Wednesday, September 26, 2012

15-Week Progress Report

15 weeks-old!
Margot is 15 weeks-old today, which means by this time next week we’ll be playing in the park, going on walks, and playing with other dogs!  Hooray!!!!  I’m so excited (in case you couldn’t already tell)!

Okay, I have to make her 15-week progress report kind of quick because I don’t have a lot of time to type today.   Actually, the only notable change this week has been the loss of many of her baby teeth.   That, and the fact that she’s growing like a weed!  She’s almost too big to fit in my lap anymore, although she doesn’t seem to realize that yet, which is fine by me. 

Lap/pajama time!

I also still can’t get Margot to “tell me” when she needs to use the bathroom, but I know she’s still a little young to fully grasp that concept, and it’s obvious that she knows that she’s supposed to use the bathroom outside because almost all of her accidents happen in the kitchen by the back door now.  Also, this morning I needed to load the dishwasher and do a few other things before I got in the shower, so I didn’t have much time to stand outside with Margot and wait for her to go #2.   She wasn’t real happy about having to pee outside, though, because it had rained overnight, and she hates the wet grass.  So, as soon as she peed, she ran back to the sliding glass door to be let inside.  I decided to let her in, but I kept the sliding door open so that she’d be able to run out if she had to do #2 while I was loading the dishwasher.  Sure enough, after a few minutes of being inside, I heard Margot run past me and out towards the back door again.  I thought, “What a good girl!”  However, when I was about to leave for work and went back there to close the sliding door, I found a pile of poop RIGHT beside the doorway!  So, Margot had, indeed, run to the back door because she had to use the bathroom earlier, but I guess she took one look at the wet deck and thought, “Screw that!  I’ll just poop right here.”  At least I have a sense of humor about it, and I actually take it as a sign of progress because she WAS obviously trying to go outside, but just changed her mind after she saw that the ground was still wet. 
Anyway, other than that, not much has changed since last week.  Margot and Sam are still getting along really well.  They’re playing tug a lot more, which was always Sam’s game of choice when she used to play with Lexie.  Come to think of it, that may also be why Margot has lost so many teeth recently!  Haha! 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Busy Weekend

"Oh, Mom...."
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend much time with Justin and the girls this weekend because I stayed pretty busy.  I spent all day Saturday (from about 9:00 AM until 6:00 PM) running back and forth between photo shoots for a 2013 calendar I’ve been putting together all year and a really cute vintage store downtown called Finds and Designs, for whom I sometimes photograph local models wearing their latest vintage clothing arrivals.  Don’t get me wrong, all of my photo shoots that day were SUPER fun, but after lugging around my 50-pound camera bag all day, I was EXHAUSTED by the time I got back to Justin’s parents’ house.  There was no rest for the weary, however, because we still needed to clean the house and pack up all our stuff so that we’d be ready to leave when his parents returned from the beach that evening. 
Hanging with Uncle Zach and Aunt Kristy

Yesterday, Kristy, Mandee, Susie, and I all drove to Charleston to watch Kristy try on wedding dresses, and then we grabbed a late lunch.  That was also a lot of fun, but by the time we returned home around 6:00 PM, I was exhausted yet again and ended up crashing on the couch for a 2-hour nap!  I woke up just in time to be able to quickly straighten up the living room and run the vacuum before Zach and Kristy came over to watch Boardwalk Empire.  Then, as soon as the show was over and they left, I still had to finish editing the photos I shot for Finds and Designs the day before because I knew they were probably hoping that I would have the photos uploaded to their Facebook page that night.   I finally got the photos finished and uploaded around 11:30 PM.

Sam and Margot playing tug
Needless to say, I don’t really feel like I had much of a weekend, but at least it was full of things that were fun, and even though I didn’t get to play with Margot much, I still got plenty of cuddles from her each night when I got home.   Not only that, but she and Sam played SO MUCH this weekend!  I feel like I keep repeating this, but it truly is remarkable how much Sam’s attitude has changed towards Margot.  I love watching Sam play more than anything.  Saturday morning, I managed to snap a photo of them playing tug with one of Margot’s toys, which Sam occasionally used to do with Lexie and her stuffed animals.  I almost cried.  (Almost.)

As for Miss Margot, she is such a little snaggle-tooth right now!  I took a couple photos of her teeth last night because it’s just too funny.  In the top photo, I can see one of her adult teeth is starting to come in on the top row.  She’s growing up so fast!!!

Margot the Snaggle-Tooth

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Sit" and "Lie Down"

Margot felt like showing off for you guys a little this morning.  Well, sort of.  She was a bit too excited about getting her treats, so she didn't stay in the lying down position for very long.  Haha! 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

14-Week Progress Report

Margot is 14 weeks-old today!   Justin and I are so excited for her 16-week birthday that her birthdays feel like they can’t come fast enough right now, although I’m certain that feeling will change dramatically after she’s finally 16 weeks-old.  (Our vet recommended that we not allow Margot to go for walks, play in the park, or socialize with other dogs until after she’s 16 weeks-old because that’s when she’ll be fully vaccinated.)

14 weeks-old!

As far as a 14-week progress report goes, Margot has been a little out of her element this week due to the fact that we’ve been house-sitting for Justin’s parents, but I do have a few things to report.  For one, Margot has officially lost at least four teeth, but probably more.  Her biting has increased somewhat, but we understand it’s because she’s teething, and her biting is still pretty easy to correct with redirections.  She’s going through Nylabones so fast right now, though!  In fact, that just reminded me that I need to pick her up a new one tonight….

