Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Definitely Older, A Little Wiser, But Having a Lot More Fun

Today is my birthday.  I decided to take some time to think about how this year has changed my life.  So, a year ago.  A year ago I had quit my position at the Anita Borg Institute though I was working out my two week notice.  I was so ready to move on to the unknown.  It had been a heck of a two years - I had lost several friends and one of my cousins to a variety of illnesses and I had lost several of my favorite co-workers to other organizations. I was in need of a life change, I knew that deep in my heart, but I was not really sure what I was moving towards.  Little did I know what adventures were coming.

This year featured an amazing vacation in Hawaii where I got to swim with dolpins for the first time. It was an incredible experience but what I enjoyed just as much was that each morning I was able to eat my breakfast with the group of dolphins at the hotel.  Those dolphins reconnected me with my love of animals, over the years of cat allergies had gotten me into the habit of avoiding animals for fear of a reaction.  After the dolphins I realized that perhaps it was time to pursue getting a pet, I had the time working at home and the resources.  And as readers know - that led to the advent of Bizz.

At the same time I launched my consulting business and began working with my friend Deanna on Global Tech Women.  The consulting enabled me to use my marketing skills for new organizations and in different ways. I edited a book, which led me to realize that perhaps writing my own book was not an impossibility.  Global Tech Women allowed me to pursue my passion for helping and I learned a lot about new technologies and expanded my horizons globally.  My network is amazing.

I've also focused on deepening relationships. I went to my college reunion for the first time and made new friends and reconnected with old ones.  I got to spend some quality time with my nephew and learn just what an amazing person he is.  I've been able to connect with women I met during my ABI days and deepen those acquaintances into friendships.

Bizz expanded my world by bringing me into the dog subculture of the Bay Area. I've joined in the group discussions at dog parks and met wonderful and entertaining people.  I know all my neighbors when previously I didn't know anyone.  And I have come to enjoy having the time to just relax and enjoy spending time taking care of my little dog.

Spending this year in a very different way gave me a lot of time to think and discover what is important to me.  It makes me realize how much I envy academics who get a year's sabbatical to pursue their interests and research. 

Bizz and I are off to celebrate some more.  here is a picture of a happy little Bizz (pre grooming and tail wagging).

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Glass Pumpkin Dilemma

As anyone who has visited my home in September and October knows, I am a Halloween fan.  Fan may be putting it to mildly. I have been collecting Halloween decorations for years.  I have collected quite an array of glass pumpkins, figurines, art pieces and dolls.  And each year on my birthday I pull out all the collections and decorate so I can enjoy the collection for the two months a year it is on display.  It covers every square inch of furniture from dolls festooning the chairs to glass pumpkins on the coffee table.

This year is different.  And the difference is Bizz and his incredible fondness for leaping upon every piece of furniture I own - including the dining room table and the bookcases.  I have literally found Bizz perched on almost every piece of furniture that I have.  And this combined with his fondness for all things stuffed has me a bit worried about the safety of my collections and more importantly Bizz.

Of course this all came to mind yesterday when we visited Pet Smart to pick up his food supply for the week. I love taking Bizz to the pet stores because everyone makes a fuss and he just loves sniffing everything.  We finished in the food aisle(yippee a sale) and turned a corner to discover the Halloween aisle.  There it all was in glorious profusion.  Pet squeaky toys in the shapes of bats, pumpkins, rats (ick) and witches - both stuffed and rubber filled one section.  And then there were the costumes.   A wide array of costumes including one whole section by Disney and another by Martha Stewart met my eyes.  My first challenge was what to pick.  Would Bizz wear a witch hat with fake black hair?  Could I strap him into a Nemo costume?  Would I want to?  Then I saw it - a Tigger costume.  Bizz is a very bouncy little dog and a Tigger costume seemed perfect.  But alas and alack - they only had size XS and XXL.  I'm not sure what dog size he actually is but I'm pretty sure he's neither of those.

I was further hampered in my pursuit by the location of the costumes. They were next to the Guinea Pig, Rat and Bird adoption station.  Once Bizz got a whiff of those I knew we were doomed.  His lunging made looking at costumes difficult and the actual trying on of items virtually impossible.  It's very hard to shop when from the corner of your eye you can see rodents cowering and you hear birds twittering with desperation.

