Archive | April, 2011

Charlie’s results

27 Apr

The vet just called.

The tumor’s a fatty deposit. Whew.

But he may be hypothyroid. Great.

It’s another $125 to run the thyroid panel, but I don’t have an option.

Normal levels are 1-4 on the Free T4 test and he had a .3.

Back to the vet we go.



22 Apr

Charlie has a new bump. I’m 90% convinced it’s a fatty tumor and nothing to worry about, but I’m still a wreck. I’m trying to get a vet appointment for this weekend, get it aspirated, and make sure that it’s nothing to worry about. It’s up on his waist area on his left side.

During the last few months he’s grayed a lot. And developed some more warts. I think he’s up to 6 or 7.

It’s finally really hitting home that he’s going to die. And I’m crying already. I can’t bear the thought. I don’t mean to be such a downer, but he’s been with me for a little less than half of my entire life, and if I may say so, the important half.

My mom brought him home when I was 13. I had an isolated and somewhat neglectful childhood and he was truly my only friend for a very long time. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that he’s still truly my only friend (though Emma’s creeping up there too). We would spend all of our time together, in bed, under the sheets, in my room, playing silly games, learning tricks. I was so happy to have a friend, I was so happy to have someone who wanted to be with me and who wouldn’t leave me alone. So of course he developed Separation Anxiety, but the truth is that I did too. My heart still breaks a little every morning when I have to leave him, even if it has been years since he’s had trouble staying home alone. And every day when I come home I collapse on the floor and just take in every moment of his joy.

He’s always been so healthy, so fit, so trim, such a huge part of who I am, that even though I intellectually knew that he’s mortal, and would die before I do, it never seemed real. But I’m looking at him now and he looks old to me for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, he hasn’t lost any of his spunk. This past weekend he went after a flock of turkeys and gave me a scare (I lost sight of him for a few minutes) and earlier today he learned how to jump into my arms on cue. We read each other so well, I know what he’ll do before he thinks it, and he can read my mind as well. I know every crevice of his body, I look him over constantly, the instant something changes I can feel it as though it were my own body. Every day I check all his toes, look in his mouth, sift through his fur, peek into his ears, and make sure I scratch all the right places.

I’m actually a little worried about myself and what I’ll go through when he does pass away. I don’t want to think about it, but it will be a very scary time.

Five or six years ago when in my mother’s care before he was neutered, he mated with a little white dog who lived in a building near us. She had several puppies (I was and still am appalled by this, I’m disgusted to think where some of them may have ended up). I’ve been struck by the idea of tracking down the mother’s owners and see if there are any of Charlie’s puppies or grandpuppies (I’m sure they didn’t stop breeding) that might need a home. Heck, I’ll take them all. If I had the money I’d probably look into cloning.

But then I wonder if in fact I really do need to learn how to let go of him at some point. And then I look at him and break down again. I’m trying so hard to burn every memory into my brain so I’ll never forget him. I’m taking so many pictures, so many videos.

But what do I know, he might live another ten years.

I found some old photos I’d like to share with you.

Charlie at about 3 months old when he learned how to jump through a hula hoop. In the same week he learned sit, down, roll over, play dead, stay, come, paw, and unfortunately, bark. The vet told me I should wait until he was older to train because he wouldn't remember anything. We showed him.

That's how we lived - together in my room amongst mess.

The date is incorrect. This was on his first birthday. I baked him a cake and spent the whole day with him.

Charlie's first birthday cake. I got him to blow out the candle by barking at it.

Poodle love. He makes a much better friend than his stuffed predecessor.

I was a teenaged girl with a Poodle. Of course I was going to dress him up! I remember that was the summer he lost all his baby teeth. I tried saving some but they've been lost over the years.

And that's the lump of doom on the right side. Can you see the bulge?

Just for kicks. A photo of my bathroom bodyguards. You know, in case the toilet troll comes out to get me. Without fail, anytime I enter the dreaded room of water doom, they follow. Charlie's the most faithful. Tigress only comes in the morning when she's hungry, and Emma makes an appearance twice a month on average (when she's awake and realizes she's alone).

Last weekend's hiking trip. Can you see NYC in the bakground?

Day 2 and the Aftermath

16 Apr

So long overdue, but here we go.

Day 2 of the KPA workshop was substantially better than the first. I made a plan and executed it, and both Emma and I were much better off for it.

We got to the space first. I left her in the car while I set up her area with a double-barrier and a crate at a further distance away from everyone else. I took my time bringing her in and did some LAT and simple exercises outside, then by the front door, then just inside the front door, and in slow approximations inside. Then we had a lovely short session with Steve (our instructor) and she was happy to do hand targets with him for treats, and took treats from him (woohoo!). After that I brought her into the workshop room and walked around as everyone set up and played LAT non stop. Unfortunately by this point she was a bit worked up and just wanted to work for food. Fortunately, we went right into working with the dogs so she got to burn off some steam.

I was able to keep her inside her crate with the door open. It worked out well for her, as she felt close to me, not confined, but was able to be guarded from Steve and the other dogs by the barriers.

