This isn’t easy for me… but I’d like to ask for your support with something that’s dear to my heart. My dog, Ruby, has a serious leg injury and needs surgery in order to walk properly again, and I can’t afford to pay for it without help.
I adopted Ruby about 18 months after Kaz died, within weeks of starting this blog. Some of you might remember those early posts about being a new puppy owner.
I was still actively grieving at the time, but Ruby was a healthy distraction.
She made me laugh through my tears. She forced me to go outside when I normally might have stayed in bed feeling blue. She was the best hiking companion.
She helped me heal by helping to mend and strengthen my broken heart. Taking care of her gave me a purpose and made me feel strong again. For the second time in my life, I was responsible for another being.
The responsibility that comes with loving another is no joke. Human or animal – when you love someone, and they need your help, you do whatever you can to help them.
These days, Ruby needs a lot of help. She tore her ACL earlier this year, a partial tear that wasn’t obvious right away. I’ve spent the last few months taking her to various veterinarians and physical therapists to figure out how to deal with it. They all came to the same conclusion: she needs surgery, followed by physical therapy, and 3-4 months of supervised recovery.
Ruby today, holding her injured hind leg up
The whole ordeal is going to be stressful, expensive and time-consuming. But I’m determined to get Ruby back to health.
At 3+ years, she’s much too young to be hobbling around, and it would be cruel to let her go through the rest of her life in pain. She deserves to be able to run and play and hike and swim the way she used to.
So, I’ve set up a gofundme campaign to try and raise some of the money for her medical expenses. It’s called Help Ruby Run Again. Many friends have contributed, but there’s still a long way to go.
If any of you are inclined to make a small contribution, that would be awesome. If you can’t donate, then maybe you could share the link, or just keep us in your thoughts. It all helps.
Lately, the activity that brings me the most joy is hiking with my dog Ruby. During the week we spend so much time cooped up in the car/office/daycare/apartment, that on the weekends we both crave the freedom of being outside. The goal is to eventually hike every other day, but for the moment, we are weekend warriors. We do a regular Sunday morning hike with a friend, and, on Saturdays, we venture out just the two of us.
I have many friends who won’t let their dog off the leash except in an enclosed area like a yard or dog park, the fear being that the dog will run off – either after another animal (like a squirrel), into a nearby road, or just run off out of curiosity and end up lost. People also worry about their dogs reacting to other dogs and people. All valid concerns.
If you want to hike with your dog off-leash, your dog MUST:
– be friendly with other dogs and people
– be obedient (i.e. come, sit, stay and leave it on command)
– be in good physical shape
If any of these things is a concern, then hiking off-leash might not be for you, at least not right away. You can socialize your dog to be friendly with other dogs and people, and train it to be obedient. You can also put your dog on a diet and condition it to take longer walks, unless it’s too old or sick.
If these things are NOT an issue, then I highly recommend taking your dog out on the trail when and wherever possible. Not only is it great exercise for both of you, but it’s also a wonderful way to bond with your canine companion.
Someone once told me that hiking off-leash enforces the “pack leader” mentality, which I can’t prove but tend to believe. When Ruby is on the leash, she instinctively wants to go ahead. But when she is off-leash, she walks right beside me or right behind me, like my shadow.
She also runs off at intervals, but she A) regularly stops to wait for me, B) stops the minute I call her name, and C) always comes back when I tell her to. More often than not, she comes back on her own after she’s finished exploring.
Other things to keep in mind when hiking with a dog, on or off the leash:
– Bring plenty of water for both you and the dog. I once encountered a man carrying his dog down the trail because it was dehydrated (and it was a hot summer day). I offered him some of our water, and they made it the rest of the way down okay. It goes without saying, don’t hike in the hottest hours.
– Bring an extra leash. I once lost Ruby’s leash on a trail and had to face the prospect of carrying her several blocks from the trail’s entrance to my car. Luckily, another hiker offered to double leash her dog with Ruby, so for a few blocks the dogs walked side by side.
– If it’s a long hike, I recommend bringing snacks but only giving them once you stop for a rest. I once gave Ruby treats while we were actually hiking, and she threw them all up when we reached the summit. Other dogs also kept coming over to us because they smelled the treats in my hand. What works better is keeping treats in your bag until you get to the summit (or the mid-way point). I don’t bring treats on every hike, but definitely the long/difficult ones.
– After a hike, check your dog’s body for ticks, cuts or burrs. A few weeks ago, Ruby got a large, bloody scratch on her arm and a tick on her left paw from running through brush. I removed the tick in the car, and treated her scratch when we got home.
