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Friday, December 25, 2009

Santa baby...

"Slip a SHELTIE under the tree, for me..." Wait...that isn't how it goes. And this isn't quite what I meant!!
Oh well =0) That's a picture of the girls under the decorated tree; and yes, I did bribe them with a cookie to get under there!
This was a great year for Christmas. Not that Christmas every year isn't great, but this year seemed to be a little extra special. It seemed like more people were looking to just enjoy the holiday for what it is meant to be: a time when family and friends gather to give thanks. Sure, the stores started to put the holiday paraphernalia out right after Halloween and the commercials about their super-sales with slashed holiday prices started airing soon there after, but all in all, I don't think a lot of people were buying it (no pun intended). People just seemed to want to have a down-home Christmas. Sure there would be gifts, but I think people limited their budget a little, and made sure that the credit cards stayed out of sight. I dunno. Maybe I'm way off target...maybe I'm only speaking from my own experience. But this year I tried to get more into the Christmas spirit and appreciate what the season really is all about!

For the first time this year, we sent out Christmas cards! I always mean to do it, but just never get around to it. Two years ago I had the photo, but no cards. Last year I had the cards, but no photo to insert into them (so I kept them to use when I DID have a photo!) So this year I took the girls to go see Santa to get their pictures done. Hey, if other kids can go, why cant mine?? The local mall was having a pet photo night the first Sunday in December. The girls and I met up with some friends at work to get their pictures taken. They were so good! They were good with all of the mall shoppers and distractions (like food on the floor). And they were VERY good for Santa! I think they were trying really hard to make the "good list". If you look closely at the picture, you can see just how hard Heidi is working...she actually put her leg and paw ON Santa's lap! She's either a.) protective of people in red suits or b.) very anxious to make sure her various misdeeds throughout the year get cleared up and erased.
That was the picture that was sent out as our holiday cards. Everyone said how cute they were and how mice it was to get the cards. I'll definitely be doing them again next year!

One tradition that I did stick to was working the holiday shifts. We are all required to work two holiday shifts throughout the year; these are emergency shifts that we pick up when the front office is closed on major holidays. Last year I picked up Christmas morning (7-3) and New Years eve (4-midnight). There were a few "left over" shifts, and I was asked if I wanted to pick another one up. Since the pay is good, I said sure-the only catch was that one shift was the other new years eve shift (3-11; which I couldn't pick up because I was obviously already going to be there) and the other shift was Christmas eve 4-midnight. I chose to pick it up anyways. Luckily as the time grew nearer, the girl who was working 3-11 agreed to switch with me so I could leave that extra hour early...which translated to an extra hour of sleep! It was a really nice thing for her to do...especially where she is 8 months pregnant!!

So last year when I worked Christmas, I made sugar cookies to share with everyone who was on that day. This year I decided to do the same; but I made two batches-one for Christmas day, and one fro Christmas eve. Now, these just aren't your run-of-the-mill sugar cookies. These are sugar cookies with a twist:
THEY'RE SHELTIE SHAPED!!! And they have "love" baked in...or is that dog hair? Oh well! People ate them, which was all I cared about.

So I worked both shifts and then spent some time with family at my aunts house. We came home and went to bed. Then TODAY, we celebrated OUR Christmas: my mom, girls, and I. I took the girls for a walk (as it was slightly milder than it has been, and snowing =0) and then came home and opened gifts. My mom was so generous; she always is. Every day, all year. But Christmas she gives even more. I tried really hard not to ask for too much, because she does give me so much all the time. And I got everything I wanted. I'm very excited about new floor mats for my "dog square" (more about that in a future post), some magazine subscriptions and a great Sheltie wrought-iron coat rack. I got her a paddle for her kayak and a gift-card for a life jacket (so we can go together in the summer!) and I got some spikes for her shoes for winter walking (for traction on ice) and some "happy feet" slippers (the "Patriots" design, of course!)
Since opening gifts, we've napped, done some laundry and dinner is just about done. Its been a very nice and special Christmas this year, and we all hope all of yours has been extra special to! Happy Pawlidays from our family to yours! Sheltie-Mom Jenn, Jenn's Mom, Heidi and Shelby
Here are some photo's of our living-room all dressed up for the occaison:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Doggie dentals

That's right. The girls went in for the "Big D". Dental surgery. I know. Its not something I really wanted to do, but felt needed to-for several reasons. The first being that their teeth did need a cleaning. They both had some tartar and staining, and I wanted to make sure any problems that might be minor now, didn't get the chance to turn into major ones down the road. Heidi had broken two of her upper premolars a few years back (I think on a dumbell), so I wanted to make sure that none of her other teeth looked weak or diseased. Shelby had a tooth that was definitely questionable; her little incisor next to her lower canine tooth looked either like it had a small chip broken off, or was tilted to the point where it was half hidden by her gums. Food was getting trapped in there, and the gums around it looked a little swollen, so I wanted to make sure that I had it checked before it turned into an abscess.

Now people have been asking me, (and some of you may be wondering) why I have to get them done anyways, as "don't I feed raw?" Yes, I do feed a raw diet, but I do not feed raw bones. Well, I don't feed whole raw bones. They do get them, but they are ground down and already in their food. I used to give raw lamb ribs and pork backs, but I stopped because the girls would eat them and then vomit them back up. Cleaning the pre-digested bones up one time, I noticed the broken, chewed bones that had been previously (albeit briefly) in their stomachs were still shards as sharp as chipped ice. I decided right then that even raw, I didn't really trust them nor did I want to risk splinter-like bones having to make the dangerous pass through their entire digestive system. Don't get me wrong, they get plenty of things to chew. They usually get bully springs and y-tendons; things that with a bit of chewing and saliva usually turn into a sticky mush rather than a ball of meat and bone shards. But the chewing alone doesn't quite do it. And I have been neglectful in my end of the deal: brushing their teeth. I'll do it and get on a schedule, and then miss a day and the system will fall apart. I have to now do better and be more diligent to make sure they don't have to do this again. For all of our benefits.

A routine dental cleaning for our hospital is over 400$; a moderate or severe goes up from there, depending on the number of dental extractions and x-rays needed to make the mouth healthy. We do get a generous discount at work, but that is going to be changing (see a future post). And even with it, I don't have that extra money to be spending to just have a little bit of plaque removed under sedation every year. And I know that all of that anesthesia is not healthy for them to begin with. So I scheduled these procedures knowing that I would have to pick up the slack, and keep my end of the bargain; which translates to actively brushing the girls teeth during the week to help keep them clean.

So I booked the dentals for the Tuesday right before Thanksgiving. I had a few PTO ("paid time off") hours to burn through, so I took a half day; that way I could work in the morning while the other dentals scheduled for that day were done, and then I could spend some time with the girls when they were knocked out and then woken back up. I had no intention of staying out back through the whole procedure; that kind of pressure wouldn't be fair to the Dr. or the tech. I planned on bringing a book and staying to read or something. But then I was approved to do a few extra hours of work (reminder calls, it turned out to be ) in the time I was not with the girls, so that ended keeping me pretty busy. Heidi had to go fist because she kept trying to eat that pesky catheter out of her leg. Yes, she ended up in the "cone of shame" because she wouldn't stop trying to chew it. She took the pre-med sedation pretty well, and fell right asleep with the anesthetic too. They had no trouble with the intubation, and her dental took less than an hour.

The technician came to let me know she was done, and I spent the next little while with her in the cage snuggled up with her; I know how tough it is to wake up to sedation: you don't know whats going on, or where you are. Your delusional and you try to fight off the meds. I wanted the whole process to go as easy as it could for the girls; they don't know what just happened or why. Poor Heidi was swaying and licking her tongue out of the side of her mouth. I kept trying to put it in STRAIGHT, but she kept forcing it out the side so it just hung there, limply. But overall she took the wake-up quite well. They had her tucked into a blanket and a pillow for her head, and she just slept it off. But her sister was a bit of a different story.

Her sedation was a bit more difficult. First the premed didn't seem to have any affect on her at all. They actually had to give her a second dose to make her a bit more sedated. She went from standing up right and wagging her tail (1st dose) to lying down with her head hung drowsily. Then they put her on the table for the actual anesthesia. She fought this too. She actually remained standing for a few seconds before it over took her. Then she fought the tube! Bad dog! But then she went ni-nights and went off to Sheltie dreamland too.