By about hour 2 or 3 she was fried. She had had too much food over the day and a half, and I think the stress was just getting to her. She started slowing down, muss less enthusiastic about food, and beginning to relax from sheer exhaustion.

Towards the end of the day she actually schlumped off and fell asleep in her crate. She was also finally able to eat her Kong, and I could see how much the licking behavior was helping her to calm down. She was still edgy and barking at dogs here and there, and would give Steve a piece of her mind whenever she caught sight of him. What worried me the most was that by the end of the day she was refusing to take food from anyone but me. I’d like to think it was because she was just so full I was the only person she was willing to eat for, and not that she was so stressed she wasn’t eating. If I need to remind you, she’s eaten cat litter without kitty crunchies, she’s eaten a bag of warming beads, she’s torn my TV off the wall in an attempt to get to an empty bag of treats, and she’s never turned her nose up to anything I’ve ever given her (including whole prey, and a variety of pills and supplements).

Unfortunately, Emma was not able to participate in the assessments at the end of day 2. We needed to do some shaping with an object. I knew she was done when she just sat and looked at me. She’s usually incredibly happy to work and moves non stop (which you can see here) so seeing her just barely able to keep her head up and trying her darnedest to make me happy, my heart burst a little and I approached Steve about it. He was really awesome and a fellow trainee let me work with her dog to complete my assessment.

Needless to say Emma slept the whole way home.

So now that we’re home I have bad news to share. Emma’s brought her newfound reactivity home with her. She’s been barking at dogs we’ve seen on the street, which she’s NEVER done, and she refused food from a stranger we met (I asked him to give her a treat when he stopped to ask me about the pups, which I do all the time). I was hoping she was still full and stressed from the workshop. So Emma’s now on a 2 week shutdown period. Unfortunately, we have some dogs staying with us. Fortunately, they’re letting her alone and she’s sleeping a lot.

And I just have to share that the day after the workshop she pooped seven times.  And five times the day after. Normally she poops once every 2 days. Just to give you an idea of how much she ate!

So I’ve also decided to work with Charlie from here on out. He’s a loud, vocal PITA to work with, but I know he loves workshop environments, can and will work ’til he drops, doesn’t have marked reactivity to dogs, no reactivity to people, and has LOTS of experience under his belt. All I have to say to my fellow trainees is: you’ve been warned!! Now I need to figure out what to do with Emma when we go to the next 3 workshops. I can’t leave her with my mom because Emma’s nervous around her husband, and that’s not a situation I can put her in. I may need to keep her with my friend who also has a dog, but he can be reckless (he likes to walk his dog off leash) and take things lightly, so I’ll need to really drum into him what the rules are with her. I can’t bring her to any daycare center because I don’t trust that they’ll watch her the way she needs to be watched, and I can’t trust they’ll be sensitive to her issues. Tigress will go to my mom.

And just a cute picture of Emma and Tigress.

Our current craziness. Emmas not pictured. She likes to stay out of the dog pile.

Workshop Day One

9 Apr

My first KPA workshop has been overshadowed by Emma’s reactivity and inability to settle. I’ve realized just how much I’ve been sheltering her, and that all the progress I’ve seen has been in a bubble, a vacuum. There are so many factors to this trip that have combined into a perfect storm.

It’s the first time since she’s come to me that we’ve stayed in a hotel. It’s the first time we’ve taken a 4:30 car trip. It’s the first time she’s spent a night away from Charlie. It’s the first time she’s ever been in a workshop environment (and that has several sub-categorical firsts as well).

Our instructor, Steve Benjamin, is really wonderful. But Emma doesn’t think so. He uses his hands too much for her liking. So the first hour or so of class she made sure he knew that – she barked at him pretty much anytime he moved after she decided he was evil incarnate.

And then she turned her nose up at a bully stick for the first time ever. And refused to stay in her crate (broke out of it actually). So they gave us a sturdier crate to use. I put blankets over it to block her view of Steve. And gave her 3 bully sticks and a stuffed Kong, not to mention throwing treats every few seconds. Now she’s barking at every tiny noise any other dog makes as the room echoes and I think she feels threatened by the dogs she can’t see, but can hear and smell (especially with all her treasures in with her, remember she resource guards).

And she doesn’t want to lie on a mat next to me with her view blocked. She’s actually incredibly intent on the treats and is dying to work, but I have to listen to Steve. And lying on the mat is not what she wants to do. So then we got to try on a Thundershirt.

And she barked at more people for doing things that really wouldn’t set her off normally. And she’s giving everyone back off signals (head turns, lip licks). But she’s still willing (more than willing, actually) to work and was shaped by a fellow trainee to raise her ears in less than 5 minutes.

I’ve never seen this level of reactivity to people or any reactivity like this towards dogs at all. I’m actually quite worried that she’s WAY too stressed out and that I might want to just not use her anymore. But Steve and his wonderful aide Casey have really reassured me and helped me out quite a bit.

I ended up leaving her in the car for the last 2 hours (for which we didn’t need dogs anyway). Even though she wasn’t crazy about it, she was a lot less stressed than she would have been in the room with us.

