Rain Man Walking

With a break in the hair-raising humidity and torrential rains,  I sat out on the back patio after work to soak up some vitamin D and watch the boys play, which to me was heartwarming to see them playing so well, though the sound is certainly not for the faint-hearted.  After dinner I figured we’d settle in for some couch potato-ing but seeing them being so good and knowing that they’d enjoy it, I decided to take them each for a walk around the neighborhood.

Julius and I went out first and strolled down the streets I rarely get to walk on.  He is easy and our walk was silent and companionable.  He’s been rocking his Halti instead of his harness and it has been a game changer.  Juli is always good in his harness-don’t get me wrong- but the Halti like I said was a game changer.  He still rubs his head on my legs occasionally but there were several times I had to look to see if he was still with me because the slackness in the leash was so alarming…and gratifying.

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My Rockstar.

I love that we are getting to such a good place and that we can enjoy the quiet companionship together.

Awaiting me at home was Ray with his soft, hopeful eyes and his bouncy-cow hop.  Ray is normally fine just wearing a martingale collar for walks but Julius and I had seen Daisy, a neighbor’s dog, lounging off leash in her yard and since the said yard is on Ray’s walking route, we opted for the Freedom harness for Ray just in case we needed some extra control.

Ray is like the Rain Man on walks; he has a certain route and routine that must be strictly adhered to unless he decides it doesn’t.  Normally, we depart the driveway and make a beeline across the street to the lamp-post to leave some pee-mail.  We then recross the street and skim along our side yard to the neighbor behind us where we (Ray) pees on her corner lamp post, and continues to the American Bulldog’s house to …do more than pee.  We then retrace our steps back and walk around the next block, up the street and around the corner…past Daisy’s house.

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“The Look” gets me every time.

Tonight I’d like to sincerely thank the neighbor with the “doodle” puppy.  As Ray was preparing his poo spot I noticed they were walking toward us but still a good distance away yet also in the exact direction my Rain Man and I would be heading.  I knew the possibility of Ray losing his shit reacting to the puppy if it were coming head on toward us was a real possibility.  The next few minutes stretched on as I fumbled for a poop bag and scooped up after Ray all the while throwing furtive glances to the approaching pair trying to will them to turn away and still remain calm so that Ray wouldn’t pick up on my mood.  I began regaling him with the temptation of yummy treats in order to lure him in another direction while he stood, glancing between his suddenly crazy mom who wanted to go the wrong way and the approaching puppy.  The neighbor (thank goodness) realized what I was doing and slowed her approach and indicated the direction she needed to take to get home.  I ended up luring Ray to a yard to partake of some yummy snacks while the lady carried her doodle past us, “I don’t want him to slip his collar” she said with a smile, passing us by as if the entire interaction was completely normal. It was truly a nice change from “It’s ok…my dog is friendly” people.

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“Woooo, I say.”

As we continued on Ray’s favorite path and headed up the street towards where I knew Daisy was lying out on her driveway, my mind continued to spin thinking of ways to try to cajole my stubborn dog to make a detour I heard the sweetest sound.  Daisy’s “dad” had just turned on a dreaded leaf-blower.  Ray stopped and looked at me…”Let’s go this way,” I said, pointing in the opposite direction.  As we approached our house from the wrong direction and doubled back to another pee-mail location, I took a moment to bask in the warm glow of the realization that Ray trusts me to keep him safe from things like doodle puppies, leaf blowers and other random items of lawn equipment.  For that he earned a nice slice of dried sweet potato.

How does your dog let you know that you’re earning doggie thumbs up?

Ray’s Legs

The saga of Ray’s legs continues. As you may remember, last July after the Sugar family was adopted, Ray went in for his TTA surgery to help repair his ACL. Due to his high anxiety levels and my anxiety over his anxiety, I waited longer than I should have to schedule this surgery and going into it we knew that he had advanced levels of arthritis is both legs for a dog as young as he is. Fortunately the surgery was a success which was doubly confirmed in March when Ray went in for his annual vaccinations and exam.For a dog like Ray I’ve just learned to do a lot of this medical in one fell swoop. At annual exam time, Ray has a dental cleaning, is vaccinated, has his nails trimmed and this year had his leg x-rayed –all while he was anesthetized. This most certainly is not ideal. Who wants to have their dog anesthetized every year? Not this gal, but I also don’t want him thrashing around screaming and injuring himself or staff at all either.

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After Ray got the all clear in March we loosened the reigns a bit and allowed him to romp more around the yard. He’s pretty reasonable when trying to chase squirrels or the world’s fastest dog Julius around the yard so we haven’t worried too much. Besides walking has really helped with not only strengthening his leg but with is overall mental happiness. A lot of what he does is he bounces about like a happy cow and pretends to chase Julius as Juli zips by only to stop and wait for the next pass.

