Archive for the ‘doggie emotion’ Category

Our Summer Garden

Had a conversation with folks from work on our summer gardens. Question was raised to me about how my tomatoes were this summer. I replied, “We didn’t plant a garden – instead, we grew dogs.”

Since we got Ava “used”, we didn’t grow her as we might raise a puppy, much like we did with Gracie.  Instead, she came to us with her own set of baggage, her own fears, her own phobias.  And it would be unfair for us to think that she’ll be all affectionate on day one – that’s impossible.

So – what we grew was trust.  And that takes time, consistency, and fairness.  We had to continue to show love to Gracie, but we had to share that love with Avaroo.  Instead of watering tomatoes – we fed and took care of dogs instead.

I think of Avaroo sometimes as an onion – you peel back one layer away and see something different inside, something delightful, something wonderful.

The past six months have been dedicated to this little 9+ pound dog and her 12+ pound younger sister. It’s been about helping them grow together as a family unit, about helping both continue to feel loved.  Dogs are amazingly complex and yet delightfully simple creatures.  They certainly have feelings, show emotions, and to that age old question – are capable, IMHO, of showing much affection and perhaps even love.

It’s neat now to look at the layers we’ve peeled back to see what we’ve got.

You’ve already read some of the other blentries that outline both Ava and Gracie’s growth together. There are a few things that stand out in my mind.

Ava’s reaction to kids and the changes has been nothing short of remarkable.  She was very fearful of kids when we got her – now, her confidence in kids has been restored – and perhaps it’s further than it ever was.  She trusts kids, she loves kids, and they love her.  Quite a change from the first night when she was so freaked out by the neighbor kids, backed out of her harness, and ran in towards the house.

On labor day weekend I took Ava by myself to an outdoor gathering. She was scared at first – what with the loud trains, the number of people, and the number of dogs. But when she and I sat down – me in my chair, and she in my lap – she showed a level of comfort that she really hadn’t shown before. What might have helped were the dozen folks that came up to say “cute doggie” and pet her. Good for the old canine self-esteem. When we got home – Sharon was there at the door to welcome us home – holding Gracie in her arms as she normally does for me. Who did Gracie sniff and lick first? Not Sharon, not I, but Ava – as if to say, “where did you go, I missed you!”

There’s the nightly “attack” when we both come home – being met at the door by 21 lbs of tail wagging dogs. With each day – Avaroo gets more and more animated – more and more joyful to see us.

Then there’s the fence “play” Ava has with the 75# Boxer next door – the first time I saw this, I couldn’t believe it and had to call Sharon out with her video camera.  So Ava is capable of play – just not with Gracie.

This past weekend at a friends party – Avaroo followed me quite literally everywhere – as if to say, “Dad, you’re my comfort zone – protect me from these strange people.” But what was really cute was this tilted head look of adoration towards me.  Or perhaps I’m reading it wrong – perhaps she was saying something else to me, maybe “Dad, your fly is open.”

There’s still much work to be done. We’ve not yet seen Ava and Gracie play together – and perhaps we never will. But they’re a cohesive little doggie family – happy as individuals, but happier together. And we see their progress – both as individual dogs and as a team – and there’s an inner joy and happiness that words cannot begin to measure.

If there’s one lesson from this – it’s that folks shouldn’t be afraid of shelter dogs.  They do take time – perhaps different time and effort from that of raising a puppy.  But it’s so worth it.

You Never Forget a Face

We adopted Ava-roo from the very good-hearted people at the New Beginnings Shih Tzu Rescue.  The rescue holds an annual fundraiser call the Shih Tzu Shuffle, a picnic where alumni and their humans come visit and maybe adopt another doggie.    Ava-roo and Gracie were so excited about seeing so many like-minded doggies.  Ranger and Teddy were there.  The 3 and 1/4 Club lives again!

But the highlight of the Shuffle was when Miss Bernadette and Ava-roo reunited.  Miss Bernadette was Ava’s foster mom.  The following video was very spontaneous.  I was asking Bernadette if we could get a picture with her and Ava before we left.  As we were talking, Ava went over and greeted Bernadette.  It was very sweet.