A little while later, the doctor came to find me to discuss that pesky incisor I had shown her. She said that she did x-ray it, and although it wasn't in trouble right this second, it didn't look healthy and its root was so close to that of the canine tooth, that she thought it might become even more troublesome later on. So we decided to pull it. I finished up the last of the calls and then went to go check on the girls. When I walked out back, this awful screechy sound met my ears. Yeah, it was Shelby who appeared to be in a delusion-induced panic. I went over to her cage (while passing Heidi's-who was fine, but had a look like "PLEASE shut her the hell up so I can get some sleep!") and saw that she had her mouth open, her tongue hanging out and was in a wide-eyed SCREAM. I crawled into her cage, as I had done for Heidi, and wrapped my arms around her. It took a few minutes, but the screeching then turned into a dull, but monotonous whine. A little while later, she had settled down enough for me to eat some lunch and make the plans to bring them home.

I didn't just want to scoop them up right there and whisk them away, because both were still quite drowsy. I wanted to make sure that they were OK and it was safe to bring them home. So I took Heidi out for a potty break (which it turned out she didn't need, because she had wet the blankets in her cage =0( and then offered her some food. I was sticking with The Honest Kitchen because although "raw", it being dehydrated and processed eliminated a lot of the bacteria in it (unlike their regular raw). Its also pretty gentle so I knew it would be an OK "bland-ish" diet for them while recuperating. Heidi ate with gusto...she ate about 1/2 of a regular meals worth and kept it down no problem. I asked one of the technicians if they could feed Shelby while I went to run some errands (including hitting the bank to get some cash to pay for the dentals!)

I went back about an hour and a half later to see if they were OK to pick up. Shelby had eaten (and like Heidi, happily and with no problems) but she had also peed in her blankets. She was in her cage with 2 warm saline bags, as her temp had dropped while I was gone. But I checked with everyone, and they said they were both fine to go home. I packed up the car, packed up the ladies and took them home where they could sleep off the rest of the drunkies.
Heidi passed right out; she just slept and slept for hours. Shelby still seemed to want to fight the sedation that remained in her system. She kept pacing and not wanting to settle; she'd get on the couch, sleep for a little while and then move again. When she finally DID get to sleep, it was with her head on my hand...as it slid down as she drifted into a deeper slumber, her teeth were dragged along the skin of my hand! Those nice clean teeth left some pretty deep impressions, let me tell you!

When it was time for all of us to go to bed, I picked Shelby up off my lap and put her in my bed. When I went to go get Heidi, I couldn't wake her up easily. I picked her up and put her on the bed too, and then went to get something to drink. When I came back, I REALLY couldn't wake her up. I kept smacking her thighs and calling her to no avail. Just when I started to really panic, I grabbed some of her scruff and shook. That did the trick. She just blinked blearily up at me like "Ummm...do you mind? I'm trying to get some rest!" Talk about holy-heart failure! I decided as both were still pretty out of it, I couldn't be completely sure that they wouldn't roll off the bed. (Especially Heidi, who tries to sleep upside-down but sometimes just rolls over...) So I put their beds from my room on top of their doggy-stairs in case someone fell off; those stairs would hurt! I know, maybe this seems a bit much but Heidi has fallen off the bed WITHOUT being high on meds, so...I wasn't taking any chances!

When I woke up in the morning though, they were both still where they should be: snuggled next to me on the bed. They spent most of that day and the next sleeping off those drunkies. But by Friday Heidi was back to attacking my towel as I dried my hair and Shelby was out chasing birds out of her yard. It was nice to have a few days quiet while they recuperated, but it was nice to have them back too! They were on the honest kitchen diet for 1 week, until Shelby's recheck (for her pulled tooth). That went great, so they got raw back the next day, They had no problems transitioning right back to their regular diet and haven't had any problems with their mouths at all. I'm glad I did them now, and have started getting better about brushing their teeth. As a matter of fact, I just got back from taking them on their walk...I should go brush them now! Here are some pictures of what the girls teeth looked like before and after (we do this for all of our patients):

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Caution: Contagious!

Swine. H1N1. The "Pig Flu". What ever you want to call it, it all means the same thing: 5-7 days of MISERY. And I'm not just guessing; going by the incessant reporting and interviewing of infected people on the news. I'm drawing the conclusion from experience. Yes, I had "the swine".

Let me tell you folks, if you CAN find and receive the vaccine, I think I would get it. It really is that much worse than the regular flu. And I can say to get the vaccine only because hindsight is 20/20. I procrastinated getting it because I had an appointment with the cardiologist this past Tuesday, and wanted to ask which one I should be getting, if any at all. My Dr. has always said that it was up to my parents and myself if I wanted to get the seasonal flu vaccine. My dad used to make me get it every year, until he passed away in 2000. Every year I would dread going because it seemed like I would always get sick after receiving it. So I haven't received the vaccine in years. And with the H1N1 being a new strain, I of course haven't ever been exposed to it or vaccinated against it. But with it being reported as being pretty serious, I wanted to see what exactly my Dr. thought about it; there are always risks with vaccines (which is why my dogs don't get them!) and this is a vaccine that hasn't ever been given before. I also knew that if the dr. did recommend it, I would probably need his help to find and receive it.

So I put it off. I mean, as of right now, its just 2 weeks into November for crying out loud. The risk wouldn't be that big, would it? Boy was I wrong!

I woke up the Wednesday right before Halloween feeling pretty ill. My body hurt, and I immediately started coughing. As the day went on (it was my scheduled day off) I got worse and worse. I couldn't find a thermometer that hadn't been used on the dogs (you know what that means...) so I couldn't tell if I had a fever; but I had body aches and chills worse than I ever have. I woke up Thursday feeling even worse. It wasn't like the flu I usually got- I didn't have any "head cold" like symptoms; just a nasty cough and feeling lousy. But then I started getting so cold that my fingers were blue. That's right. BLUE. Like "Scary Smurf" blue. That's when I called my GP. They said they didn't like the sound of my breathing (because I really couldn't due to the coughing) so they told me to get my ass over to the ER pronto. I told them (truthfully) that I really was too sick to drive. They told me I should go, but I told them Id have to wait to get a ride.

A few hours later though, I felt OK enough to drive (and I had tried to get warm in the hot-tub to no avail) so I decided to go to a local ER (versus Mass General). I waited for a while until I got triaged, where I found out I had a fever of about 101. I waited a total of 5 hours (masked, might I add) before I finally got a bed and was seen by a dr. They did a rapid flu test and found I was positive. The dr. said that "as it is too early for the seasonal flu, it is H1N1" (which doesn't make sense to me, as the seasonal flu doesn't abide by the calendar...). He wrote me out the prescription for the Tamiflu because I am "borderline" high-risk with my cardiac issues and he didn't want it to develop into pneumonia. He also told me that I would be out of work for 7 days. At that point I got a little upset. Work had changed its "paid time off" policy from paying us out for unused time off at the end of the year, to "use it or lose it"; so I had used it all, and was now looking at taking sick time without pay. I wanted to make sure I could go back to work as soon as I could, and he wrote the note for the parameters set by the CDC-either going back to work 48 hours after the fever breaks (24 to be fever free, and then 24 to make sure the fever doesn't come back) or 7 days (which is what a lot of employers are requiring to make sure it doesn't get spread around).

That night I ate a little (I hadn't eaten since Wednesday morning, but did not really have any desire to) and then took the Tamiflu. I went to bed with the blankets piled on because I was still freezing cold, and tried to get to sleep. I woke up at about midnight soaked in sweat. I also felt so nauseous that I got up and took some pepto. I tried getting back to sleep, but was still hot and sick. Then I found myself sprinting to the bathroom, hoping I would make it. Yeah...I puked until I was dry heaving. It was AWFUL. I haven't been sick like that since I was under 10. I was SSSIIIICCCKKK.....

I did feel better after I had finished, and was able to get back to bed. I didn't have any more vomiting, but it changed course if you know what I mean. That's when I knew that I did have the H1N1 and not just the flu. The gastrointestinal pyrotechnics are kind of a hallmark of the sickness...

So I spent the next few days out of work (Thursday, Friday Saturday-which is my normal day off, and also was Halloween-and Sunday) and went back on Monday. Needless to say I did NOT pass out any candy to trick-or-treators on Halloween! The girls were happy because they didn't have to dress up as hot-dogs this year. They were so good to me; they really do know when I'm sick. They were great when I was going through everything earlier this year, and were even better with me this time around. They both layed and snuggled with me on the couch. Usually its just Shelby that lays on top of me, but Heidi got right up there with her and settled in too. They really were the best medicine; definitely better than the chicken soup and Tamiflu!!

So it really was 5 miserable, awful, crappy days. Not only because I FELT sicker than I have in probably years, but because of the additional nerves of having to miss several days of work and pay. This happened the same week I was given a 2200$ estimate from my mechanic for a 60,000 mile tune up, 4 new tires and 2 sets of new brakes. Yeah, it was fun times... but now I'm feeling much better; a little more broke (as I did end up getting the tires and brakes...apparently they're important...) and I still have a cough, but I'm back to my regular activity.

