Show me your teeth, part 1

April 2018

NOTE: I’m not posting pictures with this post because they’re gross.  And so is some of the content.  Just kidding, there are two pictures of Zozo but they’re from after surgery so there’s no medical stuff in them.

Our 10 year old man needs a bit of a tune up.  He has a fatty tumor growing on his chest and a skin tag on his eye lid that’s finally starting to bother him.  His breath is terrible.  TERR-I-BLE.  After consulting with our vet at Caring Hands Animal Hospital, we decide to go ahead with the trifecta of cosmetic surgery: boob job, eye lift and teeth whitening.  Well, not exactly a teeth whitening, but a full dental cleaning.  We drop him off for his procedures and go about our business, waiting for the pup-date from the vet.

So here’s the thing: remember when Zozo was puppy and I freaked out because he lost his teeth?  Since then, we’ve been compulsive about his mouth.  We brush his teeth as often as he’ll let us.  He gets greenies.  He plays with flossing toys.  We do our best.

But our best can’t tackle anatomy.  Zozo has tiny teeth and big ol’ gums.  Food can get stuck and fester, and we can’t help him because he doesn’t show signs of discomfort or show symptoms other than stinky breath.  He’s nonchalant about this stuff.

The vet calls.  It’s not great, and the Bad Dog Mom soundtrack starts droning in my head, so I can only pick out incidental words: gingivitis, cavities, extractions.  Periodontal Disease.  Capital P.  Capital D.  With that, I snap back.

Colgate defines it like this:

“Perio” means around, and “dontal” refers to teeth. Periodontal diseases are infections of the structures around the teeth, which include the gums, periodontal ligament and alveolar bone. In the earliest stage of periodontal disease — gingivitis — the infection affects the gums. In more severe forms of the disease, all of the tissues are involved.”

It’s a disease of stages that progresses from sore and potentially bleeding gums (gingivitis), to teeth loss or shifting and bacterial infections.  The American Veterinary Dental College says it’s one of the most common ailments in adult dogs and cats that’s totally preventable.  Ugh.

Things got away from us and his teeth revolted and we’re terrible parents.  The vet reassures me: he’s 10.  We made it this far without a formal cleaning.  We did our job.  Nature interfered.


They’ve done a thorough cleaning and several extractions.  10 extractions.  Four upper front teeth, two lower center teeth and four random molars.  It’s more than we ever expected.  We’ll take turns staying home with him, snuggling and cooing and generally everyone feels miserable about the situation.IMG_4808

He’ll start feeling like himself in 10 days.  (10 years.  10 teeth.  10 days).  He’s on wet food until his gums heal.  He’s had a tumor on his chest removed.  His eyelid tag turned out to be a ruptured gland, but there’s no danger for further infection.  No stairs for 48 hours.  No running for 3-5 days.

Fast forward a year.  His style of play has changed, since he can no longer tug and his tennis balls slop out of his mouth instead of securely sticking in his jaw.  He hoovers his dry food like a champ, so we’re spared the smell of canned wet food (praise be).  And he’s got the cutest “buck tooth” smile.


We’ve had lessons in brushing his teeth.  We brush at home 3-5 times per week.  We get regular cleanings when he gets groomed.  We check his mouth more thoroughly (when he lets us).  When his breath is bad, I panic.

But this is ten.  I guess.


Epilogue: the tooth fairy did come.  She brought peanut butter ice cream and sleeps on bed with dad and a new plushy toy to destroy.

Wordless Wednesday: All clear, no stones!



MJ’s been voted Caring Hands Animal Hospital’s “Pet of the Week”

Read all about it!


Pet of the Week.

