TEN MONTHS AND COUNTING

Leia is growing up!

She has been exploring her talents and trying to refine them. She decided, after doing some demo work on the drywall in my kitchen, that she wanted to apply for a job. She wrote to my contractor, Brambo, extolling her exceptional abilities.

I was absorbed in reading a book and didn’t hear her go to work behind me!

Dear Mr. Brambo,  I understand you are looking to hire a demo expert.  I would like to apply for the position. I am a hard worker and reliable.  My specialty is drywall and woodwork. My teeth and claws make short work of any job.  And being a retriever, I then carry the demo trash to the dumpster.  I have a sense of humor, and I only take short breaks to catch my breath.  My fee is one bag of dried liver treats per month. If you would like to set up an interview, I can be reached at 215-dog-bone. Respectfully,  Leia

Leia is growing up.

One day I got involved in doing something, and I forgot Leia was not crated.  And when I went down to the family room she had the landline receiver in her mouth.   

Leia: Oh, please let me tell them about it.

Deb:  <smiles> Go ahead . . .

Leia:  One day the telephone rang. You know, those weird looking phones that are plugged into the wall. Deb was off somewhere doing something.  She never answers the phone anyway.  So I answered it, and the caller was doing a survey. She asked for Ms. Glessner, and I said, “Speaking!”  <giggle>  She asked me what political party I was registered with – Republicanid, Dogocrat, or Indepupdent. I told her I was too young to vote. . . and she hung up on me.

Leia is growing up.

She is a problem solver. No matter how I barricaded the entryway in the family room, she was always able to figure out how to move the gate so she could escape and explore the rest of the house.  You already know how she loves the library room, my bedroom slippers, and meditating in front of the bathtub. I eventually had to order a special gate that also had a built-in mini cat door opening, and my neighbor Adam came over to install it. Hallelujah! It works! But Leia figured out how to open the cat door.  She can get her head through, but those shoulders are just too wide.  <hehe>

Leia is growing up.

I can see those little nuances of adulthood creeping in. She’s becoming more laid back and is learning how to chill out.  Leia is now the same size and weight as Heidi. 

Heidi on the left. I think they are hoping for a walk outing. . . 🙂

We’ve been working hard on recall with training suggestions given to us by a wonderful dog trainer.  It’s working and was put to the test the other day when Leia was off leash in a fenced in field. She suddenly saw a man enter the field about 100 feet away. She took off towards him. I panicked, but quickly had the presence of mind to call her.  She slammed on the brakes, looked at me, looked back at the man, and then whirled and came running madly to me where she was rewarded lavishly with a banquet of high value treats (chicken and hot dog bits). What a test! I was so pleased with her response. 

50 foot leash keeps Leia safe and me in control if she doesn’t listen. Just after she turned to look at me, she came running when I called her!

Leia is growing up . . . but her meet & greet is still a major challenge which needs to be addressed.  I am in communication with the dog trainer to try to set up a private session or two at her training facility so I can learn the proper tools and technique to address this problem.  I’ve tried suggestions made by dog savvy friends and everything within my limited arsenal. I know it has escalated because I have failed as a trainer.  I am eager to work with someone who can teach ME how to teach Leia.

Yes, Leia is growing up.

10 months

LABELS

Not too long ago I stopped at a friend’s house. When I arrived, she was standing in her driveway talking to someone. As I pulled in, she smiled and waved, then turned to the person and said, “This is my deaf friend, Debbie.”  . . . I read her lips.

I have to admit that I was shocked and a bit stunned. I sat in the car for a few seconds, feeling like I’d been punched in the gut. 

True, I AM hearing impaired, but I never expected this friend to label me.

It made me reflect on labels we place upon people. I would never reference a friend with a label. . . my autistic friend; my Jewish friend; my black friend; my dyslexic friend, my gay friend . . .

What’s the difference? We’re all homo sapiens!

Labeling is a pandemic in today’s society. Race, sexual orientation, political, handicaps, anything “different” than what is perceived as an acceptable norm.  And social media has spawned a new generation of label-driven animosity.

Differences and diversity drive a successful society, and individuals need to learn to be more compassionately inclusive in their thinking and behavior. Labels almost always trigger an immediate preconceived reaction and often an uninformed, inaccurate perspective.

Opening one’s thinking to diversity and inclusion embraces an authentic balance in one’s perspectives and contributes to a society where differences are accepted and respected.  