So I lend this tale to let you know what to look for in terms of symptoms, and hoping that if I can convince someone to get the vaccine (especially any high-risk people reading this), I might save them several days of virus-induced torture.

On another note, I received an email from a dog friend about another disease that's going around. In order to try and protect even more people, I share this info with you now:


Urgent Notice: Potential Danger of Dog Hair......

In a press release today, the National Institute of Health has announced the discovery of a potentially dangerous substance in the hair of dogs. This substance, called "amobacter caninii" has been linked with the following symptoms in females: Reluctance to cook, clean or do housework, a reluctance to wear make-up, good clothes or high heels. Reluctance to spend money on home or car repairs until after 'Baby' has new collars, leashes, beds, treats, food, blankets or toys.

"Amobacter caninii" usually results in long hours away from home and exhaustion which may lead to a loss of physical contact with other humans (especially husbands and boyfriends). "Amobacter caninii" is thought to be addictive, driving the need for additional sources - this may lead to a "pack mentality" or like the potato chip commercial, "you can't have just one". Beware! If you come in contact with a female human infected by this substance, be prepared to talk about dogs for hours.

Surgeon General's Warning: Dogs are expensive, addictive, and may impair the ability to use common sense.

This message is from the CDC-Canine Disease Control
The following picture is the CDC's recommendation for protecting yourself against this life-altering disease. It is a lycra body suit that hopefully curbs the distribution of the dangerous dog hair!

(actually this is a picture of Heidi wearing a body suit from K9topcoat.com. I bought it to keep the dog hair out of the pool when I have them swimming in it during the summer; apparently dog hair in the pool filter is pretty bad...)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The most wonderful time of the year...

No, not Christmas. Not even vacation. I'm talking about FOOTBALL SEASON! Yes, it is here! (Actually, it started a few weeks ago, but this is the first time I've been able to post about it!) Now, there can be no doubt who the Shelties love and root for...I mean, no doubt with THESE pictures anyways!



That's right. The Shelties are New England Patriots fans! I mean, look at that last picture! You don't MESS with the Shelties on game day...they MEAN BUSINESS!


Now being a football fan of any kind isn't always easy. For me, having to work on Sundays in the ER means I miss all of the 1:00 start games. The 4:00 starts and Monday night ones are usually safe, but a majority are those that may be missed. So my mom and I have started taping them and watching them when I get home from work. No, we don't have a DV-R (yet!) so we're doing it old school with VHS tapes. We struggled in the beginning (just like the Pats) but now we're old pros. Just as the Patriots are playing better (59-0 against the Titans?!?!?!) we're getting over our technological deficiencies.


Game day for the girls is usually pretty good too. They usually get a rousing game of frisbee (unlike the NFL, our games are weather permitting) and the settle down with a good curly bully stick. (Jerseys come off-they must keep their uniforms clean!) This latest addition has helped Shelby get over her "fear of foozeball"; she used to run upstairs and hide when the game came on. At first we thought it was due to my hollering and screaming at the t.v. (look, I'm not THAT bad, I mean...the neighbors have never complained!) but it actually turned out to be the whistles. But now that we give her something to nom on, she seems to be 100% better. She hasn't run out of the room since last season!


So thanks for indulging us and letting us brag about our favorite pass time. We hope that whatever sport you and your Heart-Dogs chose to watch, and which ever team you all support, the important thing is that you enjoy watching them together! Here's hoping your teams does well! (Just not as well as the Pats...;0)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sheltie Survival!

Hi everyone...its been a while. A long, LONG while. I suppose some of you thought we were carried away, or eaten alive by the fleas! But no, we've (well, mostly I) have just been really REALLY busy lately. But life, once again, has caused me to slow down; which has also allowed me to take some time for something I really do love-writing!

The flea situation was, after all, blown a little out of proportion. I of course freaked out by finding them, because I had lived through an infestation many many years ago with the first dog I ever owned. I can just remember how costly it was in both time and money to finally eradicate them all. I definitely did not want the problem to get to that point. I wanted to stop the problem naturally before it got out of hand and I was then forced to use some not-so-natural (and down right dangerous) products to free us all of the fleas. So I did my research and came up with an action plan to get rid of them.

The firs part of the plan was to kill any live adults. This was done by first treating the dogs, and their immediate quarantined area (the kitchen). I had already removed their bedding and crates from there and provided them with temporary sleeping arrangements of an old sleeping bag on the floor. I got one of the doctors at work to write them a prescription for "Capstar", and it was given to them that same night by my mom. When I got home several hours later, I only found one dead flea on Heidi. That's when I started realizing that the problem might not be so bad after all. If I was finding them both covered in dead fleas, I may have been a lot more worried about what could be living in the house. Now I wasn't really thrilled about using the Capstar. But again, I did a lot of research online to find any reports of adverse reactions or problems that people have reported using it. I didn't find any. In fact, I found some information stating that some states allow groomers to use and dispense it without a veterinarians input or approval at all. Although it is a pesticide, and although it is given orally and gets straight into the bloodstream, the amount of time it is in the body is very short and it does the job very quickly; usually without the need of a second dose. So, I bit the bullet and gave it to them. Again, it did obviously seem to work, but I did find some vomit on the sleeping bag the next afternoon. It made my stomach clench quite guiltily when I found it; I hadn't used anything else yet to treat the fleas so I assume it was one of their little Sheltie bodies trying to rid themselves of the toxin...luckily they (which ever girl it was) had no more symptoms after that.

The day after the Capstar dose, I brought them up to our friends shop and did a thorough grooming. Here my spirits and hopes were further lifted as while I thoroughly brushed, bathed and blow-dried them, I did not find ONE SINGLE FLEA one either dog, alive or dead. WooHoo!!! And while I was cleaning the dogs at the shop, my mom was helping out and cleaning the house. Like really thoroughly cleaning it. She did everything! Vacuumed, washed the baseboards, washed the hard floors and vacuumed carpets. I, in turn, the following day took everything that was too large to fit into our washer and dryer to the laundromat. I washed the dogs beds, sleeping bag, and the beds for their crates in the car. With everything washed (including the dogs), I felt it was fairly safe to let them back into the rest of the house.

But the plan did not just include cleaning. It also involved treating; treating to make sure that any remaining eggs or adults that may have escaped the cleaning purge would not live much longer after that. And I was still hard pressed to figure out where the girls picked them up in the first place. I mean, we were in the woods, at the beach, around other dogs...I could have even brought them home with me from work! So I also wanted to make sure that if we were to come into contact with them again, that the house would be a very unwelcome place for them to stay. Again, after reading a lot of old issues of "The Whole Dog Journal" and consulting with friends who own shops that cater to people who want to use natural and safe products, I decided on a small biological army. I chose to use "Para-Clear" by Azmira Pet Products- which is food-grade diatomaceous earth (D.E.), "Flea-Busters"-a borax powder, and "Natural Defense" carpet powder and spray-a blend of essential oils that are natural pest-repellents. The D.E. is made up of the crushed fossils of hard-shelled algae. The fine powder allows the shards of the fossils to pierce the exoskeletons of fleas and ticks and kills them. The "Flea-Busters" powder works in a similar way, further drying them out. And the "Natural Defense" powder would hopefully cause any more pests thinking about coming in to rethink that idea.

All of the powders had a similar consistency and texture-like a light floury, confectionery-sugar type feel. This made for very easy application and spreading, but did cause a cloud of fine dust to rise and linger during the spreading process. I decided to mix the powders together for and easier, one time application. I used 2 parts D.E., 2 parts "Flea-Busters" and 1 part "Natural Defense". I put it on all of the freshly washed items like the dogs beds, carpets, floors, baseboards and even in the radiators. I used the brush from the vacuum to really rub it into the fibers and into the cracks and crevices in the floors. I let the powder sit on everything over night, and then vacuumed it up the next day. For a fine powder it came up really well. There was a bit of residue on the hard floors, but I just went over it with a dry Swiffer and it came right up. I only treated everything that one time and still have almost a full jug of both the D.E. and the "Flea-Busters" (which both came in 3lb. tubs). (here's a picture of the powder spread on the kitchen floor-before vacuuming!)

