Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Pet Bull & The Big Burly Men

It’s come to my attention recently that my family harbors a shameful and embarrassing secret. 2 Big burly men deathly afraid of a widdle pet bull.

I have a large family on my mother’s side; but not a particularly close family. I wouldn’t say estranged so much as just plain busy – in other words, lovely to see everyone at weddings and funerals.

My mother however maintains at least phone contact with her siblings, which is how I end up staying in the loop with regard to family gossip.

My immediate family; defined as the people (family and friends) that I am close to and actually do see on a regular basis; are all fairly sane individuals. When we decided to get Veronica and brought home the cutest, wiggliest puppy you ever saw; they reacted as expected…they grabbed her and raspberried her tummy. And that was the end of that…or the beginning of that actually.

But elsewhere in the family, unbeknownst to me; high drama was brewing. And I hate to say it…but leave it to the big, strapping, burly men to be the most histrionic.

To prove my point; let me tell you about my aunt Ellie. Ellie is an anxious woman, a bit afraid of her own shadow, given to popping xanax like tic tacs. Ellie made no bones about being afraid of Veronica. And you couldn’t be mad at her for it. She wasn’t insulting about it, she was just stating a fact; “I’m afraid to fly, I’m afraid to bungee jump, I’m afraid your dog will eat me”. Which is fine because it’s not like she was ever going to see my dog…right?

Well, not quite. There I was one Friday afternoon tooling around with Veronica and her Grammy, running errands; when Veronica’s Grammy (who insists upon driving; “as long as she still can” quote, unquote) says, “I’m going to stop by Ellie’s. I want her to see Veronica”. Veronica’s Grammy is a very proud Grammy; and everyone she knows is going to get with the program, “or else”. I myself am just an innocent bystander. The next thing I know she’s pulling out her cell phone and saying “Hi! So I’m outside of your house…”. To Ellie’s credit, while she was looking at Veronica the way one would look at a pet tiger on a thin leash; she insisted we come sit in the yard and visit. She kept casting sideways glances at Veronica, and after about 5 minutes she concluded that she “looked like a dog”(not to boast but obviously very high IQs run in my family). Which then led her to conclude that I should take Veronica off leash and let her sniff about since her yard was fenced. She made it a point to double check the gates and tell me it was perfectly safe for her, so Veronica got off leash and sniffed about. Ellie kept casting sideways glances at her. “Her tongue is out” she said. “It’s hot, she probably needs a drink”. The next thing we know out of the house comes Ellie with a bowl and a bottle of water. “This will be Veronica’s bowl”, she declares. I’ll leave it in the shed for when you visit, so now you have to come to visit more often. Ellie poured the water and Veronica obliged. Veronica caught Ellie’s eye. She wiggled her butt. She laid down and crawled over to get closer. “She looks so…sweet” said Ellie…and the next thing you know she’s petting Veronica and Veronica is licking her…and Ellie is closer than she ever imagined she’d be to a killer pit bull. And that illustrates the ability of women to see clearly what is in front of their nose.

Not so with the big, burly men. Grammy has 2 brothers. Both of them close to 6 feet, 200 pounds. My Uncle John we call Grizzly Adams; because he looks like Grizzly Adams, and he lives in the middle of nowhere and is an avid hunter. I’ve been to his home once, and couldn’t find a place to sit where I wasn’t being stared at by something huge and dead and hung on his wall. “The house of death”, I call it. And by my reasoning, anyone that actually sleeps in the house of death should NOT be afraid of a 55 pound dog. He met Veronica once when she was 6 months old. She was dog friendly then and she wanted to play with his Lab. Veronica was on leash and his Moey wasn’t. Veronica got Moey wound up and he ran around like a bat out of hell. My uncle had “never seen Moey do anything like that before”. Therefore “Moey must have sensed something in Veronica that freaked him out. Must have sensed a threat”. I shit you not. Sensed a threat in a 6 month old baby dog…on a leash.

This all comes out well after the fact; because Grizzly does not initially admit to being afraid of Veronica. Veronica’s Grammy dutifully invites her brother to visit us. They keep planning for Grizzly to visit with his dog Moey and that we will all take a walk together as Grizzly never gets to our neck of the woods and wants to check out some local landmarks. Except that every time they make plans, Grizzly cancels at the last minute. I learned my lesson after the first time. Having at least a few social graces I like to be prepared for company coming, since it comes so rarely. So the first time I actually thought Grizzly and family and dog were coming…I got cheese & crackers, chips & dips, a sandwich platter & salads and pastry. They canceled the morning of. Grammy and Grizzly made several more plans, to which I had determined that I had plenty of treats for Moey and they were up shit’s creek and could eat my Fiber One Granola bars if they were hungry. But it was a moot point because every plan they made, they canceled.

It finally came out that my 6 foot, 200 pound uncle, with a penchant for killing large animals was afraid that my pit bull would kill his lab, while on a leash, in the middle of an outdoor shopping district. Despite knowing that Veronica goes to training classes 1 to 2 times a week with other dogs, to pet stores, to art festivals…and that she was not even going to be allowed to interact with his dog. I mean forgetting the insult that he apparently thinks I can’t control my own dog…what is he, helpless? 5 grown adults are not capable of walking 2 dogs???? Veronica’s Grammy took great pleasure in emailing him links to Veronica’s agility training and canoodling with her canine boyfriend videos. “Harrumph”, she said to me, “He didn’t know what to say. What does he think, that we have a wild, ill-behaved dog? Well those videos shut his mouth!”

Then there is the second brother Bob. Again big, tall, strapping, burly, biker dude. Carries a concealed hand gun with a permit. Do not ask me why. This is not Texas. We live in New England; strapping a gun on your hip is not…common place. But I digress. The few occasions I have had to talk to my uncle he has told me the exact same story (and apparently he’s told my mother a number of times as well) about the legendary King Arthur. No, not the British leader, but a bull terrier. As the story goes, he was hanging with some unsavory types in the park (read: bikers engaged in illegal activities. Not that he participates mind you. Not that I know of. Not that I care.) And one of them had a bull terrier named King Arthur that was encouraged to climb a tree and hang from the limb (demonstrating the amazing power of his jaws) and then apparently was allowed to get into an altercation with another dog. My Uncle was duly impressed.

To digress again: I have been on the unfortunate receiving end of enough conversations from idiots about “amazing jaw strength”, and “look at those jaws” and “she must have a strong grip with those jaws”…that I have to say I find it offensive. I feel myself recoiling with a sort of visceral disgust. I find it offensive and distasteful and intrusive and in much the same vein as if one were inquiring about the tightness of my vagina. Seriously people, grow up and move along.

Anyway Bob came to visit my mother over the summer; and of course since we have an in-law set up; I am in and out and Veronica is always with me. So we sat on the porch for a bit and visited. Bob did not appear uncomfortable per se, if not a little…still. Definitly not a dog person I guessed. I’m sort of a dog person. If you put me near a dog and give me permission to interact with it, then I can’t get enough of it, provided it’s relatively clean and not drooling. Veronica is extremely clean (weekly allergy baths) and she does NOT drool. Bob gave Veronica a pat on the head, and was clear in his body language that he didn’t want her too close; so I made her lie down. I confess Veronica did keep looking at him hoping to make eye contact and trying to figure out why she wasn’t in his lap licking his face. I had coffee and we left. He later described the experience to another relative as “being pinned”. He felt he “couldn’t move”. Veronica had him “in her sights”. Oh…for…the…love…of…God. He could sit on her and kill her. One kick from his steel toed biker boot would send her flying. She only weighs 55 pounds. She’s a freakin’ peanut for God’s sake. And friendly, and smiley, and licky…and are you not even looking at the actual dog in front of you????

What reminded me of all this is that this past week was Election Day. My Uncle Bob called my Mom and asked her to meet him for coffee at the local version of a D squared. My husband, being a school teacher; also had the day off and was out with Veronica planning to hit the drive through and get a coffee. When he saw my Mom’s car he pulled up and rolled the window down, so Grammy could shower her granddog with pats and kisses. They both described my Uncle (who still will not actually admit to us that he is afraid of the dog) reaching out tentatively to give Veronica a couple of apprehensive pats on the head; the way talk show hosts do when they have zoo curators for guests and they get a wild animal plopped on their desk.

So that’s the story. Not really much of a story at all. Just a commentary on the ridiculousness of preconceptions and prejudice and 2 large, strong, grown men being afraid of a dog a quarter of their size; and a woman filled with fear who was able to look into the eyes of another sentient being…and despite her misgivings, make a connection and see truth.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Pet Bull & The Grammy Go Joyriding.

