Take Your Pet to Work Day

Just checking in with an adorable photo from today! Around 11 a.m. I found out today (June 26) was not only Derek Jeter’s birthday but also Take Your Pet to Work Day! On Fridays during the summer I try to leave the office by mid-afternoon so I figured if I brought Isaac back to the office with me after lunch he could hang out and meet people before calling it a day.

He got antsy quickly since I had to shut my office door so he wouldn’t escape but I got him to sit still long enough in front of our official athletics backdrop to snap a quick photo (or five!).

The next SU mascot.

The next SU mascot.

Of course Lucy was jealous Isaac got to go for a car ride so after work she got a ride to PetSmart to get her nails ground down; let’s just say the car ride was the highlight of that trip. She’s not a fan of the groomers although they’re certainly fans of her.

I figured we’d do as many activities as possible today since the weekend is just about guaranteed to be a washout and neither dog ventures outside in the rain. Wish us luck with our soggy weather!

The Best Week Ever

Just a few hours ago, Marty and I returned from what I deem the best week ever. My parents take semi-frequent vacations to various U.S. Virgin Islands and on their most recent booking to St. Croix, they offered to let myself and Marty come with them. They were renting a two bedroom house and they obviously only needed one of those bedrooms so when they posed the question of whether we were interested in occupying the other bedroom, the answer was a very emphatic YES!
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For the past 9-10 days, I have been completely disconnected. I did not bring my laptop, only sporadically turned my phone on and pretty much avoided any talk of work 99% of the time.

Because it was such a perfect week, I wanted to document it so that I could remember it for a very, very long time:

We flew out of Newark early Saturday morning and had a brief layover in Puerto Rico before flying into St. Croix late Saturday afternoon.

Saturday night after we got settled in, we went to a local brewpub for dinner. I just had wine so I can’t speak to the beer, but the food was shockingly good. And the view (we were right on the boardwalk) was spectacular.

Beginning Sunday morning, Marty and I began each day around 6 a.m. For the first few days I was awake at 5 or 5:30 a.m. but there’s something about laying in bed with a fabulous view, strong breeze and warm air that makes it impossible to actually get out of bed at that time. Eventually Marty would brew coffee and we’d have a cup on our own personal deck prior to getting our day started.
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Most mornings we picked a place to run; I say most mornings because before leaving on vacation, I tweaked my back during deadlifts and gave myself permission to take days off to make sure my back didn’t bother me too much. And with nothing but hills and mountains around, my back wasn’t exactly keen on running each morning.

After our (or just Marty’s run), everyone would spend the rest of the morning having breakfast, drinking coffee, reading books and floating in the pool.
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Lunch was around noon and usually eaten at home; cold cut sandwiches just taste better on vacation. :-)

After lunch we’d decide how to spend our afternoons.

On Sunday, we went to Point Udall for some photos and then spent two or so hours at a beach (Shoy Beach) which was my one and only requirement for the trip – multiple trips to a beach. It has been a very, very long time since I’ve been that relaxed. The water was calm, warm and clear. I could have spent all day in the water – it was perfection. I haven’t been truly happy in years but I was pretty darn close on Sunday. My dad cooked some delicious chicken thighs that night and we spent the rest of the night relaxing.

Point Udall

Point Udall

Shoy Beach.

Shoy Beach.

Monday afternoon was spent walking around Chistiansted, the “biggest” city/town on the island. We stopped in tons of little shops, picked up some trinkets and I found the perfect ring – a gift from some of the early birthday money Marty’s family was kind enough to give me before leaving.

Fort Christiansted

Fort Christiansted

Christiansted

Christiansted

That night I treated my parents (and Marty) to dinner out along the coastline at eat @ cane bay. I normally stick to wine but my mom and I both decided to order one (ok, two) “Sex in the Champagne Room” – vanilla run, cranberry juice, maybe pineapple juice and champagne. Beyond good.

Tuesday we started the day with another run and then spent the afternoon playing tourist. We had lunch in Frederiksted and then toured the Cruzan Rum Factory and the St. Croix Botanical Garden. Both were worth the visit but the rum factory was the definite highlight.

RUM

RUM

Botanical gardens

Botanical gardens

Wednesday we went to Chanay Bay for another beach day; this time we broke out the snorkels and it was awesome. Starfish, fish, sea urchins. Wednesday night dinner was at Off the Wall – casual dining with the sand literally between our toes.

My more than generous parents.

My more than generous parents.

Thursday we visited Cane Bay – my least favorite of the three beaches we visited. The water was rougher and the water not deep enough for my liking. We also got sandblasted and I think I stepped on a sea urchin. But any beach in St. Croix is still fabulous.

