Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Naughty or Nice? Positive Training For Both Sides of the List

When I had a regular babysitting gig back in college, I had the kids I babysat convinced that I was Santa's elf and that I regularly sent reports back to the North Pole. That made babysitting a breeze throughout November and December. Unfortunately, that Christmas magic doesn't work on my pets.

Soth has pretty much been the perfect boy since his surgery. He's eating well. He's using his box consistently. He's snuggly and playful. He's definitely on the Nice list this year.

And even if he wasn't, Santa Paws delivered his present a few weeks early because there was no way we were toting it to his grandparents' house and back.

The girls, on the other hand, are walking a fine line between the Nice and Naughty list--one of them is working extra hard to solidify her position at the top of the Naughty list.

Rye has been wound up and on the go non-stop for weeks. 

She's spending extra time working out to make sure she can be super fast with her zoomies.

She's been into everything. One day, I came home for lunch and she stayed beside me for most of the meal hoping for a morsel of something, but somehow she still found a way to sneak upstairs and have a little fun with the toilet paper while I was eating. She's also got ninja-like speed and stealth and has jumped up under my elbow while I was putting syrup on a pancake and stolen a piece of bacon. She grabbed three slices of cheese right off the counter when I was adding crackers to my plate.

She's also spent a lot of time howling out the windows. During daylight hours, it's usually because there's a squirrel in the yard or in the trees. At night, though, I have no idea what's possessing her. She'll be snuggled up beside me while I read and the second I turn out the lights, she's off to the races going from window to window letting that beagle bugle sound.

Barley has been up to her fair share of naughtiness lately, too. She has been diving into dinner before I tell her she can eat. She's eaten cat food any chance she's gotten and she's climbed to get to a bag of treats on top of my dresser. 

Rumor has it that Santa Paws has picked out some fun new toys for these pups and I'd hate to have to tell Santa that he has to turn the sleigh back around. So, we've been focusing on training that will get them back on the Nice list.

Dedicated Training Time. A year ago, we were training hardcore. I was determined to get my girls to be able to co-exist. We were doing 2+ training sessions with both dogs, plus individual training sessions on self-control and obedience every single day. We've been slacking on setting aside time specifically for training with the exception of our agility class each week. We have our daily rituals like sitting to get the leash on and off, self-control at the front door before walks and at dinner, and reaction to distraction on walks. But we haven't spent much time doing extra training. The last couple weeks, I've been trying to do better at that. Training time doesn't have to be long--and probably shouldn't be since you don't want to break your dog's brain--but having 10 or 15 minutes a day just to train helps wear your dog out mentally and a tired dog is a good dog. And a good dog is on Santa's nice list.

I've started working with Rye on noseworks. She knew the basics from watching Barley. She knew that find it means that you start using your sniffer to find something--often treats--and that if boxes are out and your hear find it, you should be sniffing those boxes. But she didn't know what she was sniffing for. So, we started training with Birch and she's doing a great job. Usually, we use about half a stick of string cheese and then I swap her out for Barley and give Barley a chance to do a little training.

We also need to get our mats back out--when Soth was really having health problems, he peed on all of our mats, so we haven't had them out and haven't done any of our beloved mat work in ages. We have been doing self-control work, though, and making pictures and spelling words with the treats while the dogs wait patiently.

Adventure Time. We've also been trying to make the most of our few hours of daylight and going on adventures. We've spent time at the lake after work and we spent one of our weekend days at the arboretum. Both dogs have been more reactive than usual on walks--for a variety of reasons--and going on adventures for our walks gives us a break from the neighborhood distractions, gives the girls new smells to sniff, and gets them physically worn out as we wind our way along the trails. They are much more content to curl up while I grade after an adventure than they are after a walk in our neighborhood.

Management. Sometimes, naughty behavior can just be avoided with a little management. If I take the trash out more frequently, Barley doesn't get into it. If I have Rye in a down while I prepare meals and snacks for myself, she's less likely to jump up and steal my food. If Rye is howling out the spare bedroom window, I can shut the bedroom door so she can't watch out the window. 