The Culprits:


One almost 70 year old, possibly senile Grammie.

One innocent looking (while in reality anything but) Pet Bull.

The incident: Joy riding in broad daylight.

Yesterday morning I left for work thinking all was right with the world.
I walked Veronica over to the Grammie's in-law apartment, boosted her up on Grammie's bed, bade everyone a "good day" and off I went.

The Grammie "Day Care" arrangement works well for everyone. My mom has allot of anxiety and she really doesn't like to leave the house. She is quite content being home and “futzing” around. Which is not to say that she can't leave because she has the dog. I tell her constantly that Veronica is more than content in her crate. If you want to run an errand or go out for a bit...put the dog in her crate!!!!!

But Nooooo! Grammie wouldn’t dream of putting Veronica in her crate. “That cannot be“! Grammie insists! “Puppy does not like being in a crate! Puppy is not used to being in a crate”! (Except for when something comes up that Grammie needs attended to. Like when I had to go with her into the city to get her dentures fixed. Puppy’s ass went in a crate so fast her head spun.) But otherwise Grammie must tell me that she “has given her life up for the dog”! and that I “owe her big time”. Martyrdom. It’s an Italian grandmother thing. I figure who am I to deprive her? (I’m always reminded of my best friend’s Italian grandmum. When we were kids she would serve elaborate family dinners and announce loudly “Mange, mange! There’s plenty! You all eat, I’ll just pick at the bones”)

Another reason no one believes Grammy actually wants to leave the house is because…she doesn’t. Even when she “can”, she doesn‘t. My husband is a school teacher and throughout the school year we hear variations of, “I can’t wait for your husband to be home over the summer! I’m going to be out …doing my errands…socializing…I give my life up for this dog…hope you kids appreciate me…” yadda yadda. Then inevitably, over the course of the summer; I receive at least a handful of cryptic messages on my voicemail at work that go something like this “She’s still @#$%ing home! It’s 3 o’clock in the @#$%ing afternoon and she hasn’t left the house yet! She said she was @#$%ing going out and she hasn’t left the @#$%ing house all
@#$%ing summer”!!!!!!! (My husband, by nature; talks like a longshoreman. Over the course of the summer he makes up for the plethora of profanity he has to stuff during the school year)

So anywho, who thought she ever was actually going to go anywhere…let alone with the dog??? I should also add at this point that Veronica’s Grammie is not one of those hardy, robust, athletic seventy year olds. Not one of those Italian Grammies with allot of meat on their bones. Veronica’s Grammie is a petite version of Scarlett O’Hara…always one step away from the vapors. She has been known to suggest an emergency room visit for paper cuts, calls my husband over to open her mayonnaise jars and is shocked when I step up to the task myself, and recently has learned that picking up anything over 5 pounds…may cause her bladder to fall clean out. Grammie is well aware of the fact that she could not ever, under any circumstances walk Veronica. Not that Veronica is bad on a leash…she isn’t. It’s just…she’s a dog…you never know when she’ll get a wild hair up her ass…not to mention…Hello…dog reactive!!! Grammie has never, ever taken Veronica anywhere on her own…except for the fenced back yard.

Imagine my surprise…there I am at work, all cozy and content with life and at peace with the world. I decide to check my voice mail messages and THIS is what I hear from Veronica‘s Grammie: “Hi!! Puppy and I are in the Village! Call me on my cell.”. I nearly fell out of my chair while simultaneously feeling my heart and stomach fall through the floor and all the blood rushing into my extremities. Luckily, being I counselor: I am well aware of all those breathing techniques designed to ward off a full fledged panic attack; and I of course knew that I wasn’t REALLY going to pass out - it only felt like I was!! After I got my hyperventilating under control, I called Grammie’s cell and tried for a cheery, “Hey there! What’s up”?????????
“Well,” said Grammie, “It’s a GORGEOUS day and puppy was bored”.

Okay I had gotten an email earlier in the day that “puppy was bored and pulling up the rug on her deck”. However to be honest, I always considered the possibility that Grammie was in cahoots with Veronica. For starters, we have the exact same rug on a replica of the exact same deck, separated by not more than 10 feet from Grammie’s deck - and Veronica has never once chewed the rug on our deck. Then there is the matter of Grammie hating the rug on her deck, probably because she decided she hated the handyman who put it in and she has told me for the past several years that “as the landlord” I am responsible for “providing her with a new rug”. For all I know she is dousing the rug with duck sauce and teaching Veronica to take it up 1 strand at a time.

But I digress…

“It’s a GORGEOUS day and puppy was bored…so we took a ride”.
I took a deep breath and said as calmly as I could, “Are you out of your mind? You know you can’t control her. Please tell me you’re not walking her…”
To Grammie’s credit she responded, “Don’t be an idiot, of course I can’t walk her”.
“Well…” I sputtered “what exactly are you doing with her then and how did you get her in the car”??????
Grammie then explained that she went out alone opened the car door, scanned the area for small objects of prey, got Veronica, jogged her quickly to the car and boosted her in.

“The poor thing was so happy to be getting out that she stood perfectly still while I futzed about for 15 minutes trying to get her harness on“ Grammie said. Having never taken Veronica off the premises before, Grammie has never put her harness on. “She was an angel”, said Grammie, “an absolute ANGEL”.

So apparently Grammie took Veronica to the UPS store, parked in front so she could see Veronica through the window, locked the doors and “ran in for no more than 2 minutes”. “You could see her”??? I asked in a panic. “Yes”, said Grammie. “The entire time”? I pushed. “YES”, said Grammie, “I wouldn’t take any chances with her”. (We both labor under the delusion that everyone who sees Veronica will be so overcome by the wonder of her sheer wonderfulness that they will try to steal her. I of course realize that after 1 day with her, they will try to give her back…but it’s too late then, isn’t it????)

“Well where are you now”? I asked; to which Grammie responded, “we’re parked in the village just sitting in the car watching the people”. “The village” is our walking spot - a quaint little New England fishing port and tourist trap 5 minutes from our house. After reassuring myself that they had absolutely no intentions of getting out of the car, I then learned that they had already been through the Dunkin’ Donuts drive through for coffee and munchkins. “It’s the first time she’s been out with me”, Grammie argued. “I had to make it special”. To the best of my knowledge, Veronica did NOT have any coffee, but she did enjoy the better part of a honeydew glazed and a powdered jelly munchkin.

Grammie then assured me that they would be taking a short ride which would involve no one getting out of the car and then going home. I was of course completely freaked out about the process of Grammie getting Veronica from the car into the house. Again, not that Veronica is ill behaved…it’s just YOU NEVER KNOW. So I reminded Grammie about opening the house door before she gets Veronica out, body blocking her in the car, grabbing the leash firmly and running into the house. Actually Veronica waits for permission to get out of the car…but YOU NEVER KNOW…this could be the day that a big fat cat runs by and Veronica loses her mind.

Grammie assures me she will follow protocol and I remind Grammie that she is to hold onto Veronica’s leash even if it means losing a finger or breaking a hip. This is a subject where we are at least simpatico. Grammie and I have always had a love/hate mother/daughter relationship…but the one thing we can whole-heartedly agree on…is that we love Veronica. Grammie has told me on more than one occasion when I have been off with Veronica doing something Grammie didn’t entirely approve of, "If anything ever happens to that dog; you’re dead”. So I felt no qualms about reminding her that chaperoning Veronica safely into the house was of a much higher priority than the state of her bladder.

Grammie assured me she would call and leave a message THE MOMENT THEY WERE SAFELY IN THE HOUSE. So I attempted to pull myself together and took my next client in. No one expects their counselor to be perfect (well if they do, they’re in for another disappointment); however I think we can all agree that it is bad for business and generally bad form for one’s counselor to greet them in the throes of a full fledged panic attack. Call me crazy, but I don’t think it instills that sense of confidence that is needed to move the therapeutic process along. Luckily for me my next client had an issue that allowed me to empathize while simultaneously venting my own anxiety, “Oh you must be so worried for their safety”!!!!! I said to my client; (practically with tears in my eyes) - who shook his head emphatically, pleased that I was showing such understanding. Again, luckily as well I might add, I was able to pull out all my skills to “be in the moment” and “attend to the present” and do my job. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a large surge of relief when my phone rang and went to voicemail and I anticipated that was Grammie leaving me a message telling me they were safely ensconced back home.

