Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Exasperation Occurrences

This blog has mostly been about the good times and, well, the poop. This past week was a perfect example of how things can turn quickly from puppy love to puppy hate. Wednesday evening, I received a phone call as I was getting ready to leave work. The irritated voice said, "She's not my dog. She's your dog and you have to take care of her from now on." *Click*

I returned home and found Chassie on the couch, watching TV. Bella was nowhere to be seen. I assumed that she was in her crate, but asked to confirm. It seems that even the best of us can be frustrated with the bubble of energy that is Bellatrix. Her favorite pastime has quickly become gnawing on the baseboard in the hallway where we keep her "playpen." Two weeks ago, she took quite a bit of paint off the baseboard and Chassie was able to repair it nicely earlier this week. I think the fact that on Wednesday, when Bella decided to undo the work Chassie had completed, it was a little bit too much.

I took care of the dog duties for the rest of the evening. I'm not going to say that I had an easier time. She played with her toys, she waited by the door, I took her outside and she would eat mulch. Five minutes outside and all she did was eat mulch. I took her back inside and she'd be okay for two minutes and then sit by the door again. I would take her back outside and she's eating mulch again. Finally, I called her bluff and she won. She peed on the linoleum by the basement door. I shake my fist at the sky, cry out "ARRGHH" and wonder why. Finally, at 10:30 she starts to slow down and falls asleep on the floor by my feet. If only it could be this nice all the time....

Chassie was nice enough the next morning to ask if I was awake to take care of her. My response, in which I groggily said, "Yes" was enough for her to take Bella out and feed her. I don't recall that exchange, I'm only going by what she told me. I was dreading the next evening when I returned home. I was thinking during my free moments at work, which were few and far between, the scenario that was going to take place that evening. Here's what happened inside my head: Chassie blamed me for choosing to get a puppy. I accept that blame, because I did choose the puppy route. I then, in turn tried to place the blame on her for wanting to have a second dog. We were perfectly happy with just Draco and when we tried to get a second dog through rescues, it did not work out. I've never mentally prepped for a fight, quite frankly because I don't get into fights. This time I was ready.

There was no need for my exuberant preparation. I feel a little ashamed for getting this worked up over something so petty and then I look at Bella when she's being cute and wonder how it even gets to the breaking point.

Needless to say, there was no giant confrontation which I was expecting. We got through Thursday, we got through Friday, Chassie took care of Bella almost all day Saturday and we made it to the third Intermediate class. She peed in class again (3 for 3 in Intermediate class), but that's another story for another time.

The thing to remember about this period of time is that it's just a period time. She's had her good days, she's had her bad days and she's had her sh*tty days. She's six months old. We've got a ways to go before she's where we want her to be. We just have to remember that we have each other and the one who's less frustrated can take over the puppy duties, for the moment.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Draco Files

This blog is about our baby Bella, but sometimes we like to include another important member of our household…Draco.

Draco has itchy skin problems every winter. And his scratching and chewing sometimes leads to a hotspot. I try to watch out for them and treat them before they get out of control but sometimes I can’t.

And this week was one of those times. On Tuesday I noticed he had the beginnings of a hotspot and by Wednesday it was the ugliest thing I have ever seen so I made an appointment with Dr. Chun for Thursday.

Draco and I left yesterday morning at 0930 and arrived on time for our 1000 appointment. Draco weighed in at 60 pounds which is down 6 pounds since August. I am trying to keep his weigh down to help his arthritis and his knees but 60 pounds might be too low. I made a mental note to increase his food intake.

Dr. Chun buzzed away a large amount of fur to expose a large circular hotspot. He then stripped the scab off by hand. After he was done Draco had a 2-inch diameter hotspot with a ring of swollen tissue around it totally a 5-6 inch diameter. Poor baby.

Dr. Chun gave Draco pain pills, oral antibiotics, and an antibiotic spray and strict instructions for Draco to wear a cone collar for several days.

This is where the story really starts: Around 1100 we arrived at home, I put the hard clear plastic Elizabethan collar on him. After an hour of running into walls and taking off the paint, running into the back of my legs with the sharp edges of the collar and his inability to drink water with the collar on I decided I needed to go to Petco and get the Comfy Cone. The Comfy Cone is the e-collar we got for Bella after her spayed surgery. It is a semi stiff fabric e-collar which can be folded down to let the dog or cat drink and eat. Plus is a lot more comfortable for the dog, walls, and back of my legs.

