28 December, 2007

Taking Stock

It's been a long time since I've posted, and I guess it's time to take stock of where we are with all the doggy craziness. I really didn't think, back on June 13 when we met Roxie's new puppies, that we'd still be trying to sort things out at the New Year.

Roxie is still outside, most often with Haku - but she seems to want to be with us now, even when he wanders off. We moved our dogloo into the carport so that we could be sure she could stay warm enough, and she took to it right away. John brought her in the house once to meet Sally - and it was a tense and scary meeting, but didn't result in violence. Roxie backed off and asked to go outside, Sally was happy to see her go. I wish we could just bring Roxie into the pack, but it's clear that would be bad for Sally. And, of course, there's no guarantee that Roxie'd decide to stay.

Dash and Dot are well integrated into the dog pack, and have lots of fun running around with Zero, Gator and Sally. Sally lays down the law for them, and they respect her - so that seems to be just fine with everyone.

But Dash and Dot are not well integrated into the person pack. And we're having a really tough time trying to understand what to do for them. Both are on amitriptyline, Dot is also continuing with the doggy prozac. It's not clear whether or not those medicines are making any difference for them.

And of course we've been working with Vanya and Ben, the behaviorists. But things have not gone according to plan. Some of the assignments we've been given we haven't been able to follow through on, as D & D find new and creative ways to be non-cooperative. And the assignment we should be working on now, we've decided we just aren't willing to do. So, I need to confer with Vanya and come up with some kind of plan B.

The basic problem is that D & D aren't progressing fast enough in terms of letting us handle them. Vanya & Ben advocated techniques that involve putting additional pressure on the dogs - rather than the slower strategy of rewarding desirable behavior and ignoring undesirable stuff. So we had the lesson in which we leashed the pups, dragged them downstairs and then rewarded them as they began to calm down again after freaking out. D&D's reaction? Refuse to come back into the house.

Vanya's response? Have them wear leashes all the time (thus making them catchable by us). D&D's reaction - eat the leashes. Our next move, provided by Vanya? Get leashes made of chain so that they can't eat them. Haven't done that yet - and am having a hard time getting over the sense of doom I have about having dogs dragging chains around with them all day in the yard. It doesn't seem safe to me. So.

In the interim - we have been cajolling/tricking/luring D&D into the house so that we can close the door behind them, with decreasing success. When we could get them trapped, they would freak out. We were putting the leashes on them, thus freaking them out more, then trying to give them lots of treats and praise when they calmed down. Oh, and having them eat their food either out of our hands or else in their crates.

The food part has been consistent, and they're happy to eat their food either in the crate (provided nobody's lurking behind them in position to possibly shut the door of the crate on them) or from our hands. If we can get leashes on them, they're even walking with us pretty well on the leashes. It's just that they're so weirded out by being caught in the house, that we mostly don't get the chance to do anything with them other than give them handfulls of kibble.

What we're supposed to do now is (somehow) shove them into their crates and close the door; then go to a phase where they're always either in their crates or else on leashes with us. But we're convinced that the result of trying this will be:
(1) We will have to forcibly push them into their crates, which means will have to muzzle them, or else we could certainly get it - they're really frightened of getting shut up like that.
(2) Then they will either (a) destroy the crate by freaking out or (b) become completely petrified of it and refuse to ever go into it of their own accord.
So, I think that trying to follow this advice right now will just succeed in creating yet another phobia in them; crate-o-phobia. And either us or them getting hurt.

But it's not as though I have a good alternative. John came up with the idea of taking them out for a walk to the park whenever they get leashed. That way they'd always have something really good to associate with the leash. I think this is a great idea - but we haven't been able to get them into the house to test it since he came up with it.

So, I'm dreading talking to Vanya about this, and feel like we're kinda just stuck for the time being. D & D are so sweet and charming when we're not trying to do things to them - they come up to us quite willingly, they even give us kisses. But the minute we reach out to touch them or catch them to do anything, they're gone. And if I put them on chain leashes and collars (they eat the nylon ones off too, so that's another problem) all the time, I'm going to live in fear of someone accidentally getting hung up while we're at work.

And I'm not OK with the Roxie situation either. I want her to be safely in someone's home and yard - I don't want her to be out where bad things can happen to her. She seems content with it, and I don't have any way to get her to safety anyhow. So I'm still trying to ride the wave and accept that I don't have control over these things. Ugh.

04 November, 2007

And, they also meet Zero and Gator

And a few minutes later, Dash and Dot came face to face with all three of our doggies - Sally, Zero and Gator.

Again, all went well. But a few minutes after this video, Roxie came up to the fence to check on what was going on, and a fence-line scuffle ensued. Dash got a little wound on his ear, and Dash and Dot decided it was best to pair up and be more worried about Sally and Zero's intentions. Gator, with his superpowers of friendliness and cheerfulness, does not seem to elicit so much worry - but Dash and Dot are keeping their distance from him too. So, we'll have to see how things go from here. So far, no more skirmishes, but a whole lot of wariness and warning barking from D & D towards S, Z and G.

I'm very proud of our Zero, Sally and Gator - in spite of a lot of chaos, and getting barked at and growled out, they've done an exemplary job of being hospitable, friendly, and easy-going.

Dash and Dot Meet Sally

Today was a big day at the Casa de Ivens-Fountain. We decided it was time to introduce Dash and Dot to our pack - Sally, Zero and Gator. If they can all integrate themselves into a single social group, preferably without trying to kill each other, this will be good for everyone, we think.

Here was the scene during the first, and scariest, introduction. Sally meets Dash and Dot, and all seems well!

02 November, 2007

The rest of the story

A few nights ago, I spoke with Kate - the former neighbor who told me she knew Haku. And now we know a lot more about a bunch of dogs in our area, including but not limited to Haku and our own dogs Sally & Zero.

Kate used to live nearby, and she had a dog called Toby who she used to walk around the neighborhood. She met Haku's parents because the humans who owned them didn't bother to keep them fenced in a yard or anything silly like that.

It turns out that Haku's mother was a fawn-colored mixed breed dog who lived one block over from our house. She, and Haku's father, were part of a 'loose confederation' of quasi-stray dogs on that block. I shall call her 'Sugar', because we don't know what her actual name was.

Haku's father was called 'Lobo'. He was one of a pair of wolf-hybrid dogs owned by a family who lived across the street from Sugar. Lobo and his brother, we'll call him 'Ban', were in a fenced yard, but this was a technicality because they were easily able to jump the fence to come out and travel with the pack. And they apprently did so frequently.

Lobo and Sugar fell in love, and over time had at least 3 litters of pups. Haku was one of the second litter, which also included at least 2 girl pups. We'll call Haku's sisters 'Hope' and 'Faith', because I want to believe that they've survived and found good homes. As Haku and his littermates grew to adulthood, Ban began to behave weirdly with the other dogs, and towards Kate and Toby when they'd come walking by. Whereas he had previously been friendly and gregarious, now he was behaving aggressively. An aggressive, off-leash wolf-hybrid dog is not a good thing for anyone, and so Kate called Animal Control on him.

As a result of that call, Animal Control offers started patrolling the neighborhood. The pod of neighbors responsible for 'owning' this loose confederation of dogs apparently decided that the thing to do was to shut their gates and deny that the dogs were theirs, thus avoiding any culpability should the AC officers approach them.

The officers ended up not catching Lobo or Ban, but they did catch Hope and Faith. They did so using have-a-heart live traps (the same kind that Rose uses for her Animals' Crusaders work), and Haku saw it happen. He clearly learned at that early age to avoid the traps - and he learned how to flip them and get the bait out of them without he himself being trapped inside.

At some point soon afterwards, Lobo was hit and killed by a car. The rest of the 'wild' pack, including our own Haku, saw this happen. So, Haku learned to be very afraid of cars. Kate doesn't know whatever became of Ban, Sugar, or the rest of Haku's siblings.

One of the dogs who lived in the area at that time was an unspayed female mixed breed dog who was apparently huge, and looked like a big white German Shepherd. This dog was Haku's first love. Let's call her 'Eve'. Kate says that Eve was gorgeous, but also pathologically shy of humans. Haku courted her and eventually they had several litters of puppies together. But Eve was elusive, so Kate could never be sure of how many litters, and how many puppies in each litter. Kate ended up adopting one of the Haku/Eve progeny - and she still has this dog. Her name is (actually) Grace.

There is good reason to believe that our own Zero and Sally are Haku/Eve babies as well. The timing is right, they physically look like it, and they have odd pathological shyness behaviors that are just like their sister Grace's. We discovered Zero and Sally lying under a tree at the back of our property when they were seven weeks old - with no humans or dogs around. But our property is contiguous with Eve's human's land. So, Eve may well have been watching us adopt them from some safe hiding place. Haku may have been there with her.

