Lola is Eleven

A while back Bhagpuss mentioned that he and Mrs Bhagpuss are thinking about getting a dog. I think they should! I think everyone needs a dog. I love dogs.

In particular I love our dog, Lola. I used to blog about her but at some point I stopped, but then I stop most things. Going back and reading about all our plans for rules and structure just makes me chuckle because so few of those persisted.

I am not, generally, a happy person. I spend a lot of my time irritated at something. I have a nasty temper. In a lot of ways Lola saved me. @partpurple quickly dubbed her The Morale Officer of the household. Whenever I’m frustrated or angry, Lola is there to cheer me up. When I do get angry she reacts strongly and gets quite withdrawn. This has helped me to finally get control of my temper; seeing so clearly how it makes people (and dogs) around me feel helped me to come to grips with it. These days it is very rare that I lose my temper and when I do it is quite mild compared to the old me. I owe that to Lola and it has spared me SO much heartache.

Us: Lola, why is your face so dirty?
Lola: Baroo?

Lola makes us laugh or smile dozens of times every day. I love her in a way I’ve never loved anyone or anything. I don’t have kids but I guess what I feel is like 2 steps removed from what a parent feels for their child. She is our puppy-daughter. I’d do anything to keep her safe.

Before we adopted her we were big fans of the show The Dog Whisperer and we learned all about boundaries and how a dog is not a person and you shouldn’t treat them like a person. How you always have to demonstrate that you are pack leader.

Yeah, we do none of that. Maybe we’re just lucky but it doesn’t seem necessary. Lola very, very rarely needs to be corrected for doing anything wrong. If you tell her she is a “bad dog” her mood will change for hours. She’s only been told that 3 or 4 times in her life. It is the worst punishment she ever gets. Honestly I can’t remember the last time she had to be punished for any reason. Usually she punishes herself. Every once in a great while she’ll have an accident, always related to being sick. When this happens she gets so sad and miserable about it that we don’t even consider the need to correct her. She is harder on herself than we would ever be. Plus they are indeed accidents. She has never made a mess unless she was sick. And y’know, when you’re sick sometimes you just can’t hold it.

@partpurple and I both work from home. She has always done so and I’ve been doing it for 8 years. Lola is almost never alone. I think that might factor into how tight of a bond we have with her. She is always near one of us and she is happiest when we are in the same room so she doesn’t have to choose between us. The downside to this is we don’t travel because we don’t like to board her. We tried taking her with us on a trip once but she was in a panic the whole time. Lola is a homebody.

In her prime she was the life of every party and she still charms almost everyone she meets. But 11 (she turned 11 in June) is getting on in years. She has arthritis in her hips and can’t really play with other dogs like she used to (she was fearless when she was younger, happily wrestling with dogs twice her size). She is on so many meds but fortunately she is a champion about taking her pills.

Been a long day of keeping the squirrels in line. Time for rest

She sleeps a lot these days. She is no longer so quick to jump up on the couch or bed to cuddle, preferring to stay on the floor because getting up and down hurts. The stairs are becoming a challenge for her. She and I are getting old together, sitting around thinking about our glory years. She’ll probably go before me and I’m not sure what I’ll do at that point.

Sometimes I think about what life will be like when she is gone. I mean at her age, she could be gone next week or she could hang on for another 4 or 5 years. We relish every day we get to spend with her and we never take her for granted.

I don’t know if we’ll get another dog when she is gone. Walking is getting hard for me (not in a significant way, but extrapolating to 10-15 years in the future I can imagine not being able to walk a dog), money is getting tight, financial security is dicey. And I wonder if it would even be fair for whatever dog we adopted. How could it live up to the standard Lola has set? I don’t think it is possible.

On the other hand, the apartment will seem so very empty when she is gone. Not too long ago she had a tooth pulled and a cyst surgically removed from her eyelid, so she was at the vet all day. And just having her gone for a day, the house felt empty. When she is gone for good we’re going to be very sad for a long, long time.