Of course, there are still moments when management fails--as Barley made very clear last year.

I have faith, though, that with a couple more weeks of training, adventuring, and managing, both of my girls are going to find themselves solidly on the nice list. After all, they are the very best snugglers and have been excellent company as I've been grading papers during the last two weeks of the semester.

So don't write them off yet, Santa Paws! They're trying really hard to be good dogs.

This month, our theme for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop is Naughty & Nice: Your Dog's Good Points and Bad Points and How You're Working to Improve Them. We welcome any positive training posts, though, and the hop is open all week, so please join us with your positive training posts and be sure to check out all of the great blogs linking up with us and our co-hosts Wag 'n Woof Pets and Tenacious Little Terrier.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thankful For Fun & Food From Pet Treater

The girls are always excited when our mail carrier rings the bell and they see the colorful Pet Treater box on our front step.

Our November box didn't disappoint--as usual, it delivered fun and a whole lot of great snacks.

There were so many snacks in this month's box. We got two different packages of Loving Pets treats, including Puffsters Chips and Totally Grainless chicken sausage bites. There were the usual Emmy's treats, including a turkey that I'm saving for the girls to split on Thursday, a little package of Charlee Bear treats plus some Noah's Bark treats in three different flavors.

There was also a cute bandana that says "Got My Mind on My Turkey and My Turkey on My Mind"--I always appreciate a good 90s rap reference, so I chuckled a bit as I put it on Rye. 

Barley was most excited to try some Beer Paws treats with spent grains and peanut butter. We always get treats whenever we visit a brewery that sells one, so I knew that they'd like these treats.

Rye couldn't wait to play! There was a football-textured, softball shaped stuffed ball. She grabbed that as soon as I put the camera down and started running laps around the house and giving it a good shake any time she stopped. 

Barley snuggled up with the rabbit toy we got. If Barley decides to share this one with Rye, it will be great for tug because it doesn't have stuffing and there's a rope on one end. 

As always, Pet Treater included something for me--a canister of tea. I drink one type of tea: passion tea--but this tea had similar ingredients to the tea I keep on hand, so I thought I might like it and gave it a chance. It was better than most tea that I've tried, but I still couldn't finish a whole cup, so I'm going to send it home with my sister who actually drinks tea. The canister is cheerful and the tea bags were so pretty that I wish I liked this enough to drink it myself! We also got a couple packages of wet wipes for the pups--with muddy fall days, these are exactly what we need!

We're thankful that Pet Treater always includes something for all three of us--and it's always a fun adventure to see what's hidden inside that cheerful box!

Disclaimer: We were sent a Pet Treater box in exchange for our honest review.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

3 Weeks Post Cystotomy

It's hard to believe that three weeks have already passed since Soth had his bladder stone removed. There are some regular reminders that make it seem like it was just yesterday--like his shaved spot on his leg and his bald belly--but most of the time, we've settled back into normal life so seamlessly that it almost feels like it's never happened.

I keep thinking that his leg is weird and crooked and broken every time I look at him.

Soth's stitches came out 10 days after surgery and we were all very happy that he could be released to the rest of the house and be part of the family again. Rye was especially happy to have her partner in crime back.

Soth's continued to eat well throughout the whole experience and he has been using his litter box regularly. He's even been playing with his toys again.

This week, Rye had to go in for her rabies vaccination and parasite test. While we waited for the heart worm, Lyme, and other parasite-related disease test to finish, the vet mentioned that she'd gotten Soth's stone analysis results back from the lab.

The first thing she said was that in 29 years of practice she has never seen a cat with this type of stone. Most stones are struvite or oxalate stones. Soth has an ammonium urate stone, which is something that is usually seen in dalmatians and sometimes English bulldogs. I'd heard a little bit about these types of stones because my aunt has dalmatians and my best friend has a bulldog, but I didn't know much.

