Monday, August 4, 2008

A Bad Injury

It's been a little while since I've been on... Toby and I were taking things easy and hanging out in the safety of our home for awhile. Or well... that was the intention. Last Sunday however he stepped wrong off our 'mini-deck' (only about 6 inches off the ground) and we thought he pulled a muscle. He walked fine after the initial yelp and was his normal self. Late Monday night however things started to go down hill fast. At first he started with a slight limp on his left back leg (acting like he'd pulled a muscle). Then he cried every time he moved and within a few hours after the initial downward spiral he started screaming with the slightest motion. He collapsed and didn't move for hours. Not my normal dog by a long shot. My parents were still convinced he'd just pulled a muscle and that there was nothing we could do but give him rest and ice it. Mom and I slept on the floor with him all night, just trying to keep him comfortable and from moving too much. Halfway through the night mom finally conceded that there had to be something else wrong or at the very least he needed something more thant he dog asprin we'd given him.

First thing Tuesday morning we were into the vet's office. We carried him in using his crate (because I was scared that picking him up would hurt him more) and sat down for one of the most emotional vet visits ever. The vet had to poke and test his back legs to see where the problem was and everything just made him scream. She then started flipping his feet so that the tops of his feet were touching the floor and watching. Normally a dog is supposed automatically flip their feet back into the right position... Toby did it fine on his front two. His back right was slow. His back left (the leg we thought he'd pulled the muscle in) he never corrected. The vet started to fear some neurological was wrong. They sedated him for x-rays and took him out of the room. Half way through the x-rays he came out of sedation screaming in pain (they had to flip him on his back to get a better view and the pain was too much). I left the vet's for a few minutes while they finished the x-rays. I was too the point where my nerves were beyond raw and I was physically ill.

It turns out that Toby collapsed two discs in his back (or something very similiar, I was a little out of it in the explanation part)... and there was a real fear that he might not be able to walk again. He stayed at the vet's for a few hours under sedation to give him as much time pain-free as possible, but the moment he came out they called us back up to get him. Toby has not been handling vet trips well at all and the last one we had (a simple blood test for Heartworm he decided that he had no more tolerance for vets and lunged for her, a very weird thing for a dog who loves people any other place) so being in the office was stressing him out and they didn't want him hurting himself in the stress. So he came home with us (by far my preference). He's on crate rest for the next 6 weeks.

So far he's done really well. He's made a lot of progress this week. He can walk again, stiffly but enough to go potty. Though my dad is still supporting his back end with a towel to help keep some weight off Toby's back legs. We've made our house handicap accessible pretty much... Dad and my brothers built an addition to the wagon to wheel him in and out of the house and by dismantling the picnic table we have a ramp down the outside stairs. His pain level seems to have really gone down and his tail is finally starting to wag a little again. He's been such a trooper and we hope that the rest of his recovery goes as smoothly as this.

I haven't been this scared since he was a puppy and we battled parvo with him. He's always been the healthier of the two dogs but when he falls he falls hard. I'm just so glad he's okay. So here's to hoping he continues to recover.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Wow - playing with both Toby and Shelby! At once!

I've always played with Toby and Reba at once. They don't share toys - Reba grew up her entire life without having another dog in the house... so she never learned to share her toys and when we got Toby, that never changed. However, they both want me to play with them if I'm playing with the other. So sometimes we alternate between me setting one aside while I play with the other and then alternating or playing with them both, just one on each side with different toys. It's a bit of a coordination problem but it works. Toby and I play a laid back version of tug, with me shoving up against him with my shoulder to make it harder on him as I tug the toy along the ground, and then Reba and I would play with her chasing my hand.

I've never been able to play with any other dog in Toby's presence, let alone with him on the other side of me. That sends him right over threshold. However, earlier today while he was out I finally got Shelby loosened up back to the happy dog she can be and she started playing. She jumped the first few times mom moved but then settled into chasing a toy that I dragged along the floor. After Toby came in we stopped playing again... I didn't want to risk it. Which was fine by her, she went back to her place on the couch. Then Reba went crazy. Just darting around the room barking after her ball (she'd knocked it out from under the table and it was scooting away from her). This inspired Toby to want to play. I've never gotten him to play when there was another dog anywhere near him... he might bite at the toy if I ask, but that's it. This time he was asking for it even with Shelby sitting on the couch 3ft from him! So I asked Shelby to stay and played with him.

