Monthly Archives: October 2013

Camping Dolly and The Wave

OK I know it’s been a while, days seem to slip away unconsciously with the added relaxation brought on by another 5 year-old, one that doesn’t speak English to add to the one that doesn’t hear English if it doesn’t contain the words ‘candy’ or ‘play’.

Dolly went camping for her first time with us, I say with us because I’m not sure how many times my Mom packed up some grub and beers and slept in a tent in the woods, but I’m sure it was less than a thousand. Dolly fit right in to the great outdoors, as you would expect any five year old who could play in the dirt and pee anywhere they want. Come to think of it…

So we took Dolly to the camper and old campground, she sniffed the inside of the camper, and knew it was ours. She ran around outside and sniffed everything, and poked, and barked and jumped up all four legs at once at frogs or sticks or the ground perhaps. I think she thought “cool, a new place to pee”, because she did that quite a bit, marking as it were. I do that too, but really just because I’m lazy. Actually, that’s one of ‘the things’ about camper camping, you don’t really pee in the woods. “A toilet” should be a footnote to Camping, not to mention “a camper”.

As we were switching campgrounds that day we loaded up like we live in New Hampshire- Ford truck pulling a camper, truck bed full of flappin-around stuff, adults, kid, dog and some banjo music and we’re off. No, wait, Foo Fighters. Nick’s heard good music, has never heard Raffi, and I think we’re past the point of that possible infection now that he likes the Ramones.

A fun mountain ride, Dolly still getting used to riding around in my truck and bumping around a bit, which didn’t seem to bother her at all. When she first started riding in the truck would sit on a bed on the floor, but she was always looking out the window, so I put the seat down and bed on top of it. On this day there was a lot to see everywhere, and Dolly was pretty excited the whole day.

At the new campground we were reminded that Dolly is a dog. We drive in, and get to the campsite and find the manager, and eventually get the camper close to where it’s going to be on the campsite. Now I don’t know if this happens every time you try to park a camper at a new campground, but we met an interesting neighbor.
So Dolly and I are in the truck and about 4 minutes into the maneuver the camper is about a foot away from where it’s going to stay for a while, just leveling it and straightening it out, and we hear an accent say ‘it’s a little crooked’. Now I’m no slouch when it comes to backing up a trailer, what with my brain and such, but when you hear a little man with a German accent giving you instructions like ‘No! Turn Left! TURN LEFT!’, you don’t want to be rude.
That started another 15 minutes (OK maybe really 6, but it felt like 15) of backing up and adjusting, most of it the manager and the neighbor saying things to each other like ‘to the left, on this side, my left, yes, no, your right, that side- around this way’, and me trying to move the camper to where it should be and not run either of them over.

Finally it’s parked, we get out, and by this time I’m a little hungry. So it’s no surprise I like the smell of the rotisserie chicken we bought for dinner. Well, I’m a little surprised I’m smelling it so much now. That’s when the wave comes over you. Dolly!! I look, and yup, shes smacking her lips. When Nick and Sue got out of the car Dolly had full access to our dinner.
She ate the skin and pretty much the skin only. Now we don’t eat the skin, so it could have worked out, if not for my moocher dog. The rest of the chicken was intact, with the random tooth bite here and there, just no skin. Now, I don’t want this to sound gross, but I considered eating the chicken. O.K., more than considered it. I don’t have germaphobia, I don’t mind the occasional dog kiss, and I believe, from a germ standpoint, some dog slobber won’t otherwise harm you. Yet, I removed all the chicken with Dolly damage and pretty much there wasn’t anything left anyway, and it really was kind of gross, and we ate macaroni for dinner that night.

I wish we had learned a lesson from that, but we’re not fully trained yet. Dolly is a moocher, she grabs food off of the counters, and she can reach pretty high. You hear Nick calling, somethings going on here, a meal is interrupted, and next thing you know your wife’s burger is bitten but not eaten and on the floor, conveniently smearing ketchup everywhere. Dolly has the dog-power to bite food just enough so you can’t eat it, while not eating any of it herself. And she knows where to get it.

