Alvin sticks out his tongue when he is nervous

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Not in Front of the Children

Before I start this post, let me concede that my mom and I may be certifiably crazy.  So, for any of you who advocate for me adopting Alvin, this post should cause you to pause and reconsider your stance.

Today Stevie was snuggled up next to me on the couch and I slid her over, put her in my lap and scratched her in all her favorite places.  While scratching her, I said, "You're mine.  You belong to us."  My mom responded by telling me not to say that in front of Alvin because it could hurt his feelings.  I would have liked to have responded by telling her she was crazy and that a dog can't understand what humans are saying, but I couldn't say a word because of my own behavior.  Once in a while my mom lovingly makes jokes about Alvin and I involuntarily respond by sounding horrified and saying, "don't you talk like that!  What if he understands what you just said?"  I know it's utterly ridiculous but I always think of people in comas when people talk in front of them, only to find out later the person could hear and understand them.  Granted, that would be a human I am talking about and Alvin is not only a dog but one that doesn't comprehend quite a bit, but crazily, I still try to cover the base of insanity.  I can't even comfort myself with the erroneously held belief that if a person thinks that they are crazy then they're not crazy, because crazy people don't know that they are crazy.  It turns out, that is not true and that there are crazy people who know they are crazy, and all signs are pointing the fact that I am one of them.  Much to your relief, Alvin remains up for adoption and may be able to escape Casa Crazy.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Alvin's a Bruiser

I just gave Stevie a bath and one would expect that due to Alvin being deathly afraid of getting baths that he would have run far away and hide.  If he had done so, I would not now be sporting a blossoming bruise.  After taking Stevie out of the bath I was leading her to a dry towel on the floor for her to roll on and there was Alvin, not only in the way but refusing to move.  I began to trip with nowhere to go and yelled at Alvin to move but he is utterly oblivious to loud voices and he stood his ground.  This caused me to propel into the side of the doorway and I connected with the tip of my shoulder bone.  It hurt like nobodies business and to top it off, there stood Alvin actually begging for a treat.  This caused me to actually swear at him and I said, "damnit Alvin that really hurt", and he responded by continuing to beg for a treat.  For the life of me, I can't figure out how a dog who can run away in fear from utterly harmless objects will insist on standing in the way of feet, even after being accidentally kicked on a regular basis.  It is such an issue that I constantly think about where my feet are when walking anywhere because if I don't, I am bound to trip on him and go sprawling.  How is it that nine months later he still hasn't caught on?  It is far more frustrating right now because my shoulder really hurts and I am bound to be sporting a big, fat bruise soon.  In the meantime, treat time is suspended.  Who else would have the nerve to trip someone, cause them to hurl into the door, and then ask for a treat?  Good thing he is so darn cute and that has served him well on many of occasions, particularly right now!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Alvin's Soul Mate?

My mom recently taught a water safety class to K-2nd graders at the school in which she recently retired. They also included the two special education classes, one of which my mom occasionally subs for the regular teacher. After the class, the special ed teacher brought up one of her autistic students who needed to be able to touch and feel the props my mom used. He was a little guy, maybe first grade and was as cute as they make them. I was immediately struck with how loving and patient the teacher was, so much so that when driving home I became emotional because I thought of how much a parent would want that kind of treatment for their child, and with a class of nine other, very time and energy consuming children, it would be easy to over look the needs he had to feel everything. She took each item he requested and let him feel and hold them. While watching him, I instantly thought of Alvin. The little boy had the same kind of innocence that Alvin has. It's difficult to put into words how innocent Alvin is but I saw it in this child. Of course, there was the similarity of needing to touch everything, but they also shared a gentleness and quietness about them. The teacher reminded me of how my mom and I interact with Alvin when we allow him to nose bump new things. Because of Alvin's innocence and quietness, one can't help but to be slow, quiet, gentle, and patient with him. He really brings out the best in people. I am certain that Alvin is autistic and autism does occur in dogs. I began to wonder how Alvin would respond to a quiet, gentle autistic child. Because most autistic children don't make eye contact, I don't know if Alvin's odd stare down behavior he does with children would scare them, but so often Alvin misses the mark and is staring at their knees, shoes, or wherever. He allows kids to touch him far more than he will allow adults and so I don't know if an autistic child's need to touch would scare Alvin or not. I would love to take this child and see because they clearly demonstrated similar qualities and behaviors. I wonder if an autistic child would be Alvin's soul mate in understanding him. There is a code to be cracked with Alvin and although I take guesses, I know that I am very limited in understanding his needs and behaviors. I am certain they all mean something even though it often looks like nonsense but as a non-autistic human, I just don't get it most of the time. Maybe Alvin's calling is to be a therapy dog for an autistic child, although he very well might loop the kid into traffic or constantly trip him when he wraps his leash around their ankles. So, although his therapy dog career could end in disaster, I have a feeling there is something to be learned about him through the eyes of autistic children. Stay tuned.......

You're Killing Me

I always appreciate when you readers take the time to write comments and I have carefully read all the new ones as to why I need to adopt Alvin.  I am so weak when it comes to him that every comment makes me even more shaky in my resolution that he should be adopted by someone else.  I really can't argue with any of your comments.  My biggest hold up is that I am currently renting a home and the landlord is very animal friendly and told me that I could have as many animals as I wanted.  I actually made her come up with a limit for fear that if she didn't, I would end up with Noah's Ark minus the Ark.  I also have a large back yard here.  Living in the bay area of California, it is rare to be able to rent a house that has a back yard and even rarer to find a landlord that allows so many pets.  I don't know how long I will be able to rent this house because they had previously mentioned wanting to sell it in five years and I have been here for four-and-a-half years.  I don't think I can afford to buy it for what they will want for it.  Alvin in a home without a backyard would be a disaster because he doesn't have the concept of holding it and I don't think it's a concept he will ever get.  When he has to go, he has to go and so I would contend with constant messes and can you imagine if it were carpeted?  Also, I don't know who would rent to a person with two dogs and a cat?  He has been here now for nearly nine months and so who knows, I may end up taking a leap of faith and adopting him but for right now, all of his needs are being met and since there hasn't even been one adoption application in the nearly two-and-a-half years that he has been with Camp Cocker Rescue, I don't think he is going anywhere anytime soon.  Plus, can you imagine the scrutiny I would put the perspective adopter under?  I would bet that I would be met with a frustrated replay of, "listen lady, I'm just trying to adopt a dog.  I don't know why you are insisting on interviewing all my neighbors, doing a criminal background check and asking for a note from my mother.  And why again do you think you are going to need to spend the night for the first month that he is here, and what is the hidden camera for?"  Forget Alvin being hard to adopt, I would be the one that everyone would flee from.  So, for now he remains Alvin Stanley, but if truth be told, I have tried out the name Alvin White on him a few times and I do like the sound of it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Mealtime Shouldn't be This Complicated

