animal

Izzy’s New Friend: Meeting Alan

Let’s get something straight.  Even though Izzy thinks he’s rough and tough, he’s not.  He’s a 17 pound cutie of a dog whose bark is truly worse than his bite.  Occasionally, he “gets” that, but there have been many times he IS the one bigger than the others and can flex his doggie muscles (like when he pees on chichauhas). In years past, I’ve had big dogs who thought they were lap dogs (like my British Mastiff, Joshua, who weighed 175 pounds and always wanted to sit in my lap), but I’ve never had a little dog before and I’m constantly surprised at the amount of attitude this Shichon has brought into my life. Last weekend, he was made very aware of how little he truly is.

One of the things I’ve always tried to do with Izzy is to “introduce him” to my friends’ dogs.  He sees my daughter’s two dogs regularly, he loves playing with my friend Theresa’s Jack Russell, and if I even mention his little maltese friend Ellie’s name, Izzy does the cocked head-wiggly feet dance until I leash him up and we head around the block for a visit.  But all of these dogs are either Izzy’s size or just a little larger.  Meet Alan.

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Alan’s a Great Pyrenees, a hunk of an ol’ man who doesn’t have to throw his weight around.  All he has to do is shift every once in a while, and the world rocks.

When we walked into Alan’s house, he moseyed over to meet us, and Izzy looked up, tail wagging, curious about this behemoth in front of him.  He poked his nose against Alan’s leg, sniffed, then touched noses with him.  They wandered around the yard together, Alan peeing everywhere Izzy did (sometimes I wonder where boy dogs get all their pee since they “water” everything they pass, but that’s another blog for another day).

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By the end of the night, they had come to the point of ignoring each other.  A dog’s way of saying, “you’re okay.  I’ll let you hang around in my place.”

Next week:  Izzy and Alan go to the beach!

Izzy’s Glad He Doesn’t Live in Thailand: The Thailand Dog Trade

Lately, Izzy’s been confused about why the dogs across the street bark nonstop — and I’m getting irritated by it.  I have to turn up my TV to the point where I feel like one of those senior citizens who refuses to get hearing aids even though s/he’s going deaf.  But what we’re going through on our little street in North Carolina is really silly compared to what the dogs in Thailand experience regularly.

In Southeast Asia, the dog trade is phenomenal.  I’m not going to post photos here, but if you click here or Google “dog trade Thailand,” you’ll get your fill of some of the most disgusting photos you’ve ever seen.  And they’ll break your heart.  People shove dogs into tiny crates, so many dogs that their faces are smashed against the wires, and most of them never make it alive to their final destination.

Let me say this:  I respect other cultures and really don’t like listening to others who feel the need to diss others simply because their traditions aren’t the same.  However, when it comes to saving animals, I’m not going to shut my mouth — especially when I look at the happy and loving dog who lives with me and think about the thousands of other dogs who never get a chance to live like Izzy does.

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One of the clinics that works nonstop to save Thailand’s dogs is the Soi Dog Foundation.  Their volunteers have worked tirelessly to bring the Thai dog trade to a screeching halt, but when you work to end a horrible business, you rarely realize what it’s going to cost to change that practice.  The clinic’s volunteers have given of themselves — mentally, physically and economically, and I salute them as dog heroes.  Hell, simply as heroes.

If you have a dog that lives in a healthy and safe environment, like Izzy does, think about either giving your voice or your assistance to foundations like Soi Dog so that others will learn to respect the best friends humans have.

A Dog’s Vacation is Never Done

The past two weeks have been inhumanly difficult.  Not a dog’s life. Impossible, really.  And Izzy has known it.  Every night, he crawls up on my lap and lays his head on my hand.  If I try to work at night, he insists of being beside me, paw pulling my hand away from my laptop.  He stares at me with his dark, round eyes as if begging me to pay attention to him.  He knows that I don’t normally stay in anxiety mode when I get home.  I know yoga.  I know how to breathe.  I know how to relax.  But this past two weeks have required working non-stop and anxiety is my middle name.

