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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Cricket and the People Bathroom

"There must be something good in here."

“There must be something good in here.”

"Or here?"

“Or here?”

 

 

Early on, Cricket, my fourteen pound Cockapoo, found the whole idea of a closed door, with her on one side and me on the other, highly offensive. Mom’s door is rarely closed, especially because there’s an ironing board attached to it and telephone cords running under it and pocket books hanging from the door knob. My room has no door at all, just a door way and a set of stairs leading up to the attic. So the bathroom is a room that is uniquely closed off to Cricket when in use, and she hates it.

The door was already not quite level, because the whole apartment is kind of tilted; which explains why a pan on top of the stove tilts all of the oil to one side, and the dust bunnies in the Living Room roll down hill. When Cricket started to throw her body against the bathroom door, in a panic at not being able to reach me for two whole minutes, she managed to make the lock pop open.

She was shocked at her power. She stuck her nose into the little space she’d created and then jumped back when the door opened even further.

We added a latch to the door, but even with the latch she can get the door open about two centimeters and stick her little black nose into the space. The funny thing is, when I leave the door unlatched, like when I’m brushing my teeth, she’s too wary to walk in. She doesn’t know what to make of all of that freedom. It makes me wonder if she really wanted to be in the bathroom with me, or if she just wanted to be in conflict with the door.

Cricket is a connoisseur of the people bathroom. It is as much her as ours, because she has her wee wee pad in front of the bathtub. She relies on the wee wee pad, especially when she uses up her outdoor time chewing on sticks and forgets to pee. She also takes advantage of the convenience of peeing in the middle of the night when getting her people to take her outside is an impossibility.

Before Butterfly came to us in November, Cricket used to stay in bed with Grandma in the mornings, guarding her head, until Grandma finally woke up, and then they would walk to the bathroom together for a morning pee duet. Then the caravan moved on to the kitchen for coffee, and then to the coat rack, for Cricket’s leash, and an outing.

Guarding Grandma

Guarding Grandma

But now, with Butterfly here, I do the first walk of the day. Butterfly insists on getting up very early and stares at me until I give in. Cricket hears the footsteps and the leash rattling and relinquishes her guardianship of the grandma to come outside with us. As soon as we come back inside, Cricket runs, leash and all, back to Grandma’s bed to continue her vigil. Then, when Grandma wakes up, the routine continues as before, with bathroom visit and coffee caravan intact. But now Butterfly has added herself to the team and all three of them trail into the bathroom together.

The caravan

The caravan

Butterfly and the people Bathroom

Butterfly and the people Bathroom

 

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Butterfly’s Weird Health Problems

Butterfly's First Day Home

Butterfly’s First Day Home

 

Butterfly refused to take pills. The veterinary technicians at the animal shelter couldn’t get her to take her de-wormer pills before sending her home with us in November and she wouldn’t even chew the new de-worming medicine that comes in a tiny meatloaf shape. We tried wrapping it in turkey, crumbling it into chicken soup, spreading it with peanut butter. Nothing worked. She ate the turkey and spit out even the smallest crumb of the medicine, which Cricket made every attempt to steal, because she loves the stuff.

We finally found these Pill Pocket treats the other day. They look like gummies and stretch to fit the medicine. It took four treats, but for the first time in three months, Butterfly got her whole dose of medicine down. I could finally stop imagining the slithering little worms crawling around and sucking the life out of her from the inside.

My fear isn’t completely unwarranted. Butterfly’s heart is already fragile. She was diagnosed with a level four Mitral Valve Insufficiency, which the vet told us could develop into congestive heart failure at any time, requiring daily medication. If she continued to spit out even the easy medicine, no telling what she’d do with actual pills. The fear of her developing serious heart problems, or any other health problems for that matter, has been hanging over me from the first day we brought her home. I watch her anxiously every time she sneezes or coughs or seems to sleep too deeply.

The anxiety blossomed about a week after she came home, She was shivering in the doorway of the living room and I picked her up to comfort her and saw this lump protruding from her lower belly. I pressed on it and it moved around under her skin. Mom thought it could be a hernia, or just constipation pushing forward. Butterfly was coughing and shaking and I was worried, because the vet had warned us that coughing could be a sign of congestive heart failure. We called the clinic attached to the shelter she came from, but couldn’t get an appointment for another two days. The clinic had her records and was inexpensive and had just seen her a week before, but I was starting to panic. I was afraid we’d have to rush Butterfly to a doggy emergency room first thing in the morning.

I brought Butterfly upstairs and put her on my bed. She fell asleep and then, finally, I did too, but I woke up when she vomited, and then stayed up with her as she vomited three more times. I was getting ready to look up numbers in the phone book, wishing for a doggy ambulance because I was too freaked out to drive, when she started to walk around. Then she ate her breakfast as if everything was fine. I kept checking her protrusion as the day went on, and gradually, it disappeared. Coincidentally, she pooped five times that day. Really big pooping.

