Archives for category: Dogs

My sweet dog-daughter Charlotte has been with us for three years now, since our fortuitous adoption of her from our local SPCA.  She has been a more than special addition to our family, regardless of her puppyhood propensity to chew designer sunglasses and shoes, after a fine appetizer of baseboard moulding.  That and a multitude of digestive issues.  Poor Charlotte has been trying to tell us that something just wasn’t right.

Read no further if you have a weak stomach…you have been duly warned.

Since bringing Charlotte home, the poor pup has gone through three years of kibble changes; different proteins – turkey, lamb, beef, chicken…we even looked at kangaroo.  We tried grain-free, organic, holistic, and finally settled on a pricey near-perfect prescription variety.

When grains were included in her diet, she scratched endlessly.  As a Rotti, Shepherd, Lab cross, she’s a shedder…but the amount that she was shedding finally prompted the purchase of a Roomba (aptly and affectionately monikered Dobbie the House Elf) just to keep the day to day fur tumbleweeds under control.

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We finally eliminated the grains and the scratching abated somewhat, but Charlotte then began experiencing terrible diarrhea.  She would stand crying at the back door, only to race out into our yard and shoot jets of diarrhea out her back end.  The very best of intentions with poop bags at the park often resulted in guilty abandonment of the soupy discharge she would leave on the ground.  The ongoing soft stool resulted in several trips to the vet to have her anal glands released, which is extremely uncommon in large dogs.

We were feeling frustrated and very sorry for our unhappy pup and finally tried a digestive prescription kibble carried by our vet.  Charlotte’s digestion was certainly improved, but far from perfect.  She was much less itchy, but not totally cured.  She still shed a great deal but we had settled on this food as a best case scenario.  What more could be done?  She didn’t like the kibble one bit and would look up at us with big sad doggy eyes, as we poured it into her bowl, only to walk away and leave it sometimes for two days.

I told myself this was normal; wolves don’t eat every day, after all.  She is just confident in her food source, I rationalized, and in no hurry to eat.

Charlotte decided to up the ante a couple of months ago and began making daily trips into the backyard, eating copious amounts of grass and then retching her poor doggy guts out.  Our vet found nothing the matter with her and chalked it up to the heat…but this doggy-momma had reached her limit.

We decided to try a raw food diet.

Enter Mountain Dog Food

This food comes in a case of four packs.  Each case is about $40, depending on the meat.

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With her evening meal, we add a 1/2 teaspoon of kelp, also provided by Mountain Dog Food.

Our distributer Deborah helpfully suggested that we buy this container from the Dollar Store, which fits one defrosted pack perfectly.

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I bought a digital kitchen scale which makes it easier to make sure Charlotte is getting the 2-3% of her ideal body weight per day.  I simply place her bowl on the scale and then zero it before adding her food.  We are giving Charlotte about 11-12 oz of food per serving, or roughly 2.5 cups per day and monitoring her weight.

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The food she is getting at the moment is ground turkey with bones, carrots, apple, alfalfa, celery and yam.

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We also give her carrots, apple slices, raw eggs with the shell crushed up, cucumber, and raw beef soup bones every once in a while, as a treat.

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She has been eating this raw diet now for just over two weeks, and I can only describe her as a transformed dog.

  1. She drools at the sound of the tupperware container opening and devours her breakfast and dinner in minutes.
  2. Her fur is gleaming and she has stopped scratching.  Neighbours have commented on how beautiful she looks and asked if we have just bathed her.
  3. Her poops are absolutely solid and less than 50% the amount.  I accidentally stepped on one we missed picking up.  My shoe rolled off after it sat for only one or two days.  It was like a hard stone.
  4. She drinks far less water.
  5. She responds to commands far more readily and is far more calm.
  6. Her poop has no odour.
  7. She sheds less than 10% of what she shed before.
  8. She lies down and sleeps restfully instead of going from room to room, trying in vain to get comfortable.

I feel dreadful that she went through three years of discomfort when the solution appears to be so attainable and so natural.

If you are having similar issues with your dog, I could not more heartily recommend that you try this wonderful food for your own best friend, and wait to be amazed.

