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Now that Teddy has been living here for more than two months, I believe we have a clearer understanding of one another. At least I feel safe saying I understand him better. It’s not that hard. He’s a pretty straightforward little guy. No pretenses. No wavering. He let’s you know how he feels about something and then has no more to say on the subject. After all, that’s the way it is. End of story.

Teddy’s Tenets:

  • Salmon and rice will not be tolerated in any form–canned or kibble–under any circumstances. Amen. Pass the lamb.
  • Bodily functions can never be performed in the presence of any of the following: damp grass, wet cement or flagstone, drizzle, rain, thunder, lightning, or lightning bugs. Ever.
  • And while we’re on that topic, privacy is preferred during any and all nature calls. Decorous human beings will avert their gaze while bodily functions are being executed.
  • No tree, bush, flower, tomato plant, asparagus fern, strawberry patch, fence, or wood pile is sacred. Have a  pooper scooper and a plastic bag on your person at all times.
  • Glorious daytime weather must be savored with long periods of rolling in the grass, sneezing, and sleeping in the shade. Any attempt to force other behaviors during such times will be considered sacrilegious and ignored accordingly.
  • During thunderstorms–or any time lightning is within a 20-mile radius–a human being’s presence is required. Preferably mom’s. Snuggling welcome.
  • Snoring and farting are part of the package. Deal with it.
  • Belly-rubs, ear-scratches, and hugs are actively encouraged and always accepted.
  • Attempts at playing chase, catch, or Gotcha! will be met with a blank stare. A good brushing is preferred.
  • Walkers and bicyclists passing on the street out front must be acknowledged with a half-hearted woof. People in the backyard must submit to a full-blown bark or barks. All other vocal emanations are discretionary and meted out accordingly.
  • Ear cleaning and trips to the groomer will be tolerated only if extravagant displays of affection are provided afterwards.
  • Goofy neckerchiefs will be grudgingly tolerated for short periods of time.
  • Failure to extend invitations for all car and/or truck outings will result in The Very-Sad-Dog-Eyes Treatment and other guilt-inducing behaviors, as required. Consider yourself warned.
  • All humans, dogs, and cats must be welcomed as friends. Or ignored.

Like I said, straightforward. He’s a pip.

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I had really hoped to sit down and write today. I’ve had all these things rattling around in my head that I want to write about, but no time to give them form. I’m not complaining, really. Since I last posted, I’ve enjoyed a visit with a sister-in-law I rarely get to see; a few wonderful days of having Tom home on vacation; several fun outings with Tom, Carey, and Austin; a trip to a local farm for fresh sweet corn, green beans, peaches, and basil; lunches with good friends; and a couple of good movies. I’ve managed to get the dog groomed, the car serviced, a contract written for our fence project, an estimate for having some trees trimmed, the sweet corn and green beans from the farm frozen and stored, the laundry done, and my bags pseudo-packed for my trip to Texas tomorrow. Oh, and in the middle of all that I successfully crossed over to the dark side–chronologically speaking–without any major body part breaking, shriveling up, or falling onto the pavement. But today, I had really hoped to write…

It wasn’t meant to be. All good intentions evaporated as I flew around the house, arms waving, hair on fire, clock ticking, accomplishing…well, I don’t know what. In the middle of the chaos, as I’m trying to get out the door to meet a friend for lunch, I realize Teddy hasn’t been out to have a wee yet. Ye, gods! He’s normally not interested in going outside for any reason much before 9 a.m., but it was after 11! Surely, the poor little guy was about to burst, so I start clapping my hands and slapping my thigh, squealing, “Come on, Teddy! Let’s go outside, buddy!” and generally acting like I’d lost my mind. How could I be so distracted? And what was I going to do if he didn’t hurry up and pee? Holy cow, I was going TO BE LATE! After much effort, I got him heading down the stairs, out the door, and into the backyard. Whoops. Wait. I went running into the backyard, slapping and squealing; Teddy made it as far as the patch of liriope on the edge of the patio before throwing himself down in the middle of it with the biggest, most satisfied grin on his face you can imagine.

