Friday, June 25, 2010

Bring Your Dog to Work Day

Officially "Bring Your Dog to Work Day" is today, but lately it's been every day for Iris.

I got in the habit of bringing Iris to work in February when I was working late every night on a project that basically involved a lot of walking around Boston taking photographs. Iris was more than happy to be my walking partner, although there were more than a few nights when we both staggered back to the car exhausted. That project is finally over. As much as I like the city, February isn't really the best month to be walking around Boston at night. The red dog took it all in stride and at the very end of the project, I did manage to get her in one pano.

Since she's been such a help around the office, I've just continued bringing her with me a couple times a week (ok, sometimes more than a couple times a week).

She's likes to help with testing lenses.

(click on photo for larger view)

The other day, I left my desk for a few minutes and she hopped in my chair to help with some QA (I suspect she got some help from the guys).

Mostly, she's pretty content to hanging out under my desk acting as the resident foot warmer.

Since today is "Bring Your Dog to Work Day," I thought we'd share a few tips that work well for us.
  • This probably goes without saying, but make sure all of your coworkers are comfortable around dogs (and not allergic to them) before you bring you dog with you. I'm very lucky to be at a place where everyone loves dogs. Iris isn't the only dog who comes to work on a regular basis!
  • Dog proof your workspace. We learned this the hard way after Iris sat on the surge protector under my desk and turned off my computer... and the two other computers that are daisy-chained into my power strip. Maybe more important than dog-proofing is making sure your coworkers have a sense of humor. Other things to watch out for besides electrical cords are poisonous plants and toxic office supplies such as permanent markers.
  • Make sure your dog has a comfortable place to hang out. Iris loves hanging out under the computer desk at home, so it was easy to train her to hang out under my desk at work. If this isn't something your dog does naturally, it's something you might want to train beforehand. Most people who come into the office don't even notice there's a dog under my desk. Some alternatives would be training your dog to hang out on a mat, a bed, or in a crate. We also love frozen kongs and bullysticks for keeping Iris busy.
  • Don't give your dog unsupervised run of the office. I keep Iris tied to my chair so she doesn't wander off. Even if it seems like all of your coworkers are okay with you dog wandering around, you should still keep a close eye on your dog. Just because your cubicle is dog-proof doesn't mean your coworker's is (or that your coworkers even know what "dog proof" means)!
  • I keep a jar of treats on my desk for people to give Iris. Dog lovers are going to want to feed your dog. Since Iris is on a strict diet for her seizures, having a jar of "safe" treats is a good compromise. Also, having appropriate treats (and appropriate sized treats!) will keep you dog from looking like a beach-ball.
  • Teach your dog to drink out of a cup. I know I should bring a bowl, but sometimes I forget. In a pinch, Iris will happily drink out of a paper cup so my forgetfulness doesn't really matter.
  • Teach a down-stay. When I leave the room to use the kitchen or bathroom (my office shares a bathroom and kitchen with two other companies, so I do not bring Iris into the shared space), I put Iris in a down stay. Since she's tied to the desk, she will fidget and whine if I just walk away. If I put her in a down-stay, she'll hold the stay quietly. I think she feels more secure if she knows exactly what to do.
  • Get your dog out for a walk at lunch time. Tired dogs are quiet dogs! Also, make sure that your dog potties in an appropriate place (the garden next to the door is probably not appropriate) and that you ALWAYS clean up after your dog.
I am very lucky to have such a dog-friendly employer. It's a BIG perk for me and definitely ensures that I'm happy at my job. I do work hard to make sure Iris is as well behaved and unobtrusive as possible because I don't want to lose the privilege! I think everyone in the studio enjoys having her there. Dogs are great stress relief!

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    Herding Lesson

    Iris had a herding lesson on the 5th. Actually, it was a pretty full day for her. We went to a horse show in the afternoon (Iris was crated in the car in the shade) and had a lesson at 5 pm.

    Iris did do better than last time. First, we worked on driving to try and build interest. Then Diane had us walk straight up to the sheep in a corner (holding them still in one spot). Iris was on a short line and when we'd get close, I'd encourage Iris to look at the sheep. After she looked at the sheep for a few seconds, we turned and walked away. Taking Iris away from the pressure was her reward for focusing for a few seconds. We did quite a few repetitions of this, moving the sheep around to different corners of the pen.

    Next we worked a little bit on fetching. Iris likes to dart in for a few seconds and then checks out again. This had been a chronic problem for Iris, but lately she checks out so much it's like she's quit completely. Diane had me get Iris interested and as soon as Iris started running around the sheep, I'd walk backwards toward the fence. Because Iris had already started going around, she'd end up on the opposite side of the sheep and bringing them to me. To keep Iris from checking out, I had her on a really long line that I looped around one sheep's neck. When the sheep started coming towards me, got tugged along behind them. I was walking backwards in a circle around the pen. I had trouble getting Iris to follow the sheep because she wanted to follow me instead. Because she was focused on me, Iris kept wanting to come inside too far, instead of walking directly behind the sheep. I tried to push her out more with the rake, but I didn't have much success trying to juggle the line around the sheep, the dog, and the rake. Oh well. At least she was "working." Or doing something beside eating sheep poop.