He was completely relaxed (our inside games aren't revved up at all, they're quiet just giggly games we play) so I asked Shelby to come on over to my other side. Which she happily did for cuddles while I continued playing. No problem. He saw her coming but went back to the game. So I grabbed the toy I'd been playing with her earlier with and started playing with her. This one took a bit more concentration than my Toby/Reba games because Shelby is faster and can actually see her target. But both dogs played calmly for quite awhile. It wasn't until one end of Toby's tug toy came loose and zoomed in the midway part that Shelby wanted to see what Toby was playing with. He never stopped playing, he just growled at her and shoved himself around me tucking his head and toy out of the way, but he was still loose. I just slid in between them and refocused her on the other toy. We had no other problem. Once done both dogs just spread out on either side of me for cuddles.

Toby still isn't 100% sure about her with everything... but he's not 100% on anything. Ha! Nor am I. For the most part though he's very relaxed with her. He won't tolerate as much from her as he does Reba - for example, Shelby can't bark without sending him over the edge and he'll pounce/play bow in his rude, lab-full-body slam. But we've been managing it, using a lot of splitting before he can get too close if he looks like he's getting excited and he's staying calm. She can do her happy jig in front of me, jump on me while on the couch, and trot after me. She can't run yet, no noises, and she can't play solo with me (though we're still working on having him relaxed while Reba plays solo with me... so that's a work in progress, I'd never expect it with a new dog). Shoot, I didn't expect any of this but it's awesome to watch his progression. Even mom has been spectacular with this (my brothers too, dad works during the day so he doesn't have to deal with me in the room with the dogs - a good thing because he's convinced my only problem is that I'm not strict enough the first time). Unlike her normal 'bad dog' routine if she has to do anything, she's started just simply stepping between the dogs if Toby gets too antsy. She doesn't lean over him or point at him or anything, just steps in between and continues on. That's normally enough to erase any tension between the two and they will follow who ever stepped in the middle.

Shelby's parents are coming to get her today. A bit depressing all around. She's such a doll of a dog and she's getting a kick out of so many things. She's never had dog toys really... a tennis ball in the backyard and that's it. Believe me, I've asked. I got her one for Christmas a few years back but it squeaked... not a loud squeak but enough to annoy her mom. So she's learned that we have whole boxes of toys! She won't play with them on her own, but she likes to rifle through and pull out some and just set them outside the box. Then of course Reba rounds up all of her balls to horde and Toby takes his tug toy out of the room. But they do leave her the rest of the toys to arrange by the boy. Then I put them back and she does her happy jig and takes them all back out. She's also starting to run around the house with me (when Toby's outside)... it's nice seeing her confidence come out when she does it too. And then there are the trick times. She looked so lost yesterday when I was running our two through a bunch of tricks. She knows sit and shake, but I started luring crawl for her so she didn't get bored doing the same things. It's nice watching all three of them relax and do silly tricks together for me. Though I will say, old dogs learn tricks incredibly well. Shelby's picked up on crawl AND spin so far.

I'm sure she'll be happy to see her family tonight but we'll sure miss her. She's such a charmer.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Well, today was much better.

He needed quite a bit of time to adjust last night... And I wasn't at all sure what to do in the situation. So mom and I made a plan and hoped it worked. For the most part my goal was to stay out of the situation, to go upstairs and just come down occasionally... that way Toby didn't feel pressured to guard me and he would hopefully relax more when I was in the room with him and Shelby. It worked fairly well and I was able to pet them - with both dogs calmer if they were on opposite sides of me (and Toby in a cued behavior). If Shelby however got excited and started to do her happy jig (shuffling front feet and she crowds up against your leg) and Toby got too rough, I'd neutrally tell him "That's enough," and give him a different cue to do - mostly his hand touch one and then a sit or down.

