly twirling like a whirling dervish.  Although those moments help remind me of the importance of simple pleasures, I never take too much time to reflect because I am always afraid that he is going to spin himself right into the wall and come out with a concussion.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Amorous Alvin

It has become increasingly clear to me that Alvin's permanent home needs to have at least one dog in it because he really enjoys other dogs.  I think he would have a tough time without another dog because he looks to the other dogs to gauge some of his reactions and often imitates their behavior.  He seems comforted by the presence of another dog and because Stevie is nearly deaf, she has little to no reaction to loud noises.  When there are loud noises like my turbo powered shop vacuum, he always looks to her to see what her response will be and 9 times out of 10, she is dead to the world.  As I write this, I am wondering if that is why Alvin isn't afraid of loud noises.  As I have mentioned here in the past, I am perplexed that such a fearful dog isn't afraid of loud noises and have questioned why that is but right at this moment I am wondering if Stevie's reaction, or non reaction to loud noises might be the answer.  Huh!

Back to Alvin's need for another dog in his permanent home, it will have to be another submissive dog because in his last foster home there were two brother dogs that would chase him and it would make him cry.  Can you imagine how sad that was to see?  Before I took Alvin, I had spent a couple nights at his then foster home and I saw the two dogs chase him.  There was one that was more of the bully than the other.  They might have been trying to play with him but one would nip at his ears and poor little Alvin would cry and run and the other dog wouldn't stop.  I have known of the other dog since he was eight-weeks old and so I got to see him during that cute puppy stage.  I should at least like that dog but I find that I hold his bullying against him and he is one of the only dogs that I don't particularly like.  It's pathetic, but I hold a grudge on Alvin's behalf.

Now back to the love story.  If you recall, Alvin was able to make pretty good friends with my dog, Timmie and when I brought his body back from the ER and had him in a container, Alvin repeatedly cried.  I was really sad for Alvin because he hadn't managed to make any friends at his former foster home and had finally made a buddy. But now things are looking up because Alvin is becoming increasingly attached to Stevie.  This could be a cause for concern if Stevie were to get adopted and leave Alvin but fear not, because the only dog that has less of a chance of being adopted than Alvin, is Stevie.  There just aren't people clamoring to adopt a 10-plus year-old deaf and seeing impaired dog. 

During the last week or so, I have watched Alvin and Stevie's relationship develop, although it seems to be pretty one-sided.  I do have to feel sorry for Alvin because he clearly wants to companionship of other dogs but he is so socially delayed that he tends to confuse them.  With that said, during the past week I have noticed that when I have both of them up on the bed that Alvin always ends up lying next to her with their bodies touching.  Stevie can take or leave cuddling and she lets him stay near her.  What has been particularly sweet is that on two occasions this week I allowed Alvin to sleep on the floor and I have found him both times lying next to the dog bed that Stevie is in.  He doesn't try to get in it with her but cuddles up as close to the bed as he can.  Alvin loves dog beds and it is very rare that I find him sleeping on the floor.  There are three dog beds in my bedroom and until recently he would always get in one of the unoccupied beds but now he has started to sleep on the floor right next to her.  He usually puts himself to bed before I go in the bedroom, which means Stevie is in the living room with me.  On those occasions Alvin gets in one of the dog beds in my room and goes to sleep but now when Stevie has come in and laid in one of the beds Alvin has moved to sleep on the floor next to her. 

Stevie seems fairly neutral when it comes to Alvin.  During the day if I am sitting down and there isn't any distracting activity, Alvin is likely to be found following Stevie around and I can't adequately describe how closely he observes her.  I have no doubt that he has learned quite a bit from watching her.  Besides the lack of reaction to loud noises, the best example is how he greets me when I come home.  Stevie flips out with joy every time I come home, even if it's just me going out to get something out of the car in my driveway.  Alvin has increasingly had an animated, joyful response to my return and I am doubtful that it would be such a large reaction if he hadn't observed Timmie's and now Stevie's reactions. 

So, it seems as though Alvin has formed a bit of a bond with the old girl.  It will never rival his bond with my mom but it is still quite cute to see.  I also concede that there is no way for me to compete with his affections against the adorable, although often gassy Stevie and my mom that moonlights as the animal whisper.  I've learned to choose my battles.

The Battle of the Beds

As I previously mentioned, Maddie, the cat completely took over the dog bed that I had placed on my bed for Alvin to use at night.  Maddie is a California cat in that she stays inside all winter long and is often found in front of the wall heater.  The minute it warms up she is outside from sun up until I drag her back in at around 11:00 PM.  She is nearly 16-years-old and is slowing down and so she spends the vast majority of her time sleeping.  She has attached herself to that particular dog bed to the point that she only gets out of it to eat or go to the bathroom.  Other than that, she is always, always in it.  The dogs know not to mess with it and have each recieved a tap on the head when they tried to get in while she was in it.  It is clear that she would gladly share it with them but Alvin is like a bull in a china closet when she taps him on the head because every once in a while something scares him while up on my bed and he starts twirling around while practically knocking her off the bed.  When Stevie was blind she would periodically try to jump in it, not realizing that it was already occupied.  She has only tapped their heads out of necessity but they clearly took the warning seriously and now poor Maddie can't get anyone to share her bed.  Like mother, like daughter.  Recently, she had gone outside to go to the bathroom and when she came in Stevie was in her bed.  I watched her intently because I knew there was going to be some type of reaction and sure enough, she walked in, looked up, did a double take and literally halted.  She was clearly taken aback but was a good sport and got on my bed, curling up right next to the dog bed.  Yesterday I put Alvin on my bed but something freaked him out and he ended up jumping into the vacant dog bed.  He looked around as though he knew he wasn't supposed to be in it but because he tends not to move once he is on the big bed, he stayed put and cuddled in for a nap.  Maddie came in and had the same reaction, with double take and all.  She then got on the bed and ended up very slowly and gentle climbing on the ledge of the dog bed and went to sleep inches away from Alvin.  While she was climbing up and positioning herself, Alvin's eyes kept getting big as saucers, while clearly contemplating whether or not he should make a run for it.  Maddie very daintly and carefully laid down on the ledge because she continues to want nothing more than to be able to cuddle with one of the dogs.  She doesn't even care which dog and has liked every dog I have brought into the house. 

I recently posted this picture but for those that might have missed it, this is the typical dog bed arrangement between Maddie and either dog.

Maddie was brought to an animal shelter in San Jose, with a male cat when she was nine-years-old.  The reason for giving them up was listed as their nine-year-old daugther having allergies.  By Maddie's reaction to dogs, I strongly suspect that she was raised with a dog that she was very bonded to.  I continue my search for her own pet dog but so far I have not found one that will cuddle with her.  I recently took pictures with my phone of her creeping up on both dogs while they were sleeping and lying next to them.  One picture shows Alvin laying his head on her stomach because in his sleep he moved his head and Maddie's little purr maching fired right up.  I don't have a phone that allows me to transfer the pictures but at some point I will text the picture to someone and have them e-mail it to me so that I can post it here.

I have decided that once Maddie goes, I won't get another cat because she is just perfect and it would be a let down to try to get another cat remotely like her.  She isn't afraid of anything and I do mean anything.  She drinks out of the garden hose like a dog, will approach anyone, and has been instrumental in making all my foster dogs cat-friendly.  She isn't at all afraid of riding in the car and used to go on drives with me, while lying on the passenger side dash board or on the back ledge by the rearview mirror.  Unfortunately, she has developed extreme motion sickness that results in her throwing up and having diarehea each time and so the days of her being my automotive co-pilot are over.  She has been the ideal cat and I so wish that I could repay her by getting her her own dog, and yes, I realize how crazy I sound when saying I want to find my cat her own pet dog but unfortunately, over time I have turned into "that person".

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Stupid Human Tricks

For those of you familiar with David Letterman's Stupid Human Tricks, he often features people that do odd, silly tricks and this evolved from when he previously featured pets that would also do unique, quirky tricks and the segment was called, Stupid Pet Tricks, or something to that effect.  Although I am about to write about an animal trick, I titled this post, Stupid Human Tricks, because it seems like I am outsmarted by one, or both of the dogs on a daily basis.  For the most part, Stevie tends to be the brains of the operation and once again, she outsmarted me while Alvin stayed close by taking notes. 

