Category Archives: Life

Life in the Fast Lane

It’s been crazy the last few months here.  We’ve been spending a lot of time on our Facebook page and neglecting the mess out of the blog.  It wasn’t a purposeful lapse but life got pretty crazy and it was just simpler to focus on that since my jumbled brain couldn’t seem to put two fiona-may2015-5414sentences together for more than a nanosecond before that thought process was lost into the great abyss of blog fog.  It was, to put it mildly, very frustrating.

Along with life getting in the way, we managed to acquire two new temporary additions to the pack.  They both came from unpleasant situations that wouldn’t have ended pleasantly for either if left to their own devices.

Fiona the Labrador was owner give up because she was too drivey and overwhelming for a large family that had more on their plate than dealing with an adolescent, high drive Labrador with a keen sense on how to get into the most trouble in the shortest span of time possible. It’s really an incredible feat but she more than makes up for it with her intense focus when her attention is cornered on doing something that intrigues her and makes her think!

river-may2015-5390River the Shih Tzu was a foundling at a local park.  He was obscenely matted and emaciated.  When we found him, he was unable to move because of a mat that ran from the base of his tail to the base of his sheath – essentially connecting both back legs.  It was obvious he was in pain and initially lashed out until we secured him and took him to a vet to check and see if, hopefully, he had a microchip that would allow us to reunite him with his owner.  Sadly, he didn’t.  We were left with the task of fixing him up – which started with removing the mat on his bottom.  Once that was removed it revealed raw and oozy testicles and a naked backside.  He wasn’t too happy about it while it occurred but he felt far better once it was done and the area was cleaned up.

We searched in vain for his previous owners – posting Craigslist found ads, posts on local Lost & Found groups on Facebook and posters at local pet businesses near where we found him.  That was in April and he still hasn’t been reunited with an owner so we’ve scheduled a neuter, microchip and other vet work that is needed before he is able to go to a permanent home that won’t let him down again.

Needless to say, our two new additions have a few issues to work through that will be easily puppies-march2015-5210solved with persistence and patience.  A good project to keep us busy and not with our typical breed either!  There is no doubt that Fiona, who is a tiny 42 pounds(!!!), will make an amazing sport prospect with her insane food, toy and a moderate prey drive but River will likely be a good companion for an dedicated couple or a family with dog knowledge – especially breed knowledge as a cherished companion to that family.

Now that all that has happened, expect many more entries as the days, weeks and months pass because I am almost positive that the blog fog has passed as summer hits and fills up my head with entries due to time and weather that is favorable to training and competing once more is upon us.

Life Happens

Life outside of the blog got in the way over the last few weeks.  The hard hit of losing Gus took its toll on all of our family and I just couldn’t drag up the urge to even write an entry here at Work-A-Bull.  The words didn’t seem like they could be formed no matter how I tried and I couldn’t seem to focus on anything so I did the best thing I could do – stepped away and let myself heal.  Well, it worked and Work-A-Bull is back on track along with a few updates.

Update #1: The Work-A-Bull crew will be moving at the end of September.  We finally found “the one” in terms of housing for the family.  It isn’t our dream home but it is home and it is perfect for our dogs with a super large yard that is fully fenced in with a six foot privacy fence and per-existing kennels that the current home owner is including (which we will be updating to ones we want shortly after closing).  During that time, we may experience some down time online as we get settled but I don’t expect it to be too long as I may end up with blog withdraws over it.

Update #2:  We hit a local UKC show last weekend.  This show was hosted by the Michigan American Pit Bull Terrier Club in conjunction with the Michigan Gun Dog Club on Friday.  Our wonderful boy, Ryker, managed to eek out two Group 1s and four Group 4s for an overall amazing weekend.  Puppyface Orion had some practice time learning what UKC showing was about as well and learned that he must stand still for exams – which he thought was pointless because he couldn’t slobber all over the judge.  Overall, it was a good show and the first one we’ve been to in months so the dogs all enjoyed their time.

