Monday, March 26, 2012

The most fabulous weekend

I will admit it....I love being lazy. Laying on the couch, doing nothing all day, is my favorite place to be. But I have to have my favorite beings with me - the dogs and Trevor. Without them, its not the same.

We used to spend most of our Sundays on the couch. Its our only day off and we almost always start it with a long run, then we'd come home and hit the couch. We've eat, watch movies and nap all day long. Buster and Maggie love it too. They would also snooze with us and it was our best snuggling time.

Asha came to live with us on July 9th and we haven't had a relaxing Sunday on the couch since. She refuses to settle down, she wants to run and bark. As I've mentioned before, Maggie would get really upset with Asha, so we were all on high alert. Not relaxing at all.

I have been longing for a relaxing Sunday. We had a brief glimpse of this a couple weeks ago. Asha feel asleep for a bit and I think I napped on the couch for about an hour. The next weekend we went right back to our normal chaos.

Saturday nights used to be my favorite too. That's the only night of the week (except Sunday) that Trevor and I are both home at 5:30. We get to have dinner together and relax on the couch, catching up on all our DVR'd shows. That also stopped when Asha came to live with us. Saturday night became more an exercise is energy management - trying to keep Asha busy until it was time for bed.

This weekend, the stars aligned and we went back in time to our "normal" weekend habits. Saturday night, Asha was very calm. While we ate dinner, we put her in the kennel with a bone. After we were done eating, she wanted to come join us on the couch. And she did. She layed right down and snoozed. Sometimes her eyes would be open and she was just relaxing, some times she would sleep soundly. Maggie and Buster were in heaven. I was too.

Sunday morning, we went for our usual run. Afterwards, we came home and had breakfast. Again, Asha went into her kennel with a bone. Its too much to have her and the other two dogs around us when we are eating. Food can set off both Maggie and Asha, so we just keep them separated.

After lunch, Asha came out of her kennel and again settled down on the floor by the couches, where she slept for almost two hours. I took a nap and Trevor watched a movie. After a bit, Asha woke up and jumped right up on the couch with me and Maggie, where she snored away for another hour.

After she woke up, we took all three dogs on a walk. We went about a mile from our house to a wooded path that travels along a stream. Maggie LOVES the water, so we gave her the chance to frolic. She has been such a good girl lately and we wanted to reward her. Buster hates the water, but loves the path through the woods. This was Asha's first time on the trail and she so enjoyed all the new smells and feelings. She even got into the stream and Trevor said she liked the way the water felt between her toes. She was so adventurous, she wanted to check everything out. Its funny to watch her in a new environment, she lifts her feet up an extra little bit when she walks because she is unsure of the terrain.

I loved seeing our kids have so much fun. Maggie is the happiest when she is chest deep in the water. I really enjoy giving Asha new experiences. It makes me feel good to see her doing new and different things, especially since she is not afriad. And Buster, well, that little man is just the cutest thing ever no matter what we do.

We came home and everyone was so tired. They were all asleep on the couch again within about 10 minutes. We made dinner and enjoyed the silence. I could not believe it. I kept telling the dogs that Saturday night was the best ever. Then Sunday was the best ever too.

This morning we were back to running and barking, but the memories of the weekend helped me keep my sanity. I wasn't so sure we'd ever get to relax again and knowing its possible is such a relief.

Maggie couldn't believe it either. But we decided not to question it and maybe it will be repeated every weekend from now on....

Friday, March 23, 2012


Its been a tough 8 months at our house. When Asha came to live with us, her issues didn't just disrupt my and Trevor's life, they disrupted everyone's life. The other dogs and even the cats went into a tailspin and exhibited their stress in many different ways. Maggie became aggressive, Tuna started to attack Roxie, Roxie started peeing on our bed, the dogs bed, our clothes and we were overwhelmed.

When I would talk to our vet about all the things that were going on, she would look at me with such pity. And honestly, I was feeling pretty bad for myself too. I didn't know what to do about any of these things and didn't know how we would manage all that was going on.

Let's start with Maggie. We worked the hardest with her. Maggie has always been the sweetest dog. I could never imagine her hurting anyone or any other animal. After we had Asha for a couple months, Maggie started to change. I was so mad about things in general and I know Maggie felt that tension. She started to take it on herself and express it towards Asha, whom she certainly saw as the source for all this anger.

Asha loved Maggie and always sought her out to play with her. Maggie would try and give Asha signs that she did not want to play, but Asha couldn't see or hear them. So Maggie felt no other option but to attack. The problem was that Maggie would not just snap at Asha, she would attack her. It was like a light switch, Maggie became a different dog. This was incredibly difficult for me and I was constantly worried about it, which just added to the trouble.