– Bring a first aid kit. I actually need to get one of my own. Right now, our Sunday hiking friend always brings one.
– Bring poop bags. I pick up after Ruby even when we’re out in the wilderness, and yes, have trekked for over an hour with her stinky poop in my backpack. I had never been so happy to see a trashcan.
– Have a charged phone and your vet’s number in it, just in case something happens.
– Be aware of the local wild life (snakes, bears, mountain lions, coyotes, hawks, etc.). Personally, I wouldn’t hike off-leash with a small dog in Los Angeles. I’ve heard of hawks snatching Chihuahuas right in front of their owners (!). We’ve also encountered horses on the trail, and I immediately put Ruby on the leash. When the rider said his horses don’t mind dogs, I let her off. Both the horses and Ruby were totally calm.
When in doubt, approach hiking with your dog like you would hiking with a child. You want to balance the fun with common sense. Your dog will thank you for the fresh air, the exercise and especially the freedom to just be a dog and sniff, run and play to its heart’s content. She will also sleep for the rest of the day. 🙂
Here are some other sites with advice on hiking with dogs:
It should be no surprise to anyone that I sleep with my dog. I’ve blogged about giving up on crate training. I’ve posted a picture of her on the bed. Truth is, she’s been sleeping on my bed – and I’ve been receiving flack for it – practically since day one. My 84-year old father has been the most vocal about his displeasure, presumably on behalf of the entire family.
Him: “It’s just not right. Dogs should not sleep on beds, period.”
Me: “Why? Where is that written?”
Him: “It’s not written anywhere. It’s just common sense. Dogs are dirty and you don’t want that mess in your bed.”
Me: “But she doesn’t sleep in the bed. She sleeps on the bed.”
Him: “It’s not right, I’m telling you.”
Several months ago his tune changed slightly.
Him: “Well, it’s your bed. I guess you can do what you want with it.”
Me: “Thank you.”
Him: “But I still don’t think it’s right, and I don’t know what you’re going to do when you visit other people.”
Me: “Your concerns have been noted, and I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”
Of course, my father has a point. No one wants this dog on their bed.
By now, however, she knows the routine. When we return home after playing down and dirty at the dog park or beach, she follows me to the bathroom and hops into the bathtub to receive a very thorough wash from head to toe without squirming or crying. I think baths make her feel better because afterwards she literally hops around the apartment like a gazelle on speed.
Like any little lady, she also always “bathes” herself – twice – at night and in the morning. There’s a reason why the three most common compliments she receives are: “beautiful… well-behaved… clean.”
Shedding is another matter. She does leave little white hairs everywhere, but most of the time she sleeps on top of a blue blanket that I wash every week.
Rare are moments like the other night when I returned from brushing my teeth to find this:
(For the record, she was still on top of the top sheet.)
Then there is the negotiation of space. I still sleep on the same side of the bed I did when Kaz was here. Ruby usually falls asleep at the bottom half of the bed, and uses my foot as a pillow. We shift in the middle of the night – me to my right side, she to a curled up ball behind my legs. We shift again in the morning – me to my left side, she completely stretched out (vertically) from one end of the bed to the other.
Sometimes she sleeps like this:
She continues sleeping while I shower, get dressed, prepare breakfast and put on my makeup. But when I enter the room with my usual “Good morning sunshine, time for breakfast,” I always find her lying on her stomach, bright-eyed, wagging her tail. I imagine she slowly wakes up to the sounds of me puttering about the apartment.
On the weekends, we both sleep in… until she gives me this look, which means it’s time to get up:
I know it’s unorthodox. I know it will complicate matters if/when I start dating again (she will adapt). I also know I’m not alone. The lady who ran her Vermont daycare slept with her husband and four other large dogs (five when Ruby lived there) in the bed. And the lady featured in this 2011 New York Times article sleeps with a pot-bellied pig, two kittens and three terriers.
Another study warns that…allowing pets to sleep in the bed can be dangerous and can spread zoonoses (pronounced zoh-AN-ee-sees), pathogens that go from animals to people… They cite instances of fleas from cats transmitting bubonic plague. Catch scratch fever is a danger, too, they say, as are various forms of meningitis, Pasturella pneumonia and other infections.
(Bubonic plague? Geez.)
All I know is having Ruby on the bed makes me feel super safe. More than anything, I find it comforting and bonding. I think she does too, as she sleeps beside me wherever I am in the apartment. As long as we’re both parasite-free, wound-free, allergy-free and disease-free, I can’t see the harm in waking up to this every day. Can you?
Remember when I blogged about my worries of becoming a dog lady? Screw that. I am totally a dog lady. In fact, I have high hopes for my Ruby. I would love for her to be a Therapy Dog.
