Friday, November 5, 2010

The Parker Story, a Saga

First, a quick update.  Sadly, we didn't win the photo contest, but I appreciate it if you guys voted for us.  On a happier note, we had a blast at our first agility outing!! I should clarify that it wasn't an actual trial, but there were other people and dogs watching, we were timed, and there was a judge.  Which means that I was a nervous wreck, and my dogs were like kids in a candy store.  They both have a mental block when it comes to the idea that there are dogs around that aren't interested in meeting or playing with them.  Skye is, as usual, worse in this respect.  So we signed up for the pre-novice run, and I went to walk the course.  It was far more difficult than anything we had done before, especially with Parker, and there were a few spots that I knew I'd have to muddle through.  Lucky for us, a women with two incredibly feisty Chihuahuas went first- that calmed my nerves just a bit!  Have you ever seen a Chihuahua try to make the seesaw go down using just their body weight?  It's a slow process.  Other Parker's minor suicide attempt on the seesaw (it almost landed on his head because he jumped off early), he was very steady and attentive.  Typical suck up :D

Skye was a lot more scattered, and took a break right at the end to say hi to the judge, but she had a total blast.  She did get to meet a few of the dogs, including another pit who has done agility for many more years than us.  In the end, we had a great time, and I got to watch some crazy herding breeds fly through the course like is was nothing.  This aussie did a u-turn on a dime- she looked like she hardly touched the ground...

Which is not at all what I planned to blog about.  So on to the real story of the day, with a little intro that will hopefully allow everyone to join my random train of thought.  Yesterday, Parker had the pleasure of being groomed at work.  Amanda, bless your soul.  Grooming is Parker's personal brand of torture, and it is something I should be working on more with him.  Sadly, Skye has consumed the majority of my training time and effort, and Parker has silently endured his little sister's neediness.

Apparently, all that silence was because he was saving up the noise making for yesterday.  Parker is terrified of the forced air and the normal dryer used in grooming, and he makes the most ungodly noises that I can hear from outside in the camp yard.  He barely tolerates his front legs being shaved, screams when his ears are plucked, and cries if scissors go near his face.  All of which are a part of grooming a schnauzer.  On top of this he will try to bite (anyone but me), so I get to hold him for the bad parts.  Poor Bubba, right?  Well this little pathetic soul has an even more pathetic story.  It was a dark and rainy night...

Oh wait, that's not right.  Imagine the white, fluffy bundle of joy that is an 8 week old Parker and a young, blond girl overjoyed at the prospect of getting a puppy of her very own.  Awwww... right?  Well, this little girl's family already had 2 dogs, a spayed female German shepherd and an unaltered male Pomeranian, both adults.  But her older sister got the pom as a puppy, and now it was her turn.  She'd walk him and train him, and blah blah blah.  So they buy the "purebred" mini schnauzer, bring him home, and have a grand old time. 

Fast forward 1.5 years.... Parker is now a wild man.  His coat is matted to the skin because he hasn't been to a groomer, but they have given him haircuts at home using scissors to get rid of some mats.  Unfortunately, he squirms a lot and sometimes gets cut.  When people come over, he jumps up and down barking hysterically, then runs laps around the house.  He is too hard to handle, so neither male dog are walked.  Like the pom, Parker is not neutered, and both dogs have begun to mark in the house.  As a solution for the house training issues, a 4'x6' pen is set up outside with a little doghouse for the boys during the day, and they go in crates at night.  Rain or Shine.  Of course with winter coming up the plan was going to have to change.