I don't consider 'that's enough' a punishment in this situation. I can't remember using it before, so I'm not sure it's a learned behavior for him yet - but saying his name tended to jazz him up and he just giving him a cue didn't seem to connect with his brain. But normally by the time I rattled on a few words and then cued he was fully capable of listening. And cueing him to come touch my hand got him away from her and calmed him down, even if she followed. It worked well enough for us and I spent most of the night making sure Toby knew he had a job to do any time I walked in the room. That faded after awhile and he got to the point where he would be snoozing on the floor, hear me coming and watch Shelby come say hi before falling back asleep. He did get a little nervous when he saw me getting ready for bed and Shelby acted like she was going to follow me upstairs, but I had mom call her away and then called Toby up for bed. Shelby didn't sleep with us... I didn't want him to think he had to share 'his' sleeping spot too. I figured that was pushing it too far, especially for a dog that's not staying long.

Today, he was tense in the morning but relaxed. I can officially say I don't think I'll ever be able to live with a dog that doesn't have a solid leave it. It'll always be a behavior I train right from the beginning. Toby has never generalized it to live animals, but there is no question in his ability to leave any food, no matter what. Shelby dropped her treat and both our dogs started to go for it. Not good. I've had so many incidents where Toby's leave it has saved him from eating something he wasn't supposed to (half the time he doesn't bother even looking towards whatever fell...) but it always makes me proud. I was able to cue him to leave it and stop Reba mid-go for it so Shelby could resume in peace. I'm not sure how she'd have reacted to having it taken, but it's not worth it. (Although, if anyone has tips on how to teach a dog that's going blind a good leave it... I'd like to hear them. I've tried with Reba, but she can only see it some of the time... it makes the criteria VERY hard to define for her... and since it normally takes her ages to find something I've lived without it. It'd be helpful though).

Outside of course, is a little different. Inside, Shelby can be dancing in front of me and Toby's calm about this. Outside... he tried to entice her to play. They've played before, but he was a bit over the top enthused about his asking today so she told him no. He flopped into a second play bow, hitting her as he did it (he was very loose body wise, just not respectful of her personal space), she lifted her lip. That was enough for him until after he'd chased a squirrel came flying back, tried to ask for play and she refused him again. He'd ignored my hand touch so I was moving in closer to cue him away but I didn't need to. He went to put a paw on her back and she turned and snapped at him that time. That was enough for him. As long as she wasn't crazy running around the yard he ignored her. Or I should say, as long as she wasn't doing that or chasing me up the deck. But overall giving him something else to do and the fact that she wasn't willing to tolerate being tackled calmed him back down again. He's a loose happy boy right now, snoozing up next to her. At dinner time tonight Shelby didn't eat until I started hand-feeding her... our two finished before she was done so I cued them both to my other side and asked for downs. I hand-fed them all together. Both my dogs love hand-feeding, it's a chance to get food from me and do tricks. Shelby just got to much comfortably. And it kept everyone out of her dish while I made sure she ate something today (she's used to being free-fed, which we don't do at our house).

Here's a picture of the pretty girl:

For a 13 year old lady, she's looking grand. Still has the most incredible heart too, but camera shy. This is the only one out of a good twenty shots that I was able to get and I'm zoomed in from a distance. She's a timid dog. I know some dogs are naturally that way, but I also know a great deal of hers it due to her raising. The problem I always find myself in when I get to spend some time with her... is how happy do I make her? Her 'mom' has an unpredictable temper. One day Shelby is allowed on the couch, the next she gets screamed at for it. One day I can play with her, the next day Shelby gets screamed at for even bringing me a toy - even if I've asked for it. Our house is much more laid back (thank Dog!). She's allowed on the furniture and she's allowed to be a wacky girl. We don't care if she dances and runs around in the house when she's happy. And yet, I hate to think that when she gets home she could get in trouble. We're following their instructions as said, but her mom has never been consistent with her. Which is so sad, because I'd have taken this dog a thousand times over... my entire family would have. She's a complete joy to have here, especially now that my boy has calmed down. And I know that her family loves her (especially the kids and their dad), but there's a reason I don't take Toby to that house unless I have to. So as much fun as it's been to see her come back out of her shell, I'm worried about just how far I happy talk her into. She's such a sweetheart.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Well, I've been avoiding this thing lately. Mainly because I'm still avoiding the vet appointment in my memory. I think when I cope better with what happened without falling into that self-hating, depressed mode I'll write about it. But right now... it's almost safer to get some distance from it. I can at least type this without feeling like I'm about to break down, so that's improvement. For the record, no one got hurt.

