We have been on a long hiatus for a while. For a wide range of reasons. December was a crazy month of holidays, family, potty training, travelling and me having less and less of the computer while Erik was getting ready for finals.
I had great plans of capturing Norman's first Christmas, as well as our first Christmas as a family of four and having this wonderful comback story to our page. However our Christmas was not anything worth cataloging. In fact it was the reason I have not blogged since.
Our Christmas plans were easy. Erik finished his finals on the Friday a week before Christmas. That weekend I helped my grandparents wrap their 20 something presents for the family, finish wrapping our presesnts (Norman opened many presents, which ended with them being in a box in the closet until last minute), getting enough doggie supplies (food, treats, thing for norman to chew on, bags, etc) to last til after Christmas, and everything else we needed to do to spend 5 days on the road. We both worked quite a bit since we both took 6 days off for the holidays. Monday night we got the car ready, so after Erik finished with work on Tuesday, we would hit the road his parents' in Axtell, NE. We planned on being there until Christmas day morning when we would hit the road in the very early AM to go to my family lunch/dinner in Arlington, NE. And finish the night at my other grandparents in North Omaha before getting home for me to start work at 4 am on the 26th. This meant we had to pack EVERYTHING for EVERY Christmas. All the holdiay clothes, all the holiday shoes, all the presents...everything.
Sammy started to get anxiety when we began packing that much stuff, and even more when we went to bed without all of it! Norman was oblivious. Sammy and Norman have very different personalities. In many, ...most ways, they compliment each other with their personalities. Sammy is extremely people orientated. He still has some pet shop dog in him. His main objective is to please us and get every person he can come in contact with to love him. He takes treats at petstores, and set them on my feet so he can have his cookie, and get some petting, too. This made potty training and learning sit and don't chew that and all those puppy things really easy. Basically no work. (Which is a big part of why we got Norman while Sammy was still only a year and a half old.) However this keeps Sammy's awareness intensly heightened when we are not home. Leaving home is an open opportunity to meet people, get love and participate in the great big world. He is like a kid that can't miss anything. He will avoid napping, eating...and anything else he precieves to distract him from the big, fun world. Which can make travelling and extended time away from home difficult. Sammy is also quite protective. He has also become protective over his little brother. At this point, Norman also appreciated it. Norman would walk behind Sammy. Sammy took this timid sign to the next level. No one or nothing could get to Norman before Sammy sniffed it and gave his ok. Also leading into his mediating nature. Sammy almost can't handle conflict. Even at the dogpark, if he sensed two dogs unhappy with each other, he runs over and stands in the middle and tries to fix it. Sammy also applies this with people and even between Norman and us. If Norman is getting in trouble for pottying or scratching at the carpet or biting, Sammy comes over and tries to stand between us and whines (since his need for love from us dominates his protecting his brother). He senses tension between people, whether it's at the petstore, just us disagreeing or playfighting, it doesn't matter, it's just upsetting for him.
Norman on the other hand, is more of a true puppy. Although he loves both Erik & I, and everyone else he has met, Sammy is his world. He wants to please Sammy more than us. When he is being disciplined, he looks in Sammy's direction, especially when we first brought him home. It is something we have been working on, and have done fairly well at, just to 100%. I call Sammy our peoples' dog and Norman a dog's dog. Norman was lucky enough to be with lots of dogs and other animals (even if not directly) before coming to our home. Then when coming here, he has come into a family that had a dog in the house, as well as in families with many dogs. Our apartment complex has many dogs of many sizes which keeps him in contact with other dogs. Sammy more often goes to the owner, while Norman goes to the dog. Norman always feels comfortable. While Sammy becomes relaxed and himself at home, Norman's home is the whole world. What you see is what you get with him. He is not any more hyper or jumpy or lovey on walks, in the car, at the dogpark, at pet stores, or at other people's homes than at our home. Norman can take a nap whenever, where ever. He doesn't lower his eating, if anything, he eats more. Norman manages to find extra treats almost anywhere he goes. At the vet, he found the treat jar right away and managed to get into it while the vet was explaining his shots to us without anyone noticing. Then remembered where it was at for every vet visit after. Norman is inquisitive. He is very curious, and finds all sorts of fun when no one is watching his every move. One thing never changes, though. Norman always looks to Sammy for guidance, or finds some kind of solitude or enjoyment away from all the action.