So we get setup around the campsite, and Dolly barks at the new things and people. I have her staked so she can run around but stops at the arc of her leash at the edge of our campsite. We go for walks, we meet people, she sniffs, we shake, and we make our way down to the beach for some photos. Now it’s the last day of the season so most have left and the remaining are tarping up their campers for the winter, so when I see the ‘no dogs on beach’ sign I pretend I don’t see it and challenge anyone to say anything (there was no one around, that helped too).

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I’m being cool, Dolly is on a short leash, Nick is climbing on the floating docks now stacked haphazardly at the top of the beach, so I don’t just have a dog there for just no reason. Well, of course it’s sand, and Dolly decides it’s a good place to poop. Right on the beach, right under the ‘no dogs’ sign, the first day at the new campground, my dog is crapping on their beach. I feel like cousin Eddie in Vacation.

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Dolly takes to living in the camper well, finds her spots, sniffs around, fine-tunes her ability to always be in your way- this is a whole new arena for that sport. I put a bed next to mine and she slept next to me the whole night. In the morning I have the pleasure of the Dolly Alert ™- I don’t know if you’ve ever heard a 50 pound dog bark inside a 196 square foot metal camper before you’ve had any coffee, but it’s quite the ache in the head. Almost makes you want to hear your child say “um Dad, I think we need some paper towels”. Which you then do.

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Better to see
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Good to see
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Your dog… (not really about Dolly)

The other morning I was woken by a sentence starting with ‘Your dog’. I didn’t have to hear anymore, in an instant my still-half-asleep brain knew that having her moniker switched from ‘Dolly’ to ‘Your dog’ meant trouble. Like when you’re a kid and you do something wrong and you get the ‘wait ’til your father gets home’, you don’t have to know exactly what’s going to happen to know it’s not going to be good.

It wasn’t a ‘”Your dog” pooped in the house’, as that has it’s own special inflection. It was more of an underlined ‘dog’, like, ‘Your dog chewed’ or ‘Your dog broke’ or some other thing that surely meant that your dog is inconveniencing me greatly, making my life hell and it’s all your damn fault. Could be barking at the wrong time or spilling food everywhere, but more likely chewing some “priceless heirloom” slipper that was hated.

‘Now I have to throw it away!’
‘But you hated those slippers and you don’t even have the other one!??’
‘That’s not. the point.’

Dolly doesn’t do bad things. Your dog does.

Turns out she vomited. In the bedroom. OK not a voluntary or controllable expulsion, but animals that live in my house do seem to have a knack for throwing up on soft, absorbent surfaces- three feet that way the hardwood floors, three feet this way the bathroom tile, but lets stand right in the middle of the carpeted room to disgorge.

Of course I had to inspect the vomit, which is gross, to make sure it was from her and to do some CSI-type-shit to figure out exactly what the problem was- what she ate, when she ate it, the temperature at which it was eaten, what bothered her about it and a general deep investigation of the workings of her digestive system. In the end I could determine with any certainty only that it was dog puke.

The Details
In case you don’t want to know, probably stop reading here. But since I “had” to investigate it, I might as well share. It was about half grass, which is odd because I can’t remember the last time I saw her eat grass. Part was kibble, and the rest just a gooey mess. At least I didn’t find any animal heads in there- Dogs:1, Cats:0.

Bark Local

Today we went exploring our town. Because I now have a dog there are two new natural dog food places within 3 miles. One had a grand opening or open house today with tables and tents and samples and staff, it looked great so we drove right past it. Still paying for that new bed.

We started off at a dog park, this one is on Pierce Island, which is nice because it’s all off-leash, and the dogs can’t really run away, it’s an island. It was misty, so there weren’t a lot of people there, but we met a few dogs and owners, sniffed some smelly stuff, and got some exercise- which both the almost-5-year-olds could use.

NIck and Dolly

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Dolly is always pretty excited to be outside, and most dogs are, but she is set in some of her ways. I have to keep reminding myself that she’s an adult dog, I have this idea that I need to train her (she does need some training), but I also have to let her be herself and give her some Dolly-space. Keep her on a medium-leash as it were.

