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, 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.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sheltie: Silenced!

This post is going to be confirming the stories of abuse that my girls have been telling people for years. It was bad enough having to endure baths and grooming, but this...this is just inexcusable. Today I had to break out...


Don Don DON!!!

I bought the collar for the girls when I worked at the training center several years ago. Although I was not necessarily having a barking problem then, I knew I had young Shelties and that, some day, it may BECOME a problem. I thought I was also making out on another "steal". The collars that that time were retailing for about 95 bucks; I got mine at cost for about 60 or so. They now go for about half that ( .

For those of you unfamiliar with a spray collar, let me explain what they are. They are a small box that has a microphone on the back, which rests on the dogs throat. The top of the collar has two holes: one to put the spray into (from an aerosol can), and one that discharges the spray when the dog barks. It lets it go in a puff of spray, accompanied by a somewhat surprising hissing noise. The hope is that the surprise of the sudden burst of spray itself (which gets the dog a little wet), the smell of the citronella, and the hissing sound will deter the dog from barking. It is approved and endorsed by the Humane Society and the SPCA and is a great first step to try if you have an obsessively barking dog. A much nicer first try to curb the barking than using a shock collar, or performing a permanent, surgical devocalizing.

There are a few types of collars out there, but they all generally work the same. The success in it lies in the design of the collar (one design having a stick-like rod that protrudes from the back where the microphone is located), the sensitivity of it (I really do like the Premier products the best), the tightness of the collar around the neck (which should be just like the dogs regular collar-you should fit two fingers between the neck and the collar itself), and the dogs response. Usually what happens is the dog barks, gets sprayed, jumps in surprise, and then decides that they cant stand on that spot on the floor/ground anymore. A few more barks and the dog gets it: bark=spray. Sometimes, however, the dogs don't care about being sprayed at all. They bark, get sprayed, bark again, get sprayed again, etc. There's nothing wrong with the dog; the citronella collar just isn't the right tool to curb the barking.

Now I don't want to get too much into the bark ground and theories and ways to control barking. I explained my feelings in my post about Dog Laws at our other blog:

Although I bought it "just in case", I did have to end up using it, albeit briefly, when we lived in the townhouse in Dracut. Obviously our neighbors were pretty close, so we didn't want to be the people with the "annoying barking dogs" (those turned out to be our "new" neighbors, who moved in shortly before we decided to move out; they were one of the reasons for our move!) But, being brilliant Shelties, they learned what the collar meant. Indeed, they even learned the name for the collar. Even though neither dog has really worn it in the past couple of years, I can still "threaten" them with it when they get a little too vocal. All I have to say is "Citronella collar" and they usually button up pretty quickly.

Shelby is MUCH more sensitive to the threat of the collar; when she hears the dreaded words, she not only quiets down but immediately launches herself into my lap to make apologetic gestures: licking my face, ears back, soft whining. All the little behaviors that always make me think twice about actually using it. Heidi isn't as phased by the collar (and therefore the threat of using it) because her mane and "fluff-ruff" is SO big and full that the collar doesn't work properly. It either can't register her bark if it is sitting on top of her hair, or if I bury the collar in it, it can't spray her because it gets caught in the hair webbing now sitting on top of the collar!

Now my girls bark for different things, which also determines how often they get "threatened". Heidi barks a lot indoors; at quirky things (the blender, hair-dryer, vacuum, the shower turning on, keys being picked up, etc.) And although her barking at those random things gets annoying, she is very good about stopping when we tell her we've had enough. Shelby on the other hand is an outside barker. She barks at the cars that turn around in our driveway (we are the last house on a dead-end street, so we get a lot of them), the annoying kids who play at the end of our street (aka in our DRIVEWAY!!), and now at the birds (that no longer have to be goose-shaped; any bird will do!) as they fly over our house, which she considers our "air space". Shelbys barking, although less annoying to us than Heidi's, can get us into a bit more trouble since it is outside and the NEIGHBORS can hear it as well. (As a side note, if a complaint was ever lodged, I would point out with NO TROUBLE the dog who lives across the street that barks at all hours of the day as he is left UNATTENDED in a 10x6 run, and the kids whose shrieking easily reaches the point where only bats-and my dogs-can hear it. If someone says to me that I have to shut my dogs up, I'm going to tell them to shut theirs-kids and dogs-up first!!)

So although Shelby has really kept her little Sheltie mouth shut lately, it was a little harder for her today. It was the first real nice day in at least a week, so when I kept the door open to give them access to the deck and fenced yard, she went a little crazy. I'm not sure if more birds were out, also enjoying the nice weather, or she was able to see them better without the low-lying clouds that have blanketed our sky for so long, but she was definitely having to keep our air-space clean more today. So as her barking reached its peak, I had to get the collar. And I did it for her own good as much as anyone else's. When I went to get her (as you should NEVER call your dog to you when you are going to do something unpleasant to them) she was panting heavily; she is so focused on chasing the birds that she can't settle. I wanted to give my little one a break before she ran herself into the ground.

So I put the collar on her, just while I finished up ironing, and then took it off. The look on her face was priceless. It was as if I had both beaten her and told her there was no Santa Paws. Her face was just so sad; the indignant, disgusted looks I was getting was disconcerting. Then when Heidi (being as nosey as she is) went up to see what all the fuss was about, and smelled the collar on her poor sisters neck, she started with the ugly looks too!