ARGHHH! Teddy and I have had a discussion about the liriope before. From my vantage point, it’s part of the landscaping–something IMG_0006[1]to be looked at, not sat on. From Teddy’s vantage point, it’s really thick, fluffy grass with little, smelly-good, purple flowers–a perfect spot for a pause in the sunshine. The first time he decided to park himself there, I fussed at him, and he reluctantly moved out into the yard. Since then, I’ve generally given up the struggle and allowed the indulgence. You have to pick your battles, right? But today, as he sprawled there grinning at me as I ran crazed circles in the yard, I had an epiphany. There was more to lying in the liriope than defiant behavior or ignorance of previous discussions. He was blissfully happy. I, on the other hand, was a raving lunatic. He was enjoying the glorious summer day. I was sweating like a whore in church. Even if he did have to pee, there was liriope to lie in. What was I going on about? He could whiz later. It could wait.

Oh, for crying out loud. Scoot over and let me sit down, will you?

I’ve been thinking for the last several weeks that it’s time to do an update on Teddy, fill you in on how he’s doing. Problem is there’s so too much to tell in one posting. Several times, I’ve started writing, but I quickly become overwhelmed with the amount of information I want to share. Before long, I’m cutting, pasting, and erasing what I’ve written, staring at the screen in frustration. Then this afternoon, I got the bright idea of doing a bulleted list, just like I used to create in my old technical writing days. I’ll still not be able to tell you all the wonderful ways in which Teddy has brightened our lives in one posting, but it feels manageable this way, so here goes:

  • I’m confident saying Teddy loves Tom, me, and the rest of the regulars around here as much as we love him. He fits into our family and our lives like it was all meant to be. And it was, I have no doubt.
  • Teddy has the most expressive eyes and the sweetest little wrinkly face. He uses both to his full advantage. Knowingly. With no apologies. I’m toast.

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    Teddy vogue-ing for the camera

  • After more x-rays, discussions with his vet, and a consultation with a physical therapist, the general consensus is that Teddy’s left front leg doesn’t work properly because of damage to the brachial plexus (the network of nerves that conducts signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm, and paw) in that limb. Possibly the result of falling from a vehicle or from a high place such as a porch. The physical therapist does not recommend professional physical therapy at this time, nor does she recommend–for multiple reasons–putting Teddy in a brace (much to Tom’s dismay), but she does hold out slim hope (since we don’t know how long ago the limb was hurt) that the damaged nerves may one day start firing again. She has also suggested that we try to get him to put weight on that paw when he is standing by pulling the paw to the ground. We know the poor little guy feels pain (or at least some discomfort) in that limb because he tucks it up tightly to his torso and licks it incessantly when he hasn’t had the daily dose of  his pain med–which we withheld a couple of times on purpose to see how he, and the limb, reacted. Otherwise, he lets his left paw hang freely to the ground and occasionally uses it as a kickstand. On a happy note, Tom is beginning to have a bit of success at getting Teddy to shake with that paw.
  • Our initial assumption that Teddy’s status as a three-wheeling pup would mean no need to have a fence was wrong, wrong, wrong. We have several companies coming next week to give us an estimate.
  • Teddy does have a voice. For the first three weeks he lived here, we heard little more than a whispery “woof” on the few occasions when someone new entered the house, but all that changed after he spent time with Carey and Austin’s dog, Otis. Otis taught Teddy to voice his opinions and concerns boldly to all within earshot. Teddy’s still not what you would call a “barker,” but he’s more than happy to let you know when someone is passing in front of the house or when he’s none too happy with you for leaving him behind when everyone else is getting in the car to leave.

