Saturday, September 26, 2015

Much Spectacle

Most of the time walking my little dogs, I'm totally oblivious to the extreme cuteness of my doggies, as well as the spectacle of a big, burly dude walking these delicate things. It's almost a dichotomy for most people, and I'm also aware that just walking down the street without my dogs, and my bald head wearing my Oakleys, small children normally ask "Mommy, is that big man going to murder us?" just because dudes who look like me don't have a reputation for being outgoing and friendly. Yay for stereotypes.

So, the spectacle that I create walking my doggies is always at the back of my mind. It's a better effect with Zoey's pink leash, but I can't find it after the latest move. Most the time people just smile or I get the occasional "cute little dog!" Sometimes I'll get a whole chorus of "awwwww"s, at which point I'll stop for a quick show-and-tell. "Hi, this is Zoey, and she's a delicate flower."

It's a great feeling to be be healthy, spend time with my dogs and break down stereotypes at the same time, which was one of the purposes behind creating this blog. Perception is reality, as the Colonel used to tell me, so even lost in thought on my walks, I make it a point to stand up straight and keep a smile on, which also rubs off a little on the dogs.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Monsters On The Roof

My big travel trailer is parked under some kind of big walnut tree. As the walnuts ripen, they fall off the tree, or they are dropped by greedy squirrels. This area has the fattest squirrels I've ever seen. So, the walnuts bounce off the roof of my trailer roof either way.

The first few times it happened at night, Zoey frantically tried to wake me up. Like she was saying "Pet! Get up! We have to leave this place! Monsters on the roof! Get up, Pet!"

I'm a fairly heavy sleeper these days, so she could only wake me up enough to toss her on the floor for scratching my face with her self-sharpened claws. She chews on them until they are sharp like cat's claws.

She was scared of the dark before that, so most nights now she hides at night and jumps on my bed when the sun comes out. Sometimes I take her to bed, and she humors me until I fall asleep, but then she leaves, and goes back into her crate.

Hopefully being more confident on our walks will translate to a less fearful Zoey.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Social Butterfly

Her daddy was a beast that wanted to murder any stranger who got near my wife, her mommy is bat-shit crazy, and she wasn't properly socialized. Let's just say that I was trying to manage my expectations that Zoey would ever be a normal dog. But I had to try.

Now she struts on walks. She also runs ahead until the leash tightens, just like a normal dog would. But she's Zoey, so she will run ahead, stop, turn around and look at me like she's saying "Pet, walk, faster, pet!" and then she tugs on the leash again.

A large man said hi to her, and she gave more of a "hrmph" than a bark. And rather than looking and listening for monsters that are going to murder us, she soaks it all in like a little kid would. She hears birds in trees and stops to look at them, and smell little leaves on the ground. It's the same wonder as a child. I feel happy for her, because she is so intelligent, and her life seems more fulfilling when she's not scared of everything.

Zoey is turning into a social butterfly.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Dinner Injustice

I read somewhere that dogs understand fairness. Mine certainly do. They are like little kids, where if there aren't an equal number of treats every time, they will complain and pout like kids.

Because Spot is a slow eater, Ty finishes his dinner in his crate usually about a full 5 minutes before his mommy, Spot. Because he finishes so much sooner than her, he thinks it's because that dinner was portioned unfairly, and he got shorted. Suddenly there is injustice for dinner.

So, now he looks at me, looks at spot, looks at me and whines every time we reach the "Ok, now I'm SURE she got some of mine." part of the meal.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Father's Son II

The whole world looks bleak when you lose a dog that was everything to you, even if you have 6 more. The first year or so, everything reminded me of  Tank ("Lenny") to the point where everywhere I looked and everything I saw made me sad.

But I still have two of his offspring to remember him by, and Ty is definitely his father's son in more ways than one. His father was a beast and a burrower extraordinaire. It's why I called him "Lenny," because he was more a cartoon-ish character than a dog.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree as the old saying goes. Now I look and laugh at Ty's antics. I definitely see Lenny. It's still a little sad, but it's a different kind of sad. Sometimes I'll be teared up a little but I'll still laugh out loud because there's as much happiness as sadness.

