Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Reflections on One Week with a Puppy

After we had to put our dear, sweet 9-year old Chrissy to sleep last summer, I was lost. Well, really, I just missed her so much. I hadn’t had many dogs in my life, so she imprinted my heart so deeply. I mourned her. I still mourn her. Though she was given to Ian as a Christmas gift in 1997, she really was “my” dog.

Earlier this year, I began thinking that we might be able to add another dog to our family. But with our schedule, I really knew that I needed to consider only an older, hopefully already housebroken dog; an adoption or rescue. My family was planning a very special trip to Alaska this year. It was going to be two weeks long! I didn’t feel it was right to bring a new dog into our family and then “desert” it in a kennel for two weeks while we went away. So I knew I had to wait until after we returned.

But, I began to look around. I looked at rescue groups’ websites. I looked at Petfinder.com. I looked at Craigslist.com. There were a few dogs that were close to fitting my requirements. Into April and May, I began emailing some of the owners about their listed dogs, “… but I won’t be ready to add her to my family until after June 21. Please keep me in mind if she’s still available then.” But all those dogs found new fur-ever homes.

In searching for my next dog, I had a certain “look” that I wanted. A friend of mine has a Blue Merle Australian Shepherd with the most astounding crystal blue eyes! His name is Foster. Foster was so remarkable, I needed to find my own “Foster-ette.” Shelters didn’t have her. Aussie Rescues didn’t have her. Craigslist didn’t have her. I searched Google for pictures of Australian Shepherds and Australian Shepherd puppies. That’s when I saw her. Just a pup of about 8 weeks old. A light brown fluff ball with blue eyes. In the second picture of her, she had light brown eyes. What color were her eyes? She was from a breeder in New Mexico. She wasn’t the color I was looking for… maybe I need to have TWO? I thought about her for weeks. Every time I went back to the website, she was still available. My decision to finally purchase her could be the topic of a whole other post. But, I just knew that I needed to be the mommy to this gorgeous puppy.

After one entire week with her, I have a few reflections:

We have our moments. I see great potential in her… I just have to get her (and me) trained! She’s very sweet. But she’s also very headstrong and brave! We’ve got puppy nipping and biting going on. When she knocks over a gate, it doesn’t faze or frighten her… she just keeps on. My son is doing well taking her out on a strict schedule. And she hasn’t met a stranger. We’ve had just one accident… It was totally my fault. I was getting a little too overconfident and somewhat testing her stamina when I invited her upstairs. She chased a cat down to the living room and I followed her. But as I turned to go into the kitchen, she stayed in the living room. She’s still not accustomed to her name, so calling her does no good. I went back to the living room to collect her and she was squatting, mid-pee. “Oh, my.” Now I’m back on a strict schedule with her. Other than the one incident, she’s done all her other business outside.

She likes little rawhides that are treated for dental health. She likes to get a hold of one of Ian’s socks and play “keep-away-from-mom.” She likes squeaky toys. We took her to the Petco and Petsmart again on Saturday night and she picked out a squeaky octopus and by the time we got to the back of the store, she’d already plucked one of the eyes off. HAHA! We also found a squeaky sheep that I felt she HAD to have. Since she doesn’t have any cattle to herd, she’ll have her sheep! I’m trying to get her accustomed to being brushed. I introduced doggie toothpaste to her. I tug on her ears and paws; I stick my hands in her food bowl while she eats. These things do not bother her in the least. She loves to chase a running cat. The cats have finally learned to jump over the gates… but, I’m afraid they are teaching Denali the techniques to jumping. It really won’t be long before the gates are of no use. When Doug comes in, she gives him a big toothy smile! She likes to fetch her sheep and bring it back. We’re working on “give.” This morning she climbed up in my lap to eat some breakfast (yes, I’m hand feeding her a handful of kibble until she decides I’m not feeding it fast enough and she gets down to eat the food on her own) and chew on her chewy (rawhide.)

After breakfast, if she does all her business, I invite her up to my bathroom while I get ready. When I use my hair dryer, I let her sniff the air that comes from it. I figure that if I need to give her a bath, I’ll probably need to use the hair dryer on her, so this is just getting her used to it, also.

