Archive for June, 2014

Can’t

On the eve of our meet-and-greet with the behaviorist, I admit I’m not feeling optimistic. I’ve heard from many friends and family who are clearly in favor of us keeping her, and I’ve heard from a large number of people who nearly insist she get the boot. I think that ten years ago this dichotomy of advice would have me pretty frazzled, but I don’t really feel fazed by it now. I know both groups are well-intentioned, but I also know that neither group is living with this dog. We live with this dog. Every day. And it’s been more than 50 days now. So, with that, I’m now lining up with the group that says Gertie needs a different home. I feel somewhat bad about this because I do love her, but part of me also feels bad thinking that we should keep her when I don’t feel we’re addressing her needs. And when I say that, I’m not even talking about the anxiety and the aggression. You see, Gertie has a tremendous amount of super adorable puppy energy that I’d love to help her with. I’d love to go on long walks with her, but they’re so stressful and unpredictable, and for obvious reasons the dog park, which fills me with dread and panic, is not an option. So, for now, we do shorter walks (3/4 of a mile) and encourage her to run around in our backyard. The completion of the fence, I thought, would solve some of my exercise worries, but she really just doesn’t seem to get the concept of running around back there – especially if we’re not out there running around with her. Plus, while the yard isn’t small, it isn’t the field I think she’d thrive in. A.R.G.H.

Ok, so – again – we’re not sending her back just yet, but the list of “CANT’S” as far as what we can and can’t do with her is toppling over. I realize some of these things could change, but they are reality right now.

We can’t:

  • go to the dog park;
  • send Gertie to day care;
  • take walks without precaution and lots of diligence and stress;
  • have people over without scary aggression and barking;
  • feel like our home isn’t super loud with barking when we’re not home;
  • board Gertie;
  • have Aaron’s mom watch the dog like we used to;
  • have Aaron’s friends, with two small kids and an old small dog, watch the dog like we used to;
  • have a vet check-up without muzzling her;
  • get her nails trimmed; and
  • take her anywhere, really.

On the other hand…

We do:

  • have a super sweet dog who loves us very much;
  • have an adorable dog;
  • vacuum all the damn time because – OY – does this dog shed; and
  • have a decent – if indiscriminate – watch dog.

I’d say that’s where I am right now. She’s a sweetheart, but I anticipate that she will be more work than we can manage at the moment. And I worry that even if we could get some of her anxiety under control, she needs more attention and space than we can afford her. The bottom line, for me, is this: I adopted the world’s most amazing dog ten years ago and I know lightening rarely strikes twice. That said, this adorable pooch of a smooch is a tremendous amount to add on to the life of two full-time workers who have a two-year old and like to leave the house every once in awhile. I have no doubt that if we have to return her that she will in time – and it might take a bit – find the home for her.

I know this sounds like I’ve made up my decision, but I don’t think I have. I truly want to see what the behaviorist says. If she thinks that we can address Gertie’s issues, without spending 80 hours/week working on her and agree to never take a vacation, then I can certainly be convinced to keep the sweetheart. But, if she says Gertie will probably never be able to be boarded, then I know what the answer has to be. There was a time when we could no longer take Gracie to the kennel, either, because she would go on a hunger and hydration strike and make herself sick. But Gracie loved people and was a manageable size, so friends and family could always look after her. But we can’t rely on friends and family with Gertie because (a) she is simply too big and (b) she’s insane. I just don’t think it’s fair to Aaron & me & Molly to have to give up so much. I think I’m a responsible dog owner, and I remain committed to rescuing a dog, but we may have lost this battle. I hope you, Dear Reader, will be ok with whatever decision we make.

Dog versus Bear (spoiler alert: Dog wins)

According to our vet, and the vast universe of the webisphere, if a puppy is not properly socialized in the first six months of her life, you can get what is called, in clinical terms, a ticking time bomb. Well, dear reader, we suspect poor Gertie was a victim of a lack of socialization. And voila, meet our time bomb.

Our walk yesterday wasn’t as smooth as Tuesday’s, with Gertie repeatedly trying to off her Halti and the roller skating preteen stressing her out, but it was still mostly ok. I probably had no more than two or three panic attacks. Once we were home, though, the real adventure began.