As for the dogs, I upped their garlic intake (as garlic is known as a natural pesticide; it is thought to make the blood distasteful to the parasites) and had planned on using the "Natural Defense" spray on them too. However, this spray is very VERY oily. Even if you use just a spritz, it will easily bog down your pets coat with a greasy residue. It probably goes on better if diluted with water, but I don't know if it is as effective. The nice part is, is that (in my opinion anyways) the oils smell LOVELY. I really do love the smell of this spray! (The powder smells the same, so it was nice to have the house smelling like the oils!) But before I tried to use a diluted form of the spray, I found "Flea-Free"; also a spray made up of essential oils. I liked this ones scent too (its a little less powerful and strong) and it seemed like a much lighter spray. So I bought and used this. It seemed to work really well; I mean...I didn't find any fleas or ticks! Then I noticed the label...yeah, it definitely has CATS on it. Ooops...oh well. The Shelties are quite secure in their canine-ness, and are OK with using a cat-spray as long as it keeps them flea-free!

So that's our story up until this point. I haven't seen ANY more fleas, and we've just about passed the "danger mark". Apparently dormant eggs can hatch for another 3-6 weeks after treating, and we've just passed the 6 week mark so I think we're OK. And a bonus is that most of these products also work on ticks! Indeed, as I checked the dry Swiffer pad last week, I found a dead adult (not engorged) tick on the bottom. There is no reason for it to be dead, I mean...we all know how hard they are to kill. Even if I had trodden on it while swiffering, it wouldn't have died. I could only attribute it to being exposed to the powders still lying on the floor. I even decided to test the powders myself by putting a crawling tick that I found on Shelby in a small gladware container with some of the mixture. It was dead withing a half hour. I got the same results when I tried with two more ticks. I now use the D.E. powder whenever we go out for walks-I keep it in a baby-powder container, and shake it into their coats before we go out walking. It works WONDERS!

Now I know that everyone has their own opinions and ideas about whats best for their own furkids. Parenting of any form can be fraught with tough decisions and many words of advice (asked or unasked for), but it really is up to each one of us to make those tough choices in the best interest of OUR kids. No one can tell you that this one way is the best or only way to handle something. I can't say that using my plan will help a flea problem that you might be having. I can just say what worked for me; what worked for me, and what I felt COMFORTABLE doing. Sure, I could have used harsh flea dips, bombs, collars and topical pesticides, such as Frontline. But I don't think that those types of products are in the best interests of my girls. I'm not saying that you shouldn't use them. That's why this is America. You can do whatever you want. But just as we have the freedom of choice, and the ability to make our own decisions, we also have the responsibility to make informed ones. Please do you thorough research before using ANY type of product on your furbaby. Don't just take your vet's advice. There are many MANY stories out there, all over message boards and email lists about peoples furkids being seriously injured or even killed using topical pesticides. Do your own research, get second or third opinions. Even though more information can make your decision more difficult, in the long run you'll always feel more comfortable with it.

So that's our flea tale. I know, its not enough of a circus to have kept us away from the blog for 6 weeks, but there have been lots of other things happening in that time...most of them a lot more fun than fleas! I hope to be able to post about those soon! Thanks for reading, and I promise with wont be another 6 week wait for another Sheltie Story!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Circus...

I can't believe how long its been since I've posted anything! I'm glad to say that nothing serious has been going on; I mean, my health has been good...so good in fact, that that's why I haven't posted. I've been so busy picking up extra shifts at work and trying to enjoy the beautiful weather that is finally here! After a very cool and rainy June and July, and a hot and humid beginning and middle of August, the weather seems to have calmed down. It's been nothing but cool, sunny, beautiful days for the past two weeks. And best of all, the vacation I had planned happened right at the start of the gorgeous weather!
I decided to go camping for 4 days up north (New Hampshire). We had a fantastic time! We did all of our usual stuff: hiking, riding the Conway Scenic Railroad, kayaking and just relaxing. We really did have a great time! I did discover, though, that my camping experience is becoming a little more of a...hassle?...now that I'm the one doing all of the packing and setting up by myself. After setting up, and then deconstructing camp I started thinking how nice it would be to not have to tent it. I feel like such a weenie! I have always loved sleeping in the tent! Hearing the sounds of nature through the thin walls, waking up in the cool-ness of the morning, cooking on the grill outside...but this time around, all of those things took away from the experience, rather than enhancing it. I usually always stay at the same campground; they have grassy (and somewhat close-set) sites along the river. But this time I wanted a different experience, so I chose a BEAUTIFUL campground with wooded sites, also along a river. I drove up at the start of the summer to check it out and choose a site. I thought it would be perfect; the next site seemed far enough away, and with the sound of the flowing water, I figured I wouldn't have to worry about neighbors at all. I was very wrong! Two guys were camped in the next site over and enjoyed long conversations well into the dead of night. I could hear every word...I mean, it was like they were actually standing right outside the walls. Luckily, the dogs were so tired that they didn't bark; I didn't want to get complained about or kicked out!

The last night I stayed, I thought I had finally lucked out. The night started off pretty well, when we were driving over the Kancamagus highway (one of America's "Scenic Byways") and saw a moose! Right there, on the side of the road! Just eating amidst all kinds of flashes from cameras and people (including me) gawking at it. Some guy remarked it was like Paris Hilton spotted at a restaurant =0) Anyways, I was then glad to see that the "chatty Charlies" next door had gone, and the people who had taken over their site had already gone to bed by the time I got back to the site. (We had taken the "sunset" train in North Conway, and then had almost an hour drive back to the site, so it was dark when we got back). But just when I had started my fire, and settled in next to it, I heard SCREAMING (not blood-curdling "I'm being murdered" screaming, but loud, drunken WHOOPING). A few minutes later, one of the campground owners rolled by on his golf-cart to the site to quiet them down (as it was well after 10). Then, when I thought for a second time that I would be able to enjoy my night, they (the people who had been screaming) started playing BONGO DRUMS. Who the hell brings bongo drums camping?!?!? These people, obviously. Again, the guy on the golf cart rolled by, and they quieted, finally. But by that time my fire was all but out and it was bed time.

We got back home thoroughly exhausted, as not only did the night time shenanigans prevent us from going to sleep at a reasonable hour, but the coldness had kept me awake (not because I was cold myself, but because I kept waking up to check on the girls!) I also had a LOT of problems with the food I packed for us all. I had carefully packed most of our perishables in glad-ware and put it in the cooler. I don't think ANYTHING stayed dry. I actually poured water out of the bowl that I was keeping the girls raw meat in =0( I was pretty miserable at some points of the trip. My lowest point was when my pop-top liquid container full of Gatorade for my lunch exploded in my lunch bag, and ruined my camera. It is working, but is acting a little shorted; it keeps turning itself off and on, so I can't keep batteries in it when I am not using it. Dammit!!

So, I've been thinking about maybe buying a pop-up camper for future trips. It's just a thought, as I of course will have to do quite a bit of research and saving.

Now, I know that you may be thinking (after several paragraphs of complaining) that the camping trip is what I mean by the "circus" mentioned in the title. I wish. The circus that I am referring to is one that no one EVER wants to attend. A FLEA CIRCUS!

I was snuggling with the girls on Thursday morning, when I noticed some gritty stuff in Shelby's coat. Now, I wasn't that surprised, because I've been feeling a similar feeling for weeks; we had gone to the beach several times, and they had played on the very coarse, large-grained sand of the river beach when we went kayaking. I just thought that's what it was. But she started licking the air; like I was scratching an extremely itchy spot. I started to part her hair to see what was so irritating to her skin, when I noticed small black particles. My heart jumped into my throat. "This looks like flea dirt", I thought. But it couldn't be. The last and only time I had ever lives with dogs with fleas was almost 20 years ago, with the first dog I ever had. And these were my girls: my raw-fed Shelties! Where the hell would they have picked up fleas!?!

I started going through her whole body, parting her hair and frantically searching. Although it has been almost 20 years, I still remember what they looked like. I didn't find anything. Then I checked Heidi. I didn't find anything on her either. Just when I told them all was OK, and decided that the black specks had to be something else, I saw it. A flea on Shelby's FACE. I grabbed it, and squished it. I then started to check them both again, and found two more on Shelby, and one on Heidi. I immediately quarantined them to the kitchen (where there is no carpet), and checked them throughout the morning before I went to work. I found two more on Heidi and 4 more on Shelby. I spent any "flea free" moments on the internet looking for all natural alternatives to get rid of them. I found quite a few helpful suggestions. I'll go over those, and our plan in the next post.
As of right now, though, the dogs are still in the kitchen. I have set up the bathroom as "decontamination central": anything that can be washed, is; anything that can't be, has either been moved out to the garage (like the dogs memory foam beds and floor rug in the living room), or is awaiting treatment. I did groom the girls Friday, bathing them first in a natural flea deterrent shampoo, and then re-bathing them in their regular shampoo and conditioner. They are still in the kitchen, though, because I don't want whatever eggs or larvae or whatever that may be living in the untreated areas (my bedroom carpet, the couch/chair etc) to get back on them.

