Tuesday, March 27, 2012

It's a Sunny Day in Pibble Land!

Isn't Axle such a ham? He is really eating up this sunny weather! The only problem we're having is keeping the mosquitoes off. Since the bat population is dropping off steeply, the mosquitoes are beginning to go unchecked. Add the climate changes, and they are unbearable. Stores are staying sold out of citronella candles, tiki torches, bug spray, and so on.
The pest control companies are banking - $75 for a 1 month treatment for your yard.
Now when we go for walks, we have to time it well after sunrise or well before dusk, covered in bug repellent and armed with bottles of water. When we get more into summer, we'll have to grit our teeth and walk in the late evenings when the temperature has cooled. Down south, it stays in the 90s during the summer, sometimes hotter. The direct sun and the humidity makes it much worse. There have already been reports of dogs having heat strokes, and it's only March. Dogs aren't like people - they can't sweat to cool off. Instead, they pant, and that can take a lot longer than sweating! They can easily become overheated and dehydrated. If you walk your dog during the summer like I do, try to walk in the lowest temps of the day. Make sure to pack lots of water for both of you and a portable water bowl for your dog. Take frequent breaks, preferably in the shade. Make sure to have a cellphone on you. If your dog starts falling behind, panting too heavily, or showing any other signs of becoming overheated/dehydrated, don't risk it. Make the call and get someone to come pick you and your dog up.
In other news, Oh My Pibbles! finally has stickers! 3" round vinyl decals with cute paw prints surrounding a pit bull silhouette with the blog website below. So cute! Special thanks to www.stickylife.com for making it all possible. They're offering a 5% discount to all fans, just enter the code OHMYPIBBLES at checkout. This code is good for multiple uses until 04/01/13. You can make bumper stickers, magnets, car tags, and stickers!

We've just ordered the DNA test for Ms. Spuds, so we should have the test results in a little over a month. If all goes according to plan, we'll have a contest on 04/28 to win stickers from Oh My Pibbles! When the contest is announced, a status will be posted on the Facebook page. Each person should give their best guess as to the breeds that make up Spuds. If a breed is guess by more than one person, the first one to post it wins. There will be a sticker won for every breed guessed! If someone guesses more than one of the breeds, they will get a sticker for the first breed eligible and the other breed will go to the next person that guesses it. A little confusing, but it's a fair system to allow more people to win. :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The World-Class Pet Certificate

In lieu of Axle’s big TDI debut…and subsequent drop-out…we now present the World-Class Pet Certificate! To be eligible for testing, your dog must be alive and lucid. Well, mostly lucid, at least. The test involves the following:

1. Accepting the approach of a friendly stranger. No aggression accepted, but free to be a snob if he/she doesn’t like said stranger. Bonus points for enthusiastic tail wagging.

2. Politely accepting petting. Sitting not required. Jumping is frowned upon, but will not disqualify your dog. Bonus points for a big grin and lolling tongue.

3. Being able to accept grooming, including the touching of feet and ears. Ability to turn this into a game = bonus points.

4. Politely walking on a leash. Dog should not pull on the leash (this is human walking dog, not dog walking human). Bribes are acceptable.

5. Handling a crowd quietly. Just pretend there’s a pile of bacon when it’s all over! Bonus points for big grins and tail wags!

6. Sit/Down/Stay on command. Bribes are acceptable. Mulligans can be called.

7. Holding position/coming when called. Ok to hop in place wanting to get to you. Bonus points for tail wags and enthusiastic greetings. Jumping is frowned upon, but happy dances are acceptable.

8. Dog/Dog greetings. Dogs should be friendly – causal interest acceptable. Overly enthusiastic dogs should walk a little more before trying a greeting again. Super bonus for soft eye contact and tail wags.

9. Reaction to distraction. Dog should be able to handle loud noises, joggers, bicycles, vehicles, etc. without panicking or showing aggression. The use of thunder shirts is acceptable. Bribes are acceptable. Mulligans can be called.

10. Supervised separation. You should be able to leave your dog with another person without him/her going nuts over it. You are coming back, after all. No panicking, excessive whining or barking. Staring intently in the direction you left is acceptable. Bribes by handler accepted.

11. The “Loving Dog” test. This portion of the test can be either written (a 1 page paper about you and your dog, how you got together, and what makes you two great) or demonstrative (i.e. playing/communicating with your dog demonstrating a good, healthy relationship). Bonus points for slobbery kisses, enthusiastic tail wags, ginormous grins, and playful barks.