All and all, it’s all coming back.  Expect blog entries over the coming weeks and a (hopeful) return of Shelter Dog Saturday.  It has been long overdue and I’ll make it with a little pit bull determination and my dearest and most wonderful readers.

Two Weeks Too Long

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It’s hard to believe that just two weeks, three days and four hours ago, I said goodbye to a dog I had barely begun to get to know.  It seems like only yesterday an old, crotchety pit bull mix known at the shelter as Pugsley weaseled his hobbling mannerisms and dislike of any dog he couldn’t domineer and push around stole our hearts.

In the ten short months that Gus called our home his, we learned many valuable lessons – like the patience and unconditional love and trust of a dog who hadn’t always had the good life which showed through on the many scars and healed old wounds on his old body.  He allowed us to fall truly, madly and deeply in love with his aged soul with utter abandon and his passing three weeks after being diagnosed with lymphosarcoma knocked the wind out of our sails as if we had been blessed to hold him in our hearts for the thirteen odd years he had walked this earth.

Gus was a truly special dog.  He was dignified, stubborn, tenacious and all bulldog even when his body began to fail him.  He pressed on even on those days where he hurt so badly that even a heavy dose of pain medication couldn’t touch.  He always wanted to be the good dog in our house.  He strived to always be with us – as close as physically possible – at all times.  He was a good dog – even when he was being horridly naughty.

Gus was the heart and soul of what a ‘pit bull’ should be.  He loved children and adults of all walks of life.  He had never known a stranger and was as polite as a gentleman when he was asked to be – even if he encountered a rude, ill-mannered creature in our daily walks of life.  He will always be remembered for what he was and not what the cancer stole from us in those last three, short weeks as a member of our crew.  That hole will always be there where he took a piece of our hearts and the hearts of those who knew and loved him with him across the Rainbow Bridge to wait for us and teach those lessons to those who waited along with him until we are able to join him.

There is never ‘goodbye’ in Gus’s world only ‘see you later’ because tomorrow was a new adventure and a new journey on a path that will lead to something amazing.

The Big C Word

gus-june2014-3935What turned out as a routine senior exam because Gus wasn’t feeling good has turned our life upside down for the last couple of weeks.  Gus has lymphosarcoma.  It isn’t slow moving and it is attacking his GI tract pretty nastily.    Our vet didn’t have a whole lot of positive to say because of his age and susceptibility to succumbing if we opted to treat our beloved Elderbull with chemo.  He said that the kindest option would be management and then helping him cross the bridge when the time came – which could be sooner or later.

How did we find out and confirm our worst fears?  Blood work.  We had taken him in because his belly was a bit bloated and he didn’t want to eat his meals and was having trouble controlling his bladder.  The latter is a common problem in the older dogs but I didn’t want him ending up with issues because he had an accident while we were at work and soiled his blanket in his crate.

The results from his blood work weren’t promising.  He has hyper calcemia.  He is anemic.  His thyroid levels were incredibly low.  All of that combined with the added insult, he alsogus-april2014-2622 had a Urinary Tract Infection – the one thing we worked to prevent with his accidents.  The final blow was the lymphosarcoma attacking his GI tract and causing the bloating and unwillingness to eat.

Cancer.  It should be a curse word.  This vile, vile disease is something that takes far too many loved ones from this Earth and runs rampant through our hearts as they deal and cope with this internal Hell until it is time for them to leave us.    We’ve been dealing with it.  We’re making our buddy comfortable.  We are letting him eat whatever makes him eat and keep strength up.  He has been getting to sleep in bed or we’ve been sleeping in the dog beds with him.  We have to keep him cool since he gets uncomfortably hot even though he loves to bake in the sun.  Whatever it takes for however long he has left with us.

We started a bucket list of things to do with him before he crosses the bridge – a “like” campaign on his Facebook page, Gus the Elderbull, in an effort to create a functioning memory that helps other dogs in shelters and a place for owners of their own elderbulls to come and share their memories, going swimming for the first time with us, eating an Oreo gus-july2014-4500cookie even though they aren’t good for him, spending all night cuddling with us.

