Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Watching - 33/52

One of the things that I love about Iris is just how expressive her ears are.  Here she was so serious.

Iris has her back to the camera and is looking out at the pond.
Watching - 33/52

She surprised me by deciding to wade in the water.  Usually she does a pretty good impression of the wicked witch of the west when it comes to water.  Actually her wicked witch impression in general is pretty good.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Missing Summer

Turning the clocks back last weekend really made me start wishing for summer. Sunset at 4:30pm is just too early!  Since I just realized that I never shared these photos here, I thought we could all use a taste of summer.

One of my favorite summer walks with Iris is the Cranberry Bogs.  It really is a gorgeous spot!  Plus it's right down the street, which made it so easy to head over there after I'd finished working for the day.

Iris walking along the path through the cranberry bogs.
The Bogs - 28/52

I don't know what it is about this next photo, but I just love Iris' expression here.  I'm not really sure where she's going with this "one ear up, one ear back" look.  She is such a goof!

Iris looking at the camera with one ears up and one back
One Up One Down - 29/52

Because it's such a beautiful spot, we always see other people walking their dogs.  The bogs are so open, you can see folks coming from a ways off so it isn't really too much of an issue.  The funny thing is, I know Iris well enough that I can tell how close someone is just by watching her expression change.  In the above photo, there was no one around at all.  She was nice and relaxed.  If you look at her expression in the next photo, you can tell that she's watching someone else and their dog walking on the path.  She's just about hitting the point where I have to stop taking photos of her and get her walking again.  And all that without me ever turning around to look!

Iris - 31/52
Guarding the Path - 31/52

In this next one, Iris isn't actually looking at anything in particular.  She's just sick of looking at me!  Eventually, she gets really annoyed with the camera and won't pose anymore.  Such a diva!

Iris looking off to the side with purple flowers behind her.
Look Away - 32/52

She just doesn't understand the point of sitting around when we could be walking.  Or running.  Or sniffing things.  Or staring at other dogs.  If the possibilities are endless, why bother sitting around?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Learned Something New

I learned something new about Iris this past week. I guess after 4 years of living with the red dog, I thought I knew her pretty well. But I suppose there's always something new to learn!

Last Saturday, New England got hit with a very early snow storm.  We lost power on Saturday night and didn't get it back until Wednesday. The combination of a wet snow and most of the trees still having leaves meant A LOT of downed trees and branches.  Most of this area was without power.  For me, four days without power meant the house got down to about 50 degrees (I actually started opening the windows in the afternoons to heat the house up a few degrees).

Iris sitting on a snow pile with the brightly colored fall leaves in the background.
October Snow - 37/52

So what does this have to do with Iris? Apparently, Iris hates being cold. I just assumed that with her coat, she wouldn't be bothered by it. Not my princess! She likes her comforts. I supposed I should have guessed. I mean, this is the dog who sleeps on the couch with her head on a pillow.

Iris asleep on the couch with her head on the red pillow
Red Pillow - 27/52

I love showing off how well trained my dog is.  She's really not supposed to be sleeping on the red pillows.  Any other pillow in the house is ok, but since the red ones are definitely the most comfortable, they're supposed to be for humans.  Iris knows as long as she looks really, really cute while she's doing it, she can get away with quite a lot. Spoiled much?

Now, there are 13 reptiles currently living in my house and I have to say, losing power for four days with that many herps is really pretty stressful.  Luckily, we have a gas stove so we were still able to use the stove-top for heating water.  All 11 of the Crested Geckos were moved into shoebox size enclosures, the ball python was moved into a pillowcase (which she loved!), and the Bearded Dragon was moved into a smaller enclosure too (he was ultimately taken to my roommate's office, which had heat).  I kept all of the enclosures under a pile of blankets and heated them with hot water bottles.  Actually, I was really impressed with how well the hot water bottles held their heat.  As long as I was reheating the water about every 4 hours, I was able to keep everyone at the correct temperature.  Really tired after waking up every 4 hours to reheat, but worth it to have everyone safe and happy.

While I was very worried about the herps, I wasn't too concerned with keeping Iris warm.  I figured as long as the temperature was tolerable for me, the red dog would be fine too.  Iris really did not agree.

Portrait of Iris in front of the bright yellow fall leaves
Focus - 38/52

She was miserable.  I was sleeping on the couch to take care of the reptiles, and Iris needed to sleep curled up with me.  This is the dog who will jump off the bed if I'm moving around too much.  Not while it was cold!  She curled herself up as tightly as possible, snuggled up with me under the blankets and was happy to stay there all night.  When I'd get up to reheat the hot water bottles, I'd move Iris off the couch to rearrange the blankets.  Then she'd stand there staring intently at the blankets until I'd invite her back up.  I didn't know this before, but if it's chilly out, Iris really likes sleeping under the blankets.  So much for being a working dog.  She'd rather sleep under the blankets with her head on the pillow.