The vet sent me home with lots of paperwork and information about the type of stone that was found in Soth's bladder. According to the research our vet did, only 5% of stones submitted to the Minnesota Urolith Center at the University of Minnesota are ammonium urate stones. There's very little known about why they form.

This cat prides himself on being different from every other cat in the universe.

One reason they can form is because of liver disease, but we did a lot of blood work on Soth when we were trying to find out why he was vomiting and having anal prolapses and all of his liver levels were completely normal. For about $200, we can do a more complex liver test to determine if there's some underlying liver problem. It can also be the result of a shunt that keeps blood from filtering properly, which is what the case often is in dalmatians and bulldogs. Or, it can be a completely unknown reason.

While struvite and oxalate stones have special diets that help dissolve the stones, there aren't diets specially designed to dissolve ammonium urate stones. Even though there's not a special diet to dissolve these stones, a diet that helps keep the urine pH greater than 6.6 can help keep the stones from forming. To keep the urine at a higher pH level, Soth needs a diet of lower protein, lower purine foods. I didn't get my parents' chemical engineering genes, so I won't pretend to know exactly what a purine is, but according to my dictionary, it's "a colorless crystalline compound with basic properties, forming uric acid on oxidation." Some proteins, like organ meat and certain types of fish, have higher purine levels, so we're avoiding those types of diets--which includes his current prescription food. The lab recommends a prescription diet for cats with kidney disease since they are lower in protein and won't "overly acidify the urine."

After Rye's appointment, the vet sent us home with a sample of one of the kidney diets they keep in stock to see if Soth liked it and tolerated it. She also told me to try mixing in some water with his current wet food to help dilute his urine as well. He gobbled up the can of kidney food and although I was skeptical that he'd eat moistened dry food, he also emptied his bowl when I added 2 teaspoons of water to his dish. I'm hoping he continues to do that.

We'll be getting a few more cans from the vet as well as some new dry food and trying that out to see if Soth will eat it consistently and not go back to his regular vomiting schedule. In about two months, we're going to do a urinalysis to see what his urine pH level is. If it's below 6.6 even with the prescription diet, we'll try some medication to help get the levels to where they should be to keep the stones from forming.

We've also spent some time watching the final season of Longmire and looking for shots of our old apartment!

I've spent most of my free time since getting the information from the vet researching different prescription diets, purines, and ammonium urate stones. For now, we're going to try the diet we've sampled from the vet, work on continuing to increase Soth's water in take, and just see what the urinalysis says in a couple months. After we get those results, we'll decide if we need to take any further action.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Love Letter to My Puppy

My sweet potato Rye,

I can't believe it has been a year since I walked into the APL planning to get an 8-week-old coonhound puppy and saw you. It was love at first sight. I knew from the minute I saw you that you were mine.

They told me that you were the calmest, best behaved puppy and they didn't think that you'd really want to do agility. 

As soon as we got home, you proved you were anything but calm. 

I was afraid to love you, though. I didn't even announce that you were part of the family for a full 24-hours because I was afraid that things wouldn't work out and I'd have to return you to the shelter. It wasn't until our trainers emailed me back and said they'd help me introduce you to your sister that I told anyone other than my family and closest friends that you existed.

But my sweet little girl, you were so willing to work with me and you worked so hard to be accepted by Barley. You caught on to every single self-control lesson we did in no time. And then one day, Barley initiated play with you. It still brings tears to my eyes to look at those pictures and videos.

You are exactly the sister Barley needed. 

You are the most respectful puppy ever. You tolerate her impatience with grace and humor. You give her the space she needs when she needs it. You can read her even better than I can. 

You are also the very best sister to Soth. I don't even think that I asked how you were with cats at the shelter. I was just so sure that you were meant to be with me and you seemed unfazed by the cats in the kennels around yours. You fit in with Soth seamlessly.

You bring me so much joy, my sweet potato. 

You love life and know how to enjoy it to the fullest. 

You love agility like no dog I've ever seen before. There is nothing I enjoy more than training with you. You read me so well and I love watching you fly through courses. We are never more connected than we are doing agility.

