Dougal tackles the freedom vs. security debate

With so much talk about Barley lately, I felt a little guilty not mentioning Dougal more. Truth is, Dougal tends to get more attention at home since he’s so needy of affection and praise. Dougal will frequently climb onto my chest and bury his face in my neck, just wanting to be held. Who can resist that? So sweet! Barley, however, stays across the room, staring at me with a look that says “you’d better not even try that crap with me, lady.” (If you’ve ever had the pleasure of picking Barley up, you know he goes stiff and desperately wants down. He doesn’t do the whole snuggling thing. He barely tolerates me petting him except right before he falls asleep at night, when he wants his belly rubbed.) Dougal is the lovebug in the house.

A very tired, happy dog.

When I first got him two years ago, I left both boys home alone together all day. Both were left loose. One day, I came home from work to find every inch of floor in my bedroom covered in shredded paper. Dougal had gotten into the closet and, over the course of eight hours, shredded books, a printer box, and several magazines, and ripped out a section of moulding in the bathroom. That night, I bought him a crate.

Since then, Dougal has spent days in the crate, at first to stifle his destructive puppy tendencies, and later to protect him from Barley. Before I leave in the mornings, I leave both boys with an assortment of chews and treat dispensers. Barley is an aggressive thief and will ruthlessly steal any food item Dougal has. Now that he’s older, Dougal has started resisting the bullying and I didn’t want them fighting over kongs while I was at work. Feeling guilty about his confinement, however, I came up with what I hope is a brilliant plan.

Instead of closing Dougal’s crate, I’ve left the door slightly ajar, leaving him protected from Barley while he eats his treats, but able to get out later once the treats are devoured. The first three days, Dougal didn’t leave the crate. I’d come home from work to find him sitting quietly in the corner, waiting for me to let him out. Over the weekend, I would put him in the crate, partially close the door, then wait for him to nudge it open with his nose. Praise ensued. I thought he’d mastered the door nudge, but Monday and Tuesday, I came home to him still sitting in the crate. I was starting to wonder if he really wanted out or not.

Dougal was all smiles after our long trail run.

Finally, though, I came home Wednesday to two sleepy and free dogs. I’m hoping this works out and Dougal can take advantage of the shelter of the crate long enough to eat his treats in peace, then spend the rest of the day tormenting Barley like any good kid brother. It’s adorable to see how much he loves Barley. In fact, when Barley was at the vet all day for his dental cleaning, the gal at the front desk actually said, “Oh my gosh, what is Dougal doing without his brother today!” It cracked me up. Those two are inseparable. I know Barley loves him back, grudgingly.

A quick funny sidenote…While walking the dogs this morning, I passed a motorhome for sale near the high school. It’s $3,900 and says “Hot n’ Spicy” on the side. I might need that. Hot n’ Spicy. Have a great holiday weekend!

Down two chompers and feeling a bit rummy

For the last year, I’ve been dealing with Barley’s liver disease, an incurable condition that appears to be somewhat random and genetic, but is controlled fairly well with medication. I learned of the disease last year when I took Barley in for a routine dental cleaning and his pre-op blood work revealed near-fatal liver enzyme levels. The poor kid was very, very sick.


Thankfully, after extensive testing and trying different medications, his liver values came down. Though he still struggles with the occasional flareup of colitis, he has been doing really well. Two weeks ago, I took him in to discuss with the vet his still-yucky teeth and the possibility of getting them cleaned. Dental cleanings require full anesthesia and, considering his dodgy liver, that’s a dangerous proposition. The vet took some blood, ran a gamut of tests, and came back with some upsetting news. Barley’s liver values were coming back up. One value, for example, had been in the 700s when we first discovered his disease (normal is 5-85). We had gotten it down to 75 last May. Two weeks ago, it was 225. It was discouraging news.

But, the vet was less upset. He said we’re doing everything we can for him. He’s taking all the medications that are available, plus all the natural supplements and dietary changes that can possibly help improve his liver function. There’s literally nothing more I can add to his care at this point. And, considering how dangerous bad teeth are (bacteria leaks directly into the bloodstream from the gums, putting strain on the heart, liver, and kidneys) he advised me to move forward with the dental cleaning.

Barley went in yesterday and I was a nervous wreck. Thankfully, he came through the procedure really well. He needed two teeth pulled (a top and bottom molar), which isn’t terrible. For the next 10 days, he will be on a soft food diet with antibiotics and pain medicine. He’s feeling pretty rummy right now. He’s mad about not being able to eat much and he seems to be in some pain. He wants to snuggle, which is nice for me, but a sure sign he’s not feeling well. I’m hauling his bed all around the house so he can be as comfortable as possible. (It helps if Dougal doesn’t try to lay on top of him.)

Needless to say, the fact that it’s a rainy and miserable Saturday is working out well for us. Barley needs to rest and so do I. A possible sign of voodoo curse, I developed a horrible bacterial infection on my arm this week. I had seven oozing sores, one of which was enormous, hot, and particularly angry. I’m on heavy antibiotics for 10 days, which seems to be helping my gross arm. It’s significantly better. The antibiotics, however, are tearing my stomach apart. Even if I wanted to go out and about this weekend, I’d be better off sticking close to home. The nice fella at Super Supplements yesterday helped me choose a probiotic that should help a lot. Fingers crossed! Though, to be honest, I took it last night and had a weird burning sensation in my stomach most of the night. Hmmm. That’s a good sign, right?

At any rate, here’s a song, one of my all-time favorites.