It’s the perfect time for a stay-cation.

And Izzy knows that, too.

This morning, he crawled up on my lap while I was still in bed (doing my checkbook — yup, I know.  Enough with the nonstop work.) and insisted I pay attention to him.  You’ve been in another place for weeks, his gaze seemed to say.  You owe me.

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Last night, his eyes drooped as I stayed up until 1 AM reading.  This morning, he pulled me determinedly as we walked up Main Street, and he understood when we had to make a u-turn because I heard the old guy’s cane tapping as he walked his pittie mix a block ahead of us.  I didn’t want to deal with the dog’s growling and barking and pulling at the leash to get at Izzy.  I think Izzy understands when we have to make detours.  He knows who his friends are and who aren’t.  The black pug and the girlie boxer and the raggedy Shihtzu and the little Maltese are his friends.  He understands their names when I speak them, and he loves being able to say hello to them when we’re on walks, but he doesn’t mind at all when we don’t say hello to the pittie mix that hates us. Izzy’s smart that way.  He realizes that not everyone has to be your friend.  I need to learn that lesson.

This morning, Izzy kept close until I finished eating a late breakfast and took out the laptop again.  Then he looked at me, gave a little nod and moved into the other room to wait for the mail delivery.  This is our weekend routine, even though it’s not the weekend.  He knows our weekend pattern:  breakfast in bed, catching up on TV, some reading, then I go out for a while:  visit my grandson, see friends, come back every four hours or so to check up on Izzy, more relaxed, not stressed like during the week.

By the end of this little stay-cation we’re about to start, I will have let loose of the anxiety. I will write and read.  I will see friends and family.  Izzy and I will have walked long walks at least twice a day.  He will have visited the groomer and will have shed at least five pounds of fur.  He will have cuddled with me on the couch for hours.  He will have greeted some of my friends who will visit.  He will have taught me the meaning of vacationing.  He will have simply enjoyed being with me.  Living.

Izzy’s New “Job” and New Friend

He wants to be a rug. No kidding. He flattens himself out, all four legs in different directions, head flat against the floor, and he looks up at me. “See, Ma? I’m a rug!” No matter what I say, which treats I wave in the air, where I move, all that he does is move his eyebrows. He’s a rug. See, Ma? The eyebrows go up and down, the eyes move left to right, but nothing else does.

I wonder what he’s thinking.

As I watch him, I think about an old skit George Carlin used to do (and my ex husband mimicked whenever he had the chance) about dogs and cats and how they communicate through their eyebrows (or lack thereof).   Carlin’s Routine

We always had both dogs and cats, and without a doubt, Carlin was right on the money. Cats are aloof. They are disdainful. They have no eyebrows. But dogs . . . they can be guilty (Izzy knows as soon as I walk in the door and see my slippers on the floor that he’d better scoot to the other room because I don’t like chewed up slippers), and they can be persuasive. (Who hasn’t seen the “woe is me, I’m starving” look when a dog sees you move toward where the treats are kept? The skittering little move they make as they try to contain their excitement when they know they might just get that Milk Bone or Pupperoni.)

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I try to ignore him as he watches me with those round brown eyes of his, his eyebrows alternately jiggling up and down, then popping from side to side. He wants me to understand something and is doing his best to talk to me via dog telepathy, but I’m being human-stupid. Then I give up talking to him, gather my dinner dishes and head for the sink. Suddenly, my dog-rug isn’t a rug anymore. He runs in front of me, shivering with excitement as he waits for me to deposit the dishes in the sink, then feints a dash for the door.

Oh, that’s what it is! It’s the “I really want to go out but I have to be patient for her to finish” dog-rug routine.

So there we go. Walk time.

This morning’s walk was a bit more exciting than the usual. Izzy met a new friend, a chocolate-colored Pug who has just moved in down the street. They’re the same size, the same energy level, and both wanted to play, but the Pug’s mom was in her housecoat, and their leashes became tangled — not something I wanted to deal with at 6:30 AM. More on the new friend as the story unfolds.