However, the real purpose of this blog is on the fact that we're watching my aunt's dog today, tomorrow and Friday. It never occurred to anyone in the family - including me - that this would be a problem. Toby and Shelby have always gotten along... no matter where we were at. They've lived peacefully together in campers, at Shelby's house, at any other of our relatives houses... Shelby is one of those quiet, calm dogs whose absolutely no trouble. She's also female... Toby's never had a problem with a female before. Ever. And shoot, to top it all off... They started off great. Their normal calm meet and then they forgot about each other, lounging around the house. My brothers and parents could all play and pet Shelby and nothing changed.

Then I come home. We haven't had any scuffles or anything, but if I so much as look Shelby's way Toby is stepping between us. The only way I can pet her is by putting him in a sit/wait on one side of me and having her on the other and pet them both at the same time. But if I'm not very clear that I want Toby to follow me when I'm done he heads straight for Shelby, smelling her over, sometimes his tail is up, sometimes not. He just has this weird, overly excited look in his eye. If she tries to petition petting from me he splits between us, blocking her access. And heaven forbid if she gets excited and jumps or play bows at me. His eyes nearly bugged out of his head when she did that and the only thing that kept him from rushing over and posturing was the fact that I stepped in between them and told him to back off.

This has never happened before. I've played with Shelby wildly, running around her back yard and he never cared. He'd either watch or join in, completely relaxed. Shelby has always been one of his buddies. Not the over the top, OMG I'm excited to see her type of buddy... but they've always acted like extended housemates. Happy to see each other, petition play when they want... shoot they've always gotten along better than even our little dog Reba and Toby do sometimes. And Shelby's not the problem... I'm fairly certain there. Yes, she's watching me and just waiting for me to cue her to come get petted (she's a very restricted dog, her upbringing was very, very strict...) but that's nothing new. She looks away, arcs around, yields to Toby... shoot, Reba just snapped at her (Reba can't see and Shelby just stepped on her tail, whoops). Nothing.

I'm a bit torn in how to handle this. I don't want to entice a fear response in anyone... I've toyed with the idea of desensitizing the situation. Except, Shelby can't have anything outside her kibble - which she's not in the mood for. And Toby doesn't seem food motivated at the moment. If I'm out of the room, he'd take it no problem, if I'm in the room... we're treading his threshold I guess. He'll take it and it's give or take on whether he'll eat. He did just eat dinner (which I always carefully monitor... him and Reba like to try and switch, even though she can't reach his and that doesn't always go over well). Shelby was in the room and less than a foot from me. As long as I wasn't touching her and he knew what I wanted him to do (to eat) he was fine.

-sighs- Well, I'm not reading my book downstairs tonight like I planned. At the moment I'm relegated to my room while I let things resettle downstairs. I wish I knew if I was doing anything... but when I came home I was confident and relaxed. I'd seen them all lounging about in the house and had no worries. At the moment I'm puzzled but I don't feel too stressed by anything because in this situation Toby seems to be responding best as long as I've given him clear directions and am ignoring Shelby. The poor girl. She loves attention.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reba Pictures

Because I realized she doesn't get enough 'show time' on the blog or in the videos. So here's my best girl:
Reba happy to work. That's one thing I can count on... she always wants to play and work. She's such a happy girl. Where I get stumped a lot of the time is how to help her... she's losing her eyesight and I find myself struggling to continue teaching her as many tricks as possible. We're learning together and in the end it'll make me a better trainer for it, but she's not an experienced dog when it comes to shaping (and gets frustrated fast) and luring is dangerous for my fingers. So we experiment together... but a lot of it I don't think to tape.
Her eyes actually look good in these pictures too. They got all green and gunky the longer we worked outside. :(

