The adventures of a veterinarian with lots of practical advice but no practical experience on raising a puppy.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Birthday Girl

Today Darcy is 1 year old. I thought about having a party - although how exactly does an adult go about throwing a 1st birthday party for a dog (I almost said puppy!)? How would I actually schedule some sort of a "celebration" without confirming the suspicion that I actually am insane? The kids and I have talked about it, lots of ideas involving cupcakes, party hats, pictures and all the neighborhood dogs - did you notice I said kids? There isn't really anyone else here (over the age of 8) that might want to actually go the distance with a dog birthday party. So... I'm thinking it over and to be honest... I would really rather celebrate with a little retail therapy. I don't need a cupcake and it would probably give Darcy diarrhea. I don't actually own a little doggy party hat and I'm not really crafty enough to make one. I took a picture to commemorate the day but our neighborhood dogs aren't really refined enough to invite. I'm sure you know what I mean.

Oddly enough I happened upon an amazing website with gorgeous handmade collars. That is more like it! A new collar for Darcy will be just like a new pair of boots for me! Then, I watched Pride and Prejudice and ogled her namesake in her honor. I guess I'm trying to justify my vices - online shopping and Matthew Macfadyen. Is there shame in loving fine leather goods and fine English actors? Is there shame in self gratification and pinning it on a poodle's birthday party? I guess what I'm saying is that I would understand (and won't judge!) either approach - cupcakes or collars.

Happy Birthday Darcy! The past year has been so much fun and we are so fortunate to have you in our family. You truly are part of our lives now and have adjusted to the chaos beautifully. Our harmonious dysfunction has certainly shaped your little doggy personality and your "endearing quirks" are no doubt due to my own "endearing quirks" - I'm not sure that is a compliment! Take us or leave us we are a pair and I can't wait for all the birthdays to come!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I have a client who recently told me that their 14 month old dog had NEVER laid down in the house - not even one time. Since acquiring this puppy and now over 1 year later - he has yet to lay down and just rest. I still can't believe it. When the family is sitting around watching TV and just relaxing - he won't, can't or doesn't know how to just be still. OK, I have a 5 year old son and we often marvel at his perpetual motion but he eventually does fall asleep. This particular dog is just conditioned to sleep in the kennel at night, otherwise he is on the go.

I mention this because I just absolutely love Darcy's ability to rest, be still and relax. She takes relaxation to a new level and will fall asleep in my arms like a dishrag. She curls up in the crook of my knee and will be dreaming in mere minutes. When she is so blissfully peaceful it's near impossible to be wound up. She melts and I can start to unwind. I think that ability to seize the moment and refresh is important. I am in the middle of a transition that could keep me awake and stressed. I know they say that petting a dog can lower blood pressure but petting Darcy can hypnotize.

My husband thinks that having a dog in the bed is annoying. I think her bedtime and wake up routines are endearing and comforting. She trusts in the safety and security of her home, doesn't sweat the small stuff and knows the importance of just being "near". Good advice if you ask me!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Where did the summer go?

So much going on and the summer has passed us by. Darcy has enjoyed the heat, water, sun, fun and has grown into... well lets just say she's grown. She hasn't grown much in stature, she seems to be destined for the 5 lb mark. Slim, trim and too busy to eat but just the perfect size to tote anywhere and everywhere. She's grown in a sense that she has seen more of the world. She has had so many firsts and has taken everything in stride - wide eyed and cool as a cucumber.

She has had her first dip in the pool and is a natural swimmer. She has played with her first litter of kittens, stayed in a hotel, stood on a rock in a cool river, seen fireworks, heard summer thunderstorms, caught endless frogs and bugs and has truly learned to appreciate air conditioning. She has crossed Kansas and looked out the window to gaze at Pikes Peak. She stood tall on a boat with the wind in her ears and got her own lifejacket. She slept in a tent and tasted s'mores, the consummate camper.

But - I guess some things will never change. She still tips her food over before she eats it and she is still relentlessly chasing the cat. She loves every dog she has ever met - some more enthusiastically than others. She loves the car and tolerates the crate. She owns my office and has more than one person catering to her every whim. She still loves her green bed the best and still sleeps at my feet.

So, no matter what changes I've had a ball watching her test the waters. I've decided to include the pictures most representative of her summer. Two pictures are from our camping trip to Crested Butte, CO. She stuck her head into a hole and luckily didn't meet up with whatever made that hole! She had no fear of the frigid river and loved watching the kids play on the rocks. Also, "Captain" of the pontoon. Although her favorite part of boating is the usual picnic lunch that seems to accompany the ride, I pretend that she is sniffing the wind and reminding herself what a lucky little puppy she is.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Shaved, sutures and sleep...

