Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day, Maui 2011

Happy Valentine's Day! Love, Rocket

Special aloha to everyone in Rocket's dog training class
who support him and his efforts to party, I mean, behave.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Vet Visit #1

The first vet trip of many happened the Monday morning after I returned from Australia. The long flight had my body orbiting itself while I was sleeping, awake, trying to stand, sit, or simply think. Nothing made sense physically or mentally. My emotions didn’t stand a chance. I woke up and almost forgot there was a sick puppy in a crate right outside the door, except I’d been up all night taking him out when he cried because his bowels were still so sensitive and his urges frequent.

We drove thirty minutes to the other side of the island to the same clinic as Charlie. For a moment I was thrilled to have a dog in the car with me. It is what I always dreamed of having…a furry co-pilot who doesn’t offer out direction corrections or demands, but rather just sits there, high on life, happy to be going for a drive with their human best friend. Only Rocket and I didn’t know each other. And we were going to the v-e-t…who knew how sick he still was, how he’d behave, or how much it was going to cost.

We got there. We checked in. We went into the room. A militant looking veterinarian came in and started asking questions about Rocket. “I don’t know. “ was my every response. “It’s hard to say not knowing.” So he began telling me about my dog. Here are what his medical charts say from when he first came in. These are the medicines he needs to be on. Skin scrapes. Anti-yeast baths. Diet. Training. All the while Rocket just waltzed around the room, sniffing, paying no mind to the people having a one-way conversation. “Training,” he kept saying, “training is important.” And just like that, jet lag took over. I felt like I’d been drugged heavily and suddenly. If I could have passed out right then and there from exhaustion, I would have. Somewhere deep down I knew better. The vet’s mouth was still moving. I needed something to grasp on to, something to focus on to keep me from just giving in to the thickening pool of fatigue. I rolled my eyes around the room, letting them fall onto Rocket’s open chart. Animal Clinic. Rocket. Canine. Male. Pit Bull.

“Pit Bull?” I shouted, fully alert, eyes popping. “Why did you write ‘pit bull’ on his chart?”

“Because that’s what he is,” came the simple response.

“But, why? Why did you write it down like that? Why did you write that?”

“Because that’s what he is.”

He had my full attention now. And Rocket’s attention, too. The puppy was sitting up, looking right at each of us with his big cow eyes. He looked like he had something he wanted to add to the disjointed banter.

My thoughts began to race and then swirl with the exhaustion just as rapidly. I looked down at the white puppy, my jaw open. I had adopted a pit bull? What on Earth does that mean? He doesn’t even look like a pit bull to me. He’s just cute. What was I thinking? What will I think of next? All of the media-saturated false information about “pit bulls” flooded my increasingly numbing brain. How did I get here? What have I done…

An ear splitting bark filled the room. I jumped out of my skin. I went from confused to scared in two seconds flat. I’d never heard him bark like that. It was loud and powerful and piercing.

“Why did he do that?” I gaped at the veterinarian.

“He’s training you,” the vet said flatly.


He did it again while staring right at me, unflinching. I jumped again, clutching my purse to my chest, staring at this dog that was becoming more of a stranger to me by the second.

“What does he want?” I asked.

“He’s testing you. This is what I’ve been saying. Training is very important. You need to train him before he trains you.”


This time, I burst into tears. The sheer volume of his yelp and the magnitude of the “new arrangement” mixed with the weariness cracked me. I broke down in public in front of the non-emotional, matter of fact vet. The vet and the dog just stared at me. I can’t do it, I thought to myself. I just need to go home and go to sleep and then wake up and deal with this later. I don’t even want to do this.

“I’m just so tired,” I managed to squeak out. “I just got off a plane and this is just a lot.”

The vet ended our visit with written down instructions (bless him), seven medications, and directions to get some rest and think about training.

I grabbed the bag of medications, the jaw-dropping receipt, the medical instructions, and the pit bull and climbed into the car. I cried the whole way home while Rocket slept in the back seat. I don’t remember anything else about that day—“pit bull” was enough.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

An Ounce of Prevention

It is amazing how every little thing changes when a new dog comes home. Every routine gets altered, you have to redecorate room by room in order to “puppy proof,” you no longer get to shower or use the bathroom in peace (in my case, its because there was always a party underfoot, wanting to play and know exactly what was going on. He just looked at me with those big cow eyes and huge grin as if to say “Could this get any more fun? I think we should try…” ). Rugs that you thought were safe get chewed. Chairs that you didn’t realize had a nice, almost velvet finish to them suddenly take on a new look with scratches down the side. Curtains obviously belong on the floor and not on the windows (why else would he take them down everyday?)

The saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” isn’t just true for face creams…it applies to dogs, too. I could have saved myself a lot of trouble if I had even loosely considered puppy proofing or simply remembered that dogs have nails and teeth…and that they barf and poop and pee just like other living things. I knew Rocket needed to be trained not to be underfoot, not to chew, and not to take the curtains down…but my motto was “one lesson at a time.” My intention was to focus on one “problem” and “fix” it before moving on to the next—I just forgot to choose the first lesson, or couldn’t decide on what was the most important one to begin with, or something! I didn’t begin training at all, just maintaining a constant frustration as I was “deciding” to begin. I wish I’d just jumped in with a smile instead of a furrowed brow. A clear plan would have been helpful. But regardless of my lack of “prevention,” and growing frustration, Rocket was having one hell of a good time…maybe he was trying to prevent me from going off the deep end with exasperation, because every time I looked down at the new mess we had just made, he’d gaze back at me beaming: “Could this get any more fun? I think we should try…”

"Maybe there's more fun under here?"