Good grief!  Mealtime has become exhausting.  Alvin has the attention span of a gnat and it has become increasingly problematic during mealtimes.  Backing up for a minute, Stevie has started to be a light eater.  I thought she wasn't liking her food anymore so I changed it, but she often remains disinterested in eating.  I have found that if I put some food directly on the ground that she thinks it's a treat and will eat it.  So, now I measure out her food in in a bowl and then take handfuls and put it on the ground.  Meanwhile, Maddie, the cat thinks it's treat time and comes out and meows her head off until I take some of her food out of her dish and put it on the ground as well.  Then there's Alvin who drives me nuts during mealtimes.  He used to be so good at staying by his bowl and gobbling down his food.  I had never seen a dog eat so fast and I attributed his loud burps after mealtimes to having inhaled his food.  It turns out that he burps like a trucker no matter how quickly or slowly he eats his food.  He has recently started to leave his bowl anytime I move and the problem is that once he leaves his bowl, he can't remember where it is and then trots around the house trying to find his food.  If Stevie leaves her bowl, there's a noise, I make the mistake of moving, or Maddie meows, Alvin loses focus, runs around, and can't find his bowl until I go over, stand over his bowl, and put my hand in it so the food makes noise, while saying, "Alvin, here's your food."  I have no idea why this started but we have to go through this several times during each meal.  I tend to be internally impatient because it just seems so obvious to me.  On a few occasions, I waited to see how long it would take for him to find it but after watching him circle around thoroughly confused, I didn't have the heart to watch him struggle and so I get up and show him his food again.  I have started feeding them right next to me so that when he wanders away, I can quickly bend over and jingle his food again.  Stevie then often stops eating half way through and decides that she will indeed eat food out of a bowl, as long as it's Alvin's.  I have lost count of how many times I end up getting up, getting another bowl for Alvin, and starting over again, with about 90% of the time, Stevie losing interest in the food within seconds of me returning.  Then Alvin starts dancing between the bowls and eating out of each one of them.  The obvious solution would be to then take one of the bowls away but nearly every time I do so, Stevie decides she wants to eat of a bowl again and starts even Alvin's food, leaving him with none. 

Even when I put four or five pieces of Alvin's kibble on the floor as a treat for him, if I don't stand there until he is finished, he inevitably follows me and then can't remember where the treat is.  Even when I stand right there, inevitably something distracts him and his search for the food starts up.  To make matters more complicated, I changed their food to small pieces of kibble because I thought maybe Stevie had stopped eating her food because it was large pieces of kibble and maybe it was hard for her to eat because of her aging teeth.  I even started soaking her food, but it's now clear that her not eating isn't due to teeth issues.  So now I have small kibble and with all of Alvin's issues with chewing, he can't hold multiple pieces of the small kibble in his mouth and they end up falling out of his mouth.  It now takes him much longer to eat, which I would consider to be a good thing due to the past inhalation of food issues, but criminy, with his new wandering problem, it takes us so long to get through one meal.  He then has a second meal finding all the pieces of kibble scattered all over the floor.  We are going back to the bigger pieces of kibble and if this continues, I am going to force Alvin to eat in on the bed because he can't get down and will have a much smaller space to hunt for his food when he loses it.  My life and my house have been taken over by three, very "unique" little beings and one doesn't even have to ask the question, who has trained who, because the answer is so darned obvious.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

My Mom Claims That Alvin Makes Her Sick - Video Included

Isn't she just rotten?  Alvin has constantly watery eyes.  Two different vets diagnosed him with distichia, which is a condition where the eye lashes grow into the eyes and irritate them.  So, we went to an eye specialist three hours away where we managed to throw $800 down the drain and traumatize Alvin.  After lasering off the offending eye lashes, his eyes watered just as much.  I am wondering if he has a food allergy but he is on food that has no wheat, corn, or soy and I have changed the protein base, but to no avail.  His eyes do not appear sensitive or irritated.  Due to his eyes watering all the time, moisture accumulates and it causes a smell similar to rotten milk.  I noticed the smell when he was still in his foster home and I thought it was kind of gross.  Since he has been here, unlike my mom, I fully accept Alvin, with all of his flaws and no longer smell his face stench.  You can only smell it if you get really close or you rub your hand on his face.  My mom seems extra sensitive to it and claims to get nauseated by it.  It is nearly useless to bathe him because within about 36 hours the smell is back and neither Alvin nor I can survive baths three times a week.  He was on antibiotics once for it because the moisture causes a yeast infection, but the vet said it was probably useless because if moisture continued to accrue, the infection would come right back.  The skin isn't irritated and it doesn't appear to cause him any discomfort.  You can imagine how he reacts to having his face wiped down, but I do it when my mom starts claiming nausea.  We often have to do it twice, with scented wipes until he passes the grandma test, who clearly has a nose of a blood hound.  Could Alvin catch just a slight break?  Of all people to nauseate, of course it has to be his biggest love.  It's sad to see him looking adoringly at her while she responds by gagging.  If anyone has any suggestions, please pass them our way because I think it's hard on his self esteem to gaze at his love and see her respond by holding her nose and gagging.  I suspect that he isn't the first male to get that response from a woman, but it surely can't be good on any males self esteem.