I’m up at 5:15 to take her out. I’m going to bed at 11:00 or midnight to make sure she’s had enough one-on-one time with me. I’m exhausted. Other than that, when I look into Denali’s gorgeous eyes, I melt… and it gives me more determination make sure that we both get the training that we need and we practice so that it’s all effective.

I no longer feel lost. I missed being a dog-mommy, more than I knew. This is where I need to be. Denali’s new mommy.

Welcome, Denali! I love you.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Another night in the E.R.

My ever-hypochondriac son required another trip to the E.R. last night. All is fine. Really, just having the doctors tell him everything looks great relieves the worry. Worry that sends him into a near panic.

He and his big brother had been out on our boat earlier in the day. The boat is an 18’ bowrider. And we live on a busy recreational lake. Evidently, they were cruising along and came upon two wakes. Big Brother was turning the boat to ride the first wake gently, but in traveling the wake, the boat turned and they slammed down hard on the second. Ian said he’d been sitting up in the bow, kind of turned toward the center of the boat when it all happened. So, when they slammed down, he didn’t realize the extent of what happened at the time, but he felt like he’d been kicked in the head. It gave him a short-lived headache.

When they got the boat home at 3 pm, he noticed his left side was tight and he was experiencing intermittent sharp pains. Big Brother went on his way home and Ian vegged in the recliner for the rest of the afternoon. He’d mention the discomfort; cringe in pain when the sharp twinges occurred and asked me all about spleen injuries. He continued to rub his hands along his chest and ribs on his left hand side. He showed me where he was having pains, all up and down the left side of his chest. He got up to use the bathroom at 7pm, showing me, yet again, just where it hurt and was uncomfortable. I’d been cooking dinner which was ready to be eaten (but his father had forgotten to pick up his prescriptions and ran to the drug store to try to catch them before they closed.) And son comes out, very dramatic, “I just had the strangest experience… I am NOT kidding!”

Now, as I said before, he has always been somewhat of a hypochondriac and tends to worry too much about every ailment he has, but usually, it’s more of just a complaint or passing question about symptoms. However, this time, I could tell he was really concerned. “I’m not trying to be a baby! But I’ve just never had anything like that happen before!” He told me how he was using the bathroom, then all of a sudden got lightheaded, sweaty and nauseous. “And now my hearing is going… I’m going deaf!” As I watched the color drain from his face, he was still complaining he thought he was going to throw up. I quickly told him to get down on the floor; he complied. The puppy ran over because she thought she was getting a playmate and I swooped her up and put her in her crate. My son never lost consciousness. And the entire time, he was still very dramatic, trying to get me to believe that there was something very wrong going on.

I tried to put on a calm front (though if I stood still, I could feel my visible shaking) … he was already alarmed about the incident and my body language did not need to fuel his panic. As he lay on the floor, feet raised, he asked me if I knew what to do in case of shock. I asked him what I should do and he gave me instructions. He kept talking about how weird an experience it was as I quietly got the phone book out to call a phone nurse at the hospital.

“What did they say?” Still alert and talking. The “talking” part being a very good thing because on a typical day, he doesn’t do much of that.

“The nurse said that if I was concerned enough to call, I should just take you in.”

Dread crossed his face. This would not be the first time he’d been to the E.R. “Can you call {our neighbor who is a nurse} Maybe she can do a rib scan thing.”

So, I tried calling her, but she was at work. I assumed we would be preparing to go to the E.R. as soon as Doug got home. I began covering up our uneaten salads, getting Tupperware from the cabinets to package up our pasta and fresh garden vegetables. Still worried and feeling dizzy, my son remained on the floor in the center of my kitchen as I worked around him. Still chattering, I tried to ease his worries and dread by downplaying the upcoming trip to the E.R.. As soon as Doug got back home from the pharmacy, I informed him that we were headed for the hospital. “Do you want me to go with you?” he asked.