Love and charity is never forgotten.  I’m just sorry the video is so short.

Ava Meets People

Sunday, May 30th we went to Lake Koshkonong in Wisconsin to visit some friends.  I’d never even heard of this place until I met my husband’s friends.  They have summer places up and have been going there for 20 years.

We finally went and brought the doggies.   On the way up I noticed that Ava (in her car harness), was trying to get out of the sun as much as possible.  When we stopped, I moved her to a new spot out of the sun.  Little princess likes her sun filtered.  We weren’t sure how Ava would do, being stranger-shy.  At first, she was pretty unsure but Gracie showed her the way. Someone brought up the fact that she didn’t know what was happening.  Maybe this was another place she would be left and go to a different house.  Who’s to know?  We cut her come slack.

One of our friend’s 84 year old mom was there.  Her daughter told us she loves dogs and misses hers and Miss Betty was really drawn to Ava’s calm nature.  I put Ava on her lap and together Miss Betty and I were petting her.  When we got on their pontoon boat, Gracie (who I thought for sure would flip out on the boat but didn’t), wanted to be with me.  And Ava couldn’t be in the sun.  So, we gave Ava to Miss Betty and I held Gracie.  Ava snuggled up to Miss Betty but the sun was in her eyes, so I put my sun visor on Ava… it was cute and it shielded her.

By the time the ride ended (2 hours), Ava and Miss Betty had bonded.  Ava-roo our own little therapy dog.

Gracie had her own adventure.  After trying to avoid the water that splashed on board, her “grandpa” Chuck came on-board. Gracie could not have been happier to see him.  Chuck walked her over to their boat where she road around and then home to their house to see Jake and Katie and their doggie friend Titus.  Later, we walked over with Ava-roo to pick up Gracie and see their cozy home.

On the drive home, the doggies were out like a light.  Exhausted.   A good day.

More Pictures

I  love this picture of Gracie. I wonder what she is thinking about. I think it really shows her personality.  (She was a little stressed thinking we were leaving her there, but the tilt of her head, is just so Gracie!  

This is a really good picture of Ava.  She’s looking right at the camera so you can see how sweet she is.

Our First Week with Two Dogs

Just when you need it, the video camera decided not to work.  But let me tell you about our week.  Lisa suggested we try walking the dogs together, so I did with the split lead — two doggies on one leash– and with great success.  I did notice that Ava isn’t a real walker… but Gracie was very patient with her and waited — but not too much.  Ava was walking at quite a clip.  On Saturday night,  we bought a harness for Ava to use in the car.  At Petsmart, the dogs shared a shopping cart, enjoying the sights.  I think the shared walk really helped them.

Sunday, we took Gracie and Ava to my mom’s for Mother’s Day.  Ava was loved by all — and she was milking it, taking all the laps offered her.  Gracie was pleased as punch to share her backseat with Ava.

One of the tricks we do with Gracie is have her “show me”… Show me what you want,  show me poppa, show me momma, show me Grandma Dee.  Then Gracie will go with great gusto to said thing and if it’s a person, she’ll touch it with her paws or nose.  On Tuesday I asked Gracie to show me Ava.  She ran down the stairs, ran to Ava and stopped her.  Good girl, Gracie.    Tuesday night, Ava was pretty tired — all that walking on those little legs — and was curled up on her pillow.  I don’t know what Gracie was doing, but she got close to Ava.  Ava did not like this, and hissed at Gracie as if she were a cat.  I told Gracie to come by me, which she did.  It happened again when Ava was on Dave’s lap.  Gracie went by to sniff her.  Ava hissed again.  We praised Gracie for not hurting Ava and let Ava know we do not tolerate that behavior by taking her off Dave’s lap.

By Wednesday, doggies were sitting on the same pillow (I didn’t see it, but Dave said so).  But Wednesday night held its own dramas.  We had a wicked bad thunderstorm. Gracie is miserable.  She pants, her skin/fur is hot and she shakes–a lot.  We don’t Ooo and Ahh over her when she is like this, rather tell her she’ll be okay.  Ava gets nervous but we didn’t have evidence of anything like Gracie’s issues.  By the time it was 4 a.m., both doggies were a wreck.  I held Gracie down all night long and she ended up on my pillows just above my head.  Dave had Ava duty. I think she was trying to get close to Gracie, but it was too late and I was too tired.    All in all, the two sisters seem to be doing well they even finish they’re #1’s at the same time.  Synchronized.

