Sunday, August 26, 2012

On Vacation

Well, for better or for worse, Justin and I are officially on vacation. I honestly wasn't sure how I'd feel this week after the complete emotional meltdown I experienced Friday night after saying good-bye to Jocie, but now that we're here in Emerald Isle, NC, I actually do feel happy to be at the beach.

My mood was enhanced greatly during the 9-hour drive yesterday when Justin purchased tickets for us to see one of my favorite bands, Silversun Pickups, play in Cleveland this October! I saw them live a few years ago in Lexington, and I've been dying to see them again ever since. The fact that Justin gets to see them with me in a couple months just makes me look forward to this concert a million times more! (I love having something to look forward to.)

Another reason why my spirits improved during our drive yesterday was because Justin's Dad sent him a couple of photos of Sam and Margot. Sam was laying on the sofa on their wrap-around porch grinning from ear to ear, and Margot was sitting on the other sofa giving Justin's mom a kiss. They both looked very happy. After we arrived at the hotel and Justin called his Mom, she told him that Sam absolutely loves sitting on their enclosed porch, and Margot had discovered Samantha's old dog bones and was hoarding them in her crate (Samantha is Justin's 16 year-old Boxer mix). Knowing that both of my girls are enjoying themselves and being cared for so well definitely contributed to my ability to relax last night.

I'm sad to say that I haven't even seen the ocean yet because Justin and I basically crashed after we arrived at the hotel last night. The rest of our friends are arriving today, though, and we get to check into our GORGEOUS oceanfront beach house. I miss Sam and Margot, but I am definitely ready to have a little fun this week.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Good-Bye, Sweet Jocie

Jocie had advanced kidney failure, an enlarged spleen, and apparently her spine was pretty messed up. Dr. Ellis said she probably wouldn't have lived another week, so today we had to say good-bye.

Justin and Zach met me at Animal Care Clinic at lunch to say good-bye to her, and I think it was much more difficult than any of us had anticipated. She looked....normal. She waddled into the room with that goofy grin on her face, just eager to go home. As soon as we saw her, Justin and I just started bawling. How could I possibly have her put down when she looked so happy?!?

As it turned out, Dr. Ellis was out of the office until 3:00, so Justin and Zach merely said good-bye to the Jocie they had always known, which was actually much, much harder to do than saying good-bye to Lexie, who was obviously suffering. However, when I went back to the vet after work to be with her when she was euthanized, she was drugged, which actually helped a lot.

I'll spare you all the sad details, but I wanted to mention that Jocie passed while sticking out her tongue, which seemed highly appropriate and made me quite happy.

I'm not doing well at the moment, but I'm sure eventually I'll improve. Right now, though, I'm avoiding packing because I do not even want to go on this vacation. Not only is it the worst possible time for me to be away from my girls, but I was also slapped with an expected bill at the mechanic's today for $430 because my car wouldn't pass state inspection without new tires, plus a few other things I had been neglecting.

So, yeah. Not an awesome day. I'm feeling pretty broken right now, to be perfectly honest.

Preparing for Jocie's Diagnosis and Vacation Tomorrow (Fantastic Timing)

Waiting for the vet to open this morning.
I just dropped Jocie and Margot off at the vet, and then dropped off my car at the garage for a state inspection and oil change before we leave for Emerald Isle tomorrow morning.  I wish I could say I was more excited for our vacation, but this Jocie situation is completely stressing me out. 

Sometimes I look at her and think, “This is it…” and other times I look at her and think, “She doesn’t seem that bad…”  Yesterday afternoon, after coming home for lunch and finding that Jocie hadn’t eaten any of the food I had left her and it looked as though she may have even vomited at some point, I gave Zach and Kristy the heads up that “Jocie doesn’t look good.”  Justin even asked me if I was “prepared for what the vet might tell me tomorrow.”  I still felt less than hopeful after I got home from work and couldn’t get Jocie to eat a peanut butter sandwich.  However, when Justin got home about an hour later, he managed to get her to eat the sandwich by breaking it up into little pieces, and her mood even seemed a little better.  This morning when I asked Jocie if she wanted to go for a ride, she actually got excited and practically ran and jumped into the back seat of the car! 

So, I don’t really know what to think about Jocie’s current condition.  All I know is that she’s not eating, she’s vomiting occasionally, she’s using the bathroom in the house occasionally, she’s more lethargic than usual, there’s a growth/sty on her left eyelid, green mucous has started forming in her eye, and her eye appeared to be swollen yesterday.  The good news is that she is still drinking plenty of water, she moves around just fine, and she still gets excited at the prospect of taking a walk or going for a ride.  Needless to say, I’m extremely anxious for Dr. Ellis to call me after she’s examined Jocie.  (I forgot to mention that the reason I dropped Margot off at the vet this morning, too, is because she needs to be weighed and given a de-worming treatment.) 

