Dog Update and a Forgotten Trip
July through October 2003

 
Dog Update

My friend Gizem, from Turkey, now living in NYC, wrote recently:

When old Wiley died, I wanted to tell you all about our dogs when me and my brother were kids. And the first one was called Albi. I wanted to tell you many stories, but as they were passing my mind they went from happy to sad, so did I - then I decided to skip the whole thing.. Now you are telling me, your dog is called Albi.. It is so weird, but so nice! I can't help remembering my lovely white Albi who kept barking at my father's late night patients and picked the most comfortable spots in the garden to have a nap, like mom's parsley garden-chen
:)

That story gave me shivers.

My Albi is a darling, my Hungarian princess. She comes to sit next to me after her morning walk and breakfast, and stares at me while I type at the computer, waiting patiently to be petted. She loves to be cuddled. She loved to stick her head into my belly when I kneel beside her, as though she's trying to hide. She likes to try to pick up anything I sit down -- my shoe, my homework... she jumps for joy when I come home from work, and again when we are about to go for a walk -- Wiley used to do this to, before his legs and hips stopped cooperating. I let her off leash ocassionally in the park, and she trots around, exploring the ground and bushes -- and when I call her back, she darts back, pumping her legs as hard as she can to return to me and cuddle. She wants desperately to please me -- if I yell her name in anger (which is rare), she cowers immediately, knowing she's messed up. She sits while I put her leash on, and tries to bite (gently) and lick my hand while I look for the hook on her collar. She also likes to do the happy groan, laying on her back, wiggling back and forth and making all sorts of soft growls -- something Buster loves to do as well. She's become sensitized to lots of people and dogs walking by, something she was so skittish about at first. She really loves other dogs, and she and Buster have been so good with even the smallest ones. If I say, "Albi, come", she's right there with me. She listens to Stefan as well (okay, actually, she's in love with Stefan). She likes when I listen to the stereo, talk loud, sing... when she sleeps, that long, sleek body looks like it was poured out of a bottle... She also sometimes sleeps curled up like a cat. She's very cat like when she walks as well.

Unfortunately, my joy has been tinged with great anxiety. Albi bit Buster twice while I was in Prague, drawing blood both times. To find this out after being so happy, so filled with joy at bringing her home from the Tierheim Bonn and being so happy about visiting Prague at long last, it was like being slapped. I cried for most of that night and the next day.

Albi hadn't gone after Buster when were all here together since one incident her first week here in August -- I let her have it when she snarled and jumped on Buster when he was ambling into the bedroom (meaning, I yelled at her and she dropped to the floor and cowered as though I was about to kill her, which ofcourse I wasn't). In the weeks that followed that first incident, Buster laid in the kitchen, or under the table, or right next to me. It broke my heart to see him scared. But following my trip to Prague, poor Buster was absolutely terrified of her. The first days after I got back, he would not walk anywhere in the apartment without being able to see me between him and her, and sometimes without me literally escorting him by. That first night after Prague, I was up until 2 a.m., reading the dog book by the Monks of New Skete and searching for information on the Internet. I poured over the Dog FAQs and ended up writing an email to BehavioRx to find help.

That first night, I was being pulled apart, with part of me thinking this could be worked out and part of me thinking I'm putting Buster in danger and needed to rethink keeping Albi. Did I mention that I cried a lot?

Then I started to remember Wiley, how rough it was when Wiley first came, how freaked out I was that he attacked every dog on sight, except Buster. How I cried because I thought that it wouldn't work out and I'd have to give him up, and that if I gave him up, he'd be put down, because who would take a dog that was dog aggressive? And what some of you don't know: two years after I got him, Wiley bit Buster. At least three times. It was just after I moved to Oakland: it was a new house, a new city, and a new person in the household. And when someone was visiting and petting both dogs, Wiley turned on Buster. He drew blood. I wasn't home at the time. He did it again at least twice more when the dogs were together in the back yard while I was at work.

How did I solve that problem with Wiley and Buster? I didn't -- somehow, it solved itself.

There were oh-so-many similarities to that situation and the one I faced now: Albi bit Buster when I wasn't here, once when someone else was here, and once when they were alone.

