Alvin sticks out his tongue when he is nervous

Monday, April 30, 2012

Who Are You and What Did You do with Alvin?

I recently found this video of Alvin and was once again surprised to see him so animated.  As I have mentioned before, I have never even seen him run.  The jumping at the camera behavior doesn't surprise me because he will do anything to be able to touch something new and he is very curious about cameras.  Now, if we could just figure out how to channel that so that he could make us some money as a doggy model.  While my mom watched the video, she kept looking at the video and then at Alvin to make sure it was the same dog. 

The video was taken after his first surgery and unfortunately the first two surgeries were unsuccessful.  You will notice a great deal of white hair on his right side, which was caused by a scar from an injury.  It was completely healed by the time he was rescued but it must have been somewhat new because the white hair is now nearly gone. 

I thought that you might find it interesting to see him so that you can get an idea of what I am referring to when I write about the difference in behavior.  One of our readers suggested using his ability to imitate other dogs as a way to train him and I think that is an excellent suggestion.  He definitely imitated Timmie when I would use the sit command but there isn't much to imitate with Stevie unless I want to train him to sleep for long periods of time.  Taking him indoors to a training facility would be a nightmare because the biggest source of stress for him is going indoors to unfamiliar places, which results in loop-a-thons.  I think I am going to have to start a, borrow your dog for a day program so that he has more contact with dogs to imitate.  In the meantime, here are the dazzlings of Alvin Stanley.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Alvin's Big Boy Outing

Alvin finally got his dream outing.  On Friday, my mom came over and I was able to finally talk her into taking Alvin back to her house without me.  She put the leash on him and he didn't even give me a second glance as he bounded out the door with her.  I watched from the window as she held the leash over her head and Alvin triumphantly pranced circles around her.  Less than two minutes later, the phone rang and my stomach dropped.  I began anxiously questioning what could have possibly gone wrong in less than 120 seconds.  I envisioned my mom sprawled out on the floor because Alvin had finally caused her to fall flat.  As I picked up the phone, I was waiting to hear the infamous line, I've fallen and I can't get up.  Instead, she was calling because she was concerned that Alvin was going circle himself sick.  She hadn't seen his extra excited circling, which I refer to as his rodeo circles.  It reminds me of the western horse event where a horse does a sliding stop, leans heavily on their back legs and then does very fast, very tight circles.  When Alvin does his rodeo circles, he gets going so fast that he nearly blurs and I always wait for him to gain so much speed that he takes off and hit the ceiling.  I reassured her that he was just so excited that his body couldn't handle it.  I sounded confident but as I got off the phone, I started internally pleading that he wouldn't puke or urinate on her floor because that would have been the end to outings with grandma.  After being gone for about 15 minutes, I couldn't stand the suspense and broke down and called to see how he was doing.  She reported that it was going well and that she would return him soon.  I urged her to do so because it was imperative that it ended on a successful note.  When she returned a few minutes later, she reported that he was able to stop the rodeo circles long enough to get each piece of hot dog she offered him, and that he was able to even sit for each one.  He did so well that she went in the other room and got on her computer, leaving him to explore the house by himself.  There were no puddles coming from either orifice and he didn't feel compelled to come in and repeatedly nose tap her.  When arriving back home, he came trotting in with his tail high in the air and I don't know who was prouder, my mom, Alvin, or me.  There will clearly be at least one more outing, and will potentially be many more as long as his blatter doesn't betray him.

Elvis is in the Building

As you all probably know, the dog food containers have to be put up on my kitchen table because of Stevie being able to pop the latches off and treat herself to her own personal buffet.  When she arrived last year around this time and I figured out her trickery, I quickly moved the container on the table and had left the lid off.  I came home one day to bird poop in my bathtub and upon closer examination, found more bird poop on the shower curtain rod.  Huh?  I spent a staggering amount of time trying to figure out how bird poop got in my bathroom and where in the world the bird was.  I often leave my back door open for the dogs so I knew how the bird got in but questioned why a bird had come in and far more importantly, where the bird had gone.  I crept around the house while dreading the inevitable sight of  bird feathers and a guilty cat licking her lips.  Much to my relief, I found no other evidence of the bird.  So, I figured out how the bird got in, that the bird got out safely but the why continued to mystify me.  The next day, I was sitting on my couch, which faces the back door and in flew a beautiful blue jay who went directly to the dog food bin, perched on the ledge, and leaned in to help himself to some kibble before flying away.  My dog, Timmie was sitting beside me and his eyes nearly start rolling around like pin wheels, while twisting his neck like something out of The Exorcist.   He jumped off the couch, while barking, and chased the bird away.  I sat on the couch utterly stunned and trying to piece together what I had just seen.  Before I could even process it all, here he came again for a second helping.  This started a daily ritual of visits from the bird, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I did my best to distract Timmie because I didn't want to discourage the bird from visiting us.  I was fearful that Maddie, the cat would find and kill him but he had his mission down pat and could fly in, get his snack, and be back out before even Timmie had mustered up an adequate response.  This went on all summer and fall, with me sometimes finding the bird hopping around waiting at the back door when it was closed.  I would then open it up and he would hop right in.  He soon started bringing  a friend who would never come in but perch on the nearby fence, watching the action.  I am assuming it was a female because I once saw him transfer a piece of kibble from his beak to hers before she flew off and he came back for more.  Winter came and off flew the bird.  I missed him but as time went on, I forgot all about it.  I got back into the habit of covering the food until the other day when I thought that I spotted him again.  I took the lid back off, kept the door open, and sure enough, Elvis came back.  I decided to name him this year because he is pretty much a member of the family and Elvis seemed to suit him.  He has been back every day, two or three times a day, and has virtually no fear of me.  A few days ago, I was sitting on my back porch when he flew right past me, went inside, got his food, and flew back off.  How he discovered the food I will never know, because watching where he flies, he doesn't even "live" here.  I think he lives one or two doors down and he must be a savvy little thing because this neighborhood has a lot of cats.  He flew in the other day as Maddie was walking by and she looked, did a double take, stared in what looked like genuine bewilderment, and then if she were a human, she would have shrugged her shoulders and walked away.  Just as I am writing this, Elvis came in for his first snack of the morning.  The food is wheat free and it clearly doesn't kill him because he made it through last season, the winter, and looks like a very healthy bird.  I can already tell that we are going to miss him once winter comes again but we have all summer and fall to enjoy our own little long as he doesn't get bloated and puffed up like the real Elvis and is too sluggish to outrun my geriatric, nearly deaf cat, Maddie, but I think the odds are in his favor.

This One Kills Me

WARNING: Usually this blog is light hearted but the post below is a sad one.  I am probably taking it harder than I should, but if you are don't want to read a post that may make you sad, skip this one because there are plenty of much more light-hearted ones to read.

It is often hard to know which of Alvin's behaviors are from possible abuse and which ones are just innately part of who he is.  He has a large scar on this side and so we know he suffered an injury, accidental or otherwise, I just don't know.  His fear of being picked and being pet on his head and back makes me suspect abuse.  In any other dog it would be clearer but coupled with his other behaviors, I often just don't know.  Last night I discovered a behavior that makes the abuse suspicion much stronger. 

As you all know, we have worked very hard on getting Alvin to be more comfortable with touch.  For those who haven't followed along from the beginning, I spent the first month lying on the ground a lot because he was more comfortable with the idea of touch when I was not standing over him.  It was a long process, with very slow progress, and involved a great deal of anxiety and running away on his part.  Over the past eight months we have graduated to me often being able to repeatedly stroke his back while he stays in his dog bed.  When he goes to sleep at night, I repeatedly approach him, crouch down, and pet him because when he is drowsy he allows me to pet him more.  He usually sits up in the bed when I come in and then gradually lies back down while I continue to pet him.  This has been significant improvement from the time when he would leap out of the bed before I could even touch him.  I have been blinded by the progress, and although I noticed that he often tucks his face as far into the dog bed as he can, I assumed it was because he was going back to sleep and I was thrilled that he could get that comfortable.  I was a bit perplexed because although he tucks his head way in, he doesn't actually fall asleep.  Last night, as I was petting him and he tucked his head in, it became clear that he was trying to protect his face.  UGHHH!  Stick a dagger in my heart.  He has displayed more comfort and receptiveness to me petting his head and back if I keep my free hand where his nose can touch it and he can see it at all times.  When I remember to do so, he keeps his nose on the free hand, while I pet his back and he is noticeably more relaxed.  It was last night that I realized that he tucks his face away from me when my other hand is not visible. Once I made the connection, it was so obvious. 

I don't understand abusing any animal but Alvin is the most innocent being I have ever known.  He doesn't bark, he isn't assertive, he is just innocent and gentle.  The questions of why, how could someone, start flooding me.  I don't know why or how, but I do know that I will keep my free hand where he can see it for as long as it takes until he can know that no hand will ever be used to do anything other than comfort him.  My sweet, sweet angel!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Who Wants to go Potty With Me?

