What’s In a Charlie?

When my fiancé and I adopted Charlie, the humane society had guessed that he was a German Shepherd and Australian Cattle Dog mix. 

 Here’s a flashback to the day we brought him home! 
This Shepherd/Cattle dog combo seemed likely enough- he had shepherd coloring and was about the size of a cattle dog. As time went on, we wondered if he might also have a little corgi in him, what with his foxy face, fluffy neck, and very fluffy haunches. We both also just really like corgis, so we knew that might be just wishful thinking on our parts. 

At some point, I recalled reading about a company that would analyze your dog’s DNA and tell you what breed (or combination of breeds) they were. I finally got around to googling it at the beginning of February. 

I found out that the company, Mars Veterinary, offers a product called Wisdom Panel that can test canine DNA and match it to a database of over 200 different breeds. 

It’s a bit pricey, but my fiancé and I decided to get it as a sort of Valentine’s Day gift for each other. I ordered it through Amazon and the kit arrived in about 3 days!

  
The directions were easy to follow: take the two sealed swabs provided and get a sample from the inside of your dog’s cheek. You do have to make sure they have not eaten in the past two hours to avoid food contamination. Charlie was less than thrilled about that part. 

 
Charlie didn’t exactly mind having the actual samples taken, but my fiancé did have to give him lots of pets to keep him still so I could make sure the get a good swab. 

Then I put the swabs back in the box, stuck a pre printed shipping label on it, activated the kit online, and mailed it off. 
Waiting was the hardest part. I had read that it would take between 2 and 3 weeks after the lab received the sample to process the results. 

To my pleasant surprise, I got an email saying Charlie’s results were ready one week after they were received at the lab. 

  
Say what?? Obviously we weren’t surprised by the German Shepherd or Australian Cattle dog, but Doberman? Sheltie? Lab?

After thinking about it, though, I realized Charlie has the brown on black “eyebrows” most Dobermans have. 

  
Shelties are pretty fluffy and also on the petite side, which could be where he gets the extra floof and his smaller and slimmer size than most of the other breeds in his ancestry. 

But I’m still not sure about the lab…Charlie does not like swimming at all, and I’ve seen cats learn to fetch better than he does. 

The exact breakdown of Charlie’s breeding, in case you are interested, is:

*37.5% Australian Cattle Dog

* 12.5% German Shepherd

*12.5% Shetland Sheepdog

*12.5% Labrador Retriever 

*12.5% Doberman Pinscher 

*12.5% Mixed breed- this means that some of Charlie’s ancestry was mixed beyond the 3 generations back the test looks at. The full report does show what groups (i.e., herding, sporting, terrier, etc) the DNA is most similar to. In Charlie’s case, it was the working class breeds. 

Overall, I was really thrilled with the test. It was fun to find out what kind of mutt he is and try to find some characteristics of those breeds in his looks or temperament. 

At the end of the day, though, Charlie could be any combination of breeds and he would still be 100% spoiled and 100% loved. 

  
  

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6 Months with Charlie

Today marks 6 months since we first brought Charlie home! This little guy continues to be such a ray of sunshine in my life. Everyone who meets him remarks on his sweet, friendly nature. I can’t say enough about how much I love this dog. In honor of having put up with us for half a year, here’s an update profile on Mr. Charlie.

Age: 1 1/2

Weight: Right around 40 pounds

Dog Food of Choice: Charlie eats Blue Buffalo. Until recently we were feeding him the chicken and brown rice flavor. To help with some food boredom and also hopefully help his dry, itchy skin we switched to the fish and sweet potato flavor.

People Food of Choice: Cheese. And peanut butter. But mainly cheese.

Tricks/Commands He Knows: Sit, Stay, Shake, Beg, Come are rock solid. Lay down is a little rough, but we’re working on it. Roll over is also a work in progress.

Favorite Things: Cuddles, going for walks, running and playing chase, wiggling on his back in grass, car rides, eating, and giving kisses.

Favorite Toys: Until very recently Charlie had zero interest in toys. It was like he didn’t know how to play. Then my friend Laura sent him a rope tug toy and he LOVED it. So far that’s to only one he really likes. Well, he does like his Kong. But since his main interest in that involves getting the peanut butter out of it, I don’t think it really counts as a toy.

