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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Post #18: Adjusting to PD

PD’s first few weeks with us were difficult. 

While we had agreed that PD would be an inside dog, we had not agreed to let him sleep in our bed.  We had bought a crate for PD to call home.  The books we had read had advised that crate training your dog was a good thing.  The crate gave the dog a “safe place” to go when things got scary.

So, the first night, we put PD in the crate and we went to bed.  The plan was to keep the crate in our room, so that PD would know that he had not been abandoned.  We also knew we would be getting up out of bed a couple of times to take him out. 

He began to cry.  We tried to ignore him for a little while.  I felt sad for him.  This poor little puppy spending his first night without his mom or litter mates.  And by this time we had realized he was younger than they had told us.

I slept on the floor.  Next to his crate.  With my arm in the crate.

PD tried to nurse on my arm.  Now I was really sad.  PD had not even been properly weaned, and he had been taken away from home way too early.

PD and I bonded quickly.  I’m pretty sure he believes I’m his mother, now.

One of the sad consequences of his young age was that we probably were not feeding him the proper food.  PD developed vomiting and diarrhea in the first few weeks.  I’m not sure if this was because he wasn’t ready to digest the food we fed him, or if it was a reaction to some of the shots he had.  He got really sick.  The vet was able to help us, and we were able to keep poor PD alive.  I sometimes refer to PD as our “miracle dog” because he has been near death several times, and always survives against the odds.

PD never really learned how to be a dog.  I’m sure there are a lot of doggy lessons out there that his mother just didn’t have time to teach him.

But he did learn how to attach himself to me.  I took PD to work with me and kept him in a crate in my office under my desk.  How strange this must have seemed for my counseling clients.  I’m sure they could hear him move around and see his little bright eyes shining out from behind the crate door.  Only one client ever asked me about what was in the crate.

I had a small pen built for PD so that I could let him go outside for a little exercise, and as a place he could go to take care of business.

PD quickly took up residence in my heart and in Wife’s heart.  We bought him stuffed toys to snuggle on and to play with.  That was fine for a while.  But PD would also try to suckle them.  And then he developed the disturbing habit of humping on them. 

Before we bought PD, we had read a couple books on raising dachshunds.  One of the books suggested we get down on the floor to get an idea of what the house looked like from a dachshund’s point of view.  There wasn’t much he would be able to reach.  We knew that ramps would be coming into the house to help him up on the couch.

I began to wonder about house breaking PD.  We lived in an old house on pier and beam.  The house sat about four feet above the ground.  The steps were really tall.  And PD was really short.  We figured that we would just carry him up and down the steps until he got tall enough to climb the steps himself.  But before he could go outside, PD had to let us know that he wanted to go outside.  I wasn’t at all sure how he would communicate his needs to us.

I shouldn’t have worried.  PD, it turns out, is a great communicator.  He quickly figured out that outside is where we wanted him to do his business.  Then he learned how to knock on the door.  Really!  PD would go to the door, and scratch or knock.  If the door was partly opened, it would bang against the door frame, and it sounded like he was knocking to be let outside.  PD can also open doors if they are partially open.  He’ll use his paw or nose to get the door open.  If he knocks, and no one lets him through the door, he knows to escalate to the next level.  PD barks.  One thing about being an only puppy, you get used to getting all of the attention.  And you get used to having your way.

Is PD spoiled? Oh dear, what have we done?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Post #17: Our New Puppy

We met the woman selling the puppies at the appointed time.  There was another couple ahead of us, and three puppies in the back of the SUV.  We were told that the other couple had called first, and got the first pick, so we had to wait.  When they left, there were two puppies left, a male and a female.  The female was already spoken for.

The little dachshund puppy was sweet and adorable, so we accepted him into our family.  We were told that the pup was 6 weeks old and had all of his shots.  We completed the paperwork, and scooped him up. 

