New Beginnings

It has been a year and three months since my last post and while a lot has happened, nothing has happened. We moved from the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles to Pasadena! Funny enough we moved here a year and a month ago. As I move forward with the continuation of this blog and with the sharing of my pet parent troubles and tribulations I will be sharing more and more of my personal journey. Yes, I’ll try to keep it dog related but life is rarely so clear cut. Why does any of what I just mentioned matter? Well, because it’s all to do with life with my dogs.

We moved to Pasadena March of 2015 and we have gone through changes that have affected both my dogs and myself. Three months after we moved to Pasadena, I found a new job at a nearby medical center and that changed everything. I am about to sound either really stupid or really spoiled, or both. This new job was really different from my past job in some key points. I went from working at small surgery center to working at a huge medical center. Before moving to Pasadena, I did not know the true meaning of stress and never-ending work loads. I did not know that ending my work days at 4:00PM was such a privilege. This new job was 10 times more difficult and I was not making it home before 6PM every night. Yes, I know. Spoiled. Shut up.  But it wasn’t just about coming home at 6PM, at the very beginning it was more like 7PM because there was so much to learn, it was about coming home and being completely drained.

I am no expert here but I will venture to say that dogs are creatures of habit. They like routines. Apparently, sanity sometimes hangs on the balance of routines. Ellie and Argos’s routine has been out of whack for 11 months and we are paying dearly for it. Eleven months is how long I have been at this new job. Congratulations me. I stopped walking them, Ellie is currently on two medications and Argos has turned into a little bitch. They used to get a 1 mile walk every day without fail back in Los Angeles. Here, we are lucky if I can make it around the block before I lead everyone back home. And yes, I usually wait till 9PM to take them on the walk because I want to avoid all the other darn dogs that make Ellie loose her freaking mind. Oh yes, but that’s another blog post. So the length (time), distance and quantity of walks went down severely.

But let’s talk about me for a moment. I never stopped to think about the impact that moving to a totally different location would make on my life, mind and body. When we first moved here, I was in the best shape I had been in my life. I was running consistently, I felt strong and I was 7 pounds lighter because of it. It turns out that this foothill area has so many ups, downs, hills, micro and macro valleys to explore. The streets of L.A. did not train me for this shit. The cool weather of the west side did not warn me about the relentless dry summer desert heat. Needless to say, I stopped running because it was too hard and too damn hot. Chris had recently taken up cycling right before the big move and once we got here, he found a cycling group that he clicked really well with and well his hobby turned into a passion. He is down 30 pounds since we moved here. Do you see where I am going with this? Well, the struggle was far from over for little ol’ Normie.

single-workaholic

I was desperately searching for work, and working really hard towards getting into a graduate program at a university. I managed to score three different job offers during my search for work. I took the one the looked the most promising to furthering my career and I’ve never regretted a decision more than I’ve regretted making that one. I got into the program I worked so hard to get into only to decline the acceptance in order to stay at my job full time in hopes of scoring the position as an official employee and not a temp. Yeah that’s right, I turned two other job offers to be a temp. Anyway, the most challenging job in the world!!!! I’ve struggled so much to learn the ropes at work, to understand my role and responsibilities and trying to figure out how to make my work efficient and useful. Well, something has to give right? Damn right it does! Chris, Ellie, Argos and exercise took the back burner while I tried to cope with my new work life. Today, I am nearly 10 pounds heavier than I was a year ago, Ellie is up 3 pounds and hugely reactive to outside stimuli and Argos keeps climbing on the dining table trying to score any edibles he can find and refuses to follow simple commands that I ingrained in him for the past 6 years. Chris took over most of our kitchen duties and well the household chores get done when they get done. Oh! not to mention that I’ve spent so little time with my mother and my siblings and their children.

But I am done with putting my life and my family in the back burner for the sake of a job. No one else does where I work at and I’ve decided I won’t either. I will accept whatever the consequences of that may be but I will never forgive myself for losing what makes me so special, which is being a part of the life of those I love the most; Chris, Ellie & Argos.

12698151_932698180177781_6861322838332790567_o

So here’s  the plan. I have a brand new road bike to stretch my legs on along side with Chris. I have to practice on keeping up with him and his friends but the good thing is they are all a good bunch of people, very family oriented! I have a brand new pair of sneakers and one more half marathon to go this year so I can get the Beach Cities Challenge Medal I’ve been trying to get. I am also signing up to to the Conqur L.A. Challenge which includes the Santa Monica 10k, the Rose Bowl half marathon and it concludes with the Los Angeles 2017 Marathon.  As for those pesky pounds I put on, well I am now a proud member of Weight Watchers and I celebrated tonight my 2 pound loss with a ice cream stuffed Cronut. Balance, am I right?! I’ve created a brand spanking new chore schedule to help me with that ordeal (Chris is the best chef in the world!). And finally, slowly I want to interject myself in the lives of my little nephews. I want them to grow up knowing who their auntie is. I think a Disneyland trip is in order. Churros! Churros!