Iris' front paws on the snow and ice surrounded by fall leaves.
October Paws - 39/52

All of the reptiles survived the power outage just fine.  So did Iris, although I think next time, she'd really like to have her own hot water bottle.  Or at the very least, an extra blanket.  Yup, she's a diva all right.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

City Dog - 26-27/52

For all of her issues, Iris is actually really good about walking in a city.  Back when I was doing a lot of night photography in Boston for the virtual tour company, Iris and I did a lot of city walking.  She relaxed about negotiating crowds and not at all phased by city sounds and smells.  She greeted everyone she met very politely (something about her seems to attract attention.  Maybe because she's a merle?  Everyone asks to pet her).  The only trick is that I do have to cross the street to avoid sharing the sidewalk with another dog.  Because I was photographing storefronts, even that wasn't too much of an issue.  We really only encountered a few other dogs when passing through more residential areas.  Other than that, she handles cities like a champ.

Black and white photo of Iris lying down in the amphitheater in Lowell.
Repetition - 26/52

I thought it would be fun to take Iris into downtown Lowell for some photos.  She loves getting to explore new places.  She was in her element, and she even got to stop and visit with a group of elderly women sitting on a park bench.  I think Iris made their day and Iris, of course, was thrilled to be the center of attention.

Black and white photo of Iris lying down on a brick walkway.
City Slicker - 27/52

She was less excited about having her photo taken.  Definitely not as much fun as walking!  You can tell because she started making funny faces at the camera.  Just to make her point.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Fort - 25/52

Iris loves to lay underneath things.  Under the dining room table, under the computer desk, under the coffee table...  Iris doesn't actually fit under the coffee table.

Photo of Iris lying down with just her head under the coffee table.
 The Fort - 25/52

Back when I first brought Iris home, I had a coffee table that she could crawl under, and she loved it.  It was her "safe spot," her fort.  She pretty much lived under the coffee table for those first few days because she was so stressed.  When we moved, I ended up with a lower coffee table, so she can't quite crawl all the way under it.  I bought her a fluffy dog bed thinking that I could convince her to sleep there instead of under the coffee table.  Nope!  She still loves to lay with just her head under the coffee table.  Sometimes she's just weird.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Updates - 22-24/52

I just realized that it's been months since I've posted anything here.  I suppose you're due for an Iris update!

Iris is doing well.  Still having seizures once every four weeks.  Sigh.  At least I've gotten used to it.  She's had some allergy problems over the summer, but seems to be doing a lot better now with the cooler weather!  Other than that, she's been pretty healthy.  I've been so busy with job hunting and working on the photography business, we haven't really gotten out of the house much this summer.  Lucky for me as Iris has gotten older, she's gotten less demanding about physical and mental exercise.  She seems pretty happy to act as my foot warmer while I work on the computer.  I was hoping to get her out for a hike this afternoon, but I think we're supposed to get some thunder showers.  Maybe we'll have to put that off until tomorrow.

I'm also way overdue for a photo update!  If you follow my photography blog, you've probably seen a lot of these already.  I really want to keep track all the Iris photos in one place so that at the end of the year I can print them all in one album.  Hopefully I won't bore anyone too much with repeats!  Here's a 52 weeks update...

Photo of Iris wearing her dog tag.  It's a pink tag with rhinestones on it, and it's shaped like a bone. 
Bling - 22/52

Iris' fancy dog tag, because even though she's not particularly "girly," a girl still needs her bling!  Not only does her tag have my contact info on it, it also says "EPILEPSY - NEEDS MEDICATION."  Hopefully if she ever does get lost, whoever finds her will make the extra effort to get her back to me quickly.  At the very least, it would give a veterinarian a starting point for treating her.

Iris sitting on the couch leaning against a pillow with a fluffy blanket over her.  She's holding the tv remote and a bag of microwave popcorn. 
Show Time - 23/52

Yeah, she's the princess alright. Also, she's a bossy bitch.  I'm pretty sure that if she could control the remote, she would!  Actually, she's being a REALLY good dog in that photo.  That bag is actually full of popcorn.  I told her to "leave it" so she not looking at it (it's like she knows if she looks at it, she won't be able to control herself.  Too cute!)  Yes, she did get a few pieces of popcorn for being so good!

Iris against a brightly colored polka-dot background.  She's looking off to the side with her eyebrows raised and her ears back. 
Polka Dots - 24/52

 The focus isn't perfect in the polka dots photo, but I just love the look on her face.  I swear she's thinking "Oh, this again..."  Sometimes she's less than thrilled about having her photo taken.  Actually, she trained me pretty well.  If i try to take her photo without any treats as a bribe, she gives he the most tortured expression.  You'd swear I was trying to steal her soul with my little back box.  If I grab my camera and some treats, she turn into Iris the supermodel.  She's all, "make sure you get my good.  Maybe you'd like me to tilt my head a bit?  Is that better?"  Ready to work, loves her photoshoots.  But she does not work for free.  Diva?  Maybe a bit.

I still have a few more photos to add.  Hopefully later this weekend!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Supervising - 21/52

This is what Iris looks like when she's trying to see over my shoulder to supervise everything that's going on in the condo complex (leash edited out...)  She's not actually looking at the camera, and she's definitely not happy that I'm blocking her view!