Last night I was in bed and I heard Alvin in the living room doing his potty prance, which consists of him repeatedly running in a large loop until he can't hold it anymore and then finally running outside to go potty.  I initially took notice of it because although he used to do this all the time, he largely quit the potty prance some time ago. I then couldn't help but take notice because between loops he would come into the bedroom doorway and "peek" at me before running a few more loops.  After about five minutes of the loop and peek routine, I got up because he clearly wanted something from me.  I proceeded to walk outside with him and he promptly urinated at my feet because he couldn't hold it anymore.  Luckily it was at my feet and not on my feet.  It took me a minute to figure it out but I realized that he was afraid to go out there by himself.  I have written before about Alvin sometimes being afraid of the dark but this time it seemed as though he needed a buddy to walk him to the bathroom.  I think his fear comes from the fact that furry little creatures come out at night and I can often hear them in my backyard.  Maybe last night he heard what sounded like an extra big one, although a mouse would probably do the trick.  Tonight he is not showing any fear of going out there but I kind of hope he does because there is nothing cuter than Alvin coming in to peek at me and then essentially needing me to walk him to the bathroom.  Maybe I'll sneak out there and shake the bushes so he thinks there's a bear out there and I can once experience the mindbogglingly cuteness of Alvin Stanley.  Sure, it might traumatize him but it's Saturday night and I could use a bit of entertainment.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Branding Alvin

As I continue to work on the best way to help get Alvin adopted, the term "branding" keeps coming up.  Apparently branding is the approach and marketing of the item, (or dog) which allows for mass recognition of the face, name, and reputation of whatever you are trying to entice people to want. There is a science to it that allows many a person to makes large sums of money.  I am sure there are some very skillful branding experts but Alvin and I are about to put them to shame by our branding dazzlings in the canine world.  As I develop Alvin's brand, I have started to toss around some ideas that I will share with you.  So far I have come up with the following approach and this would be our first "advertisement" with many sure to follow.

Are you content to have just any 'ole dog?  Are you tired of the predictable, cookie cutter dogs that everyone seems to have nowadays?  Are you looking for a dog that can instantly get the attention of everyone around you?  If you are seeking an out of the ordinary, unique canine then look no further because unique is Alvin Stanley's middle name.  Alvin is sure to dazzle you with antics like you have never seen before.  We are so confident that you will receive a truly one of a kind dog that we are offering an adoption donation money back guarantee, if he doesn't cause your neighbors to look twice and your friends to routinely say, I've never seen anything like him.  His uniqueness is far too much to list here but take it from us, he will cause jaws to drop and you can be confident that you will be the talk of the neighborhood.  Don't delay because this 19 pound bundle of surprises is sure to go fast! 

I decided not to specifically list his "unique" behaviors because the burping, looping, muttering, appearing to have a seizure while riding in the car, and sometimes going potty a foot on the wrong side of the door might not help his brand.   We're going with his strengths, which are clearly all about the fact that nothing is normal when Alvin Stanley is in your life.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Knock, Knock! Who's There?

Alvin has his natural tail.  I have previously only had cocker spaniels who had had their tails amputated as puppies.  Although there is something very cute about the wiggly little nubs of the remaining tail, Alvin's natural tail is so pretty and I wish people would quit cutting off the tails of cocker spaniels.  I have found that there is one downside to having a natural tail and that is that often when Alvin thumps it against the floor or other objects, he mistakes the sound for a knock at the door and runs to greet his public.  Of course, he continues to run to the wrong door and after the disappointment of no one showing up, he lays back down only to hear that pesky little knock again.  I am trying to teach him the difference in the sound by having no reaction when he thumps his tail and heads for the door, as opposed to my now exaggerated response when someone is at the door.  So far this has been largely unsuccessful and his tail seems to serve as a beacon of hope that a visitor is just right outside our door, if only I would open it before they leave once again.  I wonder how often Alvin internally rolls his eyes at me and wonders why I am so dumb.  The truth is that half the time I am rolling my eyes at myself and wondering the same thing so at least we're often on the same page.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Forget Our Stupid Burping Trick

Get a load of these dogs because clearly our burping trick isn't going to get us anywhere when dogs like these are around.  There is always somebody (or dog) to ruin it for the rest of us.  There is even a dog that is practically pole dancing.  Alvin and I are back to square one.

Role Reversal

A few days ago when I approached Alvin and he once again became skittish and started to run away, I started to wonder what would happen if I ran away from him?  I was hoping it wouldn't cause his brain to explode with confusion and I decided I'd give it a whirl.  Would he still run away?  Stare at me like the lunatic I have become?  Chase me?  I'll be darned if he didn't immediately start trotting after me and stayed right on my heels.  I decided to do a few loops so that it would seem familiar and ironically that was the only time he quit chasing me and chose to just cut me off at the pass.  It didn't seem as though he was playing but he was at least interested in the pursuit.  I wondered if it might feel empowering to finally get to be the one in pursuit.  I quickly realized that there was a few flaws in my plan because it was over 100 degrees outside and although we were inside, I may be the only person in all of Concord that still doesn't have air conditioning.  I also quickly realized that playing a chasing game has significant limitations when attempting to do it in a house that is less than 800 square feet.  Last, I realized how dreadfully out of shape I was because withing minutes I was huffing and puffing and Alvin was just getting warmed up.  That little guy has impressive endurance considering all the laps he is used to running on his own track field aka my living room.  I started to question what I would possibly say if someone were to walk through the door to find me out of breath, sweaty, while prancing around in circles with Alvin following me, and even if I were to claim to have been drinking or having suffered a short term psychotic break, it still wouldn't make sense and so I quit.  It did, however, peak my interest and when it cools down and there is a guarantee that no one will be able to video it and put it on youtube, I am going to give it another try.  It really does just keep getting weirder and weirder around here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Now This is Funny!

I had to go over to my mom's house for a quick errand and I decided to take Alvin so he would have a little more excitement in his day.  It's nighttime and as I was walking him over it was clear that once again, he was afraid of the dark.  When he is very scared, he walks in a quick straight line and then he jumped back and sideways away from a shadow he spotted.  I can't figure that one out because aren't dogs supposed to see well in the dark?  So then we got to my mom's house and he was just overjoyed to see her.  I stayed for less than two minutes and when I tried to walk him out the front door, he absolutely refused to cross the threshold.  I was cracking up because the leash was fully extended and yet, there he was, holding his neck back and refusing to go.  I didn't want to pull him too hard because there are stairs and I didn't want to cause him to fall.  My mom offered to take his leash to see if he would go and he went instantly with her, without a second of hesitation.  She walked him down the stairs and then I took the leash and walked him home.  He came into the house and started to whimper and mutter while going from door to door looking for her.  I called to tell her that he wouldn't stop crying and she got out of bed, got dressed and came over to be with him.  When she walked through the door, he heard it and of course, ran to that garage door that we never use......WHY?  He is so happy she is here and the whimpering has ceased.  My mom has agreed to doing a test run of him coming over by himself for a visit.  Cross your fingers that he doesn't urinate in the house because that will be the end of the trial visit.  If he only knew how much his future happiness depended on his bathroom habits....

One of you left a comment that you would like a video of Alvin burping and I have often thought about how I can capture the moment.  Luckily, he always burps after a meal but it will require me to video him any where from one to 20 minutes.  I will do my very best to capture the gassiest dazzlings of Alvin Stanley because it's really worth the watch.  Stay tuned......

The Newest Member of the White Family

I am officially adopting Stevie.  I have had a lot of dogs in my life but Stevie will only be the third dog I have owned.  Since Stevie's cataract surgery, she requires a lot of eye drops and I am now setting my alarm to get up at 4:00 AM so that she is getting them every six hours.  With this new development, it became clear that finding an adopter for an older, deaf dog that requires 4:00 AM eye drops would be nearly impossible.  Camp Cocker is being kind enough to continue to pay for her medical expenses until I get a job and get on my feet financially.  I could never say enough good things about Camp Cocker because it's the dream rescue in regards to compassion, ethics, and extraodinary acts of kindness.  The fact that Camp Cocker was even willing to rescue Stevie shows what kind of a rescue they are.  Stevie sat in a crowded shelter in LA for two months because no one wanted to adopt or rescue an old, deaf, blind dog.  It becomes nearly impossible to find adopters and with the tremendous shortage of foster homes, dogs like Stevie often end up in boarding for a long time and cost the rescue a great deal of money.  So, nearly all the older, blind, deaf dogs end up being euthanisized in scary shelters.  Without a doubt, Stevie would be dead if Camp Cocker hadn't rescued her.  Camp Cocker took a risk and it definitely paid off.  So, let me introduce you to the newest member of our family, Stevie Marie White.  Isn't she a beauty?!

Alvin Gives Hugs

I got my first hug from Alvin and he learned how to hug from watching his mentor, Stevie.  Stevie is one of those older, sweet, dogs that I can always rely on to either be sitting next to me on the couch or at my feet.  When I leave the house even just to get something out of my car, Stevie greets me by repeatedly placing her front paws on my legs and her twittering tail really gets going.  Since she follows me every where and wants to be close to me, I have found it frustrating that she isn't much of a cuddler.  She'll often sleep in bed with me but if I try to hold her, she up and leaves me every time.  If I try to place her on my lap while she is next to me on the couch, I can depend on her to then jump down.  The only time I can guarantee that she will let me hold her is when we have gone to adoption events, and although she is deaf for all intents and purposes, she can hear the loud barking of other dogs and she insists that I hold her like a baby for the entire event.  She is not afraid of other dogs but I think the loud barking reminds her of the two months she was in a shelter in southern California.  Here is a picture of us at one of the events.

