Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I pulled off the first tick of the season this morning. Off of me, that is. The dogs have Frontline Plus, so they're fine. Isn't it a bit early for ticks? Why does this give me a bad feeling about the summer?

Monday, March 30, 2009

My Dog Is Stoned

This afternoon, I met with several of the folks who will be on Reyna’s surgical team. The news was all good. This morning, the vets were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to replace Reyna’s right hip (the worst hip) due to lack of bone, but the x-rays showed that there was just enough bone left in the socket to hold the cup. So, on May 7, Reyna will have her right hip replaced. They’re planning to do a cementless replacement, which is preferred, but there’s always a chance they’ll cut her open and realize they need to do the cemented version, for one reason or another.

After talking to the vets, I feel a lot more positive about the upcoming surgery. This is really nice, considering that the other night I dreamt Reyna died on the operating table. But we’ll just ignore that dream. The vets gave me a lot of details about the surgery, what they do and why they do it. We covered what exercises and activities she’s allowed to do, as well as the types and quantities of meds she’ll be taking. The vet said that, at 8 weeks post-surgery, the hip is as stable as its going to get, and after 8 weeks, we can start working our way back up to normal activity levels. Slowly, of course, and contingent on how she’s feeling. Her stitches can come out 10-14 days after the surgery, and then we can start extending our outside time, especially if that helps keep her relaxed. Oh, and she’ll most likely come home on Friday (the surgery is Thursday), because they all think she’s the type of dog that will be calmer at home. To help ensure that, she’ll be on several meds.

Although, they don’t plan to keep quite as drugged as she is right now - she still has a lot of the sedatives in her system. Her eyes are still pretty glassy, and she’s been incredibly still since I got her. Out in the yard, she looked at her ball, but didn’t actually move from where she’d decided to sit down. She’s been zonked out on her bed almost the entire time we’ve been home, just occasionally waking up to shift position a bit. Interestingly enough, Duncan has stepped up for guard duties. A group of kids on bikes went by, which would normally have Reyna barking at the kitchen windows. She barely even glanced at them, but Duncan went to the windows and barked the requisite warning. He’s decided that leaving her alone tonight is a good idea. I think it had something to do with the look she shot him while he was licking her face.

We got some other really great news today, although I’m still aggravated about the circumstances. Reyna had a slew of tests run nearly three years ago when she was having seizures. At that time, I was told that Reyna had a mild heart defect that wasn’t a problem then, but could become one as she got older. Because of that, the surgeon wanted Reyna to have a cardiology consult before her hip replacement to make sure there wouldn’t be any complications from the defect. Well, I found out today that, about a week after our visit three years ago, some senior radiologists looked at her chest x-rays and decided that she didn’t have a defect, it was just the way she was positioned. Of course, they didn’t bother to contact me about it, or apparently even put a note about it in her original record (which is what the surgeon looked at back in November). I found out about the change in diagnosis from the orthopedics intern this morning. They went ahead and did new chest x-rays today, and the cardiologist and radiologists all agreed that there is absolutely nothing wrong with her heart, it is perfectly healthy and normal. While 90% of me is thrilled about this, 10% of me is still really annoyed that they didn’t bother to contact me three years ago and let me know I had one less thing to stress over.


Reyna is at the NCSU vet school today, getting lots and lots of x-rays taken. What they find will determine whether or not she can have surgery, and if so, which hip they'll replace. I'm scheduled to meet with the surgeons at 4:30, unless they call and tell me to come earlier.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

No Gore, I Promise

Some of you may recall the battle Duncan and I fought last summer against the moles that invaded my yard. Well, the nasty little critters are back. They took full advantage of the dogs being gone the week I was in Canada and redug their many tunnels. When Duncan got home, he went right to work, destroying as many tunnels as he could find. The moles got a little carried away over the last few days, since the ground is soft from the rain. I’ll be picking up a couple of containers of mole repellant this afternoon, so hopefully I can convince them to go somewhere else. Like to my neighbor’s yard. Where poison has been put down. In the meantime, though, Duncan has taken his duties at Yard Protector/Mole Eradicator very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that I got home from work yesterday and found this in my back yard.

Ugly little thing, isn't he?

Duncan even showed me the hole that he dug the mole out of.

Granted, Duncan has destroyed parts of my yard almost as effectively as the moles have, but at least I don’t have to worry about him killing my rosebushes.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

So! Much! Fun!