Yes, he thwarted me.  Perhaps he knew what I was plotting and didn't want to spend all day October 31st dressed up like a Disney Tigger.  Maybe he didn't think he'd look darling in a little witch hat. And worst of all, maybe he knew that the chances were any time someone came to the house he'd be put into the costume and gushed over.  And of course there would pictures galore. 

However there are still 70 days until Halloween and I don't give up easily. 

He did get a toy that he did like on the trip. A soft squishy pumpkin that squeeks quite loudly.  This may be the start of a new collection.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How do you mend a broken heart?

First off - it is not my heart or Bizzy's that's broken.  The heart in question belongs to our little friend Truffles.  Let's take a step back.

I first met Truffles last year when I first entered into my search for a dog. I had a list of possibly hypoallergenic dogs and had made several unsuccessful trips to the vet.  Running into my friend Barb at the library she told me she knew someone who had a Shih Tzu rescue and would see if they had dogs to place.  A few days later I got an email about Truffles.  He was an 8 lb, 10 year old Shih Tzu purebred.  His owner was going into a nursing home and he could not go. He had been living with her daughter for the last six months but she was a Chihuahua breeder and did not want him.  So he was being taken to a Shih Tzu Rescue group but they agreed to stop by so I could meet him. I let my landlords Isabelle and Kelvin know he was coming since I wanted him to meet my dogs.

Truffles arrived and he really had no interest in me at all. He did let me hold him, but he never relaxed and in fact stood rigidly on my leg the whole time.  And boy did he set off my allergies.  Sadly I knew I could not keep him.  Isabelle and Kelvin came out and Truffles left me and marched up to Isabelle and that was that.  He was her dog.

Fast forward to the last few weeks.  Truffles was acting very listless a few months ago and was diagnosed with an enlarged heart.  Isabelle was told he had a year or two to live.  She tried a bunch of homeopathic treatments and he did seem to perk up. 

Then the cough started. First it was an infrequent cough but incredibly loud for such a tiny dog.  And it grew progressively worse and worse, more and more frequent.  Soon every step he took was accompanied by a wheeze or a cough. 

In reading about enlarged hearts I read they could put pressure on the lungs which can cause the cough.  We all talked about it and after much googling and searching Isabelle decided to take Truffles to see Dr. Waxman at the Sage Group.

Now, back to our question on How do you mend a broken heart? If you are a dog in the Bay Area the answer is Dr. Waxman.  Why you may ask?  Because he is the ONLY animal cardiologist in the entire Bay Area.  The next closest is at UC Davis Vet School.  Surreal.  Dr. Waxman is also a fairly new doctor - finishing his training two years ago.  He has a nurse also specialized in cardiology and the two of them are amazingly busy.  But the most amazing part - they are about 2 miles from the house tops.  We got so lucky.

Isabelle took Truffles in this morning and we went together to pick him up this afternoon.  I had a big list of questions for the doctor that I'd written down so he talked us through the diagnosis. 

It seems Truffles has not one condition but two. He has an enlarged heart which is getting bigger - thus putting pressure on his lungs and the heart does not pump efficiently. But on top he has the scourge that all toy dog owners must fear - a collapsed trachea.  Truffles trachea is collapsed very deep down which is bad since there is a repair for the higher up kind. 

So where do we go from here?  Truffles now has to take 3 different pills. One is for the trachea - it is a cough suppressant with codeine. That will enable Truffles to not be as irritated and feel less pain in his chest.  And two heart medications to help him reduce his fluids and reduce the size of his heart. This will also reduce pressure on his trachea and help his heart work more efficiently.

So how do you mend a broken heart?  You go see Dr. Waxman and get some meds.  The good news is that the intervention does not require surgery. The bad news is that Truffles can no longer go for walks, is on bed rest and we have to see how the meds work.  So we have a couple of weeks to see how things are working out then back to the vet.

I will, of course, keep you all posted.   Here is a photo of Truffles in his sweater.

Scaredy Dog

I believe I have written about Bizz's fear of fireworks before.  We discovered this on the 4th of July when we made the huge mistake of taking him for his evening walk and it seemed every street was setting off its own fireworks show.  Last night I discovered Bizz is also afraid of thunder. 

The weather yesterday was very odd.  A traditional August day, hazy, hot and humid, the evening continued to be quite warm.  Bizz and I headed out for our before bed walk at 9 p.m.  We got on a few steps when I realized I had water drops hitting me. I checked to see if the sprinkler system had gone amok but nope - it was raining.