Warm and comfy, but ready to race for a cookie, and listening for magic word

All of the qualities I knew in Lenny, I see in Ty and Zoey, I'm surprised I managed to catch this photo. This would've been classic Lenny, and now it's classic Ty. He's had his own ordeals separate from all the other ordeals, but I think he was meant to be with me.

Tomorrow I'll be on the road most of the day, and Ty is the only one coming with me. He barks the loudest when I'm gone, and he's the most well behaved when we travel, so he's a no-brainer. He bays like a tiny wolf when I leave him. My sister says together they sound like Geese haha.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Shiny Coats

A couple years ago, we switched the Chihuahuas to a grain-free food. We could see a difference almost overnight. The doggies just looked healthy and their coats were noticeably more shiny. Around that time, people started complementing us, and the vet even remarked that our dogs were healthier than hers.

Here we are about a month on the Chicken & Rice meal I've been making for them, as well as the regular vitamin supplement. Their coats are even shinier and they just exude health. They even have more energy on this diet, not to mention the level of enthusiasm has skyrocketed since they started getting real food.

There is a weird side effect, though, from the new diet. I realize the temperatures have dropped, but it's still a little disconcerting that the entire pack hardly drinks any water. They pee normally, and they look like they are in fantastic health ... they just hardly drink.

My theory is that the really moist food now gives them most of the water they need. There's no secret supply of water here, so their bodies have to be getting it from somewhere.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Dinner Time Genius

Chihuahuas are smart. I thought I turned away enough to casually look at my watch to see if it was close to dinner time. But Ty must have seen the wrist movement, even with my back to him, because he leaped from the couch and started doing the dinner dance.

Dogs sense time, and my dogs know that I look to my watch for time. If I look at my watch at 10 in the morning, none of the doggies notice. But if I look at my watch at say, 5:50 PM, then the whole pack is on me like a cheap suit. Normally I'm sly enough to get away with it, but not that sly, because Ty is a spy.

Zoey doesn't do her dinner dance until I either say the "D" word or clank one of the stainless steel bowls down on the counter. I used to joke that her brother Tidbit (who now lives with my ex) would be the "little thing that peeks out of the den at night" in the wild, but Zoey is like that, too. If she's not glued to me or eating dinner, she's in her den, peeking out the air holes, assessing the situation.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Tandem Walk

Today was a big milestone in our walking. We did Zoey and Ty at the same time. It was really windy, and there were a lot of leaves blowing by us on the street, and that made Zoey scared a little. But she plodded on. We walked by a kid walking his bike down the middle of the street. It was hard to tell if he was laughing, crying or sneezing. That made Zoey nervous and she gave a couple warning barks. But they were the confident, tail up barks, not aggression barks. Like she was saying "Just FYI, you might want to take a couple steps back from my pet."

Ty was a trooper like he's always been. He's more the typical dog. Walks make him poop, and we have to stop and smell everything, especially anything that smells like other dogs. But he walks like a champ, and follows orders and cues like tugging on the leash to get him to move it along.

Together they did pretty good. My brother walks his two large, wolf-beast-things together and he has come close to dislocating his shoulder when his two boys see a squirrel. I have the opposite problem, where a squirrel could injure one of my dogs. A couple weeks ago, a squirrel ran sprinting down the center of the street and stopped right in front of Ty, who looked up at me like he was saying "Uh, boss, this thing in front of us looks a little shifty," and we kept walking. Dogs and squirrels both have that built in predator/prey role, so the last thing a squirrel wants to normally do is tangle with a dog. So hopefully we don't meet any more psychotic squirrels.

Yummy Eggs

I make a mean macaroni salad, and being a decent cook, I don't like to come to a barbecue empty handed. And with a big batch of macaroni salad, I usually hard boil a couple extra eggs just in case something goes wrong like one breaks open while boiling.

