The mysterious pooper


The scene of the crime.

The scene of the crime.

The first time it happened, I almost didn’t notice.

I had come into the bathroom to gather towels, and was leaving when something caught my eye.

It couldn’t be. Was that a cat poop in the bathtub?

I ran out into the front room, searching for Cora. I was ready for an interrogation. She looked up at me from her interrupted nap, and meowed.

“Well???” I demanded. “Is it yours?”

My pup Charlie dug his nose under a pillow and tried not to move.

Cora lifted a leg and began preening herself.

My line of questioning was going nowhere.

So I pulled out my computer and promptly Googled “cat poops in bathtub.”

I was somewhat relieved to see I was not the first cat owner to experience a cat refusing to go in the kitty loo.

I found many theories, ranging from a dirty litter box to a urinary tract infection. One person even suggested that cats sometimes like to crap in the tub because it’s considered one of the cleanest places in a house. Seriously.

After more reading, I decided to add a second litter box in the library and see what happens.

About a day later, Cora pooped in the new box. I rejoiced, and wished I had confetti to toss about. Instead, I rubbed Cora’s ears and told her how she made her mama proud.

But then the mysterious pooper returned.

Even worse, the poo placement seemed aggressive. Cora started leaving pretty impressive pyramids right on top of the drain.

Quickly I took inventory. Both of her litter boxes are clean and have fresh litter. She has easy access to both. Could Charlie be interrupting her privacy? Does she feel less exposed in the tub?

Seeing that my best sleuthing would not solve this pooper scooper mystery, I decided to make an appointment with the vet. Cora is due for her shots this month, anyway, so we’ll be killing two proverbial birds with one stone.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep my fingers crossed and the bathroom door closed.

FurFamHORZNTL

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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

Learning to love the crate … or not


Charlie and Lex snooze away after a day of play. (Photos by Matt)

Everyone has issues.

As for Charlie, our recently adopted border collie mix, he enjoyed making deposits on top of the guest bed or the laundry in the basement.

Seriously, this is not a big deal. I mean, he’s a puppy, almost five months old. Proper house training takes time, and patience. But this became a bigger issue when we visited the vet to treat Charlie’s worms. The vet tech strongly encouraged us to crate Charlie. At night, and even during the day. No more on the couch, and definitely no more sleeping with us.

I was crushed.

I could think of nothing better than waking up to puppy breath. Matt was more straight-forward about it. Charlie needed to learn he was not on par with us humans.

Sigh.

Matt firmly embraced his new role as Stern Daddy. And when Charlie kept pooping on the bed, Matt resurrected the crate. We had tried it for like a day when we first got Charlie, but he peed all over himself. He seemed less stressed outside of the crate. But now, Matt wanted to try it again. We went on a short trip to the store, and left Charlie in the crate. We came back to a completely drenched dog. We couldn’t tell if it was saliva or pee. We washed the crate pad, and left him alone a few hours later. When we returned, again, he was soaking wet.

That night, we played crate games. Matt and I took turns tossing squeaky toys into the crate, alternating with biscuits. Charlie seemed comfortable with it. He even went all the way in and curled up for a few minutes. But when it came time for bed, and the game included closing the crate gate, Charlie simply lost it.

He waited until I was almost asleep, then let it rip. A-WOW-ROW-ROWWWW!!!!!! WOOOOO! YIP! YIP!

I had read that I should let him howl. To not reward him by letting him out. I turned on my side, and tried to not think about the chaos downstairs. I started to drift off, then Charlie stepped it up a notch. I thought of my neighbors, and asked Matt if the downstairs windows were open. He couldn’t remember. I didn’t want anyone to call the cops.

I sighed. Heavily. And weighed my options. I walked downstairs.

Charlie howled until I opened the door. He was dripping wet. I pulled out the wet mat, then took Charlie outside. He immediately peed, so I started thinking he was wet from nervously drooling on himself. Matt and I decided to put a fresh blanket in the crate and bring it upstairs. We got Charlie back in, but he was not happy about it, and let us know all night.

Snuggle bunnies.

We woke up knowing we had to do something. After consulting multiple pet behavior websites, we hatched a plan. We drove to Costco, and bought three dog beds — a large one both dogs could use on the main floor, then two individual beds for upstairs. Then we went to Meijer and bought a baby gate. We put a dog bed on Matt’s side of the bed, and put the gate between the bed and the wall, providing Charlie a space that is about 3 feet by 5 feet.

It worked like magic.

Looking for reassurance, I went to the message boards (specifically my dog friends at Reddit) to get input. Mostly everyone encouraged us to stick with crate training, although some said if the current approach worked that was cool, too.

We tried the crate a few more times (usually when we made short trips away from the house) but the end result always was the same. Charlie would drool all over himself. I began to suspect a form of separation anxiety, and worried that continued exposure to the crate could cause harm.

So we continued with the confined space at night (baby gate, plus dog bed) and experimented with letting him roam free during the day. Even when we were gone. The first time we tried this, Matt and I were terrified. As we drove home, we imagined the destruction waiting for us.

But upon opening the front door, we were greeted with … nothing. Not a squeaky toy out of place. We chalked it up to beginner’s luck, then tried it again. And again. Always with the same result. Charlie didn’t even nibble on his chewy.

What great relief.

Now that Charlie recently taught himself to use the dog door, and apparently is housebroken (through positive reinforcement, he’s finally pooping outside), we get to move on to the next commands.

