Peyton Turns Nine

This could be a very short post or it could be long. One never knows when it comes to the world’s happiest dog. Peyton turned nine two days ago, not that anyone seeing her would ever know that unless they saw the grey around her muzzle. That’s the only clue you have that this dog is getting older.

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Peyton has had a tough transition this year. Sam was the boss around here. Everyone, including Peyton, danced to Sam’s tune whatever it happened to be that particular day. My first true realization that Sam might be in trouble the night she died was the way Peyton was acting. She was whimpering and trying to shove in the gate that separated the two of them. The next morning, we let Peyton in to smell Sam and to see her so she would, hopefully, understand that Sam was gone. We think she did, but she’s been a very different dog since that day.

February brought more stress in that we had discovered lumps on Peyton a couple of months prior. Given our experience with Sam, we all agreed that removal and biopsy were the only option. The kids were told that Peyton was going in for a routine teeth cleaning (which was also happening), but I knew there was a chance we’d lose her on the table if he opened her up and found cancer everywhere. I was more or less prepared for that possibility and thank God that he had someone call me the second she was open and he DIDN’T see anything indicating she was essentially a walking dead dog.

So, after that drama, we settled into life with Peyton as an only dog. She doesn’t love this life, I don’t think. She doesn’t like being the one in charge. She doesn’t like having to remind people to feed her. She’s not a noisy dog, so there have been days she’s been forgotten for awhile until we start looking for her. Every time she can, she escapes into my room and lies down in the exact spot where Sam died. It is more than a little freaky. The first time she did it, she scared me to death (to be honest) because lying down, you really can’t tell the difference between the girls.

Peyton had her annual pain in the backside ear infection. I swear, when I schedule Ben for full day camp this summer, I’m just going to go ahead and schedule a vet appointment for Peyton. Every year since he’s started going to full day camp, I have had to take her to the vet.

Peyton went to her first animal blessing this year. I’m not sure she really understood it. She was so excited to be OUT with PEOPLE. She almost doesn’t know what to do with herself.

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She’s also enjoyed, sort of, the slightly more open house where we let people come here. The last two years of Sam’s life, no one came to the house unless it was absolutely necessary. Now, the kids have friends come over and we have a dog who doesn’t think a kid playing with one of her kids is necessarily attempting to kill her kid. In fact, Peyton likes to join in. What kid doesn’t enjoy being tackled by a 68 pound Lab?

So, the happiest dog in the world remains the happiest dog in the world, with occasional melancholy moments. She did allow me to get a birthday photograph and I will be very grateful for that.

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Peyton Turns Eight

The happiest dog in the world, Peyton, turned eight years old on November 12. She earned the title of happiest dog in the world when her groomer informed us that Peyton is the happiest dog she has ever met, and I honestly believe that to be true. Peyton is the sweetest, happiest, craziest dog you could ever hope to meet.

She loves her family, she loves her chair, she loves to eat, and she loves Sam. And not necessarily in that order.

This year Peyton has given us three big scares. First, we caught her limping and discovered she had very nearly sliced her paw pad in half. Some salve and a couple of Rimadyl later and she was back to normal. Please note, when I saw caught her limping, I mean she was walking completely normally if she knew you were watching her but would favor her sore foot if she thought no one could see her. And then she ate approximately three pounds of food just to prove she can. I was terrified she was going to bloat. Two vet visits and an x-ray later we discovered she has packed her tummy so full of food, there was no room for air, so no room for bloat. Thank goodness. Then, because that wasn’t enough, we started finding blood all over the house. Some detective work led us to Peyton. An exam and special diet later, she was back to normal. There is never a dull moment with Miss “Go Big or Go Home” in the house.

Peyton’s biggest challenge this year has been adjusting to Sam’s changing status. There are days when Sam is her old self and she and Peyton get along about as they always did (read not super well), and then there are the days when Sam isn’t feeling well and needs some support and she emotionally leans on Peyton (she could lean on her physically, too) I have no doubt that Peyton would prop her up if Sam needed her to.

