Monday, September 29, 2014


I spent all day Friday shopping for a kitchen trashcan--and that is not an exaggeration. I spent longer trying to find the right one than I spend at work on a normal day.

It was time to get a new trashcan. The one I had was the one I got for my first apartment 7 years ago. It was white plastic and it was grungy. There were spots on it that no Clorox Wipes or Magic Erasers could make a dent in.

But who actually wants to spend money on a trashcan?

It was still functional, so I could think of 1000 other things I'd rather spend money on than a new trashcan.

Then Hurricane Barley hit. This dog of mine is stealthy. I never caught her in the act of getting into the trashcan, but several times I caught her with paper towels I had thrown away. One day, I got out of the shower and she had two empty cat food cans that she'd licked clean and stashed in the spare bedroom. I was certain she was going to cut her tongue off.

For a while, she was only getting into the trashcan when I was in the shower. Then all of the sudden she started focusing on the trashcan all the time--I'd sit down on the couch to grade and she'd go get a drink of water and then take something out of the trashcan.

I'm not even sure how she did it. The trashcan is taller than Barley, yet somehow she could get things out of it when there were only a few things in the bottom--and never make a noise and never tip it over.

So, I had very specific needs for the new trashcan. I needed one that had a lid that didn't have a lip hanging over the bottom of the can because otherwise, she'd be able to stick her nose under there and shove the lid up. It couldn't have a lid that was not connected to the bottom in some way--my parents have one that has a lid that opens but also lifts off and Barley has been known to nose the whole lid off the trashcan when we visit and something tasty's been thrown away. I needed a lid that was flush with the bottom and connected to the bottom. I didn't think it would turn into such an ordeal.

I started at Wal-Mart since it was on the way into town with all of the different stores and I figured it might have the cheapest options. I found one that wasn't quite what I was looking for but had potential--I decided to keep looking and come back on the way home if I didn't find a better option. Strike 1. 

Then I went to Target. The only had a few like the one I had and one stainless steel one that had a huge dent in the side. Strike 2.

I went to another Wal-Mart a few blocks down from Target to get the first one I found so I could avoid going back into the same store twice in one day. The first red flag was a run away cart (with no people anywhere in sight) that charged at my car and forced me to back up down the lane in the parking lot! They didn't have the original trashcan they wanted and the next closest thing had a tiny handle on the lid that would be perfect for nosing the lid open. Strike 3.

I decided to try a few more stores. At Home Goods, I found one that was slightly smaller than what I wanted (the first Wal-Mart one was 10 gallons, the one I wanted to replace was 13, and the one at Home Goods was 8), but otherwise it was exactly right--and only $30. Then I looked at Bed Bath & Beyond--they had what I was looking for but they were $100 and I was not willing to spend that much on something that would just hold trash! I needed to go to Lowe's to get a curtain rod for the new thermal curtains my parents are helping me hang out when they visit next week, so I checked there--more $100 trashcans.

I decided I wasn't going to find a better choice than the Home Goods trashcan and went back to get it. It looks much, much nicer than my old one did and so far Barley hasn't even tried to get into it. Hopefully preserving my sanity will cancel out the fact that I'm going to have to take the trash out more frequently now that I have a smaller trashcan!

Barley says I might have made things more difficult, but she's not accepting defeat yet.
Are your pets scavengers? How do you stop unwanted mischief when you can't actually catch your pets in the act?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Braggin' Rights, Sunsets, and Grapes--oh my!

This week has been a busy week for me and Barley. My first sets of papers came in last week, so the weekend and the beginning of the week were spent grading, but we managed to get in lots of really nice walks this week. Monday was dreary and 55 degrees (and to make it even drearier, I thought I left my office keys at home--they were actually stuck between two books at the bottom of my bag--and had to go borrow keys from the front office every time I needed to get back into my office!), but the rest of the week was low 70s and perfectly sunny, so I found lots of excuses to take a break from grading and at least stroll around the block.

