Alvin sticks out his tongue when he is nervous

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Alvin Broke New Ground

When I first started fostering Alvin and he made his first sign of progress in the receiving physical affection department, someone made a joke saying, next thing 'ya know Alvin will be rolling over and letting you scratch his belly.  It was entirely a joke and we all laughed because the idea was absurd.  Now before I knock you all over with a feather, Alvin did not roll over and let me scratch his belly but what did actually occur was equally as charming.

Early this morning while Alvin was sound asleep on the bed, he was in a position where his belly was exposed.  I couldn't help it and reached over and started scratching his belly.  Alvin is a very sound sleeper but he eventually woke up and I fully expected him to jump up like he has done all the other times I have attempted this maneuver.  Instead, Alvin was able to lie there and let me scratch his belly to the point that his little back leg got thumping.  I quit after a couple of minutes and after he had fallen back to sleep I tried it again and he let me continue to scratch his belly again.  I honestly couldn't believe it and was so happy.

My mom is spending the night at my house tonight because she has had some issues with her legs and I prefer to have her here where I can keep an eye on her.  Alvin is devoted to her like none other and faithfully remains in the room with her, lying on the floor and keeping watch over her.  I went in a few minutes ago to check on my mom and Alvin looked so cute that I could resist but to sit on the floor with him and start scratching him on his favorite spots.  I try to go out every day to his favorite place outside and when I sit there with him, his demeanor changes and he is much bolder and is able to receive physical affection and also give it.  He will often put his head in my lap and let me scratch him for quite a while.  For those of you who have followed from the beginning, you may recall that during the first couple of months Alvin was here we did all of our connecting on the bedroom floor.  I even slept on the floor with him because he was so fearful.  Once he progressed to a certain level I stopped that routine but tonight I felt compelled sit down.  Wow!  I have really missed out on some quality time with that little guy because once again, he was an entirely different dog.  He gave me little kisses on my nose, laid his face against my chest, and just about climbed into my pajama top.  He is so gentle and innocent in his movements and I had forgotten about our special times initially connecting and trusting on the bedroom floor.  Clearly Alvin had not.  I alternated between sitting and lying on the floor and when I laid down, Alvin placed his head and neck across my hip in a way that is difficult to describe.  If he wasn't so innocent and submissive it would have almost been a dominance pose but there is nothing about Alvin that is dominant.  It was as though he was trying his best to be as physically close to me as possible and it's clear that he feels safest when he is able to be "taller" than the human being.  He had to do a couple of loops and I didn't call him or try to convince him to come back to me because I wanted to see what he wanted and sure enough, not only did he come back but he pressed against me, with that tail wagging away.  After spending about 20 minutes of this bonding time I decided to really up the ante. I didn't think it would actually work but I'm always up for a new adventure with Alvin.  I reached under his chest while he was standing up and began to scratch his belly and I will be darned if the boy didn't stand there and let me do it.  It clearly felt good to him and most importantly, he wasn't scared.  If I tried to reach his belly from the side it felt too vulnerable to him but when I reached under his chest it felt safe enough for him.

I realize that with any other dog this wouldn't even be a passing thought, much less an entire blog entry and even with Alvin, some of you may be questioning while this is even worthy of being read. If you have followed Alvin's story from the beginning when he wouldn't even enter the same room as me and would stand for hours, 20 feet away from me while staring, then you realize that getting to the point of scratching his belly feels like winning the gold medal in the canine Olympics.

Alvin has gone through a change very recently.  I went to see my best friend in Arizona for five nights and my mom stayed with the dogs.  My mom is Alvin's very favorite person but when I got home I realized how much he missed me.  He was brave enough to stay with the pack when they first greeted me and tried very hard to compete for my affection.  He was more animated than I had ever seen him and once I could get the other two dogs, and even the cat to settle down, I was able to spend some time petting Alvin and assuring him that it would be a very long time before I was gone that long again.  While I was gone I realized that in the nearly two years that I have had Alvin I don't think I have ever been away more than one night.  I could be mistaken but I know that I have never been away for anything close to five nights.  Alvin is always my little shadow but since coming home Alvin has stuck to me like glue and is partially why I have been trying to go out every day to his favorite spot to spend some alone time with him.  Another big change for him came about in the past two nights.  I have made my mom spend the past two nights at my house due to her leg difficulties and we have to share a bed.  Gracie would scream her lungs out if I didn't let her on the bed with me and it wouldn't even dawn on Maddie that she would have to sleep somewhere else.  With four of us in the bed there just isn't room for Alvin.  I tried to give him his bedtime snack on the floor right before I got in bed but he didn't understand the change in routine and sat on the floor, while staring at us and muttering.  It was so sad that my mom told me that I just had to make room for him and she does not like to have animals on the bed with her.  I didn't put him on the bed because he gets nervous if there is confined space and he has subsequently fallen off the bed in the past.  He was able to finally settle down and the second night went much more smoothly with me giving me a few extra treats.  I don't think he was crying over being excluded because he doesn't mind sleeping on the floor but the change in routine and the thought that maybe he was missing out on a treat just about rocked his socks right off of him.

