Thursday, January 27, 2011

Training with Juneau

Yesterday was the first day in a couple of weeks that we left Juneau and Casey alone together in the same area.  I was so nervous all day at work and constantly checked our living room camera feed to see if they were having any problems.  There were various times they were off-camera, so I could only imagine what was going on!  Meezy and I worked hard over the past few days to get them socializing again.  We had to correct Casey numerous times verbally or with bitter apple spray, so I wasn't entirely confident that they would get along unsupervised.  When I saw this setup halfway through the day, I knew things were looking up:

Casey and Juneau on the same couch


I was so thrilled to come home and find no bloodshed!  It was such a pain having to segregate those dogs all the time, and it's a big weight off my shoulders to not have to worry about them anymore.  Last night they interacted some, but more often than not just ignored each other.  That is perfectly fine with us!  They don't need to be bffs, they just need to be able to co-exist without getting into fights.

After dinner, we went over the skills Juneau had learned in her two weeks of training.  She is responding very well to our commands, and we're confident things are only going to get better.  For now we do everything on her training leash, without the other dogs around.  As time passes, we'll start working on the skills off-leash, and with distractions.  We have our first follow-up session with the trainers at K-9 University this weekend.  We'll probably go over everything she's learned, and then start working on a new command.  Here's what we worked on last night:



You can see that she handles all the commands well, but hesitates a little bit on "down."  She knows exactly what we're asking her to do when we say it, but she's not too thrilled about it.  You can see that she slowly and reluctantly lowers herself to the ground. It's actually kinda comical for Meezy and I when we observe it, because we know that it's not a matter of understanding; it's a matter of willingness!  It takes a tug of the leash and a firm "No" for her to comply sometimes, but it'll get better!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Make 2011 a Charitable Year

In the past, I've selected various charities to support, either monthly or quarterly, and blogged about them in hopes of attracting more support for them.  I tried to pick new ones as often as possible, to make myself research different causes and broaden my pursuits.  In 2010, my goal of being diversified changed because there were various happenings that made me focus my donations on a few specific organizations.  I decided to alter my approach and funnel more money to fewer places because of their personal significance.  I didn't make a good point of sharing them with you, though, and I wanted to do that now, in case you were in a charitable mood!  Here's where the majority of my donations went, and why:

1) Be The Match Foundation - Being chosen to donate bone marrow to a 10 year old boy with leukemia was one of the proudest moments of my life.  I was honored to have the opportunity to make a difference in this boy's life, and humbled at the possibility that I could save it.  I am so thankful that this organization is around, to help facilitate finding bone marrow donors and to perform research that could one day save lives.  I proudly donate to Be the Match, in honor of all the people who are eternally grateful for that stranger who signed up, and in memory of those who weren't so lucky.  If you are friends with me on facebook, you know that I plug BTM a lot!  Sign up to join the registry at www.marrow.org.

2) Susan G. Komen for the Cure - I can't say enough about the work that this organization does. Early detection and regular screenings are the best defense against dying of breast cancer, and the attention that Komen has brought to this disease has made a huge difference.  The number of breast cancer survivors continues to rise thanks to their efforts.  I've been a long-time supporter, but my level of participation increased after the mothers of two of my great friends were diagnosed.  While they were successful in battling the disease, another family friend, Dianne, was not.  Ever since her struggle began, I've become a fervent advocate of the cause and made my support of Komen a priority.  I vow to support Dianne's family every year that they undertake the 3-day race in her memory.  If you can spare a few dollars, their team could use your help as well (click the link)!

3) Leukemia and Lymphoma Society - Last year, a couple of friends suffered the loss of one of their good friends from Lymphoma.  I didn't know their friend, but these girls mean a lot to me, so their fight is my fight.  They support LLS in hopes that one day no one has to suffer the loss of a loved one from these cancers, especially at the tender age of 29.  I donate to LLS for that same reason, and because I never got to meet my uncle, who died from leukemia before I was born.