I left the house at 1310 and arrived at Petco at 1320ish. I went inside and found the Comfy Cone area but there were only two. One small and one unlabeled. I had measured Draco's hard plastic cone before I left the house and I knew I needed a 12” x 21” cone. And the unlabeled one was 10” long. I grabbed the cone and went to look for a sales associate. I found one stocking dog food and said,

“Excuse me, do have any more of these in stock?”

“No,” said the sales associate curtly.

“So you are not ordering anymore?” I said.

“That’s not the question you asked.” said the sales associate rudely.

At this point my patience for dealing with difficult customer service employees left my body for the day. I asked if there was someone else I could speak with and her reply was “You don’t like my responses?”. I asked for the manager and was told she was the manager on shift. I told her I needed a larger size of the Comfy Cone and she told me "they" didn’t make a larger size. I knew this wasn’t the case because if the cone I was holding (a large) wouldn’t fit my Australian Shepherd mix then it for sure wouldn’t fit any other large breed dog.

I think the rude and rather unpleasant Petco manager saw the error in her ways because she then tried to make up for her bad behavior and looked if any another Pecto carried the apparently non-existent x-large Comfy Cone. They don’t. So I left the store at 1345.

I arrived home at 1400 and called the Petco Store Feedback toll free number and filed a report of improper sales associate behavior and service and the lacking Comfy Cone stock at all of my local Petco stores.

I then called Peapod, which has nothing to do with Draco but I was on a roll. The truck drivers have not been bring our groceries to the door in a box which is required. And they keep on packing my ripe bananas on the bottom.

After talking to Peapod, I researched Comfy Cone and found their website and contact info. I called All Four Paws and spoke with an extremely nice and helpful woman named Jaclyn. She understood my frustration and apologized for the lack of locations on the east coast. She then looked up all the locations close to me and we found a Vet in Alexandria who had recently ordered an x-large Comfy Cone. I called the vet and asked them to hold one for me, printed the directions and I was on my way at 1445.

After getting lost once, I returned home with an x-large Comfy Cone. I ran inside put it on Draco and sat down and it was 1630.

One trip to Petco, Two trips to a vet, Three phone calls to 1-800 #s, four hours of driving, $167 in bills, one Comfy Cone...making my baby Draco comfortable in his time of need....priceless.

It was totally worth the time and effort.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Intermediate Class

Supposedly Intermediate Class will be "much stricter" than the puppy, or beginner, class.

I have faith.

It seems that Bella is a real smart puppy. She might not show it on a daily basis and I am very easy to be frustrated with her, as she and I have had many words this past week. Okay, I've had many words and she's only looked at me with those cute puppy eyes that says, "I understand what you're saying but I'm only a dog so what do you really expect...."

Well, now I actually do expect something. Tonight at training, she showed to me that she is smart enough to follow instructions. Whether or not she can do it amidst distraction and under pressure, this class will let us know. One down and five to go, is how I look at it now.

The class only has three participants. Bella is the youngest. A mutt, Harley Quinn (of Batman fame) is one of the classmates and a Corgi, Starbuck (presumably named for the Seattle coffee chain) is the other. Starbuck does not seem to like Bella at this stage, but she is the oldest at three years. Harley is two years and seemed to want to engage with Bella a little bit. Of course, it was the first class and everyone is trying to feel each other out, so there wasn't too much playing.

Every class that we have been to, whether it be puppy class or now the intermediate class, we've introduced something new. Each time, Bella has been able to grasp and execute without much of a problem. Tonight was no different. We began the "Heel" training, which is not something that a dog wants to do. The idea behind "Heel" is you want them to be at your side, or heel, and not leave. Obviously this impedes on their instinct to roam. I truly hope this doesn't become an Achilles' Heel for Bella. Besides my downfalls (mainly being too tall), Bella really did a good job in a short distance setting. The longer duration "heel" which we will begin to practice next week may prove to be the Greek weakness, but we wait and see.