And that is the story of my day yesterday. Nothing like a little unanticipated excitement to get the blood pumping and make one feel alive. Grammie assures me that she and Veronica will not be going joy riding very often. I have done my best to instill in her and scare the crap out of her with every possible thing that can possibly go wrong. The thing is Veronica is very good; except for when she chooses to not be good. Veronica generally chooses to not be good exactly when you let your guard down and least expect it. I guess I will have to do some work with Grammie under safely controlled conditions and have her do some handling of Veronica to be reminded of exactly what she is dealing with. If hips get broken, dentures lost or bladders wind up on the ground…you are all my witnesses that I am innocent and free of malicious intent. (Besides which Grammie has no life insurance, so I got nothing to gain; it’s all good).

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Pet Bull refuses to labor on Labor Day!

While I am new to the breed; I am one of those people that actually consciously chose to get a pit bull and a fair amount of research went into the decision. We wanted a medium sized dog, with short hair that didn't drool. The dog needed to be stocky and able to withstand the occasional accidental purse to the head and foot on the paw - because graceful I am not.

We also wanted an extremely affectionate dog. Our previous dog was a Basset Hound - Ms. Frances Abigail - and we loved and lived with her for almost 14 years. But Ms. Frances; and I hesitate to say this as it almost feels like speaking ill of the dead; was not so affectionate. Either that or both myself and my husband are too emotionally needy in the canine love department; because Frannie spurned the majority of our affections with a decisive nip to the face. Our fault entirely, we were the idiots that kept going back for more.

So we did want a dog that could be manhandled; hugged and kissed and squeezed - with the added benefit of actually liking it. Everything screamed pit bull and our decision was made. I confess the possibility of dog aggression sounded like a pain in the ass. Manageable and not as bad as drooling; annoying but not in a deal breaking kind of way.

The real possibly deal breaking concern was energy level. The reality of our situation is that both me and the husband work fairly long hours. and while the dog wouldn't be alone during the day; my 70 year old mother was hardly fit to provide day care for a psycho dog off the wall with pent up energy.

But with everything else seeming so perfect, we were determined to make things work. We had to start with a puppy as that was Grammy's preference; and since she wasn't a dog person and would be providing a fair amount of care and was only right to consider her preference and comfort level. But that did obviously make it more of a crap shoot in terms of the ultimate temperament and energy level of our dog-to-be

Thanks to my copious amounts of research, I knew to avoid game bred lines as the general consensus seemed to be that they tended more towards the very, very, energetic side of the continuum. We settled on a nice UKC Pitter-staff and began to rearrange our lives to provide the optimum stimulation and exercise possible for our high energy pit bull (which included the purchasing of a $1700 tread mill).

So little Veronica Lynn came to our home; and as most puppies are want to be, she was fairly energetic. Nothing off the wall; but I was prepared for her energy and exercise needs to climb as she aged.

Well, turns out...not so much. I hate to say it, but my little high energy pit bull turned into a couch potato power-napper. She has no interest whatsoever in the treadmill. Despite that she learned to use it quite easily, she seems to feel it is boring and she has absolutely no interest in walking on it...or jogging...or running. While she of course can't actually tell me this; sitting down, sliding off and looking at me with disgust....sends a clear message.

This past weekend she even refused to take a walk with me. The day started out well enough. She needed some things, so we ran to the pet store to do her monthly shopping. She was quite into and pleased with that activity; and especially loved helping herself to the biscuit buffet that Pet Supplies Plus lays out at dog‘s eye level. Then we went home to drop off her Dad so he could work on some lesson plans and we could get some treats for a nice long walk on an absolutely gorgeous day.

We stepped outside the front door and Veronica planted all four feet solidly; and took a deep sigh. Definitely not boding well.

"Don't you want to go for a walk"?, I asked in a cheery peppy voice.
She sat down.

"Come on! It's beautiful out"! I pleaded and pulled. She continued to sit and offered the resistance of a 60 pound sack of potatoes.

"You'll have fun I cajoled", lifting her up on her feet and pulling while she simultaneously sat down again.

"Think about it", I begged turning away from the car and encouraging her to sniff about the yard hoping she'd get revitalized.

"What do you think? Walk?" I asked hopefully.
She laid down in the grass.

"Stop fooling around! It'll be good for you"! I commanded.
She rolled over on her back, swishing from side to side in the grass.

So there I was. I could force her to walk with me; which frankly is right up there with paying for sex...

"Do you want to go home", I asked, hoping against hope. And up she jumped with a spring in her step turning towards the front door and scampering up the steps in eager anticipation.

In she went and joined her Daddy in her dog bed under the desk while he worked on lessons.

I thought about going for a walk by myself, which was immediately followed by the thought of "how sad and pathetic is that". I then thought about going to the shelter and borrowing a dog; but considered the logistics of "Hi, you don't know me, but if I could just borrow a dog for a couple of hours, promise to bring him back ship-shape, now hand him over"…

Ultimately I decided that I had no choice but to accept the fact that I, a soon to be 45 year old woman undoubtedly entering peri-menopause; officially has more energy than my "high energy" dog. So I left her in her dog bed and I went to Wal-Mart.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Tale of The Pet Bull & The Lascivious Dachshund

Veronica was victimized this past weekend. Molested, violated if you will…fondled in a most unseemly manner. It happened on a crowded street, in a good neighborhood, in the bright light of day.

Every summer the tiny seaport town of Wickford hosts an Art Festival. One weekend a year – the weekend after the 4th of July to be exact; the streets are magically transformed into a serpentine labyrinth of white tents each containing a stunning visual array of paintings, portraits, photography, glass, metal and all manner of art. People seem to come from far and wide, despite the oppressive summer heat; and the sidewalks to the quaint little colonial town are packed with tourists like sardines in a can. Narrow alleys wind through the town – shops and boutiques on one side, white canvas tents on the other. The art festival has been a staple in Veronica’s short life. It presents an excellent training opportunity - throngs of people, toddlers waving soft pretzels at dog’s eye level, baby carriages and leashed dogs. The perfect training ground for a high maintenance, occasionally skittish, dog reactive pet bull.

I have to say I was very proud of her. In years past we stuck to the outskirts and gave wide berth to leashed dogs; but she has been making slow, steady progress and this year we were in the thick of things. Veronica did extremely well sitting and watching me while leashed dogs passed by in fairly tight quarters. She did great responding to the clicker and looking calmly at other dogs, then looking at me…instead of trying to bore a hole into their souls with an unwavering gaze.

She also did well with not soliciting attention from strangers. Don’t get me wrong; she flashed the eyes, gave the big, goofy pet bull grin and amped up the charm to lethal levels…and she was rewarded with many “howdy-dos” and some pats and the occasional love fest – but there was no unsolicited licking of strangers feet, only 1 wet-willy cold dog nose to the back of someone’s knees (I didn’t actually catch her, but I heard the woman directly in front of her let out a startled “WOOooo” and give a little jump), and she did not stick her head up anyone’s skirt – despite ample opportunity.

All in all it was proving to be a good day. We didn’t stay long because the heat was unbearable. We stopped at St. Paul’s Church to sit on the steps in the shade and give Veronica a drink of water. She thought it was wonderful to sit and watch the crowd of people parade by. She was the veritable Princess on her throne; and of course many loyal subjects stopped by to pay her tribute and she held court like the royalty she knows she is.

It was when we decided to head back to the car that the incident occurred. We opted to take a shortcut which sent us by the street where shops tapered off to private homes. We were passing one of the first homes, still quite in the thick of the crowd; where the home’s residents were enjoying their prime location by sitting out in their yard. Perhaps 10 older folks were clustered around their patio enjoying a bite to eat and a cool drink. Then we saw…him. Small (no more than 10 pounds; 15 tops), low to the ground and perky as hell. He saw Veronica and his little heart sang. He made a beeline for her as fast as his little feet would carry him; which is when I noticed “no leash”. The lascivious dachshund with love in his heart and lechery on his mind was making a skippy beeline towards Veronica and he was not wearing a leash. No worries. The dog came from the group of people sitting outside of their house. Surely one of them would come to the rescue of their diminutive charge. I called out to them, “She’s not good with other dogs”…just to hasten things along, and picked up my pace. No one moved. Really, Not at all. Not a muscle. Meanwhile the miniature lothario is bearing down on us and catches up ramming his little needle nose snout directly into Veronica’s behind. And let me just take a moment to share that Veronica does not like to have her behind sniffed; she’s very selective about who gets to go back there and when.