I broke down and gave him a bath this morning, after having sedated him with three times the amount that would work on any other dog.  I detest giving him baths because even with the sedative, he is so scared and unhappy.  Trying to shampoo and then wash off a dog's face that is scared of water and touch is just short of torture. 

After the bath, I put a bowl of food next to the wall heater so that he would dry off a bit.  It is so hard to towel him dry because he squirms and is generally scared.  I always put dry towels on the floor and sometimes he knows to dry himself off on them but often doesn't remember.  This was one of the times that he didn't remember and so we utilized the wall heater.  I don't think I have mentioned it yet, but Stevie has taken to refusing to eat out of bowls and I now have to put small handfuls of her food on the floor so that she mistakes it as a treat.  I'll be darned if she didn't miraculously decide that she wanted to eat out of a bowl and shoved Alvin out of the way.  I then went and got a second bowl of food and put it near the other bowl and Stevie responded by straddling both bowls so Alvin couldn't get near the heater.  I then took the bowl and put it near me but she insisted on going back to Alvin's bowl and shoving him out of the way.  I finally had to hold her by the collar, while she stubbornly tried to go back to the bowl, and held her until Alvin was finished.  She drove me nuts!

We made this video to guilt grandma into no longer complaining about Alvin's smell.  I should video the actual bath for her to see the trauma (for both of us) when I have to wash his face.  It's a big price to pay for appeasing a woman with the sense of smell of the Bionic Woman and the stomach sensitivity of a bulimic.  I hope she feels really bad after watching the video because Alvin and I sure did.

I hope the day remains cool because right now we have the heat pumped up to 78 degrees so Alvin won't get cold.  Grandma's nose isn't on our popular list right now.

A Video of Alvin Trying to Eat a Hot Dog

I finally tried to video Alvin eating a piece of hot dog to give you an idea of how he struggles to get mushy foods into his mouth.  I noticed while playing the video back that there are pieces of his kibble strewn about the floor.  I had interrupted his breakfast to film the hot dog, and when he eats, he walks around and because the kibble is small, it falls out of his mouth and goes all over the place.  We are going to switch to bigger kibble again but with the small kibble he ends up getting a second meal while cleaning up all the dropped bits. 

I also noticed that the hot dog piece looks much bigger on camera - my whole hand looks much bigger on camera.  In reality, the hot dog piece is a very reasonable bite size.  What the camera does not capture is how hard I am pressing to get it past his front teeth and tongue and it usually bounces back out. 

On the second try at sitting, he hesitates, which is very rare for him when a hot dog is present.  I realized after the fact, that it was a demonstration of how when I hold a treat in my "wrong" hand or there is anything different, in this case the camera, how he often doesn't know to sit.  Compared to how much he usually struggles to comprehend the command, sit when I try it with my left hand, he did remarkably better this time.  It is common that if I try to give the treat to him with my left hand, am sitting instead of standing, or have anything else in my hand that he stands gazing at me, with a confused look and doesn't know to sit.  He is a dog that needs everything to be exactly the same in order to comprehend the command.

Last, I just missed the opportunity to get my cat, Maddie on tape because every single time I give treats or feed the dogs, she hears it (she is supposedly nearly deaf), comes out, sits for her turn, and meows if I am not fast enough in giving her a treat too.  She had just come out and received her treat before I had though to pick up the camera.  I will get her another time.

 Here is a link to the his video.  Kind of interesting, but very odd, huh?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ode to Cali

Although this blog is usually all about Alvin, tonight I am writing about an extra special dog, Cali who just had to be put to sleep due to a brain tumor or infection.  Her former foster mom made a very long drive to be with her adoptive mom while they put her to sleep today.

Cali came to my house with the name Cindy Bear, which I instantly changed to Minnie, for Minnie Pearl because I could picture her with a straw hat on, with a price tag dangling down.  Her front legs were a bit misshapen and so she had the cutest waddle one can imagine.  She came into my house, with another foster dog, and between the two of them and Timmie, they spent the evening running like maniacs and taking the house by storm.  There was something instantly special about Cali and I was smitten.  At the time, I was very committed to fostering only one dog and absolutely not keeping the dog.  I had two dogs for one night because the next day I was to choose which dog to foster and I was giving the other dog to another foster family.  I had to choose to let Cali go because within an hour of her being here I knew that if I kept her any longer that I would never let her go.  It was also clear to me that she was going to be "that dog" to whomever adopted her and I knew that Timmie couldn't bear it if there were more than one of "that dog" in his house.  There are certain dogs that are destined to be that extra special dog and both Timmie and Cali needed to be in homes where they were that only dog for someone.  I had her for only one night and yet, I missed her for months and kept kicking myself for not keeping her.  I almost broke down several times and asked the foster mom if I could have her back.  That would have all been very selfish but I knew that I was missing out without having her more in my life.  She was so funny and incredibly charismatic.  She was so personable that she reminded me of a quirky little lady, hence the Minnie Pearl name.  It's difficult to put into words what makes particular dogs so special but she absolutely waddled her way into my heart.

Her adoptive mom treated her like a queen and was with her nearly all the time.  She worked as a sky dive instructor and every weekend Cali got to go out to the drop zone, hang out with everyone, and wait for her mom to literally fall from the sky.  She was so treasured and loved and so now her mom's heart is breaking.  I am agonizingly familiar with the feeling and it is particularly discouraging when you know that you had "that dog" and that another like him/her isn't bound to come around again.  She only had Cali for nine months and Cali died on her mom's birthday.  It's difficult to find any good in this situation but I do know that Cali deserved to be the treasured best friend of someone and she surely found that in Lisa. 