I come into the story long before Parker.  The older sister is a friend of mine since high school, and I love her very much, but the facts of Parker's story speak for themselves.  I was asked to help them train the dogs so that they wouldn't mark in the house, but the pom is too old to be a good candidate for neutering, and no one in the family is willing to walk the dogs more often than once a week.  While the family went on vacation, I dog sat.  I required them to get all 3 dogs vaccinated, as it hadn't been done in some time, so that I could bring the small dogs to work.  First, I shaved Parker, and I wish I had a camera.  His coat was so matted it could have stood on all 4 legs and support the body.  He went from being a perfectly round, dirty little sheep, to a scrawny little poodle.  The groomer, my boss, and myself had to muzzle him and hold him to pluck his ears for the first time in his life.  The buildup was so intense that the ears were inflamed and infected underneath.  I'm sure it was extremely painful, but such a relief to him afterward.  At home, I started walking the dogs 3 times a day, and had 0 accidents when I left them gated in the kitchen (it rained all week).  Sadly, I noticed minor resource guarding between the dogs, who shared one bowl.  Parker would take a mouth full of food and run, eating it in his crate before going back for another.  I started some basic obedience work with him, and he seemed bright and eager to please, and quickly replaced jumping and barking with sitting.  When the family came home, I offered to keep Parker if they ever decided to rehome him.  Turns out, that was their plan anyway, but they were going to give him to the girl's boyfriend.  Luckily I was considered a better situation, and they let me take him. 

And they lived happily ever after?  No, there is more.  But this is turning into a long story, so I'll throw in a photographic intermission...
Parker the Puppy
Growing back the hair
Finally back to normal!
Ok, that last picture skips ahead a little bit.  So I take Parker 3 days before heading back to school for my senior year of college.  Seems impulsive, but I'd been working at an amazing animal shelter for a year, had fostered 5 amazing dogs during that year, and had landlord permission.  But Parker needed to be neutered, gain weight, and learn a whole lot.  He was a runner- if he saw an open door then you basically signed yourself up for a sprint through the neighbors' yards.  The first day I brought him to work, my boss heard his story and said "surrender him."  Huh?  I just got the dog, I'd rather not give him up.  But what she meant was, I should surrender him to the shelter, take him on as a foster dog, and once he was medically ready I could adopt him and pay what any other person would.  Yay! That sounded great.  Well, before we could neuter him we ran a blood test and a fecal.  Surprise!  Parker had Lyme disease, hookworms, tapeworm, and giardia.  All that in one little bitty body.  So we started treating the worms and the Lyme, and postponed surgery.  After 2 months and a case of kennel cough, Parker finally had his day at the vet.  About a week later we had a puppy come in to the shelter with distemper, and another followed it a few days later, both of whom died quickly.  This was completely unheard of in New England; parvo yes, on occasion, but distemper?  At the same time we'd been fighting a highly resistant strain of kennel cough in the adult dogs, and a specialist said it could be a manifestation of distemper.  Our options?  Euthanize the 23 shelter dogs that had shown symptoms in the past month, plus any that didn't have a strong enough titer test, notify all adopted dogs with the symptoms so they could be quarantined or euthanized, and do the same with staff dogs that had gotten sick, including Parker.  Option 2 involved setting up a portion of the shelter to run independently for 3 months to ensure that none of the dogs had the distemper virus.

Luckily, we had the support and the funds available to make option #2 the only option.  The 3 month quarantine was intense, involved a rigorous enrichment schedule and behavior plans for each dog, and a lot of headaches in the winter.  We had a good number of pits in that group, along with a puppy, a greyhound, and a few very shy and nervous dogs.  All of them come out of it in good health and found great homes, and probably have a great immune system to boot.  Parker's quarantine was not as rigorous, but he could not be around other dogs or set foot in the shelter for those 3 months.  Somehow, he didn't seem to mind.  We did a lot of training, he had a growth spurt and reached a normal weight, and we basically had a blast.  Parker still loves going on walks more than anything, loves me more than anyone, and dreads being groomed.  His initial anxiety about being away from me has settled down, and he is generally a confident albeit odd little dog.  He continues to improve, but I do need the occasional reminder that he is a work in progress just as much as Skye is.  Don't tell the jealous pit bull, but Parker will always be my #1, even if he doesn't give me sloppy kisses and insist on cuddling at every opportunity.

The dreaded haircut

The reason for the hair cut

My little big man

1 comment:

  1. That is quite the story. But a good one. Poor Parker, though, he's been through a lot to get where he is now. I can't imagine how I'd be faring after all that. Dogs constantly amaze me with how determined they are to pull through.

    Good on you for being so patient and giving him the time he needs. I hope one day to do as much for animals as you have.

    Great agility shots, by the way. No matter what, it looks like you were having a blast!


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