<3 My Dog

She loves the simple things, like a field of grass to lie in

Puppy, Week 1 (puppy post)

So Lola has been with us for 10 days now.

This past week was one of radical adjustments. Honestly by Tuesday I was really having second thoughts about the decision to get a puppy. She requires a LOT of attention/supervision.

But by, say, Thursday we’d all started to adjust and she began to ‘pay us back’ via tail wags and couch company and puppy-breath kisses.

She’s smart as heck and seems to train almost naturally. Her bathroom stuff is becoming routine…she’s learning where on the property she can go (our complex has a designated pet area) and she’s good about letting us know when she needs to go out. We walk her often (5-6 times a day) so that she can avoid accidents and be a winner.

Her being a winner is important to me. I try to challenge her, but not go too far, so we always end an activity on a positive note.

Still there are adjustments. She wakes up early so no sleeping-in on the weekends. And us being out and about means we have to be vigilant for ticks. We’ve found 2 on her and 1 on me. Today is her first vet visit and she gets her anti-tick/flea/heartworm/hookworm/etc/etc medicine refreshed which will help her but I still need to remember to do a ‘tick check’ whenever we come in from a walk.

Even with adjustments every day feels packed. Adding a couple of dog walks to doing two jobs, and factoring in that many ‘around the house’ things take longer due to puppy interest and it’s just go-go-go most days. I know this will get easier eventually but there are definitely times my nerves start to frazzle!

Gaming has traditionally been a big part of my life, but there just doesn’t seem to be time to do any ‘regular’ gaming now. I’ve canceled my MMO subscriptions and mostly I’ve been doing what gaming I find time for on the consoles (with her snoozing against me on the couch).

As busy as things feel, they feel more balanced, too. I spend a lot less time at this keyboard and a LOT more time outdoors getting exercise. Yesterday we talk a walk down to the nearby reservoir to see what reaction she’d have to water. I thought she might have some retriever in her and that she’d charge right in, but she didn’t. Instead she kind of sniffed the water and when a wave hit her, she’d had enough. Granted it was pretty chilly, too, so that one test might not mean too much.

Our next big challenge is overcoming separation anxiety. Since Angela is home all day the dog just has no clue what it means to be alone and she starts to whine and howl. This is a real challenge since we can’t just let her do it (neighbors would have a fit) and it’s hard to correct her when we aren’t there! So that’s a work in progress.

Overall though, she’s settling in really nicely and has become an important part of the family.

The Puppy Chronicles, Day 2 (puppy post)

Never fear, this’ll probably be my last ‘daily’ puppy post. Tomorrow I’m back at work and we need to settle into a routine. I’m still working on that balance thing… I haven’t found time to touch a game all weekend. The horror!

Anyway, last night was a good night. Lola got into her crate without too much fuss, whined once at lights-out but then slept through until morning. I got up before she did, in fact (at about 6:45).

Her big challenge today was the guinea pigs. Today was cage-cleaning day. When we do cages the girls, Mimi and Mona, get to romp around in their ‘playpen’ — an open topped temporary cage that we put on the floor. It gets them out of the way and they love their floor time as they chase each other back and forth.

Today Lola was in the room. We’d taken her for a good long walk ahead of time so she was tuckered out and she was just lounging on her bed chewing on one of those vile bully sticks. Angela sat next to her holding her leash just in case (we keep a short leash on her most of the time so she’s used to it). She gave the girls a stare once or twice but a quick correction broke her focus. After a few minutes she totally ignored the girls, and they her. So it was a big Win for everyone.

We’re getting the bathroom stuff down pretty well. I went out to do some shopping and while I was gone Angela was in the bedroom with Lola with a baby gate up so she couldn’t go wreak havoc in case Angela fell asleep (we’re both semi-sleep deprived). Lola started fussing at her. Angela would correct her and she’d stop for a few minutes then come get Angela’s attention again. Finally Angela got the message and took her outside where it was clear she needed to do her business. So that was good news; Lola knew that she had to go out and let Angela know about it.