Back to my mutt friends. Our veterinarian has strongly rejected my idea to let Ellie run with me in my efforts to get back into shape. She was on steroid injections for a while, she is taking atopica and receives antigen every two weeks. While we slowly figure out her mystery allergies, it’s best I stick to brisk walks. Argos will be enjoying some one-on-one refresher lessons every other evening with delicious high value treats. I will be reading up on canine reactive behavior. A coworker of mine passed on some names I should begin with as I learn about the more common issues related to reactive, timid and sensitive dogs. I hope that once I’ve done some basic research, I can enlist the help of a behaviorist to help me with Ellie’s issues.

new-beginnings2

While my dogs help center me, give me a sense of belonging and are my source of comfort they too are affected when my life is off balance. Their health and their mental state deteriorates and in turn both Chris and I have to deal with the consequences of that. Well, no more!

Come along to watch how I win, lose, give up and yet find endless hope for a better life. For a balanced life.

The Vet and I

When you think you’ve found yourself a good Veterinarian, hang on for dear life and don’t let go. In the 4.5 years I’ve been doing this dog-owning thing, I’ve gotten to meet some great vets and some pretty lousy ones.

There is a difference between low cost veterinary care and sensible veterinary care. You’d think one equals the other but it does not. Being a dog owner in west Los Angeles is an expensive affair. The majority of the veterinarian clinics in my neighbor or surrounding neighborhoods will charge you upwards of $150 just for taking in your dog in. They’ll convince you that you need diagnostic laboratory tests, monthly medications of their choice is an absolute must and they’ll send you home and they’ll send you home with what you know is a less than trusted brand of dog food, because you know, it’s what is going to make your dog better. I’ve been there and I’ve certainly done that.

Four tuchus infections, two ear infections, one skin infection, and inexplicable bloody soft stool for two months, that’s what I’ve dealt with in the span of a year and a half.

The tushie and ear infections are all Ellie.  That girl is the home of bacteria! I admit the ear infections are my fault as I didn’t know how to properly care for her ears. However, it would it would have been extremely helpful if our then Vet had walked me through the process of properly caring for her delicate ears. Instead they handed me a bottle of antibiotic and sent me on my way. Sure enough I had another ear infection on my hands shortly after that. I simply didn’t know I could prevent ear infections by cleaning her ears with a cleaning solution after her weekly bath. The internet taught me that.

She gets these weird red bumps that start around off near her vaginal opening and once she begins to aggravate them with the incessant licking the crawls up all the way to her stomach. She turns them into big red blotches and the skin around it turns flaky and rough. It is well understood that it is an allergic reaction to something. What the possible allergen could be is beyond me. We’ve switched her off and on to the products that we use on her, the cleaning products, hell even the detergents and softeners I use to wash their blankets and bed. But for the past 6 months, every two months, she has an outbreak. The same veterinarian who didn’t have time to talk to me about ear infections saw her three times for these mysterious rashes and every time I saw him, it was the same diagnoses. It’s fleas. Despite the fact that I administer a monthly regimen of Revolution, and she’s never showed any signs of fleas OR flea dirt. I’ll tell you why I know; I bathe her weekly and I check her coat with a fine tooth comb every time.

So three times we went to the veterinarian to figure out these rashes on her bottom and I would shell out over $150 (definitely cheaper than any other vet in the area) so they could pump her full of antibiotics and steroids and then they’d give me a bottle of the same to continue giving to her for two weeks. This process would clear her tushie right up…until the next time. This ordeal sucked, so on the fourth infection I decided to do something different.

When I first adopted Argos, I was living in Long Beach, CA (a good 30 miles away from where we currently are) and on my way home with my then new precious-cute-as-a-button puppy I made a pit stop at the The Family Vet. The very first veterinarian I’ve met in my life, Dr. Tran, must have seen the inexperience written all over my face. On that very first visit, she taught me to how to clip Argos’s claws, express his anal glands, and the most important lesson of all, get this new puppy used to you touching his teeth, paws and bottom. When cuddling, she said, massage his gums. This would one day help me when teaching him to let me brush his teeth. Like any other vet, she made sure I made it back into the clinic for vaccinations and at such reasonable prices, I made sure I did. We only saw Dr. Tran for a year after I moved away to another city and I had to continue care for Argos with another veterinarian.