Every since Stevie arrived her almost a year ago, I have been forced to put their dog food containers up on my counter top or the kitchen table because although the containers both have very sturdy latches, Stevie manages to either pop the latch open or when she can't get it open she manages to tip the whole container over (they are heavy), which often results in the latch un-popping andfoodstrewn all over the floor.  Before I wised up, I woke up many a time to the sound of a thud and realized that there was not a dog in sight because they were all frantically gobbling up all the food before I could get in there and shut the party down.  Timmie used to love when Stevie would do it and enjoyed the fruits of her labor while I was frantically trying to scoop up a large quantities of food.  Stevie also managed to do this on several occasions when I had other foster dogs here and I noticed that every one of them would gulp down the food at a frantic pace because they knew there was a limited amount of time until I (the culinary grim reaper) showed up and took it away.  It took me a long time to figure out that she was actually able to pop the latch open because in order to do so, she had to find the latch (she was blind) and then make two nearly simultaneous movements of biting down and out.  It isn't an easy thing to do and so I was convinced each time that I had not put the latch back on tight enough or that she was only able to un-pop it with the force that resulted in her knocking it completely over.  So, I went to the trouble of positioning the food containers in ways that didn't allow her the leverage to knock them over.  I tried for a long time to fix the problem without having to put the containers on the counter tops because it took up a lot of room and looked tacky.  I even got a rolling container, making it nearly impossible to knock over.  I finally admitted defeat and put the containers up, where they remained for several months.  Recently, I put them on the floor while I was cleaning the table and it was then that I got my first glimpse of what Stevie actually does.  I was more than impressed based on what I saw.  She sniffed around all of the edges until she could feel with her nose where the latch was.  She then managed to position her teeth just right so that she could then bite down and out.  I didn't think it would be possible for a dog to figure out the two separate movements required to open it.  She then got on her hind legs, kept the lid open by placing her head and neck in the container and took a very large bite of food, got down, spit the food out and then ate it.  She actually knew how to store the food in her mouth to get the maximum benefit for her troubles and when she spit it out it equalled approximately one-quarter of a cup.  Of course, food obsessed Alvin was right there and so very much wanted to partake in the loot but Stevie is less than generous with her stolen goods, which irked me because she wasn't even willing to share stolen merchandise with her wing man.  When I have walked in on this in the past, occasionally Stevie had let a kibble or two roll away and it was only then that Alvin got a piece of the loot.  When discovering what she actually did, I then  kept latching the lid and then sitting on the couch and watching her perform it several times.  She is able to see but not from much of a distance and it was clear that she didn't think I was around.  She won't do it if I am right there, which of course establishes the fact that she knows she isn't supposed to do it.  I knew I needed to get a picture of it, although I am now realizing that I actually need to video it some time because it's quite something to behold.  When deciding to take a picture, I rolled the container into the kitchen and placed it in the middle of the floor where I could get the best lighting and sure enough, she fell for it.  Here is a picture of the criminal caught in the act.

Alvin continues to have a food obsession and it's all he can do not to run up and take some of the loot but he's smart enough to know that Stevie would deliver an immediate smack down.  Stevie is not only a thief but has violent propensities when her stolen goods are messed with.  This is the same dog that stole all my strawberries, routinely gets into my purse and pulls out my wallet, and managed to pick pocket a police officer (true story).  'Ya just can't save 'em all!

Get me on my Good Side

After giving Alvin his bath I have been trying to brush him and that is going nearly as well as the bath itself.  I noticed something interesting about him.  Every time I have bathed him he resists being touched on his right side.  He also experiences a lot of anxiety when I try to brush that side and I finally realized that that is the side of Alvin's scar.  Alvin has a large scar on his right side, along his rib cage.  I can only guess that the memory of the injury stays with him and he has a need to try to protect the area. Could he get even a slight break?

So, the brushing isn't going well and he looks like a little, possibly homeless fuzz ball,  Unfortunately, Alvin has cowlicks and his hair is standing straight up in various places and it's just not a good look for him.  While trying to brush him and snip a couple of tangles out with the scissors, Alvin decided enough is enough and he managed to jump off the bed and make a run for it.  My bed is high up and usually Alvin is too afraid to jump off but today he drew the line and not only made a get away but he is now either staying outside and peaking in or back to running in circles, which I have single-handily caused him to resume.  I guess the good news is that he doesn't smell like a zoo anymore and I'm hoping for his sake that he doesn't take a look in the mirror.  I am not expecting a Christmas card from his this year.

The Sleight of Hand

It seems as though I am discovering a great deal recently about Alvin and the latest discovery has me baffled.  As you will recall, a few months ago Alvin learned to sit.  I taught him by holding one hand above his head with a treat in it.  I have always held it with my finger tips and my palm pointing towards the ceiling.  Last night I gave him the command while holding a treat, but my palm was pointing towards the floor.  Alvin just kept looking and looking at me but he would not sit.  I gave him the command several times and Alvin frantically searched my face while licking his lips but he didn't seem to understand what he was supposed to do.  I then flipped my hand over the usual way, gave him the command and he immediately sat.  I knew the only difference was the position of my hand and over the course of hours I have periodically given him the same test and every single time he won't sit until my hand is held in the usual way.  I tried to record it but I had difficulty holding the camera and he kept getting distracted by the it.  I will figure out how to video it because one really has to see it to believe it.  I have often commented on how observant he is and he is a little guy that largely depends on predictability but this one is really odd. 

I have grown increasingly impressed with Alvin's ability to now take treats gently from my hand.  Every day he gets better at it and is has become a rare occurrence that he nearly bites my fingers off.  On the contrary, he has actually become particularly gentle when taking them.  The gentleness coincides with his general demeanor and in the past, he just didn't know how to take the treat and had to get a lot of practice in.  Luckily, we do a lot of treat taking practice here.  Thankfully I still have every finger, which has come in handy (bad pun intended).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I Need to Foster a Labrador Next Time

I barely finished writing about the fact that Alvin has dramatically decreased his looping behavior and then within a matter of hours I go and ruin it.  I bathed Alvin tonight........ and we both lived to tell about it but barely.  My mom very rudely told Alvin today that he smelled and when I asked her what he smelled like, she replied, "a zoo".  I don't go to zoos because I find seeing animals living in small areas being subjected to people staring at them to be depressing and I end up apologizing out loud to each one of them, which makes me come across as a schizophrenic and people tend to pull their children away from me.  Although I have limited experience with zoos, I don't think smelling like a one was a compliment.  Tomorrow my dad is coming to stay at my house for few day and I decided that being around a zoo animal probably isn't on his bucket list.  The bad part is that I had no sedatives left (for either one of us) and so I knew we were in for quite an experience.  Once again, I stretched and ran in place to get warmed up for the big event and donned by bathing suit to get in with him.  I hoped that Alvin would appreciate my act of solidarity but it seemed to go unnoticed.  This time, I went in with a mission statement, a goal, and an objective.  The mission statement was, to provide my dad with an environment where all three of us were bathed, and I figured it was a two-for with Alvin and me in there together.  The objective was to, wash away the majority of the zoo smell, while giving him the world's quickest bath.  The goal was, that we would both come out alive and neither of us would need surgery afterwords.  Although I can report that we were able to live up to the mission, goal, and objective, I forgot the part about helping Alvin continue to reduce his looping and he has literally not stopped looping since the bath two hours ago.  I also forgot the part about feeling like the world's worst person because he keep trembling and panicking while in the bathtub.  As I'm sure you all know, Alvin is fearful of touch, particularly of any touch that comes over his head and on his back.  For any of you that have bathed a dog, you know that kind of touch is an integral part of the bathing process.  Once we finished, which didn't come too soon because while he was trembling, I was panting and sweating, I then tried to dry him off.  This of course means a lot of touch all over his body, including areas like his stomach, legs and feet.  To put it nicely, that did not go as well as I would have liked and I ended up with a very wet dog looping around the living room.  I pumped the heat up to 80 degrees and it really is a marvel at how fast a very wet dog dries when looping in an 80 degree environment.  I even brought in a bunch of treats to give him during the bath but I realized that he was convinced he was having a near death experience because he would not eat them.  Alvin would be the only dog able to eat while in a coma and so his refusal of treats made me know that I was absolutely terrifying him and my self esteem plummeted to an all-time low. 

