Sunday, January 9, 2011

Puppy Visit

Went yesterday to visit the puppies. Now they are 9 days away from being legal to sell. A puppy has to be at least 8 weeks old to be legally parted from its mother and sold to a new owner.

The car ride into New Hampshire to get to the breeder takes an hour and 20 minutes. During that time I had a hard time concentrating on the road. Good thing Mike was driving. It was like I couldn't wake up, but it was 12 noon. Either it was my illness affecting cognitive abilities or else I had a bad medication interaction from the night before. But I had done nothing different with my medications and I had gotten a full night's sleep. Very frustrating when your head isn't working correctly, even when it is not particularly noticeable to other people. I kept telling myself that when we got to the puppies my adrenaline would kick in and I would be able to focus just fine on the little monsters. This is exactly what seemed to happen. But on the ride home I again had trouble with concentration and sleepiness, it was like my brain didn't want to work and was with-holding intelligence and awareness from me. Schizophrenia is so much more than just the stuff that's absurd, painful and delusional - it is a brain malfunctioning at the very root of conscious awareness. At least when I falter, this is the way it goes. There is less of me that is alive. Schizophrenia kills little pieces of me, but leaves little pieces to be aware and observant of what is missing.

I had a good method of luring a puppy to me. All of us were sitting in a kitchen but the puppies were either most comfortable circling the breeder (she is familiar) or exploring their surroundings. You had to do something, or else the puppies would ignore you. I noticed that my husband would lean forward and put his face almost to the floor, and then immediately as many as three puppies at one time would bound forward to lick his face. Whenever a face was put within reach the puppies would respond by licking it. Pick up a puppy and put it near your face and the same thing happens. They are so young, but they know faces, even human faces, are a point of communication and power. So a face near ground level attracted a puppy. But what I did was to scratch the floor as though I were digging for something. This too would attract a puppy - they would wander over to see what you were uncovering. Perhaps it was the clicking of my fingernails against the linoleum floor. Anyway, play digging got puppy's attention. The breeder put out two orange tangerines, perfect round objects, and I tried rolling them and getting the puppies interested in a rolling object but only a few responded. Not yet there developmentally I guess.

The breeder sat in a chair and snipped each puppy's toenails. The puppies didn't mind, so I noted that this is a habit I must continue when I bring mine home. Plum Pudding hated her toenails clipped, only a groomer or the vet could clip them and that left too much time for them to grow long. Another thing I'm going to do a lot of is putting my hand inside the puppy's mouth in case I have to give the dog medication. For Plum we would put the medication in meat and feed it to her that way. I was afraid of putting my hand in her mouth because I didn't want to get bit. What I'm not going to do is brush my puppy's teeth. We will also need to give puppy a bath in not too long a time, getting it used to being cleaned in the tub with soap and water. All the new experiences I have to put puppy through so that it is a well adjusted dog. Finding families with children is important - I know of one bi-polar mother of a four year old and a two year old and I'm thinking that I will offer to take puppy to her home to play with her children. I want the dog to play with children. It will be hard for me to invite myself over, she is very nice and I don't think will have any worry or misgivings, only, I am shy to ask. Everyone in my peer support group that meets Wednesday evenings at the local hospital will be invited over to my home to play with the puppy. You want as many strangers as possible to handle the puppy. Of course supervised visits, because God forbid the puppy should have a traumatic experience, dogs will remember. I trust the people in the mental illness peer support group as good people, with the exceptions of some of the members of a local group home. Those people are very sick and most are sweet, but hidden cruelty is a possibility, some I can't get a read on. I am uncertain what they are capable of because of the severity of their illness. They are outside of ordinary in terms of their personality.

Once the puppy has had its distemper shots, (it takes a series of shots for this disease), I can take the puppy to public places where there might be other dogs and I can take the puppy to other dogs to play with. My husband as a child knew another child who had a puppy that died of distemper, the poor thing wasted away, so the disease is real and it is out there. I want my dog to play with other dogs, but some of the people I know don't have much money for vet visits and their dogs could be carriers for distemper. My husband said that the disease is like that, a dog can have it but not get sick, merely pass it on to others, or it can get sick and die. Better safe than sorry. Need to keep the puppy at home for about three weeks, the space of time for the vet to give it all its shots. One place that will be fun to visit with the puppy after its had its shots is a coffee house in downtown Brattleboro that allows dogs. I love cappuccinos.

