Tag Archives: training

A New Start

2013 has proven to be almost more than we can handle. Between family health issues, busy working situations, and life in general, we haven’t had a spare moment to update you on Scout and Zoey. But now we’re past (hopefully) the craziness, and it’s time for a recap!

Last Saturday, we moved. I know, again. But this time is the last time for a very long time. Very. We don’t necessarily believe in “forever” homes, but this would be something like that. A home to grow into, however that may be. We’ll call it a “forever-ish” home. This is it.

Getting here has been harder than we anticipated, and it’s left B and me both physically and emotionally exhausted. Scout and Zoey have been real champs though. Through packing and relocating, we’ve been worried about how the girls would handle it, especially Zoey. Move-in day was last Saturday, and we waited until that morning to put Zoey in her carrier and bring her to the new house. In every single previous transportation experience, Zoey has emptied her bowels in the carrier within the first three minutes. The stench. You guys. It’s way too powerful, and horrible, to drive with a cat sitting in urine and waste in a cat carrier that’s in your lap. We started to put towels in the carrier to absorb the urine and help get us to the vet’s office. We minimized the reasons to take Zoey out of the house—ever. (Dr. C is always a champ about it. They clean her up when we get there and do their best with her. Gotta love a great vet.)

So we were understandably terrified of transporting her to the new home, but we did our best to keep these emotions in lock down on Saturday morning. We believe that pets (and kids, for that matter) feed off of their parents’ energy, so I tried to keep my apprehension under control as I coaxed Zoey out from under our bed and then gently fed her into the carrier. She immediately tensed up as her head neared the carrier, but she let me put her in it without trouble. Then we high-tailed it out the door.

On the way, she cried a few times, but nothing like the howls of agony we were waiting for. And no bowel movements! Zoey was truly remarkable and held it together better than she has ever done before. We got her settled in the bathroom at the new house, closed the door, and left her to acclimate while we hustled around with the movers.

For her part, Scout spent the majority of the day in her crate so that she wouldn’t be under the movers’ feet as they unloaded. It wasn’t fun for her, and we could tell that she was stressed and wanted to be with us exploring this new place. But that wasn’t in the cards until the movers left.

Scout has surprised us with this transition. Normally it’s Zoey who is stressed and anxious about changes, but this time, Scout has had the harder time. Zoey was almost bubbly when we let her out of the bathroom into the rest of the house, following us around downstairs, sunning herself in the dining room, and rubbing on the carpet. We’ve been in awe of Zoey’s relaxed personality these past two days, totally outside her normal demeanor in these situations. Scout, normally our bubbly personality, has been the opposite: stressed and concerned. She spent the majority of yesterday following us around with worry lines across her forehead as we unpacked, until she finally fell asleep out of exhaustion.

foyer1

We’re sure that as our routine falls back into place Scout will acclimate to this new environment. In the meantime, we’ve tried to settle her in by keeping the same breakfast and dinner routine, the same house rules, and lots of love and attention. This new home has a few areas that we’re excited about for the girls, namely a screened-in porch and a big backyard, so there will be lots for them to enjoy as we settle in to a new home.

The Day to Day

Not quite a week has gone by since we last took Scout to the vet’s for incontinence. Within that time, she’s had three accidents.

The first accident happened the day after her visit to see Dr. C, last Friday. It was a fairly sizable “dribble,” as we’ve taken to calling them. Sizable and unlucky, as her rump was conveniently situated off of the towel we had draped over the couch cushion. Oops. We stripped off the cushion cover and threw it into the wash. Then we sat down and made a game plan.

We are planning people. Give us enough time and paper (or an Excel spreadsheet), and B and I will have your life planned in no time flat. Seriously. If there was a career for making Excel spreadsheets and over-thinking things, we’d be rich. So rich. But instead we spend our time over-thinking our own lives and leaving everyone else to think about their own. Possibly better, for them at least.

The first thing we did was to start a calendar to monitors these dribbles. Nothing fancy, just a little mark on my cell phone calendar for every time Scout dribbles. By yesterday, it was at three, one for every day she’d dribbled: Friday (a puddle the size of the bottom of a coffee mug), Saturday (a smaller puddle), and Sunday (a little dribble the size of a nickle that we actually saw happen).