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Portsmouth is a pretty dog-friendly town, and we walked around as a bunch of people stopped and said hello to us, mostly people with kids. Dolly is really gentle, but she is still a dog. Friends of ours had their 3-year-old son bitten on the face by a dog that was gentle, a bad bite. So far nothing like that with Dolly, but I don’t want a first time.

Dolly so far seems to have no issues with crowds, open or closed places, cars, noises or other animals. She was great at the dog park and fine around town.

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I’m glad shes calm, that’s a big part of the battle, and that’s one of the nice things about having an adult dog. Now if I could just get her to realize I’m not leaving forever when she can’t see me for five seconds.

This Time I Did Mean It – Update

Dolly got a new bed and it’s pretty sweet- egg-crate foam and memory foam, pillows on either side (she’s a pillow dog), and big enough for her.

Dolly in her awesome new bed, with a too-small bed next to her

Dolly in her awesome new bed, with a too-small bed next to her

She slept in that last night, and today when we both napped. So I think we have the humans-bed-off-limits thing down, but she’s still jumping on the couch to sleep. Every time she’s tired she tries, and she’s so stealthy that unless you look right at her on the couch you won’t know shes there. She gets off with some gentle prodding, and will lie in her bed for a while before she tries again. And again. And again.

This Time I Did Mean It

So Dolly got a pass and slept on the couch Wednesday. It was the first time I had seen her really relax in her new home, she was happy and wasn’t attached to my heels for once.

Well last night I see something extra furry on our bed, and sure enough it’s big ol’ Dolly splayed out. She had deployed quickly, chosen my side of the bed of course, and decided the best place to be was right in the middle of where I sleep. Now, I’m not averse to animals in beds, per se; Tabby the cat has a habit of sleeping with me when the weather gets cold.

It only took me a couple of seconds to see into the future. I envisioned us in the king-sized bed, my wife comfortably on her side, Dolly laying on my side, and me with 6″ of bed, on my side, crammed right up against the edge, my limbs hanging off the side and Dolly snoring next to me and occasionally snorting doggy boogers against some part of my exposed flesh. I don’t know what it is about my personal space, but animals seem to have a tendency to invade it. So as much as I wanted to give Dolly every comfort she had in her old life, there are some lines which I must draw.

The way she made herself so comfortable so quickly made me aware that Mom must have allowed her free reign of all furniture. They did sleep on the couch together, so it’s not hard to believe she was allowed on the bed.

I sternly pushed, and pushed, and pushed Dolly off of the bed, told her No, and had her lie down in her bed at the foot of my bed on the floor. And yes, ten seconds later she was back on my bed. This time I moved toward her quickly, gave a stern No, and she got up quickly and jumped off of the bed. Yes, I am the Alpha. I’m just glad Dolly agreed.

She got into her bed and sat, then she gave me such a “sorry” look I felt bad. She’s such a sweet dog, combined with knowing her situation makes it difficult to do anything that makes her unhappy, even acutely. But discipline and boundaries are best, and she slept in her still-has-the-tag-on-it too-small bed, with her head hanging off the side on another doggy throw pillow, and slept there all night. I gave her lots of praise and love while she was there, positive reinforcement.

This morning she again jumped up our bed, and decided that once I started to push her she would sit down and slow all progress of me displacing her. A few more pushes, a couple of ‘No’s, and she was back on the floor for the remainder of the morning.

I think this one is going to be an extended battle.

The Routine

Dolly is a smart dog and she’s quickly falling into our new routine, although it’s still pretty fluid.

We get up at 6:30(ish), and she’s been excited for our morning walk. This morning she actually woke me up, I hope it was for the walk and not just because she was awake and wanted me to be. I keep wondering if having a dog has destroyed any chance I did have of sleeping in on the weekend, I think I need to get the 5 year-olds playing with each other.

The past three days we have been going to work together, and she’s starting to feel comfortable. We walk around the block and she sniffs, pokes around, pees and smells others pee (I assume). She’s starting to know the area, which I’ve limited, and goes to sniff the same spots each time. Today we saw two mounted police and got within 15 feet of them, and Dolly just kind of looked at them, sniffed the unmistakable scent of horses, and continued.