When I first brought you home, you hated nature and were scared of everything, but you have blossomed so much in our first year together. I love watching you conquer every challenge that comes your way. 

There is not a day that you don't make me crazy, but there is also not a day that you don't leave me laughing. 

My little love, I can't imagine life without you in it. You turned our world upside down and then right side up again, and we repeat that cycle of chaos every day. I wouldn't want things any other way.

I love you more than songs can say, my girl. I cannot wait to see what the next year brings for us. Happy, happy adoption day! 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Rewarding Chores with With Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Chewy.com

Fall is my favorite season. I didn't grow up with a real fall living in coastal Georgia, so every year I relish the cooler temperatures and the changing leaves. I love to spend time crunching through the fallen leaves in the woods with the pups.

Every since I bought a house, though, and yard work is my responsibility, fall has lost a little bit of its magic (but just a little bit) as the raking leaves never seems to end. Luckily, I've got some very good helpers to keep my company while I rake. 

Hard work should always come with a reward at the end. If you're me, you throw everything for chicken tortilla soup into the crockpot and double check to make sure there's a good beer in the fridge before you go out to the yard. The dogs, though, needed something special to reward them for their hard work. Thankfully, our friends at Chewy.com had just the thing we needed: Pumpkin Spice Lattes from The Honest Kitchen!  

We love The Honest Kitchen products and we've used the goat's milk with probiotics for years. This is a similar product with a twist. It's goat's milk with pumpkin, a little honey, and a tiny bit of ginger and cinnamon. 

The girls wanted to dig in right away, but we had work to do first. 


The girls played, jumped in leaf piles, and worked on their sit-stays while I filled 16 leaf bags to put out for pick up.

When we got back inside, it was time to make some lattes! The instructions on the back of the canister provides instructions and feeding guidelines, but these lattes couldn't be easier to mix up. You mix a cup of hot (not boiling) water with two tablespoons of latte mix and you're done! Once it cools to the right temperature for your pet, it's ready to serve.

The Honest Kitchen regularly provides products that are good for dogs and cats, so I offered a little swig to Soth, but he turned his nose up at it.

The girls couldn't wait to try it, though. There are lots of options for serving these lattes. You can pour it on your dog's regular food. You can use it to mix up dehydrated Honest Kitchen food. You can serve it on its own, which is one of the ways we've used it. The girls thought this was the perfect way to end a day of yard work!

Our favorite way to serve this treat, though, is frozen. With the days getting shorter, the dogs have been getting their final walk earlier in the day than usual. That means that after I eat dinner and settle in for some grading, they're usually pretty wound up. We've been resorting to frozen snacks many evenings because they keep the girls busy for a while.

I poured some pumpkin spice latte into their WestPaw Tuxes, stuck them in the freezer before I went to work, and by the time I was ready to sit down and grade, these snacks were ready! 

No matter how I served them, these pumpkin spice lattes were a big hit with the girls. They smelled exactly like a human pumpkin spice snack, too, so I was a little jealous! According to the packaging, the canister will make 10 lattes, but each time I've mixed one up, I've split it into enough containers for the girls to each have two little servings, so I guess we could actually end up with 40 tiny lattes from this canister! The Honest Kitchen is a company we love and trust, so we were so excited to try a fun seasonal product for the pups. We'd highly recommend this product or any of the other great Honest Kitchen products offered at Chewy.com.

Disclaimer: We were given one canister of The Honest Kitchen Pumpkin Spice Latte from Chewy.com as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program in exchange for our honest review. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Soth's Cystotomy

A few weeks ago, I was getting ready to take the dogs for our pre-work walk and went upstairs to get a sweater. Soth was slumped against the wall with an anal prolapse--his second in two months--and he'd vomited twice already that morning. We went in for x-rays that afternoon and a mineral mass was found in his bladder.

After talking to our vet, we had a few different options: we could stick to an exclusively prescription diet and hope that the mass dissolved, we could do an ultrasound to see if that gave us a better picture of what was happening in his bladder, or we could do a cystotomy and cut into his bladder to remove the mass. 