In times like this, I feel a profound amount of gratitude to Camp Cocker Rescue for saving the extra special dogs like Timmie and Cali.  I am certain that both of them would have died in over crowded, scary shelters had it not been for Cathy Stanley at Camp Cocker.  When I reflect on dogs like Timmie, Cali, Alvin, and Stevie, I know that if it hadn't been for Camp Cocker that all four would have been forced to end their lives in the scariest way, never having been able to share their love and receive it back tenfold.  All four are the kinds of dogs that many other rescues pass up.  Cali was middle aged and had deformed front legs.  Timmie had a crushed pelvis and needed expensive orthopedic surgery.  Stevie was old, blind and deaf.  And Alvin........well, you all know that Alvin is "special" in a way that very easily would have cost him his life if it wasn't for Camp Cocker.  So many of us have found the loves of our lives because of a rescue that believes in these dogs before we have even been able to fall in love with them. 

Good bye, my Minnie and Lisa's Cali. You were extra, extra special and for those of us who knew you, we were so lucky to have had you in our lives! You were at least one in a million!  Here are three pictures of Cali during the time in her life that she was loved and treasured.

So You're Saying There's Still a Chance

Many of you have seen a frequently used comedic scenario where the nerdy guy approaches the impossibly good looking female and asks her out.  She responds that of all the men in the universe that he would be the last one she would date.  He responds, so you're telling me there's still a chance.  This is how I felt recently when having a conversation with my mom about adopting Alvin.  She came over today and told me that she had read my recent entry about her adopting Alvin and had read the reader comments encouraging her to do so.  She said that it didn't matter how much I wrote about it or how many people wrote, encouraging her to adopt him, that she wasn't going to do it.  I kept a straight face, while internally giggling, and started to say, you really should adopt him.  Why not?  It would be great!  She started arguing with me and listing reasons why she wouldn't adopt him.  In the past, when I have told her that she should adopt him, I have been met with a look as though she was talking to an alien and wouldn't even argue the point with me because she found the idea so ridiculous.  And so all I can conclude from the recent discussion is that she's saying there's still a chance.  I never let on that I was kidding because watching her argue was so entertaining.  Her last reason for being unwilling to adopt him was that he would drive her crazy.  I replied that I could take him when he was driving her crazy and she responded that I would have to take him 24 hours a day and that would hardly be an adoption.  I couldn't really argue the point because they are both nervous by nature and they would worry each other silly.  Not to mention that he absolutely won't leave her alone and for someone that doesn't want a dog, having one utterly obsessed and insisting on constantly nose tapping your feet probably isn't a good match.  I do think I got her to agree to let him have more alone visits at her house and pointed out how well behaved he was during the past visit.  She initially responded that he had been very well behaved but then thought about it for a minute and said that of course he was well behaved because they just hung out in the kitchen the whole time while she fed him bologna.  I was hoping she wouldn't remember that part.  I do think I got him more visits though and for now, that will have to be enough......but I think she said in a round about way that there's still a chance.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Finally Found a Food That Alvin Won't Eat

After a long and extensive search, I have finally found a limit to Alvin's culinary devotion.  Alvin doesn't like bananas.  I discovered this because Stevie is taking a medication that depletes her of potassium and the vet recommended that I feed her bananas.  I tried to give Alvin a piece of banana and it was a no go!  I was just so grateful to find something he won't eat because I was fearful the boy would eat a door knob if I let him. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Adoption Discussion

My 11-year-old niece, Maisy was over last weekend and decided to officially sit me down to have the adoption discussion with me.  She was very serious and quite articulate as she called Alvin over to explain to me why I needed to officially adopt him.  It only made it more painful when she kept insisting on addressing Alvin directly and including him in on the discussion.  As she explained that because he has been here a long time and feels as though he has already been adopted, I nearly went to the computer screen and asked, "readers is that you?" because she sounded just like the comments I have read on here from many of you.  I made her swear that she hadn't been reading your comments and parroting them.  She then explained that no, she sounded like the rest of you because "we all are telling the truth."  Good grief!  I explained to her that since he has been up for adoption for nearly two-and-a-half years that we were probably headed towards adoption, if for no other reason than no one else was vying for him.  She explained that he needed to be officially adopted and something about his self esteem.  For crying out loud!  She then came out with the zinger by asking Alvin, "Alvie, do you want to be adopted?" And of course Alvin did one of his circles, which she pointed out was proof positive that not only did he understand, but that he clearly was communicating his desire to be adopted.  Wait until I put a bow around his neck, drop him off at her dad's house, with the official adoption papers that list Maisy White as his adoptive mother.  I am willing to bet he will be back on my doorstep within 30 minutes with a cease and desist notice attached to his collar. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Alvin's Eclipse Party

On Sunday our neighborhood had an impromptu eclipse party and I brought Alvin and Stevie.  The party consisted of about 20 of our neighbors and Alvin thought it was a pretty good party but it all of a sudden became great when the two neighborhood dogs arrived.  I took Alvin over to their house to invite them their mom to the party and boy oh boy was Alvin excited.  Their mom said the dogs could come too, but it was going to take her a minute.  I tried to take Alvin back to the festivities to await their arrival and once again, he put on the breaks and refused to leave without them.  It is so cute when he refuses to go because he is so little and usually isn't the least bit assertive and it just charms me to no end when he gets stubborn.  Of course, he won and we waited for his friends.  I am realizing that Alvin's dream home would be a 24 hour doggy day care.  He likes humans okay but he just loves other dogs.  Now, if my mom ran a 24 hour doggy day care, it would be Alvin's version of heaven!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Alvin's Not Having it!

I took Alvin over to my mom's house today and not only was she there, but there was also my two nieces and bologna.  When I tried to take him home he put on the brakes and absolutely refused to go.  I tried to drag him across the floor and when I finally got him out the door, he pulled out his latest stunt again and ran back in right before the screen door closed.  I then tossed the leash back in and told my mom that she was going to just have to keep him for a while.  I went to retrieve him later and he had enough of a change of heart that he was then willing to go back home.  I informed my mom tonight that she was going to have to break down and adopt him.  She responded, no way, but he has clearly made his choice.  We are at least going to have to come up with a visitation arrangement and let him at least have 50-50 visitation with her.  It's no longer just up to her anymore because Alvin has needs to and he clearly NEEDS to be with her!  We're putting our paws down on this one!  Stay tuned.