Before we get into this month's mileage, I have to take a second and brag about my baby girl! As I've mentioned before, we got into agility after starting training to deal with Barley's reactivity. Even though we'll never compete in it, it's a good way to be around other dogs in a controlled setting and give Barley a chance to practice being calm in a high-energy situation.

Being calm is a rare quality in Barley's life. I cherish the moments like this.

We have amazing classmates and an amazing trainer and really couldn't ask for a better group of people to be with. They all know Barley is a good dog and they give us the space we need when it's Barley's turn to do an exercise, but they never act scared of her when she gets a little nutty. We've gotten really comfortable in the class and Barley's made a lot of progress, so even though I've always got to be on my toes, we are having a lot of fun and learning a lot in class where for a long time agility was becoming stressful for both of us and we were on the verge of stopping classes. But comfort and peace couldn't last forever.

We got a new classmate this week--our trainer had given us the head's up the week before and said that this golden retriever was a very nice dog, but also the definition of a "dumb blonde." The new dog showed up about 10 minutes late and left about 20 minutes early, but it was the perfect introduction to her. The new dog was absolutely beautiful, but she was like the stereotypical sorority girl in any comedy movie--bubbly and spacey and overly enthusiastic about everything. Which is exactly the kind of dog Barley likes least.

From the moment the new dog came wiggling through the door, Barley was interested. Her ears were perked up. She went from her relaxed down to sphinx position and her tail, which always wags, started picking up speed. We immediately started doing some touch games and other focus activities. Our trainer helped us out by telling the new owner to go into the crate room while we were on the floor for our turn. When it was the new dog's turn, Barley and I stepped behind this little gate that leads to the hallway and front door so that Barley could have some down time.

She was such a good girl. Even though she was distracted, she still did all of the exercises well and never tried to go into the crate room to visit the new dog. She didn't bark. She didn't lunge. She also didn't start nipping me instead of going over jumps, which she's been interested in doing the last few weeks. I was so very proud of her. This was a good experience to keep me from letting my guard down too much, but it also was a good experience for showing me just how far my baby girl has come in our almost 4 years together.

Walking was equally good this week! It's starting to get darker earlier and earlier, so soon our post-agility walks will be coming to an end, but we had a lovely sunset walk along the river after class.

We also got in a sunset walk along Lake Erie before my Wednesday night "virtual office hours" for my online class. I didn't pick a dog with a good color scheme for sunset pictures--I had to either go with making Barley visible and the sunset less vibrant or having a dark, shadowy Barley and a beautiful sky. I guess I'll keep her anyway.  

We're also gearing up for the biggest event in our town--the Grape Jamboree. It's hokey with a 2-hour long parade, lots of fair foods, vendors selling things nobody really needs, but it's delightful. I've mentioned before that at times my town feels like Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls and Jamboree time is definitely one of those times.

I love when they hang up the Jamboree signs and the flower arrangements that look like bunches of grapes.

There's another cart with more wineries. This thing is a big deal.

Barley and I don't get to walk in our neighborhood much during the Jamboree weekend because the vendors are smack dab in the middle of our route and there are too many kids and dogs that aren't being well supervised to make it worth walking through the area, but we always get some good "leave it" practice after everyone packs up and goes home because there's always popcorn, nachos and cheese sauce, and funnel cake pieces on the sidewalks for a few days afterwards.

Barley and I decided to celebrate grapes a little early and stopped by the grape vines in our neighborhood to see if there were any grapes growing. There weren't many but the ones that were there smelled so good!

Barley thinks food she can't eat is not worth sitting still for.

But she was happy to pause at the State Park and read about the grape industry in Ohio.
We had such a nice variety of walks this week and logged 25.17 miles this week, which puts us at 807 miles for the year--1000 is less than 200 miles away!

We're ahead of schedule and I'm feeling good!

We're looking forward to hearing about how everyone else has been keeping fit in this lovely fall weather!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Lyme Disease in Dogs

When I adopted Barley in January 2011, I knew about Frontline for preventing fleas and ticks; after all, I'd had a dog in my life since I was two years old, but my mom had always taken care of that kind of stuff with our family dogs, so I didn't know all of the rules.