Our final full day was Friday. We went back to Christiansted that morning to pick up some final gifts and mementos and then headed back to Shoy Beach for the afternoon. I spent a ton of time snorkeling and relaxing in the water, soaking it all up. It was definitely my favorite of the three beaches and the weather, while hot, was gorgeous. We capped off the night at Cheeseburgers in American Paradise – another perfect atmosphere with great food (and company!).
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Again, I could not have asked for a better week. I was beyond relaxed and exploring an entirely new place was utterly fascinating. From driving on the “wrong” side of the road to asking if we wanted rum in our morning smoothies from the local coffee place, it was more than I could have hoped for. I know this isn’t a trip we’ll be repeating for a very long time so I more than soaked up everything we experienced the past week.

Odds and Ends from the Week:

The poverty on the island is depressing. Nothing I didn’t expect but still sad.

In relation to the above point, the number of homeless/stray dogs and their conditions hit home the most. We saw one dog outside one of the grocery stores we visited with a severe limp and a massive tumor growing near her front right armpit. She was just sitting outside the grocery store watching people come in and out. My heart just about broke. And she was just one of the many strays we saw.

The wild life here is different. Very different. Horses that don’t appear to actually belong to anyone. Goats, chickens, roosters and baby chicks everywhere. Teeny, tiny lizards. Big iguanas. Crabs. Birds unlike those in the States.

Just a random horse hanging out right by the road.

Just a random horse hanging out right by the road.

Island time is real. We went to a parking lot that was supposed to open at 8:30 a.m. It definitely opened no earlier than 8:35.

The prices. Oh. My. God. $7 for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s? $6.99 for a regular-sized box of cereal? I genuinely have no idea how people afford to eat on this island and we weren’t exactly suffering from the impoverished conditions in which many of the locals live.

Obviously a big “thank you” to our dogsitters. Without them there’s obviously no way we make this trip.

And an even bigger thank you to my parents for taking us along. Seriously more than we deserved and I appreciate it.

My Little Helper

On Friday, I was able to give Lucy a few hours peace from Isaac when she accompanied me on a home visit for S.N.O.R.T.!

I’m not able to do a ton of home visits because of my location (I’m really not near anything) and because they usually happen on the weekends – except I don’t really have weekends from late August through May. Anyway, this home visit was for a potential adopter (no, not of Isaac, sadly) for one of S.N.O.R.T.’s fosters and it was only an hour away in Harrisburg.

Lucy loves car rides and I knew Isaac would get a car ride on Saturday when I took him to the group dog walk so I loaded her in and off we went!

Yeah, she enjoyed the car ride.

Yeah, she enjoyed the car ride.

The family I was doing the home visit for had a Boston Terrier, Tank. Unfortunately Tank wasn’t a huge fan of Lucy – although apparently he adored his pug sister that passed just recently – but Lucy was too excited to care. She helped herself to some dry cat food and found a rawhide that, in true Lucy fashion, she became obsessed with. Seriously – Tank could have been ready to rip her head off (which he wasn’t, by the way) and she wouldn’t have noticed. She was happy as a clam. Once she shoved the rawhide so far under the coffee table she couldn’t get to it, I took it as a sign that the home visit was done.

All in all, a brief but fun outing for both of us. Hopefully I can do a few more this summer while I have the time and Lucy can “help” out again.

Happy (?) Ten Months

Two days ago marked 10 months of fostering Isaac.

"Ten months already? Time is flying by!"

“Ten months already? Time is flying by!”

When we first got Isaac I never imagined we’d have him for 10 months but I was also unaware of the myriad of behavior problems we were taking on. Once I realized we had some issues to deal with, I knew we were in for the long haul. I didn’t think the long haul would be 10 months but here we are.

When I really sit down and think about it, I feel horrendous that 10 months (and still going…) of Lucy’s life have been spent with a dog that she not only dislikes, but is semi-fearful of. For the 10 days Isaac was adopted Lucy was a different, i.e. happier, dog.

"Woe is me."

“Woe is me.”

We’ve definitely got a new “normal” with Isaac around and Lucy is coping just fine. But I do desperately want her to be as happy as she was B.I. (Before Isaac). Unfortunately, Isaac is going to be very difficult to find an adopter as he’ll be nine in August. A nine-year-old bulldog isn’t exactly in high demand. Especially one who needs to be an only dog and has, um, aggression issues toward other dogs.

How can anyone not want this handsome face?

How can anyone not want this handsome face?

