Why my dogs are leashed all the time

It was 12:30 in the afternoon. Time to walk the furballs.

We went outside into the front yard, where the dogs did roughly half their doggie business, and spend a little time whining at a cat at the other end of the clearing.

We walked a few yards down the sidewalk and then stepped into the grass between our condos and the neighbor’s house. There’s a large bush that separates the property. I don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t flower and it’s about eight feet tall. Plenty of cover for whatever wants to hide underneath it, which is why I generally keep the dogs away from it. (I don’t feel like untangling two terriers from a mess of branches when they spot a squirrel, which I’d spend every day doing if I gave them free reign over that bush.)

Chance was doing his usual sniffing thing, trying to find a spot that satisfies his exacting standards for what to poop on. Kaylee was rolling in the grass and I was doing my ridiculous “Come on Chance, focus” cheerleading routine for all the neighbors to see.

Chance turned toward the bush.

A full grown whitetail doe – easily 5 foot tall – bounded out of the bush, ran down the grass between condo buildings, and helped any drivers in our parking lot soil their pants.

All three of us stood there dumbfounded.

Now, terriers are a working breed, even if you get the shorties, which are a few generations into “lap dog” breeding. Hundreds of years of farmers have turned them into creatures whose brains are wired to find and kill vermin. I’ve never explicitly trained any of my 3 Jack Russells to hunt, but I’ve picked up dead and maimed toads, mice, and birds for nigh-on 10 years now. Whatever the creature, if they determine it’s not a human or a dog, when moves, they bite, spit it out, see if it moves again, bite, spit, etc.

You may think a deer isn’t vermin, but my friend, according to a Jack Russell’s definition, you would be wrong.

JessieDog’s reaction to deer back in the apartment was to immediately bay like a beagle and try to find a way off the balcony that didn’t involve falling to her death. But Chance and Kaylee have never seen a deer up close before, so I’m not particularly surprised that they had no idea how to react.

And then the smell of that deer blew back to us and small dog cogs and gears in small dog brains started turning. Just before the doe disappeared fully from view, my dogs’ little brains produced a spark that fired off some neurons announcing “OMG THAT’S THE BIGGEST RAT EVER!”

They started barking their fool heads off. Chance did leaps and twists and somersaults at the end of his leash in an attempt to chase the giant rat. I hauled them around the building forcibly, with both dogs pulling every direction, until we crossed the scent of that deer again. Then, suddenly, every blade of grass in the yard needed to be inspected and reinspected and re-reinspected for traces of deer.

It was only once we returned back to the bush that we could get back to the business at hand, and even then, it was a challenge to get everyone back to the house.

Now, my training of my three dogs has never been 100% stellar. And I’m sure if I worked with them every day around deer I could eventually train these two to come when I call even if we’re surrounded by a herd of the World’s Biggest Rat.

But I’m also sure that, if my dogs had been off-leash today, they’d be lost or dead right now. You don’t train the hunt out of a terrier.

Today was a reminder that those signs that say to leash your dogs at all times aren’t just for your neighbors’ protection, or for your protection from litigious neighbors, or for your protection when the police show up to enforce the laws that say your dogs should be leashed. They’re also protection from that rare fall day that a deer decides to jump out of the bushes at noon, and they’re a damn good idea.

Dear lady…

Dear lady I don’t know walking a big dog around my building while talking on the phone at 5:30am in a heavy rain:

My very small dog woke me up because he had to go, and he tends to be nasty to both strange dogs and strange humans alike when his tummy’s rumbling ominously. Also, he’s got a bark that would pierce a bunker, and we have sleeping neighbors.

Its your job to set the direction we’re going to walk around the building, because you were out first. So if in trying to walk my dog in the loop around my building, and I see you and I stop, it’s to avoid you. If I leave almost half a building between us, when walking resumes, it’s TO AVOID YOU.

For f’s sake, DON’T change directions twice in order to try to meet me in the middle while aforementioned dog is talking a dump. I don’t have any interest in being social to strangers in the dark and the rain when I should be asleep but instead I’m picking up crap. And just because the beast you’re walking is “friendly” doesn’t mean my dog is!

Back off!

sincerely,
Pissed off and grouchy

Not an improvement

This isn’t the way I wanted this winter to go.