Oh and just because I can't help it. I have to show of the "happy man," although he was anything but this last weekend. I noticed he'd either itched a small hole in his side or gotten bit by a good sized bug. Either way he had to suffer through my administrations. I voted to just clean it/put some cream on it, and bandage it rather than take him to the vet this weekend... I watched him closely and he seems completely normal. And taking him to the vet would have wiped his system out - stress wise. I hope that changes with the new vet. We'll see how well that goes Tuesday.
Though I will admit... he doesn't look nearly as fed up with me in this picture as he did last summer when he started itching his butt bald and had to wear undies for a few days. Oh... was I getting the look then! Seasonal allergies kick our butts over here. In the winter, Toby is fine... his coat is shiny, his eyes bright, the whole nine yards... The moment my allergies kick in come spring, his are right behind mine. -sighs-

A New Vet

Well, I've been putting this off and putting it off. I've known for a little while now that I wanted to change veterinary clinics. The vets we currently have do a good job, don't get me wrong, they're just not for us. They're closest to us and have done fairly well with all of our dogs. But Toby has been going downhill there... he used to love going in and saying hi to the people. Now, he'll cower as we walk in the front door and will freak if it even looks like we're heading to an examining room. It's far from easy carrying him back to a room. You know it's bad when your dog gets injured and you weigh whether it's really that bad to take him with the emotional costs you know it has on your dog. I've tried working with them... I've asked to be taken in through the back if possible, they can't do it. Which is surprising, because they can do it for other clients. I've asked if we can schedule around the busy times, they can't do that either. There aren't any non-busy times apparently.

So after a lot of poking around I was recommended to a small vet practice (a little drive from where I am...). After calling them I'm feeling much more confident about switching. We've set up an appointment (for next Tues) just for a meet and greet with the vets and if he's feeling comfortable, his heartworm blood test. They were more than willing to set up an appointment just to get to know him (even more surprising was that the receptionist recommended it before I'd even gotten to that question). Even better, we're scheduled right after lunch time and are the first clients in. That way there will be the fewest possible dogs there and he shouldn't have to feel crunched and over threshold. And if that doesn't help, they're more than willing to take us through the back. There are a few more questions popping into my head as I write this... which goes to show that no matter how prepared I thought I was to call, I still didn't have everything on hand like I wanted. lol. But that's nothing I can't ask them Tues.

Part of me hates having to switch vets. On the human end, our previous one was convenient. I hate driving, I'm terrified of it. Our old one was right next door practically, off residential roads so I didn't have to do anything 'scary.' The new one is off a little distance (15 minute drive), off a busier road that I've never been too. I'm scared all right. But I'll spend this weekend driving from home and back just to get the feel of it. I almost didn't call and move him... almost, until I remembered him shutdown in the middle of the lobby, shaking and having to be carried into the back room. Or the way he know growls and cowers from the vets and makes me wonder what goes on when they take him from me to the back. There is no way I can accept that that's how going to be has to be. The lady at the new vet assured me that that's not how it should have to be either.

I just really hope this works out. -crosses fingers-

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

And he's loose...

I had quite the heart attack this morning. The latch on side gate sprung loose while he was out and I'd gotten distracted because I was running late for work so I didn't realize it until he'd been out 10 minutes. I know the gate was shut when I let him out because that's the first thing I check, so I'm not sure what went wrong. However, Toby has one call (I smooch, shut the door and he has 10 seconds to get up to the door) when he's out back when it's time to come in. It's amazingly enough, a rule structure everyone in my family has kept up with. If he's not there in 10 seconds the shoes go on and someone calmly goes out to fetch him. He rarely, if ever misses a call. Lately however, with the pesky dog out he's been missing a few.

So when I called him this morning I didn't think anything of it. I went out back and checked the fence line for where he might be standing before I realized he wasn't there. Sure enough when I turned around and hurried around the deck... the little gate was standing wide open. I took off after him, but when I didn't see him in immediate sight down the block I started to panic. Trying to think I just did a 'smooch' sound again as I headed in the direction I thought he'd go. I made it two steps before he dive bombed me. Yes!

I'm so proud of him. Thankfully, it was a quiet morning and outside from the normal fenced dogs on the street there'd been nothing for him to get in trouble with. After some cuddles and telling him what an awesome man I thought he was, I let him run up my neighbor's drive way back into our back yard (his biggest reward tends to be getting to run loose again... I can't give him that, but I could at least rev him up and run with him back those last few feet). I'm relieved and thrilled... whew.