But that’s the negative stuff. And I don’t want that to overshadow the fact that I freaking love this dog. He’s funny, healthy, active, handsome. His eyes kill me – they’re just so sweet. They’re so sweet I don’t mind when he comes over to my side of the bed at 5:30 on a Saturday morning, rests his head on the bed and stares at me (all while breathing heavily) until I wake up. Somehow it’s not as endearing when Marty does that.

I love our walks, just the two of us. Granted, they’re sometimes stressful when we run into other dogs, but for the most part it’s a great way to relax and I swear it kept me sane this past year.

I love how his nubbin shakes so hard when we come home, when we talk to him, even when we just look at him. He’s one happy dog with us.

I love how he stares at me while I’m using my computer; I don’t quite know what he wants, but it’s adorable.

"I'm always watching."

“I’m always watching.”

The unfortunate part of the whole thing is that Isaac would make an absolutely perfect only dog. He’s house trained, is fine being on his own during the day (although obviously he loves it better when we’re home), is HEALTHY, active and quite simply, adores his people. Once he realizes he’s “yours,” you could not ask for a better dog.

Well, here’s to hoping that for Isaac’s sake (and Lucy’s!), I’m not writing a post in 10 more months celebrating 20 months of life with Isaac.

Dog Days of Summer

It’s not even officially summer yet but it is hot out. Every summer I decide I hate the heat more than the cold and every winter I decide I hate the cold more than the heat. I can’t make up my mind but the heat certainly does make cranky. And I sound like I’m 80 years old.

Anyway, having had two squishy faced dogs for the parts of the last three summers, we’re obviously well versed in dealing with the heat which is particularly dangerous for said flat nosed dogs.

I broke rule number one today when we took Isaac for his now weekly Saturday morning group dog walk: avoid taking your dog for walks in the height of the heat. Oops.

"Thanks for trying to kill me, mom."

“Thanks for trying to kill me, mom.”

Now we know to carry water with us rather than just having a water bowl ready for him back at the car.

Two summers ago or so I also got Lucy a Kool Kollar. I’m looking into getting one for Isaac, too, since I know he’ll still insist on being walked for the rest of the summer.

Fortunately, both dogs also have zero issues drinking straight from a water bottle which makes it easy to have water available at any time. A bonus? An empty water bottle turns into a toy for Lucy.

"I love water bottles!"

“I love water bottles!”

Ice cubes are also a great way to quickly cool down a dog. Lucy loves them in any weather; Isaac is still undecided. So far it appears he enjoys chomping it once and then spitting tiny ice cube pieces on the floor for me to step in.

Also, when in doubt, plop your (rather large) butt directly in front of a fan, blocking everyone else from the breeze.
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Finally, bite the bullet and turn the AC on. I know, I know – it’s expensive. But you can’t take any chances with short nosed dogs. I’m as cheap as they come and even I don’t hesitate to turn the AC on for the dogs.

***
On a completely separate note, today I was taking Isaac for his post-dinner walk (not that he had much energy left after this morning’s death march <– I’m joking). Two boys maybe around 12-13 years old saw us walking and stopped at the corner. One boy asked if he could pet Isaac; he’d spotted him from down the block and had waited for us. I was a bit hesitant since Isaac is iffy around people (and I was extra hesitant because the other boy was carrying what I really hope was some sort of toy rifle. It is Central PA so you never know…) but Isaac did great. The boy (the one without the rifle) asked the usual questions – what kind of dog is he? What happened to his skin? How old is he? When I said he was almost nine he goes, “maybe he’s just balding because he’s getting old!” which made me laugh.

It then came up that Isaac was a foster dog to which the boy responded, “we have something in common then, Isaac. I’m a foster, too.” If that doesn’t tug on your heart strings then nothing will.

The most handsome foster there is.

The most handsome foster there is.

Proud Mama

Alternate title: We’re Alive.

Quite a gap between posts but a lot of relaxing has been going on over here. The athletic year is done as of tonight when the final track & field athletes compete at Nationals. Once I post those recaps, I am officially done with the year! Despite tonight’s events, life has gradually been slowing down for a few weeks which is glorious. Last weekend Lucy and I traveled to New Jersey to visit my parents for a belated Mother’s Day celebration. Lucy had a blast away from Isaac and she was the perfect guest.

Because I wasn’t around last weekend, Isaac wasn’t able to get back to the free dog walk. Why couldn’t Marty take him, you ask? You’d have to ask Marty. But I digress. These walks are super important for Isaac to try and get him almost desensitized to other dogs, in a way.

Today we made our way there and Isaac was awesome. Truly. He did not snap at a single dog and even walked right by several dogs that were snapping at him!

"I know how to pretend to look good."

“I know how to pretend to look good.”

