Sunday, September 25, 2011

Must Not Chew the Rug

By Fred
Cheryl gets back from her school trip today, and we all will be pleased. The house can take on a certain melancholy when she's away despite my attempts to make everything lighthearted and fun for Jam and Willow.

We see a daily improvement in Jam's self control. There's one rug in the living room, in particular, that tempts him to the limit. Every dog, no matter how well behaved, that comes into the house has a problem resisting this woven rug and its silky tassels. So I couldn't blame Jam if the temptation is too much for him.

But Jam is finally getting the idea. Here we are, having one of our typical fun moments at home.
Narration: Jam is resting comfortably on the rug, but when he thinks no one is watching, he opens his mouth and considers taking a big bite. His inner struggle is apparent, and we feel the tension. But then a calmness overcomes him and he rests his head on the floor. Good boy.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Vitamin K

By Fred
Jam continues to do well following our scare with the rat poison. We distributed some flyers in the neighborhood so that everyone could inspect their yards and so that the offending poisoner could correct the problem. It wasn't an intentional poisoning--it's pretty clear that someone didn't understand how to secure the plastic packets, and the rats ran off with some of them and into our yard.

The flyer said this:
To our neighbors:
Our dog found some rat poison in our yard Saturday. He is fine, but it was a real scare for us. The poison is called First Strike Soft Bait, and it comes in small clear plastic packets, about the size of a coffee creamer packet. [showed a picture here]
If you are using this or any poison, please read the instructions carefully. The poison should be secured in such a way that a rat or mouse cannot grab the packets and carry them away to another place. This endangers all the wild animals, pets and small children in the neighborhood.
We found several of the packets in our yard. And we’ve heard reports that some squirrels were recently found dead nearby. Please check your yard carefully.
And I put it on all the doors in the neighborhood. No one has come forward, and I am not holding my breath. I did notice a flurry of activity in the neighborhood, with piles of brush carried to the street for pickup.

A picture of Jam being cuteDuring the course of this, we have learned much about rat poison and how it works (at least this particular kind) and what to do about it. The poison has a delayed reaction, working on the blood's ability to clot and depleting the animal's normal level of Vitamin K. So, the treatment (after, of course, getting the dog to throw up right away) is to introduce Vitamin K back into the system. We're pretty sure that very little, if any, of the poison got into his system, but the Vitamin K is important just in case.

Cheryl took the Vitamin K prescription to CVS and was told it would cost $400. That's right, $400 for 5 days of pills.

We learned that it would be cheaper if we got it from an animal emergency clinic, so we took Jam and the prescription to the very nice people at Animal Emergency and Urgent Care. The vet there suggested a chewable pill that was 50 mg (instead of the prescribed 40 mg). Would you guess that the prescription would then cost $500? No. The final bill for the Vitamin K: $12.25. That's right, twelve dollars and change.

Anyway, Jam is happy and doing fine. Maybe someone else can fix the health care system and pharmaceutical industry.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Diary of a Near Disaster

It was mid-morning and I was talking on the phone in our peaceful and serene backyard as Willow and Jam ran around and did their business. Jam and Willow were more interested in playing under the orange tree and then running back to the koi pond.  I followed them to the other side of the yard.

Jam ran over the bridge with Willow and Willow dodged right and headed around the ponds and back to the deck.  Jam, didn't.  He was distracted by the giant white bird of paradise bushes by the back fence. So distracted that he shoved his head and shoulders into the bush and remained there for several seconds.

"Uh, Jam's back at the bushes and he's doing something.  I'm going to check on him."  I ran over and grabbed him by the collar and yanked him out of the bushes.

"What are you doing?" I asked him. (I often talk to my pets and they hardly ever answer me except Jam.  He will tilt his head and give me a quizzical expression.) His mouth looked weird.  I yanked open his jaw and it was BRIGHT AVATAR BLUE!

I hung up on Stephanie and reached into Jam's mouth and did the mouth sweep, where you take your fingers and sweep them from the back of the mouth to the front trying to get all the gunk out of the mouth.  Then I did a side/jowl sweep in case any blue gunk was secreted there.  Then,

I ran screaming for Fred.