And tonight as it dawned on me that I didn't have any good snacks for the dogs, I peeled one of the leftover eggs, cut it into fourths and gave each Chihuahua his or her portion. The girls will dry heave if they don't get a small meal at night.

These are dogs that have been used to human quality chicken and rice dinners the last few weeks, so I was surprised to have the whole pack get worked up about a late night snack. Zoey jumped on my shoulder. I said "oh, you like the eggs, do you?" and she looked at me with understanding. I said "go get the rest" and she looked at me, looked at the counter, looked back and me and it's almost like she was saying "Pet, you took them from over there and put them in the silver box. Pet, use your thumbs to open it..."

I was going to maybe integrate some black beans to augment the chicken, but my recipe already has green beans, so I think it's going to be eggs as the perfect, cheap extra protein I was looking for. Hopefully this will balance their diet some more, and I won't argue with saving money.

The bacon wasn't horrible as treats, but it does have salt and nitrates, and they seem to like the eggs more than the bacon. The bacon isn't great for me, but hey, 4 pieces for breakfast with 2 pieces of toast and a morning workout is light years ahead of where I was. So the doggies can have the eggs and I'll have the bacon!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Jealous Girlfriend

Someone was asking about my RV the other day. I said that my house has wheels, and that I can go anywhere. Then I joked that all I needed was a cute redhead to ride shotgun in the truck, to which my friend responded "Yeah, right, like Zoey allow that."

Zoey gets jealous if I even pet another dog in the pack. Or any other dog. She gets jealous if I talk to people or if I talk on the phone. She'll jump into my lap and try to paw at the phone to dislodge it from my face while I'm talking.



It dawned on me that pretty much no woman on earth would play second fiddle to a six pound dog. And I'm OK with that. Zoey earned her place in my heart, and a human girlfriend would have to do that before she could paw the phone out of my hand like Zoey does.

But Zoey is cute as hell, and she likes people for the most part, so who knows, maybe she can be a tiny wing man if I do start socializing more. Either way, my jealous girlfriend has been pawing at my hands the whole time I type this. I can tell she's saying something like "Pet, stop that. This is our time."


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Zoey Likes Walks

Today was supposed to be a day off from walks, because we've been so good with exercise and nutrition. I sat down to play a video game and Zoey kept jumping in my lap. I would put her down, and she would spin around a few times on the ground and jump right back in my lap. This dog that would hide when she saw her harness was asking me to put it on!

This was a dog who was literally scared of her own shadow. The other day it finally clicked with her that our walks are safe, and now she's focused on the grand adventure that is walking. Most dogs experience the world through their snouts. Not Zoey. She looks and and listens and takes it all in, more like a person. Every once in a while she sees something of interest that she wants to go sniff, but she's not the "sniff-fests" that my walks with Ty are.

She is now a confident walker now, with her tail held high and her ears perked up. We just keep reinforcing that good behavior and I think she might just be a travel companion on par with my Corgi, Dancer, who passed away not long after the puppies were born. I could walk on the side of a busy freeway or in a crowded public place, and Dancer would follow my commands no matter how many distractions there were.

Years ago, there was a different princess: Dancer, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Of course I could hear Ty crying as I walked away with Zoey today. He bays like a tiny wolf, just like his papa, Lenny Woofer did.

I walk them one at a time, just because they are so small, if we were ever attacked by a larger animal, then I couldn't pull the whole pack into my arms. Ty is a solid walker, though, and I might start walking him at the same time as Zoey.

Ty was properly socialized by his owner until she got too sick to care for him. But he's still a dog. My son had a t-shirt that said "easily distracted" and that describes most dogs that I know of. But a couple of dogs I've had over the years, like Zoey, have been much more like people than dogs. In this case, that quality has allowed her to start overcoming the developmental problems I gave her.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

How To: Home Cooked Dog Food

Whatever made my two dogs sick was something they ate, and the only thing I had personally seen any of them eat was their dog food and treats. The dog food I thought was good quality. It was not the 60 bucks a bag that the Blue brand was, but it was 40 bucks a bag and it was grain free. But at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter. Little dogs like my Chihuahuas have such a delicate constitution.