[photo source: disabled-world.com]
A therapy dog is a dog that’s been trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, etc. They come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is its temperament. A good therapy dog must be friendly, patient, confident, gentle, and at ease in all situations.Therapy dogs must enjoy human contact and be content to be petted and handled, sometimes clumsily.In hospice environments, therapy dogs can play a role in palliative care by reducing death anxiety. [Wikipedia]
Kaz was visited by a therapy dog after his seizures. I wasn’t there to witness it, but his mother told me the encounter cheered him up immensely. I often think of him now when training Ruby. I feel like she has the right temperment for this unique job. She is calm, affectionate and very loving. People are naturally drawn to her. She’s even won over people who were initially afraid of her. She’s nowhere near ready to visit a hospital, or interact with tons of strangers. She needs a lot more training, and has to pass several hurdles. The first is the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test.
[photo source: Wikipedia]
To pass the CGC Test, a dog must perform the following:
•Test 1: Accept a friendly stranger
•Test 2: Sit politely for petting by a stranger
•Test 3: Sit politely while being touched and groomed by a stranger
•Test 4: Walk on a loose leash
•Test 5: Walk politely through a crowd (no lunging or barking)
•Test 6: Sit and down on command and stay in place (including when owner is over 10 feet away)
•Test 7: Come when called
•Test 8: React politely to another dog (no pulling, barking or lunging)
•Test 9: React calmly to distraction (Examples of distractions include dropping a chair, rolling a crate dolly past the dog, having a jogger run in front of the dog, or dropping a crutch or cane.)
•Test 10: Maintain good manners while owner is out of sight for 3 minutes
Dodger and his owner Melissa after passing CGC test [photo source: pitsisters.org]
Several weeks ago Ruby and I started taking weekend classes at a dog training facility that’s running a summer special. She passed Obedience 1 in one class, and Obedience 2 in two classes. This past weekend was her first Obedience 3, a class geared specifically toward preparing dogs for the CGC test. We’re with about ten other dogs, including a large grey poodle named Louie. He looks very similar to the dog pictured below.
[photo source: valleyviewdogs.com]
Louie is so well-behaved, I’m not sure why he’s still in training. His owners, a somewhat pale and tired-looking husband and wife team, seem to be in control of his every thought and movement. If they weren’t so Jedi-focused on Louie, they might have noticed me and Ruby staring at them, dumbfounded.
At the end of class, we approached Louie’s parents and while our dogs played, I asked his parents how long he’s been training.
“Since he was a puppy,” they said. “Now he’s 13 months.”
“You’ve done a fantastic job,” I gushed. “He seems perfect to me.”
“Thank you,” the woman smiled, “but he didn’t pass the test.”
Apparently, Louie did everything perfectly until the very last test, when his owners had to leave him for 3 minutes. “He couldn’t handle it,” the woman sighed, then gave another little smile. “But we’re going to try again.”
By this point Ruby was running in circles around Louie trying to goad him into playing. Louie and his parents left, and I stayed behind to talk to the teacher. Does she think Ruby has what it takes?
“Absolutely.” She said even though Ruby might not be perfectly behaved like Louie yet, she is picking things up very quickly and she has a certain energy that will serve her well. She can be very still, calm and focused when she wants to be.
Who knows how far we will go, but we’re both having fun right now. I swear that training her is helping me in some way. I know it’s helping her. One day, if we work hard enough, we might get the opportunity to help others.
My baby girl is 10 months old now. I can hardly believe it! Seems like just yesterday she was this little pip-squeak. Soon it will be her 1 year birthday (July 7) and I’m already thinking of what to do for her. Before then, however, I need to deal with some of her new behaviors.
Issue #1 – She barks at people.
I know dogs bark and don’t expect my dog to be mute. But I’ve noticed that she’s barking more often lately in inappropriate situations. The other night I took her to a friend’s party and she barked at other guests entering the host’s house. She also barked at a guest walking out of the bathroom because he startled her. Last night she barked at a neighbor who wanted to take the elevator with us, then at a homeless man walking behind us on our evening walk (he wasn’t doing anything suspicious).
I always tell her “No” or “It’s okay, sshh,” then I tell the person, “She’s actually really friendly,” and they look at me like I’m nuts. Folks are already scared of her because she’s a pitbull. When she’s barking at them with the hair raised all along her back it’s hard to see the friendly side. To her credit, I’ve never seen her growl or bare her teeth at a person. Her barking doesn’t sound like “I’m going to kill you!” It sounds like “Stay away!”
