Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In Other News

Iris is back to herself after her seizures last weekend. She had 4 total, each about 5-10 min apart. Then the Valium kicked in and she was quite happy for the rest of the day. It had only been three weeks, but I think stress was a big factor this time.

On Saturday morning, they were testing the fire alarms in our building. Because they needed to enter the condo to test the alarms inside, we had to be home. And because we're in an end unit, we ended up being one of the last condos in the building checked. We had to listen to the fire alarms come on and off for a few hours. Iris was really freaked out by it, but she seemed to be doing ok staying next to me, and we were stuck in the building anyway. She had the seizures at 4 am on Sunday. Generally with seizures, anything in the last 30 hrs could be a trigger (except for vaccinces, which can be up to 45 days). The stress from the fire alarms definitely falls into the right time frame.

At least the fire alarm check only occurs once a year, and next year I'll know that Iris needs to spend the day somewhere else.

On an unrelated note, I have a couple of (potential) freelance jobs coming up, so I needed to quickly get my act together. One aspect was making a business card. Recognize the model?

I almost used the version with Iris lying on her back, but I thought it was a little harder to tell what she was doing in the small size. For the record, Iris is NOT allowed to sleep on the red futon. Her white fur really shows up on the red, so Iris is forced to sleep on the big fluffy white couch instead. If I fall asleep on the couch (which is more comfortable than the futon), the brat dog knows she can sneak onto the futon. As you can see, she clearly knows she doesn't belong on the futon and was very stressed out about the whole shoot. Yeah right. Who trained who?

Surf 'N Herd

It might be a publicity stunt, but it's still a great video. Here's an article about it: Ewe Won't Believe This. Iris says she's not herding anything in the water!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

4:30 am

It's 4:30 am and I'm up with the seizure dog.  Sigh.  Maybe it is time to increase her meds.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Trouble Makers

Just a fun photo from when we visited my dad for Easter.

The three stooges all hoping for a handout. Notice that Henry Beagle is the one who ended up in the dog bed.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Color Changes

I'm playing around with some color changes. What do you think? I'm not quite decided on it yet. I wanted a warmer color because I think my photos will display better on that. Looking at it now, I think I chose colors that are too close to Iris' coat. Darn, I didn't even do that intentionally. I guess it means I like the color of my dog! But she isn't showing up quite the way I want. I think it's the main background color that needs to change. Also the heading photo will need to get updated to match everything else. Also, I think I can go in and change some of the template defaults via the html. Like those little green arrows in front of the links. I'll play with it more later.

Somehow while changing the colors I managed to delete all of my blog links. I have no idea how it happened. I'll have to go through and see if I can fix that as well.

EDIT: I think I've got the colors working better. I decided to try to keep the "red merle" look. Ha! Also got the blog list fixed too. Let me know if I missed you! I still want to change the heading photo, but I think I have an idea for that.

Newest Family Member

And now some good news! Introducing the newest family member, Galeru.

"Galeru" is a dragon or rainbow serpent from Australian mythology. Budgies are native to Australia, and I wanted to give him a larger-than-life name because budgies have such larger-than-life personalities.

Galeru came home on Friday and is starting to settle in. He's still pretty hand-shy, but he's gotten MUCH better since Friday (there has been a lot of millet bribery. I've yet to meet a budgie who doesn't love millet!) Once he settles in some more, I'm going to do some clicker training with him. I'd taught my last budgie to target, and he thought that was pretty fun. It should be pretty fun to see what this little guy can do.

Iris hasn't shown much interest in Galeru at all, which is good. We did do some LAT when I first brought him home. Iris was more interested in the cookies than the bird, which is a really good thing!

Running Out of Tricks

Last weekend was a bad seizure weekend. It had only been three weeks since Iris' last round of seizures. Damn it. She had 6 seizures total over a 21 hour period, so most of her seizures were spread pretty far apart. The post-ictal period (time following the actual seizure when the brain is still recovering, can last minutes or hours) was pretty long this time. Her last seizure was at about 4 am and she panted and paced for the next 4 hours straight. Pacing is a pretty typical post-ictal behavior for Iris. Also, she does a lot of sniffing of various objects around the house, acting like she's never seen them before. She doesn't always respond to basic commands, sometimes has trouble with her name, and occasionally forgets her housebreaking (I think she just forgets all of it because she's so confused and her mind is so foggy). Things that don't normally scare her will make her jump. Lately, her post-ictal period has been pretty short. This time, it was long. The first 4 hours were the worst with the constant pacing. She was much better after that, but I don't think she was really back to normal until Monday.

On Wednesday, we had an appointment with Dr C. He didn't like that she had so many seizures so soon. Unfortunately, he did say that we're starting to run out of tricks. Right now, Iris is on two medications (Keppra and Phenobarbital), a Chinese herb mix of Gastrodia and Uncaria, and goes for acupuncture every two weeks. None of it has significantly changed the time period between seizures. She's always been between 3-5 weeks. It seemed like the acupuncture was at least decreasing the number of seizures and shortening the post-ictal period when she would cluster. This last weekend it didn't seem to be the case. It feels like we get a brief "honeymoon period" with everything we try before we end up back at square zero.