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Of late, our Charlotte has decided to give our baseboard trim, designer sunglasses, and my high heels a reprieve, and has moved onto something that makes our daughter a lot less happy.

It’s puzzles.

Perhaps this isn’t truly a new desire on dear Charlotte’s part.  We enjoy completing puzzles as a family and have wondered repeatedly, over the last two years, at our seeming inability to complete one without discovering a solitary piece missing at its finale.  It’s rather anti-climactic to work for days, only to find that last piece has inexplicably vanished into thin air; and even more so after the fourth or fifth puzzle in a row.  We simply never figured out that our doe-eyed Charlotte was the culprit.

Recently our daughter had been working on a puzzle on a low coffee table that we have in our den, which was not the usual location for our work, and so I finally had the opportunity to catch Miss Charlotte in the act.

Day One:

I walked into the den and was certain I saw Charlotte quickly pick up a puzzle piece in her mouth and then dash under the table.  I tried to call her to come out, but she wouldn’t budge.

I dove under the table after her and pried her jaws open, “Gimme that thing!!!”   She was turning her head from side to side and trying to give me a pitiful, innocent look, when I finally got her mouth open.  Sure enough, there was a puzzle piece, neatly tucked up in the roof of her mouth.  I tried to pry the piece out but only succeeded in flicking it out onto the carpet, at which point Charlotte neatly popped her paw over top of it.  I tried to lift Charlotte’s paw but she was determined to keep that little piece of cardboard no matter what it took.

I couldn’t believe I was virtually arm-wrestling a 70 pound dog for a puzzle piece and she was getting the best of me.  But there I was.  Finally I was able to wedge my hand under her paw.  Victorious, I held the piece up to show Charlotte.  She tried to seem disinterested and gazed off benignly in another direction, refusing to look at my hand, or its contents.

“OH CHARLOTTE!!!”  I admonished, breathlessly.  “Are you eating the puzzle?!”

She ducked her head and looked up at me with her big ginger-ale eyes, doing her best to look even more innocent.  It suddenly dawned on me that this explained all the tiny bits of construction paper that I had been finding scattered all over the carpet for days, but had been just mindlessly tossing in the recycle bin without a thought. 

“That’s BAD!” I said “You’ve been eating the puzzle ALL THIS TIME?!”

I dragged her to time out, where she promptly peed all over the floor.  Then, in her despair, she lay down in part of the puddle of pee.  I wondered just who was being punished exactly, as I then spent my next half hour giving her a shower.  Afterward, I took her over to the puzzle and picked up a piece.

Her tail tucked between her legs as I held it up in front of her face.

“Puzzles…” I said, “are BAD!”

Charlotte dropped her head and looked properly ashamed.

Then I picked up her bone.

“Bones…” I continued, in my best Mary Poppins voice, “are gooooood!!!!”

Charlotte panted, smiling at me, and wagged.

I picked up the puzzle piece and deepened my voice. “Puzzles are BAAAAAAD!!!” I said.

Charlotte’s tail, again, tucked neatly between her legs, and she averted her eyes.

I picked up her antler and I cheerfully purred at her, “Antlers are gooooood!…Gooooood girl!!!!”  Then I gave her lots of happy pets and cuddles.

Charlotte wagged happily, once more.

This is child’s play, I thought.  She’s got it now for sure.

Day Two:

I came home the next day to find five whole puzzle pieces and three chewed up balls of unidentifiable cardboard scattered around the table.  I stood there, stunned.

She glanced up at me and dashed under the table.  I silently picked up one of the puzzle pieces and showed it to her.

I didn’t even have say a word;  Charlotte ran off to time out.  She glanced back at me as if to say, “I’m sorry mom…I think I might have a problem…”

I simply could not understand why she would not chew her antler.  I had paid thirty dollars for the reported creme-de-la-creme of chew toys, chock-full of all the marrow any red-blooded dog could hope for, but all Charlotte wanted was puzzle pieces?