I should probably explain that last little bit, the part where we saw it. Yes, I mean we actually were looking at our dog’s downstairs at the exact moment that she, technically speaking, wet herself. It helps when your dog sleeps on the couch like this:

sleep

From time to time, B and I will pause what we’re doing and assess the dribble situation. “Are we good?” we say to Scout as we glance at her privates. (All vanity has been lost. We are officially Parents, examining our pet-child’s anatomy with the gaze of attuned doctors gauging the outcome of a completed procedure.) She watches us watch her with a look on her face that is not entirely dishonest: “You guys are nuts.”

But our paranoia is not unwarranted. In the case of Sunday’s accident, the smallest of the weekend, we were able to catch it mid-dribble and take Scout outside to empty her bladder sans couch, the way we’d prefer it. Our method now is pretty finely tuned. We have two old towels folded in half and stacked atop one another spread across the couch cushions. No matter where she lays, there are two layers of absorption between her and the cushions. As long as she doesn’t empty her bladder completely, which it doesn’t appear she will (she does have bladder control, just not 100%. I’d gauge it at 90-95%), the towels are sufficient to catch whatever she might unknowingly spill. Then, we throw them in the wash and wa-la! Good as new. If company comes over, the couch can be dribble- and towel-free in seconds.

The other thing we did was to decide on a plan. At the end of this week, we’re going to assess how many accidents Scout has had and the severity. (Was it a little piddle or Niagara Falls?) Then we’ll decide whether we need to pursue giving her something to help assist those delicate uterine walls. If we decide to give her something, we’re going to try the homeopathic route before medication. A number of people on forums we found online have recommended various herbs and natural remedies that we’d explore first, and then switch to medication if Scout doesn’t respond.

But that’s ahead of where we are now. Where we are now is that yesterday was accident free. We’re hoping that today ends accident free too. At week’s end, we’ll see where we are and report back.

couch

*Some of you may be wondering why we don’t just make Scout not get on the couch rather than wash our cushions three days in a row. We talked about that, but quite honestly, other than a short list of things (peanut butter, fetch, water…B and me), the couch is one of Scout’s true loves. Really. We noticed an immediate change in how happy she was to sit with us “like a person” at night while we watch TV. There is real joy there that we don’t want to deny her because of something she has 100% no awareness of and would be mortified of if she ever realized it. At this point, these accidents aren’t tragic enough that they’re staining the couch or smelling, so we’re not going to make her give up the heaven that is the couch. That could change as the situation changes, but right now, that’s the verdict.

Scout Throws a Party

On Wednesday, Scout threw a party. No parents were allowed. It happened while we were at work, and lucky B got to arrive home before she could clean up. He called me, and this is how the conversation went.

Me: “Hello?”

B: “So, guess what I found when I got home?” [Insert THAT tone, the tone you know means something bad has happened. The tone that means that the next thing you’re going to hear is something like, “Your dog…!”]

Me: “Um, what?”

B: “Scout.Found.The.Rice.”

Me: “Oh God. What about the sugar and the flour?”

I should pause here to explain that our kitchen island has two shelves on it where we keep dried goods such as flour, sugar, rice, and cereal inside plastic containers. They have lived in this spot since we moved in, and Scout has never once shown an interest in them. Until now.

B: “There is rice everywhere! ARRGG [insert angry rambling that I don’t really remember]!!!!!”

Me: “Well, it’ll be okay. We can clean up the rice…Was it the jasmine rice or the long-grain?”

B: “The jasmine of course! Why would she eat the cheap stuff?! Nooooo, she has to eat the expensive stuff!”

Me: “I’ll buy us more rice, don’t worry. I’ll get a cheap bag.”

B: “Great, so I’ll eat the cheap stuff and the dog can get the expensive stuff!!”

Me: “Oops. No, I didn’t mean it like that. Where is she now?”

B: “Following me around with her ‘sorry’ face. Because she was a very bad dog!

Me: “What’s the house look like?”

B: “We’re going to be pulling rice off the floor for a year! And there are solo cups everywhere!”

Indeed there were solo cups everywhere. And rice. And shredded plastic bags that used to hold some sort of food we could never identify. As my friend at work said when B sent me this photo, Scout had a frat party. No parents allowed.

party

So after we got over the mess, there was Scout herself to contend with. The apologetic puppy’s stomach was so bloated she looked like she’d swallowed a pillow. B cleaned up the rice and determined that out of a 5 pound bag, she must have eaten a good 2.5 pounds of raw rice. I Googled “can dogs eat raw rice?” The results were mixed. Either you got option A or B.

Option A: Oh, yeah, your dog’s fine. No worries.