What’s strange is that in other contexts, for instance when I take her to the cafe in the morning, she sits there like a little lady. She does the same thing at street lights or whenever I tell her to Sit. She also never barks at other dogs even if they’re barking at her. People are always saying how well-behaved and sweet she is.
I go out of my way to be friendly to people on our walks. In fact, I’m probably much more outgoing with her than without her because I know she picks up on my tone. Yet in certain situations, even when I’m being friendly, she starts barking at the person.
Is part of the issue that we live alone? She doesn’t get to interact with other people like she does with me. She’s also extremely attached to me and still follows me from room to room. My gut tells me it’s a combination of protectiveness, testing her assertiveness, shyness and/or a general wariness of strangers, especially men. But how does a puppy learn who is a creep and who isn’t? I suppose I have to bring her around people more, which means being less of a hermit (sigh).
Issue #2 – She has bursts of uncontrollable energy while on the leash.
For the most part, she walks/heels very well. She will walk right beside me without pulling for 75% of the average walk. She gets compliments on this too because people can’t believe a dog that young can walk that well.
However, if she sees a squirrel, bird, stick, small dog or any other interesting creature, all bets are off. She will either lurch forward with all her strength or jump in the air and twist her body around with excitement. If I don’t anticipate it, she could yank my arm out. When she does this around small dogs, albeit because she wants to play with them, it totally freaks them out – and who can blame them?! I haven’t been too strict about it because I figure she’s a puppy, that’s what puppies do. But as a friend recently pointed out, if I don’t curb it now soon she’ll be full-grown and going berzerk. Then what?
We’ve slacked off from puppy class the last few weeks, but this Saturday we’re going back to discuss these issues with her teacher.
Has your dog ever had these issues? If so, how did you deal with it?
I’m turning the attention for a moment to my puppy Ruby, who is 9 months old now. Growing like a weed. Still sweet, playful and goofy but maturing as well, both physically and emotionally.
So far, this dog has been to New York City, Vermont, Santa Barbara and Joshua Tree. She’s flown in an airplaine, ridden in a taxi, SUV and flatbed truck. She’s played in snow, sand and now the dusty desert. She’s met probably up to 75 dogs (36 in Vermont alone) and has had no issues. When another dog barks or growls at her, she looks at it like, “What’s your problem? CHILL.”
Our trip to Joshua Tree two weeks ago was enlightening for both of us (last post about that weekend, promise). She was off-leash almost the entire time, able to come and go as she pleased, sniff and explore to her heart’s content. And boy, did she take advantage.
She was very curious about hay and firewood. But her favorite activity was chasing pheasants. I think she would have chased them into the next state if I hadn’t called for her. To my relief, she would stop and turn around, then slowly make her way back (unless she saw another bird). It was sort of a test for both of us, because I’m not used to her being out of sight.
When she ran to a neighbor’s yard and started chasing their chickens, that was another story. Chickens can’t fly away and for this family they are food. Left to her own devices Ruby would definitely have caught up to “lunch on legs.” She had to go on the leash and then go inside, from which she had to suffer the chickens taunting her.
Despite the chicken incident, her training does seem to be working. She will Come, Sit, Down, Stay and Leave it consistently, even at the dog park. She knows Go To Your Crate, Go To Bed, Go Inside (the car), and Go to the Back(seat). I swear she is learning Finish Your Food.
She is, however, getting more protective. She doesn’t bark at other dogs, but she does sometimes bark at men walking towards us, or when she’s startled, when she sees a skunk, when she hears a noise (in real life or on TV), when it’s totally quiet, and sometimes when I’m startled.
The other morning, while taking a shower, I saw a roach crawling along the bathroom wall. “Oh hell no,” I exclaimed. The puppy started barking. Here I am, trying to kill the roach before it crawls away, and calm Ruby down at the same time, while standing in the shower. Comical.
I’m still trying to figure out this new side of her, the side that barks and growls at shadows in the night. Usually, placing my hand on her side will calm her down to a quiet “hrummph”, then a very low “grrr” before she falls asleep again. I don’t mind her being protective, but I don’t want her to be paranoid or over-protective.
All I can do is keep training her. She’s coming into her own, finding her voice. My friend T recently said, “You realize, she thinks she owns everything.” I responded, “That’s okay. She can think whatever she wants, as long as she listens to me, wherever we are, no matter what’s going on, no exceptions.”
There is a moment in every woman’s life when she comes to understand that the only way to get what she wants is to be an Alpha Bitch. Knowing this does not make it so. She must either decide to become one or accept that she doesn’t have what it takes. If the former, and contrary to what you might think, she does not decide to become mean. She decides to become a leader. One that inspires obedience, loyalty, respect, fear and above all, love from her subject, be it man, child or beast.
