agility with the girls

If I could spend most of my days learning something new, I’d be so very happy.  It’s such a great feeling to overcome that first bump in the road, the point at which you start to improve.

A couple of people at work have taken their dogs to classes at the Richmond SPCA.  I decided to copy them for a couple of reasons: the combination of learning something new not just by myself but with Al and the dogs and also being able to support a non-profit, no-kill shelter.  A win for us, a win for the animals at the shelter!

Yesterday, we had our second agility class (of seven).  We never really had that first bump in the learning curve.  I think it was only getting over my fear of failure!  I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to handle the girls and that they’d be crazy but so far so good!

The girls will do anything for treats which helps a ton.  Olivia rarely sits still on a leash but she will (somewhat) for some food!

Look how thrilled Al is to be at the class.  He sure does love his treat holder/fanny pack.  Haha.

I promise the man does love the class, especially since Roary is one of the best there!  #truth

The girls have already successfully done about five obstacles and it’s only the second class which I find amazing.  It’s so fun to watch them understand want we want and execute it.  It also gives Al and I a bit more confidence in our handling abilities which is just what I wanted.

Look at Roary go!  The girl loves herself some cheese balls.

There is a fee for the classes but I think it’s so worth it.  It’s nice to know we can support the shelter while spending good, quality time together.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Have you taken your dogs to classes?

Belle

I was recently talking to my friend Katie who I hadn’t talked to in forever. Don’t you hate when that happens? Life just gets in the way! Anyways, at one point I was updating her about Belle and how she’s been doing. I realized that a lot has gone on with her in the past month so I thought I’d share it with you guys.

On the day we started painting the paneling (the same day we picked up Heidi from BARK!), Belle was sleeping a ton. The dogs usually nap a good amount so I didn’t think much of it until I picked her up and noticed that it looked like she had a giant adam’s apple! It appeared that her lymph node was super swollen. I panicked.

I dropped everything and told Al that we had to take her to the doggy ER.

The ER vet told us that it could be many things but that it was most likely an infection from her horrible and I mean horrible teeth. Her former owners had neglected her teeth over the years so most of them were covered in thick plaque.

He wanted to do a fine needle aspirate (look at the cells) of the lymph node to confirm this suspicion and rule out cancer but with the pricing I decided to wait until the next day and go to the vet that I work at. They know her better there and it’d be cheaper! So the ER vet put her on antibiotics and painkillers to start.

Monday, the vet that I work at agreed that it was probably an infection but he wanted to be sure so he gave me a second antibiotic to give her. If the swollen lymph node didn’t decrease in size over the next week then it was more likely to be cancer. Ugh.

After only a couple days, the size was smaller. Thank goodness! So we set up her dental for the following week to clean the teeth and pull out any rotten/infected ones.

I was glad we’d be able to get out all those bad teeth but also VERY concerned because she has a severe heart murmur. Putting a very old dog under anesthesia is risky and with a heart murmur on top of that? Scary.

I was working the day she got her dental. The vet tech asked me if I wanted to oversee the procedure. I hesitated because I hadn’t done too many dentals yet (since I’ve only had this job since February) and didn’t feel prepared but I also wanted to be right there with her just in case. I said I’d do it.

The vet and vet tech talked about their approach. They brought over extra drugs and needles to the dental table to help her just in case her heart had trouble. The vet said he was going to take out as many bad teeth as he could. He would go for the worst ones first and then if Belle was still doing okay, he’d get the others.

At about 40 minutes into the procedure with one and a half teeth left to pull, Belle decided that she’d had enough. In what felt like seconds, her heartbeat jumped and her breathing went from about 6 breaths per minute to SIXTY. I started getting nervous but stayed focus – letting the doctor know her vitals and recording the data. He said that he’d finish the tooth he was on and leave the last one that wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t worth the risk.

With sweaty palms I stared at her chest moving rapidly as he extracted the tooth. The vet tech flew in and took her off anesthesia.

It took her a bit to wake up but she did. She looked pathetic yet alive. I said, “This isn’t your best look Belle!”. Comedy soothes all don’t you know.