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    Teddy and Otis guarding the homestead

  • The ear infections Teddy had when he came to live with us are all cleared up. Finally. The vet says he’ll be prone to them thanks to the Shar Pei in his lineage. What that means for Teddy is he goes to the vet every two weeks for a bath and to have his ears irrigated. He doesn’t seem to mind either procedure all that much, but he’s none too happy about the scarf the groomer puts on him when it’s all over–especially the sissy-colored ones.
  • Probably as a result of a lifetime of untreated ear infections, Teddy is hard of hearing. Not stone deaf, but dang close. Of course, there are those occasions when I would swear his lack of response is more a matter of selective hearing than non-hearing (learned behavior from the other males in this house?), but I have no way to prove it, and he knows it.
  • Teddy loves to ride in the car, and he practically wets himself at the thought of getting to ride in the truck. His cruising stance of choice in the truck is to stand on the flat surface in the back–created when we fold down the back seats–and then to lie across the large console between the two front seats, gimpy paw in the cup holder for stability, ears flapping in the breeze created by the air conditioner. He can get into all three vehicles without help, but does need to be lifted down out of the truck. No worries, as long as the shapely, little lhaso apso across the street isn’t watching. When he rides in my car, he likes it when I keep the windows down, the stereo turned up, and my hand on the shifter, so he can use my wrist and forearm as a chin rest and drool catcher. He hates it when we come to a light and I have to shift.
  • Teddy is also quite happy to lie at my feet–actually on my feet–here in my office as I write. He’s there now, snoring and farting. Which brings me to…
  • Teddy has a very temperamental tummy. Again, because of the Shar Pei in his background, the vet warned us he would probably have a sensitive digestive tract, and he does. That would be no problem–we’re happy to feed him the salmon and rice dog food recommended by the vet–but, although Teddy ate the fish diet without complaining for the first several weeks, he grew tired of eating the same food every day and refused to eat even a nibble of the stuff after a while. He is both strong-willed and hard-headed, so, of course, I blinked first and got him some other food to eat. Oh, happy dog. A different dog food every other day. And then, because he wasn’t eating the sensitive formula dog food anymore and was doing just fine, we mistakenly reasoned that we might be able to give him…well…give him just a taste of…of bacon bits…of a little baloney and cheese…a nibble of leftover chicken…it can’t hurt. Right? Oh, man. Last night we came back after being gone for a couple of hours and knew immediately when we opened the door that something was wrong. Teddy was uncharacteristically curled up in the laundry room and the house smelled like something had died. Sure enough, the poor little guy had made a mess in our bathroom. An hour or so later, he began dancing again, and I raced him into the backyard. He was a man on a mission and went racing in front of me out into the darkness. When he got about 20 yards from the back of the house, I couldn’t see him, but I heard an explosive sound I typically associate with big burly guys who have been eating hot dogs and drinking beer all afternoon. All I could think as I raced toward him was, That poor little thing just blew his bottom off. It must have un-nerved Teddy, too, because he took off for the back of the yard as fast as his legs would carry him with me in high-speed pursuit, hoping every step of the way that I wouldn’t step in the aftermath of the explosion. After two additional middle-of-the-night excursions into the darkness (me looking lovely in my nightgown and flip flops), Teddy’s tummy seems to finally have settled and Tom and I are in complete agreement that Teddy will never again eat people food.
  • And finally, I must confirm something Marie, Teddy’s foster grandmother, told me the day I picked Teddy up from her house: Teddy is extremely modest. Given the opportunity, Teddy will go as far to the back of the yard to conduct his business as he possibly can–to the point of pooping on the neighbors fence out beyond the bog on the back property line. If he can get behind a bush or a tree, all the better. Whatever you do, don’t look. He hates that.
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Seriously, put the camera down and come feed me!

And now, I must stop, but I will tell Teddy tales again soon. I’ve got a million of ’em.

As I write, Teddy is curled at my feet, snoring and farting. Mostly snoring. He’s been doing that all day long. Clearly, he’s going to fit right into this family. His extensive exploration of the house and visit to the vet yesterday must have worn him out. Plus, I must confess, he stayed up late with me last night while I wrote. We didn’t get to bed until nearly 2 a.m. Believe me, he was none too pleased when I made him get up at 7 a.m. to go out for a wee as I took the trash out. He did it, but I got the squonk eye.