We will be taking the girls over to Justin’s parents tonight and dropping them off for the week since we plan to leave for the beach super early tomorrow morning.  I am going to miss them so much, especially little Miss Margot.  I know it’s silly, but I just don’t want her to be scared and wonder where her Mommy and Daddy went.  I also hate to think about how much she’ll have grown by the time we get back.  Again, I know these things seem a little silly considering we’re only going to be gone for a week, but as you have read in Margot’s weekly progress reports on this blog, a LOT seems to happen with her from week to week.  I just don’t want to miss anything.      :(

Anyway, I’ll post an update as soon as Dr. Ellis calls, which I’m hoping will be before noon.  Is it weird that I’m hoping Jocie has diabetes???  (I mean, as opposed to other, more life-threatening illnesses, of course.)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Fun Evening with the "Aunties"

I have forgotten to mention in previous posts that, at Margot’s last check-up, Dr. Ellis informed us that she should not be playing with other dogs or going for walks until she is fully vaccinated, because the Parvo virus can live in the ground for up to a year.  Therefore, it’s just prudent not to expose young puppies to too many unfamiliar environments or other dogs until they’ve received all of their shots.  The sad thing is that Margot won’t be fully vaccinated until she’s 16 weeks-old, which is still six weeks away!  So, we haven’t been taking her for walks around the neighborhood like we had been, which I have suspected is part of the reason why she’s been so crazy this week.

Last night, I decided to take Margot over to my friend, Susie’s, house to play because I know for sure that Susie’s house and yard are Parvo-free (Margot has already been over to her house once before and never got sick).  I don’t know what it is about Susie’s back yard, but Margot just LOVES to romp and play back there!  She especially loves to jump in and out of the thick, grassy plants that line Susie’s gravel walkway.   I also knew that Margot and Susie’s cat, Pete, seemed to get along pretty well during our last visit, so I was hoping that Margot would actually have a little playmate for the evening.   In addition, I thought Sam and Jocie might appreciate having a few puppy-free hours at the house.

Margot and Susie played in the back yard for a while, then Mandee and Kristy came over, and we all ordered pizza.  As we ate our pizza outside on the deck, Margot continued to play and explore on her own for a while.  I loved watching her have so much fun.  She especially seemed interested in sitting in Mandee’s lap, which I thought was adorable.  She could probably smell Mandee’s St. Bernard, Atticus, on her dress, although Mandee does adore Margot and showers her with attention, so I’m not surprised at all that Margot likes her so much.

After a couple of hours outside, we decided to go inside to watch a movie.  I crossed my fingers that Margot and Pete would get along as well as they did last time, and to my pleasant surprise, they actually ended up playing the whole time we watched the movie.  Well…by “playing” I mean that they would take turns stalking and chasing each other from room to room, but that’s pretty much how one would expect a cat and a dog to play together.  At first, I was a little worried that Margot might have just been bothering Pete, but on a couple of occasions Margot took a break from Pete in order to join us girls on the couch, and within minutes Pete would come creeping around the side of the couch to see where Margot had gone.  So, it seemed like Pete was enjoying their little game of “Stalk and Chase,” but then again, I’ve never been an expert on cats. 

Her first battle scar.
Margot had only one little mishap while we were at Susie’s.  Mandee took Margot outside after she noticed that Margot had started sniffing around inside the house.  Once Margot was outside again, she got so excited that she tried to run down the stairs and into the back yard, but she clumsily tumbled down a couple steps and fell head-first into the bricks that line the gravel walkway.  Mandee said that Margot immediately got up, shook it off, and continued playing, but now Margot has a little spot on her nose where the brick actually scraped off a bit of fur.  I hate that her tumble left a mark, but at the same time I actually think it’s kind of cute.  After all, what kid doesn’t have at least one cut or scrape on their little body?  Besides, Margot thankfully wasn’t hurt, and I’m sure the fur will grow back eventually.

As for Jocie, I’m starting to believe that the majority of her problem is just Margot.  She tolerated her for the first couple of weeks, but I wonder if all of a sudden the realization just sunk in that “this puppy isn’t just here for a visit, she’s here to stay?”   The reason why I think a large part of Jocie’s problem has to do with Margot is because she almost refuses to be anywhere near the puppy right now.  She stayed upstairs all day and night yesterday.  She even peed in our bedroom because she refused to come downstairs.  Thankfully, Jocie is still eating and drinking, although she still isn’t eating anywhere near as much as she used to. 

This morning, after I let Margot and Sam out and Sam went back upstairs, I heard Jocie come down to the first landing in the stairway.  I encouraged her to come down, but she just stood there looking at me and Margot through the railing.  She must have really had to use the bathroom, though, because after a while she went down another couple of steps.  Once again, though, she just stood there staring while I coaxed her to come down.  Finally, I decided to pick up Margot off the floor, and as soon as I did, Jocie came all the way downstairs and went outside to use the bathroom.  It was like she was being hesitant about coming downstairs because she was dreading having Margot “attack” her as soon as she got to the bottom. 

So, while Jocie was outside, I shut the back door to the kitchen and took Margot upstairs to hang out in the bathroom with me while I got ready.   After I was ready for work and put Margot back in her crate, I went out into the bar to check on Jocie (our kitchen door leads into the bar, which has a sliding glass door that leads out onto the back deck).  Sure enough, I found Jocie lying behind the bar.  I decided to let her spend the day out there today, so I got her food and water bowls and put them behind the bar with her.  As I sat there petting her for a few minutes, I noticed that her left eye looks a bit swollen today.  So, after talking with Justin, I’ve decided to call the vet today and see if I can just drop Jocie off in the morning to be examined.  Again, I kind of doubt Jocie’s eye problem is related to her strange behavior and decreased appetite lately, but I’m anxious to hear Dr. Ellis’ opinion tomorrow.  I just hope that none of this is serious.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

