Saturday, April 2, 2011

School Time!

I love you Mom.

First, apologies for not taking a single new picture of Ruby for the last two weeks. It's not that she hasn't done anything worthy of capturing, I just...haven't. I took this one just now. Ruby in her usual spot, right at my feet. It's like having an extra pair of 99-pound shoes I'm forever tripping over.

My last post illustrated my concern with some growing behavior issues. Specifically Ruby getting downright nasty with a passing stranger. I enrolled her in Creations Dog Training Center's Obedience 1 class. Our first class was last Thursday, and then we went again this Thursday. So far, she's not been kicked out, sent to Time Out, or made to stand in the corner. However, if she had thumbs and the ability to hold chalk, I'm fairly certain that the trainer would have suggested she write 'I will sit quietly in obedience school' 1,000 times the first night.

Night one of obedience school - there were three dogs in the class. Small, medium and large. A Puggle named Missy (kind of adorable), a golden retreiver named Jazzy, and my calm and relaxed Great Dane (please don't miss the sarcasm). All are roughly the same age, between one and two years old. Ruby was extremely hyper when we got into the training room, which is a metal strip mall unit with concrete floors, so very loud. All Ruby wanted to do was play with the Puggle. She pulled and tugged and pulled some more. She whined and barked, wrapped herself around several chairs, and knocked over the divider between us and the Puggle. When I stood up with her, she did her infamous Jack Russel leap. Stephanie, the trainer, started with baby steps, getting to know each of our dogs' areas of concern. Not surprisingly, Ruby's main problem was identified as fear. So we worked on building trust, learning the concept of using a clicker and treats as a reward system, and some basic commands. It took me awhile to get Ruby's focus, but she eventually figured it out and responded well to the clicker. We discussed eye contact with strangers and how the fact that the woman on the street made eye contact with Ruby may have been the trigger for her. Dogs have two reactions to fear. Fight or flight. I had her pinned, so flight wasn't an option. So she chose to fight. Conquering the reasons behind the fear are what I most want to work on. But knowing that is a trigger has proven to be helpful since that night.

At the end of the class, Stephanie gave us homework. At least a 45 minute walk every day, then some structured play time, and then we were to work on walking. She demonstrated, with all 12 pounds of Puggle, the best way to respond to pulling on the lead. which was to pull Missy back and make her stay at her side. I let her finish and then asked how you do that with 99 pounds of dog at the end of the leash. I'm pretty strong, but just can't get Ruby to understand what I want. No matter how short or long the lead, Ruby gets to the end of it and pulls as hard as she can. Makes for an exhausting walk, and not something I look forward to...ever. So Stephanie let the others go home (Ruby had to stay after class...shocker) and presented us with a Halti. A gentle leader. I described the scene at Petco the first time I tried to put a similar device on her, and how I had to restock all the leashes and collars that day because Ruby wiped the shelves clean in her twisting, jumping FREAKOUT.

Stephanie showed me how to get her used to the device while giving her some treats. As a test, she simply tried putting it on her and Ruby responded with pure anger. Backed up, barked the big dog mean bark, hackles up, etc. Clearly, this was going to take some work. It was funny how exhausted Ruby was after school that night. A lot of stimulation for an hour I guess. We started working on the Halti the next day. She was NOT a fan, but by Saturday I had managed to get it on her. Not in a way that I could take her outside with it, as she was back in freakout mode, but by Monday, we were ready to walk.

Funny how sometimes all things are against me. The elements converged to produce every obstacles and distraction available for our hour around the 'hood.  As we started out, it took some stops and starts to get her to stop thinking about the Halti and just focus on the walk. Just about the time she did, we walked by The Barking Yard. A woman who operates a dog rescue and never has less than 5 dogs in her yard, all of them going crazy at the same time. I got Ruby in the street to bypass The Barking Yard. Around the corner, two little kids in their driveway, on Big Wheels...with a CAT. That took some effort to work around. Lots of talk, command, click, treat. Repeat. Shortly past that house, there were three teenage boys playing basketball and the ball got away from them and rolled into the street about the time we were there. Another stop, command, click, treat. Then a couple on bicycles passed us. We had to stop and watch. They smiled and waved and I told them it was our first day with the Halti. A house or two up from that, a gust of wind kicked up, blowing last season's leaves across our path, causing an instant attempt at a game of 'attack the blowing leaves.'  Stop, command, click, treat. Around the corner from THAT came four young boys on bicycles, screaming and yelling at each other as boys do. Stop, watch, praise, click, treat. Oy, enough already! As we turned the corner toward home, the yard on the corner had the ever-present friendly bunny sitting out front. He's almost always there, openly mocking my dog. Today was no exception. We had to stop, click, treat, talk, calm, click, treat. Sigh. Somehow we had made it around the whole block in just under 40 minutes, and only two houses from our driveway, came the harmless squirrel. The little bastard of course couldn't stay in his tree, he had to dive down to the ground, then romp playfully across the street. I came close to having to pin Ruby, but the Halti gave me the control I needed.  It didn't stop the Jack Russell leaping.

Uggh. One block, the walk that normally takes us 12-15 minutes, took us 45. I was exhausted, Ruby was exhausted, and we still had to have 'structured playtime.' That turned out to be more fun than I expected. Instead of forcing 'fetch' which Ruby just thinks is a retarded game, I decided to fold and we played Keep-Away. Hey, she's having fun, I'm having fun, I have no reason to make her return things to me (although the ability to fetch me a rum and diet coke would be nice). So Keep-Away it is. She grabs a tennis ball, I pretend I want it, she races around in circles. And then praise, click, treat. Today at the end of our walk, I removed the Halti and she raced to the backyard and grabbed the closest tennis ball. She gets it.