This was a big week for me - I decided to spay Darcy and Thursday was the big day. I really had mixed emotions going into this day but none of my anxiety revolved around the surgery itself. As odd as it seems, I found myself stressing about the little stuff and worried about her whining and crying in the cage all day. I wonder if my clients are more nervous about the surgical procedure and anesthesia or the cage??? I was completely confident in how the surgery would go and knew that I'd make sure she wasn't hurting but if she cried all day... how would I cope with that?

One of my dearest friends had a tiny chihuahua that needed to by spayed so we agreed to schedule Paprika and Darcy on the same day. We decided we could support each other as veterinarians and nervous (neurotic?) pet owners. They both are between 4 and 5 pounds so I went carefully to my calculations - how to create the perfect blend of sedation, pain control and anesthesia? Well, I suppose my fear of her crying in the cage won out because man did she sleep! I can honestly say that she felt no pain and had no stress while caged - I doubt she even knew she was in the cage! I was so happy that she was calm for her catheter placement, had perfect vitals during the procedure AND slept the day away peacefully after it was all said and done. The only evidence of the day is a shaved belly, 3 little stitches and a missed grooming appointment! Her usual Friday spa treatment was postponed until next week but she certainly isn't objecting to that!

I guess my confidence is restored. I'm so proud of my anesthetic safety, pain control protocol and staff training. I love the fact we can monitor EVERYTHING and keep the little ones warm while they are asleep. I know the results of lab tests and examinations and can tweak my protocol as a result. I KNOW that my clients "babies" are safe, sound and comfortable and that the day of spay or neuter is just a bump in the road. However I know that it may be a day full of worry, stress and fear. I was able to hold my girl before, during and after the surgery. I checked on her constantly and had lots of people helping me out. I never doubted she was OK. So I realize that we need to educate our clients about the procedure itself and the finer points of anesthetic safety but it wouldn't hurt to spend a little more time telling them about how much lovin' they get too! We cushion their heads, cover their tootsies and tell them over and over that it's going to be OK. We open up cans of yummy, stinky canned food and take them to potty. We pick out the perfect blanket, bed or towel for each one as they are waking up. I guess it's some kind of female coping mechanism for dealing with stress! Fuzzy, warm blankets and comfort food make everything better!

So Darcy has almost forgotten about that scary day and is being really good about not licking her sutures. She peed on my lap during the drive home because of all those wonderful hydrating fluids! She is 36 hours out and back to tormenting the cat. She ate all her dinner tonight and was chasing bugs in the yard (all time favorite game).

After an overall good experience I can say that I've really stepped up my game on brushing her teeth - lets put off that first dental cleaning for oh, 10 or 11 years!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

6 Months Old!

Well Darcy is 6 months old and finally had a big girl haircut. I decided that she was almost unrecognizable as a puppy - looking more like a red miniature sheep! Halie her groomer has taken great pains to carefully tease, trim and scissor her into quite a beauty. It is a pretty stressful situation because no matter what great marks I may get as an understanding boss - my staff seems to think I'll blow my top if Darcy's haircut was botched! Now I know that I really like her to look pretty but... seriously!

I've seen clients get MAD (I mean mad!) about their dog's eyelashes being trimmed. I've seen soccer Moms, sweet Grannys and well mannered gentlemen show their "not-so-nice" side when Fluffy's topknot didn't measure up.

I know I'll be just fine if Darcy's haircuts have highs and lows - just make sure her nail polish and bows match! The funniest part of this whole story is that Darcy's current playmate and best friend is a hairless Chinese Crested puppy named Andy (you can see his nose in the picture). They seem to accept each other - one furry and one bald - and will wrestle for hours. Darcy has ninja like reflexes and can grab the one patch of hair on Andy's head and hold on like a bull rider! Until Andy is adopted they will continue to be the oddest couple I've ever seen!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why do puppies chase feet...

... and why would I shoot several minutes of video of her chasing my feet? I'm sure all of you out there understand - I'm addicted to taking pictures of my dog. Darcy is naturally a calm, well mannered little girl, loves to get into adorable poses and so I guess my instinct is to snap a (few) pictures! Nothing wrong with that right? I feel so accepted, I know everyone reading this probably has several (hundred) pictures of their dogs on their camera... right? OK so it's not that bad but I do have to balance it out - one of the kids, one of Darcy - and so on.