"FRED! FRED! Jam's eaten poison or something I think it is poison. It's blue.  RUN!"  This to the man mowing the lawn who has no idea what is going on.  He RUNS into the backyard.  By this time I have the hose and am squirting it in Jam's mouth to get residual blue gunk off his teeth. Jam is not pleased.

"Poison! On the bridge, from his mouth, it was in the bird of paradise.  I don't know what it was.  See if there is more there."

Two maybe three minutes have passed. I do the first step of the proscribed things you are supposed to do in an emergency:

1. Call Your Area Coordinator

Judy doesn't answer! While I am leaving a message, Judy calls me.  I tell her what is going on (hysterically of course).  She very calmly asks me if we know what it is that he ate.


"I found more! It looks like it was in a nest."

Here is one of the ones Fred found.

This is one of the ones we took out of Jam's mouth.

Meanwhile, Fred brings one to me to tell Judy, and I half coherently tell her that it looks like some kind of animal poison/bait that was left out.  Judy says she wants to check something and will call us right back.  Thirty seconds later, she calls back and we have our marching plans:

Give Jam 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide (to make him throw up).  This should work within 10 minutes, it actually only took 8 minutes for the baby to puke.  Once he pukes, then we can make a further determination on what to do.

This is another one Fred found that we could read the name of the poison that was used.  Meanwhile, I have more control over myself and am not crying and can talk sensibly and explain that the poison looks old and weathered and that it seems that what has happened is that an idiot neighbor didn't follow instructions and left poison packets out and the squirrels came and gathered them up and took them away into their nests to eat at a later date.  Since we subsequently found out (when Fred went door to door to talk with all our neighbors about this and to leave pamphlets) that some of them have been finding dead squirrels in their yard.

Judy and I had a memorable photo texting experience as Jam did barf at the 8 minute mark and it was the world's most anticipated barf you have ever wanted to see.  I actually looked through the barf for chunks of poison and then sent vomit photos via text messaging to Judy.  Wanna see?  Sure you do!

 That is his breakfast and all the black circles are indicating small spots of blue that were the bits of poison that he had ingested.

Judy also wanted us to watch for tremors, discharge from the eyes and nose and any changes to his demeanor.  If you look up this poison, which is a rat poison, it is not supposed to be left out in packets.  It is supposed to be secured.  So whomever is using it, is doing so irresponsibly.  This particular poison in dogs attacks their ability for the blood to coagulate and causes internal bleeding.  So another good test is to look at their gums and see if they are pink.  If they are grey, that's bad.  If they are pink, and when you press on them they are slow to return to pink, that's bad.  If they return to pink quickly, all is well.  A look at the inside of eyelid is good too: grey = bad, red = good.

One of the reasons this particular poison is so bad is that the animals are adept at hiding it.  This is where Fred and Jam found it:

Fred is now scouring our backyard for any remnants of this poison.  It is difficult as you can see by the above photo, because animals build nests in weird places.  We have koi ponds so we are completely organic and don't use any chemicals at all on our lawn (mostly xeriscaped) and in the house we use a natural pest control company (Nature's Safeway) due to Fred's aversion to killing anything (me, I am happy to stomp a spider or a bug!).  So finding poison in our yard seems "Inconceivable!" as Vizzini would say.

But there are ways to make sure that this doesn't happen to you.

  1. Of course, never let your puppy out without supervision.  Jam was being supervised and that is what saved him.  If I hadn't known that he had eaten something, he would have ingested it, digested it and things would have been traumatic and ended badly.
  2. Call your AC first.  When she didn't answer, my second thought was to call another AC whom I knew, instead of the emergency number, but that would have been the wrong move.  Our AC is responsible for our group's dogs.  Then it goes up the chain to the emergency number. 
  3. Put your AC and the emergency number on your cell phone so you don't have to search for it.  If I hadn't had Judy's number in my cell, I would have lost my mind!  So go do that right now, before you finish reading this blog.  Hopefully, you will never have to thank me for it.
Judy was amazing.  She was calm, cool and collected and had all the answers we needed to get us through the crisis.  

