Addressing anxiety


Matt distracts Charlie as a tech readies to give him a shot.

Matt distracts Charlie as a tech readies to give him a shot.

We recently brought Lex and Charlie to the vet to get them up-to-date on their shots.

For Lex, this was old hat. She calmly waited for her shot, and didn’t even try to hop off the exam table.

Charlie, however, was another story. He wiggled and whined and twisted and turned. The vet tech told us not to fret, that she had it under control. And then Charlie would break free. Matt stepped in to help calm Charlie, gently rubbing his nose and telling him he was such a gooooood boy.

I took this opportunity to speak with the vet about Charlie’s anxiety. I told her about his destruction, the couch cushions, the window sills, the Thundershirt. His insistence upon pooping in the house, even though we have a dog door.

She suggested leaving him for short periods of time, and seeing how he reacts. Rewarding good behavior, then leaving him for longer periods of time.

Other alternatives tossed around include consulting a behaviorist, purchasing a special collar and anxiety medication.

We’ve opted to introduce neighborhood walks, in addition to our running games in the back yard. Also, we have increased the number of times and length we leave him alone. For extended periods of time (for example eight hours or more) we have opted to board the dogs at Camp Bow Wow, which they love.

I have been experiencing medical issues that have prevented me from being as actively involved with Charlie as I would like. I’m hoping to get this resolved by summertime.

I think Charlie would like a new walking partner.

FurFamHORZNTL

Snow, sleep and kittens!


Charlie surveys his first snowfall.

Charlie surveys his first snowfall. (Photo by Bryan Bogater)

Special note: We got caught up in the holiday excitement, and just realized we haven’t posted a blog in a while. Today’s entry should get us all caught up. Happy New Year!

Christmas came a day late for Charlie, but he says it was well worth the wait.

Mother nature delivered his first snow.

In all honesty, my brother has ordered up the storm. He flew in from Ft. Lauderdale earlier in the day, and had specifically requested a sizable amount of snow. He told me if he had to be in freezing temperatures while visiting me, the least I could do is provide a scenic snowy backdrop.

So once we returned from the airport with Bryan, snowflakes began to fall. Charlie hopped up on the couch, and watched through the front window. His eyes grew pensive, as he pressed his brown nose against the glass.

Charlie romps in the snow.

Charlie romps in the snow.

What is that white stuff falling from the sky?

It was dark by the time we had several inches on the ground. Matt and walked out back with Charlie to see his reaction. He pranced through the yard, occasionally stopping to grab a mouthful of snow. As we pretended to snatch him up, Charlie ran full tilt, losing traction in the snow as he tried to replicate his usual tight corners.

Lex stepped delicately in the snow, and did her best to avoid Charlie as he flew by.

With the snow came some interesting developments.

First, our sand-in-the-house problem instantly disappeared! We now can walk barefoot inside, and no longer build sand castles on our couch.

Second, dog toys started disappearing. Then reappearing … covered in snow. At first it was a collection of squeaky toys. The hedgehog and the chipmunk, specifically. They were gone, then a day later reappeared as a snowball on the couch. Interestingly, Charlie switched it up to include his Nylabones and a deer antler.

Apparently, he prefers his chewies chilled, thank you very much.

Lounging Lexie

It seems that Lex has fully recovered from her vertigo scare. And while she has not had any more dizzy spells, she spends most of her time sleeping, these days. Her favorite spot has become a high-back chair in the front room, closest to the heat register. When she curls up on the chair, I cover her with a blanket, and she’s instantly out.

Lex snags one of Charlie's frozen Nylabones.

Lex snags a frozen Nylabone.

When she’s awake, Lexie has amazed us with her energy. She’s eating well, and consistently, and often has enough energy to instigate a wrestling match with Charlie.

When Matt spoke with our vet for the vertigo follow-up visit, she said Lexie’s kidney values are within healthy range, but on the high end of normal. She said this meant we did a great job with her special kidney diet, but that we have to keep a close eye on her. Considering Lex had one paw in the grave just six months ago, I call this a victory.

In the last couple weeks, Lex has really turned into a snuggle bug. Now that she can hop up on the couch on her own power again, she will tuck herself tight next to Matt or me. When she’s wanting to melt hearts, she’ll gently place her snout on my chest and stare up at me. Awwwe.

Smitten with kittens

In the last month or so, when Matt and I go to PetSmart or Petco, the first thing I do is make a beeline for the cat display. Both pet stores provide space to local rescue organizations for cat adoptions.

After losing Pink last fall, Matt and I both agreed that we would not get another cat. For 10 years, we said.

Some ginger cuties I spotted at Petco.

Some ginger cuties I spotted at Petco.