Another bit of progress that I’m able to officially report now is the fact that Margot and Sam have finally learned how to get along!  In fact, I think Sam has even become rather fond of little Margot.  She genuinely seems to enjoy playing with her, and we’ve even seen Sam initiate their playtimes on several occasions.   In fact, Sam and Margot spend so much time playing together in the evenings now that it sort of feels like Sam is our babysitter.  I used to come home from work, let Margot out of her crate and take her outside, and then basically spend the rest of the evening sitting in the living room floor playing with her.  Now, after I’ve come home from work and taken Margot outside, I end up watching Sam and Margot play for a little while before I start doing dishes, editing photos, or doing something else productive while they play. 

On one hand, it’s nice no longer having to devote 100% of my time and energy to keeping Margot entertained and distracted from pestering Sam every evening, but on the other hand, it actually makes me kind of sad.  The time I used to spend playing with Margot after work was a great bonding experience for us, and I always felt very close to her whenever she’d flop repeatedly into my lap with a toy and insist that I play with her.  We haven’t done that in about a week, though, and I really miss it, but I’m hoping our playtimes will resume at least a little bit once we’re back home.  Fortunately, Justin and I still get our Margot cuddle time whenever she winds down every evening just before bed, which is actually my favorite time with her because she’s SO sweet when she’s sleepy.  

Cuddling with Lexie by the fire (I miss this so much)

Another little thing I want to mention is the fact that the weather is starting to turn colder at night and in the early mornings, and in true Dobe fashion, little Margot has started shivering and trying to snuggle whenever she’s cold.  (Dobermans are known for being very cold-blooded, particularly because of their thin coats.)  I cannot tell you how much this makes me miss Lexie, as she was the Queen of Snuggles every winter.  In fact, every fall I would get really excited about the fact that it was almost time to snuggle with Lexie under the blankets and by the fire.  She would paw at the blanket and nudge it with her nose until you’d cover her up, and as soon as she got under that blanket she’d let out a looooong moan of contentment.   (Oh, Lou….I miss you so much.)

Anyway, last night Margot’s “aunties” (Kristy, Susie, and Mandee) all came over to drink wine and have a little girls’ night out on the porch.  Margot was extremely well behaved and spent the majority of the evening just sitting on the sofa with me.  As it got colder, I thought I felt her shiver a little bit, so I covered her with the blanket that was on my lap.  At first, she didn’t really understand what was happening and immediately uncovered herself, but when I covered her up a second time, I guess she suddenly realized how much warmer it was underneath the blanket, and she was perfectly content staying there.  I have a feeling Margot is going to enjoy laying by the fireplace this winter, too.  :)

Margot has been performing “lie down” more consistently, and as soon as she turns 16 weeks-old, we will be enrolling her in a group obedience class at the Animal Care Clinic, where she’ll learn even more commands, like “come,” “stay,” etc., which I am very excited about.  Not to brag or anything, but I have a feeling that Margot will be one of the star pupils in her class, as she already impresses everyone with her good behavior, like at the Chili Fest last weekend. 

Yes, I think it’s safe to say that Justin and I are pretty proud of our little girl.  :)

Monday, September 17, 2012

What a Fantastic Weekend!

Daddy's girls
Justin’s parents are on vacation this week, so we are returning the pet-sitting favor they did for us recently by house-sitting and watching their 16 year-old babies, a Boxer mix named Samantha and their beautiful, black kitty, Salem.  Sam and Margot are staying at the house with us, of course, and it kind of feels like we’re all on a sort of mini-vacation together.  I especially love it for our girls because they love spending time on the screened-in, wrap-around porch (as do I) and in Justin’s parents’ big, fenced-in back yard. 

This past Saturday was one of the nicest Saturday’s we’ve had in a LONG time.  It was the annual Chili Fest, held in downtown Huntington.  Lots of vendors line 3rd Avenue serving various kinds of chili and other local fare (I hate my first funnel cake!), while musicians play in Pullman Square throughout the day.  Between musical performances, there are various contests held, concluding with the big chili contest winner announcement at the end of the evening.  Unfortunately, because I’ve been a wedding photographer for the past eight years, I have only been able to attend one or two Chili Fests because I usually had to shoot a wedding on that day.  So, this year, not only was I excited to be able to attend, but Justin and I decided to take Margot and make this her first big, “official” public outing!