It hasn’t been easy.  I’ve cried more nights than I care to admit to.  My husband has remained stoic but even he can’t hide the pain.  We’re having to make a decision that no person wants to make.  When is the right time?  Are we being selfish by waiting?  Is Gus happy?  We’re told time and again we’ll know but in my heart, I don’t know.  It’s scary.  I never expected to lose this beautiful soul in such a short time after we adopted him from the shelter – which is currently at almost two months shy of his September 23rd Gotcha Day.  It sucks and it’s something that I could wish on my worst enemy but we will work through it and we’ll make the best of whatever time we have left until Gus lets us know it’s time.

Happy 7th Birthday, Ryker!

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Seriously, has it been seven years already?  It’s honestly hard to believe that such a vast amount of time has passed since your little wiggly puppy self came into this world.  In these many years, you have taught me so many valuable lessons in not only “dog stuff” but also a few lessons on a personal level as well.  You were not only the dog I wanted but the dog I needed and for that, I am beyond grateful for you to have come into my life.

The trials and tribulations we’ve faced over the years are nothing in comparison to the fun adventures we’ve had.  There are those special moments in time when I could have just hugged you to death because we faced something as a team that I had some serious measure of doubt in – like our first UCD leg.  No matter how terrified I was or how utterly unprepared I felt, your cool brown eyes looked into my soul with an “I got this, Mom.” look and I knew we had it.

Here is to many, many more years, my friend and partner.  You are my heart and soul.  You are my teacher and my student.  I don’t know what I would do without you.  Happy birthday, baby boy.

On Love and Loss

It’s been rather quiet here over at Work-A-Bull for a few weeks now.  I’ve unfortunately had some personal thinking, rationalizing and soul searching to do involving my beautiful senior cat, Mindi.  Those thoughts lead me to the realization that being selfish and not helping her cross the bridge was for selfish reasons when it was apparent that she was ready to join her brother, Teddy, who left us last year.  It was one of the hardest decisions of my life to let my childhood best friend, confidant and companion go.  I know it won’t get any easier when I have to let any of my beloved companions go but at least I was able to enjoy her company until she took her last breath in my arms.

Mindi (and her “brother”, Teddy) joined our family in June 1997.  This darling little ball of tortishell-colored fur who would growl and snarl at the sight of our Shih Tzu and grow seemingly into this furious cat beast was one of the most loving and sweetest cats I have been blessed with knowing in all of my years.  She and I were best friends throughout my high school years.  She got me through a lot of high school break ups, late night cram sessions for midterms and finals and my awkward struggling as an adolescent odd ball (and don’t get me wrong, I’m still odd but not quite so awkward!).  I truly don’t know what I would have done without her then or up until her passing.  I’m honestly still lost deep in the threshold of my mind.  I’m functioning outwardly but inwardly I’m still losing it.

The day after her passing, I went to a dog show.  I put on my bravest face and I kept myself surrounded by one of my passions – three of my beautiful dogs.  I lost it a few times and had to compose myself but I made it through the day.  A few people who knew what had happened probably thought I was nuts for going (even I questioned myself!) but I knew that if I didn’t get out and do something, I would be useless and lost in my grief.  Many people shared their condolences, passed on hugs of sympathy and let me know they knew how I felt.  It was good to be surrounded by so many caring individuals – especially the one who coaxed me to get out and make something of the day in honor of Mindi’s memory.  It was one of the most mentally painful things I’ve done in a long time but it was the right decision and has allowed me to realize that my best friend wouldn’t have wanted me moping around the house crying over her loss.  That isn’t how she lived and I doubt it’s how she’d want to be remembered.

Mindi will live forever in my mind and always hold a piece of my heart.  Her spirit may be gone and her physical body left behind but she is with me.  Her ever patient, soul-searching gaze and the gentle rumbling of her purr are something I see deep within my subconscious every night before I finally fall asleep.  One day we will be reunited but until then, I know I have a little feline guardian angel watching over me and mine.

