Friday, May 28, 2010

How does she eat?

If I had a nickel for how many times I get asked this question.
One of the defining characteristics of Stella is her tongue. 

I don’t even think about it much until someone mentions it.  People like to say (in a baby talk voice), “Oh, are you sticking your tongue out at me?!” And then I tell them that, no, in fact she has no teeth and her lower jaw is recessed so her tongue has nowhere to go.
Why can’t I just politely laugh and go, “Oh, heh, heh, Yep. Silly widdle puppy!” and be on my merry way? No. I have to go into my monologue about how because she is a Chinese Crested, she has a bad mouth. Stella lacks a lower jaw and if you pull up her lips you will see the teeth still hidden in her gums. They just never broke through. This is probably a blessing since most Cresteds have to have major dental surgery because their teeth are all cracked out. Mine's just sit up there in her gums. It makes her gums rock hard, so she eats hard food like a normal dog. It’s not pretty to watch, mind you. Food falls out of her mouth and she drools all over the place during dinner, but she makes it happen. Hell, she’s 28 lbs. She is getting fed.

It made teething a breeze! I am pretty sure that Stella was just over a year old when I got her. She was definitely a puppy because she loved to chew everything. The lack of teeth was lovely since her favorite treat was the heel of one of my shoes. I have a shoe addiction. Well – I did until I adopted Stella. Now I have a bunch of out of style heels from 2008 in decent condition. She would work on one of my high heels for hours and not damage it. It was just be really, really wet with slobber.
Currently we are on the third pork rawhide that she has ever owned. It looks brand new.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bring it on Westminster!

Have you ever wondered what would happen if Yoda from Star Wars and Gizmo from Gremlins had a love child? It would be my dog. 

 Stella is a Chinese Crested mixed with a Boston Terrier. Most Chinese Cresteds max out at 10 lbs. Stella weighs 28 lbs. So a HUGE Boston mated with a HUGE Chinese. I hope the mom was the terrier or that labor must have sucked. I have never seen another dog like her. I wonder what the rest of the litter came out as? My bro-in law, Steve thinks that Stella was not born, but flew here on a spaceship and is actually transmitting information about our planet through her tongue. When she is licking the air with her tongue (for no particular reason) he yells out in his best “Stella” voice, “TRANSMITTING DATA. TRANSMITTING DATA.”
Don’t feel too sorry for her. She gets back at him. Being a CC and a BT, she has breathing problems that would make a pug ashamed. My dog snores louder that any dog, human, or moose that I have ever met or slept with. One weekend, Steve and Hannah were dog sitting Stella while I went to Kansas City for the Cardinals/Royals baseball battle. Stella stayed in their bedroom with them. Steve kicked my sister and Stella out of the bedroom to sleep in the guest room. Stella was too loud, and he couldn’t sleep. Seriously. She’s a train. I am in the living room of my apartment typing this right now. Stella is on the opposite side of the apartment in the bedroom. I can hear her snoring. I am sure my neighbors must think I am housing an old man in my bedroom. I got used to it and don’t notice it most of the time.
When I take Stella out to parties, which I often do, she tends to tap out before anyone else. Nothing is funnier than watching people look around the living room as the sound of a snore breaks out. “Who is that snoring?”
“Stella.” Then they watch in fascination as my dog, who has found a pillow or rug on the ground – or maybe even a spare arm chair – rips through the night with her ZZZZ’s. People actually have to speak louder to be heard over her.
It’s the allergies. She’s allergic to air, apparently. Her Benadryl helps, but on bad nights when it is dusty or the mold count is high, you are not sleeping in silence. Sometimes she even wakes herself up and looks at me like, “Wow, who’s snoring so loud?”
Go back to sleep, Stella, I will try to keep it down.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Jake was thrilled. He and Stella played and played. My new dog was a bully. She pounced and snapped just like a real dog only - without teeth. Jake was in love. They wore each other out chasing and running and jumping. Then Stella found a mirror I had propped up in my dining room (super small apartment). She just stared at herself. “Yes, beauty is in the eye, isn’t it, Stella?”
These are the pictures from her first night home.

Our first vet visit happened a week later. Jake had gone home, heartbroken. Stella had spent 2 nights itching her ears and shaking her head. Ear infection. I took her to the HSMO vets. I figured, if I am going to spend this much money on her, I might as well give it to the shelter that saved her.
It was an ear infection. She had already had two infections before I had adopted her. One each month.
“We will probably have to take her ear drums out since she will always have raging ear infections. She’ll be deaf.”
Ummmmm, no? That didn’t sound like an option to me. I paid the $300 for the visit and the ear meds. $300. That was three pairs of high heels. That was a month’s bar tab. $300. I would have to skip eating out that month.
I went online and started researching ear infections and treatments. I have learned that vets are great, but go to them armed with information. It will help you immensely.
By her third ear infection, I was ready.
I read online that ear infections can be caused by allergies. I talked with the vet and she agreed.
“Most dogs are allergic to beef, wheat or corn. Some dogs are allergic to all o them.”
I looked at my cross-eyed wonder. She was probably the trifecta.
I paid another $300 to the vet and went to PetsMart. I found a food that had no beef, wheat or corn. I then went to Target and got Benadryl, that the vet said that Stella could have twice a day. Then, I went online and found Earasil. It is a boric acid, alcohol solution that is a natural ear cleaning and astringent. I ordered a case from Bill's Liquid Vitamin Stop.