Hope your day is shared with a telepathic animal 🙂

Izzy’s day at the S(pa)w!

Sometimes dogs get that smell.  You know the kind I mean?  That odor that really makes you go “pe-yoooo.”  As much as you love the little buggers, you really don’t want them on your lap and you certainly don’t want to be lovin’ on them.  Time for a bath — or better yet, a trip to the groomer’s.

Yesterday, Izzy went to Spaws here in Roxboro and not only got the dreaded bath (he doesn’t like the water, though he’s a real nut about being toweled off.  He’ll wait in front of the door after our walks for me to get out the towel and give him his rubdown), but he was also trimmed and sprayed with an appropriately scented “freshener” for the holidays.  Suffice it to say, my house smells like pumpkin pie now.

Okay, for those of you who thought I was a bit down on doggie prima donnas who get all dressed up, you might want to give me a hard time for the pic of Izzy with his bandanna.  Not my doing.  Everytime he gets groomed, he comes home with a different kerchief.  They last maybe five minutes.  I usually find them under the couch with all the balls and bones he has “lost.”

So, here’s the boy — before and after.  Gotta admit, he looks (and smells) much better.  But it would be nice if he looked into the camera occasionally.  Take out the cell phone for a quick shot, and he either looks away or averts his head so I can’t get a full view, making him look horribly uppity 🙂

BEFORE

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AFTER

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Herding the pack and Why Friends Are Necessary

Over the weekend, the weather improved from its bone-chilling factor to a rather reasonable and mild 50-60 degree range.  Though I couldn’t do the hike I had wanted to do with Izzy, I did get in some nice walks, and we were lucky to find Peggy and Ellie at home — with visitors!  Nothing like a Fall romp in the leaves with dogs, but when they’re all the same size, are great friends, and absolutely adorable, it makes it even better.

Whenever I’m with dogs, I am struck by how much they teach us.  The attention to detail that Izzy spends when we’re walking always reminds me that I need to pay the same amount of attention to my writing.  He notes every new sound, whether it’s in the neighborhood, up in the sky or in the trees.  This weekend, he heard a new bird, and even though I have no clue what type of bird it is, I can guarantee that Izzy separated that birdsong from the others we hear regularly.  And the sound of fire engines and ambulances on the boulevard several blocks away made Izzy (and the other dogs in the neighborhood) howl in response to the high-pitched noise.  He’s also aware that the seasons are changing, and his gait reflects his pleasure in the piles of leaves he can sniff, as well as the cooler temps.

But this weekend’s most important lesson was about friendship.  I have always valued my friends and have kept in touch with everyone who has been special to me through the years, from my first friend (we met before kindergarten and have been friends ever since) to those I’ve worked with recently at various colleges.  I drop a card or an email or just a comment on Facebook to let people know I’m thinking of them, and I truly treasure the moments we’ve spent together.  The only way to have friends is to be one, that’s my mantra.

Izzy’s excitement when he sees his little buddies knows no bounds, and when I see him (and them) greet each other with that quiver that only dogs can have when greeting someone they care about, I am reminded that we need to show that same kind of pleasure when we see people whose presence in our lives is special.

Next time you see someone you like, wag that tail of yours a little.  Friends are necessary.  They lower our blood pressure and make little problems laughable.

Here’s the pack of Izzy’s friends this weekend.  A smile for a Monday morning.  From left to right:  Cocoa, 6 month old chocolate Poodle; Ellie, 5 year old Maltese; Izzy, 2 year old Shichon; and Maggie, black Poodle (I think she’s 3).

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Birthdays and Visits and More Car Rides with a Terrified Dog

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Izzy didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, probably because he thought I was going to force him into taking another car ride.

Yesterday, I put him in his ThunderShirt and took him for a long walk before getting into the car to head for my daughter’s house.  Izzy shivered so much, I finally pulled him onto my lap for the ride.  That’s something I never do, but driving for almost an hour and a quarter with him shivering and drooling and sliding on the glove box didn’t seem like a good idea.  He was a bit more comfortable on my lap, but I can’t say that I was.  I don’t like driving that way, even though he was completely still and didn’t impede me at all.

