ha, look at me, blogging again…

About a week before we picked up Heart, my dear friend Krista, who didn’t know we were about to pick up another pointer, told me that she hoped that our next dog wouldn’t be another special needs dog. And she had every right to say that. Yes, we loved Yoshi to bits, but he was…shall we say…a bit high maintenance. I laughingly informed her we were getting another pointer. And I think we may have another special needs dog.

We haven’t officially informed Heart’s previous owner that we are keeping her, but we’ve pretty much decided that we are. She’s totally comfortable around us and the kids now (she’s a different dog than she was three weeks ago), she’s great fun to watch run around like a mad dog, she’s amazing on leash, anxious to please and very, very affectionate.

But she’s not the easiest dog to leave alone. We’ve been doing it gradually and I think it’s mostly going okay. She hasn’t destroyed anything (touch wood), and she doesn’t seem to be overly nervous when we leave the house. However, I noticed a couple of things had been moved around a bit on the cedar chest we have below our dining room window. This is a piece of furniture that is not only one of our nicest pieces of furniture, but also holds sentimental value, as it’s from my mother. Greg and I figured out that Heart must have been putting her feet up on the chest to look out the back yard. Great. We already have a bunch of things we do before we leave the house (kitchen doors closed, gate to upstairs closed, all kids’ toys out of reach, etc), I don’t want to add putting something in front of the chest. Nor do I want to rearrange my furniture because of my dog.

Well it gets worse. I found out today she’s not putting her feet up on it. I went out the back door with the kids and we played in the yard for a bit. I left Heart inside. I turned around to look at the house and did a double take. She was standing ON the chest (it’s about three feet high). All four paws. I’m sure she had a GREAT view of the back yard. Bloody dog.

So. We have to figure out a plan of action. I actually thing we might be able to train it out of her. Plan A is to get Greg to go outside and I’ll hide. When she gets up on the chest, I’m going to throw a shake can on the floor beside her and hopefully scare the bejesus out of her.

And so it begins. The first of many posts about our newest special needs dog. Whom we have fallen in love with.

heart update

We are a week into our trial with Heart, and things are going quite well. She is way more comfortable around the kids, and today I saw her stand, unflinching, as Amy whizzed by her at her usual breakneck speed. She doesn’t like loud, sudden noises, and will still run if we clap or bang something, but she’s definitely getting used to the sounds of our household.

We’ve had a few people come to the door, and she never barks. Nor does she run downstairs. She stays near Greg or I (she’s definitely more confident if one of us is around), slinks down a bit and then slowly makes her way toward the person. If you ignore her, she’ll come up to you even more quickly.

She’s super affectionate, and often comes up to us and puts her head on our leg, or on our shoulder if we’re on the ground. And she loves to be patted.

I worked from home all last week, and she was very easy to have around. She basically curled up on her bed and slept while I worked, and would get up and follow me when I had to leave the room. It was during these days that I realized we are not ready to have a puppy. Heart may come with a few quirks, but it’s nothing compared to the work involved in raising a puppy. Perhaps in a few years.

She definitely likes to be in the same room with you, which can get a bit annoying if you’re moving around a lot. And when we’re playing in the kids’ rooms she likes to be right in the action. Which is problematic because the kids’ rooms are small, and when you have at least one adult, two kids and a medium-sized dog in them, it gets squishy. If we close the door or close the gate at the top of the stairs, she whines to get in. I’m hoping she’ll get more comfortable with being separate and get through that, but I think I can live with it if she continues to do it.

What I won’t be able to live with is separation anxiety when we’re not home. We haven’t left her yet, but we’re going to start with some short periods tomorrow and work up to a few hours over the next week or so. She’s been in the car alone a few times, and today was alone in the car for about 2.5 hours with us checking on her periodically. A few times she was sitting up looking around, other times she was curled up in her bed, seemingly content. I am hoping that the whining she’s doing when she’s separated from us is because she can still see/hear us, and that when we’re really actually gone, she’ll be okay. She whines for a few seconds when Greg leaves for work in the morning, but then is fine.

I let her off leash for the first time today, at the local middle school field. She was really good. A bit tentative at first, but when I started to try to get her to play, she ran around a bit more. Then she started sniffing a lot, and would run to catch up to me. As soon as she caught up to me, she’d stop. No running ahead, which was kind of nice, and I felt like she was really aware of where I was. And when I called her she would come right away.

