I took a spill…

I tripped.  In my dining room. On a package.  That Winn dropped in front of me.

So, I guess it’s my fault for teaching her to bring in the mail, and the paper, and small packages, and shopping bags.

She’s supposed to hold them and give them to me once she’s inside, positioned nicely by the pantry to receive her treat. Recently, she’s decided she doesn’t want to hold them and would rather swing them around, drop them and pick them up, and maybe bring them to me.

One minute I’m walking through the house looking at my mail, heading toward the pantry and within a nanosecond I’m laying flat on my back, moaning in pain, unsure if I can get up and dealing with a huge dog standing over me licking my face.

Winn had a bubble pack in her mouth that contained a small box. She flung it and dropped it and I stepped on it just right. I rolled my ankle and heard something pop.

As I was sprawled out, looking at the ceiling and pushing away a big, slobbery head,  all I could think about were the hazards of having a big dog. If I didn’t train her to do this (and obviously we still need to work out some kinks) I would be happily going about my business with two healthy, pain-free ankles.

Ah, the hazards of having a big dog. And trying to train them to do ridiculous things.IMG_8130

National Mutt Day

7626C075-79E2-44B8-B7A1-9A8553501AABToday is the day set aside to celebrate all of those wonderful mutts in our lives.

This is Bogart, the sweet boy who was our first dog.

He was my husband’s “bachelor dog”  but he and I became instant friends from the moment we met.

My husband got him from The Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society and they told him he would be 35 pounds, the perfect size for an apartment dog. In reality he was more like 70 pounds and wonderful in so many ways.

He was the most adaptable dog I’ve every known.  He accepted me immediately, loved both of our babies and adjusted well each time we moved until we finally settled into our current house.  He took everything in stride and welcomed each new person and situation as if it was meant to be.80123BFB-9F1D-4E71-9B81-4C06C416DB05He had so much energy and climbed trees trying to get to the squirrels. He actually took the bark off of one tree with all of his attempts! During my son’s backyard 4th birthday party, a baby squirrel fell into the yard (another squirrel story) and Bogart quickly grabbed it much to the horror of all of the children and parents in attendance.  I’m sure you can imagine the sound of the instant shrieking chorus! Our elderly neighbor heard the commotion and when I explained to her what had happened she laughed and thought he must have been so proud that he finally caught one. She loved him so much.

He had a sweet tooth like no other.  I had to ask my Grandmother not to wrap her homemade candy like a Christmas package after he found it under the tree, unwrapped it and chewed open the Tupperware.

He ate a pie off of my in-laws kitchen counter when they were watching him one weekend while we were out-of-town.  My husband apologized for the missing pie and the comment back was “what about the donuts?”.

Nothing was safe, no matter how high or well hidden it might have been. He found his way into the pantry, onto the counters and into drawers.  The refrigerator seemed to be the only deterrent for his super-sized sniffing skills.

He loved the children and was so gentle with them.  He quickly figured out that laying under the high chair at meal time was the place for constant, yummy rewards.  Occasionally getting hit by a dropped sippy cup was no big deal and an accepted risk in return.6E18CE6E-15CE-4933-A631-D3498DF4B510He was an absolute maniac in the car and unfortunately never grew out of that no matter how many times we tried to work through it. He ran side to side, pushing off the doors like a swimmer doing a flip turn.  Restraining him didn’t work, he escaped out of the harness we tried. Riding in the way back of the wagon was just as bad if not worse, he had more room to zip around with three windows to use as blast-off points. Our car would sway side to side as we made our way down the road and we got lots of crazy stares. The vet became our only planned destination that needed the car, anywhere else was just too exhausting.

He couldn’t catch worth a darn. Things would bounce off of his nose, head or the floor right in front of him. He howled at sirens, liked to scratch his backside against the bushes, loved to chase his tail and rolled over on command.

His hair was crazy and went in 1000 different directions.  He had a long curl between his eyes that we called his character.  I always wondered what kind of dog he was and I asked the vet what she thought.  Her guess was part Otterhound. We always described him as a “Benji” looking dog only bigger. When I dropped him off to be groomed one time they called him “Tan Dog”.  Whatever he was, he was the most perfect Bogart he could be and was with us for 14 years.

Thanks for the memories Bogart, you were the first one to steal our hearts and were one in a million!

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Christmas 2002 Bailey 5 months old, Bogart 13

 

So what have you been up to?

I saw a funny post the other day about how we talk to our dog friends vs. our non-dog friends.

My answer to the question ” what have you been up to?” varies based on the audience.

For my non-dog friends, I’ll say I’ve gone on a couple of weekend get-aways to visit friends. I’ve also been going to the beach a lot, trying to get back into a workout routine and researching organizations to start volunteering with in the fall. I try to sound like a normal person that isn’t doing “weird” stuff.