The thing that I was most impressed with was her "sit" and "wait" skills. At the start of class, before we went out to practice our "heel" session, we had to "sit" and "wait" at the door before we were allowed to exit. We have a "classroom" that is enclosed in glass. You may remember it from the time when she ran full on into the glass trying to meet a dog on the other side. Our practice area is in the store where the public has free reign. To get from the classroom area to the practice area, you have to pass between two doors. So had no problem exiting the classroom.

To be quite honest, I let Chassie do most of the work- 1) I think she's a better dog handler than I. 2) I think she's more confident than I. 3) I think Bella is more in tune to her than I. And finally, 4) I think she's better looking than I. Well, not so much the last one, but you get the picture. There were no problems on the way out to begin the "heel" sessions. Chassie easily had her sit and wait as she walked out the door first. We practiced "heel" down the aisle a few times. Chassie gave me some pointers on how I could overcome my height difference with her. Chassie really does have a knack for knowing how to train dogs. If you have any questions in the future, feel free to contact her, I'm sure that when I speak for her she says that she's more than happy to help.

I digress. Where was I, oh yes...

We finish our short "heel" session and head back toward our classroom. I have the leash and we are behind the Corgi, Starbuck. Starbuck does not want to sit and wait to enter the classroom. Another PetSmart employee comes over and helps (hinders) the process. It takes roughly three minutes for her to sit and enter the classroom area. I've got the controls for Bella as we enter the room and I tell her to "sit." It takes two stern commands. She does what she's told. I take three steps inside the door, she stays seated like a good girl and looks up at me waiting for approval. I pause, just so everyone knows I'm in control, then give her the command, "Let's go" and Bella follows me in. I allow her to get a drink of water and then resume my seat in the classroom. Harley Quinn has joined us, so school is back in session and then...

Bella pees on the floor.

We're used to this by now. Chassie recounts that on the first class of puppy training she pooped in class. Everyone has a good laugh as Sarah gets the mop and cleans up the area Bella has freshly contaminated. We close class with an exercise where Bella has to sit while getting petted by a "stranger." Sarah, our instructor, who's not a stranger, but attempting to play the part, comes up to us and Bella has problems as she's a little too excited to keep her rump on the ground.

Chassie has said that she wants a "C+" dog, meaning not one that's too smart, but smart enough to be obedient . I think we have a solid "A" dog. The jury is still out and we'll keep tabs on her as we go, but she seems to pick up everything we try with her. She doesn't like homework, but who really does? Now that we've moved into a higher class, it seems that we may have to work a little harder. To be honest though, I think she's only going to prove it when she has too.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Post-Op Pt. 2

"Low activity" does not apply to this puppy. Short of locking her in her crate for hours on end, there was no way we could control her running or jumping after the surgery. We tried, at least I did for the first day or so. After that, I just tried to limit how much she was doing at one time. After the first night and the "cone" situation, Bella was back to her normal self. On Tuesday, I did not walk her in the afternoon, which caused her to be a little crazy in the late afternoon when Chassie took her out of the crate. Then at six o'clock I got a frantic phone call. At first, I couldn't understand what the problem was. Then it came out that Bella had gotten a Kong toy stuck on her jaw. Chassie was not able to take it off and when she freaked out, Bella freaked out which made it worse. As I was about to leave work and head home, Chassie calls to tell me that Bella got it off and everything was okay.

Wednesday, I decided to give her a low energy walk. It seemed to help as I don't recall Chassie being too upset about her energy level that evening. During the evenings, after dinner I had been downstairs, trying to control her activity level. At times it would work. Then she would get a mean streak in her and run around the room, back and forth, up on the couch and then off the couch. She'd stop and stare at me and then tuck tail the other direction and continue around the room.

It was much the same for the rest of the week. I picked up a "replacement" for Bucky the Beaver, it's of similar type and hopefully quality. I call him Mr. Fox and she seems to have taken to him much like she took to Bucky. However, it seems that Mr. Fox is the culprit of Bella's Crazy Escapade. As soon as she gets him, she's digging her paws into the carpet and off she goes. She doesn't get him very often.

We kept our eyes on her wound and it seemed to our untrained eyes that it was getting better. When we were with her, we did not use the cone and she didn't seem to lick it or chew at it nearly at all. When she was alone in her crate, we put the cone on to make sure that she couldn't get to it. We were fairly confident going into the follow-up appointment that everything would be okay.

