My Dog Made It Through Her First Year Without Me Killing Her, In Words and Pictures

Despite my best efforts, my dog Molly has made it through one year of life relatively unharmed. When I started writing this blog on her actual birthday, May 20th, I was going to say that the first six months were extremely eventful and chaotic, and the most recent six months were relatively unexciting. But as you’ll see below, excitement and chaos often pops up unexpectedly when it comes to dealing with a puppy.

Per my usual dog-blogging format, here’s one year of Molly’s life by the numbers:

1: Years old in regular time

7: Years old she’s supposed to be in dog years

67: Years old she acts most of the time…You try to walk her for longer than 10 minutes on a day where the temperature is above 65 degrees and she will fall to the ground and turn into dead weight, absolutely refusing to go any further. You then have two choices: carry a 96lb dog a half-mile back to the apartment, or pull on her leash so hard that the pain from more walking is far less severe than the pain from strangulation. Also, even though she is about six feet tall and extremely muscular, she gets on and off our couch as if she is the oldest, brittlest  dog on the planet.

96: Pounds. Yes, as far back as six weeks ago we started telling people that Molly was done growing. She really hadn’t gained any weight at that point after hitting the 90lb mark. After weighing her earlier this week, it appears we aren’t that lucky. The race to 100lbs is officially back on!

There was a time when Julie could easily hold Molly like this:

IMG_1270

And now you can see the back-breaking effort (literally) it takes to pick her up:

IMG_2533

IMG_2537

9: Months we owned Molly before Julie finally came over to my side in the “should our human-sized dog be allowed to sleep in the bed with us” argument. Once upon a time before we got the dog, Julie and I agreed that it wouldn’t be sleeping in our bed ever, and then Julie immediately changed her tune after we got her. When I call her out on this, Julie’s response is always, “Yeah, but I didn’t know back then that I was gonna love her so much.” Pathetic. But finally a couple weeks ago Molly’s constant moving around and seizuring during her puppy dreams kept Julie up for just enough of the night that she decided it was time to recapture our bed from the dog version of Andre the Giant.

1: Number of times we rushed the dog to the Emergency Room in an absolute panic because she might have eaten some grapes. Listen, you can laugh all you want at taking our dog to the ER for grapes, but ever since we got her (the first dog either of us has ever owned, by the way), we’ve been repeatedly told by the Vet, other dog owners and people who can’t mind their own business that there are two human foods besides chocolate that are absolutely deadly to dogs: onions and grapes. So on that fateful Sunday night when we saw Molly standing over a pile of grapes that was magically sitting on the floor, how were we supposed to know whether she had actually eaten any or not? And even if she had just one, we were told by the ER staff to bring her in. Two very long hours later, we at least had an answer as to how valuable our dog’s life was to us…

350: The value, in dollars, that we put on Molly’s life during the Great Grape Debacle of 2013. The doctor told us there were two options: they could give her some medication that would try to block any toxins that were entering her bloodstream from the grapes, which would cost $350 and we’d be taking her home that night, or we could keep her at the ER for 72 hours while they constantly pumped her with IVs to combat those same toxins, which would cost a minimum of $2,500 but would provide a near certainty of her not getting kidney failure. We felt good about spending the $350 for the take-home medicine…because we knew she was a strong dog that wouldn’t get taken down by a measly little grape. Not at all because that additional $2,000 was needed for our vacation fund.

1: Additional times Molly has visited the ER since I initially wrote the above two paragraphs a week ago. I guess her health was going too smoothly (two months without a vet visit!)…in the mystery of mysteries, Molly developed a bunch of red bumps all over her back one day while she was home alone. When one of them started bleeding, it was time for another ER trip. But at least this time we got a deal, only $270 for the visit and a bunch of meds! But seriously, absolute mystery to the doctors…could have been bitten by something, could have had an allergic reaction to something, could have been just because she was missing me while I was away so much that she figured the only thing to get me home was to put herself in the emergency room. Well it didn’t get me to end my trip any sooner, and now she has a temporary deformity from her fur being shaved:

IMG_2617

IMG_2616

100: Percent of the time that Molly consumes mass quantities of ocean water when we take her to the beach.