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Then about a week and a half ago, I let the boys out for their last potty break, and after a very short time heard the worst sound I could imagine coming from our back yard. For a split second my world stopped as it sounded like the boys were in an all out fight. Screaming and guttural growling filled the night air as I ran outside fearing the worst only to find that they had crossed either over or under the temporary fencing we had put up across the side (the whole yard has a privacy fence) where Kevin is trying to grow some grass-a temporary fence they had never before challenged-and were leaping at an opossum that was balanced atop the fence hissing at them. Julius and Ray were both leaping in the air with varying degrees of height (Juli can reach the top, so I’m thankful he didn’t this time) and screeching at this poor creature who finally departed to the neighbor’s yard. I got the boys back into the house and we all retired to bed after my heart finally stopped its frantic racing.

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Sometime during the night Ray left the bed to lie on his mat and when we all got up in the morning, he did not want to get up for his morning potty break. I let Juli out and encouraged Ray to come when I finally saw that he wasn’t putting any weight at all on his leg and didn’t want to walk, so I helped him back to his mat, gave him some Rimadyl with his breakfast and left to help man the Pit Bull Coalition booth at Pet Expo. Ray has extraordinary holding powers so I knew he’d be alright until I returned, and he was. I helped him go outside in the afternoon, and kept him mostly immobile for the remainder of the weekend. He’s been relegated again to sleeping on his mat on the floor and had seemed to be healing just as we hoped. Until the following Friday. Last Friday I was sitting on the patio with the boys when Ray heard Kevin pull into the drive. We went inside to greet him after having been gone the week and all was normal yet again until about an hour or two later when Ray again wouldn’t put any weight on his foot.

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Kevin and I have agonized over this since Friday. We hate to put him under just for x-rays again but in reality we can’t not do it because we need to know the extend of any damage, but do we subject him to another TTA? Do we try TPLO? How acutely does the arthritis factor into the equation? Can his pain be managed medically? Lots of questions right now and no answers…but he knows we’re talking about him.

Ray’s Story Revisited

On so many of the blogs I read, I’m such a stalker that I forget that some folks here don’t actually know the story of how Ray came to be ours.  As I alluded to previously, I have told the story before, but I left some parts out but I think that enough time has elapsed that I can tell it without hurting anyone.

  

 
So yes, this woman had contacted me about finding help to place her male pit bull, Kane, and his pregnant sister, Sparkles. I hadn’t actually met this woman but knew of her. You see, she and her mother and her children had been renting a house until the landlord moved himself in and them out. They were forced to move into an apartment and leave their two dogs with a friend who kept them chained up outside and this is how Sparkles ended up in “a family way.”

 

Mama Sparkles

 
So before we knew it, and before we were prepared, the puppies started coming. Outside in the 32 degree weather, the puppies started coming and some of them died from the exposure. I don’t know how long Sparkles was in labor but by the time I was called, left work and arrived on site there was Sparkles and her three live pups with more small, cold bodies nearby in a trash bag. 

As soon as Katie arrived we whisked the dogs and pups away to warmth. Although I’d been reading about and had met a few Pit Bulls recently, I still knew very little about them and Kevin was worried sick that something would go horribly wrong. It didn’t.

Not only did we find two loving and sweet adult dogs, but after bringing this little family to safety I got to witness the birth of my little boy and I’ve been in love with him since the moment I first saw him. 

  

And the part I’ve never written about? Our house was on the market  at the time and we had accepted an offer-from, it turns out,the woman who had originally owned these dogs. When she asked me for help I asked her if it was for a temporary foster and did she eventually want the dogs back once she closed on the house? No, she said. The house was too nice to have dogs in it. It always gave me a special, ironic pleasure to have Ray living there. 

Ultimately that sale fell through and we remained in that home for a couple more years. Earlier this month we celebrated Ray’s fourth birthday and I feel that enough time has elapsed to tell the rest of the story. Volunteering with Pet Promises has helped me see all of the layers involved in this story for what they are. Renting, eviction, a bit of ignorance and poor choices combined to create the layers upon which this tale rests. The bitter tears the woman shed when we took the dogs were as real as her love for them. She wasn’t evil or unfeeling, but rather a person with few options and the one she ultimately chose led to a very good life for those she gave up.

Party Hats and Pig Ears

Ray has most definitely had a challenging year, but in the best of ways.  We moved to a new home which fortunately doesn’t seem to stress the dogs out, we had Sugar and her pups here for a while this summer, and Ray had TTA surgery which included a log recovery, so when his birthday rolled around I wanted to make sure we had a nice little celebration of his four years.

