puppyjourney

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Life with a Diva

Hello all!

Lucy’s personality is really starting to show now that she’s more comfortable in Seattle. She’s such a girly-girl diva doggie! She struts around Seattle like she owns the place. We even walked by someone the other day who gasps, “Look! It prances!” She also loves getting groomed, bathed, brushed, trimmed, you name it and she loves it. Clearly, she was born to be a show dog. But I don’t think she harbors any resentment towards me from keeping her from the life of a beauty queen.

Also, in true Diva style, Lucy is lazy! She likes a good long walk a couple times a day and spends the rest of the time asleep. On the floor, on the sofa, in her crate, on the counter at the front desk, it doesn’t  matter. There is only one place that she won’t sleep, and that is my lap. I’ve probably got the one lap dog in the world that doesn’t like laps.

I try my best not to spoil her. But I’m pretty sure that she’s been spoiled.

As evidence of how much she loves the camera (and how much the camera loves her!) I have included a slideshow of some recent pictures of her.

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My Glamorous Life

Hello all!

Well, I’ve had Lucy for about a month now and boy, have things been crazy! First, so info about Lucy. She is cheerful and loving. Though she was billed as a lap dog I think this was false advertising. She prefers to sit near you, but not in your lap. She also loves to chase a tennis ball around the floor but won’t fetch it. She likes to go for long walks but when we go places too far away she rides in a fake Gucci purse. So yes, I do have a purse-puppy.

No, I don’t have pictures uploaded to my computer so none will appear in this post. However, I have a ton on my phone so just text if you want one. Now, on to our adventures in Seattle.

About 2 days after I got her I was contacted by Amazon saying they had run out of apartments for cooperate housing. So they were putting me up in a hotel for the next 3 months. I contacted the hotel and because Lucy is classified as an ESA (until Public Access Training starts) she is allowed to stay. However, we went into hardcore training mode. Rather than focus on the basics, like Sit, I choose to start by teaching her the essential things she will need to know to live in a hotel. The most important is manners.

Here at the hotel she lives by the following rules:

1. Lucy may bark once and only once when someone passes by the door.

2. Lucy must stay close to me at all times. She may not wander, even if she smells something really good coming from the dinning room.

3. Lucy may not solicit for pets. She may (and loves to) accept them.

4. Lucy must be respectful of all people.

5. Lucy must exhibit proper elevator etiquette. This includes waiting to get on until everyone else has gotten off, sitting at my feet while riding, and getting off only when I indicate that we have reached the appropriate floor.

6. Lucy may not chew on anything that I have not given her.

She’s gotten pretty good at them. She still makes mistakes, of course, but overall is doing very well. All the hotel staff are in love with her, as are most of the patrons. So far I’ve gotten a couple of dirty looks for daring to bring an animal into a wonderfully sanitary place such as a hotel but the vast majority of people just adore her.

In other news, she scared me half to death on Tuesday. Because she is not allowed to go to work with me (I share a small windowless office with 4 other people) I figured I’d enroll her in doggie daycare. This way she could socialize with other dogs and not have to sit in her crate all day.

Well, Tuesday was Day 2 of daycare and I got a call about 11 am saying I needed to pick her up and take her to the vet. I was very confused as she had been her usual energetic and chipper self when I dropped her off. When I next saw her, Lucy was wobbling when she walked, randomly falling over, shaking uncontrollably, drooling excessively, and refusing to drink water. I rushed her to a nearby vet who said that I needed to take her to the animal ER.

A $25 cab ride later and we were at the ER. She spent nearly 11 hours in the intensive care unit before I got a call (in the middle of the night). The ER said I needed to hurry down, Lucy wasn’t doing well. I panicked, hopped a bus, and hurried over. About halfway there I got another phone call. Gratefully, Lucy had made a miraculous and sudden turnaround. She was doing great! So once I got to the ER I checked her out and she seemed perfectly normal. She was discharged and is still doing wonderfully.

I asked the vet what was wrong with her and the vet believes that it might have been mild head trauma. Needless to say, I contacted daycare immediately. They swear that nothing happened but have refunded me the money I payed upfront for the rest of the week and apologized profusely. While Lucy will most certainly not be going back to daycare, I harbor them no ill-will. I’m just glad that Lucy is okay. And that is the story of our thrilling adventure in Seattle thus far.

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Happiness is a Warm Puppy

So, I figured I’d make finals a little bit better by posting a video of me interacting with Lucy. Keep in mind that Lucy is going through an awkward stage right now and looks a little scraggly. She’ll grow out of it.