10-Week Progress (and Worrying) Report

10 weeks-old today!
Margot is 10 weeks-old today, and she made a BIG step towards being housebroken this morning!  I let her out as soon as I took her out of her crate, but as soon as she peed she wanted to go back inside.  I knew that she needed to do #2, as well, but I was late getting out of bed this morning and needed to grab some clothes out of the laundry room.  I figured I’d let her come back inside to get a drink of water or something while I gathered my clothes, then I’d take her back outside again before I got in the shower.  While I was rummaging through the laundry basket, however, I heard Margot run out the back door again.  She was pretty full of energy since she had just woken up, so I figured she was just going back outside to run around and play.  When I stuck my head out the door to check on her, though, I found her using the bathroom in the yard!  She actually chose to go outside instead of just finding a spot in the house!  HOORAY!!!!  (I’m actually surprised I didn’t wake the neighbors with my cheering.)  So, I guess I can add that little victory to Margot’s 10-week progress report, along with her improved bite inhibition, improved willingness to redirect play-biting, and being able to sometimes perform “lay down” on command, although we’re still working on this daily. 
Practicing "lay down."

Another big change we’ve seen in Margot is that she seems to be napping less and less these days.   As I mentioned in my previous post, Margot barely napped at all on Monday evening, and last night she didn’t really nap, either, although she was much better behaved than she was the night before (thank God!).  When Margot finally started to wind down around 10:00 p.m., Justin and I couldn’t stop giggling at how hard she was resisting falling asleep.  Just like a human toddler, Margot would get this really far-off, sleepy look in her eyes, and then she would start long-blinking, but as soon as her head would fall forward even the slightest bit, she’d jerk awake and look around to see if she had missed anything.  Then, she would immediately reach for a nearby toy and start lazily chewing on it, as if she didn’t want anyone to notice that she had just dozed off.  (“I was chewing on this toy the whole time, you guys.  I swear!”)   I tried to take a video of her doing this with my iPhone last night, but the picture ended up being too dark and you couldn’t really see her long-blinking or dozing off.   I hope I’ll be able to capture her doing this on video at some point, though, because it is beyond adorable. 

Sam tolerating naptime with Margot.
As far as Sam and Jocie go, Sam is more tolerant about allowing Margot to climb on her to take naps occasionally, but she still doesn’t appreciate it when Margot tries to play with her.  They’ve gotten into some pretty decent barking matches this past week, but it’s obvious that Margot is just barking out of playfulness while Sam is barking out of pure annoyance.  It truly is one of the saddest little relationships I’ve ever seen, because all Margot wants is for Sam to play with her, but all Sam wants is for Margot to leave her alone.   It makes me feel sorry for them both, but they’re just going to have to figure out a middle ground on their own because there’s nothing Justin or I can really do to help the situation, other than make sure they don’t get into any actual fights.

As for Jocie, I’m still worried about her, especially since she threw up a little bit during the day yesterday (twice) and she still isn’t eating much.  However, I will say that she did seem somewhat better last night.  Justin fed her a hotdog and she managed to keep it down all night, plus we saw her drinking water on several occasions.  Her eye also looked good.  I didn’t see any green mucous, and the whites of her eyes aren’t red or anything.  She also isn’t having any trouble getting up and down the stairs or moving around in general.  So, I’m not really sure what’s going on with her, but now I can’t decide if I should take her to the vet to get checked out before we leave for vacation this weekend, or if we should just keep an eye on her and play it by ear.  The sad fact of the matter is that I am BROKE right now and I’m really only going on this vacation because my share of the house has already been paid for and it’s non-refundable.  I’ve managed to save JUST enough money to pay for gas and food while I’m there, so can’t really afford to take Jocie to the vet right now unless it’s absolutely, without a doubt, 100% necessary.   Trust me, I would forego my vacation entirely if it meant saving Jocie’s life, without hesitation; however, for all the reasons I mentioned above, I don’t feel like her condition is that bad.  In fact, it may be improving, but it’s hard to say at this point.   

Ooooh, Jocie.
So, we’ll continue to keep an eye on her tonight and try to get her to eat more, and if she throws up again or seems worse in any way I’ll call the vet tomorrow to see what we can do.  If she does well today and tonight, is able to keep food down, and continues to drink plenty of water, I’ll probably hold off on calling the vet.  I’m just so thankful that Justin’s parents are going to be watching the girls for us next week because I know his mother will keep a close eye on Jocie and take her to the vet for us if it becomes necessary.   It just sucks because missing my girls was already going to be hard enough, but now I’m also going to be worrying about Jocie’s health the whole time.   So, please cross your fingers that Justin’s parents give us some very good progress reports so that Justin and I can actually relax and enjoy our vacation next week.  Lord knows, after all we’ve been through this summer, we deserve at least one week free from stress, drama, and sadness.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Margot's Insane and Jocie's Not Right

Last night, Margot was INSANE!!!  I don’t know what got into her, but she went non-stop at a million miles per minute from the time I got home from work until we finally put her to bed around 10:30 p.m.  Usually, she has what we call “crazy puppy time” where she’ll run at full throttle for about an hour or so, but then she eventually sputters out and takes about a half-hour nap.  Lately, she’s been going through the crazy puppy time/nap time cycle about twice every evening before finally going to bed.  Last night, however, she took only one little 10-minute disco nap before she was up and running around the house again.   She was an absolute terror!  She kept picking on Sam and trying to get her to play, but of course Sam wanted none of that.  She also kept getting into the laundry basket and shoe basket.  I swear, I probably used half a can of that spray that repels cats and dogs.  I had a lot of house cleaning and photo editing that I was hoping to get done last night, but I seriously couldn’t let Margot out of my sight ALL night long.  Like I said, I don’t know what got into her, but I REALLY hope she got it all out of her system last night.