After nearly a year of her being here I have finally stumbled upon the way that Stevie will cuddle at home.  You all probably remember how much time I spent on the ground with Alvin but I didn't realize that being on the ground with Stevie was the answer too.  I recently came home to an extra exuberant Stevie and because she was leaping around like the Black Stallion, I sat on the floor so she wouldn't hurt herself while hurling herself at me.  This resulted in what can only be described as Stevie giving hugs.  It was just the sweetest thing, with Stevie repeatedly rubbing her face against my chest and then burying her head into me to get as physically close to me as possible.  She stood there with her head buried in me for the longest time while I hugged her back.  I then began trying it more often with the same huggable results.  Recently Alvin watched what Stevie was doing and after a few attempts, I will be darned if he didn't bury his head in my chest just like Stevie.  Not only did he imitate the hug but when Stevie came back around for more hugs, Alvin was quick to try to get back into the action.  It kind of freaks me out to see him observe Stevie and then to so closely duplicate what he just saw but I'll take it.  Now if I could just teach Stevie how to teach Alvin to roll over for belly rubs.... 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Everything is Coming up Roses

I am apprehensive about writing anything more about Alvin's improvement because as you know, every time I have written about it, he turns around and regresses within days, if not hours, but here it goes.

The rain has stopped and Alvin is back to going potty outside 100% of the time.  Speaking of rain, we recently had a very rare, very loud thunder and lightening storm.  Alvin had no reaction to it and I continue to notice that what scares other dogs does not scare him and vice versa.

Alvin has started to be able to make simple associations.  Until recently he hasn't been able to make any associations but brace yourself for the shock, his first association involved my mom.  When she pulled up and slammed her car door, he ran from the bedroom and started searching for her.  Granted, his brilliance was limited when he searched for her at the garage door, you know, the one that we have never ever entered or exited, but it's a start.

The favorite improvement is that he will allow me to pet him over his head and on his back far more often and we practice this many times a day.  He tends to go into a low crouch but he doesn't run away like he used to and it clearly feels good him.  He also regularly seeks out physical affection and it warms my heart every single time.

On the down side, after a brief hiatus, he started to loop again.  He has also resumed his muttering/whining noises.  In the past two weeks he has started grumbling like a little old man when he wants me to get up and feed him.  He wakes me up several times in the morning and puts on his most pitiful, pleading face.  I don't respond because I don't want to encourage the behavior but secretly I find it quite endearing.

Alvin had one brief play time with a toy.  While on the bed with me, he started that puppy mouthing thing he sometimes does and I grabbed a toy to see if he would use it and sure enough, he chewed on it for a few minutes.  Out of desperation, I nearly shoved it in his mouth and called it "playing" so that I wouldn't feel guilty that I am unable to entertain him enough.

Alvin has the taking of treats nearly mastered.  He just needed to practice and during our practice sessions I managed to pull my fingers away fast enough so that I didn't need stitches.  On a couple of occasions there was blood involved but no need for medical intervention.

Speaking of treats, the boy is a sitting machine for them.  Granted, we practice it at least 30 times a day and the practice has paid off because in the last few days, he has consistently done it like he was personally owned by Caesar Millan.  He has also incorporated the cheat far more often and sometimes it ends up with him just staying seated and me giving him the rest of the treats that are in my hand, while telling him that his intellect may be near genius level.  It is clear that he is ready for a new challenge and I think we are going to try the command, shake.  I don't think I could ever get him to lie down on command because it's too vulnerable and shake will be a challenge because of the whole touching thing but we're going for it!

Last and most importantly, as he continues to progress he hasn't lost any of his talent for burping. As gross as it should be to me, it continues to be my favorite habit of his because it's just short of amazing that such a loud noise comes out of such a little dog.

So, progress abounds.  I should enjoy it right now because every time I write about his progress it quickly deteriorates but for today, I will enjoy all of the progress that Alvin has to offer.  If nothing else, he keeps me guessing.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Clear Down

We are continuing to practice the sit command.  It has been interesting because he learned the command quite quickly and initially was able to sit on command nearly every time I asked him.  What I was most impressed with was that on a couple of occasions, a couple of weeks went by and he was able to sit on the first request.  It is now clear that he was watching Timmie who would sit before I had even been able to get the whole word out but now that Alvin's on his own, it is more difficult for him to remember.  So, we are now practicing it several times a day and he is doing quite well but he has finally come across a second way to cheat.  The first way was the one I previously wrote about and consists of him just staying seated, which is quite clever and terribly cute.  He has only managed to do this twice and was rewarded both times because his cheating is far too cute not to reward.  His second way of cheating isn't as cute and has led to many occasions of confusion on both of our ends.  Alvin has learned the half sit and attempts to only go halfway down while looking  expectantly for his treat.  I was in a habit of giving Alvin his treat immediately after sitting so that he developed a strong association between the two.  His new half sitting trick has led to me starting to give him a treat and then taking it back because he isn't completely seated.  Of course, this confuses Alvin who then has to do his whirly twirls, not to be confused with his "normal" circling but a faster paced, tighter set of circles.  Once he finally comes up for air, while looking terribly dizzy, we give it another try.  This has led to another example of his hidden genius because when he did the half sit, out of habit I would say, clear down, and wait.  Now when Alvin does his half sit and I say, clear down, he knows to sit clear down.  Now, that's just smart! 

I continue to try to think of another command to teach him and I am considering teaching him to walk a straight line like on the field sobriety test.  Considering that when we are out on walks he insists on circling in front of Stevie and clotheslining her with his leash every time, it is a command that couldn't be learned too soon.  In actuality, teaching Alvin not to loop while out on walks would be slightly less of a challenge than teaching him how to speak, but a girl can dream, and by girl I mean poor Stevie whose trachea depends on Alvin learning not to nearly decapitate her.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Alvin's Best Day

Boy, oh boy, did Alvin have a great day yesterday!  He had two separate, lengthy visits at my mom's house during the day, which included getting pieces of hot dogs hand fed to him.  His first visit was also with Stevie but he got to go over there a second time without her and probably felt like a big boy!  Just when he thought it couldn't get better, I got a call from Maisy, my 11-year-old niece who wanted to spend the night at my mom's house.  Once she arrived, I brought Alvin over.  I think his head nearly exploded because not only was my mom there but also a kid!  He immediately ran to Maisy and did the fascination stare but what was very interesting to me was once he realized he knew her, he went back to being leery of having his head or back touched.  I am wondering if his boldness and fascination with children would decrease once he knew them.  I'm just not sure.  Maisy was unwrapping caramels for my mom because she is going to make some type of caramel sauce and Alvin was right there in hopes of getting a taste.  He may or may not have been given one, or four, but it was strictly for scientific purposes in continuing to try to assess what Alvin won't eat.  It remains everything, with the exception of mint flavored Tums.

It was clear that the excitement was nearly too much for him because he never stopped moving.  He couldn't even contain himself long enough to do his characteristic stare at my mom and remained a perpetual dog in motion.  We were there for quite some time and since we had had three lengthy visits, I was worried that he would go potty indoors, which would result in the end of visits there.  I don't know whether he understands not to go potty in any house, or just in my house but the evening ended in success.  My mom had a talk with him and told him that if he doesn't go potty indoors that he can come over for visits on his own.  Let's hope he understands human language because how cute would it be for him to go for visits on his own?

I found it a bit of a challenge to get him home again because when leaving my mom's house, he repeatedly puts on the brakes and refuses to walk, while mournfully looking over his shoulder. When I finally got him home, I expected that he would put himself to bed but it seemed as though he had a lot of residual excitement because he stayed up for another couple of hours until I went to sleep.  It is now 9:00 PM and he just went in and put himself to bed and I suspect that yesterday and last night finally caught up with him.

I left for about four hours today and when returning he was so excited to see me.  He has been particularly relaxed when I pet his head and back and I think yesterday put him in a good mood.  I imagine that yesterday was one of Alvin's favorite days so far and I am hoping that he can have many more, but his bladder will largely determine it for him.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Alvin's Personal Christmas

Alvin just got his personal Christmas, birthday, Hanukkah, Ground Hog's Day, Thanksgiving, and every other imaginable holiday all rapped up into one because he has managed to convince me that he needs more food.  As you all know, he is obsessed with food and would be willing to give up a limb for a treat. Stevie got weighed at the vet and now weighs 24 pounds. She has lost three pounds since being here and because she is small boned, 24 pounds is a good weight for her. Once I shaved Alvin I noticed that he had also lost weight.   Alvin can't carry extra weight due to his back legs and the orthopedic surgeon said that he already had quite a bit of arthritis. Stevie has exceptionally flexible hips but because she is aging, it is important for her to carry as little weight on her joints as possible. They are both at good weights but it seems like the amount of food I give them causes them to lose weight and so I am upping their food intake so they can maintain their current weights. They have certainly not gone hungry because besides their two meals a day they get at least five snack times each day because only a person with a heart filled with coal could turn down Alvin's constant pleas for a treat.  I try to refrain but when he throws his body at me and holds onto my leg with his front paws for dear life, I am powerless to resist.  Having those big brown eyes pleading, along with him licking his lip,s and a new reaction, which consists of his chattering his teeth, how could anyone say no.  I would refuse him if he were overweight but since he has been able to maintain his svelte figure, I get to give in.  I only wish Alvin was aware that he is getting more food because I think it would cause him to break down and cry with gratitude.  I have tried to explain this to him but he is too busy begging for the food I am holding to listen. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