Of course, the vet told me that I should reapply Frontline every month, but it was unclear to me if I needed to apply it even in winter months. I didn't apply it in the coldest months, but my first winter was relatively mild and even though we had several heavy snows, we also had several days in the 40s and one or two in the 50s. Little did I know that ticks can still be a real threat even with temperatures as low as 45 degrees.

I took Barley in to the vet for her annual check up and vaccinations on December 13, 2011. We did the simple test to check for lyme disease and heartworm among other things. We went through the regular exam, got the vaccinations, and waited for the simple test results.

I was shocked when the results came back as positive for Lyme Disease. Barley was acting completely normal (although we'd only been together for a little less than a year, so I was still learning what "normal" meant for Barley). I had never found a tick on her. There was no indication that there was anything wrong with her.

We use the word normal very loosely around here.

The vet asked me if I had noticed any of the symptoms of Lyme Disease in Barley. Often, dogs with Lyme experience lameness, swollen joints, loss of appetite, or fever. I had not. She was going 100 miles a minute like usual. Her joints were fine, which the vet confirmed, and she was eating anything and everything she could get her mouth on. Many dogs don't exhibit any symptoms and Barley fit in that category.

Our vet said that since Barley didn't seem to be bothered by it, we didn't have to do the test to determine the level of infection, but that she did recommend it. With all of the vaccinations and other parts of the exam, our vet bill was already pushing $200 for the day--and we had been hemorrhaging money with Soth's FLUTD bills for the last 9 months. It was right before Christmas and we were heading out of town the next day for the rest of the month. I declined further testing.  At first.

I got to my parents' house and my hypochondria kicked in. I started panicking and regretting not getting the test. I called the vet and made an appointment for after we got back home. The first appointment we could get that worked with my back to school schedule was near the end of January.

In late January 2012, we did a comprehensive blood exam to test the C6 antibodies. The higher the number, the greater the infection.  If the levels of antibodies are above 30, treatment is recommended. Barley's results came back a few days later and her C6 antibody levels were 125, so we started a round of doxycycline immediately. We did two weeks of the antibiotics and then we had to wait. The bacteria needs time to work its way out of the dog's system after treatment, so we had to wait for six months before retesting.

Neither one of us is crazy about waiting--whether it's waiting for the ok to eat snacks or waiting for test results.
When the follow up test is completed, the treatment is considered a success if the antibody levels are below 30 or have been reduced by 50%. That meant we were hoping for results below 62. The results came back and they were higher than the first test at 155. Sometimes, the first round of treatment doesn't work, but this could also have indicated she'd been infected by another tick. We treated with more doxycycline and scheduled another follow up test for six months later. When those results came in, they were around 78, which was about 50%, so we were moving in the right direction even though the results were much higher than 30. We counted the treatment as a success and I was told to watch Barley and call with concerns.

Throughout the experience, as I looked back on the time frames surrounding the higher levels, I realized that Barley hadn't exhibited the traditional symptoms, but she had been a little more obstinate than usual. There had been some refusal to do certain obstacles in agility class (not out of pain, but just out of lack of focus) and refusal to listen to commands on walks; there'd also been some slight klutziness, like the occasional tripping on walks, but klutzy is Barley's middle name (I mean, Barley sometimes overshoots jumping on the bed and hits the wall on the other side and regularly rolls out of bed!) and we hadn't been training for very long, so I hadn't picked up on those clues immediately.

Things were great for a few months, but all of the sudden she started getting obstinate again and tripping a little bit. I called the vet. In January 2013, we had to do the Lyme Quant C6 test again to reevaluate Barley's antibiody levels. This test at my vet costs almost $100 and we'd already done it three times. Lo and behold, the antibody levels were back up in the 90s. We got another round of antibiotics, which helped lower the levels--still not to below 30, but another successful treatment.