Luckily I was armed with my clicker and my treats and a sturdy leather collar. I nonchalantly took Veronica’s collar in hand (if nothing else control the head) and I clicked and I treated…and surprisingly, she took the treats despite the impromptu proctology exam she was undergoing. Lots of people passing by…still, the dachshund’s owners are not moving. To Veronica’s credit she didn’t let out a peep. My main concern was not that she would try to eat her perpetrator; but rather that she would make “the sound”. “The sound” is something that comes out of Veronica when she needs to establish her position with another dog. It rather sounds like something out of the exorcist and one fully expects her head to spin round right after she vomits up pea soup. It’s sort of a cross between a guttural snarl and a low growl…and it’s a show stopper. It is NOT what I wanted issuing forth from her saintly muzzle in the middle of a crowded art festival even if she was being rudely accosted by an unleashed heathen.

So now we’re at least a full 1 to 2 minutes into Veronica having her derriere continuously assaulted and my clicking and treating. Now she’s getting just down right curious. She’s less interested in my treats and trying to whip her head from side to side to see “what the hell is going on back there”????? At this point the dachshund’s owner decides to make an effort to remove his dog. He ambles over and calls the juvenile delinquent…who ignores him; because “Hello! Busy with my head up a hot girl’s hiney”!!! Eventually after several more efforts he gets through to his dog and Veronica is free!! Not knowing what to say, I exclaimed the first thing that came to mind, which was “Well! THAT was a vicious attack that came out of nowhere”!!! – which got a few laughs from people not belonging to the dachshund. And one lady consoled me with an “at least you knew what to do”.

In retrospect we were very proud of Veronica for handling herself so well; proving that when the chips are down – she really can come through with some good behavior. We also realized that since my husband was standing right there the entire time, he could have simply picked up the dachshund – funny the things you don’t think of in the heat of the moment. We also took a minute to ponder whether or not the Dachshund’s owners WANTED him to be eaten. I mean here you have a strange Pit Bull, the owner says “Not good with dogs”…and no one moves? Why didn’t they just squirt him with mustard and throw a bun on him??

But in the end everything seemed to work out okay. Veronica had a good day, lots of new exciting experiences and she didn’t seem overly traumatized by having been so rudely accosted. She was quite happy to spend the rest of the day lying in front of the air conditioner.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Adventures in Pet Bull Land: The Tao of the Fur Mommy.

The Tao of the Fur Mommy...

Not an easy row to hoe...

Take for instance this mornings adventures...makes me want to reconsider putting the dog outside on a tether and opting for blissful ignorance.

But you know I won't. I'm a Fur Mommy through and through; though I may bitch and is what I am...and I am old enough to have reached, if nothing else: an acceptance of self.

So here's what happened.

This morning I decided to get up early. I start my vacation tomorrow and I wanted to get things organized at work so that I could then concentrate on 10 blissful days at home. The alarm went off and I gently hit the snooze button for 5 extra minutes. Actually...I jabbed my husband in the side and grunted "Snooze"..but it amounts to the same thing.

That is when I heard "it". You know that gurgly, wet, retching sound that clears your head and makes your eyes snap open as if someone waved smelling salts under your nose? Oh...dear...Lord! I sprung out of bed and dragged the dog with me. We made it to the hard wood floor which was my goal. I patted her head, rubbed her tummy, cooed in her ear and up she threw. No worries...floors are easy to clean. I pampered her until I thought she was better; then left her with strict instructions "not to throw up on the rug if she felt sick again".

Well...the best laid plans of mice and men...I ran to the kitchen, grabbed the paper towels and disinfectant...ran back to the bedroom...and what do I find? Veronica throwing up on my rug. Exactly where I specifically asked her not to! So of course I exclaim "Oh Crap"; which awoken my husband who then exclaims, "Ut Oh"!

Turns out "Ut Oh" translates into "you were too late all along, she threw up on the bed". Luckily on the sheet that I put over the comforter in paranoid preparation for just these occasions...but on the bed no less. Okay...we have it covered; the floor is clean, Jon cleans the rug, I strip the bed, run the sheet and the comforter underneath (just for good measure) downstairs to the washer...ummm...where's Veronica? And what are those wet spots? Oh Holy Mother of God she stepped in her...well her "youknowitstoogrosstoactuallysayit". I have to clean her feet!! Where the hell is she? Oh wait...duh...follow the trail...and while you're at it, clean it as you go.

There she is in her crate...where she has now managed to squeeze out about an extra tablespoon of vomitus on her crate blanket. Grab the dog, wash her feet, wash her face, throw her back on the (now clean) bed, run her crate blanket downstairs for the next wash...breath.

All done. Back on schedule. Get my cereal and head into the office to catch up on the news of the day...or at least the dog forums...What the hell? How and when did she manage to throw up on the rug in the office? Clean the rug, sit down, take a bite of cereal..."HON"?!?! My husband is calling me. "Do we have a blanket for Veronica? She's chilly". Of course he has the day off and has gone back to bed with the dog and knows where all of the blankets in the house are as well as I do...but apparently Veronica also requires a Fur Mommy's touch.

So...I cast one longing look at my cereal, find Veronica a blanket, cover her up, pat her head, kiss her nose, make senseless soothing murmurings...and go back to my cereal...which is now...soggy.

Oh well...there really isn't time to eat now anyway. Just out of curiosity...can someone tell me - in what way is this different than having children?

And THAT is the Tao of the Fur Mommy...definitly NOT an easy row to hoe.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Pet Bull

Pet bulls are spoiled. Not spoiled as in out of control, ill-mannered heathens and needing the canine version of Nanny 911; but spoiled along the lines of royalty. Think young Princes William and Harry; knowing that their behavior must always be exemplary, yet at the same time realizing that they hold an important place in the world. Knowing that their world revolves around them. So it is with the pet bull; always under pressure to put one’s best paw forward - yet at the same time, secure with one’s place in the world.

Take Veronica for instance, she is secure in the knowledge that on Momma’s day off; her place is with Momma. Since I work Monday through Thursday, Friday’s are “our day”. This is not to imply that there is always something exciting planned. More often than not it is simply life as usual. Like today…life as usual.

I roused Veronica around 9:00 am. I had gotten up earlier and checked out some things on the computer, but Veronica likes to sleep in when she can. After getting up I took her for a quick peep and poop and then off we went next door to Grammy’s for breakfast. Veronica loves breakfast at Grammy’s, Grammy taught her the “better deal” game. That is where one completely ignores their morning bowl of kibble and waits for Grammy to offer her a few succulent morsels from her breakfast…or if Grammy isn’t eating anything enticing to little dog palates then Grammy will make V. her “peanut butter cookie”. Probably not the best choice for V.’s waistline, but I have 2 choices. I can either graciously allow Grammy to spoil her one and only “grandchild”; or I can protest and listen to Grammy accuse me of trying to turn the dog into an anorexic - which would eventually lead to my killing Grammy. (And I’m not certain that 3 seasons of Dexter qualifies me to dispose of a body).

Anyway, Grammy was scheduled for a hair appointment today, so the rest of the day was just the 2 girls: me and V. As usual Veronica went back to bed after breakfast (and by bed; I mean My bed…or technically Our bed) and waited for me to get ready. Then after a brushing, a tooth brushing and an ear cleaning Veronica also was ready.

First order of business was to take a short walk. Being as it was about 85 degrees I was quite lucky to get Veronica to go along with the program. I jazzed her up in the beginning by popping by the Shaggy Chic Pet Boutique to see if her birthday collars were in yet. Maybe next week. Veronica got to say a quick hello to her friend Jake the pit bull. This is always a treat for Veronica since her doggy friends can be counted on 1 paw, and that still leaves a toe or two open. In her defense, she’d have allot more doggy friends if they recognized her as the royalty she is and showed a proper amount of deference - but this being America apparently even the dogs are into democracy and equality and all that crazy stuff.

Veronica very reluctantly completed our walk, but I cheered her on at the end with a few upbeat reminders about getting to her car and having a drink. Then we were off on our second errand of the day; getting a lube, oil and filter. I called ahead to see if V. was welcomed as I was going to a new dealership (seeing as how my usual one disappeared over night) and they said they were dog friendly. We then sat in a teeny tiny, barely air conditioned waiting room for over an hour. Veronica threw herself on the floor in disgust and sulked. I threw myself in a chair, realized there was not a magazine to be had and the television was turned to Fox news (and me being an MSNBC girl) and sulked.