The follow-up appointment was scheduled for Monday at 10 a.m. Again, I was to take her by myself. As it turns out, Chassie decided to take the day off and we took her together. Since Bella is getting a little bit larger, there's not much room for both her and I in the front seat of Chassie's Honda, so I took the back seat with Bella. The ride over was pretty uneventful, she stayed close to me for most of the ride. We arrived at our appointment right on time and quickly Bella was looked at by the vet's assistant and we were told that things were looking good. We'd have to keep the cone on for a few more days while she's left alone, but it looks like it's healing well. That's the good news.

The ride home began much the same as the ride to the vet. Then things changed. Bella began to get restless as we were closing in on home. Then she began pacing in circles in the back seat. Then I saw her butt open up and watched as her poop started to fall onto Chassie's backseat. I think the words that came out of my mouth were, "Oh God. She's pooping. In your car. It's poop." Then I freaked out which caused both Bella and Chassie to freak out. I dropped the leash as I looked around the backseat for anything to use for cleanup, as my mouth was saying, "Is there a bag? Do you have something to clean this up with? Oh, the smell, it's awful. I think I'm going to puke."

Chassie handed me a bag and I proceed to try to catch the poop as it's falling out of her butt. For future reference, this actually freaks them out. Don't try it. Bad idea. She moves away from me, continuing to poop and then disappears into the front seat. I'm not sure if Chassie is laughing hysterically at this point or not, but she asks, "Why did you let her get into the front seat?"

I have no real response to that, but I think I said, "I have to clean the poop up out of your backseat." I begin to pick the poop up. Luckily, we have come to a stop at a red light. Chassie has already opened the windows and the sunroof, trying to air the car out. She asks if we should pull over. I think we should. She pulls off the main road and stops on the side road and now I know she's laughing hysterically. I'm in the back seat, cleaning up the poop, choking on the smell and trying not to vomit. Then I realize that there's smaller pieces on the seat that I haven't picked up. I'm yelling that there's more poop, Chassie can barely breath she's laughing so hard and Bella must be wondering what she did to cause all this commotion. Chassie hands me some napkins and I pick up the rest of the droppings, tie the bag closed and hand it to Chassie who flings it out the window. We fold up the blanket, that luckily was covering her backseat and I take Bella into the back with me. Chassie then gets out of the car and grabs the bag which she just tossed out and puts it and the blanket into the trunk. We get back on the road and I beg her to keep the windows open even though it was snowing on the way to the vet. By this point Bella has calmed down and actually has laid down in my lap. You can't really stay mad at, when she's just so darn cute. I did call her "Pooper" for the next day though.

I promise, I'm not trying to make this blog about poop. It just kinda happens. The weird thing is, she will not poop on a walk. I don't even take a bag with me. She will wait until we get back to our house and inside our fence before she poops. Or she just decides to do it in random places, when I'm least expecting her to do it. I can't wait for the next occurrence and you'll be the first to know.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Post-Op Pt. 1

This week has been slightly out of the ordinary. Monday morning, Bella had another new adventure which began with a ride in my vehicle. My vehicle is a little larger than her normal ride, aka Chassie's car. When she goes places in Chassie's car, there is normally a second person to keep her away from the driver and she has been able to ride in the front seat since she's just a puppy. We break the law, please don't tell Fairfax County. My vehicle has a large amount of area for her to explore compared to Chassie's car. Then there's the fact that Chassie had gone to work and there was no one else around to assist me when it became time for her car ride. Luckily, we had her first crate that has now been retired. I took the crate, put it in the back of my vehicle and strapped it down with two bungee cords. Well... don't tell Chassie, but it wasn't a very good tie down job. The first turn (out of the parking lot) I heard a crash from the back. I pulled off immediately and found the crate on it's side. Bella was perfectly fine, standing up on the side of the crate which I guess, technically, just became the bottom, looking at me. I put the crate back in it's correct position and adjusted the straps.  Back on the road, a little more aware, I continued on our journey.

