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November 07, 2004

A dog is an entirely different thing.

When you've lived the majority of the past twenty years with one or more cats, as I had when we brought Max home, you generally have to cop to the fact that until you have more than five or six, three cats are about as much trouble as any number up to ... well, five or six. The trouble doesn't, in other words, increase as a ratio to the number of cats. You still have to scoop a litterbox and put food down, no matter how many cats you have; you still have to take them to the vet and mediate fights, if there are more than two. Once you've found a good vet and have a good source of canned air, you're really good to go.

A dog, as noted above, is an entirely different thing.

And we were well aware of this, don't get me wrong. Tony had lived with dogs growing up, dogs for which he was expected to take responsibility at least some of the time. My folks had bought a dog for my younger brother, but he really wasn't mine and I was expected to take commensurately little responsibility for him. Because I was the one who was home the most, having a dog now would make him largely my responsibility.

Well, when we drove down to PetsMart that early Sunday afternoon, checkbook in hand, this is what was waiting for us. This picture is from the very first day we had Max at the house:

He was, at that point, a mess. He weighed about fifteen pounds (not much more than at least one of the resident cats, yes, we were aware of that), and clearly didn't have a great coat. He also had diarrhea -- with that fluff on his butt, he spent a lot of time having his butt rinsed off in the master bathroom. The vet's thought was that he probably had at least one intestinal parasite; a float test didn't produce anything, but when he still had the shits a week later, we took him back and they did a fecal smear test. He had giardia. Ten days of Flagyl later, no more diarrhea -- but now he was shedding tapeworms. The only animal of the five in this house who didn't come in with a tapeworm was Tink, though -- everybody else, including Gord, had one. I don't know if this is fact or not, but my purely anecdotal theory is that the vast majority of strays have tapeworms, it's just that the worms don't start shedding and hoping to increase their population until the animal is no longer starving. Gord, Doodle and Squeek all started shedding tapeworm segments at about the end of their second weeks here. Of course, we treat all the animals with Advantage during the seasons they spend any time outside, and we treat Max all year around; tapeworms rely on fleas as an intermediate mechanism, feeding on the tapeworm segments and digesting the protective coating from the tapeworm eggs; when an animal ingests the flea and digests its carapace, the egg for the tapeworm hatches and voila -- parasite.

One more trip to the vet for Droncit. Voila -- no more tapeworm.

We made a pretty pleasant discovery about Max, about a month after we brought him home -- he absolutely loves to ride in the car. We took him with us to Windsor, Ontario for a weekend at about that point. This shot is from the hotel room -- you can see he still hadn't put much weight on, and his coat still was pretty thin:

Since this time, we've elected to kennel Max if paying extra to have him with us costs more than the kenneling. Max doesn't get enough socialization time with other dogs, he needs it more than he needs to go to Chicago with us, and there's no point paying fifty dollars a day to have him with us if he enjoys his stays at the kennel and they're good for him.

But we do still take him with us when we go to visit our relatives down near Cincinnati. He really does love to go for rides -- sometimes we just throw him in the RAV and take him for a ride for the hell of it.

The only real problem we had, once Max's health problems were cleared up, were social clashes between him and Tink. Tink had never really had much experience with dogs, and Max is conceivably the most self-confident dog I've ever seen. He never seems intimidated by either humans or other animals -- he likes to be the boss in any situation. This caused some problems until we figured out that we were just going to have to crate Max overnight -- if we didn't he slept under our bed. Tink had such a problem with this, she developed stress-related cystitis -- bloody urine, incontinence, peeing on Tony's clean laundry. Crating Max overnight solved the problem. Would that all social problems could be solved so simply, and at such low cost to everyone involved -- Max likes his crate, and generally doesn't mind being in it. Besides, it gives him an opportunity to eat without worrying about the cats trying to steal his food. Becuase if he's not in the crate, Gord will eat his lunch.

Oddly enough, we have more photos of Max than any one of the cats. I guess it's mostly because he's so photogenic -- there aren't many bad shots of him.

Once we got the tapeworm thing and the giardia thing settled, as you can see, Max's coat improved immensely. He put on a heck of a coat that winter, and the next winter, too -- though he didn't shed down to anything like as thin as he was when we adopted him, he does thin out a bit in warm weather.

Though he's independent and pretty willful, Max has been able to learn a few things -- sit, dance, down, off, hold. I taught him hold (which he sometimes still forgets) after the day he ran out in front of a car just as it was slowing for the stop sign, at a four-way intersection, while I was picking up after his poop. I nearly threw up when I looked up and saw the front grille of a station wagon bearing down on him -- he did, too.

For the most part, Max is a really easy dog. He's confident and good-tempered, does well with anybody if you don't test his patience (he's okay with kids, but he can only take so much and will just walk away once he's had all the handling he wants; as long as he's allowed to do that, he's fine), isn't frightened of other dogs but also doesn't try to fight with them. He likes to be around, and though he's a bit of an attention-hog, most of the time he's happy for what he gets. Oh, don't get me wrong -- I call him names when he flings himself into my lap when I'm really 'into' something I'm working on, on the computer, but most of the time he's not that bad.

We bathe and groom him at home. His coat is elaborate, but relatively easy to deal with -- we bathe him about once a month in warm weather, and try to brush him at least every other week when he's not being bathed, during the winter. Bathing him too much in cold weather would cause him to shed the undercoat that he grows to keep him warm, so unless he's really stinky or gets dirty, we don't bathe him during the cold months. He's fine with that -- though Max loves to walk in the rain, and doesn't mind getting wet, you'd think he was on his way to the slaughterhouse from the expression on his face when we put him in the tub for a bath.

Some people shave dogs like Max in the summer, but I've read that's not good, since part of the work of the undercoat on a Spitz breed, however thin in warm weather, is to hold the top coat away from the skin so the dog can cool himself. Max spends a lot of time on his back on the sofa in the summer.

I love this picture, though it makes him look a little more 'fruffy' than he really is. He's sweet, but not this kind of bootlicking precious. It's a good picture, though.

Max will be the last addition to the household until somebody leaves here in a shoebox. Five animals is the limit according the the municipality where we live, and though we could probably have more cats and nobody would be the wiser, we've decided the city's number works for us, too. If not for Max, we might have had another cat or two instead.

The next two pictures are included just for the hell of it -- as I've noted before, Max is an incredibly photogenic dog, and he's cute besides. For a mutt, and for a dog we adopted with only half an hour's time with him, I think both he and we did okay:

Posted by Melinda at November 7, 2004 07:03 PM


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