Margot the socialite at Chili Fest.
Mind you, Margot is still not cleared to socialize with other dogs or in public parks for another two and a half weeks, but Chili Fest only comes once a year, and the entire event takes place on paved roads and sidewalks.  Plus, she HAS had the majority of her vaccinations at this point; therefore, we decided to let our guard down just a bit for this one, special occasion (although, even as I’m typing this, I’m cringing at the fact that we took that risk).  Thankfully, Margot hasn’t shown any signs of Parvo or any other health concerns since the Chili Fest, so I think it’s safe to say that she’s going to be fine.  (whew!)
My "kiddos" at Chili Fest!  (Ashley and Margot)
Anyway, I cannot even begin to tell you how wonderful Margot was at the Chili Fest.  I let Justin have the honor of walking her because I knew she’d probably receive a ton of attention, and I wanted Justin to be able to enjoy that attention, as well.  And boy, was Margot ever a hit at the Chili Fest!  Justin, Ashley, and I couldn’t walk more than a few feet before someone would stop us and ask if they could pet Margot.  At one point, Justin and Margot literally became surrounded in the middle of the street as we were trying to cross, and I said to Ashley as we stood there waiting, “We should have just set up a booth for Margot!”  I loved watching Justin and Margot receive so much attention, though.  I could tell that Justin enjoyed telling people about her (what breed she is, her age, explaining why her ears aren’t cropped, etc.), and Margot was very impressive in the way she handled all of the attention from so many strangers.  At first, I was afraid that the large crowd might intimidate her and make her a little nervous, but she was calm, curious, and even downright polite to every stranger she met!  Anytime someone extended their hand to pet her, whether it was an adult or a child, Margot simply sat and gladly welcomed their affection.   Justin was especially pleased with how well she behaved with children.  She never got too excited or overly playful, not even with the handful of other dogs she encountered (although, because I was still trying to be at least a little bit cautious, I wouldn’t let Margot do more than just briefly sniff other dogs).  In fact, Margot was so well behaved that several people mistakenly thought she was an adult Miniature Pinscher, and they were shocked to learn that she was only a 13 week-old Doberman puppy.   Yes, I hate to be one of “those mothers,” but I have to say that Margot truly was a perfect little angel that day.  Justin and I are so proud of her. 

The best family midday nap EVER!
When we returned from the Chili Fest, we were all pretty exhausted, and Justin, Sam, Margot, and I all fell asleep on the outdoor porch furniture that afternoon.  It was probably one of the most pleasant, relaxing midday naps I’ve ever had in my life.  The weather was sunny and beautiful, in the mid- to high-70’s, and I loved hearing the leaves rustling on the trees in the back yard whenever a nice, cool breeze blew through.  In fact, napping on the screened-in porch is probably going to be a daily activity for me until Justin’s parents come home, as Sam, Margot, and I enjoyed yet another outdoor midday nap yesterday afternoon, as well. 

Believe it or not, this is a very good thing!
Overall, I honestly can’t remember the last time we enjoyed such a nice weekend.  Sam and Margot both seem very happy, and they have even spent at least several minutes playing together every single day since that first time they played together last week!  Plus, ever since Sam decided to engage in a little daily playtime with Margot, Margot has been much less annoying and demanding of Sam’s attention.  I have jokingly said that Sam has probably just decided that if she can’t beat her, she might as well join her, like, “Okay, little one.  Let’s get this playtime over with so you’ll leave me alone for the rest of the night….”  Of course, I’d rather believe that Margot has successfully managed to bring out Sam’s “inner child” and that Sam actually enjoys their playtime as much as Margot, and I honestly think she does.  You should see the smile on my face whenever those two are playing, too.  To say that it makes me very happy would be quite an understatement.  :)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

13-Week Progress Report

Margot turned 13 weeks-old yesterday, and I didn’t even realize it!  I guess that means it’s time for a progress report, but first I wanted to share the good news that Kristy’s cat, Posey, returned home last night!  After posting flyers all over our neighborhood yesterday evening, Kristy’s neighbor from across the street knocked on her door to tell her that he thought he saw Posey run and hide underneath a car that was parked in front of Kristy’s apartment building.  She looked under the car and, sure enough, it was Posey!   I’m so happy that they found her!

That’s not all the good news I have from last night, though.  You’re not going to believe this, but Sam and Margot played together for a really long time again last night, AND Sam even initiated one of their games!  I was seriously about to die from happiness while I was shooting this video:

It was so much fun to watch them because Sam was putting Margot’s entire head inside her mouth, and Margot had a big grin on her face the whole time!  Also, I’m no Cesar Millan, but I think that Sam exhibited some other dominant-type behaviors with Margot last night, as I saw Margot assume a submissive, belly-up position a few times.  Of course, I could be completely wrong about that, but I can tell you this:  When I was home during my lunch break today, Margot didn’t even try to pick on Sam.  Not even a little bit!  Justin and I wonder if Sam finally earned Margot’s respect last night by proving that she could obviously whoop Margot’s little puppy butt if she really wanted to.   I’m really anxious to see if they’ll play again this evening and if Margot will pester Sam as much. 

As for Margot’s 13-week progress report, I’m bummed to report that she’s still not asking to be let outside or even indicating when she has to use the bathroom.   If we happen to catch her squatting to pee, she WILL stop urinating as soon as we yell, “No!” and then finish peeing once we let her outside, which I guess is a slight improvement (she used to just finish peeing, even after we yelled); however, that’s just not good enough for me.  Ashley gave me some bells that she used while she was trying to housebreak her puppy, Banksy, last year.  You’re supposed to hang the bells from the doorknob and train the puppy to hit them whenever she wants to go outside.  I guess it’s worth a shot, so we’ll probably start trying that tonight. 

As far as improvements go, Margot is getting better at performing “lay down” on command, although it’s not exactly graceful or 100% consistent yet, but she definitely understands the command.  Her play-biting is almost non-existent now, unless you’re really rough-housing with her.  Occasionally, she will mouth your arm, but her bite is very inhibited, and she will stop as soon as you tell her to.   Margot is able to climb and sometimes jump onto the couch all by herself now, which I’m sure some of you do not approve of, but I’ve always allowed my girls to lay on the sofas with us.  (What can I say?  I love to cuddle.)  Margot also conquered her fear of going up and down the tall fire escape-type staircase that leads to Zach and Kristy’s back door this past weekend, and I’d love to add the fact that Margot has stopped pestering Sam to this progress report, but I guess it’s still too soon for me to declare that with certainty.   