It’s funny how looking at those sweet fuzzy faces can makes our resolve dissolve.

I’ve secretly been taking photos of cute kittens for a couple months. And now I can’t disguise my excitement when it’s time to see the kitties. Matt always indulges me, but tonight a certain little kitten stole our hearts.

He was a small grey and white striped kitten, full of spunk and spasms. He saw us looking at him, and put on his best cute kitten show. We fell hard, and Matt noted he’d probably get along with Charlie.

“You should see if we can have a visit with him,” Matt said.

I almost fell over, but ran to a store associate before he changed his mind. It ends up the rescue organization only has meet-and-greets on the weekends, so we’ll have to come back.

The little fuzzball may the the one. Or maybe not. But I cannot lie. I’ve got kitten love in my heart again. Meow.

FurFamHORZNTL

Dirt season


Charlie cleans up the evidence after Lexie stormed through the kitchen. It was a tasty job.

Charlie cleans up the evidence after Lexie stormed through the kitchen. It was a tasty job.

Matt brushed at the sand collecting on the couch cushions.

“This is awful!” he exclaimed. “The dogs are tracking in mud every time they go outside. This place is filthy!”

I knew it was time to tell Matt. I sat down next to him, and took a deep breath.

“Since you are a relative newcomer to the house, I think it’s time we had a talk,” I said, gently placing my hand on his leg for emphasis. “In my home, there are only two seasons: dirt and dirt-free. In the fall and spring, the dogs track in all sorts of mud and sand. The trade off is that when the snow falls, and in the summer when the grass grows, we get a reprieve.”

Matt looked at me like I was a crazy woman.

“You want me to get used to this?” he asked, incredulous.

“Winter’s just a couple weeks away,” I said, looking out the front window. “Snow is just around the corner.”

Just then we heard an explosive boom, followed by what seemed like a zillion pieces of hail landing on the kitchen floor. As I ran to the hallway I just about tripped over Lexie, who was uncharacteristically moving fast. Her feet slipped on the wood floor as her momentum pushed her past me.

I glanced into the kitchen, and saw the wreckage of her run. She had cut the corner by the stove a bit too close, and made a direct hit on Charlie’s puppy kibble. That was the boom. When she hit the bowl, it sent pieces of food throughout the kitchen like confetti.

Charlie didn’t miss a beat. He arrived within seconds, and authoritatively surveyed the scene. He gave a couple quick sniffs, and quickly came up with a game plan. He would start from the outside, and work his way back toward the bowl.

Seeing Charlie had a plan of attack, I returned to Matt on the couch.

Where's the broom?!?

Where’s the broom?!?

“Do I even want to know what happ…” he started to say. I put up my hand and told him I had the situation under control. If I had any luck, Charlie would have the mess cleaned up by the time I was finished convincing Matt the snow fairy would visit that evening.

Matt grabbed the broom, which has taken a permanent spot in our living room during dirt season, and started sweeping at the tsunami of sand at my feet.

“Look!” he said pointing down at a small pile of sand. “I’ve only taken one swipe, and look at all of that dirt!”

I felt the confession would be enough. That it’s just the way our house operates. Dirt season stinks, but there’s no way around it, aside from wiping the dogs’ paws each time they come in. With a dog door, that’s nearly impossible.

But it was too much for Matt. He was unprepared. It was clear I should have briefed him weeks before. But now we were blinded by a sandstorm in our own home.

I took the broom, and finished sweeping the room. I didn’t mention that it was my third time sweeping that day.

And when Matt wasn’t looking, I said a small prayer for snow.

FurFamHORZNTL

Table scraps


Charlie and Roxy take a break from Thanksgiving scavenging. The stakes were high, the bounty even higher.

Table scraps have always been a no-no for Charlie, until Thanksgiving rolled around.

He arrived with a solid strategy that relied on the cute factor and an element of surprise.

At first he was all nonchalant. Chasing the ball. Sitting pretty. But he clearly had big plans. And he was fixing to change up the rules big time.

Charlie waited until everyone sat down to eat, then slid under the table, darting back and forth looking for a friendly pair of legs. That’s when he sprang his plan into action. Charlie nuzzled his snout into someone’s lap, then pushed his nose so it peeked under the tablecloth. Over and over again he pushed his disembodied, freckled nose into someone’s lap, and he trotted away with a mouthful of bounty. He scored turkey skin, handfuls of stuffing, broccoli florets.

Of course, this kind of behavior is hardly tolerated in most households, even in the most liberal dog-loving families. It’s not even allowed in our home.

Charlie and Coochie.