So…we’ll wait to see how leaving her alone goes, but everything else is looking positive.

i’m all over the map on this one

Yesterday Greg and I spent most of our day traveling to and from Brackendale, just north of Squamish. We returned one dog richer.

We got another pointer, from the same breeder that we got Yoshi from. Her name is Heart (which may change if we keep her), and she is Yoshi’s grand niece (her grandmother was Yoshi’s sister, so I think I have the grand niece part right). The fact that she is related to Yoshi was not planned — we contacted the breeder to see if she had any adult dogs available and Heart was the only one that was young enough for us.

She’s almost four years old, has a heart-shaped patch on her right flank, and is quite a bit smaller than Yoshi. She’s very timid but affectionate, and definitely anxious to please. We have her for a month trial, same as we did for Yoshi.

The past 24 hours have been way more emotional for me than I thought they would be. We arrived at the breeder’s house and were met at the door by four dogs. Three of them came right up to us, the fourth went into a submissive pose and peed on the floor. That was Heart. Kathy had warned us she was timid, but as soon as I saw her I wanted to change my mind. Not a good start. Greg and I crouched down on the floor, and within two minutes she was coming up to us for pets, but very tentatively. You could see she wanted the attention, but was a bit overwhelmed. I confirmed with Greg that he actually wanted to do this (if he had said no I wouldn’t have tried to change his mind), and he was still game.

We stayed for about half an hour talking to Kathy, then pretty much forced the poor dog in the car and started our six-hour journey home. She was actually remarkably calm. She slept for part of it, and the other part she sat up and looked out the window. No whining, no anxious pacing. On the ferry I curled up in the back of the car with her and she snuggled her nose under my arm. I feel asleep crying, as we were in almost the exact same position that Yoshi and I were in the night I said goodbye to him.

She slept in our room last night on a bed on the floor, and again was remarkably calm. She got up a couple of times and whined a bit, but for the most part she lay on her bed. We shipped the kids off to Gramma’s for the weekend so we spent a quiet day here at home. I took her for a couple of walks, one of which took us down to Esquimalt Road. She was definitely wary of all the vehicles, but she was VERY good on leash. No pulling at all, and she didn’t hang back either. And lots of sniffing. I took that to be a good sign, a sign that she was at least a bit comfortable.

She doesn’t like loud noises and she doesn’t like sudden movements. Her reaction is to cower and then run away, but 30 seconds later she’ll come back and check out the source of the noise or movement. I’ve been trying to talk to her as much as I can so she can get used to the sound of my voice. When our neighbour came over today she didn’t bark when she came to the door, but she did run downstairs. But she was soon back up, looking to Greg for comfort, and within minutes was receiving pets from Zoe.

She has many movements and sounds that are either pointer-like or Yoshi-like — I’m not sure which. It’s somewhat comforting and somewhat sad for me to hear her sigh in the exact same way he did. She curls up on the bed with her front legs in the exact same position as he did, and she rests her head in my hands just like him. The practical side of me says these traits are just pointer-like. The more emotional side says they are Yoshi-like.

Greg and I had toyed with the idea of getting a different breed, but we came to the decision a few weeks ago that we wanted another pointer. When we see other pointers we always go up to the owners and chat with them. I know it’s not unusual to be attracted to a specific breed, but I think I assumed that this dog would be entirely different from Yoshi. She’s not. And it’s thrown me a bit. Okay, a lot. Hence the emotional day.

I’m stating the obvious when I say my goal is not to replace Yoshi. I’m pretty sure he’s irreplaceable. My goal is to fill a void left by him. I’ve been a dog owner for over ten years and I miss it when I don’t have one. This was reinforced to me today when I was out walking with Heart. A walk isn’t complete to me without a dog by my side.

And then there’s her personality. She is definitely timid. Do we want to take this on? I was feeling pretty comfortable about it by dinnertime, seeing how far she’d come in a 24 hour period, but then the kids came home. Elliot was quite good with her, but Amy is too young to know how to move slowly. She just wants to hug Heart. Heart just keeps running away from her. Admittedly they were together for all of one hour, so it’s a bit early to be jumping to conclusions.

Which is a good point. It’s a bit early to be making any decisions. We’re going to introduce her to this life as slowly as we can, and we’ll figure it out. If she doesn’t fit in to this family, she won’t stay. And it’s not like I’d be delivering her back to a shelter. She’d be going back to the home she’s always known. But I think if we decide not to keep her, it’ll be hard for me to say good-bye. I’m growing attached to her already, and I think it’s because a tiny piece of Yoshi has come home.