Make sure you have your doggie medicine kit filled and ready to go.  It's all in the manual, but I repeat it here. I recommend carrying one in the car as well.
  1. “Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook,” Carlson DVM & Giffin MD
  2. Cotton balls: cleaning ears
  3. Tweezers: splinters, sand spurs, & tick removal
  4. Gauze (sterile): eye cleaning, teeth cleaning, and stopping bleeding
  5. Thermometer: rectal (normal temp. of dogs 100.5-102.5)
  6. Hydrogen peroxide 3%: minor cuts (can induce vomiting - 1 T)
  7. Pepto Bismol: vomiting, diarrhea
  8. Kaopectate: (liquid for young pups, tablets for older pups) diarrhea
  9. Hibiclens: general skin cleansing for raw & sore spots, hot spots
  10. Betadine: scratches, hot spots, small cuts, sores
  11. Benadryl: bee stings, ant bites, see Health and Vet Care for dosages
  12. Ammens foot powder: antibiotic powder, hot spots
  13. Buffered aspirin: relief of pain, 5 grams/25 lbs. 2 x daily (NOT enteric coated)
  14. Mal Acetic Otic (DermaPet) solution to clean ears
  15. Nail clippers: to keep nails clipped
  16. Sterile ophthalmic saline: to flush out eyes
And go hug your dog.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Healing Puppy Time

You wouldn't think that a slug like the one pictured above, asleep on his back the perfect photo of a dog gone wild and degenerate and sleeping off a bender would be the one dog to help with all the sadness, hurt, rotten test scores and general stress that can occur on a school campus. But he does. He takes it all on his strong back and then, I guess, rolls over on it and goes to sleep.

For instance, on Wednesday, I walked him out for his morning poo, which had been delayed and I was sure was imminent. To the side of our usual potty grounds, there was a Verizon truck with the Verizon man standing and watching what was going on around campus. He watched as I took Jam's coat off and asked him to "Busy, Busy."

"What a beautiful dog," he said. I replied that, yes, Jam was awesome and he was a guide dog in training, to which the man said, he knew, which was why he didn't come over to pet him. I told him I was waiting for him to potty, trying to be delicate knowing that something indelicate was about to happen.

"I had to put my yellow lab to sleep a couple of weeks ago. She was a great girl." He said. "She looked kinda like him."

"Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that." Jam is now doing the poo circle dance and I'm trying to look nonchalant as I listen to him tell his story.

"She was the best. She ended up getting cancer and we just couldn't let her go through that." He steps over the bushes as Jam finishes up and I get out my poo bag.

"My boys loved her," He inched a little closer as I tied off the bag and dropped it on the ground. Jam was already staring at him and waiting. I turned to him.

"You know after she died, I was cleaning out my truck and I found this thumb drive," He kneeled down and I had Jam sit to be pet, but he was way ahead of me and laid down and rolled over for a belly scratch. "So I opened it up. You know, we have all these azaleas in the back yard and one year they had bloomed and were really pretty. I guess I had taken some photos. There were 12 photos on the drive and 10 of them were of her in front of those azaleas."

He reached up under his sunglasses and started to wipe away tears, but his other hand kept petting Jam.

"Well, isn't that her last gift to you?" I said.

"You know, we just got her for the boys." He said as he stood up and thanked me.

Sure you did, I thought.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Home School

By Fred
Far away from the glamour and excitement that is Berkeley Prep School, our Jam is suffering through a stint of extended home schooling, all due to Cheryl's unfortunate ankle-twisting that has left her on crutches and unable to manage a leash. Jam's normal schedule (one day fun, the next day with me) will be interrupted for a while, such that I'm feeling pressured to become a more fun person.

Of course, no one can be more fun than my wife (except when she is peeved at me).

Yesterday, Jam and I had nice walk and visit to the neighborhood grocery store, a small place where everyone knows Jam, and I passed a very confused-looking grandmotherly person who seemed not to know her onions from her potatoes. A few minutes later I saw her again, this time at the manager's desk.

"And there he is," said the store manager (who is one of Jam's biggest fans) with a big grin, pointing at Jam with great surprise.

The woman seemed vindicated. "I knew I saw a dog."

As the store manager began to patiently explain the situation, Jam and I slipped away. Far away.

Back at home we decided to have some training that Judy introduced during a recent meeting. I've been working with Jam since then, and it's been a real help, especially in the grocery store.