We met Dr. Johnson in Fullerton, CA  another fantastic Veterinarian, just a tad more expensive for a gal like myself. Regardless, it is his advice that I resorted to for Ellie’s fourth infection. Dr. Tran was not taking new patients. Dr. Johnson explained to me what he thought was happening with Ellie. He diagnosed her with a staph infection, explained to me a possible weakness in her immune system, put her on antibiotics and steroids for a couple of weeks but most importantly he did something I was hoping he would…he advised me on preventative measures. Before sending us home, he gave us a bottle of Chlorhexidine medicated shampoo to treat her skin on a weekly basis. It’s been six weeks and no episode yet. Things are looking good!

douxo-chlorhexidine-ps-climbazole-shampoo-dogs-cats-16-9-fl-oz-29

And now for Argos. A month after Ellie came home from the shelter, Argos began with soft stool. For two weeks, it was so soft I had to make sure he went on grass patches rather than sidewalks (you know, where they accidentally go sometimes if you don’t walk fast enough to a grass patch) because it was that soft. Then it got bloody and thats when we rushed over to the The Shelter Vet, you know the guys who kept blaming Ellie’s rashes on fleas. At this time of course, I did not understand that I was wasting my time and my money. Stool tests, and blood test proved he was one healthy dog and yet, blood was coming out of him.

He was kept on antibiotics for a couple of weeks and fed plain white rice and chicken. After his medication was done, the soft stool returned, this time no blood. He remained like this for a few weeks. I didn’t bother taking him to the clinic anymore, I made his sure his appetite and activity level remained the same and it soon ran its course.

Call me a crazy dog person, if you want to, I quite don’t care. When someone you love shows signs of being unwell, it freaks you out. In my stupidity I never stopped to think about the type of care my dogs were really getting at this Shelter Vet, which by the way is a private practice that has nothing to do with providing shelter services to the community, it’s simply a low cost clinic…which makes a lot of sense now. So yes, I am mad that I shelled out a few hundred dollars for ultimately nothing but what makes me livid is that the dogs continued with their health issues.

Golden Retriever puppy

I gave Dr. Tran in Long Beach a call. She was not taking new patients but after I explained that Argos had already been seen there about three years back, she decided to invite me back. On his first visit back Argos was diagnosed with a skin infection. His dry skin was making him itch so much, he would go at it with his mouth, causing his infection. Some antibiotics and fish oil capsules later and his skin looks healthy again.

I plan to continue both their care with Dr. Tran as I trust her the most even if it means driving 30 miles to get to her office. We will continue to observe and I will be certain to report as to the progress of these two mutts.

Experiments in Desperation

I’ve often talked about Ellie’s…problems. She’s an almost 2 year old Cocker Spaniel and Poodle mix rescue. Chris and I picked her up when she was close to three months old. I don’t know how this problem got to where it is today and all I can remember from her puppy months is that she was and still is a very shy dog. She pees when too excited and when intimidated. She doesn’t approach dogs or people she doesn’t know. It’s actually more than that, she low grows at the sight of strangers and pulls me away from the sidewalk and sits. Some days, she just sits and waits for people to pass. Other days, she’ll bark at them incessantly, like they’re threatening her somehow.

I don’t care for strangers either but I don’t feel threatened by them and I certainly don’t warn them away when all they’re doing is passing me by. So whatever happens in Ellie’s brain when encountering this stimuli can’t be good for her state of mind in the long run. Not to mention that her incessant barking at strangers is no fun for Chris and I. You see, every once in a while I actually want to talk to my neighbors. Every once in a while, I would like for my dogs to be interested in other dogs. Instead, I find myself being avoided or avoiding other folks walking their brilliantly calm dogs.

I’ve tried the “Watch the World” game. The idea of the game or training is that you treat the dog every time the stimuli that she usually elicits the response you are trying to change (in this case barking and growling) comes into view. The goal is that the dog will associate the stimuli with something positive, like a treat, and therefore it’s response changes. Rather than bark and growl, it will wait for it’s treat instead. We began by sitting out on the church steps across the street where we live and watching people walk their dogs. At first, it only worked when we were watching people pass by from far away. Wanting to speed things along, we merged the game into our daily 1 mile walks. What Ellie and Argos began doing was to stop and stand aside whenever someone was approaching us. Even then, Ellie low growled just to let me know she didn’t like what was happening. I suppose this is a good response, stopping and standing aside and waiting for others to pass, unfortunately it extends our walks by an extra 15 minutes, something I don’t always appreciate at 6:00 am.