If your dog passes all of the above qualifications, congratulations! Your dog has passed the World-Class Pet Certificate test! Paper certificates are currently out of print, but feel free to create and share your own! (Post here or e-mail us at otto_the_dog@live.com) We’d love to hear more about your dogs and their stories. E-mail pics and stories to the address given and check back at www.facebook.com/ohmypibbles to see if your dog has been featured as the dog of the week! We are happy to share non-pibbles, too.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

My Dog is a TDI Drop-Out

Remember me talking about Axle doing therapy dog training? Yeah...not anymore. I was super excited about it. Inspired by Sarge Wolf-Stringer, BAD RAP, and The Unexpected Pit Bull, it seemed a natural course to enroll Axle in therapy dog training. His sweet disposition and gentleness about little children was a good sign, right? Wrong. First day of training, he answered a challenge (by growling) a female Rottweiler tossed at him from across the room and instantly became the "dunce" of the class. She was seriously staring him down, and I had to break the eye contact with a piece of paper. Of course, the rottie wasn't corrected...she wasn't the one that growled, so that makes her totally innocent, right? Wrong. Well behaved dogs should show no more than casual interest in each other and should not openly stare directly at another dog as it translates into a challenge. The rottie had passed CGC, so I don't know why her handler didn't recognize the behavior. Axle growled before I could break their eye contact...and BOOM! he's the bad kid.

The trainer talked about how awfully leash-trained he was...totally explaining why I have zero problems when we walk AND he stays by my side off-leash. Yeah, I get it now. *eye roll* She told us we could only use a buckle collar for the test and therapy visits, so better get used to it. (I had been using a no-pull harness.) She used him as an example of what not to do on leash, etc. Then she broke out the martingale collars...which she called modified choke collars. She said the chain that links them makes a noise that is the correction. Um...ok...so why are some made from fabric? And why do they also refer to them as Greyhound collars? Oh wait, I know this one! It's because they were first created for sighthounds due to their tendency to back out of collars. When in use, the martingale hangs loosely around the neck until pressure is placed on the collar and leash. The loop tightens so that the collar is only as big around as the dog's neck and can't come back over it's head. You can get adjustables or have one custom made (I have both).

I've helped a few people and given training tips, but I'm up front about my dogs. We know the ropes, the fundamentals of what needs to be done, but it usually all goes out the window when we are somewhere new with new faces, like a pet store or a dog park.

Back to the drop-out part...Axle had his yearly exam Friday. He was okay until we had to get his temperature and fecal sample. He tucked tail and tried to scoot away, but I held him firm. They spent a lot of time trying to find his microchip, and the scanner startled him. When the vet came in, he had relaxed a little, but with her probing around, he got scared again. When she came in with the stethoscope, he decided he had had enough. He could fly (fight or flight reaction to fear), so he decided fight was better. He growled. I asked for a muzzle just in case, and on it went. He growled throughout the rest of the procedure, but his eyes were as big as saucers and looked worried. His tailed was tucked so high, you'd think he didn't have one. Yeah, he was afraid. The reaction to the medical equipment, thought it was because it was being used on him, wasn't promising. He's also terrified of empty plastic bags. Yes. Empty, plastic bags. Terrified. Why? I have absolutely NO idea. What if we were in a hospice setting and someone changed the trash bag? He'd run away! That wouldn't make someone feel better!

A lot of hospice patients are on oxygen, and I have a feeling he wouldn't react well to that, either. Would he be great for reading to in a library? Probably. Would he be great in a medical setting? Definitely not. I called the director of the program, and Axle officially became a drop-out. She was very understanding, and left the door open for us to come back any time, but I don't think we will.

I really admire the people that do get their dogs certified as therapy dogs. Do I think any less of Axle because he's not one of those dogs? No way! Every dog is made for something different, and that's not his purpose, at least not now. He may get a little older (he's only a year) and be the best you've ever met, but, for  now, he's just my baby, my protector, and my snuggle buddy. I think he really likes that job. :)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Open Heart Policy

It was just a day or so ago that I was saying that I wasn't sure I'd ever get another dog. I didn't think I'd be ready...and I was still feeling like Bobob was somehow my fault. I was worried that the shelter staff - who had been super nice to me - and the exec. director - who had a big interest in Bobob - would blame me for his passing. I mean, I just had to put Otto down in December. Yeah, it was overdue and a safety issue...but geesh.