Kate has many stories about her nearly 10 year long friendship with Haku. He is clearly devoted to her and loved her dog Toby very much - but he would never agree to go in her house or cross the fence line into her yard, no matter how often she invited him over the years. She said she's even got a picture of him staring in her front door, toes on the threshold, thinking about it. But then he walked the other way.

That's probably enough of the Kate info to pass along for one post. It was good to talk with her, and good to know that the Haku fan club is continuing to grow.

23 October, 2007

Roxie and Haku/Old Pup/Junior

Today two interesting things happened.

First, Roxie got her stitches out, and therefore no longer has to wear the cone-head. This is good - she obviously feels much better without the cone - and bad - she now is free to escape again at will. At least now if she does leave us, we know that there won't be more litters of puppies as a result.

Second, I received an email from out of the blue from a woman called Kate. Kate says that she's known and loved Haku since he was a small puppy, and she has been trying for all these years to convince him to be her dog. She calls him Junior, and she tells me that he was born in the early spring of 1998 - making him nearly 10 years old already.

Anyway, apparently Kate has been worried about Haku, who has not been around her house for the past many months (he's been at our house, of course). Kate's sister found my web page with the Haku photo, and passed that along to Kate, and Kate actually found our house and has driven by twice in an attempt to see him. We've missed her both times - but she clearly wants to discuss all matters Haku/Junior with us.

So, there's one more person we know of in the Cult o' Haku. See - it's not just us - he really is magical!

12 October, 2007

(Curly Update)

Little Curly, who's name is now 'Bubbles', has settled into the good life with a new family that are providing her lots of love, a comfy chair for daytime naps and a nice bed for nighttime sleeps, plenty of lovely kibble and even a couple of bows for her fur. Sometimes stray dog stories can be short and have very happy endings.

We love you, Bubbles!

For Roxie, things are never simple.

The good news: Roxie's tick fever re-test came back negative, and she is now officially off the puppy train for good! She got her spay this morning, and she's recovering just fine.

The bad news: She got a special, even-more-expensive-than-the-expensive-almost-spay- spay by the emergency vet who had to anesthetize her anyway in order to clean and suture her many lacerations.

Said lacerations caused at some moment between about 6pm and 10:30pm last night by some indeterminate but clearly extremely aggressive and mean other dog, who beat the bajeezus out of our poor girl. Roxie's a big strong dog, but when John saw her wandering around the house covered in blood on his return from the climbing gym, it was clear that someone else in the neighborhood must be even bigger and stronger.

So, poor Roxie, in addition to her spay sutures, has staples and sutures all over her sweet self. Including but not limited to: both ears, all four legs, and her derriere. And a really big set of stitches, plus a drain, in the giant slash on her side. And she's on antibiots and pain meds for the next two weeks; assuming we can keep her long enough for that to be done. And, at least one more vet visit to remove the drain in 10-14 days.

Haku was nowhere to be seen last night while all this was going on. I was really worried that he'd been hurt too, and then maybe was laying somewhere needing help himself. But he showed back up when we returned Roxie home from the vet this morning, clearly worried about her but not injured himself.

What could've happened out there? Dunno.

27 September, 2007

Things change

Probably because I said in my last blog post that nothing'd really changed, things changed.

The first thing that happened was that Haku brought us another dog - we're calling her Curly, and she's a very sweet little cockapoo type dog, who is now safely ensconced with Haku out by the garage. Curly will be delivered either to the humane society or to a new home soon - she needs a bath, but she's clearly the kind of dog lots of people want - cute, small, friendly and not scary at all.

By 'soon' I don't really know when I mean. Maybe a friend of ours will come out and take her home (a gift for her mom, who needs some cheering up). Or maybe we'll actually have to surrender this dog to the humane society, during their draconically limited admissions hours (9-6, but at least 7 days/week). Either way, she's going to be just fine. She deserves to have the good home that she'll find for herself.

Then, shortly after the arrival of Curly, our dog Sally started having problems. It began on a Tuesday morning at like 3am - she woke us up crying and yiping. Just lying on the bed - but yiping in a way that was clear she was serious. John stayed home with her that day - and she was yipey and stressed and clearly felt TERRIBLE. So, we called our vet and made an appointment to bring her in - Thursday morning was the soonest they could see us. In the meanwhile, our vet suggested giving her some of the Rimadyl that we had left over from Roxie's near-spay experience. That seemed to help a lot.

Thursday morning was this morning - I took Sally to her appointment, and the vet drew blood so that they could check for valley fever and tick fever, among other possible causes. Happily, Sally was feeling much better, even without any Rimadyl. So, it could've been just a muscle strain or something...at least we hope so.

We'll get some of the results of the bloodwork tomorrow or Saturday, but other tests will take longer; so it'll be maybe a couple of weeks before we have a complete picture of what's up with Sally. And, while we were there I was chatting with the vet about Roxie's situation.

Roxie is a few days away from being done with her antibiotic for her tick fever. I was under the impression that we could make an appointment for her to be re-tested, and possibly schedule her spay for very soon after that. But, our vet told us, the special, accurate tick fever test she'll have to have can take 20-30 days to come back. So, it could be another month after she's done with the antibiots before the spay can come - and that's if they worked! Otherwise, longer.

And I learned how to tell if a dog is in heat, and I can now safely report that Roxie is, in fact, in heat. She's visiting Haku often, and so, well, there you have it.
We're hoping for the best w.r.t. spay before pregnancy still, but with the possibly extra month or more of waiting, it seems very unlikely. AND our vet said 'well, you don't want to have puppies that were conceived when the mom is on doxycycline, either...'. This was followed by a facial expression that one might expect from someone who'd just sniffed poo or something icky. I'm guessing, but did not ask for confirmation of the guess, that if Roxie gets pregnant while on the antibiotics, there's a strong possibility of pups with birth defects. But, of course, we'll do our best to be sure there's no pups at all...

...but, of course, that'll be up to the universe more than it'll be up to us.

23 September, 2007

Brother and sister, night and day

In the weeks since my last post, not much has changed - but the routine has solidified. Each morning and evening, after we feed Zero, Sally & Gator, we send those guys outside and open up the door to the dog room so that Roxie, Dash and Dot can come in and eat. Well, about half the time we have to call Roxie in from the front door, due to her continuing escapes, but that's kinda part of the routine too.

Roxie rockets in, and love-pummels any human in range before settling in to eat her meal. Dash and Dot trot down the stairs, Dash being very careful that noone's behind him who might close the door and prevent him from having a clear means of escape if needed. They follow us to the kitchen while we prepare their peanut butter spoon treats (with or without hidden pills as the dosing guidelines require). Dash and Dot will follow you anywhere if you have a spoonful of peanut butter for them to lick.

Then, there's a lot of dog munching of kibble - Dash participating iff there's a clear escape route and nothing weird is happening. The other night he got fixated by a scene from Survivor: China which was randomly on the telly while dinner was being served, but mostly he just stays hypervigilant.

Then, at some point, Dot decides to play. She climbs up on the couch, or the chair or the loveseat - whichever there's more room on, and starts chewing on the blanket or pillow nearest to her nose. That's the humans' cue that they're allowed to pet her. You can sit down next to her on the couch and pet her a lot, especially if some of the petting involves tummy rubbing. She still shies away if she's just walking around and you reach for her - but playtime is petting time and she's ok with pretty much anything then.

So, clearly the Prozac is working for our little girl dog. But Dash has shown virtually no change yet. Poor puppy. He's such a sweetheart, I think maybe the most loving and gentle of the bunch. But he's still really scared. I don't know whether this means that the Prozac experiment is a bust for Dashie or if there's still hope it'll kick in in time...but I hope something will change for him soon. We need to give him some pets and kisses!

09 September, 2007

On being able to touch Dash and Dot

We are a bit more than 2 weeks into our Dash and Dot socialization project, complete with the Prozac and the coming inside to eat and all. They are now very willing to come downstairs into the main part of the house, so long as it's clear that their escape route is clear. They're eating from bowls on the living room floor, and they've even learned how fun it is to lick peanut butter off a spoon. A spoonful of peanut butter is a great place to hide a pill, so this is a very good thing. I think they may even be willing to approach a stranger, should that stranger have a spoonful of peanut butter on him/her. Or just be smeared with peanut butter.

The hard part is going back upstairs after the meals. Roxie doesn't want to go back up there, she clearly wants to stay downstairs and join the family. She's even learned to jump up on the couch and curl up as if she's always been a couch dog. So, we have to make it look like lots of fun to go back into the room, and then we need to stay with her up there for a while and give her a belly scritch.

