Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tipping The Scales

People who knew me BD (Before Dogs) always knew I was a cat person and were generally shocked when I invited a puppy to live with us. I’m sure most folks assumed I would eventually become The Crazy Cat Lady (which hasn’t been completely ruled out). People who met me AD (After Dogs) always knew I was a dog person and were generally surprised to find out I have any cats, never mind 6 of them. I’ve always considered myself more of an equal opportunity pet owner, never really preferring one species over the other. I realize that I spend the majority of my time doing stuff with the pups – which could make it seem that I prefer them – but a lot of that is due to the fact that its easier to actually DO stuff with dogs. I really don’t think the cats would be interested in musical freestyle and I know they don’t care at all if someone gets lost as long as they have their dinner. Mikey might enjoy herding ducks, but I think he’d spend more time stalking than herding. Of course, considering how often Duncan tries to take a little taste of sheep… But I digress.

I’ve always encouraged the cats to come out to the living room and socialize. When Reyna’s home, though, they generally have no interest in that. With Reyna gone to PT a lot, Belle has become much braver and will usually come out and visit. As long as Duncan doesn’t do anything so rude and inconsiderate as get up or move around, that is.

The other day, Reyna was gone and Belle came out for some lovin’. I was surprised to realize just how annoying it is to have a cat insert herself in everything I was trying to do. I don’t know if it just never bothered me BD, or if I just accepted that That’s How Life Is. Either way, its really aggravating now. The pups certainly don’t get on the counter and walk on the scanner or step on the keyboard. And when I sat down for lunch, it just got worse. If the pups beg at all, they do it very politely (Reyna gently places her paw on my knee, while Duncan simply looks the other way). Belle didn’t beg so much as she demanded. Mostly by sticking a claw in the wrist of the hand holding the fork, or trying to put her face in my plate. And then she had the nerve to be offended when I shoved her off the couch. I realize that the pups do things that are annoying, too. But hey, That’s How Life Is – again. If the cats came out more often, I’d probably find myself becoming more tolerant of the things they do.

Except for this.

Recently, certain cats began engaging in Unacceptable Behaviors. I’m not 100% positive as to who is doing it, but I’m fairly sure. One cat is engaging in a Disliked Yet Tolerable Behavior, and that doesn’t bother me too much. But at least two of them (although, thank goodness not all six) are doing those obnoxious Unacceptable Behaviors. And no, these cats are not in ill health. I’ll admit that my love for them is becoming somewhat conditional and I’m the closest I’ve ever been to de-homing an animal. I remember when, many moons ago, Reyna engaged in a similar Unacceptable Behavior. Installing a dog door helped with that, as did a bit of behavior correction. I am currently in the process of installing (with much help from John) a similar cat door. A regular cat door, of course, would not lead to a cat-safe area, which is a concern despite Mikey’s blatant disregard of this particular problem. So, we’re going to make a cat-safe zone (more on this as things progress). I don’t really believe it will solve the problem, but it will give me a confined area in which to lock those certain cats. They may not be happy about that, but they’ll be happier with that than with being dumped in a shelter or taking up residence under the tree in the back yard.

Surprised Myself

This morning I did something totally out of character. I made scrambled eggs. I realize this doesn’t seem like a particularly big deal, but I haven’t willingly been around cooking eggs since I was old enough to make sure I could be somewhere else. I hate the stench of cooking eggs and I won’t eat eggs fixed any way other than hard boiled. So making scrambled eggs was a huge step forward for me. I’ve been getting eggs from Carolina Grown for several weeks now (and those fresh eggs are so much better than what you get from the grocery store), as I do like hard boiled eggs for breakfast and occasionally during the day as snacks. Mind you, I still won’t eat the yolk unless its deviled. I also give the pups each an egg with their breakfast every morning.