But this Thanksgiving was no normal holiday. It was a virtual cornucopia of canine energy, with five dogs in attendance. In addition to Charlie, we had Tippy and Coochie (who belong to Matt’s cousin Emily and her husband Loren), Spike (who owns Matt’s uncle, Joel) and Roxy (Matt’s mom’s dog). I think this chaos was made somewhat manageable because Tippy, Coochie and Spike each weigh less than 10 pounds, and we left Miss Lexie at home so she could have the couch to herself for the evening.

Charlie was a quick study. He wasted no time figuring out who would slip him tasty treats, and he made repeat visits. It also helped that none of the other dogs caught on to his ruse. The table scraps were his for the taking!

When the dinner was over, Charlie wandered off, content to defluff a squeaky duck. Roxy may or may not have licked all of the salted chocolates. Since people I really, really like had one or two, I’ll never tell.

Sleepy Lexie doesn’t want to eat.

When we got home, our arms full of wrapped leftovers, we found Lex exactly where we left her: snoozing on the couch. Her chunky holistic senior wet dog food — we left it out for Lex to eat at her leisure — remained untouched.

Charlie, with his full belly, could hardly keep his eyes open. Soon he was snoring, of course on the couch. I took this cue to encourage Lex to eat a holiday meal. She humored me for a while, then decided she would rather be sleeping as well.

I think all the turkey I ate was starting to kick in, and suddenly catching some shut-eye sounded like a great idea. I slipped into my pajamas, ate one last chocolate chip cookie then kissed the pups goodnight.

Zzzzzz.

We had a big day, and a pile of leftovers ahead of us.


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Tell us your love story


Our Furever Family wants to hear your adoption stories! The best ones will receive a coffee mug.

Our adoption journey was filled with triumphs, challenges and heartbreak … and ultimately led us to Charlie. It’s been three months since we’ve adopted this spunky border collie mix, and we’ve enjoyed sharing his (mis)adventures with you.

Now that we have Charlie, it’s easy to forget the road we traversed to get him. First we fell in love with Ranger, then he fell through our fingers. Then the meet-and-greet was bungled with Demi, a cute-but-troubled border collie mix. We found Charlie on a website, and even though he was fostered in Kentucky, we took a chance on the pup who stole our hearts. The rest is history.

Now we want to hear your story, whether it was through adoption, an accidental meeting or another way of finding each other. How did you fall in love? Tell us how your pet came into your life in 500 words or less.

Eligibility requirements:

  • The pet must be a member of your family.
  • Be sure to include a photo.
  • You must be a subscriber to Our Furever Family. For directions on how to follow this blog, see instructions at the bottom of this page.

The best stories will receive an Our Furever Family coffee mug that we had specially designed for our fans.

Send your submissions to ourfureverfamily@gmail.com.

We’re glad you are part of Our Furever Family. And we look forward to learning more about yours.

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Home alone


Throw the fluffy bone again! Please!?! Pretty please??

I would be lying if I said I didn’t worry.

You see, today was not an ordinary day. It was the first time we left Charlie alone all day long.

I’m not on the couch. Seriously! I’m not on the couch.

I imagined a hole in our couch. Teeth marks on my Mission-style furniture. A fresh pile of poop on my bed.

Instead, I was greeted by a wiggly Charlie, who begged/dared me to give him an “I’m home!” rub. He triumphantly waved a chewy bone in his mouth.

Not a thing was disturbed. In fact, neither Lexie nor Charlie even touched a morsel of their kibble. Hmm. Impressive.

We moved to the yard, so I could throw the fluffy squeaky bone to Charlie. Somehow, this is his favorite toy for fetch. It’s absolutely awkward: a stuffed bone that weighs next-to-nothing and is almost impossible to throw more than 10 feet. Still, the sight of it makes him jump up and down like … a puppy!

Lex saunters at her own pace in the yard. Her wrestling days are over.

We tried tennis balls, but Charlie soon lost interest. He would zoom after them, then take a sharp right turn and attempt to tackle Lexie. Now that she’s a delicate 14 years old, we were not going to allow any of those shenanigans. We quickly declared Lexie a no-fly zone, and ….

Hey! What are these wood chips on the couch? And what happened to the front picture window? Are those teeth marks in the wood? What the ….???

So yes, just as I was about to present myself with the Most Awesome Puppy Owner award for Least Destruction in a Single Workday, the ceremony was quickly aborted. I couldn’t deny it, or even hide it. Charlie had chewed the front window.

The evidence.

The good news is that this window and sill were significantly damaged many years ago by another unruly dog. And I plan on replacing the entire unit with something without teeth marks (and more energy efficient) in the next year or so.

