A Chihuahua’s Life


Socks, our chihuahua, is a great dog. Most people can’t tell though. It’s been said that Chihuahuas tend to favor one particular person and only that person. Everyone else is to be kept at arm’s (or paw’s) length, and is to be taken cautiously. And since I am the lucky one to have become Socks’ “master”, I get the royal treatment while everyone else–including the rest of our immediate family (Kevin and Sandy) get the cautious approach, get nipped at if they don’t do things “just right”, try to touch me in the slightest, or even hesitate when trying to pet him.

Chihuahuas also seem to be different than the typical description of a dog as in “man’s best friend” and “a dog’s love is unconditional”. At least with Socks it’s different. Socks can be very friendly to family members, cuddle and snuggle nicely, but only when it suits him or when he wants or needs something. If you have ice cream, you’re his best friend. When it’s gone, he’s gone as well. When he’s cold, he’ll snuggle up close to you…but only because your body temperature is a toasty 98.6, and he’s chilly. Once he gets warmed up, he’s outta there. He’s his own dog. Maybe he’s got a little cat in him. When he’s out of water, he’ll let you know by jumping up by you, seeking out your own drink and rudely having a taste of it for himself. Or, on occasion he’ll continuously knock his water dish against the wall until someone notices he’s being weird and figures out he’s out of water. He has his own way of “talking”.

His #1 fear in all the world is thunder and/or fireworks. If it’s very loud and shakes the house, he’s instantly terrified and begins to shiver uncontrollably. There’s no calming him down when this happens. Only the passing of time–about 20 to 30 minutes of no thunder or explosions–will calm him down. During storms, if he still hears the patter of rain on the windowsill he knows it’s still storming out, so the violent shivering continues. I think he needs a sedative. He shivers so violently, I’m afraid one day he’s just going to have a seizure or heart attack. He’s no spring chicken any more–he’s approaching 12 years old, and his hair is turning more and more gray all the time.

During his last checkup, the vet said he has to go on a diet, he’s too fat. So we stopped the snacks and always-full food dish and went to two scheduled “meals” a day and no treats. And I’m walking him every chance I get–usually once a day when the weather permits. I think it was a little rough for him at first–not being able to have food any any time of day, but he’s coming around. Also tough (on all of us) was not being able to give him a treat when he comes in after going out to go to the bathroom. We had him conditioned to go out easily, because he always knew there’d be a treat for him as soon as he came in. After we stopped that, he’d still go outside excitedly, but came in all wound up, staring sadly at us, waiting for a treat, but he didn’t get one. I found a replacement though. I know he loves snuggling up in a toasty blanket, and often fluffs his blanket up like a cat does, to get it just right, then circles and nestles himself into it to stay warm–so when he comes in now I get excited, grab his blanket, and use either “nest!” or “bundle!” as keywords, then lay that across a chair or the couch, he jumps in and lays down, and I proceed to wrap him tighly inside with just his head peeking out. He’ll lay there for hours sometimes, just toasty as can be. It’s also funny to watch him, if something startles him out of his nest before he’s actually ready (or perhaps still cold)–he’ll try to get back into it as snugly as he was before, sometimes by going in through the hole his head was sticking out of, but often really messing it up trying to fix it, or knocking it off the chair or couch completely, then looking at one of us sadly as if asking “can you help a dog out here?!”

His favorite thing in the whole world is his walks. He has a very nice yard to run in, but apparently he’s not satisfied enough or knows that area too well already, and just wants to get out more. He doesn’t want to escape though. We can leave the gate open, whether on accident or on purpose, and he stays in the yard. He has no desire to run away. But if given the chance, and the gate is left open and unattended, like any good dog he will get curious and wander out, so we try not to give him the opportunity. But, per doctor’s orders (both HIS and MINE), more exercise is needed, so I walk him as often as I can. He gets so excited when I grab the leash that he just looses control, jumping as high as he can and squealing with excitement, his tail wagging so furiously it waddles his whole body back and forth (I gave him the nickname “Mr. Waddles” because of this). All I do is hold the leash and stand next to a chair and he’s instantly up there, waiting to be attached. Sometimes he’s so excited he’ll jump into the chair, then back down, then up again, just too excited to stand still. I just wait, and eventually he’s ready to be tethered. He likes to tug a bit on his leash during walks, but using a retractable 15-foot leash helps a lot to control that habit. We try to walk a mile or more each time, and this is perfect for him. On occasion we’ll walk over 2 miles. When we do this, he’s usually completely exhausted the rest of the day, but still doesn’t mind it.