After the bath, I laid down towels so that he could rub on them like every other dog on the planet does after a bath but he has no concept of doing such a thing and ended up using one of them to do tight loops on.  Thankfully, it is right next to the wall heater so he is drying in record time.  One thing he did quickly realize is that I felt guilty as sin and that he could capitalize on it, and so he has done nothing but loop and beg for treats, which I have given into more times than I can count because I get this face every time and I just can't resist.

I think I better get a Lab next time because at some point, I need to have a dog that likes water and baths because bathing dogs that are shaking and scared nearly sends me to therapy every time. 

I did come to the realization recently that Alvin has the ability to con me.  A few days ago, we were outside with Alvin on a leash and I decided to ask him to sit.  I have never tried it outside of the house away from the treat container and so I wanted to see if he could do the trick in a different environment.  I asked him to sit, while holding my hand above his head and he started to sit and then repeatedly tried to sniff my hand.  It was very clear that he was try to determine if there was a treat involved and when he discovered that there was not one, he wouldn't sit.  I tried it repeatedly and every time he started to sit, frantically sniffed my hand, and then stood back up.  I didn't press the issue because I found that I was some what impressed with his ability to be manipulative and conniving and it just reinforced my decision not to produce children because I would laugh when they were naughty and end up raising budding sociopaths. 

I have started to wonder how often Alvin reflects on the fact that right now I am his best option and whether that puts him into major depressive episodes.  I think his only consolation is the hope that maybe there is someone there that will deliver him from this loony bin, and so consider it an act of mercy and please help me find someone to take this poor guy before I do irreparable psychological damage to him.  He has his bones packed and he will loop his way to a new home with only a moment's notice and then I will get a Labrador to bathe.

What's Behind Door Number One?

Well, let me just tell you that we have experienced a lot of new developments here at Casa Crazy Canine.  First, in the past week there has been a noticeable decrease in Alvin's looping/circling behavior.  I would estimate that the looping has decreased by about 70%.  I didn't mention it to my mom and today she said that she noticed that Alvin isn't looping like he used to, and so there is clearly a noticeable difference to someone other than me.  When watching him, it's like his anxiety switch was flipped down a few notches.

With that said, Alvin did partake in his decapitation looping today when out on a walk and poor Stevie was the victim.  While we were walking Alvin suddenly cut right and tried to loop in front of Stevie and while doing so, he managed to nearly clothesline Stevie with his leash.  As I tried to save Stevie from certain decapitation by freeing the leash from her neck, Alvin continued his loop way too tight while circling behind her and she got his leash right under her tail and probably has leash burns in a very sensitive area.  About an hour later when Alvin nearly tripped me in the kitchen, I caught myself saying, "Alvin you really are going to kill somebody some day," which seems to be a daily mantra in this house.  Luckily, Stevie and I remain committed to being patient - physically battered, but patient.

Every time there is a knock at the door, Alvin gets very excited because more often than not, it's my mom and his favorite phrase is, come in, and he clearly knows what it means.  A few times I have yelled it out just to see what how he will respond and in the past, he has always ran straight to the front door.  I say used to, because he has recently started a very perplexing habit of running to the back door to look for her.  My mom never, ever goes through the back door because it   It is the leads into the garage and the only time it is ever used is when I am doing laundry - and so it is virtually never, ever used.....ha!  He now runs to that door and I can hear him circling around looking for her.  She repeatedly calls him and he can't seem to locate her.  Alvin appears to hear and see just fine but when he is looking for something or somebody, he keeps his head down and repeatedly looks at the ground.  I can't even venture a guess as to what that is about but every single time I call him, he hears something interesting, my mom comes over, or anything else, Alvin frantically runs around looking at the ground.  Once we are able to coax him away from that door, my mom repeatedly calls him while waving her hands in the air and sometimes stomping her foot and yet, it always takes Alvin quite a bit of time to find her.  Hopefully at some point he will resort to going back to the right door and staring at the ground there.

A couple of days ago, I decided that I would groom Stevie and I barely got the clippers going before Alvin literally ran into the bedroom and refused to come out.  I was grooming Stevie in increments of 10-20 minutes and then allowing her to take a 30-60 minute break.  This process took much of the day and Alvin did not come out of the bedroom until around 4:00 PM.  I went into the bedroom to visit him and he was very receptive to my visits, while being particularly cuddly but he wouldn't come out except to occasionally peak his head around the corner when the clippers were turned off.  He finally ventured out around 4:00 PM but then went straight outside and stood outside the open glass door, with just his head inside the door.  I had told my mom what he was doing but clearly seeing was believing because she couldn't stop laughing when she came over and watched him.  He wasn't having a thing to do with those clippers.  While grooming Stevie I realized that I hadn't groomed Alvin enough and was disappointed because I had already given him the one remaining sedative.  After having completed Stevie's grooming and after everything had calmed down for a couple of hours, I thought that I would give it a try with Alvin, with the idea of just quickly trying to thin his skirt by doing a few quick, sweeping movements while staying quite far away from his skin.  Well, that may go down as one of the stupidest ideas I have had in a while because he completely freaked out.  I got three swipes and Alvin was leaping, struggling, and pretty much in a blind panic.  He jumped so hard that his front legs came crashing down on Stevie's back and she leaped around, wondering what in the heck could possibly have happened.  He reminded me of when a horse completely panics and uncontrollably leaps in the air.  After the fact, I reflected on what possessed me to come up with such an obviously stupid idea and I realized that I routinely come with some really dumb ideas.  I can't blame my cognitive abilities because I had my IQ tested twice and the first time it came out fairly high.  The second time I got bored with the test and ended up copying off the girl sitting next to me and my IQ dropped by 20 points.  Who cheats on an IQ test?  Yet, another example of a really stupid idea I had.  Luckily there was no common sense test rendered before getting to foster Alvin and between the two of us we routinely defy logic.  I realize now that people may be reading this, not to try to determine Alvin's "issues" but rather to marvel at the fact that the poor dog has to live with me and continues to live to tell about it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Alphabet diagnosis'

Alvin has made such progress in the affection department that he is now able to display signs jealousy and compete for attention and affection - not towards me, of course but towards, you guessed it, the lady of the hour, my mom!  As previously discussed, Alvin only has eyes for my mom but now he has become so attached that when Stevie approaches her for attention, Alvin comes running and puts his head in her hand.  She tried to make him wait his turn because he literally nudges her hand and will stretch his neck over Stevie's back to try to be the closest but I told her that I didn't think this needed to be an opportunity to teach Alvin to wait because she is the most important thing in his life and it's okay if he asserts himself.  I can't imagine how important she must be to him in order for him to display any type of assertiveness but he does, in his own peace-loving way.  Stevie's the only one in this house who seems to like me best and she gets plenty of affection and attention without having to distress poor Alvin. 

Yesterday we all went for a walk with my mom and Alvin was often right next to her and when we got too far ahead of her, I would feel a tug on the leash and find him standing still and waiting for her.  When he wasn't trying to be next to my mom, he was busy careening into Stevie.  When Alvin does his loops, he is utterly unaware of his body or poor Stevie and he tends to cut her off over and over again.  His complete oblivion continues to astonish me.  Forget the autism, he clearly has all kinds of OCD, and watching him practically run over Stevie makes me think he is ADHD and from his past, he probably has PTSD.  He seems to suffer from every alphabet diagnosis out there.

Speaking of sedatives, Alvin needs another bath....ugh!  We had one more dose left of his sedative and after grooming him, I just didn't have the heart to put him through a bath too.  I am going to see if I can get a small quantity of sedatives to use during bath and grooming time.  As I previously mentioned, our last attempt when bathing him went far better but I think I have some residual PTSD from the other "episode".  So, if you're keep count at home.  I have PTSD and definitely ADD, while Alvin trumps me with OCD, PTSD, and ADHD.  One more incident and I may be able to even the score with a yet to be determined alphabet diagnosis.  Stay tuned.

