Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Mid-Week Post: Suffering from Puppy Brain

It's seldom spoken about, no one wants to admit they have it, it's one of those diseases people only talk about in hushed tones.  I've heard that many people have been stricken with this malady and the symptoms are varied and many, but I can only speak from my experience and tell the story of how I suffered and, alas, continue to suffer.

Believe me, I've learned the hard way that once you have Puppy Brain (PB) it's really tough to find the cure and harder still to regain the normalcy of life as you once knew it.

I was first stricken with PB when a litter of Weimaraner puppies was born in New Jersey at the home of Linda and Walter Hartheimer.  I was hoping to get a little girl pup and once I realized that, with a litter of 7 girls and 1 boy, my chances were pretty good that one of those pups would be mine the symptoms started to appear.

I thought I'd be insulated by the distance between my home and the home of the puppies, but somehow, even across 400 miles, the infection seemed to spread.  I found myself continually looking at photos of the puppies, checking Facebook numerous times daily hoping for updates and losing myself in thoughts and dreams of all things puppy.  

As the disease took over my brain it started to control my purchases, I bought puppy training books, puppy toys, blankets for puppies, a puppy collar, a food dish -- oh, would it ever end?  And I didn't even have a puppy!

I pored over websites that offered any information on how to train puppies, read blogs and even followed the video link to a litter of pups that was of a similar age as the Weimaraner litter so that I'd have an idea of what was happening with that Grayhart litter in New Jersey.

Like a terrible addiction, PB took such a grasp on me that I decided that it would be a good idea to drive to New Jersey to visit the puppies in person and to drive back all in one day!  I convinced myself that spending time with the pups would be like attending a spa and would ease the affliction that raged within me. In hindsight, it's obvious that a person must be sick to imagine that a fun day constitutes about 14 hours on the road to spend a couple hours smelling puppy breath and getting to know these adorable little creatures.  Then I talked a friend into going with me to keep me company (thanks, Karen Yohe, for being as crazy as me)!  Imagine my horror when I found that, instead of easing my PB symptoms, the visit with the pups exacerbated the disease and seemed to slow the passing of time so that four weeks seemed much more like four years.

I found myself constantly worrying about everything, the puppies, their mother, the Hartheimers.  Then when Hurricane Sandy threatened the east coast my stress level rose and the worrying started keeping me awake.  When I thought my level of worry was at the highest elevation ever reached in the annals of time, news of the loss of power at the puppies' home and damage to the deck and roof almost pushed me over the edge.

It was about this time that PB pretty much took over my life.  All I wanted to talk or think about was puppies.  I lost the ability to concentrate, which meant that my work suffered; it was impossible to proofread hundreds of pages of work when I couldn't stay focused for even one paragraph.  

As the date to pick up the puppy neared I became more and more anxious for the day to arrive, as I knew it would help me to overcome these difficulties.  I started the trip to New Jersey on a Wednesday evening and felt fortunate that I'd be staying at the Hartheimers' home until I left with my pup on Sunday.
To pass the time at the breeder's home I tried to pitch in to help with the pups, but found that the PB syndrome had worsened and become almost a curse.  Every effort I made to do good seemed to go wrong, puppies escaped, messes were made and mistakes seemed to rule my days.  Even a Weimaraner charm on a bracelet I wore one day broke off and the small charm fell into the puppy pen, where results could have been disastrous if it had made its way it into a puppy mouth and digestive tract before it was found.

Finally I found out which pup would be mine, attended the Puppy Party and it was time to head for home to start a new stage of life with my beautiful puppy Rigby.  I hadn't realized that putting a new puppy in a crate in your car to head home would cause more symptoms of PB to arise.  I recommend that no one should drive 7 hours alone with a new pup.  Although Rigby was a great traveler and I never made a wrong turn, I traveled many extra miles due to my poor concentration and diminished mental status.  Twice I convinced myself that I had gone the wrong way and turned around to fix the error only to find that the error I made was doubting myself in the first place.

Once again my friend Karen stepped up to help me in my travels from New Jersey as I called her several times during the trip to have someone to talk to as I drove those many hours.  The conversation helped to keep me calm and made the trip much easier.

After I arrived home and Rigby started to settle in I found that some of the PB symptoms seemed to be alleviated and I felt that I was on the mend.  I still had some worries, since we had not had such a young dog in our house for over 25 years, and I know my sleep patterns were not yet back to normal, especially the night I woke up remembering a conversation in a dream about puppies and parvo.  But my ability to concentrate seemed to be restored and I started catching up on the backlog of work that had piled up.

One day shortly after bringing Rigby home I had a bit of a relapse in the concentration area that proved to be rather embarrassing.  I was with a friend and Rigby was in the crate in the back of the SUV when I decided to get some food from a fast food restaurant. I pulled up to the menu board and ordered a sandwich and drink, then pulled up to the first window to pay for my purchase.  The clerk at the window noticed Rigby and commented on how cute she was, and that compliment was more than my system could handle.  I thanked her and, beaming with pride, drove off without stopping to pick up my food.  I felt a bit sheepish when I had to circle around the building to stop at the pickup window and tolerate the well-deserved teasing from the restaurant employees.