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I miss you, sweet girl, in more ways than you could ever imagine.
Play hard at the Rainbow Bridge.  I’ll see you again one day.
April 1, 1997 – March 9, 2013

Afraid Of Life: Duo’s Tale


Duo’s Petfinder Photo – Formally “Snoopy”

Every day is a challenge with a difficult dog. This seems to be especially true when that dog comes to you as an adult with a freight liner loaded to the brim with baggage. Living life with a dog like this is difficult at best and pure hell at the worst. I have had the joy (-insert mass quantities of sarcasm here-) of learning this first hand after we were charged with the lifetime of canine care after Duo became our foster failure.

Duo came to us at three and a half years old in May 2009 as a temporary resident while a friend got things in order to have him. Our first few days were uneventful (and looking back I wish they had stayed that way!). He was rather shell-shocked from being moved around so much in such a short time. (Duo came from a boarding kennel to the friend’s house and then to ours. If I had been uprooted that much, I would have been the same way!). We knew it would take some decompression time to see what kind of dog we had.

When reality finally came into focus, we realized we had a very, very sweet dog who was very scared of the world. Whatever had happened in his life before he came to us had left him with a heaping load of emotional baggage. Men, particularly those with dark complexions, were beyond scary. My poor husband, Bruce, couldn’t even reach into his crate and guide him out when he had jammed himself in there without causing Duo to urinate everywhere. (Bruce, the saint that he is, was incredibly frustrated and upset by it since he normally can get through to any dog.)

We spent the first month working on his confidence (and our patience!) toward the things he was terrified of – men, loud noises, the car, etc. – through counter conditioning and basic marker training when he approached and item he was scared of. He gradually began to accept them (but it took a lot of time once he realized we weren’t leaving him and we wouldn’t let these things eat him finally allowed his confidence to start blossoming.

Unfortunately, this growth in confidence was like a double-edged sword. While he got confident in the world, other hidden issues began to bubble to the surface and the biggest one was being incredibly leash reactive to other dogs. Duo wasn’t one of the “invade my little bubble and suffer my wrath” types (oh, no…that would have made it much easier!) He was (and is!) explosive. His bubble? Yeah, that is 20+ feet in circumference. Minimum.

I can’t begin to tell you how embarrassing it is to have to apologize for him being such a vocal asshat. I wanted to pull all of my hair out when I was trying to redirect his focus onto something other than the “offending” dog. The frustration from both of us was just about tangible. (To give you an idea – RYKER is an easy dog compared to Duo and he is a snot too!).

My GOOD dogs just didn’t do this. Duo wasn’t supposed to be this hard. Boy, was I ever wrong on those thoughts! I had to remind myself that I promised I wouldn’t ever give up on my walking, snarking jerk of a dog when we signed his official adoption paperwork because we were his last hope.

It was now been three very long years since the spotted hell hound came to us. He has gotten better and continues to improve every single day. He has frustrated and amazed me every step of the way. He has made me look at myself and forced myself to consider the consequences of every action before I do anything with him. I don’t want to take two steps forward and fall backward and down three flights for a simple mistake. I have learned some very hard lessons and felt some real and very personal failures when something has gone awry.

Do I think I’ll ever have a normal dog with Duo? Not by a long shot. I wouldn’t change him for the world – even when I get horrid looks because I failed him and didn’t stay on my A-game by allowing him to have a meltdown on another dog because I wasn’t watching and being vigilant.

I hope that one day Duo will realize that he can trust the other end of the leash to be his voice and anchor his confidence down to be able to go out in public and not think every dog is going to get him when the leash is on – but it might take until he turns fourteen! Oh, well, another seven years of adventures!

Here’s to many more adventures, buddy.

Home Sweet Home

The trip home was relatively uneventful.  We had a couple of challenges along the way home – namely the motor for the wipers finally died and we had to pull over during a sudden downpour right on the boarder of Pennsylvania and Ohio – but otherwise, the only annoying thing is that it was a long trip.  The dogs held up well and napped most of the way home.