They walk on or off leash outside just fine together. Buster isn't scared of Albi at all when we are out and about. She's not aggressive whatsoever when she is walking with Buster outside, not to him, not to any dog we pass, and not to people. Buster doesn't flinch at all when we are about to go outside, when the dogs are about to eat, or when I'm walking through the apartment and they are so close as to be touching. And they will share the same water bowl, drinking at the same time, no problem. I had to isolate the problem, and Albi's signals to bite Buster seem to be (1) when I'm not home, and she's on her bed, and Buster simply walks by; and (2) when someone else comes into the apartment, either right when the person arrives or during the early part of the visit.

So, what did I do? Well, I was sorry to find that there's nothing on the Internet regarding this specific problem. There's lots about how to introduce two dogs, or how to deal with dogs that are aggressive to visitors, but no information on how to deal with a dog who is overly aggressive with a companion dog (particularly one that's aggressive to the dog that was there FIRST). Improvising from other dog problems I've read about on BehavioRx, the Dog FAQs and the book by the Monks of New Skete, I implemented the following steps:

I saw small but substantial changes quickly after just a week: Buster would move about so long as he could see me, wherever I was, even if I wasn't between her and him. But if he couldn't see me, he would bark until I appeared. They started laying close together when I was on the couch, Albi on one side and Buster on the other. One night, the dogs were engaged in synchronized sleeping: same positions, same leg placements, same direction. I wanted to grab a camera, but knew it would wake them. But Buster was still very skittish around her, and obviously uncomfortable most of the time. The problem of stopping Albi from biting Buster seemed far easier to deal with than the problem of Buster being absolutely terrified of her, terrified in his own home.

And then, in late August, Albi when into heat.

Suddenly, Buster HAD to be right next to her, and she was happy most of the time to have him so. The blood wasn't so bad, but the constant slurping sound of Buster licking Albi's ears, face and neck drove me NUTS. I would finally separate them, putting Buster on a leash on one side of the room and her on another near the kitchen. Yes, Buster is fixed. Yes, he's 14. But neither of those conditions stopped him from being completely attentive to Albi. Dog hormones. Geesh.

Joy of joys, the end result is that Buster isn't scared of her anymore. He sleeps on his day bed next to hers, separated from each other by my guitar case. He goes wherever he wants to in the apartment now, and even will sleep right in front of her and her bed if the spirit moves him to do such. I have left them alone together if I go out for less than two hours, but otherwise, I still separate them, putting him in the bedroom. When I come home, she jumps a few times, then runs to the bedroom door and jumps some more, frantic for me to open the door and let her in to see Buster, who is often still snoozing (his hearing is just about gone). Buster doesn't cringe when she comes near, and he lets her sniff his face when she rushes over.

Is the problem over? I'm suspicious... Albi's still on a diet of "earned affection", though I'm lax on the petting her only when she's earned it rule... she now knows to sit and wait until I say "okay" before she can take a treat from my hands. We're still working on "down" (as in "lay down").

Am I getting her fixed? I don't know. Albi's probably seven years old now, and my vet, who I trust absolutely, doesn't like the idea at all of doing it at this age. I've read online that it decreases her chance of getting certain kinds of cancers and other health problems by getting her fixed, but the vet says those benefits are only realized if fixing is done very early. As I said, the blood wasn't bad. The primary reason I want her fixed is that I do NOT want to find homes for puppies. That would kill me.

I hope all of the above helps someone out there facing this same issue. I know I will have to be extra cautious when Albi makes her debut at Stefan's house, or if I ever move -- she'll want to establish herself as boss lady again, and given that it took Wiley two years before he turned on Buster, I'm going to not assume this problem is entirely over. Not yet.

Here are a few photos of Buster and Albi, for those who haven't seen them yet.

