The more life changes

It’s going on three months now since I left my job as a veterinary technician so that I could pursue full-time psychiatric outpatient care. Add a little 12-day adventure on the inpatient unit (yay I spent Christmas AND my birthday behind locked doors) and week after week of 8:30-3:30 day hospital, a whole bunch of medications, a whole lot of alcohol, and no money, and here I sit.

Somewhere I thought I’d never be.

I started a part time job for lousy pay at a semi-local library. I think I’ll be good at it. I’m hoping I will be able to move to something full-time and perhaps better-paying in time. I like being around books. I like not being around constant death. I miss those extra $5/hour. But it fits around my now three half-days a week psycho program.

And still I struggle. With depression. With anxiety. With sleep. With nightmares and panic attacks and complete lack of motivation to do anything. I’ve stopped running, I’ve stopped geocaching, I’ve stopped doing much of anything. Lie on the couch and watch endless episodes of House. Struggle into grown up clothes for 18 hours a week of employment.

I also have a new pup to snuggle. My friend and flyball teammate’s sport hybrid Toothless is now living with me. He’s a little too terrier for her, but having never had a terrier brain before, she didn’t know that til he grew up in her house. She’s a better person than me, giving up a dog she just hadn’t bonded with to a life with someone who would appreciate him. I should have done that with Mushroom but I never did.

Anyway, he’s little, he’s adorbs, he’s smart, he’s excessively licky, and he doesn’t bark.

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The saddest of good-byes.

I ended up having to take Trek back to the shelter. When the behaviorist came, she thought we would have a good shot at success if I could change both Steve and Trek’s reaction to one another. And I think that it would have worked, would have made a respectable difference. It was based in what I would have done / was doing anyway, but with other facets that I’d not considered, like asking Steve to hop up and then hop off the couch and immediately sit and give me his attention. Same with Trek.

But the very next day, Trek started gunning for Bean’s face. He had no reason. Bean doesn’t stare, Bean does everything he can to not make waves. I had been bitten at least ten times by that point, and I just couldn’t do it anymore.

It’s a horrible thing knowing that you can’t cope with a dog and that the other option is that he’s going to end up dead. Because no good and responsible shelter in its right mind is going to adopt out a dog with multiple bites to multiple dogs, and multiple bites to a human.

He did have good bite inhibition, I must say. The day he got my pinky finger straight on, I was sure I was going to lose it, but I walked away with just a small booboo. He didn’t break skin on Steve. He did lay open a part of Bean’s muzzle.

It was awful taking him back. It tasted of failure and regret. He was such an amazing dog. He had so much going for him. But he just couldn’t work in this household. Maybe it’s because he was male and he needs to live with girldogs. Maybe he needs to be his own dog. I don’t know. Whatever it is, I suspect it’s out of reach. I am pretty sure he’s dead.

My heart hurts so much. I feel so guilty for sending him to his death. But I had to make the right decision for the dogs already here, and I could never bare it if he did serious harm to one of my resident dogs just because I failed to act boldly enough.

Oh Trek, wherever you are, I wish you well. I hope you are safe. I hope you are happy. I hope the couches are comfy and the toys never-ending.

I am sorry I failed you.

Oh little man,  I hope you are safe and spoiled, whever you are.

Oh little man, I hope you are safe and spoiled, whever you are.

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Oh Trek, please don’t.

I love this dog so freaking much. He is happy and sweet and terrifically naughty. He’s locked me out of the house. He ate his way out of my tent when we camped out at the flyball tournament. This morning he brought me a knife while I was still in bed.

I am very special.

I am very special.

Last Saturday he started attacking Steve.

It’s not without cause. Steve stares at him and growls. He’s either resource guarding me or resource guarding a chewie when it happens. Steve and I are so close and Steve is not the most secure dog, so I understand why he does it, but if he could just stop, he’d stop getting eaten. So Steve offers a fight and Trek being a young enthusiastic pit bull with no self-control says hell yeah, bring it and then I get caught in the middle and end up with impressive bruises. So far it’s been all noise and spit, though Trek did nail Bean in the face (not sure what that was all about).

I contacted the local behaviorist on Monday and she is coming out on Tuesday, but in the meantime, I’ve been working a lot with Trek on ignoring Steve’s jerky behavior, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to put a damper on Steve’s stare/growl routine. I’ve been having more success with Trek.

We’re down from 6+ fights last Saturday to 0-1 a day, and much easier to break up. Still, this is stressful for everybody.