As we drove home from the breeder's we stopped at two pet supply stores. It feels a bit like we are preparing for the coming of a baby. This weekend and next the kitchen will be transformed. Yesterday my husband installed one baby gate, today he installs a second. Then the puppy can run around the kitchen but not get to the rest of the apartment. I practiced hooking together and collapsing the metal crate that will be used to housetrain the puppy. When the puppy is put in the crate it holds it's bladder because it takes the small space as a den, and instinctively it shouldn't want to mess its den. Open the crate and immediately take the dog outside to relieve itself. We should be able to sleep through the night if the puppy is in its crate and have no messes. When I take the puppy to the vet the crate is put in the car so I can drive without a puppy underfoot or going to the bathroom on the car upholstery. This weekend I take down all the Christmas decorations, next weekend we roll up the rugs that cover the kitchen's linoleum floor and take down all the art magnets on the refrigerator door. Chewed magnets are a health risk. The magnetic pieces can bind to each other in the intestines and it takes surgery to get them out. I know this about toddlers, the same must be true for a puppy. Unhappily, this drive to take no risks with the little one's health led to a fight between my husband and I.

Several days ago I said that the dog would be getting dog food and nothing else because I thought that human food was somehow involved in my last dog getting bloat and dying. However my husband thought that it was the chews we gave Plum after her meal that caused her to have bloat, and more, that a dog not getting delicious human food was depriving it of one of the greatest joys in living. We were so opposed to how we were going to feed the dog that my husband said a hurtful thing; he said if we had ever had children we would have divorced over fighting how they would be raised.

In my household we don't talk about divorce. That's a no-no. That my husband had no confidence in us working out a problem was to me an upsetting idea. You are supposed to fight and struggle within a marriage and yet keep the marriage going; it is a lot of hard work but you are supposed to put in the hard work and endure conflict for the sake of the marriage. But what I said to my husband, after he told me I loved this puppy more than him, and after he said he wanted nothing to do with the dog (since I wouldn't budge over how it was to be fed) I told my husband that the essence of the issue with food was bloat. All I cared about was that the dog not get bloat. This was what was causing me to be argumentative and dig my heels in. So I told him let me do research on bloat on the internet. And the next day I spend three hours doing exactly that.

Turns out that giving dog canned food, or else real meat, is good for their digestion and avoiding bloat. There is nothing wrong either with giving the dog human food (with some exceptions that cause gas) or chew toys after dinner. Both of us were wrong in thinking we knew what killed our dog. So when my husband got home from work we sat in bed and went over all the research I had printed out from websites and discussed. We found it then very easy to compromise. We would feed the dog a combination of canned food and dry food. The bloat causing factor is how much water you give the dog around feeding time, if there is exercise around feeding time, and it is better to give two smaller meals, breakfast and dinner, instead of one big meal. Bloat is the second killer of dogs after cancer. And so few people know what precautions to take. If I had spent three hours doing research on bloat while my dog was alive she would still be alive today.

So while my husband and I experience joy at the idea of the new dog, we have anxiety and conflict as well. I am very strict on ideas of safety, my husband is very invested in the dog being happy. I have made a resolution to stop saying the one thing that I have in the past used as a weapon against my husband, "at least no child I raised would grow up to be a stripper." In our fight over the dog, when my husband told me we would divorce because our ideas on child raising are so different, I pulled out that old line. It is a hurtful thing to say and I'm not certain why but I'm putting it to rest. Reality is I don't know what would happen if I were to have become a mom. I could have raised a drug addict that stripped to support her habit. I doubt it, but one never knows. Why should I be so self assured about my powers as a mother?

Know one of my greatest horrors? Besides another case of bloat? Having a dog that pulls on the leash. I hate walking downtown and seeing these humans practically tripping over their own feet because they are being pulled so fast by a dog that is choking itself while it is straining at the end of a lead. I see dogs walking people, not people walking dogs. I will do anything to avoid that behavior. And I know how much work and discipline it takes not to give in to the dog's instincts to be in control. My husband and I will be going to obedience training classes, both of us together. I want a dog with certain habits, it is up to me to see that it develops these habits. It is up to my husband as well and I think he is the weak link. My husband isn't a big on on discipline. For instance, I keep telling him I'm on a diet and he keeps on bring home fattening foods as "treats" for me. Donuts, pizza, pieces of pie. But I'm hoping that if he becomes educated about dog behavior, he will become effective. So obedience training classes for both of us.

Oh Lord, the little puppy will have a very short attention span.

I remember being in obedience training class and everyone's dog was behaving much better than my dog, even though I had practiced hard with her.

I hope I don't worry too much and forget to have fun.

1 comment:

  1. Don't be too hard on your husband. It is probably precisely because he is more laid back than you that you balance out into a healthy couple. I think you are just trying to overcompensate for the fact that you can't control the whole situation with your new puppy. It is essential that you have fun Karen. You need it. Your husband needs it. And most especially the puppy needs it too. The irony of having a new baby animal is that along with joy there is stress, but I think it is definitely worth it and will calm down in time. And don't be too hard on yourself either. You will make minor mistakes, but that's how we all learn. A sense of humor is a good thing too. It will be great, you'll see.


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