So ... I decided to make my own. Years ago there was a big dog food scare in the media and we made our own, until we eventually got lazy. But we had bigger dogs back then, and more money for vet care if something went wrong.

The pack has been eating the recipe below for a couple weeks now, and it should go without saying that dinner time is orders of magnitude more fun for this pack of chow hounds. It took some experimentation to figure it out, but I think I have it dialed in and thought I would share:

Above, You want it moist but not "goopy" and this is a decent batch


Spot's Hearty Chicken & Rice


Ingredients
(Makes 12-14 little dog meals)

1 Cup Long Grain Rice
1 Large Boneless Chicken Breast
1 Bag Frozen Veggies
1 Pinch Salt
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil "EVOO"

Directions

Cook the rice per instructions on the box--probably 2 cups water, bringing to a boil and covering and then simmering 20 minutes. Take the rice off the stove and put off to the side.

Chop the raw chicken, and heat a large skillet with the olive oil on medium heat. When the oil starts to get thinner, then put the chicken pieces in the pan. Stir the pan to even out the chicken, then add the pinch of salt. Keep stirring to make it cook evenly.

When the chicken is almost done cooking, add the frozen vegetables. Leave any fat in there--ideally there will be a little. Keep stirring. When they start to look thawed, you can reduce the heat a little. You want to turn off the heat before they get soggy. Turn the heat off.

Stir in the rice, which should already be warm and not sticky or gooey. Even cooked all the way, the rice will soak up the fat and flavor of the chicken and vegetables. If necessary, add just a little water.

I think the bag above was about $4.50 at Winco, and of course no sales tax in Oregon!

Serving

I serve this with a drop of the liquid vitamin supplement I ordered from Amazon. I serve up about a cup for each dog, and then just drop a drop on top of the food. They don't seem to mind the smell, so I don't have to hide it. Just a drop on top.

For treats the dogs get plain meat; either chicken from this recipe or bacon, and occasionally leftover breakfast sausage.

Results

A few years ago when we switched to a store bought, grain free dog food, the dogs got noticeably healthier looking. Our vet said our dogs were in better health than hers. But this food has not only made them a little healthier over the grain free food, but the doggies are more active, too.

Is it the food or the supplement, or both? I don't want to mess around with their health, so I'm going to stay the course and continue giving them this recipe plus the supplement.

Notes

  • The key to making this recipe in a way where Spot won't turn her nose up at the rice and the vegetables is to make sure the rice soaks up lots of the chicken flavor. It's a little hard to work with a whole batch of this in one skillet, but it's that or give Spot plain meat.
  • Add a little more olive oil if needed to keep the fat content up. Boneless chicken breast is a lean meat but this dish needs at least a little fat. 
  • The above recipe is cheaper than the 40 bucks a month I was spending! Though it's obviously more work...
  • I wash their bowls with the other dishes now every night, too. Smokey licks his dish down to bare metal, but the other's don't, so I just throw them all in with the dishes every night. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Walks With Zoey

Zoey has some of the same fear her mommy, Spot has. Couple that with the medical issues I was having when I should have been socializing her, and I thought for sure that she wasn't ever going to be a normal dog. She's been all over the northwest, but I've mostly steered her away from strange people and animals until we could work on that more, and we just started the last couple months.

But she has her mommy's intelligence, and she wasn't an abused puppy mill dog like her mommy. A few months ago when we finally started our training, I could see it click when she understood what "Zoey, come here" meant. I could see it click when she realized that walking with the leash meant that we both have to walk at the same speed.

And on our walk today, we walked by several screaming children on bicycles and a large, yellow, Labrador. One of the little girls on her bike said "hiiiii doooogggggiiieeee" as she zoomed by. Zoey, looked at the girl, looked at me, and I could see that it clicked. It's safe because the big, burly dude with the shades is giving her all the subtle body gestures that she's safe. She's safe because the man says she's safe.