The most remarkable thing about Peyton is how steady she is. Nothing really freaks her out. Nothing rattles her. If she gets bothered, she retreats to her kennel and waits out whatever the issue is. She doesn’t bark, but she makes up for that by snoring loud enough to wake the dead. And she is devoted to Sam. She was the first one to figure out that Sam is night blind and she absolutely will not allow us to let Sam out at night by herself. She camps by the “let out” door and keeps herself in between Sam and the door (no matter how urgent Sam’s need might be) until she is in her muzzle and ready to go out too. When Sam was having a series of bad days, Peyton was right outside the gate that separates them (mostly for Sam’s protection now) and stayed there. She escorted Sam in and out and stayed with her as much as she could.

Peyton is a different one of a kind than Sam, but she is definitely the right one of a kind to fit with Sam.

Normally, this is where I would put a picture of the birthday girl, but those who know Peyton, know her nickname is “the streak.” So far, I’ve taken 30 shots and not one of them has come out. Here’s hoping that when we try again in the next day or so, she will be more cooperative.

A Tale of Two Dogs

I owe the germ of this post to Queen of Spain. She posted the other day on Twitter about going to get a dog and she received a large amount of advice about where she should get the dog. As I read it, I realized that most of us speak with passion about where to get animals, but most of us don’t give the reasons why (hard to do in 140 characters), so Queen of Spain here is the tale of two dogs (or why you want to be careful where you get your dog).

P and I had been married for four years when he seemed to appear open to the idea of getting a dog. I don’t know what opened his mind that particular weekend (Mother’s day weekend, 1998), but open it did and I jumped at the chance. Now, understand that P is about as far from anti-dog as you can get, but he was recovering from the loss of his beloved Trigger (went to the bridge in November 1993) and simply could not contemplate being disloyal to her by getting another dog.

In any event, he finally FINALLY agreed that we could get a dog. People who know P know that he changes his mind, so I knew I would need to move VERY quickly if I wanted a dog (which, in all honesty, I wasn’t sure I did, but he hated cats so much I knew that would NEVER happen). I waited eagerly for the Sunday paper to come and when it did, we looked through the ads for a lab puppy. We had decided that we wanted a lab. P is, um, prejudiced against small dogs (who he typically refers to as dust mops) and we knew we needed something with short hair to try to contain my allergic tendencies. Lab seemed to fit what we were looking for. I really wanted a black one. Like any good English major my wardrobe tended to be black on black, so a black dog would not show up on my clothes. Yeah, these are the considerations I was making and no, I’m not proud of them, but as I’ve reminded our vet since, before getting this dog my only pet had been a goldfish. It’s not as if I had a lot of experience :). P was adamant that the dog had to be female. He had had both and really felt females were better.

We made probably three phone calls and found someone with a black female puppy for sale. We found a cardboard box, got in my Toyota Tercel and drove over to see the puppies. There were two we could choose from. One was adventurous. She was into everything. She ran around a lot and made me tired just watching her. The other one laid down and went to sleep while we were visiting. She checked us out, but then just snuggled down for a nap. I took this as a good sign, thought it meant she was somewhat lower energy, and picked her. We paid for her, put her in the box in the back seat and drove her home. We have some pictures of her from that first day. She was small, shy, and clearly terrified.

Once we had her home, P ran out, got her a crate, bowls, some food, a few toys, and so forth. I thought it was the first day of heaven. Little did I know that it would be almost nine years of hell.

I’ve written about Sam before. But most of that is about her as her present day self, which is why it’s only nine years of hell instead of all eleven and three quarters. Sam today is vastly different dog than she was at nine. Just before Sam turned nine she missed being put to sleep by the most narrow of whiskers. She had bitten, again, and this time she bit P and not me. It was a line she had never crossed before and I was certain it was a harbinger of worse things to come. I need to back up a little, though. When she was a puppy Sam bit to a degree that I’ve never seen in a puppy before or since (granted, I didn’t know a lot about puppies, but I had nip marks up and down my arms — I looked like a serious heroin user). Sam would have these moments where she would completely wig out and not know who anyone was. She was aggressive, she was difficult, she had bizarre fears (she was afraid of a broom for heaven’s sake, now my son doesn’t know what one looks like because we can’t have one in the house). She has severe allergies. And by severe I mean, if she eats the things she’s allergic to or is exposed long term to something she’s allergic to it could kill her. She has always had a very fragile constitution. She gets deathly ill at the drop of a hat and requires enormous reserves to make her better (both financial and emotional — we joke that if our vet ever expands his office he’ll need to name it the Sam memorial wing because we will have financed it). She has good hips, but that’s a freak of nature miracle.

