Saturday, July 21, 2012

Actually, LOVE is the best medicine

Last Friday, while we were hanging out in the Community Garden, Tinky-Winky started walking funny. I didn't see what happened. In fact, at first I thought I was imagining it, until somebody else noticed it too. Then I thought maybe the heat was getting to her.

But then, it was getting worse, so she couldn't even walk around the school for her bathroom breaks. And she was holding her head funny. So I thought maybe she had a pinched nerve. Then I thought, what if she had a stroke? But I dismissed this theory on the grounds that I'm paranoid because she's my littly-wittly-kins and I'm always worried that she's going to die.

Monday morning, however, as I carried her into the elevator, a neighbour asked me why I had been carrying her for days. So I says "I think she has a pinched nerve" and he says "what if she had a stroke?"


An impartial observer thinks she had a stroke! Oh no! She had a stroke! She's going to die! The horror! The horror!

Well. We'll see about that.

Of course the V-E-T is not here and won't be here until the 27th, but I have a trick up my sleeve. I made Tinky-Winky lie down with me, and held her close for a couple of hours, until I had to work. Then in the evening I did the same, and the next day. Immediately, there was a marked improvement, whereas previously she had been declining. By Thursday, she was able to trot and to jump up to lick my nose when I come home.

Now you might think it's a coincidence, or a superstition, but it's not. I tried it before when she had hemorrhagic gastritis, and since then I have read the real medical reason why it works. I'm Tinky-Winky's major attachment figure, and dogs are much more attached to their people than people are ever attached to anyone. Engaging in any attachment behaviour releases oxytocin, which is a strong pain-killer. And the best attachment behaviour is physical contact. So, by holding her close to me for several hours, I know that I'm giving her a very effective way to deal with the pain of whatever it was. And as the pain lessened, she was able to move more, which helped restore function that was impaired, whether the impairment was due to a stroke or a pinched nerve or a pulled muscle or any of the other theories that were proposed.

This morning, for the first time since last Friday, when we got to the Community Garden she went off running. I watched how she ran and there is still something funny about it, but she's running, she's smiling, she seems free of pain, and she's NOT DEAD. Praise be to God, the Compassionate, the Merciful! And also, thanks to Dr. Gabor Mate, who wrote the book in which I read about this oxytocin deal.

Tinky-Winky's new best friend

Ever since Carter died, I figured Otis would be Tinky-Winky's new best friend, since he was her second-best friend before. Otis lives in our building and is a really sweet, quite large dog. Everybody loves him... except, of course, Her Majesty. When we first met Otis, the Creature was in her snapping-at-noses phase, so she would snap at his nose. Otis would leap out of the way, and then try again. So over time, this became a game. Otis pokes his nose at her, she makes a show of snapping, he makes a show of leaping out of the way. They find this hilarious. Now that Tinky-Winky is in a new phase of saying hello like a polite dog, Otis is rather disappointed that she won't play his game anymore.

But as it turns out, Tinky-Winky's new favourite dog is not Otis, but this handsome fellow:

Too bad he looked away, but oh well. You can see he's a quite large male pitbull. Intact, at that. His name is Diesel.

Now if you're very obsessive about reading this blog, you may remember that the first time we met Diesel, he was being handled by a small girl who had no control over him, and I found the whole thing alarming. Since then, I've heard many anecdotes of Diesel being aggressive to other dogs in the building. Now I'm not saying that aggression is ok when a small dog like Tinky-Winky does it, but the redeeming quality of Her Majesty is that you can overpower her easily, and she has less capacity to inflict serious damage than a 100-lb dog. A dog like Diesel can't afford to be aggressive, or he's gonna meet an untimely demise. (For the record, there came a time in my early days with Tinky-Winky when I wondered whether she wasn't heading towards euthanasia herself.)

All this to say, when Her Majesty and I came face to face with Diesel and his human in the woods, I thought there might be trouble. The other human (the alpha male in Diesel's pack, who does in fact control him and does obedience work with him) and I each restrained our mutts, and then we let them have a look at each other.

This is not the first thing that happened. What happened first, of all things, is that Tinky-Winky wagged her tail and went to sniff Diesel's butt.


That has never happened. She's learned to tolerate being sniffed, and she's even taken, quite recently, to wagging her tail at other dogs, but I had never, ever, to that point, seen her make friendly overtures and take the initiative for butt-sniffing. And here, of course, Diesel returns the compliment.


They're perfectly friendly. No snapping took place at any point. No growling. No aggression. Somehow, the two fightingest dogs in the building immediately hit it off as Best Friends Forever. I tells ya, you could have knocked me down with a feather.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hello, world!

I finally got the local newspaper to take a photo of Her Majesty. This is a crudely edited version since I don't have Photoshop. Maybe I can get someone to make it look really good... for free... One can hope.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Shiba: 4, chance of getting lucky: 0

Her Majesty dug up my peony.

Boohoohoo I'm so sad!

You see, peonies are good feng shui. They "activate your relationship luck." So I planted two peonies; one that I got in October and wintered inside, and one that I got in May. The October one was alive but not growing... until yesterday. Which is also the day that Her Majesty dug it up.