I’m a brainstormer by nature and so I like to solve problems.  I got to thinking; perhaps the antler was too large.  Even though the extra-large antler was for dogs in a higher weight class, I had purchased it because it seemed to have a more interesting shape.

That must be it, I decided, I would go out to the garage and cut Charlotte’s antler in half.

I marched out to the garage, plugged in my mitre saw and naively readied myself for a nice quick cut.

Very naively.

To say that the smell of burning bone and quantity of dust that shot up into the air was nauseating, is more than a “gross” understatement.  White dust was flying into my face at an uncontrollable speed as I stood pursing my lips together and making ineffective raspberry noises, all while attempting to hold my breath at the same time.  All of this I accomplished while operating the saw through half-closed eyes.  At last, after what felt like about ten minutes, I completed the cut.  Half-blind, I grabbed both pieces, and bolted, insane with desperation, out the front of my garage at a full run, madly wiping at my eyes, face, and clothing, and gasping for breath.

But it would be worth it….Charlotte would now love her antlers and stop chewing our daughter’s puzzle.  I returned inside and it was like Christmas.  She chewed her antlers all afternoon without taking a break!

At last, success!

Day Three:

I arrived home to find six more puzzle pieces and two chewed up balls of unidentifiable cardboard littering the carpet.  I looked at Charlotte and she looked at me, waiting to see what I would do.  I felt we were at some kind of a turning point but somehow I knew that I wasn’t going to be the winner in this standoff.

I heaved a defeated sigh and slowly sank down onto the carpet beside her.

“Why Charlotte?…Why?…” I moaned.

I swear that I detected a slight shrug of her left shoulder.  Charlotte lowered her head to her paws as she exhaled her breath.

Charlotte 1.  Puzzle 0.

Recently, I returned to work full-time and at that point decided that I would indulge in paying to have our house cleaned every other week.  On Wednesday, I returned home, filled with the anticipation of returning to a spotless house.

When we came in the door, Charlotte was demonstrating “uh-oh” behaviour.  Her head was down, her ears were back and she was wagging her tail, very guiltily.  She kept glancing at me, as if to say, “Are you mad?  Do you forgive me?  I’m sooooo sorry…”

I didn’t need to go very far before I found the damage.  I could have wept.  A couple of years ago we upgraded the baseboard trim and mouldings on the main floor.  Back in the summer, I returned from a week away and Charlotte was so excited to see us that she chewed through two corners.  I filled and sanded those corners and was able to make them looked nearly untouched.  It took several days to accomplish.  The damage she did this time around makes that look like a cake walk.

Each day, I take her over to the areas that she decimated, and I sternly say, “Do you see this?  NO!!!”  She skulks away guiltily.  I have also sprayed the baseboard with hot pepper sauce which, thus far, Charlotte seems to find to be not much of a deterrent.  It’s more like a condiment to her.  My exasperated husband suggested removing her water and spraying the hot sauce right into her mouth, but we will draw the line there.

She is still just a puppy, after all.

But admittedly, an expensive one…

Our dog Charlotte, like any dog, loves to chew.  For reasons yet unclear to me, she loves, above all else, to chew my belongings.  She knows she isn’t supposed to, and I always know when she has done something wrong.  When we arrive home, she walks up to us with her head hanging.  She looks up at us as if to say, “Forgive me!  I’m just a puppy!  I couldn’t control myself and I am soooo sorry!”  Then I go looking for the damage.

Since we adopted her, she has eaten the left shoe of two pairs of brand new heels, and one pair of Nine West sunglasses, among many other miscellaneous objects, such as plants, the baseboard trim, and a big pot full of dried ornamental grasses.  She routinely steals my socks, and even more embarrassingly, my underwear, from the laundry hamper.

That makes for a great conversation starter at a party.

Three days ago, she ate one of our daughter’s markers.  It was green.  I know it was green, because her doggie bed is covered with green blotches and our dog walker told me that her poop was fluorescent green the next day.