Some unexpected consequences have come about from this whole situation. First, I am horrified, and embarrassed. I'm not worried about the fleas for myself or the girls because I know it would take an infestation of an extreme magnitude to induce anemia; and they are on year round Interceptor, so I'm not worried about them catching something. I do, however, worry about the stigma attached to having pets with fleas. I always thought these parasite-ridden pets must live in filthy conditions, or have owners who didn't care enough to pay attention to them. And people look at YOU like YOU might be carrying them around with YOU; maybe in your own hair or clothes. Although it was said jokingly, I actually had a friend not want to hug me in welcome last night, because my dogs had fleas!

Secondly, both the dogs and I are extremely unhappy with the whole "quarantine" situation. They are unhappy because they are spending a lot of time alone in a room where no one "hangs out", and they have lost some of their creature comforts: like eating from a raised dish ("you want me to eat of the floor?!?!" says Heidi), and missing their side-by-side, yet private, individual crates. (They are now sharing a large bolster bed on top of my mom sleeping bag). And we are ALL missing being together. I've noticed a huge change in my own attitude since I haven't had the dogs close by to touch, kiss, snuggle with, or talk to. Although they are only a room away, when I am in my bedroom, sleeping alone in my bed, I might as well be back in the hospital. It is an awful feeling, being without them (especially where they really are so close!), and it in turn has made me more irritable, and less happy and positive.
(The girls having to eat off the floor...notice where Shelby's dish on the right starts out...)
(and notice where it is now! One downfall of eating on the floor: your food tries to get away!)

We are all trying to get through this tough time; in going what I have gone through this past year, I am trying to keep this all in perspective. We are all still healthy, and we can still interact anytime we want to. It's just one more hurdle that we will have to, and eventually will, get over. Hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. I take it as an extremely good sign that I did not find ANY fleas on either of the girls when I groomed them: none during brushing, bathing or blow-drying. Not a single one! I also haven't found any in my home-made flea trap. I'm hoping that they just picked up a few adults, and that none are lingering secretly in the carpet or upholstery. We're keeping our fingers (and paws!) crossed! I don't think we can take much more of this Sheltie-segregation!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Summer Reading

Do you remember those long lists of books that teachers handed out to you and your classmates at the end of every year? Just when you thought that the school year was over, and you could give your brain some much needed slacking off time, those darned teachers would hand out those lists of epic proportions deemed "Summer Reading". And the lists would come with both bribes and punishments; the more books you read from the list the better. You would get into different "levels" of difficulty, and sometimes you would even get to chose a book that was NOT from the list. But whether you chose a book off the list or chose it to exercise your freedom of expression, you would always have to do a REPORT on it. And the report seemed to just be an excuse for the teachers to make you PROVE that you actually READ the book, and did not just buy the "Cliff's Notes", ask a friend for a summary, or to make sure you just didn't see the movie!

These reports usually followed the same format: they asked questions about the main characters, secondary characters, plot summary and your interpretations of certain themes (i.e. "do you think that this book helped or hindered the women's liberation movement?") etc. The report was to be typed or be written in CLEAR hand writing. Jeeze, the teachers didn't want too much from us on our Summer break, now did they!?!

But far from complaining, I actually bring this up because this has been a lesson that has stuck with me throughout the years. I have always been a big reader; no doubt owing to my lacking social skills and the desire to seek out the quieter things in life. Reading for me, much like writing for me, comes in spurts. There are some times where I just want to get home at the end of the day, do my nightly rituals, blank out in front of the t.v. and then hit the sack. But other times, my appetite for reading is so voracious that I cant seem to have a book in my possession that I will not be tempted to read. Indeed, any books that find themselves waiting idly to be read, soon finde themslves unable to be put down until the final word is read and absorbed.

I find myself in one of these manic reading states now. I planned on buying some used books off of my VERY extensive wish-list on Amazon. Realizing that I would once again be in the hospital for another procedure, and then need some time to rest and recuperate seemed like a good time to get some more titles under my belt. The books would at least keep me from sitting in a mind-numbed state in front of the t.v. for the entire time! And who knows, I might even learn something and enjoy the story that was to unfold.

My taste in books is pretty simple. There are two main categories: Harry Potter and Dogs. Now, the Harry Potter Category is quite simple. I read, and re-read...and RE-READ (12 times) the books in the series of 7. I usually have to be in the mood for a certain book, and so sometimes go out of chronological order. I'll sometimes read one of the books right before the next movie comes out (as I'm planning on doing now!) to make sure that all of the literary details are fresh in my mind when I see them played out (and sometimes edited out) on the big screen. The dog category gets a little more involved. I am, and have always been, fascinated by the human-canine bond. I tend to pick up any title that even suggests that that is what the book is about. My favorite thus far has to be "Pack of Two" by Caroline Knapp (which I have referenced from heavily in other posts), "Bones Would Rain from the Sky" by Suzanne Clothier, and I L-O-V-E Patricia McConnell's books. And due to my love of reading all things about the canine bond, I love reading personal memoirs of people and the special relationships that they have with their special pets. I'll read anything including blended story books (like the "Chicken Soup" books), stories about agility dogs, service dogs, therapy dogs and just pet dogs. I know that none of this will come as a surprise to anyone who reads THIS blog regularly, as these kinds of stories are what I also like to write about. I try to get across that no dog is un-special or "regular". Every single dog that is loved and loves someone deserves to have their story told. I know that no one will ever love your dog as much as you do, but hopefully by telling your dogs story you can get others to fall even more in love with their own dogs.

So, on to the reading list! There are three books that I would like to mention in this post. Again, I don't pretend to know your taste in reading, but I hope if you are reading this blog, that these stories just might interest you too.

The first is "Where the Trail Grows Faint: A year in the life of a Therapy Dog Team" by Lynne Hugo. This book was something of a surprise. I expected the book to be about the authors journey into therapy dog work, complete with how the dog came to be, training and stories of visits once the time came to make them. I did find all of that, but this book brought out so much more. This book really brings to light the various things that people are forced to give up when they enter a nursing home or hospitalized situation. It really, REALLY hit home to me. The issues were not the blatantly obvious ones such as becoming physically less capable of taking care of ones needs, but it brought into sharp relief what it felt like to LOSE every one of those needs including ones independence, autonomy, and the right to space and privacy. I thought I had a lengthy twelve days in the hospital at the beginning of this year, but after reading this book I realize how truly lucky and fortunate I am to have been able to get healthy enough to get out. Although tough times still take their toll on me, TRULY after reading THIS BOOK, I have had my mind changed about complaining about and sweating the small stuff. I know that I have pledged both here on this blog, and aloud to friends and family that I am a changed person who will no longer let time and life pass me by, but THIS BOOK has helped solidify those promises. It has helped me see that truly, if I am to end up in a state like some of the patients, I have to live my life, and live it now...to the fullest. Without letting a single opportunity to enjoy it pass me by. Don't get me wrong; the issues brought up by this book are not brought up in an overly sad and dramatic way. They are brought into the light with skill and intelligence; they are not brought into the story to bring in feelings of depression and sadness, but in ways to make you outraged, and determined to look at your life and lives of others differently. By the time I had finished this book, I have already visited the Delta Society web page, and found out when the next prep-class and test will be held. I am determined to not only take the lessons shared here in this book to heart to change my OWN life, but to hopefully help people who are already in this situation as well. I will never again take for granted the feel of the sun on my face or the wind through my hair; or let the sights of the sun illuminating the high-lights in Shelby's fur, or the wind delicately playing with Heidi's mane. This book is a FANTASTIC read for anyone practicing or interested in therapy dog work. It is also great for anyone with aging relatives, or who want a clear, unbiased insight on what it is to live in one of these long-term facilities. Again, I want to emphasize that there is nothing indecent in this book; it is not filled of stories of having to clean up after incontinent patients. It is the honest, un-blinded view of what it costs to have to give up who you are when you are unable to physically be that person any longer. Although the authors therapy dog is obviously mentioned and does play a large part in the book, it is definitely a story that I would have read and enjoyed even if there WAS no dog. It was that much of a lesson teacher and eye opener for me.
The second book I read is one a bit more on the scientific side. It is a book called: "Between Pets and People: The Importance of Animal Companionship" by Alen Beck et al. This is a great read for the obvious reason that the book is about exploring the amazing bond that people have with their pets. As I said, it is quite a bit more scientific minded with many medical studies mentioned and cited, but it also does have quite a bit of interesting information regarding how pets keep us healthy through all kinds of medical maladies including heart disease and mental illness. Lets put it this way; if I was going to write a book about the special bond that humans have with their animals THIS is the book that I would want attached to my name. It is something that a layman like myself could NEVER pull off, but thankfully someone did because it really is a wonderful book. Some parts of the book get a little dicey (in terms of dealing with issues of pets and sexuality-I'll let you form your own opinions about this topic), and I didn't actually read the last chapeter because it talked about how the animalhuman bond can make you a better parent (no doubt useful for people into that stuff; you know HUMAN children) but over all the book gives wonderful insight on just how important pets really are to our health and well being. Put it this way, if Dr. Marty Becker's book "Thee Healing Power of Pets" had a second edition, more scientifically written, this book would be it. It goes beyond the holistic view of Dr. Becker's book, and is able to cite some really wonderful medical studies. Again, if your interested in the animal/canine-human bond, this book is definitely one of the top ones I'd recommend.