The up side of the ride was that Izzy got to spend the day with Gordon and Wilson, my daughter’s two dogs.  Gordon is a Cockapoo who thinks he’s human, and Wilson is a rescued Rat Terrier mix who was even more of a mess during his first year than my Izzy.  The three dogs played in the fenced in yard while I helped my daughter, who has thrown her back out.

It was my grandson’s birthday, his first birthday, so we played with his new toys, I read him the books I had bought him, and we had some cherished ‘grand’ time.

When we left, Izzy just about turned himself inside out to get his leash on, but when the ThunderShirt was introduced, he knew what it meant:  the horrible red car.  The ride home.  Facing his fear.  As soon as he saw my red sedan in the driveway, he sunk his butt down and refused to move.  Normally, I’d take him for a walk and get rid of some of that anxiety, but it was early evening, starting to rain, and I was tired.  We drove home with him on my lap again and shivering — though not as much as earlier.  By the time we were halfway home, he had his head on my arm, a bit more relaxed.

This morning, we put on the ThunderShirt to go for our early morning walk because it was raining . . . and because I don’t want Izzy to see it as a negative or as a clue that we’re going for a ride.  He won’t have to worry this afternoon, because I’m going back to my daughter’s alone and he can stay home and enjoy napping on this gray, rainy day.

The Kennel and the Car. Izzy’s Fears.

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Izzy upon arrival in North Carolina, 2012

Izzy’s only a little more than two years old, and he’s been working on some fear issues ever since he moved in with me.  I’m proud to say that he’s come a very long way from burrowing deep in the kennel and not wanting to come out when we picked him up at the airport.  He also doesn’t growl and bark at new people like he used to.  Instead, he wags his tail and wants to say hello.  That’s a biggie!  But there are a few things that still bring out the fear.

Over this past weekend, I had to travel to Cincinnati for a college reunion and brought Izzy to the kennel where he has stayed on occasion since he came to me.  The people who run the place are fabulous.  They love him and worked really hard with me when he first went there in order to get him socialized.  At one point, I came to pick him up and found him in the owner’s office, sitting on the recliner.  Yes, he got under their skin like he has with me.

But the kennel isn’t next door to my house.  It’s a half hour ride, which means Izzy needs to get into the car.  That’s not fun for him at all.  When we first started dealing with the issue, Izzy was so frightened of the car that he would literally not even walk by it (and he knew which car was mine) whenever we went through my apartment parking lot after going for a walk.  I spent hours trying to get him to walk around the vehicle, but he sat his butt down and pulled his whole sixteen pounds against the leash.  He would not — for love or money — get into the car unless I forced him.  I knew that wasn’t a good idea, but no matter what I did, nothing got him past the fear.  I spent hours with him, enticed him with treats, sat in the car when it wasn’t running, made sure we went on short rides to “good” places (like my girlfriend’s house where he could run in the back yard with her Jack Russell).  

Nothing worked.

Then we went to obedience school, and one night, I was telling the instructor about Izzy’s fear of cars.  When he rode with me, he would need to be carried into the car, and then he would get up on the glove box, lean against me and drool/pant frantically until we got where we were going.  Usually, those trips were to the kennel.  It doesn’t take much detective work to realize that he soon linked the car with the kennel.

Heidi worked with me that night, and together, we found a “fun” way to get Izzy into the car.  I ran away from it, then turned around and ran toward it (the passenger door open) and when we arrived, said, “Up, up, up!”  Izzy jumped right in.  From then on, it was easy.

But this past weekend, when we went to the kennel (for the first time in months), Izzy didn’t want to go inside.  He finally did, and I didn’t think much about it while I was gone.  When I came back, it was a different story.

Izzy came through the door to the office where I stood, and I bent down to say hello.  His tail tucked between his legs, and his whole body quivered.  The women who were checking me out started making cooing noises, obviously sympathetic to my little shivering Shichon.  