100: Percent of the time that Molly has the equivalent of a fire hose spraying brown water out of her ass after she consumes said ocean water.

1: Number of household items Molly has partially destroyed since I last wrote a blog about her New Year’s Eve destruction. Unfortunately it was the only piece of furniture we’ve purchased since moving to LA. Poor papasan chair:

IMG_2525

3: Days each week that Molly refuses to eat her breakfast. This one still confuses me, but I refuse to spend any more time or mental energy trying to understand her quirks. I read a comment on some random website that said dogs aren’t genetically programmed to eat on a schedule multiple times a day like humans are. They’re programmed to be able to go long periods of times without food because their ancestors in the wild would only eat when they found available prey. Right or wrong, this explanation is good enough for me.

2: Hard metal objects that she’s walked into face-first in the past 10 days. She’s definitely become a better walker over time, but she still has to look at every interesting thing during a walk around the neighborhood. And when that interesting thing is another dog, she will watch it for as long as she can, even as we make her continue walking. So it wasn’t totally surprising that she walked head first into a metal street light pole the other day when I was with her. And it turns out just a couple days later, Julie was crossing the street with Molly and she decided to pay attention to another dog rather than where she was walking…which ended up with her smacking her face against the side of a car that was waiting at the stop light. I know this dog isn’t actually my child so we don’t share any DNA, but I did once run face-first into a parked car outside of church while playing tag with my friends. So I guess it runs in the family?

Areas where we’ve seen significant improvement since we adopted her last summer:

Acceptance of being in water: Every time we’ve taken her to the beach over the past year, she’s gotten more and more daring with the ocean. When we took her a few days ago, she finally started chasing other dogs all the way into the water until she couldn’t stand anymore. She’s becoming obsessed with it, which I discovered can be a bad thing when I took her for a walk next to a sewage run-off a few months ago and she decided to jump in. Also, her second favorite thing to do at the beach besides go in the water at this point is to freak out on the sand as if she’s never felt such an amazing substance before. Check out this short video to see what I’m talking about:

Freaking out when she sees another dog: She’ll still let us know with firm pulls on the leash that she wants to go play with the dog she sees across the street, but at least she doesn’t go into full freak-out tantrum mode any more.

Acknowledging that her owners exist while at the dog park: This is an important one. I won’t say she’s the perfectly obedient dog when she’s playing with her friends, but at least now if we call her, there’s a 50/50 chance she’ll listen and come to us. This is especially important when a dog fight breaks out and Julie or I are sitting 50 yards away from it (as for the amount of dog fights I’ve seen, I’d guess it’s about 10 in eight months of going to the dog park. Probably four or five have ended in bloodshed for a dog or a human, but never Molly or us).

Treating her crate like a bed instead of a prison: Finally, finally! She voluntarily lays down in her crate when she’s tired. No longer does she treat it like a prison. No longer do we have to literally shove her into it when it’s time to lock her up. It just goes to show you that if you make the rest of your apartment scary and uninviting enough to a dog, they will in fact seek shelter in their crate.

Areas of no improvement or where she’s gotten worse:

About that water thing: The one exception is taking a bath. We try to bathe her once a month before we apply her flea treatment, and she’s as terrified of it today as she was at three months old. As soon as we get her in the bathroom, she turns into dead weight, forcing us to lift her into the tub and hold her there while she slowly tries to lean her way out of it. Not sure what it is about the tub, but it’s another one of those things that we’ve given up on trying to figure out.

Car entry and car rides: I’m not sure which one I would classify as worse, the fact that she won’t jump into the car on her own (never, not once in 10 months of having her), or that when she’s finally in the car, she will stay sitting up and rapidly panting the entire time she’s in there (even if it’s a six-hour ride to San Francisco). She hates everything about the car, which is weird because most of the time we put her in the car, we’re taking her somewhere fun. We’ve tried roughly 300 different arrangements to make her feel comfortable (putting a bed in the backseat for her, putting her favorite toys or stuffed animals in there, putting her in a harness that attaches to the seatbelt, and most recently, buying a dog hammock for her to lay in). None of it works. Tough to be a dog in LA and not enjoy car rides.