    After Iris' lesson, I chatted for a bit with Diane. We ended up talking about Iris' epilepsy and her medications. Diane really thinks that the meds are affecting Iris' working ability. Damn. I've been suspecting the same thing. Iris just doesn't have the same focus she used to, especially since starting the Pb. Actually, she doesn't have the same focus for training in general. This last lesson was better than the previous. That previous lesson was only a few days after a round of seizures (and the medication changes that go with that). Even though I thought it had been long enough for Iris to be back to "normal," it clearly wasn't.

    This last lesson was better. It was also later in the day, which is a factor we're going to experiment with. Iris normally gets her morning meds around 9 am. For a 10 am lesson, maybe she has more drugs in her system and is more spacey in general? She doesn't get her evening dose of keppra until 6 pm and her Pb until 9 pm. Maybe a 5 pm lesson has her more focused because she has less drugs in her system? I'm not even sure if AEDs work that way. I'll have to ask her vet. It is something to think about. Even if Iris never gets to the point where I could trial her, Diane pointed out that I'm learning a lot and I'll be a better handler for a future dog (Diane asked when I'm getting a puppy! Ha! My roommate would kill me if I brought home another crazy dog).

    We have another lesson this Sunday at 6 pm. This Wednesday is also Iris' 4 week mark since her last round of seizures. We're cutting it close. If she has any seizures towards the end of the week, I'll cancel the lesson.

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Karate and Friendship Award

    We got an award from Julie at Run - Jump - Herd - Heal. Thank you Julie! It's the "Master of Karate and Friendship" award.

    Fun fact, I was in the Shotokan Karate Club while I was in college. I stopped taking karate classes after I graduated because I could really only afford one "class" at a time and I wanted to put the red dog in agility!

    And now to pass it on:

    Diana at Four Dog Craziness

    Nicki at Borderblog

    Paw It Forward

    We got a "Paw It Forward" package in the mail from James, Niche, and Monty! We actually got the package last week and Iris' bad mum has taken too long to post photos. But Iris has been enjoying the treats all weekend.

    Hey Iris, do you want to see what you got?

    Yes yes yes!!!

    Do you think you could look at the camera? Just for a second?

    All of the cookies belong to me!

    Fine. If you won't pose with the packages, I can find other ways to make you pose.

    I know where you sleep. I will get my revenge.

    Away with you, crazy lady.
    I am done with posing for your face-box now. Time for nom!

    A very happy red dog says THANK YOU to Katrin and her boys!

    Now for the next part of the game. I'll send a "Paw It Forward" package to the first two people who reply saying that they want to play. Then after you get your package, you "paw it forward" by sending packages to two more people. Very cool! Anyone want to play?

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010

    Seriously? Sand?

    For some reason, Iris as been putting everything in her mouth lately.  Stuff that she wouldn't normally pick up.  The other day, she had a pen in her mouth.  A little while later, she had tweezers.

    The latest one is sand.  That's right.  Sand.  After Iris did her business this morning, I was picking up her poop and I noticed that it was full of sand.  I have no idea why she was eating sand or more importantly, when she was eating sand.  I live in a condo.  Iris only goes outside on a leash.  She is supervised.  A lot.  I do have a small container of sand that I was using for an art project, so I suspect that's where she got the sand.  I checked and the container is sealed, so I still have no idea when she was eating sand.  She's in a crate when I'm not home and locked in the bedroom with me at night.

    I really can't figure out when she could have gotten into the sand or what possessed her to eat it in the first place.  Maybe she's trying to tell me that she needs more minerals in her diet?

    Thursday, June 3, 2010

    Now I Do Have Something Nice to Say...

    Iris had a vet visit yesterday for bloodwork and while we were there I talked to the vet about her recent increase in seizure frequency. Once I know what schedule Iris is on, I can usually predict (within a few days) when she's going to cluster again. She's always been in the 3-5 weeks range. She was on an every 4 weeks schedule for the longest time. I thought we were making progress with acupuncture when she was going 5 weeks, but now we're back down to three. We've been on a three week schedule the last few cycles.

    It seems like Iris is one of the dogs that acupuncture just isn't making a big difference for. Sigh. I was really hoping for a miracle cure. We've stopped acupuncture and I really haven't noticed much of a change without it. The vet feels that she should be going at least a month between seizures. If she's having clusters more than once a month, we should change something. Now we're left with increasing her meds.

    The title of this post is that I have something nice to say, and I do! We got Iris' bloodwork results back today, and so far all of her liver values are normal! Did you just hear my sigh of relief? The vet prepared me yesterday by saying that he wouldn't be surprised if one of her levels (now I can't remember which one) was slightly high.  He'd consider slightly elevated to be "normal" for a dog on Pb. But, so far so good! We also checked Iris' Pb levels and right now she's in the low end of the normal range. Because her liver looks good and she's at the low end of the dosage range for her weight, we're going to try increasing her Pb dose from 30 mg twice a day to 45 mg twice a day. It's not the solution I was hoping for (and honestly, I'm not 100% certain it's the route I want to go yet).  But many dogs build up a tolerance to the meds over time and need their dosage increased. Maybe we're just at that point. We're going to check her Pb levels in a few weeks just to make sure we didn't increase it too much.

    I'm also making some changes to her diet and supplements, which really deserves a separate post. Keeping fingers crossed that we start making some progress.