In the last week, this is what I’ve observed about Ava:

  • Ava doesn’t sit, stand, or come when called
  • Ava doesn’t climb stairs
  • when you want to pick her up and she doesn’t want it, Ava slumps
  • Ava sits on her pillow all day and sleeps
  • Ava doesn’t know how to play with other dogs
  • Ava doesn’t do well with children

and Ava is potty trained!

All this says to me that the people who owned Ava when she was a puppy seemed to think she was a toy.  She didn’t need to do anything, she wasn’t socialized with other dogs — she wasn’t allowed to be the best doggie she can be.  That makes me angry and it makes me sad for both Ava and Gracie.  I know shih tzus.  One of the smartest dogs I know is a shih tzu and they have the ability to learn and learn quickly.  So, for now we’re letting Ava be Ava.  But there will come a time that Ava will be held accountable for that list.  Slowly but surely, she can be a better doggie!

Our New Reality, Day One

Dave and I picked up Ava last night.  We brought her home and she met Gracie outside on “neutral” territory.  They seemed to have gotten along… then we came inside.  Gracie first (my first error of the night).  When Ava and Dave came in, Gracie defended her home.  She barked and got in Ava’s face.  Poor little dog, Ava immediately went into submissive mode.  It went that way for a while, Ava staying in the vestibule of our house and Gracie tense.

Sigh.  Did we make a mistake?  That was my first thought.  Then I called Lisa. She said to reward the good behavior. So we tried that.  All night long Gracie would snarl at Ava whenever she got near me.  Not so much Dave, but always with me. This put sweet, damaged Ava in an uncomfortable spot, literally!  She stayed in the vestibule facing the door hoping that her foster mommy would come pick her up.  Then, when that didn’t happen, she just tried to get comfortable.

So, Gracie the perfect little dog, is my guard dog.  Great. We saw it after my surgery.  She stay by my side.  But not once had she acted out in protection of me.  It may be that Ava is a girl dog and most of Gracie’s dog friends are boys.  We didn’t want to reinforce the guard dog thing, so as soon as I realized what was happening, Dave and I made sure Gracie was never actually guarding me.

  • Dave reasserted his top dog status by making sure Gracie was always settled down
  • I would put myself between her and Ava and face Ava, not Gracie.
  • Gracie was required to be down.
  • All the time reinforcing good behaviors in both dogs

By the end of the night, I was exhausted, hoping we didn’t make the wrong decision.  At bedtime, Dave took the dogs out one at a time.  I brought Ava upstairs with a dog bed. I put the dog bed in the corner and put her in it.  She roamed around and that was okay.  Then Dave brought Gracie up and she went directly on the bed where she stayed all night right next to me.  I realize this was reinforcing the guarding of momma, but I we decided we needed status quo.

When I got up around 4, Ava was in the corner, on the dog bed.  When Dave got up at 6, the report was the same.  Ava stirred a bit when Dave left the room and I made sure Gracie’s head was down.  All the time thinking about the dog whisperer, she needs to be a calm, submissive dog.

So, now, this morning.  Dave took the dogs out one at a time, Ava first then Gracie.  When Gracie came in, she smelled Ava who was sitting on my lap.  That was it, just smelled her.  Good girl Gracie.  Then Gracie jumped on the couch without asking and sat between Dave and me.  And asked for her belly to be rubbed!

Right now both dogs are laying down separate with an uncomfortable truce. And no one is barking!

Life’s about to change

Dear Gracie:  I didn’t know I could love a dog.  Then I met you.  There was a great debate in the newspaper about this: do dogs have the ability to love?  I don’t think so.  They’d be just as happy with someone else who met their needs — it might take a while, but they can transfer their allegiance.  But as a human, I have the ability to love my dog and that is what matters.