Iris lying on the grass in the shade.  It looks like she's staring intently at the camera.
Supervising - 21/52

Also, she's started ignoring me when I say her name.  That might be my fault.  I talk to her all the time and use her name a lot when I don't actually care if she's paying attention or not.  Maybe it's time to train a new word that means "look at me."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Vintage Pup - 20/52

My poor red dog is really not happy with all of the heat we've been getting.  Neither are the crested geckos for that matter.  We've got the AC on low and ice packs on tanks for the geckos (they're reptiles that don't make sense...  they like it fairly cool), which means we need heat lamps for the beaded dragon and the ball python.

Poor Iris says "What about me?"  Climate control for the herps and not the Aussie?  I think she'd prefer the AC on high.  If you look close, you can see the drool on her chin.

Portrait of Iris panting.  The photo is edited to look like an old black/white print.  If you look close, you can see that she's drooling because she's so hot.
Vintage Dog - 20/52

I love the look of old black and white photos.  Since I don't have a darkroom, this one was done in Photoshop.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Clock - 19/52

I debated about whether or not to include this photo, but it didn't seem right to skip over this aspect of life with Iris.

Photo of two pill bottles with Iris lying down out of focus in the background.
The Clock - 19/52

Every eight hours, I pick up the pill bottles.  That's the clock that our lives run on.

Iris comes running every time she hears me pick up the bottles.  I hide her pills inside a little bit of peanut butter.  Or canned food.  Either way, she comes running whenever she hears anyone in the house pick up any bottle of pills.  We joke that she has a drug seeking problem.  Although I'm pretty sure she just can't understand why humans don't hide their pills in peanut butter.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Life's Details - 18/52

Having a dog really does change all the details in your life. The first thing I do in the morning is take Iris out. Then she gets her pills and I make her breakfast. All this before I do anything resembling taking care of myself. Vacation? Planned around whether I can bring the dog. Day trips? Iris is included. Grocery shopping generally includes buying more meat than you would ever expect a vegetarian to purchase. Even the furniture in the house is arranged to better accommodate crates and dog beds. Yup, dogs really do change all the details. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

black and white photo of Iris' paw in my hand
Details - 18/52

I knew I wanted to do a photo with Iris' paw and my hand, so I ended up taking about 40 shots, all somewhat different variations.  Iris was really not impressed with sitting through that many photos.  After all that, of course I ended up using the second photo I shot (don't tell Iris!)  Someday I'll learn to trust myself.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Spring Birthdays - 17/52

Photo of Iris hiding in the garden.  She's behind a bunch of bright pink flowers so all you can see are her eyes and one ear.
Spring - 17/52

I suppose I might as well come clean.  I completely forgot about the red dog's Birthday this year.  It's probably good that she didn't remember either.  Regardless of whether or not either of us remembered, she did turn 8 years old on May 6th!  I can't believe she's 8 already.  Or that I've had her for almost 4 years.  It doesn't seem nearly that long.  I also don't want to admit that she's not as young as she used to be, but I will say that she's really matured into a wonderful dog.

The last couple weeks have been really busy for me (my excuse for forgetting), but next week I need to do some location scouting.  So Iris will get to come with me to scope out some more parks in the area.  A walk in the park sounds like a pretty good way to celebrate.

Happy Birthday beautiful red dog!!!  And here's to many more!

Close Up - 16/52

Yeah, I'm playing catch up on my photo blogging.  Rather than force you took through a million photos of the red dog, here's a few of the red dog disguised as a grey dog.

Black and white photo of Iris.  She's very close to the camera, so her nose is very blurry and only her eyes are in focus.

Another close up black and white photo of Iris' blurry nose.  He blue eyes really stand out.

A very similar photo to the other two, but this time she has her head cocked to the side.
Close Up - 16/52

Yup, that's my girl.  Always has to know exactly what I'm doing.

Birch Trees - 15/52

Iris posed in among the birch trees.  She's pretty far away from the camera so she looks tiny compared to the trees.

Iris posed in from of a cluster of tall white birch trees.
Birch Trees - 15/52

Here's a shoot I did a few weeks ago but haven't had the chance to share yet.  I did post the final image (above) on my photo blog, but I really wanted to share some of the outtakes here.  Because there were A LOT of outtakes!  (Outtakes brought to you with minimal editing...)

I took Iris over to a new park to get some landscape-type photos, and I immediately fell in love with this cluster of birch trees.  Iris did not.  I think it was probably a combination of being in a new place, it being VERY windy out, and my forgetting to bring the usual bribe (supermodels don't work for free, you know!) added to the fact that I only had a 6ft leash so I kept having to tie her up to get far enough back (my roommate later asked me why I didn't bring the 30ft long line.  Which is a very good question.  And maybe something I should remember next time).  I ended up with a dog would refused to look at the camera.  I pretty much had to wait until she just happened to look at the camera for a split second.