These two became best buddies, brothers and equal mischevious playmates very quickly. They were inseperable by the time Christmas came. We were pleased with this since they were going to have alot on their plate. More than that though, I was worried they were going to need it to survive Axtell. Which I was right.
For Axtell, there were going to be 8 people (Erik's parents, Erik's older brother and his wife, Erik's younger sister and her finacee, and us), 5 dogs (Erik's parents' dog, Shithead, an older Shar Pei, a BF of Sammy's; Erik's brother's dog, Bella, an older big black lab; Erik's sister's dog, Max, an Australian cattle dog 4 months younger than Sammy/just over a year older than Norman; Sammy and Norman) and 1 cat (Sneezy, a farm cat). They had all met before, but never been together, all 5 of them. Max is a very smart and energetic dog that is extremely good at getting others to play. Something that makes interactions between him and Sammy interesting. Sammy is slowing down. He is getting lazier and lazier by the day. Max is about the opposite. Norman at this point still took many naps and was very small so could hide for his puppy naps. Sammy, would not hide. He doesn't want to miss anything. Sammy and Max are two teenage doggies, 4 months apart, both ready to be alpha male at this neutral enviornment. Well, fairly neutral. Sammy has been there many, many time. Max, not til just a couple weeks before. Sammy has laid down his scent and made his mark there many times, and I think felt it was more his than Max's. Sammy knows all the cool places to go, where to chase rabbits, where to find food and Sneezy, he knows the lay of the land. He also had a little brother to protect now. Max plays extremely rough. He jumps on Sammy, stands on top of him so Sammy can't stand up, snaps towards him to instigate play, and will throw his arms around like a boxer. If that isn't enough to drive Sammy crazy, Max also jumps on both Erik and I (more me than Erik) constantly. Max is a good dog, just a little much for our lifestyle as Sammy gets older and his hip displacia becomes more apparent. Max is also very smart and knows how Sammy can't stand to say "NO" to playing. Sammy can't stand to miss a thing. In previous experiences, Sammy and Max have been pulled apart a few times. Sammy pulls Max down by the excess skin around his face and hold him down. Max has snapped at Sammy a few times and Sammy has gotten a cut near his eye with some blood before. Needless to say, this was a very nervewracking trip for me. I was extremly anxious and hesitant for Christmas for months. All of which heightened when we got Norman.
When we first got there, Norman was awestrucken by Shithead and Bella. Norman still had some fear of big dogs when he first saw them. Until this trip, everytime we saw a big dog, Norman just stopped, pottied on the ground, and hid behind Sammy til he felt safe. Then he was fine, but not til after Sammy started to play with his buddies. Sammy never had this fear, he always jumped in, so Norman's reaction always made me giggle. The four of them had fun running around outside, well mostly Sammy and Norman. The girls were not as playful but could be baited into a little playing here and there. We were all sitting together watching a movie when Max arrived, which instantly changed the feeling in the air. I'm sure I was not helpful since my concern had to have been evident to Sammy.
They played some that night and overall it was ok. Norman mostly just stayed away from Max at first, and Sammy and Max played for a little while. The next morning, Sammy woke up limping. Their intensity was instant. This was the 23rd. It was a very long day. The morning was rough and by noon I was trying to separate Sammy and Norman from Max with almost no success. Us girls left for a shopping trip for a couple hours in the early afternoon, and when I came back everything had been a disaster.
Family dynamics left people in tense situations with a cloud above the air sucking out the oxygen. And Sammy came running to me like he did when we first brought him home. He hadn't looked at me that needy in longer than I could really care to remember. He ran to me and jumped up and did a light scratch on my leg to tell me he wanted me to hold him. At that exact moment Max jumped on me and Sammy and left a scratch on me while Sammy snarled as much as he could. I held him for a couple minutes then showed my purchases to Erik with Sammy constantly asking me to hold him. Norman was no where to be found. I asked Erik, and he had no idea. Norman was hiding under a table curled up in a ball sleeping. I tried to pull him out, and he made it quite clear he wasn't coming out. Sammy and I sat in a chair and he buried his head into my armpit while Max sat at my feet sparatically whining and wagging his tail not leaving. Sammy was completely limp, like a 1 year old after a long day of playing. While I was sitting there, Erik's dad told me that he was an aggressive dog. I said something along the lines that he tends to hold his own when he needs to. He told me no, that he was an aggressive dog which would be too bad and Norman, who appeared to be a good dog, would probably pick that up and be aggressive, too.