Separation anxiety: When we first got her, Molly hated being away from us, even if we were just in another room of the apartment. Then she seemingly matured and didn’t mind when we left her in the living room alone. And now she’s back to screaming bloody murder any time we force her to be more than five feet away from us. I’d like to think this has nothing to do with the fact that I’m always home with her so she hasn’t had to deal with being alone in the apartment all day, but let’s be honest, that setup probably hasn’t taught her to be independent.

So there you have it. Molly is good at some stuff, terrible at other stuff, but always entertaining. We’re thinking about getting four or five more puppies next month just to spice things up around the house (and to provide me with more dog-blogging material). Stay tuned.

IMG_2307

IMG_2570

IMG_2494

IMG_2349

IMG_2620

Advertisements

Six Months of Molly (Finally Throwing a Bone to the Non-Football Readers)

[Editor’s Note: To my non-football fan readers, I realize there have been eight consecutive football-related blog posts over the past three weeks and not a single non-football post. I’m not going to say I’m sorry because I’m really not. I guess I’ll just say “I warned you.” Right now there are only four things I do with my life on a daily basis: watch/read about football, watch a ton of TV, do my school work and take care of my dog. I will probably never write about my school work because it’s just as boring as it sounds. That leaves three topics of expertise, and obviously one of them has been dominating the blog. But today for all the non-football fans out there, I’m giving you a dog post. And if you don’t like football or dogs, then you should probably never click on this blog again.]

So Molly probably turned six months old today! (probably because the insane woman we adopted her from probably pulled a birthdate out of her ass just because we were asking)

In dog years, that means Molly is about three-and-a-half years old. So if she was human, she’d be watching a lot of cartoons, starting to read Dr. Seuss books, probably playing with dolls (or more likely action figures of Boston athletes) and talking a lot (honestly, I have no idea what a three-year-old human does all day long…school? sleeping and eating just like an infant? no idea whatsoever). But she’s not a human. And no matter how many times I think it’s about to happen, she can’t talk to us. So we’re forced to guess what she actually likes and what she’s thinking at any given moment. Her daily routine goes something like this: wake up at 8AM, go out to the bathroom, mill around the apartment looking for a toy to play with for about 30 minutes, eat breakfast, sleep for at least two hours immediately after breakfast, go for a 30-minute walk, annoy me for two hours from about 12PM to 2PM, sleep in the crate because I want her out of my way, play time at the dog park from 3:30PM to 5PM, sleep from whenever we get home from the dog park until she hears us pouring her dinner into her bowl, outside again for the bathroom, 30 minute hyper mode where she almost runs through our sliding glass door, fall asleep by 10PM, sleep for 10 hours.

Sounds simple, easy and predictable right? But there’s so much more going on every day, so let’s take you through only the most interesting parts of Molly at the six month mark:

-Maybe the most interesting thing is her size. When I posted a status update on Molly after we had her for one month, she was 36lbs. That was just over two months ago. She now weighs an alarming 66lbs. At her current growth rate of 15lbs per month, she’ll be over 200lbs by next July. She’ll also be about seven feet tall.

-In the first blog post about us adopting Molly, I joked about the number of times we had wanted to take her to the vet for every little thing that seemed wrong (she didn’t eat all her food, her poop was weird, she looked at me funny). Except it really wasn’t a joke. Now the pendulum’s swung the other way, and it would probably take a bunch of things happening at once for us to be alarmed. She can throw up all she wants now, but I’m not springing into action unless she’s vomiting, breathing funny, walking with a significant limp and bleeding out of her eyes all at once.

-The thing I’m most confused about with Molly has to do with her ability to sleep through some noises but not others. For example, we took her camping for the first time last weekend, and we timed it just perfectly to have to sleep in a tent for two straight nights during torrential downpours. Now you’d think a puppy who’s never experienced camping, sleeping in a tent or even rain for that matter would probably wake up throughout the night and wonder what the hell was going on around her. There were moments when the wind was blowing so hard that our tent was actually starting to cave in on certain sides. And yet this puppy never once woke up during any of it. But then on the other side of the coin, let’s say she’s taking a nap on the couch, and I’m in the kitchen 30 feet away. If I so much as touch one of her bags of treats and it makes a crinkling sound, her head pops up, her ears get erect and she’s immediately locked in on my every movement. The ability to listen for something food-related while she sleeps is just remarkable to me.