He really is an incredibly good dog. He eats when I feed him. He sits still while I brush him, and he comes when I call his name. His tail never stops wagging–when he’s awake, that is–it’s pretty lifeless when he’s snoring. When he’s awake, he’s just happy to hang out. Very low maintenance. No bounding around, no pestering, just companionable togetherness. I’m in love.

We don’t have the “I need to go out to whiz” business totally figured out yet. Mostly it’s me running back and forth to one or more doors every few hours saying, “Do you need to go outside? Do you need to go potty?” while he just looks at me. He goes when I take him out, but he as yet to initiate the process. We’ll figure it out. He probably finds the current arrangement rather entertaining for now. I’m sure I look like a dolt bolting around from door to door.

Tomorrow I have to leave him alone for a few hours, and I’m not looking forward to it. Not because I’m worried he’ll be naughty while I’m gone, but because he was clearly sad when I had to leave him for a little while yesterday afternoon. He followed me as I walked through the kitchen and out to the garage. I had to shut the door in his face! Aghhhhh! As I backed my car and my guilt out onto the street, I realized I’d forgotten something. I had no choice but to go back inside. When I opened the door, I found Teddy lying on the kitchen floor, staring at the door. Ouch. Happily, when I came back through the kitchen to leave again, he was at his water dish and stayed there as I said my goodbyes and closed the door. I crossed my fingers that he’d just go back to the living room and resume his nap. Then I tried not to think about it. When I returned a couple of hours later, he was lying on the kitchen floor, staring at the door. Oh, man. I think it’s safe to say I’ll be feeling guilty the entire time I’m gone tomorrow. But again, I’m sure we’ll get it all figured out. He’s a smart dog. It shouldn’t take him long to figure out this is a permanent gig.

Last Thursday, Carey’s sister-in-law, Jenny, sent her an email about a dog that needed a home. Bless her pointy little head, Carey promptly forwarded the email to me. Let it be known, I was actually being a good do-bee for a change, sitting at my desk writing, when the email came in.

The subject line of Carey’s email clearly read: Needs a good home… I tried to ignore it. I kept writing. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I opened the message, looked at the pictures of the dog, and then closed the email. I tried writing again. Dang it! Seriously. Dang it! Within minutes, I had the email opened back up and was printing off the pictures. Forehead smack.

Please understand. I was not looking for a dog. I cannot emphasize that point enough. Tom and I had agreed that we weren’t getting one until we had the yard fenced. Even so, I emailed Jenny, requesting the woman’s contact information and any other details she could provide. All Jenny could tell me was that he was a stray, his name was Huckleberry, and he was thought to be about seven years old. Oh, and he had a bum wheel.

I called the woman, left a message that I’d like to have more information about the dog, and then carried my cell phone around with me like one of those couriers who’s handcuffed to a briefcase full of cash. Heaven forbid I’d miss the call! What was I doing? I didn’t even want a dog!

The woman didn’t call back until that evening while I was at book club. Normally, I wouldn’t let anything interfere with the focused, in-depth discussions (translation: drinking, gossiping, and general hee-hawing) we have at book club, but in this case I made an exception. I took the call. I took notes.

Turns out the woman, who lives on the other side of the city, is a foster mom for dogs from a local animal shelter. She was able to tell me that Huckleberry (a name bestowed on him by the staff at the shelter) had been neutered the previous week and had tested negative for heartworms. Also, she said, a vet had taken x-rays of his bum left leg and had determined that he did not have any broken bones.  Good news, on one hand; however, no broken bones probably meant the limb had nerve damage. Apparently, the vets associated with the shelter discussed possible treatment options ranging from amputation to medication. Thankfully (in this particular instance), like most animal shelters, the shelter responsible for Huckleberry was strapped for cash, so they didn’t rush into a procedure like amputation. But I digress. On Thursday night, my biggest question was–in light of Huckleberry’s three-wheeledness (temporary or permanent, it made no difference)–can he do stairs? I asked because the only way out into our backyard is down a long flight of stairs off the deck or down a long flight of stairs to the basement. It’s a valid question. But why was I asking? I didn’t even want a dog. Yet. Sigh.