Lately she is a bit more wild when outside running in the tall grass. It seems to be some sort of energy source. She almost turns into a different dog when her ears are blowing in the wind and the sun warms her red ringlets. How amazing to experience your first Spring and honestly not have a care in the world. Darcy has found everything about the change of seasons to her liking and is right at home with the top off the Jeep. She sees birds, hears the frogs and has experimented by chewing on some pretty icky stuff in the yard. She seems to fear nothing and I'm already thinking about all the fun the summer will bring. I decided tonight to buy some sort of contraption that will allow her to ride along on my bike.

So I've posted the video of her running around chasing my feet. It will be so fun when she is an old lady to look back at this moment in time and remember all that fuzzy hair. When she looks up at the camera the expression is priceless. I've caught evidence that she DOES potty outside and also some evidence that when I call her name she doesn't always come running. She and my 4 year old son seems to be in the same stage of development. In my defense she usually comes when I call but the 4 year old still needs some work.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Darcy and JJ

Hey wait, Darcy is supposed to be MY best friend. I am so torn - as a vet I'm so proud that Darcy is a happy well-adjusted puppy that LOVES everybody but as THE owner I kinda wish she liked me the best! I'm the one putting in the hours here - OK, I'll admit she's being raised by the village but still, she's MY dog. I know - get over it. I'm trying. It would probably drive me nuts if she followed me everywhere, cried when I left the room, wouldn't let anyone else hold her, etc. I'd be embarrassed that my puppy was so dysfunctional and would make up a crazy syndrome about unbalanced hormones or something.

Today, Darcy spent a sunny afternoon playing outside with all the Hard Luck Hounds in our rescue program. I know she has developed such trust in other dogs because of the special bond she has with our lab, JJ. He is 10 and pretty slow but let me tell you she doesn't care. He is her BFF and will sit for hours while she growls, jumps, chews and pulls on and over every part of his body. He glows with love and reminds me of a grandpa watching over his grandkids. He is so patient and they are forging such a sweet, tender relationship that I can honestly say I'm not jealous. Seriously, do you think I'd admit to being jealous of a dog?

I've posted two pictures of them posing together and one of Darcy sleeping in my friends baby carrier. It took her 30 seconds to realize it was warm from the baby and she made herself at home. Luckily my friend is a vet and didn't care one bit!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Puppyhood is passing me by...

As a mother I find myself either oblivious to the fact that my kids are growing up or acutely and painfully aware that they are becoming little people right before my eyes. Sometimes you look at them and think, "Wow, when did that happen?". Other times you slow down and really take a moment in because it might be the last! EVERY time that Owen falls asleep in my arms I worry that he will soon be too big and it will never happen again.

Darcy is growing like a weed and so I am forced to stop and realize that all too soon I am going to have a real dog - not this clumsy and fuzzy little pup. I don't know if I should be sad the puppy is going away or excited the dog is coming? Will it really be any different?

I'm like so many of my clients in one respect - we all LOVE puppy fur. It's just so amazingly soft, fluffy and adorable that we secretly hope they will stay like that forever. I have had to break the bad news time and time again - their hair just doesn't stay like that! Bummer! So I'm rebelling by refusing to cut any of her hair off.

Darcy has mastered jumping off my bed, jumping up and down off the couch and dumping all of the toys out of her basket. I'm still pondering how to teach her how to put them back. She usually walks from my car to the clinic every morning which some people may fail to see the significance of. However I'm sure some of you know that some puppies do very little actual walking! She can sit for a treat and has really been working on developing a real bark. I'm glad that she has a cute little warble and usually only pulls it out when engaged in full on cat wrestling.

Today in itself was quite a milestone. Our rescue group, Hard Luck Hounds, had a dog returned to our program yesterday. "Alice" is an adult female standard poodle and didn't understand why she wasn't with her family anymore. They had their reasons for returning her but she was confused and scared. My parents have agreed to foster Alice for a while so this afternoon my Mom, Alice, Darcy and myself all took a nice long walk. It was actually Darcy's first real walk and she took right to the leash. She likes to walk herself by holding the leash in her mouth, a phenomenon usually displayed by Golden Retrievers. She was happy and excited because dry, blowing leaves are her favorite toy! Darcy did a great job of showing Alice the ropes and would have made the dog whisperer proud.

So I'll embrace these fleeting displays of puppyhood but also note and treasure these accomplishments. I know that I want my kids to be well adjusted and confident so I must have set these goals for Darcy as well. I am never at a loss to tell Harper and Owen how wonderful I think they are (Mom's prerogative) so we continue to lavish Darcy with verbal accolades and praise. I really think she has earned it - don't you?