In other news, I’m starting to worry about Jocie.  She’s my oldest dog, a Border Collie/Golden Retriever mix , who is around 12 years-old now.  I’m trying not to be a Nervous Nelly, which I kind of have been ever since we went through all those medical emergencies with Lexie a few months ago; however, my gut is telling me that something really isn’t right with Jocie lately.  Well…let me rephrase that.  Something hasn’t been “right” with Jocie for many years, as she is referred to as my goofball and has many hilarious little personality quirks, including an OCD eating ritual that you’d have to see to believe.  What I mean, though, is that she’s been keeping to herself a lot more than usual lately, and what worries me the most is that she’s not eating well.  It’s been almost three days since I’ve seen her eat a whole bowl of dog food.  We’ve gotten her to eat a few dog biscuits here and there, but not a whole meal.  So, last night Justin went out and bought Jocie some canned dog food in gravy, which she usually LOVES.  However, I was only able to get her to eat two bites of it, and that is NOT like Jocie. 

I’ve noticed that she’s got what appears to be some kind of a little growth or maybe a sty on her left upper eyelid.  It’s been there for a while, though, and never seemed to cause her any problems.  Within the last month, however, from time to time she’ll have a build up of green mucous in that eye.  After I clean it out, her eye looks fine.  It’s not red or anything, but the green mucous will build up again within a day or two.  I know I need to take her to see Dr. Ellis, but I’m terrified of what it will end up costing, as I’m now thousands of dollars in debt over Lexie’s surgeries.   The Nervous Nelly in me is also worried that the little “sty” might actually be a cancerous tumor or something.  I know that ignoring the problem won’t make it go away, but I honestly cannot afford any sort of medical treatment right now.  I can’t even afford this vacation we’re going on next week!  I actually tried to back out of the trip shortly before Lexie died because I knew I wasn’t going to have any extra money to spend while we’re there, but at that point it was too late to get a refund. 

Anyway, I’ve got a lot of antibiotics at my house that Lexie never had the chance to take, so I think I’m going to try giving Jocie some of those for a week or so.  Hopefully, that will take care of the problem.  If not, I guess I’ll just have to bite the bullet and take her to the vet after we get back from vacation.  I swear, these dogs are going to give me a heart attack and/or cause me to be homeless before I’m 40.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Weekend of Positives and One Big Negative

Well, I can say with certainty that Margot's play-biting has improved, but I really don’t know if credit should be given to the bean bottle or the fact that she’s just learning on her own that no means no.  Since that first night of the “bean bottle experiment,” when I shook the bean-filled bottle while saying, “No bite!” several times, I honestly haven’t had to use it much more.  That experience seemed to have been enough to at least help Margot understand the whole “no bite” concept.  She will still mouth and bite people, but her bites are more inhibited now, and she is much more willing to redirect and chew on one of her toys instead.  In fact, she seems to have discovered that it is much more fun to chew on her Nylabone if someone else holds it for her while she’s chewing it, and she will gladly do this for a really long time without getting bored. 

Housebreaking, on the other hand, is apparently not going as well as I thought.  Margot has always understood that going outside means that she is supposed to use the bathroom.  She also knows that when I ask, “You gotta go pee?” that means we are going to go outside.  However, I don’t believe that Margot understands that A) she’s not supposed to or allowed to use the bathroom indoors, and B) she needs to ask to be let outside if she needs to use the bathroom.   

The perfect example of this happened on Saturday evening.  Two different times, as soon as Margot awoke from a nap, I immediately asked if she had to go pee.  I then got up, opened the back door, and waited to hear Margot come running, which she usually does.  However, on both occasions, she did not immediately come running, and when I walked back into the living room, I found her peeing on her doggy bed.  I told her, “NO!  Margot go pee outside!” then immediately took her outside and sat her in the grass while saying, “Margot, go pee.”  On the second occasion, after I sat her in the grass, I left her in the yard for a couple of minutes while I went back inside to clean up her mess.  After I let her back in, she played for about a minute, but then I just happened to catch her mid-poop in the foyer when I got up to go into the kitchen!  At least this time I was able to get her outside in time for her to actually finish using the bathroom in the yard so I could praise her like crazy for finishing outdoors, but I still just do not understand why she chose to poop in the house instead of while she was outside just minutes earlier. 

It’s very disheartening because, like I said, now I feel like she’s really not getting the whole housebreaking concept at all.  And I know that some of you are going to say that I need to watch for “signs” that Margot needs to use the bathroom, but it is very difficult because she walks around with her nose to the ground most of the time anyway, whether she has to use the bathroom or not.  She also doesn’t spin in circles or seem to be trying to find a spot when she has to go, nor does she have a preferred spot in the house where she usually has her accidents.  One second she’s playing, and literally the next second there’s an accident, which happens so quickly that by the time you catch her, she’s already finished.  I’m not really sure if it’s just a matter of her still not being old enough to figure out how to ask to be let outside, or if I’m missing a step and not training her properly.  My gut has been telling me that she’ll figure it out eventually, as she is still only 9.5 weeks-old and it is rather rare that she has an accident indoors, but after those two incidents on Saturday night, I couldn’t help but wonder if there’s something else I should be doing to help her understand. 