Dislikes: Being home alone, smoke alarms (which I set off at an unfortunate rate), and the vacuum. We haven’t experienced a thunder storm since we got him so I’m not sure how he’ll do with that.

Speaking of being home alone…: I’m so happy with the progress Charlie has made with his separation anxiety. After consulting a vet, he began taking a very low dose of Prozac (yes, really). Along with some good, old fashioned time, it seems to have made a big difference. Charlie still hates being left alone and does still whine (and occasionally bark) but it is much quieter and less frequent than before. Just yesterday I set up my laptop to record him while I was out for a few hours and he spent probably 70% of the time just laying on the bed. Maybe 20% was spent looking out the window, and only 10% of the time was spent making noise. Given that when we first got him he would literally bark nonstop, this a HUGE improvement. I can only hope that time will continue to make him more comfortable being on his own.

Dog Friends: Charlie loves to go to the dog park and really enjoys playing chase with dogs that are his size or smaller. He also likes to stop and visit with dogs we meet on walks. He is, however, still very intimated by dogs that are bigger than he is unless they are also very friendly.

Now enjoy some pictures of my favorite mutt.

Sunday cuddles

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His beloved tug toy

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Being brave and making friends with the Great Dane at the dog park

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More friends!

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Can you spot the Charlie nose?

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Knee is good spot. I will nap here.

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Bedtime cuddles

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Baby steps

Unbeknownst to us, Charlie has not made much progress with his immense fear of being left alone.

We have thought that, aside from some initial distress at our departure, he eventually calmed down and spent the day doing…well, whatever dogs do all day.

Apparently this has not been the case. Our sweet Charlie, it seems, barks. A lot. All. Day. Long. Loudly and pitifully. And did I mention constantly? Literally?

Our neighbor came over to talk to us about it for the first time on Sunday. Apparently our schedules are often similar enough that no one is home during the majority of Charlie’s bark fest. But when we went out early on Sunday for breakfast, that prompted a visit.

I felt awful that Charlie (and our neighbors) had been suffering for so long without us knowing. We truly believed the strategies we had been trying were helping and he was doing well. Had we know, I definitely would have started a more aggressive desensitization program right away.

Luckily our neighbor has been pretty understanding, especially when we reassured him that we were taking/ are going to take steps to fix the problem.

Which is why is spent my day off trying every single thing I could find to help dogs with separation anxiety in addition to the several methods we already have in place.

I think I’ve found a strategy that so far has shown a lot of promise. Charlie has responded pretty well to it, and I think with more time and consistency it will help a great deal. I just wish it was possible for me to have a few days off right now, for I fear the progress we made today (which has been wonderful but by no means close to “cured” status) will be lost when Charlie is back to being on his own tomorrow.

All I can do is hope for the best and keep on trying. I really love this little guy and I so much want for him to be able to spend his days relaxed and not afraid. And not driving our neighbors crazy.

Hopefully soon I’ll be able to post a more specific description of what we have tried and what has and hasn’t helped, so that maybe someone going through the same thing can find some ideas to help their dog.

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Teacher workdays, junk food, and radial nerves

I. Love. Teacher. Workdays. Today was a mandatory teacher workday and I was more productive today than I have been all week. I’ve had some paperwork stuff that I’ve been putting off and putting off (it’s been on my to-do list for literally three weeks) because it wasn’t anything that had a specific, pressing deadline and there were other things I had to do that did have specific, pressing deadlines.

Plus, it was quiet. So, so quiet. Don’t get me wrong, I love the kiddos I work with but they can be very distracting (even when they aren’t in my room. No idea how they manage that.)

Of course, now that I got that paperwork done there’s suddenly more to do. But such is the life of a special ed teacher.

I’ve decided I really need to get better about meal planning, especially when it comes to lunch. I may have mentioned this before, but I don’t generally bring lunch to school. I was so used to never eating lunch over the summer and was never bothered by it that I just kind of assumed I would be fine.

Of course, I didn’t take in to account that during the summer I spend my days constantly running around a restaurant and am so busy I don’t get hungry. At school, it’s a very different kind of busy- the kind that doesn’t conceal hunger AT ALL. Which is how I’ve fallen into the habit of eating vending machine junk food lunches more often than I care to admit. It’s starting to make me feel super sluggish and my skin is also paying the price.