We're trying one more thing. Dr C wants to try keeping magnets with a gold bead inside Iris' ears. It will constantly stimulate the acupuncture point there. They're a bit like a band-aid with a small, pointed magnet where the gauze should be.

Iris isn't bothered by them at all. They sit right inside and toward the front of her ears. Dr C showed me exactly where they go incase they fall out and sent me home some extra. I think the biggest problem will be keeping the fur clipped so the adhesive can stick to her skin. She already has some fuzz growing in.

Dr C told me if she does have a seizure, I can put a little pressure on the magnets during the seizure. It might help bring her around. If you look closely in the next photo, you can see the magnets inside her ears. They're barely noticeable.

We're keeping everything crossed that this helps. If it doesn't, we're starting to run out things to try. Dr C admitted that he doesn't have a lot of confidence in the magnets because we haven't seen dramatic improvement since starting acupuncture. It's still worth a shot. For now, we're still doing acupuncture every other week, but we'll see how she does between now and her next cluster. At least we're back to a more "normal" state for now.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Control Unleashed - Week Five

I just realized that I'd almost finished writing this, but never actually posted it. It's been a crazy week.

I think the format of this class makes it difficult to see the progress your dog is making. Each week, the exercises are more challenging and the criteria is higher. By the end of the week five class, Iris was right at her threshold. She was probably a hair's breadth away from melting down (we did end up lowing the criteria a lot for her). It felt like a less successful week than the previous one. But I need to remember, I don't think Iris would have been successful at any of these exercises a few weeks. Even though she didn't handle the class with flying colors, she did MUCH better that I would have expected five weeks ago.

Car Crash Game
Before we started this exercise, Emma talked about how important it is to communicate with other people when moving your dog through a tight space. This isn't always easy because I can be very shy, but it so important to set your dog up for success! Putting Iris in a situation where she'll react is worse than offending someone by asking them to give us a little space.

Emma set up four jumps and had each dog/handler do this pattern simultaneously. We had to talk to each other to make a plan about how to pass safely (who was going to go first, whether one dog had to step to the side, etc).

I was actually pretty worried about how Iris would handle this exercise. Dogs walking straight towards her is definitely a trigger. She ended up doing a LOT better than I expected. I had her sit slightly to the side when the other dog passed us and she did really well with it.

Scramble Heeling
We continued working on the scramble healing exercise from last week. Iris does pretty well with it. I'd like to try it in an outside-of-class situation. I think that would really change it for her.

Parallel Running With Off-Switch Game
Next we worked on parallel running with the off-switch game. This was REALLY hard for Iris. Emma had two dogs run from one end of the room to the other, play, and then stop play and get the default behavior. Dogs playing really pushed Iris right to her threshold. She was as close to her threshold as she could be without completely melting down. She was doing some barking but it would be one or two woofs and then I could get her to work again a little. She wasn't actually exploding at the other dog. Because Iris was having so much trouble, Emma had us stop and work on LAT while the other dog played instead of running with the other dog. Of everything we've worked on in class, other dogs playing is definitely the biggest trigger for Iris.

Next we did a variation of the same game, but this time one dog ran and played parallel to a little agility course.

When we started this, Emma asked me how I thought Iris was doing. I told her that I thought Iris was pretty much fried for the day. Emma agreed and Iris sort of sat this exercise out. I brought her off to the side and worked on LAT while the rest of the class did the exercise. When it was Iris' turn, we decided to have her do a little agility but not have another dog play while she worked. She was so brain fried by that point in class. Being around other dogs who are playing is definitely something we need to work on in the future because it's such a huge issue for Iris.

Look At That! With a Person
One of the other students in class has a very exuberant Aussie. He's really friendly but can get over-the-top excited when he greets people. His owner asked Emma if we could work on that a little bit. Emma walked around the room and everyone played LAT while she walked by. The goal was to have the dogs glance at the new person and then reorient.

Also, Emma talked about ways to train an appropriate greeting. When strangers ask to pet your dog, they often bend over and stretch out their hand. Emma suggested teaching the dog to hand target the outstretched hand. For the greeting, you end up with a dog that touches the outstretched hand and then reorients to you for the reward. I hadn't thought of this before, but it is a really simple solution. Emma also talked about training reactive dogs to target a shoe instead of a hand, something she also teaches in her reactive dogs class. The reasoning behind it is if you ask someone to let your dog touch their shoe, the person tends to stand up straight with their hands at their side. It's much less threatening than leaning forward and reaching out for the dog, which is what most non-dog people tend to do.

We're done with CU now and I would definitely recommend this class, especially for anyone who does dog sports. Emma isn't offering at the MSPCA until next fall, but she is offering it at Masterpeace on Thursdays starting in July. I might be crazy enough to drive down for it. The class was REALLY worth it for Iris.