In other, more positive news, Margot had another great check-up at the vet with Dr. Ellis this weekend.  She weighed in at a whopping 15 lbs., although Justin and I had predicted she’d weigh over 20 lbs. simply because she seems to have doubled in size over the past two weeks.  I love this comparison photo of her 7-week and 9-week check-ups.  Look how long she’s gotten!  Not just her limbs, but her little snout has also lengthened.  As sad as it is watching her grow out of puppyhood, it’s also really interesting to watch her transformation.  She’s already a pretty girl, but I think Margot is going to be a beautiful adult Doberman someday. 
Also in more positive news, Sam tolerated Margot napping with/on her several more times this weekend, and Margot finally performed “lay down” on command for the first time yesterday!  It’s not perfect yet, but she’s getting there.  Sometimes, she will just lower her upper body and forearms to the floor, but leave her butt up on the air, which is so cute I can hardly stand it.  I always press down on her butt to make her lay completely down on the ground before I reward her, of course, but Kristy suggested I train Margot to do this butt-in-the-air pose under the command “downward dog,” which is a yoga pose.

By the way, speaking of my brother’s girlfriend, you guys should really check out Kristy’s blog.  She’s amazing.  She completely transformed her lifestyle about 7 years ago and has managed to lose and keep off about 70 pounds!  At some point in our lives, we’ve all heard about how important it is to live a healthier lifestyle, but for many people that just doesn’t seem possible or even realistic.  What I love about Kristy’s blog is the fact that she doesn’t just preach health and fitness or regurgitate a bunch of exercise and diet tips that she’s learned over the years.  She simply talks about her own everyday life, which also happens to include a lot of nutrition and health (including “financial health”) information because those things are a part of her life now.  In other words, by sharing with the world her day-to-day routines, Kristy is actually leading by example.  Like I said, she’s pretty amazing, and I highly encourage you all to check out “Kristy’s Health Revolution.”

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sad Anniversaries Today

Last night, I had a much-needed impromptu girls' night with a couple of my best girlfriends, so I don't really have a lot to report in regard to the big "bean bottle experiment."  I can tell you that when I did play with Margot yesterday evening, she seemed to respond better to, "No bite!", and I probably only shook the bean bottle twice.  I should be able to make a better judgement about Margot's progress and the bottle's effectiveness after tonight, though, because I don't have any plans for this evening, other than playing with her and hanging out with Justin.

Not to be a downer, but I'm currently feeling kind of sad and nostalgic because three years ago today, I lost my husband, Chris.  Today also happens to be the three-week anniversary of the day I had to say good-bye to my sweet Lou.  I'm trying to stay positive and remember only the good times, but that really only makes me miss them more.  I loved them both so much. 

Lexie, Chris, and me
I'll post a happier update tomorrow, guys.  Promise. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

9 Weeks Progress Report and the Bean Bottle Experiment

Margot is 9 weeks-old today!  She’s growing like a weed, too.  She’s got another vet appointment this Saturday, and Justin and I are predicting that she has at least doubled her weight since her last check-up when she weighed 10.2 lbs.  Everybody says that “they grow up too fast, “and now I know exactly what they mean. 

Speaking of growing up, I tend to hold Margot to some pretty high standards in terms of discipline and training, which is why I get so frustrated and discouraged sometimes if I don’t feel like she’s “getting it” fast enough.  However, last night Justin and I were talking about Margot’s progress and all that she’s accomplished so far, and he mentioned that we’ve only had her for 2.5 weeks, which blew my mind!  It feels like we’ve had her for at least a month!  Not only that, but Justin also pointed out that Margot is JUST NOW at the age where most puppies are allowed to leave their mother and the rest of their litter to go home with their new owners.  That really put things in perspective for me.  Think about it; at the age of only 6 weeks-old, not only was Margot completely crate-trained and understood that “You gotta go pee?” means it’s time to go outside to use the bathroom , but she also mastered the “sit” command almost effortlessly by the age of 8 weeks!   I mean, come on.  That’s not bad for such a little pup, right?  Granted, she’s still not completely housebroken, but it is pretty impressive that she has only had a handful of accidents since we’ve brought her home, and she is still only 9 weeks-old.

I can’t say that this little revelation made me want to lower the bar for Margot, but it did help me appreciate the fact that she IS learning very quickly and actually doing quite well.  It’s easy for me to lose site of that when I’m busy pulling my hair out over the fact that Margot continues to play-bite, despite our consistent corrections since Day One.

The little Landshark when she was only 6 weeks old.
However, I may have some good news to report in that department.  At my wit’s end yesterday, I literally Googled “puppy biting nothing works,” and it pulled up an old post to the Puppy Corner forum.  A frustrated puppy owner had posted a story that sounded extremely similar to our situation with Margot.  This owner had tried EVERY method for correcting play-biting, but yelping /putting on a dramatic show each time the puppy bit only excited the puppy and made it want to bite/play more, turning his/her back on the puppy or leaving the room only made the puppy find something else to bite, such as furniture, giving a stern, “NO!” whenever the puppy bit barely deterred the biting, and redirecting the puppy’s attention to a chew toy would only distract the puppy for a few minutes before it eventually tried to bite the owner’s hand again.   Then, this owner read an article online that suggested shaking a bottle full of beans each time the puppy tries to bite while also giving a stern, “No bite!”  The owner was amazed by how effective this method was after trying it with his/her puppy and highly recommended that other puppy owners give it a try. 

So, last night, I did just that.  I filled an empty 20 oz. soda bottle with a handful of pinto beans (courtesy of Kristy) and kept the bottle beside me on the coffee table as I sat cross-legged on the floor playing with Margot.   As soon as she bit my hand, I said, “No!  No bite!” and put her Nylabone in her mouth.  She gnawed on it, for which I praised her, but seconds later she tried to bite my hand again.  Since she was choosing my hand over her Nylabone at that point, I decided this warranted a shake of the bean bottle and another stern, “No bite!” 

