Sunday, August 7, 2011

Nuka and Duke vs. Mingling

     I don't have kids, I have dogs.  My dogs are at least as well behaved as most people's children and since people cart their snotty, ignorant little brats everywhere and assume everyone thinks that they're cute, I do the same with my dogs.
     As with children, however, some places are just not appropriate.

     This was a quandary I ran into this weekend.  I can finagle my canines into many locales, especially when family is concerned, but a memorial service just isn't one of them, nor should it be.  There was no question that the dogs would not be accompanying us this weekend, only a question of what we would do with them.  Nivek was so easy, he used to go stay with my parents, but to be perfectly blunt, my parents are not dog people, they are cat people.  In many ways, Nivek was like a big cat, so that was no problem.  Nuka and Duke, on the other hand, well, lets just say I would be more inclined to ask someone I don't like to watch them for me then people I love.
     I also wasn't sure what our schedule would be, so to be safe, I booked the dogs into the kennel for Friday and Saturday night and dropped them off Friday afternoon.  I packed their food and some treats and that was it.  It was a little weird without them underfoot, but also kind of nice.  There was plenty on my mind this weekend without two foolish animals thrown into the mix.
     What really struck me Saturday, after all of the depressing stuff, was the family gathering afterwards.  There were two dogs present, my uncle's dog, Holly, a long haired Jack Russell, and my cousin's dog, Molly, an American Eskimo (I would have taken their picture, but it did not occur to me to take my camera to this kind of event.  Lesson learned, take camera everywhere).  It didn't bother me that they were present, I am never going to complain about dogs, what struck me was how good they were!
     My Uncle has a very cute bungalow, with a very cute yard, and both are on the small side of things.  Let me tell you, it is no easy task to cram thirty members of my boisterous family in this type of space and keep them comfortable, break out the dogs and the kids, and you have a family tragedy in the making.

     Not so!

     Holly and Molly greeted everyone calmly with wagging tails.  No jumping, no barking.  They did a lot of sniffing and following around, no doubt trying to make some sense of all the loud, obnoxious weirdos suddenly in their midst.  Mostly though, they just found a shady corner and laid down, completely out of the way, no trouble to any one or anything.

     I wish!

     To be fair to less stellar animals, (example = mine) once the barbecue began, there was some definite begging on the part of Molly and Holly, but to be fair to them, there was some definite covert feeding going on as well.
     I officially stand back in awe of these two sweet and well behaved little girls.  I also have to ask myself a tough question, are my dogs so unruly because of me?  Surely temperament has something to do with it, as does age, training not so much in this particular situation because I know that these two animals have no more formal training then mine do.  Is it because mine are rescues?  Because they have some, ahem, issues?  Or, is it because of me?  Do I somehow bring out the worst in my animals because I'm anxious about their behaviour?  Food for thought.
     At the end of the day, I'm sure it's a combination of reasons, but in the future, I will make a conscious effort not to sabotage my dogs performance with my own worries.  Then maybe they'll have a better chance of putting on a quality show.

     Thanks, Molly and Holly!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Nuka vs. The Vet

     So, Monday morning I took Nuka to the vet for her annual check up and vaccinations.  Taking Nuka anywhere is an adventure, and one that I look forward to with an interesting mix of curiosity and dread.  I had the added anxiety of leaving Duke at home, thankfully, he was not alone.  I don't think they have really been separated since his arrival last August and he is a huge baby.  I had visions of him baying forlornly at the light fixture in the kitchen until our return, thankfully, Jeremy was around to distract him with shiny objects and food.
     Experience has taught me that a good vet is hard to find, so instead of going to one of the 20 offices within ten minutes, I drive 20 minutes outside the city to go to the same vet I used to frequent when I lived in a smaller town outside the city.  I have never begrudged this drive, not even once.
     There is something nice about going to the veterinarian for something as routine as vaccinations.  As my animals have aged, I have come to increasingly relate these trips with something terrible, some horrible news or unwanted revelation.  Twice in the past three years I have travelled to my vet with one of my dogs only to return home without them.  That stays with you.
     Out vet is a bright, friendly place where my dogs and I are addressed by name and Nuka, in all her Nuka-ness, is not seen as a problem or potential danger to society, but a big, exuberant girl whose 'hugs' only show her affection for people and enthusiasm for life, not a body check by an eighty pound German shepherd mix that clearly needs more training.
     As a special bonus, the resident cat was out of sight, (phew!) and the lobby was void of waiting patients, yay!  Nuka and I sat nicely and even when a little terrier mix trotted out in a cone, Nuka only offered a brief throat rumble, nothing too serious.
     Topping the scales at just about 80 pounds, Nuka is doing fine.  She got all of her needles like a trooper and withstood a physical exam with nothing more then a mildly irritated look I've come to think of as her 'bath time face'.  This face is made by the lowering of her substantial ears, not back, but out to the sides, giving her a Yoda-esque appearance.  The real challenge came with the Bordetella (canine cough) vaccine, which Nuka needs because she comes to work with me every day.  This vaccine is administered one of two ways, by injection, or by a quick shot up the nose.  My vet, this time Dr. S, happens to prefer the shot up the nose.
Our conversation on the subject went something like this:

Dr. S: "How do you think she'll take it?"

Me, eyeing up my bad dog's giant head like a deadly weapon: "I honestly don't know."

Dr. S, now also eyeing up my dog's giant head, probably like a potential deadly weapon: "I'm pretty fast.  I've learned to be."

Me, picturing Dr. S's pretty face ripped to shreds by Nuka, and Nuka licking her chops in gruesome satisfaction: "I don't know Dr. S.  It's totally up to you.  If you want to give her the injection instead or muzzle her or something, that's totally fine with me."

Dr. S: "Let me try.  She's been good so far, let's give her a chance.  Plus, like I said, I'm pretty fast."

     From behind, I held Nuka's head and took slow breaths in the hopes that my anxiety would not travel to my dog.  Dr. S said something reassuring to Nuka, then whistled, and when Nuka glanced up at her, Dr. S shot her magic serum right up the ol' nostril.  Piece of cake.
     There was visible confusion from my canine, then annoyance, and then a grudging look of irritation for the both of us like she knew she'd been had and was not too pleased about it.  Dr. S offered some praise and then a cookie, but Nuka snubbed it now, she's like that.  I should mention here that when Dr. S and I were engaged in conversation Nuka did eat the cookie off the floor, but she hoped we wouldn't notice, no doubt.
     We talked a little about Nuka after that, all is well.  I asked how old Dr. S thought she was, but apparently her teeth are very good so it's hard to tell, somewhere between four and six, maybe.  We also talked about spaying, a cloud that has hung over both Nuka and myself since she came here in January, 2009.  Nuka is not spayed, for reasons that are a whole other entry, but she needs to be done, as all dogs should be and all of my previous dogs have been.  In this, as in everything else, Nuka is an extenuating circumstance.
     I found our conversation reassuring, however, so before the end of the year, after summer holidays and before the madness of Christmas, Nuka will go under the knife, something I have both dreaded and craved for her since the moment she barrelled through our front door.