For those of you not in California, it never rains in August.  Campbell and San Jose are typically dry from April - October.  This year has been no exception. The hills are truly golden in color because everything is dry as a bone and there are fire warnings everywhere.  So feeling drops of rain was surreal last night.  They were big drops but it wasn't pouring so we continued the walk.

What was most interesting was that dozens of my neighbors were outside in front of their homes looking up at the sky.  And to a person they all said - "it's raining", with voices filled with wonder and more than a little concern.  Of course they all admired Bizz immensely, but returned to watching the sky.  One man talked about how alien this all was, another about was it a sign of the apocalypse.

One woman, who's large dogs always bark at Bizz from their house, greeted me with the words, "Earthquake weather," and shook her head. I asked what she meant. She told me this kind of freakish weather is the same as during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.  Yikes.

 But we carried on with our walk until suddenly Bizz froze.  I turned and saw a young woman coming towards us on a skateboard.  But it wasn't her. Bizz turned around and started pulling me back towards the house. That's when I heard it, the very distant rumble of thunder.  A few moments later another lightning flash and more thunder.  We made it back to the house in record time, it's amazing how fast you go when Bizz is not stopping to pee on every tree, bush, flower and electrical pole.  We got inside and Bizz ran around the house checking all the rooms.  A few moments later the sky opened up and a torrential downpour began accompanied by thunder and lightning.  Bizz jumped up on my lap and snuggled close, shaking ever so slightly.  Poor little guy.

I really needed to thank him, if we'd kept going we would have been soaked, and been out without protection in a lightning storm.  So perhaps his fear is merely his way of making sure we both stay safe. 

We survived and today is a beautiful and much less humid day.  But everyone is still talking about our freaky weather.  I'm not worried, Bizz and I completed his full walk this morning to both our satisfaction.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Barking Dog, Sleepy Jerri

Bizz is a darling dog and I love him so much. But, there are times I would happily give him away to a passing carnival troop.  Bizz barks.  Loudly.  And with much melodrama at times. And won't stop.  Ack.

When I first got him he really never made a sound.  He never barked at all. It all changed when the plumber worked on the house for two straight days and made him nuts.  He started barking and it continued. 

Now, I don't mind if he barks when someone approaches the house.  That's part of his life mission.  To protect me from all interlopers and evildoers.  The poor mail man seems to be targeted for this.  However, when friends of mine came to stay the barking became ridiculous. He would stand outside their closed doors and bark incessantly.  He might eventually stop but would return in an hour and start again.  We tried them sleeping with their doors open and he would stand next to their bed and bark. 

So, I ordered an anti barking collar called the Dogtra No Bark collar.  The collar gives an electric shock to the dog when it barks.  What's good about it is the shock is adjustable and it gives the dog a warning vibration before it shocks them. 

Bizz wore it one night - got a shock - and henceforth did not bark while wearing it. He would not even give a peep.  Once the collar was removed the barking would start again.  But with the collar on he would simply huddle next to me, obviously saying I'm sorry, I'm sorry, and not make a peep. After two nights he no longer needed the collar during the night, just showing it to him and touching him with it (not shocking but touching) caused the barking to cease.

And since her visit in early July, no middle of the night barking.  Until about two weeks ago.  The barking started again.  Only at the back door.   He would go out, thoroughly inspect the entire yard, maybe pee, then come back in.  At 2 am.  Not fun.  I'm not sure why or where this behavior came from. My landlords have moved into a mother-in-law apartment on the property and perhaps it is the additional two humans and three dogs that is upsetting him.  Or some cat that is tormenting him. Or he's just decided that 2 am is a fun time to explore.

Given my need for sleep I reluctantly pulled out the collar. But I also started doing our evening walks later and making sure he hit the yard right before bed to make sure there were no issues, I do want him to bark rather than do business in the house.  I didn't use the collar right away. I waited for a night when the barking happened and I pulled it out.  He had it on for 5 minutes, not a peep.  I took it off and he spent the whole night cuddled up to me, his head on my stomach. And he hasn't barked in the middle of the night since. 

I am still not sure about the use of this device but it had stellar reviews, did not hurt Bizz at all and worked incredibly well. Now it is more of a deterrent than anything else.  For those dog owners out there, if the barking is getting to be too much (and at 2 am any barking is too much) I do recommend this product. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The best laid plans of dogs and women...