Where We're At Now
When we went to our annual check up this year in January, the simple test still showed Lyme, but our vet said that some dogs that have Lyme once test positive on that test for life. We decided that since Barley had been symptom free for a year, the best course is to just watch her and to do tests every year to make sure that her kidneys are functioning properly because Lyme Disease can lead to kidney failure. We'll do our first test for that in December when it's time to get her rabies vaccination. As of now, we're considering treatment a success and since the first results in December 2011, I have made sure that she gets every single Frontline treatment--even if the temperatures don't get above freezing.

Our vet is wonderful about helping me make informed decisions about my pet's health as my post on Soth's FLUTD earlier this month illustrated, so I know that she never would have suggested putting off the original test if she thought Barley was in danger. However, if I could change anything about the treatment we did, I would have done the test immediately--not because we had any negative experiences, there definitely was no harm in delaying the test a month, but I am a bit of a hypochondriac and delaying the test caused me several extra weeks of anxiety.

*Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian and have no medical training. The ideas shared in the blog are my own experiences with my dog's challenges with Lyme Disease. Consult your veterinarian before beginning treatment plans with your own pets.*

Read all of the posts in the round robin here.
We're participating in the Caring for Critters round robin hosted by Heart Like a Dog. Tune in to Go Pet Friendly's post tomorrow for the next installment of the round robin.

Please share with anyone you know who has a dog affected by lyme disease.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Barley and the Mysterious Case of the Rumbling Tummy

We're a little later than usual for FitDog Friday today because a certain pup made me worried this morning when she woke me up with a rumbling tummy for the second Friday in a row (why does this only happen on the day I don't have to set an alarm?).

Usually, Fridays are my day for sleeping in. I always have to do some work--but usually I enjoy waking up on my own time and enjoying coffee leisurely before walking Barley dog. Since the only work I have to do on Fridays is grading, I can start that at any point in the day. I'm not a morning person and usually the pets will let me sleep in until 8:30 or so before Soth starts crying for his breakfast.

Today, though, around 7 Barley woke me up. I ignored her. She got out of bed and went to her bed. Then around 7:30 she came over and nudged me again. I noticed that her tummy was making some strange noises--which also happened last Friday--so I got up and took her outside. She refused to get off the patio and insisted on standing at the very edge and eating grass.

I gave up and took her back inside. She ran to her bowl, so I figured if she was ready for breakfast she must be ok. After all, she'd done the same thing last Friday and we'd gone on to have a nice walk at the arboretum later in the afternoon.

She was more than happy to show off her balancing skills last week.
So, I got the coffee started and scooped her food in her dish--she took one kibble out and raced to the spare bedroom with it--which is something she usually only does if she's going to vomit. I dumped the rest of her food back in the bin and opened a can of sensitive stomach formula wet food instead, which she gobbled down.

We snuggled back up in bed with coffee and a book that I'd started last night. If anyone needs a really cheesy romance novel with dogs in it, The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service by Beth Kendrick is your book! I normally stay far, far away from chick lit, but there's something about chick lit with a dog in the story that sucks me in every time. To make an already long story short, we snuggled all morning until I finished the book!

Barley was content to snuggle with her vest-wearing hedgehog while I read.

Barley's tummy was no longer rumbling and I had a package I needed to drop off at the post office, so I figured I'd take Barley along and we could take a lunchtime walk at the lake afterwards.

Other than being highly offended by a boat speeding by, she was perfectly normal on our walk.
She was rarin' to go and seemed fine on our walk--I tried to walk more slowly than usual so she would take it easy, but she kept charging ahead until I went back to our usual pace. It was a beautiful day to be at the lake--the sky and water were so many different shades of blue that it almost didn't look real! The pictures don't do the colors justice at all!

Since Barley wouldn't slow down to a nice leisurely pace, I cut our walk short and we're going to spend the next few hours relaxing and grading before I decide if we'll take another little evening stroll. It's nice to know we're ahead of schedule with our goal, so I don't have to worry if Barley needs to take the rest of the day off (except for the worry that comes with being a hypochondriac dog parent).

This week we were back on track with meeting or exceeding our 3-mile goal each day and logged 24.41 miles, which put us at 781.39 miles for the year so far. 1000 is getting closer every day!

