Thursday, September 18, 2014

Please don't let it be Cancer

Cancer.  The scariest word in our vocabularly whether you're applying to human or animals.  We just went through our own cancer scare with Eli our 4 yr old Bloodhound.

It started a year ago when my husband Michael found a small lump in Eli's neck.  He rushed him into the vet who, after examining it and Eli said it wasn't anything to worry about.  Over the months is started to very slowly get bigger.  About six weeks ago with yet another vet appointment for this, our doc says it could be a tooth that is causing in infection.  Thus the enlarged lymphnode.  So, we set the boy up for a dental, with a possibility of removing the lymphnode.  On the table they discovered indeed a tooth was very unhappy and removed it.  We thought it was over.

Nope, 2 plus weeks into is recovery and the lymphnode is getting bigger, quickly.  It's now the size of a large egg and another one alongside it has started to enlarge.  We talk to the vet and he suggests we remove it and send it in to pathology for examination.  So on Monday 9/15/14 we take the boy in for surgery.  They remove it, and tell us it will be 4-5 days before we get an answer.  In the meantime the boy is feeling great.  Evidently that huge thing in his neck was one of the reasons he wasn't eating well (he had lost about six pounds in the last month or so).  He was definitely happier than I had seen him for a while and he began eating every piece of kibble or treat we gave him!  Clearly this couldn't be cancer, right?

As we waited, although my gut and heart was saying it wasn't cancer (which would be lymphoma).  But my head kept getting in the way with little whispers of all the signs that didn't look good.  This was particularly hard on my husband, who Eli owns.  Back five years ago we lost our first bloodhound Gabriel to bone cancer at this exact age.  Michael was beside himself, as was I.  The wait is unbelievably long and hard. 

On Wed, on day 3 of the wait Michael gets a call on his cell phone from the vet.  He wasn't able to answer it, but rather saw he had a message.  He waited 2 hours before finally retrieving it.  The vet started right out with  IT'S NOT CANCER!  There aren't words (and I'm pretty good with them!) that can possibly describe the relief, happiness and gratefullness that we felt with those three words.  The cause of the lympnode erruption is a bad infection somewhere.  They are doing more tests to see what kind of bacteria is in this lymponode.  I'm leaning towards an inner ear infection that has been sitting there for a while.  He doesn't have any ear infection symptoms but his eyes are always very wheepy (more so the last six months to the point we're constantly cleaning them).  Much easier to chase down this diagnosis than the other.

Having heard the "C" word applied to a dog of mine twice now, I not only can sympathize, but also have empathy for those going through this.   Be sure you reach out to friends who understand your love of this dog.  Who won't tell you "get over it, it's just a dog"!  And hang on.  We were very fortunate to have this kind of ending to this journey.  Not all do.  But folks who are stewards of their animal friends know how hard it is.  I thought I would just keep this quiet and not say anything until we knew what the outcome was.  It ate me up.  When I finally shared it with a few close friends they listened, shared my pain and fear and hugged me.  It was just what I needed.   My words of advice is don't try to go through this alone.  It makes the pain and fear worse.  Friends who understand can give you more than any thing else out there!

So hug them there animal friends of yours!  And remember, this is a journey you are on with your dog.   Embrace each moment, good and bad.  Journey's always do come to an end, but what's inbetween is priceless! 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Everee's Nightly Fun

Ok, so I'm the dog trainer, right?  So why did it take me 2 years to figure out this problem and turn it around!  Here goes.

Our nightly ritual at the house for bedtime is that I usually go to bed first.  The dogs get their late evening "snack", then upstairs we go.  Cosby the young-un sleeps in his crate up there, and will run directly into it.  Everee and Eli each have their own beds on the floor in our room.  The problem was when it was time to go up Everee would race up ahead of all of us, barking the whole time, get into the room and continue to bark, and then "herd" Eli into his side of the room (and sometimes not so nice).  Eli got so he would go into our room through our bathroom.  I tried squirting her with water, but this only worked once I was up there.  She still ran up like a crazy dog barking and amping up.  I went ahead of the boys, so I came up behind her - she still was barking like a crazy dog.  This went on, like I said for two years!  So last week I decided to try one more thing.  The bottom of our stairs is gates (yes the 16 month basset boy still tries to sneak up!), so when we get to the gate I backed her up (body talk) and told her to wait.  I went up the stairs FIRST.  When I got nearly to the top I release her and although she races up, there is NO BARKING!  She goes into the room with a much lower energy level and is not bothering Eli, but rather learning to sit on her bed first, because whoever gets to their bed first gets the little piece of cookie I have first. (everyone does get one, no worries!).  This new approach is clearly telling her I am in control.  I'm using my obedience like I tell everyone to do (daah, took me long enough!) and I'm "allowing" her to come up instead of her barging up.  It's working!  I am much happier (as is Eli!) that we can now go upstairs like normal screaming!  So, moral of the story is don't forget to use your obedience when things like this come up!    As I always tell folks, be proactive instead of reactive.  Clearly, with  my first tries I was being reactive.  Proactive always wins! 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Fearful Reactive Dog

So we all know that most reactive dogs (those that bark non-stop at your guests when they come in, never really warm up to them, bark at other dogs/people on walks) are truly fearful dogs.  These are the dogs that need our guidance on how to behave correctly.  Reactive dogs often get all the wrong training because folks are only responding when the dog is doing something wrong and not respondin, or giving guidance when they don't.  This goes with our style of training at AllBreed as well...don't tell the dog what he's doing wrong, but always tell him when he's doing it right!  With a reactive dog this is really important.  Being protactive vs. reactive as a trainer will help out your fearful dog in heaps and bounds! 

So consider this scenario from the dog's point of view.  You are a fearful dog, your confidence level isn't very high.  Someone comes to the door.  First they ring or knock, which you then begin to bark.  Your owner makes some noises which sounds like they are chiming in with with you, but you don't stop.  Then this person comes into the house.  Your owner is again making some noises, but they are not directed at you.  You continue to bark because now you are really afraid.  To you it feels like you'll be taking this situation on by yourself as your person isn't telling you what you can do.  You have no choice but to continue to protect yourself and be very leary of this person in your house.

The scenario can go on and on of course.  But, when you aren't helping a dog through a situation where you know they will be reactive, you are in essence abandoning your dog to his own wiles.  Without you telling him what he can safely do, he is making the choices, and they're never good.  When I hear that a dog is acting up at the door I always ask, what you ARE doing?  Usually the answer is "well, I'm telling him to be quiet, or I'm telling him it's ok".  Neither of these will work.  Always remember that your obedience will help pave the way to a calmer dog.  A note on the door letting your company know that you are training the dog and please don't ring the doorbell, and also be patient, you will let them in will go a long way in getting yourself and your dog ready for this.  A leash by the door along with treats is a must.  From there, with your dog on a leash, you will be able to keep him next to you.  Have him sit next to you while your company comes in, all the while giving him treats, telling him good sit/stay and if he tries to get up, fixing it.  Yep, you can still talk to your guests (multi-tasking is awesome!).  This sets the tone.  I do not let a dog go up to someone on his own, I always go with until I know he's comfortable with who's in the house, etc.  Then the leash can come off, but again ONLY if you are sure he's settled.  For some dogs, in the early stages of this training, the leash stays on the entire time and he's following where you go, laying down at your feet in a down/stay when you're relaxing and chatting.  Letting him know you have control will allow your fearful dog to relax.  And a relaxed dog is a happy dog!