No Breakfast?!

Golden retriever puppy Orly cuddles a black-and-white panda toy
What do you mean I don’t get breakfast?!

Orly had her first real vet experience this week. Not the run-of-the-mill go in, get cookies, get poked with something sharp, get more cookies vet experience. Nope. She was spayed.

Surgery means no breakfast. And it means being left at the vet clinic.

It was not her favorite day.

First, I put her outside and gave Cali breakfast. Orly couldn’t believe it. She rang her bell, asking nicely to be let in. She escalated to batting the door with a paw. Harder and harder. Then whining.

By then, Cali was done eating. Rather than reward the whining, I let Cali go out, then let both girls in a few minutes later.

Orly wasn’t speaking to me at this point, but she agreed to get into the car.

She was happy to be at the vet’s, where she met a very friendly (and very large) Great Pyrenees dog in for a dental cleaning, and weighed in at 43 pounds.

She was a little mystified that no one offered her a cookie, though.

Then, the vet tech took her … and I left. She was very surprised by that, but didn’t have the chance to ask me about it.

When I arrived to pick her up, the vet said that Orly was in the back, cuddling with all the techs. Yes … and interviewing potential moms, I am guessing.

Golden puppy orly wears a dark blue onesieShe got home, had breakfast (and dinner not long after). And put on her surgical suit. No cone for Orly!

She was pretty mellow and cuddly Tuesday — the food was all it took to get back into her good graces — but by Wednesday …

Despite the medications that were supposed to keep her a little lethargic, she wanted to play. I kept her busy with treat toys.

Orly chases an orange treat ballThat worked for a while. Then, luckily, our new sofa cover arrived, and I was able to let dogs into the living room. Orly happily tried out the new sofa cover. Then Cali offered the first lesson on how to keep other dogs off of our sidewalks.

Cali’s method doesn’t really work, but it does involve quite a bit of muttering and grumbling at people walking by …

Several days post-op, Orly is full of energy, in no pain, and really wants to play. I am supposed to keep her quiet and calm for another week. Yeah, right.

Cali and Orly, both golden retrievers, stand at a large window

A Sign of Spring

Two clear signs of early spring in my neighborhood are long lines at the Big Dipper, our local ice cream stand, and weather warm enough for me to consider a visit with the girls.

A recent Saturday with sunny, mid-50s weather was just the opportunity for Orly’s first Big Dipper outing — and Cali’s first visit since her early December birthday.

After a very long walk, the four of us — I had a friend lined up, as extra hands would definitely be needed — headed down the street.

The line was long. Friend settled in at a table with both dogs, and I stood in line. Cali, as is her style, lost patience after a few minutes and kept straining toward the order window. Orly people- and dog-watched and waited, not sure what to expect but quite sure she would love it.

Our turn arrived. I returned to the table bearing small scoops of huckleberry ice cream for the humans and dog cones (always vanilla) for the girls.

Orly could not believe her luck!

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Cali downed her cone in seconds, also typical for her. Orly licked, bit, licked, bit — unsure of how to process this wonderful new treat. Cali stood by impatiently, not understanding how it could take a dog so long to eat a bit of ice cream.

It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Orly Wins Cali Over

11-week-old golden puppy Orly plays with Cali, also a golden. They are in lots of snow. cali wears a blue and yellow coat.It finally happened. After just over a week, Cali started playing with Orly outside. Cali would lead Orly on a wild chase through the snow, around the raspberry bushes, between the cherry tree and the fence, through even deeper snow … and so on.

Then she invited Orly to play inside. They are very sweet together, wrestling and tugging toys.

When Orly is very tired and in bite-everything mode, she starts to nip at Cali’s neck and legs and tail, and I have to intervene. Orly gets a nap and Cali gets a break.

For THIS I Gave Up My Sofa?!

9-year-old Cali meets 10-week-old Orly. Both are golden retrievers.Cali cannot believe her run of bad luck.

First, some very nice people came in and … took away her sofa. The sofa that she loved to lie on so she could look out the windows in comfort, getting up only to bark at people who had the nerve to walk by with a dog.

Her mom keeps talking about a new sofa but Cali is beginning to think that her mom is imagining things. There’s no sofa. No, but there is a big puppy pen. Not a good sign.
A living room with an ex pen, a chair, and no sofaThen her mom left town for almost three weeks! Imagine! OK, well, she got to stay home with a great dog sitter, and Deni showed up after a couple of weeks, but still.