“Yes.” And I made him drive. Ian was still dizzy and uneasy walking out to the car. He used his father’s shoulders to brace himself. We got him tucked into the back seat, with a large bowl (just in case.) You wouldn’t believe the traffic at 7pm on a Sunday night in Denver, NC. Large, slow, heavy equipment on non-passable 2-lane roads; Fire engines, returning to their stations that need to block two-lane roads to back into their stations; people, finishing up their Sunday drives! As we neared the hospital, we neared a in intersection that had no other cars waiting and the light was yellow. We didn’t let up on the gas and passed through the intersection on an “orange”/red light. Yes, I know… shame on us. But really, there were no other vehicles at this particular intersection, so while it was illegal, we felt we needed to do it.

Into the E.R. driveway, we were greeted by a hospital E.R. hostess with a wheelchair. Quickly, I filled out the small slip of paper with some basic information. Complaint: Chest pain – left side, nausea, fainting. While there were about a dozen people in the waiting room, Ian was the second one back. A quick EKG to rule out heart problems, Ian then informed me it wasn’t his chest… it was more his upper abdomen. {shrug} When he was showing me where it hurt, it “looked” like his chest. And as he laid there on the stretcher, legs rapidly rocking, he begins to ponder his need for a psychiatrist, “I think I need some help.” “Why do I panic with every little ailment?” “I wish I was still little when I didn’t have worries like this.” With the last statement, I could no longer hold my tongue… “Honey, you’ve ALWAYS been like this. Even when you were little. Each week, at school when they would educate you about cancer, leukemia, diabetes, or whatever, you’d always come home from school, asking if you had the ailment-of-the-week.” He replied, “Maybe I’m just a worrier.” The results of the EKG were fine, but he still complained of being dizzy. So they took his blood pressure lying down, again sitting up and again, standing. Not much difference in any of the results, but they still got him a wheelchair to head back to the waiting room.

We waited for someone, we were told, to come get him for an x-ray. But an exam room opened up before the procedure; so, we were invited back to sit with him there. A nurse came in to take vitals and hook him up to a heart monitor machine. About 10 minutes later, a doctor came in. She ordered the x-ray and a CT scan. It was quite a while before anyone else came in. But when they did, it all happened at once! One brought the “contrast” for Ian to drink for the CT. A large container of what looked like lemonade. “Drink one cup of this every 15 minutes. You’ll need to drink all of this, so it’ll be an hour before your CT scan.” Just as he was lifting the first cup to his mouth, an escort came in to take him for his x-ray. She didn’t know if the “contrast” was going to be a problem for the x-ray, so she had to call to find out… no problem…So, he chugged down his first cup. “Ugh! Tastes like Thera-Flu.” The escort then needed a nurse to un-plug him from the heart monitor machine. As she stepped out to find a nurse, a male nurse walked in to start an IV and get blood samples. IV nurse asks escort, “Can I have just 3 minutes to do this?” Escort says yes. The CT nurse walks in and takes the rest of the “contrast” and informs Ian that the doctor only needs for him to drink the one cup. OK, that’s good. Ian informs IV nurse that he doesn’t do well with needles and blood and Doug and I try to distract Ian away from the IV insertion. Lucky us, (NOT,) the tube was defective and leaking. The IV nurse called for backup, “AMY?” Amy didn’t come. So, when Ian thought the IV nurse was done getting blood samples, he looked at his IV and saw the mess and the still leaking tube. As he previously promised the IV nurse, Ian got sick right there. All the contrast was now in a pink basin on Ian’s lap. Poor thing. The IV nurse was again, calling out for the other nurse but she didn’t hear him. So I stepped into the hall and called for her, “Amy? Is there a nurse named Amy out here?” Amy came to offer assistance, but not before she exchanged sarcastic banter with a deeply apologetic IV nurse. New IV in, the heart monitor un-plugged, Ian was ready to go with the escort in a wheelchair to get his CT and x-ray. The IV nurse returned to the room to clean up the sheets, clean everything down and re-make the stretcher. He apologized to us at least three times.