The tonsillectomy I had on Valentine’s Day has finally healed up enough that I should b healthy enough to work. That’s not to say that I’m 100% – when I saw the doc Thursday he put me at about 80% healed but good enough that unless something goes wrong I don’t need to go back for a follow-up and I’m cleared to return to work.

When I return to work, I’ll have missed 4 weeks and a day. Close enough to a month that I refer to it as such. Not normal for a tonsillectomy, which means I’ve spent the last week just trying to get this insurance company to talk to that doctor and that medical staff to call this set of nurses, etc. etc. just to make sure I get paid.

I’ve been out of work so long that the sweaters I bought will almost be a moot point. (Thank goodness they keep the office at iceberg temperatures I guess.) I’ve lost so much weight I don’t know if any of my work pants are still going to fit.

The pneumonia is gone, as far as anyone can tell. There’s still a tiny wheeze in one of my lungs but it’s not the lung that had the pneumonia. The fever broke a little over a week ago. Compared to two weeks ago, I have boundless energy.

Except that I don’t. I have enough energy to get the chores around the house done, and make sure everyone’s fed. I’m no longer napping in the middle of the day just due to the exertion of taking the dogs out, two loads of laundry and unloading/reloading the dishwasher.

The dogs are both healthy again, though Chance took so long to get over the stomach bug that hospitalized Kaylee that I still haven’t moved them back to a mix of wet and dry food – it’s all dry until I’m sure he won’t get the runs immediately.

We’re having other related training issues with Chance that I won’t go into right now. Suffice it to say it won’t be long until I have a professional trainer come out to the house to show me where I’m going off-course.

And then there’s Nighthawk, who is currently sitting behind me at his desk doing therapy. He started feeling sick well before I had my tonsils out, complaining of an occasional sore throat that just might be the same bug that cause my pneumonia for all we know. (I filed to culture anything when I was in.) While I was sick and hospitalized and home sick again, he kept everything under control at home, took care of me and the dogs, and still managed to work more than a few days.

It cost him somewhere around 10-15% of his lung function, which is a lot when you’re not working with a healthy set of full airways to begin with. There was zero hesitation from the doctors last week. Nighthawk’s going into the hospital on Monday for at least a week and will be out of work for at least three.

So now we trade roles. Tomorrow I’ll take him down to the hospital in Philly (a new one – the CF clinic moved) and make sure he’s OK and talk to the doctors about the Plan. Then I’ll come home and get ready for my first day at work on Tuesday. I expect that to be overwhelming and tiring.

It’s a catch-22. If we weren’t hospitalizing Nighthawk I could probably handle going back to work, because I’d have him to support me while I continued to gain my strength. And I’m sure that the benefits company would say that if I’m healthy enough to drive back and forth to Philly every couple of days, then I must be healthy enough to work. (And if I’m not healthy enough to work, then I shouldn’t be driving back and forth to Philly.) But my situation isn’t either drive back and forth to the hospital or go to work. It’s do both or do neither. So I’ll be doing both.

(I might quickly decide I’m doing both with the assistance of some vacation days. But I have to get back before I can leave.)

I have a lot of support from my awesome family, and I couldn’t have gotten through the last month without them. (If Mom hadn’t dropped off delicious leftovers this morning I don’t know what or if we’d eaten dinner.)

I’m glad Nighthawk’s going into the hospital, because he’s sick and he needs the kind of care that they’re able to give him. I’m glad that he has a team of doctors that are all over the problems and care very deeply about improving his health. I’m confident that, barring some other unforeseen catastrophe, he’s going to improve in health. This will not be the trip that kills him.

I’m afraid of this week, though. When last Nighthawk was hospitalized, I was in tip-top shape physically, and the mental strain coupled with the driving and the running everything was enough to wear me down in a week. This week, I’m not going in at the top of my game.

I didn’t want this to happen.

This isn’t the way I wanted the winter to go.

How’s that old saying go? It never rains…

I’d be the first to say that raising dogs and raising children are two different activities. Sure, dogs learn both good and bad habits from each other, and they have emotional needs and the maturity of a three-year-old. They argue and get jealous, make up and play, and work together on arts and crafts (usually using my lawn) in ways similar to children. But they’ll never reach the same level of complexity or depth of understanding that children will. And as heartbreaking as a sick dog can be, a sick child is infinitely worse.