On the way to pick up our new puppy, Wife told me that she decided that if we selected a male dog, she would like to name it Petey.  I had no problem with the name.  I was excited about the prospect of a new puppy.  I felt like this was going to be my dog.  The dogs we had owned before were really the boys’ dogs.  We had let our sons pick them out, and they spent the most time with the dogs.  This one would be an “inside dog” and I expected that we would be a lot closer to this dog than we had the others.

So now, we had a new family member: Petey.  We did not realize that six weeks was considered young to take a puppy away from its mother.  And we had not realized that his date of birth put Petey closer to 5 weeks old than 6 weeks.  Most books recommend leaving puppies with their mothers until the puppy is 8 weeks old.

We went directly to the vet’s office to have him checked out.  More shots were given, and he was given a clean bill of health.  Our next stop was to run by my office and show off our new family member.  One of my staff members, Shari, has a knack for naming things.  She heard the name Petey, looked at me, looked at the puppy, and offered that an appropriate name for Petey would be P.D.  PD could stand for Paul’s Dog, and still sound like Petey.  The name stuck.  The initials don’t always stand for Paul’s Dog, however.  Sometimes, they stand for Peeing Dog.  Sometimes they stand for Personality Disorder.  PD is really quite a versatile and appropriate name.

Peeing Dog?  It seems PD was a “submissive pee-er.”  An adult could not bend over and pet PD on the head without a puddle forming under him.  Sometimes, PD would manage to wet the friendly greeter’s shoe.  He has even managed to spray one unsuspecting victim in the face.
But that was later.  For now, we had PD, and it was time to take him home.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Post #16: Dog in the House

All of our dogs in the past had been “outdoor” dogs.  We would go outside to play with them, and they would occasionally come inside.  But mostly, our dogs just lived in the back yard.

We did not allow dogs to live in the house with us because of my allergies.  I had always been allergic to cats.  Runny nose, itchy eyes, asthma, rash, the whole deal. 

But dogs and I always got along when I was a kid.

Something changed when I hit young adulthood.  All of a sudden, I discovered that I was allergic to dogs.  I’d get the runny nose and asthma, the itchy eyes and rash.

So the rule was, we could have a dog, but the dog lived in the backyard.

Our sons grew up and moved off to college and started their lives as adults. 
Son2 adopted a puppy, Java, to keep him company in his apartment while he was in school.  Java was a sweet miniature short-haired red dachshund.

Son2 had done his research.  He had read that dachshunds are relatively easy to keep and don’t often cause allergies.  Java lived in the apartment with Son2, and even slept with him. 

Of course, young men lead active lives.  And sometimes, Son2 needed to go out of town for brief trips.  He asked if we would mind dog-sitting Java.  Well, he was my son, and she was an awfully sweet dog. 

I figured I could keep my asthma inhaler nearby and make sure I took my antihistamines.  So, we said yes.  Java came into our house and made herself at home.  She sat in my lap and watched television with us, and was pretty tolerant of our ways.

It finally occurred to me that I had been holding this dog, and nothing bad was happening.  No coughing.  No wheezing.  No itchy eyes. No rash.  No runny nose! 

The next experiment was to allow Java into the bed with us.  No problem!  Son2 had found a breed of dog that could live in the house with us!

Son2 eventually decided to bring another dog into his life.  Java needed a companion while Son2 was gone.  And so, he adopted Gui.
We had the pleasure of dog sitting two dogs, now.  And this proved to be a fun experience for us.
When Katie died, our house was empty.  Sure, Wife and I had each other, and Katie lived outside, but something was missing.  So, we went looking for a dachshund!

I started reading the advertisements in the newspaper.  I had a mission: To find our next dog.  I wanted a dog as sweet, loving, and allergen free as Java and Gui.

I responded to a newspaper advertisement in the classified section of the newspaper.  We were told that the woman had three miniature dachshund puppies.  We could come and look at them in a few days.

