It has been a little too busy over here. I am helping out with some extra projects at work so that is one part of it, our roof decided to give up 7 years into existing so when it rained ALL week last week, it did so outside AND inside.
Here are some highlights as we call ‘uncle’ on May!
Doug met a few ‘potentials’. It turned out they were only potentials for me. Doug hated them. Thus, we met with a new trainer, who I really like. In the past I have worked with trainers on his need to mouth feet, or my need to be able to encourage him from wild to place. This trainer is going to help us get Doug back to being more comfortable with play dates and hopefully then, a housemate. I will do a separate post on this.
I don’t think Bob #1 is with us anymore. She could have relocated, we had a surge of feral cats this spring so maybe she found a new gang to run with. I have not seen her in several months. She is chipped to me and I have not gotten any phone calls so, who knows. We wish that vixen all the best.
Bob #2 is a regular. Last night I pulled into the driveway and he was in our bushes. I stood in the garage to see if he would come up to his bowl and he did. Every time a bird flew by or there was a noise, he would flinch. I guess that is the life of a feral cat. After he ate he took a little siesta on the driveway and even though I’m deathly allergic and he is just generally terrified, I think he knows I’m the provider of food. Also, I love him.
This spring is so much better than last spring for Doug! Last year at this time we were a few weeks into Doug’s first surgery. This year, Doug owns his yard like a boss. He chases the squirrels out of it, he digs for moles (I could live without this), he makes sure his jolly balls get the attention they deserve and then he lays down on every soft surface, except the dog chaise I bought for him.
To add to the awesomeness of Doug’s life, he has graduated from being in the mudroom when I am gone to having access to the main floor of the house. I slowly gave him more freedom and he has done really great with it all. The first few days he sat and stared at the door like a statue, but somewhere around day 5 he realized he could do what all other dogs do when their humans are way – lick his parts and nap.
Melvin and Jake continue to send me songs and beautiful sunsets. And Doug and I continue to help dogs in need so that their #loveliveson .
I know I share a lot of challenges about Doug. Some I share so that others know that the struggle is real here too. Some are just funny. Mostly, it’s just reality, right? Kids are way harder dogs, but raising dogs is something new every day too. Both journeys are everything that love is about though.
Doug was handful from day one. He was every bit as spastic as Melvin was, but having Melvin didn’t automatically train me for Doug. Doug was energetic, Doug was not down with any helpful commands, but the worst part was, he mouthed my feet, 24/7.
Doug is now none of those things. Yes, he is energetic, and there are spastic moments, but that is also, just Doug. He and I have come a long way and there has been a lot of joint compromise.
There is now, mostly good. I mean, can’t we all claim that? I’m mostly good too!
Doug greets the day with an exuberance that most will never be able to replicate. He springs from bed into a zoomie manuerver that takes him down the steps and out the door in about 3 seconds flat! He reminds me every morning that we are chasing joy.
Doug loves to eat. He loves food more than zoomies. But he has never once barked to be fed, and on days when we had to withhold food, he never showed me any punishment.
I taught him leave it. It is how I got him to stop destroying my feet. He knows leave it no matter what the situation is. I have complete confidence in Doug and that command.
He never marked in the house. He had a few accidents at the start but who cares about that.
He is GREAT in the car. He loves car rides but just in general, he is calm and happy no matter how long the journey.
He does not beg. He will stare at you with the intensity of a fiery hot sun. And he will drool. But he will not try to take food or invade your eating space.
If i put him in the mudroom, or when he had to be crated after surgery, he never fought back on that. He goes in and waits to be let out.
He will stop anything and everything he is doing if I raise the volume on my voice and calmly say, absolutely not.
He sleeps 10+ hours a night. I’m not even joking about this.
He is not all that verbal. He’s more interested visually in what’s outside the window than he is to bark about it. He barks if he hears a noise that startles me and he barks like crazy at Bob #2.
He loves people. Like he wiggles and wags and smiles and froths and very few people are nervous to meet him. The ones who are mostly just worry his exuberance might result in them falling over.
He knows all the drills. When the doorbell rings, he has to go into the office. When I say bed, he goes upstairs and gets into his bed. When I say dinner, he breaks down all barriers to get to his bowl. He then sits and waits until it’s placed in front of him.
He knows go upstairs, go downstairs, get on your mat, go into your room (mudroom), go into office.
He knows sit, down, touch. He refuses to learn stay. Stay doesn’t translate to nuclear energy.
He never learned come but he did learn treat and now I use that to get him to where I need him to be.
He has moments when he has crossed over to hyper. When his face gets tight and his eyes get a little crazy. I say nap, and he goes to chill out for a little while.
He’s crazy. I am pretty sure he will always be a certain level of nuts. That is who he is. But he’s also become a really, really, great dog.
I see so much of Melvin and Jake in him. I know that what I see in him in those moments, is me. I am the common denominator.
A year ago I was broken. I was overwhelmed with grief and I was paralyzed under the weight of there being no dogs here. Jakey had not been gone that long and the void in my heart and in the house was crushing me. I’d met dogs and all of them made me have breakdowns. None of them were the dog I wanted.