Thursday, February 18, 2010


OK -- I'm the freaky lady who doesn't like to leave her dog. I make a living assuring people how I am more than capable and our facility is adequately prepared for caring for pets! Sure - they would rather be at home, I understand that but geez why is it so hard to leave them? I am now crystal clear on why people give me that tragic look of longing when we walk down the hall and separate them from their pet. I get it now - it's hard to have fun on vacation when your baby is in a cage! (Is this really me typing this?)

I learned from my mom (Darcy's MiMi) that Darcy was quick to learn how to escape the pen I had fashioned. Amazingly enough I am still surprised when she does anything naughty! We may have taken a few steps backward in the potty training department because she pretty much ran loose in my Mom's house all day! She got to be top dog and go fun places but... it was difficult to drop her into that little pen and walk away! At least I was leaving her in my Mom's kitchen which was familiar to both of us. Let me picture dropping her off at a kennel... NO THANKS! What a conflict of interest! Why is it OK for my clients to trust me/us with their pets but I'm unable or unwilling to leave my own dog? This is one of those situations I'm placed in with my job - the two sides of my brain just don't agree! The science and fact vs. the emotions. 10 years later and it doesn't get any easier.

Don't get me wrong. We have so much fun with dogs while they are boarding. 99% of them do really well, get into a great routine and have a terrific time playing with other dogs. It is fun to see them experience things and interact with each other. They are really cherished and loved during their stay. But... at the end of the day they aren't in our arms. They aren't in bed with us and we aren't making sure that everything is just so. I've spent EVERY minute of the last month with this little puppy and it's a hard transition to expect someone else to me the mommy.

So what I'm saying is I get it. I had the humbling experience of doing a house call euthanasia tonight. When I walked away from their home carrying the dog they had loved for 12 years it really opened me up to thinking about this. That pet was gone but it still took incredible trust for them to let me take her away. I don't want to pretend that it isn't a big deal. It is a big deal but it's still part of my life. For me to do my job there is pain. Sometimes it's just a tiny twinge when you have to leave your dog for the day or night. Sometimes it's a great big in your face pain.

Hopefully we won't have to leave Darcy for a while. In San Diego and Coronado there were dogs EVERYWHERE! The stores, restaurants and parks were full of reminders that Darcy was stuck back here in the cold! I'll post a picture of the fancy new collar we bought her and her first official jewelry! (I can't really believe how much thought I have put into that collar and name tag.) I bought her a pink leopard snuggly fleece at the street fair in Palm Springs. There were incredible handmade dog clothes and custom harnesses. We bought a fun book about going to the vet in a very cool store Fun dog toys and a sticker for my car ("wag more, bark less") in a San Diego pet boutique. I'm on my way to being a savvy traveler who brings the poodle along for the fun. I know she's ready but we still have to convince Dad!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Prep for separation

We are leaving town Wednesday! Darcy will be vacationing at Mimi and Papa's house while we are gone. Sunday I had lots of cleaning to do in preparation for our Super Bowl party so we had dry run #1. Darcy and the kids spent the day with Mimi and Papa while I spent a good hour vacuuming up dog hair. The official report was: no accidents, very well behaved but was MIA for a short time. After a brief panic and search of the basement she turned up unscathed.

I'm going to take her kennel although she really hasn't spent any time in it. It has a new tray and custom fitting "cinnamon" colored fleece bed - just hasn't been used... I plan on fashioning a puppy playpen with the baby gate but don't know how that will go over - turning the kitchen into doggy daycare. I'm a bit concerned about the fact that Darcy really hasn't ever been away from ME and that she likes to sleep on my bed. You can't really leave detailed instructions for a puppy sitter about how they should tolerate romping, chewing and tug-of-war at 5AM right after her first morning potty break. At least my parents are early risers!

I know she will be fine but we will sure miss her. I am however getting really excited about visiting a certain little doggy boutique that I discovered in San Diego last fall. I'm confident Harper and I will find that perfect something to help dull the pain.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lessons Learned Part 1

What I've learned so far...

1. I am absolutely not cut out for anything larger than the puppy shown in the above picture. I say kudos to ANYONE who is able to chase after, keep up with or clean up after a puppy bigger than 3 pounds 7 ounces at 14 1/2 weeks of age.

2. Even though she is able to charm the pants off of everyone she meets - this puppy does eat cat poop. I now have an elaborate system of gates and cardboard boxes blocking access. I have also gotten out the baby gate and converted the kitchen into a puppy pen. I keep reminding myself, "An unsupervised puppy is a puppy in trouble"!