The last couple of days, though, I’ve been a bit blah about the hard boiled egg. I know scrambled eggs are fast and easy, which is very important to me when it comes to cooking (easy more so than fast, which is why I love rabbit from the crock pot). So today, I took that step. I scrambled an egg. I was not impressed with the taste of my first attempt (second, if you count the egg I accidentally threw on the floor when I got distracted and tried to do four things at once). I decided to make another attempt, but first I cooked some bacon (which I’ve been doing a lot lately – yum, pork) so that I could use the bacon grease to keep sticking to a minimum and add some flavor. I still wasn’t incredibly impressed with the taste, but they weren’t as bad as I remember. And the odor was tolerable – maybe something to do with using really fresh eggs? I can see this being a Spring and Fall thing – when I can have the windows open – because I wasn’t really thrilled with the lingering cooked egg odor. I’m open to suggestions for improving the scrambled eggs even more – especially if it tones down the odor.

Monday, March 29, 2010

New And Improved

Matt (the fellow who built Duncan’s cart) came by this afternoon to shorten the shafts. He did a great job in a very short amount of time. I need to do some touch-up painting on the ends of the shafts and a couple of other spots, but the cart is otherwise ready to go. I think the shorter shafts look and work much better. The cart fits Duncan better now, and will be easier for him to maneuver.

Annoyingly Awake

The storm that took a while to make its way to my house had Reyna agitated for several hours last night. Unfortunately, those hours were while I was trying to sleep. Even more unfortunately, I had to get up at 5am for an early shift at the kennel. The storm finally landed on our house at 2:30am. Apparently, that’s all Reyna was waiting for because she promptly went to sleep. The cats, on the other paw…. Poor Duncan was so tired when we got up this morning that, after his initial potty run, he went back to sleep while I fixed his breakfast. A nap this afternoon would have been much enjoyed, but no such luck – the fellow that made Duncan’s cart came by to make some adjustments. And now, of course, its really too late to take a nap. I'm surprisingly alert right now, considering the lack of sleep, but I foresee an early bedtime in my future. And possibly sedatives in Reyna’s…

Sunday, March 28, 2010

High Stepper

As part of Reyna’s rehab, she has to do a series of cavaletti exercises. These torsion exercises make her twist and pick up her legs, and she gets to (has to) wear her braces and bells.

Reyna likes to pretend that she’s a poor, abused pup when I put the braces on her legs. She’s remarkably tolerant of the procedure, though, and doesn’t even try to pull her feet away from me.

Reyna doesn’t particularly enjoy the exercises (no surprise there), but she’ll do them. The vet has her doing the exercises with the pipes in the top holes, which means she has to really work to pick her legs up far enough. Every now and then she tries to cheat a little bit, the stinker.

Draft Dog

Finally – Duncan, his cart, and his harness are all in the same place! Friday afternoon, we went to Pittsboro to get his harness and some basic training with the cart. Duncan looks very handsome in his harness, and he took to pulling the cart with almost no trouble at all (he panicked a little the first time he spotted the shaft at his shoulder when we asked him to turn). Claire and I determined that the shafts were a little longer than necessary, which isn’t surprising. We planned for them to be long, considering the length of Duncan’s stride. Once we got pup and cart together, we were better able to gauge how long the shafts actually need to be. The fellow who built the cart is coming over tomorrow to shorten the shafts and do a few minor touch-ups.

Saturday, Mary came over for lunch and a visit. While she was here, I put her to work taking pictures and video. We hitched Duncan to the cart in the back yard in order to get a few pictures. Duncan was so patient with the hitching process. It didn't bother him at all to stand there for several minutes while I made sure everything was connected properly.

Duncan's finally all hitched up and ready to go.

After a few photos, we took pup and cart to the front for a bit of carting practice. We’ve been instructed to stay on smooth, level ground as much as possible at first. This will give Duncan time to physically and mentally get used to pulling and turning the cart before dealing the natural difficulties of bumpy ground.

Depending on how things go, we may plan to attend a drafting trial in late September. We'll just have to wait and see how quickly Duncan picks up the various skills.

