Have I gone crazy!?

I live downtown in an itty-bitty apartment with not just one, but THREE children all under the age of 5 and my hubby. We have a cat. I work as a receptionist at a vet clinic seeing lots of puppies and kittens every day. You'd think I have my fix, right? WRONG! We end up opening our heart and our home to 2 rescues... and that's it! I must be dog-gone mad!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The End of the Line

I'm at a loss to even describe how to end this blog.

And yet, without Pepper, I don't even know how to keep it going.

I was going to blog here about how Pepper was developing behaviors that were getting on my nerves. On everybody's nerves. She could not help but yap and bark at every sound; the recliner, the door, the microwave, a phone ringing in the movie we were watching... But I didn't have the time to do anything other than the usual, "Hush Pepper!" To which she responded by peeing.

Then we had a visit with a potential landlord to meet Aspen (previously known as Bella). See, we were trying to move in to a bigger unit, but the landlord had breed restrictions. She agreed to meet Aspen even though she's a Staffordshire Terrier which is technically a Pit Bull, even though landlords and home owner's insurance don't like the "PB" word, I was very frank with the owner that she would have to meet Aspen and judge for herself. I was half expecting not to get the unit because of Aspen's undeniable Pitty face.

What happened I was not expecting.

Landlord comes in w/ baby in tow. Meets Aspen, who is terrorizing the poor kiddo with kisses. She falls in love with Aspen...

... Pepper is barking and growling, incessantly. Getting louder too, until our ears were blaring and we could not hear ourselves think. Growling at the landlord and the kid. I had to grab her and physically muzzle her mouth shut in order to muffle the sound, but before I was able to hold her, she snaked around me, peeing and pooping on the floor. I was mortified. Landlord asks me, "Is she (pointing at Pepper) always like this?!"

I didn't think so. We've had company before. She maybe growled and paced a little, but was fine if she could escape to the room, be left alone. Was she always like this? The question made me realize it was time to talk to her vet.

I brought her to the clinic and asked if her veterinarian could take a look at her - maybe recommend anti-anxiety medication to settle her down before she scares any other potential landlords away. Maybe she saw the winds of change. Maybe it was Aspen? We've fostered other dogs before, they never bothered her.

I heard a shriek while at the reception area, but I didn't even realize it was her. Her vet said she came unglued, turning blue, lunging for her face, peeing and pooping, squealing unprovoked at the top of her lungs.

And it all goes downhill from here.

I trust this veterinarian whole-heartedly. She's a woman I admire personally and look up to - the kind of person I "want to be when I grow up". She would not have brought up euthanasia if there was any other way.

Realistically, I had to face the fact that Pepper may have psychological issues for which operant conditioning and positive reinforcement could not help. The danger of trying medications is, that like hormonal or mood-altering medications for humans, if the medication is not effective it can actually make things worse. Way worse. She could lose all bite inhibition and be aggressive. I also had to face the fact that I could not keep my children away from Pepper 100% of the time for the rest of her life. Not even close. She was a ticking time-bomb. Re-homing was not an option. And she was a threat to my babies, even if unintentionally.

As I type all this, I still feel like I sold her out. What if all this behavior was my fault? I didn't take care of her right. She wasn't always like this - why did I do this to her? Or was she and I was blissfully ignorant? Did I have her euthanized because I preferred a 3 bedroom home with a yard for my children over her? No. When I looked at the place, I pictured Pepper as a part of the home; finally having a yard to run around in come summer time, laying on her bed in front of the fire place next winter. Is it fair that I was either going to feel guilty for putting her down or feel guilty for choosing a dog over the well-being of my entire family? No! Never before had I thought of Pepper versus kids/cat/husband. We were all in this together! I was willing to accept that moving out of that one bedroom place was going to be difficult because I owned a Pitbull (Pit, Staffie, whatever... same thing on an insurance policy). I would've stayed there and not have given up Aspen for a bigger apartment. I didn't euthanize Pepper because of an apartment. I had to because she wasn't well and the potential that my children might get hurt was not worth the risk.