He “sings”, just as most dogs do, when he hears a loud siren from an ambulance or fire truck go by, and Sandy can even make the same pitch that sets him off, so she can make him sing at will very easily. The very first few minutes of the movie “Serpico” is also a perfect trigger that sets him off, singing loudly every time. We now refer to this as “his favorite movie” and I think he actually knows what the word “Serpico” means now… It means “It’s time to sing!”

He had an issue not too long ago with his “anal sacs”, which is gross, and was a new one on me. You’ll find a few more gross details in a previous blog entry, if you’re interested. But that was when he saw the vet and when his diet and our habits took a major turn. He’s getting used to his scheduled two meals a day now, and he REALLY enjoys the days when he gets wet food–this occurs two or three times a week when Sandy mixes in his prescribed diet supplements with canned dog food. He loves it!

I prefer chihuahuas over other dog types because of their smaller size (which also means less waste output!) andĀ because everyone enjoys puppies, and chihuahuas are like “perpetual” puppies–they STAY puppies their entire lives. Socks still gets called a puppy by kids when I walk him. We just have to be a bit more careful with handling and activities than we would have to with a larger dog. Chihuahuas have more fragile limbs and can’t handle to cold like most other dog types. We haven’t “broken” ours yet, though we have thrown him in a snow bank or two, just to watch him hop out in his own unique way, but he’s never been left out in the coldĀ long enough to do any damage. I (we?) did accidentally leave him locked out of the house once overnight, but it wasn’t cold enough out to have any lasting effect, and it certainly taught us (me?) a lesson, so it won’t happen again. He sleeps in our bed now, usually snugly tucked right between Sandy and I. He’s a good old boy, always guarding the house, ready to rip off the heels of any intruder who might are to enter–whether it’s family, friend, or stranger–he’s not picky about who he nibbles on.Sammy

Why am I telling you all this? Well, one of Beth and Tom’s dogs recently had an accident that ended up with them having to put him down. It was devastating to their whole family. This dog was a big part of their family for a long time, and we know how that is. It had to be very very hard indeed to have to say goodbye, just as with a human family member. So I just wanted to get this out there now, just to document it accurately, while everything comes to mind so clearly. I know Socks is getting old himself, but hopefully he’s got several more wonderful years left in him before we have to go through the same sorrow ourselves. All dogs go to heaven. Sammy’s fine.

Stray dogs

We went to Rec-Plex this evening to swim. Had a great time too, but before we left there were a couple of stray dogs wandering around the neighborhood. A neighbor called us and asked if they were ours, since one of them appeared to be a chihuahua and both of them were relatively small. Peanut and Socks were in the house though, so it wasn’t them.

As we left to go swimming we saw them outside. They appeared to be friendly, and always stuck together like they were either from the same owner or just really good friends. I sat down in the grass to see if they’d come to me, but they stood away and barked at me cautiously. I was almost able to pet the chihuahua a little, but they she jumped away. We got in the car and left carefully, taking care not to startle them or cause them to run into the street under our car.

After a great time swimming we returned home and guess who was locked in our backyard, behind the fence!?! Yup, our two dog friends. They greeted us home, just as our own dogs would have if they’d been outside. We’re not sure how they got in the backyard though, since it’s entirely fenced in. Someone had to have put them over the fence or opened the gate and let them in. We assume a neighbor may have let them in and figured they were ours, since they were hanging around our house, probably after hearing our dogs barking from inside.

We knew we couldn’t just let them go free. We didn’t want to think about them possibly wandering a block east to Sheridan Road…they’d certain get hit by a car. And we certainly couldn’t keep them. Four dogs is a bit much. We have our hands plenty full with just two of them. I decided to call the Police for advice. They sent out an officer to verify that we had the dogs, and then called Animal Control.

The dogs were barking quite a bit whenever no one was with them, so I sat on the deck in the backyard with them while I waited for Animal Control. Both dogs were female. One appeared to be a poodle/Shih-Tsu mix and the other one a brown and white chihuahua mix. They were very friendly and warmed up to me quickly. They sat next to me and nudged my hand whenever I stopped petting them. Sandy put out some water and they drank that, so I brought out a couple of dog bone treats for them. They took them, but didn’t eat them. They left them lay out in the backyard.