So week one ideas were helpful. Week two, there was another dog there, a Maltie/Yorkie mix named Izzy. Izzy is the XS in our now XS/S/M/L class. Stephanie was happy to see Ruby wearing the Halti. CALMLY wearing the Halti and there was no mistaking the change in control. Ruby did well, we worked on walking, together. Next week we will break out the agility moves.

I brought along my husband this week. The one who has been mentioned in this very blog from time to time as taking pleasure in playing rough and scaring the daylights out of Ruby. To be fair, it's how he plays with the Bulldog. Because the Bulldog LOVES it. It is game on when Dad gets on the floor and stares her down. It makes Ruby terrified. And sneaking up on the Bulldog and scaring her is just sport. It makes Ruby pee. It might have come up in week one, to the trainer, that this is where I feel some of Ruby's fearful nature has come from. So I brought him along, we discussed rough play, worked together building trust, and came away with more good suggestions for having a more peaceful relationship with my dog. Next week, I'll bring one of the teeangers. Sometimes hearing information from a third party is the only way things get through to people. Stephanie has raised there Great Danes so always has some good behavior tips. And she made me feel tons better when she said 'Danes can't catch.'  Thank God. I thought it was just my dumb dog.

One of my favorite tips from this week is a peanut butter popsicle. A small plastic container filled with peanut butter and frozen. We take it on walks and hold it right where we want her to walk, so as not to encourage her to get to the end of the leash and pull. We had a very pleasant walk around the neighborhood this morning. 45 minutes, looping every street, stopping every now and again for praise, click, treat, or a lick of peanut butter.

Success, for sure.

On the homefront, Monday we left Ruby out for the day, as always, and she ate a hole in the front of the couch, pooped on the floor twice, and peed on it once. Clearly, still work to do, steps. Maybe in the remaining six weeks of Obedience 1 we can tackle inappropriate furniture eating.

I'll leave you with a photo. After Ruby ate the couch Monday, I decided to play hard ball and since previous attempts at kenneling had gone poorly, I made sure she was secure this time. I actually nailed the kennel to some shelving, gave her a pile of toys, her food and water, and a blanket. She shredded the blanket, spilled the food, dumped the water on the shredded blanket, and dismembered a purple stuffed monkey.  All in a day for Ruby. Actually, in a half day. This is what I found when I came home for lunch that day to check on her:

till next time...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lots of News

SIX weeks without an update! Technically seven, but six makes me feel a little better.

When I last reported on Ruby's endlessly eventful life, the family was getting into some pretty hard and heavy kitchen renovations (hence my temporary disappearance). Now that life is settling back in, I have time to breathe and give a new report. Ruby was, um...not helpful...through almost all renovations. She spent a lot of extra days at 'camp' and as always, that was worth every penny. Between the renovations and the lousy weather, camp was about the only outlet for her boundless energy. She's still chasing squirrels and has had a couple of near misses. One crossed UNDER her one day and hit her. I'm not sure if Ruby was more scared, or the squirrel!

Watching the BIG blizzard.

The vital stats. Her growth has leveled off and a visit to see Dr. Burk for her annual checkup last week revealed that she is 'only' 99 pounds. We all expected bigger. Dr. Burk thinks she will fill out a little more over the next year, but probably won't top 120. SOME people in this house have taken to calling her Runt. But I prefer 'petite.'  When she runs through the house on one of her crazy puppy runs (yes, they still happen), she sounds like all of her 99 pounds and then some. And she has the gas of a 1000 pound gorilla. Come ON what does this dog EAT??

Next, her gift for finding trouble continues. She's still obsessed with socks. And with burying every toy she has in the couch located in the front living room. She has all but destroyed it with her digging, despite all our attempts to cover it, move it, remove the cushions, and pile things on it so she can't get to it. She manages to find a way in every time and the couch continues to go south. When the cabinets came in the house, she immediately started tasting them all. We have no idea why, since none of us had the desire to lick the cabinets and find out what the appeal was. But lick them she did, until she finally responded to getting yelled at. At one point, she walked by a piece of cabinetry and promptly opened her mouth on it like it was a brand new chew toy. Fortunately I caught her in the act and she has yet to make a meal of any of the cabinetry.

This past weekend I was painting the sliding glass door and she was watching, never far from my side. Then decided she needed to see what white semi-gloss paint tasted like. It's apparently not as tasty as stained cherry cabinetry, because she only licked once and then spent the next 10 minutes trying to get the paint off her tongue. Idiot. She's also destroyed dozens of dog toys (I've not had time to sew the random parts back together), and one remote control. No reason. It was just there one day. So she ate it. Remarkably, it still works.

I finally got a vehicle a few weeks ago. A 2003 Jeep Wrangler. Ruby immediately claimed her spot in the back seat. And then truly christened it when I took her to the dog park. The magnetic forces of the big soupy mudhole were too strong and she immediately waded elbow-deep in the slop. And then I had to find a way to get her in my Jeep without the Jeep wearing the mudhole too. I finally gave up and just let her jump in. Mud dries and then vacuums out. Hey, it's not really a Jeep until it has a little dirt on it, right?