Well, THAT got her attention!  She immediately stopped biting and jumped off my lap.  I handed her the Nylabone again, which she gladly took and climbed back into my lap.  I praised her, but once again, after only about a minute, Margot decided she’d rather bite my hand than her chew toy.  As she started to go for my hand, I said, “Noooo…..”, but when she didn’t heed my warning, I gave her another shake of the bottle with a stern, “No bite!” and she immediately stopped.  This time, however, she decided to test me by immediately biting my arm instead of my hand, and when that also received a shake of the bean bottle, she then tried biting my foot.  When she received a shake of the bottle each time, no matter where she bit me, she finally gave up and starting playing with her Wubba instead, for which she received LOTS of praise.  Hooray for small victories!!!

To be clear, I’m not ready to declare that the bean bottle method truly works yet because I only used it last night and once this morning, but I can say that so far, so good.  The keys are to keep the bottle out of sight so that it surprises her when I shake it, to not shake it EVERY time she bites because I don’t want her to get used to it, and to always give a stern, “No bite!” as I’m shaking the bottle because I want her to associate that phrase with the scary sound.   (The goal is to not have to shake the bottle each time I say, “No bite!”)  Again, it’s too soon to say for certain that this method is working, but after I shook the bottle at Margot several times last night, I did see an improvement in her willingness to redirect after simply telling her, “No bite!”   

So, my plan is to first try to redirect Margot and praise her for chewing on a toy instead of my hand, but if she ignores the redirection or doesn’t chew on her toy for very long before trying to bite me again, she will receive a shake of the bean bottle.  After another night of trying this method, tomorrow I should be able to say with more certainty whether or not I feel that this technique is effective for Margot.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things (So Far)

No matter how rotten Margot is behaving (and trust me, last night she was PURE rotten), I can’t help but love the fact that she has recently decided that she prefers to play in my lap more than anywhere else.  She can be running all over the place, chasing a toy, terrorizing Sam, etc., but inevitably she will always come charging straight back to where I sit cross-legged on the floor and leap/flop right into my lap.  Sometimes she just sort of “tags” me, as if I’m her home base, and then she takes off running again, but most of the time she actually prefers to just stay in my lap to gnaw on her chew toys.   I really need to have Justin take a photo of her doing this in the near future because there will soon come a day when she’s too big to play in my lap like that.  :'-(

Another thing I love is the time that Margot and I spend in the bathroom together each morning while I get ready for work.  I started bringing her into the bathroom with me when she was around 7 weeks-old because I don’t want to leave her in her crate all morning, especially after she just slept in it all night and we have to put her back in her crate before we leave for work.  So, every morning I grab a couple of chew toys and a couple of biscuits, and I carry them and Margot to the upstairs bathroom with me so I can start getting ready for work.  She doesn’t like it when I disappear behind the shower curtain, and every now and then she actually takes a little peak to make sure I’m still there, but usually she just lies on the bathmat and kills time by gnawing on something.  Unfortunately, while I’m in the shower I can’t keep a close eye on her, and sometimes she finds something to chew on that she shouldn’t.   For example, the other day I accidentally forgot to put up the cord to my straightening iron, and I found her chewing on it when I got out of the shower.  Thankfully, my straightening iron is still functional because she didn’t do too much damage to the cord, but I haven’t made the mistake of leaving cords within her reach since then.  This morning, I came out of the shower to find her chewing on the pajama bottoms I had taken off just moments earlier.  Again, lesson learned:  stop being a lazy slob and put discarded clothes in the hamper! 

I’ve also started practicing commands with Margot while I’ve got her isolated in the bathroom away from Sam and Jocie, because it’s actually very difficult trying to train her with her big sisters around.  Sam is a treat hound and goes NUTS as soon as she hears me tell Margot to “sit.”  She knows that means that the puppy is about to receive a treat, and she’ll be damned if she’s going to miss out on that!  So, Sam always interrupts our training sessions by barking and trying to get in between me and Margot, and Jocie usually comes running whenever she hears all the commotion and starts demanding a treat, as well.  It’s total chaos and can be quite unproductive, so I usually try to spend some time training Margot alone out on the back deck  after Sam and Jocie have gone inside and now also while I’ve got Margot in the bathroom by herself in the morning. 

Here’s a little video I shot this morning.  You can see how Margot is so good at sitting that she will actually do it before I even have a chance to give her the command.  I also ask her to “lie down” in this video, although I only just started teaching her this command a few days ago and she doesn’t quite get it yet.  I wasn’t able to film this because I had a treat in one hand and my iPhone in the other, but I also use a hand gesture whenever I give her the command to “lie down” by lowering my hand, palm down, and touching the floor.  This morning, each time I lowered my hand to the floor and said, “Lie down, Margot,” she would actually raise her paw and kind of wave at me.  It made me wonder if, by using that hand gesture, she may actually think that I want her to make the same gesture with her paw.  Haha!  I’m really only half kidding.  I’m sure she’s probably waving because she just wants me to hurry up and give her a treat since she’s already sitting like a good girl, but then again, Margot is a Puppy Genius….