This weekend was a big one for both pups. Duncan had his first CGC (Canine Good Citizen) Out on the Town class Saturday morning. The class is designed to take dogs out in public places to work on their manners and distraction-proofing. This week we went to Baileywick Park to get the dogs familiar with each other and to remind them that they’re supposed to pay attention. Poor Duncan, we both kept forgetting that I had treats to give him – after all, I’m used to him doing what I ask without getting a cookie for it. We both enjoyed getting outside, though, and it’s good for Duncan to have something to do. After all, come May 9, we’ll both be pretty much house-bound with Reyna for several weeks. The next class is at Briar Creek Shopping Center, I think, so the dogs can work around crowds of people.

After class, I dropped Duncan at the house and loaded Reyna in the truck for a trip to PetSmart. I like to get her out occasionally, too, just to remind her that she has manners. Plus, it’s good for her to get a bit of exercise and socialization. Reyna looked very snazzy in her new RuffWear harness and received several compliments. She met a little girl at the store and promptly fell in love. The child’s head was right at Reyna’s kissing level, and Reyna took full advantage of that. The girl’s mom kept telling her to “ask the doggy’s mommy what her name is” but she clearly didn’t understand. Every time her mom said that, she offered a new name. I remember “Taz” and “Socks” out of the several suggestions she made…

John invited the pups over Sunday afternoon, and they had an absolute blast. John and his wife, Michele, have about 10 acres of land. They have a large pasture, three Horses!, wooded trails and Chickens! Guess which part Reyna was most interested in. That’s right, the Horses! I had the pups in the pasture for most of our visit so that I wouldn’t have to worry about them running off. Turns out I didn’t have to worry about that at all – Reyna wasn’t leaving those Horses!, and Duncan wasn’t leaving Reyna. The Horses! were in the paddock next to the barn, and Reyna couldn’t get in there to play with them, so I didn’t have the series of heart attacks that I had at Mom’s during Christmas. Both pups kept trying to kiss the Horses! through the fence, and then Reyna decided to try jumping up to kiss them over the fence. That didn’t work too well.

After letting the pups run around the pasture for a while, John took us on a tour of the rest of the property. The pups enjoyed tromping through the woods, and Reyna even forgot about the Horses! for a few minutes. And then…ooh, Chickens! They were nice and safe in a coop, which was a very good thing, since Reyna seemed just a bit too interested in them. After dragging her away from the Chickens!, we headed for the house to sit on the steps and watch the pups check the place out. Reyna couldn’t decide if she wanted to rest in the shade under the deck or go see the Horses! Horses! She and Duncan kept making loops between the barn and the house, with short rests between trips.

John decided to work on my truck for a bit (it’s been having a few issues), so I went back in the pasture with the pups to make sure they didn’t get in the way. Reyna played with the jolly ball Michele brought out for her, and then barked at the Horses! for a bit. Two neighbor dogs decided to visit about that time, so the four dogs ran along the fence playing chase. Everything was fine, until the smaller dog decided he’d just pop into the pasture to play. Michele finally had to lock him in a stall until we left. I told John that Reyna might have been fine with the dog, but she can be a bit unpredictable. And while I don’t mind her playing with new dogs, I don’t like it when the other owner isn’t around or even aware of what was happening. It’s just not a risk I like to take.

While we were there, John mentioned that he was concerned Reyna might be overdoing it, what with all the jumping and running she was doing. Definitely a valid worry, and one I shared. But Reyna clearly felt good, she wanted to run, and she felt able to run. It was so wonderful to see her running at full speed, playing and grinning that happy doggy grin. Twice, she actually ran along the fence line from the barn to the far corner and then up the corner closest to the road. I realize that description is pretty irrelevant if you’ve not seen the pasture, but trust me, it’s a long way. Reyna hasn’t run like that in such a long time. She was a little stiff Monday morning, but seemed fine by the time I got home from work. If the weather and schedules work out, we may be able to go back to John’s again this weekend. And this time, I’ll have my camera with me.

Monday, March 23, 2009

German Shepherd Show

This past Friday and Saturday I was the Head Steward (not to mention the only Steward) for the German Shepherd Dog Club of Greater Raleigh’s annual Tarheel Circuit German Shepherd Specialty Show (there’s a mouthful for you). This was my third year as Steward, and may be my last if the club decides to move the show outside (or if the club president ticks me off enough). It was fun, as it has been the last two years, but I’m glad I only do it once a year. The cement floor kills my knee and back, and doesn’t exactly make my feet happy, either.