Yesterday, while I was dutifully scritching the Roxie belly post-prandially, Dash and Dot decided to get into the fray by licking Roxie's face and generally enjoying a good tussle. So, I just reached over from Roxie's belly to Dottie's, fully expecting D to panic and stand up to shake it off. But she didn't. She let me pet her tummy, and her neck and her ears - pretty soon everyone else had walked away and I was still petting her. It took a while, but eventually she decided that this was weird, and she should leave. But it felt like a kind of a breakthrough.

And then this morning, I had sneakily put up the puppy gate in the hallway (thus blocking their escape route) while D&D (and Roxie) were still licking their peanut butter spoons. Dash and Dot got scared, and I just sat with my back at the gate and acted bored so that they would calm down and eat their kibble. John was sitting on the couch acting bored, and Roxie climbed up there with him, and also acted bored.

Dash and Dot were pretty fixated on trying to peer over the gate and stuff, so while they were distracted I took the opportunity to pet Dottie's chest and neck; she didn't even seem to notice. Dash was right there too - he let me pet him as well. As long as they were concentrating on something else, they didn't seem to mind.

So, we still have to be sneaky about it, but technically we're now able to actually touch them. Which is really good - and as the Prozac begins to kick in over the next week or so, maybe we'll start seeing more progress!

Meanwhile, Roxie's been in and out of the yard quite a bit - but she's always been around when I call her to get her tick fever medicine. And we were able to get her back to the vet to get her sutures removed from her near-spay experience. She's hanging out with Haku when she's outside, so I'll be shocked if she's not pregnant by the time we can get to the actual spay - but at least we're able to get her medicine to her on schedule, and she still thinks she's our dog.

She's a very, very, very lovable girl.

31 August, 2007

To spay, or not to spay?

So many things have happened in the last few days! The first was this:

Roxie found a new way to escape the yard, and decided to use it regularly.

How is she escaping? It is a mystery! It started on Wednesday (two days ago), and I have not been able to figure out how to stop her. Luckily, when she escapes she typically meets me at the front door and is happy to come back inside.

But she also goes to visit Haku, her sweetheart. Haku is uncatchable, and, therefore, unneutered.

So, we thought it would be prudent to move up her spay appointment. She went in for her spay this morning, and when I left her at the vet's I thought "Ok, one more step in the right direction, complete!". I actually felt relieved and hopeful. But, that was a big mistake on my part. Because...

The vet was unable to proceed with the spay. Why?

Roxie has tick fever. Tick fever is treatable via antibiotics, but it reduces the dog's ability to form blood clots. So, surgery is not an option - she would bleed to death. It'll be at least a month before she may be able to undergo her surgery (assuming the antibiots work, and nothing else weird comes up).

So. The problem now is this:

We have an unspayable female dog who may be coming into heat right about now, and who is leaving our yard on a nightly basis to hang out with her boyfriend. And we have no way to prevent her from doing so for at least another month.

Hmmm. So, you ask, how soon after giving birth can a dog get pregnant again?

(Oh, and I do use 'dog' for both males and females, because female dogs are NOT bitches).

Pretty much as soon as they're done nursing, it turns out, they can get pregnant. A female dog can produce as many as 4 litters of puppies per year. Roxie started in January with litter 1, waited for June for litter 2, but perhaps could be prepping for litter 3 before she can undergo her spay.

Additionally, as school has started again and we have had less time to spend with all this legion of dogs, it is clear that Roxie is less pleased with her situation at our house. So, her desire to leave is growing, which I guess I can't blame her for.

Mary Ellen, after listening to me whine about this situation, observed that this could be one of those things that is simply out of one's control, and so one has to learn to do what one can, and let go of the rest. I think she's right.

28 August, 2007

One week anniversary

Today is our one week anniversary of being officially small-puppy free. Pan must've settled in to his new home, as I've heard nothing more from his new mom. So he's now situated somewhere across town, and Iorek is in the next neighborhood over from us. So close and yet so far.

Since my last post we've met once more with the behaviorists, and have instructions to work on getting Dash and Dot to feel comfortable coming into the house. We're moving their food dishes each day so that they're closer to coming into the hallway from the puppy room, and we will slowly move the food downstairs into the living room area. Once they're OK with being in the living room, with the people ignoring them, we'll be ready for our first lesson.

Roxie and I have been having our morning walks each day, first thing. She's so good to walk with - she never pulls on the leash, and she's so pleased to be out and about! Plus, also, Haku comes with us most days. He drops back behind us for a while, then comes racing up past us; he disappears when other people or cars show up, and then reappears when it's safe. He seems to really enjoy coming along with us - I think it's because that's his only time with his girlfriend, whom he loves as much as I do.

Roxie has her appointment for her spay a week from Friday, and then we'll have to start in earnest focusing on finding a permanent home for her. She's such a good girl, I think it won't be too hard to find someone who'll love her (especially if we get to put her photo on petfinder, and participate in Petsmart adoption events with Animals' Crusaders, as Rose has said we could). It'll be harder than it was to find homes for the puppies, of course. And it'll be more difficult for me because Roxie and I have gone through so much together, and I had to win her trust. And I know she'll be nervous about going to someone else's house and being their dog (though I also know she'll bond with the right person pretty quickly).

This is all happening as the semester's started, and I've been trying to settle in to some kind of reasonable work schedule. I think that's starting to happen, and this has the makings of a really great semester, if I can concentrate on the right things, and stop worrying so much over the stuff I can't control.

Hah! Wouldn't that be great?

21 August, 2007

Adopted? Or not...

This morning I met with a young woman who had been corresponding with me for days about adopting Pan. She came to visit him, met Roxie as well, and seemed to be perfect. She has a dog of her own (a 3 year old beagle) who needs a pal, and she clearly was enamoured with Pan based on his photos and such.

So we had a nice visit, and at the end of it I handed her my sweet puppy and let her drive away with him. I thought that I could get on with the business of grieving over losing him (so selfish, I know, but inevitable) and go forward to the next step in this whole doggie drama.

But within a few hours she had called me back, clearly panicking, saying that her dog was terrified of Pan, and could she bring him back. She called twice, each time I told her that of course he could come back if she needed, but that it may take any dog some time to get used to having a new friend around, and patience may be all that's needed.

So, I don't know whether I'm going home tonight to an evening of grieving or an reunion followed by more worry about finding a place for Pan soon, so that he can avoid the worst of the doggy separation trauma. I don't even know which I really want it to be. Ugh.

20 August, 2007

Dog Whisperers

There's been a lot going on with the dogs, and I've not kept up on the blogging of all possible details (ack!), so I figured I'd take the last 20 minutes before teaching my first class of Fall term to listen to some iTunes and catch up a bit on the blog. That's better than obsessing about all the things that can go wrong in a mass lecture of 500+ people, right?

When we took Pan and Iorek for their vet visit, we chatted the doc. up about various worries and issues we had with all the different doggies. She recommended a local behaviorist, Vanya Moreno, who runs a business called animal magnetism, and I called her up and scheduled a consultation.

Vanya arrived with a colleague, Ben, who has lots of experience with feral dog issues, and they met all the various dogs/puppies and saw the situation at home. They advised us to not try to integrate the Roxie pack into the Zero/Sally/Gator pack unless we were planning on adopting Roxie for real (I so wish we could!), and they very strongly advised us that if Pan and Iorek weren't adopted out soon we would have to start separating them from each other, and from their mom. They are at the phase of puppy development where this separation stuff can be done most gracefully - if we were to wait, the separation would be much more traumatic for them when it finally came. (Since that day, it looks like we've solved that problem - Iorek's at his new home, and we have a couple lines on new families for Pan. Gasp. Sob.)

With regard to Dash and Dot, they told us that feral dogs tend to get less social with humans over time, rather than moreso, unless a person intervenes fairly dramatically. Whatever we do about them, it's going to be a long and labor-intensive process to get them to the point where we can handle them normally (like, to be able to get them to the vet, and have them not be a hazard to themselves and others should we need to handle them). They won't be adoptable for a long time - if they ever get there, and we might as well just figure that they're our dogs. Which is hard - it's good because we're totally in love with them, but bad because that means we end up with a minimum of 5 dogs, and we really are better as a 3 dog family. So.

We're going to work with these guys on an 8 week regimen, which starts this Friday. It involves giving D&D certain mood-altering chemicals that are often also prescribed for humans, so that they can stay calm while we work with them. It will also involve crate-training them, which is going to be super-hard for me to do. Everyone who knows about dogs says crate-training is great; I've just never done it, and it feels icky to think I'm going to stick D & D in separate boxes from each other. They get so much comfort from having each other around...but that's exactly the problem. As long as they turn to each other for their primary comfort and support, they'll not be able to (a) calm themselves should one or the other have to go away for any length of time, or (b) understand that they can get comfort from humans. Namely, us.