For my dog friends, depending on what I know of their dog activities, I will be more forth coming with my answers i.e. I’ve been training Maisie to be a Therapy Dog and have found an organization that I’m pretty excited about. I’ve gone through my own training with them and I’ll be tagging along this week to observe their program in action.  Hopefully we will pass their dog team test so that we can volunteer with them in the fall. We’ve been going on a lot of training walks, in and out of stores and mixing up our destination to expose her to lots of different situations and people.IMG_6995For dog enthusiasts, I might elaborate a little more. Winn and I have been doing all kinds of advanced training over the last several months and have entered several different types of trials and have earned five titles.  Right now we are focusing on Water Rescue training and are having a blast!

I’ve been around water my entire life and for about 10 years I worked at my local YMCA teaching 3-5 year olds pool safety and how to swim.  I loved working with that age and I really felt like I was teaching them something that could save their lives. Now I’m exploring a different form of water safety by working with Winn and her natural instincts. It’s just for fun, she’s not going to be a lifeguard or a search and rescue dog, but I love swimming with her and having a reason to be in the water again.IMG_3514I’ve taken a couple of trips with her to learn the skills needed to enter and pass the junior level Newfoundland Water Dog (WD) test and have been working on a few of the skills included in the senior level Water Rescue Dog (WRD) test. (Last year I volunteered to help at the water tests in my area and wrote about those skills here and here.) She loves the water and has amazing instincts.  We work really well together but being in the water is exhausting and I’m reminded that even though she’s a big dog, she’s still young and she tires easily. I’m also getting used to being in the water again so we are both working on building our stamina in the water and knowing when to call it quits.IMG_4455This week, I’ve been filling out entry forms for water tests put on by different regional Newfoundland clubs.  Two are close by, about an hour’s drive and two are further away and would require a hotel stay.  I hope to get into at least two, maybe three.  My friend who has been doing this a long time and teaches water skills clinics would like me to go to Canada with her so Winn could also try for her Canadian Water Rescue Dog title.  I think this year, we will just focus on her American title and consider that in the future. I’ll be thrilled if we get the title this summer, but I’m loving the bond we’ve formed and the fun we have learning new skills.  I have high hopes for us as a working team and there are so many possibilities for us to explore!

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Winn and her training buddies Clarence and Cass–both featured in last year’s Water Weekend posts

 

PSA: Watch out for falling corn cobs!

What do bagels, apple cores, pizza crusts, squirrels and corn cobs all have in common? All of these items have fallen out of the trees in our yard over the last couple of months. I blame it on the squirrels.  They rummage through the garbage dumpster of the nearby condo building, find treasure and then scurry up our trees where they return to their nests. Most of the time, the squirrel and their goodies make it all the way back but sometimes they lose their grip and a random food item will fall to the ground.  And yes, occasionally they make a bad jump and end up falling out of the tree as well.

I know that it’s nesting season when I  find a pile of leaves and branches in the yard that wasn’t there the day before.  I would guess that one out of every four leaf bundles falls to the ground while they are building their nest. Shortly after that, random food and trash starts to appear and continues to fall for the next couple of months. Squirrels have 2 litters a year, early spring and mid-summer.  Right now, they are prepping for the mid-summer. (About a month ago, I was in the yard and 3-4 young squirrels were chasing each other when one fell out of the tree and landed a couple of feet away from me.  To my utter shock, it jumped up and ran away.  I’ve found enough dead ones in the yard to assume they don’t usually survive such a fall.)IMG_4074What got me to write about this? Last week, I spent a full day in the Animal Emergency Room with Winn after I discovered that she had consumed a corn cob.

A couple of years ago, I read an article about the dangers of corn cobs to dogs and since then have had a healthy fear of having one of the dogs eat one.  Until then, I was completely unaware that a dog could die from ingesting a corn cob. Corn cobs don’t break down in the digestive track and their cylindrical shape contributes to the risk of obstruction.  If the cob is already dried out, its sharp edges can shred the lining of the intestinal track. Another risk is that it can get stuck in their throat, either going down or coming back up if vomiting is induced.  The best course of action is to get your dog to the vet as quickly as possible.

In Winn’s case, I don’t really know when she got it or how much she ate. She threw-up 4 pieces one morning, and I wasn’t even sure what it was at first. The texture was strange, not completely hard like a bone but not soft and pliable either, but then I noticed a corn kernel and I knew immediately what she had found. I tried to figure out when she might have gotten it.  She was in the yard a couple of times the day before but I had been with her most of the time.  Her dinner didn’t come up with the cob pieces and I know she didn’t get it after dinner because she was never out of my sight.  She went out and did her morning business just fine, she was hungry for breakfast and was showing no signs of distress.  Could that mean the corn cob just jiggled around in her belly for a day or two before she barfed it up? Could that be all there was to it?

I had booked a morning swim time for Maisie and Winn so I loaded them both up in the car and decided to call the vet on our way.  I described everything that had happened and what I knew and didn’t know.  I was not surprised when I was told to bring her in right away for an x-ray, they would squeeze us in as soon as we got there.  So…I turned the car towards the vet’s office and the three of us arrived about 10 minutes later.