Promoting diversity is the first step to not just “tolerance,” but a true understanding of another’s actions and behaviors. Through exposure to and communication among different people with unique ideas and cultural backgrounds, individuals may recognize that increasing familiarity and a comfort level with these differences can diminish the misconceptions and prejudices that fuel discrimination and hatred.

Often the label of deaf carries with it an accompanying label of stupid.  When I was growing up, the phrase “deaf and dumb” was commonly used. I remember the day when my mom and I were going through the grocery store check out lane when the cashier said to my mother, “Is she a dummy?”  Even though the term dumb referred to lacking the ability to speak, many misinterpreted it to mean stupid.

Growing up, many of my peers considered me “not too smart.”  My grades seemed to reflect that. Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s there was no academic support for students with challenges. Hour after hour of exhausting lip-reading and trying to follow what teachers were saying while pacing or turning their backs to face the blackboard made it very difficult for me to acquire information. And forget classroom discussions — impossible! In spite of my parents being huge advocates for me, 98% of my teachers just didn’t “get” how they could support me nor were they willing to make the extra effort.

College was much easier because I only had two or three one-hour classes a day. Fatigue was no longer a factor, and most professors were much more understanding of my special needs. Post graduate work was a cinch, and I was hired by a premier school district to be a school librarian and later promoted to the administrative position of district library-media coordinator.  The administrator who interviewed me had her own hearing challenges and a brother who wore a hearing aid. She intuitively knew that my hearing impairment would not be an obstacle to being a school librarian. She embraced differences and diversity, and there was no deaf label.

I’ve always been very up-front about my hearing challenges and have no qualms in telling people that I lip-read or asking for assistance. Diversity and inclusion are a reality in our world. While differences can be recognized and acknowledged, there’s no reason to resort to derogatory labeling.

Yes, I am hearing impaired.

My name is Debbie, and I’m human, just like you.

   
“Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without.”   William Sloane Coffin, Jr

ICE CUBES FROM HEAVEN

When I got Hannah as a puppy, I was determined that she would never hover around the table while I was eating, nor would she allowed to beg for hand-outs.  So, from day one which is when training really begins, Hannah was NEVER fed from the table. But as time went on, I found that I wanted to share slices of apple or bits of carrots with her while I was eating. She was already well established in lying quietly in the corner of the kitchen while I ate, nor did she beg for handouts from the refrigerator. 

So, one autumn day while I was eating a delicious and huge Honey Crisp apple, I cut a bite sized piece and slid it off the opposite end of the table.  Hannah heard it drop and lunged for it.  I nonchalantly continued to eat but reserved another little piece for Hannah. When she was least expecting it, another piece of apple suddenly dropped to the floor far away from where I was sitting. Again, she happily dove for it and gobbled it.

Other times a baby carrot would mysteriously drop in a far corner of the kitchen where I’d secretly flipped it while getting something out of the refrigerator. 

When this became somewhat routine, Hannah developed a stance. She would alertly stare at the floor and watch for a tasty morsel to appear.  And I started calling them “apples/carrots from heaven.” 

Naturally, when Heidi joined the family, she also quickly discovered that wonderful tidbits dropped from the sky. 

When I traveled to Iceland, my friends Sharon and Tom kindly offered to take care of Hannah and Heidi.  It didn’t take them long to figure out that Tom had a special connection to heaven. Anytime he was around, carrots and apples would rain from the sky.  Sharon was much more disciplined in her offerings, but she was the chief cook, so she also had an inside line to heaven’s offerings of tasty morsels.  (Sharon even bakes the most delicious cheese flavored dog biscuits cut into mini-bones.)

Then Leia arrived.  Leia developed a love of ice cubes, and she comes running to the fridge every time she hears ice cubes dropping from the chute.  I knew if I began feeding them to her right from the dispenser I would be in trouble, so I never started it.  Besides, she’s so smart I was afraid she would learn how to put those huge paws on the lever and dispense ice cubes all over the kitchen floor.

So, I resorted to the heaven foolery.  After dispensing ice cubes into my glass or water bottle, I reserve a few bits and drop them randomly away from the refrigerator when Leia is least expecting it. Oh joy! But she’s still trying to figure out why and how they appear out of nowhere.

It won’t be long until she realizes they are ice cubes from heaven.