Since that day, Rose from Animals' Crusaders also came by and gave Dash and Dot their booster shots, so they are officially parvo/distemper vaccinated (also, rabies, of course - that doesn't need a 3 week booster). She has such a great way of working with them, which is drug-free, and which I'd like to try to emulate as much as I can. She gets a slip-leash on them, then lets them relax for a bit, then she is able to put on a muzzle, and then comes the lots of petting and scratching and sweet-talking. If I could do that once per day over the next few weeks, I'll bet it'd go a long ways towards getting them to stop being so afraid of me. Rose has no PhD in animal behavior, but she does have 25 years of experience catching and gentling feral dogs. And she has the love for them, which is such a great thing.

OK, that took longer than 20 mins, and I had to break off to go teach class. But I'm glad I took the mental break. The 500+ were well-behaved and attentive, so all is well for now.

But I really wish I were hugging a puppy!

19 August, 2007

Iorek has a new home

Well, it has happened. We found a new home for little Iorek - with a young couple who live not far from here and who've just bought their first home. Chris, the dude, was looking for a yellow lab type dog, and came to see Iorek. We brought Pan down as well, and he immediately (and properly, of course) fell in love with both of them. He tried to talk his wife into letting him bring both puppies home, but to no avail - this made me like him more, though, that he realized that Pan was as lovable, and as much of a treasure as Iorek is.

Chris picked Iorek up and took him home about a half hour ago, saying that he had a buddy who he was going to tell about Pan, and he was hoping that he could get his friend to adopt Pan too. There have been a couple of other people answering our ad in the paper, so hopefully Pan will find his new home soon also.

John and I have very mixed feelings - we're really pleased that Iorek's got a good home with someone nice, and we are glad to have N - 1 dog problems left to resolve. But we're going to miss our little Iorek very much, and never ever forget him.

14 August, 2007

What we've learned about Roxie

Roxie had her wellness check at the vet this morning - she got her vaccinations, and we talked about when to schedule her spay (answer - in three weeks, when her booster shots are due). Here's what we learned:

  • She's 60 pounds, not 40 pounds, as I had guestimated

  • She's likely 2-3 years old, rather than 1.5-2 years, as I had guessed

  • She's immediately, totally, lovable to anyone who meets her

Actually, we already knew that third thing, but it's nice to have it confirmed.

Tomorrow, we shall learn more. I've hired an animal behaviorist to come out and consult with us about how best to manage all these dogs when I have to be back at work full-time, and so can't have the current dog-segregation scheme anymore (it crucially depends on one of us being home if it's too hot or stormy for dogs to be stuck outside w/o adequate shelter). We shall decide whether the thing to do will be to try integrating the current two dog pods into one, or trying to come up with a way for Sally, Zero and Gator to be crate trained or something so that they can be in the house while we're away. Pan and Iorek have gotten much less nippy since John and I have started enforcing rules with them - I'm anxious for the behaviorist to meet everyone and let us know what she thinks are the issues and solutions.

And, this afternoon something really nice happened. Dottie let me pet her. Kinda. I was able to hold her paw, stroke her nose, and put my hand on her back without having her panic and skitter away. I've told her that one day soon I expect to be able to hug her and kiss her head. She's still skeptical of that, but we are one step closer!

09 August, 2007

First Veterinarian Visit

Pan and Iorek had their first real vet visit (we don't count the emergency vet visit when they were 2 days old - we try to put that out of our minds) one day after their 8 weeks birthday. Here are some things that we learned...

  • Iorek weighs in at 15.6 pounds; Pan is 14.4. This implies that they are going to be very very large dogs when they get done growing! For comparison purposes, Zero was 8.8 pounds at that age; Sally was 6.6. They are now 113 pounds and 65 pounds, respectively. BUT Zero and Sally were not well cared for and nourished during those first 8 weeks of life, as we only discovered them at 7 weeks. So they almost certainly would've been bigger earlier if their first months had been different.

  • Frontline, the tick control medicine we planned to give them anyway (ticks are endemic to our area, and you just have to treat your dogs for them) has also recently been certified as a treatment for sarcoptic mange. Which they show no clinical signs of, but which they have been exposed to. So, yay! Preventing the mange is easy as can be!

  • Our vet encouraged us to work on asserting dominance with them, as both are going to be so big, and both showed signs that they may want to assert their dominance over us. Problem is, it's very cute when they do it now. Dang it.

  • Although I had read that neuter surgeries can happen as young as 8 weeks, our vet recommends not doing that until 4-6 months of age. She suspects that very early spay/neuter may be associated with urinary problems later in life.

  • Little Pan's boy bits have both descended beautifully, but Iorek has one descended and one undescended item. This could complicate a neuter surgery, if the other item doesn't drop to where it ought to be. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, you don't probably want to know.

This was also their first time on leashes, first time riding in the car, etc. They did great and got their little vaccinations and are all set. We left one of our 'adoptable dogs' fliers at the vet's office to post, and she said she'd recommend us to clients who are good dog parents and who might want to adopt a dog, but not to any of the scary clients who are not. She's a great vet...(Dr. Sherry Johns, Sonora Animal Hospital).

Another set of milestones in the puppification process, complete. Check!

07 August, 2007

Evil Adoption Scams

I posted classified ads about Roxie and the pups at Petfinder.com, recently, even though they've made it so that normal humans (non-shelter groups) can only post in this sad little area under 'classified ads' > 'adoptable pets (not in shelters)', where you can't post photos, and your ad is not findable using the main search tool. I knew it was a long shot that this'd work, and I collected info on how to screen out evil people who want to adopt your pet for nefarious purposes, just in case I got any nibbles from the ads.

What I've learned is that it's not at all hard to tell when you're getting an inquiry from a certain kind of evildoer - because I started getting occasional emails that read like this:

"Hello seller. How are you today,my name is CLIENTON JOHNSON. I browse across your dog which i am interested in buying your dog and i will like to know the asking price and the condition of it. So I would like to hear from you if you still have it for sale with your final asking price Thanks. Best Regards."

All come from free e-mail accounts, all contain lots of spelling/grammatical errors (esp. weird capitalization), and all give off this CREEPY vibe of 'I am a robo-adoptron and I want to purchase your pet'. Some of them don't even refer to the 'pet' as a dog or cat or whatever - they just use the generic word 'pet', and ask for things like 'the dimensions of your pet'. UGH!

I've logged one or two of them into scambusters.com, but haven't found anyone else reporting this particular kind of scam. I don't know what these people would do if I actually responded to their emails - but I am certain it'd be nothing good.

Evil by email, baby.

06 August, 2007


Monday afternoon, I come home from work, and head out to visit the pups and make sure everyone's OK. Of course our dogs (Zero, Sally and Gator) are here, and muddily frolicking away. In the back, I find Roxie, Dash, Pan and Iorek - but can't find Dot. I scan the perimeter, and see two areas where it looks like someone has dug under our fence back there. Ack. I call Dottie, and nobody answers. Weirdly, the areas of digging are under the fence that separates our back yard from our neighbor Bill's. So, if someone dug under, they should still be in (ack ack) Bill's yard. Perhaps playing with his dog, Little Girl.

After a few minutes of panic, I see a little black nose emerge from the doggie door. Dottie's in the puppy room! All dogs are accounted for, and I immediately feel relieved. I start piling rocks in the areas where there was digging, but I think to myself 'now I know - she's decided to stay'.

Then, John comes home from work, and I take him out to show him the areas of digging, and tell him the (I think) happy story. But Bill comes over to the fence and says 'your dog was in my yard, you know'. Dang. It turns out that the dog Bill saw in his yard wasn't Dottie - it was ROXIE. And when he caught her in there, she ran home by climbing up and over the chain link fence, like a cat. It was at that time that I noticed that Roxie's nose was all scratched up - don't know how that happened. I suspect that she entered Bill's yard by digging under the fence, but decided that digging back would take too long once she'd been discovered.

Bill has a little granddaughter who spends time at his house, and he was (rightfully) concerned that some strange dog was back there, without his knowledge, when she might have gone out to play. We apologized, and chatted about how we might prevent her from doing that - we're really lucky that our neighbors here are nice and understanding people. We assured him that we didn't intend to let any of our dogs into his yard, and we'd work to make sure it didn't happen again - he was very graceful about it.