We kept her on pain medicine and antibiotics in the days after the dental. The lymph node continued to shrink and by the end of the week she was perfectly fine.

Al and I have seen a mind-blowing change in Belle in these weeks since her dental. She has only cried/screamed ONCE since the procedure. This is a huge change. She used to keep us up at night and cried during the day when we were gone. I think it was partly because she was kept in a crate but also because she was just so darn uncomfortable with all that pain in her mouth all the time.

With the crying gone there’s more to see in her. She wags her tail a lot more (she rarely did before), she gets visibly excited (this never ever happened) and so she seems happier overall. This lady actually has a personality! And all she needed was a visit to the dentist.

We’ve even recently taken her off of her old lady pills that are supposed to help with being senile. She hasn’t resumed any pacing or restlessness. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

With all this drama that we had to go through with Belle, we now feel attached to her. I asked Al if we were going to post her online to find her a home still and he said, “No, I kinda want to keep her.”. I was shocked. This man couldn’t stand her in the beginning. This is understandable because the screaming was terrible (!) and he wasn’t keen on tiny dogs to begin with (neither was I) but a complete 180 is very impressive.

She’s still a crabby old lady but we like her. 🙂 We now have 2.5 dogs (.5 being Belle). No more, no less. It’s nice to be a healthy, happy family.

I think the point of this super long story is, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. We never thought we’d have a tiny dog in the mix but we’re sure glad we do now. We’ve learned about love, patience, and open-mindedness. All that from 8 pounds of fur.

and just like that

Every Saturday, BARK volunteers bring a selection of dogs from the farm to various pet stores around Richmond. Foster families can also bring their dogs whenever they want, even if a dog hasn’t been requested to be seen by a potential family. A week after Heidi joined our pack, I decided to take her to Petsmart for the whole three hours (12-3 pm).

For some reason it’s tough to find homes for hounds and at BARK there are A LOT so the odds weren’t in our favor but with a great, big stroke of luck, she met an interested family!

They told me that they’d bring their other dog to meet her the following Saturday.

All week I waited on Kelley, the Adoption Coordinator at BARK, to send me an email telling me that she had been requested for the visit. By Thursday I hadn’t heard anything so I emailed her. She told me that the family hadn’t given her all the information she needed and that she couldn’t get a hold of them.

My heart sank. They seemed like such a great family for Heidi!

So this past weekend at 1:30 pm, I had a strong gut feeling that we should be back at Petsmart and not shopping. I made my husband turn the truck around so I could rush home and then drive over.

Heidi and I got there at 2:00. Bob, the owner of the rescue, told me that the family had been by earlier. I had missed them!! Crap.

About 30 minutes later one of the daughters showed up with the rest of the paperwork they needed to adopt Heidi. I didn’t know this at the time but when they came the first time, Kelley had told them what she needed so they ran right home to get it. Thank goodness they still needed that paperwork or they wouldn’t have come back!

The daughter called the rest of the family so that they could bring their other dog to meet Heidi. If all went well, we’d be in the clear.

After another 30 minutes, the family arrived. Both of the dogs have pretty passive personalities so neither of them were very interested in the other. We didn’t see any negativity though, so it was a match!

The mom (from the phone) told us that she wanted a ‘trial run’ with Heidi just to make sure she was the right choice. I was informed that the only way they could do that was if they adopted her first. Bob said that if she didn’t work out, they could bring her back and get a full refund.

I wasn’t sure how they’d take the news. I gave the dad his option. There was a long pause but then he said, ‘Welp, I guess we’re adopting a dog today!’

YESSS. I would’ve totally done a happy dance but there were too many people around.

Obviously there’s still a chance that she doesn’t fit in at their home but I can’t imagine that happening. I feel like the family will work with any issues that might come up. Heidi’s too cute to give back. 🙂

As they wrapped up the paperwork, I realized she was leaving me… today. I hadn’t prepared for that part. Sure she’d only been at my house for two weeks but ever since January when we first met, I wanted to help find her a home. Now that day had come. It was time to say good-bye.