The dog(s) I wanted had died.
So I gave up. My exact words were: it will just have to be shitty until it isn’t.
Then I saw you. I was scrolling on Facebook and I saw you and went past you and then scrolled back up and then back down and then back up. What was it about you? I didn’t think: you’re not Jake. I didn’t say: it feels too soon. In you, I saw the love-child of my delicious duo. More so, I saw a tomorrow that you could be in. I brought you home (one year ago today) and there were no breakdowns, at least none that were grief driven.
In the first weeks that followed, my feet bled. This is not some sort of poetic rhetoric, they literally bled because you were insane and tried to eat my feet with every step I took. Every step. I remember running and hiding in the bathroom. I googled steel toed shoes. Steel toed footwear in the heat of summer = not cute. During those torturous weeks, you made me miss Jake more. I won’t lie, I did not love you. I regularly asked myself and you out loud, what was I thinking?
In addition to my bloody stumps, you had more energy than all the dogs combined times infinity. We walked non stop and still you were wound up and running zoomies. Still trying to leave me footless. How was I going to walk you with no feet?
I cried. A lot. About you. You were not at all what I wanted.
But then it was October. Then November. And we’d worked on you chewing toys and not feet and although I was still sad about Jake, I was not as unsure about you. December came and I still cried myself to sleep missing Jake, but I woke up smiling that you were here.
You saw me through almost all the firsts I had to go through without Jake. You were fairly insensitive about my sadness, in fact most times when I would cry you would jump on my back and chew my hair.
In hindsight, you were everything that I needed.
I didn’t need a hug. That was Melvin’s job. Melvin’s collars were too big for you. I didn’t need you to make me laugh, Jake had that covered. Jake’s jackets were too small for you. What I needed was a disruption to the structure of grief. I needed to go a little crazy. Who better to show me that than you? You are my boy in the middle. Sandwiched between your brothers. Sort of like that circle on the top of your head.
You crept slowly into my heart.
I didn’t love all the walks, but the fresh air healed me. I was not excited about how much training you needed, but it helped pass time that would have otherwise been spent wishing Jake was still laying on the couch next to me. I didn’t love that you were such a terror, but every night I went to bed, I was almost too exhausted to be sad.
You were not the dog I wanted at first. But no dog was. Today, I know with certainty that we were meant to be. Not just because you are addicted to surgery and I love going broke, but because when you look at me, my heart squeals. You are so much like Melvin, and so much like Jake, and nothing like them at all. Even though you never met them, I still feel like you are brothers, that you are connected to them, and I do not think I would have felt that way with any other dog but you.
Your story is the opposite of mine. You never had a family to lose. You never had someone committed to your health or well-being. You never had a home, or beds or peanut butter. If there is one thing I know, it’s that the universe will send me the dogs that others would not be able to go the distance with. I will travel this crazy life with you and your wonky Barbie legs, always.
I know you know you’re home.
Thank you for joining me on this journey of joy. You are a strong force in this army. You bring the joy AND the funk.
You own my heart. Sure, some days I am still worried you will chew it up like one of your beds or swing it around like one of your Jolly Balls, but as all unconditional loves go, I’m willing to take that risk.
One of the hardest things to get used to after Melvin died was his absence in the bed night. He was always there, every night. Some nights, he took up the whole bed, and for a dog that was not loved in his previous life, that was how it was meant to be. Him living like a king. Jake was always uneasy sleeping in the big bed for the full night. He’d snuggle for a while but he’d eventually want to get down and sleep in his bed. I think it was lack of control of being able to get down from the bed. He was just always uneasy up there for more than an hour or so, even when Melvin was alive.
When I first got Doug, I let him into the big bed at night. It was pure torture. I honestly thought about lending him out to the military to use a tool to get enemies to talk. It took him a full 20 minutes to stop bouncing around the bed and off of my face and body and when he finally did lay down, it was a constant state of temporary. If I took a deep breath or moved an inch, he took it as an invite to play. He did this all night long. If I rolled over, he’d jump on my back in a lets-get-ready-to-rumble way.
Enter his ‘condo’. On night two or three, I dragged out one of the soft crates I had and Doug went right in and slept for ten hours. Ok, so that was a huge blessing and a note-to-self that he was obviously crate trained. Good to know. So he has been sleeping in Big Red at night since then.
Recently, during the shocking realization that Doug snuggles now, I thought I’d try in him in the big bed again. He was still pretty bouncy at first but he quickly calmed down, took a position on the bed and went to sleep. I was shocked. I moved and coughed and rolled over and he just kept sleeping. The only minor issue is that his chosen position on the bed IS LAYING ACROSS MY PILLOW. And it has to be on the pillow I’m on. If I move to another pillow, he moves with me. Doug is small in comparison to Melvin but he is not small in comparison to pillows. Here and there I let him sleep with me but it’s not the best night sleep when you are wearing your dog as a helmet.
Isn’t this awesome, Mom, its like I’m your pillow. You’re welcome for that.