What I know now, that I didn’t know before, is that not meeting Sam’s parents (at least her mother) was a huge mistake. Being told that the mother was aggressive toward people taking her puppies? A clear warning sign that something was very wrong with that dog. But I didn’t know. And this was before Twitter, before blogs, and I wasn’t even really aware of list-servs (I was educated shortly there after and have been active in Labrador retriever communities for the last eleven years). I didn’t know that a dog who exhibits the kinds of bizarre fears that Sam does has something wrong mentally. I spent a very long time shouldering a huge load of guilt thinking that I had “done something” to Sam to make her the way she is because I didn’t know what I was doing. Sam doesn’t socialize well, never did. She flunked out of two different obedience schools before I gave up. I seriously wanted to send her back to her breeder at one point, but P talked me out of it.

If I knew then what I know now, Sam would not have come home with us. While yes, I would miss her terribly and I will cry like a baby when she passes to the bridge (probably for hours), I recognize that we spent years living with a time bomb and that had the veterinary advances not happened when they did, Sam would likely not have made it to her twelfth birthday; she wouldn’t have made it to her tenth. I have three scars from very nasty bites that I received from “the bitey end” of Sam. All three were to, some degree, my fault because I didn’t understand how to handle her. There are really no books or trainers who are prepared to handle a truly fear aggressive dog, which is what Sam is.

My point here, which may get lost in the clear conflictedness of my feelings is that the more you know about the background of your dog the better off you are. If you’re getting a dog from a pet store, you will know nothing. If you get a dog from a shelter, you’ll likely know very little. It is possible to get good shelter dogs, but you have to really do your homework and understand that shelters are like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you just never know what you’re going to get.

On the other end of the experience spectrum, we have Peyton. When we decided to add Peyton to our family, we knew just about everything you could possibly know about her mother. Her breeder has been a friend of mine for over a decade. I know how the puppies were raised. I know what sorts of experiences they had. Heck, in this case, the breeder had a live feed to the puppy play room where you could see EXACTLY what the puppies were doing all the time. When we went into this with the breeder we were pretty clear we don’t care about color (which wasn’t relevant since we knew the puppies were likely to be all black) and we didn’t care about a gender. What we cared about was personality and fit with our family.

If you’re going with a rescue or a shelter, try to find one that really talks to you about things like activity level in the family, other pets, lifestyle, and so forth, and then will work with you to find the best fit for your family.

This is what Peyton’s breeder did. The key concern was Sam. In all honesty, Sam (at the time Peyton came home) could have easily killed an eight week old puppy she took a dislike to. She wouldn’t have batted an eyelash. At the time Peyton came home, Ben was four months old. Did I mention that I might be slightly insane? Many breeders wouldn’t sell to someone with such a young child, but she was willing and it worked out for us. She evaluated us and had the puppies evaluated by a professional puppy evaluator (now that? is a cool job). Ultimately, it was decided that Peyton (then known as Hunter or Miss Orange Collar) would be the best fit for us. If you’re dealing with a good breeder, you’re going to give up some control. You aren’t going to be choosing the puppy.

I’ve written about Peyton before, too. But I want to make sure I give a clear picture and a fair one. A dog from a breeder is no more guaranteed to be healthy and free from issues than is a dog from a shelter or a rescue or even a newspaper. Good breeders are up front about the potential issues in their lines and will tell you what sorts of risks the dog faces. And even then, there are the things you can’t predict: cancer, accidents, and so on.

Peyton has a two congenital health issues that could, possibly, cause her serious trouble as she gets older. There is no guarantee that either will be a problem, but there is also no guarantee that she either won’t have a shortened lifespan or a serious operation that may or may not repair her. We have made some adjustments to her life to attempt to guard against the latter situation; she no longer does agility or anything that requires her to jump. P lifts her in and out of vehicles so she doesn’t jump balance all her weight on her front paws. We have a ramp for her to use, but she, like the princess she is, prefers to be lifted, thank you. People who own dogs probably have a good idea of what Peyton’s problem is. Those who don’t, wouldn’t understand the implications of it anyway.