My Little Money Maker

I have found an area on Alvin's body that if you scratch it, it compels him to lick.  While doing this it all of a sudden dawned on me that there is a potential scam Alvin and I can operate.  Of course, Alvin will be innocent in the scam but he will be our central player.  I still think there is money to be made just by his burping skill alone.  There is an untapped market in the fraternity world where college boys would pay to hear a little dog burp louder than they can.  I am realizing that it's odd at how much I enjoy having a dog that burps like a truck driver.  I am a fairly proper person when it comes to issues like burping.  I don't enjoy most off color jokes, I am not a fan of people discussing subjects like their sex lives or bathroom habits and I would be very embarrassed if I burped in public, and yet, I get tickled every time I hear Alvin let one rip.  So, while we continue to pursue that untapped market, I am realizing that we can exploit this licking thing he does and I can start asking him questions that make it seem like he can predict the future.  I don't want to ask him questions that predict the weather because when we get it wrong the sham will be over right away and so I think we will stick to subjects like future political outcomes.  I figure that we can charge $10.00 a prediction and as word gets out, we can up the amount.  Ridiculous, you think?  Well, if people are still paying a buck a minute to speak to a "psychic" over the phone and people repeatedly bought into that geriatric minister that kept predicting the date of the return of Jesus, then there's a market out there for a licking dog that makes political predictions.  I am hoping that no one catches on that all the predictions are exactly how I hope things go politically.  If anyone is questioning the ethics of our scam, let me point out that I am currently unemployed and someone around here has to get a job to pay for that kibble.  Times are tough and we need to capitalize on all of Alvin's abilities.  Then we'll see all the applications start rolling in of people suddenly interested in my little money maker and I may not be able to afford to let him go.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What Have I Been Thinking?

All this time I have somehow thought that it was a good idea to drive four hours each way to then compete with at least 15 other cockers for adoption.  Not to mention that we often have to contend with the bane of our existence, those dreaded puppies!  I know sometimes I question aspects of Alvin's intellect when really it's been my intellect that should have been questioned.  When thinking about being able using the book my mom is making to help Alvin get adopted, I started to think of other ways to compete with those darn puppies and I realized that to better our chances, we need to stay as far away from them as possible.  I am now visualizing a local event where we camp out in front of the Concord Petco (invited or not) and to put just Alvin and Stevie in a pen, while wearing bows with blinking lights on them.  How cute (and kind of pitiful) would it be for just two little dogs sitting (well circling) all by themselves with blinking bows on them?  To set the mood, I will have background music of the song, I Love my Dog by Cat Stevens on a perpetual loop.  I don't dare play, Who Let the Dogs Out because the fake barking might scare Alvin and who knows what that could do to his looping propensity.  I was then thinking that I could make 5' by 5' posters of their cutest poses to put on the portable backdrop that I am certain my mom would make.  Did I mention that she is a retired teacher?  I am then thinking that I will make 5" by 7" glossies that they can pawtagraph and pass out, with an attached adoption application.  Of course, I would have to sedate Alvin and get him to pawtagraph them at home because I wouldn't want people to see him completely melt down while trying to place his paw on something.  I am also considering having Alvin's "book" bound to deceptively look like a real book and trying to sell some b.s. story about Alvin being famous.  Maybe I could even tell some story about Alvin having rescued a baby from a well the day before.  Extreme?  Absolutely!  Crazy? Completely!  Successful?  Probably not.

The reason I would go through with such a ridiculous case of overkill is because I take it personally when no one ever applies for Alvin.  Even Stevie had more interest and it was when she was blind!  Everyone stops and comments on how cute Alvin is but the minute it's mentioned that he has "issues" (understatement) people lose interest.  It's not like he has a history of biting the faces off of small children or urinating on people's legs......there was a dog that did that and yet, he even he got adopted before Alvin.  Here's a little secret, I am perfectly fine with Alvin not getting adopted but I do want people to want him.  I am surprised that some of you haven't taken pity on me and started filled out fictitious applications.  It's okay if someone isn't an adequate match for him but I would like it if we could turn down someone instead of constantly drumming our fingers and repeatedly picking up the phone while questioning, is this thing on?  If I put my mom in charge of this it would be a glittery extravaganza, with a slide show, door prizes, and handouts.  If you hear that I have gone mobile, driving a van with their pictures plastered on it, complete with a megaphone, you will know that I have gone over the delicate edge into competitive craziness.  And if you hear that people complained that there was a dog that appeared to be in a coma while his foster mom held him, and yelling, see, he loves to be held, you'll know that there must have been puppies for adoption nearby, I panicked and broke out the sedatives.  But darnit, we are done with everyone over looking the sweetest, kindest dog around.  People are really missing out and they don't even know it.  I may end up subjecting them to a PowerPoint presentation so at least they know what they're missing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Our New Marketing Stategy

I make a lot of jokes on here but in all seriousness, I think I just came up with a good marketing tool in getting Alvin adopted.......with the increasingly weakening belief that I am actually going to be able to part with the boy.  If it were just about my needs, the adoption papers would have been signed, sealed and delivered about three months ago but if we find a home that meets more of his needs than I am going to let him go.  Chances are that the process of letting him go will include me holding on to the ankle of his adopter, while screaming, why? but one way or another, I will let him go.  I have come to the realization that chances are slim to none that Stevie is ever going to get out of this loony bin because there just aren't many homes that want to adopt a geriatric, deaf, sight impaired dog that sometimes wets the bed.  I'm the kind of person that would want a dog like that and she's already here, but Alvin still has some hope of getting sprung from Casa Crazy.  I feel a bit competitive when it comes to getting him adopted because it's a challenge.  We are up against a never-ending supply of cute, young, cocker spaniels that actually seek out touch and I am learning more and more that people gravitate towards dogs that allow their owner to pet them.  Go figure!  So, with the deck stacked against us, I realized that my mom just created a great adoption tool.  For those of you that didn't read it yet, my mom is printing out all of Alvin's blog entries and putting them into a binder.  She is about halfway done because goodness knows that I am a prolific writer and that's putting it nicely.  Others would just term it as the woman that can't seem to shut up and turn off the computer.  Anyway, the binder looks really, really nice and includes all his adorable pictures in color.  I am going to take his book to the future adoption events because the other dogs may have a lot to offer that Alvin can't but none of them will have their own book.  Who doesn't want a dog that has his own book?  Talk about a conversation piece on the coffee table that Alvin's busy circling!  My mom already created "business cards" for him but a book just ups the ante!  I decided that I am going to give a copy of the book to his adopter.  Anyway, I just thought I would share our new marketing strategy.  Be afraid all you other dogs at Camp Cocker because we're coming on strong at the next event!

This is Fascinating to me

The most fascinating behavior of Alvin's is how he watches other dogs and then imitates their behavior.  It is often behavior that he wouldn't think to do otherwise.  When watching videos of him in his previous foster home, I see so many examples of behavior that I haven't seen a hint of while here.  I am attaching a short video that illustrates the point.  Eli is the main focus for the first part of the video and watch his body movements.  At about the 38 second mark, Alvin comes bounding in and you can see him imitating the same bouncing behavior of Eli.  Well, Alvin's isn't nearly as coordinated but you can see how closely he tries to imitate it.  Then there is the toy in the mouth, which he regularly had a toy in his mouth while living there.  As previously mentioned, I have a basket full of toys and I can't get him to play with them and I suspect it is because there hasn't been a dog here that ever played with toys around Alvin.  From living with Alvin, I can't tell you how different his behavior is on this video and there are plenty more with similar behavior captured.  It fascinates me to no end.  Take a look and if you have any insights or observations, please share them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Don't Let the Door Hit 'Ya on the Way Out

I took Alvin and Stevie to my mom's house for an afternoon visit.  While there I decided that I would leave for a few minutes to see what his reaction was to me leaving him while not in his own home.  I had hoped that he wouldn't show any signs of distress because if he does get adopted, I hope he isn't too dependent on me so that his transition will be easier.  I realize that leaving him with my mom and Stevie wasn't an accurate gauge but I thought we could start there.  I left for about 10 minutes and when I came back my mom initially told me that Alvin showed a bit of distress, but when I told her that my hope was that he wouldn't be upset, she then confessed that she had embellished the story so that my feelings wouldn't be hurt.  The reality was that he was just fine until my mom laid down on the couch and then he seemed a bit concerned, probably because he thought the host of the party was going to fall asleep on him.  We stayed at my mom's house for nearly two hours and he did very well until my mom went into the other room to sleep because she was getting a bad headache.  Her house has a door that can then close off the bedrooms from the rest of the house and once Alvin was separated from her, he started circling at the door.  It must have been an awful tease to bring him over to her house and then not allow him to be near her.  His response was to give me a few seconds of attention and then went back to holding a vigil at the door while waiting for her return.  I am going to make more of an effort to take him to her house more regularly because he finds it largely entertaining due to how many new things there are to nose tap.   Timmie was the only dog to get to go over by himself for visits at grandma's house and I still don't know all that transpired over there but it must have been pretty great because he always begged to go and after having been gone for a couple of hours he returned with what truly looked like a smile and was mysteriously never hungry, even when he was supposed to be dieting.  I am hoping that maybe Alvin can have some visits alone there too but I know that Timmie was extra special to my mom and he may be the only dog capable of penetrating the, I don't take care of dogs rule that my mom had firmly in place before the arrival of Timmie.  Even with my mom's fear that Alvin will go potty in her house, if there is ever another dog capable of convincing her, it is Alvin.  

