Alvin sticks out his tongue when he is nervous

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

No One Died

Although I sure that Alvin thought it was touch and go for a while.  I gave Alvin his fancy new hair cut this past weekend.  It took HOURS and a couple doses of sedatives but we got through it.  It is so unfortunate that his fur grows at a particularly fast rate and it is naturally curly so it mats up easily.  It gets more problematic due to his complete freak out at being brushed.  I have concluded that I am going to have to keep his fur short, which means us both biting the bullet and enduring the grooming horrors more frequently.  I could tell that getting all that fur off of him made him feel better.  Due to the thickness of his fur, I convinced myself that he had to weigh less when it was all gone, to the point that I actually weighed him but, nope, he's still fat. 

We started our "walks" with Gracie in a harness and Alvin looping into oblivion.  It would make a lot more sense and be far easier to take Gracie out by herself but I just can't keep leaving Alvin out.  He sees us leave three times a week to physical therapy and that in itself is enough to break my heart. The option of taking one at a time is kind of out because Gracie cries like I have shot her when I leave her out of something.  So off we go and we have outdone ourselves in the village idiot category.  Gracie wants to go faster than she should and so when I pull back on her she turns around and starts biting on the harness and/or starts walking sideways.  Meanwhile, Alvin doesn't know what in the world to make of the harness and so he reacts by looping us all down the road.  Honestly, we look like idiots.  Well, actually I look like an idiot and they look like my victims.  My mom recently managed to break both of her feet but she hobbles out on her porch to watch the whole show because it's a must-see.  I am only trying to figure out how to put her in a harness and "walk" her as well.  I will eventually get my mom to video it so you can all laugh and claim to have no idea who the crazy youtube lady is.

We all went over to my mom's house because she has stairs leading up to her front door and the physical therapist wants me to do an exercise with Gracie on stairs.  All by darned if Gracie didn't make it up the stairs just fine while poor Alvin managed to fall off and land in a bush.  I had to rescue him while he sat there dazed and terribly confused.  I was confused too because they are the same stairs he has walked up hundreds of times, but apparently climbing them next to a girl in a harness can really throw a guy for a loop.

For the past couple nights, Alvin and Gracie have spent periods of time sleeping next to each other on the bed.  Alvin gets a very obvious look about him, which is comprised of confidence and contentment.  He genuinely looks more confident and he is never the one to move away. 

He is continuing to adjust to life with Gracie in the house.  Like I mentioned before, I have extended his bedtime routine so that he gets more one-on-one attention.  I am grateful to Gracie who allows us to have the time without getting jealous and butting in.  I have also started making it a point several times a day to sit on the floor with him while scratching and praising him.  He has responded by being much more affectionate and often reaching up to lick my nose.  I think he realizes he has competition and has started to up his game.  Whatever works because it just makes my day when those huge Alvin eyes look up at me and he gives me a little kiss.  It's not all bliss because as you all know, Alvin gets his tongue mixed up and so sometimes I get a kiss from the underneath part of his tongue and sometimes he misses and licks my eye.  I just keep saying, progress not perfection.

Friday, September 21, 2012

More on Alvin

This weekend Camp Cocker is having their first annual reunion and everybody who is anybody in the Camp Cocker world will be there.  After a good portion of my heart died with the passing of Timmie I had originally decided not to go because I thought it would be too difficult.  With the passage of time, I had decided I would attend but now with Gracie here a four hour car ride each way would be too much.  She is just learning that car rides aren't going to kill her.  I suspect that her only care ride had been to be dumped off at the shelter.  During her first few car rides she made a screaming, crying noise as though I had shot her.  Even though her only car rides are to physical therapy and some of the exercises hurt her, she loves it so much there and so she is just starting to have a positive association with car rides.  But it would be too much and we would miss a physical therapy appointment if we went.  Let me tell you that Gracie is a much needed excuse.  Having to take Alvin back to all of us fans when he is currently Mr. Chub would be humiliating for me.  It would be like showing up to your high school reunion after suddenly gaining 40 pounds.  Out of desperation, I couldn't even dress him in a tutu to try to hide the chub because we all know how well that Thundershirt experiment went and so imagine him in a tutu.  We would only bring more attention to his overwhelming desire to eat and me ridiculously buying into his well practiced, I'm starving look. 