  

The day began with his little brother being shipped off to day play so that Ray was able to gnaw on the good antler to his heart’s content.  (Half a dozen antlers in the house but only one “good” one).  He stayed at home with his dad and supervised some trim painting, took a few naps and generally had a low-key kind of day.

After work, Ray got to enjoy a walk with his best gal, Sugar followed by party hats for the dogs who wanted and the cat who couldn’t get away fast enough. 

 

Ray is too cool for a hat.

 
Ray, Julius, and Sugar split a dog bone-shaped birthday cookie and indulged in a nice pig ear party favor and to cap off the celebration, Ray got a new Bumi to destroy chew on.

  

To be honest, we don’t always do a party with all the dog friends but this year it seemed like the thing to do, since Ray now has another friend* besides Julius. 

 

Fun hangover

 
How do you and your dogs celebrate birthdays?

 

*Ray and Chance have only seen each other once and Ray isn’t a huge fan, so Chance stayed at home and got his cookie and pig ear delivered.

“Pit Bull” Awareness Month

Yep, I’m sliding into the wan

ing days of the month with this post but bear with me, I have my reasons.  Every October for the past several years I’ve embraced the concept of Pit Bull Awareness Month and celebrated all things Ray and Julius while working towards broad acceptance of seeing my boys and all other Pit Bull types of dogs as individuals, not as lumped sums of their breed, or breeds as the case may be.  My boys are both Pit Bulls in the broadest sense of the word and yet they share absolutely no similar breed DNA.  They are individuals.

 

Sugar, Julius, and Ray

 
In light of all of the ballyhoo with PeTa joining forces with the vitriolic group that I won’t link to here I was planning to sit out this round.  I was asked by a friend and fellow Pit Bull Coalition member to help find an avenue to help spread awareness to the right people.  Here’s the thing: in person I’m pretty confrontational and blunt.  If you threaten or malign my dogs (or anyone I care about) I could very easily try to pull your eyeballs out with my fingernails while trying to figure out ways to really hurt you but when it comes to mudslinging and manufactured “statistics” from zealots, I try not to give credence in the form of attention.  Much like when you are training a dog in a positive manner, you ignore the unwanted behavior and reward the desired behavior.

  
PeTa contends that it would be best to kill all Pit Bull types for their own good to save them from the criminal element who want to adopt them. There aren’t many words in that sentence that I don’t take issue with but many people more reasonable and more informed than I have addressed such lunacy, so I won’t bother other than to point out that of course, I don’t want to see Pit Bulls abused, but I don’t want to see any animal abused.  I just don’t think that killing them all will solve the issue.

  
In the vein of positive reinforcement, I also want to take this moment to write a bit more about what you might and might not see here.  Get it?  Same message but different delivery.  I have a pretty dry and sarcastic sense of humor but you won’t see me engaging in the tongue in cheek “pit bull attack” pictures of dogs licking babies.  Here at Peaceabull we don’t “do” the words vicious, monster, attack, or aggressive even if we are describing how heartily we show love and affection and we don’t assume (well maybe we do, but we don’t verbalize it) that you are working from a point of prejudice about our dogs.  You don’t like my dog?  I’m not going to assume it is because they are pit bulls, and by that assumption I am giving you the benefit of a doubt that you are not an asshole.  (Oops!  There’s the eyeball pluckers coming out!)

Yay! Yellow Brick Home!

There were a huge number of things influencing my decision to order or not order my very own Yellow Brick Home Pet Shop Portrait. One thing is that I can be super picky and super critical, especially if I order a custom piece. I mean, I’m still upset about a special order cake from three and a half years ago and chances are I will come unglued if I have to tell that story again. The other reason I hesitated is that I knew that Kim asks questions about the pets she is about to paint. What if I didn’t do justice to the boys? How could I begin to put into words the communication that bounces between me and Ray with just a look? How do I describe Julius’s earnestness and sweetness? What if the portrait looks like two dogs that kind of look like Ray and Julius but without the soul that reflects in their eyes? What if I fail them by the limitations of my vocabulary and expression?

Well, to address the first issue, after being such a stalker an avid reader of the YBH blog I know that if there’s anyone who is freakishly attentive to the details (in the best possible way!) it is Kim, so the only roadblock would be me. Because the Fort Wayne Pit Bull Coalition was selected to be the YBH rescue partner for the quarter I would be pretty ungrateful to not place an order. I’ve been debating on what size to order do I order singles? Do I order a joint portrait? Do I order two singles and a double? Ack! Finally I figured out what to do, so I took a deep breath, clicked, and just like the description of what happens, I soon received an email from Kim asking all kinds of questions. While I gathered up pictures and stewed over what to write about the boys, I realized that probably most YBH Pet Shop customers are just as obsessed with their pets as I am, so she could take my intensity with a grain of salt, right? I also tried not to flood her inbox with pictures-oh just one more, because this one is just so cuuuute!