Option B: DUDE YOUR DOG IS GOING TO DIE!!!!!

So faced with these two consequences, I opted to not trust the Internet and call my vet instead. (Old-fashioned book smarts still come in handy.) The vet tech that spoke with Dr. C said that he instructed us to take away Scout’s water and limit her to a very small amount every 2-3 hours. Any more and you’re just going to help the rice expand in her stomach. No dinner for the night. Let her ride it out but keep an eye on her. If she is in pain, call them back.

Well, you know Scout. If she was in pain it was completely and utterly unnoticeable. Her puffed-up stomach did little to slow down her drive to play fetch (though we were afraid that all that running around would encourage the rice to blow up, so we told her no every time she brought us the ball.) The biggest thing was how thirsty she was. She constantly asked for water, but I had to tell her no. We had to go around the house and make sure the lids were down on all the toilets because she would sneak off to drink out of them. I hated keeping her water away, but then I’d look at her stomach. That helped my resolve.

That night, Scout asked to go to the bathroom three times. I took her out at 11 p.m., 12 a.m., and 4 a.m. Each time, she let loose a stream of fluorescent yellow water from her rear like a cannon. I held my nose and cringed from the porch. Then she trotted back over to me like, “Whew! That sucked. But I’m good now! Want to play fetch while we’re up?”

And, like Scout’s other eating extravaganzas often go, there was some mad gas.

photo[1]

By the next morning, Scout’s stomach was only slightly less bloated but her mood was still chipper. We gave her half her normal breakfast amount and a bit more water (maybe 1/4 cup). Then she went into the crate. I don’t even think we asked her to. She just knew. After yesterday, it was crate time.

I worried all day about her exploding yellow stream wreaking havoc over our living room walls (please, God, let her aim away from the books), but B arrived home to find her in a grand mood without having had an accident. Thank you, thank you, thank you. She promptly went outside and expelled her yellow wonderfulness out there instead. Then she brought him the ball. Fetch?

Today is day three after Scout’s frat party, and this morning’s bathroom event included what I would describe as lumpy pancake batter-textured, rice-flecked, mustard-colored poo. Is this a step up on the return to normal-bowel-movement scale? We decided so. Her stomach bloating is gone, and she got her normal breakfast amount with very apparent glee on her part.

And so here is where we stand. Scout will survive her rice-eating bonanza, and we’ve been left to sort out what it all means. Here are the theories we’re bouncing around.

  1. Scout doesn’t want to be on the Atkins Diet. Back when we were dealing with her ear infections, we switched her to a grain-free food. Perhaps all her repeated bread binges means she wants some grain back in her diet.
  2. Scout is genuinely hungry. She has always, and I do mean always, had the major food drive that is associated with Labradors (example: Marley & Me). When Scout hit adulthood, we didn’t switch her food to once a day because we thought she’d miss the ritual of eating dinner. We kept her at two meals a day thinking that she would be happier that way, but now I’m wondering if she would do better getting it all at once. Would she be fuller getting all that kibble in one go? And thus not eat us out of house and home?
  3. And then there’s B’s theory: Scout’s just being bad. I have a friend who told me that once or twice a year, her Labrador goes through a naughty binge. She’s perfect all the time except once every six months or so, in which case she proceeds to eat everything she can, including a birthday cake, a wallet, and a plate of hot cornbread. Admittedly, we haven’t been walking her as much as we should because the weather’s been pretty miserable, so we do have some part to play in this.

So those are our theories. We’re not sure which way to proceed at this point. I mean, if we decided it was possibility #1 would we change her food over to something with grain and then put a loaf of fresh bread in front of her to see if she eats it? Tempting…

Scout Goes on an Eating Rampage

duck

In the last two weeks, Scout has practically eaten us out of house and home. Let me quickly summarize what her stomach-of-steel has ingested the pieces and parts of, that I can remember:

  1. Multiple Zoey toys.
  2. Two Snickers bars.
  3. More receipts than we can keep track of.
  4. Business cards.
  5. A McCormick spice mix that was in a larger bag of food items set aside for the food shelter. She smelled like rosemary and French onion dip the rest of the night. All we found was a hollowed-out shell of plastic. (See below.)
  6. A thermometer, last week while B and I both had the flu. She thankfully left the batteries and computer chip for us to find.
  7. And just tonight: my Burts Bees lip balm, a hair tie, a pen, and a bottle of eye drops. All from my side table by the bed.

mccormick

This has to be a record for her. Scout has had brief bouts of eating odd things before (the potting rocks live in infamy), but all have been related to ear infections. We thought we had solved the infections, but now that this sudden, frequent eating has developed, we cannot help but wonder if another infection is around the corner…

It pains us for her to always be in trouble. The face she makes when she knows we’ve stumbled onto something bad is heartbreaking. I’m probably anthropomorphizing her, but I swear the expression in her eyes makes me think that she feels like she’s disappointed us.