The third, and perhaps my FAVORITE of all the books Ive read, has to be "Dogged Pursuit" by Robert Rodi. What an (for lack of a better word) AWESOME book! The brief synopsis of the book regards it as a mixture of "Marley and Me" and "Dog Show" (the movie). This is SPOT ON! (Without the death of the beloved main dog at the end.) I found myself laughing out loud so often at this book, that I worried what my hospital roommate must think of me! I had actually stumbled upon it by accident, which in my mind, makes the book even better-I'm a big fan of serendipity! I had just placed my somewhat large order with Amazon the day before and started getting confirmation emails that my books were to be shipped (as I bought all of them used, they were all coming from different places). I realized that I probably would not get a single one of the books by the time I was to be admitted into the hospital for my procedure. So much for my brilliant idea of being able to read while recuperating! So I went to Barnes and Noble the night before to see if any of the titles on my still VERY lengthy wish-list were available for a quick sale. I was scanning the shelves to no avail when I came upon the bright blue book with a LEAPING SHELTIE on the cover. My eyes highlighted on the word "Agility" and I KNEW I was leaving with this book. I had to practically bind my own hands to prevent myself from reading it before I really needed to. I ended up packing it in my over night bag straight away to eliminate any and all temptation. I ended up reading some of the book the night after the procedure and finishing the rest of it the next day, after being sent home from the hospital.

This book is just...so good. I have not yet read Susan Garrets book "Shaping Success" about training and competing with her border collie, but I expect that this book is much different. It really is truly hilarious! This is my favorite line from the book; the author is trying to highlight the differences with his current, female Sheltie, Carmen, with his newly acquired rescue, Dusty (the main character): "With a treat in my hand, I could get Carmen to do anything. Any-thing. She'd go up and down an A-frame a dozen times in a row. She'd teeter till she tottered. She'd do back flips. She'd dial up a restaurant and book a table. In French." I laughed so hard at this line, because this is true of my two Shelties too! So many things in this book I could relate to: from the crazy jitters you feel at a competition for the first time, to the obvious Sheltie-like behaviors, to the digestive pyrotechnics that reared up at such in-opportune moments. One of the best things I liked about the book was not only the authors humor (that is so much in line with my own) but of his social awkwardness as well. I too have found myself high and dry at a trial or seminar; trying to blend in with the few people I am acquainted with, but really writhing and dying of fear and insecurity inside. This book is a wonderful read for anyone with Shelties, rescue dogs, and any one who has a passion for agility and other dog sports. I cannot, AGAIN, recommend this book enough. It seems like a short read, but there are so many laugh-out-loud moments, that it actually takes you longer to get through then it should; your too busy wiping away the tears of laughter!

So, this concludes this session of my book reports for summer reading. I hope you have enjoyed my not-so-brief accounts of some of my new favorite books, and I urge you (just like your teachers of yesterday) to go to the book store or library and pick up one of these, or another title that sparks your interest. With so many negative things going on in the world, and being broadcast into our living rooms every night, its nice to escape to another world, or someone else's life for a little while. And if you can find a comfortable place to curl up with that book, it just seems to make everything fall into place.

Here are a few pictures of my favorite reading (and writing) place...I actually just typed this post right here:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Venting Session

OK, this is definitely not the post that I was planning on putting up. But something happened today that has made me SO angry, if I don't get it out I'm probably going to be in a VERY bad mood for the rest of the day.

So, I'm trying to get us all out and about more to practice on some skills that have gotten a little rusty (heel, stay, leave-it etc.) and to get us all a bit more exercise as we can all stand to be a bit trimmer (which I'll chat more about in the next post). Now walking has become a bit of a challenge; gone are the days of walking in the woods or open fields due to the arrival of the dog-days of summer. Those quiet, pristine places are not off limits due to the awful amount of ticks my girls bring back with them. So we've been confined to pavement walking: hitting the local parks and sidewalks instead. And these places are neither quiet OR pristine. Not only are we dealing with a lot more in terms of distractions (litter on the ground, people going by with skateboards, bikes, strollers etc.) but we're also having to deal with the sheer NUMBER of people with and without these additional things.

Now, don't get me wrong. My girls are BOMB-PROOF; they have seen, experienced and dealt with all of these things before. They ignore just about all of them;they are not reactive in any way. They just let them pass right along by. BUT they are having to relearn what it means to "get in close" as we are now on a narrow paved path with these things and they need to learn to be polite and move aside so there can be room for us all.

If it was just these things then our walks would still be fine. I mean if anything, they would enhance our training sessions and make us all stay on our toes. But there is one BIG, HUGE incredibly ANNOYING consequence that we are also having to deal with: CHILDREN. Lots of them.

I cannot STAND children. I have always been like this. I can't stand anything about them: the way that they are always sticky, they smell, they don't know how to behave and most don't listen. Now don't get me wrong; as long as they are not affecting me in a negative way, we can coexist without a problem. But am I going to knowingly seek out their company or want to "hang out" with them? Absolutely not. I always joke that I was born with a "defective mothering gene"-I only feel those warm, maternal feelings towards small furry beings. The sounds of babies (crying, etc) to me is like nails on a chalk board. But a puppy whining or even barking immediately sets my brain into nurture mode. I can easily turn a deaf ear to barking and just tune it out (I do live with Shelties you know!) but the sounds of screaming children makes me want to pound my head into a brick wall.

Again, its not like I go around wishing harm on all of the children in the world. I don't stand up and cheer when I hear an awful story on the news about something tragic happening to someones kid; I feel bad just like everyone else. But I really am getting sick and tired of dealing with stupid parents who let their obnoxious children run amok.

I took the girls out to the park for a quick early morning walk before breakfast. The walk takes place at a park where there is a big paved path forming two connecting squares around some ball fields and a play ground. It is a pretty popular park for walkers, and parents: both of dogs and kids. There are at least 5 poop pick up stations around the park, lining the paths. Clearly the rec. department knows how popular the park is for dog owners and want to ensure that we take care of it so we continue to be welcomed. (Its funny that you'd be hard pressed to find even one small piece of dog poo, but there are candy and ice-cream wrappers littering the ground around the play ground...but I digress...) So I take the girls for a walk, having their leashes, treats and poop bags stored in my pocket. The paths themselves are pretty quite, but there are already some families on the play ground. No problem; we'll just steer clear of it.

As we're about 1/3 of the way around for our first pass, it starts to rain. So I hustle the girls up (as none of us wants to end up soaked) and we start to head back to the car. When we get there, the rain is letting up a bit, so I ask the girls if they want to play ball (we never go anywhere without their Chuck-It!) so I grab it and we make our way back to the field. As we're walking back, this little girl RUNS off the play ground and starts chasing my girls. Well, they want to play ball and 4 legs are always faster than 2, so they out run her. We make our way to the field and I huck the ball. The girl is still running after them trying to pet them. Now, NORMALLY if the girls father (who is half-heartedly following this annoying child trying to marshal her) had ASKED can she pet them, I wouldn't have had a problem. But he was just LETTING her chase them, so I kept throwing the ball in the OPPOSITE direction; keen to SHOW HIM that NO, I did NOT want his little girl getting near my dogs. Apparently he never got the hint.

So finally after a few minutes of ball throwing, they were sufficiently tired (and wet!) enough for us to go home. Heidi, being normally a little slower than Shelby (and now being really tired) was making her way slowly toward me when the little girl started chasing her again. I FIRMLY said "DON'T CHASE HER!" when the little girl caught up to her, WRAPPED her arms around her waist and then FELL ON TOP OF HER. I YELLED. I mean really YELLED "CAREFUL!!!" and went over and picked Heidi up. I was so INCENSED with anger, I couldn't even get the words out that I wanted to scream at this father who was muttering a feeble"sorry". I wanted to SCREAM at him "look buddy, if I don't let my dogs run up to your kid, what makes you think that you can let your KID run up to MY DOGS? If she had bitten or snapped at your daughter it would have been MY DOG that would be put to death. A bit UNFAIR, don't you think?!?!?"

