Expectation versus Reality

My Awesome Dog herself, Risa.

Expectation:
– Go anywhere, do anything dog
– Walking buddy
– Agility dog
– Social and friendly with kids, dogs, and people
– I get to show off all I know about dog training
– Snuggly

Reality:
– Afraid of everything
– Great in the house; a behavioral mess outside
– Scared of kids and dog reactive
– Participating in dog sports requires a well-thought-out plan and additional stress
– GI problems throughout life
– Also IVDD, cancer, and allergies
– Project dog that required me to seriously rethink everything I knew about dogs. . .and a lot of what I thought about life
– Brilliant training partner
– Did not like to cuddle

Fuzzy Noodle boy, Kyu.

Expectation:
– Go anywhere, do anything dog
– Super amazing sport prospect
– So. Much. Potential.
– Bomb proof
– Playful
– Great training buddy
– Healthy
– Snuggly

Reality:
– Chronically ill with IBD
– Challenge to train; doesn’t learn like Risa plus he’s chronically ill
– Great hiking buddy
– Clingy (and not in a good way)
– Super dog-focused (I’ve moved to the opposite end of the scale here)
– Loves to cuddle

Young padawan, Kyber.

Expectation:
– Good combination of the traits I love about both Ri and Kyu
– A way to continue to grow and learn more about training
– Great sport dog
– Hiking buddy
– Fun and playful
– Social and confident
– HEALTHY PLEASE I CAN’T HANDLE ANOTHER CHRONICALLY ILL DOG

Reality:
TBD

Regardless of my hopes and dreams about my past dog, current dog, and future dogs; I will love them and do the best I can for them. The struggles are a chance to learn and grow. The relationship we share is the most important thing. <3

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Give Me A Break

I’m tired. I love my dogs but I’m tired.

Risa had several chronic illnesses and problems. IBS, food sensitivities/allergies, IVDD, and a chronic UTI at the end. Plus her slew of behavior problems. I spent her entire life managing problems. Don’t take this the wrong way; I love that dog. I love her more than words can say. But it’s tiring.

Kyu is not much better. He’s behaviorally normal but his IBD is far more stressing of a chronic illness than Risa’s IBS. His disease reared its ugly head and became a major problem about a month after I had to say “good bye” to Ri.

After trying to manage his GI troubles with diet, we attempted to treat with antibiotics. After 2 months, there was no improvement so I finally recognized I had no choice but to have an endoscopy/colonoscopy done so we could figure out what is truly going on. I received the results last weekend and it was as expected. White blood cells in his intestinal lining and some cells indicative of difficulty in processing fats. At least there were no overt signs of disease. He had some inflammation of his esophagus so we did a 10 day course of omeprazole and sucralfate. Now it’s on to tougher medicine for life-long management. He’s not even 5 years old.

I’m frustrated. I’m tired. I haven’t been able to catch a break. I spent 12+ years managing Risa’s issues only to spend another 2+ managing Kyu’s. And his breed is long-lived so I’m looking at another 10+ years of this. I love my dogs. I love them despite all the bullshit I have to deal with to keep them happy and healthy. But I’m tired. I’m really tired of having to deal with this. I just want to enjoy having a dog.

Along with his health issues, Kyu doesn’t give me a break in life either. He’s so sensitive to the smallest slight that half the time I have no idea what I did to mess things up. One day something is fine to do and the next time I try it he outright refuses. I have no idea why. It’s so damaging to our relationship and I don’t even realize I’ve done it. I know some things are obvious. He’s clearly not a fan of liquid medications (which is going to be a problem) and it was not exactly fun for either of us to try and get that taken care of. He did not want to go into the kitchen because he knew it was coming. One morning he ran away into the bedroom and wouldn’t come out. I can easily see why these moments are stressful for him and I could develop training plans to work through them. It’s the ones that come out of seemingly nowhere that leave me baffled and frustrated.

Like why do you no longer like to do the scratch board for your nails? I have absolutely no idea how I ruined that but now I get to fix it. Hopefully. Especially since nail trims are still his #1 most horrible thing Mom does to me ever.