But, we also agreed that it's going to be really hard to figure out how to prevent Roxie from climbing the fence if she's determined to do it. Hopefully, getting chased home was traumatic enough that it's convinced her not to go back over there. If not, we may have to take drastic measures to secure the yard. Ugh.

But for now, everyone seems to be back where they belong. I sure do wish we were having more luck placing these dogs - we really aren't equipped to take care of this many dogs for this long...

02 August, 2007

A Good Morning [def]:

I have developed as of today a new definition for what counts as a good morning. It's one where the following conditions hold true:

  1. There are the same number of dogs in your yard when you wake up as there were when you went to sleep.

  2. There exists no dog in any kind of trap or crate at the end of your carport, or anywhere else.

  3. You do not have to try to catch or trap any dog or vet any dog who is terrified of being handled.

  4. Your sweetie is just as invested in this whole dog rescue thing as you, to the extent that he gets up extra early to do dog feedings and wellness checks in spite of that he's got an actual work schedule to deal with.

  5. You have an excuse to share lots of dog-related photos and anecdotes with your friends, who tolerate your dog obsession as though it's not at all pathological, and as if they're not completely bored of dog stories.

By this standard, this was an excellent morning! Thanks Itchy, Colleen, Diane, Mike, Mary Ellen, Patep, Alina, Marian, Adam, Shannon, Jennifer, Jian, and everyone else who's listened so patiently and been so supportive over these weeks! xoxoxo

01 August, 2007

Amazing Coincidences

Dash came home from the vet this morning, and Dottie stayed in the yard last night. We're really hoping they decide to stay for good rather than finding ways to escape from the yard, and we're happy and relieved that they both seem to be doing well. They'll accept treats from our hands, and while Dash is still stand-offish, he and Dot both seem to want to approach us and, maybe someday, play or be petted. At the moment, Roxie, Dash, Dot, Pan and Iorek are all outside playing together - very sweet. Zero, Sally and Gator are in the house with me, being hyper-alert to all sounds from the outside. This is stressful for Z, S & G - but they're handling it well.

But the coolest thing happened when we went to pick up Dash this morning. We were talking with Rose, who turns out to be the president of Animals' Crusaders, as well as a vet tech for Santa Cruz Vet Clinic, as we were trying to get Dash to go into his crate for his ride home. I mentioned that Dash and Dot's dad, Haku, was still hanging around our place, and did my usual 'Haku is the most amazing dog' speech. Rose then related a story about a dog who she's in love with, and has been trying to catch for years, but who has defeated all her efforts to trap him. 'In 20 years of trapping dogs, he's the only one I haven't been able to get', she said. I said that we were hesitant to try to catch Haku because of his size, and the fact that he trusts us and is doing so well on his own, and then I said something like 'Dash has his pappa's paws'. Rose looked at Dash's feet, and asked 'are you talking about a big lanky red dog, with one ear up and one ear floppy?' - it turns out that her uncatchable dream dog is, in fact, Haku - and she lives down the road and around the corner from us. Both of us have apparently been telling him for years that he could come in at any time, and he'd have a great home - and he's spurned us both.

Rose has known Haku for longer than we have (she calls him 'Old Pup'), and she actually knew a lady who was feeding him when he was a puppy. So we now know his age (about 7 years) and his provinence...he was abandoned when he was little by some people in a trailer park nearby who moved away and left him behind. She showed me a new trap she'd bought - it's HUGE - just to see if she could catch him and get him neutered and vaccinated. She again volunteered to come to our house to give the pups (D&D as well as P&I), and Roxie, their anti-mange shots in two weeks - and after thanking her for that, I said she could bring the trap if she wanted and we could try to catch him together. She'd bring him in for his neuter and shots, and release him back to where he is - hopefully to stay at our house or hers of his own volition for another 7 years.

Amazing. She's also volunteered to let us post pictures & bios of our adoptable dogs on the Animals' Crusaders website, which is connected to the proper petfinder.com search engine and allows the posting of photos. Then she said 'Animals' Crusaders is going to pick up part of your bill', and we ended up paying only 1/2 of what we really owed. So, I will be contributing regularly to AC for the foreseeable future. And we now have a Haku/Old Pup fan club.

31 July, 2007

On sleeping in the carport in Tucson

Just since it seems to be the subject of some comment - sleeping outdoors at this time is very pleasant, temperature-wise. Cooling breezes, and post-monsoonal temperature decreases, as well as a nearly full moon, made that part lovely. However, Patep is correct that one worries about the creepy crawlies (ants, mostly) a bit, less so than the snakes (since snakes will be snoozing at night, and too cool to really slither around much looking for a bite). The carport is perhaps not as pleasant as other outdoor locales would be - but it's not too bad, especially if there's a puppy nearby.

Also, John Ivens offered repeatedly to take carport duty, but I declined. Just for the record...

Dottie's Home from the Vet

We picked up Dot at the vet's this morning - and deposited Dash. Dot did fine - she's got a collar on now, and she's got to be awfully hungry, but she seems OK. She got her spay, her vaccinations, and her first round of treatment for sarcopic mange, a parasitic skin infection that is, unfortunately, highly contagious. But it is also, fortunately, readily curable. Treatment requires a set of three injections, two weeks apart, and this will be required for at least Dot and Dash, and probably Roxie and the puppies too, since they're in contact with Dottie now that she's back from the vet. And maybe Sally, Zero and Gator. Potentially, the little bugs can also get on people, but apparently if they do they don't last long, and just make one a bit itchy. They prefer to live on dogs.

The hitch with that whole plan is that we may not be able to actually manage D&D well enough to bring them to the vet for these follow-up injections, or maybe not even to catch them in the yard (though we will be working on that dutifully in the coming weeks). The lovely Rose from Animals' Crusaders has already volunteered to come out to the house to give them their injections, if needed. She's very cool.

It was quite the deal to see her handling Dottie - she had to take Dot out of the trap, carry her over to her kennel and put her in. This is not as simple as it sounds when you consider that the dog you're trying to move has never actually been touched by humans before, and is going to turn into a kind of canine Tasmanian devil on you as soon as she feels really cornered. So there was a thick blanket, lots of patience and some tugging/flipping out before it all came together. When Dot realized that she was going to get carried no matter what, she went totally limp - just like what they tell protesters to do so it'll take more cops to drag you into the paddy wagon. Her head seemed to weigh 100lbs, and she was a complete rag doll.

Poor baby. But she got her necessary medical care, a life free from unwanted pregnancy, some absorbable sutures, and no bucket head...so it's not all bad. Hopefully she'll rest and heal without additional complications. And she got to come back and be with her little brothers and her mommy - and I think that's really good for her. She surprised me this morning by actually approaching me a couple of times as I sat out in the yard with her for a while to see that she could get settled in. I figured she'd be thinking of me as satan after this whole ordeal.

Now, will she stay in the yard, or will she escape again? What will happen with her brother at the vet's today? Who can tell? Who can predict? Not I.

30 July, 2007

Dash, Dot and Dog Traps

The last three days have involved a lot of interaction with dog traps, as it turns out.

We hired a local company to help us trap Dot, and the only way they would do it was to come on Saturday morning and set the trap. They did so, and she walked in and tripped the gate mechanism within about 20 minutes. So, she was trapped. And stuck in that trap until Monday morning when we could take her to the vet for her spay.

Meanwhile, Dash was enjoying himself in the yard with his mom and little brothers. They all get along very well, and are very cute together. But he's not at all willing to let humans touch him, so we had been worried about how we were going to be able to catch him and get him to the vet on Monday with his sister.

So, this weekend was spent mostly out in the carport with Dottie in her trap, sitting with her, talking to her, and sleeping with her so that she wouldn't panic. She seemed to be most afraid of being alone, and having someone out there with her calmed her right down. We gave her treats, which she mostly ignored, and ice cubes - which she loved. The first thing she had done when she was caught was to destroy the two plastic bowls that were in the trap - and we couldn't get anything as big as a bowl in to her without risking her escape. So, it was a mess. I slept out there with her both nights - sleeping on the driveway is uncomfortable, even with the little mats I had to sleep on, but it was better than having Dottie crying all night long and even more traumatized.

At long last, Monday morning arrived. I tried to think positive, happy thoughts of success in terms of catching Dash, but that was to no avail. So, we had to take Dottie in and tell them that we weren't able to get our hands on Dash.

Luckily, the lady at the vet who has been helping us (she's a volunteer for Animals' Crusaders in Tucson, the only rescue group who cares about feral dogs, I think), once again came through. She had a trap she loaned us, so that we could set it out in the back yard for Dash, and she moved his appointment to Tuesday morning.