Iris sitting in the cluster of birch trees refusing to look at the camera

Iris standing near the birch trees far away from the camera.  Still not looking at the camera

Yup, she's still not looking at me.  Actually, she thinks the whole thing is pretty funny.

Iris has her mouth open panting.  It looks just like she's laughing at the camera.
(click on above photo for slightly larger view)

Ok.  It is kind of funny.

Another view of Iris refusing to look at the camera.  Her body is facing me, but her head is turned completely the wrong way.

It might be starting to get less funny and more boring.  Definitely boring now.

In this photo she's sitting down looking at the ground.  She's still ignoring me.

I did (finally) manage to get the shots I was looking for.  Without much help from the red dog.  Next time I'll remember the bribe.  Until then, she's not looking.

Iris is much closer to the camera now.  The wide angle lens makes her look like she has huge feet.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thanks Iris

Dear 2011, the residents of condo C1 kindly request that you give us a break  Just for a little while.  We'd really appreciate it.

It's starting to get a little ridiculous.  If it can go wrong this year, it pretty much has. 2011 has been just one long string of back luck for the three residents of condo C1. Job losses, health things, totaled cars...  The latest is a broken dishwasher.  It seams minor compared to everything else, but it's still resulted in a mountain of dirty dishes. And with everything else, washing dishes has been a fairly low priority.

This morning I decided to clean the kitchen and wash everything since we're having company tonight.  I was stacking the clean pots/pans on a towel on the floor next to me, and I had a pretty good stack of clean dishes going. I figured I could get the whole house clean by lunch, which would give me the rest of the afternoon to get some work done.

Instead, Iris just walked over and puked all over the pile of clean pots and pans. Sometimes you have to laugh at life.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Training, Trials, Seizures, Etc.

On Saturday, I took Iris over to watch some of the NADAC trial.  I really wanted the opportunity to work with her around other dogs in a fairly controlled environment.  Given all of the problems we've had with other dogs around the condo, I fully expected to work well away from the other dogs to keep Iris under her threshold.  Instead, Iris did awesome!  She was able to be fairly close to the other dogs and even stayed pretty quiet while I chatted with some friends.  It seems the good news is her issues with other dogs in the condo complex are not transferring to other environments.  I was very proud of her!  I was really glad I decided to head down to the trial.  Good training session with Iris, a chance to catch up with some agility friends and talk dog for a bit, and I even managed to get the camera out for some photo practice.

Early Sunday morning, Iris had a couple of seizures.  Damn!  So she went 15 weeks, 4 weeks, 3 weeks.  I'm not sure what that means.  Other than the 15 weeks stretch, she's always been in the 3-5 week range.  I'm wondering if bringing her to the trial was too much?  I think stress can be a trigger for her, although she didn't seem overly stressed at the trial.  She had four seizures Sunday morning (typical) and then was fine all day.  At about 11:00 pm, she had another seizure and then a couple more in the middle of the nigh and early morning (unusual).

She's been fine all day other than just being generally, strange and crazy.  It's not unusual for Iris to act weird for about a day after her seizures.  Today, she's been obsessed with going outside.  I have no idea why.  After taking her out a few times only to have her just stand there in the grass, I started ignoring her.  Not easy when all she wants to do is walk from the door to me to the door to me.... She gets fixated on the strangest things.  After a time out in her crate she seems to have settled down now.  Tomorrow she'll be back to normal, but today she was definitely weird.

Speaking of weird, Iris has a seizure smell. After she's had a couple seizures, she has a very distinct smell.  My roommate thought Iris smelled funny on Saturday night (before Iris had any seizures) but didn't really think much of it.  She's going to pay attention to it in the future to see if maybe Iris starts smelling weird pre-seizure.  It would be interesting if she does.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Dog is Weird - 14/52

Iris is lying on her back looking at the camera in the photo.
My Dog is Weird - 14/52

Iris loves being upside down.  She loves having her belly rubbed, she loved sleeping on her back.  Sometimes I think she just likes seeing the world upside down.  Upside down Aussie is a pretty typical thing to see around here.

Yup, still upside down.  Not much variation to the photos if she just wants to see the world upside down.

Oh hai!
Another photo of Iris lying on her back looking at the camera.  She has her head tilted in the other direction.

So just when I thought I was finished with this post, I looked over at my sleeping Aussie. She was actually sleeping right-side up like a normal dog!  Oh wait.  Look closer.

A photo of Iris asleep on the couch.  If you look close, you can see that her tongue is sticking out.

She's still weird.

Window Watching - 13/52

Window Watching - 13/52

If Iris could have her way, her usual view of the world would be through the window. She's the self-appointed supervisor of our condo complex, and she loves watching the world through the window. Since the bedroom is on the third floor, she can see the parking lot, lawn, and street.  It's probably the best view in the house for watching the world go by.  Iris is not really supposed to be supervising, but lately she's been able to look without barking.  So I've been letting her get away with it. She thinks I don't notice...

(Playing a little catch up here.  If you follow my photography blog, you've already seen this one!  But I want to keep all 52 weeks of Iris in one place).