The net net of this post is that as we are working on Doug sleeping in the big bed, I hate looking at the giant red crate in the room. It’s all part of my decorating illness brain, I need things to be visually pleasing and in their place. I know it’s a little cray but there are worse obsessions to have!
So this weekend I dragged out Jake’s teepee to see if Doug would entertain sleeping in it. I left Big Red just in case it didn’t work out. But much like Jake, Doug likes caves and cozy spaces. He took right to it and slept all night. I’ll trial it out one or two more nights and then move the teepee over to where the crate is and all will be glorious in my visual field again! Win, win!
There is a cover on his bed because if there is not a cover on his bed, he tries to eat his bed. Apparently the cover is not as delicious.
We are looking to add a dog to the household! Doug loves meeting new dogs which makes it all very fun and easy, except for the part where I give a lot of thought (probably too much for my own good!) to how each dog will fit.
As for my part in the search, the last dog I looked for was Doug and I met so many dogs and had so many breakdowns that each dog was not Jake. My last search was in the bubble of the deepest grief. That time when the house was so empty and my heart was broken and every dog I met made me even more sad (good times!). Until I saw Doug’s face. The dog search before that, was wrought with so much stress because Jake hated every dog that was not Melvin. The dog search before that, was Jake.
I was the last winner of the dog search.
This go around is so fun! I am loving watching Doug meet potential new siblings. Sometimes he overwhelms them with his exuberance, sometimes they underwhelm him with not wanting to play with him. There are a few things I feel very strongly about this go around:
I obviously would like the two dogs to like each other. Basic like, they don’t have to love each other but hey, that would be great too!
Doug is still very young and has a lot of training left in his journey to breed ambassador. That means that unlike Max, who schooled Melvin, or Melvin who schooled Jake, this next dog is going to need to be part of Doug’s schooling. Doug can bring the funk, but this next dog is going to have to bring some of their own soulfulness.
I don’t want another Doug. That sounds harsh, but it’s really just honesty. I love Doug, I love that he is who he is. But when it comes to the next dog, I don’t want a dog a of equal energy. Not because I want to do less walks, Doug still needs walks so that is not going away. I just don’t want two dogs in the house, bouncing off each other. I want a dog that will play with Doug but also one who can school Doug on the other aspects of being a dog that don’t require constant zooming.
I think the age range that would work best for Doug and for me is 5-8 years old.
The ultimate goal is to have three dogs, the third of which is a super senior (10 or older)!
We have not found the dog yet but we have met some great dogs on our journey.
Is my new brother or sister in here?
We met Angel (here), who was lovely! She is a little older than Doug and she’s deaf. She made the most awesome noises. I was a little worried how Doug would respond to her Chewbaca talk but he did fine. Doug and her got along pretty well, but they never stopped chasing each other. Inside, outside, inside, outside, chase me, no you chase me, ok I’ll chase you, hey jump off the back of the couch with me. No, please don’t. Just when I thought Doug could not get more energetic, enter Angel! Now before you worry that I don’t want Doug to play, I DO! I so want him to have a playmate and a life-partner-in-crime. But I can sense when we meet a dog that plays into Doug’s need for anarchy and when we meet ones who have a better balance between mayhem and peace.
We met Wendy (here), who is the sweetest Pittie and who if I had met her before Doug I would have swooped her up and called it a day. Wendy is adorable and lovely. Wendy is also very young, like Doug, and is coming into her exuberance (which she should!). Wendy and Doug would make for a tornado and while it would be so fun for them, mamma wants a more stable weather pattern. I know, I know, I’m a party pooper. I do trust my instinct to know when it’s right though.
I have prescreened about ten dogs for Doug. A few have gotten adopted because I am unable to walk into an adoption event and walk out with a dog. I NEED TIME! I NEED TO MAKE LISTS! I NEED MY LISTS TO GIVE BIRTH TO NEW LISTS. I am who I am! A few were not a good fit (the dog does not like other dogs in their space or they are dog selective). I have found when a dog is selective, Doug rarely makes the cut, even though he tries too so hard.
We are meeting a dog this weekend that I actually met after Jake’s death, before I got Doug. She was one that was perfect, but at the time, was just not Jake. I go back and visit her often and this weekend, Doug is going with me. We’ll keep you posted!
She lies, I’m always calm and wonderful and I never misbehave or chew feet or pillows, like this pillow which I destroyed yesterday but I only did it because I know she secretly wanted me to.
I can see the transition in Doug from ‘am I a guest here’ to ‘I’m home’. It started with his ability to stop backpacking me lay down and snuggle and it continues in other ways. Every day with him, I’m reminded of the same exact settling-in trajectory that Melvin had.
Doug knows the dance. He knows the waltz of the morning, he knows the jam that I go into the office most of the day and he can do what he wants. He knows how to boogie to the different doors for ‘walk’ or ‘potty’. He comes when called.
In the past couple of weeks, when I go into the office, he heads up to the big bed and naps. Exactly what Melvin used to do.
What? I’m working too.