We were excited to get to enjoy a few more flowers at the arboretum before the cold weather starts rolling in.

We're wishing everyone a happy FitDog Friday!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Hello, Fall.

Fall is trying to make up its mind about whether it's here to stay or not. We had a couple days in the high 70s/low 80s this week, but we've also had several dreary days in the 60s and it was down to 57 degrees and drizzling by the time I got home from work yesterday. 

Conveniently, I was dying for a nap and a cold drizzle gave me a good excuse for curling up with the pets and not feeling guilty for not taking advantage of getting home before 1:00 and having lots of time for an afternoon walk. Barley hates the rain, so she was more than happy to get toweled off after going out to potty and then hopping into bed.

This week was kind of disappointing in terms of our mileage. We only logged 20.46 miles since last Friday. There were a few reasons we didn't quite meet our 3 miles/day goal. 

We got off to a good start, but on Tuesday we only had time for a short walk before agility class because I had to stay at work a little later for a meeting, but I wasn't concerned since we usually get a couple miles in after class. This week, though, there were only three of us in class instead of our usual 5 dogs, so we got a lot of work in. Barley was worn out for the first time maybe ever, so I decided we should just go home instead of getting a walk in. I didn't want to overwork her.

On Wednesday, by the time I got home, the sky was grey and getting darker by the minute. As I've mentioned, Barley hates thunderstorms, so if there's a high chance of storms we try not to leave house. My phone said storms weren't expected for another hour or so, so I wanted to make sure we at least got a short walk in. We stuck close to home and only got about 1.5 miles in; shortly after we got home, the skies opened up. 

After two days of short walks, it was hard to find the motivation to walk yesterday. I knew that it wasn't supposed to keep raining all day, but it was still just dreary. I was afraid that I'd be tempted to cut our walk short again if we stuck to our neighborhood, so we got in the car and headed to the lake, which is always beautiful in it's greyness.

We got in 3.75 miles despite the blustery afternoon. It was nice to have the park pretty much to ourselves--with the exception of a few runners, we didn't see other people and there were no other dogs to worry about, so we got to have a nice relaxed walk where Barley could venture to the end of her leash and sniff around as much as she wanted. Unfortunately, the cooler weather energizes Barley, which I always forget after the summer wears her out, and she tends to get more energy the more cool, fresh air she gets. She spent the rest of the night bouncing off the walls!

Soth has also gotten in some fitness fun this week. The cooler weather seems to give him a little more energy, too, so he's been happily rolling around with his toys and tearing around the house and then diving into a paper bag. He wants to be sure he keeps his figure so that he can fit in his new shoe box.

Last night, he really got a workout as he engaged in a little moth-ercise. When I took Barley out for one last potty break, a moth flew inside. It was in Soth's sights in no time. It landed on our mirror and Soth was mesmerized by it.

Then I caught him in mid-yawn and got this delightful shot. 
There were lots of stretches as he reached for the moth, but, of course, Barley saw her brother doing something, so she had to join in on the fun--which made Soth run for cover and the moth flew away. I lost sight of it, but Soth didn't. He hopped on the dresser and off the dresser and back on the dresser. He stretched out as far as he could to reach for it when it landed high up on the wall. 

He was all pulled back and ready to pounce and his fur was poofed out so he looked big and intimidating.
The moth was not caught while I was still awake, but I woke up a few times to the sounds of Soth romping around the apartment, so I don't think he gave up on his hunt.

We have gotten a late start on our Friday adventures--it is another cool, grey day, so I decided to have a lazy start and make some pancakes for breakfast while the temperatures rose a little higher. It's only 58 degrees still, but we're going to head out to enjoy some fall air shortly--and maybe pick up a pumpkin spice latte since I don't think I've ever actually tried one!

Monday, September 8, 2014

When the Pets Can't Be Blamed

There has been plenty of minor mischief as we've gotten back into the swing of things with the start of school: Barley has gotten zoomies several times in agility class, Soth has stolen hair ties out of the basket in the bathroom. But the biggest mischief of the last week can't be blamed on the pets.