Potty Party!

Okay, it's a fact - Alvin not only reads but clearly is reading this particular blog because once again, after venting about Alvin going to the bathroom in the house, he has consistently gone back outside to go potty again.  I think that I just need to keep writing when he engages in unbecoming behavior and then wait for him to read about it and correct it.  Hours after writing about him going potty side, he started to do his potty prance and I opened the door, repeatedly pointed while telling him to go outside and then I took up my station on the couch and watched him like a hawk.  Sure enough, after a few more prances he went outside.  We ended up then having a potty party, which consisted of me praising him profusely and everyone got a few treats.  Maddie and Stevie also got treats and I am trying to instill animal positive peer pressure.

Speaking of peer pressure, I watched an impressive display of intelligence and perseverance and it all took place in my own living room.  This had to be noted because there aren't many displays of intelligence in my house, including, well, particularly including me.  Stevie is my, until recently blind and still deaf dog.  After cataract surgery, she has some vision but it's still limited.  When Stevie was completely blind, she managed to go out into my garden and would eat every one of my ripe strawberries.  I couldn't figure out why I never had any ripe strawberries and blamed it on the birds and rodents until one early morning when I caught Stevie going from each strawberry plant, sniffing each berry and evidently through smell could figure out which ones were ripe.  She would not take one that wasn't completely ripe but once she found a good one, she would gingerly pluck it off and eat it.  It was really a marvel to see but then I was bitter because I had spent so many hours not only planting the strawberry plants but also fertilizing them very often for maximum berry production.  There had been a lot of work, even involving me going out with a flashlight to pluck off the offending, strawberry wrecking insects that came out at night and I would hand pluck each insect off.  After all that work, Stevie was robbing me blind (pun intended) and because she would sneak out there at the crack of dawn, she always beat me to them and at the end of the summer I had only managed to get one, yes,I wrote ONE strawberry for myself.  It turned out to be no coincidence that after strawberry season was over that she began to sleep in until often noon.  Today I looked at the clock at 11:00 AM and she had finally managed to get up and I took note of the time because it was kind of an early morning for her.  But watch in a few months for Stevie to be back up at the crack of dawn because that seems to be the best strawberry picking (or stealing as we refer to it here) time.

So clearly she's always been a crafty little thing but tonight I finally discovered the mystery of another eating behavior she has. I store their dry dog food in plastic containers that have a latch on them.  I have been forced to put the containers up on my counters or on the kitchen table because I woke up far too many times to find the entire container knocked over, the lid unlatched, and all dogs (and sometimes even the cat) having the feasts of all feasts.  Until tonight I thought that Stevie managed to knock the whole thing over and that on impact it somehow managed to pop the lid open but tonight I discovered that it is far more sophisticated and borders on brilliant.  I couldn't even get upset with her because any dog that is that smart deserves extra kibble.  What she does is to go around the container and sniff and feel until she locates where the latch is.  She then is able to take her teeth and pull down and then out to release the latch.  The latch is not at all easy to get off and requires two separate, quick motions.  She has already managed to figure out that if she steps on the pedestal of the bathroom trash can, while then putting her head under the lid when it pops up that she can get into the trash but this latest discovery takes the cake.  The food bins are on wheels and I have caught her on her hind legs pushing the container and I realized tonight that after she's smart enough to pop the latch that she then likes to knock over the container because it's far more convenient to eat if her food is strewn all over the floor.  Historically, this has made her extremely popular with the other dogs in the house and I have caught them lined up just waiting for her to complete the task.  Tonight when I saw her unlatch the lid, I went over and latched it again.  This threw her off and she started searching for the latch, thinking it must be somewhere else.  She carefully sniffed and mouthed the lid, inch by inch.  Alvin was carefully watching her and about the cutest thing I have ever seen was when Stevie gave up and Alvin imitated what he had seen and sniffed nearly the entire lid also.  He then gave up but I think he is under the impression that sniffing the lid makes it pop off.  Alvin has a vested interest in keeping Stevie around because I think he is under the impression that Stevie has an extra powerful sniffer that can even pop latches open.  I think Stevie is a god right now in Alvin's eyes.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Praise the Lord

And if you don't come from a Christian background then praise Allah, Buddha, Joseph Smith, Little Red Riding Hood, or whoever.

I took Alvin for his check up at the orthopedic surgeon and Alvin is completely healed and his x-rays looked great!  He is ahead of schedule and no longer needs to be on cage rest.......yes, well the "cage rest" had to end a long time ago, if you recall.  We did do that bed rest thing for the first six weeks but I couldn't stay on the bed all the time and we had to abandon that too.  I was quite apprehensive about taking him because what can go wrong, does when it comes to Alvin.  I was worried that he would need another surgery because recently another cocker that had the exact same condition and also had a first unsuccessful surgery, and had a second surgery by the same surgeon, had to have another surgery due to too much scar tissue build up.  Alvin also had a lot of scar tissue when they went in for the second surgery, his condition was worse than the other dog's, and we weren't able to put Alvin on the cage rest that the other dog did.  I just couldn't imagine that Alvin's outcome would be more successful and this was the best possible news.  I could hardly bear the idea of him going through another surgery and both of us going through the rehab again but the coast is clear and he can now go back to the dog park!  Because there always seems to be some hiccup, the dog park just abruptly closed until the end of April.  'Ya just can't win them all.

Last night, I gave Alvin his last sedative in order to groom him and let's just say, he won't be winning any awards for best groomed dog.  He squirmed far less due to being sedated and I was able to get all his face hair shaved completely down, which was what I most wanted because his eyes continue to water and it doesn't dry very fast because of the fur.  It was enough of a struggle that I broke out in a sweat but it was night and day from grooming a non-sedated Alvin.  I did get a little rattled and mixed up the 4 blade with the 10 blade and didn't catch it until my mom asked by Alvin was bald in one place.  He is quite uneven but if you don't look closely and you aren't a groomer, then it passes. 

I had to drive Alvin two hours both ways to the surgeon, which considering Alvin gets nervous riding in cars, it makes for a hard day for him.  Not to mention that I was delivering him to his own personal house of horrors.  I ended up bring Stevie for moral support.  Alvin continues to improve when riding in the car and was able to go to sleep within 45 minutes of the drive, he wasn't salivating, panting, or doing that shaking thing he used to do that I once mistook for a seizure (we sure have been through a lot together).  When we got to the place, I watched Alvin and I didn't get the impression that he realized where he was because I can always tell when he is stressed by the way he holds his mouth.  I think it helped to have Stevie with him.  Then the bad lady came to take him to the chamber of doom, aka the surgical room.  He put on the breaks and didn't even want to go through the door, although he is afraid of doorways in general and so having to go through the doorway to hell was too much!  I was walking ahead of him with Stevie because I was going to use the restroom and when the woman went to turn into the room, Alvin was looking so imploringly at me that I felt like a terrible person.  She then brought him out about 10 minutes later and Alvin looked like he had been electrocuted.  His eyes were as big as saucers and they looked like pinwheels rolling around in his head.  The hair on top of his head was sticking straight up and he was panting, with the characteristic tongue sticking out and mouth wide open that he does when he's terrified.  If I hadn't known, I would have thought that he had been hit with a cattle prod, instead of getting a few x-rays.  She brought him out to what he thought was safety, only to hand him to me to bring him right back in to see the doctor.  They left me alone in the room with him and I tried to apologize but I don't think he could hear over his panting or see due to his eyes rolling around in his head like saucers.  When the surgeon came in and told me that not only will he not require another surgery but that he didn't even have to come in for the usual second check up, I couldn't wait to break the news to Alvin.  As soon as we got out of there I told Alvin that he never had to come back to the place of pain or see that very bad man that made money by cutting dogs on purpose.  I can't tell you how relieved I was to be able to break that news to him.  And I can't tell you how relieved he was to get a bunch of snacks in the car in an effort to try to undo some of the damage because of him associating car rides with being prodded, poked, and cut open.  I have a feeling there will need to be another few thousand snacks to undo that damage.

