Friday, June 28, 2013

No News

So, it's Friday evening and I haven't heard anything from the vet's. They were supposed to get the lab results on Thursday or Friday, but clearly that didn't happen. I've spent the week alternately crying and berating myself, and it looks like that will be how the weekend shapes up too. Hopefully I'll have some answers on Monday at least.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cranky Monster

We're having a little trouble here lately. Monster isn't feeling too well...

How could this happen to me?

I noticed a bump under one of his paws a while back. At first I thought he'd simply got a minor infection in some little scratch, and figured it wasn't anything to get upset over. Monster wasn't particularly bothered by it, so I kept it clean and monitored it. But it didn't change... After a little over a week, I decided it needed to be looked at. It was firm and didn't appear infected at all, nothing like a cut really. I can deal with the simple stuff, but I was getting increasingly convinced that this bump may be trouble. Now, taking Monster to the vet isn't a fun prospect so this wasn't a decision I made easily. In other words you probably understand just how worried I was getting.

Oh, come on - it's just a tiny bump. I can shake it off like that!

I was prepared for Monster being a bit difficult with the vet, but he surprised me anyway. He went for the vet tech as soon as he spotted her, and he didn't let up. When the vet came in too, it just meant Monster had two targets. He was completely unreasonable, and I ended up having to lie on top of him in order to keep him restrained. I'd expected he would start objecting quite vehemently as soon as someone other than me started to handle him physically (especially since the problem was on his paw, he's ridiculously worried about having his paws handled), but the way he just pulled out all the stops as soon as he got someone in his sights - long before anyone even came close to touching him - honestly surprised me. And would have made me quite sad, if I'd had any emotional room for that right now. The vet only made a brief check of Monster's paw before deciding he needed to sedate Monster in order to continue. I'd hoped (although this hope had been fighting quite hard against some darker suspicions) that we'd simply get out of there with an ointment or something. Part of me was still arguing that it had been ridiculous to take Monster to the vet just for a little lump that didn't even bother him all that much, after just a week or two - especially considering the situation for both Monster and the people at the vet's office. But the vet quickly put a stop to that annoying voice in my head (and replaced it with a Greek chorus of woe, naturally) with one word: tumour.

I can't hear you!

We won't know anything for sure until the end of the week, when we get the lab results. But I'm FREAKING OUT! My baby Monster! Oh god, it's going to be bad news, isn't it...? I, quite honestly, can't handle this. I've been crying like an idiot on and off since we got home yesterday. Which is stupid, I don't know anything for sure yet! And Monster is so young, far too young for the c-word, right? Oh, please...

How did mom die again...?

While I'm trying to keep my wits about me I'd at least like to say that the people at the vet's office were great! They didn't get the least bit worked up over Monster's apparent hatred of them, they stayed calm the whole time no matter what he did and reassured me that as long as I could just hold him there really wasn't much of a problem. They were incredibly patient and helpful.

What!? Are you taking their side!?

Right now Monster has a fairly sizeable cut along one side of the metacarpal pad on one of his paws. He's getting painkillers and antibiotics. And he's grumpy! Forget all the progress, Monster in pain is Monster in attack mode. He will lunge at anything, and he's barking and growling in the house whenever he hears anything outside. And every couple of hours or so he comes cuddling up to me and sticks his wounded back paw in my lap, clearly begging me to fix it so it doesn't hurt him any more, which just breaks my heart further... I really want to fix it. Oh, do I ever!

You'll know when I know - at least provided I can manage to communicate.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Monster Gets New Clothes

So... I swear I meant to start up with the daily posts last time I wrote. But obviously that didn't happen...

Heh, you people are really gullible!

Aaaaaanyway.... Today we've been off to see Teach again. We were working against the world's tiniest Poodle! The cutest little fluff of black lint, at first neither Monster nor I realized there was a dog there - but she had a pretty big voice, and made sure she got noticed! She also seemed to share Monster's fascination with sticks, some of them bigger than she was. (Monster likes big sticks too, but when he goes after the ones bigger than him - which does happen - we're usually talking about still rooted trees...)

We could play together! I've got a great stick collection. I promise I'd be careful...

Unfortunately today didn't go very well. We've been having quite a few setbacks lately, and this continued to show in the training session. While Monster seemed OK from time to time, he also lost the plot completely several times. He was reared up on his hind legs (making him taller than me), snarling and lunging, air snapping, slamming into both me and Teach - you know, generally making a nuisance of himself... This is depressing, especially in light of the progress I've been seeing (imagining?) lately. Setbacks like this make me question if we're really getting anywhere at all, and while I know that's an overreaction born from disappointment it doesn't change how it feels. I know it's a very temporary slump, but right now I'm a bit disheartened.

Sorry, Mom...

But as Teach pointed out: Monster's behaviour - at his very worst in his current state - is no worse than you see a dozen small to miniature dogs behave whenever you go out on a walk. Monster's size (and, let's be honest, his looks) makes his behaviour a problem that must be dealt with, while owners of smaller dogs can - and do - ignore it and live with it. I'm not making excuses here, I am working on Monster's issues and I want to make him more pleasant for everyone to be around, but it helps put some perspective on my feelings of failure. At least I'm working on it, you know...?

I beg your pardon? You're working on it?

Anyway, Monster having a bad day in training gave me an excellent opportunity to test some stuff out! (Silver lining and all that, come on let's all be optimists!) I've been getting more and more desperate to find gear that fits Monster well, not to mention that feels safe. Being easy to use - and comfortable - is certainly no small thing either. But I haven't managed to find anything, no harnesses and not even simple collars are good enough. They chafe, don't fit right (understandable considering how many different body shapes dogs come in, "size" is never going to be enough of a descriptor), and most importantly: they break. That's not OK, and definitely not OK with Monster's issues... So I've given up, I can't find anything that works - most gear for large dogs just makes the item bigger, but uses the same strength/size of buckles, straps, etc, meaning they snap or break at some very bad times for us - and have decided to try making something myself!