We had hired a trainer to help us with the dogs, mostly because we wanted Buster to walk nice on the leash. When Maggie's issues started, we quickly changed our focus. Most of our time was spent on Maggie and getting her to stop being aggressive towards Asha. For weeks, we kept them separate. We had to hand feed Maggie in a different room, we couldn't have all the dogs with us on the couch together. We had to crate and rotate, keep them apart. This was a logistical nightmare and completely exhausting.

We spent one on one time with each dog, giving them lots of positive feedback, playing with them, giving them treats. We worked hard to not raise our voices or get angry, especially at Maggie. We redirected her aggression and stayed calm when she was getting worked up. We were hyper aware of her body language and her looks. We took great pains to be sure that Asha did not push her too far.

Our trainer encouraged us and told us to keep at it, even when it was difficult to do so. Every week she would come to the house and comment on our progress. At first, she said that Maggie was a very unhappy dog. That made me so incredibly sad and I felt responsible for it. Over time, Maggie has changed. We've changed.

Its been a slow process, but progress has certainly come. Its little things here and there, then its big things. We don't have to be a hyper vigilant about the situation anymore. Maggie has learned to tell Asha "no" in a way that our little blind/deaf girl can understand. Its so interesting to see because you can tell by the way Asha holds herself that she gets what Maggie is telling her.

And our Maggie is such a good girl. She's learned self control. She also knows how to redirect her aggression herself too. She's found a new voice and its amazing to watch. She'll play with Asha, she will eat out of the same bowl as Asha, she will jump on the couch with Asha and let Asha jump up with her.

The other day, I was napping on the couch. Maggie had her head on my chest. Asha jumped up and layed on my chest, rolling onto her back. Maggie put her head on Asha's belly. I just about cried because at that moment, I knew that my sweet girl had returned. Our Maggie was back.

I wasn't sure that our dogs would ever be able to be together like that. We don't let it happen all the time because I want Maggie to have her own special time and not feel like Asha is always in her face or going to take our attention. She is so much happier and that makes the rest of us happy. Buster feels it, Asha feels it and we feel it.

I know that my attitude makes a difference too. I'm not on edge all the time anymore. Before I was nervous about every little move that the dogs made because I didn't want it to turn into a fight. Our trainer comments about this from time to time - how much I have changed.

At first, when dealing with all of this, I was really angry. I was angry at what our lives had become. I was mad at Trevor for suggesting we get another dog, I was mad at myself for saying yes. I was mad that I didn't listen when the shelter workers told me that Asha barked alot. The list goes on and on. Mostly I was angry because I missed my quiet life. What I didn't realize is that my anger was perpetuating the chaos that I hated so much.

Asha is not what we expected she would be and I have never done well with the unexpected. I have been on a quest for months to find answers for Asha. We have enlisted a team of people to help us. I know this isn't the best we can do for her. Asha is incredibly anxious and restless. Over the last couple months, she has improved a lot, but I know this is not as good as it gets.

We have another appointment next week with her behaviorist to talk about next steps. We've tried some alternative therapies - Reiki, which she did not take to very well and we've even tried an animal communicator/spiritual healer. Nothing is out of the question for our girl.

The animal communicator told us a lot of things, relayed messages from Asha to us. Whether those things are true or not, it has made me more compassionate towards Asha, more understanding when she starts to freak out.
The communicator told us that Asha was in chaos, that she couldn't channel all the energy she felt around her. She said that Asha felt like she could not control her body. These things all make sense. I have always believed that Asha does not like to be out of control. So while it drives me nuts when she is flipping out, I now really try to be calm with her and remember that its upsetting to her as well.

The other day I was thinking "why can't we have a normal life" and then I thought "what does normal even mean?" Instead of trying to force the life we have into the life I want, I am really trying to enjoy the life we have., to embrace the unexpected and to hold my babies close to me, even when they don't act the way I want them to act. As with all things in life, its best to focus on what you have instead of what you don't.

So while all this progress has been happening downstairs with the dogs, the cats upstairs have been improving as well. We've figured out a way to keep the cats separated so that Tuna will leave Roxie alone. Its been a long time since Roxie peed on anything and that is a good sign. She seems much happier. Tuna seems more calm, although last night we had an episode - the first in a while. Balance is slowly coming back to the Bryant house.

If nothing else, we've got love....lots and lots of love...and as Bon Jovi says "Love's the only rule". Here's hoping for more progress...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Guest Blogger...Asha!

Its been almost three months since my last post. You can read it here.