With Risa, even if she didn’t like it, she’d let me do it. That’s not ideally how I want to build a relationship with my dogs but at least I knew I could do it if I had to. Kyu is not that forgiving and it adds further challenge to our lives together.

I’m frustrated. I’m tired. I just want to enjoy spending time with my dogs without so much emotional baggage.

Posted in GI Issues, IBD, IBS, Thoughts, Training | Leave a comment

Love/Hate Relationship

Handsomest Noodle.

I love my dog. I love the relationship we have and I love how ridiculous he is. Kyu is a lot of fun. But I also hate that he is chronically ill. I’ve been trying to manage his IBD for 2 years now. It’s a lot better than it was but he’s still not 100%. I can’t get him to stay stable and so he’s often not feeling his best. It’s been a long time since he felt great for any length of time. This makes him less fun to be around when he doesn’t have the desire to do anything. When he’s chronically underweight. When he refuses to eat food for weeks at a time.

He’s under the care of a great internal medicine doctor and I’ve been in contact with her about everything so that’s not the issue. We’re on the next option for treating his disease, antibiotics, but I worry that is bound for failure as well. And how long do I wait to determine if it’s working or not? It’s incredibly frustrating.

What’s most frustrating, however, is I feel cheated. Like I can’t have “my dog.” Kyu is doing well enough. He goes on walks and hikes. He chases squirrels. He plays with his dog friends. He does some training (mostly just PT work at this point). But he’s not himself. He doesn’t play much. He sleeps a lot. I’ve had times where I’ve caught glimpses of who he is but they’re infrequent and they don’t last. I feel robbed of this wonderful dog because of his disease. I don’t even care about his future in dog sports; I just want my buddy healthy.

It doesn’t help either that the world is still on lockdown. Moods are low. Anxiety and depression high. It makes it much easier to ruminate and feel disappointed about my dog’s current state. Why can’t he just be healthy? What did I do to deserve two chronically ill dogs back to back? If my next dog is chronically ill, will I give up on owning dogs altogether?

I’m hopeful I can get Kyu back to 100% again (or at least like 98%). I owe him that. He deserves to be happy. Even if life isn’t fair.

Posted in Decompression Walks, Dog Food, GI Issues, Homecooked, IBD, Thoughts | Leave a comment

Dog Training as Therapy

Dogs often find a way to change who we are. To force us to become better people.

For me, dog training has always been a bit therapeutic. A way to challenge my skills, learn new things, and connect with my dog. A way to work my brain and learn more about how brains work in general.

During this COVID craziness, in person dog training classes aren’t a thing for me. I’m not teaching nor am I taking. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to sign up for some online courses so that I can take the time to work on some of Kyu’s neglected skills while I help repair his injury and gut. It’s been nice to still have things to work on and that teacher/student connection. And sense of community. I’ve enjoyed having specific tasks to work on rather than just jumping around on various skills like I usually do.

The class I’m currently signed up for is new: Success with Sensitive Dogs. Risa was a sensitive dog but not nearly to the extreme Kyu is. I certainly feel some of his sensitivity is tied to his GI issues (which are improving) but it’s still something I wanted to work on with him.

What I hadn’t anticipated was how therapeutic the class would be for me. How cathartic it would be. I had to examine my own thoughts and psyche to dig down deep into the roots of our problem. Like, I know any training issue is always my fault. 🙂 But I really had to do some serious soul-searching to figure out why. I had to analyze myself, my thoughts, and my actions to really understand why I was doing what I was doing and how it was affecting our relationship. It was hard. I cried a few times. I was finally recognizing things about myself that had to change.

I learned a better way to cope with my thoughts (which affect my actions in dog training. . .and life). I came to understand that I needed to address aspects of myself that were only hurting our relationship (and, really, hurting myself). It wasn’t what I expected but it has been what I’ve needed. Never would have thought a dog training class would be actual therapy! But here I am learning how to be a better person all because I wanted to do better by my dog.