Hah, you crack me up! You come up with the darndest ideas!

Now, what you need to know about me is that I have some serious spatial reasoning issues - we're talking genuine disability here - and I'm a complete fumble-fingers in all things crafty. So this is not a decision I've come to lightly... But what am I supposed to do!? There is seriously nothing out there that fits Monster and is safe - let's not even go near "easy to use". So, I've been mucking about a bit, and today I realized if I was going to try using gear of my own design it would be the perfect opportunity to do it in a training session! A chance for a solid test run in difficult situations, while there also being some extra security in it being (somewhat) predictable plus Teach was around to help if I'd need to grab Monster and needed someone to get some backup equipment... So, I spent all day at the sewing machine (well, a lot of time was also spent swearing over a seam ripper), and just made it in time! Take a look:

Hah, I've stolen the roll of nylon webbing, now you can't make a harness! Hey, waaaait a minute...

This is made of nylon webbing with some sort of soft plasticy/ruberry thingy underneath (it used to be a yoga mat, if that tells you anything). The straps are adjustable and connected along his back and under his chest, making it impossible to back out of.

OK, how do I get out of this thing!?

I'm not too sure about the "comfortable" criteria, Monster didn't exactly seem to love it - but he certainly didn't hate it any more than anything else he's ever worn...

You want me to model a collar too!? Right, I've had enough!

I made a collar as well, or rather I made that first since it's a great deal easier to figure out than a harness. I've reused metal parts from old, broken gear - unfortunately I only had one D-ring large enough to fit the width of the webbing so for the collar I reused a similar thing from a Rogz collar. Unfortunately that detail is the one thing I really hate on the Rogz collars, since the design creates a lever effect when the dog pulls, causing the fastening to dig into his spine... I need to find more D-rings, but that seems to be difficult if you want some larger sizes?

Haha, I'm free!

Anyway, the harness passed the test unscathed! It held Monster securely, there didn't seem to be any danger of anything giving out and all seams appear intact... How about that!? And if I do say so myself, it doesn't look too bad either! (As long as you don't look too closely...) I'm also very happy with it turning out so soft! There's one metal ring on Monster's chest (to allow the two shoulder straps and the chest strap to meet freely), and a metal D-ring between his shoulder blades to clip the leash onto. On the collar there's just a clippy-onto-thingy. That's it. The rest is fabric (and, you know, that plasticy rubbery thing - but that's really soft). Instead of buckles I've used velcro, and I'm very happy with that choice. I've made the velcro part quite long, and made sure it follows a curve. That way any force will move along the velcro rather than pulling at it, making it quite secure. This harness is just a prototype of course, I can see a lot of things which need to be fixed! But it is actually good enough to be usable right away, and I never would have thought I'd be able to make a usable harness if I had a hundred tries. Not ever.

But please don't tell my sister I broke her sewing machine, OK? Maybe I can fix it...

I knew it.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bribing You With Monster Pics...

Yeah, I know: I haven't been posting anything for ages! Let's see... I've had my head stuck up Tin Can's back side (one of the shock absorbers broke in half and fell off - that's not serious, right?), I'm back on the crutches on and off (my ankle joint can't quite manage to decide if it's going to stay in or just bloody permanently dislocate), and, err... a monkey stole my computer. There, that buys me an excuse, right? No? How about this then: I've got my real camera back again!!!!!!!!!

Awww, ffff... fridge! I thought I hid that so well you'd never find it again...

And I found some photos on it from last summer I don't think I've shared with you! So what do you say, I show you those and in return you won't mention the whole blog neglect, "where have you been, you irresponsible whiner!?" type of thing, OK? Thought so, let's go!

Not everyone thinks Monster is scary, and he in turn loves kids - especially the teenage boy variety, they tend to agree about how to really play:

Oh, you were going to push me in the water, kid!? Heh, let's see who gets wet...

We went on a lot of walks in the woods, here's one that took us almost a whole day:

The terrain was pretty rough...


And over...

No match for me!

He was off leash most of the time, he doesn't (or at least didn't then, not so sure now) bother the wildlife and he doesn't range far from me at all - however the terrain can make it difficult to keep him in sight anyway:

Where's Waldo Monster!?

There he was!

*bouncing over the tall grass* Coming, Mom!

We discovered one thing that would drive Monster completely nuts: bogs! Back home you find these if you go up almost any mountain, they usually have a cold spring in the centre and while I sink to my knees (or more) in the peat, moss and black water and get so cold I quickly lose all feeling in my feet and legs, Monster loooooooves them:

Ooooooh... Can I, Mom?


See ya!

One more lap!

Not done yet...

Monster will just run and run, black water spraying up behind him. He'll keep at it for ages, occasionally collapsing on ground solid enough to keep his head above water (and muck...) to rest for a minute or two, and then off he goes again. It's awesome to see, and anyone who saw it couldn't help but burst into laughter - which admittedly weren't a lot of people, not too many bother to walk that far.

Well, that's all of the "new" photos... Actually, it's not but I can't find where I put the rest and I can't be bothered to look any more. I don't know why I've developed such a distaste for blogging (and answering correspondence - I'm sorry, my conscience is working on me, I just more or less panic when I try to sit down with my mail...), but I'm going to try to get over it. We've had another session with Teach again too, and I'll try to write about that sooner or later. But for now this is the most I can manage: we're still here, we're still working on Monster's issues (with some tenuous success lately, I think), and Monster is still the most awesome - and handsome - dog in the world!

Get. That. Camera. Out! Of. My. Face!