I am Jack's complete lack of surprise. Her Majesty likes to look at men, but she doesn't like me to have any kind of life. If she had it her way, I wouldn't even go to work. And she didn't like my ex, or my male roommate in Yellowknife. She doesn't like anyone very much, and she very much doesn't like people taking up my time. I'm thinking she dug up the peony on purpose to ruin my relationship feng shui.

Then again, if you want to be an optimist about it, she dug up the $13 peony, not the $40 one that's actually putting forth some shoots. So maybe she's not so much ruling out all relationships, as making sure we only activate rich-boyfriend luck and not cheap-ass-dude-with-no-job luck. That kind of guy seems to gravitate to me just fine without any peonies anyway.

Oh well. She didn't dig up all the pansies (yet). Maybe pansies activate some kind of luck I could use.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Shiba: 3, autism: 0

It's gardening season again, and I now have two 4 x 4 foot flowerbeds on the balcony. My little autistic buddies, who have been visiting for months, are always careful with the plants, and with everything else in the house. One of them is naturally careful, the other is just motivated to be allowed back, because for some reason, coming to my house seems to entertain them immensely. So they follow directions to the letter and make sure to move anything fragile, like the guitar, out of their way before doing something crazy. That's rather amazing for any nine-year-old boy, let alone two, let alone two nine-year-old boys with a learning disability.

So what does this have to do with Her Majesty?

Well, when I first set up the flowerbeds, I let Her Majesty explore them, and waited for her to pick a spot where she'd like to lie. She picked, of course, one of the very best spots. The vast majority of the balcony is in part shade, with only a small portion in full sun. Her Majesty didn't quite pick the sunniest spot, but the one just on the shady side of the full sun / part shade boundary. How gracious of her. Because I really needed that full-sun spot for my roses. So then I seeded grass in the spot she chose, and put my flowers here and there in the space she left me.

Now that everything is growing, however, Her Majesty doesn't want her spot. She seems aggravated that the grass doesn't uproot easily anymore. The last two years she had a 3 x 3 lawn with only 3.5" of soil, so she could rip up great swathes of grass easily. Now the soil is 15" deep, so the grass is solidly rooted and un-diggable. Apparently, this is not at all what Her Majesty wants out of a lawn. So instead of lying on the lawn I planted for her, she's made herself a comfy dug-out spot that allows her to lie simultaneously on a) my carefully selected collection of pansies, b) the three very expensive double oriental lilies, and c) the $40 peony that was supposed to "activate my relationship luck."

After showing her several times where I'd like her to dig and lie down, I seem to have achieved an uneasy truce, wherein she's willing to lie mostly on the pansies, which are at least much cheaper than the lilies and peony, and not dig up the lilies. Subject to change at her convenience, of course.

There you go. Yet another reason you should try doing respite for an autistic child before you try serving a shiba.

Have you seen a basenji?

Notice how people with purebred dogs will ask for the breed when their dog is lost? "Have you seen a basset hound? Have you seen a corgi? Have you seen a Chesapeake Bay retriever?" Friend, I could see a whole herd of Chesapeake Bay retrievers and I wouldn't even know it. Can you describe it?

Get this: the guy looking for the Chesapeake Bay retriever described it as "a brown dog." That's all. No size, no coat description, no ears or face... Goes from very specifically "Chesapeake Bay retriever" to just "brown dog."

As it happened, I hadn't seen a brown dog. But if ever your dog is lost, I rather recommend describing it rather than counting on the average citizen's knowledge of dog breeds. When I'm looking for Her Majesty, I ask people if they've seen "a little orange dog with a pointy face". Because "shiba inu" means nothing to them, even after I've introduced Her Majesty many, many times. (I keep telling the paper to do a story about her, which would be vastly more interesting than half their other fluff pieces, but so far, no luck.)

That being said, I don't have to ask people about my dog unless they're new to town. Everyone who lives here has seen me walking my dog. I know this, because total strangers will walk up to me and say "I saw you walking your dog." So in the unlikely event that Her Majesty would be lost, I can just ask people "have you seen my dog?" But most of the time I don't have to. First of all, because Her Majesty does not get lost. We've been all over this town for the last seven years; she knows exactly where she is and how to get back to her food dish. Second, when we do take separate walks, people will come find me and say "your dog is lost, she's at (such place)." Or they will look me up on Facebook. Or they will tell their friend who will find me on Facebook. In any case, I will be promptly informed of the whereabouts of The Creature. Which is very nice of everybody, of course, but I just thank them politely and don't bother going to look where they said, because by the time I get there, she'll have made her way back home. So I just stay right where I am and wait for her.

Some people's dogs, when they get loose, roam the whole town for days. Carter once ran from town all the way to Paradise Gardens, which is at least 20 km. Her Majesty would never do that. Partly because she's never been to Paradise and has no reason to come up with such an idea, and partly because she's far too lazy.

So the moral is, as it always is, walk your dog more. Then your dog is less likely to be lost, because 1) it will know the way home, 2) everyone else will recognise it as your dog, and 3) it won't be tempted to make the most of its scarce freedom.