I tried to explain to both of them it was only for a few minutes and it was for Shelbys own good, but they looked like they didn't believe a word I was saying. I quickly took the collar off a few minutes later and have been trying to get back on Shelby's good side all night. Although I don't think I am completely forgiven yet, I do have to say that the Yoghund ice cream helped. I'm just hoping I don't wake up with a Sheltie-Shaped pillow over my head trying to smother me tonight while I sleep! (Oh, and for the record, the collar lives EMPTY on my refrigerator when not in use. This is so Heidi doesn't find and DESTROY it. And as it has been so long since I've had to break it out, yes, I put it on Shelby EMPTY today too! Sssshhhh....dont tell her!)
Here are some pictures of Shelby wearing the dreaded device: first being stressed, then hearing birds, then looking in the sky for them! But she still didn't bark...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Sheltie Steal!

Did I happen to mention yet that I love living in New England? Every time wander-lust hits me and I feel the urge to wonder where I would like to live some day, I always come back to thinking "I can't leave New England...its just too good here!" Now of course I know that everyone must think like this; if you didn't love where you were living, why would you continue to stay? But I have to say, being a dog owner in New England definitely has its perks.

Just like in human medicine, we have some of the best veterinary hospitals around. Both Tufts University and Angell Memorial are world renown. And there are, of course, many others: including the amazing group of hospitals that make up InTown, which is where I work. We also have an amazing competition scene; Paw Print Trials, who serves as secretary for many of the top 10 agility trials in the entire US, is based right here...and many of those high-entry trials are held here in Massachusetts. We have some of the best world competitors and trainers at facilities that are an easy hour or so drive in any direction from where I live: Ken Fairchild, Julie Daniels, Lo Baker, Celeste Meade, and Leslie Nelson are all here.

There are several dog parks, dog friendly state parks and beaches, hiking trails and open fields that are heaven to any dog looking for a little exercise and some bonding time with mom or dad. The weather is always changing; you can enjoy all of those afore mentioned places during the hot dog-days of summer, the crisp coolness of autumn, the chilly snow of winter and sunny rebirth of spring. And with all of the changes the seasons bring, also bring a variety of other activities that you can enjoy during them: skiijoring and sledding, hiking and swimming, kayaking and canoeing, and of course indoor and outdoor dog shows.

But as wonderful as all those reasons are, there is one reason that I regularly over looked...until yesterday: living within easy driving distance of the PetEdge warehouse!

Now, for those of you who don't know about PetEdge (, it is a pet supply company that usually sells to retailers...but also sells to the general public as well; they not only sell to you and I, but we get the same WHOLE SALE prices that the retailers get! Check them out the next time that you're looking for great prices on everything from crates to beds, toys to bowls and every grooming supply that you could ever want or need! Their prices can't be beat!
Now although I have been aware of their company (and my close proximity to their warehouse!) for many years, I never took so much advantage of their great pricing and good deals as I did yesterday. I had received an email from them about a week ago about a three day sale they were having at their warehouse only. Money has still been a little tight, so although I didn't delete it, I wasn't really planning on going. I didn't NEED anything at this particular time (although being a Sheltie owner I could probably always use SOMETHING...) so I wasn't as excited about it as I probably could have been at some other point. But then a friend of mine said that she had gone down and got a GREAT deal on some beds. So, as I found myself off on Saturday with nothing to do but brush the girls, I took the drive down. What the heck, I thought. Maybe I'll get something at a steal.


Now, the entire warehouse store was NOT on sale; the great deals only applied to the clearance room. So I strolled around there looking for something I could USE...not just something I wanted, but something I could put to use to justify spending the money. First I found a cordless nail grinder. That is something that I could definitely use and had always wanted. The box was damaged, but all parts were accounted for and it was only 7 bucks. So I grabbed it. I then bought a small clipper, as I've found that just scissoring a "sani-strip" on their hind ends isn't quite cutting it. The clippers were 21 bucks. When I got to the counter, I found out that I already had a 13 dollar credit on my account from a previous return. Sweet! I paid the difference and told the girls that we were leaving...

It's a good thing we didn't! I happened to hear some of the employees talking about bringing some more stuff into the clearance room. So, leaving my bag of purchased items at the counter, I went back in. And that's where I spotted a set of these:

I had been WAITING to be able to afford a set of stairs or ramp for the side of my bed so Heidi can get on and off; Shelby has always been able to jump on and off, but my Heidi has never been able to do it. I've always lifted her on or off the bed; which got a little difficult when I wasn't allowed to lift anything over 10lbs. after I had my stent placed...

The sticker on this "marked down" set, was $67.99. It was still a lot (a lot more than I had planned on spending that day, anyways...) but I knew that they were in the catalog for over $100. So I brought them to the counter.

When the cashier rang them up, the price came to:

(get ready for it!!)


Yes. That's right. I paid ELEVEN DOLLARS for something that is still priced online for $127! I felt like that crazy lady in the IKEA commercial when she looks at her receipt and then RUNS to the car where her husband is waiting screaming "START THE CAR! START THE CAAAARRR!!"

I hurried the girls out, into the car, and sped out of that parking lot as if it were a chase scene from "Chips". I think I even left a little rubber (and flying dog hair!) behind.

I still am proud of my excellent bargain, and felt the need to share it with all of my dog friends out there in blogger land. I hope you all are finding bargains in this tough economy too! We can't forget the needs (and lets face it, wants!) of our furry friends!

Take care everyone, and here are some pictures of Heidi enjoying her new stairs. True to Sheltie form, she figured out how to use them and remembered where they were in a few short "up and down" sessions (with liver enticements of course!) The last pic is so Shelby gets some "face time" too.