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.