I suppose the biggest thing I’d like to note is the fact that I can see a little more maturity developing in Margot now, and I’m very pleased with what a good, sweet, young dog she’s becoming.  Up until now, if she wasn’t sleeping, she was playing at full-speed, or vice versa, and there really wasn’t much more to her personality than that.  Recently, however, she has been able to take her energy level down a notch, and it’s during those down-times that we’ve been able to notice new little personality traits starting to surface, like how she really seems to enjoy watching television, and how she makes sure to give Justin and me equal cuddling time by periodically alternating laps if we’re both sitting on the couch with her.  In fact, she has become noticeably more cuddly and affectionate lately, which, of course, I LOVE.  I especially love how she takes a few minutes to cuddle in my lap every morning before she fully wakes up and we have our morning playtime.  (Have I mentioned how sad I’m going to be when the day finally comes that she’s too big to fit in my lap?)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Breakthrough Moment

Before I get into the good news I have regarding a possible breakthrough with Sam and Margot yesterday evening, I wanted to give a heads up about Kristy’s missing cat, Posey, just in case anyone who reads this blog also happens to live near me on the Southside of Huntington.  We’re all very worried about Posey because she is not an outdoor cat, and she is also an excellent hider, so she is probably very frightened and hiding out somewhere.  We have been putting the word out through Facebook and other social media sites, and Kristy posted this ad on Craigslist this morning, but so far we haven’t had any luck finding her.

Kristy and Posey

I really hate this for Kristy because her cats are her babies, which is something I understand completely.  Not only that, but Kristy is a HUGE animal lover and even recently spent several days taking care of a stray cat that just showed up on her doorstep one day.  She did everything she could to find the cat’s owner, and even offered to pay to have the cat spayed if the owner couldn’t be found and someone else wanted to adopt her (with three cats and a turtle already living in their apartment, Kristy simply wasn’t able to take her in).  Thankfully, she was successful in finding the cat’s owner and was thrilled the day she reunited Sage (the lost kitty) with her mommy.  So, believe me, if anyone deserves to have their lost cat found, it’s Kristy.  Again, if you live on the Southside and think you may have seen Posey, please reply to Kristy’s ad on Craigslist immediately.

Okay, so as I mentioned earlier, Margot and Sam may have had a little breakthrough last night.   After I got home from work, Margot was being her usual, playful self and pestering Sam, so I tried to distract her by starting up a game of ball.  Margot was so full of energy that she insisted I chase her around the house in order to retrieve the ball from her.  As we were playing, Sam started barking, but it wasn’t her usual “annoyed-with-Margot” type of bark.  I actually recognized it as the same type of bark that Sam used to give whenever Lexie and I would play a game of chase with one of Lexie’s stuffed animals.  Sometimes, Sam would get so excited watching me chase Lexie around that she’d start barking, and eventually she’d even jump in, grab the stuffed animal, and start playing tug with Lou.  

Needless to say, I was really surprised when I realized that Sam was barking out of excitement rather than annoyance, but I immediately encouraged her to join in.  Then, to my further amazement, Sam actually started playing with Margot!  I grabbed my phone, of course, because no one else was home, and I wanted to have proof of this incredible moment.

Sam and Margot’s playtime only lasted a few minutes before Justin got home from work, and they ended their game in order to greet him.  After that, Sam was no longer interested in playing with Margot, but just the fact that she played with her for a few minutes was enough to put me (and Margot, I’m sure) on Cloud 9!  Margot continued to pester Sam off and on for the rest of the evening, but each time she did I would wait a few minutes to gauge Sam’s reaction, and when I could tell that Sam had had enough, I’d distract Margot with a new game.   Overall, though, I would say that it was a much improved evening compared to the night before, especially considering the fact that Sam actually played with Margot, if only for a moment.  (I’m still in shock.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where's Cesar Millan When I Need Him?

When Justin and I returned from the beach last month after being gone for an entire week, we expected Sam to go crazy as soon as she heard us walk in, but instead she chose to stay on Justin’s parents’ bed until we actually walked into the bedroom to find her.  That was part of the reason why I thought she would be so happy staying with Justin’s parents during the weekends, because she seemed so content there before.  However, when Justin and I arrived yesterday evening to pick her up, she was BESIDE HERSELF with excitement.   She barked non-stop and even jumped up onto us a couple of times, which is not typical behavior for Sam.   She was beyond happy to see us, and even happier when I put her harness on her and she realized we were taking her home.  She had a big, goofy, ear-to-ear grin on her face as she rode home with her head sticking out the window, barking occasionally to let everyone know how happy she was to be going home.

It warmed my heart to see Sam so happy, but that quickly dissolved as soon as Sam was reunited with Margot.  Margot immediately stood on her hind legs and wrapped her arms around Sam’s neck while also trying to bite her ears.   I decided to let them both go outside before Margot’s playfulness escalated, which seemed to work at first.  Margot mostly just followed Sam around the yard, but didn’t really try to play with her much.  Once they came back inside, though, Margot went nuts!  Sam actually tolerated her for a few minutes, but then the barking began. 
I wish I understood dog behavior better because I would love to know what’s really going on between these two whenever they bark and show their teeth to one another.  Margot is obviously just trying to play with Sam, but I honestly can’t tell if Sam is unhappy about it or actually semi-engaging in this form of play with Margot.   It seems like Sam would be doing more to put Margot in her place if she were truly angry with her, like snap at her or at least give a lower-pitched, more serious-sounding bark, but Sam never does that.  She just shows her teeth and gives a soft, sustained growl most of the time.  She does occasionally let out a loud bark with a brief snipping motion if Margot bites her too hard or won’t leave her alone while she’s trying to sleep, but for the most part Sam allows Margot to literally walk all over her. 