He is also more aware of what is going on outside. He now goes from window to window protecting the house. Exactly what Melvin used to do.
I will protect you mother.
You know that hypothetical we often talk about, whether our dogs would protect us if someone broke in (or am I the only one who does that?). I always knew, 100% that Jake would lay on the couch and watch the break-in unfold. I’m sure part of that was his mobility and that he had for the most part, accepted his limitations. In his mind, he had faith that if I was abducted or knocked unconscious, I would have had a back-up plan for him to be fed (I did). As for Melvin, I was never really sure. I mostly thought that he would be excited to see anyone and that even if I was afraid, he would just wiggle and wag. From time to time, there were indications he might react if I was in true danger.
Doug is every bit as friendly as Melvin. When people come over, even if he has never met them, he loves them already. Everyone that comes over, he wiggles away for. Even when new dog walkers come and I’m not home, he acts like he has known them forever. He has yet to meet a stranger. On walks, he is the mayor of our zip code. I don’t want to meet everyone on our walks, but Doug does.
I have defintiely noticed that when it comes to being home, he is becoming more protective of all the comforts he now enjoys. If I know the doorbell is going to ring and respond knowingly to it, Doug runs to the door and gets ready to be greeter extraordinaire. If I am not expecting the doorbell and it takes me by surprise, Doug stands at attention and barks. He will move in front of me, as if he is protecting me from the ding donging. Doug can read me well. If I get scared (hear a noise at night or during a movie or even waking up from a nightmare), Doug’s response is to immediately take a protective stance. The one exceptioin to all of this is rustling leaves: wind + leaves = I am on my own. When we are in the backyard, if the neighborhood dogs are barking on the other side of the fence or if I’m perfectly calm, Doug does not bark back or even really notice them. But if I hear a noise beyond the fence other than scary leaves, and my heartbeat picks up, Doug assumes a guarding position in front of me and issues a few barks (Melvin would have run inside and Jake would have run to the noise/fence to hunt).
What? I hunted. Don’t judge.
That Doug is protective does not bother me (strangers hearing barking from our house is not a terrible thing), but I am aware that my reaction plays a role in his reaction so I need to be sure that he always knows that everything is OK. I want to be sure he knows that he does not need to be protective. The doors have locks, we have a security system, we have security cameras, we love our neighbors. It’s important to me as he goes through this phase of realizing how great his life is now that he not worry about anything. I have been working with him a lot and now if something causes him to go into protect mode, all I have to say is, it’s okay, and he gets back to wiggling.
You will still protect me from the rustling leaves though, right?
It’s funny, I’ve written before how sometimes a dog comes and they just fit and sometimes a dog comes and it’s stressful and worrisome and you are not sure you made the right decision.
When Melvin came, I was dealing with Max who was at the end of his life and Melvin was, a wild, untamed creature full of energy and exuberance. I had moments where I wondered what the hell I had done, not just to Max, but to myself. Max died and Melvin and I eventually found a groove. Clearly, ours was a love story written in the stars. He taught me that love takes work. My post about that struggle is HERE.
When Jake came, it was not so crazy. We did the two-week shut-down approach and then did Jake on tie-down for a few weeks. Also, by that point in life, I had complete faith in Melvin. There were challenges for sure (Jake, I’m talking about you buddy), but I never doubted that the two of them would work out.
Doug is a lot like Melvin. So much so that sometimes I think Melvin is inside him (A Dog’s Purpose is my favorite book). Doug has now been here for four months. It seems more like four years (even though his is only one, math bores me). He came along during a blurry time in my life and sometimes memory and timelines play tricks on me and I think that maybe he’s been here for longer, maybe he was here with Jakey. It’s a good kind of strange.
Doug has come farther in four months than I think any dog I have had has. The whole dogs age seven years for every one of our years, is never so apparent than during the first year and the last years. I’ve come far in four months too. Doug is my first young dog and I was his who-the-hell-are-you-forever. When he first came, his feet biting had me very worried. I could tell he was sweet and exuberant but that impulse control was never needed when he ran stray. The mouthing was really scary to me and I worried a lot about it. Not just that it hurt me physically but I was worried that he would mouth someone and they would claim biting or have reason to perpetuate myths about Pit Bulls based solely on Doug. Would he be a breed ambassador someday? I hoped so. Was that day in the foreseeable future? No.
Hour one with Doug. The tag hanging from his neck says Melvin on it because I had to have a tag with my phone number on it to take him home. Little did I know how much he’d be like his brother.
To be clear, he never bit. He has very good bite inhibition. But his canine teeth are SUPER sharp and you don’t need to draw blood for mouthing to hurt. I read up a lot on mouthing. Ways to train against it, how long it could last. I tried everything. The first month, it seemed as if the more comfortable he got, the more he mouthed. I’m a positive person, but I was not seeing the light on this one.
Please put your foot in my mouth.