Monday, May 21, 2012

I Want to be a Hamburger

I found the key to gaining Alvin's affection.  I took my nephew, Max to the new In-and-Out burger in our town.  Max ate the food in the car and the aroma must have settled on me because I came home to a very physically affectionate Alvin.  When I got home I sat on the ground because I recently discovered that if I am seated on the ground that Stevie will come and give me her version of a hug.  Stevie becomes overjoyed when I come home and if I sit on the ground, she will approach me, put her head and neck under one of my arms and bury her head in my chest.  She stays standing in this position for quite some time.  As we were having our hug, I watched Alvin who was keenly observing the interaction.  After Stevie was finished hugging, Alvin approached and did nearly the identical thing and allowed me to scratch and pet him, while "hugging" me.  I was thrilled and was thinking how smart he is and how closely he is able to imitate what he sees.  I was particularly enthused with the fact that he was staying so close.  I noticed that he kept his mouth and nose on me and I wanted to believe he was giving me kisses........ until I realized that he was inhaling me.  It turns out that he was so close because he was sniffing me all over and I then remembered the hamburger aroma that was in my car.  I don't eat meat and so the smell is rarely on me, but I now know that I am very popular with Alvin when I smell like a gigantic hamburger.  He just couldn't get enough of me and wanted to stay close.  It is always so nice when I find a way to convince Alvin to get, and stay close and so I am considering rolling in hamburger meat when I am lonely and want more of Alvin's companionship.  Whatever works, right?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Alvin's Terrorizing Small Children

Recently when out on a walk with Stevie and Alvin, we spotted a neighborhood boy who is two or three-years-old.  I heard him yelp with excitement and tell his grandma that he wanted to see the doggies.  We made our way over to him and I saw Alvin's reaction when first spotting the little boy.  He zeroed in and started to try to run towards him.  As mentioned before, Alvin is fascinated with children.  He visually locked on to the boy and we made a bee line towards him.  When we approached him, the little guy was initially very excited but then he took a better look at Alvin and began to recoil while whining.  I saw another child have a fearful reaction to Alvin and the problem is that Alvin stares down children and can't get close enough to them.  It doesn't matter what is going on around him, he continues his odd stare down and it looks very much like a dog stares right before they snap or bite.  There is no chance that Alvin is going to be aggressive but his stare is so intent that it is scary to very young children.  To make matters worse, when the child tries to step away, Alvin continues to stare and tries to get closer.  I finally led Alvin away so that the child didn't become traumatized.  From watching Alvin's reaction to children, I had previously suspected that he once lived with a child, but then watching his reaction a few minutes later to the same child, I now suspect that he has had no previous exposure to children, and because of their small stature, he is utterly fascinated.  What led me to that conclusion was that after we walked away, the little boy started running around the grass area we were on.  It's a large area and the boy wasn't near Alvin but the running and jumping, so typical of children, scared Alvin and he alternated between planting his butt on the ground and refusing to move to then running towards me as though he needed me to save him from the running, jumping, odd little person.  In the end, they managed to scare each other and I think both were happy to keep their distance. 

What I have come to realize is that anything new to Alvin is nearly hypnotically mesmerizing to him.  It is one of the reasons that I have not tried to video more of his antics because once he sees the camcorder, he stops whatever he is doing and stares at it.  He wants to repeatedly tap it with his nose and there doesn't seem to be enough nose taps to get it out of his system.  When looking at pictures of Alvin, he is almost always looking directly into the camera and many of the pictures are inches from his face.  Although this makes him very photogenic, what the viewer isn't seeing is that he tends to stop whatever he is doing and becomes preoccupied with the camera.  I am going to try to video some of his interactions with my mom to see what is more mesmerizing, the camera or her.  It may just cause a meltdown as he is torn in two, mesmerizing directions but it will be fun trying.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Alvin's Back Up

I have been missing Timmie terribly lately.  I often feel physical pain when missing him, particularly at night.  This means that I need the comfort of a dog sleeping with me at night.  Stevie used to be a predictable bed buddy but she has started to enjoy lying in the back doorway and sniffing the air.  This leaves Alvin to take on bed duty, which means that I have to try to trick him and often chase him around the house before I can capture him.  Mean?  Possibly.  Necessary?  Absolutely!  Once I get him, he is too afraid to jump off the bed and so I have a captive bed buddy.  For whatever reason, the boy who is somewhat afraid of touch, insists on sleeping on me.  Every night, he starts off with his front paws and his chin resting on me while he falls asleep.  It's lovely.  Once Alvin falls asleep, he is out for the count and I often wake up to find at least half of him sprawled across me .  What a mystery he continues to be, but a warm, snuggly mystery.  In those moments, in the middle of the night when I wake to find once again that Timmie isn't there, Alvin offers me just a bit of healing that comes from the reassurance of feeling his warm breath on me and getting to look at a dog that trusts me enough to love me too.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Napping With Grandma

A few days ago, my mom came over and when she was about to leave Alvin looked so pleadingly at her that she couldn't resist.  She was going home to take a nap and asked if I thought that Alvin would let her nap if she took him home.  I confidently answered yes, while picturing him circling all over her house and possibly urinating on her floor, but I thought that the boy deserved the chance.  Off they went, and as always, I watched from the window because they look so darn cute together.  When she got to the end of the driveway, I saw her lean down and say something to him, which I discovered later was her telling him to stop the stupid circling thing because "they" weren't going to do that anymore.  So, off they circled to her house.  After a while I noticed that an hour had gone by and wondered how it was going.  I knew it couldn't be going poorly and eagerly awaited their return.  It turns out that "they" didn't nap at all but spent the whole time in the kitchen making food, which meant that Alvin got all kinds of treats.  My mom proudly announced that Alvin can take a whole piece of bologna at one time and eat it in no time flat.  This was seen as an achievement because as some of you may recall, Alvin had that very odd chewing problem where he had to spit out and repeatedly try to eat food that was mushy like hot dogs or bologna.  I didn't bother to ask how many times they "practiced" the new bologna eating skill because I inevitably get the reprimand from my mom that if she is going to be the grandma then I need to realize that grandma's get to spoil the grandchildren and that what happens at grandma's house stays at grandma's house. 