This may seem like an okay situation, but then...

...two seconds later!

I thought that maybe Margot was just extra excited about Sam being home and hoped that she would eventually lose interest in picking on her.  I even tried to lure Margot away from Sam several times by squeaking her favorite toys and initiating games with her, but Sam (bless her heart) always wants to be wherever I am and, as a result, she ends up putting herself right back in Margot’s path.  It’s the same situation whenever we move the baby gate and allow Sam to go upstairs by herself.   You would think that she’d love the opportunity to get away from the puppy and lounge on our bed all night, but instead she just ends up crying and standing at the baby gate because not only does she hate to be alone, but she’s not happy unless Justin and I are BOTH in the room with her!  It’s extremely frustrating because she makes it impossible for us to help her.   So, our only two options are to either to watch Margot incessantly pick on Sam and listen to them bark and growl at each other all night, or to take Sam back over to Justin’s parents’ house, and I hate both of those options.   

With that said, I reminded Justin at lunch today that during the few days when I was toiling over the “joint custody” decision, things actually seemed to be getting a little bit better between Margot and Sam, especially after Margot learned how to play ball.   Therefore, I’m just going to see how the rest of this week goes before I make any further decisions.  If the situation feels like it’s improving, I’m going to just try riding it out for a while, rather than separate Sam and Margot again.  Like I said, part of the reason why Margot was so relentless last night may have been due to the excitement of having Sam home again.   I’m crossing my fingers that tonight will be a little calmer for all of us.

Why can't they just be like this all the time?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Weekend Highs and Lows

Well, we certainly had an interesting weekend.  It started on Friday, when Justin took Sam to his parents’ house to drop her off for the weekend.  I decided not to go with him because I thought it might be too difficult for me, but we received updates all weekend and she apparently really enjoyed herself.  We’ll probably be going up there tonight to pick her up and bring her home for the week.

9 wks Vs. 12 wks (The bigger she gets, the more afraid she is to be up on the counter.)
Saturday morning, we took Margot for her 12-week check-up and another round of vaccinations at the Animal Care Clinic.  The last time I was at the vet, it was when I took Jocie to find out what was wrong with her, and I was told she had advanced kidney failure and, unfortunately, I felt it was best to euthanize her.  After that visit, the receptionist told me not to worry about making a payment at that time.  She said she’d just bill me.  Therefore, I was fully expecting to pay around $200 when we checked out after Margot’s appointment on Saturday.   I also knew that Jocie’s ashes were ready to be picked up (a separate charge of $256), which Justin had generously offered to pay for me.  However, I was quite shocked when I was told that my total account balance was over $400, which did not include Jocie’s cremation and ashes!  That included x-rays, blood work, and who knows what other tests they did in order to diagnose Jocie’s kidney failure.  The only reason why I’m kind of put off about this total is simply because I wasn’t given any sort of heads up about it beforehand.  Usually, the vet will call and ask permission to do a bunch of tests like that while also giving me an estimate of how much it will cost.  I’m not saying I would have denied Jocie any of the tests she had done, I’m just saying that it sucked being blindsided with a total that was more than double what I was expecting to pay!

Thankfully, they are allowing me to make payments, but this really doesn’t help my already bleak financial situation at the moment.  To make matters worse, this weekend was my little brother’s 30th birthday and all of our friends were planning to have dinner together, then go out to a bar afterwards.  After giving the Animal Care Clinic 2/3 of what was in my bank account that morning, I seriously questioned whether or not I would be able to go out and celebrate my brother’s birthday that night.  Justin happened to have a friend in from out of town, whom he said he could hang out with for free, and he, therefore, insisted I take the only $20 bill he had in his wallet so that I could join our friends for Zach’s birthday dinner and drinks.  The only reason I felt okay with this arrangement, though, was because Justin was already planning to make a big pot of chili to take over to Zach and Kristy’s the next day, which was Zach’s actual birthday, and spend the entire day watching football with everyone. 

So, I went out Saturday night without Justin, but by the end of the night I wasn’t so sure if it had been such a good idea, after all.  Maybe it was the pitcher of margaritas I had shared during dinner plus the few beers I had while at the bar, but I got a little teary towards the end of the night.  I just hated the fact that Justin wasn’t there due to our horrible financial situation, on top of all the other crap that has happened this past summer.  I just feel like I’m not really dealing with everything very well , and I keep trying to ignore the pain of it all by distracting myself and pretending to be happy and okay.  The downside to this strategy, of course, is the fact that my repressed pain and depression is finding the most inopportune times to rear it’s ugly head and create embarrassing social situations for myself (i.e. while sitting at my desk at work, while eating out at a restaurant, while hanging out with friends, etc.). 

Margot watching football with Justin.  (So cute!)