Well, sweet Gracie who taught me compassion, things are about to change!!  Ava is coming to our house today to make you a sister.  Our family is increasing.  It doesn’t mean I love you less.  Really, it means I love you enough to see that you might need companionship.  That I realized that leaving you home alone — even with a dog walker — isn’t fair to you.  That mommy and daddy can’t play with you all the time.

Sister Ava won’t play with you right away, Gracie.  We’re going to have a few hard weeks ahead of us.  But, Grace Hopper, I really truly think this is the best thing for our little family.

Love,

Sharon/mommy/the lady with the food on her hands

New Friends

We had our home visit with the good people at New Beginnings Shih Tzu Rescue.  Asia came as did little Lafayette.  Lafayette is a 9 month old toy poodle who is painfully shy/nervous.  Gracie really tried to play with him — really tried — but it didn’t work.

Asia — who will be named Ava if I have anything to say about it — and Gracie had a tentative start.  I got the treats out and Ava was hoping for some. To the point that Gracie got a little snarky with our houseguest.  I didn’t think that was very polite and Gracie girl had to give up her treat until our guest had one.  By the end of the visit the two girls took turns getting yummies.

What are we going to do?  I don’t know. If I could read my doggie’s mind it would be a lot easier.  In my heart I think that Gracie is lonely and would enjoy being a sister.  I just don’t know what dog is the right dog.  Is it Asia/Ava?  I say her name and Gracie seems to look around.

So here is a montage of the two girls, Asia/Ava and Gracie girl.  They seem content, huh?

Touch My Hand

A few weeks ago our little family went to Lisa’s house to have a doggie date. Gracie loves Lisa’s shih tzus, Ranger and Teddy.  We were having fun but for some reason, Lisa needed her doggies by her.   She said to the boys, “Touch my hand!” and the two dogs went right to her.  I asked her about it and she said sometimes she just wanted them to by her side.  Well, I thought this a very useful trick indeed and set out to teach it to Gracie girl.

Put the treat in the palm of your hand.  When the dog comes and touches your hand, release the treat.   Genius.  I’ve been working on her about 10 days and lately alternate treats in hand vs. no treats.  Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t.

This trick came in handy today when we looked for a doggie sister or doggie brother for Gracie.  After visiting with Ranger and Teddy and seeing her have so much fun with them — spontaneously playing with them — she needs companionship.  So we’ve been visiting shelters and rescues and went to look at a shih tzu from New Beginnings Shih Tzu Rescue. These are the good people who Lisa found Teddy.  We met many sweet dogs.  The one dog we went to see didn’t seem like a good fit for our family.  But we found two other ones that may fit very nicely.  We are doing a home visit with them this week to see.   Hopefully we’ll have video of the home visit to show you.

Everyone says that having a second will change Gracie.  I just don’t know if that is a bad thing.  I don’t think that she is as happy as she can be.  She constantly wants to play with me.  Her separation issues are an issue and she thrives around her doggie friends.  I do not know if we will get a second dog, I do know we have to try for Gracie girls sake.

Defining Family

This week’s video doesn’t seem like much.  Gracie is sitting on the arm of our family room couch looking out the door window.  It’s about 60 seconds long and she is just sitting there.  Not a lot to look at right?  Not until you learn the context of the video. 

I was out of town for business three days last week. I tried to give Gracie girl some warning, telling her I’d be gone for three darks (nights) and then I’d come home.  (Someone mentioned that dogs seem to understand that. ) I don’t think Gracie understood.  According to my husband, this 60-second video was a snapshot of the time I was gone.  Whenever she heard something, she’d perk up and think it was me.  And she sat on my side of the couch, looking out waiting for me to come home.  So sweet.

It got me thinking about our family.  I used to think that it was enough that one of us was around for Gracie.  When Dave gets home from an errand or work, Gracie and I would celebrate while she jumped from my arms to his.  But it wasn’t enough that Dave was home and I wasn’t.  Gracie seems happiest when we’re a complete unit.  She defines her family as a unit of three, and without the complete set she is incomplete.  It was an eye-opening revelation.

Some Hints
I think it takes a while for the videos to load... they're HD format and are pretty big files. If you click on the arrow and then immediately click the pause button. This allows the video to load. Once there is more grey line than black line, you should be able to press the play button. Enjoy.