The dealership was a novel experience for Veronica because she was pretty much ignored. At our previous dealership she held court; and was thus treated like the royalty she knows she is. Women came out from behind the glass window to give her treats, salesman, mechanics passing by stopped to give her a scratch. Today…well, I can’t say "no attention at all". One mechanic made it a point to give her a scratch behind the ears, and a manager said “Hello” to her and told her what a pretty, good girl she was. Veronica got so excited her whole body vibrated, but when he didn’t come out from behind the counter to actually touch her, she nailed me with a re-directed kiss. (Have you seen those? I’m guessing it’s the same dynamic as a re-directed bite; only with affection instead of aggression. When people give Veronica verbal attention but don’t actually come over and physically connect with her, she’ll get so wound up that she needs to let loose that kissing energy and put it somewhere…so she’ll turn to me and plant one on me).

After leaving the dealership, I considered another walk, but it was still hot out. I thought about going to the pet store to pick up some treats for agility; but seeing as it was so hot out I didn’t want to wear her out since she had agility class at 7.00Pm. So we went home, had an early dinner, one of us had a nap and then we headed out to Agility class.

Veronica did, overall well. She was the fastest dog in class. Of course there were only 3 other dogs in class and none of them were Border Collies…but still. She only had two episodes of launching into a rendition of The Who’s “I’m Free” and surprisingly was re-directed to the A-Frame both times.

And that was our Friday. Pretty typical. We came home from Agility and Veronica passed out. Me and Dear husband watched the last episode of Dexter Season 3 in solemn reverence and now I have to rouse my sleepy dog to take her to do her business and bring her to bed.

That's it...a day in the life.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

How The Pet Bull Got Her Groove Back

I should have known.

When I called Veronica’s breeder for an update on how my soon to be puppy was doing and got this report:
Breeder: Well, the puppies are almost housebroken! I took them out today to potty and let them play for a bit and then I called and they all came in.
Me: Oh how wonderful
Breeder: Yes! They all came in, ummm except for your Veronica.
Me: Oh. Well what did my Veronica do?
Breeder: oh she just stood there and looked at me.
Me: Is she deaf?
Breeder: Oh no! Definitely not deaf. She just has…personality.

And there you have it. I should have known. And deep down…I did. Sure some people may have thought “stubborn, obstinate, hard to train”. I thought, “well, now there’s a little budding “free thinker” in the making”. I’ll share a dirty little secret that I harbor. I don’t actually like biddable, milquetoast, obedient dogs that live to please their masters. I like dogs with a little bit a flair, a bit of “je ne sais quoi” - personality! I know there is a place in the world and a function for those Lassie dogs who live to find Timmy in the well…but; I don’t think the place will ever be with me.

So Miss Veronica-Lynn (not intentionally named after a porn star) came to our home four years ago…and has brought love, laughter, and the occasional moment when you are certain you are about to throw the mother of all blood clots and just stroke out right there on the spot. But I wouldn’t change her for the world.

What has got me reminiscing about all of this; was last night’s agility class. My trainer was unable to rent a spot for the winter, and we hadn’t been on an agility course in about 8 months. And truth be told last summer…it was not looking good. I have been making a valiant effort to keep up with Veronica’s training since she was 3 months old. We have had our share of ups and downs which I attribute mostly to my inexperience and a little bit to the Divine Ms. V.’s “je ne sais quoi”. But our experience on the agility field was definitely going down hill…as in Veronica was deciding she just didn’t want to play with me. She had started off well and according to our trainer showed real promise in agility but by the end of last summer she was more interested in running around making her own course and sniffing out mysterious smells in the grass than she was in me or my treats. I actually could have hung slabs of roast beef on my person and I think she would have still pretended that I wasn’t there. I just naturally assumed she was going into an obstinate phase and we would have to persevere.

Having time off from agility, didn’t mean time off from training. And in fact the focus of our time was turned to some behavioral issues related to Veronica’s difficulty interacting with other dogs. Not that I wanted her to play nice…but I did very much want her to SHUT HER FREAKIN’ MOUTH!! Especially with the hopes in the back of my head of one day perhaps competing with her, something…it would be nice if we could “blend”.

So it was a winter of learning and I made a few discoveries…about dog training, about Veronica…but mostly about myself. I discovered that I had become a stick in the mud…a real downer. I was so concerned about having the “perfect” dog…that biddable, obedient, hang on your every word dog…that I forgot it was actually a partnership. I forgot it was a relationship and got sucked into wanting to have a well trained dog so that I could look good. Veronica told me to go get @#$%’ed. It was then that I realized I’d lost myself.

I started agility because it was supposed to be FUN!! Veronica and I were supposed to enjoy a shared activity and have FUN together. I stopped making it fun when I started wanting to make us look good. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was very discouraging to an extremely emotionally sensitive dog. A dog that takes every verbal correction to heart. Not to heart in the way that she immediately tries to correct the behavior…but to heart in the way that her feelings are crushed and she slinks off (metaphorically speaking of course) to eat some worms, because nobody loves her and why even bother to try. My lack of praise, my lack of FUN, my constant verbal corrections and clear communication of my disappointment in her…shut her down…and she chose not to play with me anymore.

Coming back to agility last night…I think I was wiser (I know I was older, not too happy about that actually). My instructor had some time to think as well. We devised a new plan…10 steps back…and no more reactive “time outs” in the car after Veronica had been “bad”. We were going to be very proactive and make sure she was good. Instead of running the whole course, we decided I would do 3 obstacles at a time, stop praise to the high heavens and treat galore! I also decided that since my sensitive, emotional pet bull thrived on extravagant, over-the top, worthy of a Broadway show level of praise…then that is exactly what she would get. I would put on my best, effusive, high pitched, Edith Bunker-esque voice and praise her to the heavens. And if a passerby thinks I sound like a fur mommy on crack…well…screw ‘em!!

As you can imagine, since I’m writing this little blog…the plan worked like a charm. Veronica and I had an extremely successful first night back. Of course my definition of “extremely successful” has undergone an adjustment. What I mean is…we had fun…we had fun together…we had a blast actually. I could tell by the fact that my dog was once again interested in me! She wanted to play with me! She wanted to know what we would be doing next! I could also tell by the happy, excited grin on her face and her furiously wagging tail. So what if we never officially compete, or even if we do - who cares about winning…we’re having fun!

Truth be told; we’re a good match. Neither of us is particularly athletic. We each had our turn at “first night back” accidents. Maneuvering a tricky pinwheel out to a teeter; we crashed…and burned. I went down like a ton of bricks. Veronica took a jump too enthusiastically and face planted skidding a good couple of inches on her snout. (Which made her Grammy none too happy. When she saw her red, scraped snout Grammy launched into a tirade of; “OOOOhhhh what did Mommy do? What did Mommy do to you? You can’t take care of this dog! She’s going to have to come and stay with me!” Then Veronica had to allow Grammy to futz around her snout for a good 5 minutes, cleaning it and putting Neosporin on. I think she secretly enjoyed the attention, although she tried her best to look annoyed.)

Hopefully we are back on track!

Here’s a little video of our efforts; but unfortunately it doesn’t capture Veronica taking me out by the teeter; or face planting over the jump…just the girls enjoying each other.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Pet Bull's Adventures at Grammy DayCare

I work 4 days per week. And on the 4 days that I work, I get Veronica up as I am leaving, I march her outside to potty and I walk her across the hall and deposit her at Grammy Daycare.

I never anticipated that this would be our arrangement. My mother is not what one would call a "dog person" by any stretch of the imagination.

Point of fact, when my dear Basset Hound Frances Abigail got on in years...she got a little stinky from her oily coat, skin allergies and drool...and my mother promptly developed an "allergy" that prevented her from being in Frannie's presence. "Cough, wheeze, cough...oh my throat is closing..." I'm not saying it was definitely a psychosomatic reaction...but when one considers that my mother is an obsessive-compulsive clean was looking a little suspicious.

So never in my wildest dreams when we decided to get another dog after Fran passed; did I imagine my mother developing an intense bond with the new addition.

In retrospect, the timing was right. We had lost my Dad 2 years prior; and my mom was one of those old-fashioned ladies who's lives had revolved around their his passing left her without any sort of focus in her life. She actually encouraged me to get another dog because after losing my Dad, then losing Frannie 13 months later - I was turning into a pretty angry, miserable bitch. Since the husband and I both work, Mom volunteered to help with the puppy...which I assumed meant checking on her several times a day, taking her to potty and spending some time with her. Seeing as my mother lives with us in an in-law apartment and is slightly seemed a reasonable arrangement. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine my mother inviting Veronica into her apartment - that was always a "no dog zone".