3. My voice can go really high-pitched when I say, "Does Darcy need to go potty" or the ever popular, "Darcy is such a smart puppy".

4. I have a lot of people say, "Oh! It's real!". I'm still trying to figure out why they think I would be carrying around a stuffed dog or statue of a poodle...

5. Darcy and I seem to have similar taste. We are both high maintenance. She has demonstrated an uncanny ability to make herself at home in Nordstroms.

6. We are going on vacation next week and our hotel does not allow pets! Why wouldn't you welcome a darling little dog like Darcy? My loyalty to Marriott may be a thing of the past!

7. No matter how many dog toys we have the pile of leaves on the deck have provided WAY more entertainment!

8. If your puppy is sleeping with you and she wakes up a little bit earlier than you would like - keep a stash of Greenies beside the bed! Darcy has a Greenie EVERY morning about 5:30 while I am multitasking - sleeping and at-home pet dental care all at the same time!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Shoe Fetish

As I write this Darcy is curled up on my lap, sleeping soundly. I've definitely noticed that as she is getting older she has more energy and is playing more. This morning she spend quite a bit of time really running around and playing with her toys. She IS getting away with something that is considered a no-no though - chewing on shoes. She is able to stick her entire head into Owen's sketchers and can drag one of Harper's Ugg boots all around the house. I'm not sure what the attraction is but can remember over the years that many of my clients seem to have experienced the same thing with their puppies. I've also validated another truth - small dogs just get away with things that larger puppies get in trouble for. A tiny little poo-poo on the floor seems a little bit more tolerable than a large pile. One Kleenex vs. multiple paper towels. No clean up required vs. get out the steam cleaner. The holes in the shoes are barely visible when those tiny teeth are chewing! I've heard of this phenomenon day after day. I've marveled at how people tolerate tiny pets being 80% housebroken as the finished product and let them get away with downright obnoxious behavior. Now I'll admit, some of the most popular breeds that I see every day are almost impossible to housebreak and train. Yorkies, pomeranians, Min Pins and other itty-bitty dogs are often missing the "teach me" gene. The trainability of poodles played significantly into my decision to get Darcy. A Yorkie in my hands would be a recipe for disaster. Even though I know all this, I don't seem to freak out when I see her dragging around expensive boots. I've actually chuckled and congratulated her on being such a determined little puppy.

Now, I know this can't keep up. I'm slowly forcing myself to admit that she isn't just going to know how to sit, come, stay, etc automatically. Oddly enough when I envision Darcy as an adult she already knows how to do those things - the training part between now and then is a little fuzzy. I've taken several larger dogs to obedience class but can't see myself (6'0" tall) parading around in a circle with a 3# dog on a leash. However, in the words of the Dog Whisperer, I AM the pack leader. I know Darcy will love learning and be happier as a well-balanced pup. I also know that it may be a different story if she starts dragging around MY shoes! I think I'll sign up for a program on the Dog Whisperer's website - become the pack leader in 1 year with a weekly activity. This week - find an indoor exercise activity - we have that figured out - tug of war with a slipper!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Ouch Factor

In my profession there is always the possibility of the "ouch factor". Sometimes animals come to me in pain and sometimes there is pain associated with their visit. Despite our ongoing and aggressive efforts to prevent, eliminate or at least control pain - it is there. Surgery, shots or abscessed teeth - that stuff hurts.

Some animals are amazing in their capacity to tolerate pain and likewise some are amazing in their ability NOT to tolerate it. The trick is you don't know which is which until after the fact.

So it was with much trepidation that I prepared to vaccinate Darcy. She had already experienced the occasional discomfort during ear cleaning, grooming, nail trimming, etc. I vaccinate LOTS of dogs and cats and believe me - the vast majority of them don't even acknowledge the actual injection. I counted back on the calendar a couple times and confirmed that she was actually due for a vaccine then gave my assistant the go ahead. We carefully prepared the vaccine and used a new, sharp needle (courtesies extended to all our patients of course!).

After a bit of stress on our parts, Darcy took the vaccine like a champ. She was sleepy that day which is a very common question from my clients. Most noticeably, she did seem sore in that spot and so I was very quick to give her a dose of oral pain medication. After that it was smooth sailing.