The problem is that for the next week, with Matt out of town, I have no way of correcting his behavior. I could hope really hard that he just won’t find the front window tasty anymore. Scientifically, I think that’s my best bet. In fact, right now I’m closing my eyes and thinking NO EATING THE FRONT WINDOW! and amazingly, Charlie has not left his bed.

See? It’s already working.

Losing ground


Matt and I spent  most of our camping trip avoiding the obvious topic: Ranger.

I think I brought him up twice to test the waters, but Matt was lukewarm. I couldn’t read him at all. I knew I risked him losing the connection with Ranger as the week went on, but I also knew repeatedly asking Matt how he felt could tip the scales in the no-dog direction.

But once we got back home, one thing was clear: We were going to visit Ranger again.

Matt discovers Ranger is food-motivated.

The day after we returned, we drove out to the humane society with our dog Lexie so she could meet Ranger. A young volunteer held Ranger’s leash as we walked around the parking lot, closely watching the two dogs interact. It was mostly benign stuff, with Ranger wanting to play more than the elder Lex, and he got a good butt sniff in too, to which she did not object. I called this a success. Matt was feeling the love.

We walked up to the adoption station, then Matt got cold feet.

“I didn’t know we were going to get him today! I feel like you are rushing me!” he said.

I found this surprising considering I had spent an hour prepping a crate the night before. But not wanting to spoil the entire transaction, I put a 24-hour hold on Ranger and we went home.

The next morning we woke up with clarity and new resolve. We would adopt Ranger. I waited until the shelter opened, and placed a call, excitedly telling them I would be by in an hour to adopt him.

Once we arrived, we immediately were told that Ranger had to pass “the cat test” since we have a cat at home. They offered to use a shelter cat for the interaction, and we were all for it. Ranger was a gently fella, and he would no doubt pass. We were told to wait in the hallway and that someone would lead us to the test room. After waiting 20 minutes, a young woman asked us if we “were the ones here for Ranger” and took us into a back room. After a few minutes, one of the volunteers said the regular cat used in this test was not available so instead they brought in an 8-week-old black kitten, which was quickly placed in a cage in the corner of the room. Moments later, the other volunteer brought in Ranger and the test was on.

Ranger steals a kiss.

Being a German short-haired pointer, he did the expected — he pointed. No growling, no barking, just a solid, unbroken point. The volunteers tittered, took furious notes and talked as if we were not in the room. They noted that a bad reaction to a cat could cause his heart to race and possible break loose a heartworm. Just looking at a cat could kill him, they said. I looked at him shaking, pointing, and wondered what damage they were causing to his heart with this stupid cat test. They quietly observed that he wouldn’t break his gaze. I could tell from the look on their faces that their collective armchair opinion was not good. They allowed Ranger to close in on the kitten as it hissed and swiped with its claws. The kitten was taken out of the cage and left to fend for itself in a corner. At 9 months old, I’m guessing this could have been Ranger’s first exposure to a kitten. A crazed, pissy one at that. Ranger never lost composure. But he never stopped pointing either.

After about 40 minutes of this, the volunteers declared the test over and without telling us the results pointed us to the front desk so we could continue the adoption process. So we walked up front and were told to sit at an adoption table. In the next 30 minutes of waiting, we burned some time by strolling through a small pet store in the lobby, guessing at which toys Ranger would love the most. We also confessed relief that we made it to the adoption table. The girls in the cat test were less than encouraging. I could feel them judging us, marking us as not good enough.

Finally we were called over to a table by a woman who greeted us with a bag of dog food. Suddenly I knew we were golden. Once you get the bag of food, they are ready to send you out the door with the pup. But she quickly excused herself and was replaced by a solemn-looking lady. Our hearts dropped.

The woman quickly told us that the staff was concerned because Ranger did not do well in the cat test, and performed similarly in the meet-and-greet with Lexie. We demanded to see the paperwork, and she said it was lost; all she had to go off of was a quick text from the kid who conducted the dog interaction. Matt and I looked at each other incredulously. She leaned in for effect. “Since Ranger has heartworm, we only have one shot at this.” She all but said that she thought we would kill Ranger if we brought him home, and that they just couldn’t authorize the adoption. She asked us to wait another 24 hours so they could consult a professional behavioralist.

The air in my lungs was gone. I looked at Matt, and we walked past the bag of food on the table.

On the long drive home, I called the shelter and said we would pass on Ranger.

I couldn’t believe I was walking away from a dog that I already imagined was mine. The bowl of water already was set out. The crate, set up. It had nothing to do with the dog and everything to do with the cumulative experience we had with the animal shelter. We got the sense they just didn’t want us to have the dog, and honestly, they zapped our fight.

We knew in time, we would be ready to look again.

NEXT: Trying private adoption.