Nearly Every blog I’ve ever read about the YBH experience talks about how great Kim is to work with and I don’t think I can find the right superlative to describe how great Kim is to work with. I mean, the process is so clearly defined and the communication is so good and crisp. (Have I mentioned how picky I am?) Once we decided on the “pose” she got to work on a mock up to email me so there were really no surprises and no chance for any regrets (oh, I wish we would have done this rather than that) because once I saw the mock up, I was in anticipation heaven! I wanted to shout from the rooftops how cool this was going to be and yet I wanted to keep it as a huge reveal-y surprise too.

So in the first few emails Kim was brainstorming how she might do the painting of the boys. They’re both larger in person than they seem on a screen and she had an idea of using the blog heading or perhaps just their heads, but I know these knuckleheads and I know my own quirky self so here’s what I proposed. My Ray-Ray is such a good poser. If he knows it’s picture time, he usually sits or lies on his mat and gives me his picture face while waiting for his reward.

See that blob in the lower left corner? Juli-bomb.

Julius (who isn’t that treat motivated) acts like if he doesn’t get the posing treat he will absolutely shrivel up and die! He jumps, he grabs and he budges his big head into everyone’s space.

Big, ginormous Juli-head.

He’s a notorious photo-bomber, whether he tries to or not, so that’s what we did. I asked Kim to paint a picture of Ray in his normal pose and have Julius “photo-bomb the portrait.”

Once everything was set, I was given a target date and when it was complete, I received an email with a zip file (my choice as to whether I wanted to peek at it early) and I waited a whole 14 seconds before I unzipped that sucker and SWOONED! OH. MY. GAWD!

Check. It. Out.

Check. It. Out.

As awesome as the scan is, it still just doesn’t do justice to seeing this in real life. When I received my box (stamped YAY!) in the mail, I was happy dancing all over the house. You all should seriously just take a second and look at how freaking awesome this is. When I look at this-I don’t think I’m going to describe it correctly- I feel like Kim knows what it feels like when I wrap my arm around Ray’s neck and pet his chest. She painted what it feels like to hug Ray! Let me say it again: She. Painted. What it feels like. To hug Ray. It makes me cry to think about that. Her take on Julius? Spot on. He isn’t a huge dog and he doesn’t have one of those big American Bully heads but he just has such a big buffalo head that always seems to be in the way. She got his sweet simplicity and the open earnestness that is Julius. I ran all over the house placing it and finally decided on the dining room buffet for now.

 It’s a very central room where I can see it all the time.  And let me just say, most of the guests we’ve had over have initially thought this was a photograph rather than a painting.  Yeah.

As I mentioned, The Fort Wayne Pit Bull Coalition is the rescue partner of Yellow Brick Home so for the remainder of this quarter, 10% of the proceeds from all orders will go to the Coalition. If you have been absolutely dying to have a portrait done of your fur kid(s) I would highly recommend you place your order with Kim as soon as possible but if you could do it  by September 30th the pit bulls of Fort Wayne would send you big, sloppy, wet, grateful kisses.

What are you waiting for?

Ray’s Wheels

Well we had a super full weekend and I know Julius has lots to talk about but today I have an update on Ray’s leg.  The short version is that he is mending well and the surgery looks to have been quite successful. What that really means for Ray is that since we don’t really have stairs in the house he was cleared by Dr. Harry to not be in his little area all day but he will need to remain leashed when outside for the next eight weeks or so.

  
Ray’s visit to the vet went well, but took an awful lot out of him with the amped up nervous energy and all.  This was the first time he’s been in a vehicle since the surgery so even the jumping in and out of the Pittie Van is more than he’s used to.  When we returned home, he walked in the door like usual and went right to his ex-pen like usual. I went ahead and let him stay in there but with the gate open and walked away.  Just a few minutes later as Kevin and I were chatting in the dining room, Ray slinked by…I swear he was tip toeing…as if he was trying to get away with something.  He studiously didn’t look at us, because you know, if he doesn’t see us he obviously can’t hear us as he walked from room to room lying on all of the various mats while Julius began lying on all of Ray’s (obviously special) mats.

  
After the afternoon he had, he seemed to be favoring the leg we worked so hard to get better so we opted to return him to his rest area for the evening.  Although he was cleared, we will be working him back into the swing of things slowly.  Full house privileges will be doled out slowly and in moderation and in the meantime we will be searching for a suitable set of stairs for him to use to get into bed, when he’s ready.

I guess I was thinking that today would be the magical day when all of his rehab shackles would be shed and he could romp puppy-like to his heart’s content but this plan, while not as much fun will be better in the long run.