I was able to observe Alvin watching and imitating Stevie.  Stevie approached a couple of groups of flowers and sniffed them. She was clearly looking for food but then Alvin had to go to the groups of flowers and also sniff them repeatedly. He looked like he was smelling the flowers and was so cute.  Once Stevie has carefully examined every single item in my mom's house for any potential food, she then resumes her normal activity of napping.  In the meantime, Alvin gets to follow her everywhere and appears very hopeful that Stevie will sniff something out and get them a little though she would share if she did find something.  Once Stevie goes to sleep, Alvin can then resume his favorite activity of staring at my mom, while I resume my pitiful, pay attention to me, pleas, which continue to fall on deaf ears.  Someday I will learn that trying to compete with my mom for the affection of any living being is fruitless because she truly has something extra special about her and kids, dogs, cats, and adults all know it.

Alvin's Police Dog Buddy

On Saturday while hearing a police dog furiously barking while entering my neighbor's house, I realized that I have potentially found Alvin's his new playmate.  I don't know what my fascination is, but when I hear sirens and there is criminal activity going on I am the first one to slam on my brakes and nearly cause an accident so that I don't miss a minute of the action.  I think my fascination has something to do with the fact that the criminal world is vastly different than the world I live in (thank goodness) and I am very curious about any lifestyle different than my own, to the extent that I spent seven years volunteering to teach classes at a county jail.  Then if you add sirens and blinking lights, I'm in!  I am lucky enough to live near a drug house that has frequent police activity and yes, I'm that one person climbing through bushes for a better look and if I had a dollar for every time a police officer has said, ma'am please go back into your house, I would be a very wealthy, nosey woman!  The only downside to living near the drug house was that the drug addicts would park in front of our houses and as much a like a bonafide criminal, I like them at a bit more of a distance.  Luckily, all my neighbors agreed and we managed to successfully scare off the entire clientele into parking on another street, and rightfully so because my neighborhood is comprised of a bunch of lunatics and yet, I still manage to hold the position as the village idiot.  To illustrate how and why I got that position, the last straw was when a U-Haul truck parked in front of my house at 4:00 AM and sat there with their lights off.  I can't be certain of much in life but I am certain that nothing good is going to come of a U-Haul pulling up in front of your house at 4:00 AM, across from a drug house and the two occupants sliding down to hide.  So, I lost my mind and went out there with my video camera and cell phone and they got the heck out of there.  The police are frequently trying to bust the house but so far they haven't come up with much.  I have conflicting feelings about that because on one hand, I really want those people to be accountable for what they are doing but if they all go to jail, what the heck else am I going to do on a Friday night?  The police were back on Saturday with five police cars, one undercover car and a police dog furiously barking as he entered the house and it was then that it dawned on me, that's where I need to start looking for Alvin's playmate!  It would be a win-win!  He could get a friend that was capable of protecting him against any danger and I could get closer to the action.  I'm really at a loss as to how to go about this whole thing.  Do I just walk into my local police department and give them Alvin's resume?  Do I write an essay explaining how this is a win-win because not only would their dog get to be exposed to the daily dazzlings of Alvin Stanley, but they will also get me as part of the deal because I can serve as an extra set of eyes and ears during our "busts", as I am sure that is the term "we" will use?  I could point out that after spending the seven years teaching in a jail that I am now proficient in speaking criminal lingo, which primarily consists of using the word, meth as often as possible in every sentence.  Do I point out that I have a track record of spotting crimes, as evidenced by my somewhat frequent calls to 9-11?  They're welcome!  How could they say no?  Now what would Alvin get out of this deal?  As you all know, Alvin's idea of "playing" is to closely follow dogs that like to explore and who likes to explore more than a police dog?  Not to mention the great PR it would be for the police department because it could be a story like that gorilla that had a pet kitten, with the police dog as the gorilla and Alvin being the kitten.  I am clearly on to something but please come bail me out if you hear of a crazy lady in Concord trying to bring her dog to police raids in an effort to find him a friend.  Everyone else will think I'm crazy but now after reading the back story I am sure that it will make perfect sense to all of you.  Not that we'll need it but wish us luck anyway!

*After writing this entry, Alvin's best friend, Sally was kind of enough to create this picture and I thought that you all would enjoy it.  It's fantastic!  Thank you Sally!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Alvin's in the Trash Can

After grooming Alvin, I swept up all of his fur and threw it in the outside garbage can.  I took a look at it yesterday and it looked like he is in there.  I am shocked that I clipped off that much fur considering I just clipped part of him a couple of weeks ago.  Alvin's fur grows very fast and is very thick and so right now it really looks like he's in the trash can.  If anyone is in the process of making one of those terribly sought after dog fur blanket, or even a dog fur house for that matter, Alvin can single handedly supply the materials.

I am proud to announce that Alvin is learning to outsmart the system.  We continue to work on the command, sit, primarily because I can't think of another command that I can teach him.  Forget commands like lie down or shake because that would freak him out to high heaven and so we're stuck on sit.  It is odd because when I say it, sometimes he gets it right away and sometimes he is at a complete loss.  His retention does not seem to be connected to time because there are times when we haven't practiced for a week and he gets it right away and other times that it's ten minutes later he just stares at me blankly.  He would do anything for food and so it isn't a matter of motivation.  When I used to ask Timmie to sit, he would do it immediately and because he never cared much for treats, he would often refuse it but would sit over and over again because he so enjoyed the praise.  It didn't take Timmie long to learn that he could just stay seated in between the treats or praise and so I would have to walk away to get him up again.  That has never dawned on Alvin until tonight and twice I saw the little wheels turning and he stayed seated.  He looked so cute with those big eyes zeroed in on me while blinking over and over again while nervously waiting for his treat.  I didn't have the heart to walk away and make him do it again and so he got a second treat.  I don't care if it's technically cheating because that's just smart thinking!  He only did it twice before forgetting all about it but during those two times he displayed near genius..........well, for Alvin.

I keep forgetting to mention something very sweet that Alvin did a few days ago.  I am certain that it was just a coincidence but at the time it broke my heart.  Alvin tends to turn in earlier than the rest of us at night and usually goes and tucks himself into his dog bed in my bedroom.  Once he is all settled in and goes to sleep he becomes more relaxed and cuddly.  I take advantage of this time by repeatedly going in, getting on my knees and petting him.  He tends to be warm and snugly and it allows for many tender, quiet moments.  When I was considering him going to live at his former foster home, I went into him, got on my knees and asked him if he wanted to stay here or go to Cathy's.  I was feeling very uncertain about what would be the best choice for him and it helped to ask it out loud.  I will be darned if every time I asked him if he wanted to stay with me if he didn't reach up and lick my face.  For the most part, Alvin is not a licker, with a few sporadic exceptions.  For a while he would repeatedly lick my arm in bed at night and then we went through a much too short period of licking my face at bedtime.  The other exception is when I have had something on my hands.  So, he was killing me when he kept reaching up and licking my face.  Out of curiosity, I went in four separate times and asked him at least three times each trip.  I would say, "Alvin, do you want to live at Cathy's?" and no lick.  Then, "Alvin, do you want to stay here?" and he would repeatedly lick my face.  Don't worry, I haven't lost my mind but I couldn't help but have my heart hurt a little every time I asked and he licked.  Last night I thought I would try it again because if he did it again then I would have simultaneously called to have myself placed on a psychiatric hold, while loudly proclaiming that I had a boy genius in my home.  Things were clearly right in the world because he just stared at me blankly and the moment was gone......thank goodness!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Three's a Crowd

I wanted to clarify more about Alvin staying here.  As some of you read, he was going to go back to his former foster home so that he had more canine companionship.  I do think that Alvin enjoys dogs more than humans because other than when dogs chase him, he has no fear of dogs and so they don't serve as sources of anxiety, along with pleasure, as humans do.  I had some reservations about him going back there simply because of Brady and Eli and their propensity to play too hard and scare him.  But there were many pluses, along with the foster mom who treats dogs better than any human I have ever known.  Since it fell through at the last minute, I was able to reevaluate the situation and even if a spot opens, I am not going to have him go back unless Brady and Eli are gone, which is not likely because they need to be adopted together and they both have a seizure disorder.  So I think we're back to him staying here until he is adopted and even then, it is really going to have to be an ideal home for him, comprised of very patient humans and at least one friendly dog. 