I promise to continue to make charity an important part of my life.  Whether it is through my money, my time, or my voice, I will lend a hand to important causes, especially the ones outlined above.  I remind myself that charity can also be practiced daily, though, in small ways - through a smile, with a kind word, through forgiveness, etc.  These acts are quite important as well.            

"Every good act is charity. A man's true wealth hereafter is the good that he does in this world to his fellows." - Moliere


"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." - Churchill

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Doggy Woes

Juneau

So we picked up Juneau from K-9 University on Friday afternoon.  We talked with the trainer for about 30 minutes about what they worked on with Juneau, what they still need to work on, and what we need to do with her at home.  Then he did a demonstration of what commands Juneau had learned, and let the both of us practice them with her.  She did really well and performed heel, sit, stay, and down, while on a leash.  She's not ready to do these things consistently off a leash, but we know it will come with more practice.  We felt really optimistic about her progress over the past two weeks.  We set up our first personal lesson for next weekend, and we'll have a few of those, then move on to group lessons.

Casey

If you recall, before we dropped her off, her and Casey had gotten into a vicious fight which left us unable to put the two of them in the same room together.  For the last four days of Juneau's training/boarding, we brought Casey up there for daycare so they could work on socialization.  They put them in runs next to each other and took them out on walks near each other each day, to try and get them on "speaking" terms again.  By Friday afternoon, they said they still weren't ready for them to be completely alone together, but they had seen improvement.  We brought them home in separate crates, and kept them segregated for the night.  On Saturday, we worked on reacquainting them.  Meezy took Juneau out on a walk, and I took Casey.  We walked near each other, passed by each other, etc, just trying to get them used to being in the same vicinity.  Things seemed to be going okay, but we could still sense some apprehension from the two of them.  On Sunday we tried again, this time inside the house.  We put the training leashes on both of them, but let them both be in the living room. We took turns walking them by the other, sitting near each other, giving them treats, etc.  They both did really well, but we're still too nervous to just take the leashes off and let them interact unrestricted.  Since I hate putting Juneau in a crate for too long, I had been taking turns making Casey do it so that Juneau could roam freely sometimes.  I was sitting at the table eating lunch, and Riley and Juneau were near me.  Riley got dominant and began thinking he owned me and the food, so he snapped at Juneau.  That set her off and they started fighting.  I had to separate the two while Meezy came running in from the other room to help.  My finger got bit in the process, but it wasn't enough to draw blood.  Alas, Juneau had to go back in the crate.

Sigh.

I don't know what to do with them.  It's obvious that Casey and Riley are the ones that are instigating the fights with Juneau, but she's the one who reacts aggressively.  The other two just want to snap and growl at her sometimes, which she doesn't know how to handle.  We can't do this segregation routine forever.  It's draining on Meezy and I, and it's not conducive for being able to leave the house for extended periods of time. I guess we'll just keep working on the socialization between Casey and Juneau, and continue with her obedience training.

   Riley

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sleepless Nights

Ever since I broke my kneecap eight weeks ago, my sleep quality has seriously declined.  For the first couple of weeks, I was in a lot of pain and had to rely on my pain medication to get a few hours of sleep at a time.  It would usually wear off in the middle of the night, so I would wake up and take another and just suffer for a little while until it kicked in.  After the constant pain subsided, then the uncomfortableness of wearing the bulky brace kept me up at night.  I could only sleep on my back since the brace was large and kept my leg completely straight.  That meant it would take me forever to fall asleep at night, and then I would usually wake up multiple times throughout the night, wanting to change my position.  Once I got the brace off, I thought my sleep quality would improve.  Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case. 