It started almost immediately. I think the second day we had V. she was invited over to Grammy's apartment "so she could get used to the whole house"???? I was very confused. Then somewhere in that first week that I had taken off work to get the new puppy adjusted, Grammy decided I needed to go out and buy a second crate for her apartment (Grammy loves spending my money)...just in case V. ever needed to "be there for any length of time". Then when it came time for me to go back to work...Grammy couldn't bare the thought of little puppy V. all alone, so I was instructed to take her to Grammy's and deposit her in her crate (which is next to Grammy's bed) so they can both get a few more "Z's" until Grammy is ready to get up and start her day. And that was how Grammy DayCare came into existence.

Fast forward almost 4 years...V. spends 4 days a week in Grammy DayCare. It is an excellent service and I receive periodic updates on my email at work as to how their day is going.

Generally the email will consist of Grammy singing V.'s praises. "Oh she is an Angel! An absolute Angel!! She waited in her crate for me to make the coffee (we don't close the crate door anymore) then came out to get her morning peanut butter cracker. She sat on the deck and watched the squirrels in the yard and barked "Hello" to the neighbors". Then she'll usually tell me that she took her out a time or 2 and threw the ball, and V. was such a good girl and came right in when Grammy called her. Then they went in and V. "let Grammy know" she wanted to get on the couch and waited for Grammy to get the blanket and make her spot ready (yep, V. has conquered the couch in a "no dog zone" and some suspect that the bed isn't far behind). Then there is more snacking throughout the day, and naps...and generally they are quite harmonious, with V. being Grammy's little side-kick.

But...every so often...the report is not so favorable. Every so often I open my email at work and see something like this, "You're dog is being a brat. She is a BRAT. A BRATTY BRAT. I have had it with her!! She is a very fresh girl"!!!!!! (Another sure sign of V.'s behavior is the reception that my husband gets when he arrives home -several hours before me. If he is invited in and is offered a cup of coffee, V. has been good. If Grammy opens the door and screeches, "COME GET YOUR DOG AND GO HOME"!...V. has been a brat.)

So yesterday, she was by all reports a very large brat. The day started out well according to Grammy; but then V. got bored and obnoxious. She wanted to go out in the yard and wanted to be on her schedule not Grammy's. So she kept poking her with her nose and barking to go out; which could easily be handled by ignoring her...but Grammy is a sucker for "that little face" basically she spoils V. filthy rotten.

Out they go in the yard, but V. was in "bad dog" mode. She immediately went "off like a bullet" zipping around the yard, stopping to dig in "all the places she knows she shouldn't" and zipping away before Grammy could catch her. She horrified Grammy by trying to get under the shed, huffing and puffing like she was one inch away from putting the bite on "the great under the shed beast". Grammy's head was reeling with images of 12 foot snakes slithering out and eating Veronica whole, like an extra-large overly plump mouse - then setting it's sights on Grammy.

If that weren't bad enough, when Grammy chased her away from the shed, she ran over to dig in the garden and almost got her head caught under the decorative metal border. Then she took off willy nilly running around and digging everywhere and EATING DIRT!!!! Ms. Veronica-Lynn is a genteel young pit bull and she does not eat dirt! Have you any idea what is in dirt? BUGS, BUGS are in dirt!! And Ms. Veronica-Lynn does not eat bugs!! Aside from "eeewww gross": Grammy had visions of V. eating a bug that would sting her insides out and cause an allergic reaction...and V. would turn into an oompa loompa and explode right before Grammy's eyes. Compounding all of this was the fact that V. was not coming when Grammy was calling. Grammy saw red.

Eventually Grammy turned to bribery and lured V. in with a delicious slice of American cheese...but once she was in...Grammy told her in no uncertain terms what a Bad, BRATTY, FRESH girl she was!

Grammy was quite satisfied that V. knew she was wrong and was properly chastised because she took herself off to her crate, and lied down, and put her blanket over her head...and she stayed there for a good, long time and let Grammy do her work.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Prideful Petbull

I'm new to dog training. Since we've gotten Veronica I've taken a class with her...pretty much consistently in the almost 4 years we've had her; and I read allot about training and canine behavior...because I've decided that my dog is absolutely fascinating and I want to understand every nuance of her magical being.

Along the way I've formed some opinions. I have always preferred positive training methods; even when it was just an academic discussion (because truth be told the only thing I taught my precious Basset Hound Frances Abigail- Ms. Veronica's predecessor...was not to potty in the house).

My preference for positive training is based on the way I look at my relationship with my dog. I want training to enhance our ability to communicate with each other and bring us closer. But even more importantly, I want her to do as I ask not because she's afraid of the consequences if she doesn't - but because she wants to do as I ask.

In retrospect, it's a very, very, very good thing that I think this way, because Veronica is one of those super soft dogs that would really in all honestly, I think "go bad" with correction based training. Sometimes I forget how soft she is because "soft" has nothing to do with being bratty, and willful and pushy and obnoxious - traits that also make up her character. On a good day I find them endearing, and she makes me laugh and I'm glad she is who she is; and on a bad day I want to list her on Craig's List as "free to any home that doesn't blow their brains out after a week"

But today I was treated to an illustration of just how soft my dog is, and why I best forget everything I read to the contrary and stick with all positive, all the time. We had a Rally Obedience class. We've been doing Rally for at least a couple of years. I'm actually thinking of competing the next time that a convenient opportunity arises. Veronica is now able to do the courses without food reinforcement (of course she gets the jackpot at the end). Our biggest challenge is her reactivity towards other dogs; and this is something we have been working on diligently for years. It can be very frustrating - 3 steps forward, 2 steps back - even more so, because I'm sure it's me who scews things up not her.

Anyway, we had class today and because of close quarters there is always a part of the course that runs very close to the other dogs; one of whom happens to be Veronica's Arch Nemesis - Romona the Wicked Whippet. (Total mutual dislike down to their toes). I could have held my own pride in check and reminded myself that having to use a treat to keep Veronica focused simply meant "we weren't there yet" - she wasn't ready to pass that closely by her Arch Nemesis in that context and that was OK. But noooooo...I didn't want to use treats at all, I totally ignored the fact that Veronica wasn't ready in favor of my preference which was that we'd worked hard enough and long enough and she knows what I want her to do and how hard is it and she should be ready damn it!

Not only didn't I use treats, I opted for something I rarely (if ever do) I gave a correction. Not a harsh correction by any means. We came to the weave cones - the part of the course that was right next to the dogs - and when Veronica wouldn't focus on me and tried to bark at Romona; I reached down with my left hand and grabbed her snout. I gave it a little shake and a stern "No" and held her snout past the cones. When we were away from the dogs, Veronica decided to turn around and give Romona a little "up yours anorexic bitch" lip; and again I reached down gave her snout a little shake and a stern "No". Feeling all satisfied in my "handling" of the situation we finished the course and took our seats.

Then our turn came again. We cruised through the first half of the course - no treats. "Well, I certainly told her", I thought as we approached the cones and the evil which point Veronica stopped dead in her tracks, fell to the floor in a crouch and attempted to crawl away from the cones. Discussion ensued and it has hypothesized that Veronica was a bit traumatized from the snout grabbing. At the risk of sounding anthromorphic, it looked to all the world (well at least all present) that her feelings had been hurt by my public correction, and now she was afraid to try further). Much hoopla and treating ensued; then my trainer got her to reluctantly do some of the course with her because Veronica suddenly decided she could not suffer the possibility of that sort of humilation again. So again, with many, MANY treats (you know the ones I didn't want to use since I'm planning on competing) Veronica finally finished the course looking like a dog that had been pulled from the shelter that morning, never having seen a Rally course in it's life and believing there was a strong possibility that the ceiling could fall on her head at any moment.

Then came our next turn...using the treats but back on track. Not it's actually worse. This time around Veronica has concluded that it is not safe to be anywhere near the left side of my body - lest I assault her with a humiliating snout shake. She refuses to finish herself left, and takes it upon herself to finish herself right. She also decided that heeling means heeling as far away from me as she can possibly get while still attached to her leash and positioning herself at an angle - to again fend off any vicious attacks from her crazy human. (and at this point let me reiterate, for those of you who don't have that good of a sense of me from other posts...I hardly touched the damn dog!!! I put my hand over her mouth, and when I say gave her muzzle a little shake...I've seen parents shake 2 year olds in the middle of Walmart harder than I shook that dog; I was simply trying for the effect of stern communication). Oh and the best part; twice she tried to leave the course and run to my trainer like she wanted to be saved. Seriously. "Help me Miss Alice, help me; Momma's been abducted by aliens and this woman next to me is a...a...a snout shaker"!!!!!!!