There were some absolutely gorgeous shepherds there, but working the show always makes me happy that neither Reyna nor Duncan is show quality. Showing a dog is a lot more work than most people realize, and when you toss in the personalities of the handlers and owners, it becomes something...well, scary isn’t the right word, but let’s just say that you would have to really want to be part of the show world to stand a chance of enjoying it as a participant. This is not for the faint of heart or the slightly interested. I’ve done Rally, freestyle and herding trials, and while there are the occasional obnoxious people involved in those activities, you don’t see the personality conflicts that you do at the show ring. And the sheer number of prima donnas at a show is downright exhausting. One woman threw a fit Friday night because her dog didn’t win, demanding that the judge tell her what was wrong with her dog. There was nothing wrong with her dog; the other dogs were just more impressive. Even I could see that.

The club president made the comment Friday night that, if I do this for a few more years, I’ll eventually get good at it. My first response was “kiss my ass.” My second response was that I just might be busy this particular weekend next March. I got one night of steward training two years ago, I do it one weekend a year, for FREE, and no one else in the club is willing to do it. I think I do a darn good job. The judges have all told me I do an excellent job, and they’re the people I have to keep happy. Which brings me back to my first response...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Finally! Some Good News!

Reyna went to the vet Monday afternoon to get her blood tested courtesy of the new happy meds she started two weeks ago. Thankfully, the tests showed absolutely no problems. Yay! Something going our way, for once! Of course, I don’t want to get too excited about it and jinx us...

The vet is going out of town today and won’t be back until the end of the month. We’d settled on me calling him on the 30th, after Reyna’s pre-op appointment, to talk about that and whether or not we needed to up her dose of happy meds. After all, since I’d been out of town all week, I didn’t really know how she was acting. She seemed quiet Saturday and Sunday, but that’s to be expected after a week of boarding. Doc figured I’d need at least a week to get a good idea of how she was doing. Boy, was he ever wrong. Monday night, Reyna was still a little quieter than usual, but by Tuesday, she was back to normal. Normal for her, anyway. I called the vet Wednesday morning to let him know I’d need a new batch of meds, since I don’t have enough for an increased dose until he gets back. He was properly shocked to hear that Reyna is still crazy (Reyna? Crazy? Nah…) As of this morning, we’re doubling her dose of happy meds. I’ll check in with him on the 30th to let him know how she’s responding, and if necessary, we can go up one more level. If that doesn’t tone her down, though, I’m not sure what we’ll do. Sedatives, maybe. For me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Animals On Vacation

While I spent the past week hoping for above zero temperatures, the dogs got to spend the week at the beach. I’m not exactly sure how I got the worst part of that deal, but I did. When I called to check on them Monday, I was told that they were doing fine, eating normally, and that Duncan was being a wuss. Can’t say I was surprised. By Wednesday, though, Duncan had settled down and was enjoying his stay.

Getting them to the kennel was interesting. The owner of the kennel had originally said he’d pick them up Saturday while he was in Raleigh, but that changed because of scheduling conflicts. Instead, I met his wife in Goldsboro and she drove the dogs back down to Emerald Isle. Donnie would have picked them up in a van with crates. Jessica drove a small car. She walked Reyna around for a few minutes to familiarize her with the idea of a new person, and then led Reyna to the car. Jessica made sure Duncan could see Reyna, and then gave Reyna a series of commands, trying to figure out which one would actually get Reyna in the car. Reyna just stood and looked at her until Jessica finally said “get in the car.” Reyna hopped right in and stretched out full length along the back seat. Duncan didn’t go quite as easily. Donnie had told Jessica that Duncan likes to ride in the front, so she took him around to the passenger side and told him to get in. I had to call Duncan in from the other side of the car before he was willing to get in the seat. I’d warned Jessica about Reyna’s tendency to lunge at passing traffic, but Jessica assured me that she could handle it and that Reyna certainly wouldn’t try that more than once with her. *Snort. Snicker. Um, yeah, okay….* What really tickled me, though, was that it looked like Donnie never mentioned just how big the dogs are. The car Jessica drove was quite a bit smaller than my old Grand Am. Reyna covered the entire back seat without even trying, and Duncan looked like he’d never be able to fold up enough to sit in the front. I’d have loved to see how that trip went, but I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be in the car.