While basking in the glow of the resoundingly successful visit at her house, I asked her if she had read your comments about Alvin's need to permanently live here.  She replied that she had indeed read them and didn't offer any thoughts on the subject.  The truth is, Alvin does not need to stay here, my mom needs to come officially claim her dog and take him home with her because I do not exist in his world when she is present.  It's so bad that when we are at her house and I try to take him home, he puts on the brakes and I have to slide him across her floor and out the door.  He inevitably runs back into her house before the screen door closes.  A couple of days ago, as we were leaving, he didn't put on the brakes and went right out the front door.  My mom said, "look at how well he did," and before she could complete the sentence, he ran back in her house with less than an inch to spare before the screen door shut.  There I was, holding the other end of the leash, with Alvin safely on the other side of the door.  I would consider putting a doggy type door in our connecting fence but I would never see him again.  He has chosen his person and his devotion runs deep.  My mom and I were talking about it recently and concluded that clearly my mom must be weird.  Alvin is odd, and I say that with a great deal of love and respect for him, but he is odd and my mom and came to the only conclusion that could be made, my mom is odd too and Alvin senses their common ground.  This of course, means that I am the epitome of normalcy, which Alvin cannot fully relate to.  It's tough being so well adjusted but somebody has to do it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bologna Makes Alvin Hear Better

It's clearly a miracle because when Alvin is in the presence of bologna or hot dogs, he miraculously hears the sit command on the first try and comes to a skidding sit.  In the past, when Alvin doesn't sit right away, I have assumed that he either didn't hear me or forgot what the word meant and I have patiently waited for it to "click" or repeated the word louder.  Well, clearly everything clicks just fine when the right incentive is present.  How do I know this?  Because my mom now buys bologna and keeps it in her refrigerator just for when Alvin comes over to visit, and boy, does he know it!  He prances in the house and goes straight to the refrigerator while literally licking his lips.  When he rounds the corner and literally skids his butt across the linoleum to sit, I realize that bologna is the miracle food of the canine world.  I wonder if he would roll over and bare his belly for steak?  I now know exactly what I will be using when I muster up the courage and patience to teach Alvin another command.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Talk to Me

Last night as usual, Alvin was staying very close to my mom and he kept looking at her like he really wanted something.  As a joke, my mom bent down and was saying to Alvin, "talk to me.  Tell me what you want", and I'll be darned if he didn't use that exact moment to let out a really loud burp.  It took us both by surprise and then of course, we burst out laughing.  I have realized that this burping thing he does could really back fire.  Recently, after sedating Alvin and giving him a bath and a hair cut, he was just fit to be tied and couldn't calm down.  Even though I had to give him way more of the sedative than what would work on another dog, he was still a nervous wreck after we finished.  It took two hours for the sedative to start working and by the time we finished, it was very late.  He continued to frantically circle around the house for another two hours and at 1:30 in the morning, I couldn't take it anymore and decided to take him out for a walk in hopes that a change of scenery and letting him walk off some of the anxiety would help him calm down.  I forgot that he's afraid of the dark so it only made things worse.  On a side note, how is it even possible that a dog can be afraid of the dark?  While walking, he let out a really loud burp and it dawned on me right then that if we were walking by someone, there is not a chance in the world that I could blame that burp on a dog.  It sounds very human and is way too loud for anyone to believe that it came from little ole' Alvin and so now I am paranoid about walking him in public.  The commonly held belief is that dogs can be a great way of meeting potential romantic partners but Alvin's a liability because I am yet to meet a decent man who claims that hearing a woman let one rip like a truck driver is something they are looking for in a girlfriend.  I do think it would be an additional turn off if I were to jump the gun and tell any potential suitor that my dog burps and not to blame it on me if he does it.  It's just a dead end and so Alvin may need to get over this being afraid of the dark problem so that "we" can loop and burp under the cover of darkness.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Alvin, the Physical Therapist

Just when you think Alvin couldn't be more of a help, he dreams up yet, another way to dazzle us all.  My mom has started to develop some internal scar tissue from her knee surgery and has to do a lot of in-home exercises, which she recently started doing at my house while we watch TV.  This consists of her sitting in a chair and raising her leg up and down.  Alvin continues his compulsion to attach his nose to her leg but it reached the ultimate level in hilarity when I looked over and watched as Alvin kept his nose glued to her leg and his head went up and down every time she extended her leg, during each repetition.  His nose never left her leg.  What sent me over the edge, with holding my stomach and laughing until I was crying, was watching my mom get increasingly irritated at him because it drives her crazy.  She repeatedly told him to stop and go away, with absolutely no reaction from Alvin.  I HAVE to get this one on video for you all to see because although it is so odd, it is just hilarious!   I tried to explain to my mom that he was trying to give her moral support, but she ain't buyin' it.  From now on, I am going to insist she come over here to do any and all of her exercises because I could never grow tired of watching the Grandma and Alvin Show.  Now, if we could just figure out a way to take it on the road and make it a money maker because people would pay to see something this funny.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Alvin's Going Blond