It didn’t even cross my mind that it would be a problem bringing home a male pit bull into a house with three other male dogs, and honestly, I don’t know if sex has anything to do with it. Bean’s intact and he doesn’t have a problem with Bean. He loves Hambone. It’s just Steve. And just in certain situations.

I did call the shelter to ask what returning him would look like. I have until July 30th to return him, no questions asked, but since I told them why I’d be returning him, they said they would probably not re-adopt him out. They would try to get him into rescue.

I’m afraid of him being killed for being a pit bull.

He is such a good dog otherwise, and it gives me hope that we’ve made so much of an improvement in a week, and that’s without the help of a behaviorist.

She only gave us a 10% chance of success, primarily because Trek is so young (maybe 9 months). But we’ll see what she thinks now. Hopefully she will be more optimistic.

I love this dog. Just like Luce, he came with lessons to teach me.

I can’t give up on him so quick.

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Adventures in Trekville: The Gorilla Glue Edition

Friday morning my alarm went off at 6:15 and I opened my eyes to find Trek covered in Gorilla Glue. He had it all over his face, his front legs, the top of his head, his scrotum, my carpet….

Not good.

Gorilla Glue is especially dangerous because when it comes in contact with moisture, it expands.

Like, a lot.

Even a small amount of ingested Gorilla Glue can cause big problems.

I don’t work on Fridays and I had to be somewhere at 8 am. I texted my coworker and told her what had happened. Then I texted my boss and told her what had happened and that I was going to drop him off and please fix him.

So I drove him to work, left him in a kennel, filled out all the surgical release paperwork, wrote a note that says if you have to cut him, cut him, and high tailed it to where I had to be.

They xrayed him first thing, and yep. Belly full of glue. (And food because I was stupid and still half-asleep and fed him. Which didn’t make for a happy surgeon. Oopsie.)

Belly full of badness.

They texted me: please call the practice. I fortunately was able to call right away. The doctor said we need to go in. I said what’s the prognosis? He said fine after we take it out. Please de-glue my dog.

I got to work around 12:30 and he was still sleeping soundly. They’d scraped the glue off his tongue and gotten most of it off his muzzle. He had a huge incision and since he was still asleep, I sat there and peeled glue off his paws. What a mess.

Sleeping it off.

Sleeping it off.

They told me to come back at 5 for him, and by then he was wide awake, bouncing off the walls, and trying to get into the trash. Hello, I just had major abdominal surgery. Pffft. I’m a pit bull.

This is what they took out of him:

Glue!

Glue!

He didn’t eat very much, but it blew up like a balloon. If we hadn’t taken it out, it would have caused major problems.

Oh this dog. Less than a month here, and he’s already costing me hundreds of dollars in surgery.

An adventure! For sure.

And then Friday night at the flyball tournament, he chewed his way out of my tent. Yes, he is back. No, he didn’t really notice that he had major surgery. Boing! Boing! Boing!

Oh pit bulls.

It’s a good thing he’s cute.

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I love Facebook.

Facebook has pretty much enveloped my online existence, which is part of the reason I’ve fallen off writing here. Facebook takes minimal effort. I snap a cute picture on my phone and hit upload. A funny thought comes into my brain, I hit send. Share. Whatever.

I hear so often from people my age that they don’t like Facebook because they feel judged, they feel “not good enough”. This person from high school has 2.5 children, a Golden Retriever, the perfect job, and a white picket fence while I’m still kicked back in front of a fan drinking a beer and listening to their pound mutt pant while they dread the hours until they have to return to the job they hate but pays the bills.

I just can’t see putting that much of my heart into assessing what people post in their snippets, or into the people they create online. In a ways, sometimes it’s like performance art. This is who I pretend to be online, so this is who you believe I am.

Nah, I’m just in it for the snippets. Because the snippets? Are beautiful. And ugly. And harsh and emboldening and overwhelming and just… everything. And all together, it’s life, right? That’s all life is— a string of moments. The time when. This story. This place reminds me of the time when you and I.

After Luce died, I looked back through Facebook at all the pictures I’ve posted of her there. It left me full of tears and full of gratitude because we had some amazing times together and I had them there at my fingertips, just like that.

The way we went to parades all dressed up and the kids loved her..

The way we went to parades all dressed up and the kids loved her..

All the hikes we took together, even when they were snow ones.