My favorite Ruby-being-Ruby story...several weeks back I picked Ruby up from camp late in the afternoon. She was in her usual manic post-camp state of mind and leapt into the backseat of the truck. Before I could back the truck completely out of the parking space, I heard a pop and a fizz and realized immediately what she had done. The six-pack of 24 oz bottles of Diet Dr. Pepper were no match for one of those giant teeth. One bite and soda was spraying all over the back of the truck. It took me just a few seconds to ram the truck back into the spot, throw it into park, and get out and open the back door and throw it out to the ground. By then probably half of it had sprayed, mostly into Ruby's mouth and onto the door and floormat. And, of course, all over me as I pulled it out. It was all I could do to keep myself from marching her right back into camp and telling them to keep her overnight. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Behaviorally, I'm sorry to say I'm not always seeing things I like to see. I've finally classified her as very passive-aggressive at home. Now that we've examined her angle behind some of her quirky habits. Like drinking Sophie's water instead of her own. She only does it if Sophie's food bowl is near hers. When we moved their bowls into the new kitchen and they are across the room from each other, Ruby stopped going anywhere near Sophie's. Similarly, the day of the big blizzard, we came home to yet another poop and puke mess as Sophie had managed to get Ruby's food container open and eaten herself to a state of bloat that really had us worried for her health. Ruby's reaction was that for the next week, she INHALED her own food, and then, you guessed it, puked it up almost immediately. She saw Sophie taking all her food and she went into survival mode, eating it all before Sophie could. And lastly, when given the opportunity, she takes Sophie's bed and drags it, jumps on it, scratches it, and basically beats the hell out of it. Then leaves it in a heap in the middle of the bedroom floor. Sort of a 'take that, Shorty.'

Beyond those quirks, she's great with other dogs and anyone she knows, but very very timid with strangers. And tonight, my biggest fear was realized when that timid nature gave way to an aggressive outburst while I was walking her. A woman walked by and Ruby was sitting waiting for her to pass and when she did and smiled down at her, Ruby barked and leapt toward her. Something I've never ever seen her do. Complete with a viscious growl, snarling, and lunging. The whole nine yards. I had a close hold on her leash so no harm was done, other than scaring the crap out of this poor woman I've never seen before.

It scared the hell out of me too and my immediate reaction was to body slam Ruby to the ground and lay on her to get control. In the few seconds I was laying there, I came to a decision that obedience training wasn't an option any longer. She popped up like nothing was wrong, tail wagging, tongue hanging out. Oblivious to what had just happened. I will NOT tolerate her acting like that. Had she been at home and reacted to a stranger in the house, I could use the excuse that she was protecting the home front. But we were walking on a public sidewalk. Whether she felt she was protecting me or herself, I can't take the chance that she's going to get aggressive like that. So I came home, looked up a dog obedience training program I'd heard about and found that the class she needs starts this Thursday. So to puppy training we will go.

That's all I have time for tonight. I'll report back after the first night of training and let you know how it goes.

Favorite picture of the week. She was actually asleep like this. By the way, the ottoman doesn't count as 'on the furniture.'

Saturday, January 22, 2011

January Update

Another week of living in a construction zone. Ruby has done just fine. She only chewed a little bit of PEX plumbing lines, and I yelled at her so loudly that she's now terrified of the stuff. Other than being underfoot a LOT when we're working, she's not been too awful to have around.  She's even stayed out of the trash, the recycle, and the food on the open shelving in the temporary kitchen. So I can't complain. Regardless, for our sanity and for hers, I let her run off some steam at camp twice this week, Monday and Friday. It IS the greatest thing ever. 

All signs seem to point toward her 'whatever' injury being over and done with. She is active as she can be, cooped up in the house because of the bitter cold, had no issues at camp, and hasn't exhibited any symptoms like she was. She has her one year checkup next month, so we will have official measurements, height and weight to report. I'm sure Dr. Burke will look her over thoroughly, but I don't expect him to find anything. She healed. Yay.

I discovered an indestructable chew toy for her. We were working on some plumbing in the will-be-a-kitchen space and as I was cutting small pieces of PVC drain pipe with the reciprocating saw, she was chasing them around the kitchen (very helpful, by the way). So I looked one over good, took a knife to it to knock off any burrs or sharp edges, and presented her with a collection of bits and pieces that she absolutely loves to chew on.  
The smaller rings get tossed around and chased, the bigger ones she just chews on and hasn't so much as made a tooth mark in them. But she keeps trying. :) And it keeps her occupied and out of our hair as long as her attention span holds out.

Last weekend, I decided that the soft toys were beyond disgusting and needed a bath. As I gathered them up from every corner of the house, Ruby followed me and the laundry basket with absolute concern. I tried to explain that they would all be OK and she could even watch them, but that didn't compute. She had a massive anxiety attack for about half of the 53 minute wash cycle and then she simply threw in the towel and pouted at the top of the stairs until they were done.

She also didn't understand the need to put them in the dryer and wait ANOTHER 40 minutes. Seriously, I thought she was going to stroke out when I switched machines. Tried to upload a really hilarious video, but the stupid thing won't work. I'll keep trying.

She's getting better and better with people and moves on from pacing and stressing pretty quickly these days. She does have a very short memory, so when the teenagers have friends over and hang out in the basement, by the time they come up the stairs, she's generally forgotten they were here at all and the pacing and barking returns. But it's short-lived.

Beyond that, we are just surviving winter. We will ALL be happy when we can get outside and go for a walk. But with temperatures in the single digits at the hottest part of the day and ice and snow on every surface, we aren't getting out much.

By the way, if I haven't said it lately, thanks for reading! I've enjoyed watching where my readers are in the world. Last week, Australia! If you're reading again...I'm intensely jealous that it's summer there. Send some my way please. :)

Favorite Ruby picture of the week...

"Get your own couch, humans. This one's mine."