You remember when that weird uncle told your parents the best way to teach you how to swim was to simply throw you in the water? Or maybe it was your dad? Anyway, I tried this method on Ellie. We took a ride down to the local dog park and while Argos ran around like a crazy dog chasing other dogs, Ellie stood by me, shaking, whining and scratching at my leg. She never leaves my side when we go to the park. I’ve taken tennis balls and toys she loves playing with at home… and she’s not interested. She just sits there and cries.

So then we thought, what if we leave them to interact with other dogs while Chris and I are not present. This was one of the main reasons we decided to sign them up to doggy day care. It would give them an opportunity to interact and socialize with other dogs without us affecting the interaction. Well Eco Dog, our doggie daycare, has a web cam through which you can watch your pups all day. Argos chases, gets chased, jumps, humps, and naps while he is there. Ellie sits in a corner. If dogs come to invite her to play, she walks away…to another corner.

And then there was the Thundershirt. It’s a cute vest that’s supposed to fit snug around them and it reminds me of a straight jacket. It looks nothing like a straight jacket, but it has that feel to it. It’s meant to feel like a constant gentle hug. I slept with the Thundershirt for a few nights to inpart it with my scent. Anyway, it didn’t work for us. I know this product has helped many a folk but Ellie didn’t give a rat’s ass, she still acted out.

So here we are, back to square one  (don’t know that we ever left it) and I’m going crazy. I’m exaggerating of course, she only becomes agitated when in public. At home, she’s a model dog. Obedient, rambunctious and plainly the sweetest dog I’ve ever known. I live in a building where almost all the tenants have dogs. You can’t walk down the hallway without having dogs barking their brains out from inside their locked apartments at the sound of your footsteps. And you won’t hear a peep from either Ellie or Argos. Don’t come a-knocking, cause that’s a different story.

For a while, she was my running partner but thats only good on runs that are 2 miles or less. Otherwise, she becomes tired quickly and starts to lag behind, waning my own eagerness to keep running. We took her on her first ever hike to the Mount Woodson Trail (aka the potato chip hike) in Poway, CA. That’s a 7.5 mile roundtrip hike in which you are basically climbing the entire way up to the potato chip. Did this waste away her energy and calm her anxious mind? NOT ONE BIT. She ran up that darn trail and just about drag me going back down. Perhaps, if this type of activity was done in a more consistent manner it could work? I have to get creative if this the way I want to go.

Chris and I are currently debating consulting a professional, a behavioralist maybe. If anyone out there has suggestions, ideas on how I can get creative and fix this dog, do let me know! Giving up is not an option. A solution we must find!

 

 

Meclizine, Miracle Drug for Carsickness?

Yes! Meclizine is an antihistamine that suppresses nausea and vomiting. Like I’ve mentioned before, car sickness is something Ellie has struggled with since we met her. On her first car ride home from the shelter, the poor thing arrived wet with slobber from snout to belly. Obviously, I didn’t realize what was going on, it wasn’t until we kept taking her out for car rides that we noticed the pattern.

The Shelter Veterinarian where I had been taking her, assured me that she would grow out of it. It was an ear thing they said. It was a puppy thing, others said. I was advised to give her Benadryl when planning to travel to help with the nausea. That, however, worked once and never again. It was more trouble trying to get her to swallow the darn pill than what it actually did to help her. So what did I do? I stopped putting her in the car unless absolutely necessary. Because we don’t frequent groomers or parks on a regular basis, this worked out for a while.

Due to other health issues, I ended up switching to a trusted Veterinarian I had visited with Argos in the past when we resided in Orange County. These ‘other’ health issues that I shall discuss with you at a later time, forced me to find a better Veterinarian for Ellie, we were desperate. The Commonwealth Animal Hospital welcomed us back with open arms. After a thorough consultation with his new patient, Dr. David Johnson prescribed Ellie Meclizine 25 mg for those traveling days. He quickly figured out what was going on when Ellie, yet again, was wet with slobber and I had traces of half digested kibble on my jacket from that morning’s breakfast. I have to say, there has been a lot of trial and error when it’s anything to do with Ellie, so I took the prescription but I had very little hope of it working.

But it worked! Over the Christmas holidays, while making our rounds about the city visiting friends and kinfolk, we decided to give Ellie a pill to try. It’s chicken flavored Sharon said (Dr. Johnson’s office manager), but Ellie wasn’t having it. She spit it out 3 times before I gave up and covered in peanut butter. We went all day without a drop of drool or vomit. ‘Twas a Christmas miracle!