All the hikes we took together, even when they were slow ones.

But there was so much other stuff there too, the little things from my life these past couple years that have made it special.

Playing at Lure Coursing

Playing at Lure Coursing

The family and how Bean lifted his leg and peed on my back just after I took this.

The family and how Bean lifted his leg and peed on my back just after I took this.

The first Geocache I ever found.

The first Geocache I ever found.

My first half-marathon.

My first half-marathon.

And last but not least, this.

Just because.

Just because.

I’ve thought about adding a Facebook page to go with this blog, but I don’t know whether I would use it or if it would just be one more thing to neglect. Any thoughts from the peanut gallery.

You’re good people. I was amazed to see that people actually still read this thing and still remember me, still remember the way things started.

And I think that is part of why I brought home another pit bull when I never meant to- that community. I wasn’t ready to leave it yet. It’s good to know where your friends are.

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Am I back? I don’t know. Maybe.

I can’t believe it’s been a year. My last post previous to the one about Luce’s passing was for Bean’s second birthday. How time flies!

I don’t know if I’m back for sure, but writing here feels right, and I’m trying to do more things that feel right. More things that carry me through the day and allow me to reach out and connect with others.

So an update on everybody here.

Me: still working in a vet hospital, still struggling, running more (I ran my first half marathon in April), trying to read more, write more, art more instead of drinking more. Therapy twice a week, try to eat well. Love my dogs. Was halfway planning a two-month road trip around the country before I brought Trek home.

Steven: 6 1/2 years old now. How is that even possible? Has been rocking his Novice/Open obedience class and I am so happy with his drop on recalls and his retrieving. Still loves flyball more than anything in the world. Still my service dog when I need him to be which is less often than I used to. Still over-the-top and ridiculous. Still can’t imagine my life right now without him in it. If losing Luce was hard, I can’t imagine how hard losing Steve would be.

Best dog ever's first time at the beach.

Best dog ever’s first time at the beach.

Bean is three now, still intact, and a general barky pain in the butt. He’s a sweet sweet licky boy, and he’s definitely the most trustworthy and biddable dog in the house, but oh the barking. He’s doing great in flyball, with a best time of 3.817 in start. I so want him to run a 3.7 but we’ll see. He’s still intact and might eventually be bred. Hopefully to a non-barky female. He has a litter of half-siblings exactly two years younger who are supposedly not barky.

OMG yay flyball! Photo credit Jim Geiser

OMG yay flyball! Photo credit Jim Geiser

Hambone Ham Ham Hammy. Still working on that flyball thing. It would help if I showed up at practice. Capable of full runs, thought he loses interest pretty quickly. Capable of runs with a dog in the other lane. He’ll get there eventually.

Ham is a fantastic hiking companion though. He’s little so he’s easy to haul up cliffs (yes this is sometimes a concern) and he just goes and goes, easily covering 8 miles of tough trail with me. He’s also a super-duty snuggler.

At the top of the world near Lehigh Gap.

At the top of the world near Lehigh Gap. Photo credit: Danielle Davidheiser

And Mr. Trek Mclovin who has only been here a couple of days had his first clicker training session and proved that he has brains as well as brawn. He’s coming out of his shell and turning into an extra-goofy mouth with feel but he is so sweet and so good that I can hardly stand it. He was kind of a spur-of-the-moment decision, but he is one of the better decisions I’ve made recently.

Happy faces. Photo credit HLLC.

Happy faces. Photo credit HLLC.

So, I guess we’ll see where all of this goes, if I can continue to update. Topics are hard. I don’t do that much with my dogs anymore. We play flyball but nothing else. But we’ll see. We’ll see.

Thanks for being here.

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I said I said I said

I said long before Luce passed away, no more pit bulls.

They’re too much trouble, they’re too much of a crap-shoot health-wise, they’re not worth the social aggravation, they’re not worth the dog/dog issues.

I said before Luce died, no more dogs.

Three is plenty. Maybe when Steve is old and gray I’ll see about getting a puppy out of Bean. But for now, no. Three is a good number.

And then Luce was gone, and I found myself at the shelter looking at a pit bull. I didn’t go there looking for any dog in particular. I just went to look.

Because my heart was aching. Because there was a hole in my belly.

It’s so uncommon to find nice, moderate pit bulls in our shelters. They’re generally huge and overdone. I don’t want a 70 pound bulldog.

This one’s not. He’s 46.