Biggest Loser

With the main part of the house in complete shambles, we have had to be extra careful about what we leave lying around. Ruby has proven to be fairly trainable, but still has a lot of puppy curiosity in her. So we scan the available roaming space she has before leaving for work each morning, picking up any tools, parts, supplies, etc...just to make sure she doesn't get herself into big trouble. Sophie never bothers anything. She's what's known as 'the good one.' Uh-huh. Right.

Tuesday night we completed the main hookup of our new plumbing system (this is relevant, I promise). Wednesday morning we checked it and had no leaks. Even so, I spent Wednesday morning at work, very busy, but unable to get an ugly picture out of my head. That the new plastic lines we had installed would give way at the fittings in the basement. That the entire morning, since we had looked at all of it at 5:45am, there was water pouring into the basement. I pictured the theater room completely submerged, the equipment ruined. I pictured all the Christmas decorations going in the trash. I added up the cost of all the tools and mechanicals and mentally reviewed our homeowners policy.

I was unable to get away from work and barely even got to eat lunch with Kevin. But I had long enough to transfer a bit of my paranoia to him so he offered to go home and make sure all was well in the basement. Breathing a sigh of relief 45 minutes later when I saw him pop back up on my instant messenger at work, I was able to 100% focus on my busy day. He would have called immediately, had my horrific vision of a flooded basement been true.

And then I got an e-mail from him. With the following pictures. In order.


When you get to the last one, see if you can figure out exactly what happened while we were away.


More poop.

Puke. LOTS of puke.

More puke by the door...and more poop.

And yup, that's more puke. And an open container of Ruby food. Ahem.

I apparently didn't get the bottom dog food container fully closed and one of them is smart enough to get it open. I know the front part that was sitting open in the final picture was about half full. I didn't come close to scraping bottom when I fed Ruby that morning. We're guessing they teamed up. Ruby's pointy nose probably opened the food out of curiosity and she had a few more bites. That's just how she rolls.

But Sophie GORGED. For as long as she wanted between 5:45 and 11:30.

Kevin called me as I was looking through the pictures. First, assuring me that the basement was fine. And then explaining that instead of being met at the door by two happy, lonely dogs, neither of them would move from their spots on the furniture, or even look in his direction. Just faces of SHAME. Absolute shame. And from one, absolute physical misery.

Ruby was well-fed, clearly having eaten more than her share, but the prevailing feeling seemed to be shame from her. But Sophie...well Sophie's condition can only be described as BLOAT. Four hours later when I saw her, she could still barely walk. She had puked again (you're welcome for not taking pictures of THAT) all over her bed in the afternoon and her belly was so fat that she waddled. She looked like a Biggest Loser contestant on day one.

Now Ruby can get into trouble, but she's not a big eater. Not a gobbler any longer, not an overeater. As a matter of fact, as previously reported in this blog, she sometimes doesn't even eat all her food. But Sophie...well that's a different story. Sophie has never missed a meal in her 7 1/2 years of life. Never missed a crumb dropped or anything that might sound like a crumb. Never missed an opportunity to sit at the feet of someone holding something that LOOKS like food, with drool dripping from her big, droopy mouth.

Let's just say, Wednesday night, Sophie missed her first meal. And Thursday morning, she got a reduced portion of her regular serving. Even Thursday night, just a barely-level scoop. Finally by Friday morning, her shape was back to normal and she would look us in the eye again.

I'm wondering what sort of deal she made with Ruby to talk her into this crime, or if they intened to blame it on the cat.

Note to self: in addition to scanning the floor for things we don't want chewed up during the day, make sure the dog food container is shut tight.

...carry on.

Monday, January 10, 2011


At least I THINK she's healing.

After a weekend of hard core home renovations and one cooped up giant dog, I made the call Sunday night to send Ruby back to camp today. Allan gave her a ride before school and informed them of her 'injury' followed by a call from me to explain further. I told them to make her take a time out if she seemed to be in pain. When I went to pick her up, 11 hours later, the report was that she hadn't had any problems at all. The doggie daycamp humans said she didn't jump up on anybody, but other than that, they noticed no difference at all. So I paid her tab and walked out the door with which point she yelped like she was in pain again.

I swear its for attention some times.

At any rate, she is crashed out on the couch tonight, where I'm guessing she will stay until this time tomorrow with the occasional break for food and bodily functions. Whatever. I can't figure this dog out.

So week before last, Kevin and I are getting ready for bed upstairs and Ruby is patiently waiting (not) for her turn at the well for her nighttime drink. Kevin takes one of his contact lenses out, dropping it into the storage container and as he reaches to take out the second, this giant Great Dane tongue comes out of nowhere and slurps the lens right out of the container. In the blink of an eye, it was gone. Pun intended.

I laughed so hard I almost peed. There was a lot of 'what the HELL' from Kevin, but neither of us could help but laugh. Ruby, unaware as always, just sat back licking her chops. Apparently, contact lenses are somewhat tasty.

Thank goodness for disposable contact lenses!

Ruby handled the demo OK this weekend. She is still convinced that if she can't get to me, she must try, even if she can hear me through the sheets of plastic that protected the non-work areas of the house all weekend. So she got in trouble a few times for blasting under the plastic. Fortunately, we were able to take it all down Saturday evening as the dirtiest of the work is done for now. When it comes time to tile the floor, I'm sure Ruby will be in for another day at camp.

Nothing more today. Boring post...sorry. Favorite picture...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Happy New Year!

Pouting because the blanket doesn't allow her to bury toys.
Surviving the holidays is always good. Surviving it without being financially ruined and still able to button my jeans is a solid win. Surviving with no Christmas casualties as a result of the wonder dog is a downright miracle.

