I remember that I was really looking forward to this movie. Since I had spent most of December and January getting my taxes ready to submit, followed by a long overdue vacation in February, my personal treat of taking myself to a movie had been put off to the side.
I got home after 12:45 AM Sunday morning. I like to go to one of the latest movies because usually the crowds are smaller and there is less of a chance of small children who become restless and chatty. When I walked into the door of my apartment I found the remnants of two 14 oz plastic bags of M & M’s that I had bought the day before to bring to work on Monday. Now, underneath normal circumstances I leave my dogs locked in my bedroom because my female, Scout, is a major food and garbage scrounge. She will devote herself to seeking out the smallest crumb of food underneath a rug. At nighttime, after going to bed, Scout will go into the kitchen on the slightest hope that any crumbs that may have fallen in the last few hours, just in case. Up until tonight, her biggest accomplishment had been to shred a shopping bag full of candles I had bought as Christmas presents a couple of years ago. Like I said, until tonight. Before leaving for the movie, Scout was asleep in the big, overstuffed chair in my living room. She looked so adorable that I didn’t have the heart to ask her to move into the bedroom, but, on the other hand, I had forgotten about the two bags of M & M’s I had wrapped in a plastic shopping bag sitting on the kitchen table.
When I got home and found the bags ripped opened and all the contents gone (I think she even had time to lick the bags clean), I immediately went to find Scout, who was hiding underneath the bed. She was alert and appeared to be normal, and I did not find any big piles of what appeared to be digested M & M’s. I dialed the local emergency vet and explained to them what had happened and what I found. They asked me how much she had eaten and how much she weighed. They then suggested I call the Poison Control Center and gave me the 800 number. I called them and explained again what I had found and how much she weighed. The woman said that the contents of her stomach had to be emptied immediately and asked me if I had any unexpired Hydrogen Peroxide. I said I did and she gave me the dosage of two tablespoons every fifteen minutes for a half hour. If Scout did not vomit after that, then I needed to get her to the vet to have her stomach pumped. And, by the way, she explained, I would have to do the same to my other dog, Rowdy, who is fourteen years old, and the pickiest eater. I can barely get him to eat his breakfast in the morning.
I tried Scout first with the Hydrogen Peroxide, and she did not respond. I did try a third dose, since some had spilled down her front and out her mouth, making her look like a foaming, rabid dog. Still, nothing worked. Here I was at almost 1:30 AM, out in front of my apartment, trying to get a dog to vomit. Luckily, none of my neighbors saw this because I don’t think I could muster up a reasonable sounding excuse at this time. I brought Scout back in and put her into the bathroom thinking if she did vomit while I had Rowdy outside, then it would be easier to clean up. Well, Rowdy, of course, was very cooperative and vomited up in less than a minute, and there were no M & M’s. I do recall afterwards a strange look on Rowdy’s face, as I was praising him for bringing up his dinner, that said, “What are you trying to do to me?”
I walked back into the apartment, and Scout had not vomited, so I called the vet back, and they suggested I bring her down to them, which is about a half hour from my place.
When I got to the vet there was another woman standing in line ahead of me. She had a border collie puppy she was fostering from the local shelter that had a cast on its back leg, and something was wrong with the cast. We were both standing there, and Scout was to my left. Suddenly a woman came running into the lobby screaming and crying carrying a Shiz Tzu that was unconscious and having seizures. A staff member came out to help her and took the dog to the back. She was still hysterical, and luckily she has somebody with her to console her. There was that brief, uncomfortable feeling of standing in an unfamiliar room with a bunch of strangers, but we were all there for the same common reason: because our beloved pets were sick and needed help. We started to chat and say why were there. I explained about Scout eating the M & M’s and the woman with the Shiz Tzu told the story about another dog she had who one year ate a big basket of Easter candy. We were talking with each other when suddenly Scout, without any wind up or preparation, just vomited all the contents of her stomach onto the lobby floor. I had never heard before three people cheer after a dog got sick!
The check-in tech took a look at it before it was cleaned up, and was convinced that it was definitely M & M’s. You could even see the colors. I took Scout outside in the parking lot to walk around for about a half hour to see if she would give it up again, but, instead, we both just got cold. I decided to wait inside to see the doctor just to confirm everything was OK. I waited another half hour while the border collie puppy had its cast rewrapped, and the Shiz Tzu was being seen by the doctor with the owners in one of the rooms. It was after 3 AM when I decided to go back home since the doctor was still busy. The tech thought that was a good idea, and suggested I keep an eye on her for anything unusual, and to bring her back if necessary. The only thing unusual that happened the rest of the night was that Scout, who usually sleeps like a rock, was very restless and was up the rest of the night. The think the sugar and caffeine had started to kick in, and she probably had a very upset tummy.