Handsome

A stray with no history, a year old, give or take, and nice.

So I went up front and I asked if they adopt to people with intact dogs at home. They said all of their animals are spayed or neutered before they leave so no, that’s not a problem.

I said I know one of my dogs will absolutely hate him when I bring him for a meet and greet, will you still consider adopting him to me? As long as the two dogs aren’t going at each other, if your dog warns the new dog and the new dog respects that, and everybody feels comfortable with it, yes.

I said can I meet him?

They said we’ll bring him right up.

He plays ball. He plays tug. He lets me lean over him. He lets me touch all his parts, look in his ears, look at his teeth. We go for a walk and he gets distracted but comes right back to me when I call him puppy puppy puppy!! He loves people. He loves dogs. He is sweet.

What am I doing? I said no more dogs. I said no more pit bulls.

Damn you Luce, you put him there, didn’t you?

You know how this ends, but I’ll tell you anyway.

I put him on hold. 24 hours. Think about it. Take my dogs in to meet him.

There was no love at first sight, even Hambone and Bean who are generally very dog-friendly are jerks on leash, but the shelter people, they knew how to handle it. (They would not let me handle my dogs, which I understand.) They walked together until my dog calmed down. They tried again. Appropriate sniffing. Next.

Steve was, predictably, a jerk. Snapping teeth and hard eyes. And this shelter dog– McLovin they called him– just looked at him like “ok dude”. We walked. Once Steve got the idea that McLovin wasn’t going to get in his face, he didn’t care anymore. He just wanted me.

Final test, bring Ham and Bean out together. Don’t bother with Steve again because Steve is just going to be Steve.

Awkward boy social confusion but no violence.

Do you feel comfortable? Yes. Do I feel comfortable? Yes.

Ok. Let’s do the paperwork.

It was approximately 900 degrees out, so we brought my dogs inside and put them in a getting acquainted room. They were right by the front door, the first dogs that anybody saw, walking in. The Border Collies did a lot of OMG STRANGER DANGER. Nobody wanted to adopt them. Everybody wanted to adopt the little brown dog who looked so sad.

I promise you truly, Ham is not as abused as he sometimes pretends to be.

We had instant drama the moment I put everybody in the car, McLovin in a crate, Steve up front, the young boys in the back. Bean learned at camp that fence fighting is really fun, and Ham just enjoys excitement. So there was a lot of yelling and snarling and I did a lot of grabbing leashes until their brains could turn back on. The rest of the ride home was peaceful.

This dog, now Trek (Siren’s Improbable Journey), moved in like he has been here his whole life.

Steve has accepted that he’s stuck with him.

Bean and Hambone enjoy wrassling with him. I had to tell them multiple times last night that it was time for SLEEPING, not full-body-contact wrestling. He is snuggly. He is goofy. He is sweet.

He had his first few minutes of training today, just introducing the clicker and the beginnings of attention. We were at the training club, not at home, so it was extra distracting, but he did great. He’s just so affable. Steady.

Not at all like Luce.

And he fills that pit-bull-shaped hole in his own unique way.

I am glad he is here.

I am glad the universe let me have another one.

Bro time.

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I am still yours.

When I adopted Luce 11 1/2 years ago, I had no idea the journey we had in front of us. I was so clueless. They talk about pit bulls being bad choices for first-time dog owners, but I’d worked in dog kennels for years. I worked in a veterinary hospital! I was no typical first-time dog owner!

Yeah I knew nothing.

This much Eeevil

Luce came fresh out of the shelter, off the streets, a year old, with zero manners, even less self-control, the desire to jump every single dog she saw, and a really impressive scream that drew attention from all corners of the continent. I didn’t have a clue what to do with that. I slapped a choke chain on her. Hahahaha! Then I leveled up to a pinch collar. She laughed in the face of the pinch collar. If anything, it amped her up even more.

Seriously, this dog would VOMIT, that’s how worked up she’d get about seeing another dog.

We enrolled in beginner obedience. We worked behind a wall. We enrolled again. And again. And again. And I started reading. I learned so much. I learned about the clicker and I learned about thresholds and I learned about teaching self-control. I wish to god I’d had Leslie McDevitt’s Control Unleashed back then, because that would have made the whole process so much easier and quicker. But we worked with what we had.

And oh did we work. Hard. Because I was too determined that I brought this dog home and I was NOT going to fail with her, even though it would have been so much easier to fail, it would have been so much more sensible to fail and choose a dog who wasn’t insane.