We reached our final destination and as I opened the crate door, put the leash on her and let her out of the vehicle. She had no idea where we were or what we about to do. This evil guy just took her to the vet and it wasn't a fun vet visit. I took her to get spayed. It's a little earlier than normal for a puppy from my research. It seems the average age to get a puppy spayed is around six months. She just passed five months. There's a couple reasons we decided to do it at this point. The first was Chassie wanted to be sure we got it done before her first cycle. There was a constant buzz in my ear about if we were too late, there would be blood everywhere and I would be the one to clean up. The second was we had a break during the training classes. If we waited to do it when she turned six months, we would have to miss a week in the middle of the course. As it turned out, when we made the appointment with the vet, we thought that we might be missing the first class, though we miscalculated and we have two full weeks before our intermediate class begins.

Back to the big, traumatic event of the week. I dropped her off in the morning and Chassie and Roberta picked her up in the afternoon. I returned home to find a lethargic puppy. She got up to greet me, but plopped down at my feet shortly after. After that, I spent the evening going back and forth between PetCo and our house. It was an E-collar (Elizabethan collar) we were after. For those unaware, an Elizabethan Collar is the cone that goes around a dog's neck so they can't chew on themselves. Chassie stopped by the local PetCo before picking Bella up from the vet and purchased a large inflatable collar. The inflatable collar is the preferred choice for Chassie since she is well experienced with Draco. It turned out the large was too large and Bella would easily be able to get out of it. This was a little disappointing to Chassie.

I went back to PetCo to return the collar and get one that would fit. Chassie said that they had one medium size left when she was there earlier. She told me where to go to find these collars, but as I entered the store I must have only focused on the location of the fish, because I swear I looked through half the store. I found all of the potty training necessities (a few months too late) and all of the leads (which I now know are "leashes") and I even found the cat food and toys (I hate cats). Not to mention the grooming area, where they have dog shampoo that smells like apples, like that's necessary. As I made my way through the dog section on the second go round, I noticed the medical collars at the end of an aisle. I looked through the collar section, and could not find the medium size Chassie thought would be there. They did however have something called a "Cozy Cone" which was a softer version of the classic plastic e-collar. I grabbed the medium size, thinking that would be correct since the large of the other brand was too large and walked toward the counter. The sales associate asked if I had found everything ok, I responded with a "No. Not really." She asked what I was looking for and I produced the bag with the large inflatable collar and almost immediately she said, "The lab puppy. How is she?" I was a little taken aback, but she pulled out the medium collar from under the counter as I responded that she was "Sleeping off the trauma." She had saved it from earlier when Chassie could not decide on which size to take.

I returned home and we tried the new collar on. It was too small. Here is when we insert a c]omplete and total "go crazy" moment. If you know Chassie then you can see it without me explaining it. For those unaware and need a description, I'm always looking for new topics. The size difference between the two was amazing. The large was fairly big. I'm sure an adult dog would be able to handle it, but the medium was nearly two times as small. Guess where I'm headed again? Back to the PetCo. The girl that helped me before was at the counter and she is flabbergasted that neither of the two worked. She says something about attaching the e-collar to her regular collar and then disappears without allowing me to question her further. The phone enters my hand without much thought and I'm hoping Chassie answers this time. To my relief, she's expecting my call. Through a little bit of a discussion we decide that we'll take two collars and try them out since it's about ten minutes to close and we need to have a collar that will prevent Bella from getting to her stitches. I take the large inflatable one again, thinking that we'll try putting it through her regular collar, maybe that will make a difference and the medium "Cozy Cone." We'll return the other one, or so I think.

I get home and we try both of them out. The "Cozy Cone" won the duel. It seems to do the job, but I wish I had read the instructions a little better. The cone itself is a little too short. Her muzzle comes out just beyond the edge of the cone, which it is not supposed to do. Maybe we could have exchanged for a larger cone but we allowed her to explore outside with it on, which dirtied it up and then she chewed on the edges that first night in the crate. At that point, I accepted the fact that it was ours. It's done the job, which means that she has not been able to open up her stitches when she's been alone. Which to me means, she has not bled everywhere where I need to clean it up. Therefore, the "Cone" has done it's job.

All in all, I'm fairly impressed with how Bella has handled this traumatic event. We sprung it on her, she probably doesn't know the difference except that for a few days she didn't get her usual exercise. God bless her soul.