Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Thunderstorms: 2, Bella: 0

Last week I talked about how Bella's fear of storms and thunder was outside of my realm of expertise. It was panic, not just ordinary fear and it only subsided when I was able to make it appear to her that thunder had stopped. This little bit of trickery didn't really last long as the next thunderstorm that sent us scurrying to the basement was far more dramatic than the first and I couldn't quite drown out the noise.

First things first

Not really knowing what our options were at the time and being in the height of thunderstorm season here so limited in our time to explore them, our first recourse was our vet. They must have seen cases like this before, they must have ideas, experience, something that could help her.

I love our vets so please don't take this badly but they are pretty traditional types and that, along with not really having seen what Bella was going through and perhaps not understanding the depth of her fear, led them towards the traditional route of medicating her during the 'events'. Unfortunately, the first thing they prescribed for Bella's fear was Acepromazine. They gave us four pills. We have 3 left. Here's why:

I did some research at my go-to blog for all things scaredy-dog, and found this article about Acepromazine by Debbie Jacobs over at fearfuldogs.com. Reading this article now breaks my heart for what we put Bella through. Yes, once the medication kicked in, she seemed calm (downright vegetative, in fact) but her sensitivity to noise and storms afterwards ascended to new heights. Essentially, we took a dog that was afraid of something, did nothing to calm her fear and then paralyzed her ability to react to it. Nice. (I will get over my guilt someday...)

Round two

This is your dog on drugs...
(Not really, that wouldn't be nice.)
Armed with this information, we went back to the vet to discuss some of the recommendations in the article, primarily the use of Valium. On the bright side, our vets know us and know we're going to question them after we've had a chance to do our own research. We are, after all, ultimately the ones responsible for Bella's health and well-being. (This is why we do love our vets - they expect, and allow, us to challenge them.) We left that afternoon with an order for Diazepam.

And that did have the effect of helping Bella to rest if not actually sleep during the storms - if we got it into her in time. So while we were relatively pleased with the result, here's 'the rest of the story':

  • The drug must be taken 1 hour prior to an event. That's pretty tough around here where storms can move in over a matter of minutes, not to mention half of them happen when you're asleep.
  • It turned her into a zombie and she slept for hours afterwards.
  • As a result of her zombie-fication, we obviously couldn't use it on a daily basis over the course of the storm season.

And so it goes...

So Rounds 1 and 2 went to the thunderstorms and our search for something that could help Bella when she needed it to, continued. I can recommend folks talk to their vets about Diazepam if they live in areas where thunderstorms are fairly predictable and/or the storm season short-lived. Our season is essentially April - September so it's a bit long to leave a dog on hard-core tranqs for the entire thing.

And since it appeared this was going to be a long-term challenge, we began looking into less drastic means of helping Bella cope. In the next installment, I'll discuss our attempts to use natural supplements and scents to stem the fear.

To be continued

I know from last week's comments that lots of my readers are dealing with thunder/storm phobias. Have any of you used either of these drugs and, if so, what was your experience? Are you still using them? Did they help/hurt? I'd really love for this to be a discussion because, while things are better in some ways, we've still not found the complete solution. Ever learning...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday's Dog: Celebrating the wins

When my friend, Cindy, and I got together at the end of December to photograph some of the dogs available for adoption at Buddy Dog Humane Society, we got in 11 sessions - 11 dogs. Between then and now, 5 of those dogs have been adopted! At this rate, we have a better batting average for adoptions of the dogs we haven't featured here. ;)

Today, I'd like to take a moment to celebrate the wins, the dogs who found their forever homes, the ones who keep hope alive, the ones who prove there are families out there looking for dogs as wonderful as these. I'm just thrilled to have had the opportunity to spend a day playing with them.

So kick back, put your feet up and enjoy the awesomeness of happy dogs.






Happy tails, pups! May all your days be as much fun as this one was.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday 24 - Theo

Apparently I have been remiss in acknowledging that I have, on occasion, shared my life with cats as well as dogs. So, here's proof of such: Theo, God rest his precious little soul.

