Monday, July 28, 2014

Bella's list of fears grows shorter

Waaaaaayyyyyy back when I first started this blog, I wrote a post about all the things Bella was afraid of.

It was a pretty big list.

In the same post, I listed how many of those fears she had already managed to overcome.

I couldn't have been more proud of her for facing all of that.

But it's time to update that list once again.

There are still a few things that Bella needs our help and encouragement to face but her list is so much smaller now I almost wonder what I'm supposed to do with a blog about a scared-y dog when she's not so scared-y any more.

Here's where we left off back in April of 2012:
Things Bella was still afraid of
  • People (general)
  • Dogs (general)
  • The vacuum cleaner
  • Bugs that buzz (flies, bees, etc)
  • Beeps/alarms
  • Storms (wind, heavy rain, thunder)
  • The snow-blower
  • Things that fall on the roof (acorns, stones, branches, snow...)
  • Agility obstacles (in progress):
    • Teeter-totter
    • Tippy boards
And here's we are now:
Things Bella is still afraid of
  • People
  • Other dogs
  • Beeps/alarms
  • Thunderstorms
She's still not fond of bugs - but only when they are harassing her and that's not fear, that's annoyance and rightly so.

Bella's also still not thrilled with the squirrels who seem to think the shortest distance between two points is over our bedroom roof at 6 o'clock in the morning. She still gets up and leaves but it's not the distressed, frantic scamper that it once was.

And while she's learned to self-sooth for small storms by going to the basement by herself, the considerable storms we've been having here in Massachusetts as of late have proven she will always seek our comfort for the big bad booms that go bump in the day or night. 

(To be fair, there was a thunderclap so loud and house-rattling the other day that, even though I was in the basement with her, I jumped out of my skin. I think her nervous reaction to such is what one would have to classify as, uh, normal.)

But here's something new, something that jumped out at me when I looked at the pictures in that original post. When I first wrote these lists, it never occurred to me to put something like "toenail trimming" on them because it was so far outside our realm of possibility - as you can plainly see by the dagger-like talons she's sporting in those pics.

Yikes!  Look at those claws!
Well, guess what, folks? Toe-nail trimming? It is now on her "I'm not afraid of this anymore" list!

Prior to putting Bella on Gabapentin as we did in January this year, in the 5+ years(!) I had been working with her to achieve the toenail trimming milestone, the closest I had ever been able to come was holding her foot in one hand with the Pedi-Paws turned on in the other. Any attempt to bring the buzzing tool closer to her was met with a dash into another room. (I never pushed beyond that point because it was clear she was "over threshold" and I'd be doing more harm than good.)

What follows is a tragically uninspired video of Bella getting her toenails trimmed. While it will mean little to the vast majority of people who come upon it, it represents a once unimaginable step in Bella's development to me and Jan.

There has been more than one occasion in the last 6 months where Jan and I have looked at each other and said "What happened to our dog?" Not in a bad, "oh no she's broken" kind of way but in a "how did she get to be so normal?" fashion. Her reaction, or lack thereof, to the vacuum cleaner surprises me each and every time and the fact that I can trim her toenails with (relative) ease is something I never expected to witness.

She is my brave little girl even if she did need some pharmaceutical assistance to get there.

Now that we have her under threshold as a general rule, it is incumbent upon us to teach her the coping skills she needs to survive whatever life throws her way in the future. We finally feel that's a real possibility. She is a good student, quick and eager to learn. We just have to have the patience and persistence to guide her in this journey.

And now we know, it is at least truly possible.

Author's note: We learned today that Brewster has rescue in San Diego. We are in awe of our friends, Tim and Lorrie, for the incredible heart-ache they have assumed in order to give Brewster a real shot at a happy and fear-free life. We are saddened by their loss but so incredibly happy for Brewster as he engages in this new journey. Best wishes, Brewster! Here's hoping your new family will drop a line every now and then so we can watch you flourish.

Disclaimer: If you happen to click on that link to the Pedi-Paws and decide to buy one for your own pup, I'll get a small commission. I'm pretty sure I'll not be getting rich off the deal but for the sake of full disclosure, it needs to be said. Same thing with the treats in the background: Zuke's Mini Naturals if you were wondering. Both were purchased by me and are not part of any promotion or advertisement.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

So, this is awkward...

I received this message in my email on Monday:
"Hi Leslie,

Congratulations! Your blog is a finalist in the 2014 Petties category for Best Video Post. I have attached the 2014 Petties finalist badge for your category.

Voting for the 2014 Petties will begin later today. We are currently working on setting the voting page live. Voting will continue until July 31st midnight PST. I will be reaching out again soon to get more information from you.

Congratulations again! Please let me know if you have any questions.

Christina Kwan
Director of Marketing and Product Development
DogTime Media, Inc

To be honest, I found out about it from some friends on Facebook before I even received the email.

So it should come as no surprise that I found out from the same friends that there was a new "complete" list of finalists. A "complete" list of finalists that was kind of missing some of the original finalists. I never did get a follow up to the original email telling me the first email was sent in error. What I got instead was a blanket "Hey yeah, sorry for the confusion, here's the real list."


When I was first told we were nominated for a Pettie in the "Best Video" category, I was psyched. I've made a few videos, worked my tail off to do so and thought, "Hey, that's cool that someone nominated us." I still think it's very cool that someone somewhere out there thought enough of us to nominate us for one of these awards. I really do.