Gertie barks at our two neighbors, Chuck and Ed, like nobody’s business. Once Chuck tried to pet her and she responded as if she wanted to sever his hand. Yesterday, when Ed parked his car, Gertie responded with her regular three alarm response. Thanks, Gertie, Ed is home. The four of us were outside on the deck, so Ed came wandering over, telling Gertie gently that he really wasn’t much of a threat. Over the din, I tried to explain to Ed that we have a behaviorist coming Tuesday to try to help us (because I really worry that sometimes both Chuck and Ed would prefer either the previous tenants of our home, who apparently had up to 10 people living in the house with broken windows, or the flipper crew, who parked a large dumpster in the middle of our shared driveway for days at a time, were occupying our house instead of us). Ed said, “She definitely has some territorial issues.” Gertie was going bonkers and, in her hysteria, peed on the deck. Eventually, Ed said he had a rawhide upstairs in his house (why? I have no idea) and was going to bring it to her. I decided maybe Gertie was going extra bonks because Molly was outside, so Bear and I headed in to watch some Frozen (aka “Let it go”). While we were inside, I heard Gertie go into high gear again when Ed returned, but it wasn’t quite the 11 she had been managing earlier. So, although it was marginally better, she never settled down, despite the gift of the rawhide from a man who – to my knowledge – doesn’t have a dog.

This morning started out pleasantly enough, but then Gertie – in her exuberance – ran right into Bear on the deck, slamming Molly to the ground. Cue: screaming toddler. Oy.

Oh, and now I need to go because Gertie has something she shouldn’t … What is it? Oh, my pajamas.

Tuesday with Gertie

Yes, today is Wednesday, but you see, yesterday was Tuesday and it’s Tuesday I want to write about. As you know, we are struggling with our new dog. The completion of the fence has been a real lifesaver. It’s been great to just let Gertie out and have her run around a bit. She’s a little weird about it – she’ll bolt out but then bolt right back in – but I love that we don’t have to take her for the bone-chilling, will-she-won’t-she-attempt-to-bite-off-someone’s-hand walk. I realized, though, that the fence was not a long-term option for exercising the dog. Especially because I want to avoid becoming the shut-ins I worry we’re already becoming. So last week I ordered the Halti, which was highly recommended to me by my friend, dog-savvy Wendy. Yesterday, we came home to the Amazon package right on our little doorstep. Hooray! I was ready to try it out. We went and got Gertie out of our bedroom (she stays there during the day and seems to do really well), opened up the package and strapped it on her. The four of us went out for a walk…And it was pretty great. She didn’t pull as much with it, and while she tried to take it off a few times, she seemed to tolerate it pretty well. We didn’t encounter any other animals, so I don’t know how it would have helped me restrain her from them, but we did encounter the specimen Gertie may detest more than rabbits: skateboarders. Oy vey. But, the Halti helped me keep her under control and she eventually settled down. The pedestrians and bikers we saw weren’t of much interest to her (yay) and she seemed generally like a very normal dog. So, my review: good so far. Let’s see how it goes tonight.

Ticking time bomb and other phrases you never want to hear your vet say

This morning we took Gertie to our vet. I love our vet’s office more than I can say and I trust them entirely, so it was not fun to hear the vet call poor Gerts a ticking time bomb. Or to hear her say she was “very concerned” about Gertie’s behavior, that we should never ever leave Molly alone with her or that Gertie might just not make sense for us long term. I appreciated her candor and her thoughtfulness, but oy. Words I didn’t want to hear.

In sum, the vet suggested (read: mandated) that we call in the pros. She said that we should get a more accurate picture of whether Gertie will respond well to behavior modification, if she needs medication or if – (sob) – she may need a home without so much going on it. Honestly, I don’t feel like we have that much going on, but I admit that we have a 2-year-old and from time to time like to have people over.

Anyway, here’s the plan: for the next couple weeks or so, this blog is going to shift from being a shapeless, themeless boring journal of my musings, to being a boring blog about all things Gertie. I’m going to be honest (or at least try to be) and candid about this new journey that I fully admit I pushed us into and that we probably should not have taken on at this time. I admit that my heart was incredibly wounded by the loss of Gracie and that I tried to mitigate the loss with this new crazy Labradoodle. I admit that I probably should have said, “Uh, thanks but we’ll keep looking for our forever dog” when the foster parent said that she barked like crazy at strangers and sometimes even at the people in her own home and that one family had already returned her and another wouldn’t take her home after meeting her. I admit I made a mistake. But now we’ll see how we’re going to fix it. Can Gertie become the total sweetheart of a dog I know she really is? Or will Gertie have to be someone else’s forever dog? Stay tuned. Please.

Cate

Thanks to Terry for sending this. I don’t know if I’ll ever let go of the disappointment I feel with John Edwards failing to be the man he should have been, but I’m beyond humbled by the daughter he and Elizabeth created.


June 2014
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