I was already crying over Jake at that point but I spent many a night crying about Doug and his need to put all things into his mouth. There were days I looked forward to putting him in his crate at night because I needed a break (you will always get honesty here). I don’t know when it started getting better, I only know that it took A LOT of work. It took more patience than I thought I had. It started with praising him and treating him if he went one-second without mouthing. We then made it to one minute. Impulse control is hard, we had plenty of setbacks. Somehow we went from him mouthing most of the time to him mouthing a few times a day. He almost never mouths me anymore and if he does I know it’s because he is over-tired so he goes in for a nap and exits much more well-behaved. Because he gets SO excited over every visitor or person we meet on walks, well that is still a work in progress but he’s doing much, much, much better.
He still has a lot of energy but I’m more used to it now. I know when he needs to burn some off with an extra long walk and I know days when he is calmer that we can cut back on a walk here and there. He usually offers me every bit of compromise that I offer to him. I think that the recent start of snuggling has a lot do with him trusting me more and more. I was broken when Doug came to live here. As I mend, he finds more calm in me.
Max will always be the dog that made me a dog person. Melvin will always be my heart. Jake is my heartbeat (because he and Melvin are an eternal team). Doug is, hopefully, going to be the dog that I own the longest. He is the dog that I will go through every phase of his life with. He is the dog that I will bring more dogs home to. He is the dog that will see me through the next decade or more of my life.
Doug is my future.
My boy, having a moment with his brothers. #loveliveson
We had a relatively quiet New Years. I had a migraine (fun!). Oh, and miracle or two occurred.
Things like, DOUG SNUGGLES NOW!
I’m not sure how it happened. I was talking to Melvin and Jake one night, saying how it’s ok that I don’t see them in my dreams, that maybe it would be too hard to see them and then wake up. It’s ok, because I feel them and that matters more to me than dreams. I did throw out there to them that they should, COULD, WOULD need to help guide Doug. I specifically asked that they help him learn to snuggle (or at least let me sit on the couch without being playfully mauled).
The next day, this started. I assumed it was a fluke. That’s my head, he’s not sitting on it!
And that is my leg, he’s not standing on it.
When he let me put the blanket over him, I assumed he was dying.
Snugglefest has continued for a week now!
I forgot what it is like to watch TV and not have every muscle in my body tensed-up because Doug is hanging off my back or climbing my hair or standing in my lap trying to lick my face.
I reward snuggle-Doug with belly rubs and calm face massages to encourage him to always want to be calm on the couch. The miracles continued as he slept in the bed ONE NIGHT! He was pretty good from 10pm to about 4am and then he decided it was time to rave so we are taking that one slower. Mama needs her sleep!
Our foster, Athena, was supposed to come a few weeks ago. There was a delay in her arrival from the shelter due to her having a rough spay operation and also that they had to remove a mammary tumor (it turned out to be benign). They had a hard time getting her incisions to heal and she was at the vet for over a week. I wasn’t for sure if we were even going to get her.
This did not stop me from planning. I bought bigger crates, I bought baby gates and I drove 40 minutes to buy the food she was currently eating so that we could slowly transition her to better food. It also gave me a chance to train Doug away from he mudroom.
When I went to pick her up on Saturday, she still had sutures (which I knew would be the case). Upon looking at her underside, it was obvious it didn’t look like it was supposed to. The area where the mammary tumor was removed should have been flat, instead it was raised up like a tennis ball.
We got her in the car. She was timid but sweet. Her sad eyes told her story.
The meet and greet with Doug did not go very well. They lunged at each other pretty early on (on the walk on leash). There was snarling. I was worried about this since Doug has never ever reacted this way but I was more worried about the state of her incisions.
The vet that the rescue uses got us in right away. When we got into the exam room, I noticed that she has a heart-shape-spot on the side of her body.
It took two vets and two vet techs to remove the mangled staples that were buried in her swollen incision areas. They flushed the areas out. They opted to not do new sutures because of the infection, they wanted to see if they would close better on their own, without the staples. They cleaned out her ears, they may never have been cleaned out before, and we left an hour-and-a-half later with her antibiotic and instruction that she should not be outside too much, or lay down outside at all. Her incisions were susceptible to more infection.
She remained sweet as could be.
I got her home and into the mudroom. Doug was hyper aware she was there and kept trying to jump up on the gate (I had three gates separating them, I am nothing if not efficient). She was extremely uneasy in the mudroom. She did not like being in the crate our outside of the crate near the gate. Even when I was in there with her, she was uneasy. I don’t know if she had ever been in a house before. If I left the mudroom, she tried to jump the gates, not a good idea in general or with her incisions.
I tried everything. Leaving her in the mudroom with a visual of me to see if she’d calm down. I went into the mudroom with her. I gave her a frozen peanut butter Kong, then a bully stick, then cheese. She wouldn’t eat. I put Doug in his crate in the office and brought her into the house to see if she would calm down. She didn’t.
It was only outside that she was relaxed. She had lived an outside existence for many of her years. After a few minutes outside, she would prance around, sniffing, occasionally coming up to me. It was a gorgeous day on Saturday so I would have stayed outside with her all day had it not been for her incisions.