With emotions I am unable to describe, I fought Max to stand up and carried Sammy up to our room with Max on my heels. I shoo-ed Max out of our room and laid on the bed with Sammy and began crying instantly. Knowing that Erik was having his own stuff going on I texted my mom and got lots of venting out. Sammy passed out on the bed and didn't move. It didn't occur to me to check him out, which I probably should have. A while later, Erik came to find me to tell me it was getting close to dinner time, in which case he heard the whole story. We went downstairs to take Sammy out, but Sammy was having a hard time standing. We realized his front paw was swollen and his hip/back leg on the same side was extremely stiff and he was limping heavily on. Instandly bringing me back to tears. We carried Sammy outside and found Norman in a hiding spot and took the two out by themselves. Sammy was barely able to walk and made it a few steps into the grass to go to the bathroom and that was it. Erik's dad had apologized for upsetting me and we ate dinner.
The rest of the night we had both the boys on our laps. Both tensing and jumping up everytime they heard the jingle of Max's collar. Both unable to completely calm down until we took them into the bedroom. Sammy got some of Shithead's arthritis medicine which helped the swelling go down by the next morning, which came way too soon. Erik & I had a hard time sleeping, so we both were exhausted for Christmas Eve. Family dynamics led to an interesting breakfast, where afterward everyone split up and almost went to their own corners. Erik, Sammy, Norman & I went to our room. Erik & I took turns sitting with them while the other took the shower. However, neither Sammy & Norman could sleep. Every noise made them jump awake. But resting was still better than the alternative. Erik wanted to leave after dinner, like his sister, so he had us get ready just in case. Eventually, I convinced him to stay so we could get a good start on the next day. But the day definately fought back.
In vain, I tried to keep my boys separeted from Max. Since Norman had the ability to hide when he was intimidated or to separate from Max, I kept a closer eye on Sammy. This led to new problems I was not equipped to hand myself. Over the course of these two days, Norman had been pinned twice, both of which seemed to be his fault. Once when he was playing with Max. Norman was around 13 or 14 lbs at this time. Sammy and Norman play wrestle and tug of war often, and Sammy is extremely gentle with Norman. Norman was playing tug of war with Max, and Max pulled hard enough Norman fell into Max, near Max's private area, so Max went for him and pinned him. Norman should have known not to do that at shy of 4 months, I guess. The other time, while the turkey was being cut, Norman was given a teeny little taste. As Norman put his nose to the ground to eat it, he was pinned again by Max. Which should have been expected and ok, since it was over food. Norman became more and more dependant on Sammy, and Sammy will never back down for Norman, so every little noise or anything both Sammy and Norman were involved together. Erik & I had to become a team to, in my mind, keep our boys safe. All day I felt like one of the parents you see or hear about on TV or at the park constantly counting their kids to make sure they are there and safe. Literally if one of us went to the bathroom, the other was notified.
Family dynamics were much greater that day, to the point I thought it was a good day. But everytime something about dogs came up, our dogs who together didn't total the weight of any one other dog, were the scapegoats. They were the trouble makers, they were aggressive, they were the bad dogs. An instant end to fun and happy feelings the rest of Christmas. Something Sammy really seemed to pick up on and watch people interactions.
Christmas morning, we got up early and left. We got the boys into the car and they were home. They passed out before we even got the car started. They were together and could relax without missing anything or worried about how they would awaken.
Unfortnately we still had 2 more Christmas' that day. They were good. The boys got stockings from my mom and presents at my grandparent's. At my grandparent's they were teamed with 2 basset hounds, Ralphie and Lola, and a poodle, Merry (she was a Christmas dog, and my twin cousins named her). Ralphie and Lola are two awesome bassets that Sammy had met before. They are two rescues. Ralphie has anxiety around lots of people, noise and commotion and has some medicine from the vet to help him in such situations as giant family get togethers. Ralphie and Norman were instantly bonded. They were out scouting for food around the house and yard. They stuck together and did their own thing away from everyone else. Lola has not been arond dogs much before being adopted by my aunt and is uninviting at first meeting. Sammy however, can see the possibility. It took alot of Sammy quielty following, but the previous time had Lola sad when Sammy wasn't right by her and she sought him out a couple times. Lola had to re-warm up to Sammy, but it didn't take long, then those two were buddies. Both of which Merry followed and somewhat annoyed both of them. But both Sammy and Norman had a fantastic time and got lots of yummy yummy treats given to them. Which was the best way to end Christmas.