I STORMED off and carried Heidi all the way back to the car where I gave her lots of good snacks and told her what a wonderful and brave dog she was. (And of course I told Shelby the same and gave her snacks too).

I CAN NOT believe the ignorance of some people. I mean, HONESTLY?!?! What makes it OK that your kids can accost mine? What if my dogs were NOT friendly and Heidi HAD bitten her? I mean, this is RIDICULOUS. As far as I am concerned, if a little kid puts themselves in situations like that (and the parents ALLOW IT) if they get bitten, they DESERVE IT. Maybe then they will learn the lesson to ASK before petting strange dogs. And if you don't like that way of thinking, think about a dog as if it were a hot stove. Would you just let your child run up to a stove and put its hand on it? Or would you check first and make sure it wasn't hot? Or better yet, keep them away from the stove at all?

And if your a parent, put yourself in my shoes. What if you were at the park, and some huge, off-leash dog came RUNNING on to the play ground? Would you just ASSUME that the dog was friendly and willing to put your child's safety at risk to test the dog and see? Even if the dogs tail was wagging, would you take the chance? Wouldn't you be screaming at the ignorant dog owner to get her pet under control and away from your kids??

So let me just say this: I am now going to be taking a MUCH more active role in leader and protector of my dogs. I've already stepped up my safety arsenal of preventing dog attacks by carrying a whistle, air-horn and direct stop. You bet your ass that I'm going to start protecting them from rogue children now too. No, I probably can't MACE the kids who come running up, but be sure that I am going to now start employing body-blocks and using a loud commanding voice to tell kids to "BACK OFF" and deter them from charging the girls. And short of shaving them and painting them black and tan (to have them look like mini-rottweilers), I'm going to also be wearing this to the park:

Hooded Sweatshirt - CafePress

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If this doesn't deter stupid people and obnoxious children, I don't know what will. I'm sure that this is probably going to anger some people, and may even change peoples opinions about me. But look, all I am looking for is the same thing that anyone else is: respect. Respect for my feelings, respect for my space, and respect for my dogs. If I can give it to you, and ensure that my dogs do as well, cant you give it back? I mean, a little common sense and common courtesy goes a long way...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Does anyone have the number for Animal Control?

No, not for my dogs...or even for my neighbors' dogs. I need the number for the VERY LARGE foot prints left in my yard!:
My mom was out cutting the grass (or doing other various yard-tending duties that I generally leave to her) and found a big pile of poo. I looked at it and very quickly figured out that no, it did NOT belong to either one of the little Shelties; or to any of the cats or bunnies that roam freely through the neighborhood either. Lets put it this way, this poo-pile was easily the size of one of my girls' HEADS. Yes, the pile was that big. (You'll have to take my word for it, as no, I did not get any of the pictures of the pile of poo.) The other observation (other than me thinking/saying out loud: "HOLY CANOLI THAT IS A BIG PILE OF POO!) was that it was FULL of seeds. Like, seed from a neighbors bird feeder seeds. So, as I am not a wild-life expert, I did not know what had left this mass of mess. Maybe it was a deer? They eat seeds right?





Well, maybe that is plausible, but then the next bit of evidence quickly put that theory to rest. As I was walking away from the seeded deposit, I saw oddly shaped impressions in the soft ground at my feet. My mom had tilled this patch of yard a few weeks prior, and it had not filled in with grass yet. So these new impressions were pretty clear. And they were clearly TRACKS. BIG ONES. Houston, we have a problem. We have a BEAR.


Now, I cant be sure that yes, it is a bear leaving tracks. Again I am no wildlife expert. But I don't think mountain lions (which are not common in this part of the country) or lynx/bobcats eat seeds. Especially not in those amounts. I showed my mom the tracks, and then quickly got the camera. I tried to take pictures of my hand with the tracks and then with Heidi sitting near them for something to visually compare them to, but I'm afraid the pictures aren't that clear. But if you look at the different colored patches of earth, even if you aren't able to make out the shapes, you can see how LARGE they are.


Now were pretty accustomed to wildlife in the yard; although we are the last house on a dead-end street, the end of the street borders a marsh. We frequently get visitors from the wetlands that make their way casually onto our bit of land. We've had turtles (both box and snapping), rabbits (lots and LOTS or rabbits), cats, probably deer and frogs. Frogs of death and doom. I say this not because the frogs are in fact dangerous, but because they SOUND SO. The first spring that were were in the house the frogs made a very conspicuous appearance. They are gray tree frogs, and make a VERY odd noise; a noise that sounds like the sharp trill of a raccoon. My mom was preparing to clean out our empty hot-tub when she heard the noise-she really did think that there was a raccoon trapped beneath the cover. After some very careful maneuvering, she opened the cover (preparing for something large, black-masked and furry to jump out!) and found herself face to face with the real culprit:


Terrifying, isn't it? But a much more welcome sight than this:

Anyways, most of the critters entering our yard have been fairly harmless; I mean the snapping turtle that out-weighed both dogs put together was a little less than friendly, but I've been able to keep the girls away from and prevent them from tangling with the more "dodgy" sort.


But now Ive got to really keep on my toes; especially when letting the girls out for their night-time potty breaks. I'm assuming that "Yogi" (as we've taken to calling our big black furry friend) shows up really late, like in the dead-of-night late, which makes me thankful that we do not have that many emergency "I need to go out NOW" potty trips. And if they do arise, I turn on the light FIRST before opening the door (lets hope Yogi is photo-phobic) and make noise before letting the equally noisy girls out to do their business. I know this is much to my sleeping neighbors chagrin, but...I've got to keep my twenty pound, fluffy mini-rottweilers safe, right? One whiff of the "intruder" in her yard, and Shelby is going to go N-U-T-S. Heidi will just tag along for the ride and bark-fest, but Shelby will be out for blood. Bear blood. And although I'd be willing to bet my own life on her amazing recall, Id prefer not to have to test it and bet HER life on it at 2 am some stormy night. I'd rather be safe than sorry. One more lesson down. Thanks girls...

Friday, July 3, 2009

Birthday cake, ice-ream and lessons

I'm posting today to wish my very special girl, Heidi, a Happy belated Birthday! Unfortunately for all of us, this years birthday did not exactly go to plan (which is also why this is being written late!) Hmmm...odd how neither of the girls birthdays went smoothly...

Anyways, I got sent home from work (and sent straight to the doctors) on Monday because of SEVERE dizziness and nausea. I had a procedure last week to try and relieve some of the excessive bleeding I have been dealing with off and on since being put on coumadin and plavix. Although the procedure went well, I did take out a few days of work afterwards to let my body heal. And it was a good thing I did. I had a rough time waking up from the anesthesia, and then dealt with very bad nausea (which I NEVER have a problem with) and pulled muscles in my neck and shoulders from thrashing. Mondays episode, although seemingly unrelated to the procedure or anything else going on with my health, was pretty scary. It was as if someone had put the world on "spin cycle"; it was like being on a very bad amusement park ride that I desperately wanted to get off. I wasn't able to focus, was having a hard time breathing and could hardly walk. I was driven to my moms work, where she drove me to the doctors.

They did a few tests and figure that I have Vestibular Neuritis, which is an infection (viral) on your vestibular nerve. I was put on prednisone and sent to see a neurologist just to be on the safe side. I've been out of work since. Hopefully, I should be able to go back on Monday. I am feeling better for the first time today, which is why I am able to sit and type on the computer (and which is why I didn't wish Heidi a Happy Birthday blog sooner!) I've been struggling to just get around my house; staring at a computer screen (and especially scrolling up and down!) made me feel, if possible, worse.

But enough about me and my stupid symptoms (I'm sick of dealing with them, never mind thinking about them more!) and on to my special girls day! We technically celebrated today, as Wednesday I was too sick to even bend over and play with her and her sister.

Now, usually we will be in the White Mountains hiking and camping at this time. I can't remember which year we started going camping for her birthday, but it has developed into a tradition that has been a fun one to follow. Even if we were not camping per se, I would drive up there for the day and let the girls run in the woods and splash in the rivers. It was a great mini-vacation day for all of us; being up there seems to recharge our souls.