Stumps McNubbin

April 2013



immediately post-surgery.  medicated, coned and anti-social

immediately post-surgery. medicated, swollen, coned and anti-social. and i cried because i thought we’d broken her spirit.

the morning after, when mj demonstrated that painkillers could only enhance her cute wiggliness

day 1: the morning after, when mj demonstrated that painkillers only enhanced her cute wigglyness.  silly, worrying mama.  she’s just as spirited as ever.

so long as she was supervised, we kept her cone off.  she was way more comfortable, and less whiny, this way.

day 2: so long as she was supervised, we kept her cone off.  she was way more comfortable, and less whimpery, this way.

"i broke my cone mama.  you got duckytape?"

day 4: “i broke my cone mama. you got duckytape?”

"maybe i'll get my stitches out today? " 7 days post-op.

“maybe i’ll get my stitches out today? ” 7 days post-op.

stitches, be gone!

day 10: stitches, be gone!  note: she is using a pink and brown polka dot ribbon to fasten on her cone.  a girl’s gotta look good.


Still Stumped

April 2012- April 2013

For a year, we try to keep things under control. We reinforce “settle” and “calm” once MJ’s tail gets going, but inevitably the tip opens up and we’re applying pressure, wiping down walls and bandaging her tail. We pad sharp corners and rearrange furniture. We invest in rolls of gauze and suture tape. We should have bought stock in Clorox wipes.

Our coddling and furbaby-proofing does us no good. The carpeted floor inflicts as much damage as a table leg. We just can’t get MJ’s tail to heal.

Happy Tail has foiled our efforts. We’re running the risk of infection or exposed bone now. The vet tells us it’s time. We hang our heads and schedule the series of appointments.

Our little girl- the forever baby of our family- is going to have her tail docked. We confer with the vet about how much versus how little to amputate (ugh, that word). We discuss traditional versus laser surgical options. We understand the follow-up visits and medication and what will likely be MJ’s journey back to health.

We tried. It sounds so lame, but we did our best. This is our mantra. We did our best. We’re not electing this procedure. It’s not cosmetic, it’s necessary.

woe is tail!

And yet, we feel SO guilty. Like we’re somehow letting her down. During the week leading up to her surgery, James and I talk to each other. We put both dogs on the couch and try to explain to them what’s going on. We cuddle with MJ alone and try to make her understand.

“I would feel so much better about this if we could actually explain this to her and know she understands. She doesn’t get a say in the matter.”

“Yes, but we’re her voice. And we tried.” There’s that sentiment again.

We (I) call the vet and ask all sorts of questions:
– Is this going to change her personality? (Probably not)
-Are you sure there’s nothing else we can do? (You’ve done what you can. This is the next step.)
-Do other furparents feel this guilty? (You feel worse about it than she will. And we’ll do a good job managing her discomfort.)
-Are we doing the right thing? (Yes)
-Will this impact her balance or mobility at all? (Nope)
-Can I keep the bit of tail you remove? (Uh….)

I take a video of her tail as evidence that she once had one.

The morning of her surgery , I drop Miss off at the vet on my way to work. James gets a text message letting him know that the package has been delivered.  And then we wait…

To be Continued, again.


April 2012

MJ’s annual vet check-ups and boosters occur in April. It’s sort of a big deal for her: she sits up front in the car, looking out the window, jamming along to the radio. She wiggles her way through the parking lot, charming all of the macho-men with their neon sneakers and mesh shorts as they strut to and from the Gold’s Gym next door.

The Vet Techs know Miss is coming, and they’re ready to pounce with snuggles and squees and cameras and treats. She gladly rolls to her back to proudly display her tummy for rubs, giving kisses to anyone her tongue can reach. Thwap thwap thwap goes her tail on the floor, against the legs of the waiting room chairs, the corner of the exam table, and the shins of doctors, techs and other patients. She’s happily in her element.

Little does she know that in 15 minutes, after she’s poked and prodded and injected and rewarded, she going to have her nails trimmed. It will take three vet techs to hold her down. She wails and fights, but wiggles her tail the entire time. Weirdo.