Since I became a veterinarian and then later a mother I realized those sensations I feel when sitting in the pediatrician's office are similar or the same to what my clients feel. I vividly remember taking a newborn infant to the doctor for the first time and the trapped feeling as my baby was hurting. OK - so maybe I was a little bit more hormonal and a little bit more sleep deprived than the average client walking into my office but it is still stressful! I always try to reflect on those feelings for just a moment when the tables are turned and I'm sitting in the waiting room - dreading what is about to happen. I know that Darcy's "well-puppy" visits and her spay (yikes!) will help me to stay more grounded and in touch with the not-so-fun aspects of getting a new puppy.

She was anxious to help me type this post so I grabbed a picture to show how she is growing. She has gained about 6 ounces since arriving and is learning something new everyday - whether I'm trying to teach her or not.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Little Miss Innocent

Milestone today! We had to leave Darcy alone for the first time. I worked this morning and Harper had a friend over so Darcy's presence was needed at home! They played and fussed over her but the time eventually came - they went and she stayed. I had suggested leaving her in the laundry room with access to her bed, the potty pad, food, water, etc. I couldn't imagine that she would do anything remotely unladylike let alone cause any problems (gasp!). We are now in the market for a new car so after a couple hours at the dealership we rushed home to rescue what was sure to be a lonely puppy. Well, Darcy discovered something really fun during those unsupervised hours. Something I thought was surely beneath her. Something that only bad dogs get into - CAT LITTER! The bad news is that she created some new form of concrete by mixing cat litter + water + newly groomed poodle hair. I was able to scrub it off her legs but will be chipping it up off the floor well into the night. The little chalky white footprints are actually kind of cute...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Ryan has christened me "crazy dog lady" after I figured out that Darcy rides really well in my purse. She fits perfectly and likes to poke her head out the top. As I was watching Harper's basketball game last weekend someone finally noticed that there was a puppy in my bag. "Oh, it's real! I thought it was stuffed" was all he could say and I could tell from the look on his face that he was trying to decide which is nuttier - a lady with a stuffed toy dog sticking out of her purse or a lady carrying a tiny red poodle. I just smiled and yelled, "Nice rebound!".

I left the house today and fully intended to leave her here. I know she needs to learn how to spend time in her crate because my parents will be dog-sitting in a few weeks when we are on vacation. I want her to feel comfortable being left for a couple hours and to stay in her crate without howling and crying. So... she ended up in her travel bag and in the car with us. I had to get a quick allergy shot and get my eyebrows waxed. Two short errands and I knew she would be OK in the car for a few minutes. Long story short they ended up working me in for a haircut and Darcy made the rounds in the salon, of course everyone wanted to hold her! She slept peacefully on my lap while I got my haircut (Owen played his DS of course) and I got another step closer to crazy dog lady status.

The funny thing is that the more days you walk around with a poodle in your purse the less crazy it actually seems. I guess that's where Ryan comes in - to keep my feet firmly planted in reality and to give me a heads up when people are whispering about me and my wiggling purse.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Darcy vs. Mario

I wasn't sure how Darcy would fit into our family unit. Would the kids lose interest? Would she cling to me and ignore everyone else? Would I be the only one with an emotional attachment to this puppy our would we each develop some kind of bond in our own time? It has been interesting to see our kids, Harper (8) and Owen (4) start to modify their day-to-day activities with the expectation that Darcy will be a participant now.

As I walked in tonight Owen shouted, "Harper, Darcy is here!" I had to remind him that his mother was actually carrying the puppy and he hadn't seen me all day either. His interaction so far is a lot of laughing and giggling, usually associated with Darcy either licking or tickling him. He likes to call her while making a little clicking sound and then squeals when she tackles him. He has plans to teach Darcy all about Transformers and is determined that she will eventually fetch the tiny yellow tennis ball.

Harper has been the primary cuddler, coming to Darcy's rescue when it seems she may actually have to walk from point A to point B. She has been a huge help so far - all that cuddling makes for pretty effective supervision! Darcy is perfectly content to sit and watch Harper at the computer, watch Harper read or watch Harper watching TV. Darcy has been left in her crate at mealtime and Harper will rush through her dinner - frantic to stop the shrill squeaks coming from the laundry room. I tell her how as a baby she cried to be let out of her crib but she doesn't buy it.

As they say a picture is worth a thousand words. You can see the look of joy and contentment in Harper's face. A little girl and a the puppy of her dreams. You can see Owen, posing for the picture just like I asked him to - eyes firmly fixed on Mario Kart!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Darcy, you're not in Florida anymore!

