“That doesn’t mean that I can’t be afraid or sad or vulnerable, it simply means that reacting to tragedy by living in fear doesn’t create empathy, it breeds more fear. ” – Brene Brown
In Confident Canine class today one of my handlers told me, “I’m learning to just relax and let [my dog] be who she is, just let it be okay.”
Another said, “He feels less anxious and I feel less anxious.”
Lesson learned: fear breeds more fear. Be brave and let it be okay!
light, love and martin luther king, jr. – my blog – Ordinary Courage.
My baby boy is growing up! It was a day of firsts today and my heart just doesn’t want to accept the reality: He’s not a baby anymore!
December 15, 2012 – 6 months old
Embee’s Stupendous Flying Man!
It started this morning with a text to Mary Beth that said, “I think Calvin is starting to mark!” My next text was to his Auntie Nikki and said, “We need to talk!” Calvin just marked! Aaaah! Nooooo! Eeeek! Aaaaack! Aaaargh!”
That pretty much sums it up! I have never had an intact male dog before. Magnus was an early neuter, by the rescue at 8 weeks, so he doesn’t even lift his leg to pee. (I would NEVER do that again, structurally I can see how it was detrimental to him.) Summit lifted his leg, but I don’t remember him marking really. He was double cryptorchid and neutered at 10 months, so I don’t know if that had anything to do with it. I really don’t know anything about living with a dog who marks! Thus my dramatic texts this morning.
Then this afternoon it happened! He lifted his leg to pee! I am so silly, but I got all emotional about it. I mean he pees like a big boy now! It’s pretty funny cause he doesn’t have good balance and his aim stinks so twice he almost tipped over and once he fell off the curb. I know I shouldn’t laugh, but it made me chuckle.
That wasn’t the only first though. Right after that he came in and hopped right up on my lap with NO help! It was like all day he was telling me, “I aint no baby!” I actually got teary eyed when he did that! I just can’t believe how grown up he is.
He never really went through an observably change at his 14-16 week fear imprint period. I noticed a few small changes, but nothing really notable. So this is the first real developmental change I’ve been able to see affect him.
I could tell he didn’t feel himself today. He was SUPER needy at the store. Barked up a storm while I was with customers for the first half hour or so we were there. Then every time I picked him up he would just burrow in to snuggle my neck. I know he’s not feeling quite himself when he’s that snuggly at the store, normally he’s all about play, play, play there.
We’ve been having so much fun. Walks in the snow, classes, training new tricks and foundation skills. He’s just a blast. He’s got Magus playing and it just makes me laugh. Maizey went though a couple of days where she had just had it with him so he transferred his attention to Magnus and now they go out together and just chase and run. Today they were tugging together. I bet they would be crazy players if Magnus hadn’t got sick when Calvin was little. Oh well, they are making up for lost time now.
He’s as wonderful as every oowie gooey gushy post says he is, even if he is a pee monster now! Each pup sure does come with their own set of lessons and today Calvin’s is lesson is to teach me how to deal with a marking BOY dog!
This is the post I’ve started over and over and can never finish. Magnus was diagnosed with Immune Mediated Thrombocytopenia (IMT) on September 3, 2012. His diagnosis, recovery and subsequent treatment has been one of the most emotional things I’ve ever lived through with my animals.
The story actually started before I even knew it had, on Sunday, September 2. I noticed Magnus’ gums had some tiny blood spots on them. I noticed it, in that way you do when something is odd, but not alarming and never thought another thing about it. The next day Ryan and I took the boy dogs up the canyon to celebrate our 14 year anniversary. Thank goodness we did, or I would never have found the IMT in time. Around eleven o’clock that night I was doing my typical tick check on the dogs and saw these strange dark reddish, purple spots on Magnus’ belly. At first I thought maybe he poked himself on a stick, or perhaps it was poison ivy? It was late on a holiday so I did what we all do, posted a picture to FB and hit Dr. Google. I felt alarmed. I always do when something weird happens, but never did I imagine how bad it could get. One of the trainers from work mentioned Immune Mediated Thrombocytopenia, but I really didn’t take that too seriously, I mean what are the chances? Turns out the chances were pretty good.