HEIDI, THE INFORMER

Heidi, the informer

I often say to Heidi, “I’ll pay you to keep an eye on Leia.”

Yesterday I was sitting at my kitchen table working.  Heidi and Leia were dozing in the family room.

I was doing visual checks regularly since Leia is still NOT to be trusted unsupervised for any length of time.  Often, I bring Leia up to the kitchen with me and close the gate, or I crate her. 

Occasionally I get so absorbed in what I am doing and forget that Leia is “at large.”

. . . and I got engrossed in a creative project in my kitchen. 

Suddenly, I felt a gentle nudge on my arm. It was Heidi. Her gaze was intense.

And as clearly as if someone were speaking to me, I silently heard her say, “Leia is doing something bad.”

I leaped out of my chair and went down to the family room to find Leia chewing on a Netflix DVD. The return mailer had already been ripped to smithereens. 

“Bad girl!” I said emphatically.

Her tail wags . . .

So, I guess I have to mail it back with the age-old phrase, “My dog chewed my homework (substitute DVD).”

So, it’s not the first time I’ve received telepathic messages from my animals. 

Over twenty years ago, I heard an animal communicator speak who was a protégé of Penelope Smith who is considered the “mother of interspecies communication.” I was intrigued.  I read Penelope’s book and discovered that another of her students was doing workshops locally. I signed up for the basic workshop.  Enter Anita Curtis of Gilbertsville, PA. 

Anita’s workshop was fun and revealing; I immediately signed up for level two the following weekend.  One of the biggest hurdles, for me, was trusting my intuition and what I received telepathically. I never knew if it was “real” or a self-imposed imaginary response. 

Because of my lack of self-confidence, I signed up several months later to repeat level two instead of the advanced workshop. When I walked in, Anita asked me, “Why are you here?”  I explained my lack of trust in what I receive and felt I needed more guided experiences.

As part of this particular level two workshop, we were given a photograph of a pet belonging to another participant along with a question to ask the animal.  My photograph depicted a Jack Russell terrier, and the owner’s question was, “Who would you like to spend more time with?”

We then dispersed and each of us found a quiet space where we could center ourselves and establish contact with the animal.  I immediately got a picture of blue jeans and brown shoes. I made a mental note and persisted, trying to gather more information.  I asked for a name. Nothing.  Just the image of blue jeans and brown shoes; I finally surmised that because the dog was small this was what he would “see” of the person.  Then our time was up, and we gathered as a group for sharing. Many of the participants were unsuccessful. I hung back, my insecurity and lack of trust in what I received made me feel a bit foolish.  Finally, it was my turn. I shared the image I’d received of blue jeans and brown shoes and the process of trying to get additional information. And before I could finish, the owner of the dog exclaimed, “That’s my brother! He always wears blue jeans and brown shoes, and my dog adores him!”  I was flabbergasted. Anita turned to me and quietly said, “And you think you’re not ready for the advanced class?” 

One of my teaching colleagues heard about my foray into animal communication, and she asked me to communicate with her cat Dakota to find out why she was refusing to use the litter box.  I decided to do the session over my lunch period and went into a supply closet where I wouldn’t be disturbed.  After going deep and connecting with Dakota, I was overcome with a strange feeling of being dizzy.  It was difficult to establish any two way connection, and the only thing I could get was that Dakota did not like the blue crystals in the litter.  When I shared this with the owner, her jaw dropped. She told me that Dakota was at the vet and recovering from anesthesia.  No wonder I experienced the sensation of being under the influence of drugs! Her owner purchased a different litter without the blue crystals, and Dakota returned to using her box faithfully.

One of the funniest and most unexpected incidences occurred while I was riding my beautiful mare Lark in a first level dressage test – each test is comprised of a series of movements. When a horse and rider consistently master the movements, they can then advance to the next level. This particular first level test included a serpentine done the entire length of the arena.  We had executed several movements and were in a trot, approaching the corner closest to the judge. As we entered the corner, I silently heard loud and clear, “Oh, now we do the wiggly worm!”. . . and I yelled silently, “NO! Not yet!” Lark relaxed and continued trotting forward, executing the rest of the test beautifully.  It was a struggle to contain my hysterical laughter and probably contributed to my own state of relaxation which set up a beautiful partnership throughout the test.  We won the class.

Lark

Obviously, many people are skeptical that this type of dialog can occur between human and animal.  I had to experience it myself, both as a telepathic receiver, and by using the services of an authentic communicator such as Anita Curtis. 