The biggest contributor to his weight gain has been Stevie.  Yep, I'm actually shameless enough to blame the deaf, seeing impaired, geriatric dog.  Stevie has become a very light eater and we have had to change foods a few times because of her flat out refusal to keep eating food once she has grown accustomed to it.  She has lost weight and is too little.  I offer her food and she often will eat a little bit and then quietly walks away.  Alvin goes into stealth mode and magically appears the second she has left the food.  I would love to keep food out for her all the time but Alvin wouldn't fit through the door if I tried that one.  She is so finicky about when and where she will eat and so trying to put her behind a closed door has only resulted in her initiating a hunger strike.  It's been just a mess and because I have the attention span of a gnat, I often get distracted and the next thing I know, Alvin has eaten enough for the two of them.  We started his diet over a week ago and so far he has maybe lost a couple of ounces.  He isn't a fan of vegetables and I feel like I have an overindulged two-year-old who only wants to eat french fries.  Just keep in mind, it's all Stevie's fault, but you won't get a chance to see Alvin's chubbiness to then blame her because he's currently in the fatty witness protection plan because I am too embarrassed for him to be seen.  It's also my mom's fault because when I first noticed he had put on a little weight, my mom said that he looked far better and that he was too skinny before.  Clearly, I took that way too far but between my mom and Stevie, they are huge chubbiness enablers.  Plus, Alvin literally walks around the house muttering like an old man.  He gets very uptight if he isn't grazing like a cow and walks around on a permanent guilt trip that is all directed towards me.  Do you see what I have to deal with?

We are continuing to have our bedtime snack because to take that away from him would probably cause a canine psychotic break.  I started to give him a little treat at night on the bed as a way to get him used to being picked up because he used to panic when I tried to pick him up.  I wanted him to get comfortable enough that if there was an emergency or he was hurt that I could pick him up without him struggling and hurting himself.  Also, it started back in the day when I was trying to get him used to being on the bed.  With his deep need for predictability, when I get ready for bed he actually starts licking his lips.  The muttering would never stop and he would loop himself straight off the bed if I put him up there without a treat waiting for him.  The quantity of the treat has been greatly reduced and I swear he knows it because he starts rooting around and then the muttering starts back up.  His "treat" is just a few pieces of his regular dog food but the boy likes to eat.  We then go into our new reassurance routine to remind him that he's still my number one man.  We got into a habit long ago of me saying, you're a good boy Alvin, and I would say it with a certain voice inflection.  It started when I was trying to convince him that being touched was safe.  Now when I say it, he puts his chin in the palm of my hand and lets me pet and scratch him.  I kid you not when I tell you that if I don't do the voice inflection he doesn't put his chin in my hand.  He has learned to associate the sentence and my voice inflection with affection to the point that I use the sentence to call him over to me during the day.  When I say, you're a good boy Alvin, he will come from wherever he has been and place his chubby little double chin in the palm of my hand. 

With the newest changes, he has responded by becoming more affectionate and every night while I am telling him that he is a good boy, he reaches up and repeatedly licks my nose.  There is something so incredibly endearing about him at bedtime when he becomes relaxed and shows affection.  He's come a long way.  He still sleeps right next to me and Gracie is very good about not crowding in on that sacred space.  Gracie sleeps curled up in a ball next to my head and Alvin is usually found plastered to my side and I can't help but feel like a very fortunate person when surrounded by two of the gentlest, most unassuming little souls on earth. 