I had one of the daughters take a photo of the two of us at that moment.

Course Heidi had no idea what was going on but I have to admit I was a little upset!

I took off her BARK collar so the family could put on her new one. I handed the collar to Kelley but she handed it back to me and said, ‘Do you want to keep it? You should keep it.’ I took it back and then walked the family to their car.

And just like that she was gone.

I have her collar to remember her by and a new facebook friend. They said they’ll post pictures of progress and playtime. I can’t wait to see them!

The other dogs at our house seem to be doing fine without Heidi. Without a hyper puppy to play with, Roary is sleeping a lot more but I don’t think she minds. She now has time to heal her playtime wounds and spend more time with her buddy Olivia.

It was a fun adventure. I learned a lot about love and potential. I hope to do it again sometime! It’d be great to have little collection of collars. 🙂

i promised

Before we added Olivia and Belle to our family, I fell in love with a beagle named Heidi. If you haven’t read my earlier posts, my husband and I volunteer over at BARK once in a while. We help clean out the runs and walk the dogs. The daily ritual is to clean the runs and then take whatever dog you want on a nice, long walk through the trails.

The first time we did this, I chose Heidi. She was so little and too cute. She pulled like crazy, sniffing everything in her path.

After a couple of weekends, I told her I’d get her out of there. Like with Olivia, I had a gut feeling that I was supposed to help. I had to.

With the addition of Olivia and then Belle, the promise looked kinda dicey. Adding Heidi to the family would bring us to a total of FOUR DOGS!! That’s completely insane but I promised her freedom so I couldn’t bail on her!

This past weekend I fulfilled my promise. We picked her up and she’s been tiring us out every since.

Let me make this clear. We’re not adopting her, we’re fostering her (same with Belle but it’s hard to find someone who wants a 14 year old, deaf, chihuahua 🙂 ). Knowing that we’re trying to find homes for two of them makes having four dogs a little more tolerable but honestly it hasn’t been bad at all. I can say that Heidi is better than my other dogs on the leash! She’s a little over a year old and therefore still puppy-like but she just needs a little discipline and some time. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve said ‘Off!’ in the past week while teaching her that she’s not allowed on the couch! Haha.

So here’s a little info about her in case her future family is reading this!

The girls play all day long. After less than a week they are already getting along quite well.

The chihuahua is another story… but she’s crotchety and doesn’t like other dogs all up in her business. 🙂

Like Olivia, she loves a good belly rub and will sit there calmly for a good while if you keep it up.

When her tails in the air, you can bet she’s on a scent trail. She loves to sniff around and explore every inch of the backyard.

I was told she’s an ‘escape artist’ but we haven’t had any issues with her trying to get out at all. We just make sure she knows that she can’t bolt when we open doors.

Believe it or not, she DOES rest once in a while. We walk her 2 or 3 times a day and soon we hope to start running with her. She needs her exercise for sure!

The bottom line is that it’s totally worth dealing with all that energy because she is the sweetest thing EVER. She just wants play and be loved on!

With her great looks, personality, and the training we’re putting her through, I hope to find her a great forever home very soon.

If you’re interested in Heidi or know of someone who might be (and you’re in the Richmond area), just shoot me an email! hippeitch {at} gmail {dot} com.

australian animals galore

I’m always hesitant to go to zoos because you never know how small or large the enclosures will be. I get depressed for the guys if I see them in cages that look too small to me but that wasn’t the case at Steve Irwin’s zoo here in Australia!

It isn’t just a zoo but “a team of passionate conservationists working around-the-clock to deliver an animal experience like no other.” So Awesome. Australian hippies. 😉

It was way too cool for me not to show you the pictures ASAP. Lots of fun things went down and I even got to interact with multiple animals!

I took a lot of photos but here are a ton few of my favorites:

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree. A lot of the enclosures were very open so I could get up really close and take photos.

These iguanas are the pigeons of Australia. They aren’t in a zoo exhibit but I took a picture anyway! They also have wild turkeys that wandered about. So different from the US.