After the foster mom assured me she was…uhhh…confident that Huckleberry could…probably…do stairs…she thought…but then maybe she hadn’t actually seen him do stairs…I heard myself say, “So, when could we come meet him? Are  you available tomorrow night?” Again, forehead smack.

Early the next evening, Tom and I made the trek across town to the foster mom’s mother’s house where Huckleberry was holding court. What a face. After general pleasantries during which he gave us the once-over, he proceeded to lie on my foot, making it known I was more than welcome to provide head-scratching, belly-rubs, and all-around general adulation. He wasn’t rude about it. Quite the contrary. He was most polite and well-behaved. He was also just so dang cute, I couldn’t deny him whatever he wanted. I was ready to take him home. But the foster mom had told me during our initial conversation that we’d have to complete all the adoption paperwork prior to taking him, so we hadn’t come prepared to do anything more than meet him. If we wanted him, the shelter would fax us the papers which we would then fill out and fax back. Once that was all taken care of, we could pick him up. We left that evening with the intent of adoption.

By the next morning, however, we were thinking with our heads instead of our hearts. Even though Huckleberry had managed to navigate the few steps at the foster mom’s mother’s home, he wasn’t terribly sure-footed. Standing at the top of our long flight of stairs, looking down, my stomach knotted at the thought of the poor little dog trying to get down without tumbling head over tail. Tom felt the same way. Early that afternoon, the adoption application arrived by fax. We stared at it. Then I called the foster mom and told her we just didn’t think putting Huckleberry in the position of having to manage all the stairs in our home was in his best interest. She said she was disappointed, but she understood. And I know she did. Still, I had mixed feelings. Even though I hadn’t been looking for a dog when I opened the email on Thursday afternoon, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that Huckleberry belonged with us. But I also couldn’t shake the feeling that it would be incredibly selfish to torture that sweet little guy every time he needed a wee. Huge sigh.

Late Monday night, I opened my email box to find a note from the foster mom (clearly a pro at finding homes for her charges) with a video attached. A video of Huckleberry going down the stairs. Lots of stairs. I showed it to Tom. He chuckled and looked at me with that oh-for-crying-out-loud look he gets and said, “Go get him.”

Tuesday morning, I filled out the adoption application and made arrangements to drop it off at the shelter in person so I could pick up Huckleberry’s medical records and the x-ray of his leg. I called the foster mom and set up a time to pick him up. I called and made an appointment with our vet (whom I love dearly) for today, and then I ran over to Petsmart for the necessities.  Huckleberry and I were home having dinner together by 6:30. Unfortunately, Tom had to go out of town this week, so he’s missing all the fun.

Huckleberry’s first night at our house went well, as did his appointment with our vet this morning. I’m happy to report he’s a healthy little guy, most likely a mix of Shepard and Shar Pei, who only needs more meat on his bones and lots of love. Unfortunately, our vet thinks the damage to Huckleberry’s leg is permanent. Not to worry, he’s managing the stairs and has already thoroughly explored the yard, including the bog at the very back which is currently full of water. He and Tom will get along famously. I refer you to an earlier post in which Tom has his own adventures in the bog. I’ll share Huckleberry’s adventures another day.

Carey and Brian have both been over to meet Huckleberry. With any luck, Austin and Otis will make it over to meet him soon. Otis and Huckleberry are clearly cut from the same bolt of cloth. You’d be hard pressed to find two more laid-back, mellow pups. They should get along famously.

The only concerns I have with the whole business are Huckleberry’s lack of interest in treats and his name. I’ve never met a dog with less interest in doggie treats (how in the world will I bribe him?). Even more important, I don’t think he looks like a Huckleberry. I think he looks like a Teddy. The kids like the name Huckleberry or Huck and give me the squonk eye when I call him Teddy. But Tom seems to like the name and says to call him whatever I want, so I will. Meet Teddy. He’s our new dog. I love him. You will, too.

Teddy, the Three-Wheeled Wonder Dog

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