While all of this was happening I searched the rest of this body and he had the spots everywhere, plus the bloody spots on his gums. As I sat there for 20 minutes trying to decide what to do I watched the worst one on his belly go from the size of a nickel to the size of an extra large egg. I didn’t know what it was, but I was scared so off to the new Emergency Room we went. At about one in the morning the news came back.
Immune Mediated Thrombocytopenia. It took me a week to even be able to pronounce that mouth full.
Photo by Kari
The spots were petechial hemorrhages. His immune system was attacking the platelets in his blood and he was bleeding into his skin. They started treatment with a massive steroid shot, Prednisone and several other meds that night. Over the next three days we were at the vet or in the emergency room every day or night. This is where the words stop. This is where I just can’t convey the terror I still feel even remembering it. On Tuesday he developed a major GI bleed and by Thursday he was bleeding into his lungs. He and I sat in the vet with few options left. The message was we had 24-48 hours left and the only treatment option left was to hospitalize him and give a transfusion of immunoglobulins. It would be $1800.00 to start that treatment with small hope it would be successful. After a tearful talk with him I decided to just take him home. If we were going to lose him I wasn’t going to let his last hours be in the vet alone. It would be with us at home. So our wonderful vet sent us home with every med we could hit him with to wait and see. Now the tears come. . .
Through the whole week my team at work was fabulous. They were all the support I could have wished for. Covering my shifts, letting me take calls from vets and be late coming from or leave early to go to the vets. After that vet visit it was so late I had one class to teach and no time to take him home and though I have no idea why, I just decided to take him with me.
He was still so amazingly perky at that point. He was so incredibly. . . HIM. He had toddled into the vet and snuggled right up to her, happy as could be to say hi and give her a chatter. When we walked into work he just snuzzled right up to his Auntie Nikki to tell her it was okay, don’t be sad. He clearly was sick, but dying? That cough meant he was bleeding into his lungs? How can that be? He just never gave up fighting. So he crated up with me while I taught my tricks class and we got so much support and love from my wonderful team and my wonderful clients. Our friend Kari took these wonderful pictures of us for me. I will always treasure them. It was amazing to experience such care.
Photo by Kari
That night things got bad. He couldn’t breath. He was coughing. I just laid and listened to him. . . He wanted to lay on the hard floor stretched out as long as he could stretch so I just laid with him. I just laid there a listened to his lungs and his heart, petting him until we both settled into an uneasy sleep. . . I didn’t think he would make it through the night.
He did though. Friday morning he still had the GI bleed, the bloody stool was unlike anything I’d seen. It was unnatural and scary. Still though, he never seemed as sick as he was. We took pictures that morning too and he was still mugging for the camera. I had a chat with my little sister that morning I will never forget and always treasure. She told me not to lose faith. I had, but she reminded me not to give up.
That was the miracle day. We spent it together snuggling and just waiting. We took a long sleep together that day and when we woke up, about 5:30 that evening, he was perking up. He wasn’t coughing and wanted to be outside. My mom came to sit with us and while she was there he had a normal stool. I could hardly believe it. NO blood. In about 8 hours he had stopped bleeding into his GI tract. That was the beginning of a miraculous recovery.
Since then we’ve spent umpteen dollars in blood tests, vet visits and medicines. We worried with each blood test and rejoiced when each one came back as good as the last. Medical miracle are words we hear every time we go the vet. We complained regularly about the evils of Prednisone and thanked goodness that he had it. For all the trials of treating this disease he’s alive and that’s all that matters.
Now we’re back in classes. He’s rocking Rally class right now and will soon take Prestigious Pooch and finally get his CGC. Who knows, we might even venture into the Rally ring sometime. All I know is he was always a miracle to me and now he’s a true miracle.
His prognosis is good, but he has a systemic autoimmune disease and something we’ll fight the rest of his life. He had a minor setback this weekend with his eyes and it really made me realize how fragile he is. I’m in an acceptance process of what all that means. He will never have vaccinations again and will always be on meds, but with strict management we hope to have more good days than bad days. However long his life is I treasure every second with him.
I haven’t posted any words in so long it’s hard to know where to start. How ’bout with Maizey?
She’s doing fabulous. She’s as stable as she’s ever been and better in many ways. This comment from one of our Instagram pictures sums it up well, “She’s looking very lovely lately. You can tell from the softer expression she has. Calvin was the right move!” Thanks Misskodee, I am very proud of my girl, wether it has anything to do with Calvin or not, she’s certainly happier in general!