Props to Ruby for being on her best behavior for MOST of the holiday festivities. No, REALLY. Cookies cooled on the counter and she obediently did NOT help herself. Tempting sparkly decorations draped every surface and she simply observed. Wrapped packages, which must have been almost impossible to ignore, stayed wrapped. People came to the house and as long as she stayed on leash for a brief time and everyone gave her a treat, she was more than happy to mingle with the humans. She was unbelieveably well-behaved.

Well there was that ONE incident at her cousin Murphy's house in Wisconsin. There were no signs in the yard as to where the facilities were and Ruby has a hard time deciding where to poo anyway. So she waited until she was in the house and then left a lovely present on Aunt Pam's basement floor. But that was really just a case of being in unfamiliar territory after a 3-hour car ride. An isolated incident.

Some fun pictures from the holiday below:

What? It's comfortable.
Must. Stuff. New. Toy. Under. Couch.
Is there something in here for me?



I love you Sophie! I love YOU Ruby!!


A significant change in Ruby's eating habits have my scratching my head a little. I guess its just her growing up. But the dog that was once such a gobbler, such an inhaler of food that I had to resort to the bowl-in-a-bowl trick so she didn't puke it all up, is suddenly a grazer. I suppose it changed when we started leaving her out during the day. Maybe she realizes she can eat whenever she wants now. But I fill her bowl in the morning and most days, a considerable amount of food is still there at 4:30 when we come home. She finishes it then, as if it would be wrong to eat without an audience. And then I fill it back up at 5:30. She will graze throughout the evening, and then usually finishes it off right before bed. Nice that she's self-regulating. Some days she hasn't finished it, so I'm cutting back on the amount a little bit. Five cups a day rather than six. Still five times as much as Sophie eats. But Ruby still has lots of growing to do.

Unfortunately, I can't report that her injury is completely gone. Though we do feel it is somewhat better. She hadn't had any moments of intense pain for a couple of weeks. Until the visit to cousin Murphy's house. Not letting Ruby play seemed cruel so we just let them go at it. A couple of times, she yelped in pain and we tried putting her in her kennel, but then she was completely stressed because she could hear all the activity. We decided to play it safe and she slept in her kennel in the spare bedroom with us. At 4:45 she woke us up with a screeching, pained yelping. An alarm clock that wouldn't stop. We quickly got her out of the kennel. Seemed she must have just turned wrong on whatever hurts. For the next few hours she was happy to sleep on the bed with us.

Since then, she still favors her right side, but will still run and play or wrestle with Sophie whenever she has the opportunity. We've decided its a combination of having a slight injury...and being a gigantic sissy. We've isolated the pain to her shoulderblade, but nothing bone-related. Just a strain or a sprain probably and we can't do anything for it anyway. So she will heal on her own.

She still hasn't been back to camp, however the fact that I sit here surrounded by a half-demolished kitchen means she will probably be spending some time there the next couple of weeks. We have hung sheets of plastic to contain the dust, but if Ruby can peek under a piece of plastic, she feels an intense need to go through it. This will be interesting. How many drywall crumbs can a Great Dane consume before her stomach rejects it? We shall soon find out.

One change in all this construction that makes Ruby a very happy dog is that we had to do some rearranging of furniture, and moved her two favorite chairs to the bedroom. So even though I broke down and bought her a nice new VERY BIG VERY FLUFFY bed last weekend, she has spent the last few nights curled up and wedged into one of the chairs. She did lose her view out the front picture window though and she can't be happy about that during the day. The pub-height dining room table is in front of her window during construction. We half expected to see her standing on top of it that first day, standing guard for us to return home. But she has so far stayed on the floor...or the blanket-covered couch.

That's all for now.

Favorite picture. Having been in trouble most of the evening, Ruby finally gave up her quest for undivided attention from...everyone. Good thing the cuteness factor always pays off.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Injured Reserve

'Watching my stories.'

(Yes, that' is STILL L'Oreal 5.3 on her side. Seven weeks and counting)

Ruby has been pretty darn healthy in her first year. Other than the weird warts on her toes and the one episode of what we will delicately refer to as 'tummy trouble,' she's not had any issues. Until now. A couple of weeks back I saw the first sign that something was wrong, but wrote it off as a fluke. I put my hands under her chin to tell her hello and kiss her on the nose and she yelped loudly. A few days later, it started to happen more regularly. We have been able to rule out and narrow down the injury. It is NOT her teeth, foot, ankle, or plain old fear. All of those have been ruled out in one way or the other.

If she jumpes up to give hugs, she sometimes falls back down yelping in absolute pain and won't put her right front foot down. One time, she was literally on the floor howling for a good 2-3 minutes. If she raises her head quickly to attempt to catch a treat (she still can't do it, btw), same reaction. Its also happened once or twice fighting with Sophie, a few times jumping in fear (the garbage cans were terrifying Monday), and occasionally when she races after the squirrels. She favors her right side when she lays down, laying awkwardly.  I also gave her the giant bone that she loves on Sunday and she couldn't carry it straight. You could tell that it hurt her neck to pick it up. And it is big, but I've seen her carry it around LOTS of times. Current school of thought is that it is a toss-up between her shoulder and her neck. Or a combination of the two.

I called Dr. Burke about a week and a half ago and gave him our list of symptoms and potential causes. Among them, too much roughhousing at camp (although the symptoms don't directly correlate with a day at camp, they did get worse the last time she went. Understandably.). Too much jumping like a fool after squirrels. Or possibly, it COULD be, I mean the possibility EXISTS that the attempts to break out of her kennel have caused her some pain. Trying to break out to the point that she has pulled the front of the kennel so hard that it is rounded IN now and a small creature could easily escape if needed. Presumably she has done this with her teeth since she's yet to sprout opposable thumbs. This has to hurt her neck. It just has to.