Twenty minutes later, Ian was returned to the room. He couldn’t believe it had been that long. I told him, “time flies when you’re having fun. Are you having fun?” “NO.” was his response. They had him drink just one more cup of “contrast” just before entering the CT. We watched the television in the room while we waited for the results. About another 20 minutes later, Ian was asking about using the bathroom. There had been mention of them needing a urine sample so we couldn’t let him go. I stepped out into the hallway to find out when they’d take the sample when I ran into the doctor. She said, “I was just headed your way.” I asked her about the need for the sample and she said everything looked good so they wouldn’t need one. {SIGH!!!} What a relief!!! We got to Ian’s room and she relayed the results to him, “Your blood work looks great. Your CT scan was beautiful. You were very still in there so we could see everything very clearly. There is nothing showing any damage to your spleen or liver. Your x-ray showed no damage to your spleen or ribs. You really dodged a bullet. It could have been so much worse. Probably what you experienced was just a …” blah, blah, blah… lots of medical terms that none of us understood, but we assumed it to mean that the toxins in his body got shaken up and just made him feel really rotten and sick. She wants him to take it easy for three days with no heavy work. Take some Tylenol for the pain and discomfort and if he gets to feeling worse, to call back in. All that said, Ian’s brain can quit worrying about a spleen injury, or broken ribs or whatever else he was thinking that was causing him such panic.

Our entire stay at the E.R. was 3 hours; we got home at 11:00.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The day Denali came home...

My stomach was in knots yesterday morning (7/21/2008)… I had her confirmation number for her flight(s) so I called Continental’s Pet Safe desk and got her airbill number. From there, I could track her progress across the country, online! :-D (What a geek I am.)

The Cargo pick-up area is very industrial… but there was a small patch of grassy space. So after I checked her (to make sure she was alive) I signed off on her. While signing off, I could hear her whimpering and yipping out on the dock. The cargo guy snipped the zip ties that kept her crate sealed and I opened the crate up. Barely hesitant, she looked at the waiting choke collar like, “What am I supposed to do with that?” But she let me slip it over her head and I picked her up and carried her down the dock steps and over to the grassy patch. She squatted and peed for about an entire minute. Her crate had been lined with a puppy wee pad and filled with cedar shavings… there was no poo, and it all smelled fresh and clean. It was a little wet, but I think it was just from her water dish spilling some… so I wonder if she actually held it all those hours? I put her crate in the back seat of my car and put her back in it for the ride home. She settled in and I think she napped most of the way. It was so hot out and it all went so fast, I didn’t really get to inspect her from head to toe, but I could see that she looked exactly like her pictures, and she seemed pretty happy to see me, too! (Of course, I think she would have been happy to see ANYONE.)

At home, Ian was at work, so I was on my own. It was very hot and humid yesterday, so I didn’t want to keep her out too long, but I needed to clean the crate, get it put back together and take it into the house so she’d have a “bed.” I put her on the leash and secured it to my car… plenty long enough for her to come “help” me clean the crate or go lie in the shade. She’s very friendly, just a touch shy, and doesn’t yet seem to be afraid of anything.

I hand carried her into the house and set her down in the kitchen. She began investigating while I got the baby gates set up, got her some water and put some food down for her. We got a couple of toys and played on the kitchen floor. I’ve watched her water and food intake and was sure to take her out every two hours or 20-40 minutes after eating… we have had no “accidents.” Ian called from work to ask if I got her but he was busy at work, so it wasn’t a good time for us to go over and visit. I told him to call back when he got un-busy and we’d go over. She settled in for a nap and I messed with her while she was trying to sleep. She didn’t mind. (She also didn’t mind me having my hand in her food bowl while she ate.) So I studied her while she slept. She actually has some fleas right now… but we’re going to the vet today so I’ll get something to treat for those. When Ian called at 7:30, we headed to the golf course. She was still wanting to nap, so she just curled up on the front seat and closed her eyes… she had no idea the trip would be so short. I hand carried her over to see Ian and he got a big grin on his face… she did not make a peep when she met him. I set her on the ground and a man at the golf course walked over… she barked three times at him. I picked her up and she was then happy to meet the man.

After our visit to the golf course, I took her to Petco. Again, she curled up on the front seat and closed her eyes… it had been a long day. Once at Petco, I put her in the front of a shopping cart and the people started flocking to us! The first family has Aussies and even had a litter earlier this year. So they already knew what she was; they commented on her markings and eyes. The next girl owns a miniature Aussie, so she also knew. Hers is only 12 pounds at one year old (Denali should be about 55 pounds at full-size.) Next was the Petco employee, who also knows Aussies. Also remarking on her eyes, she told me I did a great job picking out my puppy… then tried to talk me into entering her into a swimsuit competition at the Petco this weekend. I don’t know that I’ll be dressing my dog up in a swimsuit. Then another teenage girl came bounding over, “Can I pet your puppy?” She wanted to know what kind she was, remarked on her eyes and asked her name. I said, “Denali.” She said, “Like the car?” I said, “No, like the mountain in Alaska.” Hah! All the rest of the Petco employees eventually came to greet us in the checkout lane. She was a star! And very well behaved through the entire ordeal.

