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

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.