Friday, April 8, 2011

Housing Complexes and Reactivity - Part 2

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post titled Housing Complexes and Reactivity - Part 1.  Which sort of implies that there should be a part 2.  I always had the intention of writing a part 2.  I even had it partially written!  But life sort of got away from me.  A run in with Iris' new least favorite dog yesterday reminded me that I meant to write this.

So there definitely seems to be a cycle of reinforcement for reactive dogs, fueled by too many clueless owners and poorly behaved dogs in too small of a space. So what is the solution? I don't know if there is a good one.  Even if you do want to actively work with your dog, it's not an easy place to work in. And there's no way to avoid it. I have to walk Iris outside multiple times every day so she can relieve herself. And very often, she's barked and lunged at, which reinforces the idea in her head that she needs to bark and lunge at other dogs. Since it seems like everyone's solution to the problem is "just keep moving," all the dogs learn is that barking works! The other dog just keeps moving on past and away. It's a hole that everyone just keeps digging deeper and deeper.

To really make any progress, you'd have to get all of the dog owners here to start actively working with their dogs all the time and really respecting other dogs' boundaries. Is it realistic? I don't think so.  I wish it was!  I would LOVE to have a professional trainer come in and run a mandatory class teaching everyone what to do when their dogs encounter another dog outside.  I'd have everyone participate regardless of whether their dog is friendly or reactive.  Everyone could use a refresher course of why not to run up to every dog you see.

In some ways, the friendly dogs are just as much a problem as the less friendly dogs.  I've had people walk up with their bouncing, barking, pulling dogs because their dogs really want to say hi to Iris. Even though nothing about Iris' body language says she wants to say hi. How can you train that calm behavior will result in other dogs keeping their distance when that's just not true? The fact is, people do stay away better when Iris is acting like a bitch. If she's not exploding, people refuse to believe me when I says she's not friendly.  It blows my mind.

We've had a few near misses recently - some loose dogs, some leashed dogs. Most of the time we don't. Often we can go outside and be perfectly fine. But I admit it, I've started checking out the window before I take Iris outside now.  She's going to tense up every time she sees another dog because she's right, that dog will bark and lunge at her.  For potty breaks, I try to take Iris out right next to my car.  If we do see a dog and Iris gets barked at, I can shove her behind the car to block the dogs' view of each other and they both quiet down. It's not ideal. It's certainly not making Iris less reactive. But it does prevent the situation from escalating, which seems to be the key right now.

I'm torn between just how much work I want to do with Iris.  I was leaning toward mostly management (cars as barriers, exercise outside of the complex), but now I'm not sure.  A recent bad experience, which really deserves it's own post, has Iris and another dog really looking for a bitch fight.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Corgi Loves Lennon?

I don't know why this video is so hysterical.  But it really is.  I love that the dog only responds to the guy's Beatles impersonation!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Purple Day - 12/52

Today is Purple Day, a day to raise awareness about epilepsy.

I don't usually celebrate "awareness days," mostly because I tend to forget what day I should be celebrating on.  But Toby's Foundation (which is a really great organization) is collecting photos of dogs decked out in purple, and well, Iris is a show off.  For anyone visiting here for the first time, my beloved Aussie dog, Iris, was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2009.

Purple Day - 12/52

For this photo, she's also looking out the window - something she knows she's not allowed to do.  During her photo session, she kept glancing out the window and then looking back at me.  On a seizure day (yesterday started with 3 seizures), Iris' brain doesn't seem to be functioning all the way for the rest of the day.  It really lowers her inhibition so things she normally never does (looking out windows, stealing food off tables, getting in the trash, etc) she will definitely do on a seizure day.  On her worst days, she'll pretty much forget all her training including basic commands and housebreaking.  She's also a lot less subtle.  I'm pretty sure she thought she was sneaking glances out the window.  Except I was sitting right next to her so she's not very subtle at all.

Sometimes it's really frustrating, but most of the time she's just sort of silly.  Yesterday morning after her seizures, I had her in the kitchen on a leash while I was getting her breakfast.  She'll sometimes try to eat non-food objects after her seizures, so that's the reason for the leash.  I wasn't paying very close attention to her and all of the sudden she started pulling on the leash and tangling it up.  I looked over and she'd managed get herself just outside of the kitchen and was sitting waiting for her breakfast.  A lot like this, actually.  Especially after her seizures, once she gets an idea in her head then there's no talking her out of it.  At least this idea made sense!  Sometimes she comes up with weird things, like needing to sit 2 ft away from where she's currently sitting.  Also, seizures made her smell weird.  No idea why, but there is definitely a "post seizure smell."  My roommate has noticed it too.

In honor of Purple Day, I thought I'd share some of my favorite epilepsy links.
  • Toby's Foundation - I know I already shared this one above, but they have some good information and they also do a good amount of fundraising for epilepsy research.
  • Canine Epilepsy Guardian Angels - A lot of really informative articles including articles about medications and other causes of seizures besides epilepsy
  • Canine Epilepsy Resource Center - Another great collection of articles, similar to the Guardian Angels site
  • Canine Epilepsy Network - This website was initially put together by the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. The articles contain a lot of good information, including info on the latest research.  Definitely a slant toward traditional medicine.
  • Australian Health and Genetics Institute - Dedicated to improving the health of the Australian Shepherd breed.  One of the things they do is fund research trying to identify the genes associated with epilepsy.
  • University of Minnesota Idiopathic Epilepsy Research - The big research project searching for genes connected to epilepsy.  There actually was some promising news for Aussies in February.  Even though there's a long was to go, any progress is good to see!