I am sure some of you are wondering why I don't just break down and get another dog for Alvin and I can't tell you how tempted I am but I live in a home that is less than 800 square feet and having three dogs and a cat becomes terribly crowded.  I did it before and the house is just too small for that many animals.  Plus, if I were to foster a third dog there is no guarantee that he/she will serve as a playmate for Alvin and if not, then I am faced with sending a dog back to boarding, which I have been faced with before and I just couldn't do it. An example of this is that when I first fostered Timmie, the first night he marked 16 times in my house, had no concept of potty training, attacked my blind, deaf dog, tried to attack my cat, managed to dig under the fence and got out, and was a chronic barker.  I spent the first month sleeping on my hide-a-bed because I couldn't have Timmie in a bedroom with carpet and I had to keep the two dogs separated by my body at night.  With all of that, I just couldn't send him back to boarding and so I am entirely confident that any dog that came in here would stay until adopted and all I would need is to have three dogs here and still no playmate for Alvin.  In my quest to try to find a dog for my cat and now a playmate for Alvin, I could end up with Noah's Ark, except worse because there was a cap on only two of each species in that situations.  I wish he would learn to play with a hamster but then he would suffer the trauma of watching his playmate get eaten by the cat.  I am realizing that it was a blessing I didn't make it to San Luis Obispo because there was a crowd of dogs needing foster homes and knowing my luck, Alvin would find his perfect playmate.  The other factor would be that his playmate would be a foster dog and most foster dogs get adopted far quicker than my dynamic duo, with Stevie being here almost a year and Alvin coming up on eight months.  Can you imagine how pitiful it would be if he bonded with a friend again and then he/she got adopted?  I don't think my floor could withstand the circling and my heart couldn't withstand him staring at the floor (because if you remember he stares at the floor instead of the door), watching for his friend.  So, all of our hope is now on Cricket who has already displayed a disinterest in other dogs, with the exception of Timmie, although Alvin's a cheap date because all he requires is a dog that will let him follow her around.  So, keep your fingers crossed that Cricket is smitten by Alvin or at least wants to run around a lot with another dog having his nose glued to her butt.  I don't know what's popular in the dog world but let's all hope that nose/butt gluing is it!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Phantom Odor

Although this isn't about Alvin, I thought I would include it because in actuality, it tends to be Stevie with the funniest stories and she is a dog that certainly deserves a blog.  In the absence of her own blog, I will write an entry about our recent vet visit.

We went to the vet on Friday.  I have been avoiding going back to my vet because I haven't been there since Timmie died.  He did not die at my vet's, but rather at the emergency vet but my regular vet is an emotional place for me because Timmie adored him.  He loved him so much that I would take him along when he didn't even have an appointment.  I would take one of the other dogs for their appointment and Timmie would come bounding in looking for the vet.  He would then whine when another dog got to be up on the table because Timmie loved to be on the table getting all of the attention.  When I saw my vet today he started crying talking about Timmie.  I can't convey how special he was to everyone.  I have never been around a dog remotely like Timmie and sadly, I am sure that I never will.  The good news is that I knew it at the time and I so enjoyed watching people's reaction to him.  Everyone just ewwwed and awwwed over him. 

So, I got through that and put Stevie on the table.  She was in there for possible ear infections, a lump near her butt, and a suspected UTI.  She does not share Timmie's love for my vet and began placing her front paws on my shoulders while repeatedly trying to climb up me.  Because the poor thing had to have every area prodded and examined, she had finally had it and tried to bite the vet.  It was more of a warning, back off because if I really wanted to I could bite you, type gesture.  Later she lost all hope in my rescuing her and tried to do a suicide leap off the table but I caught her. 

During all of this my vet kept sniffing her and I couldn't figure out what in the world he was doing.  He started to say that there was a "phantom odor" coming from her and he couldn't locate it.  He smelled her ears, her mouth, and even her paws.  Near the end of his search, when clearly it wasn't located in the usual areas, I started to panic while wondering if I was the phantom odor.  It starts to make a person very insecure when the odor can't be located on the dog.  I started to try to make excuses about her having not had a bath for two weeks and that she has old dog breath but he didn't seem to think it was caused by either of those factors.  He never located the "phantom odor" but I wonder if he was too nice to say it was me?  What made it worse is that I couldn't smell anything and since I know that people can't detect their own stench I have decided that the next time we go in, I am going to do an extra scrub down, gargle mouth wash in the parking lot, and arrive in a cloud of perfume.  In the meantime, Stevie smells fine to me but the "phantom odor" may explain why neither of the dogs have been coming too close to me lately.

Here we Sit in Concord

Sadly, we didn't make it to San Luis Obispo today.  I was ready, purse in hand and only needed my keys.  As I was searching for them I got a call from my mom saying she was worried because I didn't look good and that helped me acknowledge that I didn't feel good.  The prospect of driving eight hours round trip seemed too big.  I was very disappointed because I was really looking forward to watching everyone see Alvin's progress and Alvin hasn't seen his best friend, Sally for seven months, but I just didn't think I could muster the energy needed for such a big day.

The sad part is that Alvin had a brand new haircut to show off.  What I found most interesting is that when I was finished with it last night, I was terribly critical of how it looked because it took a very long time for Alvin's sedative to work and so it was nearly 11:00 PM once I got started.  I didn't have the time or energy to make all the finishing touches and so I was really wincing at the idea of so many people seeing it the next day.  Then once I realized we weren't going and people wouldn't see it, I changed my mind and thought it looked great. HA!  However it ends up each time it's a miracle it isn't a complete disaster because I do it on the floor, with him sometimes prancing and circling around.  If people saw what I had to do to cut his hair, I am certain that they would think it was a masterpiece but since they don't, it tends to look like an okay haircut but not great.  Poor Alvin has another thing that goes wrong for him.  I am realizing that not only does his fur tend to mat fairly easily but that the mats start at the skin and work out.  So, I ended up shaving him down much shorter, while keeping a bit of a skirt and slightly longer fur on his legs.  He does look cute as he can be.

The profound benefit to having sedated him last night was that once we were done, he was sleepy and I was actually able to put him on my lap and hold him in my arms.  For those of you who have been following along, you can imagine what a lovely moment this was.  I sat on the floor and held him for about 15 minutes while he slept in my arms.  I then placed him in bed with me and was able to hold him in my arms as we slept for about an hour.  It immediately felt very familiar because I did this with Timmie every night and I haven't been able to feel that since he died.  It was lovely and I just wish it didn't take a sedative to be able to be near to him in that way.  While he was sedated I touched, scratched, and pet him as much as I possibly could with the hope that when he was no longer sedated, he would remember it and not be as afraid.  I have noticed today that he has allowed me to touch him more. 

My mom said she was working on something for me and brought it over today.  She has printed out all of his blog entries and put them in a binder.  It looks like a bonafide book and it reminds me of how far we have come in the past seven months and how very much I care about him because why else would I have written a blog that now rivals the length of War and Peace?

Friday, April 13, 2012


Alvin is going to be staying here!  Whoo Hoo!  Cathy has decided not to have Bobo come here and the only way she could take Alvin is if we did a trade.  So, he gets to stay here and I don't have to feel guilty for keeping him here because there isn't another option for him.  I am deleting the other post so as to not confuse the readers who haven't seen it yet.

It looks like his play date with Cricket will be rained out so we will try it another day.  In the meantime, Alvin is going to get a bath and a grooming tonight in preparation for his big debut at the adoption event in San Luis Obispo tomorrow.  Wish us luck because you know that we will need it!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wipe Out!

Alvin lights up each and every time my mom comes over but last night his excitement caused  him to do a full wipe out.  When my mom came through the door last night Alvin had just turned to walk the other way and he did a fast backwards glance at the door when he spotted my mom.  This caused him to attempt to turn and run towards her but his body was moving faster than his mind and he ended up doing a half leap, odd turn, and an attempted forward run, which ended in a full wipe out.  This did not faze him a bit as he picked himself and made his way to her.  His excitement is infectious and I nearly leaped up to cheer that she was here but then remembered that she lives next door and comes over all the time.  It is only Alvin that finds the event to be over-the-top exciting each and every time.  He now spends so much time tapping his nose on her that she is forced to put her legs up on the chair because his moist, cold nose becomes irritating after the first three hours.  This causes him to then spend the evening gazing and longing for her to drop a leg or two.  In Alvin's world, no one else exists when my mom is present.  I took him over to her house for a visit today and when we were leaving, he turned around, ran back in, gave her one more nose tap before being willing to part with her. 

When watching this level of devotion I am reminded that there is not a love that is purer, more selfless, or more unconditional that we as humans are fortunate enough to receive.  For me, Timmie was the dog that loved me in a way I didn't even know was possible.  My mom was loved by Timmie in the same way and she now gets to experience it a second time.  My mom loved Timmie in a way that she probably won't ever love another dog but Alvin loves her with the same amount of devotion and if he could just get over his fear he would choose to spend every second curled up next to her. 

I think of how Stevie shows her love and I see it most when I walk through the door.  It doesn't matter if I have just gone out to get something from my car, when I walk through the door I am greeted with a dog full joy.  Because Stevie used to be blind, she always has to jump up on me and put her face on mine just to make sure it's me.  A couple of days ago, my niece, Maisy was over here and when she left, I walked her to the door and let her out.  For a second, Stevie thought I had left too and when she discovered I was still there, she leaped for joy.  The problematic part of her devotion is that she will often stand out in the rain by the gate to wait for my return.  Today as I was walking back from my mom's house, I spotted her through the gate and saw her catch my scent and she turned and ran as fast as she could to greet me at the door.  It is difficult to see the scar around her neck of an embedded collar.  She was clearly tied to something outside and I feel bad for the people with closed hearts who never allowed themselves to experience the love that she would have surely given them.