The ultrasound seemed like a waste of money since no matter what it told us, he definitely had a stone inside his bladder. Since Soth doesn't always consistently eat his prescription diet and the diet could take 6-8 weeks to work if the stone was something that could be dissolved by a prescription diet, we opted for the surgery and it was scheduled for Halloween. 

Soth was not pleased about not being able to eat after 8 p.m. the night before. He spent several hours going back and forth to his dining table and hoping that he'd look cute enough to get fed. I locked him in the bathroom when we went to bed so that he was easy to get in his carrier the next morning and when I woke up, he'd pushed everything from the bathroom counter into the sink.

We left the house at 7:30 to get him to the vet by 8:00 for his surgery. The office told me they'd call when he was out of surgery to give an update and I could call back around 3:00 to see what time I could pick him up. By the time I'd finished teaching my first class, the vet had called and he was out of surgery and waking up from his anesthesia. 

At 4:00, I got to pick him up. The vet showed me the stone that they'd taken out of his bladder--it was smooth, black, and about the size of a pumpkin seed. The vet also said Soth has the smallest bladder she's ever seen, which explains why he constantly has to pee.

I'd set up one of our spare rooms as his recovery room. I wanted to make sure the girls couldn't get to him because even though they love him, sometimes they play a little rough together. He had three different beds, plus the human bed, his custom tower that's the perfect height for looking out the window, a litter box, and his food, so he was set.

My poor little guy was very confused when I let him out of his carrier. He walked from one bed to the next and back over and over again. He had to wait two hours after getting home to get his first meal and his first dose of pain medicine and he was so excited to have a full bowl.

The girls were very confused about why their brother wasn't accessible. Especially Rye. Thankfully, I'd blocked off the hallway to make sure they couldn't slip into his room when I went in (and to keep Barley from opening the door because she's figured that one out). 

Looking at my little dude was heartbreaking. His belly was really bruised because he had a little layer of fat on his belly that they'd had to go through to get to the bladder. His little swisher was kind of cute when it was covered in fur, but once it was shaved, it looked like he had an udder every time he'd move. That was not cute.

The first couple days, he left his stitches alone, but then he started messing with them. I'd ordered two different cones in hopes that one would work for him. We tried a donut inflatable cone, but he quickly figured out how to get that one off. I came home from work 2 hours after putting it on and it was in the middle of the floor.

The girls weren't sure what to think about his cone, but they were excited that he was feeling good enough to come to the door so they could get a glimpse of him.

At his checkup three days after surgery, he was healing well and the stitches looked good, but when we got home, he yanked a couple out, so he went into his lion cone. I'd decided if he was going to need a cone, I was picking the one that made me smile.

He did not like the cone and once I didn't get it on tight enough and he got it off, but after some adjustments, he left it on.

Rye has not handled the separation well. She's spent a lot of time standing outside of Soth's room and howling. She's spent a lot of time curling up in the bed and moping. For several days, she wouldn't even play with me. Eventually, we did some leashed visits, and she licked his face all over, and then life was okay again.

Soth's healing well. He's using his litter box almost all the time. He's eating well. 

But he's lonely. I've been trying to alternate spending time with him and the girls, but he's not used to being alone so much of the day and although sometimes he gets shut out of the bedroom in the middle of the night, he's never alone all night long. 

He's been an excellent lesson planning buddy, though, and we've spent lots of time reading for my U.S. Lit class. He was an excellent listener when I read some Whitman poetry aloud to him. 

He's figured out how to flip the cone, so it looks like a poncho instead of a lion's mane--but he still can't reach his belly, so I don't mind. 

The girls are ready for their bother to be with them all of the time and I think the feeling is mutual.

If all goes well, Soth will be getting his stitches out this morning and then whenever he wants to he can spend time with his sisters. 

The stone that was removed was sent off for testing so we can see if there's a way to prevent another from forming, but that will take about a month to get results back. We're hoping this isn't something we ever have to go through again!