So, under Dr. Burke's orders, no walks, no camp, no chasing squirrels, giving hugs, wrestling (with Sophie or anybody else). General calmness until she heals. And lots of lap-dog time. Or as much as Mom can stand.

We are hoping that she comes out of it and we don't have to do x-rays to try and diagnose this. My main concern is that they have to put her under anesthesia to do it, which I hate doing unless absolutely necessary. Then there's the cost. A $250 minimum outlay to find out, potentially, that she sprained her neck trying to chew out of a metal cage and all we can do is wait it out until it heals. Dr. Burke called again this week to check up on her and said if she isn't better after Christmas that he really wants to go that route. uggh. I'm really hoping it isn't necessary.

We took a huge step and decided that if her stress level from being kenneled was causing her physical harm, we need to try something else. So for about two weeks now, Ruby has had the Run Of The House during the day. We have developed an elaborate 'cat in-dog out' security system with the upstairs bathroom door. So far she's not cracked the code. The rest of the upstairs doors stay closed, protecting mattress pads and fluff-filled objects everywhere. Downstairs she's been very good, other than almost digging through the couch cushions in the front living room. She's trying to 'bury' her toys in it for some reason so we've had to resort to piling all the cushions on the couch and wrapping the whole couch in an old blanket. Eventually we'll get through that annoying phase/habit as well. I just hope the furniture survives in the meantime. But there hasn't been a single household accident, food theft, garbage spill, upturned or turned up anything. I think she just lays looking out the window hoping to see one of us pull in the driveway. The squirrels have not slowed down and any given morning there are at least a half dozen of them on the deck. So if she's paying attention, she's got plenty to occupy her time. I'm going to leave the TV on tomorrow anyway. On Animal Planet. Just to give her something to do. :)

We had an unofficial weigh-in a few weeks ago and Ruby tipped the scales at just over 98 pounds. I think we all expected her to be bigger by now. But Dr. Burke told me on the phone that a 1-year old Great Dane is like a 7-month old German Shepherd. I think that means she's not nearly done growing. I had heard that about this breed, but had never heard it put quite like that. He still expects her to end up in the 130-150 range when she's completely filled out.

On the good news front, her reaction to visitors was really put to the test this weekend and she passed with flying colors. Friday night we had some friends over and she warmed up to them almost immediately. I kept her on a leash until she was relaxed so she wasn't pacing around annoying everyone and stressing herself out. She did great and within an hour was snuggled up lap-dog style on my pretty blonde friend. :)

But the real test was Sunday. Monroe Family Christmas, here at our house. An extra 10 bodies in the house, including very small ones. We put Ruby in the kennel upstairs until everyone got in and settled. I figured if she was going to freak out, it was best she do it once and get it all over with. I was so please that when I did bring her downstairs (on leash), she was nervous, but very calm. I think everyone here gave her a treat and before you knew it she was plopped on the couch or wandering around saying hello to everyone, and just being very pleasant. Even with tons of food perched on the edges of all the counters, she was very well-behaved. My sister-in-law accidently knocked THE CAN off the edge of the counter once. I'm pretty sure Ruby had an mini-stroke from the next room, but she rebounded quickly.

Have a fabulous Christmas and New Years everyone. And thanks for reading!

Favorite picture...this is how I leave her every morning before work, ever-hopeful that her attention span will not wane long enough to remember the couch that needs to have toys buried in it. :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Trouble Is As Trouble Does

My last update was shortly after the Great Sophie Bed Massacre of 2010 and just prior to the great Thanksgiving Day Mattress Pad Massacre of 2010. On the off chance that last one requires some explanation, I'll save the drama and just give you the Reader's Digest version.

Thanksgiving Day. Left home with Grandma and Grandpa for maybe 30 minutes. The little shit-dog snuck upstairs to the bedroom and dug a giant hole in the center of our mattress pad. A deliberate act of defiance for leaving her home. I'm sure of it. Only good news is, she stopped when she hit mattress. Black Friday sales being what they were, the replacement mattress pad was only $18.99, free shipping. Thank you Kohls.

So I didn't kill her.

As the Christmas decorations have gone up, Ruby has found plenty of additional ways to get herself in trouble. First, she paced in fear as the boxes came up from the basement. For a brief time we added outdoor lights to the 'things to be terrified of' list but that passed. After all the decorations are up, Ruby has learned that the following acts will get her in trouble:

  • Taking candy out of the advent calendar.
  • Taking ornaments off the tree.
  • Walking around with a santa hat hanging out of her mouth.
  • Grabbing ribbons off the tree on the front porch on her way to pee in the yard.
  • Biting the tree lights.

To name a few.

Ruby being Ruby, Christmas decorations aren't the only way she's found trouble in the last couple of weeks. As the weather has gotten cold, very cold, her desire to spend adequate potty time in the yard is waning. The first big snow last week dropped about 7-8 inches in the yard. It's funny to remember that this was the dog who, in March, was peeing on the tiniest remaining pile of snow in the back yard because it was all she knew. But Friday night when it was snowing again, she was timid. By Saturday morning with piles of snow everywhere, she was nothing short of skittish. Where do I walk? Can I put my feet in it? How does it smell? WHERE DO I POOP!?!?