She’s still on 10 mg of Fluoxetine. We find her Thundershirt and Composure liquid very helpful. She takes Clonidine for the really bad days. Twice this month, but only once last month so that’s a huge improvement from last year at this time.
Biochemically I don’t know what the change is, other than time on the meds and our Real Life is significantly less stressful in many ways. Training wise we still work counterconditioning and desensitization to her triggers when I can pin them down. It’s extremely hard to desensitize to rain on the windows or wind, but we use the chicken rains from the sky method and it’s slowly helping. We haven’t worked on the dog reactivity at all. One change for the worse is she’s shown a slight in inclination to human reactivity at the park. We have used lots of mat work to condition safe spaces for her to retreat too all around the house. Her stroller is now a piece of furniture in our house. Not the most normal looking “chair” but it gives her a Calvin free zone and safe place that can go wherever I go. We minimize stimulation as much as possible on the bad days. Closing blinds and playing Through a Dogs Ear to cut down on the outside sounds that trigger her. Her recovery time is down to hours instead of days.
Writing it that way it may sound as if she’s deprived, but she’s really not. We have fun together at home, she plays with Calvin and Magnus now. She even asks to play with toys sometimes, though she doesn’t seem to know quite what to do with them. Silly goose! We train lots of tricks. She can be outside now without being over threshold. Even her recall from the front yard and off the neighbors pit bulls is about 90%! That’s something I am so proud of. She also shows some ability to leave the cat alone, which used to be a major trigger. I know she has more thinking brain than fearing brain when she can call off those hard triggers and recover quickly.
She doing so well I’m considering taking the next step to desensitize her to being at work. We finally have a trainer I feel understands us enough and that I trust enough to start working on some other issues. After a loooong talk (Thanks Jamie!) we decided she won’t be able to make progress in training the reactivity until I can manage my worry and anxiety of taking her to the training room with me. So our next step is as much about desensitizing ME.
I guess there’s no one biggest thing that has made a difference, but for me the thing that’s most helpful is having the knowledge and tools to help her when it does get hard. She’s always going to have hard days, but now we both have enough training to handle it and recover.
My main message to people with fearful dogs is this: It starts at home. You are your dogs protector, advocate, doctor and trainer. You MUST make their homes a safe, trigger free zone. If you can’t create an environment for their bodies to recover from stress they will never be able to desensitize to their fears. Don’t push them, be patient. Protect them, speak up for them! Don’t let people approach them, be willing to change your environment, close the blinds, play the music loud, don’t let them go out in a yard alone, do whatever it takes to help them have at least one safe space, even if it means being that crazy lady with the dog stroller. Don’t ask too much of them just to fulfill your needs or wants. The rewards are worth it! Your fearful dogs’ journey is a serious of small climbs and an occasional fall. Love them through it, don’t give up! but most of all protect them!
Next up: The Magnus update. Get ready for this. . . it’s been a scary, strange and miraculous few months!
Calvin is 14 weeks old and has had quite the exciting 5 weeks since coming home. I’ve had a hard time putting those weeks into words, they have been a journey to say the least. He’s such an interesting boy, I’ve had a hard time putting him into words too.
14 weeks old
Late thursday night after we taught classes his Auntie Nikki sat watching us as I snuggled him. I’d just brought him out of his crate where he’d slept through me teaching Tricks class and us closing up the store, he was still all floppy and sleepy, and she said, “Calvin is just so. . . amazing.”
We sat there quiet for a second watching him and I said, “I know isn’t he just the most. . . interesting puppy?” We both just sat there while he nibbled away at my face, saying hello. I told her I have the hardest time even describing how fascinating he is. He is truly such a unique pup. She says he’s like an old soul who is out for his last hurrah. That’s quite an astute observation and the best words I really have to describe him. He is a thinker. He has to sit back and watch new things, but then he just dives in with gusto! It’s very, very fascinating to watch him think and Mary Bethhad it right when she told me, “I think you’ll be fascinated with his brain.”
Last week he discovered there was a world above his head. We were sitting under some trees and he sat watching the leaves wave in the breeze. He looked up, then he looked at the shadows they were making on the gravel, then he looked up again, looked down again, watching those shadows. I have no idea what he was learning but he was learning something. After watching, up and down, up and down, suddenly he just pounced and off went gamboling into play like, “Well that was interesting, back to play!”