A while later the Animal Control car came and picked them up. I said goodbye, and he took them away sad . Now, as I sit here typing this I realize what would have REALLY topped off this entry–A photo of these dogs! I didn’t take one! I’ll never ever see them again, and I forgot to even snap a single picture while they were here. Sheesh, what kind of geek AM I??? rolls eyes This is the best I can do:

straydog (32k image)

The Infection: Reloaded

I’m back. I just got out of the hospital after battling a leg infection for the second time. The first time it hit was in April. It cleared up completely (or so I thought) after a nasty allergic reaction to one of the antibiotics caused me to be down for several more days covered in hives. All that remained at the end of it was one leg looking slightly darker than the other one, and I had a sore foot. Since the weather hasn’t been all the great I began thinking there just might be something to those nutballs that say they can tell bad weather’s coming because some part of their body or another is aching. I just dropped that idea. Read on if you’re not bored to death yet…
On Friday I had a computer job in Racine after my full-time job. On my way there I began getting the chills. It felt like the flu again, just as it did last time when you found the infection. I was a bit concerned. I kept it together and completed the job then went home. That night I kept going from having the chills to being so hot I was dripping with sweat. I got very little sleep, and repeatedly made the trek from my bed under an electric blanket to the living room by the air conditioner. My fever hit 103F at one point.

Saturday we had plans to attend the Outta Site Kite Flight at Kennedy Park. Kevin was very excited about it and I was feeling a little better. My temp was down to 99 that morning, so I decided to go. Sandy, Kevin and I had a nice time (there’ll be photos posted soon), and stayed for a couple hours before I was feeling kinda weak again. I kept checking my previously-infected leg for signs of the infection recurring, but didn’t see any changes. I had about the same problem Saturday night as I did Friday–hot, cold, hot, cold… and by Sunday morning I was fed up. I checked my leg again and sure enough, the redness was returning. It was back. Interestingly though–my foot that had been sore ever since the first infection cleared up–now felt completely NORMAL! Now I was REALLY confused. But I knew for sure the infection was back, so as soon as Sandy got up I said I needed to go to the ER again.

At the ER everything got really complicated. We had none of the names of my previous meds that I had the reaction to and also didn’t bring any names for the current meds I’m taking! I was scolded severely and told to keep a list of my meds and allergies on me at all times. sad We muddled through it though, and they soon had me on a different and much more potent IV antibiotic called “Vancomycin” . During this initial IV the doctor came in and said they wanted to admit me for 24 hours for observation and to make sure they get the infection headed in the opposite direction before letting me go home.

I had thought we’d be out in a few hours and could then follow up on Monday with my regular doctor. WRONG. They didn’t want a reoccurrence again (and neither did we) so I was admitted. What fun that was. It was supposed to be a “24 hour observation”. After my doctor saw me on Monday afternoon he wanted me to stay “at least a few more days” longer. Sandy and I talked him down to 1 day longer with much rest and leg elevation at home, and outpatient IVs of the fabulous Vancomycin along with a pile of colorful pills to load up my one-week compartmentalized pillbox at home.

I’m home now, taking it easy when I can. There’s always so much more to do when you can’t do anything than there is to do when you can, if that makes any sense… It’s good to be home though. Back to a comfortable bed, and no one waking me up every 2 hours for vitals and blood samples… Now I know how Neo felt after extraction from the pod with all those needles stuck in him!

I’m back to work, although I’m restricted to sit-down work, and thanks to some very attentive co-workers “monitoring” me I can’t even get up to go to the bathroom without getting scolded. But they’re just trying to help, and I do appreciate it. Everyone cares, and that gives me a very warm feeling. (It’ll make it that much more difficult to leave in a couple weeks when the plant closes though).

And back to the nutball theory of feeling pain when it’s going to rain: After Infection #1 my foot seemed to be more sore when it rained. Interestingly, however, the day Infection #2 kicked in (that Saturday) the soreness in that foot disappeared completely! It was as if a chunk of dormant infection was stored in my foot and finally broke loose, spreading through my leg again! The foot pain was gone, but the leg was now returning to it’s reddened, infected state. The good. The bad. The VERY ugly…

And if you ever have to make a stay in the hospital, be sure to note the proximity of your bed to the AC vent on the ceiling. It’s a horrible idea to place the bed directly below that vent (Thank you St. Catherine’s). I spent the weekend thinking I was STILL getting the chills every couple hours from the infection.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a commercial. Fill it in with your own visuals:

Water bowl for 2 Chihuahuas to drink out of: 78 cents.

Water to fill the bowl: 3 cents.

ReadyMop used to clean up the puddle of dog pee you step in: $39.99.

Medical bills & medications for treatment of resulting leg infection you get: $4,345.

Not having to pee into a bottle and poop in a bedpan from a hospital bed……. PRICELESS!

Chihuahuas: 4 out of 5 dog lovers choose them over other leading brands…for their pea-sized brains and basketball-sized bladders!