But when I went out to see which video made the cut, I was more than a little confused. The video that we were up for was hardly worth the nod. So I guess I wasn't really too surprised when I found out that the first email about being a finalist was sent in error. And I'm REALLY glad I didn't rush out to tell you all about it.

However, some of my friends who were on the original list of finalists and weren't on the revised list are big-name and popular blogs who had every reason to believe they were appropriately nominated as noted in the first email. Kol's Notes, The Writer's Dog and Dog House Adoptions, Oz the Terrier and Pawcurious all deserved to be on that list and believed DogTime when they told them they were finalists encouraging them to recruit their followers to come out and vote for them.

When the "complete" list came out and they weren't on it, they had every right to be angry and embarrassed for asking their followers to go over and give DogTime the traffic. And they never even received the slightest hint of an apology from DogTime for the mix-up.

Not cool, dudes.

I feel bad for everyone involved. But here's the thing with my nomination. The video that made the selection for us didn't even make sense. I barely edited it, never mind slaved over it as folks who make good videos do. I knew something was wrong. I wasn't going to ask you all to vote for us because I was embarrassed by the video that ended up on that finalist list.

It's too bad though because I've made some good videos (the one "not really" a finalist notwithstanding.)

It would have been nice to get that recognition. It would have been even nicer to get the prize money for Save a Sato had I won. But I wouldn't have won with the video that was nominated and the folks who are in the finalist list deserve to be there where I did not.

Truth is, I had a video do everything I've ever wanted earlier this year - it went "viral". Well okay, it went "viral" in parts of the the scared-y dog community anyway. But really, no award can compete with how it feels to hear from folks who have been encouraged to keep working with their fearful dogs because they've seen evidence that these dogs can succeed in overcoming their fears.

If I had a choice, this is the video I would have submitted to the Petties for 2014. Who knows, maybe I'd have given some of the real finalists a run for their money.

"Bella Learns to Jump" was 18 months in the making. (I first wrote about it here.)

Bella was afraid of sticks and poles not to mention the clicker so we literally started with just a stick on the floor encouraging her to come into the room. She made this video and it's better than anything I could have ever done on my own.

There isn't an award in the world that can make me more proud of this crazy dog than what's in that video right there.

"The Petties, DogTime Media’s annual awards show recognizes the best of the pet blogging community. Through this program, DogTime has donated over $50,000 to shelters and rescues across the nation. In addition to bloggers, the Petties honor nonprofit organizations and volunteers who have dedicated their lives to helping homeless animals."

Bringing up Bella extends our sincere congratulations to all the 2014 Petties Finalists. Good luck to all!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"A Home for Brewster"

Last week Maggie Marton spent some time over at "Oh My Dog!" considering the question "Why do I blog?" I've recently been giving this question a lot of thought.

As you have probably noticed by now, I'm struggling to keep Bella's blog going. But in considering the question "why do I blog?", I was reconnected to what started this whole silly mess in the first place: Bella. And dogs like her.

I have been so blessed with the contacts and friendships I have made through this blog and so lucky to help a person here and there not feel so alone in dealing with their scared-y dog. I don't have all the answers. Heck, I don't know if I have any answers most of the time. But if one person sitting on her bathroom floor in the middle of the night trying to help her fearful dog cope feels just a little less alone in this world because of this blog? Well, hey, that's a moment I never anticipated experiencing when I started this endeavor.

But not every story about a scared-y dog is going to end positively.

Some people just don't have the wherewithal to deal with the situation they've been handed. Others may have family situations that prevent them from being able to tolerate the potential risks that come with keeping a fearful dog.

And then there are some who realize their personal situation just isn't the optimal life for the fearful pup. The ones who will sacrifice their own broken hearts to give their dog a chance at a better life.

My friend, Lorrie and her husband Tim, are those kind of people.

They adopted their dog Brewster, a handsome hound with an extraordinary fear of thunderstorms, from a local shelter in south Florida. If I recall correctly, they actually meant only to foster him but upon coming to understand the full extent of his fear, they felt they couldn't adopt him out until they had worked this issue through with him and adopted him into their family instead.

This really is one seriously handsome hound.
That was three years ago and they have diligently sought out every treatment path and plan to help Brewster learn how to cope with the thunderstorms that terrorize him.

But they live in south Florida where thunderstorm happen every day during the summer months. There is no escape to the basement for Brewster, no respite from the barrage of daily storms.

He is a great, social and happy dog during the winter but becomes anxious and depressed 6 months of the year because he has now generalized that cloudy days might mean the arrival of these terrifying storms.

But he gets so depressed...
Lorrie and Tim have come to the difficult decision that Brewster's life would be happier spent elsewhere - in a drier climate with the opportunity to escape the constant threat of his worst fears.

Towards that end, they have put together a beautiful website detailing everything they have tried to do to help Brewster overcome his fears and why they believe he would be better served living in a more temperate zone. The video on the home page gives you a glimpse into who these special people are and how much they love this beautiful boy.

Would you please help share their story and spread the word about the "Home for Brewster" webpage? After much research, they are aiming to find a home for Brewster in southern California and will personally transport him to his new owners.

Please take a moment to hop on over to his website to read more about Brewster, his tribulations and his wonderful adoring family who are willing to sacrifice their own broken hearts for Brewster's well-being and happiness.


Loves people and other dogs - he's an ideal pet sans stormy weather.