It's no secret that I'm not a morning person. I'm most productive in the evenings (hence the late hour of this post) and rarely make it to bed before midnight--even when the alarm is set to go off at 6:00 a.m. Last Tuesday, I was so proud of myself. I'd used my long weekend productively and was all set to be in bed at 11:00.

All I had to do was feed Soth his dinner.

Food tends to inspire mischief is Sothlice. When I first got him, he found the bag of cat food on the kitchen counter and used a claw to slice it open while I was gone. He was in Heaven. The cat food went into a tupperware and there were no problems--until one day he knocked it off the counter and the container split open. I found him huddled in the mess like a little troll guarding his treasures. The food went in another tupperware on top of the fridge, which he luckily hasn't found a way to get on top of yet.

Usually, I leave the tupperware on top of the fridge, reach in and grab a scoop, and put it in his bowl. But he still had a lot of wet food left, so instead of opening a new can for his dinner I decided to give him two scoops. I thought it would be easier to take the whole tupperware to his dish instead of going back and forth to get both scoops.

I'm not even sure what happened, but the next thing I knew, my kitchen looked like this:

There was also a pot on the stove that I was going to wash quickly after feeding Soth that ended up filled with food.

Even under the burners in the stove!
It was a disaster. And, of course, it was Soth's expensive prescription food! I was able to salvage the food that was on the stove top, but the food on the floor was filled with so much pet hair and dust (even though I had just swept that afternoon) that there was no way I could feed it to Soth--and I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have touched it if I tried.

So, at midnight, I was cleaning my kitchen. I had to get out the vacuum because the hose was the only way I could think of to get the food out from beneath the burners. I'm sure my neighbors on the other side of the duplex loved me--hopefully they were actually fast asleep and didn't hear the vacuum in the middle of the night.

Barley was an excellent girl, though. She came to see what had happened, but I sent her to bed and she curled up in the bed while I cleaned. She didn't even try to help me. Eventually, I had gotten all of the big piles and it was all just little pieces that the broom refused to pull out from under the counters--so I called in the back up.

It's one thing when you can blame the mischief on the pets, but it's an entirely different story when you have no one but yourself to blame! What a mess!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Back to School Routines

Last week, I mentioned that we were struggling to get into a back to school routine. After two weeks back at school, we are settling into the routine.

I've been missing our two walks a day, but we've been making the most of the walks that we are getting. Since I get home in the middle of the afternoon, we don't always get to do a walk immediately when I get home because it's just a little too warm.

Occasionally, we've been getting in a quick neighborhood walk as soon as I get home and Barley's made some new friends.

There's a house in our neighborhood with many, many kittens. Although this stresses me out (I counted 14 cats/kittens in the yard one day!), it's no secret that I've had kitten fever this summer, so I've been enjoying watching the kittens. There are three brave little ones that I refer to as Barley's kittens. Most of the kittens run when they see us walking down the sidewalk, but these three stay put and Barley loves them. She wags her tail and leans down to sniff them and prances from one to the next. It's adorable. 

We finally had a nice evening after agility class and we got to visit Barley's deer friends after school.
Hello, young prince!

Barley loved watching the little spotted fawns play.

These two little fawns were very entertaining for us.

I did feel a little guilty when I realized that I had been giving Barley venison lung puffs as rewards for sitting calmly for her pictures.

We've also worked in several walks at the State Park since last Friday. Now that everyone's back at school, the park is relatively empty--which is the way we like it! Since there were few people, we got to stroll along the marina and enjoy the boats.

We've done pretty well with keeping up with our mileage goals. Yesterday was a little warm, so we had a shorter walk, but the other days we exceeded our goals. We logged 24.41 miles last week.

Soth has been spending the week playing with boxes and ribbons. He seems to have taken on the clinginess this week. 

It's hard to read and take notes when someone insists on holding your hand.
I'm not complaining, though. Soth wants to snuggle so rarely that when he's interested in playing and cuddling, I just enjoy the moment.

Hope everyone else has had enjoyable time staying fit with your pets, too!