Gracie should be Alvin's ideal little buddy.  Alvin likes dogs in general and she is so submissive that she acquiesces to him.  When else ever in his whole life will he meet a dog that lets him be the boss?  She never tries to eat his food and doesn't do anything that would cause him distress, but Alvin watches Gracie gimp around and looks at me like, "Mom, this one's broken.  Can we exchange her for one that works?"  Instead, he should appreciate that I searched the world over to find a dog that makes him look like the "normal" one. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Alvin is a Big Brother

Hopefully only a temporary big brother but I get the sinking feeling it might be otherwise.  We got a shiny new foster dog, Gracie.  Gracie was an owner turn in after clearly having been left in someones backyard for the first year of her life and was born with horrible knees.  Unfortunately, the owner let her live like this for a year, which has led to all kinds of complications because she was growing and it has caused significant damage to tendons, ligaments, and muscles.  Camp Cocker (God bless them) got her out of the shelter and she had double knee surgery but she now requires extensive physical therapy if there is any hope of correcting some of the damage.  How did I get her?  There is no physical therapy place in San Luis Obispo, which is where Camp Cocker is located and I took one look at the videos below and knew that someone had to help her.  Initially, she was only going to stay here during the 4-6 weeks of physical therapy but now we know that her condition is far more complicated and will take longer to help correct.  Also, she is very people oriented and there's no way I can send her back to boarding after her physical therapy is completed and so she will stay with us until she gets adopted.........adopted by someone other than me. 

I provided a link to when she was first rescued from the shelter, a video of her right after her knee surgery, and a few seconds of video of her first session of physical therapy.  She is currently going to physical therapy three times a week.  The therapy place, Holistic Veterinary Care in Oakland is comprised of all kinds of specialists and not only are they just wonderful people but they are giving Camp Cocker a 20% discount.  Of course it's still costing a ton of money but without it, Gracie's muscles and tendons would continue to constrict and she would face a lifetime of pain.  She is a particularly sweet, gentle, joyful girl and is worth all the effort and money.  She is the easiest dog I have ever fostered.........fostered being the key word.  I am already seeing that it's going to be a challenge to find her an adoptive home but boy, is she a sweet, affectionate, easy dog!

I thought Alvin would have responded better to a new addition than he has.  I should have taken his not so subtle cue when the night before she arrived I told him he was going to get to be a big brother and he stomped both of his paws and bit at the air.......I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.  Gracie is even more submissive than Alvin, which I had to see to believe because I didn't know that was possible.  Unfortunately, this resulted in Gracie trying to follow Alvin around but because Alvin is so submissive (and autistic) he needs to be the one to follow.  When she tries to follow him, he gets scared and runs away.  I was hoping he would just go into his tight circles and then he wouldn't know who was the follower and who was the leader. 

I had to slightly rearrange the furniture at first and that threw poor Alvin nearly into a permanent loop.  He communicated his displeasure by going to the bathroom in the house for a few days and then walking around muttering most of the day.  We were able to put the furniture back but he continues to be off.  We have lengthened our bedtime ritual and so I spend about 20 minutes at night in bed with me praising him and scratching him.  He started going to grandma's house today for some one on one time but it resulted in him refusing to leave the kitchen and just staring at where the meat had been for nearly an hour.  We have had to greatly reduce his treats at grandma's, as well as here, because when Gracie arrived, I was struck with how much bigger Alvin is than her.  Gracie is a cocker spaniel and only weighs 14 pounds and Alvin looked big as a house next to her.  I realized that I have been in nearly pathological denial that my little boy has become a big chub.  I realized that I was like that mother who has an obviously overweight kid and just keeps saying, oh, he's just a little husky.  I haven't groomed him for quite some time and had it in my mind that he was just fluffy.  I weighed him and let's just say that I would be more inclined to type my weight here than Alvin's.  It is so embarrassing when a pet is overweight because it's entirely the owners fault.  We are starting on his little diet, which has resulted in disgusted muttering on his part.

I realized I probably traumatized Alvin to no end last night.  I have always preferred male dogs because I find that they often come with far less drama.  I was looking around the house last night and realized that between Stevie, Maddie, Gracie, and me that Alvin's the only male in the house.  I told him that he was now the man of the house but later realized that not only does it border on crazy that I am talking to a dog and terming him the man of the house, but had Alvin been able to understand me, he must think everything is going to hell in a hand basket if he's in charge. 

I am certain there is much more to report but I will close for now.  If you know of anyone who is dying to donate to a very worthy charity, please refer them to because I can almost hear the ching chings every time we arrive at physical therapy.  God bless Camp Cocker because if it weren't for them, dogs as special as Alvin and Gracie would have been put to sleep in a scary shelter and instead, one is now the head of the household and the other is the absolute bell of the therapy Ball.