Settling In

After this past weekend, I feel like I can take a deep breath and really settle into a routine with Kramer. A week or so after bringing Kramer home, I dog-sat Spike, a 70-pound English bulldog. At only one year old, Spike had a LOT of energy and a very small space in which to expend that energy. I only had Spike for roughly 48 hours and then five days later, Spike came back…for an entire week.

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I’m not going to lie, it was a stressful week. Three dogs, with Kramer still learning the ropes of being a true pet, in a small space was pure chaos. The best way to describe Spike is like Tigger (from Winnie the Pooh) on steroids. He’s got a phenomenal and hilarious personality but it’s not a personality meant for small spaces with small(er) dogs. If he wanted to walk in the evenings, his energy was tolerable. If he didn’t want to walk (and there was no making a 70-pound dog walk against his will), watch out. Anything in the apartment was fair game – burrowing in the couch. Playing fetch. Eating my coasters. Body-slamming Kramer. Humping me. Chewing his Nylabone.

Fortunately for him, he’s adorable which made up for a lot of the chaos.

But back to our routine. Kramer is really starting to get the hang of being a pet. He has never had a true accident inside – every time he’s peed indoors it’s been marking, not because he had to pee. He’s never gone #2 inside, which I consider a true miracle. He has quickly caught on to the post-pee/poop treat routine. After coming inside, I find him waiting (not-so) patiently in the kitchen by the fridge where I keep their treats.

Kramer is still blanket obsessed and it’s the cutest thing ever. He must have a blankie with him at all times. Starting last week, I allowed him up on the couch to see what he’d do. As long as he has his blankie with him, he’s content to lounge around gnawing on it while Lucy sleeps (as usual) and I read (as usual).

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He is very much a pug; he barks (a lot) and follows me everywhere but that’s all typical stuff I expect from a pug. He sleeps just fine in the crate at night and I’m assuming he does the same while I’m at work during the day. He just chewed on one of Lucy’s many beloved Nylabones yesterday and while I thought Lucy’s head was going to explode – she doesn’t share well – it was another sign that Kramer is quickly learning to enjoy the good life.

I finally scheduled Kramer’s neuter and dental surgeries for Sept. 11. I’m super anxious for both – he has an enlarged prostate which is contributing to the marking and constant peeing outside but that’s reversible with the neutering (another reason to spay and neuter your pets!!). His breath also reeks so the dental will be much-needed.

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After two surgeries, there isn’t anything we need to address before he gets listed for adoption. As long as the surgeries go well, he should be able to hit the available page pretty quickly after the procedures. Which is sad. Obviously, it’s much easier on me with just Lucy to look after, but so far, the two fosters I’ve had on my own (Lady and Kramer) have been phenomenal. They’ve been two of the simpler fosters I’ve ever had and have been great additions, even if temporary.

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24 Hours with Kramer

We’re just over 24 hours into bringing Kramer home. It’s been a hell of a 24 hours – not in a bad way but man, I like to cram a lot into a little amount of time.

I got back to Lancaster at 2:15 on Monday afternoon. At 2:30 I was right back on the road to pick up Kramer. At 3:00 Kramer was promptly dumped into my tub as it was discovered he has fleas. A lot of them. For five straight minutes, nothing but dirt, blood and fleas washed off of him. There was so much blood which shocked me when I first saw it pouring off. No blood was visible until I started bathing him. Those fleas were literally causing him to bleed and for God knows how long.

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Based on the amount of blood and dirt coming off him, he’s never been bathed in his life. But he was such a trooper. Trust me, it’s not my first choice to take a dog straight to the tub before his feet even touch the floor of his new home. But it had to be done. And while he wouldn’t stand on all fours in the tub, he was good as long as his front paws were propped up on the edge of the tub so he could touch me. In fact, once the bath started, I think he absolutely loved the warm water and massage. He was so itchy and it had to feel like heaven.