I love hearing what my animals have to say. 

. . . and I’ll continue to pay Heidi, the informer.

8 WEEKS TO 8 MONTHS

8 weeks

Leia just turned 8 months old, and it is amazing to think she has been with me for six months already. And what a six months it has been!

I’d never had a winter puppy before, so it was with some trepidation that I anticipated housebreaking.  Fortunately, for puppy raising, it turned out to be a mild winter which afforded lots of outdoor time for Leia to blow off steam.  Middle of the night outings actually were beautiful, peaceful, and invigorating. 

The first few weeks were fairly routine from a puppy stand-point, but then she came down with that nasty UTI which threw a monkey wrench into housebreaking.  It was exasperating and exhausting, but we finally got things under control two months later and housebreaking resumed. Keeping a puppy log helped me get a sense of Leia’s routine and foibles.

Enter Covid 19 . . .

Leia and I only attended one KPT session before the club cancelled all classes. The quarantine and social distancing created training and socialization challenges that I’d never experienced with my other dogs.  I had to get creative and think of ways to expose Leia to the world.  Fortunately, I had been able to get her out for about a month in her prime socialization period, but the benefits of group training classes were lost. 

Leia continues to have the inclination to rush towards people and jump on them, in spite of my rigorous attempts to impress upon her that it is not permitted. Again, I had to get creative, and a few of my neighbors kindly agreed to be guinea pigs. It became very apparent that Leia had trouble controlling her excitement when a person came into her orbit. She would be very vocal and lunge forward in an attempt to greet the person.  I’ve been working religiously with her to keep all four paws on the ground. Amazingly, once she makes contact with the person, the histrionics pass.  She settles quickly and is happy to sit quietly for petting. 

And then we had a war . . . it was waged fiercely, but the Zinnias finally triumphed.  Every other day I find a random trooper who has succumbed to occasional and weak attacks, but Leia has finally accepted the futility of continuing a full-scale battle.

Leia continues to exhibit kleptomania when given freedom in the house.  Even though she has improved greatly, she still thieves. I never know what object I am going to find in her mouth.  She still has a love affair with toilet paper; not only does she love the musical toilet paper roll, she LOVES Cottonelle!  It’s textured and very chewy.

Leia has exhibited the ability to problem solve.  She figured out how to move the heavy accordion gate which has confined all other dogs in my home.  I even braced the gate with a trunk and chair, and she figured that out! She maneuvers it to create an opening so she can escape upstairs. Once upstairs, she either steals my slippers or chooses a book in the library room. One day she grabbed the toilet plunger and toilet cleaning brushes. The day she jumped into the bathtub and chewed on a bar of soap was hysterical. Fortunately, she suffered no side effects from that – after all, it was sensitive-skin organic soap. . . (I ordered a new gate which, I hope, solves the problem once and for all.)

But she did suffer side effects from a chewing incident gone awry.  The bloodshot, swollen eye panicked me and resulted in a 2 a.m. trip to the emergency hospital CARES.  It was good I didn’t wait as internal pressure had elevated in her eye.  The vets were wonderful and immediately started all appropriate treatments to address the glaucoma and infection.  She stayed overnight and was released the next day.  Luckily, she had no complications or any lingering effects from the incident.

More recently Leia has taken up electronics and TV manipulations. She has removed the Verizon cable running to the modem several times.  Old VHS video boxes hold a fascination. She is especially intrigued by my old horse training videos and THE PRINCESS BRIDE. Of course, Leia loves anything about princesses – she was named after one!!

But one of the funniest things that has happened recently is the day Leia answered the phone. I found her in the family room with the landline receiver in her mouth. . .  well, that’s another blog post.  Stay tuned. 

What will the next six months bring!?

PS:  Leia really is a wonderful puppy. I love her joie de’vivre, her smarts, and affectionate nature. She keeps me laughing. I’m a lucky gal. 

8 months

BONDING

The other day a friend asked me how Leia was doing.

I responded and ended my reply with the statement, “I see her starting to bond with me.”

My friend expressed surprise and asked me to define bonding. 

My thoughts are a compilation of years of experience with cats, dogs, and horses.

I believe that most people mistakenly confuse love and affection for their pet with bonding. Forming a bond takes time and sets the foundation for an owner’s relationship with his/her dog. 