Anyway, Sunday was a little bit better.  Justin made his fabulous veggie chili, I made a batch of buffalo cheese dip, and we took Margot over to Zach and Kristy’s place for a day of watching football.  I’m not the world’s biggest football fan, mind you, but I enjoyed spending the day with friends and eating TONS of yummy food.  It was definitely a prime socializing experience for Margot, too, as she played her little heart out with all of our friends.  The boys, especially, loved rough-housing with her.  By the end of the night, she was completely WIPED OUT!  In fact, she was so zonked that she barely woke up when I scooped her up in my arms and carried her home. 

All in all, I think Justin and I did a decent job of making the most out of this past weekend.  I know that Margot had a fantastic time, and hopefully Sam enjoyed her puppy-free weekend relaxing over at Justin’s parents’ house.  I can’t wait to pick her up tonight and bring her home!  I missed my Samul cuddles. 
Sam just being Sam

Friday, September 7, 2012

Couch Companions and a Decision Revision

Back when we first got Margot, I contracted a stomach virus and had to take a couple days off work.  I can’t remember if she was 6 or 7 weeks-old at the time, but she was tiny.  I was worried that it might be difficult looking after such a tiny puppy while also being sick, but those two sick days turned out to be an excellent bonding experience for me and Margot.  All I could really do was lay on the couch, so I put her up on the couch with me, and she would either just romp around me or lay beside me while I held her rope or chew toy for her.  She really was great company and kept me highly entertained.

Sam and Margot keeping me company

Well, last night I found myself feeling sick and laying on the couch, once again.  At least this time horrible stomach cramps weren’t involved, but I’m definitely catching whatever crud Justin brought home from the beach (mostly a sore throat, coughing, and just feeling run down in general).  Justin had to run to the store at one point and Ashley wasn’t home, so that left me taking care of my now 12 week-old Margot all by myself for about an hour.  Again, because I was feeling so run down, I was afraid she might be a little bit much for me to handle, but I was wrong.  Margot just laid on the couch with me the whole time Justin was gone and was perfectly content watching TV with me and gnawing on her Nylabone.  I swear, it’s like she can tell when I’m not feeling well.   She didn’t even give Sam, who was also lying on the couch with me, a hard time.

"Don't feel like playing?  No problem.  I'm fine right here."
Speaking of Sam, I have an update about the “joint custody” decision.  For various reasons, we haven’t been able to take Sam over to Justin’s parents’ house yet this week, which has given me a little more time to think about it.  While Margot does still bug the crap out of Sam whenever she’s having her “crazy puppy time,” I think I’m doing a better job of distracting Margot and re-focusing her attention away from Sam.  We’ve been playing ball a lot more, for example, and after Margot gets worn out and settles down, there really aren’t any problems between her and Sam.  That being said, I realize that it’s going to be a little more difficult preventing Margot from harassing Sam during the weekends because she will be out of her crate for most of the day.  Therefore, the new plan is to allow Sam to stay with Justin’s parents from Friday to Sunday instead of Monday through Friday.  I’m happier with this decision, as it just seems to make more sense, and we will get to spend more time with Sam this way, too. 

So, all in all, things are going pretty well with the girls.  I feel like I fall more madly in love with Margot every single day, and I definitely appreciate Sam much more now than I ever did before.   

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

12-Week Progress Report

Margot is 12 weeks-old today!  Before I get into her progress report, though, I kind of wanted to apologize for yesterday’s super depressing blog post.  I’m happy to report, however, that I’m feeling a little better today.    My overall situation hasn’t changed, unfortunately, but it’s rare that I will stay as upset as I was yesterday for more than just a day or two.  If I allow myself a whole day to just wallow in self-pity and bawl my eyes out, eventually I’ll reach the point where I simply can’t stand feeling so down anymore, and I’ll find a way to pull myself out of it. 

Yesterday evening, Margot helped greatly in that endeavor.  Justin was spending the evening with some friends and Ashley was visiting her family in Ohio, so I asked Zach and Kristy if I could bring Margot over to their place because I really didn’t want to spend the evening at home alone.  I’m so glad that I went over there, too, because I spent the entire evening talking about wedding plans with Kristy and playing ball with Margot for the first time.  In fact, I felt like last night was the first time that Margot had ever REALLY played with me, like interactively.   She plays all the time, of course, but usually I just sit on the floor cross-legged and let her flop into my lap as she chews on one of her toys.   I’ve tried playing ball with her once or twice before, but she couldn’t seem to figure out that she’s supposed to retrieve the ball after I roll it across the room and then bring it back to me. 

Last night at Zach and Kristy’s, though, Margot finally grasped the concept of how to play ball!  She especially loved it when I would grip the ball while it was still in her mouth and kind of “whip” her back and forth until the ball wiggled free from her grasp.  Sometimes, after retrieving the ball, she’d start making that back-and-forth motion on her own before I even had the chance to do it to her!  (I had Kristy take a video of this because it’s hard to explain, and I also wanted Justin to see it when he got home.)

My other favorite part about playing ball with Margot was when she’d sort of hide on the opposite side of the coffee table and peek at me under the table with her butt still up in the air.   I would then assume the same position to peek back at her, and she would quickly “hide” behind one of the table legs.  We would play this little game of Hide-and-Seek for a few minutes until she’d finally dart past me in hopes that I would try to grab the ball from her as she ran by.  She would run past me several times like this before finally stopping and allowing me to grip the ball so that I could whip her back and forth again. 