I had a great plan for yesterday and it almost went off without a hitch.  One of my resolutions for the month of August was taking one day of each weekend and taking off for somewhere either new or that I haven't visited for a while. Last weekend it was Fort Funston (not exactly new but new this summer and Bizz loves it).  This weekend the goal was Sausalito.  Marina joined Bizz and I for our little road trip. The first part went off without a hitch.  We drove up to Sausalito - enjoying everything up until the madness that is the Golden Gate Bridge. If you are not going to have people pay tolls but rather send them invoices, then take down the dadburned toll gates. I mean seriously, people jockeying for position with the toll booths is insane and somewhat dangerous.   We survived though Marina had a good laugh because the bus in front of us had a huge Stress Off Ad for some sort of vitamin water/drink thing and I was cursing at it and the bus when it cut us off.  She must have taken 10 pictures of the back of the bus.

In any case we arrived unscathed in Sausalito, parked the car and took Bizz for a lovely walk.  He just went nuts with the smells of the water, the trees, the people.  We eventually found a little sidewalk café for lunch.  They brought Bizz a big bowl of water and normally I would mention their name, except they did something that I think might hurt rather than help their business. I ordered Bizz a scambled egg as a treat and they brought it on a very nice table dish. I asked her if it was ok for him to eat off the plate since most places bring me a to go box since dogs aren't supposed to eat off the people dishes. She laughed and said I don't care and we gave the dish to Bizz.  In fact as usual he got the best service of anyone. 

After we continued to walk the waterfront, failing to see any of the America's Cup boats out on the water.  We did get to window shop and took turns going into stores, though not fun when Marina was left outside since Bizz would basically freeze or attempt to get into the shop. I was buying something and could hear her outside, "At least sit down sweetie if you aren't going to move."

We finished our day of walking and shopping with ice creams at Café Tutti, very tasty and with a nice outside table.  And they had a nice ice water station so Marina was able to fill up his bowl.  So we can use their name.  Two thumbs and a dew claw up.

Our final stop of the day was back in Santa Clara. My plan was to drop Bizz off with Marina to take a short walk so I could get gas and go through the car wash. I dropped Bizz and Marina near her place and headed to the car wash.  I saw them approaching while waiting on line but then lost sight of them.  A minute later there was Marina carrying Bizz heading right for the car.  She climbed in and told me something shocking. Bizz had been so desperate to find me he'd fought her the whole walk - straining to go back or refusing to move, and then as they were actually getting close he had reared up on his hind legs and managed to escape his harness and took off.  She was able to catch him but accumulated a few cuts and bruises.  I was and I am still horrified.  Poor Marina.  We then had to find a way to calm Bizz down because we were at the point of no return - we were heading into the car wash.  Good grief.

The good news was Marina had him in a tight grip and I focused on having him drink some water and stroking his head so we were able to survive the car wash. The last time he went nuts and leaped around the car like a maniac.  I dropped Marina off at home and Bizz sat in the front seat the whole ride home, the epitome of innocence personified.  "Who me?" was the look on his face though every time I stopped patting him he'd start barking.

So much for my quick and painless car wash. It was painful for all three of us.  From now on Bizz will have to stay home for my trips to the car wash. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

When Bizz Met Max

By 10:00 am this morning Bizz and I had completed our good deed of the day.  We were out for our morning constitutional when what should appear ahead of us but a small white dog.  Now, I must say - I never noticed small white dogs much before I got Bizz - but now I think I'm a small white dog magnet.  The dog was looking at us anxiously from the other side of a bush Bizz was busy watering.  I didn't want to scare the dog - I could see he was well cared for and had a collar but it is so unsafe for little dogs to be roaming free - that I decided we should catch him.  Bizz overcame his usual disdain for other dogs (he is just not a player) and strained to meet the little dog.  The dog led us on a bit of a chase then went through an open gate into the back yard of a nearby house.  I went and knocked on the front door to no avail - no one home.  I thought briefly of shutting the gate but then thought if the dog doesn't belong to this house I'm creating problems for the dog (who would have no access to shelter and water) and the homeowner (who would be dealing with a strange dog in their yard. 

I got lucky and the house next door's garage door opened and a woman came out. I explained the situation and she told me that it was just Max.  He did belong to the house next door and we walked over and closed the gate. 

It was a great reminder to me on how important it is to check both gates before ever letting Bizz into our yard. 