I knew I couldn’t take him in the car immediately, especially in the shape he was in, so I sat on the bench in the lobby and asked him to come up on my lap.  He tried, but the slatted bench wasn’t familiar, so he gave up.  I patted him and talked to him a while longer, but his quivering became worse.  It was as if he knew he would have to go into the car.

Having just driven 10 hours, I wanted to get home, so I paid my bill and took him outside.  He saw the car and immediately pulled in the other direction, both his head and tail lowered.

It was lightly raining, but we trotted up to the end of the long driveway.  I let Izzy take a good look (and sniff) at the horses in the meadow across the road, then we trotted back to the car.  He seemed a bit more comfortable, but not relaxed.  

“Up, up, up!” I said, and Izzy obediently jumped in, though he still shivered.

All the way home, he quivered and drooled.  I felt horrible for several reasons.  I hate driving with him on the glove box, for one.  If I have to make a turn or a quick stop, he has no traction at all.  Secondly, his fear seems amplified, and I don’t want him to associate the car with a negative end.  Thirdly, I had just gotten home and wanted him to be comfortable.

Once we were home, he had a walk and got settled back in the house.  Within minutes, he was back to his playful self, finding his favorite tattered red ball and bringing it to me.  But I think that the next car ride will bring back the same fears.

So, research this week . . . on good car seats that will allow him a view of the outside and some security.  And I think the next time we go to the kennel, he’s going to be wearing his ThunderShirt to keep him calm.

Street Orphans

Street Orphans

In the South, there are house dogs and yard dogs. I’m not a big fan of yard dogs. I hate seeing dogs on a chain in a back yard, and I truly feel that those dogs begin to harbor aggression after a while. Yes, it makes no sense to let dogs run free, but if you have a dog, aren’t you responsible for giving it love and care and making sure it’s healthy and safe from the elements? Yes, Izzy goes out in the yard occasionally, and when he does, he’s tied up (because he does the fa-la-la-I’m-free! thing when he’s off leash and he’s too little for cars to see when he zips across the street — giving me heart attacks). But when you leave a dog outside day and night, simply giving it water and food, that doesn’t work for me.

Yesterday, when Izzy and I walked, a clownish black Lab raced up to greet us, large pink tongue lolling out of his mouth. He was wet and obviously wanted some water, so I knew he’d been outside for most of the day since it had been raining. And he was young and wanted to play. Suddenly I realized he was Spike, the black Lab that lives around the corner from me — in the back yard on a chain. He’s been there since he “moved in” when he was quite little and quite scared. Occasionally, Izzy goes back there to play for a few moments (when I’m brave enough to let him off the leash), but other than that, Spike sees no one, doesn’t play, doesn’t get to walk the neighborhood, and doesn’t have any shelter other than the trees overhead.

His newly-found freedom was obviously an aphrodisiac for him last night. He hopped over Izzy, did the puppy-bow, raced alongside us, rolled down the grass, and generally looked — plain and simple — happy!

We worked with one of the guys on the street to try to get Spike back to his yard, but he was not interested. I think he rather likes being one of the Street Orphans, those dogs who race freely up and down the streets of our little town.

Can’t say that I blame him!

Shedding Season

Last night when Izzy and I went for our dinnertime walk, he was drawn to some sounds near the fence where yellow roses bloom.  He poked his nose into the leaves, then jerked back.  Poked his nose again and jerked back as if something bit him.  I thought he might have found a spider nest since their webs often stretch three feet across between the tree branches above the fence, so I pulled him away and kept walking.

We saw Ellie and Peggy, played and talked for a while, then when the sun started to set, we headed back down the street to the house.  Curious, I walked past the fence again.  Izzy still cautiously sniffed around, but this time, I saw what must have been making the rustling sounds in the leaves and deadwood beneath the roses.  And I’m pretty sure we’re not going to be sniffing around that area again.  I didn’t get a photo of the actual skin, but this is a close facsimilie — and for those who don’t recognize it, it’s a copperhead that has shed its skin.

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