Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Training, Worrying, and Possibly Adopting

I’ve definitely let too much time go by since I last posted an update because I feel like I have a TON to talk about in this post!  First of all, Margot turned 8 months-old on February 13th and is still dabbling in some “Doberteens” behavior.  For the most part, she hasn’t been too bad.  There have been a few bathroom accidents here and there, but nothing major.  The worst thing she does is chew on non-toy items whenever she’s alone in the house or we’re in bed.  We haven’t suffered any major losses since Justin and I replaced our dress shoes, though, so knock on wood that was the worst of it.

I have recently decided to put my endless hours of watching The Dog Whisperer to the test by trying some new obedience training with Margot.  We haven’t done any new training exercises since she learned “lie down,” so I wasn’t sure how well she’d do, but I have been quite pleased!  We’ve been working on playing fetch because Margot has never really played fetch correctly.  She used to bring you the ball, but instead of releasing it on command so you could throw it again, she would just sort of touch you with the ball or rub it on your hand or your lap, as if enticing you to take it from her.  Once you would try to take the ball out of her mouth, though, she would either run away or initiate a little game of tug.  This was very frustrating, not only for the fact that the game can’t continue if you aren’t “allowed” to have the ball back, but also because Margot would repeat her little enticement routine until you basically had to pry the ball from her teeth. 

So, the other night when Margot brought me the ball, after I was able to take it from her, I simply sat it on my lap instead of throwing it.  As soon as she moved forward to take the ball from my lap, I did what I’ve seen Cesar Millan do a million times on his show, and I gave Margot a quick tap on the chest while making the sound, “Anh!”  (Cesar usually makes more of a “tsssht!” sound, but I have been making the “anh” sound since she was a little puppy, so I stuck with that since she already knows that it means “no.”)  As soon as I did this, Margot backed up one step and looked at me.  Success!  Then, when she tried to take it again, I answered her with another quick touch and, “Anh!”  Again, she backed up a step, but this time continued to stare at the ball.  I remembered from watching Cesar’s show that you have to be patient and wait for the dog to reach a completely calm-submissive state before you allow him/her to have the object that they desire.  This communicates to your dog, without words, what type of behavior you expect. 

In this case, even though Margot had backed up a couple of steps, the fact that she was still staring at the ball on my lap told me that she was still in that, “LET ME HAVE IT!” state of mind.  So, I simply sat there and waited.  If she moved forward towards the ball, she received the same reaction from me as before.  Finally, after a couple of minutes, Margot sat, which was a positive sign.  I wondered if I should reward her by throwing the ball at that point, but I knew she wasn’t in her FULL calm-submissive state yet.  So, I continued to wait and, to my surprise and delight, Margot eventually laid down on the floor, stopped staring at the ball, and looked directly into my eyes!   I held that eye contact with her for a moment before I finally said, “Good girl!” and tossed the ball.  After just another one or two repeats of this exercise, Margot not only seemed to understand what is expected of her when she retrieves the ball, but now she even seems to enjoy performing this exercise with me and Justin. 

In other news, last weekend I made a vet appointment for Sam.  She has a history of developing benign lumps (fatty deposits) all over her body.  They aren’t cancerous or anything, but they will continue to grow if you ignore them.  I actually had five such fatty deposits removed from Sam’s body in a single surgery a couple of years ago, but I swear she was never the same after that.  To be fair, I can’t say for certain that it was due to the surgery, but all I can tell you is that she definitely had a more difficult time getting around after that.  For that reason, and especially after losing Lexie and Jocie within a month of each other last summer, I decided I probably wouldn’t put Sam through any more of those types of surgeries, unless her life was in danger or if she was in pain.

Lately, though, a large lump that has been on Sam’s right ribcage for quite a while has gotten so large that I feel like I can’t keep ignoring it.  She does not seem to be in any pain and has been acting completely normal, but the lump is about the size of a baseball now and is very noticeable.  Not only that, but a new growth has developed on the outside of her skin near her collar, which is different from all the other growths she’s had in the past.   Therefore, I feel that a vet appointment is now in order.  It just upsets me because it feels like this will be Sam’s “moment of truth.”  We’ll either find out that the lumps are cancerous, or we’ll find out they are benign, but then have to decide whether or not she should have them surgically removed.  I originally made the appointment for last Monday because Justin doesn’t work on Mondays, but it just so happened that he had to go into work for scheduling on that particular day.  So, I cancelled the appointment and told the vet’s office that I would reschedule Sam’s appointment after Justin’s new work schedule goes into effect, because ideally I’d like for us to be able to take her together.

And finally, I’ve got some pretty big news.   Justin and I went to the pound this past Saturday, and we may be adopting a pretty Golden Retriever mix today.  Maybe! 