Did I mention he already knows how to sit?

Breaking through to the other side


Big news to report: Charlie taught himself how to use the dog door.

Of course, all of this is my fault. I had let him outside, and was selfishly trying to get some computer time in. Maybe 15 minutes went by, and I heard a rustling at the back door. By the time I walked through the kitchen, I got to the landing just in time to see Charlie shoot through the doggie door. Like a rocket.

A tad disoriented, he wiggle-walked up to me, and shot a look. You know the one. The one that says, “Lady, that deserves a biscuit.”

He was right. A biscuit was discharged, immediately.

You see, this was quite a rite of passage in our household. I never had a dog door, until my dad offered to install one at my house. He had watched a Martha Stewart episode about it, and it looked easy enough to do. He enlisted the help of granddad, and they installed it in an afternoon.

This one act of kindness by dad and granddad revolutionized my life. And that of my two pups, back then.

At the time, I worked at The Detroit News. My commute was only 15 or 20 minutes, but the work hours could go long. Once Lexie and my late pup Lili mastered the door, everything was different. I could work late. I could go out for a bite to eat after work. And I didn’t have to worry about coming home to a guilt-ridden dog, and a gift in the hallway.

Lexie seemed to benefit the most. She flourished in this new-found sense of freedom. She quickly adapted to the idea that she could go into the yard whenever she wanted. To this day, she’ll often get up in the middle of the night, and wander out back for a while.

So, Charlie learned how to come in using the dog door. Learning how to exit took more work. He would stare at the door, and poke at it with his nose, making the plastic door sway to and fro. But he seemed nervous about actually jumping through.

Armed with a pocket full of puppy biscuits, I walked outside, an closed the door behind me. Then I pointed my iPhone toward the doggie door and waited. I saw Charlie’s nose poke out a couple times. The nothing. I called out his name, then Lex ran out.

“Charlieeeeeeee!” I did my best to lure him through the rectangle in the door. Finally he popped out, and he jumped up on me, looking for his treat. Well deserved!

Our hope and fear: Did we work with Charlie enough to adequately housebreak him? He was just barely starting to sit by the back door this morning when he broke on through to the other side.

Learning this skill so young clearly is a blessing and a curse. We’re happy that he can let himself out. But the question is, will he go once he’s out there? He’s been known to play in the yard for a good hour, then come inside to poop on the laundry pile. I’m guessing we’ll have to follow him outside and praise each time he lifts his leg. And we’ll need to vigilantly scan the guest bedroom and basement for special deposits.

After a sweep of the basement, it’s clear we have trouble brewing.

NEXT: Learning to love the crate.

Veterinary adventures


I’ve got worms in my where?!?

Charlie has taken to pooping in the spare bedroom.

The lil’ stinker manages to hold his pee for outside. But on more than one occasion we have discovered presents waiting for us in our back room. So this morning, when he disappeared for exactly 60 seconds, then casually trotted back into the front room, something told me to go check things out.

I looked under the dressing table (he’s scouted that spot before) and all was clear. However, my nose told me otherwise. I scannned the floor, then looked up on the bed. Oh. No.

Not the bed.

Right where the cat usually spreads out in the sun, Charlie had left us a couple of his finest specimens. A friend had told me the best way to deal with this was to grab the dog and the poo, then take them outside to show the dog where to properly make a deposit. So I grabbed Charlie, plopped him up on the bed and prepared to pick up the tootsies to take outside.

Until, the poop moved.

I blinked real hard. Yes. It was definitely moving. I screamed.

Matt ran into the room asking what was wrong. I pointed at the pile of poop, and screamed again.

“Worms!!”

I thought about the massive puppy makeout sessions I had with Charlie, and wondered if his kisses would give me worms, too. I immediately bagged the offending poo in a ziplock and called the vet. After securing a visit, I demanded to know if I could get worms, too. I mean, I had let Charlie lick my face after, ummm, I presume he licked his bum. I know, I know! Why would I do that?!? I had always heard that dog’s mouths are cleaner than humans. I believed the hype, until I got a dog with worms.

After getting a vague answer about my condition (because clearly it was all about me, at this point) I called my personal physician and asked the same question. At first they referred me to a vet, then acquiesced to my pleas and dug up an answer. The succintly told me that I would probably be OK as long as I didn’t eat the poop. Phew. For once, a problem I don’t have.

So Charlie went to the vet. And the bottom line is this:

Worms are no big deal. Really.

I guess it’s common for puppies to get these squiggly white things in their poop. I had no idea. And honestly, I can’t remember the last time I had a puppy. Lex was 1 when I adopted her. The same for Lili. Still, my friends and the vet assured me this is a normal complication. We even received a concerned text from his foster mom, Gail!

The vet checked his vaccination history, and while Charlie had been dewormed once, it was time for another treatment. While we were there, we got his next round of puppy shots.

And we had the vet settle a bet.

When we first saw Charlie’s profile, it said he is a border collie/brittany spaniel mix. I can totally see it. Matt is convinced that Charlie is border collie, but mixed with beagle. And for some reason (mostly I think because of his coloring and his size) a lot of people who meet him instantly ask if he’s a beagle.

So without any hints, or looking at our chart, we asked the vet to give us her opinion. Right away, she said border collie, then she paused. She then offered brittany spaniel or German shorthaired pointer.

Matt and I looked at each other and laughed.

“Definitely, a Heinz 57,” she decided.