As for doing a good deed - I had a woman come to my house yesterday - she'd seen a truck being driven around our neighborhood in an odd fashion - making several U-Turns - then stopping in front of my house.  She watched the man go through our gate then come out right away and hope in his truck and drive away. She immediately crossed the street to knock on my door to let me know. I thanked her - and she said, "We're all neighbors and I don't want anyone messing with our neighborhood.".  Turns out the truck belonged to our gardener but it made Isabelle and I more aware of keeping things that might tempt someone away from the gate. 

All in all a great start to the day.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Ears Have It

When I chat with Bizz most of the reactions I get are communicated through the ears.  We started the discussion with the question of did he want to go for a walk.  Watch his answer.

Yes, the ears definitely had it.

The King of the Forest

So I will admit it now, I have always had a thing for lions.  It has many roots in my childhood. One of my first stuffed toys was a lion which amazingly I still have today - all sewn and patched up with vivid orange thread which doesn't match anything.  The lion - who's name was mylion - is carefully tucked away to preserve it from Bizz and his never ending desire to claim all things stuffed as his own.  Not sure what is going to happen to my Santa and Snowman collections this Christmas. 

I also adored the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz.  I was convinced he was from New Jersey with his accent and I loved his curly mane.  I dressed as him for two Halloweens but from what I can tell not a single photo of myself in a Halloween costume exists from my childhood.  And of course there was Elsa, the lion from Born Free. 

So why do I talk of Lions when this blog is about my little white dog?  Well I think at his heart Bizz is a lion with more than a hint of the Cowardly Lion in him.  This thought started the other day when we were out patrolling the neighborhood and came across a neighbor attempting to entice his very large (bigger than Bizz) Maine Coon cat into his house.  Now Bizz goes absolutely nuts when he sees a cat - pulling on his leash, whining - all to beg me to let him attack. This cat however marched right towards us and Bizz froze - staring intently.  The cat came right up to him, his huge paws with their six toes fascinated me. The cat walked right up to Bizz and stared him straight in the eye.  They were less than an inch apart. I whispered to the man I was worried about his cat, he told me to be more worried about my dog.  As they stared - you got it - Bizz flinched.  He walked away - tail in the air but he kept glancing anxiously over his shoulder.  Yep, the cat won.

Then this weekend Marina and I returned to my favorite place - dog heaven- Fort Funston.  Bizz was of course overjoyed.  He did his usual running up to larger dogs that were tusseling, barking, then running back to stand or sit between my legs - very much an "I told you to break it up and if you have a problem with it talk to her".  At one point we were taken aback when I huge white dog came running up to Bizz - bigger than a german shepherd.  We were worried the dog was just going to slam into Bizz but amazingly Bizz held his ground and the dog pulled up short.  So maybe he's not that cowardly with his own species. 

But my favorite moment was during one walk Marina and I came to a fork in the road and we definitely went the wrong way.  We were walking in a thick grove of trees and as she and Bizz proceeded ahead of me I found myself having to stoop lower and lower as the tree branches were thicker and lower as we progressed.  Marina finally saw the break back to the main path and proceeded.  I was at the point of getting down on my hands and knees and in my mind I could hear the chant of lions and tigers and bears oh my.  However, that was disrupted when Bizz discovered I was at his level and proceeded to sit in the midst of my path to block me and thought this was perfect play time.  Marina quite enjoyed the conversation she heard from in the brush - I believe I kept saying _ Not now Bizz, would you please move.  When at last we were free Bizz returned to running about. 

I realized how long it had been since I had left the beaten trail and done a little exploring in the weeds so to speak.  And how much I love my little Lion dog - who is brave in the face of incoming danger but not quite sure how to deal with a face to face threat.

Here is Bizz in his classic lion dog pose.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fireworks and dogs do not mix

I had pretty much decided Bizz was fearless - he doesn't hesitate when running up to scold big dogs, chase cats or defend me from strangers ( he was hilarious in defending me from my friend Ravi this morning which mostly involved him barking at Ravi then running back to jump in my lap.). But he is terrified of fireworks.  I had hoped we were done till New Years but someone set off fireworks tonight when we were at the farthest point of our nightly walk.  Well he didn't bark or even shake but we made it home in record time tonight.  And he has not left my side since.  He even sat on my feet while I brushed my teeth.  We are now in bed - he is at my side, his head on my leg and periodically checking in to make sure I am still here.  Poor baby.