After drying him off, I plopped him in the crate and literally ran to my car to get emergency flea supplies. Thanks to the support of the SNORT group, I learned of a product called capstar (it’s a pill) that kills fleas on dogs within 30 minutes. And boy did that stuff work as promised. Within 30 minutes 100s more (dead) fleas were literally falling off him. By the time we went to bed, his itching was already dramatically decreased. No new fleas whatsoever. Magic product, I tell you. And once the fleas started falling off, I brushed him for a while. His eyes literally closed in ecstasy.

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I know, ridiculously cute.

As with all puppy mill dogs, I had no idea what to expect before seeing him for the first time. He was surrendered by an Amish puppy mill breeder who said Kramer was “no longer doing his job.” I’ll just leave it there. Enough said.

No photos were taken of him and no information was given. And that’s what I got upon pickup – nothing. No paperwork. No vaccination history. NO NAME. That’s right, eight years and he never had a name. My favorite show is Seinfeld so Kramer was an obvious choice. Plus, he really does act like Kramer – he makes his presence known in the goofiest and noisiest of ways. For instance, he must mark a spot three times. No more, no less.

As you can see in the photos, though, he’s a super handsome dog. Dark fawn color and now that he’s been bathed, he has the softest, fluffiest fur. He is a pug through and through. Must have a human in his sight at all times. Spastic and snorty but so sweet.

Fortunately, Kramer seems to be crate trained – despite spending 95% of his time thus far in the crate, he’s had zero accidents. He has done his business outside, as well. The only incidents we’ve had indoors have been two marking incidents. He’s clearly marking, not peeing to empty his bladder. While the end result is the essentially same, his intent is different; I’m choosing to see it as a positive that he knows to take care of his business outside and I’ll deal with the marking as we go. Hopefully the longer he’s here the less he feels the need to mark – plus getting neutered will help. I’m also trying out the belly band today to see if he tolerates it.

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One week from today he has a vet visit. If this guy’s ever been to the vet I’d be shocked; plus, there’s zero record of any visit that may have happened. I’m really hoping he doesn’t have heartworm or Lyme. I’m expecting he will have something we need to address – it certainly appears he’s spent his entire life outside with zero care.

And Lucy? She’s less than thrilled. Poor girl had a busy and tiring weekend to begin with then I literally rushed in the door with Kramer. I’m thankful that so far Kramer hasn’t been overly interested and most definitely has yet to show signs of aggression. Again, they’ve been separated 95% of the time so far and she won’t even walk by his crate she’s so scared (for zero reason. He has done nothing to her and he’s inside a locked crate). Clearly part of it is her just being her neurotic self. But I do feel badly; I always do. I don’t think she ever loves when I have a foster around. But fostering is important to me and I always make sure she gets just as much attention as she always does, if not a bit more.

I really did decide to tackle a lot this past weekend – a long weekend in NJ, a late-night concert (Fleetwood Mac which was worth 10 times over but also saw me get back to my parents’ at 2 a.m. Sunday night/Monday morning) and then picking up Kramer 10 minutes after getting back to Lancaster before proceeding to de-flea him and go grocery shopping for the week. And then back into the work week routine at 4:30 this morning.

Fortunately, I have no more travel plans for a while – hence why I chose this time to get a new foster. We should be able to settle into a good routine and get Kramer healthy and on his way to finding a forever home!

 

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

In many cases, that’s a good thing. Sometimes it works out well to be semi-oblivious when embarking on something new, unknown, different, etc. If I let the unknown hold me back, I would not be where I am in life right now and while life is up and down, I’m largely in a good spot.

This morning, one of my Facebook memories was of my first foster, Nellie (fka Cindy) from four years ago.

I look back on that experience and realize I had absolutely no freaking clue what I was getting myself into. It’s not a secret that when I started volunteering with SNORT, I had no intentions of fostering. Lucy was still a puppy – probably around seven months old or so. Our apartment had space but it wasn’t huge. My job hours were nuts (and remained nuts for the next four-plus years). ­

I’m not even sure what prompted me to change my mind about fostering. Because Nellie was a puppy mill dog, there were no photos of her (the Amish don’t allow people on their property to take photos of dogs they are surrendering). There was zero information about her besides she was a puppy mill mama who was being given up because she could no longer have litters.