All of this causes me to reflect on how lucky we as humans are to be the undeserving recipients of that kind of love.  For those who doubt the existence of God, I find that one of the most obvious signs that God exists is in the love of animals for humans.  It would be difficult to imagine that that kind of love and devotion wasn't divinely created and inspired.  And while writing this touching last paragraph, my mom just pointed out that Alvin got his head stuck in her pant leg.  He wedged his head as far up her pant leg as possible, in an effort to nose tap as much of her as possible and ended up stuck in her pant leg........well, maybe that part isn't divinely inspired.

Alvin's Afraid of the Dark

I rarely take Alvin out for walks after dark but I did tonight and noticed that once again, I realized that he is afraid to go for walks at night.  I have noticed it before but I wasn't prepared for it this time.  He ended up going for a fast loop and he caught Stevie across her throat with his leash and insisted on completing the loop.  Poor Stevie went reeling backwards to try to rescue herself.  The street lights were on and Alvin kept seeing my shadow and darting around looking for the other person following us.  I took him out because I worry about him being bored and all I ended up doing was traumatizing him.  I didn't know it was possible for a dog to be afraid of the dark because of their ability to see well in the dark but the last time we walked in the dark, he managed to run himself in a parked car while doing a loop.  So, well keep our entertainment to the daylight hours.

We're having a very late night because Maddie has another urinary tract infection and the antibiotic hasn't kicked in yet.  She has gone deaf and has started to meow a lot and so tonight she keeps going in and outside to try to go potty and is letting the whole house know of her comings and goings.  She is quite prone to them but she tends to respond within hours to the antibiotic but in the meantime, we are all awake in solidarity.  Poor girl! 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Who Are You?

I have been watching more of the videos of Alvin in his former foster home and both my mom and I have grown increasingly more perplexed. I watch the videos and ask, "who are you?"  because the videos show such a livelier, more playful dog. As mentioned before, I have still not seen Alvin run and the playfulness on the videos?   HUH?   My mom is convinced that he very much needs a playmate and is very fearful that I am going to bring one home on my trip this weekend when I am going to be surrounded by about 15 cocker spaniels who all need foster homes. I am holding steadfast to my stance that I just don't want a third dog and I have to draw the line some where because I keep looking for a dog for my cat and I can't then try to find another dog for my foster dog.  I also find the difference from two to three to big a big leap and one that I don't want to take. I am certain that Alvin needs a playmate and is growing increasingly bored here. I am so hoping that someone with a playful, but not aggressive dog will come along and be willing to adopt Alvin. I know that we did a lot of good work here and I think he has progressed to the point where some of his other needs can begin to be met. 

When showing my mom the videos of Alvin running around with toys in his mouth, she became frustrated with the fact that we have a whole basketful of toys here and Alvin won't play with them. He clearly enjoyed toys and after we both agreed that he needs to have a dog model how to play with them, I kid you not when I turned around to find my mom pretending to have one in her mouth, jumping around and making barking noises. She would have gotten down on all fours if it weren't for that newly operated on knee of hers. She suggested that I get on all fours and pretend to be a dog but I politely declined......okay, so I looked at her, scoffed, and asked her if she was crazy. As if Alvin's going to mistake me for a dog and start playing with the toys. It is disheartening to see him having so much fun in the past and now seeming bored. Here is a video that gives you an example of how he used to play. The video is primarily of the other two dogs, Brady (the terrorizer) and his brother Eli but what you want to make sure and not miss is at the 38 second mark and the dog that comes leaping across the screen with a toy in his mouth. I had to replay it several times just so I could comprehend that that was really Alvin. He needs to get his playfulness back.  Enjoy!

My Boyless Bed

Well, once again I find my bed without a hint of a male in it.  Don't worry, I am very, very used to it.  I am giving Alvin a break from sleeping on my bed, which leaves only the loyal females, Stevie and Maddie.  Alvin has increasingly started to run like his tail is on fire when I approach him at bedtime to hoist him on the bed.  He is very aware of the routine and runs away the minute he detects I am coming for him.  I think he feels a bit helpless up there because he is too afraid to jump down, except for dire situations and so he must feel trapped.  I originally put him up there because I wanted him to have more human contact.  Then, I thought that he was enjoying it and I think he liked it better when Timmie was up there with him.  Then once Timmie died, I needed him up there with me.  But he has increasingly shown that he doesn't want to be up there and I have tried my very hardest to ignore it.  I have finally relented and accepted that once again, a male wants no part of one of my special sleepovers and so I am allowing him to sleep on the floor, while us three girls sprawl out on the bed.  Alvin is able to "hold it" when up on the bed but once on the ground, that ability sharply diminishes and so we are back to leaving the back door open and this morning I found a little gift about a foot from the outside of the door.  Before going out to check, I told him that I was going to be mad if he went potty inside but then when I saw it, I told him that he was so close to going potty outside and that at least he had the right idea. 

My approach with Alvin reaffirms why it was a gift to society that I didn't procreate.  I often tell him that I am not going to give him another treat but then when I see him looking so pleadingly, I am that parent that says, well, just one......over and over again.  If he gained weight I would not give in but when his well proportioned body looks so cute while begging, I repeatedly go back on my stance.  Then I tell him that I am going to be mad if he goes potty inside but end up congratulating him for going so close to the door and praising him for "trying".  If it were a human I was raising like this, he/she would be the over indulged, entitled, bratty child that everyone muttered about under their breathes, while I remained completely oblivious and squealed about how brilliant and or cute he/she was.  Thank goodness it's a very innocent, sweet dog instead.  Of course, I can't ignore the fact that my other dog, Stevie has developed a very serious stealing problem and so even with dogs, I manage to raise one with a criminal history.  And so when thinking about my continued choice not to procreate, I say to my community, you're welcome!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Go Sell Crazy Some Where Else - We're All Stocked Up Here

After watching many videos of Alvin in his former foster home and realizing that in many ways he seemed more normal then he is now, and then a subsequent candid discussion with my mom, I have been forced to come to the realization that I make animals weird.  I showed the videos to my mom and like me, she was taken aback by how much better Alvin seemed on the videos.  We then began reflecting on the various animals we have had and commenting how most of them were either a bit odd or downright nuts and we had to conclude that we have been the common denominator.  From the cat that would get up on dressers and then leap off to randomly to pounce on my mom in the middle of the night, to the cat that if she smelled menthol would start a scary kind of growling yawl and then attack people, to the cat that would climb up on the roof every single day and then cry to be rescued, to the cat that had to walk in a certain pattern throughout the whole house, and the horse that would escape under the electric fence and we would find him a mile down after having sneaked his way into varying horse pastures while refusing to come out when I called him.......... and the list goes painfully on and on.  My current cat thinks she's a dog, down to now squatting on the lawn, going potty and then refusing to try to bury it, not to mentions that she drinks out of the garden hose.  Even wonderful Timmie got the cops called on us one night when I had the very loud air conditioner on and didn't realize that he was barking his lungs out in another room, to the point that my neighbors two doors down woke up and thought that I must be dead for not hearing him.  I had four police officers at my house, shining flash lights in my windows and in my backyard.  Stevie steals from people.  And then there's Alvin, which begs the chicken or the egg question when it comes to his oddness and living here.  Don't even get started on the whole idea that animals start immulating their owners because I get it already.  Over the years, I had many cats run away and I was always so bewildered as to why they left me but I am now realize that they were forced to get out before they became permanent residents of Toon Town. 

On another note, today is my mom's 70th birthday and I know just the perfect gift for her.  I am thinking that a cute little bumblebee would make for a delightful surprise.  Okay, so it's a dog underneath that costume that randomly burps, loops, and sometimes goes potty in the house but what would she do with a normal pet?  She's never had one so why start now?  Happy birthday dear mom and for the gift of Alvin and all of his little surprises he is bound to leave you on the floor, you're welcome!

Monday, April 9, 2012

My California Boy!

I am enjoying watching Alvin enjoy the sunny, increasingly warm weather. It has remained uncharacteristically chilly here but I have found that if it's sunny and the weather is around 65 degrees or higher, Alvin loves to lie on the concrete and bask in the sun, prefrring to stay out there most of the day. My mom always thinks of things I miss and mentioned that he needs a dog bed out there so that he isn't sleeping on the hard concrete. I think he might enjoy the warmth of the concrete but I am going to put a bed out there for him and see if he will use it. My fear is that my other sun worshiper, Maddie will spot it and take it over too.