John and I set the trap with bait=hot dogs (argh - had to buy hot dogs at the supermarket! ugh!), and then left Dash alone in the yard with it. Since we had tried to catch him in various ways earlier this morning, he wasn't going to have anything to do with us - and he wasn't going to come near any weird trap-looking thing, at least as long as we were around. So, John left and I went inside and waited.

Two hours later, I heard the 'clunk' of the gate closing in the trap, and went out to the yard to find Dash sitting in there, wondering what the heck he'd gotten himself into. John was able to come home over the lunch hour so we could move Dash in his trap to the carport, where it's cooler and sheltered from any rain we might have.

So, we again have a dog in a box in the carport, one more night. It's good, but I was so looking forward to being done with this whole trapped, panicky, puppy gig! And it turns out that Dot has sarcoptic mange - which is curable with treatment, but is infectious...so we'll see how Dash and everyone else does. We may have to end up treating a lot of dogs for mange, since we don't have a way to separate Dot away from everyone else, given that Roxie and her pups are already segregated from Zero, Sally and Gator. We've maxed out on our ability to segregate dogs.

The big question that neither John nor I know how to answer is this: what happens to Dash and Dot in the long run? We haven't been able to come close to finding homes for the eminently adoptable Roxie, Pan and Iorek - and D&D are not at all close to being adoptable in any reasonable sense. They may never be. There is no room at the Animals' Crusaders shelter, and no other shelter takes ferals; several animal rescue types have told us that they'd recommend killing D&D, because they're not going to be placeable. We've taken that option off the table - but we don't have a workable option to substitute it with. Yet.

27 July, 2007

Dash and Dot Saga

Yesterday morning, something surprising happened. I was (as I had been doing every morning) walking Roxie out to where Haku, Dash and Dot were hanging out, in order to try to lure them back into the yard with us. Well, this time Dash followed us back into the yard, and found a tug toy there that he liked. He picked it up, and took it out to share with Dot. Before I knew it, he had tugged Dot into the yard with the tug toy! So I simply closed the gate behind them, and, voila! Two more dogs safely in our custody. Or so I hoped.

I had been talking with a representative of the group Animal Crusaders (the ONLY group in Tucson who will do ANYTHING to help feral dogs...which will be the subject of some later rant, I think) about trapping Dash and Dot; we'd made the appointment with the only Vet in town who'll work on feral dogs to have Dash and Dot neutered/spayed, get their shots, and get them a general health check. That appointment is Monday morning - D & D tugged each other into our yard on the preceding Thursday. So, I called up my contact with AC and said 'no need for traps, as it turns out'. They did loan me a giant dog carrier which we are supposed to use to transport D&D to the vet Monday morning. They are very very very good people.

Poor Haku was left alone out there, which broke my heart. I've told him repeatedly that he can come in any time he wants - and I hope he understands what's going on. I think he keeps bringing us dogs because he knows we'll help them - and he's always got his paws full trying to look after the neighborhood strays. He's been doing that for years, apparently. I spoke to a neighbor who walks his dog past our house each morning, and he said he can't recall when Haku first showed up, but it's been a very long time that he's been around.

Anyway, we got through the day on Thursday all right - Dash and Dot and Roxie love each other dearly, and Roxie was so happy to have her big pups with her in the yard. They also did just fine with little Pan and Iorek - who are now exploring the yard freely during the day. D&D still won't let us touch them, but in every other way they're very companionable.

The problem came this morning. I went out to check on Haku, and Dot was with him. She had dug her way out under the fence sometime during the night. So, now we're back to a trap plan for Monday - if I can get a hold of my AC contact. Else, we may have to call a commercial firm (there are a couple) who humanely trap & remove 'nuisance' animals. In the meanwhile, Dash *seems* to have decided to stay in the yard with us. But if he decides he wants to go, I'm sure he'll find his own way out.

At this point, I'm philosophical about all this. I figure that Dash and Dot and Haku will have to decide what they want - and, as with all dogs, if they want to escape badly enough, we won't be able to keep them. Our door is open to them, and we'll always do our best to help. But we can't control everything, and that's probably right and proper that we can't.

I also got some words of wisdom from my friends Itchy and Diane. Itchy, who is dissertating in clinical psychology advised that in times of stress one should 'try to breathe fully and calmly, and stay in the moment'. Diane, who has been getting more positive coaching from song lyrics than I had (yet another life skill that I admire in Diane but don't have much of myself) told me about a lyric that said something like 'you are where you are supposed to be'...well, it was better than that, but I don't remember it exactly.

Staying in the moment, breathing fully and calmly, and appreciating where I am right now...that is my stratagem at this time.

25 July, 2007

Mini-psychoses? Or just maudlin?

One danger of being an emotional basketcase due to this whole dog-fostering thing is that a person might just be having kind of mini-psychotic breaks in which she feels that various things out there in the world are talking to her. In particular, iTunes. In particular particular, song lyrics.

As I'm listening to my iTunes 'five star' playlist of my current favorite tunes, my attention keeps being caught by song lyrics that seem to be directed at me and my feelings toward Roxie and the puppies. For example:

Willie Nelson, from the song 'Will you remember mine':
I have sat 'neath the trees while the cool summer breeze
blew away the sands of time
and thought of days when you were there,
remembering when you were mine.'
Gone are the times that I held you,
held your hand in mine
now when you hold another's hand,
will you remember mine?

(NOTE: I do realize that puppies don't have hands. But 'paws' doesn't work so well in a song lyric, I think. )

The Reindeer Section, from the song 'Budapest':
His little hand round my thumb
Makes me warm and numb
I hold my breath and smile
and hope it stays for a while

The Field Mice, from the song 'Willow':
Don't you
Go thinking
I never did
Love you

There are more. But I shouldn't obsess about this - right?

23 July, 2007

The other part of fostering ...

One of the reasons I feel so drained after today is that today is the day that I sent out the 'adoptable puppies' message to as many listservs and friends as I could think of. And we've had two people so far express an interest in adopting a puppy.

Which makes real to me the fact that we're going to have to give these puppies up. Which is the right thing to do, and what we both agree we HAVE to do. But it's going to be so hard. We are just not emotionally equipped to give dogs up - it goes against everything we feel we want to do. So, the next few weeks are going to be full of tears as well as delights.


Notes on puppy fostering during monsoons

So, today has been quite a day. Since the last post, the puppies have been growing cuter and bigger and more playful and interactive by the hour, it seems. This is good - but it also brings the possibility of trouble, because they can get into things they shouldn't, and get out of things they should stay in. Like as of today, both Pan and Iorek know how to get out of the dog door. But neither knows how to get back in.

For a long time, Iorek has had this ability - and we've had to keep the pups shut up in their puppy pen at night to make sure he doesn't get out and get stuck. There are owls and hawks who might be able to take a puppy his size, and there's cactus and various other scary stuff out there.

Well, with the monsoons it's nicer during the days - especially mornings and evenings - and these puppies are starting to want to explore more. So we may have to just start shutting them in the pen unless we're there to monitor them. Which will be hard, because they still want to nurse sometimes, and we're not going to lock Roxie in the pen with them. That wouldn't be fair to her. On the other hand, it might help them to figure out that they can stop nursing, and they'll be fine. They're awfully toothy for poor Roxie at this point. But we don't want them to be traumatized by being forced to stop nursing before they, and Roxie, are ready for that.

And the other exciting thing about monsoons is that they have winds, and winds can sometimes knock down the barrier that we put up to keep Roxie from climbing out of the yard. This afternoon we had quite a strong monsoon. Lots of rain, even some hail, and strong winds. Tonight, as John left to go climbing, and I went up for my first post-workday puppy snuggle, I found that Roxie was not in the yard at all. I went out in front of the house, and she came running up to me having been somewhere up the street with Dash and Dot. She came right back into the yard with me just fine, luckily. She's such a good girl about coming when she's called!

As you would expect on a rainy day, she was MUDDY and WET. But what you might not expect is that she smelled like she'd been rolling around in more than one dead thing. Very, very, very, very stinky. And if you touched her, YOU were that stinky.

So, I decided that we needed an emergency bath. I found a recipe for de-stinkifying dog shampoo on the web (hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and a little bit of liquid soap, recommended for skunk stink removal), whipped it up, and set things up for a dog bath.

This meant putting our other dogs outside, filling the bathtub a few inches with warm water, getting a bucket and some towels ready, and then seeing how things would go. Luckily, Roxie is so agreeable you can even lift her up into a tub of water and scrub her down, and she won't even try that hard to get out. There was a HUGE amount of stinky dirt that came off that dog, but I don't know that she'd been 100% de-stinkified. And I'm worried that she might be itchy as a result of the bath - she was already having a fair amount of itchiness before all this.