I enjoyed this signage. I assume the skull and crossbones means death. See the giant guy behind it?!

I die. I couldn’t even stop myself from baby talk when I saw these Koalas. I made my husband pay $20 so we could get a picture with one! I HELD HIM. His name was Slater and he was very smelly. 🙂

Wombats. Another super cute animal. The zookeepers walk around with them with harnesses on like dogs.

The other girls and I stopped to watch the Irwin family for an unhealthy amount of time. Bindi is all grown up!! We were starstruck.

We didn’t know until we got there but at the Crocodile show the Irwin kids did some shooting for a TV show they’re doing. This isn’t a daily occurrence so we were really lucky to see them feed a dead pig to the Graham the crocodile. As disgusting as it was, it was very cool! Lots of waiting and then violent thrashing.

I was so scared for her!

We got to feed the kangaroos. They are such characters!!

I did this.

And then he decided that the amount of food I gave him wasn’t enough so he grabbed my hand which scared the crap out of me.

After that I hesitantly fed him again only to have my husband say, ‘I want him to grab MY hand!’. Ha.

A little later on another kangaroo snuck up behind me and gave me a little shove. Needless to say I was a little jumpy after that so when we were in the Rain Forest after that and two parrots decided to breeze by my head multiple times I almost cussed in front of some little kids. It was terrifying yet I loved it.

The Wallabies got there turn at the food buffet too.

We went to Africa for an hour where we saw Elephants, Giraffes, Zebras, and a Rhino. We even got to feed an Elephant! I don’t have that photo yet but I’ve been told I have to ‘prove it’ so I’ll post it when I get back.

Such a great time! It’ll be a day I never forget. I love myself some animals.

Toady is ANZAC day so we’re keeping it low key but tomorrow is another adventure so I’m sure you’ll be hearing about it soon.

🙂

easter on parade: a doggy challenge

My ‘big’ girls, Roary and Olivia are my favorite but they each have their own behavioral issues.

Roary is a friendly gal, a little too friendly at times. Last week when we had the ducts cleaned in our house, she decided that the men were intruders, then proceeded to bark at them. This went on for a bit until she realized they would pet and entertain her. Then to get their attention throughout the day there was major tail wagging and when that didn’t suffice, she would jump up on them. I often attempt to train her to stop barking and jumping and she HAS gotten better.

Olivia is the opposite. Every time the men where in a room with her, she’d pace and try to escape as soon as possible. There may have been a few barks in there too but they were more of a ‘please go away, you scare me!’ and not a ‘get out of my house or else!!’.

Belle even barked when the guys came in because she saw Roary doing it! She’s not part of this post, but I thought it was pretty funny/cute.

Al enjoys not smiling in photos, I think it’s a Marine thing.

This past weekend I found out about a pet-friendly event happening in Richmond called Easter on Parade. We took both Roary and Olivia.

I thought it was more of a craft festival with kids games but what we did was ‘parade’ around a giant 4 block circle along with 25,000 other people, some dressed in crazy easter hats and some not. It felt a lot like last weekend at the 10k where I spent most of my time weaving around the slower folks.

All negativity aside, it was a beautiful day and a great learning experience for the girls!

Ha, you can see their personalities in this picture – Olivia looking away from all the scary people and Roary hoping to investigate.

Both Al and I were nervous about how each dog would react to THAT many people. Neither of them had been in a similar situation before so we kept the training light, letting them do what they wanted, but still keeping their leashes short. Surprising they both did great! I’m a proud mama.

Olivia got skittish once in a while, especially if there were loud noises. We had to take two detours around a drummer and also a band because she wouldn’t move. If you remember where she started when we first got her, you know this is an amazing achievement!

Roary also did well. She just took it all in attempting to sniff. Only two times did she lunge (not in an aggressive way) at someone or something that she really wanted to interact with.

Towards the end of the walk we took a break in the shade to let the girls cool off a bit. They calmly sniffed as they watched lots of dogs, people, and a transvestite (?) walk by them.

I’m glad to know that we are on the right track with these girls. We love them so much!!

It was a nice little Easter Sunday.