It took me over two years to develop a bond with Hannah, my first Labrador.  Hannah was challenging to train, and I was inexperienced in raising a puppy. Frustration entered into the equation, and it interfered with the key ingredients needed to bond: communication, trust, partnership, structure, calmness, and joy.  Even though I loved Hannah dearly, our bond was not strong. 

Hannah passed her CGC and therapy dog tests when she was 13 months old, and I started therapy dog visits when she was 16 months old.  She was still a puppy, and I would sometimes become impatient with her during therapy visits; our bond was still weak. 

We had done many months of obedience training, and one day I learned about an agility class being offered. I thought Hannah would enjoy it, so I enrolled us. 

Hannah not only enjoyed it; she was passionate about it.  She was smart, bold, and fast – all the ingredients required of an agility dog.  I loved it as well; the instructor was excellent and encouraging.  Laughter replaced frustration, and Hannah and I started working as a team. Agility classes reinforced communication, trust, partnership, structure, calmness, and joy – all the ingredients for bonding.  

And it happened. Like gentle osmosis, Hannah and I bonded. 

I’ve said it before, and I will repeat it here. Our animals are our greatest teachers. We just need to be open to and accept the lessons.  Sometimes they are very subtle, but a true learner is perceptive. 

Most of you have come to know some version of Leia over these past months. It’s no mystery that she is also a challenging puppy.  She’s smart, energetic, and mischievous. I’ve lost my patience a few times, but my animals over the years have taught me to go with the flow, roll with the punches, and LAUGH! And, believe me, if you look past the unraveled rolls of toilet paper, chewed up magazines, a zinnia war, and dumped water bowl, it IS funny.

Along with laughter, I work with Leia to provide structure – to teach her what is acceptable and what is not.  Our dogs LOVE to have a job and most enjoy positive, fun training sessions which helps them to establish and to understand safe parameters.  Every moment is an opportunity for training, and I strongly believe training should be ongoing for the life of the dog. 

It is important to plan for alone time. I leave Heidi at home and take Leia out for socialization or just a walk.  Likewise, I leave Leia home and take Heidi. And often I take both of them together for a surprise and fun dog outing. One-on-one time allows me and my dog to focus exclusively upon each other so that our bond becomes stronger between us rather than with the other dog.

Some things I keep in mind when nurturing a bond with my dog —

  1. I give my dogs space to decompress. Our pets need relaxing alone time as much as humans. I feel strongly that our dogs should be given the freedom to seek our companionship on their terms. 
  2. I remember to exercise awareness in learning to interpret my dog’s body language accurately.  It’s amazing the amount of information our dogs share with us through their body language.  I have learned that when Leia starts panting in her crate that she needs to toilet. 
  3. I spend quality time with my dogs. Going for walks, playing, enjoyable and positive training sessions, or a good grooming all reinforce the ingredients for bonding. Running around the yard isn’t enough and often leads to boredom.  Our dogs love a frequent change of scenery as much as we do!
  4. I focus on consistency and clarity.  Nothing confuses a dog faster than being inconsistent. Consistency offers the dog security and fosters trust. I often tell people that since I live alone, I have no one to mess up my training!
  5. I always try to give my dog the opportunity to succeed by setting realistic expectations for the breed, age, and temperament of the dog. 
  6. I try to stay centered.  Our dogs are incredibly sensitive to our emotions such as anger, frustration, and impatience. If I lose any semblance of emotional calm and balance, I stop what I am doing with my dog. I either end the session or re-direct. 
  7. I focus on setting boundaries for my dogs.  It contributes to their feeling of security and helps them understand the human parameters they are expected to learn.

There’s no mistaking a dog who feels a strong emotional connection with you.  There’s a joyful light in their eyes. They wag, lean against you, and make great eye contact.  They keep tabs on your location and check in to see where you are.

Am I perfect? Far from it! I make mistakes and lose my patience just like any human. But I believe if we strive to be aware and informed, that we can work to be supportive and effective owners who are caring custodians of our dog’s emotional and physical welfare.

. . .  and Leia comes up to me, looks at me, sits down, and leans against me.  It’s definitely a beginning to a beautiful bond. 