She hasn’t had an ear infection since. She still has her ears. What might have been a surgery that would have taken her hearing was nothing more than an allergic reaction. Do your research.
This was my induction into the world of special needs. We have only just begun to hit the tip of the iceberg.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Adoption

All day long, I was watching the clock. I wanted to get out of that school and go see that puppy. I practically knocked over the students when the bell rang. Normally teachers are supposed to wait a while before the leave, but screw that. I had places to be. I flew down Hampton Avenue per my Google Map I had printed to find this place. I got there in record time and walked into this stark white building. All I had was a number and a name to identify Gretchen. I did not print out a picture – stupid. Always print out a picture. I just walked around this long hallway very clueless. “Excuse me, I am looking for Gretchen, number 594029?” I asked a woman who looked employed.
“Is it a puppy or an adult?”
“Oh, I, uh, don’t know. It didn’t say.”
“Check the adult section.” I walked into the door that housed the adult dogs. That is a heart breaking experience. Those dogs once had homes, and now they were here, - caged. I walked past them all, apologizing as I went:  Sorry, you are cute, but my apartment is smaller than you. You look mean, I know it is not your fault, someone hurt you I’m sure, but I have a nephew, and you might eat him. I know. I know you are scared, but you are too old, I need to walk a dog.
Gretchen wasn’t there and I could feel the tears well up in sympathy for these poor creatures. I had to get out of there. I went back into the hallway. Another woman walked by. “I’m looking for Gretchen.”
“Check the puppies.” Oh, please. Not a puppy. Puppies are annoying.
I walked in to the cacophony of puppy barks. These guys were crazy! They were trying to eat through their cages and were pooping all over. My senses were on overload.
Then I saw her. Sitting in a cage on the floor. Her body shaking, her tongue hanging out – not barking like the others – and her eyes fixed on me. They simply said, “Get me out of here.” I looked at the card on the cage. “Gretchen. Special Needs. Age unknown.”
Special Needs. What did that mean? She wasn’t barking, she looked sweet. What was the need?
A woman dressed in scrubs walked in. “Excuse me, but what does special needs mean?”
“Oh, that’s Gretchen. Yes, she as rescue from the flood this spring. She gets ear infections constantly. We mark dogs as special needs so you know.”
“Know what?”
“Well, honey, that they will require lots of vet visits, money and time. They might not live as long as a regular dog and will be sick a lot.”
Here’s what I heard. “Blahbalbhalhba. Blah. Blah blah blah. Blahlahlahl.”
“How old is she?”
“Ehhh, we don’t know. She was abandoned and don’t have teeth, so we aren’t sure.  She’s between 1 and 4.”
Done. “I want to adopt her.”
The woman looked shocked. “Oh, well she is a sweetheart, but she requires a good home.”
I look young. And dumb. It’s my blonde hair or my 5 foot tall stature, or something, but I know this woman thought I was going to just put Gretchen in my purse and feed her cheeseburgers.
“I know. I want to adopt her.” This dog was pleading to me. I had to help her.
She got Gretchen out of her cage and took both of us into this little visiting room while she went and did a FBI background check and credit score run on me of something.  Gretchen and I just kinda stared at each other. It was like an awkward date.
“So, um. Hi. I’m uh, going to take you home.”
“Ear infections, huh? So, uh, do those hurt or just itch?”
“Gosh, I um, didn’t really bring anything. Are you hungry?”
She came over and I petted her head. We sat there until the woman came back in. I was legal and approved. I paid the money, filled out the pages of paperwork, bought a rhinestone studded leash and collar set at the gift store and took Gretchen home.

I didn’t like 'Gretchen'. My parents had a dachshund named Gretchen and that felt wrong to have two dogs with the same name. I was driving Gretchen home and this jackass stopped short at the stoplight, “Gretchennnnn!” I yelled as she flew into the dashboard. She looked at me in shock and I just smiled. My favorite playwright is Tennessee Williams. He wrote Streetcar Named Desire. That is the one where Stanley Kowalski yells, "Stella!!" from the street.
“You’re Stella, aren’t you?” Of course she was. It made sense. The ugly sister. This dog was ugly. But there was a charm in her that turned the ugly into beautiful. Just like Stella. The name was done.