For the most part, though, Margot is pretty good while she’s in the bathroom with me.  Sometimes she gets a little whiny because she wants me to sit in the floor so she can play in my lap, but unfortunately I just don’t have time.  I’ve been trying to make up some hours at work since I had to take two sick days a couple weeks ago (stomach virus), which is why I haven’t had a lot of extra time in the morning lately, but after this week I may try to adjust my schedule so that I can actually sit and play with her for about 30 minutes before I leave for work.  In the meantime, Margot usually just ends up passing out on the bathmat a few minutes before I’ve finished getting ready, and then I carry her sleepy little body back downstairs and put her in her crate. 

Finally, I love how interested Margot seems to be in music, particularly orchestral music.  I discovered this the very first morning that I brought her into the bathroom with me.  I always turn on music before I shower, and when I did, Margot stopped dead in her tracks, turned to look at my iPhone dock, and then actually walked toward the sound.  I realized that she had never really heard music before, as we usually left the TV turned on to a random television station at night because we thought that hearing people talking in the other room would keep her from feeling lonely.   

Later that evening, as Justin and I were watching a movie and playing with Margot on the couch, she suddenly stopped and looked at the television during a scene that involved a rising orchestral crescendo.   At first, we thought that it was just the rising volume and intensity of the scene itself that caught her attention, but she reacted the same way a little later on during a scene that had a violin playing softly in the background.  We laughed at how interested she seemed to be in the music, and I told Justin that she had reacted very similarly that morning when I turned on my iPod.  So, ever since then, we have left the TV tuned to the classical music station each night when we go to bed.

I realize that this probably sounds ridiculous, especially since I already jokingly refer to Margot as a “puppy genius,” but I swear that she really does seem to prefer orchestral-type music to any other kind.  This morning was a perfect example.  I was listening to the “Cool New Music: Summer 2012” playlist on the Songza app, which consisted mostly of indie-type songs from artists like Fiona Apple, Passion Pit, Walk the Moon, etc.  Margot was just playing and doing her usual thing the whole time the music was playing, but then a really pretty instrumental song came on that featured a lot of violins and wood instruments (I wish I could remember the name of the song and/or artist), and, once again, Margot stopped what she was doing and turned to look at where the music was coming from.  I guess there’s just something about those types of sounds that grab her attention more than other instruments, such as drums and guitars.  No matter what that reason may be, we think it’s pretty darn cute.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Socializing, Sitting, and Still Play-Biting

Miss Margot had quite a weekend!   It started on Saturday morning when Justin and I decided to take her with us to Petco.  I wanted to buy her some Nylabones because HOLY CRAP does she want to bite everything right now (more on that later).  So, I grabbed the little blue harness that Margot wore just one week ago when she went to her first vet appointment, but when I tried to fasten it around her it was short by at least a couple of inches!  Our little baby is getting so big so fast!  So, we had to lengthen the harness straps as far as they would go, and then immediately added “New Harness” to our Petco shopping list.

Accidental photo taken on the way to Petco
I will admit that I was a little nervous about taking Margot out to such a public place since she hasn’t yet received all of her vaccinations, especially since I often see other dogs inside Petco; however, I’ve also been reading about how important it is to socialize your puppy between the ages of 8-12 weeks, and she is scheduled for her third round of shots this coming Saturday.  So, Justin assured me that Margot would be fine, as long as we kept an eye on her.   I should also note that this was Margot’s first experience with being walked on a leash, and she did great!  We took her for a mini-walk up and down the sidewalk to get her used to it before we finally got in the car and headed to Petco.

Margot was pretty scared when we first arrived at the store, and I had to pick her up half-way across the parking lot and carry her in.  Once we were inside, though, she decided she wanted down, and I was happy to oblige.  A few customers stopped to compliment her, and she was more than happy to allow them to pet her for a moment.  Then, as we were getting ready to check out, Margot spied one of the most adorable little puppies I’ve ever seen standing by her owner on a leash.  (The owner later told us her puppy was some kind of a Bulldog mix, but she had one brown eye and one bright blue eye, so there may have been a little Husky in her, too.)  Margot and the other puppy were a little unsure of each other at first, but after some preliminary butt sniffing, the two started wrestling a bit, and I thought I was going to die from the cuteness!  Then, after Margot’s new playmate left, an older lady asked if she could hold her.  Justin told her that she could, but warned her that Margot is in a bit of a nipping phase.  Thankfully, Margot was a perfect angel and just smothered the nice lady with face kisses as she held her.

Margot left Petco wearing a pretty fancy new ID tag, and we had a bag full of new Nylabones, a couple of chew toys, training treats, and a new harness for her.  From there, we drove to Justin’s parents’ house, as his parents are planning to pet-sit for us in a couple of weeks and we’re trying to get Margot used to them, their older dog, Samantha, and their house.   She had fun exploring the back yard and really seemed to enjoy their screened-in porch, but she was so exhausted from her adventures that morning that it wasn’t long before she was completely passed out.

Later that evening, I took Margot over to visit my friends, Susie and Shane.  I’ve been a little worried lately about Margot play-biting my friends (she actually drew blood from Kristy’s ear the other day), but I was pleasantly surprised by how well she behaved while we sat on Shane and Susie’s porch.  She just played with her toys, but also REALLY enjoyed sitting on the loveseat with Susie and watching the birds and people passing by.  Later, we took Margot inside to meet their cat, Pete, who happens to be one of the sweetest cats I’ve ever met.  Pete and Margot got along just fine, although they mostly just curiously followed each other from room to room. 