-Like I said earlier, since she can’t communicate with words we can only guess her favorite and least favorite things in life. After this past weekend, I’m willing to bet her favorite discovery in life so far is mud:

-And though we don’t have a picture to show for it, I’m certain her least favorite thing in life is going outside to the bathroom at night after she’s already been asleep for a while. If she falls asleep at 9PM and we don’t go to bed until 11, we’ll take her out right before we go to bed. It’s not just that she’s reluctant to go downstairs at this time, it’s that she literally tries to hide in every “safe spot” of the apartment as soon as she sees one of us get the leash ready…behind the couch, on the couch, under the table, in our bedroom, on our bed and even in her crate. She will try out every one of those spots in rapid succession in the hopes that either we won’t find her or that we’ll understand just how badly she doesn’t wanna go anywhere at that particular moment.

-As an unemployed writer raising a dog, you can bet that I’ve been trying to think of different dog-related money-generating schemes since we got Molly. I briefly thought about turning her into a show dog or breeding her, but those options seemed like more work than I was willing to put in. With the amount of people, particularly women, who stop me on the streets to pet Molly and say how cute she is, I thought about starting a service where I rent Molly out by the hour to guys who wanted a conversation starter with random women. But I quickly realized I’d be single the moment Julie found out about it. But Julie’s actually the one who turned me on to my best money-generating idea yet: Black Market Poop Bags (or “BM Bags” for short). Our apartment complex provides free bags at all the exits for dog poop. Usually I grab about 15 at a time and stuff them into my pockets so we never run into a situation where we actually have to pay for these. The other day Julie called me out on being a Poop Bag Hoarder, and I couldn’t agree with her more. So why not capitalize on it? A quick google search shows me that a roll of 400 bags sells for about $40 (10 cents per bag). But I could come in and undercut even the best prices because the raw materials, labor and manufacturing cost me exactly $0.00. My only expenses would be the time it takes me to put all the bags into a larger packaging bag, the cost of the actual packaging bag (though I’m sure I could find a way to just steal a bunch of grocery bags or something), and shipping. What could possibly stop Ross’s BM Bags from being a hit? As far as the legality of it all, I dunno, but I’ll be spending time over Christmas with an accountant and a lawyer who know how to make these things work.

-On a serious note, you remember the “octagon” that we use when Molly’s really acting up? That playpen/gate device we put her in until she calms down? By some act of god, we don’t have to use it anymore. We haven’t used it in probably five or six weeks because suddenly Molly doesn’t go through those terrible behavior moments anymore. What’s our secret? We bring Molly to a dog park almost every day and let her get her ass kicked by a bunch of big, aggressive dogs. We realized if Molly spends one hour a day literally running and fighting for her life, she’s much more likely to chill out at home.

-And finally, I’d like to share something about parenting that I never understood until now: The second and third children always turn out better than the first because of the guinea pig factor. I know the next time we get a dog, whether it’s one year or 12 years from now, we will be better prepared to raise a dog and teach it right from wrong. This is not unlike parents raising a human child…that first kid is always the guinea pig, always the child that causes parents to say, “Well, we fucked that up, but now we know for the next kid how to do it.” The first kid is an experiment, and if he happens to grow up and doesn’t become a serial killer, that’s just a bonus. Kids two, three and beyond are where your perfect parenting techniques really shine.

On that note, I need to run…gotta get Molly back to the shelter so we can get going with dog number two.

Revolutionizing the Puppy Reward and Punishment System

We’re trying a new reward and punishment system with Molly because the traditional way—chocolate ice cream when she’s good and slaps across the face when she’s bad—doesn’t seem to be working. From now on when she’s a good little bitch, she gets to wear the coolest shirt a dog’s ever worn:

And when she feels like being a piece of shit? The CONE OF DEATH!

And yes, that’s a piece of orange freeze pop in her mouth…someone had to undermine my punishment with an uncalled for reward.

Another reason to get away from rewarding her with food, other than the fact that it’s ineffective, is because I’m sick of giving Molly the heimlich maneuver every night.