We cancelled the vet appointment, because I didn’t want to stress her out with more doctor visits than necessary. But, also, I was afraid they would dismiss me as a hysterical dog mommy imagining problems that weren’t really there, now that the evidence was gone.

 

My Happy Girl

My Happy Girl

And for a month, Butterfly was fine. Then, one night, I noticed she was licking her lips obsessively and having trouble sitting and lying down. She was having muscle spasms around her waist that were rippling down her back. I worried next to her overnight, feeling incompetent and in over my head. But the protrusion and the spasms disappeared by the morning and haven’t reappeared since.

In fact, after all of the awfulness, wherein I felt suicidal for clearly failing my dog, Butterfly was back to smiling and being happy and ready to play. If all of that vomiting and coughing and spasming had happened to me, I would still be moping and cursing God months later, but Butterfly just shook it off and went back to being a dog.

I worry that I should have taken her to the vet anyway, even though there was nothing left to see. I worry that she needs a special doggy nurse, and a doggy psychiatrist too. I keep worrying that I’ve taken on a situation that is too big for me, and the after effects of her life in a puppy mill will pose too much of a challenge, and I will fail her. But then she makes me think it over again.

The other night we had a lot of wind and rain, and my bedroom, the attic, is like a wind tunnel, so the sound was exaggerated, and Butterfly was frightened. She woke me up at three o’clock in the morning trying to stuff her head into my armpit. I used to do that with my Mommy when I was little too. She crawled over me and around me and curled against me, but she couldn’t find any position that worked for more than ten seconds at a time.

Finally, by five a.m., she sat down by my chest and stayed there for the rest of the night. She seems to think I’m trustworthy, and I’d like to believe her judgment is sound.

 

Butterfly and her crazy hair

Butterfly really likes her scratchies.

The Goop Stealer

Cricket, before her morning makeup

Cricket, before her morning makeup

Cricket. Oy.

Cricket. Oy.

 

I am the goop stealer. Goop is my highly technical term for doggy eye snot. My battle is to keep my dogs’ eyes open and seeing, but they do not like this at all.

Cricket’s goop is especially sticky and kind of like hardened rubber cement. I should be able to sit her on my lap, grab a tissue and wipe off the goop before it hardens into stalagmites in her hair, but Cricket hates being futzed with. If I go near her face with the tissue, she bites my fingers, and grabs the tissue, and jumps to the ground with her treasure. It’s sometimes possible to do a sneak attack and grab the goop with my bare hands, pinching it off like a tick, but if it’s stuck on, or I’m too slow, this can be very dangerous.

This is how she reacts to the toothbrush, just imagine if i tried to get closer

This is how she reacts to the toothbrush, just imagine if I tried to get closer

I’ve tried special eye cleaning pads on her, but she acts like the cleanser on the pad is burning her eye. The way she reacts, I can almost hear the sound of sizzling acid burning through her skin. She’s very convincing.

Cricket hiding on Grandma's lap

Cricket hiding on Grandma’s lap

The two methods that work are: a) Cut the goop off during a grooming session when she’s trapped in the bathtub and distracted with chicken treats; b) Scrub her with shampoo during a full out bath (because if her whole body is wet she’s a tiny bit more subdued.) At the very least, the soaking of the under eye area will loosen the schmutz a bit so it can be removed by hand.

Cricket’s goop embeds in the hair under her eyes and plasters itself to her skin so that I start worrying about infections and cooties crawling under her skin and chewing her up.

Butterfly’s eye goop is different. It doesn’t clump right under her eyes or in the corners. It catches on a group of longer hairs, lower down on her cheek. And since her hair is thicker and oilier, the goop is easier to pull off. She still doesn’t like the removal process, though. She dips her head like a baby avoiding a spoonful of peas. She doesn’t attack or bite or growl like Cricket, she just bobs and weaves.

Butterfly's rust stains

Butterfly’s rust stains

And a little eyeliner

And a little eyeliner

 

When we first adopted Cricket, and realized that a white haired dog was a whole new creature, with tear stains to worry about, we tried all kinds of things. There were wet wipes and special eye wipes for grooming around the eyes. Then we found a powder to add to her food that was supposed to at least limit the rust stains under her eyes. But nothing prevents the build up of goop.

I need another plan. I thought of putting Vaseline under her eyes every morning to keep the goop from sticking, but I think it would lead to Cricket rubbing her head so hard on every surface that eyes will pop out.

The fact is, Cricket doesn’t care if her butt is covered in poop or her feet are dirty, or her eyes are rimmed with goop. She resents being handled and gussied up. She hates being clean overall. But I want her to look her best. I don’t expect her to be poofed and sprayed and dressed in lace. I just want her to be clean and healthy and not smell like pee or poop or eye goop.