And THEN the snowblower started. She freaked. I put her in her kennel until we were done with the initial cleanup because she was so stressed out. But by afternoon, she had fallen in love with the snow. Running through the back yard like a gazelle, bounding through the drifts, and coming to the back door with piles of snow on her nose when I could get her attention. It also seems that the squirrels were extra busy this weekend, or at least extra visible. This picture was from our bedroom window. The tree is just outside and this big fat squirrel sat eating berries and openly mocking the dog. It was a busy weekend.

And then came Monday. Ruby was DEFIANT about peeing at 5:30 in the morning, but I dressed her in her sweatshirt to try and help the cold thing (didn't help). I finally got my coat on and stepped out with her where I outlasted her in the front yard, freezing my tail off right along with her until she gave in. Then she came in and refused to eat her breakfast. I think she knows its a workday and stalls thinking I'll give in and stay home with her. Since she won't eat, we put her food in her kennel with her.

At the end of Monday:

She must have tried desperately to get the bowl turned over, given the large dents in the bottom of it.

So Tuesday comes around and the routine continues. Put on sweatshirt (she hates that part), reluctantly leave the front door, pee because the cold won't let her hold it in, shiver annoyingly against the house. Sneak to the back door, then back to the front door, finally forcing the Mom out of the house to shiver in the cold. Give in and poop after pacing a good solid 4 minutes to pick a spot in the snow (WHY oh why is it so hard to pick where you are going to poop!?!?) Into the house to mope around and refuse to eat. In the kennel with the food bowl for the work day.

And today, we got THIS: 

Those black strips all over the floor are the pieces of the plastic tray that lined the bottom of her kennel. 

Let me clarify:

Ruby. Ate. Her. Kennel.

Clearly she is miserable in her kennel. But I'm sure you saw the video of what used to be Sophie's bed the LAST time we left her out to roam the house all day. So here's my plan. I will puppy-proof every inch of this house tomorrow morning. And we will leave her out. I will run home at lunch and make certain she hasn't destroyed anything. Or, more likely, I will clean up piles of fluff from the couch, or strips of what used to be our curtains, or I'll have to go price out new carpet after work.

Wish me luck.

Favorite picture of the week is easy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


So today is the day. Ruby is the big 01. Or the big 07 in human years. She celebrated with a pre-birthday fun day at doggie daycamp yesterday, exhausting herself to the point that she couldn't even get off the couch last night. After that fun bender, today was kind of a down day. I did take her for a walk. Our first since my ACL-eliminating accident on September 11. She was so excited to walk and was very well-behaved even when several bunnies taunted her from the darkness of the neighborhood. We had a discussion as we walked about how if she bolted, Mom was just going to have to let her go. So I'm sure that's why she was such a good girl. I topped off her morning bowl of food with a treat and left her for the day.

She desperately needed one (see previous post L'Oreal 5.3 Fiasco), so she had her first annual birthday bath tonight as well. It might not be everyone's favorite birthday activity, but it was just time. So right now she is in a horizontal position sacked out on the couch. Like all Great Danes.

So to backtrack a little, there have been plenty of Ruby Adventures, but my knee surgery and readjustment to work have put a cramp in my blogging. The first week back was pretty exhausting. This week has been better, and blessedly short, so here I am.

The squirrel watching continues. I'm not sure who was more interested. Dog? Or teenage boy?

Regardless, the little critters continue to mock Ruby openly. They've even gotten brave enough to venture up onto the deck to eat out of the chum bowl of corn and sunflower seeds. When she sees them, Ruby about goes right through the sliding glass door. They are smart little buggers. They move away from the door slowly, until they hear it slide. Then it's a race to the closest tree where they sit and cackle at her. It really is fun for the whole family.

I purchased a new food bowl a few weeks ago. It is huge and tall and very sturdy. The old one really wasn't tall enough for her and was made of melamine, so pretty much fell apart. (she's not the neatest drinker). She doesn't like water unless it is straight out of the sink or toilet anyway, so a couple of weeks ago we caved and just let her drink.

We call it the well and she drinks out of it every night. Much to the annoyance of the cat. To be fair, he always has that disgusted look on his face.

Among other adventures, Ruby has destroyed completely two of her remaining three beds. Fluff everywhere, beds in the trash. So she now spends her work days on a hard plastic floor. And I. Don't. Care. I'm done fixing beds.

Last week someone accidentally left Ruby out to have the run of  the house for the day. Nobody realized it until we all returned home. And nobody was more surprised than I that everything was still in place. There were no 'gifts' left anywhere in the house. Even the cat's door was open, her food and litter readily available. With such a success, we decided to give it a second try. Day two of Operation Leave Ruby Out went just as well. I suspect she spent those days laying in the chair in the front window, looking forlornly at the driveway waiting for someone, ANYONE, to come home and pay attention to her.

Day three, the youngest was home sick with a stomach flu. So we felt pretty confident that Ruby could have the run of the house without cause for concern. Around lunchtime I got a cryptic message from the sick one that Ruby was in trouble. Something about tearing up Sophie's bed and she had put her in her kennel for the rest of the day. I had no idea how badly day three had gone until I got the following video via iPhone, about an hour before my work day ended.

So what that WAS, is a waffle foam bed with a zippered cover. For some reason, the cat had taken up residence on it. I think to make sure that everyone noticed it and so that Ruby faced adequate punishment.

There was no missing it. I'm taking the price of dog beds out of her college fund. Enough already.

Favorite picture of the week...coming home from daycamp, enjoying the view out the moonroof...

All for now.

