Saturday, March 31, 2012

Happy Anniversary

Twelve years ago today I married my best friend, my soulmate, and the love of my life. Happy Anniversary, Steve. I love you more each day and look forward to spending the rest of my life with you.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Busy Mind

It doesn't require being around Fry very much to realize that, despite his courage and friendliness, he is a very anxious natured pup. Whether it stems from his largely unknown circumstances as a baby, genetics or something else is a mystery and really not important. What is important, to us at least, is helping him live as anxiety-free a life as possible. After he experienced what was most likely a panic attack type episode a couple of weeks ago while on the multiple-hour drive home from a visit to the mountains, we decided to seek the advice of our veterinarian to see what we could do to alleviate some of Fry's anxieties.

The doctor initially ruled out any physical causes with a thorough physical exam and when that was deemed normal, she offered some suggestions to assist Fry psychologically. This included starting him on a very low dose of a mild anti-anxiety medication to help quiet some of the background noise that his busy mind apparently has running as an undercurrent which keeps him in a relatively constant state of anxiousness and worry. While I'm generally not a big fan of medicating my companion animals, I'm willing to at least give it a try if it might help Fry live a more psychologically comfortable and happy life. So we agreed to a short trial of a very low dose of the medication.

Our vet also suggested that in conjunction with maintaining Fry's current  high level of daily physical activity, his busy mind also would benefit from additional mental stimulation in the form of trick training and games since he is already pretty well versed in basic obedience with an extensive vocabulary of known words and phrases. He appears to enjoy learning new things, so we agreed that this would likely be something to engage his mind that he would enjoy as well. So we got him a clicker training device along with a special retrieving toy and set about beginning his new training program.

It's been a couple of weeks now since starting Fry on his medicine and training program, and I have to admit I'm already seeing great improvement in his attitude, confidence, and overall sense of psychological well-being. It only took a few minutes for him to figure out the clicker and realize that it's a really good thing. In fact, within just a couple of days, he began to seem almost as happy to hear the click as he was to receive the yummy treat reward! I carry the clicker on our walks and mountain bike rides to periodically reinforce his off-leash recall, and he also gets a brief training session each morning before we leave for work and each evening when we get home, and he seems to enjoy this bonding and training time immensely. I'm truly amazed at the number of words and phrases he knows, and it's such a thrilling and proud moment for all of us every time he learns another (which seems to be every couple of days lately)!

I've also noticed over the past several days that his behavior both on and off leash has improved dramatically. He is becoming less hyper-reactive to seeing other dogs on his walks, and is even beginning to walk on a loose leash now. Where he used to lunge and pull hysterically every time he saw another dog while out walking, he now seems more focused and engaged with my instructions, and less distracted, which has made walking him a million times easier. :-)

Since Fry loves games, we've also been working with him on "fetch" using his new retrieving toy and his favorite Jolly ball, along with the clicker, and I'm pleased to say he is now bringing his toy or ball to us and dropping it for us to throw it again where he used to just grab it and run. He's also been getting half his dinner in a puzzle food dispenser, which he loves pushing, pulling, rolling and twisting all around the house in order to retrieve his kibble. He has a variety of these puzzles, since he is quite intelligent and figures out even the more complex ones in short order, so we have to rotate them to keep him interested.

I know there is still much progress to be made, but I'm beyond pleased with my little man thus far and I'm so glad to see him maturing into such an increasingly content, psychologically comfortable and happy boy.

Happy 6th Birthday Andy!

I can't believe it's been six years already - Happy Birthday Andy!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Finding My Happy Place

Today was one of those days. It started out innocently enough - laundry, some general housecleaning, and preparing for an afternoon visit with one of Fry's doggy friends. With a break in the weather around midday, we began work on the back deck while Fry was out in the yard with us. I was trimming some scraggly bushes when I noticed a squirrel hanging out under the storage shed, but fortunately it had been keeping a low profile and Fry didn't seem to notice it, so I wasn't overly concerned at first and everything seemed fine. But that's when it all came crashing down. I saw Fry freeze at attention but before I could take two steps to get to him, he had already charged toward the little critter. The next sound I heard was a chilling scream and then Fry came running out of the bamboo stand with his face covered in blood and splattering red sprays of it everywhere. I managed to sponge off his face enough to see that at least his eyes were unscathed, but he had a terrible looking gash across the front of his nose where apparently the squirrel had clawed him in its attempt to escape; the wound appeared to continue inside the nostril. There was so much bleeding I wasn't able to tell if he had any other injuries, so I called the emergency animal hospital to let them know we were on our way there.