As I’m writing this, I realize that I’m describing our little game in such detail that one might think that I actually believed Margot and I invented the entire concept of “playing ball” last night.  Haha!  I’m sorry.  I’m just excited about it because, like I said, it was the first time Margot had ever played an actual interactive game with me, and it was so much fun!  It was great exercise for her, too. 

Okay, so I guess that learning how to play ball should be a part of Margot’s 12-week progress report.  Unfortunately, because we spent all last week at the beach, I don’t have much else to add in terms of specific milestones or achievements.  I will say that Margot is now able to crawl up onto the couch all by herself (and it’s the cutest thing to watch), she seems to be in the early teething phase, and she’s able to “hold it” for longer periods of time when she’s in her crate.  The biggest thing I’ve noticed about Margot this week, however, is something that I also mentioned in yesterday’s blog, which is how well-behaved Margot is for her age.  When she plays, most of the time she just lays on her doggy bed in the living room and chews on her stuffed animals or her bones.  Every now and then she’ll get up and wander around the house looking for something new to get into (mostly shoes or some type of paper), but as soon as we tell her “no” and take that item away from her, she just goes right back to playing with her toys.  If she decides she wants to join me and/or Justin on the couch, all we have to do is hold the Nylabone for her, and she is perfectly content just lying there beside us, chewing on her bone while we watch TV.  Quite often, we will catch her watching TV with us while she’s gnawing on her bone, which always cracks me up.

Unfortunately, we’re still working on the housebreaking, as Margot still doesn’t clearly indicate when she needs to use the bathroom.  I know I shouldn’t consider this “progress,” but I’m actually kind of thankful that at least she’s started having her accidents in the kitchen instead of on the carpet because they’re much easier to clean up!  I would also like to think that the reason why she’s having her accidents in the kitchen now is because she is at least attempting to go outside on her own.  We’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing, though, and hopefully she’ll eventually start whining or something when she sees that the kitchen door is shut instead of just having an accident.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Feeling Pretty Low

We made it back home to WV from our vacation in Emerald Isle, NC this past Friday evening.  I wish I could tell you that I had a fantastic time, but unfortunately I had to go to the beach with a VERY heavy heart this year.  Don’t get me wrong, the beach was beautiful, the house was amazing, my friends were awesome (all 15 of them), and my little brother even proposed to his girlfriend, Kristy!   Like I said, though, it was just very unfortunate that my heart wasn’t 100% into the vacation this year due to the sudden loss of my Jocie the day before we left and, of course, the tragic loss of my Lou just a month prior to that.  Still, I tried to put on a happy face and not think about the sadness for the majority of our vacation, but it all sunk in pretty hard during the drive home.

All of us in Emerald Isle, NC, 2012
I also wish I could tell you that my mood improved greatly once I was reunited with Margot and Sam, but again, unfortunately I cannot.  Although I was VERY happy to see Sam and Margot again, my heart still remains heavy, as I have had to make a very difficult decision this past weekend.   Margot has basically become obsessed with Sam and will NOT leave her alone.  It’s very sad because she is only being a normal puppy and wanting Sam to play with her, but it truly is making Sam’s life a living Hell.  Margot is constantly nipping at her, climbing all over her, and running circles around her, which is driving Sam crazy.  I did some reading about this type of situation online, and everything advises against yelling at Margot because it might really confuse her, as she is merely behaving like a normal, playful puppy.  The articles I’ve read said that the best thing to do is separate the older dog from the puppy while the puppy is being playful, but that has proven to be a problem for us because Sam doesn’t like spending time alone.  We’ve tried allowing Sam to go upstairs by herself in order to get away from Margot for a while, but if Justin and I BOTH are not upstairs with her, she doesn’t want to stay up there.  She’ll come back down to the baby gate and cry until we let her back down, despite knowing that the puppy is going to continue picking on her. 

Reunited and it feels so gooood!

Fortunately, Justin’s mother apparently fell in LOVE with our Sam while she babysat the girls for us last week.  She loves how affectionate Sam is, and she even let Sam sleep in the bed with her at night, which is Sam’s idea of HEAVEN.  Not only that, but Sam also loved spending her days lounging on Justin’s parents’ screened-in wrap-around porch and enjoyed their large, fenced-in back yard.  Therefore, I am considering a sort of “joint custody” arrangement between us and Justin’s parents because not only do I feel like it might make Sam much happier, but Justin’s mother has mentioned several times how much she misses Sam ever since we picked her up last Friday. 

Even as I type this, though, the thought of not having Sam at home with me 24/7 makes my heart ache, which is why I’m only considering doing this on a trial basis for now.  The thing is, I really don’t know how much time Sam has left, and I’d much rather her spend her golden years enjoying a big back yard, chillin’ out on a screened-in porch, and soaking up the tons of affection that I know Justin’s mother will give her than spend her final days constantly trying to avoid the annoyance of an incessantly nipping, rambunctious puppy.  Believe me, I would not be giving this “joint custody” idea one ounce of consideration if I didn’t feel like it would make Sam a million times happier, and everyone who has seen Margot pestering Sam over the last couple of days has agreed with me 100% that it is probably a good idea.  So, starting tonight, we’re going to try leaving Sam with Justin’s parents during the week, and then we’ll bring her home on the weekends.  If Sam seems even the least bit upset about being away from home, I will just have to figure out something else.  However, if Sam truly seems happier staying with Justin’s parents, no matter how I’ll miss her or how much my heart will ache, at least I will know she’s happy.  (Ugh.  I’m tearing up just thinking about this.)