Note: Given Bella's extraordinary prey drive, as well as Jan's cat allergies, it would be foolish and irresponsible for us to adopt a cat at this time. Instead, I live vicariously through my sister who's just this side of 'crazy cat lady'. I'm hoping to share some of her kitty pictures here over time.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Things that go boom in the night

It was a dark and not-so-stormy night. At least that's how it started...

Fast forward to June 2009

This is what happens in New England: You go to bed on a lovely summer evening only to be wakened abruptly by the furious crashing of thunder and lightening around 2 o'clock in the morning. (Or at least you do if you're the female half of this equation - Jan will sleep through the apocalypse and wonder where everyone went when he wakes the next morning.) I don't know why storms here like to occur at this particularly ungodly hour but that's kind of the way of it. Luckily, I tend to be both a light sleeper and a bit of an insomniac so at least one human in the household is capable of functioning during these events.

Insert perfectly irrelevant picture of pretty dog here.
If you've been following the blog for any length of time, you probably know this already but for anyone just joining us, it's important to our story to know that Bella was born on the streets of Puerto Rico. Without shelter for much of her first 5 months during an extremely active hurricane season, perhaps we should have anticipated her excessive reaction to the first boomer that blasted through our area that summer. As it was, we were caught totally unprepared.

In my rather long history with animals, I've known plenty who "didn't like" thunderstorms - my mom and dad's dog, Misty, used to hide under their computer desk whenever it stormed. It was evident she didn't like them but there were no visible signs of panic and dread. Within moments of that first crack of thunder, however, it was clear we were dealing with a different beast in Bella's reaction.

Houston, we have a problem

It was tragic to watch our little girl tremble, pace and pant in abject terror. She had learned with many of her fears to come to us for reassurance, perhaps protection and she did try this with the thunder by climbing into bed with us. We were unrealistically hopeful that she would settle and lie down with us but she preferred to stand - on Jan (well, that's one way to wake him up). Honestly, I think we could have lived with that. It was when she started trying to climb the headboard of the bed that we realized this was going to be a problem: Bella was trying to escape.

She was in a blind panic and I was fast approaching the same - this couldn't be good for her physically. I had no idea what to do - my mind raced to all I had read about fearful dogs:
  • Control the environment - um, well yeah okay but if I could do that, I'd be rich.
  • Remove the object of fear - again, not so helpful here, moving on...
  • Move the dog away from the object - wait, what? We may have just stumbled upon something remotely useful.

Bella's couch.
Short of putting her in the car to travel outside the storm area, we did have a slim possibility of removing Bella from the frightening situation. At least it was worth a try. I sent Jan back to sleep (not that this required much coercion), grabbed the dog and headed to the basement.

Our basement, yay for me, is finished and in fact where we have our "entertainment" area. Unsure what to expect, I turned on the television to some station that was playing music and turned the volume up - way up - until it drowned out the sound of the thunder. Soon, Bella climbed up on the couch next to me, let out a heavy sigh and promptly fell asleep. And this is how she and I have spent pretty much every single thunderstorm in the three years since.

A first on Bringing up Bella: The series

We have tried just about every product on the market to help her with this debilitating fear: drugs, wraps, scents, sounds, TTouch, you name it. Nothing has proven 100% effective. Over the next several weeks, I'll lay out what we tried and our experience with each.

And now for the requisite disclaimer: I am not a vet - my discussion of medications is strictly anecdotal. The products being reviewed were purchased, not offered to us for review - I will present my experience and give an honest opinion. I hope if folks have had different experiences, you will feel welcome to offer them and your own opinions here as well.

Finally, I have virtually no pictures of Bella from during these events. While a visual study of fear displays in dogs may be useful, I'm her hu-mom not her scientist.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Saturday's dog: Althea

What is is about a picture of dog with ball that can raise a smile to the face of any viewer?

Meet Althea.