Posted in Dog Training Seminars, Fenzi Academy, GI Issues, Thoughts, Training | Leave a comment

New Plans

Noodle in his element.

Nothing ever goes according to plan.

Like most of the world, I’m on lockdown from the COVID-19 crisis. Dog training classes and trials are canceled. Parks are closed and or allowing limited access. We don’t know what’s coming next. There’s a lot of disappointment and stress.

Fortunately (or not), I have no FOMO (fear of missing out) right now. I am where I have been for more than a year now; trying to get Kyu to feel better. His IBD is mostly under control but he’s now nursing an iliopsoas strain. We had just returned to our agility classes and Kyu was feeling great GI-wise. He was happy and willing to work. But he couldn’t pull off any turns to the right so I pulled him. Took him to the vet for an evaluation (days before we were no longer permitted to go in with our dogs) and he was diagnosed with the iliopsoas strain. I have a feeling it’s been a chronic issue for him. Something I wish I’d realized sooner. Story of my life, I’m afraid.

While we’ve been on lockdown, my focus has been on healing his injury. No easy task since I couldn’t get him evaluated by our local PT team prior to everything closing up. I was able to take an online class through the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy which has been helpful in getting him on the road to healing. But it’s a long journey. He’s not ready to resume normal life yet. Especially not trialing. Most of his training has gone out the window as well as my focus has shifted to getting him stronger and letting his injury heal. Even if things do open up again for trialing this year, it’s unlikely we’ll be doing any.

In addition to his injury, his GI problems are still a thing. He decided to go off food again. I at least think I have ascertained the reason why. He really needs probiotics to feel well. He was off of them for about 2 weeks and everything went to hell. He wasn’t eating and lost at least a pound of weight that he couldn’t afford to lose. I can’t get him to gain weight at this point so I definitely didn’t want to see him lose anything! Once I got the probiotics again and started him on it, it took almost a month for him to start eating consistently again. It’s been longer than that now and he’s still not eating as much as he should. He’s at least acting okay and put back on what he had lost. But it’s a frustrating struggle. It’s been almost a year and a half that I’ve been trying to get him stable and healthy. He’s closer now than he’s ever been but we’re not there yet. I try not to let it get to me. Stressing over his eating just turns him off of it more. But it’s hard to build muscle and strength to recover from injury when you’re not eating enough calories.

My little woodland sprite.

I had so many hopes and aspirations for him. Just like I did with Risa. Though I’m struggling, depressed, frustrated, upset, annoyed, and unhappy with how our journey has gone so far; it doesn’t mean I’m giving up. It took 4 years for me to get Risa comfortable enough to compete and the work wasn’t over then either. There is no timeline. My focus has to be on his health. We can’t even enjoy our usual day-to-day fun if he’s not healthy.

The road together will bring us many places. It’s already taken one glorious turn: into the woods. I’d always loved the forest (save for ticks and poison ivy) but never really spent much time in actual wooded areas. There were paths that were paved through the trees and other semi-natural places but nothing like actual jumping over trees and splashing in streams hiking. While Kyu and I struggled to connect (partially because he still didn’t feel great), we started taking weekly hikes into the wooded spaces around town. This was easy to do in the winter as most people don’t venture out in the cold and snow. Plus I had no concerns about ticks or poison ivy. I wasn’t sure it was something I would continue as the weather grew warmer. . .but I have. Now, more than ever, I appreciate the quiet refuge of the forest. When everything is going to hell around me, I can connect back to the Earth with my dog. I’ve had to cut back on our hikes to allow him time to heal but I couldn’t eliminate them completely for long. I needed it as much as he did.

While Risa introduced me to canine freestyle, a sport where I am most at home and comfortable, Kyu brought me home to Nature, another place where I am at ease.

It may not have been my plan. . .but I am glad he forced my hand in the same way his predecessor did. <3

Posted in Fenzi Academy, GI Issues, IBD, Physical Therapy, Thoughts, Training, Veterinarian | 2 Comments