I’m sure everybody whose dog will eat anything in sight has similar stories, and I definitely have learned a lot from having a dog like this. Now I know a bit more, at least, about the wonders of Hydrogen Peroxide and what an all night vet’s lobby looks like at three in the morning.
On Saturday, March 4, 2006, Scout, my nine year old (almost ten years old), Australian Shepherd/Pit Bull mix finally got her Canine Good Citizen certificate. I don’t say finally as if we made multiple attempts trying to complete the test. I say finally because of the long road it took to get here.
I adopted Scout as a six month old from a shelter. I had looked for several months to find that exact mix in a female because I wanted to do obedience and agility. We took several classes to start training. However, life takes turns that we do not expect. I lost my long-time job when the company was bought and moved out of state. I ended a long relationship, which also ended my current living situation. I got a series of jobs in another county that forced me to work nights and weekends, including moving a couple more times. Finally, about a year and a half ago I landed a job as an administrative assistant for an electrical contractor which gave me some stability. I could finally once again start to think about training Scout.
She was still in great shape and still had a very enthusiastic attitude. I felt I had to start with the CGC and regain a solid base of obedience. I knew, however, that I needed to work on several areas before I could even just get her into the test building. First, since she has always been a serious puller and is very strong, I have always walked her on a halter. She would have to learn how to walk on a flat collar and a loose leash. Second, she is very over reactive to noises and distractions, and has a tough time sitting still. Third, she has severe separation anxiety. I knew the out-of-sight exercise would be a bear.
Even with all of this in front of me, I decided that Scout deserved to finally have her chance in the sun. She had waited nine years to have her turn in the spotlight. I set out finding a trainer who could help me and to find a location for a CGC test. I had seen Dawn Bushong, another Mixed Breed Club member, at shows and I really liked how her dog worked. He was very happy and enthusiastic. I knew she lived nearby me. I emailed her to find out who the trainer was that she worked with. She said she worked a lot with another club member, Vicki Ronchette of Braveheart Dog Training (http://www.braveheartdogtraining.com/). I contacted Vicki, and she did have a CGC test coming up in a couple of months, which included seven weeks of training for the test. After I sent in my application with the money, I set out figuring out how to retrain Scout.
I live in an apartment complex that allows dogs, so I started out in front of my front door teaching her the heel position on the flat collar with treats. Since she is a total food hound, she picked up on this very quickly. Then I gradually increased the distractions by working out in the parking lot and then to the street. My fourteen year old cattle dog mix has a Mixed Breed CDX and several agility titles, so I scraped my memory for how I trained him in the heel position and started to apply that to Scout. That was the easy part. I then moved her to outdoor shopping centers and busy downtown streets, sometimes only doing heeling and downs for a couple of minutes before she would break down due to the distractions. I had it in my mind that I could not feel successful as a trainer at this point unless I was able to get Scout into a pet store. The first attempt was a disaster. It took a half an hour just to get her from the car in the parking lot, across the lot, and to outside the front of the store. She could not focus or sit still in anticipation of going into the store. I figured that once I had her focus only for a couple of brief times that I would end it there, and try again another time. It took two more attempts on two more weekends of constant repetition before I got her into the store, on a flat collar and on a loose leash walking at my side. The class started the following weekend. This was during the Christmas season, so the store and parking lot was extra busy. I’m sure there were a lot of people confused why I was putting so much time and effort into just walking into the store with my dog.
In the beginning, Scout did fairly well in the class. As expected, she had a hard time focusing and sitting still, but I was just barely able to keep her attention with the exercises we had previously learned. The out-of-sight exercise was horrible; she barked and whined the whole time. I noticed in class how many people were using clickers, and how successful they were with their dogs. I was familiar with the clicker technique, so I decided to try that with Scout. The results were amazing. I saw an instant change in Scout. She appeared to be a lot clearer about what we were trying to learn. She also seemed to enjoy figuring out how to get me to click that thing so she could get a treat. It turned into a new game for her. We tried it in the car with the whining and barking, and she caught on very quickly. I used the clicker in class, and there was a very noticeable difference in her response.
We passed the test, and now we are on to Rally with the same trainer. My favorite image is still looking at Scout’s very pretty face with her bright blue eyes without the halter. Sometimes the smallest most insignificant things can be the most important.