** Thank you to Wendi Huttner for taking these photos.

LEIA MEETS NEW FRIENDS

Trail through the woods

Last week, Leia and I were invited to visit my friend Sally, her husband Frank, and their three dogs.  They live on a beautiful ten acre property that abuts a private nature conservancy.  Sally and Frank are members, so I was invited as a guest to enjoy an early morning one and a half hour walk through the gorgeous countryside with Sally, their Labrador Retrievers Ravyn and Luna, and English Setter, Birch.

Leia and two year old Ravyn immediately bonded. It was hysterical to watch them enjoy wild zoomies down the path and through the woods.

Ravyn on left

Routine stops were made by Leia to wallow in available mud puddles. Ravyn accepted the occasional invitation to join Leia for a beauty mud treatment. 

The wooded trail ended at the lake. All four dogs ran ahead and leaped into the water for a refreshing swim. Leia no longer does the splashy doggie paddle; she now swims like a true Labrador.  We were at the dam end of the lake, and Leia tried to climb the concrete lip to get out of the water. The lip was about 3 inches above the water level, just high enough to make it difficult for the dogs to get enough purchase to pull themselves out.  Leia wouldn’t swim over to the shoreline where she could have walked out; instead, she insisted on trying to climb the lip where I was standing.  I finally grabbed her by the scruff and pulled her out.  I stood up, turned my back, and she jumped right back into the lake.  Fun! Fun! 

Luna in the lead, Ravyn, and Leia

After the dogs had a good swim, Sally took us on a different trail (Leia and Ravyn stopped for another mud bath) which led us to the lake’s boat launch and pier. All four dogs crashed into the water for another swim.  Sally threw a stick from the pier and Leia followed Luna and Ravyn by leaping off the pier into the water.  I always had the feeling Leia would leap into water. She’s so bold and fearless. 

Mud loving Leia

After another delightful swim, the dogs reluctantly joined us for the trek home. 

Back at the house, Sally hosed off the dogs before we sat down for lunch and conversation. Both Sally and Frank are ornithologists, and their property is home to a multitude of feeders and birdhouses.  I had the thrilling privilege to see an Indigo Bunting at one of the feeders. I have not seen an Indigo Bunting since my childhood when my Dad pointed one out to me in the mountains outside Shippensburg. 

Before we left, Sally went out to the chicken coop and gathered a dozen fresh brown and blue eggs for me to bring home.

Leia crashed on the back seat and fell asleep.  When we arrived home, she was given a shampoo bath to get the deep seated mud and grit out of her coat. 

What an amazing walk we enjoyed, and it made our day!

**NOTE: Just today I read this PSYCHOLOGY TODAY article about nurturing happy dogs, and it resonated so deeply with me. Our off leash walk in the conservancy allowed our dogs to BE dogs, to be HAPPY dogs. Such an important part of the life of a well-adjusted canine.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fellow-creatures/202004/why-dogs-happiness-not-obedience-is-what-counts?fbclid=IwAR2jyna_CcRJztETdPEM73PHMsBYgYYzdQHLCdlNtGqTwOcTUBk3QEAkwws

A BIRTHDAY . . . of sorts

7 months

Hello Friends!

Leia turned 7 months old on Wednesday.

She seems to be recovered from her injury but is still on antibiotics until her recheck with the veterinary ophthalmologist, Dr. Low, next Wednesday. It was a relief to set her free of the cone early this week. 

LEIA:  It’s NOT a cone! It’s an Elizabethan Collar.  Tell them how you made it pretty.

Yes, the Elizabethan Collar is very plain plastic — boring.  I decorated it with silk flowers. My friend Sharon said Leia looked like Frida Kahlo! She did, so I asked her to sit for a portrait.

channeling Frida Kahlo

Leia was exceptionally good wearing her Elizabethan Collar. I think it bothered me more than it bothered her.

It was just a matter of two days after her discharge from CARES when Leia was back to her shenanigans. She managed to navigate the stairs wearing her collar, went into the library room, and pulled a large, 607 page hardback book off the shelf titled A PORTION FOR FOXES. She carried it by the cover and gave it to me.  I think she knows I’ve been thinking about re-reading it. 

A PORTION FOR FOXES

Along with growing up, Leia has been allowed more freedom in the house. I now proclaim her 100% housebroken.  She’s not had an accident for over two months and reliably goes to the door when she needs to toilet. She’s also been spending the evenings loose in the family room with me and Heidi. The only time she relapsed was the other evening when I accidentally fell asleep (she was unsupervised!), and she chewed my coffee table.  It looks terrible, but it can be fixed.