In the past I created a facebook page for my then foster dog, Gracie in hopes of finding her an adoptive home.  As you all know, Gracie became mine and she now has 525 facebook friends.  Yes, you read that correctly, a dog has far more fb friends than most human beings.  Gracie is loved and adored by people across the globe and not only gets a lot of attention, but people actually send her gifts in the mail.  She is a tremendously charismatic, well behaved, loving dog and apparently people can even spot that over the internet.  The natural conclusion for most people would be that Gracie must be my favorite, but for me, my favorite is Mr. Alvin Stanley.  I have an infinite amount of love for all three of my dogs but there's just something about Alvin!  It works out well because Gracie is my cuddler which I love, and needs far more physical attention than the other two.  She gets more of my time and attention than the other two combined.  When I lost my cuddler, Timmie I tried too hard to turn Alvin into my cuddly dog and the attention was too much.  Stevie doesn't want to be cuddled and what is most important to her is to always sleep at my feet and to have me home a lot, which I do.  Gracie is very good to Alvin and so he has a dog friend and she helps him be braver.  Gracie doesn't get jealous or interfere when I am spending time with Alvin and so it seems like everyone's emotional needs get met.  I don't feel guilty naming Alvin as my favorite because Alvin so deserves to be the favorite of someone and he is the type of dog who could easily get lost in the pack.  Gracie is adored by the world and gets a ton of my love and affection and so it's okay for Alvin to get to be the favorite.

This is terribly long and possibly quite boring.  I had set out to write one paragraph about the belly scratches and got carried away.  Until the next breakthrough when we will meet again......

Sunday, April 7, 2013

I Wish I Was Making This Story Up

Alvin did not get groomed tonight because I accidentally drugged the wrong dog.  Charming!  I gave Alvin the sedative in a hot dog and you all know how he has difficulty chewing soft food.  He did his usual, trying to chew, spitting it out, and then trying again.  After several goes at it, it appeared as though he had finally been successful and I checked the floor and didn't see anything left.  It takes 2-3 hours for a sedative to kick in for Alvin and so about an hour after I gave him the sedative I decided to take the three dogs to the dog park.  I leashed up Alvin and Gracie and went to leash up Stevie, who was sleeping.  Stevie wouldn't respond at all.  I picked her up and placed her on all four legs and she slid back down to the ground.  I tried to lure her with a hog dog and she wouldn't even eat it.  I placed her back in her bed and took her temperature and it was normal.  She didn't appear to be in any pain but I got a Tramadol down her throat just in case.  I suspected she might have yet another UTI and so I also got an antibiotic down her throat.  She was clearly going to stay put and because Alvin and Gracie were nearly jumping up and down with excitement, I decided to take them to the dog park really fast. 

As you probably all remember, Alvin is afraid of riding in the car and he did his usual muttering the whole way there, which is less than one mile.  When we got there, Alvin was initially in his own little autistic world, wandering around and not interacting with any of the dogs.  It always kind of hurts my heart when I see how different he is in those types of environments.  Meanwhile, three-legged Gracie turned into a Grey Hound and was racing around, but only to the humans.  She would have much preferred a human park with everyone in a fenced in, condensed area.  She went to each person, flopped onto her back to invite people to scratch her belly and once she had gone to each person, she then started her rounds again.  She paid very little attention to the other dogs.  After Alvin wandered around for a while he became more interested in the dogs and seemed happy that they were all taller than he was because it allowed him to have his nose firmly planted in their butts as he followed them around.  He seemed to need a bit more reassurance than usual but because he can't determine the direction of sound, I had to yell his name and then repeatedly wave my arms over my head until he spotted me.  He would then come running and would want to stay close to me.  Each time I crouched down, while cradling his head in my hands and told him what a brave boy he was being.  I am always so proud of him when he can step out of his little autistic world and try to be one of the gang.  Goodness knows what the other dog owners thought, with my three-legged dog and me waving frantically at the perpetually wandering dog and the proceeding to give him little pep talks.  We only stayed 10 minutes because I was anxious to get back to Stevie.

When I got back, Stevie was in the exact same position and was nearly unresponsive.  I was trying to decide whether I should take her to ER.  My hesitancy was that she didn't appear to be in any pain, in any distress, and had a normal temperature.  I honestly thought that she was dying and I knew that if it was something serious that I wasn't going to put her through a hard recovery.  I kind of didn't want to be faced with having to decide whether to put her through a certain treatment or not.  Stevie is also afraid of vets offices and I figured that if she was dying that it would be better for her to die with me at home.  I also knew it would cost me at least $1,000 and I wasn't going to put her through any lengthy or difficult procedures.  Because Stevie can't hear or see, she panics if you put her in a crate and I couldn't bear to put her through having to be in a medical cage and not understand.  I put her on my bed and laid down while holding her.  She wasn't responding to me at all.  I ran over to my mom's house to basically tell her that Stevie was dying and came back home.  I will be darned if that dog didn't lift her head and totally respond to my mom the first time my mom pet her.......and Stevie is the only one that I was convinced liked me better than my mom.  Alvin and Gracie have made it abundantly clear who they prefer and it ain't me.  Stevie started to respond more and it was only a little later that I started to notice that Alvin wasn't the least bit sedated.  It was then that I realized that the hot dog containing the sedative must have rolled under the cupboard and I didn't see it.  Since Stevie is deaf and blind, she can sniff out anything.  I kid you not that I can place one piece of kibble on the other side of the room and Stevie will sniff it out within minutes.  I have spent many an entertaining hour playing this game with Stevie. 