But she was my dog. She was my best friend. She was the most snuggly, most naughty, most hilarious dog I’ve ever met. Eeevil Red Dog. I’d walk into the laundry room and she’d have levitated to the top of the washing machine to have a better view out the back window. I got distracted at the check-out counter at the petstore once and all of a sudden she was ON the check-out counter.

Has a hungry.

She had that big bully grin and she laughed at me as I fumbled around trying to figure out how to control this fireball I’d brought home. I’d have been laughing at me too if I hadn’t been so scared of failing.

Bit by bit we got it together though. Her as teacher, me as student. Like a dog, I learned how to do what worked. What worked for her, what worked for us. She learned to have enough self-control to work in a group obedience class without having screaming meltdowns. We learned Rally Obedience. My instructor encouraged me to trial. I said they could have my leash when they pried it from my cold dead hands. She said do Novice. All on-leash.

I did.

We came in second.

Legs 2 and 3 came just as easily and all of a sudden, I had a crazy little pit bull with a dog sport title!

And then, oh yes, I had to hand over my leash.

Our first time in the Rally Advanced ring, she left me twice to jump on the judge. Who was working with a broken leg in a walking cast. The judge Was Not Amused. We finished with a 77. And fourth place (out of more than four dogs). After that, it got easier. Placements came trial after trial. We started playing in APDT Rally. We NQ’d once out of dozens and dozens of runs. She was the first pit bull to be nationally ranked in APDT rally and then she was the second, the following year.

And she made everybody smile. She was this cocky little firecracker with a big grin on her face who loved to trial. She loved to shmooze. She was always happy and nothing could get her down. People noticed her and asked about her. Yes, she’s a pit bull. Yes she’s a shelter dog. Somebody threw her away. Their loss, my gain.

Proud to be an American

I retired her after she finished her CD with two firsts and a third in 2011. That was all I could ask of her and her increasingly arthritic knees.

Since then, she has just been side-kick, companion, bosslady.

And recently, the senile old bat who picks fights with other dogs, has to be crated when I leave the house because she gets into things (like a bottle of expired deramaxx out of the trashcan, which earned her and Hambone a weekend on iv fluids). The old dog who barks and barks because she can’t hear, she doesn’t know what’s going on, and she doesn’t know what she wants.

Today, I let her go.

It was time. It wasn’t anything I could fix, but it was so hard because it was just a measure of quality of life, hers and mine: ours. And she just wasn’t my Luce anymore. She didn’t greet me, she walked away from pets, she didn’t cuddle with me at night. She was there and she was hungry, but there was little more connection than that. She was fading away and I couldn’t watch it anymore.

I posted on Facebook this morning and I was just absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of sadness and comfort. She affected so many people, that crazy dog and her antics. She inspired so many people. She introduced so many people to the world of pit bulls, made them real, showed what they really are– bratty dogs who need somebody who can be patient and creative and who are willing to put in the work to help them shine.

This one, she shone bright. There will never be another dog like her. They broke the mold.

Oh my Luce, it is so empty here without you. There is a pit bull-shaped hole in my heart that you dug out and laid down in, and now you are gone. I am so proud of you, I am so proud of us. I am so proud of all that I learned from you and I am grateful for everything you had to teach me.

And I am so glad we could inspire the world together.

Rest easy, ARCHX Siren’s Eleusinian Mystery CD CD-H RA RL3 RLV RL2X RL1X CGC TT. You are still mine. I am still yours.

For ever. For always.

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Happy Birthday Mr Bean!

I do not know where the time goes. How does a pup go from

to

012

Look at that man mane!

He is such a good good dog. He barks too much, but he’s sweet and he’s gentle. He goes to daycare every week and loves playing with the other dogs there. He helps “interview” potential new “Camp” dogs, and he gets guinea pigged for other possible behavior-issued dogs because he is so wonderfully appropriate.

He loves to cuddle. He really could not be any sweeter a dog.

I am so very lucky that I was allowed to have such a special little guy. I haven’t done nearly as much with him as he deserves– he should be playing rally and agility at least. But I know he doesn’t care. He loves flyball. He loves playing with his little brother Hambone. He loves to run errands. He loves to snuggle on the couch with me.

All of the pups in the litter have grown into very nice dogs, but I think I got the best one.

bean20140420

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Family Photo of the Day

familyphoto20140501
New kid doesn’t get it yet.

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