Food is a problem still. She’s eating but not as much as I’d like. We feed her three times a day and when we first put the food down she’ll gulp a few mouthfuls and then either distract herself with a toy, or flop down and go to sleep. She’s slept a LOT today; I think her big few days are catching up to her. I know they’re catching up to us!

Tomorrow I’m back to work and Angela starts the hard job of teaching Lola to be alone without fussing. I’m not sure how she’s going to do it… how do you correct a dog that wants you back in the apartment without giving her what she wants?

Things are good though..anxiety is dropping for everyone, Lola is a total sweetheart who’s part of our ‘pack’ and the guinea pigs are no longer freaked out with her being around. I think we’re on the right track, at least!

The Puppy Chronicles, Day 1 (puppy post)

So here we are in the evening of our first full day of puppy ownership. I have the tiniest inkling of what parents must go through when they bring home their first newborn, I think. At least in terms of sleep deprivation! LOL

Bedtime last night wasn’t really awful. We put Lola’s crate in our bedroom so she could see us, and enticed her into her crate by putting her toys in there and sitting around it with her for a while. She was SO TIRED she was swaying from side to side and finally we closed the door and got into bed. She whined and let out one howl but Angela corrected her and that was that.

Unfortunately I have problems sleeping under the best of conditions and even though Lola didn’t make another sound I laid awake, tense and waiting for her to start to howl or something. I need to let go of some of my worrying and anxiety.

We’d set the alarm for 7 but at 6 Lola did give a kind of shout. We figured she really needed to go to the bathroom (she hadn’t since she’d left PA at this point) so Angela got up and took her out. Of course we brought the dog home right in the middle of a cold snap. I tried to get back to sleep but couldn’t.

Eventually they came back and I got up and let Angela sleep some more.

Aside from the sleep deprivation things are going fairly well. This afternoon she finally started going to the bathroom (I’d been getting worried). We read that we shouldn’t give her the run of the house when we first brought her home. Problem is, our apartment is a big open living room/dining room area which is where the front door is, then the 2 bedrooms. We wanted her crate in our bedroom (living in an apartment means we can’t just put her in a crate and let her cry herself to sleep the first few nights…the neighbors would [rightfully] complain) so we couldn’t block her out of there, and we spend so much time in the office (bedroom #2) that blocking her from there would mean we’d never see her. So we’ve opted to only let her in certain rooms when we’re with her.

I’m not sure there’s not a dark side to that, though. So now she doesn’t have run of the house, which is good, but she’s also NEVER alone, which is bad. As soon as she finds herself alone even for a few minutes, she starts to whine. So we need to put a stop to that sooner rather than later, but I might dump it on poor Angela since she can train her to be alone (with all the whining and howling that goes with it) during the work week when there are fewer neighbors around.

I went to Petsmart and spent *another* $200 on dog stuff. Sheesh.

I did get a couple of beds. A small one that’s now sitting between our computers in the office where Lola likes to flop when we’re in here, and another big one that I put in the living room next to the TV. Tonight we had a normal dinner and we put her on this big bed and there she stayed while we ate. It doesn’t seem to occur to her to beg for food and we’re going to see that it never does [*knock on wood*]. OK what I mean is that we have a pact never to feed her from our plates.

Anyway that felt like a win. We ate at a regular pace (last night’s dinner and today’s lunch were both bolted down while we had her alone somewhere in the house) and she conked out and slept peacefully.

Here’s a new flash.. dogs are messy. I’m a bit OCD about being clean but Lola is breaking me of that pretty quickly. That’s probably not a bad thing. She’s allowed on the couch when invited, and this is her watching TV. Sort of.

I’ve spend more time outside today that I have in the last 6 months, I bet. And I’ve talked to more of my neighbors than I have in the 5 years I’ve been living here.