This morning I did a double take when looking at Alvin because my formerly red headed boy, is now quite blond.  He has a unique look because normally he is red, except for blond highlights on the top of his head, and when I let his facial hair grow out, he has blond hair that frames his face and makes him look like a raccoon.  When looking at him this morning and noticing how much lighter he is, I initially became nervous that maybe he had some rare condition that is causing him to become an albino.  That would seem like a ridiculous reaction but with Alvin, one just never knows.  Then the obvious dawned on me.  My little bathing beauty has spent so much time in the sun that his fur is bleaching out.  When the weather is nice, Alvin spends hours sleeping in the sun.  There seems to be about a 15 degree variation but if it gets too hot or too cold then he comes inside.  The weather has been really nice lately and for the most part, he can be found lounging outside for hours at a time.  He sleeps so soundly that I can usually walk up to him and pet him before he wakes up to realize someone is near.  If the weather remains nice, he might be white by the time the summer ends.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Grandma's Baby

My mom often calls Alvin, baby and it's not necessarily a term of endearment but rather, an accurate description of who he is.  Alvin reminds us both of a baby because there is an utter innocence about him that I have never seen in an adult dog.  Alvin has yet to show that he can be naughty.  It is hard to adequately describe how innocent and pure he is.  My dog, Timmie was the most caring, loving, people pleasing dog I have ever known but he could be naughty.  Every dog I have known was capable of being naughty, except for Alvin.  My mom and I were discussing this and he is truly like having a baby, but rather, a puppy in Alvin's case.  Alvin often has a puppy look, but then coupled with what I can only describe as an untainted mentality, he is like having a puppy, without the chewing.

Speaking of grandma's baby, it was definitely not lost on me that my mom was unusually quiet when I discussed the idea of Alvin going back to live at his former foster home so that he could play with the other dogs.  In every other case, when I have had a foster dog and was discussing a potential adoptive home, or really any other living arrangement, my mom was very vocal about what a great plan she thought it was.  If my mom had it her way, my house would be comprised of my cat and me.  I expected her to give me numerous reasons why it was a grand idea for Alvin to go back to his former foster home and yet, I was met with complete silence.  I repeatedly asked her for her opinion and I got nothin'.  When I informed her that Alvin would indeed be staying here, I still got nothin', except for a very fake rolling of the eyes.  I do believe that she will be very happy for Alvin if he finds a nice, caring home with another playful dog or two, but I am certain that I won't be crying alone if he leaves us.  In fact, I am starting to suspect that I will be the one doing the comforting if grandma loses her baby.  I wouldn't be able to convince her of that right now, but if the time comes, I will be sure to stock up on the Kleenex, while she blubbers to me that she doesn't miss that darn old Alvin one bit.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Shake is the New "sh" Swear Word Around Here

I have been so encouraged with Alvin success with sitting that I decided to teach him a second command.  After thinking about Alvin's limitations I decided to try to teach him how to shake.  I went into this endeavor with a lot of optimism but after the second attempt, I abruptly dumped the idea because it was going no where fast .  It caused him to reel, circle, and to want  to be as far away from that idea as he could get.  So, we're back to square one.  I was able to teach my first dog who was deaf and blind how to sit, lay down, and pretend to be dead but Alvin's clearly going to be more of a challenge.  For crying out loud we only did it twice and yet, 15 minutes later the poor boy is still circling.  I am not even mentioning the word shake in passing because it's clear that it's the new swear word around here.  I keep looking at him and telling him that I meant well but so far he isn't having it.  I guess if I get desperate I will try to convince people that I taught him how to do endless circles around the living room.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Alvin's a Party Animal

I recently attended a party, comprised of numerous social workers that I have not seen for a while.  I was asked what I was up besides fostering dogs, and after my long silence and the, you can't be as dumb as you look right now, look, I finally mumbled, "ummm, nothing."  I received quite a few quizzical, disappointed looks right before I stumbled on a social worker gold mine by simply stating that I have an autistic dog.  The disappointed looks quickly turned into keen, borderline impressed reactions and the questions started coming.  I quickly went from party dud to holding court.  I had no idea that social workers would find an autistic dog so interesting until I realized that that was the same line that sucked me into this whole dog and pony show in the beginning.  After fielding various questions, I realized that it would be a slam dunk to get him adopted if we attended social work conferences.  I can get the free day-old danishes, while Alvin loops himself into the hearts of his future adoring, social work fans.  That group of people seem to find the idea of having an autistic dog to be a good thing, and they are right.

I was asked a lot of questions about how his autism compares to the autistic children we have all worked with and known.  In all seriousness, autism in dogs has some similarities, in the nearly OCD repetitive touch, abnormal reaction to noise, and issues with being touched, but there are many differences.  I then remembered that I have two autistic teen male neighbors and I began to reflect on the behavior that I have seen them exhibit.  They have grown up in the neighborhood and so I have seen them change and evolve since they were toddlers.  I was thinking of their most prominent behaviors to compare to Alvin and I quickly realized that when it comes to autism, Alvin has nothing on those two, sweet boys.  First, Alvin does not like to wear any article of clothing, although he was a sport and wore that utterly adorable bumblebee costume for his previous foster mom.  One of the boys down the street did not like to wear anything either, with the exception of his mom's pantyhose that he stretched up to his chin and paraded around the neighborhood.......a boy needs to stay warm.  For the most part, Alvin is considerate enough to leave my garbage and mail alone, whereas the boy would often arrive in the pantyhose to seize our mail and trash cans because he had a fixation with both.  Alvin's only fixation is my mom's legs.  Alvin is afraid of being up on anything off the ground, whereas one of the boy's could often be found on the roof of his house, while wearing nothing but the pantyhose.  As I went down the list of behaviors, I realized that Alvin's autism is a breeze.  To error on the side of caution,  I'm not letting him him hang with either one of the boys due to his propensity to imitate behaviors, and my firm belief that I am the only one in this house that should be wearing pantyhose......well, except for that ex-boyfriend of mine (kidding).  When realizing how much easier autistism is in dogs, holding an Alvin adoption event at a social work conference is sure to be an easy sell with that crowd.  Shoot, we may have them standing in line.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Sitting Comes With a Price Tag