It didn’t take long for the x-ray and sure enough, there were visible pieces scattered around her abdomen and her colon looked a little enlarged, perhaps she’d already expelled some on her own. There were a couple of pieces she was concerned about so the x-ray was sent to the emergency surgeon for a consult.  The surgeon agreed with her assessment and wanted to see us, surgery would probably be needed.  I have always been concerned about the use of anesthesia on my dogs, and after losing Annie shortly after her oral surgery, my fear has been heightened. Winn’s vet encouraged me to express my fears to the surgeon and assured me that they would talk through any and all questions or concerns that I had.

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Maisie was so concerned about Winn and kept a very close eye on her.

I gathered everybody up and we quickly headed to the car.  Winn was still showing no signs of distress, other than a little anxiety about being at the vet’s office, so I decided to head home.  I could drop off Maisie and change my clothes (I was still in my bathing suit, shorts and a t-shirt, not the most comfortable outfit to wear while waiting around in an air-conditioned office).

Winn and I were shown into an exam room where we met with another dr.  The surgeon was still with another patient, but we talked through different scenarios, what the procedure would entail and the fact that Winn would need to stay overnight in recovery for two days (very scary). We decided to get her pre-op blood work done as well as an ultra-sound which would give us a clearer picture of where the pieces were.

It was all becoming so real, so scary and the waiting was excruciating, but the dr. came back with a big smile on her face.  All of the cob pieces had already traveled through her small intestine and most of them were in her colon! They don’t operate once they show up in the colon because she should be able to eliminate them on her own.  What a relief!

They gave her some fluids to keep her hydrated but were comfortable sending us home with care instructions that included warning signs for me to watch for.  If anything changed in her condition, we were to come back for another ultra sound and more tests. I wanted to cry from relief, but I gathered our things and quickly checked out.  We were incredibly lucky that it all turned out so well and surgery wasn’t needed!

 

Now I’m going to hop onto my soap box and talk about pet insurance.  It’s horrifying enough when you find yourself and your pet in an emergency situation.  Trying to absorb everything you are being told in order to make a good decision for your pet is incredibly difficult.  I knew as I sat there trying to hold back the tears, that whatever decision I had to make, I didn’t have to make it because of finances.  Surgery is expensive, surgery on big dogs can be more expensive, but having pet insurance can give you peace of mind while you are making that decision.  I knew I was responsible for my deductible and 20% of the fee because that is how I set up the policy for Maisie and Winn.  I only have sick/emergency care but it covers tests, treatment, therapies and medications. (I didn’t insure Annie because everything with her was a pre-existing condition. I wish I could have, managing all of her health issues was expensive.)

Most hospitals expect you to pay at the time of service (but many are willing to work with you especially if they know you have insurance to cover the bulk of the fees), my solution for this is that I have one credit card that is just for the dogs, but I know I will be reimbursed after my portion is paid.  The staff at Winn’s vet office and the animal hospital submitted the claims for me that same day and I received an email from Embrace a couple of hours later that they were processing the claims.

Our friend My Brown Newfies has written a great post about pet insurance comparing the different companies.  You can read her excellent post here and I hope you find it helpful. I encourage everyone to get pet insurance,  you can tailor many of the policies to suit your needs and budget. Hopefully, you will never need it but if you do, it will be one less thing you have to worry about when you furry best friend is sick.

With the 4th of July occuring at peak season for corn on the cob, please keep and eye on your dogs and make sure the cobs are properly thrown out so that they don’t get them and you can all safely enjoy the holiday!

 

Take your dog to work day

Today is take your dog to work day and since every day is take your dog to work day for me, I wanted to highlight someone who has created her own work environment outside her home and incorporated a space for her dog so that he can join her there too.IMG_7507I’ve known Lindsay for a long time.  She helps me feel young by covering up my gray hair. We’ve had a standing appointment for years, the only thing that has changed is the frequency as I get a little older.

I’ve watched her grow in her career through her promotions, salon changes, and partnership.  This year, she took the brave step of opening her own shop, and it’s wonderful!IMG_7510The space is light, bright and welcoming, and has a cool, relaxed vibe.  Capone is the shop dog.  He casually strolls around, sometimes greeting clients and sometimes sleeping through new arrivals. He has his bed situated by the window and may occasionally be found sprawled out on the couch.  Linmay Studio is at the top of my favorites list as a place to sit back and relax.  The mood is always friendly and I feel so pampered when I’m there.IMG_7508A few weeks ago, Lindsey had a special event to introduce Chad, her newly hired stylist, to her clients and she invited Maisie and me to stop by.  I have never brought Maisie with me to one of my appointments, I respect the fact that this is Capone’s place and when I’m there, it’s my time for me, I enjoy the break from keeping a well behaved dog by my side. Since Maisie is always eager to check out a new place and meet new friends, I brought her along as my sidekick for the event.IMG_7016Maisie and Capone got along beautifully, although he did try to claim me as one of HIS people which was pretty funny.  We had a nice time sipping Mimosa’s (just for me of course) and Maisie made herself right at home.  I admire Lindsay for following her dream and creating this space.  She had a vision, and took a leap of faith to make it happen! I look forward to many more years of “me” time with Lindsay and her shop dog Capone.IMG_6995

a shared life with our very large dogs

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