Today, Duncan had some very exciting carting practice. Brian, Marie and Sophie came over for a visit, and Duncan gave Sophie a ride in his cart. I could tell Duncan was getting tired by the start of the third loop between our driveway and the end of the cul-de-sac. Thats not surprising, considering the extra weight he was pulling. Duncan did a wonderful job, though, and seemed very pleased with himself.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Good News

The folks at VetHab say Reyna is doing really well. So well, in fact, that she’ll only go in twice next week and once the following week. After that, she’ll go in for a check-up around mid-May, and then she won’t have to go again for 6 months. This is assuming that we diligently do our homework, of course, and that she doesn’t have any problems.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I love it when the weather warms up enough for me to be comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt at 7am.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Busy, Busy

Yesterday was a long day. We were up early (before the sun, even) and headed out about 8:00. Duncan and I dropped Reyna at rehab and then headed to Cary for a 9:00 appointment. In Cary, we got Duncan’s brand new cart. After oohing and ahhing over the cart, we were off to Pittsboro for training. We were at Claire’s by 10:30, only to discover that Duncan’s harness wasn’t finished. Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do with a cart if we have no harness. With luck, the harness will be done this coming week, and then there will be many pictures of Duncan and his new cart. We worked on our sheep herding, with occasional breaks to work on the harness. As we started out of the arena to do some tending, Claire and I realized that Duncan was limping. Again. After he’d seemed completely fine for over a week. Watching Duncan, it was easy to see that he was pacing rather than trotting (unwilling to move faster and put more pressure on his right front leg), and he quickly lost almost all focus on the sheep. At that point, we called it quits.

Duncan and I left Claire’s at 1:30. On the way home, I called the vet and snagged a 3:30 appointment to get his leg checked. We were in Raleigh about 2:30, so I stopped at the nursery to get some catmint plants (can’t have too much catmint, as far as I’m concerned), and we made it to the vet shortly after 3:00. Unfortunately, they put us in a room with an extremely comfortable chair, and I suddenly realized how tired I was. Duncan and I both dozed a bit waiting for Dr. Berry. She confirmed that there’s not a bone or joint injury, and she agreed that he most likely pulled a muscle. Duncan is now on not-quite-crate-rest and an anti-inflammatory for the next 5 days. After that, we just see how he does. We did find out that Duncan has lost a little weight since October (a good thing) and is now down to a svelte 111 lbs. We made it back to rehab just before 4:30, picked up Reyna and headed home. John and his friend, Travis, came by shortly before dark to check my truck (I’d called him that afternoon about a fwapping noise coming from the front left side). Naturally, he found the problem – the cap thingy on the center of the tire was coming loose - and then they left to go watch a fashion show at a local western gear store. The pups and I were settled down by shortly after 8:00, and I was sound asleep on the couch by 8:30. I woke up around 11:30 and managed to drag myself to bed.

We were up early again today, but on our own – no help from the alarm clock. After breakfast, Reyna did something rather unusual – she hopped up on the couch and took a nap. Once she woke up, she actually stretched out and rested her head on my lap for a while. She was even somewhat cuddly. It didn’t last long, but it was nice. I ran a few errands, took Reyna for the first of her two walks, and then started doing yard work. I got a few new plants in the ground – a thornless blackberry bush, a raspberry bush, several catmint plants, and a gardenia (haven’t had much luck with those, but we’ll see what happens). Paws crossed that everything lives. “Thrives” would be good, but I’ll settle for “lives” at this point. During Reyna's second walk, we stayed in the yard and walked laps rather than going out on the road. Reyna was on leash so I could control the speed and direction, and Duncan paced along right beside us the entire time. The pups and I are about ready to have dinner and settle in for a relaxing evening. Tomorrow – more yard work.

Oh, on a somewhat related note, the ticks are definitely out. I woke up at 2:00 Thursday morning to discover that the itchy spot on my leg had legs of its own. Nasty little things.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Braces And Bells

Reyna started using her custom-made wrist braces yesterday. When I picked her up, I was told that we had homework for today – we’re to take two 10-minute walks, very slow, with at least a two hour break in between. Most importantly, Reyna is to wear her braces and her bells during the walks. The braces provide support for her wrists and help prevent new stress fractures. The bells alert the entire neighborhood to our presence and remind Reyna that she also needs to pick up and use her back legs. I don’t know about the second part, but the bells do the first part beautifully. How she does today, including how she recovers from the walks and how stiff/sore she becomes, will determine what they do during her PT sessions tomorrow.