Recently I reminded a younger sibling of one of my favorite quotes:

"Courage isn't the absence of fear, but the mastery of it."

So, I am helping Zoey master her fear. Years ago, I had to replace our front door. When my 10 year old step-daughter saw that the door comes out with a reciprocating saw in less time than it would take to unlock it, she said "If the locks or even the doors aren't keeping us safe, then what is keeping us safe? How are we safe?" to which I replied "I am keeping you safe."

Now that it's hopefully clicked with Zoey that our walks are safe, I'm hoping we can just continue the forward progress. After our encounter with the big family, she was giddy on the way back home. She was actually prancing.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Spot Is Afraid

My dog is afraid of her food dish. She's been that way as long as I can remember. She was supposedly abused and was rescued from a puppy mill before we got her. As a mommy, dogs 10 times her size were scared of her. With other animals, she's completely fearless, but she's scared of everything else. We've always joked that she she needed "doggy Prozac" but that might not be far from the truth.

Being afraid of her food dish is the number one concern because she has to eat to continue to be with us. My wife just used to pour some food out on the carpet for her. I wanted a better solution, so I tried to train her to use the food dish. We can do it if I say "Spot, eat your dinner, honey" for every single bite. But if I get distracted, dinner sometimes takes all night, because if I forget, she hides from the food dish instead of eating.

The experts have said "Just put her food down, and pick it up 10 minutes later. If she's hungry enough, she'll eat."

But the experts would have killed her, because once we went 3 days. Then it dawned on me that she was paralyzed with fear. Without coaxing or something, she's not capable of overcoming that fear,, no matter how hungry she is. That' when I blinked, and fed her by hand until I figured out something better.
Scared of food dishes, but not dangerous and vicious animals
The best I've come up with is to feed her on a paper towel. She's not right in the head, and I'm not sure she's ever going to be. At least between the home cooked food and the nondescript paper towel, I'm not getting her to eat reliably. Zoey has some of her fear issues, so I'm almost convinced at least some of the crazy is genetic.

I still hold out hope for maybe some anti-anxiety medication or something to help her with her "fear of everything" that I call it.

She's coming out of her shell a little now that we're mostly settled in. But she's nowhere near being able to be walked. The irony is that the outside is her favorite thing on earth, but she flips out on any other dog or human,. That was fine in the woods, but ... not fine in a busy neighborhood. My brother has Alaskan and Siberian Huskies that would eat her in about half a bite if she showed aggression, which she definitely would.

At least one silver lining is that Zoey seems like now that I'm in good health, she can be a normal dog. We've gone on a few walks and she's been fantastic on the leash. Ty is a champ on the leash, but he was raised with everything done by the book. While I was too sick to be socializing Zoey, Ty lived in a retirement community where everyone there sneaked him treats and he had paid dog walkers. So it's surprising that Zoey does almost as well on the leash. But with my luck lately, I sure the hell won't argue with something better than I thought. Especially when that something is my honey bunny.

I read somewhere recently that they did a scientific study that concluded fear was a sign of intelligence, and Spot is probably the most intelligent dog I've come across, and I've known and lived with many dogs. Just like my Corgi, Dancer from years ago, I can't even spell above Spot's head, at least for common words or words she cares about.

"who's a pretty girl?"
I'm open to any advice. As soon as I have a few bucks in my pocket, I'm going to take her to a doggy doctor. She's bonded to her two offspring, so I couldn't imagine separating them. But everything these days is a "gut check" for me, and I like to think that I usually know good advice when I hear it. She's only 6 years old and she's in magnificently good health.

Worse case I just keep her safe and healthy and maybe take her on trips to the country when I can.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Loose Cannon

Ty was the first puppy to leave the safety of the litter to go exploring. He's always had a sense of adventure. His sister, Zoey ... not so much. She was the first to escape from the nest, and the living room, wandering the house at just a couple weeks old, looking for trouble.

Zoey has been a loose cannon ever since. She's just incorrigible. I'll be sitting in front of the computer and she'll come flying across the room, leap up onto my lap, and then lunge at my face, trying to paw my nose to get my attention.