On the other hand…

Last Friday, Kaylee caught a stomach bug. Both dogs are both housetrained and pee-pad-trained, so generally there’s little cleanup to do. But Kaylee’s the poo-first-ask-questions-later type when she gets sick. Wherever she is at the time, that’s where she goes.

I wasn’t particularly worried during the first few bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, but when the back end began to produce liquid that was more red than brown, I called the vet. (It was actually quite a bit more panicked than that, especially since I can’t drive anywhere due to the medication I’m still on, and I’m still in some pain and a lot of exhaustion, but I’m too tired right now to recreate AAH AAH SHE’S GONNA DIE in its original form.)

An x-ray revealed that she hadn’t eaten anything dogs shouldn’t eat and our awesome vet suspected Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE) which sounds a lot more severe in this wikipedia article than it did when the vet explained it. In short, occasionally when small dogs get a stomach bug, their guts get so inflamed they bleed. It can be deadly without treatment (seeing as small dogs don’t have a whole lot of anything in them to begin with) but Kaylee tends to bounce back easily.

And indeed, on Saturday you wouldn’t have known there had been anything wrong on Friday, except that her poo still stunk to high heaven. Which is why when we woke up to a floor covered in vomit and bloody diarrhea on Sunday morning, we were a bit surprised. Still, she acted pretty normal and things didn’t reoccur until 2:00, when she got so sick we immediately wrapped her in a towel, loaded her into the car, and took her down to the emergency vet.

The emergency vet reiterated what our vet had told us Friday – this wasn’t unusual and it wasn’t a death sentence. In fact, despite the fact that Kaylee did a fine job of decorating their examining room when they were doing vitals, they still said she had a relatively mild case. On the other hand, by this point the poor thing was thoroughly dehydrated, wouldn’t eat or drink, and was clearly just miserable. It took no coaxing whatsoever for us to follow the vet’s suggestion that we leave her there overnight for IV fluids, antibiotics, and general looking-after, since they were much more well-equipped to handle any further emergencies that might come up.

The fact that February managed to not only hospitalize me but also hospitalize my dog did not escape notice and quite frankly I could do without ever having another month like 02/2011 again.

Kaylee came home Monday evening looking and feeling 100% better and, except for a bit of tiredness, you’d once again never know anything was wrong.

Which brings us to the point where I can, if not compare my life to parents of humans, at least sympathize… because this morning Chance started with the diarrhea and this afternoon he was vomiting. The good news is we know exactly what antibiotics to put him on and he’s now on them. The bad news is that my little boy feels like crap, there’s a small but real chance he’ll get just as sick as she did, and my carpet cleaner is going to go on strike for cruel and unusual working conditions.

My little kid is curled up in my lap right now – the only place he wants to be unless he’s in the act of being sick. I had to coax him into taking his antibiotic – neither chicken nor peanut butter were powerful enough to convince him to eat. I can hear his belly squeaking and gurgling in protest, although exactly what it could be protesting at this point I don’t know because there’s not a whole lot left in there to object to.

His sister is out like a light in the beanbag chair. She felt good enough to wake me up from a nap earlier by licking my eyelids (that was a joy), but she still wears down pretty fast.

And I know that there are a number of you out there with sick human kids right now – or worse, sick human kids passing the same virus/infection/whatever back and forth to each other.

And all I can say, feeling as overwhelmed and exhausted as I do right now, is that you parents are amazing. Good job.

On dogs & technology

Has anyone developed an iPad app that detects dog-like typing? Kaylee has started “helping” me write my novel. She can hold down a lot of keys at one time with a single paw.

Things you should read (or watch) from the Internet

Old Jews Telling Jokes(link goes to iTunes store) – This is the only podcast I’ve ever subscribed to that I actually keep up on.

Unhappy Meals was pointed out recently on a twitter diet thread I follow, and I think it’s the most intelligent thing about dieting and nutrition that I’ve read in years.

It also dovetails nicely with this – Living to 100: The 9 Wise Habits:

I want to live to be 126, so I’m going to try to combine them.

Cred vs. Influence (or Killing our Soul) applies to more than just game design, and is the first time I’ve heard folks talk about Steinbeck in a while.

In other news, this is a smart doohicky:

Boost your productivity with Hemingway’s Hack.

I think Chance would do this if he could figure out how.

Puppy Hates Snow – Watch more Funny Videos

OK, that’s enough blogging for today.

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