But something in me just had to take her in, so we did. I picked her up sight unseen on a super cold, cloudy, depressing January morning, took one look at her, thought to myself “what have I gotten myself into?!” And promptly fell head over heels in love.

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Meeting Nellie for the first time. Love at first sight.

Now with seven fosters under my belt (and hopefully more in the near future), I’ve come to realize there’s a whole list of things I didn’t know I didn’t know before I embarked on this adventure. I was clueless about a lot.

I Didn’t Know:
1. I had such high levels of empathy and patience.
Patience has never been my strong suit. It’s why I’ve remained up in the air about wanting to have kids. But my level of empathy and patience has been practically unlimited with each foster. I don’t even have that much patience with Lucy. But with the fosters? Sure, I got upset when they crapped on the carpet or flipped the heck out during thunderstorms and kept me up for hours. But the amount of poop I cleaned up or the time I spent in the bathroom with a certain foster (Isaac!) during thunderstorms rarely fazed me. I’m not saying I’ve become Mother Teresa, but I’ve learned I have a higher capacity for patience and empathy than I previously thought.

 

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This handsome boy was petrified of thunderstorms.

2. There was so much medical lingo to learn
Entropian. Cherry eye (which I actually learned about with Lucy). Interdigital cyst. Pyometra. Thyroid levels. Seasonal alopecia. Unexplained alopecia. Spina bifida. There isn’t a single foster I’ve had that hasn’t underdone surgery or had a major medical issue. Nellie – heartworm, lyme. Violet (fka Snowy) – spay, entropian, dry eye, bladder cancer scare. Buddy – neuter, dental. Isaac – puppy Prozac, alopecia. Novalee – spina bifida. Blossom – spay, dental (I think). Lady – spay, dental.

I don’t know everything, but I’ve sure learned a lot.

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Novalee had spina bifida but you never would have known it.

3. I’d have to learn to not be squeamish
No sooner had I laid eyes on Nellie than I realized she was leaking…down there. And not pee. It was a…thick goo. Leftover from an infection or a recent litter, probably. But that poor girl just left a trail of gunk everywhere she went for a few days/weeks.

Many fosters have not been housetrained so there’s been countless pee puddles and piles of poo to clean up. So much laundry. Wiping of all bodily areas. I’ve seen tons of incisions, ears filled with wax and countless eye boogers. And let’s not talk about post-surgery poo…

Novalee once ate an entire bag of raw almonds. Let’s just say it became quickly apparent she hadn’t chewed said almonds when she spent three days walking around inside our apartment like a giant pez dispenser of almonds.

I’ve developed a stronger stomach over the past few years.

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Buddy the Pug may have peed on me (and Lucy) a time or two. #maledogproblems

4. That I would handle adoptions better than I expected
Don’t get me wrong, I was a disaster when Nellie was adopted. And tears have been shed every single time a foster has been adopted. I miss them all. But I absolutely love the experience of fostering. It gives me a sense of purpose, something to keep me busy and selfishly, it feels so good be a part of saving a dog. If I had an unlimited budget and a bigger home, at least a few of these fosters would have probably wound up as “foster failures.” But I know going into each foster that I really can’t have two dogs – not enough money, not enough space – and that reality helps when it comes time to find a forever home for each foster. Now, there hasn’t been a foster in which I haven’t uttered the words, “I think I’ll keep him/her,” but deep down I’m fully aware it’s not the ideal option for either party involved.

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Lady, my first foster all on my own.

5. It’s a total team effort
Six of my seven fosters came when I was living with Marty. While the interest in fostering was 100% me, actually fostering was a different matter. When more than one person is impacted by taking on a foster, it becomes a team effort. Maybe not with the equal distribution of work and time, but each person in the home has some added responsibility and stress.

It also takes help from my employers – days I may need to leave early for a vet appointment or even take an entire day off to shuttle a dog to a vet appointment or surgery.

And travel impacts everyone – most holidays I’ve had a foster so that impacts every family we visit over the holidays. Each foster is different and because each was not my own nor raised as my own, their quirks don’t necessarily make them ideal houseguests. So it does indeed take a village.

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Backseat roadtrip buddies.