Every time I brought her back into the house, she panicked. Her and Doug growled at each other from afar, although Doug did start to relax a little. He had no problem eating his Kong or bully stick. But she just barked and whimpered and paced.
I tried to get her more comfortable in the house. The rescue group’s trainer called me and we chatted about her anxiety. Was it Doug? Was it me? Was it the house? Was it how she felt? I had a had a plan for if her and Doug hit it off and for if they didn’t. I however did not have a plan for her being uneasy in the crate, mudroom or house in general.
The trainer asked me to send her photos of the incisions, that maybe the vet was being overly cautious. Once they saw them I think they agreed that she needed to stay as clean as possible to hopefully avoid more surgery. We chatted about options and decided to take her to the 24 hour vet (it was evening) so they could get her calm and get her some pain medication (something we had not gotten at the first vet appointment, even though I asked for them). It was painful to look at her incisions, it had to be painful for her to have them that way.
This vet was about 40 minutes away. She calmed down dramatically in the car. She was timid going into the next vet but I went with her into the back room and got her settled into a cage in the back treatment room. She was perfectly calm in that cage. She sat down and then laid down as I sat with her. She was much more comfortable in this setting over being in my house.
I went over everything with the techs, said my good byes to her and went home. The plan was for her to stay there until they decided if she needed surgery to clean up the incisions.
I went home and felt defeated, mostly for her. I had not thought that day one would be easy or great, I only thought it would be as good as it could be. But with the state of her incisions and her anxiety level, I felt like she had a much rougher time than anyone ever deserved. I’m not sure knowing about her health issue would have made me plan differently.
Doug rounded out the first day of fostering with marking all areas she touched. Luckily for him, I love him and I was way too tired to care.
Doug has been here for just over a month. Every week, he surprises me in new ways of how he is settling in. I don’t even think he fully knows he is staying just yet. I am guessing he hopes so, but there are still so many things that are new to him and our routine is ever evolving to accommodate new issues so we are still in the ‘settling in phase’. I cannot stress enough, when you rescue a dog, the first few months are not the dance. The first few months are you two finding the rhythm you will dance to, then the dancing begins. Along the way, the tune will change, many, many times. It’s called life.
Every morning when I wake up I say: time to mold me and Doug more. We are both works in progress.
Hey lady, wanna breakdance?
Doug and I currently take two training classes each week. One is a group class outside of the house and one is private training inside the house. The outside of the class training is mostly to keep him social and work on him focusing on me. The private lesson class is the really important one, as it focuses solely on what Doug needs (and what I want).
Doug getting in a suitcase – prior to this was jumping through a hula-hoop, to which he said, no thank you.
Doug’s current challenges are:
Impulse Control. He is almost always in a heightened state of excitement (or he can get there very quickly). This is where mouthing comes in. The moment he escalates, he needs something in his mouth. His first impulse is feet and his second impulse is hands. He does not bite, but it still hurts likes hell and it’s not cool. He does this when people come over or when we meet them out and about. MUST PUT HUMANS IN MY MOUTH. Toys are not as awesome as hands or feet for a redirect, but treats earned, are starting to help.
He considers me the ultimate playmate and the living room is apparently the epicenter of joy. When I sit on the couch, he leaps onto my back and uses his mouth to climb up my hair. If I lay down, he runs up and down my body. If I stand up, he tries to jump up on me. If I take ten steps into the kitchen, he leaves me alone. WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY can’t I sit on my own couch Doug, why?!
He knows his harness = a walk. The moment it comes out, he is unable to stay still or to remain within a ten foot radius. Also, he thinks step one is eating the harness. It can take up to five minutes to get his harness on. My neighbors don’t understand how I’m already sweating when we exit the garage when the walk has not even started yet. Also, the first ten minutes of our walk are him trying to eat the leash and me trying to play it cool. Oh hey, yeah it’s totally fine, that he is hanging from the leash as I walk. All the cool kids are doing it.
His other big challenge is that he does not know that any of the above is an issue!
So we train. As we should and as we will, likely for the next several years. And Doug is doing great.
I still have feet AND hands. His mouthing of me has gone from 100% of the time to about 10%. YAY! The problem is, he does not translate that to other feet or hands. He only knows not to mouth me, others are still totally edible. We will get there.
We are also slowly making progress in the couch area. He still escalates the moment I walk in, but that is exactly the time we do some training and try to refocus his need to use me as human rock wall or treadmill. I still don’t watch too much TV sitting down but its great for circulation and my apple watch loves that I’m constantly upright! Try to see the positives, even when your dog wants to be your backpack.
The harness, well the harness is just something that will take time. Melvin was the same way with the leash. I’d rather have a dog overjoyed to go on walks than one I have coerce!
He has done INCREDIBLE with every single dog we have met, even the ones that did not do so great themselves. He is very social and wants to meet all the dogs and all the people.
One month! One month ago I was afraid Doug would eat my limbs. I still have bruises healing from that time with him. Doug and Tracey takes time. Doug will never be more or less perfect than I am. We are a team now. I think he’s starting to trust that.
The idea, let alone the reality, of Breed Specific Legislation should worry and anger every dog owner, regardless of what breed your dogs are.