We had such a wonderful trip in both Portsmouth and Washington D.C.  The dogs received lots of compliments on their behavior because they stayed when we set them up for photos in Washington or at various scenic stops along the way.  They loved every moment of the attention and lapped it up in typical pit bull fashion.

Work calls to start back up tomorrow.  While I’m not looking forward to it, it will be good to get back to being industrious.  Between work and planning our wedding reception (July 21st), we’ll be very busy these next few weeks and the vacation gave us a respite from the normal hustle and bustle of our day to day lives.

I’m hoping the weather cools off here soon as the temperatures in the high 90s and 100s are not conducive to training the dogs and they are sorely missing the structure and mental stimulation we get from training.  It’s been rather annoying dealing with four very high drive dogs and no actual direction for them to go because of the sheer heat and concern for their safety.  Ah, well…we’ll get back into the groove again.

Here are a few pictures from our trip.  You can enjoy the rest here.

Mika, Luna and Ryker at the Washington Monument

Lincoln Monument in Washington D.C.

The unbelievable temperatures in our travels.

Virginia Livin’

“Are we there yet?”, says Luna and Mika.

We got in yesterday at around nine o’clock in the evening and checked into our hotel in Chesapeake, VA.  The dogs were relieved to finally be some place that didn’t require being loaded back up in the car for a few more hours on the road.  They were able to lounge and relax for the rest of the night while we went and visited family for dinner and catching up since it had been a few years since I had been down to visit and it was a first for my wonderful husband.  We didn’t get back to the hotel room until a little after midnight and let the dogs potty one more time before retiring for bed from a long and uneventful day of travel down here.

Today, the dogs got to chill in the hotel while we ran around with family to an sushi buffet and other errands that were planned.  We’re now back in the hotel and they’re all relaxing while I blog.  Tomorrow, we’re planning on going back over with the crew and taking a nice walk after the weather cools down a bit in the evening so that our pack can be introduced to Logan and do a little bit of training and prep work to see if Logan is ready to do his CGC test along with some other activities with my darling little sister.

We’ll be leaving here on Thursday morning and heading up to Washington D.C.  We’ll be staying there until Saturday before heading back home to Michigan.  We’d like to do the tourist thing while we’re in D.C. and hit some of the dog-friendly locations while up there and get some good photos of the pups while having a little bit of fun for the two of us.

It truly has been a wonderful vacation so far and makes me not want to return to the reality of our life, but sadly that will eventually have to happen.  It’s a shame that it’s so darn soon.

 

The Real Meaning of Roadwork

No, this entry isn’t really about walking and conditioning your dog.  It’s about our trip into the great unknown.  Our first vacation that doesn’t involve some dog event as the main course of action and I’m so freaking excited!

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we are heading down to Virginia.  More specifically, we’re heading down toward Virginia Beach/Chesapeake/Portsmouth for four days before swinging up toward Washington D.C./Arlington.  It’s that time of the year that we get a week off of work and this year we intend to take advantage of it.  Getting to see friends and be ‘tourists’ for the first time in a long time is definitely a worthy reason to take a road trip.

We’ll be loading up the dog mobile with our gear and the gear of four of the five dogs.  We would be taking five, but unfortunately, Duo doesn’t travel well.  The stress of a long road trip does his system no good so he gets to stay behind and enjoy a week’s vacation as the only dog with Grandpa.  Luna, Lyric, Ryker and Mika, however, think that traveling is very awesome and they can’t wait to be going.

The one unfortunate thing is that BSL has limited our choice in areas to stay in up in the Washington D.C. area since a few of the less expensive hotels are in areas where there are restrictions.  We won’t put our dogs in that risk and so are avoiding those areas and spending a bit more money for a canine family-friendly vacation.  It sucks, but it is what it is when it comes to the response to owning an APBT because of the irresponsibility and management of others who have ruined it for the whole.

So, right now, it’s t-minus less than 24 hours before we hit the road.  So excited!