6. It’s stressful
I believe I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but it is stressful to bring a foster home. The days leading up bringing home a foster are anxiety-ridden. What will he/she be like? Will they like Lucy? Will Lucy like them (probably not). Are they housetrained (probably not)? Will they eat (probably not)? Where will they sleep? Are they super sick? And then once I get them home? What does that bark mean? Are they scared? Why don’t they lie down and sleep? Is that cough normal?

I’m an anxious person by nature so the early days surrounding a foster are really stressful for me. Everyone’s different but stress is one of the overriding emotions for me when I’m fostering.

I’ll never forget one of the biggest sources of anxiety with Nellie – she refused to eat. I tried everything. Dry food. Wet food. Chicken and rice. Wet and dry food mixed. Straight bouillon. Nothing worked. Until it was suggested from a fellow foster mom that she probably had no clue what a bowl was or how to eat out of it. So, I scooped some food into a super shallow frisbee and voila! She was eating like a champ. But I was just so stressed out during those first few days when I could not get her to eat.

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Making a mess; we soon progressed to a frisbee. Baby steps.

7. I would have a hard time saying “no”
I’m kind of a selfish person. Hence the reason I’m not sure I want kids. I like setting my own schedule (when work allows), taking naps on the weekends and essentially doing what I want to do when I want to do it. Fostering puts a crimp in that. Having a foster is double the work, often triple the work. After Nellie was adopted, we were going to take a break and reassess whether we wanted to foster again and how quickly. We’d had Nellie for about six months, I think, which is a pretty substantial amount of time. But roughly six weeks after her adoption, I got a phone call about Violet, saying she needed a new foster home and wondering if I was interested. “Yes” may have slipped out before I could give serious thought to it. Oops.

So despite being a self-proclaimed “selfish” person, I’ve found myself saying “yes” a lot more when it comes to fosters.

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I’m not quite sure how you say “no” to that face.

All of this is to say that fostering is a big (and important) commitment. But there isn’t a single foster experience I regret. Each dog has meant so much to me and I can’t emphasize how much the benefits outweigh the stressors.

Two Dogs, One Apartment

Sorry for the gap between blogs. It’s been a really tough week personally so the blog took a backseat.

Lucy came back home about 10 days ago (I think?) and finally got to meet Lady. And, as with everything thus far with Lady, the meet and greet was seamless. SNORT recommends separating foster dogs from their fur siblings for the first few days in a new foster home but Lady had been here for 10 days already. Plus, in the few days before Lucy came home I’d been able to see Lady interact with other dogs and she was fine. She showed interest in other dogs but honestly that’s about it – no lunging toward them, no excited hopping around, certainly no aggression. Still, I was ready to separate them with a gate but that ended up being totally unnecessary.

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  Does this face look like she’d cause trouble?!

When Lucy walked in the apartment, there was some mutual sniffing between the dogs and then Lady went over to her bed in the corner and Lucy hopped up on the couch and that’s where they spent 90 percent of their first night together. And since. Lucy and I do play together on the floor most days and while Lady frequently comes over to inspect, she has no concept of play or interest in toys, gets bored quickly and retreats back to her bed.

The biggest change is getting myself out the door in the morning. I do as much prep as I can before my 5:30 a.m. CrossFit class but I have only an hour from when I get home from class until I leave for work so the process of taking care of two dogs (breakfast, potty breaks – usually multiple since neither dog will do all their business in one trip) and getting myself ready is going to need to be refined. But we’re making progress.

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Just an obligatory cute photo of Lucy.

The only negative is that Lady has severely regressed on her housetraining. Every day I come home from work either at lunch or at the end of the day and she’s peed. Sometimes twice a day. The obvious thought would be she’s marking her territory. Lady comes across as anything but an alpha female but the timing of her regression and Lucy coming back is too coincidental to rule it out. But if she is marking, she should be spayed soon and I’m really (really) hoping that ends the marking.

Also, Lady has completely come out of her shell. Don’t get me wrong, she still spends a lot of time in her bed, but she is so. freaking. happy. every time I walk in the door. She’s started hopping around and running in circles. It’s so heartwarming to see; it makes me realize how cruddy she felt (or how scared she was) when I first brought her home.