Meclizine is a drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating the symptoms of motion sickness and vertigo. Ellie is approximately 20 lbs., which means one 25 mg pill’s effectiveness lasts all day. Some side effects may include drowsiness and dry mouth (in humans) and to be on the safe side, I’ll be sure to administer the medication only when I know she’ll have a relatively sedentary day.

So for those of you out there with dogs who get motion sickness, skip the Benadryl and ask your Veterinarian about other options. Because let me tell you something, there are definitely other options.

All those of you who know what half digested kibble smells like, let me hear you say “There’s hope!”

Welcome 2015

2014 is now in the past and so are the rest of my unfulfilled promises of greatness. Hope…hope is an evil and amazing thing, all at the same time. So like every other human being, I’ve made resolutions for the new year, and since it’s January 1st, I have every intention of keeping every single promise I make to myself in the next 24 hours.

So I know I’ve visited this subject many times and I want to do so again, for good measure and in hope that in these words perhaps I find my own answer. To work and to tend to a family is really hard work. Let me not confuse you further, I have no children. I live with my partner of 9 years and our two furry dogs and I call this my family. Like every other couple, we have goals. We want to, one day, be property owners. We would like to travel to different parts of the world. We would like to one day walk down the street and have our dogs not bark and snarl at strangers. You know, just like what any normal human being wishes for. The first two, like a lot of things in life, requires money. Lot’s of it. So we do what we can to save money to put towards our future endeavors. But when you try to save money, you must deduct from somewhere else. It’s a constant transaction of time and money. So to save money we cook at home a lot, try to eat out only once a week and to help us towards that effort we purchased a small chest freezer for our 720 sq. ft. apartment. Chris and I were lucky enough to have been raised by awesome stay-at-home moms who devoted themselves to cooking for us. So there is absolutely no pre-made food in our home. So while we have that going for us, we do try very hard to keep down our intake of restaurant food. We also have a dusty ass apartment that covers itself in layers of dust every 2 days. It’s impossible to keep up with! So no cleaning help here (boo hoo, right?). We wash the dogs weekly and groom them every 1.5 months. That saves us a lot of money and but its takes up a Saturday afternoon and we all know those are sacred.

1313_I_work_hard_dog

Do you ever measure how much it’s worth to do something based off of how much you’d want to waste your precious Saturday afternoon doing it? Saturday afternoons are currency and I find that there is rarely anything I’d spend my precious currency on. Maybe there is something wrong with me, but that’s another blog post.

So where am I going with this? In our pursuit of monetary goals, we spend all of our precious free time preparing extra meals for weekdays, cleaning, grooming dogs, exercising them and exercising ourselves and it all just makes time melt away. Sure, I’ve created a million schedules where I try to squeeze in as many chores as I can during the week, before and after work but it.just.never.works.out. Which has made me wonder if I’m lazy. Another blog post perhaps.

The point of all this rambling is that I didn’t just push my personal goals and pursuits to the back burner, I pushed them so far off they’re not even on the stove! Although we take good care of our dogs, I fear Ellie’s behavioral needs have been pushed off. I fear Argos’s socialization has also been pushed off . First, before any smart-ass goes on about what a poor dog owner I am: My dogs are safe dogs, they are healthy, eat very well and get plenty of exercise and attention. The problem is, they don’t like other dogs and/or their people. So this my resolution list:

6617602791_f8824b378f_b

New Year’s Resolution 2015

  1. Understand Ellie’s fear
  2. Socialize Argos more
  3. Hike our local dog friendly trails to expose both dogs to nature and other people (I’m thinking once a month?)
  4. Post on this blog twice a week!

It sounds like an easy task list but #1 is going to be the toughest thing I do in 2015. Ellie barks and growls at strangers and their dogs, at people making loud noises and does not like people she doesn’t know approach her. She has never bitten or attempted to attack anyone. It’s all fear. She is apprehensive of everything and everyone and pulls away and retreats to ‘safe’ places. But I keep reading everywhere that fear can turn into aggression if it continues to go unaddressed. I have tried thundershirts, bark collars, and treats. What you will read in this blog is what I have found out through each of these methods.

Come with me, as I share with you my adventures, my struggles and my love of these two mutts.

Wordless Wednesday: Argos’s 4th Birthday

I hijacked my brother’s birthday celebration to take a quick snap of Argos with a birthday candle. I actually don’t know what day Argos was born, I was only told it was sometime in June of 2010. My brother Alan turned fourteen so I borrowed the four and stuck it on a puppy pie.  Argos was not amused. Neither is Alan.