Then, the highlight of Margot’s day had to have been when we took her out into Shane and Susie’s backyard.  She had a BLAST running all over their little yard and especially through their landscaping.  In particular, Margot discovered that if she ran full-speed into the small, grassy plants that line Shane and Susie’s walking path, then she could BURST through to the other side!  We laughed so hard as we watched her plow through those grassy plants over and over again, as if she had just discovered the greatest thing on earth!  Then, Shane started playing with Margot, which was really sweet, but at the same time it made my “motherly” instincts kick in, as Shane was playing with Margot a little rougher than she’s ever been played with before.  It wasn’t that I was afraid he was going to hurt her, because Shane loves dogs and I know he knows how rough is too rough, but it was just the fact that Justin and I are currently trying SO HARD to break Margot from play-biting, and yet here she was rough-housing with Shane, which obviously included some play-biting, as that’s just the nature of an 8 week-old puppy.  I didn’t want to ask Shane to ease up, though, because, like I said, he really wasn’t playing THAT rough with her, and I didn’t want to sound like an uptight, overly-protective dog owner who won’t let her puppy have any fun.   They actually only played for about 15-20 minutes, but after Shane ended their games, he pointed out where Margot had “gotten him pretty good” with a few play-bites.  I felt bad and apologized, but Shane insisted that he had asked for it and that it was no big deal.  Needless to say, after such a fun and exciting day, Margot slept like a BABY that night.

Yesterday, we decided to take all three girls for a walk together for the first time, which went really well.  I made sure not to let Margot walk ahead of me, which wasn’t that difficult, and Jocie and Sam didn’t seem to mind having Margot along on the walk.  So, the “puppy-free walks” idea may have turned out to be short-lived, which I actually consider to be a good thing, and we’ll probably start taking Margot for walks with us from now on.

Other highlights from this past weekend included catching Margot and Sam cuddling while taking a brief nap together and seeing Margot tilt her head for the first time when she heard a strange new sound on the television.  Of course, I was also very happy that Justin and I were able to capture both of these melt-worthy events with our phones. 

The only downside to this weekend was dealing with Margot’s nipping and play-biting.  Justin and I are trying to be vigilant with discouraging mouthing and correcting her whenever she bites, but I swear none of the “tried and true” methods I’ve read about are working very well (see previous post).  One minute I’ll think that it’s working and that Margot is starting to understand that we don’t want her to bite us, but then the very next minute she’ll go into full-on Landshark mode and won’t stop nipping, no matter what we do!  As I’ve said before, though, I don’t REALLY expect an 8.5 week-old puppy to stop biting, especially since she hasn’t even started teething yet (or perhaps she’s just now starting?), which is why the constant corrections and discipline feel very disheartening sometimes.  I know that eventually she’ll be old enough to understand, but for now it just feels like we’re constantly yelling and trying to discipline a wall. 

Last night, for example, while Margot was playing on the couch between me and Justin, out of nowhere she leapt onto my lap and bit my nipple!  OMG OWWWW!!!!!!  It freaked me out and hurt SO badly that I didn’t even think about performing the usual corrections, such as letting out a loud yelp or telling Margot, “NO!”  Instead, my knee-jerk reaction was to immediately pick her up and toss her back over towards Justin, and then I quickly walked into the other room so that I wouldn’t just go OFF on her.  Justin wasn’t even sure what had just happened, but he knew enough to give Margot a very stern, “NO!  No bite!  Bad girl, Margot!”  After about a minute, after I calmed down and realized that she hadn’t drawn any blood and the pain subsided, I returned to the living room to find Margot curled into a tight, little ball on Justin’s lap.  I sat down beside them, and then I instantly melted when I saw the pitiful little look on Margot’s face.  It actually brought tears to my eyes because she looked SO sad!  I think it was probably the first time Margot had truly realized that she had done something “wrong,” and our reactions must have really scared her.  Obviously, I tried to make up with her immediately by asking if she was sorry, and then I coaxed her over to my lap so that I could pet her and show her that I wasn’t upset anymore. 

At first, I thought this little incident may have finally prompted a breakthrough with Margot, as she certainly seemed remorseful for what she had done, but then, as soon as she realized I wasn’t angry anymore, she started biting my hands again!  I’m telling you guys, I consider myself and Justin to be extremely patient people, but this play-biting phase is seriously challenging both of our sanities! 

On a much more positive note, I think I can officially say that Margot has mastered the “sit” command, although I don’t feel like I should take much credit for teaching her because I swear the Puppy Genius has just figured it out on her own.  Margot learned early on that Justin and I won’t bend down to pet her if she jumps, so now she immediately sits as soon as she runs up to greet us in the morning or when we get home from work.   Also, I usually give the girls their treats in the kitchen, so Margot ALWAYS sits anytime she’s in the kitchen with me and/or Justin.  Because Margot had already figured out that the act of sitting would bring her a reward, all I really had to do was give the action a name and lots of praise, and in no time she figured out what “sit” meant. 

Yesterday, I decided to start teaching Margot the “lie down” command, but that one is obviously going to take a little more work.  After all, she has never automatically received any rewards for lying down before like she did with sitting, so this will probably be the first command that she actually has to learn.  I’m hoping she picks it up quickly, though, because that will also give me hope that Margot does have the ability to understand, “No bite!” 

In the meantime, if anyone out there has any advice regarding correction/discipline methods (other than the ones I’m already using), which you have successfully used to end puppy play-biting, or if you would just like to share your own experience with this frustrating phase of puppyhood, please feel free leave me a comment below.  Any and all feedback will be greatly appreciated.  :)