The bells go on very easily, but the braces take a bit of effort. They have a hole in the back for the pad at the top of her foot, so they have to be positioned just right. They're secured with long strips of some kind of super-velcro that sticks to everything, including itself. Reyna is remarkably patient, though, and doesn't fuss when I put them on her.

In this clip, Reyna is walking faster than she’s supposed to be, but its very hard to keep her to a slow pace and work the video camera. On our second walk today, maybe I’ll get lucky and a neighbor will be outside and willing to record us walking.

Here, Reyna is in complete denial. “What braces? What bells? Mom? I don’t see Mom.” Her roll was unfortunately interrupted by the mail man (who, I’d like to add, she did not bark at (at whom she did not bark?)).

"Lalalalalala...I can't hear you!"

Monday, March 15, 2010

Forward, Cautiously

Reyna had her first dry-land physical therapy session today. The vet said she did well, but the hard part is still to come. Dr. Sherman spent a few minutes chatting with me this afternoon, giving me a brief update and a few reminders. He measured her for her wrist braces today, and she’ll have those Wednesday. He said that he had to double-check his chart and make sure he was working with the right dog, because her attitude and behavior were so different than they were during the initial consultation. She was perfectly fine letting him mess with her wrists today and, more importantly, she didn’t try to bite him. That tells me two things: one, she’s learned to trust Dr. Sherman and his techs; and two, her wrists aren’t nearly as painful as they were six weeks ago. Both of these are good things. Dr. Sherman did provide a cautionary reminder, though – since Reyna’s feeling good, she’s more likely to hurt herself. He said she’s done wonderfully in the water and she’s okay moving in a straight line on land, but she still can’t do the torsion work (think walking in figure eights). They’re going to be doing a lot of torsion work over the next several visits so she’s likely to be more sore than she has been, but we should continue seeing improvement as long as she’s not allowed to do anything stupid here at home. Paws crossed...

Friday, March 12, 2010


Reyna’s done physical therapy at VetHab for 5 weeks now. It looks to me as if she’s moving more easily, although I’m always a bit doubtful – is she really moving better, or am I seeing it just because I want to? The folks at VetHab think she’s moving better, and they should certainly know. She’s also finally gaining some weight and its great that she doesn’t look as bony (and abused, neglected and half-starved) as she has the last couple of months. In fact, between 2/26 and today, she’s gained 5 pounds and now weighs a much healthier 70 lbs. Normal weight for her is 75 lbs, but I’ll be happy if she puts on another 2-3; with her hips, it makes sense for her to be a little thin.

This week, Reyna’s had to work harder during PT – they lowered the water in the underwater treadmill to stifle level, so she’s been floating less and walking more. If all goes well (no major soreness or stiffness this weekend), they’ll start her on dry land therapy next week. After a few sessions of basic exercises, they’ll start the torsion exercises. Once they see that she’s handling those okay, they’ll send her home with a list of exercises. I need to get some cones and PVC pipes to make the required equipment, but that’s no problem. After she starts doing her PT at home, she’ll go in every couple of weeks for evaluations, and as she improves, they’ll drop that to every couple of months (unless there’s a problem, of course).

So, lets all keep our paws crossed that she has a good weekend and that the next couple of weeks go smoothly.

And since its nearly impossible for me to post a blog about one of the pups without pictures...

Here’s Reyna in the Jacuzzi. They use a sling to keep the dogs’ heads out of the water, but Reyna is tall enough that she can touch the bottom. At my suggestion, they put a life jacket on her to keep her calmer, since she loves to swim in her life jacket.

This clip is from today’s PT. Reyna doesn’t look too thrilled, but I think that’s because she wasn’t being fed venison while the video was taken.