The class was highly amused. It isn't often that this level of drama is introduced to a Rally Obedience class. Usually they're pretty bland. Veronica's runs were starting to look like a Shakesperian tragedy.

Our final run...I knew I had to get her over this and end on a good note. The treats were flying fast and furious, I was praising her up one side and down the other - what a good good girl, wonderful dog, nice job, so smart, good baby ..."...and Veronica finally started to heal from the grave injustice I dealt her earlier. She decided just maybe it was safe to be by my left side...of course I also switched leash hands ( I prefer to hold the leash in my right hand for Rally and have her target my left) - but since in her mind my left hand had grown teeth and was going to eat her face whole - that had to be adjusted.

So...3 steps forward, 2 steps back - I think we're back on track.

In retrospect my pride (I want us to be ready now) got us into the mess just as much as Veronica's pride (I cannot believe you did that to me in front of all those other dogs). So maybe we're a good match for each other.

The other lesson learned - I will never, ever (at least with this particular dog) let myself think that a correction is the way to go (other than verbal, of course) and I will from here on out praise her til the cows come home!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Pet Bull & The Invaders from Mars

Well…technically there are no Invaders from Mars…but try telling that to the Pet Bull.
In Veronica’s mind the Invaders are lurking just behind every really loud noise or really bright light…and they like pet bulls…allot…possibly for dinner with a nice Chianti.

In order to relate the events of the previous night and the triggering of Veronica’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder…I have to provide some back story. It all started on Christmas night of 2007. We were having a lovely holiday visiting relatives deep in the New Hampshire woods. Veronica was lounging by the fire, after a busy day of hiking and sampling hors d’oevers. My brother-in-law announced that he has planning on setting off a lovely firework display after dark. “What a wonderful opportunity for Veronica”!, I thought. Seeing as I made it a point to try and socialize her as much as possible, I thought a brilliant fireworks display would be a nice addition to her education.

Now I can see some of you rolling your eyes. “What was I thinking” you ask? Taking a dog to see fireworks when dogs universally fear and dislike them. Well…yeah. But how was I supposed to know this? In my adult life I have had only 1 previous dog. I enjoyed a glorious 14 years with my precious Basset Hound Frances Abigail…and Frannie…didn’t mind fireworks. In fact for all of Frannie’s life, my mother-in-law was also alive. And that meant that our presence was required every 4th of July for the Lighting of the Lake and the Town of Sutton fireworks display: 2 nights of loud noises and brilliant colors in the sky. All Frannie cared about was who brought the snacks. In her later years she expressed a desire to remain in the car with the air conditioning on…but other than that she could not possibly have been more underwhelmed with the whole situation.

So on that fateful night 2 years ago…I marched Veronica outside to further her education. We were not outside for very long at all. The first display sparkled in the sky and I was lost in my own train of thought: “How pretty! Hmmm…I wonder if that’s a little close to the house…I wonder how much my brother-in-law had to drink and if he really knows what he’s doing, I wonder how the volunteer fire system works…I wonder if any of the volunteer fire fighters are sober, being as it is Christmas night – or maybe they’re really groggy from the intoxicating effects of too much turkey…I sure would hate to burn to a crisp in the middle of nowhere…” And at that precise moment I looked down at Veronica. I have to say I’ve never before (or since for that matter) seen a dog look quite so scared. She was scrunched up like a Halloween cat and her tail was so far underneath her it looked like it was sticking in her mouth. Her eyes were big as saucers. (Writer’s seem to be very fond of that phrase “eyes as big as saucers”…but let me say…if you’ve ever actually seen anyone – person or animal- whose eyes…were “big as saucers”…you know how completely apt the description really is.)

So, upon realizing that Veronica was not having a good time; we immediately went inside…but the damage was done. Veronica was acting like a Vietnam vet who’d just returned stateside. Suddenly the fire she had previously been enjoying…was terrifying. The snap & crackle of burning embers sent her flying into her crate. When we got home she began generalizing her fear to all loud noises and bright lights. Watching her suddenly fixate on overhead lights with a look of trepidation and near panic…was heartbreaking. I thought I broke my dog.

There was nothing to be done…but deal with it. We tried very hard to be comforting while at the same time not reinforcing her fears. When possible we named the objects she was afraid of and clicked and treated and eventually Veronica returned to “normal” with the exception of some greatly reduced, but nonetheless residual fears.

Fast forwarding 2 years…the Invaders returned last night…and they were hungry for pet bull. They came around 1:00 in the morning in the form of a malfunctioning fire alarm. Veronica shot straight up from a deep sleep at the sound of the first shrill beep and froze. I attempted to reassure her that all was well as her Poppa worked on the uncooperative alarm…but she wasn’t having it. She made it to the edge of the bed and pondered the wisdom of escape. I implored her to return and protect her Momma; thinking to tap into the fierce gamebred blood of her distant ancestors…but sadly the decision was made to turn tail and run. One minute she was poised on the edge of the bed; the next she was off the ramp, down the hallway, through the kitchen, across the living room and into her crate.

Thirty minutes later after much banging and cursing and lots of beeping, my dear husband finally admitted defeat and returned to bed. But now…there was a problem. I was supposed to go back to sleep and I had no dog. Well…I had a dog…just at the other end of the house, cowering in a crate. Now I’m sure some would be fine with this arrangement, minus the cowering part of course…but for me, it simply would not do. I believe I mentioned in a previous blog that pet bulls generally speaking have responsibilities, expectations, jobs to do. Veronica’s job is to attend to my emotional needs, keep me company and snuggle with me at night – in short, keep me off Prozac and Xanax. So obviously the current situation was unacceptable.

Nothing to do but fetch my errant dog. Think of it this way…if you obtained a dog to guard your sheep…you couldn’t just have the dog slinking off to sleep in the barn, right? Working dogs must work; so Veronica was coming back to bed. Luckily getting her out of her crate proved to be quite easy, thanks to a more successful educational endeavor. About 1 year ago when her dermatologist recommended weekly baths, Veronica became acquainted with the work of Gandhi and thought to implement the art of peaceful resistance (i.e. drop in her crate like a sack of very heavy potatoes). Of course me being a responsible fur Momma; took this as an opportunity to teach a lesson in basic Physics: 2 matters containing mass cannot occupy in the same space and time. Oh I hear some of you scoffing that this is too complicated and esoteric a lesson for a mere dog to comprehend; however I can assure you that with the aid of a simple demonstration…Veronica grasped the concept after only a handful of lessons. It goes like this: One fur mommy stuffed completely into a crate that is currently occupied by one fur baby, serves to dislodge and effectively eject one fur baby completely out of said crate.

So when I went to collect my cowering pup she came quite willingly out of her crate. She did attempt to defect twice before reaching the bedroom by trying to hide first behind the dining room table; then in the hall bathroom (smart dog; no one would ever think to look for her in a room with a tub in it). But eventually we reached the bed and up she went; and I thought I could finally get some sleep. Veronica on the other hand, wasn’t so certain. There she stood surveying her surroundings waiting for the next whooping war cry from the Invaders. I coaxed her to my side and gave her a smooshing hug. I felt her settle her head on my tummy…but something felt “off”. I opened my eyes and propped my head up. Veronica did indeed have her head settled on my tummy…but the rest of her was standing straight up at rigid attention. Working off the theory that eventually Veronica would get tired of “waiting” and that when nothing happened she would get tired and settle down and go to sleep; I tried to relax and not let the knowledge that I had to get up in 3 hours for work keep me up the remainder of the night.

I wasn’t particularly successful with the relaxing and sleeping; but I did feel Veronica relax and eventually she settled down and snuggled in closer and drifted off to sleep. All was right with the world. I was warm and cozy and I had a big Pet Bull head resting on my stomach so I finally drifted off. Only to be awoken by a near lethal strike to my kidneys. (Or where I, with my limited knowledge of human anatomy, imagine my kidneys to be.) As I took a moment to catch my breath and clear my head, I was treated to a sharp smack in the boob, followed by another accompanied by a high pitched yelping, growly, snuffling sound. It seems the Divine Ms. V. had not entirely recovered from the night’s excitement and was having herself a bit of a nightmare. What could I do except wake her up and tell her she was fine and safe and to go back to sleep. Which I did, and she did; which I know because she slept and I didn’t and the morning came fast and furious anyway. Just another night in Pet Bull land

The Pet Bull Plans A Night Out.