Upon our arrival, the hospital luckily was empty of other patients so Fry was able to be seen right away, although he did manage to splatter blood all over the floor, several of the waiting room chairs and the technician's shoes and pants before being taken back to the treatment area. :-(

After a short while, the doctor brought Fry back out and told us he had given him some narcotic pain medicine and glued the nose wound back together. It immediately began separating, however, so he took the poor pup back and applied some additional skin glue. They had us wait for another 15 minutes or so to ensure this application was going to hold, and then sent us home with instructions to keep Fry quiet for at least a couple of days (yeah, that's gonna be easy), watch the wound for any signs of separation or bleeding, and to give him Benadryl as needed. They said the wound was not terribly severe but was in a very difficult to heal area so if there were any of the above signs, to call right away since he would probably then require cauterization of the wound - hopefully that won't be necessary.

We brought Fry home and he has been sleeping restlessly with intermittent whining and whimpering, and still seems rather out of it, probably due to the narcotic. I plan to stay here with him tomorrow to monitor the wound and make sure he doesn't paw at it or rub it, opening it back up. Unfortunately, the glue came off within an hour of arriving back home, but a call to the vet reassured me that unless it began bleeding actively, I should just keep a close eye on Fry and monitor him for bleeding, wound separation or signs of infection.

I had just settled Fry down on the couch for a nap when Steve somberly walked in and told me he found the now deceased squirrel. Poor guy only made it maybe two steps from where he and Fry had tangled, and most likely died of internal injuries. I don't know that Fry intended to kill the squirrel, but the tiny thing really didn't stand a chance against the jaws of a 52 pound dog, and honestly I'm more than a little surprised that Fry was even able to catch it in the first place.

I've been feeling a little blue and sort of "lost" emotionally of late - probably due to spring coming and finding me so overweight, out of shape, and just generally feeling disconnected from my youth I guess - so this whole incident made me very sad and weepy and I really needed to find a happy place.

Wandering aimlessly through the house while Fry was napping, I serendipitously noticed my recurve bow on its hanger and decided on a whim to take it down and run a quiver or two of arrows through it.  As arrow after arrow found its mark in the bullseye with seemingly no effort on my part, I slowly began to feel some of my sadness and stress slipping away. The funny thing is, archery is something at which I will in all likelihood never compete. I don't find myself searching for tournaments, "practicing", or "training" or anything else stressful or pressurized with it. When I'm standing behind my bow, I'm necessarily tall, bold and confident, with a dedicated focus on putting the arrow exactly where it needs to be, but somehow there is no pressure because it's just me and the bow and when I draw the string and arrow back, that is all there is at that moment in time. And maybe that is WHY recreational archery seems to be a Happy Place for me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Happy 2nd Birthday Fry!

Happy Second Birthday to my beautiful Fry - you're maturing into such a wonderful little man!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Homecoming

The past few weeks have been a homecoming of sorts for me. A reawakening of my Inner Child who I'm learning to welcome back with open arms instead of rejection, acceptance instead of criticism, and unconditional love instead of disappointment.

Taking last place – and I mean dead last place – at a mountain bike race this weekend brought me to a pleasantly surprising realization.

No matter how much skill and fitness I may have lost over the past few years off the bike, how slowly I may currently maneuver my way through the single-track, or even my diminished capacity for competitiveness, I still love to ride.

I understand – and accept – that my racing days are long over. But that does not in any way limit my enjoyment of simply being on the bike.

Even after all these years, it’s still a part of me, still who I am in fact, and still brings my spirit to a joyous place like no other sport.

It’s a time for quiet reflection and listening to the music that calms my inner storms, whether it’s the sounds of nature in the woods or selected songs I play through my ear buds.

It’s a feeling of freedom.

An attachment to Mother Nature.

A connection to what I love.

An opportunity to attain goals and meet challenges, on my own terms, whether it’s making it all the way up a small hill.

Or just riding for a longer distance than the last time.

Biking gives me the chance to spend active time with my dog, Fry.

Sometimes he leads.

And sometimes he follows.

But he’s always my companion.

Even if he’s just watching and waiting for me.

I’ve tried many other sports and recreational activities over the years, but mountain biking is the one that speaks to my heart.

The one that makes me feel alive and complete.

I’ve come to realize I’ll never be fast, or competitive, or even terribly skilled. But none of that matters because even as I slowly pedal around the trails and walk the scary sections, I still love to ride.