For those of you who have been through Alvin's surgery saga, I have no doubt you are celebrating with for Alvin and me.  I haven't determined what Alvin's religious leanings are yet and so for now, we'll praise them all!

Monday, March 19, 2012

I Gave my Backyard Away

I have been waiting to see if the recently evicted rat was going to retaliate and just when I thought we might be in the clear, she lowered the boom.  Four nights ago I was sitting in my living room watching TV and I heard a very loud crashing noise.  I assumed something in the kitchen must have fallen but I couldn't imagine what it could be because of the loudness of the crash.  I went into the kitchen and then became a bit frightened because it was clear that the crashing noise had not come from the kitchen and the only other place it could have had come from was outside on the porch.  It was after 11:00 at night and I worried that someone was out there.  I do not share Alvin's reaction to danger by running towards it and yet, I have a reaction that is nearly as dysfunctional and useless, which is to stand perfectly still, look away from the danger, and hope it goes away.  After clicking my heals three times and discovered that I had not been magically transported to my "safe place", I grudgingly decided that I needed to at least take a peak outside.  I did not see anyone and finally decided to slowly open the back door.  Still not hearing or seeing anything, I took one step outside and then BAM!  I saw her!  It was the rat and she was back!  She took a long look at me and then took off for the bush.  I realized that she must have jumped on something that then came crashing to the ground.  I refused to investigate further and determined that I had managed to thoroughly piss off the Cujo of the rodent world.  For the next four days when letting the dogs out I refused to go out there and although I am not Catholic, I made the sign of the cross and wished them the best - but they were on their own.  Upon further reflection, I concluded that although I had taken the rat's house away from her, I was relinquishing any and all rights to my entire backyard because she has me beat.  A rat owns me at this point and I can only take comfort in the fact that a rat's life expectancy is much less than a humans.  Today I finally got up the courage to go out to try to figure out what the source of the crash was and I discovered that she had managed to knock down a plastic container that had heavy automotive type tools it, along with small gardening pots and supplies.  I assume that the cause of the commotion was the heavy tools hitting the concrete.  I would take comfort if the commotion had caused her to flee but in reality, she stayed around and was waiting for me when I came out.  I am pretty sure I saw her turn up her lip and I heard her say, "What's up now sucker?  I own you."  So, I am now formally giving away my entire backyard.  It's hers, she can have it.  I am now wondering if that's why Alvin refuses to go out there and maybe this is the first time he has been smart enough to stay away from danger.  I sure am paying a big price for evicting one rat!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Alvin's in Trouble

In all the time I have had Alvin (six months and counting) I have not ever felt impatient or angry toward him.  There have been many occasions when either of those emotions would have been appropriate but for whatever reason, I have never felt that way........until recently.  It has been raining and cold here and Alvin's response to this has been to go to the bathroom in the house.  I would have compassion for him, if it were not for the fact that I have a large covered patio right outside the door and it is the area Alvin normally uses to go potty.  In the last couple of days, I came upon many a urine puddle in my living room, which thankfully is all tile.  It is not a matter of him not being able to get out because we have gone back to me freezing my butt off because I often leave the door open for him.  When the back door is not open, I keep a very close eye on him and when he starts to do his potty prance I jump up, open the door, stand by the door while pointing to it, and telling him, " you go potty, Alvin", in my best potty voice.  A couple of nights ago I watched him carefully and he started to engage in a particularly pronounced potty prance of running circles around a chair and on every loop he would glance towards the open back door and continue to loop.  After approximately 15 loops he then squatted and urinated on the floor.  I jumped up, while making the agh, agh noise and showed him the back door.  This appeared to have little impact, other than the initial slight reaction to me saying agh, agh and running towards him.  For a dog that is afraid of his own shadow, he tends to have little reaction to corrections.  I have continued to keep a close eye on him and I have watched him while he keeps looking at the back door and I can practically read his mind.  He clearly considers it and he knows that he is supposed to go out there and yet, most of the time he chooses to go inside.  I don't know why I even bother jumping up and reminding him of the open back door because he seems to have made up his mind that he will be using the indoor "facilities."  I am tired of cleaning up the urine and it makes it particularly frustrating when he stands right next to me and nearly puts his nose in it while intently watching me, because evidently me being his personal maid jut fascinates him to no end.  I do not want to pick him up and make him go outside when he starts the potty prance because of his fear of being lifted off the ground.  I only lift him when putting him on or taking him off the bed.  I want him to only have positive associations with being picked up and I think he would become increasingly upset with being picked up if it were to be put out in the weather that he is clearly trying to avoid.  I think I am going to have to start taking him by the collar and dragging him outside.  I use the term, dragging because he will undoubtedly put on the breaks and slide his way outside.  We had previously established a system of me jumping up, opening the door, showing him with my hand that the door is open, while telling him to go outside and go potty.  He has me trained to the point that I then have to go sit on the couch and not move because if I give any indication that he will be missing out on something he won't go out.  With me jumping through his many hoops, I now find myself  frustrated and at times a bit angry that he insists on going inside and that it is clearly premeditated. 

Alvin has been happy to occasionally have a bed buddy at nighttime.  Lately Stevie has started to want to sleep on the bed again, which initially made me very happy until I realized that she was occasionally wetting herself in her sleep.  She came to me with the problem but it was managed very well through medication.  It became such a non-issue that I quit giving her the medication with great success, but let's just say that she's back on it and leave the rest of the details unmentioned, other than to say that I am one of the only adults with a plastic, urine-proof mattress protector.  Alvin has seemed quite happy with Stevie on the bed and Maddie, the cat is fine with it as long as everyone remembers that the dog bed belongs to her.

To add to Alvin's many abilities, I am now convinced that the boy is not only able to read, but also manages to get on the computer in order to do so.   I came to this realization after countless times of me writing on this blog about something Alvin absolutely will or will not do, only for him to turn around and make a liar out of me within 24 hours. As you recall, I very recently wrote about the fact that once Alvin lies on the bed, he won't move no matter what. The very next night Stevie got on the bed and was sleeping near both of us. Alvin got up, moved next to her, and went back to sleep with the two of them nearly intertwined. Since that night, he has been sleeping very near, if not right next to Stevie and he looks so content. Stevie tends to be quite a sleep kicker and she takes both of her back legs and repeatedly kicks very hard against whatever is next to her. She does it in her sleep, so although it's not personal, it's quite a jolt. Alvin sleeps right through it and stays right next to her.  I am hoping to protect him from the realization that the female beside him is trying to literally kick him out of bed because I just can't imagine that is good for a male's ego. The good news is that once Alvin finally lets down and goes to sleep, he sleeps so soundly that I have checked his breath a few times to make sure he wasn't dead and so the combination of Stevie becoming the Karate Kid in her sleep and Alvin in a near coma, it seems to work. I imagine that Alvin is risking internal injuries by sleeping so close but what's a few bruises for the sake of a good cuddle buddy? Huh, that doesn't sound like a very healthy message but in Alvin's world, it makes sense.

Maddie, the cat must have been watching Stevie and Alvin because she has renewed her efforts to try to cuddle with Alvin.  Twice last night I watched as Maddie plotted her attempt to sleep next to him.  Both times she walked around him very carefully until she could find the best way to get as close to him as possible.  Both times Alvin popped up nervously and turned his head away from her and refused to look at her.  I think he get afraid that she is going to pop him in the face because on a couple of occasions when he accidentally ran into her, she gently "patted" his face with her paw.  Last night she laid very still until Alvin finally laid back down and I could hear her purring motor fire up.  She made the mistake of trying to then lick his face and he then popped up, refusing to look at her again.  She so wants to groom and mother him and I think he would benefit greatly from that relationship, but he seems unable to overlook the fact that she has claws.  If he only knew that the only way I would be completely powerless to ever give him up is if he finally allowed Maddie to have her own pet dog.  Of all the dogs I have had here, I am yet to find Maddie's pet dog.  In the meantime, I find myself showing Alvin how Maddie goes out in the rain and cold and goes outside to go potty even though she has a litter box in the house.  I realize I have hit rock bottom when I hear myself saying, "See Alvin, look how brave Maddie is.  She goes potty outside and you can too."