Is that so much to ask?

The Barking Tour of Washington, D.C.

 

Back in January, we went to Washington, DC to celebrate my great aunt’s 97th birthday, a month late. She’s a very young 97, still my Grandpa’s feisty baby sister.

Mom visits her cousin and her aunt once or twice a year, and they’ve become very close. This is the cousin who lent us her NYC pied a terre after the hurricane when our power was out on Long Island. She and Mom are both painfully empathetic, and feel like they should have done more with their lives, even as they continue to choose to put their energy into other people instead.

A few years ago I gave Mom a list of questions and a tape recorder to bring with her on her visit to see her aunt. I’d been reading my grandfather’s unfinished memoir, and finding a lot of holes in the story, and I realized I had a potential treasure trove of information in my great aunt. I transcribed the tapes, listening over and over to get every word down, and I became very familiar with her voice and rhythm and the stories of her life. But I was looking forward to hearing from her in person. I was also eager to see her daughter and to meet her grand dog, Zoe.

We had to drive to D.C., because any other method of transportation, with both dogs, would have been untenable. I can’t even imagine the damage Cricket could do on a train.

We put the dogs in their harnesses, in their doggy beds, in the back seat of the car. Butterfly sat on her bed and drooled, but within seconds, Cricket was out of her harness and behind my neck in the front passenger seat. She moved around, as she usually does, between my neck, my lap, and her favorite spot, behind my back with her nose stuck behind Grandma’s shoulder. Her answer to anxiety is to stay as close to her people as possible.

Cricket the co-pilot

Cricket the co-pilot

The longest Butterfly had been in a car before, with us, was the half hour back from the animal shelter in November, so I didn’t know what to expect. She started out panting and drooling, but after half an hour she moved on to vomiting white foam.

Butterfly with her paper towel bib

Butterfly with her paper towel bib

We stopped the car, to clean and dry her bed, and to take both dogs for a walk to get some fresh air, but once Butterfly was back in the car the vomiting continued. Two and a half hours into the trip, I’d used up a whole roll of paper towels and half a box of tissues, and we had to stop at a super market for more.

Overall Butterfly vomited seven times.

We arrived in the Capitol Hill neighborhood at around four thirty in the afternoon and Zoë and her Mom came out to greet us. Butterfly was happy to have her paws on solid ground again. And even Cricket kept her volume at a low bark for the first meeting. We walked over to Zoe’s local dog park down the block, and met a lot of friendly and talkative Washingtonians.

Zoe demonstrated her unique poopie dance for us. She walked in second position plie, on her tippy toes, in a very large circle, before she finally felt ready to poop. Butterfly was fascinated by this variation. Where was the hopping and twirling? Why one big circle when you could do ten circles and a spiral?

Zoe is a Cockapoo, like Cricket, but Cricket is fourteen pounds and mostly white with apricot markings, and Zoe is 27 pounds, with red hair and a Golden Retriever-like personality. She loves everyone.

Once inside her house, Zoe galloped across the floor and leapt onto her seeing chair to watch the neighborhood through the window. I’ve been told that she barks, but I’m not sure I believe it of her. She has only one flaw, like Butterfly, occasionally she still poops and pees in the house. Her trainer taught her to respond to the words “potty outside” to help her differentiate between doing her business on the dining room carpet and out in the backyard. But that sounds too much like “party outside” to me. I’m afraid Zoe does her business in the house to get ready for the big party outside. She’s a very social girl.

Mom’s cousin is a devotee of take out menus. There is a precious folder in the kitchen with a menu from every restaurant in Washington DC. We ordered in and the dogs had Chicken Satay, Zoe’s choice.

Three girls eating all in a row

Three girls eating all in a row

After a night’s sleep, or collapse, at the hotel, we went back to the Capitol Hill neighborhood and walked around town with the three dogs. Everyone knew Zoë. We stopped in one store after another where the owners offered her and the girls special treats. There was the kitchen supply store and the children’s book store and the furniture and chotchkes store. You could tell it was a dog friendly neighborhood because there were silver dog bowls full of water at regular intervals along the street. Eventually, we sat at an outdoor café and fed the dogs pieces of our grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch.

Cricket and Butterfly at the book store (Zoe's on the other side of the door)

Cricket and Butterfly at the book store (Zoe’s on the other side of the door)

Zoe and her mom were approached on the street to volunteer in a program where kids learn to read by reading to dogs. Zoe would be perfect for the job. There’s just nothing indifferent or mean about her, and she would love the attention.

We were a funny looking group: Mom’s cousin in her ankle boot from a recent foot injury, me with my awkward stomping walk, and the dogs pulling in three different directions. But we had a good time and wore ourselves out completely.