On our way back out to the car, I set her down to see if she needed to pee… she did not. But a woman coming out of the store next door saw her and asked about her. Also remarking on her coloring and eyes and stating how beautiful she is!

By this time, I’d realized I was pretty hungry… I hadn’t eaten ALL day. So on the way home, I stopped at Burger King. Denali stayed curled up in the front seat. Every once in a while she’d stretch and try to put her head closer to me (but the console/armrest prevented her from curling up right next to me.) The woman in the drive thru window knew she was an Aussie… she has one that’s 15 years old. I asked her what she feeds her dog. “Chicken… she’s fat.” And she wished me just as many happy years with my Aussie.

At home, I mixed up her Puppy Mush… dry dog food, water, canned puppy food, canned salmon, and yogurt. It was also supposed to have a vitamin supplement in it but the Petco was out… we get to go for another ride tonight! She ate about ½ of the mush and she was so happy!!! She got a burst of energy and was wiggling all around, grabbing her toys, following me all over the kitchen! Doug called and I was telling him about my day and the puppy. We were on the phone longer than I wished because I knew I needed to get her outside to do business after eating. So it was probably about 40 minutes after eating that I finally got her outside. We had to run up and down the driveway a few times (because she just wanted to sit in the grass) and then we had our first poo! What a good girl!

I took her back in, set up the gates and I left her in the kitchen while I did some work in the den. She wasn’t too wild about being so far away from me, and she whined and whimpered a bit. But then settled down and laid on the kitchen floor where she could see me.

The cats are doing as well as can be expected… I had Denali in her crate when I let the boys come out of their room. Ula immediately headed for the crate and hissed. Then he meowed, growled and hissed again. Mr. Whiskers hasn’t said anything. He pretty much just goes way off to the side and watches. They both are learning about this “baby gate” thing. One gate is pretty tall and they haven’t quite learned that they are able to jump over it… so I’m having to lift them over, or just open it up. Once I took Denali out of her crate, she pretty much just wanted to play with her new toys and the cats didn’t seem to interest her too much. (Though later in the evening, after a trip outside, I still had her leash on her… good thing, because Ula took off running and Denali thought it was a good idea to go chase. The retractable leash came in VERY handy just then!)

Bed time (midnight) last night went pretty well… she’s not too interested in being in her crate. So I threw a couple of “cookies” in there and tried to coax her in. She’s already figured out how to grab, turn and escape quickly. So getting her into bed is going to take some more training. She whined, whimpered and barked up a storm for 10 minutes and then she was quiet. Ian came in later (he was over at Ryan’s) and I was thankful he didn’t have to try to go to sleep while she was acting up… but she stayed quiet as he came in and didn’t act up after the original 10 minute ordeal. I was hoping she’d be a better watch dog.

This morning, I got up at 5:15 to take her out. She was SO happy to see me. I was worried that she’d pee in her excitement. I cautiously picked her up and headed outside with her. She squatted! GOOD GIRL!!! We came back in and got some water and breakfast and we played for about 20 minutes. Back outside… run the driveway a couple of times, and head for the same place we did poo last night… perfect! Right on cue! GOOD GIRL!!! Brought her up to my bathroom with some toys to chew on while I got ready for work. Near the end of my shower, she was whimpering because she couldn’t find me. But once I stepped out, she was quiet. She didn’t mind the noise of the hair dryer and she just stayed near my feet while I got ready. Back downstairs and outside for one more pee… GOOD GIRL!!! Into the crate. And I’m off to work. The rest of today is up to Ian! I haven’t heard from him yet, so I don’t know how it’s going.

We have a vet appointment at 3:30 today; OOPS, spoke too soon… Ian just called… Denali’s being a good girl and still no accidents.