Narration: In this movie I place an almond on the kitchen floor and step away, hoping that Jam won't gobble it up. Feeling confident, I decide to move out of his sight. Then I get nervous and run around to the other opening. But there he is, and there is the almond. He wags his tail, so I don't think the training is stressing him out. Willow is there, too, and at least in this case she seems to have a calming influence on him.
I know, I say the "Stay" command twice. Don't be so critical

Thursday, September 8, 2011

News of Her Royal Highness

It seems like only yesterday that Her Royal Highness(HRH) was with us as a little puppy. She was so sweet and small and commanding. Her shy aspect in her 6 week photo didn't let on to a dictatorial and autocratic personality soon to blossom.

Well, we have received her harness photo. She is gorgeous as you can see below.

Clearly, comparisons with the young Elizabeth I, a strong queen, could be made. her report card said she was making friends and playing well with others. This is quite a good thing as Bingo did not and was kicked out for being possessive of his personal space. HRH is learning to get along. Good girl.

She is having a bit of a problem with high traffic areas, showing a little hesitation, but the report card said she is working on it and shows promise. What I do know about HRH is that given time and encouragement, she always overcomes. Not the first out of the gate, but a solid finisher.
Now, we have had more news of HRH. We were told that she has been career changed. She showed stranger fear and was not considered guide dog material, but she is still in the running for a public service job, which is good, because HRH wants to work! This little girl needs someone to command! We have been told that she is being evaluated for her canine good companion certificate which may take several months to complete and during that time they will decide which public service job she holds the most aptitude for: bomb sniffing, veteran's assistance, search and rescue, and my personal favorite canine connections. From the first time I heard about the canine connections program, which just started and is for children ages 10-17, I knew it was for HRH. In this program dogs are placed as companions with children who are either visually impaired or have a condition that may lead to blindness as a way of getting them familiar with the idea of working with a guide dog. HRH is one dedicated and commanding lady. She would fulfill that role with an amazing amount of confidence. She is a very dedicated personality. Our fingers are crossed. You go girl!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Jam's Half Brother Carbon

Our neighbor Stephanie turned in her puppy raiser application and unexpectedly got a puppy 3 days later. Carbon is Jam's half brother as they share the same dad, Jack. So, about a week ago I took Jam over to say hello.
He was quite interested to meet the little guy. Of course, Carbon had had a rough start. He had had some medical issues and was just now declared ready for puppy raising, so he was a little bit on the shy side.
Jam is not at all on the shy side. As you can see, Carbon didn't want to come too close to the scary Jam. He was very content to stay far away.
He had such a puzzled expression on his face, like he just could not understand Jam's exuberance.
But he did finally make it into Stephanie's lap and then he made it a little closer to Jam, and then he made it over to Jam. Finally, we decamped to the kitchen which seemed neutral territory and they romped for a bit and had fun. I think they will get along just fine.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Your Sunday Morning Moment of Zen

Jam found some catnip or some dog equivalent in the backyard. He had a lovely time. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Jam and the Bear

Once a month Jam goes to see his namesake: Joseph A. Merluzzi and his wife so that they can see how he is maturing and progressing. This month, Jam got to see their bear footstool.

It was quite an exposure for him. I think it was one of the only things so far that has upset him. He jumped back, had the hair on his spine raised, but his tail was still wagging and he was willing to approach the small bear when asked to do so.

Of course, there was a bit of Jamminess that took place. But I should let you watch the video.

Jam: the Great Bear Hunter.

Airport Meeting

Our Tuesday night meeting was held at the Clearwater Airport. We had a combined meeting, which was fun as we got to see some familiar faces from down south.

The purpose was to get an exposure to some very specific travel hazards that visually impaired people and their guide dogs might encounter. The first one that we went to was the baggage claim area.

Normally, you would just think of baggage claim as an annoying place to wait for your luggage. In fact, it is a noisy, potentially scary place for puppies. think about the alarm that sounds before the baggage claim luggage mover starts to move (and what is the name for that?!!). There is even a revolving police light! I have NEVER noticed that light before.

So we all crowded around and waited for the siren and lights and the baggage claim thingy to move. then they placed some baggage on it and let it come around. Jam was curious, but unfazed. Jam is so super cool. Really, nothing fazes him.

Then it was on to security.

Security is a major deal. ANYTHING can happen. You can check back to our previous posts about taking a dog through the airport to see that you can have a great experience on a flight out and a horrible one on the flight back. With THE SAME AIRLINE. It all depends on the attendant and whether they are feeling the love.