He constantly makes me laugh and always amazes me. You can see him learning. We have a low profile bed, we got it when Meeka was sick so she could still get on the bed with us. One morning I watched him running around it from one side to other, around and around. He really wanted to get up on that bed! He never did figure it out that morning, but Ry’s been on puppy duty on Monday nights while I’m at work and that night I got this text on my way home, “Are you coming home? I can’t control this monster!” Turns out Calvin had got on the bed and of course peed. Ry said, “I didn’t even know he could get on the bed!” I didn’t either but apparently he’d figured it out that morning.
The whole ordeal with Magnus is really part of the reason I have a hard time putting Calvin’s journey into words. For those of you who don’t know, Magnus has Immune Mediated Thrombocytopenia. On September 6, after 4 days of doing all we could do to save him we came home with little hope he would survive. The vet gave him 24-48 hours and the next 12 hours were 12 of the most agonizing hours I’ve ever lived. He had a major GI bleed and had started bleeding into his lungs. Everyone was praying for a medical miracle, but my positivity failed me and I set out to make his last hours as peaceful as possible. Then Friday afternoon, against all odds, he turned it around. He came out of it, the bleeding stopped and he survived.
And this is where I stop having words, some day I’ll put that drama all together, but as of now I’m still processing the whole thing. I’ll just say he is staying stable. He’s on a slew of meds, the worst of which is 20 MG of Prednisone. It makes him miserably ravenous and has totally changed his drive. Thankfully he will be able to be off of it eventually.
So with all of that happening and a few Real Life days I never counted on, Calvin’s first weeks home haven’t looked at all like I thought they would. But they have been amazing.
Each puppy is different. One of the biggest difference with Calvin is me. I’m in this great place where I don’t worry about training. With Maizey I was terrified of messing it up and knew instinctively there was something wrong with her, we did a lot of very structured training sessions. Practice, practice practice. Looking back I can see it didn’t really make her more reliable and was way too much pressure on her.
“I love my sisser!”
With Magnus I was no where near that intense and he was just easier anyways, but I had a lot of goals and expectations. Harldly any of which turned out to be important to me. They affected the training I did with him as a puppy, it changed my focus from puppy fun to preparing him and worrying about not messing anything up.
With Calvin all of that is different. I have just reveled in these weeks. We’ve done tons of training but hardly any structured sessions. We train as part of daily life. Sure some things are falling behind, we still don’t have down on cue. (Which I admit is a bit embarrassing, but he has his whole life to learn boring ol’ downs.) What we do have so far is an unbelievable connection. He’s got great focus, a pretty good little puppy recall, an adorable mat work, just to name a few things. I’m just not worried about it. I’m enjoying him. We all are. He’s fit in wonderfully.
Even Maizey likes him! It didn’t take near as long as it did with Magnus for her to buddy up with him. That was the only side benefit of Magnus getting sick. Because the internal bleeding was so dangerous he couldn’t be with Calvin at all. Calvin bumping him could have caused further bleeding, so they took a weeks vacation from being together. So my Stupendous Man set out to win over his sister, and win he did! They are good buddies now.
I don’t often share pictures of me, but this one is special to me. (Plus it finally shows the 40 pounds I’ve lost in the last two years!) It was taken on the day we found out Magnus was sick. Before we knew he was sick we took a trip to the canyon to celebrate our 14 year anniversary. It was a beautiful, happy day. Calvin has filled a place in our hearts and I just can’t wait to watch his fascinating brain grow!
I found out today one of my favorite dog moms and clients is passing away. Since I’ve had my own grief filled month and this quote comforts me I wanted to share it for her, her family and her caregivers and friends. I won’t share her name, but if she’s sees this I want to tell her: It has been my honor to know you and your dogs. Working with her taught me many 4legged lessons and watching her fight has bolstered me to be as strong and honorable person as she is. Thank you for letting me know you and your girls!
I also want to send out thoughts and hugs to a friend that is helping her through this difficult time. She took on a job I wish I could have done myself and it has helped me to know she was there loving our friend and her dogs through this time. You are both incredible women and it’s my honor to know you. We’re sending comfort and peaceful thoughts your way. . .