Now for a good dog story:

Recently, Stefan and I were walking the dogs in the park next to where I live. An Arab man was pushing his young disabled daughter in a wheelchair; he called to us and asked if his daughter could give our dogs some Pringles potato chips. What made this surprising is that Arab people never ever come near my dogs -- it's a cultural thing. And here was this guy really wanting to get his daughter, who was about 5, up close and personal with two canines. We held Albi back, because I don't know how well she can take food from children, but Buster got the go ahead, because he is unbelievably gentle with children, even when they give him food. She put out a potato chip for him, he gently took it, and she screamed with delight at the top of her lungs -- it was so cute. She did this a few more times. "This one she likes!" the father kept saying again and again. He was just beaming, so thrilled to see his daughter so happy. We figured out later why he had felt comfortable approaching us: Stefan was wearing a shirt with Arab words on it, sent as a gift from friends in Cairo.

 
A forgotten trip

Somehow, in the craziness of last year, I forgot to upload my photos and travelogue for a trip to Aachen LAST YEAR. Aachen is north of here, near the border with Belgium. It was the capital of the kingdom of Charlemagne, and the more you know about him and the time, the more impressed you will be with Aachen, as his mark on the city is everywhere if you know where to look. The Aachen cathedral was also the coronation site of around 30 Holy Roman emperors, starting in 936. The other cool thing about Aachen are the public sculptures all over town. There are some terrific images -- it's definitely my favorite city for such. My favorite sculpture is made up of all these moveable brass people -- a ballerina, a cardinal, a farm wife, and many more. I could have played with that for about an hour. We got a lot of great pictures interacting with the sculptures. The only down side was that, by the time our late lunch was over, we were done -- there wasn't really anything else to see in Aachen, but we weren't ready to head home. So we decided to go across the border into Belgium. All signs pointed to Liege, so we went there. Lonely Planet Belgium, which I bought later, says, "Liege is one of those cities people tend to love or loath." I'm sorry to say I have to be in the loathe category. It's an industrial, gritty, dirty, decaying city with no charm at all. If there's a picturesque part to it, they hide it well. Not knowing where else to go, we went back to Bonn.

 
What's Been Interesting to Me Lately

As always, I'll end with fun links and interesting sites that have been sent to me, or that I've stumbled across. LOTS to share this time -- hours and hours of enjoyment for you:

NOTE: I rarely correct URLs on my personal essays/blogs. If you click on a link and it no longer works, visit archive.org and you can probably find an archive of the site you are looking for.

Guy gets his home computer hacked; reaction caught on web cam. Could be fake, but if so, well, dang, it's a well done fake.

One of oh so many reasons I love the Man in Black. Thank you, Mr. Cash. His video that was nominated for the MTV music award is awesome.

Pet the kitty!. Don't hold the mouse down, just move it.

Letters in support of Kobe Bryant. People are so.... well, strange....

Have you checked out Sportspickle.com? It's like the Onion, but for sports

   
I have become a huge fan of Homestarrunner and Strong Bad. The latter's children's book is... well, just watch it. The celebration on Labor Day is pretty funny as well. The email from England is hilarious. And this one is good too (the ending is interactive. See if you can figure out how)   
    

Test Your 80s knowledge. I got a 71. I'm a BRAT PACKIAN. I kicked ass on the music part, did well on the movies, but tanked on the TV part. Not that I'm complaining -- I wouldn't be proud of knowing much about TV shows from the 1980s as they SUCKED.

fark.com. The photoshop contests are my favorite, and happen almost daily. When you see the photoshop logo, click on the number link at the right, and see how members of the fark community have altered the photo or created their own in line with the proposed theme. Do not have any liquid in your mouth while viewing, or you will need to clean your computer screen frequently.

"Pint-sized patriots Johnny & Chrissy Hinkel root out four commies at pre-school!"

A daily chronicle of Bush administration lies (such a shame that the U.S. is more concerned about their President screwing an intern than they are about a President screwing the nation)

Jesus Was a Liberal Jew

REGISTER TO VOTE. The 2004 election may be the most critical election in our lifetime. I, for one, do not want to let the Supreme Court decide our next President this time around. You can fill out a voter registration form in seconds online. And ask your friends to do the same! All you have to do is print it out, stamp it and put it in the mail!

Hope you will consider becoming an online volunteer and providing your time and expertise to help organizations working in and for the developing world. This terrific free service is brought to you and the world by the United Nations, about which I have many feelings.

More soon...

If you have read this blog, PLEASE let me know. Comments are welcomed, and motivate me to keep writing.


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