So anyway. Back to the "never again" and "not sure about another dog" etc. etc. Why is there a new dog in my kitchen right now? Her name is Spudet. She stood out to me the first time that I met her - super soft coat, crazy ears that reminded me of Otto, and a big ol' bully grin. Yeah, maybe I was a bit hooked.

I was so glad she got adopted at an adoption event last month, the first I got to go to (see A Pibble-less Outing)...but part of me was a bit sad to see her go. I had two other dogs at that point, and I just didn't see it happening.

When Otto passed, I felt myself turn to glass and shatter. With Bobob, I felt my insides twist in knots. I felt helpless as he twitched across the floor, eyes glazed over and tongue lolling out of his mouth in a distorted grin. I felt like I failed Otto, even though I'm not the one that put his genes together. I could make peace with it because I knew the monster, the puppy mill, the backyard breeding practices. I felt like I failed Bobob, even though I couldn't help whatever happened to him. The thing I hated was that his killer, his cause was invisible. The vets couldn't say if it was for sure a tumor, a neurological condition, poisoning, or what. The invisible causes are sometimes the hardest.

I just thought I was done. No more, raise Axle the rest of his days, and that was it. I was so over it. Then here I am, at another adoption event, watching people check out Spudet. It's funny, the people that gravitate toward her. Some of them, I could pick out before they even got to the cages. Needless to say, they didn't leave with any dogs, much less Spuds.

I don't really remember how it came up, but the exec. director mentioned letting her come home with me a few days, just to see if it would work out. I guess he had noticed me paying attention to her...and she would whine when I'd walk away. I swear she eyeballed me all day long.

Well....as luck would have it St. Patty, Ms. Spudet is lying on my dining room floor...Axle is underneath, wagging his tail so hard he is making the chair next to him scoot across the floor. I'm pretty sure he's in love. He showed her all of his tricks when he first met her - jumping, bowing, scooting, rolling, leaping, running, everything. She wasn't impressed. He's still swooning...she's playing hard to get. I caught sight of her "humping the air" behind him while he was drinking water. I'd tell him, but I think that'd ruin her "hard to get" scheme. I'll just let them play it out on their own terms.

It's only day one, but they are both showing promise. There has only been one growl, when Axle approached Ms. Spuds while she was on the floor munching a treat I missed. One quick correction and that was over. They are now staring at each other from across the room. It's as though I no longer exist. I thought I was Axle's girl! Looks like I'm easily replaced!

So back to that open heart policy. Maybe society expects us to retreat into a dark hole somewhere when we lose a pet or another loved one, maybe they expect us to burst into tears every time we see another dog or loved one. Who knows? I'm thinking Jane Seymour with her cheesy jewelry commercials had it right - always leave your heart open. Some will come and some will go, but love will always be there. If you close yourself off after experiencing a loss or hurt, you're only punishing yourself by cutting yourself off from the wonders of the world.

I'm pretty sure Spuds is a wonder of the world. :) She is about 3 years old, labeled an AmStaff mix...we'll do a DNA test one day, whatcha think? She's rather recently spade (10 weeks maybe). She's super sweet and loving. Found running at large, she's been in the shelter since November...and you wouldn't know it. Both babies are passed out as I write this, one to each side of me.


So here's to keeping my heart open...and we'll see where this adventure goes!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Tale of the Spotted One

Bobob was approx. 3 years old when he came home with us. He had been in the shelter for about 6 months, and, though plenty of people thought he was pretty, no one ever took more interest than that. Enter me - who fell instantly in love with his floppy ears and funky spots. Even though he was a little aloof, he had a spark in his eyes that I couldn't resist. Needless to say, he came home with me.

He started out living outside in our fenced yard with a dog house. We really weren't sure how he would do indoors, and we had two indoor dogs at that time. Later, we began integrating him indoors, and he did remarkably well! He was very intelligent and quick to learn. For example, once he learned grabbing the leash meant a walk, he would make a beeline for the door and hop up and down until he was on the leash and out the door.

He liked me, but he LOVED Josh, my husband. When he would see me, he would wag his tail with flare, but, when he saw Josh, he whirled his tail around in circles like he could propel himself toward Josh faster. On the couch, he would slowly creep toward his human target until he had made it in their lap, where he would lay his head on their chest and go to sleep.

If you're wondering why I keep saying things in past tense, it's because he died today. Bobob "Bo" Lodge died around 2:00 PM today.