Her two-year checkup is coming up, so her ears will be checked out. We can discuss her sudden influx in illegal eating with Dr. C and get his input on it. We worry that she’ll ingest something that will make her sick or warrant surgery. And in the meantime the only way we feel like we can keep her safe is to crate her while we aren’t home. Do any of you have experiences like this, where your dog suddenly begins eating things out of the blue? If only she spoke English and I could explain, “My dear Scout, ball point pens are not digestible, even for Labradors.”

Finders Keepers

A few nights ago, as I sat in the kitchen and chatted with my Mom, Scout came over to see me. There’s nothing new in this. Who wouldn’t come over to a seemingly unoccupied person and ask for a little scratch behind the ear? But when she wandered over, I noticed a look on her face. Not just any look, but the “I’ve Found Something and Thought You Should Have It” look. The look that most often means that she’s discovered some tissues or a Zoey toy and thinks we need to know. Scout has done this, as many of you know, since she was a puppy, delivering to us all kinds of goodies she forages for around the house. The ones she wants to keep—the cotton balls, mainly—she takes underneath the bed and gums to death.

Yes, I ate this tissue. Yes, I am still partially underneath the bed.

But that’s not what Scout brought me. When I asked Scout to “drop it,” she promptly listened, and what should fall gently out of her mouth but my earring. I didn’t even know it’d fallen off, but Scout did, and must have smelled my scent on it, because she brought it right to me. (Thank GOD she didn’t swallow it!)

Perhaps she can help us find the missing socks the drier eats next…

PS
You might have noticed that our amount of posting has fallen off in the past few months. Blame it on life, blame it on busyness, but mainly blame it on a little side adventure B and I have been working on for years now that finally took off. See what we’ve been up to here!

Books About Dogs

When I was younger, I was a voracious reader. I read just about anything I could get my hands on. After college, I took a job as a copy editor, and my reading slowed. My eyes are simply too tired at night to dive into hours of reading by my bedside table.

scout sleep

sleeeeppppyyyyyy...........

But I have managed a few books that I thought I’d share with you on our mutually appreciated topic: dogs.

Let’s start with fiction

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Though Art of Racing is not new, I still find people who have not heard of it. B and I both really enjoyed it and recommend it all the time. What makes it unique is the narrator: The story is told from the perspective of the family dog. Not only is he hilarious, but his insights into people and his family come from neat sources (such as Law & Order!), and make for an entertaining, touching read. This is why we call tissues and cotton balls Scout’s zebras. Don’t get it? Read the book! :)

A little bit of science

Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz
This book might be known to you too, considering it was a New York Times bestseller, but here again I thought I’d suggest it. I’ve been taking my time with this one, reading it slowly little by little before bed. Ms. Horowitz is a great writer, academic without being stuffy. Her writing takes what could be an otherwise boring academic account of what makes dogs tick and instead turns it into a fascinating account of the animals we love from a biological and psychological point of view. A dog lover and owner herself, her writing has a personal tone, a touch of humor and wit, and a lovely lyrical quality. I’ve learned so much, and highly recommend it.

And some training

How Raise the Perfect Dog Through Puppyhood and Beyond by Cesar Milan
This book was the Bible for B and I before we adopted Scout. I scoured its pages, bookmarking sections to reference again once it became closer time to bring Scout home (i.e.: “How to introduce your puppy to her crate for the first time.” Check!). If ever you’re looking for a step-by-step guide, as we were, this would be my suggestion. “Do this, don’t do this,” was what B and I were looking for. A puppy manual, basically! We felt lost, and though Cesar didn’t do the work for us, he helped guide in the right direction. After that, we made it work for us, as all parents have to do. But I like to think that he prepared us for puppy parenthood and helped us to raise Scout into the great dog that she is today. There are lots of guides out there, and various schools of thought too, so spend some time researching each of them and pick the one that you’re comfortable with. Cesar worked for us, so I hope he works for you too.

Any dog books you guys love? I’d be curious to hear about them!