As the weeks of puppy ownership have started to melt one into the other I do think that I will make a full recovery from this episode of Puppy Brain and I struggle to avoid relapses.  I'm convinced that the more sleep I get the sooner I'll get over this, but I think the angst will always be there, at least for me, the constant worry that I'm a good owner, giving my puppy all that she needs; that I won't fail her with my efforts to train her to become a wonderful companion and fun dog to live with for many, many years; that she's getting enough exercise, enough food -- well, I think you get the picture.

I have no idea if I'll ever have another episode of Puppy Brain or if this is a one-time event.  I've heard that there is no vaccination available for this disease and that some people have suffered through the syndrome many times throughout their life and I even think I have a friend or two who are currently battling with their own bouts of Puppy Brain, whether they care to admit it or not. 

I can gladly admit that Rigby is more than worth all the suffering I did with Puppy Brain and I'm so glad to have her and look forward to enjoying her more and more as the Puppy Brain symptoms dissipate!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Rigby, Thanksgiving and Photos

Rigby's first Thanksgiving was a pleasant, warm day and she enjoyed going for a walk around the block and a run in a field in celebration of the big day.  In the evening she pestered her brother Rocky and gave him a few kisses.

Rigby's training continues and she now offers a sit as a default behavior and looks to me to deliver a treat for her good behavior.  We started working fronts and finishes to the left this week and even a few steps of heeling.  She is doing downs from a stand, as well as a sit.  She seems to enjoy working -- oops, playing and I'm keeping the sessions short and trying to keep it all fun.

This week Rigby went back to Lowe's and met more people and we even did some training in a quiet area of the store, some sits and downs.  

She loves her lion toy!
The biggest adventure for Rigby this week was going to her first photo session today!  We drove for over an hour to get to the location and so she got more crate time in the vehicle and she traveled well both coming and going.  The photo session was held at a dog training school and this was the first time Rigby had gone to a place with strange dogs and I'm sure there were many new smells.  We kept her up and away from the other dogs and she seemed to handle it all very well.

When it was time for her photos she behaved very much as a puppy should, but Barb was able to get some cute shots despite her antics.  I am so anxious to see the final photos and to share them here on the blog!

She's growing up quickly!
I can't wait for her to get her next set of shots on December 10 so that she will be able to go more places with me, begin tracking and meet more people.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Week One - The Fun Begins

It's hard to believe that Rigby has been with us one full week!  It took her a few days to settle in with us, but now she seems at home and she's playing hard and getting used to our schedule and becoming a part of the family.

Rigby and my older Weims are doing well together.  She likes to jump on Rocky's bed and last night Rocky gave her a few play bows and initiated some friendly play.

After some crying the first few days, Rigby has become used to being put in her crate and rarely makes a peep.  She is sleeping through the night, eating with gusto and playing with her many toys.

This week Rigby went to Lowe's and met lots of people who thought she was very cute.  She went to my friend's beauty salon and charmed everyone there.  Rigby also had her own beauty appointment and got her nails done at another friend's grooming shop.  She spent time riding in the car in her crate and learned that she can stay in the car while I run short errands at different stores.

Rigby loves to play outside!  She seems so happy when she is out in the grass and leaves and is always exploring and finding new things to check out.

Her training has begun and this week we worked on playing tug, sitting and laying down.  Here's a video of some of our training:

Today we played outside a while and here are a video and some photos from our time in the woods:

Taking flight - almost literally


Surveying her realm

A Rigby Recall

A regal Rigby

Listening to gun shots in the distance

Stalking some imaginary prey

Striding through the woods

Friday, November 16, 2012

An Introduction to our Family

I thought I'd introduce my family or our cast of characters to the readers of this blog, especially for those readers who only know me through Facebook.

My husband Dan and I live in a small community south of Pittsburgh, PA.  Dan and I met through our mutual interest in horses and for years enjoyed trail riding and other activities with our Thoroughbred horses.  As a musician Dan traveled quite a bit and with the long hours I worked we never felt it was fair to have a dog in our home.

In 1995 Dan had a heart attack and then a stroke, which left him disabled.  Friends of ours talked me into getting a dog to keep Dan company while he was home alone when I was working, and it was that mixed breed dog, Sister, who started our journey into dog ownership.

Photos of Sister our sweet Lab mix.

We were lucky enough to have Sister until she was almost 17 years of age

In early 2003 a friend told us about a Weimaraner who needed a new home.  He was too much dog for his owner and the situation was becoming more and more difficult for the dog.  We waited quite some time for the owner of the dog to finally decide she had had enough and in November of 2003 Frankie came to live with us.  Almost four years old when we got him, we found out that we were at least the third home in which Frankie had lived.

Frankie is our first Weimaraner.  We think he probably came from a   puppy mill as he has very poor breeding and actually only has one coat.  We never cared, though, he has been a great dog and a wonderful introduction to the breed.