It was then that the diarrhoea started.  Doggie diarrhoea is no joke.  About five a.m., she began whining, which she rarely does, and so I thought I should tiptoe down and see what was wrong.  We had a little cuddle and then I let her outside.  She ran to the backyard and I kept my eye on her to see that she didn’t go a-skunk-hunting.  It was like a canon shooting out her backside.  I have never seen anything like it.

It’s gone on for a couple of days now, and this morning I came downstairs to find a big pile on our new shag rug.  Out came the rags (yes, I put the plug in the laundry tub this time).   I spent 20 minutes scrubbing poo out of the fibres.  I am also fairly sure that she threw up and ate it.  Ugh.  I scrubbed between dry heaving and yawning.  No one should have to deal with anything other than a big mug of coffee at 6:00 a.m., especially anything that disgusting,  Ew.

Tonight I gave her only a dish of plain rice instead of kibble for dinner.  Then we went out to take our daughter to an open skate, so she could practise.

When we got home, we discovered that Charlotte had found my brand-new-awesome-find-at-Winners-love-them-to-bits Giorgio Armani sunglasses.  This is what they look like now.

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Why, oh why, Charlotte?  Why my favourite things?

What’s wrong with a nice men’s dress shoe, a glove, or even a mitten?  Why my things?

Or better yet, how about one of the 7 dog toys that are lying around our house?

I keep saying it, and I’ll say it again.  It’s a good thing I love her…

…because right now my love is being acutely tested.

Recently the pace of my life has gone from busy to crazy.  I have been trying to get a handle on what has caused the shift. I can only pinpoint two things.

1.  I am back to work full time.

2.  I have a dog.

I have to say that I feel it is more the latter than the former.  I have worked full-time before and it never felt like this.  It must be Charlotte that has injected the chaos into my life.

Saturday was a prime example.  Our daughter had a hockey practice at 7:00 and a game at 12:15. We were all up at 6:00 in order to be at the arena for 6:40.  We returned home from the practice and I started on some laundry and housecleaning, because we had company coming for dinner.  Charlotte was whining at the door so I let her out in the back yard, started a load of whites, grabbed a rag and washed Charlotte’s water and food bowls in the sink in the laundry room.

I pulled the plug and started fishing around in the water to find the rag in order to add it to the wash.  It was then that I realized I had made a grave mistake.  I had pulled the plug and forgotten to replace the drain cover that blocks big items from going down the drain.

Namely, rags.

Uh oh…  I quickly stopped the washing machine and peered down the drain.  I didn’t see a thing.  I got a flashlight…nuttin.

Crap.

I got a wire coat hanger, hoping to find the rag ahead of the trap.  No luck.  I took the trap apart and pushed the coat hanger beyond the trap.  I thought I felt something but I couldn’t do anything about it.  Last year we had thrown out our drain snake, convinced we would never use it.  Of course we did.  Argggh!

I turned on the washing machine and waited for the spin cycle, just to see what would happen.  I might as well have been in Yellowstone National park.

Ok.  Plan B.  Call a plumber.

“KIDS!!!  NO FLUSHING!  Mommy is a trainwreck.”

Four years ago we had a $5000.00 jug of varsol.  This year it’s the $100.00 rag.

I now had 10 minutes to shower and take our daughter to her second round of hockey of the day.

(Rant about hockey to follow in subsequent post.)

I whipped upstairs and had my shower.  We were just about to head out the door when our daughter said something that sent a chill up my spine.

“Mommy…Daddy…where’s Charlotte?”

OH NO!!!!!   I had let her out about 40 minutes ago and completely forgot to call her back in!  We called for her out the front and back doors to no avail.  I knew this was totally my fault and I felt like an idiot.  I gave one last call out the back door…

“CHARLOTTE!!!!  TREAT!!!!!”

It was music to my ears.  I heard Charlotte bounding through the brush next door, hop up on the deck and there she was!  I was flooded with relief as I loved her up.  I went to the treat jar and gave her two.

Then I noticed the odour…and the black sludge on my hand…that smelled like…

SKUNK!!!

“I just need 10 minutes!!!” I told my husband.

I dragged a thoroughly unimpressed Charlotte down to the shower in the basement and scrubbed her down.  Her mouth was filled with dead, rotting skunk, so I got out her toothbrush and doggie toothpaste and gave her a good brushing while I dry heaved.