This blog entry was originally composed 1/9/10 and posted elsewhere.

I'll be the first to admit that weeknights in the dead of winter are generally pretty boring around our house. You can't blame the dog for wanting a night out. But who would have ever guessed that she was plotting and conspiring to bring a little excitement to our dull existence.

Now in my defense; I feel compelled to explain that Veronica has never been a voracious chewer. Sure she's retarded enough to eat a stick, or a dirty tissue or a live, squirming bug (you get the idea); but never in her 3 and a half years on the planet has she ever shown more than a passing interest in her squeaky toys. Squeaky toys are meant to be squeaked, tossed in the air and pushed into the lap of the nearest person in the hopes of initiating a rousing game of tug/fetch/keep away. Never has she EATEN a squeaky toy. Until last Tuesday.

I came home from work; 6 pm, earlier than usual, quite exhausted (which is usual). For some unknown reason, I came in the house and was drawn with tunnel vision to the living room floor which was strewn with a myriad of V.'s squeaky toys and my gaze locked on her pink dinosaur. "WHERE is his head"?, I shrieked at my husband, brandishing it in his face like an accusation (Weren't you watching her??) Then ensued a conversation around: am I sure he ever had a head in the first place, how do I know that I didn't pick up his head without thinking about it and throw it away on a previous occasion, and when exactly was the head last seen.

Of course like any good fur mommy I knew without a doubt that Mr. dinosaur had a head last night when we played with him. Since V. goes to her Grammy's during the day, that means that the head disappeared sometime between hubby getting home at 3 pm and me walking in the door at 6 pm.

Being prone to anxiety, and an anticipator of worst case scenarios; I immediately worked myself up into a complete frenzy imaging a life threatening obstruction and informing my husband we may as well "start picking out our next dog". That got hubby mobilized into action. We searched the entire house. We looked high (in case the head got tossed into the Christmas tree; no we haven't taken it down yet) and low (I really need to vacuum under my couch more often). No head.

In an act of sheer desperation I picked up Mr. dinosaur to attempt to re-generate his head through the sheer power of my will; which is when I realized that the situation was actually MUCH more dire. Not only was Mr. dinosaur relieved of his head; but he had thoughtfully been gutted from stem to stern and his entrails devoured (read: the squeaker was missing).

By this point, my anxiety had bled onto my husband and we we're both whipped into a fine frenzy. Thankfully in a moment of lucidity it became perfectly obvious to us that since the head could only possibly have been eaten in the space of the last 3 hours; it was reasonable to make the dog throw up. Of course! Except for the fact that neither of us has ever made a dog throw up before. But how hard can it be, right? Just call the E-vet, get the right dosage of hydrogen peroxide, yadda, yadda. 2 to 3 tablespoons and then 15 minutes later another 2 to 3 tablespoons. If you don't get vomit by then, you probably won't; or so says the nice vet tech who answered the phone. But then he mentioned the possibility of aspirating. Yes, he said it was not common,. Yes he said it was "highly unlikely". However point of fact, you do not use the word aspirate when talking with someone who is on the verge of hysteria. Common @#$%ing sense people!!

So it was decided; as Veronica knew it would be. Off we went to the E-vet. At this point I wasn't aware that we were playing right into her hands...errmm...paws. I felt so bad for her, having to be dragged out on a cold night, going to that cold sterile place where strangers will drag her to a barren back room and poke at her mercilessly.
Uh huh.

We walk in the door to the E-vet, I'm sick to my stomach and shaking. My husband looks as if he is going to burst into tears. The first thing we hear is, "Ooh it's VERONICA"! OK...twilight zone? No, it turns out the gal behind the desk is moonlighting from her job at V.'s regular vet. "Oh I have to come see Veronica" she says; and much cooing ensues and introductions of Veronica to the other staff. Honestly I missed most of it; what with being a complete nervous wreck and all.

So they come to take Veronica away; and she seems to trot off with a spring in her step; unlike how I imagined her; which would have been whimpering and cowering behind me. After about 15 grueling minutes in which time I prayed to a God I don't fully believe in and chomped on nicorette like a horse (and for the first time in 5 years didn't curse my husband for still chewing the damn stuff despite that we both quite smoking 5 years ago); the vet tech finally emerges. V. is fine he assures us, "NO, she did not aspirate". She did throw up the squeaker...but sadly the head is still MIA.

"The doctor thinks she could pass the head", he tells us; but they want to do a "quick" x-ray. Out he goes and I still have no dog. So...wait, wait, wait, chew, chew, chew, pray, examine my spiritual leanings and the fate of my soul, conclude that topic is too overwhelming and best left to another time, inhale, exhale, sigh, twitch, pace, turn to my husband and hiss under my breath, "WTF are they DOING? HOW is this QUICK"?????

25 minutes later the vet comes prancing in with Veronica; practically gushing! "Oh she's a great dog! A GREAT dog! She got tons of attention from everyone in back! We just LOVE her"! At which point the haze of anxiety begins to lift and I am able to appraise the situation clearly. While I was sitting in an 8X8 room with my husband, playing "who's going to snap, crackle, pop first"; V. was holding court in the back room. I looked down at her where she was laying contentedly at my feet. I nudged her with my foot. "You planned this". I mumbled under my breath. V. looked at me with wide eyed innocence.

Then the doctor was talking; didn't see anything, probably pass it, watch for this, this and this; call us if that; go home with my blessing...and this special diet to follow over the next 2 days.

So V. got a night out, plenty of socialization and a diet of boiled chicken and rice, supplemented with unsalted chicken broth mixed with water (2 cups 4 times/day). Being a dog, the whole vomiting thing was not viewed as a big negative. From her perspective the whole situation was win-win.

4 days later she is completely fine. Eating (enthusiastically), pooping on schedule, and is as active as normal (which is to say not very) - but she has been snoozing quite comfortably on the couch under her blankies. All squeaky toys have been confiscated and will only be brought out for SUPERVISED play.

And they say dogs aren't capable of complicated thought processes...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Tao of The Pet Bull

This blog will chronicle the life and times of Veronica-Lynn the Pet Bull. What exactly is a Pet Bull you ask? Well...Ms. Veronica-Lynn is an American Pit Bull Terrier by registry - United Kennel Club; although many hardcore APBT fanciers will insist that in reality she is no APBT but in fact an American Staffordshire Terrier. It's all semantics to me. Ms.Veronica-Lynn is a beloved Pet Bull plain and simple. So...what exactly is a pet bull? Has anyone truely defined the quintessential essense of this glorious creature? I have reflected upon the enigma that is the Pet Bull and I have achieved some enlightenment.

The Pet Bull is a Renaissance Dog. A dog with many and varied interests. Not a working dog per se; but definitely a dabbler. A little agility, perhaps Rally O. or some therapy work. You actually won’t find allot of genuine pet bulls involved in Search And Rescue because of their ridiculous insistence upon forgoing snack breaks and afternoon siestas – like the injured parties are actually going somewhere and won’t be there to be found when we get there!

The true Pet Bull is also a connoisseur of the finer things in life. The pleasures of 500 thread count sheets, a good piece of steak, lobster, a perfectly made martini. Oh wait, skip the martini part, that’s actually me not the dog. Now don’t get me wrong, the cultured Pet Bull won’t turn a nose up at a milkbone; BUT…it will be eaten the same way most of us eat a fast food hamburger. Savoring it for the guilty pleasure that it is but knowing full well that we are consuming complete, unadulterated crap.

The seasoned Pet Bull is in tune with the elements; one with nature. It is a dog that realizes that when it is cold out…one puts on a freakin’ coat and boots! The Pet Bull is not stupid. Similarly, the Pet Bull instinctively understands the need to not exert oneself in warm weather and has a natural affinity for central air.

Now some may think that because the Pet Bull is a dog accustomed to the finer things in life (a sensual dog if you will) and encouraged to flex it’s intellectual muscles (to be a free thinker); that it is a spoiled dog. Those same people will define spoiled as ill behaved. That could not be farther from the truth. A genuine Pet Bull is a dog with culture, with class, a dog that does not behave as if it were raised in a barn. In fact it is not uncommon to hear the fur parents of young Pet Bulls in training admonishing their youngsters for improper etiquette by screaming something along the lines of, “WHY are you acting like that?!?!?! If you want to act like you were raised in a barn I can just as easily put you in one”!!!!! At which point the young Pet Bull slinks off to hide under a voluptuous fleece blankie on the extra-soft genuine cowhide sofa, appropriately chastised.

So there you have it: the Tao of the Pet Bull.