We got her added to the lease so now she’s “legit” and not an illegal tenant. 🙂

She’s still pretty exhausted and isn’t eating with the enthusiasm I’d expect. She eats, and drinks plenty, but she doesn’t empty her food bowl when we feed her. So we’re watching that and training her to eat when she gets fed rather than ‘grazing’ all day (easier to predict when she needs to go out to go to the bathroom that way).

So far she’s been extremely good natured and affectionate. She’s a lot of work but worth it, and hopefully if we do our job right we’ll get her (and us) into routines that’ll make things easier.

Next steps will be about finding balance. I have jobs to do and I’m falling way behind on tech news and stuff. I can’t spend all day every day playing with this sweet puppy!

Lola comes home (puppy post)

Well like any proud new pet owner I’m going to bore you with puppy posts. I’ll be sure to put (puppy post) in the titles so you can easily skip them if you aren’t interested.

So Lola came home with us tonight. Aside from some concerns with my aging car (I was scared to death we were going to break down 4 hours from home with a puppy in a crate in the back of the truck) it was a good trip.

She came from the Hope For Hannah rescue in Bartonsville, PA. (Who is Hannah? See the video at the bottom of this post.) We really didn’t know what we were getting into, but Suzi who runs the place is wonderful. She brings dogs up from the shelter of a friend of hers in West Virginia, and a ‘batch’ of dogs had arrived last night. When we got there today there were 6 or 7 dogs, and 1 very fat cat, and 5-6 people in the house that consists of the rescue’s office. Chaos, right? Nope, not at all. The energy level of all these dogs was awesome.

In fact as we drove up Lola was just arriving so we got to see her being ‘introduced to the pack’ and it was like watching The Dog Whisperer. The other dogs smelled her butt and licked her face and approved of her and that was that. Tiny Lola and big old Hannah were having a grand old time playing but it was all very nice play. No one was getting over-excited. No accidents for the 90 minutes or so we were there.

Part of the adoption agreement says that if for some reason you can’t keep the dog you adopt, you have to return the animal to Hope For Hannah rather than just passing it off to a friend or dumping it at a local shelter. I was really happy to see that Suzi was that concerned for her dogs.

She went over everything we needed to know, what shots Lola needs when and all that. It was a great experience. She asks for a $100 ‘spayed deposit’ check that she’ll destroy or return once we send her confirmation that Lola has been spayed (she’s too little yet). And she made a point of giving me the paperwork so I can write-off the adoption fee, which is technically a donation because Hope for Hannah is a certified non-profit organization. She made sure we had her cell phone number and insisted we call anytime up to midnight if we had any questions or concerns.

I can’t say enough good about Suzi and this rescue… First rate.

So, once the paperwork was done and questions all answered, Angela, Lola and I walked out and we got her settled in the crate in the back of the truck. She was an angel for the 5-6 hour trip home. We stopped a few times so she could stretch her legs and in case she had to pee, and she was alert and curious but not frantic. Most of the trip home she slept (she’s had a big day) and a few times she howled a single ‘correction’ put an end to it.

So now she’s home and settling in. She’s adorable, sweet and clearly very smart. She already sits at the door before we go out…she knows the human leaves first. Suzi’s friend must be a Dog Whisperer fan and started teaching her already.

She’s curious, but not fixated on, the guinea pigs. Mostly she’s just surprised when she hears noise coming from their cages (she’s too little to see into them). So far she’s been playing with a few toys we got her and seems reasonably settled.

Of course, we’ll see what happens when bed time comes around and she’s the only dog. We’ve put her crate in our bedroom so at least she’ll have us for company.

It’s going to be a huge adjustment for us but I think we both fell in love the minute we laid eyes on her.

Pics soon!

Here’s Hannah, along with some sappy music. We met Hannah; she ROCKS and she doesn’t need anyone’s pity anymore…she’s a sweet, happy girl now.