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“Ack! I’ve been Kissed by a Dog!”

“I’ve got dog germs! Get hot water! Get some disinfectant! Get some Iodine!”

~Lucy VanPelt

It’s a girl! That’s right, I got a puppy! She’s just over 16 weeks old and will be coming home with me after school lets out for the summer.

Meet LUCY!

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You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

Update:

My diagnosis was recently changed to Bipolar I which is characterized by episodes of mania in which the person feels invincible. Due to the nature of a manic episode, many people have trouble determining for themselves if they are suffering from one. Thus, my future dog now has one more thing to alert to.

In other news, I have narrowed my search down to two breeders. One is in Ohio and will have puppies available in November. The other is in North Carolina. I am going to visit them this weekend. If one of the puppies passes the temperament tests then it is likely that I will place a deposit on it, to pick up the puppy in May.

Here are a couple of the puppies I will be looking at.

What kind of tests, you ask? There are several simple tests you can do to determine if a puppy is a good candidate for a PSD. If you start with an appropriate breed and a dog of sound temperament then there is about a 50/50 chance that you dog with not “wash out.” These tests include watching what order the puppies come to you. The puppy should be somewhere in the middle between over-confident (which rushes right up) and nervous (who lags in the back). Then you take the puppy into a room where it has not usually been and interact with it one-on-one. You do several more tests including the paper ball test. You wad up a bit of paper and toss it. If the puppy brings it back, it is a good pick. This tests how eager the dog is to please you. Another test is to drop something noisy (such as a set of keys). The dog may startle, but it should recover quickly and investigate the item.

Because of the nature of a PSD, I believe that it is also important to feel a bond with the dog before you select it. Even if it passes all the tests, if your energies (as Ceasar Milan would say) are not compatible then it is not likely to alert.

In other news, several people have asked me about names. Here they are.

For a boy, Linus because he has his little blue blanket that goes with him everywhere.

For a girl, Lucy because she will give you psychiatric help for only 5 cents.

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That is When I Carried You

Hello!

Okay, so I’ve written this post twice now and it keeps getting deleted. So I’m going to try something a little different this time. Prepare to embark on a visual tour of the breed selection process!

Too Yappy

Too Drooly

Too Stubborn

Too much energy

Better choices:

Animal Planet’s Dogs 101 calls the Great Dane “the world’s largest lap dog” because, despite their size, they are flat out lazy. They do well in apartments, love their humans, require minimal grooming, and are a popular choice for PSD teams who do bracing work (because of their size). Also, there was an especially lovable Great Dane in a TV show I used to watch as a child, Toby Terrier. Please see link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yykvl-3kJcc

However, they are just too big for me right now and while it might be perfectly happy in my apartment, I’m not sure I want to sacrifice that much space.

Your Typical Service Dog

This was a much more viable option and is the classic choice for service dogs. This is for good reason, it learns fast, is friendly and calm, and has a “soft mouth” meaning that it picks things up gently. However, I don’t need such a large dog as I need no bracing work done. Also, a Golden would be sad living in a tiny apartment.

A LService Dog Choice #2abrador was another good option and is also very popular as a service animal. This is for much the same reason as the Golden Retriever. And, for similar reasons, was not a good option for me.

So what did I choose? A tiny little breed known for wanting to be with its human every second of every day. Who is eager to please and ready to learn. And, because of its small size it doesn’t take a lot of effort to tire out this pup.At first I thought they were funny looking and didn’t like the ear fringe. But now I’m 100 % sold. They’re gorgeous. The Papillon

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To Puppy or Not to Puppy?

Hello again!

Where was I…?Ah, yes! I was making decisions. Next I decided if I wanted a puppy or an adult.

Puppy Pros: Youthful energy. Could be easily trained to perform tasks. Long life ahead.

Adult Pros: Already Housebroken. More stable and ready to be held and petted.

In addition, the decision between a pup and an adult would determine if I was buying a dog or rescuing one. As PSDs need to have a very specific temperament it would be next to impossible to find a puppy of the appropriate breed and temperament in a shelter. I would have much better luck finding an adult dog to rescue, and I want to rescue if at all possible.

Now, I’ve always dreamed I would rescue. I currently foster animals for the local animal shelter and I love it. Rescues make wonderful pets. I believe that they understand, on some level, that they have been rescued and are more loving because of that. Rescuing a dog is saving a life. I am Pro Rescue Dogs.