But, for obvious reasons, this year I wasn't even driving down the street to the park, never mind making the two hour trek to the mountains. I of course felt guilty and sad that I couldn't let the girls enjoy our time honored tradition, but at the same time I knew that they weren't thinking about the day the same way I was. Although I know they would have fully enjoyed our outdoor excursions, they do not celebrate "special occasions" the same way we people do. Celebrating the day of ones birth is a very human thing to do; our dogs will never hold grudges or be angry with us if we forget or are unable to celebrate these special days in the ways that we want to. As I've said before, they're not going to go to school or work the next day grumbling under their breath about how we forgot their birthday, or got them an unsatisfactory gift. As a very good (and wise!) friend pointed out to me (as I was lamenting not being able to go to the mountains for the day), Heidi was probably just happy to have me home for the day; able to snuggle up to me when she wanted and able to hear my voice.

Thinking about that now, I realize how stupid I was being. I was sulking not only because missing a favorite tradition was hard to bear, but also because not being able to do anything AT ALL that day, again because of my health, was a low-blow. But now, a few days later, I am feeling better. Not only physically, but also better about finally being able to share in the celebration of the birth of my very special girl.

So today I got outside for the first time in over a week with the girls. It has been raining here in New England for what feels like AN ETERNITY. So when the precipitation let up today, and the sun decided to make an all but brief appearance, I decided today was a good day to break out some goodies for Heidi's special day. So, what do Shelties consider goodies? Cake and ice-cream! Which is possibly even more important and special to a Sheltie than a long walk in the woods...they do like their food after all!!

My mom got her hair cut on Wednesday afternoon, and so was able to buy some birthday cupcakes from the doggie bakery, "The Barkery". Yes, these are the same cupcakes that caused so many problems on Shelby's birthday in February. BUT, I think that if I chop them up and feed them in pieces (rather than letting the girls go in for a free-for-all!) they should be OK. They just finished their ice-creams outside, and will probably have a 1/2 cupcake each later tonight.

And make no mistake, Heidi got plenty of snuggles, cuddles, pats, and kisses on her real birthday, which was Wednesday. I apologized to her that were didn't go hiking, but I did promise that when we go on a real vacation in August that we would do all of her (and Shelby's) favorite things. I actually spent most of the day today making lists of what attractions were dog-friendly, and what they might like to do (and what I would be able to do!) I think it will be a really nice, relaxing vacation, and of course even if something happens and things DON'T work out the way we wish, I think the lessons of being thankful are finally sinking in: "Don't sweat the small stuff", "don't cry over spilt milk", and "when life hands your lemons, make lemonade". All little anecdotes that we learned at a very young age, but lessons that are important enough for us to remember all throughout our lives. And once again, small lessons Ive been reminded and retaught thanks to my VERY special Heart-Dogs!

Here are some pictures from today with the cake and ice-cream. It doesn't look like they're enjoying it too much, does it?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Truth or Scare

Have you ever had a dream so vivid and realistic, that when you woke up you were convinced it was real? I have a lot (and I mean A LOT!) of dreams like that. And usually they are about random things, like being in love with someone I barely knew from high-school, or being angry with my mom over something stupid. Indeed, they are so real that I often spend the next day contemplating what they meant and if they truly have any significance. And then dwelling on their content usually ensures a repeat dream that following night. It becomes a very hard pattern to break.

Usually, though, these dreams are obviously harmless enough. They usually just inspire hours of day dreaming and contemplation. But sometimes, the dreams aren't dreams. Sometimes these all to real nightly visions are bad; they are the nightmares.

For a lot of people, nightmares involve you in a scary situation; sometimes accompanied by the ones you love (which makes the nightmares all the more scary!) A lot of people report nightmares of being chased by someone, or being in a situation where the lives of you, and your loved ones along for the ride, are in mortal peril. For me, these are all true. But the loved ones who I'm usually accompanied by, are my dogs.

Of course I dream about other people (friends and family) in them too, but my girls always make a regular appearance. They are usually in the fight or flight scenario too, which makes these nightmares all the more scary. In a lot of the nightmares, we are either being chased, or trying to escape something (like a tornado). They are always off leash, and I always find myself having a hard time getting them to come with me and to then stay by me as we run away. They usually dawdle, or move too slowly...or sometimes they are paralyzed by fear. I always snap awake just when something really terrible is about to happen, and grope in the dark for their furry bodies. I find them (of course) and breathe a huge sigh of relief. Feeling Shelby's warm weight as she rests against my legs, and Heidi's naked pink belly (as she sleeps upside down on my other pillow) always brings me out of the nightmare induced shock and panic and back to reality.

My nightmares lately, however, have grown into more specific visions that directly endanger their lives; versus endangering all of our lives for example.

Last week I woke up from a nightmare so vivid, that if I think about them, I can still see the images as clear as day; as if they had been permanently burned into my memory. Even though the odds of you all thinking I am completely insane for dreaming this (not to mention now typing it for the world to see) are pretty high, this is the dream: Shelby was flying a jet. Yes, that's right. FLYING A JET. We were out in the back yard of my old house and she saw birds in the sky. (She LOVES chasing anything up there...sparrows, planes, clouds...the MOON...) The next thing I know, she is in a jet chasing the birds through the sky. I of course was frantic. Not because I was thinking how my dog couldn't possibly fly the plane correctly, or hold the stick because of a lack of opposable thumbs, but because I was afraid she was going to crash. So the next thing I know my mom and I are running through the streets of some city (Boston?) looking for a building large enough that I can stand on the roof and flag her down. I ended up trying to run up the ramp of a parking garage trying to get to the roof when I saw a plane collide with something in the air. Although it was another plane, I undoubtedly knew Shelby's was next. She then ended up crashing, and I found a fireman running down towards me with her in his arms; charred, wet and shaking. I screamed and went to grab her. That's when I woke up.

The next one I had was about Heidi. This one was more real to me, as the circumstances in the dream were ones that could in fact, happen. (Although I know Shelby is smart enough to fly a plane, I doubt anyone would grant her access to a cock-pit.) I dreamt that I found Heidi on my bed, and her eyes were rolling back and she was unable to stand. She kept falling over, as if she were drunk. I yelled for my mom and said that I was bringing her into work (our 24 hour facility) to have her looked at. The doctor who saw her was a man, but isn't an actual doctor that I work with (yeah, I have no idea where this guy came from). He took her out back, and they put her in oxygen as she wasn't breathing properly. They then said that they needed to tube her to assist in her breathing, and showed me pictures of some scan (a ct? glorified x-ray?) that showed that she had a blockage in one of her veins in her liver. They needed to do surgery, but she would be OK. That's when I woke up.

I think this second one was brought on by the fact that I had brought both girls in that day to work and had them get their annual physical and had had blood work done. I was nervous about their results because it had been so long since the last time they had had any done (Sept '08). I usually try to do it every 6 months (because they are on raw, and I am a hypochondriac so I think f they are going to get something, at least I can catch it early) and I had only waited because money was so tight due to my short leave from work earlier this year. I felt like a TERRIBLE mother, so as soon as I did have a little money, this was the first thing taken care of. (Yes, my sneakers still have holes in them...)

The reality of the situation is that their blood work actually looks good. Some of their stuff was a bit off, but I also normally fast them before having it drawn and this time I had fed them breakfast. The numbers weren't off so much that their doctor was concerned, so I figure I'll stick to my same routine and have it done again in December. Of course if anything comes up with them between now and then, we will recheck it, and compare it as we now have a baseline.

So as I wonder about my own dreams, I also wonder about theirs too. I think they must have the ability to have clear, vivid dreams as we do, but...do they remember them? Do they seem so real that the line between dream and reality sometimes get blurred? Do they spend hours after waking up wondering what all of those crazy sleep-induced images meant? (I don't think so, as they are often role models for the ability to live in the present.) After reading a lot of Patricia McConnells work, I share her belief that our dogs (and many other animals) do share our emotions, both primary (fear, joy/happiness, anger, etc.) and secondary (jealousy, etc.). But I wonder if their emotions, like ours, affect their dream-lives as well. I wonder if their night visions are permeated by smells and sounds rather than visual images. I don't think anyone out there can argue that dogs don't dream. Anyone who lives with dogs have witnessed first hand their somewhat active sleep habits: thrashing limbs, twitching whiskers and noses and whines and growls. Who knows whether they are having an enjoyable dream of chasing squirrels, or a terrifying nightmare where their lives (and their loved ones too?) are in danger.

But although I may never know what my girls are dreaming about, or how those dreams affect them, I can rest assured that they are happy and healthy; and knowing that helps me sleep better too. Even when the nightmares come, I awake knowing that they were just "scary dreams" and the truth is my girls are still by my side; usually sleeping peacefully.