But, the bath went fine. And hopefully, we'll be able to continue heading off any disasters as the pups, and Roxie, test us more and more.

11 July, 2007

Puppy Video 6 - We Still Need Mom

This is evidence that even though the puppies can eat their solid food, nothing's quite as good as good old Mom!

Puppy Video 5 - Four Weeks Old

The puppies turned 4 weeks old today - and they are doing great. They've started eating solid food, which is made by soaking dry puppy chow with water and warming it all in the microwave. We call it 'puppy gruel', and it seems disgusting to me - but they love it.

In this video, Iorek and Pan are getting snuggles from me, and wrestling each other.

05 July, 2007

Puppy Video 4 - Puppy Tussle!

The puppies are doing a lot more wrestling and playing with each other as they grow - here's a typical puppy tussle from the 3 week old phase of puppyhood.

Puppy Video 3 - Pan and Iorek and Roxie

The puppies are three weeks old, and are getting more and more coordinated and interested in playing and being social. They are changing so quickly now, and just getting cuter and cuter!

25 June, 2007

Puppy Video 2 - Iorek's Nursing Nightmare!

And this video features little Iorek, and a puppy's first priority: getting lots and lots of milk. Don't worry - his nightmare ends with the Tail Of Ecstasy, so I guess it isn't really a nightmare at all.

Puppy Video 1 - Pan's Long Journey

So, *please* disregard the ugly background - the room that the puppies are in was trashed by Hap and Cato back in the day, and we've not fixed it. But here's a video of the puppies (now named Pantalaimon and Iorek, after characters in the Phillip Pullman trilogy 'His Dark Materials') at about 12 days old. Pan is trying to get to Roxie, where Iorek is already having his lunch.

22 June, 2007

Dash and Dot

Just wanted to add photos of Dot (top) and Dash (below) so you could see why Roxy wants to go out there each day. They're sweet!

Pupdate one week later

So it's been one week since the emergency vet visit, and hence the beginning of our pupcare adventure. The surviving pups seem to be doing great - John describes them as 'inflating', they're growing so fast. And they are very, very cute, as you can see.

Roxy is also doing well, but now we have a different kind of problem. Dash and Dot, Roxy's pups from her January litter, are lurking around the house with Haku and the rest of the pack. Which is good - at least we can be sure that they're getting food and water. But Roxy clearly wants to be with them, and they won't be caught.

So what happens is that each morning, at sunrise, Roxy finds a way to dig/climb/?? out of the yard and have time with Dash and Dot. Yesterday, they all came home at around 6:30, sauntering down the street from the direction of the elementary school, all wet from the belly down as if they'd found a wading pool to play in. This morning, they were down in the wash with Haku, who had to fetch them when I called, as they weren't paying attention.

I've tried to eliminate her escape routes - and I can't for the life of me figure out how she got out this morning. Plus, I sympathize with her need to be with her other pups. I just don't know how much of a problem this may turn out to be - esp. if she decides she doesn't need to stay around after these pups are weaned. You have to wait 4 weeks after she's done nursing in order to get her spayed - and we need to be sure she's spayed before she has yet another litter in '07!

And so far, I've called her back each morning. I don't know whether/when she'd come back on her own, though I suspect she would. She always happily follows me right back to the yard, and into her doggy door as soon as I find her in the am.

18 June, 2007

Sad day for the pups, new puppy pen

Pup 4 died this morning, sometime between the 4am and the 6am feedings. I don't know what was the immediate cause, but he had been coughing some blood. Maybe he aspirated some of the milk, or maybe his body just gave up. Roxie and I were both very upset, and we had a little cry together.

Last night Roxy also had a little incident with John - he was snuggling her, and she suddenly whipped her head around as if to bite. She didn't bite him, but she smacked him real hard with her head, and gave him a small cut and a bruise. It happened lightning fast, and without any growling or snarling - and it seemed to confuse Roxy almost as much as it confused us. Afterwards, she went back to being easy-going and letting us go on with our business, though she kinda gave us the 'what the heck?' expression for a while. Goes to show you that you never know what might trigger a strange dog - and she's always been more afraid of John than of me. Probably b/c he's a dude. So, we need to be vigilant and careful with her.

Anyway, after that we both agreed that I should continue pup care, and John shouldn't have to do all the overnight feedings (though he was willing to do them, shiner and all).

This morning, after I buried pup 4 in a quiet, shady spot by the wash, I decided to go to PetSmart and get a whelping pen of some kind. Just a pen to restrict the movements of the pups in the room upstairs, so that we can be sure they're always on a nice, clean, safe surface. But when I walked to the truck, Roxie met me by the *front* of the house. Hm. She had dug out under the fence. But she was happy to go back into the yard, and I piled up stones in the area that she'd dug out, and talked with her about that we really needed her to stay close by and that she shouldn't do that anymore.

I went to the PetSmart and got the little pen (we'll leave the little gate open so Roxie can come and go, but the pups are safe). It's the kind pictured here. Roxy and the pups were in their room when I got home to help me put it together. They are now sacked out up there, the pups having had a nice drink of milk (on their own, from their momma).

17 June, 2007

Pupdate Day 3

So things have been going along with little change since yesterday. Every 2-3 hours there's a visit with Roxie and her pups, and a pup 4 feeding while the other two nurse. At the 3 & 5am feedings this morning, pup 4 seemed to be making a breakthrough - he could find a nipple himself, and he knew that when he found one he should open his little mouth and try to grab it - but his little grabber muscles still weren't working correctly, or else he didn't really know to use them. So, he was on the verge of nursing on his own. But since then today he seems to have really regressed, and the last two feedings he's been kind of a limp noodle. He's continuing to take swallows of milk from the syringe, but not much, and not with much enthusism.

I'm guessing/hoping that his body just needs more time to heal and recover - if we can buy him time by keeping him going for a few more days, maybe that'll do the trick and he'll come back to being a (semi-?) normal puppy. Both vets have told us that it's just a wait-and-see situation; nothing more can really be done for him other than making sure he gets milk every few hours.

I'm going to be posting a few more puppy photos that I took today. Pups 2 and 3 are becoming plump little tanks of lovable puppiosity - each of them is nursing great, and often, and putting on lots of weight. It's easy when you're so worried about one to kind of not notice and enjoy the rest - I'm trying to be sure to take more time with each of them, and also make time in each visit just to focus on Roxy and give her lots of loves and pets. She's such a good girl!

16 June, 2007

Aftermath Pupdate 4

T=2:00pm, and all is well.

We did call our regular veterinarian's office at 8:30 this morning, and got an excellent bit of advice from them. Since pup 4 is so confused about suckling, we can use an eye-dropper-like apparatus to squirt a few drops into his mouth. If he at least knows to swallow, there's hope for him.

We're using an old needle-less syringe that we've used to give kitties their liquid medicine. It seems to work great - and pup 4 knows to swallow. He was getting positively frisky earlier this morning/afternoon, under the care of John Ivens. I just went and fed him and checked on everyone - they all seem to be doing OK.

Aftermath - Pupdate 3a

Still no interest in formula from pup 4. But he's moving around pretty well, as are the other two pups. Roxie seems fairly relaxed and happy also.

Soon I will have to sleep. John Ivens has already volunteered to take the next shift with the pups!

Aftermath Pupdate 3


All pups are still amongst the living, and pup 4 feels pretty strong when he's awake and trying to move - so that's good. Gotta see if he'll take formula this morning - he's still not nursing properly.

Aftermath Pupdate 2


Pup 4 is still suckling a little, if he gets lots of help and encouragement. Which he is getting - both from Roxie and me. Which is the good news. They told us at the vets that he had some blood in his poo, but I hadn't seen any until this feeding. He pooped (yay!), but the bad news is that it was pretty bloody (ack!).

He only eats tiny amounts, and I'm having no luck at all getting him to really latch on and nurse. He won't drink the formula, no matter what I try - but it seems like trying to feed him the formula is a trigger that gets him interested enough in food to get him to try to drink from mommy. Sprta. He's got a lot of problems.

He seems to not understand the whole principle behind suckling. He actively fails to find nipples - like, he passes them up and heads for some weird non-nipple spot on his mom or his brothers. Then once he gets a nipple, he doesn't really know what to do with it. On the plus side, the last couple of times I've checked on them, he's snuggling his mommy and not lying by himself off to the side, as he was at first. Mommy snuggling has got to be medicinal - right?

Maybe this is an artifact of that it's 3:30am, but I'm pessimistic about pup 4's chances. I'm not giving up on him, and I'm making sure to tell him that he's loved, and to hug him as much as I can. But it just seems like he's not functioning correctly on so many levels. And at this point, neither am I.