I recently wrote about Alvin's inability to locate where the source of any noise is coming from and to give a clearer example, when I call him, he will run into the room and instead of looking where he is most apt to find me (embarrassingly it's the couch), he will run past me, go into the kitchen, keep searching for me while I repeatedly call his name and it almost always requires me to repeatedly wave my hand near the ground where he is looking, in order for him to "find" me.  I can rarely rely on sound alone for him to find me.  On a side note, one can imagine how crucial it is to keep him on a leash.  When Alvin is out basking in the sun he likes to stay by the gate, which is the closest to the street and the driveway.  I think he prefers this spot because it's the hottest place.  I am able to see him through the cracks in the gate and I have noticed that when I pull up, he is unable to associate that with me having arrived home.  For any of you dog owners out there, you know how quickly dogs put together the sound of your car with you arriving home but after countless times of him hearing a car and then me arriving home, he still does not associate the two.  Even me opening up the front door, shutting it, and walking through the house does not indicate to him that I am home.  I know that he hears well based on his physical reaction to nearly any noise but every time I walk out there he looks like I have knocked him over with a feather because he's so surprised.  I can even walk the approximately 30 feet and get very close, or even touch him before he realizes where the source of the footsteps are coming from.  What all this tells me is that he would be an abysmal failure as a guard dog, not only because after seven months, I am still yet to hear him bark but he would repeatedly run right past the burglar.  My only hope would be if the robber tried to give him a treat and he bit his finger off.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Alvin's Big Debut

There is an upcoming Camp Cocker event in San Luis Obispo on April 14th and I am hoping to take Alvin and Stevie down.  Both have been to several adoption events without any success but hope springs eternal.  Stevie can barely hear but she hears enough that she picks up on the the dogs barking. I think it reminds her of her two months of being in a crowded shelter and so her response is to insist on being held like a baby during the whole event.  Here are three pictures of Stevie and me at two separate adoption events and this is what we did all day long, both days.

We aren't going to the event with much hope of securing an adoptive home but rather, none of Alvin's fans have seen him in the past seven months since I have had him.  This also allows him another chance to try to get the heck out of dodge by convincing someone to take pity on him and save him from the crazy lady (me, of course).  His very best friend, Sally Wolk is going to be there and she is very overdo for an Alvin afternoon.  Cathy Stanley from Camp Cocker has not been able to see Alvin's new and improved back legs and I think she would like to see what her $4,000 plus surgery got her.  It's going to be a long day because it takes us about four hours to get there but he has to face his adoringly public at some point and so I am going to do my best to get him there.  Undoubtedly, between the two dogs, there is bound to be all kinds of stories about adventures and our inevitable misadventures and so I will certainly let you all know how that goes.  If any of you live in the area and want more information about the event, please message me because of course, Alvin and I would both be delighted to meet any of our readers.  I'll even give you a treat so you can literally risk life and limb to become an official member of the Alvin Stanley club.

Alvin and Stevie's First Easter Egg Hunt

Every year my neighborhood hosts an Easter egg hunt in the same lawn area that I occasionally try to pawn off as a dog park to Stevie and Alvin.  It is a relatively large event and when seeing the kids start to arrive I realized that it was a perfect opportunity to see how Alvin reacted to a bunch of children.  In the past, Alvin has displayed a particular interest in children and displayed a near fascinated with them.  On one occasion, we were at the dog park and Alvin spotted a little girl and made a beeline towards her.  He kept staring at her and trying to put his nose on her to the point that it started to scare her.  I have never been around a large group of children to see if indeed Alvin is friendlier with kids as a whole.  When arriving, Alvin was pulling on the leash and wanted to get near the kids.  There were about 30 kids, with several dogs, and many adults.  It was a loud, chaotic scene, which could scare even a confident dog, but not Alvin.  He repeatedly approached the children and placed his nose on them while allowing each one of them to pet him.  When the adults approached he ducked away and was his usual nervous self.  He scared one small girl because he kept insisting on placing his nose on her leg and when she moved away, he moved with her.  I don't know if it's the size of the kids but I am doubtful of that because he has met a lot of short, small women and he is still nervous.  When he is around kids, it seems as though he has previously lived with a child due to the significant increase in his comfort level. 

Of course we had to do the looping all the way home while a large audience was watching.  I just kept my hand above my head and hoped the kids would mistake him for a circus pony.  Speaking of mistaking something about Alvin, a guy approached him and kept saying, "oh you're an old doggy aren't you?"  Ummmm, have you seen the pictures of Alvin?  First, he's only about five-years-old but he has the permanent puppy look and people are often very surprised to hear that he isn't a puppy.  I don't know who the guy was looking at but Stevie was nearby and she is a dog that looks older than her approximately 10-12-years-old and he didn't comment about her age at all.  Maybe he was dyslexic and got the dogs mixed up.

Speaking of Stevie, I have known many a cocker spaniel with good noses but with Stevie if there was a canine sniffing Olympic event, Stevie would win the gold metal.  She got one whiff of all the candy scattered on the lawn and kept pulling me towards it.  We were about 30 feet away and most of the candy was wrapped but if I had let her, she would have sniffed her way straight to the first unwrapped piece of candy out there.  I took them back before the Easter egg hunt started because I knew that if kids came back with their Easter baskets filled that Stevie was sure to rob them blind.  She is shameless in her thievery and has shown time and time again that she can't be trusted, even in the presence of children, the elderly and in one case, a police officer.  She is an equal opportunity thief and will steal from anyone trusting enough to fall of her mug.

This Easter egg hunt was a particular success because it was the first year that neither one of my nieces or my nephew attended.  The event was started 16 years ago by my mom who wanted to provide her first granddaughter with an Easter egg hunt.  Every year the event gets bigger and it was partially helped by my brother's ability to keep procreating.  I don't know what evilness comes over me but I turn into something disturbing when it comes to my desire for my nieces and nephew to get the best and the most.  Every year I would vow to be more socially appropriate and yet every year I would insist on forming a game plan with them and I would stake out where all the best stuff was and instruct them what to run for first so they were sure to beat out the other kids.  The other kids were terribly naive and would just run to the first item and work their way through it.....suckers!  I would form a route for  "my kids"  that left the other kids in the dust and sniveling about not getting a kite or the other coveted items.  And I didn't give "my kids" a stupid ole Easter basket because those things fill up fast and become useless and so instead they would go out armed with a big bag and I would then cheat by walking up to them when it filled, emptying it into another bag and screaming at them to get back out there, knock the little kids down and keeping "hunting."  This inevitably ended with my kids talking to me about the importance of sharing and something about it just being for fun........they're clueless!  But guess who was Miss Popularity when we got inside and I emptied their bags to show them all of their loot?  So, you can guess what a disappointment it was not to have any kids to scream at this year and what a relief it must have been for the other adults to see me arrive with just two dogs.  My youngest niece turned 11 today and used some feeble excuse about being too old for the event but even after explaining to her that it only meant she was faster and more able to knock other kids down, she still declined.  Ungrateful little kids!

But at least Alvin and Stevie found their first Easter egg hunt to be a success and thank goodness there wasn't a canine version of the Easter egg hunt because goodness only knows what would have been unleashed (pun intended) in me if I thought I had to help Stevie and Alvin get their share of the loot.  I am hoping that by this time next year, they will both be adopted and I won't be trudging down with the same pair for year number can dream.

A Supporting Character in my Own Life

I am starting to become convinced that my mom particularly enjoys being mentioned on this blog. I don't discuss with her in advance what I am going to write and we only discuss what has been written when she is particularly tickled with something I wrote about her and Alvin. Let's be honest, she and Alvin are the stars and at best, I am a supporting character on my own blog. I have noticed that my mom tends to call attention to something cute or out of the ordinary that occurs between her and Alvin and I am beginning to suspect that she realizes she is the co-star and wants to make sure that Alvin and her fans get to read all about it.

Much more importantly, either Alvin reads this blog or I jinx it by writing because as I have mentioned before, I'll be darned if every time I write something here, within days the behavior resumes.  For whatever reason, Alvin tends to go to my bookcase and will stare at the books and often places his nose on each book, to the point that my mom and I often joke that he is trying to select a book to read.  Now I am beginning to question my sanity in suspecting that the boy cannot only read but manages to read this blog because once again, I'll be darned if after just writing that Alvin is no longer looping, guess who busted out his vintage looping moves around the living room all night long?  He had been fed, given subsequent treats, the back door was open, no one was bothering him, and I was in my far too familiar position on the couch with the TV on - there just wasn't anything in his environment that should have caused him to have to bust out a loop, much less repetitive loops.  I suspect he is missing his co-star and I clearly am a cheap substitute to the much preferred company of my mom.  The constant pattering became annoying and disheartening and I think I am going to insist that my mom take him to live with her.  Not only would I need to convince her to take Alvin but also another dog as a playmate so that he doesn't get bored.  I seem to recall a saying about a snowball and hell that would capture the probability of that occurring but just for fun, I think I am going to attach a note to his collar, shove him through her front door and then run like all get out while timing how long it takes for him to be unwillingly delivered back to my doorstep.  The only reason I am not going to do it is because I would have to live with the looping by getting his hopes up and then having them dashed.

Remember that I  just wrote about Alvin's ability to gently take treats consistently the past month or two?  Well, something misfired between Alvin's mind and his mouth because he chomped down on my index finger to the point that I initially thought that any pointing I would do in the future would be an obscene gesture.  He only did it once but I fear writing anything more about his improvement because I do enjoy having both hands.  I have come to the conclusion that his previous chomping down tendencies had to do with just having no experience in getting treats.  He just needed ample practice in finding out that my fingers weren't edible and I only shed actual blood on a couple of occasions.  But if the past is any indicator, I will be in ER within the next 48 hours, getting stitches and begging a surgeon to save my finger.  If nothing else, living with Alvin offers the possibility of all kinds of surprises.