Finally, Cali’s mom came home. Just when things might be looking up, the whole family got into the car and drove all day in very cold weather. They went to a house with a bunch of golden retrievers, including this small puppy. So annoying.

Finally, they went to a hotel and got to sleep.

But.

The next morning guess what happened?!! They went back to that house and took the puppy. That’s right. That little puppy got into the car, into a spiffy little red crate, and settled in as if she belonged there.

Golden Cali, wearing a purple sweater, stares at the ex pen and its occupant, 10-week-old golden puppy Orly
Why does Orly get the best bedroom?

(Which she did.)

They all drove home and the puppy took up residence in the living room.

Cali is not delighted to have a new little sister. She does not like the new living room decor. No sofa; instead, a huge ex-pen with a puppy in it. And the puppy has all the best toys.

Even so, she’s starting to come around. She spends a lot of time watching Orly, the puppy. And has even sort of maybe considered playing with her, just a little, but only when she thinks that no one is watching.

What’s on?

When I watch TV in the evenings, Cali will often boycott. She’ll watch the first few minutes, then let me know how dreadful my taste is by simply walking away. She’ll hang out nearby, on a comfy dog bed in the next room, and keep her ears peeled for the sound of snacks, but … she won’t stay in the same room with me, much less let me cuddle her.

It’s distressing. And a bit insulting.

My friend who recently dog-sat for Cali for a couple of weeks has figured out the secret. When they spent time at a co-working space nearby, it became clear that  Cali’s favorite show is …

Golden retriever Cali watches the purple "flames" of an electric fireplace

A fake fireplace.

That’s right; she was mesmerized.

Cali naps on a blue dog bed with her orange carrot toy When she wasn’t watching the fake flames, she met all the other people in the building and showed them her new carrot toy. Exhausted from the socializing and the exciting viewing, she also napped quite a bit, I hear.

All the people programming Dog TV and figuring out how to teach dogs to make video calls should save their efforts … dog owners can just turn up the heat and watch their dogs tune out.

Happy New Year from The Thinking Dog!

Water Dog!

Golden retriever Cali with swim therapist Varen in a stainless steel swimming poolCali started her swim therapy recently — one of the treatments the neurology team at the Pullman vet hospital recommended — and she’s doing great!

Montana Water Dogs, right here in Missoula, offers swim therapy (hydrotherapy). The owner, Varen, has a really nice setup. She’s got an indoor “infinity pool,” essentially a small, shallow swimming pool. There are steps at one end. The water is about waist deep.

We’ve only had a few sessions, and so far, I get in the water too. But as Cali gets more comfortable, I might not need to do that.

Cali wears a life preserver along with a special collar that helps her keep her head out of the water.

Golden Cali is guided as she swims in her orange life vestVaren holds onto the handles on the back of Cali’s life vest and guides and supports Cali. She also does exercises with Cali so that Cali uses all four limbs, works her muscles properly, and uses her full range of motion.

During a session, Cali might spend between 9 and 12 minutes actively swimming. But she gets a rest break every 1-2 minutes so she doesn’t get over-tired or overheated.

Cali loves to swim after a tennis ball—or just swim holding her tennis ball—so we use a ball, along with lots of treats, to keep her motivated.

When she’s done, we both rinse off, and I shampoo her so the bromine from the pool water won’t irritate her skin. She doesn’t love the baths, but she’s been very cooperative. The cookies help.

She’s always hungry when we get home (I understand; I’m always hungry after a swim too) but not as tired out as I’d expect. She works pretty hard during her swim sessions!

 

 

 

Nothing (Much) Is Wrong with Cali!

Golden retreiver Cali smiles as she poses next to PamThe long-awaited Pullman visit date finally arrived.

Cali, a golden retriever, poses in the hollow center of a fallen cedar treeWe drove down the day before, a sunny, golden Sunday. I decided to take the scenic route, along Highway 12 through Idaho. Cali and I stopped a few times along the way — for a walk in our favorite photo spot, for a picnic — and we arrived in late afternoon.

Our appointment was at 10 am. We got to campus early and enjoyed a walk among the fall leaves.