During this struggle, the tip of her whip-of-a-tail splits open, splattering red along the walls, the floor, my jeans, the vet. As she’s released from her veterinary hug, she bounds about the exam room, tail flapping, banging on every surface as she leaves a crime scene behind her. This has never happened before. She needs to be sedated in order for the vet to clean up her tail and survey the damage.

I’m sent next door to a diner for a snack, where I send James a text message with this picture:


45 minutes later I pick up my groggy girl. She’s wearing a plastic test tube stuffed with gauze on her tail to provide some protection, and it clicks as she weakly thumps it when she sees me. Anti-inflammatories and pain killers and cleaning instructions are distributed.

I carry her to the car. She curls up on the passenger side floor, whimpering the entire ride home.


Once home, she neatly tucks into a chair and sulks woozily.

Thus begins our year of Happy Tail.


To be continued….

Strange Men Make Me Nervous

January 2014

Doodle is sensitive. New people scare him; men, in particular, stress him out. He’s come a long way since he came home, but it doesn’t take much to trigger a tail-tuck, ears flattened, coat blowing, eyes-wide panic pupttak.

Yesterday, I took Zo to the vet. Right after Thanksgiving, he had a small cut on top of his paw that he licked so much that he removed all of the hair around it in a perfect circle. We cleaned and treated the wound, and kept it covered so he wouldn’t agitate it further. It healed. Hooray. Then after New Year’s, he started compulsively licking at the same spot. There was an abrasion, and the hair pattern was taking on crop circle patterns. Time to call the professionals.

After work, Zo and I hopped in the car, seat warmers a-toasting, and made our way over to the vet. Parking was a nightmare, since it’s freezing and everyone was fighting for spaces that required as little outdoor exposure as possible. Oh, and the vet’s office is in the same complex as a Gold’s Gym, and the Resolutioners were resolving… Noise, traffic, people, strange smells. Eyes, ears, tail. Poor guy.

Once inside the vet’s office, he settled as best as he could by fortressing up under my chair.


The vet saw us quickly: a new-to-us male doctor. Treats were issued to bribe friendship. Zo has always been food-focused, and it calmed him down enough for his check-over. His foot spot? Scabbed and healing. It looks good and clean. But there’s some discoloration from the attention Zo has been paying to the spot.  He can take some medicine to help it heal.

A dramatic retelling (paraphrased):

Dr. R.: We see this sometimes with nervous dogs. They fixate on a behavior until it becomes habit.

Me: So, he’s licking his paw because it’s a neurosis?

Dr. R. (Oh, he’s a Brit): Yes. The steroids will take down the inflammation, and he’ll stop agitating his paw.

Me: OK.

Dr. R.: Right now, his nervousness is manageable. It could be this is a unique episode…

Me: He’s come a long way since we brought him home so many years ago. This is the first time he’s ever done something like this to himself!

Dr. R.: It could be this is the only time this will happen. It could be that the nervousness escalates. If it ever gets to the point when it’s too much, we can put him on medication to help with the symptoms. Prozac or Xanax.

And there it is. The words that I knew in my bones would come up at some point in relation to Doodle, but that we never hoped to hear. When he’s calm and comfortable, or when we can get in front of his discomfort, he’s mellow and a dream.

many treats later...

many treats later…

Part of me thinks this is actually something in our future: a dog who we just can’t get through to anymore, no matter what jobs we give him to do, emotional padding we envelop him in, and positive reinforcement and praise we give. And we’ll wait as long as we can to make a decision like this, so long as Zo isn’t completely miserable or licking his own legs bald.

Anyone out there have a nervous dog that needs a little pharmacological assistance? What have your experiences been with meds? Anyone try anything more natural as a calming agent?

Overreacting? Probably. Overthinking? Definitely. But I’m a worrier.

Warts and All

October 2009

Zozo’s got this thing on his paw. We thought maybe he had, like, a hang nail or a torn cuticle or something. Dogs get those, right? It didn’t seem to bother him, so we let it be.