Upon further reflection I realized that I am in a nuthouse.  I have a cat that not only wants to be a dog, but desperately wants her own dog.  I have Stevie who continues to steal wallets out of purses, and let's not forget her unfathomable eating and vomiting habits that don't warrant repeating. And then I have Alvin.......where would we begin in describing his nuttiness.  With all that said, I realized that I am the common denominator and so what does that make me?  (I will be shutting off the comment section so you all are unable to answer that question because sometimes the truth isn't worth it).

Friday, March 9, 2012

Don't Anger the Rats

I kid you not when I tell you that the rat just returned while I was outside.  When seeing it running toward me I came to the sudden realization that although Alvin may not always go potty outside, I think I just did.  I was sitting outside supervising Stevie while she went out to go potty and I was enjoying the lovely weather and all of a sudden I heard running across the tin roof above me and I thought, surely not!  Then she (I decided the rat is a she because I don't think a male would have made such a lovely home) ran down the trellis right next to me, was clearly planning on make a run for her house, paused,  saw it was gone, and at the least minute made a dive into a bush away from me.  If I could have even moved at that point I am sure I would have started looping just like Alvin.  Instead I sucked in my breath and was temporarily paralyzed.  She looked angry. 

It was all Stevie's fault because I was out there because she keeps going to the areas where I washed the container down and keeps searching for the remains.  I didn't think it was possible for her to gross me out more and then she pulls yet another repulsive trick out of her hat and my stomach starts churning once again.  Stevie nearly got me attacked by a very angry rat and all she cared about is whether the rat left poop in her trail.  I swear that if Stevie just ate more rat poop and ends up throws it up again I am moving out.  How did all of this go from just a small dog and pony show, to full out canine chaos?  Alvin is responding to the whole crisis by standing in his bed and making tight turns over and over again.  So one dog is making me nauseous while the one is making me dizzy, not to mention that I have a very angry rat on my tail.  It feels like the whole animal kingdom has risen up against me.  Anyone want to come over and pet sit two adorable dogs, a lovely cat, and my new pet rat?  Forget anything about the 20 requirements for Alvin, if you have a pulse and can get over here in a flash, you have the job for an indeterminate amount of time.  Hurry!

Housework May Get Alvin Killed

Reader Warning: Do not read this near mealtime or if you are easily grossed out.  You have been warned.

I have always suspected that doing household chores was dangerous but I received conclusive confirmation today.  I was busy putting drinking glasses away when my very sophisticated system of balancing glasses on top of one another in order to save space, literally came crashing down all around poor Alvin and me.  I had my back turned so I didn't even see it coming and I suddenly heard a loud crash and felt a pain in several places along my shin.  Two very large glasses nearly exploded on impact with such force that some of it bounced back up and cut my leg in several places.  I immediately went into crisis assessment mode, trying to prioritize what needed to be attended to first.  There was potentially glass in Alvin's fur, glass all over the floor, and my increasingly bloody leg.  It became clear that I needed to get Alvin's little paws off the ground and as I reached out to try to "rescue" him, he of course he decided to start a looping frenzy, while running away from me.  It was the very first time I felt impatient with him.  Oddly, through everything, I have never felt a slight amount of frustration or impatience with him but today I became terribly frustrated because I was visualizing him running straight through a large amount of broken glass and then having two of us drizzling blood all over the floor.  Meanwhile he was completely oblivious, not looking at the floor and coming dangerously close to countless shards of glass.  I finally caught him and put him outside.  He was beside himself because he wanted a front seat to the action.  I spent a great deal of time sweeping/vacuuming/sweeping up all of the glass, which was very hard to see on my tile floor.  I then attempted to let Alvin back  but he was upset and refused to come back inside, while glaring at me.  I left him to sulk and attended to my leg, while being very aware that Alvin was not offering even the slightest bit of sympathy.  The one issue Alvin has not had is any fear of loud noises but I am certain that I cured him of that because I have never heard glass shatter so loudly before and the volume made me initially think that my kooky neighbor who has always reminded me of the Uni bomber had finally flipped his lid.  After realizing that we had not been bombed, I could only conclude that housework is potentially quite dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

Alvin remained outside and on particularly lovely days like today, he enjoys basking in the sun.  He always maintains the same pose, with him lying on the ground, with his nose pointed upward, while having the most content, confident, and nearly prideful look about him.  When his fur gets long he has a mane of blond hair on top of his head and on his ears and he looks like the world's cutest miniature lion.  He was so adorable that I couldn't take my eyes off of him and everything about him radiated confidence and contentment, two states of being he rarely seems to experience. 

While he was out there I decided that I was finally going to bite the bullet and deal with an issue of unwelcome visitor we received recently.  I have a large plastic container outside that stores my garden supplies and at some point a rat managed to move in.  I have a large backyard and our neighbors occasionally get unwanted critters attempting to make themselves at home but this rat was my first house guest who must have found the vacancy sign and viewed it as a rat's equivalent to Trump Tower.  I could hear the rat in the container at night but I was too afraid to open it further and so I kept trying to pretend it went away.  I didn't want to kill it because although I am afraid of rats, I didn't want to necessarily end it's life and I was hoping he/she would simply relocate on its own.  I was playing a bit of Russian Roulette because although my cat, Maddie is nearly 16-years-old, up until a year ago she would occasionally manage to sneak a dead rat past me and I would walk into a half eaten, disemboweled rat on the carpet of the guest bedroom.  Wanna come spend the night?  I should mention that besides the tremendous gross out factor, I remain very fearful of rats even when dead and the clean up was traumatizing.  I just kept hoping that one of the other neighbors would have a nicer container with a vacancy.  In reality, he/she was one smart rat and was living in the rodent Hilton and he/she wasn't going anywhere.  I finally mustered up my courage today and slowing took off the lid and removed the contents.  Of course, every imaginable disease came to mind and I was fairly convinced that I could actually feel the beginnings of Typhoid attacking my system.  Never mind that I was  nearly dressed in a Hazmat suit.  The rat had left a fair amount of feces and I went through the unenviable task of washing it out.  Stevie managed to sneak up behind me and before I could stop her she got a mouthful of the rat poop.  To add to her allure, she had earlier managed to get a snack of cat poop.  Thank goodness she is spayed and off the market because with that kind of gross behavior she would be hard pressed to get a date to the local pet food store, much less a more serious commitment.  When she lived at a boarding place before coming to my house she had a boyfriend named Black Buddy who was also a black, blind, older cocker spaniel.  They enjoyed cuddling at night so much that while all the other doggies had to get in their kennels at night, the owner of the facility gave them a Love Shack (true story) that only the two of them slept in every night.  Sadly, she has clearly let herself go since then.  After seeing the image of Stevie gulping rat feces (a vision burned deep into my psyche) I immediately put her inside but she remained fixated on getting back out there for the main course.  I looked up rat feces right away and was assured that it was not toxic to dogs.  I would not have poisoned the rat under any circumstances but it wasn't even a consideration with the pets around and so there was no worry that Stevie had ingested rat poison.  After completing the horrible task, I forgot about about Stevie having ingested both rat and cat feces but was abruptly reminded about an hour later when she vomited it all back up.  Trust me when I tell you that the only thing grosser than seeing your dog eat cat and rat feces is having to clean it up in vomit form.  The task was so wretched that I think I had an out of body experience and mentally went to my "safe place" where there were flowers, rainbows and unicorns and not even a hint of poop or its ingestion.  Sadly, this isn't the first time I have had to clean up Stevie's poop filled vomit and I made the vow once again to never, ever let her lick any part of me.  She is on an indefinite kissing time she cares.

The only bonus of this whole fiasco is that I finally found something Alvin won't eat - feces of any kind.  What normally would be viewed as a given has quickly become a badge of honor for him and his desirability factor just went through the roof!

I was so rattled by the whole thing that when deciding to struggle to move a large dresser to a more desirable location, I wasn't paying attention and managed to turn the front of it against the wall.  Who does that?  I thoroughly traumatized, grossed out, injured human being, that's who!

What started out as such a lovely, promising day has abruptly turned into a day filled with items smashed to smithereens, bloody injuries, and cleaning up rat poop vomit, AND it's only late afternoon.  I am contemplating taking to my bed and hiding until the morning.  I am also anticipating having to hide from what is certain to be one angry rat when he/she discovers I have moved him/her out of the rat equivalent of the Sheraton. 