Finally, it was time to go inside. The small-animal clinic is huge, with a vast waiting area, which was filled with dogs of a ll sizes, one or two cats, and assorted pet owners. Cali marched in confidently and popped up to put her paws on the desk and greet the receptionists.

A neurology resident soon came out and sat with us for about a half-hour, taking Cali’s history and explaining the process. Cali had skipped breakfast in case the team wanted to do X-rays and needed to sedate her. She was not thrilled about this and kept nudging me and the resident, asking for cookies.

They finally went off to the exam area, and I had a couple of hours before I would get an initial report. I went back to our hotel to do a little work before check-out.

When I returned for the consultation, the news was good: The neurology team did not think there was anything major (= a tumor) wrong. They thought she might have a mild disc herniation. They asked if I would consent to a blood test to rule out Degenerative Myelopathy, “a non-painful chronic degenerative disease.” I agreed, and I should have those results soon.

They recommended having the orthopedics team examine her as well, and I agreed to that — and to X-rays if that seemed necessary. Off they went.

A few hours passed slowly … I could not get online, but I had some work I could do offline. I watched other dogs and humans come and go.

Finally, the neurology resident returned with more good news. The orthopedics team did a thorough exam and found that Cali has full range of motion and no joint issues; no X-rays were needed. They did find “multiple myofascial trigger points in all limbs — muscle pain likely secondary to compensation for abnormal gait.” Basically, knotty, tense, painful muscles (and she doesn’t even sit at a computer all day!).

The recommended treatments include massage, acupuncture, physical therapy, and a newer NSAID, Galliprant. Cali’s local vet has already talked with me about a local acupuncturist and a physical therapy place in Missoula that offers water therapy. I’ll be scheduling her first appointments very soon, and we’ll both get to swim regularly this winter!

I know that the news could have been much worse. In addition, I fully expected the team to strongly recommend an MRI (very expensive). Though they said we could tell more about what was going on with an MRI, they said it would not change their treatment plan.

I gave Cali some food and, at a little after 4 pm (5 pm in Montana …) we set off for home. We drove the slightly faster I-90 route; even so, it was well after 9 pm when we finally pulled into the driveway.

Green and gold larch trees line the Idaho highway
The scenic route to Pullman is gorgeous in the fall, with the golden Larch shining among the evergreens

Creatures of Habit

Golden retriever Cali rests her head on my knee to tell me it is time to stop workingDogs love routines. Anyone who says dogs have no sense of time have clearly never lived with a dog.

Dogs know when good things are supposed to happen for them. Some dogs serve as highly accurate alarm clocks, which is why it’s possible to train service dogs to remind their humans to take their meds on time.

Cali is a wonderful alarm clock. She even has a snooze setting, and she understands that, on weekends, we get up an hour or so later. If she’s desperate to go out, she’ll deviate from the routine, but otherwise, right on schedule, she lets me know that it’s time to get up.

She also knows when I am supposed to stop working (and prepare her dinner). About 10 minutes before 5 each workday, she comes over and, very gently, pokes me with her nose. Again 10 minutes later if I haven’t gotten up from my chair. At this point, she sits right at my feet and gives me that look. Anyone who has met Cali knows what I mean.

She knows the morning routine, too, and when I am almost at “put Cali’s leash on for her walk,” she bounds off to grab a toy and do her morning dance of joy, racing from living room to dining room to living room several times — a distance of about 6 feet — with the chosen toy. She then lets me put her leash on, and we’re off.

She has a set route for her morning walk, though she allows occasional changes. When we get back, we feed the birds before I start work upstairs, and she keeps watch over the front yard and sidewalk, warning me if other dogs approach. After an hour or two of that, she lets me know it’s time for a break, and we go outside and toss the ball a few times.

Our evening routine is no less set. Dogs get some yogurt or kefir — Koala’s dietician recommends it for the probiotics — go outside, brush their teeth, get a cookie, and go to bed.

How is it, then, that Cali “forgets” the teeth-brushing step, heading straight to bed, every single evening? I have to call her in or follow her to her bed to get at those teeth. The brushing jogs her memory, though, and she promptly appears to collect her cookie. This happens whether Koala is here or not.

Koala is very good about brushing her teeth, even reminding me if it looks like I may have forgotten (I’m not sure what that looks like, but Koala knows). So, while it makes sense that the sound and scent of Koala eating her cookie might jog Cali’s memory, I’m not sure what does that in Koala’s absence. I personally do not eat a cookie after brushing my teeth, so no reminder there.