But no matter how I look at it, 2 weeks later as I'm writing this last blog I'm bawling my eyes out and it's still my fault. And the gap that is left in my heart aches so much I don't even know what to do with myself. We moved in two Saturdays ago and since then I've been working myself to exhaustion with cleaning, moving, and unpacking to the point of driving myself sick because I don't know what it's like to sit and relax without Pepper on my lap. I have not been able to turn on my laptop since.

To me she looked ok. It wasn't like Max, who was visibly tired and physically hurting. She was fine on my lap, watching a movie, riding in the car....

I couldn't prolong it or delay it. I would've changed my mind. I didn't want to wait until she became something else - something different from the Pepper I knew all year. I took her to the clinic early that Saturday morning, sat with her in my lap as she was wrapped in her favorite blanket. She got an injection of a strong sedative that put her straight to sleep, before receiving the final injection. As she fell asleep in my arms I told her what a good girl she was, what awesome things she got to do that would've never happened if she stayed at the pound. And I told her that it wasn't her fault, and I was not mad at her. I told her she didn't have to experience fear or anxiety ever again. I told her I had planned a lot of fun things for the summer, and that I was sad we weren't going to do them now. And I asked her to forgive me.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Adding another Terr...ier

I enjoy my activities with Pepper. She finally got the hang of going jogging with me. Her training is still held behind by her nervousness, but Paul reminded me how much she has improved. She used to be afraid to take a treat from my hand. Now she begs for treats! She was practically anorexic. Now she's more of a resource guarder. She growled at everybody. Now she greets everyone at least for a few seconds before she decides to growl.

And yet I know that she is bonded to me more than anyone else in my family. And while she tolerates my kids it doesn't necessarily mean she likes them.

Cue "Bella":

Bella came to our radar through Alaska Dog and Puppy Rescue when she was dropped off at the Mat-Su pound REALLY pregnant. The poor little pit bull terrier was dropped off at the pound during the night too. She was pulled by the rescue and fostered in Wasilla.

Bella turned out to be a total love bug. For the rest of her pregnancy and her delivery all she wanted was to have someone pet her. She followed her foster mom around the house, dragging her big pregnant belly around.

She delivered 8 puppies, and by the time they were weaned you could tell she was done with being a Mom. You could also tell she was only used for breeding and didn't know what it was like to be a companion animal; though she craved it. She didn't want to raise puppies, she wanted to sit on your lap and chew raw-hides. Got excited about playing fetch but didn't quite know what to do with the ball.

Since foster mom had 4 out of 8 rambunctious puppies left, I took Bella to foster and give her a break. Pepper tolerates her, although she doesn't want to play with her - but Pepper is kind of a grumpy old soul and it takes her a while before she wants to play with anyone anyways. Leo goes from threatening to scratch to rubbing himself against her, I swear that cat is bi-polar.

But when we get home, the kids all jump on the sofa and she jumps in the middle of them to cuddle and give them all kisses. Caleb, our toddler, can lay on her to watch TV and she doesn't mind it at all. I think the only adjustment is that when she gets too excited she can easily knock the kids over and they don't appreciate that much. But on the other hand, she's so gentle and careful around them that she hardly ever does.

Considering Paul changed her name to "Aspen" and we have a coat, a gentle-lead harness to teach her how to walk without pulling (and holy moley can that dog mush!), I'm pretty sure once she's spayed and vaccinated we are the ones to adopt her. Even to the greatest home, I don't think we can let her leave.

She's housebroken by instinct, doesn't have a chewing complex, seldom barks. She knows sit and waits for you to release her before she'll eat her food after you put the bowl down in front of her. She's only about 30 lbs and shorter than Caleb. It hasn't been an inconvenience at all.

If anything her face is so funny. Her expressions are hilarious! Specially when she's trying to play but not quite sure what to do with you. It's a little painful when I sit down, and she sees Pepper jump up on my lap, and she jumps up too. She puts her front paws on my shoulder and licks my ear, tries to hug me like she's one of the kids.

And she tunes into Paul like no other. She's constantly watching for him, waiting for his permission, and for his affection.

Well I don't call this blog "Dog-gun' mad" for no reason. But it feels like our family is complete. It's odd that I go to work, see a bunch of cute puppies and doggies and kitties, and the only thing I think about is how bad I want to get home to cuddle and play with mines.