I chatted with Jessica for a few minutes when I checked in on Wednesday, and she said that Duncan spent the ride in the back with Reyna, instead of in the front seat. I have to say, I’m not surprised about that. Between the small seat and the stranger behind the wheel, I’m sure he felt safer next to Reyna. Jessica also said that Reyna behaved just fine for her. I wasn’t inclined to debate why that might have been, but Donnie and I talked about it when he dropped the dogs off Saturday afternoon. Donnie’s an excellent trainer, and we’ve worked with him on and off since Reyna was about six months old, so he is well aware of her…issues. When I mentioned to him that Jessica seemed a bit smug about how nicely Reyna rode in the car, he just grinned and said that he’d expected Reyna to behave better – not because Jessica demanded the better behavior, but because Reyna was in a different vehicle with a stranger (and kids usually do better for others than they do for their parents), Duncan was taking up at least half of the back seat, and Reyna couldn’t bounce around like she can in our truck. Makes sense to me, but I’m still not going to go out and buy a small car for the three of us to ride around in.

After dropping off the dogs, I was sitting on the couch and relaxing, and I realized it was VERY quiet in the house. Even when the dogs are snoozing, its not completely silent. Another thing I realized is that the cats are a lot more annoying than they used to be. Before the dogs, it didn’t bother me when the cats would try and snag food off my plate, or when Belle would reach out and grab my fork. But now…well, its just irksome. And just as annoying is the tendency for at least one cat to lie near my drink, swishing its tail, getting fur stuck to my glass (or slopping its tail completely in my drink). I just don’t have the tolerance for that that I used to. Mikey managed to create some drama Friday by sitting on top of Niko’s cage and nearly knocking it over when I told him to get down. And that night, Mikey was apparently trying to get under Niko’s cover sheet and managed to pull cage and all to the floor. Between the noise of the crash and me yelling at him, Mikey didn’t seem inclined to visit Niko after that. One thing I don’t understand is why the cats will use the catwalk when the dogs aren’t there, but when the dogs are home, the cats want to walk down the hall. I just don’t get it.

John checked on Niko and the cats for me a few times while I was gone (mostly to make sure the bird was still alive). He said he didn’t see much of the cats, just lots of open kitchen cabinets and an open drawer. Again, not exactly surprised….

Its nice to be back home with all of my critters; as aggravating as they can be, I miss them when I travel.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Canada, O Canada

I was in Canada this past week for business, and oh, was it ever a fun trip. When we arrived Sunday, the high was 1F. Yes. One. Of course, it was colder than that when we actually got there. The low was -20F. Monday, the high didn’t get past -8F (yes, negative 8 degrees). Monday night’s low was -43F, a record for Edmonton. Driving to the meeting Tuesday morning, it was -24F. These are the temperatures when your nose hairs freeze every time you take a breath. Thank goodness our vehicle had heated seats. Tuesday’s high was -10F, and the low was -39F, another record for Edmonton. Wednesday was much warmer, with a high of +7F and a low of -9F. By Thursday, the temperature actually got above freezing. It felt almost balmy. Almost.

Speaking of the vehicle, Sunday’s arrival into Edmonton was…eventful. My coworker went to get the rental car while I waited on our bags. After he picked me up, he said we were going back to the rental place to swap vehicles because the windshield wipers weren’t working. Considering how much snow was blowing around, the windshield wipers were definitely needed. So, we got a different SUV and headed on our way. About 15 minutes into the drive, we noticed that the hood was bouncing. We were also hearing an odd noise from the rear passenger side. When we stopped to fix the hood, I checked the back and heard the right rear tire hissing. We turned around and headed back to the rental agency. With all the blowing snow, though, my coworker missed the airport exit. We didn’t get too far passed the exit before we realized the error, but still… Finally got back to the rental agency, got a third SUV, and headed back out. It actually all worked in our favor, because we really loved those heated seats. My coworker was pretty irritated by that point. And then he missed the exit we needed to get to the hotel. Sigh.

Monday morning, the traveling fun started again. We’d been told we needed an hour and 15 minutes to get from the hotel to the meeting site. We gave ourselves an hour and a half. First, we got stuck at a light for three cycles because the idiot in front of us was too chicken to make a left turn. Then we got bogged down in traffic because someone’s car stalled. And then we sat in yet another traffic jam due to a wreck. We finally hit the open road – and made good time – but we got to the meeting 50 minutes late. Thank goodness we weren’t presenting Monday.