Melvin as you all know was a lab. Labs are the #1 family dog in all the lands. Melvin was pure, unbridled joy and love. That combination did not equate to ‘good around kids’ or ‘good with other dogs’. In fact, Melvin was known as the dog who would take a child’s whole hand into his mouth to get to the cupcake they were holding. In his early days, he’d knock kids down for lollipops. People would ask me to put Melvin in a different room when they came over, because he couldn’t harness his own energy. He was not immediately #1 family dog material. It was my responsibility to put him into situations where he could shine (with adults) and to help him out in situations where his love of food could result in a child having to unwillingly share their snacks. We trained, a lot. It was my responsibility to control his environment.
Jake was the same way. When I first got Jake he would bite the ankles of anyone within reach. I had never had a dog do this and I had no idea what was going on. So again, it was my responsibility to create a world where he could not bite ankles until we could train him to leave ankles alone on his own.
Both Melvin and Jake only liked each other. Other dogs were not welcomed and Jake especially would lunge and attack if given the opportunity. Thus, outside of our yard, they were ALWAYS on leash and we avoided any and all situations with other dogs. On walks, at the vet, no matter where.
Regardless of their quirks, I would have crawled on bloody stumps to fight for their right to exist.
The idea of BSL, affects us all. The idea that a breed of dog can be targeted or destroyed, based on how it looks, by way of a vote. Today its Pit Bulls, tomorrow it might be Labs, or French Bulldogs, or ‘insert your dogs breed here’. In all its forms, it is wrong, misguided and it has proven itself ineffective.
We cannot sit back and say well it’s Canada, what can I do or I don’t have a Pit Bull, so it doesn’t affect me. If you own a dog or love a dog or generally like freedom of choice over what dog to get or have as part of your family, it affects you.
As for me, I am now the…
Doug’s DNA panel came back the same day Montreal voted to ban Pit Bulls. There was never any doubt in my mind what the test would come back as. He is American Staffordshire Terrier and English Bulldog.
Having Doug does not change my approach as a dog owner. I am dedicated to controlling the situations my dogs find themselves in and I am devoted to giving them the tools they need to succeed. Doug is currently in two training classes a week, not because he is a Pit Bull, but because he is a puppy. Puppies believe in anarchy, they need to be shown that there can be boundaries AND joy.
Please take a minute to realize that BSL could affect you one day. If that worries, saddens or angers you, please take action to help the Pit Bulls and Pitt Bull owners in Montreal (or anywhere else for that matter).
As for the winners of the guesses of what makes up Doug: Doug is 63% American Staffordshire Terrier; 25% English Bulldog (which on this test they refer to as ‘standard’); and he’s 12% something else but they cannot identify that part (I’m not really sure why but it is what it is). Since I can’t tell what the 12% is, I am going to exclude it from the guessing (otherwise everyone could win and your cut of the winnings woudl be $4!). So…we are going to say the winners are those that only guessed Am Staff and English Bulldog – and that is Wendy Shoemaker and Maila Page! IF YOU FEEL YOU GUESSED THOSE TWO (only) AND I MISSED YOU, LET ME KNOW! If you are upset about the 12% and how that affected your vote, know that I feel bad about this. I’m just not sure how else to do the voting!
For the winners, you will split the $100 Sirius Republic gift cert (currently $50 per person but if I missed any winners, this amount could change). Email us (at firstname.lastname@example.org) or private message us your email and we will get your prize out to you!
Doug continues to be the most energetic animal I have ever encountered. Here are some updates on how he/we are doing.
We are starting to make progress on him not mouthing me. My feet are less afraid to walk by him and my old bruises are healing nicely.
I have embraced our attempt to walk across the country as often as needed and he now only tries to eat the leash for the first ten minutes of the walk.
He does great in the crate (both when I’m gone and at night). I’m not sure when he will be a dog that can sleep with me (see next bullet point)
Doug views me as his playmate. But only in certain rooms, and for the life of me, I cannot figure this out. If I am in the kitchen, he will walk over to see what I’m doing but then he will go do his own thing. If I am in the office, he will either go play and entertain himself (between walks) or he will lay down in the bed in my office. If I go into the TV/couch area, he turns into a maniac and thinks I’m there to play with him and he will bounce off my body from all directions to try to engage me non-stop. He does the same thing in my bedroom (which is why the crate sleeping arrangement is currently in play). I’m going to be honest here, I really miss the comfortable areas of my house. Like my couch. I guess I will just have to cook or work in the office if I want to relax.
He is doing great with training. He sits on command, most of the time. He still won’t sit when I’m trying to sit on the couch though, apparently he does not believe in synchronized sitting.
He continues to do great with housebreaking!
We went to my nieces soccer game this weekend. There were tons of people and a lot of activity and he did awesome! He does great in the car too.
I was thinking about what a handful Doug is and how different he is from what I expected. I’m not sure expected is the right work, he’s just different from what I’ve had so I guess my idea of how he would be was based on wrong things. Anyway, I know some of us get up in arms when someone adopts a dog and then has doubts, or calls in a panic that the dog is not what they thought they’d be or that they are not sure if it can work.