Welcome to Missouri in the winter! Yesterday on my way to work Darcy and I ended up in the middle of a multi-car pileup. I'm not sure how many total individual wrecks contributed to this mess but we were the tan Explorer right in the middle! I had insisted that she stay in her crate in the front seat and although she protested it turns out that was a great idea! As the police officer was pulling me through the passenger window and cars were crashing into me from the drivers side - I cried, "I'm not leaving my puppy!". So as we were huddled by the side of the road while they tried to figure out who crashed into who, Darcy seemed amazed by the sirens and buzzing activity. It was COLD so we sat in the ambulance for a good bit of the wait and I really had to resist snapping a picture of her sitting on the stretcher. I had calmed down by that point and the newbie blogger started to take over. Hmmmm, I wonder if that paramedic would mind posing for a picture with the oxygen mask... it would have made for a great post! I guess we'll settle for a picture of the crash instead. The great news is that NO ONE was hurt but my car situation is in limbo. I've been maneuvering for a new car but it makes me sentimental and sad to think about my car being "totaled"! I had visions of a different mom, kid and dog (hopefully light color to blend with the hair already there) riding in it - not ending up at some junkyard or auto auction. So we will find out more next week. In the meantime I'm officially calling this a TIP: consider keeping those dogs in carriers while traveling in the car! She stayed secure and I was easily able to just grab the carrier. That would have made a huge difference had I also been trying to get kids out. Stay safe!

Thursday, January 14, 2010


"Wow". Did I mention, "Wow". I'm slowly slipping back into a semi-normal routine tonight. Wednesday was amazing in so many ways and I had planned for a relaxed workday today - yeah right. Not to keep anyone in suspense - Darcy made it home and is transitioning beautifully.

I'll start with a recap of my travels yesterday - a total whirlwind. I left KCI at 9:30 AM and had an uneventful flight to Atlanta. I guess I've heard somewhere that Atlanta is the busiest airport in the world and I'm gonna say that is probably right. I sought advice on the plane from a seasoned traveler and found my terminal and gate with minimal searching. I tried to distract myself with a light analysis of end of year statistics but was growing more anxious by the minute. The flight to Daytona Beach was quick but the plane was tiny and crowded - ugggh! After intense concentration and some deep breathing I ducked my head and shuffled down the aisle to my seat.

The Daytona Beach airport was a dream come true. I bolted to the common area and started searching the faces gathered there. I thought maybe they would have been holding a little sign that said "Darcy" (I've always wanted to be met by someone holding one of those little signs!) but no such luck. I dropped my bag and finally saw a likely prospect - a couple off to the side with a little blue pet carrier. No awkward moment when we met - Nancy just hugged me like one of her kids and immediately pulled the little critter out for me to inspect. Darcy was stunned and excited all at the same time but was certainly intrigued by her surroundings. Nancy wanted to know if she was what I expected and I realized that I had never even considered that she wouldn't be perfect.

We chatted and looked over all the paperwork that is involved when purchasing a puppy. Now here is a new experience for me! Nancy said she was treating me just like a regular person for the moment - not a vet. She filled me in on what she has learned over the years and shared her ideas about food, vaccination, safety and training. We agreed Darcy would be spayed and that if my circumstances ever changed I would notify her before placing Darcy into another home. There are certainly times when breeders and veterinarians don't agree but I was impressed by the extensive information Nancy provided about Darcy's health/genetic history. I stuffed my already bulging backpack with 3 handmade toys and lots of puppy food! With a tearful hug they said goodbye and the 2nd half our journey began. The parting words of advice, "Don't ever forget she's a show dog".

I had learned from my online research - don't put the puppy through the security scanner. Nancy reminded me too. Laptop out, liquids out, boots off, belt off, puppy out - through the metal detector (lots of oooohs and ahhhhs from the security staff here). They had to do a quick peek in my bag because of the can of dog food! The flight back to Atlanta wasn't crowded at all and passed quickly. Darcy was warm and sleepy, I think the loud vibrations of the plane but her in a trance! Not a peep! I broke all the rules in Atlanta airport - let her out of the carrier to stretch her legs. She was happy and seemed to be taking it all in stride. She slept the entire way to Kansas City and I broke the rules again when we landed. I let her peek out of the carrier while waiting to get off the plane - she was ready to get out! It was wonderful to see Ryan waiting and to be that much closer to getting her home!