To the boys, however, Christmas wasn't over. Sammy still got baby asprin to help him get up and move around after sleeping all night. Both were obviously relaxed to be home, but after the first couple days and they were re-rested, they we unable to sleep through any noise. They were jumpy, constantly, for a few weeks. When the boys got their bath (they were smell-lly!) I found their sides and neck and even one of Sammy's paws had many scabs on them. Something that just put me back into tears that they had endured even more than I had thought. Norman hid behind Sammy at the sight of any dog for the next week. Sammy has yet for any dog to meet Norman before meeting him. My cousins came to town right at New Year's for a late Christmas with my grandparents and us, and they brought Eva, their dog. Sammy and Eva hit it off instantly when they met. They were sad without each other, so we were excited to get them back together. All three ran and ran, and played and played for a couple hours. It hit a dramatic end, however.
Norman became very tired and laid down to take a nap. Eva was going to try just once more to get him to play. As all dogs do, she put her forearms down and wagged her tail. Norman didn't budge. Eva then picked up a front paw and went to nudge Norman. Instantly, before I even could comprehend what was happening, Norman got up and squealed as though he had been hurt, barked back and whimpered, like a puppy does to his mom, while running to Sammy, and climbed over Sammy's back to get behind him, the most honest display of fear I think I have ever seen. Sammy, without a single thought, was up and snarled. Eva came closer, not understanding, just wanting to play, and Sammy ended up snapping at her. He didn't pin her, but probably would have if I hadn't been close enough to pull him off, while Norman jumped on me.
This was a real awakening that Christmas was going to have some lasting effects. I was considering putting them into doggie classes just to have them meet new dogs in a controlled enviornment to see reactions and work on them. No classes were starting for a few weeks, so I considered the "bring home doggie trainers" the humane society has. But they are extremely expensive. For the time being, we were going to try to work with them on our own. Try to make sure they didn't have any interactions that were too bold. I was very nervous about anything with them, and really had no idea what to do, but knew they couldn't even get comfortable at home yet. It was definatley going to be a slow baby step process, which is how we ended up on our long hiatus.
They are doing much better. We have not been in too much contact with dogs though. Only while on their leashes. But they are happy to meet other dogs, Norman doesn't even potty anymore. He even tried to play with a giant black lab at the vet, while he was there by himself. Sammy has seemed to change from a puppy to an adult over this trip. He doesn't seem as free spirited, and seems to smile a lot less. He is sleeping more, slowing chasing Norman and overall much more lax. Norman is still able to bring out the puppy in him, and Sammy gets more and more smiley every week. Norman seems mostly over the experience, but I haven't taken the dogs to the dogpark because you never know who you will meet, I don't know what will spark them to be scared again, and it's too big to be unsure.
Over the last couple of months, they are just amazing dogs. I don't see aggressiveness at all. Sammy is assertive and likes to be apart of it all, still. They are still the best of friends. They lay down together, they share bones and toys, they wrestle and chase each other, they are great together. It seems as thought they would have no idea how to be apart now. Exactly what we wanted. However, Erik & I are not over Christmas, yet. This blog is may be (big maybe) the third or fourth time I have even laid out our Christmas experience. At this point, I never want them to go through this again. I want them there. I haven't spent any day without seeing them. They travel with us, everything and I can't imagine spending a holiday without them. But after this past Christmas, I feel like I have been selfish. Sure, they want to be there, but they would be healthier, safer, and probably happier staying with my mom while we make these holiday trips. And such, I don't see them ever being in this situation again. At this point, I am going to try to keep them separated from Max and family get-togethers, but I don't know how long that will last. I also know that I still have hurt feeling about it all, and will still need to go day by day and holdiay by holiday.
But I am pleased to say that they do play nicely, sleep through all the little noises (and some big ones) and have healed, mostly. I also hope to get more blogs out, when I can snag the computer, to be more updated in their fun. It should be somewhat easier since I got a promotion at the beginning of the year and have a normal Monday thru Friday job, starting at 7 am, and make my schedule from there. The boys are very happy with this change, too!