Living with Frankie was quite different than living with Sister.  He was always into something, learning how to open doors, drawers and cupboards.  We also found that he had some fear aggression and was afraid of strangers.  Frankie and Sister became good friends and she was a good influence on him.

Photos of Frankie and Sister (and Dan).

Labor Day weekend of 2004 I had a rather serious accident with my young Thoroughbred, which made me rethink some of my life choices.  As the breadwinner in our household it did not make sense for me to be putting myself in situations where I was not able to work and earn money, so I decided it was time to change my hobby and sell my horse.  

Memories:  Buddy was our last Thoroughbred

With Frankie still getting into most anything he wanted to in our home, I decided he needed a job and took him for some basic obedience training.  It was during these classes that I got the idea that working with dogs would be a great outlet for me and something to replace the void left when I sold my horse.

Since 2005 I have thrown myself into learning as much as I could about everything dog, and especially about Weimaraners.  It wasn't long till my interests also headed toward Weims in need of help, as I knew that my Frankie had suffered at the hands of his previous owners and I knew that helping this breed was something I wanted to do.

It wasn't long until I was offered another Weimaraner in need of a new home.  This two and a half year old male had been returned to his breeders and in October of 2006 Rocky came into our home.  Rocky suffers from separation anxiety and has a lot of trouble being crated, but he is a gentle, sweet boy and makes us laugh at his antics.

Rocky, my very handsome boy.

Through the training I did with Frankie I started to show him in obedience and rally.  I was a pure novice with much to learn, but I enjoyed the process and we were able to earn a few titles.  I also trained him for agility and we had just started his competitive career when some neurological problems arose with Frankie and I retired him at just 7 years old.  Frankie will be celebrating his 13th birthday January 20, 2013.

Frankie Blue CD RE NAJ CGC

 Frankie enjoyed his short agility career very much.

Frankie participating in the Rescue Parade at the Weimaraner Club of America National Specialty Week in 2007

With Frankie retired, I started to train Rocky and he also earned some titles in obedience and rally and we also gave tracking a try and found that we both enjoyed that sport very much. 

I also learned about therapy dogs and decided that Rocky, with his sweet disposition and friendly nature, would be a great candidate for this type of work.  We passed the Therapy Dogs International testing in October of 2007 and Rocky has made over 250 therapy visits to various places, including Washington Hospital, Western Psychiatric Institute and many schools and libraries.

I had planned to compete Rocky in agility, but during our training it became evident that something was not right and Rocky was diagnosed with wobblers syndrome, a neurological condition that caused me to retire him from any competitive activities.  We do continue to make some therapy visits, but we have also cut back quite a bit on those activities, too.  Rocky will be 9 years old May 12th of 2013.


Through my membership in the local Weimaraner club I became familiar with Tri-State Weimaraner Rescue and I became a volunteer with the group.  In the last four or so years I have helped with transporting and fostering quite a few Weims.  In the last year alone, I fostered three Weims, each under a year old.  My work with rescue also advanced my education about dogs and taught me much about working with dogs with different temperaments and problems.

So now it's time to start the next chapter of our lives with Weimaraners and we're excited that Rigby is a member of our family and we will enjoy watching her grow and develop.  Personally, I'm anxious to start training with a puppy and am already having a great time with our little girl.

Rocky and Rigby getting acquainted.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Rigby Comes Home - Day 1

Rigby came home on November 11, 2012.  She was born September 15, 2012, in a litter bred by Linda and Walter Hartheimer, who have Grayhart Weimaraners.  

This litter is known as The Rockstar litter and the puppies' names were to be based on the playlist from the top 100 Guitarists of all time on the "Rolling Stone" magazine listing.  So because the Hartheimers live in New Jersey and Rigby and her litter mates survived Hurricane Sandy, her registered name is Grayhart's Rider on the Storm.

Rigby's breeding is:
BIF BISS CH Pike's Peak Silversmith Summit SH SDX NRD V
CH Grayhart's Purple Haze CD JH OA OAJ SD CGC VX

The call name, Rigby, came from the Beatles song "Eleanor Rigby," one of the songs I considered to use as a name for my pup.  When we discovered there is already a Weimaraner with that song title in her name, the decision was made to find another formal name that would be more unique, but I loved the name Rigby so much as a call name that I did stick with that.  So, in a sense, Rigby is named for two rock songs.

My plan is for Rigby to be a performance dog, specializing in tracking, obedience, rally and agility and possibly trying some field work.  Our journey together is just beginning and I hope to share our adventures on this blog, so follow along if you'd like!

Rigby was the purple puppy in her litter and her new collar continues with that theme.

These photos are from her first day in her new home.
The trip from New Jersey to Southwestern PA to bring Rigby home was a 7-hour drive, which she tolerated very well, hardly making a peep and only requiring two potty breaks along the way.

Her first day in her new home also went well and she was introduced to the clicker and started learning to sit.  She is a quick learner and will be fun to play with and train.

Here are some photos of Rigby at play.