Tuesday, the meeting was scheduled to start earlier, and we gave ourselves even more time. We were doing well, until my coworker realized we needed to stop for gas. We had the worst time finding a station, but we finally made it to the town where we were working. And then we got lost. In a town with one stop light and one 4-way stop. Don’t ask me how, because I wasn’t driving. We did a bit better overall – only 25 minutes late to the meeting that day.

On the up side, by Wednesday morning I’d figured out the right combination of conditioner, hair gel, and Static Guard spray to keep my hair from doing the dry fly-away halo. Wednesday and Thursday’s drives were pleasantly uneventful, as was the flight back Friday. I was definitely glad to be back home, even though the weather wasn’t all that great. At least it was above freezing!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Snow Day!

We had about 3 inches of snow in the backyard when I woke up Monday morning. I love the light, powdery stuff. The pups love it, too. Even Reyna was feeling frisky.

She sneezed...

He didn't throw the ball, he dropped it...

Vet Visit

Monday, I took Reyna to see our regular vet. He put her on Clomicalm. She’s been doing a lot of stress chewing lately, and we’re hoping the Clomicalm will tone her down a bit. She’s on a very low dose right now, and we go back in two weeks for blood work. This particular drug can screw up a dog’s liver (as can the Rimadyl she’s been on for years). If its going to cause any problems, we’ll see indications of that in two weeks. If her blood looks okay, then she’s most likely not going to have trouble with the drug. She gets her blood checked every six months because of the Rimdayl, so it won’t be anything new to us. If her blood work comes back fine, then we’ll start slowly increasing her dose until we reach a behavior level that makes us happy. Which would basically be Reyna, only calmer, but not to the point of stupidity or clumsiness. We had enough trouble with the Phenobarbital causing that a couple of years ago. I’d rather have to constantly tell her to stop chewing than go back to those days.

While the vet was checking Reyna, he asked me about her surgery date. When he heard it wasn’t until May, he asked if there was any way I could pull it forward and do it sooner. Unfortunately, between my work schedule and the surgeon’s schedule, there’s not. When I asked why he wanted it sooner, he said he could feel the deterioration of the bones in both of her hips. He’s worried that she’s already so close to the line that, by May, the surgeon may say there’s nothing left for him to work with. And I believe I’ve mentioned before that there has to be a certain amount of bone in the hips for them to do a successful hip replacement. I also asked which hip he thought they’d do, as her right hip is somewhat dislocated (20 degrees higher than her left), but she’s been favoring her left hip for several months now. He said at this point, it’ll probably be a coin toss. Of course, there’s also the possibility that only one hip will have enough bone, and so there wouldn’t be any choice at all. Part of me appreciates the professional back-up (so to speak), especially as certain people have asked if I could push Reyna’s surgery farther out. Most of me, though, is upset to discover that I wasn’t just worrying for nothing. And pretty much all of me hates that there’s still so much time between now and the pre-op and the surgery. No matter which way things go, I just want to KNOW.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Happy Birthday, Reyna!

I’ll admit it: six months ago, I didn’t think we’d see this day. But we made it! Today, Reyna turns 5 years old! The last year has been particularly difficult for her (although, possibly harder on me than her), but she’s handled each day in true Reyna fashion. To commemorate this milestone, we had a little party yesterday. A day early I know, but Mary was here for cropping, and so she helped us celebrate.

I showed Reyna the card that Mary brought, and she helped me open it.

Reyna was excited to realize that the card was from Bruno, Mary's GSD.

Mary also brought Reyna a wonderful present, wrapped in beautiful German Shepherd paper.

Both Reyna and Duncan were suitably impressed with Reyna's new stuffed duck.

We couldn't have a birthday party without a cake, of course, and the one Gourmutt's Bakery made for Reyna was absolutely perfect.

They even added a little bone at the top of the cake with a "5" written in yummy icing.

Gourmutt's also used oats instead of wheat for the cake, just to ensure Reyna didn't have any allergy problems.

And Duncan was so happy that Reyna was willing to share her cake.

Reyna had a lot of fun playing with the duck, especially squeezing it to make it quack. Mary commented that she hoped the noise wouldn't be too annoying for me. She needn't have worried - this morning, Reyna broke the quacker. The pups don't mind, though, because its still fun to carry around.

The next several months are going to be hard on all of us, but I have faith that we can make it through the upcoming surgery and recovery. This time next year, we'll have even more to celebrate, because the hard work will be behind us and Reyna will be feeling so much better.

Happy birthday, baby girl, and may we have many more years together!