Koala, a black Lab, noses an orange treat ball in her downstairs play roomAnother routine that Koala is more strict about than Cali is the timing (and existence) of puppy lunch and snufflematting. Cali is delighted when these occur, and she occasionally does ask for the snufflemat, but she’s willing to let the matter drop if I am busy. Not Koala; her routines are very important to her, particularly if they revolve around food.

 

 

Clean Up Your Own Mess!

Koala and I had a little argument recently because I expected her to clean up after herself and she … resented that.

No, I haven’t figured out how to get dogs to pick up their own poop. They can pick up their own toys, though.

Koala chose an S-shaped blue tug toyToward the end of their time here, Deni was out, and Koala and I were in the basement, where there’s a well-stocked toy basket. (There are overly full toy baskets on each floor … and dog beds … it’s kind of a dogs-first household.)

Koala wanted a specific toy. It’s a great toy from West Paw, a Montana company. Anyhow, the toy happened to be at the very bottom of the toy box. Of course.

Koala methodically removed every toy in the box, distributing them around the rapidly emptying box. She finally reached her toy and happily pulled it out.

She brought it to me, asking for a tug game. I played with her for a minute, then took the toy. “We’ll play more once you’ve cleaned up your mess,” I told her. She looked at me, turned her back, and lay down.

I asked her to “get a toy” and “put it away,” things she routinely does. She ignored me.

I repeated the requests in a firmer voice. She got up, picked up a toy, and dropped it near the box. Looking at me and sighing. It was soooo hard.

I did not relent. No longer asking, I said in my best “I mean it!” voice, Get the toy and put it IN the box.

She did, then lay back down.

“Nope,” I told her. “You need to put all of the toys away.”

One by one, she got the toys and put them into the box.

When she finished, I offered her the toy and suggested a tug game.

“Nope,” she said, bu turning her back to me and lying down with an annoyed sigh.

Normally, when Cali and Koala put their toys away, they get rewards for their efforts. But since she had so deliberately taken all of the toys out of the box, a behavior I did not want to encourage, I did not give her any reward other than the offer of playing with the chosen toy.

Koala was annoyed at having to do it — and annoyed by the lack of rewards.

She got over it pretty quickly, though, and decided that she was willing to forgive me if that meant she’d get a belly rub …

Peer Pressure

Black poodle Maisy and golden retriever Cali wait for a bagel shaped dog treat
Cali and Maisy share a doggy-bagel snack after playing outside.

One of the first things I learned in dog-training school was the ways that dogs synchronize with their humans. That’s why using an upbeat, energetic voice can get dogs amped up for a training class — and a low, calm voice can help them settle down.

But I’m increasingly finding examples of how dogs synchronize with their doggy friends as well. I first saw it with Maisy, Cali’s BFF, who clearly takes her cues from Cali when we’re on walks.

Maisy often gets very excited or anxious around unfamiliar dogs, and she used to get that way around unfamiliar people, too. But when we all went walking together, Maisy saw how much Cali loves meeting new people.

Instead of being nervous when a stranger approaches, Cali strains toward them, entire body wagging an eager hello. Cali has not figured out that not all humans want to pet the dog.

At first, Maisy would watch, uncertain and ready to bark, while Cali greeted people and made new friends. Cali convinced her to try it though, and Maisy has decided that saying hello and getting pats and compliments is fun. She’s not quite sure about other dogs yet, but then again, neither is Cali.

The next example of peer pressure and inter-dog dynamics came during playtime. When there are two dogs, they play together well; when there’s a third dog, two tend to gang up on one.

Unfortunately, Cali is often the gang-ee.

She and Koala often play well together, though sometimes Koala can be a little … pushy. Cali’s pretty confident about telling her to back off, and, if that doesn’t work, Cali literally takes her ball and goes home. Well to her little hideout in the back corner of her yard.

Maisy and Cali play very well together. They are BFFs.

BUT.

When the three of them are together, Koala and Maisy become like the mean girls in middle school. They grab Cali’s tail and play tug. They each grab an ear. They behave like brats.

When all three are together, I have learned to organize separate play pairs. Cali and Koala each get a chance to play with Maisy — without each other. And Maisy goes home very tired and happy.