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Watching from afar as Lucy acts like a maniac.

And while she and Lucy aren’t best buddies, they co-exist perfectly. They each lounge on different ends of the couch while I’m gone, eat in separate areas with a zero issues and have their own go-to spaces in the apartment.

So, I have to say that the fostering-by-myself experiment is going better than I could have expected. If housetraining issues are my biggest concern, I’d say we’re all doing just fine!

Foster Adventure #7…

Get ready for a long one with very few pics…

Tonight I drove to Selinsgrove to drop Lucy off with Marty where she’ll spend the next two weeks. Why?

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(The above pic is from the shelter)

Normally Lucy wouldn’t be going anywhere with a new foster, let alone for two weeks, but a few hurdles with this foster made it necessary.

On Sunday,  Jan. 29, a request was put out from SNORT to foster a nine-year-old pug mix (that would be Lady) who was in a kill shelter in Maryland and had until Wednesday at 7 p.m. to find a foster home. You can put two and two together and figure out what would happen if a foster home wasn’t found by Wednesday.

I agreed to foster, thinking that it would be like every other foster – I’d bring her home, slowly introduce her to Lucy and then go from there.

Except on Monday morning, SNORT found out that Lady has kennel cough (and more – I’ll get to that in another post) and needed to be kept in a dog-free home for two weeks until the medication ended any threat of her infecting other dogs. Yikes. I am most definitely not dog-free but SNORT also had no dog-free homes available to foster.

Lady started antibiotics on Saturday and apparently within two days was a totally different dog. She went from despondent, detached and nonreactive to playful and friendly. How in the hell could I let a happy, unsuspecting dog be euthanized?

I couldn’t, so with Marty’s support and (immense) help, I am able to foster Lady. Lucy will spend the next two weeks with Marty while Lady finishes up her medication for the kennel cough. After the two weeks are up, I will bring Lucy back home and we’ll begin our “normal” fostering journey.

While every foster is drastically different, bringing home a new foster without Lucy there (for two weeks, no less) is just plain strange. While I know Lucy is in phenomenal hands with Marty, I’ll miss her. She’s been my buddy for the two-plus months I’ve been out here on my own.

Plus, I worry about Lady getting comfortable being the only dog for two weeks when all of a sudden I add Lucy into the mix. And I worry about Lucy walking into my apartment only to discover a new dog who’s gotten plenty comfortable in Lucy’s absence (don’t worry, I’ve already thought of a solution for that one!).

One thing at a time, though. For a change, I can devote all my attention to my foster for the first few weeks (which are undoubtedly the most stressful and chaotic) rather than having to divide my time and attention between two dogs.

I can also get a sense of Lady’s temperament and try to figure out how to best manage the two dogs once Lucy’s home. My apartment is not that big but I picked up a new crate and have a baby gate so we’ll make it work if the dogs wind up having to be separated when alone (or together…).

So to address my aforementioned solution for integrating the two dogs, my plan is to pick Lucy up from Marty’s with Lady in tow. That way they can meet in semi-neutral territory and then walk into their apartment here in Lancaster together. I don’t know what the hell Lucy would do if I walked her into the apartment after two weeks away and she saw Lady curled up on the couch in Lucy’s spot. Nothing good, I’m sure.

And hey, maybe Lady won’t be a typical Velcro pug (hahaha!) and won’t want to be on the couch with us. Or insist on following me everywhere – although even if she does, my apartment is 680 square feet. She’ll quickly find out there’s nowhere far I can go. Maybe Lucy will be her favorite companion, not me.

That’s the nerve-wracking and exciting part about fostering. You almost always have no idea what to expect.

Also, the big variable with this foster? Minus these first two weeks, I’m doing this all on my own. Two dogs. One very tiny apartment. Vet visits, potty breaks (and cleaning up those potty breaks if Lady chooses to take them inside…), mealtimes – all on me.

I guess this is kind of my test as to whether I can foster on my own although it admittedly varies widely based on the specific foster dog. Isaac would have been fine to handle on my own. No health issues, no housetraining issues, etc. Cindy (now Violet) would have been much harder with all her vet visits, housetraining issues, etc. But if I can manage Lady who, from what I can tell, is in need of some serious TLC and attention, I have confidence that while fostering may be a bit less frequent than in the past, it’s still possible.