No, we couldn’t come to her house.  She lived in a gated community and they did not allow her to sell the puppies from her home. 

No, we wouldn’t be able to see the parents of the puppies.  The woman was a friend of the breeder.  The breeder lived in Dallas.  The woman was a dog handler who took dogs to dog shows, but was selling these puppies as a favor to the breeder.

We arranged to meet the woman and the puppies in the parking lot behind a tobacco and pipe store in a few days.

And so, now we have to wait to meet our next family member …

Friday, April 3, 2015

Post #15: The Cat House

We bought our first modern house in Aransas Pass in 1982.  We were a young family and excited to move into such a big, modern home.  The house was only a few years old.  The previous owner had moved about three blocks down the street.  His cat may have gone with him initially, but she soon moved back to her old house.  How did we know the cat was a she?

Because of my extreme allergic reaction to all things cat, she was not a welcome site.  However, she did not seem to mind living outside.  And so, we tolerated her.  Wife began to feed her.  She would leave a saucer of milk on the back porch, along with some cat food.  And so we became cat owners.  After a short period of time, she proved her femaleness with a litter of kittens.  Her pregnancy was one of the reasons we had allowed her to stay with us.  Once the kittens were born, Wife began hunting down prospective cat owners.  She was teaching at the high school and had access to a lot of people with soft hearts and kind souls.

Wife was able to place the momma cat and all but one of her kittens. As a family, we decided to keep one small kitten.  The rest were gone.  The kitten we kept had beautiful white fur.  We named her Snowball. 

Wife did a really good job of caring for Snowball.  She grew to be a good companion for the kids, despite having to live outside all of the time.  Then one cool morning, our six month old kitten made a big error in judgment.  Wife backed out of the driveway on her way to work.  Once in the street, she put the car into forward gear and began her trip down the road. Snowball had been sleeping in the engine compartment for warmth.  She leapt down from the car just as Wife began to roll forward …

I found an old shoebox and placed Snowball’s remains in it.  The boys and I had a small ceremony in the sandy alley behind our yard, and buried her.  Wife had to ask me if I was sure she was dead.  She was.

I brought the next cat into our lives.  I was driving home for lunch one afternoon and saw a small black object in the middle of the road.  I guided my pickup carefully so that my tires straddled either side of the object.  After passing over it I checked my rearview mirror to be sure I had not hit the object.  I saw a small furry head rise up out of the middle of the black mass.  It was a kitten.  I pulled the truck over and got out.  I went over to the kitten, and she seemed to be OK.  But the middle of a street is not an appropriate place for a kitten to nap.  I picked her up and went to the houses nearby.  No one wanted to claim her.  Out of concern for the kitten’s safety, I took her home, and assigned Wife the task of taking her to the vet and finding her a home.

Wife called me at work later and told me that her friends suggested she take her to a local vet who was known to be good with cats.  “This vet will find a home for the kitten” her friends had assured her.

Wife took the kitten to the vet.  Before he would give the cat a checkup, the vet’s receptionist insisted that Wife give her a name.  “But we just found her, I don’t know her name,” Wife told the receptionist. 

“Just make one up,” she replied.

Wife thought about it for a minute, and said “Midnight.”

The vet gave Midnight her check-up, gave her some shots, and declared her to be healthy.

“Can you find a home for her?” Wife asked him.

“Sure,” he said.  “You’ve named her, you brought her in for a health check.  Midnight is your cat, now.”

So, Midnight joined our family.

The boys enjoyed playing with Midnight.  She was a beautiful black cat.  I’m not so sure that Spike was fond of her, though.

One afternoon in the early summer, I was busy working at the family grocery store when I got interrupted by a phone call.  The head cashier hollered to the back of the store to let me know that Wife was on the phone.  I picked up the receiver and said “hello?”  First there was silence.  And then sobbing.  “What’s wrong?” I asked.  It took a while for an answer to come.  I waited as Wife tried to control her sobs.  Finally she composed herself long enough to stammer out the story. 