The lesson in this story is, there should clearly be a test that a person has to take before owning a dog and I would clearly flunk it.  Who drugs the wrong dog?  Alvin has rubbed salt in the wounds all evening by bounding around like he has the energy of two dogs. 

We will give it another try on another day, because Alvin looks like a stray dog at this point.  But I will make sure to drug the right dog and take Stevie to the dog park to try and atone for the recent medical travesty.  Truth be told, Stevie could get anything and everything she wants from me right now because I feel terrible.  She already got part of my salad and I would take the food right out of my mouth and give it to her if I thought that it would help. 

It's just short of a miracle that these poor souls survive me.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

For Alvin's Bestest Friend, Sally Wolk

This entry is dedicated to Sally Wolk, who has always been Alvin's biggest fan and the only person I would still give Alvin to, because no one could love him like she does.  She always politely reminds me when it's been far too long since I have posted.

We have experienced a lot of changes since I last wrote.  My mom had knee replacement surgery, then a second recent surgery due to her knee getting infected and now I am taking her for daily antibiotic infusions. 

Maddie had a big health scare and I was certain that I was going to have to put her to sleep.  She is now doing well with me giving her daily fluids through an IV. 

I have also adopted Gracie.

Alvin has done very well with all the changes.  We went through a period of him needing more attention than usual and I was very happy to give it.  Speaking of extra attention, I am grooming him tonight.  I have been telling him for two weeks that he is looking like a stray but I put off grooming him because of how much it scares him.  I think I dread it more than he does.  I just gave him his sedative so that we can prepare for battle.

Alvin had a couple mishaps on the bed recently.  Due to his spatial issues, I don't let him sleep near the end of the bed because chances are he will end up unintentionally on the floor.  A few nights ago I didn't move him and as I was reading in bed, I saw his four paws go up in the air and watched as his eyes got big as saucers, and then he disappeared.  I jumped up while screaming, "don't worry Alvin, I'm coming to save you."  Luckily, there was one of those mesh laundry containers full of clothing that broke his fall and once I rounded the corner, I found him standing in place while clearly dazed and confused.  His bad luck on the bed didn't end there, however.  A couple of night's ago, I was giving Alvin his bedtime snack when he got greedy.  He convinced himself that there must be a snack by Maddie and because he becomes completely oblivious as to what is around him, he stepped on Maddie.  She responded by giving him a smack in the face and it scared him so bad that he fell off the bed.  Poor little Alvin, but I couldn't blame Maddie because she was just lying there when Alvin put his two big paws on her stomach. 

Alvin continues to improve in the area of accepting physical attention.  I swear that someone told him that humans have cooties because every single time I pet his back he has to physically shake it off.  I have finally concluded that Alvin is just never going to be a dog that is comfortable being randomly pet but I have been practicing giving him long strokes across his back and he is much better at not turning and running like a bat out of hell.  He often comes to me to ask for affection and it melts my heart.  I love all three of my dogs but the one who makes my heart swell is my dear Alvin.

What has been of most interest to me lately is how much he observes and duplicates the behavior of other dogs.  Alvin and Gracie often sleep together on the bed at night.  It is usually Gracie who walks over and initiates the cuddling between the two, but every once in a while Alvin will approach Gracie and lie next to her.  He always looks so proud of himself.  Gracie and Alvin are pretty good buddies and Gracie is very patient when Alvin walks on her.  We recently went over to my mom's house and before Gracie came to our house, Alvin would pace through the house and never lie down, no matter how long we were there.  This time, Gracie laid down first and Alvin was also able to lie down near her.  I thought maybe it was a fluke so we tried it again and sure enough, Alvin was able to lie down and relax again.  I am certain that if Gracie wasn't there to model it for him that he would spend the time pacing and circling.

Alvin continues NOT to lose weight.  We are really going to have to get on it because this summer is the Camp Cocker reunion and it's going to be very embarrassing to bring pudgy Alvin.  We all know that it's the owners fault if a dog is overweight and so even if the owner is met with a dog who literally licks his lip every single time he see his owner, it doesn't cut it when one is at the reunion surrounded by a bunch of non-pudgy dogs.  If I get desperate, I will find an outfit that makes him look thinner and no matter what the temperature, I am going to make him wear it.  It will be punishment for him giving me that face and pitifully licking his lips every time I so much as enter the room.

So, that's it for now.  I hope you all are well.  I will let you know how the hair cut goes and hopefully, no one gets hurt (meaning me).