Ulitmately we made it in time for our daughter’s first hockey game and our dinner party was a hit.

All’s well that ends well.  But I don’t remember life being this maniacal until we got a dog.

It’s a good thing we love her so darned much…SIGH.

It’s been a whirlwind weekend filled with setbacks and progress.  It’s a fair bit to digest on this beautiful Sunday evening.

The boys had hockey on Friday evening and I had a rare 45 minutes to myself.  It was decadent to actually hold the remote in my hand, and choose the show that I would watch.  Ah, bliss!

I awoke about 5:30 on Saturday morning and tiptoed downstairs to cuddle our puppy for a while and then begin some morning chores.  I fed Charlotte and then let her outside.  After a few minutes, I let her back in and went back to my tidying.  An unmistakeable odour suddenly wafted through the room.  I knew it all too well.  Skunk.

Lucky for us, she hadn’t actually encountered a real skunk; but, rather, a place which the skunk had either recently sprayed or had been occupying.  I am fairly certain that it was the latter, and that this mystery place is under our deck.

For this entire past summer we were well aware that a little critter was holing up under there.  I made a concerted effort to convince the skunk that our deck made a lousy roof and it should relocate.  I sprayed water under the deck twice a day, played loud music, stomped my feet, and shone a flashlight in all the dark corners.  All of my efforts only resulted in a temporary increase in the funky smell emanating from under the deck.  Effectively, it was Skunkese for, “Bugger off.  I’m here to stay.”

My husband’s brilliant solution was that he was going to trap the skunk.  “What,” I enquired, “Did he plan to do if he caught it?”  He was convinced that he would simply throw a blanket on the cage and carry it off someplace.  No matter how I tried to convince him that it was worth every penny of the one hundred or so dollars that an exterminator would charge to get rid of it, he was determined to catch that skunk.  Wasn’t that terrific?  Now we had the scent of testosterone mixed with “eau de Pepe le Pew.”  It was a Molotov cocktail.

Fortunately my husband was only successful in relocating a few squirrels and and several raccoons, but no skunk.  Nearing the end of the summer, it seemed that the skunk had disappeared.  But Charlotte had developed a strong love of rolling in things that reek.

I returned home from work one evening and bent down to snuggle Charlotte when I was met with the pungent smell of animal urine.  Ugh!!!  I marched her downstairs and gave her a doggie bath.  A short while later, our dog walker sent me a text, “Charlotte had such a great day!  She galloped and rolled and rolled and rolled in the grass.  She was so happy!”  No kidding!   You don’t say?!

On Saturday morning I found myself forgetful about the skunk under the deck and so I was shocked to find that Charlotte had not forgotten for a moment and was now stinking up the place.  Not only did she stink, she also decided that she smelled so absolutely fabulous that she should roll and roll and roll on our new shag area rug.  I grabbed Charlotte by the collar and marched her down to the bathroom for yet another shower.  She smelled significantly better.  The rug was a different story.  My only brainstorm there has been to sprinkle baking soda over it using an icing sugar sifter.  I am letting it sit for a few days and then I will vacuum and hope for the best.

Yesterday I caulked the granite in the kitchen and then we put up a new light fixture in our dining room.  Later we went to Home Depot to pick up some lattice.  We wanted to use the lattice to close off the deck to any future Charlotte explorations.  I left my husband at the cash to go look at table saws and lost track of him.  Since he had my purse, my car keys and my phone, I was very anxious to find him.  I stood looking out the window in the foyer of the store, searching for him in the pouring rain for several minutes.  I must have crept up too close to the window because when two men exited the store, the automatic door slid open and hit me hard in the eyebrow.  I was bent over with my hand on my face but the two men just walked out laughing.  So much for chivalry.

I set off through the store again, fighting tears with one hand pasted over my swelling eyebrow.  When I finally found my husband, I burst into tears and felt completely embarrassed.