Now, whenever Justin or I have mentioned to our friends that we will eventually be adopting a third dog, which has always been our plan, we’ve received a variety of reactions, most of which aren’t exactly 100% positive.  There seems to be some concern that Justin and I may not realize what we’re getting ourselves into financially, or we don’t understand how much of a handful three dogs can be.  While I understand and appreciate my friends’ concerns, it kind of surprises me considering the fact that I have owned three dogs for the last nine years, and all of my current friends met me while Jocie, Sam, and Lexie were all living with me.  So, obviously, I fully understand how much owning three dogs can cost and what living with three dogs is like.  However, I just try to keep in mind that my friends are only trying to look out for me.  After all, they recently had to witness the heartache that Justin and I experienced over losing Lexie and Jocie, so maybe they just don’t want to have to see us go through that again.  Or, perhaps they’re worried that Justin and I will keep adding dogs to our family as a way of filling some kind of void or “replacing” Lexie and Jocie, which is actually an understandable concern considering the fact that Margot is a Doberman and this dog that we’re interested in at the pound reminds me a lot of Jocie. 

However, just to be perfectly clear, Justin and I do not want to adopt another dog just for the sake of owning three dogs again or to fill any voids.  We actually have several valid reasons, but, with that said, the #1 most important thing that I will be considering is whether or not this new dog will get along with Sam and Margot (especially Sam).  If we introduce this pound puppy to the girls this evening and there is any friction whatsoever, it will be a bummer, but I will not adopt her. 

The main reason we want to adopt another dog is because we want Margot to have a playmate.  Sam and Margot still play together, but it’s mostly just Sam lying on the couch and Margot trying to wrestle with her.  We think Margot and Sam would both be a lot happier if Margot had a sister who shared the same energy level as her.  In fact, I’m actually hoping that by giving Margot a more energetic playmate, it will help take some of that burden off of Sam.  I hate to use the word “burden,” but Sam’s old, and I know that she would probably rather not have to constantly entertain Margot.  I would love for Sam to be able to just chill out and watch the other two dogs play, and of course join in if she feels like it.

The last big reason why I want another dog is sad, but it’s because I know that Sam probably won’t be around for much longer than a few more years (if we’re lucky), and I worry about how Margot will handle that.  Sam has been the only other dog that Margot has lived with, and she obviously looks up to Sam as a leader.  I’m hoping that if Margot has a new sister, especially if she can take on more of a leadership role with the new dog, then maybe it won’t be so hard on Margot when Sam passes away.   

Okay now, enough of that Debbie Downer stuff.  Let me tell you more about this potential new family member!  The name they gave her at the shelter is Lindsey, but Justin and I both agreed that we’d change that if we adopt her.  She is a Golden Retriever mix who looks to be around 2 to 4 years-old, and as cheesy as this sounds, as soon as I saw her, I just knew she could be The One.  I could see it on Justin’s face, too, especially when the dog started licking his fingers through her cage.  Still trying to stay objective, I said, “Well, that doesn’t really prove anything because you did just eat hot wings for lunch.”  Then, Justin bent down closer to the dog’s face and said, “Do you give kisses?” and she immediately licked his nose, which is Justin’s favorite thing in the world.  At that point, I knew she had won him over. So, I walked up to her kennel just to see how she’d react to me, and she immediately jumped up onto the cage to greet me with her tail wagging like crazy.  She is obviously used to being around people and seems like she’ll be a very loving lap dog, but I was still trying not to fall head over heels just yet.  I suggested that we continue to look at all of the other dogs at the shelter, but as soon as we started to walk away, I heard the dog start to whimper, and that’s pretty much when I knew that she had to at least meet Sam and Margot.   

I asked the woman at the front desk if the dog had been chosen for adoption by anyone else yet.  She said no and that the dog had only recently been brought into the shelter as a stray.  The woman also added, “She’s such a sweet girl.”   So, we told the lady that we would probably be back on Tuesday (they were closed Monday) with our other two dogs so that we can see how they’ll all get along.  However, I really won’t be surprised if someone else adopts that pretty pup before we get there this evening.   I’ll be a little sad if that happens, but at the same time, at least I’ll know that she didn’t have to stay in the shelter for very long.

See, believe it or not, I’m not dead set on adopting a third dog right this minute.  Our original plan was to wait until spring when the weather is nicer so that Margot and the new pup can be more active together outdoors, and I still like that idea.  So, if this adoption doesn’t happen today, I’ll be a little bummed, but I won’t be completely heartbroken.   It’s going to happen eventually, and I’m happy to wait for the right pup to come to us at the right time.

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