Whatever the pack gets into, she's there at the front. If I try to block off an area with a baby gate, she'll figure out a way to get past, and then come back to train the others. Smokey is too lazy to be that devious, but Zoey will show him ways to get into unauthorized areas to score some doggy contraband.

As I've said many times, all four of my Chihuahuas are criminal masterminds, and Zoey is definitely the ringleader.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Father's Son

I miss the papa of the pack, Lenny Woofer terribly. But I have his mate, Spot, and two of his offspring, Ty and Zoey, so it helps to have a part of him always with me. And I'm at the stage in my grief where I can see something that reminds me of Lenny without getting instantly sad.

The whole pack, and Chihuahuas in general are burrowers. They are so small that in the wild, they would dig their own dens. But they're not in the wild, so they burrow into blankets. Lenny was an adept burrower even by little dog standards. He could insta-burrow into anything resembling a blanket. I once found him asleep in a pillow case.

Blast from the past: Ty and papa Lenny Woofer
But Lenny was a beast, so when he was deeply burrowed and sound asleep, and he was suddenly woke up, he would freak out trying to get out of the blanket. Sometimes the blanket would be stuck to his head trailing behind him while he ran for a treat or heard the doorbell ring.

Ty is definitely his father's son. Where his sister Zoey has her mama's dig-a-hole style of burrowing into blankets, Ty has the same skill as his father.

He also has the same level of hilarity when he wakes suddenly and tries to get out of a blanket.

When I saw this image below, just for a second I thought it was Lenny, and I chuckled a little when I realized it was his son. He's definitely his father's son.

You can see Ty's eyeball and snout through the blanket if you look closely, as he tries to stand up under the blanket

But Ty is not the raging beast his papa was. He's more meek, so instead of powering through it, he just whines a little, as if saying "ooooh human, oooooh please help me, human."


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Over The Hump

Ty and Zoey are fully recovered, and the whole pack is doing good on the new diet. Little dogs are sensitive to pretty much everything, so I've been keeping a close eye on their weight. They started losing weight pretty much instantly on the new diet, so I've been ramping up the portions. Too big of portions and they get lethargic, so I've been dialing it in.

We're over the hump in more ways than one. Our lives were turned upside down a year ago and that was really hard on the girls, Zoey and mama Spot. But it wasn't any picnic for the boys, either. We'd swing from extreme activity to extreme inactivity and dogs just like their routine. Especially little dogs.

"Who wants a treat?"
So, now we've stabilized, I'm in better health, and we're finally in some kind of routine. Smokey seems genuinely happy and he normally doesn't do happy. Spot is coming out of her shell. It's all starting to click.

When I went from rich to basically homeless, most of the people in my life took that opportunity to tell me it was time to face reality and get rid of all my dogs. There were lots of snarky comments. Little dogs are definitely an acquired taste. It seemed like the entire universe was trying to pull my dogs away from me.

But then it was so hard going through what I went through while managing a whole pack of criminal masterminds at the same time. Just like a reality TV show with multiple children, adding 4 dogs makes simple tasks take all day. I didn't think it would be easy transitioning with them and boy, it wasn't.

And then finally, just when my life stabilizes, two of my dogs get really sick, and I almost lose one. More money I don't have, from an empire I'm no longer emperor of. I briefly wondered if I had made the wrong choice to keep them. Zoey's sister Jewel had gone to a rich, old lady--did I make a mistake by not finding Zoey that same type of home? It was hard not to wonder that sitting at the doggy ER in the middle of the night, hoping it wouldn't reject my debit card.

Spot is finally being more sociable, and not always being a hermit in her "spot hole"

And then a few days ago, I wake up, and everything is great in every sense of the word. Finally. I'm in decent health, the dogs are in great health. and yeah, I'm now finally broke, but I made it to the finish line. All the pieces are in place, and the dogs are still with me and everyone is safe and happy.

We're finally over the hump, in more ways than one.