Falling off (and getting run over by) the wagon

My Perfect Ten Challenge came and went. Ten days of perfect eating, no cheats. I felt great. Unfortunately, I celebrated with a Binge Saturday that included a Heath Blizzard (a clear violation of Dairy Free June), three baked potatoes, and two bags of kettle corn. The horror.

Then, tonight, I had Tillamook Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream. Damn it all.

Starting tomorrow, I’m back on Dairy Free June. The worst of PMS is over, so it should be safe to go back on the wagon. There are forces that cannot be fought. PMS is one. I could literally bury my face in a brick of cheese and not come out for a week. Unfortunately, I heard on doctor radio that PMS gets worse before it goes away completely, and perimenopause is essentially a decade of constant PMS. So, I’ve got that to look forward to.

I may need more ice cream and cheese.

Happy birthday to my best guy

Happy birthday, Barley!

Today is Barley’s 11th birthday. So far, we celebrated with our regular morning walk, but I let him pee on everything he wanted. That means he went pee on everything. Usually, I tug him along, mumbling something about getting his morning exercise. But, today was his day, so I let him amble, sniff the grass, and drop wee wherever and whenever he wanted. I think he was in heaven. Plus, the baby bunnies are everywhere now and seeing them always makes the boys’ day.

Tonight, I’ll mold some wet dog food into a cake shape, plunk a candle in it, and let him open his presents. Gail and her adorable schnauzer Wrigley sent a package. They always send the nicest things. Barley has so much fun opening them and Dougal has fun stealing whatever he can.

Since Barley’s birthday (and I’m a little overwhelmed and emotional about his advancing age), I thought I’d share some of my favorite Barley memories.

• In his relatively short lifetime, Barley has eaten the following: three clay penguins, a Whopper Jr and fries, a melon-scented votive candle, one arm of a shirt, a back pocket off a pair of jeans, a remote control, countless chapsticks and bins of trash, Christmas ornaments, underpants…and that’s just what I can remember off the top of my head. This list will surely grow.

• When I first got Barley, I lived in an apartment with a shared balcony that had a few metals bars separating my side from the neighbors’ side. The neighbors had an orange, stripey cat that would come over to my side of the balcony and terrorize Barley through the sliding glass door. It would lay on the balcony, batting the glass, and making Barley crazy. One summer afternoon, I had the door open so that Barley could go out on the balcony and snooze. The cat didn’t realize this when it came over and tried to play. Barley shot out the open door and pounced on that cat. But, unfortunately for him, the cat fought back. Barley freaked out and ran back into the house. The cat never came over again, though.


• Other things Barley has chased, attacked, and caught, only to run back in fear after realizing what he had: an elk, two street cats, a crow.

• Barley once had an impacted anal gland. For more than a week, I came home and the whole house smelled awful. I gave him baths, but nothing seemed to help. So, I took him to the vet and found out the disturbing source of the stink. They sent me back to the waiting room while they cleaned out the impacted anal gland. After about 10 minutes, the vet came out with a little brown bag and Barley, who was understandably freaked out. In front of everyone in the waiting room, she proceeded to tell me that I needed to put greasy yellow cream on Barley’s butthole three times a day for two weeks. She then turned him around and demonstrated, presumably because she wanted me to understand it needed to be on the butthole, not around it. A critical and graphic distinction. Plus, she kept saying “anus” over and over again. Everyone around me was giggling. It was mortifying, but sorta hilarious. Putting greasy yellow cream on his butthole three times a day, however, was pretty awful. He’s all better now, though.

The nice thing about our relationship is that I can tell all his embarrassing stories and he can tell none of mine. I bet he’d have a lot to say if he could. I made so many mistakes with him. I was so young and immature; I had no idea the kind of commitment I was getting myself into when I got him. Thankfully, he’s forgiving. Happy birthday to my best guy. Here’s to 11 more…

Channeling Gary Puckett, adventures in satellite radio, and going cold turkey (hold the cheese)

This is Willpower Week around here. Here’s why:

• Satellite radio’s siren song. For the last week, satellite radio in my car has had a free trial. Going in, I knew it was temporary. Plus, I love my liberal talk radio and that’s free. What could satellite radio possibly offer me? A Grateful Dead station? Yep. A 90s grunge station? Yep. An all medical station? Yep. Turdballs. Today, for example, on my drive between campuses, I heard Sugar Magnolia from the Dead, Big City from Merle Haggard, and Roundabout by Yes, and I listened to doctors talk about the new HPV-throat cancer study. I’m in big trouble. Must resist.

• Perfect Ten Eating Challenge. I like to do challenges, but only when they have catchy names. This is one I made up. I’m challenging myself to 10 perfect days of eating. No cheats. No binges. No bricks of cheese (see next bullet). The only “on the fence” items are my sugar-free, fat-free homemade tapioca and popcorn (a whole grain); I’m counting neither as cheats. They’re both healthy. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I just finished day two. If I can get through the weekend, I’ll be golden.

• Dairy Free June. I’m lactose intolerant, but the only way I’ve managed to be gluten free (without a suicide watch) is that cheese, sour cream, and cream cheese have been regular items in my diet, much to the dismay of my poor tummy. In fact, I even added in some ice cream two weeks ago after a 5-month hiatus. (If anyone ever thinks being gluten free is a weight loss diet, remember that many ice creams, cheetos, and fritos are all gluten free. There’s no escape!) So, for the month of June, I’m kicking my dairy habit, too. Gluten free and dairy free. I hope I survive.

To get me through the rough patches, here’s my mantra (ignore the lecherous creepiness of this classic song; it’s the only one related to willpower):