After being very impressed with Alvin's ability to sit nearly immediately on command, I decided to up the ante and see if he could do it without a treat being held over his head.  I had grown increasingly optimistic because last night I took him to my mom's house and asked him to sit while holding a piece of cheese.  With his dependence on everything remaining the same, I was doubtful that he would know to sit in a different environment.  He sat immediately and my mom and I cheered for him, while he looked pleadingly for the darn piece of cheese.  So, coming off of that victory, I thought we could really go for it!  I knew it would be a challenge but I thought it might be possible.  Keep in mind, that if I hold my hand slightly different than usual, it tends to confuse him and he has a hard time sitting.  So, I placed my hands at my side and asked him to sit.  Apparently, if my hands are at my side, the word sounds utterly unrecognizable because he clearly had no idea what I was asking.  He looked up at me with those confused, pleading, big as saucers eye balls, and had no idea what to do.  I repeatedly asked him to sit and he finally did a half sit.  I celebrated by squealing with delight and then without thinking, I attempted to pet him.  He jumped away while momentarily searching for the treat and then went into a circling parade through the living room.  But even in the face of utter defeat, I did not give up.  When he would circle back around, I would ask him to sit and he responded by circling tighter and faster until he was in his full blown whirly twirls, as I like to call them.  They resemble the cartoon characters when they have them spinning around so fast that the character becomes a blur and then takes off towards the sky.  In an effort to prevent him from grabbing air, I quit my problematic requests and headed for the treat container, where I could immediately make everything right in his world - and I didn't dare ask him to sit for it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Residual Trauma

Poor little Alvin!  Last night I started trying to give Stevie her summer cut.  I had barely turned the clippers on and Alvin went flying out the back door and refused to come back in.  I could spot him out there circling to high heaven, and then repeatedly peeking in the door.  I tried to lure him in with treats and he came in, then thought better of it and high tailed it back out the door.  An hour later I could still hear his little toe nails clicking on the back patio as he continued to loop himself dizzy.  He then finally came in, ran past me sitting on the couch, and ran directly into the bedroom to hide.  The most unfortunate part about all of this is that his fur grows twice as fast as any dog I have had, and it seems as though I groom him and two weeks later, he needs another hair cut.  I just don't have the heart to subject him to it more than once every six weeks, at the most because it truly terrifies him.  Why of all dogs does he have to be the one with miracle hair, or to put it another way, the hair that grows at nearly the speed of light?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Alvin and my Mom Are Arguing

Alvin and my mom are in a hopeless disagreement.  As you all know, Alvin sits and stares at my mom the entire time she is here.  It doesn't matter if it's 30 minutes or three hours, he remains a devoted observer.  He also has to repeatedly nose tap her feet but now it has escalated into an outright obsession.  While she is sitting, he insists on constantly tapping his nose all over her feet and legs.  It annoys my mom to no end because having a dog constantly tapping you with a wet, cold nose is irritating.  It is actually annoying to watch.  She has tried to scold him and shoo him away but he has no reaction and he just won't stop.  She is now forced to put her legs up on the arm of the chair, which isn't ideal because of her recent knee replacement surgery.  I don't think his nose tapping has anything to do with a particular fascination with her feet and legs but rather that it's the only part of her body he can reach.  I think if she sat on the floor he would nose tap her entire body until the end of time.  My mom was a special education teacher and she said it reminds her of autistic children that constantly stroke people.  With Alvin he clearly only wants to nose tap her and has no interest in tapping me.  I am thankful for the rejection because I am able to sit with my legs on the floor while watching my mom contorting her legs every which way.  I don't think this is getting him closer to his absolute dream come true of having alone visits at my mom's house.  I think I will buy her a Hazmat suit in order to deal with his tapping of love.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Meals with Elvis

I recently wrote about Elvis, the bird that comes into my house for snacks.  I realized that it would be easier and more sanitary to just make him his own plate, which I think he appreciates because it makes it easier for him.  He is now eating me out of house and home.  A friend of mine, Rebecca, suggested that Elvis might not be a blue jay, but rather, a scrub or stellar jay.  I did some reading and it is clear that he isn't a blue jay.  The stellar or scrub jays are very interesting birds because they hoard food and hide it in very creative places.  They also steal food from other birds and will even look around to see if anyone is looking.  They are known to be so tame that they will eat food out of people's hands.  They also tend to hunt for food in pairs, which explains him getting food and then transferring it to the beak of the other bird.  They are very interesting birds but I am realizing that with the hoarding behavior that he is taking a lot of food and then hiding it goodness knows where.  Luckily, they have very good memories and always locate the food later.  They are capable of fairly complex problem solving and are generally very smart birds.  I need to cut him off to only a certain amount of food per day because he is becoming one expensive bird, but I just don't have the heart to tell him no.  I'll probably get evicted because of being penniless due to a bird named Elvis but knowing me, I will be living outside in a cardboard box, begging for bird seed so Elvis and I can continue our budding friendship.

Will You Just Shut up!

Before fostering Alvin I had noticed that he responded very well to female voices, particularly high pitched, feminine sounding voices.  I took it a step further and tried singing to him, which immediately got his attention and drew him physically closer to me.  When he first arrived here I spent a great deal of time singing to him and speaking in my highest, most feminine voice, which was a stretch for me.  It always seemed to soothe him but I have recently observed that when I am petting him and start to talk to him he tends to leave the room.  I think that it takes all of his mental energy to tolerate the petting and when he then has to use a second sense it becomes too much.  Whatever the caused, once again I am able to repel a male by the mere sound of my voice.  Once I realized what was happening, I told him that I wasn't about to be fazed by his rejection and that he better buck up because I have been known to clear entire rooms just by the sound of my voice and so his little stunt was nothing new......and now I keep my mouth shut while petting him.  Funny how he doesn't me talking to him when I am holding treats.  If he gets on my nerves I am going to whip out singing the entire two hours of all the songs from Les Miserables because shamefully I know them all.  In the future I think I better stick to either getting only female or deaf animals because it's now clear that I am offensive to all members of the male species.  I wonder if goldfish can hear?