If I leave my leg in the same position for an extended period of time (as little as 30 minutes), it starts to get stiff and a dull ache begins.  This is especially the case if my leg is bent in the same position for a while.  At night, my tendency is to sleep on my side, with my legs slightly bent.  Apparently my knee does not like this.  I have found myself waking up constantly each night, needing to stretch  my leg and switching positions. I decided last night to try and keep track of how many times I woke up in the middle of the night.  It was nine. NINE TIMES.  Sweet jeez.  It can't be possible to get a "good" sleep when you wake up nine times in a 7 hour period.  No wonder I'm tired and unmotivated throughout the day.  Hopefully the progress I'm making in physical therapy translates over to better sleep sometime soon!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Crossing My Fingers


Last week we dropped Juneau off at K-9 University in Plano.  She'll be there for two weeks working on learning basic commands and hopefully getting some help for her behavior problems.  We had talked for a while about getting her some training, but we never pulled the trigger.  It's not a cheap solution by any means, which is probably why we were putting it off.  I'm thankful something happened last week that finally pushed us to make the decision, though.

My bff, Jenn, asked us to watch her puggle while she went out of town for a family funeral.  We brought Ava home to introduce her to our dogs, and things didn't go well with Juneau.  She immediately got aggressive and snapped and barked at Ava.  We put Ava in her crate to keep her safe.  Our other two dogs were a little leery about Ava at first, but they quickly decided she wasn't a threat.  We figured we'd just have to segregate Ava from Juneau for the weekend, and that would take care of it.  Then, Juneau and Casey started fighting.  They have had spats in the past that we've had to break up, including a time when Meezy's finger got caught in the mix.  We were never really sure what would set them off, but we figured it had something to do with me.  Juneau is incredibly jealous when I give my attention to other dogs or people.  Casey has the personality where she wants to be the top female dog in charge and thinks it's her duty to keep Juneau in check.  So, I was giving attention to a new dog, Juneau got jealous, and Casey got pissed at Juneau.  Commence chaos.  They got into a really vicious fight, and it appeared like Juneau was crushing Casey's windpipe.  She let out the most horrible noises, and I freaked out because I thought she was being killed right in front of me.  Meezy tried to pull Juneau off unsuccessfully.  He ran and got two really thick oven mitts (to protect his fingers) and tried to remove Juneau's mouth from Casey's neck.  It wasn't working, so I got a thick spatula and tried to shove it in Juneau's mouth and lift up to pry her off.  Finally that worked, and I had to pick up Casey quickly and bring her to another room.  I inspected her and couldn't find any blood or wounds, so I don't think Juneau ever actually broke the skin.  I was shaking after it was over and started crying, because I had really thought I was going to lose one of my dogs that day, at the hands of one of my others.

Meezy and I decided right then that Juneau needed professional help.  We tried for the next few days after that to reintroduce Casey and Juneau again, and each time they showed signs that they were about to start fighting.  We had to keep them in different rooms or in a cage at all times.  It got very tiring.  We can't have dogs that don't get along, and we can't have a dog that is a threat to everyone's safety.  I have many nieces and nephews, and there will be newborns added to the mix this year, so we had to do something.  I really, really hope that the place we took her is able to provide some help.  She is such a sweet dog the majority of the time, but that doesn't excuse the other times where she's unstable and unpredictable.  I'll be sure and keep you updated on her progress.  After her two weeks of intensive training at their facility, we'll be going back for weekly private lessons, and then finish with group lessons.  Keep your fingers crossed.            

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Little Help From My Friends

I already knew I was surrounded by amazing friends and family, but I still love getting reminders.  Recently I sent out a plea to some family and friends to help raise money for a worthy cause.  I can't give too many details right now, because the money is being raised in someone's honor, and the family isn't aware of this.  (We are keeping it secret for now, and plan on informing them when the time is right).  Most of the people I sent the request to don't even know the family personally, but they jumped at the chance to help.  This is what I love about them.  They are kind, generous, loving people who don't hesitate to help others.  I am so proud to surround myself with family and friends like this.  I think our fundraising goal is attainable, through their generosity.  Hopefully soon I will be able to reveal the recipient of this endeavor.  In the meantime, a big thank you to the wonderful people who have helped already.  My favorite quote has never felt more relevant:

"The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit." - Nelson Henderson

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Patience Young Grasshopper

So I got all excited last week, thinking I would be making contact with my bone marrow recipient in the near future.  I had filled out the consent to release information form and thought we were good to go.  Wrong!  Turns out the one year waiting period restarts when you make an additional donation.  The bone marrow procedure happened last January, but then in June I donated white blood cells to the same boy.  So, they are going to make me wait until next June.  Boo!  :(   

I haven't received any additional information about the boy, other than he is doing well.  I presume he is 11 years old now, but that's about all I know!  I have no idea even what state he lives in.  The NMDP did tell me I was allowed to write him a letter, anonymously, and they will forward it on for me.  I will probably do that, but I'm not sure what to say, considering I can't reveal any identifying information!  Oh well, I'll think of something.  Can't wait until June!

Be the Match.  Save a life!  www.marrow.org

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Brace is Off

Because of my positive visit to the orthopedic doctor last week, I decided to stop wearing my brace completely, as of last Friday.  Things have gone pretty well!  I'm nervous about tripping or bumping into other people, but I figure I have to get over that fear sometime!  I'm experiencing a lot of pain and soreness, which is to be expected, since I'm now bending my knee with every step.  I went from 6 weeks of no bending, to constant bending.  It's quite a change!  I still have trouble with incline variations, and I will be forced to continue tackling stairs by putting both feet on each step and pushing up with my left only, for a while longer.  But, every day I will get a little stronger.

This morning I had my first physical therapy appointment.  I started off on a stationary bike with both feet on the pedals, but only pushing them up and down half-way, like a semi-circle.  I never did a full rotation.  Then I moved over to a table where I laid down with a cushion under my knee and the therapist attached two sensors to my thigh that would make my muscle twitch intermittently.  Each time it stimulated the muscle, I had to push my knee down into the cushion.  It felt weird, but it didn't really hurt.  After that, I went over to a leg press that had all the weight removed from it.  On a normal leg press, my body would be stationary and I'd push the weight away from me with outstretched legs, and then back towards me with bent legs.  On this one, however, when I pushed, my body moved back away from the weight plate.  I still ended up with outstretched legs and then bent legs, but there was basically no resistance.  I did that for a little while, and it wasn't too stressful either.  After that, the therapist gave me information on exercises I need to do at home.  I'll be going back for another session later this week, and then twice a week for the next three weeks.  I'm excited about getting back to normalcy, even if I am only on the first of many, many stages to come.       

Monday, January 3, 2011

Family Christmas Number 2

This past weekend, Meezy and I traveled to Amarillo to see his family for a belated Christmas and to celebrate New Year's.  We usually do a creative gift exchange with his mom's side of the family, and this year the theme was board games.  It's white elephant style, so we drew numbers and were allowed to steal a game from someone else.  (side note - you also have to wear a goofy hat while doing this.  Don't hate).  There were a lot of pretty entertaining games brought to the event, including a few I had never played before - Dicecapades, Buzz Word, and Hedbanz.  The best thing about this year's theme was that we could all still enjoy each gift, no matter who ended up with it!  We played a few of them as a family, and it was a great time!


 





For New Year's Eve, we went to a house party with a bunch of our friends.  It's a fun time of year because Meezy's childhood friends, no matter which city they currently live in, always meet back up there for the holidays.  It's nice to catch up with folks we haven't seen in a year, and it always feels like we had just seen them yesterday.  The night was filled with beer pong, flip cup, and zebra cakes to the face.  I wouldn't have wanted it any other way!





Before we left town on Sunday, we spent a little while with Meezy's dad and grandmother.  It was relaxing to sit and talk with them for a couple of hours, while enjoying a wonderful, home-cooked meal.  We don't get to see them nearly enough, and I cherish the time we spend with them.  I hope everyone's holidays were enjoyable.  Best wishes in 2011!