Dover River

In the office she’s starting to make the rounds, smell who’s where and who’s not in today. She randomly get up and walks around, and naps near me or co-worker Alena, who sits in front of me. Her separation anxiety is still strong, but her friends in the office are helping a lot by comforting her while I’m away. Even when I walk across the office to the water cooler she get’s up excitedly, and if she loses site of me she starts to bark quietly. Still a long way to go, and so far our biggest challenge.

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A little nap

A little nap

At night we don’t have much of a routine yet, I kind of let her roam around the house while I do the evening chores, and we walk again at least one more time. Last night Nick and Dolly were playing, inside with her well-worn Frisbee, and it’s amazing nothing got broken and nobody got hurt. It was good to see both Dolly and Nick excited and having fun. Tonight is no swim class, running group, month-end, gymnastics, parties, etc., so we may actually have some daylight to run around the yard or walk the neighborhood.

This weekend Dolly will be by herself for short periods- no dogs allowed at the chili-fest- but she may be allowed in the park for my race and Nicks fun-run on Sunday. Sunday she get’s to see our camper, which we are moving to a new campground, and go camping with us on Sunday-Monday. She may be shy around new people, but overall she’s an adventurous dog, and I think she’s going to like camping. I don’t think she’s ready for a hike yet, but we are exercising every day and I expect her stamina will improve. She and Nick could both use some hiking, I think they are at about the same level now. Tonight I asked Nick to come for walk with me and Dolly, and when he found out I wouldn’t push him in the stroller, bailed. An offer to ride his bike had no effect.

I’m taking bets on how long before Nick ties Dolly to his bicycle and tries to get her to mush.
Yea, he’s my offspring.

And This Time I Mean It

I was determined Dolly would not sleep on our couch, as she did at Moms. I would crate train her, and have her comfortable in the crate and not allowed on the couch. Yea, that lasted a day.

Last night I left the office with Dolly in her crate, and when I came back she was on the couch. I called her sternly, but she didn’t move a muscle. In the 30 seconds I was away she left the crate, jumped on the couch, got comfortable, and fell half asleep. I tried to move her but she was dead weight, and not going anywhere. She looked so comfortable and was so relaxed, looked like she had been there for hours, I couldn’t help but to let her be. When I went upstairs to go to sleep, for once she didn’t follow me, she stayed downstairs on the couch.

I’m certain I’ll start the no-couch training tomorrow. And this time I mean it.

A Busy Day

Today was a busy and exciting day for the dog called Dolly. We started out with a morning walk, which I dreaded until I stepped out into the brisk New Hampshire morning, with all the dew and morning sun and crap like that.
It was actually a nice clear morning (because nice matters(tm)) that turned having to walk Dolly into getting to walk Dolly. It was short, and poop-in-a-bag free.

After the morning assembly-line of getting ready, we got into my truck and Dolly had the look of “I hope this isn’t another 6 hour trip, because I can’t tell time but the last one sucked”, and luckily we had a quick 12 minute trip into Dover, and Dolly was excited to egress the vehicle so suddenly.

Everyone at work loved Dolly, it was great to see such affection and kindness, I guess because Dolly is so sweet. She walked around our roughly 1000 square foot office, sniffing and looking at the nine people at their desks, but often shying away from approaching them for affection, especially if they motioned toward her. She was fine with people coming over to her and paying attention, but shes still a leery dog.

I couldn’t go out of eyesight without her getting up, and often barking lightly or whining. Luckily Dolly’s new friends were happy to jump in and comfort her so I could at least go potty. Nick will be 17 and I’ll still be calling it potty, probably just to embarrass him in front of his friends, I imagine.

The separation anxiety may require someone with more dog-whispering skills than I possess, it’s not subtle. For now, I bought her her own new home (crate), and filled it with memory-smelling things, and will slowly begin periods of separation. She went into the crate voluntarily, and seems to like it and know it’s her home. Seriously, are all dogs this easy?
She also got a new tag tonight, so if she gets lost people won’t be calling New Jersey with information on her location in Market Square.