He’s not “cured” by any means. When it’s just the two of us on walks he’s still hit or miss but it’s obvious he can be around other dogs. And the other benefit to the walks? This is what he looks like for the majority of the afternoon:

Melting.

Melting.

Seriously, I was ecstatic and so proud of him. He has no idea why I was happy but hopefully the more positive experiences we have the more progress we’ll continue to make. A well-behaved dog is in there, we just have to keep working at it.

And because I don’t want Lucy to feel left out, here’s a cute picture to end today’s post!
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We Survived

Isaac and I survived our first group dog-walking session!

“‘We’ survived? I did all the work!”

So here were my expectations heading into the morning: show up at 11. Get Isaac out of car. Isaac proceeds to bark, lunge, snarl, snap, etc. Get back in car at 11:10 and drive away without going on the 11:15 dog walk.

While some of that happened, spoiler alert – we finished one loop of the walk! We got there just after 11 and I purposely hung back away from other dogs. Isaac roamed but we were pretty far away from any other dog. As people started to gather at the starting point, I slowly walked over with Isaac, dread in my stomach. And Isaac proceeded to lunge, snarl, snap, etc. at another dog.

Lovely.

However, it was a fairly short lived outburst and the trainer immediately paired Isaac and me with another dog walker and her dog who I was told (correctly) was non-reactive and basically wouldn’t give Isaac the time of day no matter what. What happened next? Isaac walked four feet from the dog and her owner for the entire walk. My jaw just about hit the ground when Isaac did not react one bit to the other dog.

“I like to make you look like you have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Now, as far as the actual walking goes, he was a disaster. He was pulling and so excited for the first 3/4 of the walk that he pretty much died in the final five minutes. I seriously thought I was going to have to carry him back; it was a warm day and pacing is a foreign concept to Isaac. I’m also lucky my arms are still attached as he pretty much yanked me around the majority of the course. When all was said and done, though, Isaac had walked for a good 20 minutes four feet from another dog and with plenty of other dogs in the vicinity without a single incident.

What does all this mean? I don’t really know. We didn’t run into any other dogs on our walks the remainder of the weekend so I can’t say he’s magically cured. But it was definitely a step in the right direction. Unfortunately I can’t take him next weekend as I’ll be out of town but it is definitely something we’re going to do many more times. Maybe we’re making progress after all.

Types of Dogs

I’ll have an update this weekend after Isaac and I attend our group dog-walking session tomorrow. I’ve narrowed down the trigger for Isaac’s aggression to me (or maybe all females but no other female has walked him) so I’m both nervous and looking forward to the walk so we can get a handle on Isaac’s behavior around other dogs.

Anyway, that’s a post for later this weekend. Today’s post came to mind when the trainer said that Lucy was an omega dog. Here a definition I found online:

These dogs are what I consider, to be the “low man on the totem pole”. They quite often can be very sweet, but lacking in self-confidence. They choose to move through life, trying not to create a fuss. These dogs can be challenged or even attacked, by the classic Beta dog. The Beta dog knows that they can dominate or rule this personality and quite often, choose to do so. 

Ok, first – not all of this applies to Lucy 100 percent, but it’s awful darn close. Second – our trainer believes the use of the word dominance is overused with dogs and isn’t the case with Isaac. However, a lot of what is stated above is absolutely true of Lucy. She’s always been the low (wo)man on the totem pole although as negative as that sounds, before Isaac (B.I.), it worked out beautifully with our other fosters. She was more than happy to be lower than Cindy/Nellie (who was a Beta dog but was far more “nice” in expressing that than Isaac). I believe both Snowy (now Violet) and Buddy were omega dogs, as well, and thus everyone got along – they were ALL low on the totem pole, so to speak! No one tried to fight for a higher position. They were happy not to have that stress. Violet and Lucy were two peas in a pod. There was never, ever a single issue between them. It was glorious, especially now that we have Isaac against which to compare things.

I mean, come on! They were best buds.

I mean, come on! They were best buds.

Essentially, Lucy is obliviously happy as the only dog or with another omega dog. And she’d probably be in heaven with an alpha dog (which as the trainer explained are very rare).

Now, here’s Isaac, the Beta dog, according to the same website:

This is the dog that I see more frequently in our Board and Train program.This is definitely the dog that challenges the companion dog owner over and over. Quite often, the Beta dog is also very dominant and may need to be on a strict Nothing In Life is Free program.The Beta dog may be barky, mouthy, reactive, and unwilling to accept the human as its leader. This dog spends its life, if untrained; challenging every day any form of control. These dogs are quite often, given up to Breed Rescue or to Shelters, as they are “too much” for many dog owners to handle willingly. Quite often in dog play, they cause fights by playing too rough or intense, they do not read nor accept other dog’s body language. They may be clearly possessive of prized items such as toys, rawhide, food, or even fighting to get all the attention from their owners in a multi dog household.