Wish me luck!

A Bit About Blossom

We’ve had Blossom for two months today and in some regards a lot has changed and in other regards not much has changed.

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She’s beautiful.

First, she still gets along wonderfully with Lucy. Blossom does not like or have interest in toys so that means she’s got at least one thing going for her, at least in Lucy’s eyes. No interest in toys means no fighting over toys.

While Blossom can be on the….annoying side (more on that later), I think for the most part Lucy likes having a companion. Every single day I come home for lunch, the dogs are curled up together on the couch. They are literally touching every single day. It’s so sweet. So I think the company is good for both of them.

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Blossom is still about as healthy as can be for an old girl. She recovered wonderfully from her spay and dental and besides some achy and stiff back legs, she’s one active little dog. Blossom MUST follow one or both of us if we even so much as get off the couch so obviously her mobility is not limited in the least.

So what’s changed? She has blossomed (pun intended) in the two months we’ve had her. We went from not being able to pick her up, touch her face, touch her paws to being able to (almost always) pick her up, kiss her face, rub her belly. It’s been remarkable, really. It’s the sweetest thing – each morning I go back upstairs after letting Lucy out to bring Blossom downstairs. Lately every morning she opens one eye, looks at me, then rolls onto her back for belly rubs. Then she waits like the spoiled dog she is for me to pick up and literally place her on the floor so she can go downstairs.

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Blossom most definitely knows the word “treat” and “runs” back inside after doing her business to get her treat. That girl moves when food is involved.

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“Running”

Her one major flaw? Her barking. It’s pretty constant and it’s slowly driving Marty mad. It doesn’t bother me nearly as much unless I’m trying to sleep. If she were our dog I might try to do some behavior training but with her abusive background I really didn’t even know how to start…so I didn’t. But if that’s her biggest flaw, I’ll take it. And her cute face MORE than makes up for it.

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YOU try to get mad at that face.

In short, I love her. I love her big eyes, I love how much she’s improved since she’s gotten here, I love her demanding little personality. I love having a shadow follow my every movement. I cannot wait to see how much more she grows.

Seeking Answers

I hesitate to post too much about Isaac because, while very few people read this blog, I don’t want to taint anyone’s opinion of Isaac (or anything about my life) by reading small snippets. Most posts are written because at the time of writing them, a certain issue is really bothering me. Writing as always been therapeutic for me. But as happens in life, a few weeks later what was really bothering is now in the rear view mirror. But here we go anyway…

Something in Isaac’s behavior lately indicates that he needs some help. What kind of help is the million dollar question. His aggression (outside the home – always outside the home) has gotten a bit worse and now we need to figure out why – is it behavioral and therefore able to be alleviated through training or is it health-related? Is there something going on in his little peabrain that’s making him act differently?
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His thyroid tests came back and while the base levels are slightly low, his TSH (thyroid stimulation hormone) levels are perfectly normal, meaning his thyroid is actually functioning at a normal level. Our vet believes that the next step is behavioral training. If we keep up with training we should see a difference.

The elephant in the room? What if we don’t see a difference in his behavior? Then what? Then we have to continue digging. I’m hoping to see the behavioral trainer within the next 7-10 days and really buckle down on training. A SNORT board member sent me this article which is a training technique I can – and will – immediately implement.

Our walks might look a little different from now on...

Our walks might look a little different from now on…

I’m not going to go into the possibilities if we find out we’re dealing with something that can’t be rectified with behavioral training. That’s too far down the road. But I love Isaac and I so desperately want to help him. While he can be aggressive, do you know what I found out last week? Big, rough, tough Isaac is petrified of thunder storms. He was shaking so hard the other night he woke me up! I can hug and kiss him (and frequently do, more than is normal or acceptable) and smother him with love. I can take random chicken wing bones he picks up on our walks (I know, gross) right out of his mouth without so much as a snap from him. I know he is a sweet dog and I want everyone else to know that, too.

Oh, I love him.

Oh, I love him.