Next feeding - 6:00am. Next phone call to the veterinarian? I think the regular vet opens at 8...I'll be pestering them immediately. Emergency vets are never as good as real vets.

Aftermath Pupdate 1

T = 1:41am

Pup 4 still suckles a little, with lots of encouragement. Pups 2,3 seem to be doing great. Roxie seems to be doing great also. Next check: 3:00am.

Puppy Saga - the aftermath

I was able to get the puppy formula at the Wal-Mart, but I spent a *really, really* long time in the dumb check-out line, and so the trip took too long. Poor John had done all the driving and shopping to this point, so it was my turn - but I was pretty tired and cranky.

The puppy formula has to be warmed to body temperature, and so I did that, and then we went upstairs to see how Roxie and the pups were doing. We'd left them in their room with food, water, and a clean blanket to lay on - and wanted to give them some time to settle in.

The healthy pups were curled up with Roxy, but pup 4 was lying by himself off to the side. So I scooped him up, and tried to get him to drink the formula. He really didn't seem to have any suckling response at all - he could take the nipple, but he wouldn't suck. So, I just messed with him for a while - petting him and trying to stimulate him into being more active. It didn't work to get him suckling the bottle, but I was able to get a few drops of formula on his little tongue, and then I put him by Roxie's bits.

Surprisingly, he suckled! Just a little - I don't know that he got enough milk down the hatch to make a difference, but he did suckle. I spent about 20 mins with them alternately messing with him with the bottle, petting and rubbing him all over, and then directing him to the good old mamma milk-supply. He suckled a little bit on a few separate occasions, and he even had a little poo (yay!).

So, where we are now is that I decided to let them be for another hour, and then try this whole thing again. It's almost time for me to go up there and see how they're doing! I'll let you know what happened on this visit after we're done...

Puppy Saga - the care plan

So, we were done at the emergency vet at 9. But then we had to drive home and try to pick up either (a) puppy milk replacement formula or (b) pedialyte - as we think we'll have to bottle-feed little pup 4. The milk replacement was the better option, as the pedialyte would only (maybe) get him through the night tonight if he continues to refuse to nurse.

Of course PetsMart was closed by the time we got there, though. But we decided to check and see if Target might have what we needed, since it was still before 10pm, and they were still open. He picked up baby bottles and nipples (turns out you can use human baby ones for little pups) - but they didn't have the puppy milk replacement. We thought about trying to use Infamil (human milk replacement), but that turns out to be a bad idea.

So we get home empty handed, except with a mom-dog and three puppies who can't be left outside anymore. I called up the e-vet to confirm that we couldn't use the Infamil, but they suggested we try a Wal-Mart pet section for the puppy milk. That meant that after we got Roxie and the pups settled in the dog room upstairs (and our actual doggies excluded from the top part of the yard, as well as the top part of the house), we still had a Wal-Mart excursion to do. By this time it was probably 10:30.

We also learned that puppies this young have to eat at least every 2-3 hours. So, we'll have at least one all-nighter ahead.

The care plan is this: watch pup 4 to see if he nurses, and if he doesn't, give him a bottle with puppy formula every 2 hrs or so until he does. Or maybe he just never will, and that'll mean that he did suffer brain damage or internal injury - and he won't make it. In thinking about pup 4 even during the first-day photo-shoot, it does seem he was acting kinda odd (as in the photo above). I wonder if he might have been pre-problematic. Anyway, we also need to nonitor Roxie and the other two pups to make sure they stay OK.

Puppy Saga - the diagnosis

It's late, and we're just back from the emergency vet with Roxie and her three surviving puppies. It's all a long story, so I figured I'd blog it while I'm staying up to check on their well-being hourly-ish.

It was really hot today, and the spot Roxie had picked for her pups turns out to have not been sufficient to keep them cool. They were clearly not well when we got home from work, and so a trip to the vet was needed. Roxie was great about letting us put a leash on her and collect her puppies for the ride to SW Vet Specialists.

The vet said that all the puppies were hyperthermic and dehydrated, but one of them was in worse shape than the other two. The two good shape puppies are pups 2 (the white one John is holding in the photos) & 3 (the surviving brown and white one). They needed subcutaneous fluids and some glucose, and to have the dirt and crud cleared out of their little airways - but they were/are feisty and plump.

Pup 4, the little white one who shows up in the
photos in the Kodak Easyshare Album I posted as a small white lump hanging out in the back, with his head in Roxie's belly, was in pretty serious distress. His temp was 105.4 or something, and he had to go in the oxygen tent. He's not nursing, and it's not clear if he may have had brain damage from the hyperthermia. We can only wait and see. He's also a lot smaller than the other two.

By the way, all three are boys. We don't have names for them yet - but names will have to come soon.

Roxie seems to be fit, and all pups were released into our care at about 9pm tonight.

13 June, 2007

The Answers

Diane has posted the correct answers to the sparrow naming quiz:

A = Chirpy McMutington
B = Sitty McStandington
C = Sleepy McWakington

Excellent sparrow naming, DKO!

12 June, 2007

A naming convention for sparrows, etc: X-ie Mc-Y-ington

So, the other day at lunch John and I figured out the solution to the age-old problem of how to develop naming conventions for sparrows, doves, grackles and other creatures who don't have obvious color-morph differences to go on. One has to develop names based purely on behaviors, and stock names such as 'Hoppy' and 'Tweety' just don't seem to do the trick.

The solution is the X-ie Mc-Y-ington name schema! Take X to be any uninflected verb representing the creature's behavior (i.e. 'walk', 'stare', 'fly', 'land') and Y to be a different (preferably opposing) verb, and you've got a great name for whatever creature it is that you're visiting with at the time. For example:

Standy McFlyington
Pecky McGulpington
Swoopy McLandington

Now, let's have an exercise. You should use this naming convention to name sparrows A, B & C from the photo. Answers will be given in a subsequent post.

Of course, this naming convention is to some extent derivative of one of our favorite nicknames ever - one given to the main character in one of the latest Mel Gibson flicks by that genius movie reviewer who writes for the Tucson Weekly. That nickname? Drippy McBloodspurt. Our convention has innovated from that, but we know where our roots are, and wish to acknowledge them.

11 June, 2007

Ruffian and Rags to Riches

I felt so sad when I learned that ABC/ESPN was going to do a TV movie on Ruffian, to be broadcast the day after the Belmont Stakes. Ruffian was such a brilliant champion, but her story is so horribly sad. And it was just too soon after Barbaro - whose breakdown and (way subsequent) death is still very fresh and painful. Which was why they planned the Ruffian movie for this year, I'm sure. They were intending to allude to the Barbaro story, and make hay (as it were) from the comparison. Well, the universe stomped that idea like a bug when on Saturday the winner of the Belmont Stakes was...a filly! For the first time in a century, a girl won this longest of the triple crown races.

Her name is Rags to Riches. If you saw the race, you know that she demonstrated not only tremendous talent and speed, but also incredible courage and heart. She was nose to nose with Curlin (also an awesome horsie) almost the whole way down the stretch, they were trading the lead with each stride, and she never gave up. She never even looked at him (although he seemed to be giving her the eye - and who can blame him? She's a BEAUTY!).

R2R does not match Ruffian in terms of career wins, and there have been other great fillies in the interim. And R2R's Belmont Stakes time of 2:28 and change leaves Secretariat's record safely intact, though her closing furlong was screamingly fast. As, of course, was Curlin's - who had three weeks previous tied for the official record time in winning the Preakness (Secretariat of course holds the *actual* record for that race, but due to a timer error, his *official* time was several seconds off his actual time).

Ruffian didn't win the Belmont stakes because she didn't run in it. She wasn't entered in any of the triple crown races, but was undefeated in 10 starts as a 2 and 3 year old. It was her 11th race, a match race against Foolish Pleasure, that resulted in her injury and death. Before the Belmont, R2R had run only 5 times, with four wins and one 4th place (the latter in her very first start). That's a pretty good record, but time will tell whether or not she'll be able to build a winning streak to match Ruffian's.

Not many fillies have run in the Triple Crown races. During my lifetime only 2 others (Genuine Risk and Winning Colors) have won (both won the Kentucky Derby). So R2R finds herself in rare company. Had Ruffian been allowed to run in the TC, perhaps she'd have been in that group as well.

It was a thrill to see a Belmont stakes in which nobody got hurt, everyone ran an excellent race, and history got made by a red filly with a beautiful white blaze. The commentators said that she's a terror in the stable - she likes to bite and kick, and is generally ill-mannered. I say - you go, R2R! You're incredible! And I hope that if there's a place horsies go when they die, Ruffian is looking down from that place and giving someone a nip or a kick in solidarity.