For the other, it’s a condition noted by her vet and that we keep track of in terms of the kinds of medications he can prescribe for her. For a dog of her size, her liver is abnormally small. This is not necessarily a problem, and it may just be that her liver is supposed to be this size, but it does mean that we have to be very careful about medications that are metabolized through the liver or that have an effect on the liver. Dosing her by her size would be a significant mistake. Fortunately, her vet is awesome and knows this.

Ultimately, my point is get a dog, but do your homework first. You wouldn’t buy the first car you see while walking down the street; don’t buy the first dog you see either. Take your time. Think. And then be prepared to have your world turned upside down because that’s what every good dog does :).

Peyton

I admit that I have slacked off in the last week with the blogging. My younger dog, Peyton, has been having issues with her ears and it takes up time to deal with those problems. Miss Peyton is a 3 1/2 year old black lab out of CH Snowden Hill Mango Crazy, JH. P fell in love with Mango when she was eight weeks old and we waited the two plus years until she had a litter. Peyton is one of nine siblings and is an absolute darling of a dog.

Her nickname at the vet’s office is “Crazy Peyton.” At home, though, she’s usually found sleeping somewhere or playing with Ben. Right now, she’s sleeping in the green chair that she’s claimed as hers.

Those of you who can do math might realize that Miss P and Ben are approximately the same age. He’s actually about two months older than she is, but yes, I was precisely that crazy. She’s been the best thing we could have done for our household. She has jobs that she takes very, very seriously. She is the chief monster hunter. She checks Ben’s room most nights for monsters and makes sure that no grumpy wizards (or lizards, I’m not sure) get through to his room during the evening hours. She is alternately Sam’s biggest antagonist and her biggest protector. I have watched Peyton shove her way in when Sam is getting attention (not good), but also watched her shove her way in between Sam and something we could all tell Sam doesn’t like (excellent). She has a command “go get Sam” and she knows what it means. If Sam seems lost or confused in the yard, Peyton will go out, get behind Sam, and basically herd her to the door. Given that Sam is going blind, this will be a more important skill in the coming years.

Peyton is supposed to be P’s dog, but she is utterly attached to me and to Ben. She follows me everywhere and sits outside the bathroom door waiting for me. I am rarely allowed to work by myself. Right now, she is asleep in the green chair that she has claimed as hers. Most every night, I’ll find her asleep there. We were planning to get rid of the chair, but now we’ve decided that we can’t do it because it belongs to her the way the dog bed Sam is sleeping on belongs to her.

Peyton’s motto in life is Go big, or go home. To demonstrate this, Miss P nearly died a year ago (February 2008). She started throwing up coffee grounds. Dog people know that this means that she’s got partially digested blood in her stomach and that is usually a bad sign. She spent the night at our vet’s office. The next day he called and we had to take her to an emergency vet clinic because they also have a critical care facility which is what he felt she needed. I took her there, and she started bleeding from her IV port, so the back of my truck and my clothes were covered in blood. But she was bouncing, happy-go-lucky when she went into the clinic and they could not believe this was the dog they were expecting, given that she was, supposedly, at death’s door. She spent a night there and they released her. We’ve never quite figured out what happened to her and she’s never had another recurrence.

Last summer, Peyton suddenly developed an incredibly nasty ear infection that I couldn’t get to clear. I have been treating my dogs ears myself, initially, for about seven years. Sam used to have seriously problematic ears, and we got in the habit of having me try to treat first. Since our current vet is a bit farther away than one might normally go for a vet, he has continued the pattern of letting me attempt treatment on my own first.

At any rate, she got a nasty infection that took me four months to clear. She finally got the all clear 20 days before Katie was born — good for her because she would have been living with her vet at that point.

Now, she has it again. Sigh. We’re in week 2 of treatment. We’re looking at a minimum of six weeks of treatment. She is so patient about treatment. I have to say that I appreciate that. Heck, I treated her tonight while she was asleep.

Peyton is more of a clown than Sam and she’s much calmer at the same time. She’s stubborn, pushy, and sweet. When you think typical lab? Peyton is what you’re thinking of.

Oh, for those who are wondering . . . her AKC registered name is Grampian Believe in Blue. This is the motto for the Indianapolis Colts . . . I’ll leave it to you to figure out who she’s named for ;).