I think it's easy to get caught up in learning about the disease itself and all the meds and side effects and progression....  And being informed is a good thing.  But really, the most important thing to remember about living with an epi dog is enjoy life! Iris certainly does!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Finding Phenobarbitol

I'm not sure if there are any epi dog owners reading this blog, but here's a heads up just in case.

I just tried to refill Iris' pb prescription and had a hard time finding a pharmacy that had any in stock.  The first couple of places I called told me that pb is back-ordered and it would probably be another 30 days before they had any in stock.  Not good!  I did find a pharmacy that had some but had to get a smaller amount than usual (I normally get 150 tablets but was only about to get 119.  That will still last just over a month, so I'm not too worried but it probably means they're low too).  I'm guessing this is related to the pb recalls?  I've never had a problem finding it before.

Just wanted to give everyone a heads up that you may be in for a bit of drive to fill a pb perscription so definitely allow yourself sone extra time.  Also, the price was more than double what I usually pay.  Not really a big deal since pb is very inexpensive, but it's a pretty good illustration of supply and demand!

Witch Hats - 11/52

Just a quick photo of the red dog that I wanted to share before tomorrow.

Photo of just Iris' eyes and ears.  There's an out-of-focus but very colorful bookshelf in the background.
Witch Hats - 11/52

Iris' crazy ears are one of my favorite things about her.  I think it was Katrin who first said that Iris' ears look like little witch hats.  I love my mixed up pup with her ears that can't decide if they go up or down and eyes that can't decided if they're blue or brown.

This post also means that I've caught up on the 52 weeks project!  Perfect because tomorrow we're celebrating Purple Day.  I think Iris missed the memo and decided to raise awareness early by starting today off with three seizures.  Sometimes Iris is a little too type-A.  I'd have settled for a purple bandanna.


I'm not sure why we're back to a 3-4 week seizure schedule.  Sigh.  And she was doing so well.

Feeling much more disappointed in today's seizures than the round that broke her 15 week stretch.  I have no idea what changed for her.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Beauty Sleep - 9/52

Photo of Iris sound asleep on the couch.  She's sprawled out on the couch on top of a blue fluffy blanket. You can see more pillows in the background.
Beauty Sleep - 9/52

This week Iris decided to take a break from the life of a supermodel.  If I could please take my camera somewhere else, that would be great.  As you can see, the red dog is really rather busy right now.

It is hard work being beautiful.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Housing Complexes and Reactivity - Part 1

What is it about housing complexes that seems to create dog-dog reactivity?

Growing up, I lived in a neighborhood where it seemed as if every house had a family dog. As a general rule, all of the dogs in the neighborhood got along. Sure, a dog in a yard would bark at another dog walking down the street, but the dog passing by would never bark back. It was almost as if the walking dog knew he had the upper paw. And the same dogs who would bark from their yards would politely greet other dogs if they were out on leash.

After moving into an apartment, I was shocked by the number of reactive dogs living there. I'd estimate that 80% of the dogs there were reactive to other dogs (I couldn't say how many were reactive to people because I always had Iris with me). After moving into the condo, I was again shocked at the number of dogs who are either very reactive or very inappropriate in their greetings. I would say that about 80% of the dogs here are reactive and another 15% like other dogs but are way over the top in their greetings (barking, jumping and pulling in excitement). I can only think of two other dogs here who are well behaved around other dogs.

Why such a high percentage of reactive dogs?  I'm guessing that it's a combination of factors.  Without a yard, every dog in the complex is walked on leash multiple times a day.  It doesn't matter if they behave well in public or not, they still have to be walked.  That makes reactive dogs a lot more visible than in a neighborhood where all the houses have yards.  With a yard if your dog doesn't behave, you don't have to walk him.  Even still, I can only think of two dogs from my neighborhood who were never walked because of behavior.  It was a much lower percentage of reactive dogs than the apartment/condo.

Everything about the housing complex environment just seems to really encourage dog-dog reactivity.  Because there are so many apartments and condos that don't allow dogs, the ones that do tend to have a lot of dogs.  So there's a lot of dogs on leash in a relatively small space.  It's also a lot of untrained dogs in a small space.  Odds are good that with that many dogs, there's going to a few reactive ones and I wonder how much of a domino effect that has.  I know that every time Iris sees another dog outside, she's anticipating that the other dog is going to explode at her.  And nine times out of ten, she's right.  That certainly doesn't help.  It seems like a pretty quick way to turn a non-reactive dog into a reactive dog.  Without proper management do a few reactive dogs very quickly "poison" the atmosphere of the entire complex?