I really do wish I could have written a happier post about how much fun we had at the beach and how great things are now that we’re back home, but as you’ve probably gathered by now, this has basically been the worse summer of my life.  For the record, I’m normally a very optimistic person, and finding silver linings has always come very naturally to me, but it’s becoming harder and harder to bounce back from life’s “little” set-backs, especially when so many horrible things have happened in such a short amount of time, and they’ve all been extremely tragic with very complicated circumstances.  Just so you fully understand where I’m coming from, let’s re-cap, shall we?

Three years ago, I had to deal with my husband’s tragic (and highly dramatic) suicide on TOP of also dealing with his alcoholism and mental illness, and I even later discovered he had been lying to me for years about just about everything, including our financial situation.  My photography business basically came to a screeching halt after that as I focused on putting my life back together, mainly for the sake of my three girls (Jocie, Sam, and Lexie), which decreased my now single income even more significantly.  Last summer, I was laid off from my job due to cut-backs and struggled for two whole months to find new employment and practically drained my savings account in the process.  This summer, I spent two months draining my savings account even further (almost down to nothing) while running my beloved Lexie back and forth to Columbus, Ohio in an unsuccessful attempt to save her eyes, only to find out after putting her through three traumatic eye surgeries that she had Stage IV mammary cancer, which the so-called “specialists” at MedVet had somehow missed during previous testing.  During all of this, on the 4th of July, I learned that one of my best friends from high school, Beth, was found dead by her 16 year-old son after she laid down for a nap the previous afternoon and never woke up (they believe she had a seizure).  Then, a few days later, the day after Lexie’s stitches were finally removed from her pointlessly empty, infected eye sockets, Lexie was in so much pain from her mammary cancer that she collapsed and had to be put down.  Justin and I tried to bring some happiness back into our lives by bringing home Margot, which worked for a few weeks, but then, just one month after losing Lexie (a couple weeks ago), I had to put down my oldest, Jocie, the day before our summer vacation after learning that she had advanced kidney failure and was no longer eating.  And now, here I am, thousands of dollars in debt and about to send my sweet Sam off to live with another family because I foolishly thought an 11 year-old dog and a less than 4 month-old puppy would have no problems living together. 

If I REALLY wanted to pile on the doom and gloom, I guess I could also mention that over the past two years I’ve managed to fall madly in love with a wonderful man who also just happens to have Type I diabetes and was told when he was 8 years-old that he probably won’t live past the age of 40.  That, of course, probably isn’t true, and it was horrible of Justin’s doctors to tell him such a thing back then, but the fact remains that he WILL eventually develop serious complications due to his diabetes.  Hopefully, that won’t happen for many, many years, but every single day I live with the fear that I will someday lose him and ultimately die alone.   So, how’s that for an extremely gloomy ending to an incredibly depressing rant?

Okay, okay…I will now try to prove that I’m normally an optimistic person by ending this Debbie Downer blog post on some positive notes.  For one, as I mentioned earlier, Zach and Kristy are now officially engaged, and I am beyond excited for their wedding next year!  (The date hasn’t been set in stone yet, but they’re thinking about the end of September, 2013.)  I am also extremely honored that Kristy has asked me to be one of her bridesmaids.  I’ve photographed literally HUNDREDS of weddings over the past eight years, but I’ve never actually been in a wedding before!  I’m so happy for both of them, as they make each other very happy.

Left - Margot at 7 wks with Mandee; Right - Margot at 11 wks with Ashley
Another positive thing is that our friend and roommate, Ashley, returned home from her three-month-long trip to teach in Africa this summer and finally met Margot for the first time on Sunday night.  I’m pretty sure that she and Margot fell instantly in love, and Ashley seems excited about having a new puppy in the house.   Ashley is also a lot of fun to have around, so I’m looking forward to many laughter-filled nights hanging out with her at home. 

Finally, I wouldn’t dream of ending this blog post without saying at least a few positive things about Miss Margot.  For one, I couldn’t believe how much she grew during the one short week that we were gone!  She’s so long and lanky now, and her paws are absolutely HUGE.  I don’t know how she’s ever supposed to grow into those paws if they just keep getting bigger as the rest of her grows!  I was a little worried that she may have become a little less disciplined while we were away, but thankfully Margot is still a very good puppy.  Don’t get me wrong, she has her moments, but overall she really is surprisingly well-behaved for being only 11 weeks-old.  I also think that she may be officially entering the teething stage, as chewing on the Nylabone is her #1 favorite thing in the world right now.   She continues to show bite inhibition when she plays, though, and she is still happy to redirect her play-biting to a toy when one is given to her, so I’m very happy about all of that. 

Teething time!

I will also say that, despite all of the above-mentioned doom and gloom that is currently hanging over my head, it is impossible not to smile, laugh, or feel at least a small amount of happiness when I’m playing with Margot.  She is so much fun and such a joy to have around.  I wish with all my heart that she and Sam were getting along better, and I hate, hate, HATE that Sam may occasionally have to stay somewhere else for the sake of giving her a “happily ever after,” but I am still so thankful that Justin and I decided to bring Margot into our lives because, otherwise, I feel like we would just be holding our breath and counting down the days until we have to say good-bye to Samul, too.   Margot gives me a reason to look forward to what lies ahead instead of just dreading what might happen next.  She also continuously surprises me with her ability to lift my spirits, no matter how overwhelmed by sadness I am or how hopeless I may feel, even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time.