Um, yeah, that’s Isaac and it’s clear why we have issues at home.

The reason I believe that Cindy was a beta dog is that she did not hesitate to put Lucy in her place; the difference was it took one snap from Cindy and…that was it. Lucy backed off, Cindy laid back down and things were back to peace and quiet. And the two of them got along beautifully 95 percent of the time; they snuggled, they went outside together, they took walks together before Cindy had to undergo heartworm treatment.

And the reason Lucy and Isaac don’t get along is that Isaac is much more physical in his beta dog ways and he can physically overpower Lucy. Cindy absolutely could not do that.

I love(d) Cindy but physically she was no match for Lucy.

I love(d) Cindy but physically she was no match for Lucy.

Anyway, I meant for this to be a much more lighthearted post; I mean, essentially I’m calling Lucy a stupidly happy dog! Which is a good thing, really. And part of the reason I want to “fix” Isaac so badly is that I hate for that happy part of Lucy to be lost, even if temporarily.

Putting a Plan in Place

Yesterday Isaac and I (and Lucy) met with a new trainer who is more than equipped to deal with Isaac’s behavioral problems. See, obedience training with Isaac wasn’t (and still isn’t) my top concern – he’s learned sit, down, touch, etc. I needed a trainer who could work with Isaac’s behavioral issues and we found a great one!

For three-and-a-half hours yesterday, we did a lot of talking – some training, sure – but a lot of talking about what might have caused Isaac’s behavioral problems, what I can do myself to help things, what I can do with Isaac to help things, what Marty and I can do with both dogs to help the situation, etc. So, so informative.

To backtrack a bit, I had two main concerns going into yesterday – getting Isaac to stop humping Lucy and getting him to be less dog-aggressive on our walks.

“But I love humping Lucy.”

Hang with me for a minute on this analogy: you know how when you have a computer issue, call IT, they come down and all of a sudden your computer is functioning perfectly fine? Well, that was Isaac yesterday. The trainer took Isaac out for a walk without me; they saw other people and other dogs and apparently Isaac was a perfect gentleman. Of course he was.

Despite Isaac’s good behavior outside the home, he still spent the majority of the three-plus hours intermittently humping Lucy so at least the trainer got to see him in action on that level. :-P

For the next few days I’ll start incorporating the tips I learned yesterday and then on Saturday, Isaac and I will go to the trainer’s dog-walking class a few towns over. Gulp. Isaac around a bunch of dogs?! It’s a nerve-wracking thought but it honestly is going to be great in the long run; the trainer will get a glimpse at Isaac with me around other dogs (and a lot of them!).

I don’t want to say I’m the problem but I think I’m the trigger when it comes to Isaac’s aggression; he tends to flip out at other dogs only when I’m walking him. Marty said Isaac will sometimes growl at other dogs when he walks him but none of the lunging, snarling and snapping when I’m walking him. So our main goal is to get Isaac to the point where he’s non-reactive no matter who is walking him. Oh, and to stop humping Lucy, of course.

Oh, Isaac. What a project. Totally worth it, though.

How can you NOT want to help this face?

How can you NOT want to help this face?

D-Day

Tomorrow is D-Day for Isaac. He (and I) are going to go through some pretty intensive behavioral training tomorrow.

We’ve been fostering Isaac for over nine months now and while obviously things are liveable, we still have a very long way to go until I believe Isaac will be adoptable to a wide variety of homes. Right now he’s limited to a home with no other dogs, no small children (because he’s so strong) and a semi-rural area. And clearly after nine months we haven’t found a home that fits those requirements.

"I like it right here."

“I like it right here.”

He still flips out when we meet other dogs on our walks and still humps Lucy, although it’s not quite as frequent lately (it does tend to go in waves, though). And sometimes (honestly, very rarely) he’s not exactly friendly to people we encounter on walks and it’s always on our walks – he’s perfectly fine in our home, other peoples’ homes, etc. It’s just in neutral territory he’s too hit or miss for my liking.

Because I have no idea if or when Isaac will finally be adopted, I need to make our current situation as liveable and stress-free as possible so that is my one and only main goal tomorrow.

I expect it to be a tiring day but I can’t state enough how much I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll have a good report. :-)

PS – I got this adorable photo of my first foster, Cindy (now Nellie). She doesn’t walk well so she now has her own personal ride – what a cutie.
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