I'm curious to hear if anyone else has any thoughts on reactive dogs in housing complexes.  Has anyone else noticed the same scenario?

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Look - 8/52

Yesterday was the first day of spring.  Today it snowed.

That's right.  Friday was absolutely gorgeous, a perfect day to be a New Englander.  Today, well, today is probably just a reminder that it's still only the very beginning of spring and we're still in New England.  My snowdrops are flowering outside.  I guess they're aptly named at least.

Since the snow confined us to the house, I decided to practice some indoor lighting techniques and figured I'd torture Iris a bit by making her model.  Today I came to the realization that Iris has only one look.  Have you ever seen the movie Zoolander?  Blue steel, magnum, or whatever, it didn't matter what he did.  It was always the exact same "look."

Photo of Iris resting her head on her paws looking straight at the camera.
The Look - 8/52

I also realized that all of the training I've done with Iris actually worked.  Maybe too well.  We've done a lot of "self control" games.  This was a good thing for Iris the crazy dog.  Turns out it might not have been the best thing for Iris the supermodel.  I'm sure most people are familiar with some version of doggie zen?  Well so is Iris.  Doesn't matter where I hold the treat, she knows that game.  Eye contact is the way to get the cookie.  Telling her to stay and then tossing treats to get her to turn her head?  We've played that game too.  She's certain the answer is "make eye contact."  Yup, Iris has only one look.

So I might be a little proud of her for remembering all those self-control games.  And she's lucky her one look is damn cute.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Shadows - 7/52

Shadows - 7/52*

Lately I've been doing a lot of reading about lighting with off-camera flash, so this was a bit of an experiment.  The flash was positioned to the left behind a plant, which created all the shadows  Also, I just can't resist the oppertunity to highlight my dog's blue eyes.

*Ok, I know we went from 6/52 to 10/52 to 7/52.  Maybe counting just isn't my thing...  Actually, it's because I'm a bad blogger and I've gotten a few weeks behind.  This week should be the 10th week and I really wanted to post the Mardi Gras photo this week.  So that's why that one got posted out of order.  Look for a few weeks with two "52 weeks" posts!

Phenobarb Recall

I just came across this recall and figured I'd pass it along in case there are any other epi dog owners who read this blog.

Mislabled Phenobarbitol Recalled

The affected lots were distributed nationwide to retail and wholesale pharmacies between Sept. 21 and Dec. 29, 2010.

So the wrong medications were distributed in September and a recall was issued in February?  WTF?  I'm so angry right now.  Whatever happened to quality control?  I don't believe Iris has taken any of the recalled drugs.  The Pb I have right now is from a different manufacturer than the one affected by the recall, and Iris usually gets 30mg tabs (the recall is for 32.4mg tabs).  She hasn't had 32.4mg tabs in quite a long time.

I just think it's unbelievable how long it took them to issue a recall.  I get Iris' prescription refilled every 30 days.  Any medication she took in September is long gone by now.  I'm pretty sure I'd have noticed something was VERY wrong as soon as she started taking the wrong medication, but would anyone have figured out it was because the drug was mislabeled?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Blue Dog - 10/52

In honor of Mardi Gras, the red dog has decided to be a blue dog for the day.

Blue Dog - 10/52

And in case you'd like to see the actual blue dog, check out this blog post from artist George Rodrigue's wife.  Happy Mardi Gras!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Not the Best Morning

Three seizures for the red dog isn't exactly how I wanted to wake up this morning. Yuck. Each seizure lasted a little longer than is typical for Iris - about 1.5 to 2 min each (she's normally about 1 min). The good news is that she only went about 5 min between seizures, which means we're probably done for the day. When she's going about an hr between seizures, then we're in for a bad day.

All things considered, 15 1/2 weeks between seizures isn't bad. Far longer than I ever thought she'd go. Prior to this, she was going about 4 weeks between seizures.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Dog's Life - 6/52

Photo of Iris.  She's asleep on the couch with her head on a pillow and and front paws wrapped around the pillow.
 A Dog's Life - 6/52

I'm not sure Iris quite understands that she's actually a dog.  Iris often sleeps on the couch, with her head on the pillow.  At night, she always sleeps on the bed (which is funny because for the first two years I had her, she completely refused to sleep on the bed).  The other night, she woke up in the middle of the night and started scratching.  I rolled over and nudged her since she has a tendency to scratch herself raw when her allergies act up.  Iris indignantly hopped off the bed.  I could hear her moving around in the dark looking for a place to settle down.  Then very slowly, she crept back on the bed.  And stood there.  Staring at me.  As if I wouldn't notice her getting back on the bed as long as she did it slowly?  I told her she could lie down, and she very happily settled back down on the bed for the rest of the night

I was thinking about it the next day, and I'm pretty sure she got back on the bed because she couldn't figure out where dogs are supposed to sleep if they're not sleeping on the bed.  Spoiled much?