I’ve been keeping her occupied by giving her antlers or nylabones to chew, but the vets have forbidden them for a few weeks until she is fully recovered.  The soft toys no longer hold much appeal for Leia, and this is why I think she looks for the hard, unacceptable things like my coffee table.

And Leia still has a love affair with the toilet paper roll.

LEIA: Yes, it plays music! I like the tune it plays when I pull the toilet paper off the roll!

listen to the music!
waiting at TEAM Toyota

Yesterday Leia went socializing with me to TEAM Toyota while the Highlander got a free 7000 mile multipoint inspection. I really enjoyed having her company, and she did very well with relaxing and meeting a few strangers who asked if they could pet her.  She only tried jumping on two people but was unsuccessful.  It’s interesting. As soon as she makes physical contact with a person, she is less likely to jump. I’m optimistic that with consistent and concentrated work, we will eventually achieve FOUR PAWS ON THE GROUND.

What will the next month hold? Life is an adventure with Leia.

She’s such a fun pup!

And now a word from Daisy Rose Leaf from the Seed & Stem Channel. “It seems that the Zinnia War has achieved a major turning point in the battle. With the increase in the size and numbers of the zinnia troops, Leia has submitted official notice of her surrender.  A truce has been agreed upon and signed with a paw print in the soil.”

triumphant zinnias

LEIA’S EMERGENCY

I was cleaning and refreshing my hummingbird feeders on Tuesday when Leia came up to me.

I looked down to speak to her and noticed that she had a small swelling below her left eye. The eye was also weeping.  I wondered if it was a battle injury from the Zinnia War or whether she’d been stung by a bee. I gave her a Benadryl thinking it was probably a sting.   

She seemed to be fine until that evening.

She became uncharacteristically quiet and started displaying mouth discomfort any time she tried to pick up a chew toy.

I observed her closely all evening, and when I came downstairs to check on her at 12:45 am, the sclera had become bloodshot. I knew she needed urgent veterinary attention.

I called our 24/7 emergency clinic, CARES, and alerted them that I was bringing Leia.  I got dressed, put her into the car, and left the house around 1:30 am. It was pitch black, and there was no traffic on the back roads I travel to go to CARES. When we arrived around 2 am, the parking lot was empty except for one other car.  Leia was admitted immediately. 

Due to Covid restrictions, pet owners are not permitted to enter the clinic. A technician comes out to the parking lot to retrieve the pet while the owner waits in the car.  The veterinarian communicates by telephone with the pet owner.

Knowing this in advance, I had quickly typed up an information sheet with a chronology of the events leading up to Leia’s admission. CARES had already been alerted that I am hearing impaired and lip read – no telephone and no masks would be possible.  We arranged for all communication between me and the vet to occur via email.

Leia’s admitting vet, Dr. Molly Maurer, VMD, was very thoughtful and accommodating. She sent me a detailed email on her findings and recommendations.  Leia was apparently overly excited and initially difficult to examine. Dr. Maurer said Leia was very reactive/painful during examination of her eye and mouth.  Her eye was inflamed with accompanying swelling of the conjunctiva.  What was of extreme concern to the vet was the elevated pressure (glaucoma) in the eye.   

Leia’s facial swelling and her painful responses during the exam, led Dr. Maurer to be concerned about a possible abscess in the back of the mouth extending up into the area behind the eye which is called the retrobulbar space.

Based on her findings, Dr. Maurer recommended that Leia remain at CARES so she could run bloodwork and start her immediately on pain meds, antibiotics, and address the pressure in her eye.  She also recommended that Leia be examined by Dr. Martha Low, DVM (veterinary ophthalmologist) in the morning. 

Leia with her nurse Evie

I agreed. I was literally shaking from worry and fatigue.

I managed to get 2 ½ hours of sleep before arising at my normal time to take care of Heidi. 

I called CARES for an update and was told that Leia had rested comfortably through the night. She was being prepped for a sedative so Dr. Low and Dr. Gary Puglia, DVM, (head of emergency and critical care emergency) could do a thorough ophthalmic and oral exam.

Their presumptive diagnosis was mild left orbital cellulitis and the beginnings of a retrobulbar abscess in the back of the mouth. They suspected that since Leia is a puppy, she may have been chewing on something like a stick that poked the back of her throat which started the inflammatory chain reaction involving the eye.