Then it grew. And got scaly. And looked sort of like a horn sticking out the side of his pinky. It’s gross. And no, there are no pictures. Because it’s gross.

Like every weird medical predicament we experience with Zo, we give it one more day and then take him to the vet. Googling his symptoms (horn growth thing on dog paw no fever doesn’t hurt him) yields some fairly interesting and… educational… results, but nothing canine- or veterinary-related.

The vet’s awesome, as usual. They take his temperature. They take some blood. They take a peek and poke (doctorally, of course). Diagnosis: canine papilloma virus. In English? It’s a wart. Prognosis: good. Unless it starts to bother him, or if he starts to gnaw at it, let it be.

Next day, there are tiny little blood specks across the floor. We follow the trail, and it leads to Zo. Gnawing at the horn. James calls the vet, and we schedule a surgical appointment.

Our furrst child is heading under the knife. We fast him for a night and pick up his water when we turn in. We’re up with the dawn and waiting in the car for the vet’s office to open. As you may guess, I’m borderline hysterical.  He struts his way in, gives his winningest smile to the techs (“Helloooo Ladies!”), and doesn’t look back.

6 hours later, the vet’s office calls. He did well and they’re sending the appendage to be biopsied. He’s still super groggy from anesthesia. They’ll call us when Doodle’s ready to be picked up.

Another 5 hours, and we haven’t heard from the vet. I call, and they said we can pick him up, but he’s basically a big, drunk mess. I drive over, and he’s wobbly and unable to walk out by himself. I move my car to the door. I drop down the backseat, and a vet tech carries our 70lb goober to the car. Giggling and chatty, we made the drive home. He asks for Taco Bell.  I ask that he settles down.

James received a “you’ll never guess what’s going on” text, and he meets us outside since Zo’s too big for me to lift and carry into the house. Safely deposited on his dog bed, Zo spends the next 3 hours in and out of sleep, silly and loopy and smelly. We’re able to get some chicken and rice into his system, which helps start to sober him up. We help him outside for a potty break, and then it’s back to the couch.

The next morning, he’s a bit more himself but the giggle-fest of last night has disappeared. He whimpers. He itches at his bandages. I stay home from work and James comes home early and we hunker down together. Even Athena is nicer to Zo than usual, sharing her favorite spot on the couch (my lap).

Two days later, the bandages and e-collar don’t hold him back. He’s ripping paint from the wall and tripping up the stairs.

Three days post-surgery our wound check goes well and the biopsy came back as expected. Warts.

“You’re lucky,” says the vet tech. “A lot of dogs get these on their faces. You know, their lips. Eye.”

“Is it likely he’ll get another growth?”

“Oh. Maybe.”

“Great. I’m sure we’ll be back.”

Fast forward to spring 2013… look very closely: see anything on his beautiful (upper) eyelid?


Stubbornness, a family trait

July 2011

Apparently, after three months of puppy bliss, MJ has decided two things:

1. She will not walk on leash beyond the end of the driveway.

2. We’re not allowed to touch her feet.


The foot thing we can deal with easily: a quick swipe of a towel disguised as belly rubs when she comes indoors from a damp walk.


For nail trims, we hustle her over to the vet, where it takes three techs plus Mom and/or Dad to hold her down, where she struggles until she pukes. It’s more traumatic for us, though, because she’s wagging her tail and trying to give kisses the entire time. At least, that’s what the professionals tell us.

The walking thing is an entirely other matter. We ply her with her cheese. We speak to her excitedly. We’re fun. We’re silly. She peers at us with pity. She knows exactly what we’re up to, and she’s not having it. Zozo, on the other paw, is psyched and ready for action.

Unlike Zo, MJ didn’t arrive to us with anxiety about the world. Nothing phases her. And also unlike Zo, there was never an incident we could blame for her decision to dig in and pull back. One day, she just won’t budge. We trot happily through the gate, past the cars, down the driveway. The moment we veer left, she plops her rump down. We try going right, and she’s all, “what did I just say?”