Wife sounded a little like “Laura” on the Dick Van Dyke Show when Laura is crying.

“I … I … think I killed Midnight” are the words that she finally got out.  She told me that Midnight was in the dryer.  Could I please come home and check on the cat?

I’m sorry, please forgive me.  I know this was really traumatic and painful for Wife.  But I was smiling when I told her I would be right home.  I may have even chuckled as I told the grocery store employees that Wife had fluff-dried the cat, and I needed to go home.

Our washer and dryer were in the garage, and the garage door was usually left open.  Wife had been doing the laundry.  Her normal routine was to open the front door to the dryer, pull the dry clothes out and take them in the house.  The dryer’s door opened by pulling it down, making a shelf.  Wife would leave the door open as she went into the house with the dried clothes.  She would return to the garage and place the wet clothes in the washing machine into the dryer.  Then she would slam the door shut, and crank the dial to start the dryer.

On this day, she noticed that Spike was sitting in our garage, staring at the dryer.  Wife didn’t give it any thought until much later.

When Wife opened the door to the dryer, she just glanced in and knew something was wrong.  She slammed the door shut.  Then, she slowly opened the door, peeking in.  Wife could see something black.  She just knew ...  She went back inside to the phone and called me at the store.

Wife was able to keep herself composed when the cashier answered the phone, but by the time I picked up, she had dissolved into a puddle of sobs and tears.

I drove home and went directly to the dryer.  I opened the lid and looked in.  Midnight was dead.  There was dried blood on the load of bath towels that Wife had been laundering.  Towels.  The highest, hottest, longest setting on the dryer.  Midnight did not stand a chance.

Wife is now convinced that Spike murdered Midnight.  She knows that Spike was smart enough to pull it off.  Spike chased Midnight into the garage.  Midnight spotted the open dryer and hid in there.  This was exactly what Spike had planned.  Spike kept Midnight from coming out of the dryer by standing guard.  Wife unknowingly tossed the load of wet towels on top of Midnight.  She couldn’t see Midnight since Midnight was black, and it was dark in the dryer drum.  Wife shut the door and turned the dial.  And so, Wife unknowingly fluff dried the cat.

I found another shoe box and placed midnight in it.  I returned the towels to the washing machine and began re-washing the towels, and then cleaned the inside of the dryer so that Wife would not have to deal with the blood.

And then we buried cat number two. 

“Are you sure she’s dead?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

One other cat lost its life at our house.  Wife was outside, working in the flower bed.  She looked up just in time to see a car run over one of the neighborhood cats.  The woman got out of the car, looked at the cat, and pitched it onto our property.  She then climbed back into her car and drove off.  Another shoe box.  Another cat laid to rest in our little pet cemetery behind the house.

We had yet another stray cat come into our lives, although somewhat briefly.  She found a nice hidey-hole on the side of our house and had kittens.  Once the boys discovered the kittens, the mamma cat moved her kittens into the culvert under our driveway. 

Mamma cat soon disappeared.  I'm not sure what happened.  We just knew that there was no mamma to take care of the kittens.  I was concerned about the kitten’s welfare.  Cats did not seem to last long at the Hamilton home and I did not want to adopt this litter.  At least one of the kittens had already died.  I called animal control and asked them to pick up the surviving kittens while Wife was at work.   

Wife came home while animal control was there.  She was upset.  She feared that all of the kittens would be killed.  Wife confronted him about the future of these kittens.  He reassured her that he would take care of them.  He had a cat that was nursing, and would bring the kittens to his home.  He thought his cat might take the kittens as her own.  The kittens would not be put down.  Wife relented, and allowed the officer to remove the survivors.

I think the surviving neighborhood cats posted a sign somewhere in our yard after this family was moved out.  The sign must have warned all other cats to stay away from the Hamilton home at all costs.  We never had another stray cat try to adopt us for the rest of our time in that house.