So it all really rests on you and how you handle the situation. So, some things you can do:

1. Always remain calm, cool and collected.
2. If there is a way to exploit your dog's cuteness, use it. It never hurts.
3. When making your reservation, make sure to tell the airline that you will be traveling with a service dog. They put a special code next to your reservation. It might also be a good idea to call the local airline a day before and ask if they have it noted on your reservation.
4. Be confident. Approach the ticket counter with a smile and have your dog sit and stay. Never use the word puppy. You have a service dog in training. If possible, try to get them to list your dog carrier as an assistive device and not charge you for it. Some managers have done this for us, some haven't. You may not always get this, but it worth asking for.

Now, I recommend that you don't get the largest dog crate to travel with and that you don't travel with it put together (see previous post). It exceeds the largest luggage allowance and if you get a cranky attendant they are going to stick it to you ($125 fee). Then you have to deconstruct the crate and somehow get it to stay together. Better to travel with it deconstructed or buy the smaller one and never have that problem. TRUST ME!!!

When going through security, there are a myriad of things that can happen. You can have a security guard go off her meds and run screaming from the security area:

"I'm afraid of dogs! I'm afraid of dogs!" As happened to one of our puppy raisers. No problem with the puppy getting excited about that hysterical person. Right!

Or you can have the person selected to give you a pat down be afraid of dogs and ask for backup, as happened to me. Making it a menage a tois of a really weird sort with a distracted, jumping 70-pound puppy leaping up and the security guard trying to pat me down shrieking and veering away from me. Lovely. I thought Fred was going to cry he was laughing so hard.

Trust me. You want security calm and happy.

Approach them and tell them what you would like to do.

1. I would like to go through the machine first.
2. I will have my dog sit and stay on the passenger side and I will walk through.
3. Once I have passed through, I will call my dog.
4. Once he has passed through, you can pat him down.

Explain that leaving the leash and collar on will make sure that there isn't a loose dog running around. Ask if this procedure meets with their approval or if they have another procedure they want to follow.

Sometimes they have special short line they put you in. Yea! I love it when that happens.

If you can get the bulkhead sit, take it. There is lots of room. Make sure though, that you keep your dog in your seat area and don't allow him to spread out to the other passenger's space. Encroachment is rude.

If you don't get the bulkhead, don't despair. We have traveled with two dogs, one tiny and one large. They both fit under the seat, no problem. Do a down under and you're good to go.

It was an amazing meeting. Our thanks to all the employees at Clearwater Airport, Michele Routh, the head of marketing, for arranging it, Clearwater TSA and Alligiant Air for letting us board a plane. They really helped us out! And to Judy and John our ACs for making it happen.

Here's a video of some of what we did at the airport!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Jam's Second Week at School

Jam completed his second week at school. The main problem we have been having is that he has become a bit bitey when people go to pet him when he has his coat off. So I have instituted a firm, withhold affection at the first sign of biting policy.

Here's a photo of two of my upper division students enacting the policy. They were great. Every time he tried to bite, they would turn around and ignore him. Then they would try again. When he got bitey, withdraw. They were wonderful. Some kids are better at it than others. For those who just don't understand the policy, I end up saying Jam is tired and put his coat back on.

Other than that, Jam has been very, very good. So good in fact, that I thought, perhaps, since our student library proctor inductions were this Friday, perhaps I will bring him up on stage with me. After all, what could go wrong? (Was Bingo only two years ago? 8-)

Friday Morning

Jam has a pretty regular poo schedule. He has a morning breakfast poo and an 8:30 poo. But he missed his 8:30 poo. Convo was at 10. It was 9:30 and he hadn't had his poo. Hmmm. This might be a problem.

Perhaps I should walk him around for a bit. Besides, I wanted him tired.

We did some stairways and some obedience so that his brain would be exhausted. Then I walked him over to Lykes. I took off his coat and we did a poo walk.

Success! There would be no hunching over on the stage! Whew. What a video that would make.

We walked into the Lykes Theater. I realized that I didn't have anyone waiting in the wings to hand Jam off to if he acted up. I was going Kamakazi Solo on this one, but I thought he could do it. Bingo, NO WAY! Berkeley, there would be barking.

But Jam. I had a feeling that my chill dude would be ok on the stage. Why don't you watch the video and let me know what you think?