Step 1 to being an Alpha Bitch is
1. Recognize that you need to be the Alpha Bitch
It’s okay to not realize it right way, as long as you realize it before the subject realizes that between the two of you, she is more Alpha than you are. Usually, this means while they’re young, still look up to you and/or don’t yet realize their own strength. Once you’ve made the decision to be the leader
2. You must decide how you want the subject to behave and be consistent in the message.
This requires a lot of foresight and energy. If you’re like me and have a set of rules for home and a set of rules in other people’s homes, it can be even more challenging, though not impossible. The trick is to be get the subject to listen to you wherever you are, and to never question your authority.
3. Realize and accept that when the subject misbehaves, it’s really your fault.
This is often hard to accept because on some level we wish the subject would know good behavior instinctually. But accept it you must. No matter how good the subject might be, she will not know these behaviors inherently and must be taught what is good behavior and what is bad.
4. Always look the subject in the eye and never show fear.
Your eyes, voice and body language are all key factors. To command, you must be commanding, period.
5. Reward the subject with treats when they do what you want. Learn what is the most valuable treat.
6. Withhold treats when the subject does not do what you want.
7. Learn when to withhold treats for other reasons, for example when the subject grows too accustomed to treats.
Learn to sometimes withhold treats in order to increase their value. Sometimes we learn this by accident because, for reasons not necessarily within our control, treats become unavailable for a period of time. The next time we give the treat the subject appreciates it that much more, which makes training easier.
8. Follow up treats with praise.
The goal is to get the subject to behave even without treats all the time, for the subject to forget that bad behavior is even an option. The goal is for good behavior to become the norm.
9. Realize and accept that there will be exceptions
After all, the subject is what it is, and cannot be blamed for having these urges. Every now and then, let the subject blow off some steam and just be themselves.
10. Be patient, compassionate and loving. Don’t always be in training mode.
It’s okay to show affection, to laugh and play and indulge and spoil, to a certain extent. As a professional trainer recently told me, “Eventually, she’ll realize that everything good in her life comes from you.”
Believe it or not, these medications are all for the puppy. And she’s not even sick. She has a skin condition, an eye ailment, an issue with her right hind foot which she developed on one of our hikes and, as of yesterday, a small gash across the bridge of her nose because another older (probably unhappy) dog snapped at her in doggie daycare. With this cut on her face, her swollen eye and the small bits of hair missing from her coat, she now actually looks like a stereotypical fighting pitbull-in-training. Which couldn’t be farther from the truth, but I can’t explain that to everyone who sees her. This morning a woman saw her coming and crossed the street to avoid her. Little does she know my Ruby is a wanna-be lap dog, who happens to play rough and have delicate skin.
I must admit, I am not pleased about another dog biting her at daycare. I know things happen between animals but this is the second injury she’s sustained there since coming back from Vermont. I wrote about the first one a few weeks ago, the day she came home with a pronounced limp in her front paw. The limp healed and so will this cut, but still it’s annoying. Is this how mothers feel when their kids get hurt at school? Like, why isn’t someone watching these kids better? Sometimes I wonder if I’m being overly protective. I keep reminding myself “she’s a dog, not a child.” But I can’t seem to make the distinction. She might as well be my child, one with four legs and fur. She’ll never read or write or go to college, but I’m still investing in her education. She might not talk, but she definitely talks back. She’s willful and stubborn and oh so smart. And I swear she has a sense of humor. I feel like raising her is actually teaching me things that will make me a better mom to the potential human child I might one day have to beg, borrow or steal.
Anyway, the good news is she won’t be going back to this daycare again, at least for a little while. I had been wanting to find a cheaper solution for her during the day even before the face bite. And today, I think I did, via an old friend of my late husband.
Big B has a house with a fenced-in yard in Santa Monica, and an older female pit named Lacie. Lacie has white hairs around her muzzle and a waddling gate due to her big belly. When she wags her tail, her whole body sways to and fro. I’ve left Ruby with Lacie and Big B a few times, recently while at dentist appointments. Today Big B said I could bring her by any time. “Really?” I said. “Really,” he smiled. And that was that. We discussed specifics and agreed to take it one day at a time. But come Monday, we’re going to Big B’s for daycare. It will add another 30 minutes to my commute, but whatever. At least she’ll be outside running around with one dog, not inside all day with 20. And it will save me some money. So, fingers crossed.
Now, I just need to remember to give her all these medications, soak her back foot in the solution they gave me and put the ointment in her eye twice a day. And write.