Another photo of Iris asleep on the couch with her head still on the pillow.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Will Work for Food - 5/52

Dogs in the kitchen while I'm cooking is a huge pet peeve of mine.  I just don't enjoy having to fight with the dogs for foot room while I'm getting food ready.  To keep the peace, Iris is trained to stay out of the kitchen while I'm in there unless I invite her in.  She can sit the doorway and watch, but she has to stay out.  If she's already in there (or in there uninvited), I can tell her "out," and she'll go sit in the doorway.  When I was living with my dad, all three dogs were pretty good about staying out of the kitchen.

While I was visiting my dad for the holidays, I was in the kitchen helping my sister clean up.  My dad's house has a much larger kitchen than my condo, but the large kitchen very quickly fills up with seven people and three dogs in the house.  Without really thinking about it or even looking at the dogs, I said "Out."  Iris immediately went and sat in the doorway just outside of the kitchen.  The boys continued looking for crumbs on the floor, so my sister turned to me and said "Show off."

Just so that no one thinks my dog is a perfect angel, she regularly rebels against the "no dogs in the kitchen" rule with just one front paw.

Iris is sitting on the carpet just outside of the kitchen on the left side of the photo.  One of her front paws is on the kitchen floor.  Her blue bowl is in the kitchen on the right side of the photo.

Will Work for Food - 5/52

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Does anyone know of a good German Shepherd breeder?  I have a friend who grew up with GSDs and is looking for a puppy.  I prefer my Shepherds to be the crazy red merle variety, so I don't actually know any good GSD breeders.

Anyone out there know of any GSD breeders?  All my friend is really looking for is a healthy pet and he really loved the GSDs he grew up with.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Eyes Have It - 4/52

I know, I know.  It's maybe not the most creative image, but it's hard to do a photo series of Iris without doing a close up of her crazy eyes.

A close up photo of Iris' eyes.  Her eyes are really unique - each eye is half blue and half brown.

The Eyes Have It - 4/52

There.  Now I've got it out of my system...  at least for this month.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Weather Outside... 3/52

The Weather Outside...  3/52

It seems like we've been seeing a lot of this lately!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Happiness is a Warm Bed - 2/52

Very close up photo of Iris lying on her giant dog bed.  Only Iris' front paws are in focus.

Happiness is a Warm Bed - 2/52

This bed used to be under my desk at work.  I had no intention of storing it in the living room after I brought it home.  Would you have the heart to move it?  Because I don't.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Big Website Update

I just finished with a big update my website: Blue Amrich Studio - Pet and Equine Photography.  Check it out!  Let me know if you see any errors (spelling...) or anything that looks "weird."  I tested it on most browsers, so I think it should be ok but you never know.

Long story short, my roommate and I both got laid off on Friday.  Iris thinks this is the greatest thing ever because I brought home the giant dog bed from work, which is one of the greatest things ever.  Now she can rotate between the couch and the dog bed while I work on the home computer.  I'm a little less impressed with the situation than she is, but what can you do?  Life happens.  Anyway, right now I'm trying to really push my pet photography work.  I know my website is all pets, but I also do weddings (and have pretty extensive wedding experience), human portraits, senior photos, events (private and corporate), and real estate.  Actaully, I'm willing to try photographing just about anything you can think up (ok, anything PG.  I shoot fluffy animals!  As soon as I typed that, I realized it didn't sound very PG.  I photograph fluffy animals).  So if you're in the Boston area and hear of anything, please pass it along.

Also, my roommate is a fantastic 3D artist who's also looking for a job.  Her art is here - Sarah Dahlinger Art and if you check out her blog, I think she has a list of positions she'd qualify for.  I believe she's also planning a website update within the next couple of days.  Since Sarah owns the condo where we live, Iris and I would both like Sarah to continue paying the mortgage.

One more thing that I left for last because I hate begging for favors, but I could use the help!  I've been working on improving the search ranking of my website, and one thing that will help is links from other websites.  So if you've got a website or a blog where it would be approprate to throw up a link to my site, I'd really appreciate it!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Red on Red - 1/52

Red on Red - 1/52

Iris' predecesor was a Wheaten Terrier, and after years of living with a dog who required extensive grooming, I've pretty much decided to let Iris' coat do whatever it wants.  And I admit it, I love the crazy fur around her ears.

Also, we're currently 8 weeks seizure-free.  Unbelievable.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's Resolution

My photography related resolution this year is to improve my lighting skills.  So, it's only appropriate that I somehow manage to include my dog.

This year, I want to participate in the 52 Weeks for Dogs project.  I believe the project started out as a Flickr group.  The basic idea is that you take one photo of your dog each week and share it with the group.  While I'm not planning on participating in the Flickr group, I will be posting all 52 photos on this blog.  I know there are a few other bloggers out there who participate in this (Dig-it Fetch-it Herd-it comes to mind).

I'm hoping that by committing to shooting Iris each week, I'll also be pushing myself to experiment a lot more with my techniques.  Even though I'm hoping to do a lot more client sessions in 2011, I tend to shy away from experimenting during a client shoot.  If I can get all my experimenting and practicing done with Iris where there's no real pressure, I'll be much more confident playing around with different techniques during a client photo sessions.  That's my hope anyway!