I am not wanting to ask for too much tomorrow but I am hopeful that there will be no spilling of blood, rat poop, or dog vomit.  I hope that isn't too much to ask.  I can only conclude that I should have killed the rat.

Be Careful What You Wish For

As you all know, there have been literally hundreds of hours devoted to getting Alvin more comfortable with human touch.  I am always taken with his attempts to be brave but his anxiety inevitably gets the best of him and he has to retreat and then re-approach.  Alvin is most receptive to having his next and chest scratched and as time has gone on he has been able to stand and let me scratch for longer periods of time.  Tonight he may have single- handily caused me to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, while I was internally pleading with him to run away.  He stood there for the longest time and because I want to encourage the behavior I nearly scratched until my fingers bled.  We may have actually progressed to where I will have to stop and leave him wanting more or it could be a fluke.  Just when I think I have him figure out, he changes up the game.

Alvin is now required to sleep every night in bed with me.  For the past several months he has primarily slept in bed with me but it is now a mandate.  Someone has to keep me company and since he's the only one too afraid to jump down, he got the job full time!  I think he enjoys it once he's up there but his anxiety over having to be picked up sends him running away from me every night and we pitifully following him, while pleading, "Please Alvin, honey.  Come to bed with mommy."  He is out of luck in securing the dog bed that is on my bed because the cat has completely overtaken it and she only get out to eat or go to the bathroom.  If I want to spend any time with her I have to get in my bed because that is where she is holding court and accepting visitors.  My other foster dog, Stevie was a bit of a cuddler but she got far more independent once we were able to restore some of her vision.  The timing of her independence was horrible because it came near the time of the sudden loss of my #1 cuddler, Timmie White.  It has only been in the last couple of days that she has started to want to sleep on the bed again.  I can't complain though because a couple of nights ago Stevie made me feel like the canine equivalent of the Second Coming.  I was gone for a couple of hours and when I came back she greeted me with such enthusiasm and joy that I couldn't help but momentarily think that I was the be-all and end-all.  She always greets me with several jumps and kisses but for whatever reason, this reunion was over-the-top and so she is carrying a lot of bonus points right now.

Yesterday I went for a job interview and was greeted by a dog that came running out of one of the offices - a sure sign of a great place to work.  The dog is a four-year-old poodle that was left outside for the last six months before being adopted by her current mom.  She consequently has separation anxiety and after explaining that I have foster dogs, I was asked if I had any tips for dealing with separation anxiety.  I went through my mental rolodex of past foster dogs and quickly realized that separation anxiety appears to be one of the only issues that Alvin does not have.  He is very cute when I come home because he does get very excited, as evidenced by the frantic looping.  It is unclear if his response is generated by Stevie's excited response or whether he is genuinely greeting me, but he does seem quite happy I'm home.  The job interview was at an agency that works with neglected and abused children and I explained that Alvin is autistic.  This of course brought the confused looks and inquiries about whether a dog can be autistic.  I certainly had never heard of autism in dogs and would have been very skeptical, until Sir Alvin Stanley entered my world.  One only has to spend a few minutes with him to clearly see the autism but I am not planning on bringing him into the agency to prove it to them because I could easily get confused by his nervous-I'm-in-a-new-environment looping and the frantic-I-have-to-go-potty looping and if I misjudged we could easily leave quite a parting gift, with me trying to gracefully exit, while holding a struggling, panicked dog and saying, "never mind about the job.  Thanks anyway."

Alvin continues his ever-growing love affair with my mom.  Since she has recovered from her surgery enough to be off the narcotic pain killers, she no longer finds Alvin as "brilliant" as she did.  That whole thing was a couple of downright hilarious weeks, with Alvin being deemed brilliant while my mom looked at him with glazed, narcotic-filled eyes.  With that said, they have recently come up with a very accurate communication system.  I took him over for one of our frequent visits to my mom's house and she asked him if he had to go potty.  I told her that he did not because he hadn't done any of his characteristic looping that is the only indicator that he has to go.  She insisted and got up and let him out and all be darned if he didn't go out and go potty.  I figured it was a fluke but about 30 minutes later, she again asked him if he had to go potty and again I maintained that he did not because he hadn't done the looping.  Once again she insisted and once again he went out and went potty.  I asked her how in the world she knew and she said something about the way he looked at her.  I couldn't even pretend to understand it but it's Alvin's world and she seems to currently be the only resident.  In the past, I have mentioned the way animals inexplicably bond to her, and this from a woman who claims not to be particularly taken with animals.  Last night, I looked out my back sliding glass door and there was the neighbor's cat wanting in.  The cat lives two doors down and is over-the-moon in love with my mom.  My mom never feeds him and he gets a tremendous amount of attention in his home.  Yet, he often comes and waits at my front door for my mom to come out and then dutifully walks her home.  Apparently, he couldn't wait any longer and had to hop two, six foot fences and was staring through my glass door at her.  Luckily, Stevie seems to maintain some sense of loyalty towards me but every other animal that has ever lived here clearly preferred my mom.  Really?  I don't think she's the one paying for their food, letting them sleep in her bed, giving out eye drops three times a day........need I go on?  I think I should get a fish because I don't think they can show a preference. 

I have noticed something else odd about Alvin (imagine that).  I have noticed it for quite some time but it was only recently that I made a conclusion based on my observation.  When Alvin gets in bed with me, he quickly lies down and almost always right where I have placed him.  He seems too nervous to explore.  What I have come to realize is that Alvin will not move to another location once he lies down.  He will repeatedly pop up with even the slightest movement by me until he gets more mentally at ease, which only takes a couple of minutes.  Once he is asleep, it is like waking the dead - he's out.  I imagine that is from looping all day long and being worn out.  What I have come to realize though is that once he is comfortable he will not move, even if in my sleep I roll over and I am literally on top of the poor guy.  If Stevie comes and lays on Alvin, he simply won't move.  I have found him in so many positions that simply can't be comfortable but he won't get up and move.  I really don't know what to make of it because once situated, he does not appear to be afraid to be on the bed.  The one thing I can count on is that he when he is fearful or anxiety-ridden, it is so clear and watching him on the bed neither emotion seems to be displayed.  So, his failure to move when uncomfortable just doesn't make sense.  I am assuming that it has to be uncomfortable when he has a 105 pound woman (as if, but just go with it) lying half on him.  The only time he moves is if he stretches out or rolls over in his sleep and I often find his half sprawled on top of me.  Last night, I found him literally nose to nose with me, with his angelic little breath tickling my cheek.  I am becoming increasingly more careful of not allowing Stevie to accidentally lay on top of him or me accidentally laying on him, but why in the world would he not just move?  This boy remains a mystery and I wonder if I am going to have to unravel it all before he is ready to move on to his adoptive home?  If so, he may be a lifer here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Requirements for Adopting Alvin

Last night my mom and I were discussing how hard it will be to let Alvin go when he gets adopted and that it will be particularly difficult if he gets adopted by someone I don't know.  We both feel protective towards him and shared the same worry that someone might yell at him as they hurl through the air before crashing to the ground, due to Alvin serving as a canine speed bump.  Even though Alvin does not seem to be afraid of loud noises, I just couldn't bear to think of anyone yelling at him because there has never been a more innocent, kind soul on the planet.  I then began to discuss all the stipulations that I would need to feel okay about him going to an adoptive family and I decided that a personalized list of adoption stipulations and requirements should be made.  This should get him an adoptive home even faster because in just 20 easy steps, Alvin can be yours! 

(This is a particularly silly post but I decided that I owed his fans some entertainment due to not having posted recently.  If you have followed along, nearly every one of these has at the very least a ring of truth to them.  Enjoy!)

1.  The adoptive family will need to be okay with me coming to stay at their house for the first week (give or take another week or three).

2.  They will need to submit to random drug testing, although testing positive for sedatives won't automatically be held against them because Alvin can be initially a lot to take in.