My plan for tomorrow is to set up a double barrier for her with a covered crate and the draped gates, showing her the perimeter so she knows dogs can’t get close to her or her crate, and playing LAT ad nauseum. And giving her frequent breaks to the car and/or walking outside. And I’ll try to move her way back. It means I’ll mess up the nice “circle” we had going, but it just wasn’t working out. And it’s stressing me out so much to know that I’m stressing her out.

I also think I’ll need to work on this when we get back home. I’m going to contact some training schools and see if they’ll let us just hang out at a class to work on her reactivity – who cares what class!

This has come out much longer than anticipated. I really needed to vent though, so thank you for reading! I’ve read all of your blogs, I’m just utterly exhausted and dealing with crappy Red Roof Inn wifi so will revisit you all when we get back home.

And Charlie and Tigress are doing well at my moms.

Dominance Shmominance

7 Apr

People who believe in all that dominance/alpha hooey would most likely look at our little family and declare that Emma’s the alpha bitch of the pack. She regularly throws her weight around, pushes everyone out of her way; she once literally bulldozed Charlie by sticking her head under his stomach and going where she wanted to go (he happened to be in her way). She tends to get on top of me as much as she can and is generally very gratuitous with her personal space encompassing everyone else’s.

I just spent a good 30 minutes breaking up pieces of treats for this weekend’s KPA workshop with Emma (jeez it came quickly!!!). Whenever I do this all three of them sit and drool, praying that one might have their name on it (Tigress joins in the fun, of course). Every single time, without fail, that a treat lands between Charlie and Emma, if Charlie so much as breathes in its direction, Emma will turn her head away and look to me for more goodies. Even if the treat is next to, under, or had just bumped off of Emma’s head, if Charlie wants it, it’s his. In this most indicative trial of dominance, Charlie clearly wins out.

Actually, I believe the correct definition of dominance runs something along the lines of it having to do with ability to gain and keep access to a desired resource, in this case, the treat (so all that hooey about one dog standing over another, walking out the door first, pulling on the lead, etc, is just that, hooey). And one dog may be dominant in one context but not in another, it all depends on what’s important to him or her. Charlie certainly wouldn’t bother using his powers to gain control of which leash he’d prefer to wear today. So my beleaguered, constantly shoved, often whipped, even more often bumped Poodle, is a dominant little fellow when it comes to access to treats. He also uses his great powers of world domination to get the best spots on the bed. That and his incessant whine will pretty much get him anything he wants.

With all that said, I still despise the term and never use it. Well, except for in this post. It’s too often misused and I’d like to not add to the madness.

But I would  like to point out that Charlie’s signals only work because Emma is so intuned to them and so incredibly respectful of them (if not his personal space). Which is a wonderful trait to have in a dog, and honestly a little unexpected in a Pit Bull, but that’s why we work so well.

And all that aside, Tigress is still more than willing to literally grab food out of either dog’s mouth if the opportunity presents itself. Like I said, dominance shmominance!!!


We run this joint, yo.



Caught on Camera!!

6 Apr

I figured out how to set up my webcam to tape the critters while I’m away at work. If you have a webcam, I highly recommend it!

So the breakdown of Charlie’s day is as follows:

He spent 90 minutes de-stuffing his frozen Kong (YES!)

He spent another hour counter surfing and sniffing the apartment.

He spent the other 3 hours alternating between dog beds and the human bed.

I certainly wasn’t going to share all five+ hours of footage with you, but here’s a short snippet of the only interaction he had with Tigress (it’s not you, there’s no sound):

Kinda scary how Tigress looks into the camera, right?

Emma’s always in her crate when I’m not home to supervise only because she resource guards food and a fight between her and either Charlie or Tigress is not something I’m willing to risk, even though they’ve never had a tiff. I do think I might set up a 4 foot ex-pen attached to her crate to give her some more room to move and so I can tape her too!!


4 Apr

Emma walked over to the toy chest and started rummaging. She first pulled up a small yellow Kong Wubba. She gave it a few chomps and decided it wasn’t quire what she was looking for. She then went for a rubbery yellow toy, took it over to the floor pillow, and began to chomp on it. If you don’t know much about Emma, this might seem quite ordinary, and nothing to write home about. If you do know Emma, you’ll know that this is the first time in nine months that she’s been with me, that she’s picked up a toy of her own accord. Every single other time she’s ever interacted with a toy was due to my showing and offering it to her. And the best part? It’s been over 30 minutes and she’s still chomping on it. I mean is this a milestone or what?? She even kept it up through me rummaging for my camera and taking a bunch of pictures. And a video. I’m SO happy for her.

I had recently come home and Charlie was having a fun time playing with a ball, so I guess she felt it was her time to play!

I’m developing a sneaking suspicion that the cat may be harassing Emma when I’m away. When I approached the house today I heard Emma barking, which is unusual for her. And when I let her out of her crate (Emma’s crated anytime I’m not home to supervise) she beelined for Tigress and even chased her a little, which she’s never done before either. I have a webcam and want to tape them while I’m gone. Any ideas how to do this? Is there a program I can download that could handle that?

And for the finale, Charlie would like you to know that he’s well aware for what use pillows are meant:

For Poodles to lie on, of course!

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