Althea is a 3-year-old Shepherd mix available for adoption at Buddy Dog Humane Society in Sudbury, MA. She is full of energy, friendly and affectionate. She would do well in an active home that can keep her well exercised and mentally stimulated. (Read: She's smart!)

So once again, here's my weekly plea to ask you to help get Althea's story out there so that active family who's looking for her can finally find her. You can just click here to tweet her story or here to post her to your Facebook stream.

As always, thank you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cheating (but everybody loves a video)

Hi ho, folks. So, I've been both sick and swamped with a work project and admit to taking the cheater's way out for today's post.

I've had this video tucked away waiting for just the right moment to unleash its adorableness on the world. The moment is hardly perfect but today seems to be the day if only because I don't have the energy to pull off anything else. (I promise, I'll stop whining about being sick any day now.)

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this video of the crazy, silly dog waiting at the back door of her (former) BFF, Maggie. This is why I still have hope that the two girls will work out their differences and be BFFs again... (Edited to add: Since many are wondering what happened between Bella and Maggie, I haven't actually written about that yet - it's complicated. But the beginning of the story can be found here: On Meeting Maggie

My apologies to those having trouble viewing the video. I don't know how to get around it not playing on the iPad etc but this version might work to get around the YouTube content dispute (which, for the record, isn't impacting MY playback of the video. Hrumph...) I'll have to work on it tonight. It really is going to be one of those days. :(

If neither of these are working for anybody, can you please let me know in the comments? Thanks.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday 23 - Snow day!

Okay, so this snow day was 2 years ago back when Bella and Maggie were BFFs. ("were BFFs" - is that an oxymoron?) We haven't had any snow this year and I'm kind of missing it. I really miss seeing the girls romp though, in snow or otherwise...

This just in: Bella and I were featured on Coffee with a Canine today. It was great fun and we really appreciate the opportunity to participate.

Side benefit? I finally have some pictures of me and Bella together. (One of the hazards of being the shutterbug in the family is not having any pictures with you in them.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pet Blogger Challenge 2012

Pet Blogger Challenge Jan. 10A few weeks ago I signed up to participate in the 2012 Pet Blogger Challenge hosted by Go Pet Friendly and Will My Dog Hate Me.

Laying out a set of questions to answer, I think the idea started as a way for bloggers to talk about their blogging experience and realize many of us face the same issues, concerns and rewards.

At the very least, it's an opportunity to examine our own motivations and ambitions as well as consider where we're headed and what we want out of all of this.

Here's my take:

  1. When did you begin your blog?

    My first post was published on August 7, 2011

  2. What was your original purpose for starting a blog?

    Like more than a few of us, I think, I had wanted a place to capture Bella's stories and pictures so my husband, Jan, and I could look back on them in later years. I didn't really know anything about blogs and blogging but I signed in to my Google account one day and noticed this application they recommended for me called 'Blogger'. I thought maybe this Blogger thing could aid in my desire to write Bella's story.

  3. Is your current purpose the same? If not, what’s different? If so, how do you feel you’ve met your goals??

    It's largely still the same: tell Bella's story. But it is different in the way that it's a much less private venture than I was expecting it to be which changes and challenges my own expectations of it. Its "purpose" has expanded to include campaigns and events that bring awareness to things I support such as animal rescue, adoption, anti-cruelty... All these things have tremendous meaning to me and knowing I have a public forum to help address them gives me a responsibility to do so.

    However, I'm not sure I'm doing a great job meeting my original goals yet - Bella's stories are getting lost among all the other things on the blog right now and I think I'm going to have to go back to its roots and place my focus there for a while.

  4. Do you blog on a schedule or as the spirit moves you? If the former, how often — and what techniques do you use to stick to it? If the latter, do you worry about… well, whatever you might worry about (e.g. losing traffic, losing momentum)?