3.  Every member of the family will need to submit to a criminal background check but can actually score points for small crimes that were in some way funny.  An example would be the recent case of the man in Florida that robbed a convenience store for a 12-pack of Bud Lite Lime (could there be a worse sounding concoction?), while using his motorized scooter as the get-away vehicle.  The plan was foiled when he didn't anticipate the pesky beach sand so prevalent at Florida beaches and the motorized wheel chair got stuck in the sand.  On a side note, have you noticed that most of the crazy stuff comes out of Florida? 

4.  The potential adopter must not hail from the great state of Florida.

5.  The perspective adopter must agree to nanny cams placed throughout their house so I can be assured that he is adjusting well.  I don't plan to go overboard or be intrusive, and although I will install them in the bathrooms, I promise to look away while they are used, as long as Alvin is not in the room.

6. As a thank you for being Alvin's adoptive family, for the first year (more if "we" feel it's necessary) I am offering nearly 24-hour surveillance, in an effort to help you fine tune any of your techniques and interventions.  I will be happy to install a 24-hour phone line (at my cost) devoted to receiving my calls, which will be comprised of helpful tips and suggestions based on what I am viewing in your home.  You're welcome!

7.  One must never raise their voice to Alvin even when he accidentally trips you and you find the ground hurling up to your face.  If you are particularly flexible and nimble, it is altogether possible that you will never actually do a full-fledged face plant.  In preparation of his arrival it is strongly suggested that one take yoga classes.

8.  One must agree to enter Alvin into at least one canine burping contest a year, so that he can continue to refine his "craft".  When he wins, which is assured because no dog could possibly burp as loud as Alvin, all award money should go towards his favorite, gas-producing treats so that he can continue to "practice".

9.  One must be willing to look like the neighborhood idiot by extending the arm holding his leash above one's head so that he can loop through his walks unimpeded.  The alternative is to maintain the usual position when walking him and end up with your legs bound together at the ankles and doing yet, another face plant (while not raising your voice).  Through trial and error, I have found that it is far safer to look like the neighborhood idiot, not to mention the side bonus of looking like you are walking a trained party pony who does perfect circles around you.  You'll be memorable!

10. When bathing Alvin (God be with you) one must agree to provide a slip-free bathmat, put peanut butter on the sides of the tub, and most importantly, get in the bath with him so that he feels like you are in, what can only be described as a liquid fiasco together.

11.  Alvin would love to have a pet of his own.  He does not discriminate between cats, dogs, or probably any other animal.  His pet needs to be extremely non-confrontational, not too playful because it scares him, will never bark at him, and will agree to cuddle with him at night.  His interest will alternate between virtually no acknowledgment to intense interest and wanting to repeatedly tap his nose on them.  If you do not have a pet available for Alvin, I can send Stevie.  It's a two-for-one deal with two highly adoptable dogs.  Now, that's a win-win situation if I ever heard of one!

12.  Alvin enjoys watching TV and has a particular affinity for the show, Dog the Bounty Hunter.  In preparation of his arrival, please begin to record the show during one of the marathons and play in continuously for him when he comes to your home.  It's not a loud, annoying show at all!

13.  Alvin enjoys all kinds of food and he is yet to find anything he won't eat.  Believe me, we have taste tested nearly every food imaginable just out of shear curiosity of what possible food he would actually reject.  He greatly appreciates getting a nibble of any food you are eating with the exception of food containing wheat, or foods that are toxic to dogs.  He has grown accustomed to getting a piece of kibble every time one passes his food container.  He will sit for the piece of kibble but is also happy to receive it without having to perform.  Don't worry about forgetting because he is very diligent in reminding his human by frantically circling, staring holes through the food container and obsessively licking his lips.  One need not worry about him gaining weight because due to his extensive looping exercise routine throughout the day, he stays fit and trim.

14. Alvin has a varying bed time and if he is particularly tired and the TV interrupting his attempts to sleep, he will go into another room and put himself to bed.  He is very adept at this and does not require any assistance, although he does enjoy his person coming in, getting on their hands and knees, while he nose taps his good night message on your face.  Due to his unpredictable bedtime schedule, he needs several dog beds throughout the house to choose from.  He will accompany you on the bed at night but it will require you chasing him around the house while pleading, "for the love of all decency, Alvin please stop looping away from me."  It's a real ego booster!  Once on the human bed he appreciates a raw hide for his chewing pleasure.  Although he was initially an early riser, Alvin has sought inspiration from his foster sister, Stevie and now prefers to sleep in.  His perspective adopter must be willing to tip toe out of the bed in the morning and not turn on lights or make loud noises until he is ready to rise.  If one must turn on a light, Alvin will usually respond to the rude intrusion by tucking his head into the covers to block out the light.

15. When Alvin initially adjusts to a new environment he responds best to humans singing to him.  He has a strong preference for high pitched singing so in preparation of his arrival, please practice singing in your highest register.

16.  Alvin likes to conduct his repetitive nose tapping on people's faces and so one must be willing to bend down to his eye level and allow him to randomly tap his nose on your face.  It's actually very charming if one can sustain the deep knee bends.

17. Alvin has been fairly successful in the potty training department.  Well, successful for him.  He is able to display a very obvious sign that he needs to go potty and once you observe him becoming a canine whirling dervish, you have approximately 30 seconds to get up and let him out, while yelling (in a pleasant tone, of course), "I'm coming Alvin!"  Although he acts as though he has no ability to hold it, in actuality, he will hold it and refuse to go out until his human returns to a sitting position, away from his food container and remains completely still to assure him that he won't be missing anything if he goes out.  This process allows the adopter to get unexpected, short bursts of exercise, which Dr. Oz states is resoundingly good for one's health.  When leaving the door open for him, he is able to go potty outside the majority of the time, but infrequently experiences what are referred to as his, ohhh, you were soooo close and you had the right idea, moments.  These consist of him pooping about a foot on the wrong side of the open door.  If you look outside and it is raining and cold, ask yourself if you would be willing to go out there and go potty.  If the answer is no, chances are about 50/50 that Alvin will follow suit.  Thankfully we live in California where nasty weather is an infrequent issue.

18. Due to Alvin's overwhelming excitement at meal time, he displays a propensity to eat one bite of his food, nearly whirl a hole in the ground, become disoriented and cannot locate his food bowl again.  This will require the perspective adopter to wait for the whirly twirly show to cease and then physically take his food bowl to him.  Pointing at the food bowl, or tapping on it is entirely unsuccessful in reminding him of where his food bowl is and without assistance, he will continue to whirl around and stare up at you pleadingly for excruciatingly long periods of time.  In regards to his profound excitement over food, the perspective adopter can not be too attached to the idea of keeping all ten fingers (pun intended).  Alvin has experienced significant progress in no longer taking a finger with his treats, yet it still remains a possibility that one could lose a finger.  Not all 10 fingers are essential for every day functioning and so it is suggested that the perspective adopter not present any of their favorite fingers when giving him a treat.

19.  Alvin loves to meet other dogs.  For the most part, dogs are fairly receptive to him but on the rare occasion that a dog becomes mystified or put off by his odd behavior, he must be promptly removed from the offending dog, while being told that he/she only hates him because he's beautiful.  Although these situations are always a bit disappointing, if re-framed positively, it provides opportunities for self esteem building.  Other re-frames can include pointing out to Alvin that the other dog is particularly dim-witted and he doesn't need to waste anymore of his time with a canine so below his intelligence level, the other dog felt too inferior in Alvin's presence and had to flee, the trouble with humans is some of them raise very rude canines, the other dog is "different", etc.  The sky's the limit!  Be creative!

20. All of Alvin's mystifying quirks and behaviors must be viewed as part of his undeniable charm and he must be appreciated and embraced (well, not physically because that scares him) for the extraordinarily unique, wonderful little being that he is.  One must recognize that he does the very best that he can and his adopter should be inspired with the courage he displays every day.

So, now all of you must dying to adopt him, please do not delay and hurry over to and fill out the application.  Don't procrastinate because you want to be at the top of the list when the applications inevitably start rolling in.  Due to the anticipation of a back log of applications, please allow upwards of 15 minutes for a response from me.  Please don't forget to have a room prepared for me (I'll bring my own pillow) and if approved, Alvin and I can be at your house by night fall.  See ya soon!