Life has been exhausting. Last time I wrote, I had just met my new friend, Dr Pachel. He's a behavioral vet who specializes in doggies like me. My mom and dad had gotten to the end of their rope and needed more help. We've been working with Dr Pachel since then to see if we can get me settled down.

I've mentioned before that I get real anxious. Well, that got worse over the last couple months. We've tried three different anxiety medicines and every one of them gave me some sort of side effect. The biggest problem we've had is my sleep, or lack of sleep. I don't sleep at night. I wake up every two hours and I pace around my parents room. I refuse to sleep in a kennel, I like the bathroom floor and in the middle of the night I like to get up in bed with my mom and dad. But I just can't sleep. No matter how hard I try, no matter how tired I am. Every night, its the same thing...1 am, 3 am, 4 am, 4:30.....

My mom and dad take turns taking care of me at night. They get up and try to settle me down or help me into bed. Then at 4 or 4:30, my mom takes me downstairs and I go to sleep with her on the couch for a little bit.

The lack of sleep was really wearing on my mom and dad. I'm lucky, I get to sleep during the day, but they go to work and stuff. Dr Pachel prescribed some sedatives to help me sleep. 5 different kinds....none of them worked. One of them actually made me sleep LESS. One of them made me lose control and pee myself while I slept. I still woke up at my usual times, but then I'd get up in mom and dads bed and I'd end up peeing there. I don't like to be out of control, so when I start to feel sleepy, I fight it - I moan and groan and whine and cry.

My mom and dad have been pretty patient with me, but sometimes I know they get really mad. I don't think they have slept for more than 4 hours in almost 3 months. My mom was losing hope and was really feeling sad, thinking this is how I was going to be forever. I told her it would be okay, but what do I know...I'm still just a puppy.

On February 9th, I turned one years old. We celebrated with a bath and a trip to see my friends at Petsmart. My mom said that birthdays are really important. I always like to get on the scale when we go to Petsmart (my vet is there too).. My mom is always saying that I am getting too big - but then my friends give me treats...while I am on the scale! My vet says to just give me half a treat but when she's not looking they give me a full one, sometimes two. I think I'm perfect just the way I am and so do they.

About a month ago, we changed to yet another anxiety medication. The first couple days were really tough. I hate changing medicine because I feel so out of control during the in between times. I want to destroy stuff and I don't even know why. I run and bark like a crazy dog. My other medicines took the edge off, but none of them have really made me feel good...until now....

It started on February 29th...leap day. Buster says that day only comes around once every 4 years. I don't even know how long 4 years is. But that day, I felt different, more calm. When my mom and dad weren't with me, I just layed down and relaxed. At the end of that day, my mom asked my dad "did she seem better today?" and he said "yes" and then they agreed not to jinx it....whatever THAT means.

Since then, I haven't had the urge to destroy anything during the day. Well, there is this one spot on the couch that I really like and sometimes I chew on that. But for the most part I leave stuff alone. There are chairs around the kitchen table for the first time since I started going crazy back in September. My mom moved them into the TV room because when she wasn't home, I would knock the chairs over and drag them into the front room and chew on them. She also moved the end tables back next to the couches. They were sitting in front of the stairs to keep me from getting through the railings and getting upstairs. I get into lots of trouble up there....there is a box full of treats (Maggie says its the cat box, but I say its MY box).

Best of all.....I have been sleeping almost all night. I still wake up at 1 and 3, but I just wake up and ask mom or dad to help me up onto the bed - I put my chin on the bed and say "woof", if my mom ignores me, I go to my dad's side and do the same thing. If they STILL ignore me I go open the bedroom door and stand there, that always gets them out of bed and they help me up. Then I fall right asleep. The past few days my mom has gotten out of bed before me. Its been awesome. My mom doesn't believe it. She keeps telling me what a good girl I am and how much she loves me.

Last night I got into bed and laid down next to my mom, I put my head on her tummy and slept that way all night. I love my mom. She takes such good care of me and always makes sure I have what I need and I am safe. My dad too, but he doesn't like me to touch him when he's sleeping because I tend to crowd him off the bed.

My mom still takes me to the pet store a couple times a week and I love it there. Everyone is so nice to me. I always go behind the register....I want to get a job there!I cannot believe how much attention I get when I am there. The other day, one of my friends, John, was petting me and he said I was really shedding. He told my mom to take me to the groomers in the pet store. My mom did not think I would like that at all, but she figured she would give it a shot. Oh man.....did I ever love it! This nice lady took my leash and walked me to a nice spot on the floor. Then she and another nice lady petted me and brushed me and GAVE ME TREATS! I didn't want to leave. My mom says I look a lot better now and my vet even said I looked like I lost weight (but it was just all my fur).
In February, I got to do something really fun! There is a lady who lives in Portland who takes pictures. She is working on a book of "differently abled" animals. She is trying to get it published and wanted to include me! So I had a photo session. It was really fun. I got a good bath that morning and I was the cleanest I have ever been. Buster and Maggie went with me just to be sure I wasn't taken advantage of. I'll keep you posted on that book.