OK - she slept in my bed last night, peed and pooped once in my office today and Harper hasn't put her down since I got home tonight. I'm realistic enough to know we need a little time to start establishing that "routine" that I like to preach about (excuses already?). I have very few routines in my life so I'm wondering if having Darcy around will work to hone my time management skills. She hasn't pottied outside yet but did go on newspaper (Thanks, Nancy!). She doesn't seem to even notice the snow and ice but suddenly I'm yearning for SPRING!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


My bag is packed and I'm ready to go. I'm still a bit in denial about my agenda for tomorrow - It will be a first AND I usually don't like to travel alone. I have good intentions for all that down time in the airport and have packed some end of year statistics to "review". I could probably get a lot of work done but... it is my day off! I'll watch Pride & Prejudice to honor Darcy's namesake, spend some quality time with my iPod and I'm hoping to find a new book at the airport.

I have heard that traveling with a pet as a carry on may not make me the most popular gal on the flight. I'm sure you could complete this sentence: "I'd rather sit by a tiny poodle on a plane than a ____________________ (fill in the blank). However I'll admit it makes me nervous. I'm predicting that Darcy is already near perfect so I can't imagine there will be any barking, whining, howling, pooping or peeing taking place on the plane. I'm sure she will be content riding in a little box under a seat in a loud airplane.

So just like when I see a frazzled Mom on an airplane trying to soothe a screaming infant, I'll have a healthy new respect for those traveling with pets. Maybe those pets are seasoned travelers like Paris Hilton's little "Tinkerbell" but keep in mind that the little whimper (or bark) you hear might be a scared little puppy who just got taken away from her Mommy, Sister and Aunts. I'll just turn up my music and give that gal a reassuring smile.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Weather Factor

I've cautioned many a client about housebreaking puppies in the winter. I've actually been encouraging some people to paper train this year! It just seems ridiculous to suggest placing a 2# puppy in 6 inches of snow and expecting anything to happen. Walking a tiny puppy outside with -10 windchill while chanting "potty, potty, potty" seems a bit far-fetched.

One of my "go-to" lectures for housebreaking involves the difference in how we think vs. how the puppy thinks. TIP: we think we are teaching a puppy NOT to go to the bathroom inside. Instead, we should be teaching them TO go to the bathroom outside. It may seem a subtle difference but when they feel the urge to potty we want to trigger that "let me get outside" behavior. The development of a substrate preference is a huge milestone and we want that substrate they prefer to be grass! The tricky part comes when the grass is buried in snow and the puppy truly hates being out in the cold.

So after a lot of thought and deliberation I have decided to bring our new puppy home during the longest stretch of bitter cold that I can remember. For an added challenge, I chose a puppy who is acclimated to Florida weather and although is only 11 weeks old, certainly has never seen snow. I'm mentally planning how the whole family will work together and supervise Darcy indoors, take her out frequently and keep her in the crate when unsupervised (sound familiar?). I'm planning on taking her to work everyday and when I get busy I know my dedicated staff will be there to keep the potty breaks on schedule. To be honest I'm hoping the combination of an intelligent breed and older puppy will start me out just an inch ahead of schedule. I sure hope so because all that planning may get lost in the shuffle of life.

We shall see how big of a factor this weather actually is. Lucky for me it hasn't been too balmy in Florida lately! Darcy has gotten a tiny taste of a Mid-Missouri winter down in the Sunshine State. I'll be sure to post a picture of her first experience with snow - it should be interesting for both of us!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The countdown begins...

In two days I will be flying to Daytona Beach, Florida. Just flying in and flying out. Leaving KCI at 9AM and getting home at 11PM. One carry-on with a laptop, book and some candy. Oh, I'm also taking a pet carrier, empty on the way out and full of fur on the way back. I'm going to get Darcy, our new toy poodle puppy. Going to bring her back to this frozen tundra we call home and see what happens when her little poodle feet hit that snow for the first time.

A little background, as a veterinarian, I have NEVER had a puppy. Hard to believe. I spend a good bit of my day giving people advice on all things puppy - food, training, health care, behavior problems, etc. Sleep in the bed or sleep in a crate? Potty on a paper or potty outside? Should puppies really have rules?

So here is where the tables are turned. I will see if I can take my own medicine, follow my own advice and do what it takes to end up with a happy, well-rounded puppy. I should start tomorrow by reading those handouts that I actually wrote! Those handouts that we KNOW contain so much valuable information but do people actually read them? Do people soak up any of that advice I so easily dish out or is it just an endless stream of ideas and concepts - too difficult to actually implement? I hope to find out!

Meet Darcy, born October 24, 2009 and soon to arrive in Missouri. I hope flying with a puppy is easier than flying with kids - I'll let you know! I invite you to follow along with our adventures as this puppy invades our lives and hearts.