The cats won’t go near her, although Tabitha is kind of daring her with slithery cat stares as she darts to different parts of the house. Tabitha went upstairs to my bedroom, let’s see where that goes tonight. I think Dolly was in and out of ours and Nicks rooms last night, but I was so tired I’m not really sure if the flying monkeys did deliver the ice cream, or if Dolly spent more time in Nicks room than ours. The flying monkeys may have been a dream, because the ice cream never melted.

I think she liked being busy today, and I think she will like the routine. As for me, someone owes me a few hours of sleep per day.

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The First Night

Mom’s dog Dolly started her physical journey into our and her-new lifes Tuesday afternoon.  After an hour in the truck, she waited until the first rest-stop to throw up what was left of her heartguard-newton, and have diarrhea, awesome.  She wouldn’t eat, but drank a little water.

The rest of the ride she wouldn’t eat or drink or excrete, but would sit on the front seat and watch whenever we stopped and left the truck (cause the 4-and-a-half-year-old did not have the bowel stress of, but a lot more apple juice to drink of had, than the dog)  and she got me in the habit of putting the armrest up so she couldn’t jump in the front seat when I left the truck.  Not sure yet if that will become a rule, but today, yea, it was gonna be like that.

Home, 6 hours and 20 minutes after we started the Zero Stress Experience(tm) -Nick with headphones on randomly at-the-top-of-his-lungs screaming “Hi-Ya” and a dog that could at any minute explode shit onto everything inside the truck*- Dolly was really excited.  She knew this was different than the other 72 stops we had made that afternoon, and I think she knew it was my home.  And maybe hers?  Probably not.

She fell right into place, walked right into the house and sniffed everything, and 10 minutes later was eating and drinking like she owned the place.
She followed us around, sniffed everything while wagging her tail, and did the bull-snort all over the place (I have no idea what the bull-snort means, in terms of behavior, but she rocked it).  She would whimper and bark whenever she couldn’t see me, this should be fun.  A big goal is to get her OK being by herself, which is not something she’s used to, her whole 5 years she’s rarely been alone.

She is listening to the few commands I give her but I don’t think ‘stay’ is part of her vocabulary, as she looks at me as if I just asked her to explain the Pythagorean theorem.  That’s one of my favorite theorems, and she didn’t know squat about it.

Dolly fell asleep in Nick’s room when we were in there reading books, but she followed me downstairs to register this domain and write this before I go to sleep.  We read two fun books of the many that Mom-Mom had sent to Nick through the mail, “Hooper Humperdink” and “Pete and his Four Groovy Buttons”.  A few minutes ago Dolly gave me a look, one that only a female of any species could produce, and went to sleep in Nicks room.  It looks like she’s going to sleep in his room, and I’m sure that’s imprinted from mom who could not love Nick more.

She acts curious about the cats, but I accidentally let her and Sabrina get too close while Dolly was lying down and they all jumped at the same time and spun their claws on the hardwood floors, desperately trying to move but just frantically flailing their limbs but getting no traction, which sounded as would imagine and looked like it would look in a cartoon, which was pretty cool.

After a while the cats got some traction and eventually moved and almost hurt themselves run-sliding into the basement, comically flailing their limbs the whole time, while dolly chased them for a short distance before I stopped her.  I wish I would have been aware they were about to face off, because earlier I was able to calm Dolly while she and Tabitha did the new-animal stare at each other in the kitchen- stare, look away non-nonchalantly, stare, look away non-nonchalantly…, and it feels like the run-in tonight may have ruined forever their relationship.  The cats are 16, so it’s not a long forever.

Tomorrow Dolly comes with me to work where she’ll meet my 3-day-a-week co-workers, who will love her.  They know Dolly’s situation and know that she feels a profound loss.  And I know that they know that for a particular reason that’s special in a dog.

That’s the first day of the rest of the life of a dog called Dolly.

Dolly lying down on Mom's shirt the first night.

Dolly lying down on Mom’s shirt the first night. You could see in her eyes that she missed her.

* like losing an eye, funny until it happens to you – and this is why I don’t camp