It was around 4:30 AM and Axle was waking me up, pacing and breathing in my face. I thought he just wanted attention, but he knew something was wrong with Bo. When I came into the living room, Bo was convulsing violently on the floor. He had already lost control of his salivary glands and bladder. I guess I should've known it was over then, but I tried to calm him down, then headed to the vet.

The immediately gave him a heavy dose of diazepam and told me they would let me know how it went. If it was epilepsy, he would come out of the stupor with little to no seizing. No luck. They dosed him three times with that medication and once with another, all high doses, yet he still seized. He was having trouble breathing and his body temperature was so low he was shaking. His face was paralyzed, and he had no control over his tongue.

The vet said they could try some other medications, but knowing he had seized for over 3 hours straight, I knew the neurological damage would be beyond repair.

I let him go.

He didn't hear my goodbye, or that I was sorry that I lied. I had promised he would be okay if we could just get to the doctor.

He didn't feel my hand, running down his soft fur one last time, caressing his toes, or stroking his ears.

He didn't feel my tears, as they landed on his distorted face.

He didn't feel my kisses, as I planted them on his nose and forehead.

He didn't feel the needle, and he didn't feel his last breath.

He was gone, long before the anesthesia hit his bloodstream.

My husband said when I left with Bo, Axle tore through the back door to look for him. He checked the couches, the bedroom, the hall, and the bathroom. When I got home, he sniffed the floor where Bo had been. He sniffed me, and gave me a questioning look. He knew I was upset, but he wasn't sure why. He just knew Bo wasn't here.

Bo would never be back. He'd never play "My Paw!" again, or burrow between the couch cushions. He'd never streak from the bath tub like a naked kid again. No, Bobob's earthly time was spent, and it was time for him to go. He left good memories, warm hugs, and inspiration behind.

He left the inspiration that shelter dogs shouldn't be taken at face value. The smartest people can't do more than give their best bet at what breed a dog is, so no one should put stock in breed labels, only put stock in the dog itself. He also left the inspiration that a dog can come from an unknown background, spend time in a shelter and almost go kennel crazy, yet come out a shining star of a dog.

He was the first dog I ever got to take to Victorian Christmas, something I've ALWAYS wanted to do! He performed wonderfully, and made lots of children laugh and smile.

He left lots of laughs in this house - his funky ears and his "I'm excited" dance were hilarious. He would sway his hips like a dancer if you scratched his butt. If you towel-dried him after a bath, he'd pounce on the couch, give you this craaaazy look, then wallow on the couch like it was the best thing ever. His favorite toy was a zebra squeaky toy that looked a lot like him...really, if you took a picture with it, you couldn't see it next to him!

He left warm hugs from the night we had to put Otto down (see previous blog post). He was understanding and loving - he knew we needed his comforts, even if those hugs meant inhaling lots of doggie hairs.

He's buried next to Otto now, in the sandy clay that our house sits on. He's not there, though. He's somewhere else, heaven, maybe. If it's true we have to live multiple lives because we just haven't gotten things right yet, then being a dog must be the last step. Dogs love unconditionally, forgive continuously, and are loyal to a fault. They have a sense of wisdom and understanding that reaches beyond language and touches the soul. While a picture may be worth a thousand words, a dog's eyes tell the stories of a million lives. How close to God might we be if only we could be more like a dog?

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When I was struggling with the idea of letting Bobob go, I couldn't help but feel some sort of guilt - that nagging if-only-I'd-seen-this-coming-I-could-have-saved-him feeling. I was at peace with my decision, an indication that it was the right one, but I couldn't help but feel the negative. I could be the world's worst dog parent. In my time as a dog owner, I've had three dogs die - a 6 month old lab that was hit by a car, Otto, and now Bobob.

These ill-fated creatures remind me of all of the other ones that have crossed my path - the crippled bluebird that fell from a nest that I made a paper nest for and dug worms up to feed it. It died 2 days after "saving" it. The 3-legged calf that we bottle fed and I took a special liking to...that still ended up on someone's dinner table. The numerous turtles, butterflies, birds, and lizards...the chickens that were picked on, the duck no one wanted (and had neurological issues)...the list could go on.

What does this mean? Am I the curse that causes these helpless animals to die? Or am I some sort of vessel of comfort to give them hope, give them love in their final days.