But a puppy has many advantages. The biggest is the train-ability. A puppy has not learned bad habits. Also, you know the history a puppy has had which makes it more predictable. A rescue dog may have some trauma in its life which makes it unsuitable for life as a service dog and you would never know until the dog reacted. Also, they can have health issues caused by neglect early in life which shortens their life spans (Not by much, but when the dog is already 5 years old, you want every year you can possibly get with it). Also, a puppy will be in my life longer than an adult dog, meaning the energy invested in the dog for training will last longer and I will have a more stable household.

So, the decision was made. I would buy a puppy.

Getting the dog from a reputable breeder wasn’t even a decision. I WILL NOT buy from pet stores, classifieds in the paper, or online dealers. I didn’t want to buy from a Backyard Breeder either. These are breeders who breed for profit. Most reputable breeders will breed because they want show dogs and then they sell the dogs which are not show quality. Backyard Breeders breed so they can sell the puppies and make money. These are the hardest to discern. Even if a rescue dog is not right for me, I refuse to do anything to support puppy mills. Even if this makes my life more difficult and my dog more expensive.

Next Time on PuppyJourney: Breed All About It

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The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step

Greetings all!

I am writing this blog so that everyone can partake of the adventure I’m on. See, I’m currently on a quest to find the perfect dog.

I suppose I should start from the beginning.

I’ve wanted a dog my entire life. Since I could speak I’ve asked for one. Santa even said I could get one for Christmas one year. But then my parents had a little talk with the Mall Santa. They dragged me back where he told me that he’d checked his list and, no, I couldn’t have a dog.

Over the years my childish desire for companionship changed into a medical need. Yes, that sounds odd. But I’ve had several doctors, a handful of therapists, and a social worker tell me that I need a dog. I have treatment-resistant major depressive disorder, severe anxiety, and a touch of OCD all of which are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. All of this adds up to a full blown Mental Illness and, due to its severity, a disability. A disability is any medical condition which limits your ability to live a “normal” life. They are not limited to physical disabilities. How is my life interfered with? I have panic attacks doing everything from walking to class to watching a movie. I’m often too afraid to speak. In addition, these paralyzing fears leave me feeling desperately lonely and so depressed that all I can do is go back to bed.

Anyway, back to my tale. Now, any dog lover will tell you that the unmitigated love and devotion from a dog is heartwarming. But did you know that science shows that dog ownership actually changes your brain’s chemical composition? Well, now you know.  Anyway, as medications have mitigated, but not cured, my depression I started looking for alternative treatments.

As I am moving off campus next year and getting my own apartment, I decided that I would finally get my dog. Next I had a few decisions to make. The first and most difficult was the decision between an ESA and PSD. Let me explain. An ESA (Emotional Service Animal) is any pet that emotionally stabilizes its owner. Hopefully, a dog will serve this function just by being a happy and loving pet. A PSD is a Psychiatric Service Dog. This is a dog trained to do specific tasks which help an owner struggling with Mental Illness. These dogs are legally treated the same as a Seeing-Eye Dog meaning they are allowed in any public building.

So did I need to go the extra mile and get a PSD? Since there are very few groups in this country who train PSDs I would have to train it myself. This training would require a lot of focus, dedication, and time. As a student, do I have the time to devote to this? Moreover, this training would require a professional, private, tutor to help both me and the dog. The cost of a PSD would be substantially more than that of an ESA.

In the end, I decided that I owed it to myself to train a PSD. As some of my worst anxiety attacks occur in public places I need a dog which may go with me to new places. In addition, a dog which is trained to do specific tasks will more actively help me manage my depression rather than the passive assistance of an ESA. Moreover, it takes years to train a PSD correctly. If I decided in the meantime that I don’t require a service dog then I can stop training and be left with a well behaved dog. If, on the other hand, I don’t start training a PSD but realize in the future that I need one then I’ll have to muddle through for several more years.

You might ask, “What Tasks?” Well, much like seizure alert dogs, PSDs can detect and alert to oncoming panic attacks and depressive episodes. There are also several ways a dog can be trained to interrupt a depressive episode or panic attack. One is Deep Pressure Therapy where the dog will sit on your chest. This invokes the same feeling as a big hug. Another is to demand attention. This distracts the owner from whatever he or she is upset about and redirects that energy into something more positive (such as taking the dog for a long walk). In addition, a dog can be trained to call 911 in the event that the owner intentionally hurts him- or herself. This is kind of like being on suicide watch 24/7.

And so, with that decision made, I truly began my search for a dog.

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