Our furbaby cannot opt-out of walking on leash. We keep trying, switching up handlers and times of day and high value treats. She hunkers down at the edge of the driveway. “Your move, humans.”

We had definitely been considering sending the Miss to Olde Towne School for Dogs (OTSD), like we did with Zozo when his nerves got the better of him. I call and request an evaluation for MJ with our previous Trainer, Tim. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know how that went. OTSD was a huge part of our lives with Zo, and we are thrilled that they LOVE all breeds and are able to fit us in pretty much right away.

We are referred to Kathleen, who turns out to be exactly what MJ needs. Kathleen allows MJ to be her goofy, adorable self, but she won’t take any of her crap. We tried to be stern, but really… sometimes you just have to call in a professional. She’s firm and fair and generous with liver treats and belly pats. She toughens up our little love bug. Kathleen also happens to be a pretty cool chick.

Thus begins the daily shuttling of the puppy to and from school. Our evenings are filled with homework and exhausted, snore-filled naps (not necessarily from the puppy).


MJ is whip-smart. She struggles with sitting “like a dog” instead of lounging like a queen on a settee. She’ll down-stay, but she’d rather lean the back of her head against your knee so you can scratch under her chin. It turns out that she’s super-suspicious of large, potted plants. Random.

She and Zozo learn how to walk on leash beside one another and, if MJ’s on the outside, Doodle can walk for miles without freaking out at the noises and distractions of city life. That’s a huge improvement for him. If Zo gets ahead of her, MJ will pull and strain to catch up with him; we’re working on that.

But the best news is that we can get beyond the driveway and out into the neighborhood again. Two dogs. Two leashes. Combined, they outweigh me. Maybe we won’t run into any small woodland creatures.

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry

July 2011

Our little girl is coming along nicely.  Yes, she’s bull-headed and pushy and choosy with her crate-training.  Yes, she can leap clear over the top of her baby gate and make herself comfortable on the couch.  But she’s sweet and loves to snuggle.  She barrels into closed doors at the right speed and oomph to pop them open so she can investigate the happenings on the other side.  She wags her entire body.

And Zozo is amazing.  He’s patient and kind and ignores the little girl until she needs to be yapped into line.  He shows off his cues and proves to be a great big brother and occassional alpha.

Individually, they’re wonderful.  Together, they’re their own little wolf pack.  It’s delightful.

photo (2)

We’re excited to introduce MJ to the people and places we love to take Zo.  We call to schedule her for a bath.

“How old is she?”

“Oh, almost 8 months.”




“Catahoula/Pit mix.”

“…Hold on…. (hold muzaq).. I’m sorry, we don’t groom Pits.”

“Oh, but she’s very sweet and has never shown any signs of aggression.  She loves kids-“

“Sorry, no Pit Bulls.”  Click.

This happens with the daycare we like to take Zozo to.  The Yappy Hour.  I begin noticing people avoiding our pink bully as we puppy-lurch down the road (our leash skills could use some work).  MJ doesn’t understand; she just wants to shimmy and play and give kisses.

I find myself shying away from admitting she’s Pit-mixed.  “She’s Catahoula with some kind of American breed– boxer maybe.”  It’s a lie no one falls for.  She may be gloriously speckled, but her snout is all Pit. 

photo (2)

And I feel like a coward for betraying her heritage.

Gradually, when I call to make plans for spa days, daycare, boarding and training, I start the conversation off with the following phrase:

Do you have breed restrictions?

The question becomes part of our vernacular.  The answer? Unsurprising: can’t, no pit bulls. 

We became one of those families.  We’re young, living in the suburbs.  We have two rescue dogs.  One is a Pit Bull.  Obviously we’re dangerous drug dealers or thugs and criminals, and she’s vicious. 

And that’s when I get mad.