I can't say I'll never have a dog again. I still have Axle, and I know there are so many dogs out there that need loving homes, though I don't know that they need mine. I don't know when I'll take that step. It's wounding, losing a pet. It breaks your heart, breaks your wallet ($346 poorer, not counting the $350 I already had invested in him...after only 3 mos), breaks your will...

But, sick as it may sound, I still have hope. I have hope that I'm not some sort of cursed pet parent, that I do give dogs love and a good home, that maybe I am attracted to the throwaways, the special needs ones that others pass over...I guess you could call it an underdog syndrome. I know what it's like to be underestimated, and there's so much potential in every thing that has the privilege of being alive. Heck, even marble has potential, and it doesn't breathe!

So here's to Bobob, may he be forever happy, wherever he may be, and here's to any future dogs, may they live the life they were meant to be, however long or short that is.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

On Horses and Forgiveness

Having a dog comes with its own set of troubles. What about owning a horse? At our old house, we had 6 acres to play with...so we rescued a horse...then took in a second for companionship. The first horse we took it was the white creature on the right, named Leo. We found out about him through a friend of a friend - "You guys looking for a horse? Well I know someone with a stallion to give away, but he needs some weight put on him." I don't think that statement nearly prepared us for what we got.

Leo was severely underweight - nearly skin and bones. He was contained in a dirt pasture along with two other horses (fat and happy beyond their feet in disrepair), a donkey, and a goat. The people also had a multitude of dogs, some intact, some not. They ranged in size, appearance, and age. Quite a collection! Back to the pasture - it was about the size of my house...which isn't big enough grazing area for one horse, much less all of those others. There was no grass, just some old beat up buckets they put horse feed in, and it was obvious Leo didn't stand a chance at getting to that food. The water was nasty. The worst part of it? The owners acted like there was nothing wrong. They were in the middle of setting up a brand new above ground pool...riding nice ATVs...nice cars under their garage...while a horse starves to death in their own backyard. His mane and tail were a matted mess (See the pic of me grooming him), and his skin was covered in rain rot. His hooves had gone so long without trimming that they had chipped down to nothing. He was also a gelding.

We took him home, and set him free in our green pasture. He found the fresh water first thing and drank like he hadn't tasted water in forever. The next few days, he didn't wander far from the water trough. We fed him horse feed and shredded beat pulp. We didn't introduce hay for a long time because of the rich proteins in it.


 Slowly but surely, he started to come around. He steadily gained weight, thanks to a solid round of wormer, vaccinations, good food and water. We cleared up his rain rot and detangled his tail. We never could quite detangle his mane, but he was so proud of it that we couldn't bear to cut it off.

Leo was only 5 years old. The people we rescued him from had him for 2 years. 2 years! The other horse we took in was a 13 yo retired jumper - an Appendix Quarter Horse. He was a little underweight and had rain rot, but he bounced back in just a couple weeks.
 Leo was a long project. He was overly nuts about food, and he'd kick at our other horse, Cowboy, if he came close to his food. He would spook at the lightest touch on his belly. Every day was progress, though, and by the end of his stay with us, he was a healthy, happy, spunky horse again. We had to move, and the best place we could find was only on one acre of land. We always knew the two wouldn't be with us forever anyway, and we found them a great home with another horse to play with.
So, besides the reality of the cruelty and the nonchalant attitude of Leo's former owners, which requires a forgiveness all of it's own, there's another story here.

I've always loved horses, and one day, my parents finally caved and bought me two of my own - a Racking Horse gelding named Charlie and an Appaloosa mare named Molly. Charlie was sweet, but he was skittish. Molly was my favorite. She was a sweet butterball of a horse, and she let me climb all over her, walk underneath her, all with the patience of a mother hen. There was a lady my parents knew that had gone to the church my dad preached at. She was getting married and wanted to borrow Molly for her wedding. My parents let her. Well...she never brought her back. Instead of doing the right thing and going to get my horse, my parents, after not reaching her on the phone, sent her a letter stating to return Molly or send x amount of money for her. She sent a check. My parents should have gone and brought her back, or involved the police. They didn't because it would "look bad on the church." So I lost my horse. The first and only horse I've ever loved. It's taken me a long time to forgive them for these actions, and I'm still not sure I've quite forgiven the woman that took Molly away from me. Well, maybe forgiven, but definitely not forgotten.

I have to go now - Axle doesn't have the zoomies, but he certainly has le gas! I'm going to hang out on the OTHER SIDE OF THE HOUSE NOW!!!