What did you do this Easter? Any dog training? 😉

second chance

I meant to write yesterday per my Monday, Tuesday, Thursday schedule but a little something (or someone) got in the way this week.

Let me start by telling you about my new job. I’ve been working as a Veterinary Assistant for about a month now and I love it. Along with simple tasks like a ton of cleaning and stocking, I get to play work with animals all day, help with labs, bloodwork, prescriptions, x-rays, ultrasounds and probably some other stuff that I can’t think of right now. Remember my blog’s tagline about helping others? At this job I get to help (yay!) and learn about fun medical stuff that I’ve always been interested in. I believe I’ve found a winner.

No need to jump the gun but we’ve already had talks of me going back to school to become a Veterinary Technician! Of course I’m still it that ‘honeymoon’ phase with my new job so I’ll give it some time before I plan my next move.

My new career is already much more fulfilling than my old one so I’m making progress!

———-

Back to that ‘little something’ that I mentioned at the beginning of the post.

On Tuesday I got to witness just how much Veterinarians can help animals. I was assisting my doctor in an appointment for a possible euthanasia. This was my first euthanasia so I expected a very sick, old dog with very sad parents. That’s not what we found.

Between a lot of laughter and jokes, the owners complained about how the dog would always cry, couldn’t walk well and often had accidents in the house. Oh and that she possibly had cancer. They then said that they were moving and couldn’t deal with having to stop every couple hours (on the drive to the new state) to let the dog go to the bathroom <- I found this comment odd since it’s not a reason to kill a dog. The whole situation just didn’t sit right with me.

After the parents left the room and we were alone with the dog, the doctor decided to put her on the floor to see if she could walk. She had already been eating treats out of my hand during the appointment, (not looking like a dog near death) so he wanted to test her out. The dog walked slow since she was 14 but pretty well!! It was crazy to see her move easily since her owners said she usually had a tough time.

The doctor decided that he just couldn’t go through with it. There was no eminent reason to put her down. In the end the owners gave the dog over to the clinic and in turn we saved her life!

Enter Belle, formerly known as Taco. (Get it?? The name wasn’t my idea but I think it’s pretty great.)

She is currently sitting beside me on MY couch in MY home. Yep, we’re testing her out… and she’s a chihuahua! Baha. Her small size is why she can be 14 and still have a few years on her.

We’re going to keep her for a week to see if she meshes well with the family. At the moment I feel that it might be better for her to be with a family where there’s someone at home with her all the time. We’re a very active family so maybe an older couple would be a better match for a slower-paced dog? I’m trying to keep an open mind though! Either way, the clinic that I work at will make sure she finds a good home. I love my job.

It appears that her previous owners spoiled her rotten and maybe even carried her everywhere which is common for such a small breed. I say this because she sometimes sounds like a dying piglet when she’s left alone (all night!) or wants to be picked up. It’s not pleasant. I think they would come to her aid every time she made a peep so she has learned that crying is the best way to get what she wants. Not in this house though! She’ll learn in time… I hope.

Oh and all the issues her old owners talked about? None have been true except for the crying. It was amazing to find that her bloodwork came back negative – no cancer, no diabetes, no nothing. The little lady has a pretty bad heart murmur and really bad teeth (AND BREATH, yikes) but that’s it! She hasn’t had any accidents and during her second night here she only woke up twice to scream cry. Not to shabby for a dog that was supposed to be euthanized. Every time i see her walk or sometimes RUN, I shake my head in disbelief at how someone would even consider putting down their dog of 14 years even though it was fine. So sad.

I feel like this post is one big opinionated vent but I have to tell you, my best friend was in a situation where it was best for her to re-home her dog and it worked out wonderfully! The dog is now in a loving home and both of them are happy. I think that’s the best way to go in these types of situations.

Yay for second chances!!

———-

Oh and if you’re wondering, we will still be fostering a dog even if Belle joins the family. 🙂

And even though I now have a direction towards a more fulfilling career, my husband and I will still be volunteering at various places because we enjoy the experience and helping others.

Do you plan on volunteering this weekend?