They complimented me for catching it so early and being proactive in getting her to the clinic.  (I watch too many vet shows on National Geographic Wild, and I enjoy trying to diagnose the cases presented.  I’ve always been a frustrated veterinarian in my heart, thwarted only by my hearing impairment.) 

Dr. Puglia told me that Leia’s treatment would continue with the antibiotics and anti-inflammatory pain medication. If Leia improves as expected, then Dr. Low will see her in two weeks for a follow-up exam.

a tummy rub from nurse Evie

Dr. Puglia was wonderful about emailing me, explaining things so clearly, and answering all my questions.

When I told him I would like to blog about Leia’s experience at CARES, he kindly took a few photos of her in the clinic with her nurse, Evie, and emailed them to me. I cannot speak highly enough of the professionality of the team at CARES in communicating with me and looking after Leia. They really care!

Leia was discharged late afternoon on Wednesday.

being discharged!

She walked out of the clinic, wearing a dreaded cone and still wobbling a bit from the sedative. She seemed a bit disoriented and didn’t act like she recognized me.  No, I wasn’t offended . . .

By the time we arrived home, she was perkier and greeted Heidi happily . . . no I wasn’t offended . . .

She ate well and rested quietly all evening. 

This morning she greeted me enthusiastically and is following her normal routine with some restrictions. She is coping well with the cumbersome cone, even whacking me across the legs with it.

sympathetic Heidi

Leia is on the road to recovery.

And now we need to interrupt with a word from Daisy Rose Leaf of the Seed & Stem Channel with a LIVE update from the battle front.  The Zinnia Army’s step barriers have been huge in nearly eliminating the Leia attacks.  The troops are increasing in numbers and size. Leia has had to retreat from her attacks to recover from injuries. The Zinnia Army will have an opportunity to reconvene and recharge for future encounters. Stay tuned. . .

SUBTLE SHIFTS

Leia is almost 7 months old, and over the last week I’ve been noticing subtle shifts in her behavior. She seems to be settling down indoors and starting to grasp the idea of “chilling out” while not in her crate.  If I’m in the kitchen, she will lie quietly nearby with occasional breaks to annoy Heidi.  And in the evenings, she’s been more relaxed and not on the move every minute.

She’s growing up.

While she still retains her mischievous streak and still steals, her kleptomania seems to have waned slightly.  Now, when she disappears, and I make a dash to find her, she will often be lying in the family room or sitting in her crate. 

She is almost as tall as Heidi, and I’m guessing she weighs between 45-50 pounds. Amazing to think she’s been here five months already.

I continue to train and reinforce. When there are no distractions, she focuses on me and responds beautifully.  However, it’s typically more challenging if there are distractions, so I usually insert mini-lessons into our outings.

Leia had a beautiful recall as a puppy, but with the onset of the teens and a newfound confidence and independence, her recall has regressed.  I’m not surprised by this.  If Leia is focused on me, her recall is still way above average, but if other dogs, people, or distractions come into the equation, her recall regresses.  So, I’m back-tracking and working on rebuilding the foundation of getting and keeping Leia’s attention, regardless of what is happening around us. 

Along with reinforcing attention and recall, I have also had to address Leia’s tendency to jump on people when she first greets them. When she arrived home at the age of 8 weeks, I immediately did not permit her front paws on my legs in any way, shape, or form.  She persisted, and so did I. Eventually, after a few weeks she resigned herself to not jumping on me. BUT, for some reason, the concept did not transfer to other people. 

I’ve been working with her on leash and doing controlled meet & greets.  She’s improving and understands, but finds it extremely difficult to contain her exuberance!  She adores people and wants to be with them.

I’m hoping that Leia’s lessons in controlled meet & greets will eventually help her understand that keeping four paws on the ground is also required when she greets people off leash.  

This challenge has been exacerbated by the Covid quarantine and the inability to do close contact training.  KPT was terminated after one class, and group obedience classes are still not being offered. Obedience classes with an instructor, other people, and dogs is invaluable. There are no hard fast rules in training because each dog is an individual. The skill lies in understanding canine behavior, breed traits, and having an arsenal of techniques to apply. Some of the successful techniques I’ve used in the past have not produced the desired results. I find myself researching new approaches or ideas that may help me communicate with Leia more clearly.

In spite of the training challenges, I am enjoying Leia’s puppyhood. She makes me laugh every day, and she has the sweetest nature.  It’s all about believing in her.