L'Oreal 5.3 Fiasco

A few weeks post-ACL reconstruction and feeling a little more human, I got a wild hair to, well, color my hair. Freshen up my look. Brighten my hair for winter. My lack of tanning and current super-dark black color gave me a bit of a goth look so on my way home from physical therapy, I stopped at the local market, bought myself two L'Oreal color/highlight kits in my favorite color combo, 5.3, and headed home to update my do. $30. Instant update.

I let the dogs out when I get home and they were thrilled to get out and have their dinner. Then Ruby, as she does, stayed glued to my side while I started step one of the hair color (the 5 in the 5.3).

That's when the fiasco started.

So I'm standing in front of the bathroom mirror in the old t-shirt with the rubber gloves on, squirting my head with color from the plastic bottle. Ruby is lying directly behind me, in case I should quickly try to escape. You can't be too careful apparently. At one point, as I was squirting color on the back of my head, there was a small bubble in the bottle. I squeezed extra hard to loosen it and heard the sound. I turned to Ruby to see if I had gotten any on the carpet and all looked OK.

If you've ever colored your hair and spilled the goop on anything, you know where this is going.

I finish my hair, put it up in a clip and turn to see a number of blotches of hair color on the bathroom carpet. (I know, I know, it's really ridiculous that someone put carpet in the bathroom, but someone did.) See, it takes a good 5-10 minutes for the coloring solution to appear as anything but clear. So I'm pissed off that I've ruined the carpet, even though I hate the carpet and we plan to replace it...someday. I'm on my hands and knees with an old rag trying to clean up the mess, when Ruby walks in.

And I see this:

My apologies for not even getting the greatest picture of the mess.

As you can see, Ruby is speckled with L'Oreal 5 above her eyes, on her legs, and down both sides of her body. I've watched a lot of CSI, so I can recognize a spatter pattern when I see one. As best I can tell, she was directly behind me with her feet neatly in front of her and her face turned up to watch me when the shower came her way. I can even match spatter patterns on her sides to identical residue on the carpet (or vice-versa) like you would map the constellations. It had also splattered the black on her nose, turning it a rusty red color.

Of course, by the time I see it and have assessed the damage, the hair dye is completely dry. Set in. Permanent. On the dog AND the carpet.

To make matters worse, the hair color took on the dog and the carpet, but not so much on me. One emergency visit to Colorific and $109 later the next day, and all is well. But for about 12 hours there, it was hat-city for me and humiliation for my dog.

When I picked her up from daycamp the next week, the girls at the front counter said 'we love the spots' and said they had decided a young child with a Sharpie must have gotten to Ruby over the weekend. I fessed up. Just me and some hair color. Nobody else to blame. :)

As I sit here tonight, nearly two weeks and a bath later, Ruby's spots are just as bright. I honestly don't know if they will ever come out. I've thought about mixing up the highlighter kit to see if we can at least soften them but there's not way she'd ever sit still. And then we would probably just need new carpet in other rooms too.

On the flip side, my hair looks great. For only $139. Oy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A year old...REALLY?

As she sits here next to me, legs folded under her like a lawnchair in her post doggie daycamp state of exhaustion, I can't believe that Ruby is almost a year old. When I picked her from the litter of 8 at only 5 weeks old last December, it was because I looked down and saw that she had climbed into my lap in precisely the position she lays in right now, while I was distracted by 7 other energetic puppies. So as I've said before, it was more like she picked me.

It is remarkable how such a tiny body could grow...essentially 9 times her bring-home weight of 9lbs under a year. Nobody can lift her to weigh her any longer, so we're just guessing she's around 100 pounds. And at her back, she is officially table height. Her face rests comfortably on the kitchen table at any time.

For all my complaining about her various transgressions, I love this silly dog. Most days she's in trouble more than out of it, but it turns out she CAN be trained. When she looks at me like I'm the greatest human on earth, I know that at least in Ruby's world, I really am. And, on even my worst days, when everybody else on the planet is pissed off at me, I can always count on Ruby to look at me and smile her big, goofy, slobbering smile. She's really my best buddy and as I've recovered from this stupid knee surgery, it's been great having her by my side (or safely on the floor at my feet).

I have to return to work tomorrow, a few hours a day this week and then full time next week. I could lie and say I'm looking forward to it, but, well, that would be a lie. But at least I get to look forward to coming home to a wonderful family who, though sometimes collectively or individually pissed off at me, still support and love me, and to this big droopy-eyed, lovable dog, who will never see me as anything but perfect. That feels pretty good.

Enough of the sloppy stuff...

So I've written about Ruby's constant dismantling of various toys. Every once in awhile I try and patch some of them back together, unless they are too far gone and then they sleep with the fishes. Last week, deep in a Vicodin haze and needing something to do, I pulled out some of the headless, legless and stuffingless toys and started to patch. Then I got creative. Perhaps it was the drugs.

So that's formerly Rasta Monkey, wearing Floppy Squirrel's face as a mask, huddled up with Headless Horsey, now sporting Rasta Monkey's dreads. Together, they are now known as Squirrel Monkey and Rasta Horsey (who was very happy to have his head reattached to his body).

I guess I'm channeling my inner Sid (please get obscure Toy Story reference).

Ruby doesn't seem to care, she plays with them like she always did. I gotta wonder if she has nightmares though. :)

Favorite picture of the week requires a little explanation. That's an episode of America's Funniest Home Videos on TV. Two squirrels stalking a bowl of Halloween candy with one of those motion-activated scary hands that slaps when you get close. Ruby shot off the couch and started barking and leaping at the TV when she saw the raccoons. 

It must be so confusing for her. 'They're here, but I can't GET them!'

Carry on...


Ruby at 5 weeks.