I can tell my mom and dad are feeling better about things. Maggie and Buster seem more relaxed too. My mom told me this morning that she finally has hope that we might actually get to live a normal life. I think she had given up hope and that made her really sad. I know for a while she wasn't sure what to do. I couldn't help her because I was having issues of my own! I can't imagine anyone working harder for me than my mom and dad. They have a whole team of people who are trying to help me. I'm not sure what would have happened to me if I didn't come to live with them, I don't like to think about that.

My vet says that this should just be the beginning for me. My new medication is kicking in and I should feel better and better over the next couple weeks. I can't wait. I want to be a regular dog, I want to be calm and relaxed. I don't like being anxious or restless all the time. Most of all, I want to make my family happy. I love them more than anything (except for my friend Angel...I like her best) and want to spend a long, happy life with them. I'll keep you posted...

Happy Birthday Maggie!

Our girl turns 3 today. I feel like she just turned 2, she is growing up so fast and I hate how time is just flying by. I want to enjoy every second with her. She knows something is special about today, but she's not quite sure what.

Maggie has been part of our family for 2 and half years now. Hereis my first post about Maggie.

We love this doggie. We just love her. She has changed so much since she first came to live with us. She was so timid and scared of things. Then, Buster came to live with us and he brought her out of her shell. She gained more confidence and wasn't so afraid. She still gets scared of loud noises, she isn't a big people person and she gets really skiddish around brooms, mops, shovels and rakes. We are pretty sure that she was either hit with these things, has stuff thrown at her or both, before she was dropped at the shelter.

This was Maggie with our niece Taylor, right after she came to live with us.
There are so many things about Maggie that make her special to us. She has the largest vocabulary of any animal I've ever known. We have to spell words so she doesn't know what we are talking about and now she's even caught onto that. She loves the sun - when its shining (which is rare around here), she goes out into the back yard and totally basks in it! She loves her kennel and bedtime. She's a lounger - she'll sit on the couch and just relax.

She loves peanut butter and food treats, but can't control herself around them. She gets crazy, so we have to limit those things. She loves to play with Buster and sometimes with Asha. She gets along with the cats and talks to us alot.

When she is playing with the other dogs, she does the "Maggie roll", she'll do a little somersault either on the floor or off the couch. She likes to pull socks out of the laundry basket and chew on them and she loves to play with stuffed toys (she eventually pulls the stuffing out).

This has been a tough year for Maggie. Opal died last May and Maggie loved Opal.
Then Asha came to live with us and that's been an adjustment for all of us, Maggie has had the hardest time with it.
She's really worked alot on coming to terms with the changes and has settled back into herself. She told me today that she wants her year 3 to be about peace and flowers.

We love Maggie...she's our girl. I hope she lives to be 20.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Don't call it a comeback...

Well, actually, you can call it a comeback. Yesterday, Trevor and I raced in the Fort Vancouver 15k run and it was a record breaking day for both of us.

I feel like I was at my peak running ability back in September. I had run a personal best marathon in May, then in September, I ran my fastest half marathon ever. Then, the wheels fell off.

It was around that time that we were really struggling with Asha. I was sleeping on the floor every night. We were getting no sleep, running on empty all the time. My feet started to hurt so badly that I could barely walk. It was awful. We slowed things down, cut our mileage way back, I cut my mileage out for a few weeks. We started building again, but were not getting any faster.

We had wanted to run a half marathon in February and wanted to have personal bests. It because clear to me in January that our goals were not realistic. We were training hard and our times were not where they needed to be. We would go out for a run, aiming for a specific pace and it just about killed us trying to maintain that pace. Both of us were unable to do it. We finally agreed that we needed to just run and enjoy it, not train for anything major.

The last few weeks, things with Asha have been getting better. I have been feeling more rested, not rested, but more rested! We've been training with the Vancouver Fit marathon training group for the Vancouver USA Marathon in June. Our running is ramping up, we aren't at the mileage I would like to be, but we are getting there.

Yesterday, for the first time since September, I wanted to really open it up and see what I could do. My goal was to run under 9 minutes per mile, that's where I was at in September and haven't been there since.

I ran 8:55 minute miles and Trevor ran 7:15 minute miles. It was a good day, we both felt strong and its been a while since we felt that way. I finally felt like we were back. That is a great feeling.