After a nap, though, we were ready for the big event, dinner with my great aunt at her apartment. Zoe is an experienced elevator rider, but my girls were still struggling with the moving wall that tried to catch their tails. As soon as the elevator door opened on her grandma’s floor, Zoe raced down the hall to get to the apartment as fast as possible. She was clearly her Grandma’s girl. She slathered on the kisses and then ran inside to find the living room rug with the raised squares that was clearly designed for doggy back scratching.

Zoe's magic carpet

Zoe’s magic carpet

The girls followed Zoe into the apartment and sniffed every corner. Cricket started to bark, but her new people barked back, and she was shocked into silence, for a little while anyway. When we started to eat dinner, cooked entirely by my 97 year old great aunt, the dogs spread out on the floor of the dining room to rest. There were two different types of chicken on the table, which eventually led to whimpering that, surprisingly, did not come from either of my dogs. It was Zoe.

Zoe’s whimpering woke the other dogs and they started begging for chicken and searching through the bowls of dog food in the kitchen for other hidden treasures. Meanwhile, the humans listened to stories about the Carp that lived in the Bathtub, for years, and had to be shifted out of the tub whenever one of the humans actually needed a bath. I could hear my Grandpa in his little sister’s voice, his sense of humor, his magical glee about the absurdities of life.

I wish I could show you the raised eyebrow she adds to every story, but I’m not allowed to take pictures of her. She does exist though, I promise.

On our last morning in DC, Mom’s cousin took us on a driving tour of the city with Cricket barking her commentary on the Capitol building, the White House, the Smithsonian, the Lincoln Memorial and everything in between.

We were there before the inauguration, so we got to see the porta-potties being lined up along the mall. Cricket barked at them too.

When it was time to leave, I gave Zoe a big hug and soaked up as much love as I could. The whole time we were there, Cricket never had a bad moment with her cousin. They ate together and slept together and walked together and Cricket, who growls at every dog she meets, couldn’t think of anything growly to say.

Butterfly slept in Cricket's bed the whole way home

Butterfly slept in Cricket’s bed the whole way home

Butterfly took a few drops of Pepto Bismal for the trip home, and Cricket was dosed with the doggy version of an anti-anxiety medication, so the seven hour ride home was largely uneventful, which gave me time to think about the trip. Zoe and her Mom and her Grandma were wonderful. The city was fascinating. Butterfly made a great impression with her little pink tongue. But Cricket was still struggling.

Except, there was one moment in the car during the drive around the city that morning. Butterfly was on my lap in the back seat, with Cricket stretched out next to me, temporarily quiet. Somewhere along the way, Butterfly rested her head on Cricket’s back, and Cricket let her stay there.

It’s a place to start.

Cricket, on my lap, and drugged

Cricket, on my lap, and drugged

Nap Time For Puppies

 

When it’s time to go to sleep at night, my dogs are pretty consistent. Butterfly sleeps on my bed, with her ducky under her chin, and a towel under her, because she makes such a mess with her chewies. Cricket sleeps on Grandma’s bed, guarding her from the night monsters. If necessary, she curls up on Grandma’s head to ward off bad dreams.

But during the day, the girls can sleep almost anywhere.

As a puppy, Cricket could fit herself into some pretty strange places.

Upside down Footstool

Upside down Footstool

Suitcase

Suitcase

Between Two cabinets

Between Two cabinets

On Grandma's Foot

On Grandma’s Foot

She could sleep in her bed

Cricket's puppy sized bed

Cricket’s puppy sized bed

Or out of it.

Not quite her bed

Not quite her bed

As she got older, she found other places to sleep.

Under the computer

Under the computer

On Grandma's Lap

On Grandma’s Lap

In Her Big Girl Bed

In Her Big Girl Bed

When Butterfly first came home, she was afraid to relax and let her guard down. She would get so tired, but still refuse to lie down, so she would start to fall asleep sitting up. She would wobble form side to side, her eyes flickering open and closed, and finally, she would slide down to the floor in defeat.

The Sitting Sleeper and her guardian

The Sitting Sleeper and her guardian

She’s more comfortable now, sleeping in her own bed.

In Her Bed, with her guardian nearby

In Her Bed, with her guardian nearby

Unless Cricket has usurped her bed.

This is NOT Cricket's bed

This is NOT Cricket’s bed

Even then, she Butterfly still has plenty of sleeping options.

Fallen Cow Pose

Fallen Cow Pose

Head on Hands Pose

Head on Hands Pose

Curled in a Ball Pose

Curled in a Ball Pose

One Leg Hooked onto the Bed Pose

One Leg Hooked onto the Bed Pose

 

But my favorite is when they are both worn out from a long walk outside and they are fast asleep in their beds at the same time.

And I can relax.