    I blog on a schedule, mostly. I have a 'real' job that, sadly, does not include writing, talking about or taking pictures of dogs so the blog is a hobby (one of many) and as such, gets relegated to hobby hours. It also takes me a long time to write a decent post, in some cases taking days from inception to publication. I am a fanatical researcher as well as a web design snob so I try to make every post "just so" before I hit the publish button. (Throw a little OCD into the mix, and well, you can maybe see why I'm not posting every day...)

    I try for at least 3 posts a week though: Sunday/Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. Wednesday and Saturday posts have a theme so that's pretty easy. But the Sunday/Monday posts are my stories and they can be challenging.

    I had my first case of writer's block a few weeks ago. I knew the topic I wanted to cover but couldn't find an angle in to the story. I'm not sure I have a "technique" to deal with it so much as just bull-headed brainstorming and writing. Brainstorming includes talking things out with my incredibly supportive and generous husband, Jan. But when all else fails, I just write. And write. And write. Eventually I'll get something out that I can work with.

  5. Are you generating income from your blog? If not currently, do you hope to in the future — and how?

    Are you kidding? I have 34 followers and half of them are my friends. Luckily I love my day job. (Oh wow, I just checked - I'm up to 41 followers! Thanks for that.)

    I don't know about the future. I doubt it. It was never the intention of the blog but I know better than to say never.

  6. What do you like most about blogging in general and your blog in particular (bragging is good!)?

    I like telling Bella's stories and I really like that a few folks out there think she's worth reading about, too. I've always been a story-teller so I enjoy the creative outlet the blog provides. I'm also a geek and I love tinkering with the technology. Mostly, I just love bragging about Bella. She's so amazing to me, so resilient, so smart, so charming... The blog is my poduim to sing her praises to the moon whether someone's listening or not.

    I have really enjoyed the commaraderie of the pet blogging community. Being an introvert, it can be overwhelming to me to be especially social but online it's a bit different - I can be social but on my terms, at my times and I can withdraw if I find myself floundering in the deluge. And the people I've met, how warm and welcoming and funny and supportive they are, it's been a truly rewarding experience.

    I absolutely love reading other people's blogs. The amount of talent and wit that's out there is extraordinary. Plus, I'm kind of a freak about dogs, so you know, that part's full of win.

  7. What do you like least?

    I probably least like the same thing that started this Pet Blogger Challenge with Edie and Amy last year: the feeling that the blog is in control and I'm not. I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I started and I panic a little at times when I think of trying to keep this pace up long term. I've got to figure out how to balance what I love about the experience while minimizing the panic.

  8. How do you see your blog changing/growing in 2012?

    I honestly don't know. I've started getting offers to advertise on the blog and write reviews. (Seriously? That's kind of geez, I don't even know. You won't find me speechless often so enjoy the moment...) I don't know how I feel about that whole side of things.

    Like I said earlier, I think I have to go back and focus on Bella a little more. She's already got so many stories to tell, and I can't wait to share them.

So that's it. Thanks for letting me play in this sandbox. It's been rewarding, frustrating, challenging and a true joy. Be sure to hop around the blog hop and see what other folks have to say about this crazy experience we call blogging.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Saturday's Dog: Sasha

Look at that face!

You might think by looking at her, that Sasha would spend about fifteen minutes in a shelter before someone came along and scooped up this charming young dog (still less than a year old). In fact, she has already spent a few months there and her puppyhood is slipping away.

She's a sweet, somewhat shy Miniature Pinscher mix who looks a bit like a teeny, tiny Chocolate Lab. She has spirit and spunk to spare and doesn't appear to be nervous around other dogs. She was shy around me (our first meeting) but not with Cindy whom she knows. She's a funny, very playful puppy and, like all puppies, will need some assistance in becoming a confident, grown-up dog. An adult household would be best because she's both small and a bit 'intense'.

Don't you just want to throw that ball for her?

Sasha is available at Buddy Dog Humane Society in Sudbury, MA.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Monday, January 2, 2012

Be careful what you ask for...

Note to self: Never ask Bella to think. You might not like what she brainstorms.