If we want a dog to growl, to give us that warning sign that all is not ok, then we have to be more prepared when a recent adopter calls with the same type of alert.
As committed as I am to the dogs, Doug is a lot more work than I ever thought he’d be. He has so much more to learn which means I have so much more to teach him and that can be overwhelming and exhausting for even the most seasoned dog lover. There have been moments with Doug when I think, a first time dog owner would cry with him. And the thing is, Doug is a great dog. He’s a normal dog. He’s got more energy than I’m used to but it’s still probably a normal amount. He has made me realize I need to figure out a better way to support new dog rescuers. When the dog is biting at your feet and you are worried they will never stop, I can’t come back to them with it won’t always be this way or it will get better. When someone is overwhelmed in that moment, they need a more immediate idea. Telling them it gets better will only make them worry more in the here and now because the future feels so far away.
It’s like if you are crying and someone says, don’t cry. Don’t cry? That is all you got? I mean at least go get me a tissue.
To all of you out there just starting off on your rescue endeavor, if you are overwhelmed or unsure or tired beyond recognition, here are some of my truths:
It’s hard! You are not imagining how hard it is! You are both new to each other at first yet somehow you already love this crazy stranger. It takes a while to find a grove, even something resembling a grove. They don’t know what you want and you don’t know what they need. When you hit an a-ha milestone though, it feels so sweet.
It is A LOT of work. It is not always going to feel rewarding, in fact sometimes it feels like you are being tortured and maybe on a secret reality TV show. Crying is ok.
Some new dog owners do not go through a hard phase. Some of them just continue on as they were pre-rescue and it’s blissful and joyous. And you will be happy for them and still want to make a voodoo doll with a strand of their hair. Not everyone’s path is going to be the same.
There is a reason I didn’t blog during Melvin’s first few years with me; it’s because he was even harder than than Doug is now. I didn’t have time or energy to blog becaue I was begging him to sit still. But you know how Melvin turned out. Melvin was worth every injury, every moment I hid in the bathroom because I was afraid to walk him. Every time I sat in my car for a moment’s peace before walking in to deal with his exuberance. My love for Melvin is anchored in those early years, from those seemingly impossible rough patches, from those tearful ‘what the F was I thinking getting this dog’ moments.
This dog, yes this Melvin, my Melvin, was a full fledge nightmare the first year I had him. The first time I had him the car, he busted through the SUV barrier and hopped into my lap while I was driving down a highway at 65 mph. Poetically, we were on our way to see a behaviorist when that happened. Worth. Every. Single. Minute.
After Melvin died and Jake’s gang violence escalated territorial monitoring and prey drive increased, we called our dear friend and trainer Nancy to work with him (and me). I explained to her that his favorite thing to do was sit at the door but with every passerby, especially that of the dog variety, Jake would flip and flail and foam at the mouth.
Her advice, shut the blinds and work with him under controlled open-blind circumstances until we could give him the skills to handle the activity of outside. It was brilliant and we set off on our positive reinforcement clicker training with fake and real dogs (Yes, our trainer would walk down our sidewalk in front of our house with a fake dog on a leash and I would click from inside with Jake the moment he saw them). It was awesome! I believe in positive reinforcement training – not just for the dog, but for the human too. It’s not ‘all my rules all the time’, it’s ‘how can we both be the best that we can be together’.
Jake didn’t exactly ‘graduate’. We worked real hard but since he was diagnosed with cancer, the clicker got put in the drawer and the peanut butter came out.
There are so few activities that give Jake joy. Partly because there are so few activities that don’t require struggle. But staring out the front door, has always been at the top of his joy list. After his legs started failing even more and we found out about the cancer, he would drag himself to the front door several times a day to see if the blinds had miraculously opened again. Sort of like in Willy Wonka where the candy factory has been closed but then one day, boom it’s wonkafied and back open!
So I ompa-lumpa’d and opened that blind and let him be the jerk he has always wanted to be! Even on the rainiest day when there is no activity, he watches the world. He naps and gets up to make sure the outside is still out there, then he goes back to napping. When he kids walk by from the bus, he makes sure they pass by our house safely. If one of them stops to tie their shoe, he barks at them to keep moving. When the brown truck man drops off a package and gently door taps to say ‘hi’ to Jake, Jake Barry-White-voice barks at him and tells him to scram. When a dog walks by, he flips the F out.
There are moments I think ‘you should be training him’. Then I think ‘just let him have the one activity he can do no matter how many legs work’. I don’t give in or up a lot so there is definitely an internal struggle.
Sometimes, cancer comes a-knocking and you have to lessen your grip. That said, Jake was an ankle biter and now is not an ankle biter and to his last breath, he is not permitted to be an ankle biter again. I mean it’s not a totally rule-less society over here! And if Jake didn’t have cancer, we’d be clicker training every day. I’m not giving up on Jake, I’m just giving up on some rules that don’t fully embrace ‘joy now’.