Although I have a goose egg, I felt a lot better this morning.  We spent today putting a skirt all the way around the deck.   I sincerely hope that it will keep my stinky dog out from under there.  While I was measuring the first piece, my broken tape measure suddenly retracted and cut the tip of my finger.  I keep soaking through the bandaids today, and between my finger and my head, I don’t know what is hurting more.  Where is that Advil?

After we were finished the deck, everyone played hockey on the driveway while I cooked dinner.  A short while later our son shot his hockey ball right through the glass in the garage door.  Of course he did.  But I just couldn’t be mad at him.  I sat down told him about the time when I was 13 and I drove my parents’ car into the garage door.

Besides, it really was just one of those weekends.

We certainly had some undeniable steps backward over the past two days, but let’s hope that the steps forward outnumber them.

Now it is time for some relaxation, well away from anything fragile, sharp or heavy.  Well, heavier than 4 ounces, that is.

Life is a veritable maze of social dynamic.  I am usually fairly successful at navigating the expectations for the various settings in my life, but yesterday I guess I blew it.

Our puppy, Charlotte, is now 7 months old.  She is a Rottweiler, Lab, Shepherd cross, affectionate and social with people.  She already shakes a paw, rolls over, lies down and sits.  She is 99% housetrained and sleeps in her crate all night long, without a peep.  As my husband says, she is a dream dog.

Charlotte could improve on car rides.  She is horribly car sick, and so I always need to ride in the passenger seat and hold her on my lap, if we are going anywhere with her.  This usually results in me drenched in drool and ineffectively employing, “thphhh, thbbbth, thpppbbbphph” noises to try to get the dog hair out of my mouth.

She is also not always perfect on her walks.  At times she tends to pull on lead (she even took our daughter for a drag one day), and really likes to get rough and tumble when she plays with other dogs.

With most dogs or, more accurately, their owners, this is no concern.  I recognize that Charlotte is rapidly becoming a big girl and, despite her silky, floppy lab ears and her wagging tail, she can look a little menacing.  As a result, I check in frequently with dogs’ owners, and tell them to let me know if they are uncomfortable with the way she is playing.  Most say there is no problem and that they are just dogs being dogs, and that is how they play.

Until yesterday.  On our evening walk, we saw a group at the park with their dogs all off-lead.  There were about 6 adults in a group with 4 dogs tearing around and having a great time.  Recognizing one of the owners, our daughter and I sauntered over to say hello and give Charlotte a chance to play.  The other dogs were purebreds of varying breeds.  Charlotte and a 5 month old Golden Retriever were having a blast, and were fairly equally matched.

To the untrained eye, the play looks like fighting; all teeth and throats.  I pulled Charlotte off a few times to make sure she was still in control and then I let her go back to playing again.  A small Terrier got involved and Charlotte was thrilled to include him in the fun, tearing around and nipping at his heels.  Then she dove on him and they went for a roll.  The Terrier yelped.

I grabbed Charlotte again and made her sit and calm down for a few minutes.  When I looked up, all of the people in the group, except for the owner of the Golden, had moved about 30 feet away from us.  Thinking they had just drifted, we headed over to them with Charlotte happily in tow.

Charlotte began chasing the Terrier again and his owner very angrily shouted at Charlotte, “NO!!!  BAD DOG!!  LEAVE HIM ALONE!!!”  I told her I was sorry and put Charlotte on lead, telling her to settle down again.  When I looked up a second time, the group had again moved away another 30 feet, arms folded and backs to us.

Finally the aha moment hit me!  We were not welcome anymore.

Our daughter was crushed.  She asked me, “Why are they turning their backs on us, Mommy?”

I answered honestly, “Because they don’t like the way that Charlotte plays and they are mad at me.”

Our daughter sobbed, “Charlotte has no friends!!!  They are all pushing her away!!”

I assured her that Charlotte really couldn’t care less about those dogs.  But, in truth, Charlotte was looking rather forlorn, glancing backward over her shoulder at the group of dogs still happily playing.  I felt terrible.  I am going to have to teach our puppy some manners.

In the meantime, our Charlotte gets an F in Playing Well With Others.

…and that feels really ruff.