Hopefully I will find some simple, tasty, and healthy lunch ideas I can share!

Also, a Charlie Update: we officially adopted him a week ago! Before that we were technically just fostering him but with the intent to adopt. But now he’s totally ours!

He had his first vet visit yesterday and we were finally able to find out more about his leg. Apparently the damage from his accident (probably hit by a car but we can’t be sure) is to the radial nerve in his leg. It controls the muscles in the lower and front parts of the leg.

The damage caused reduced blood flow and sensation to the leg to varying degrees. It causes Charlie to drag to top of his paw sometimes, and it makes him clumsy- he can’t usually support his weight with just that leg. The vet said he won’t ever regain full use of his leg, but it won’t cause him any pain either. We just have to make sure he doesn’t have any injuries to that leg because he likely won’t feel much (or any) pain that would otherwise make him slow down.

We’ll keep doing his stretches to help maintain the blood flow and muscle mass, but in the meantime it’s not slowing Charlie down one bit. He’s learned to open the screen door, runs like a speeding bullet, and enjoys fall afternoon picnics.

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I also got some beautiful flowers from my boyfriend today. They make a perfect fall table topper, don’t ya think?

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Monday Musings 10.13.14

It’s been quite awhile since I had an official Monday Musings post. Here are some things of note:

1) I think I may have missed my true calling as a cotton candy maker. I got to take a turn making one of my favorite childhood treats during one of my school’s fall festivals last week and it was surprisingly fun. In case you were wondering, blue is by far the most popular flavor. It is also the flavor most likely to end up stuck in a rock hard sugar crystal tangle in your hair. Just FYI.

2) Charlie may be renamed Houdini. Today is the second time he has managed to escape from his metal crate. He did really well with it the first week we had him.

Then when we moved into the new apartment he didn’t do so well with it. He managed to chew, bend, pry, and squirm his way out of the bottom section. We put a piece of plywood on the floor of the crate, thinking there was no way he could get through that the same way he managed to with the hard plastic bottom that was originally there.

Except he can. My mom and dad dropped by to check on him today and found he had managed to pop the latches and walk out the door of the crate. I’m torn between being annoyed and impressed.

This did lead us to the discovery that his separation anxiety does not cause any destructive behaviors. He just REALLY wants to look out the window. Once he does that, we found, his whining also drops to low level. He eventually calms down (for the most part) so we are going to try leaving him out and see how he does.

3) I also took Charlie running with me for the first time today. He really loved it (think doggy bliss face the whole time, even though it was pouring rain) so I’m hoping making him my regular running buddy will help his stress levels.

4) Unpacking sucks. That is all.

5) No, wait. That’s not all. I’ll cook you dinner if you come unpack for me. Right now getting through the spare bedroom is a feat akin to climbing K2, there are so many boxes and bags.

6) Note to self: have less clothes Next time, find a place with bigger closets.

So there’s a quick update. Enjoy some Charlie pics, and have a wonderful evening!

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All Dogs Go to Heaven

I love all animals. Cats (obviously), dogs, horses, kangaroos, bush babies- you name it, I love it. Except snakes. Not them so much. Or Komodo dragons. Those things are terrifying.

But what I’m saying is, I’m the kind of girl who needs a creature nearby to be her happiest.

I’ve always known that wherever I moved after college, this pretty lady would not be coming with me.

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Callie is an indoor-outdoor cat who is very attached to the outdoors. It would not be fair of me to ask her to give up her beloved outside time, and I am not comfortable moving her to a new, unfamiliar place so near a highway (which the new apartment is) and letting her continue her outside prowling.

My dad also really likes her. Like, a lot. So we decided a long time ago, as sad as it made me, that Callie would remain with my parents.

Now, the only question was what kind of animal were we going to get now that our options were open? My boyfriend refused to pick between a cat or a dog, leaving the choice up to me. I waffled for awhile, but ultimately decided getting another cat felt too much like a betrayal of Callie, or like I was trying to replace her. Weird, I know, but still.

So we happened to go the the Humane Society and we saw this smaller shepherd mix. He had the sweetest face and was the only dog not barking hysterically. We decided to take him for a walk since clearly he was the most well behaved.

Right away we saw that he had a leg injury. He hopped on three legs, keeping his front left leg tucked up. We were told that he had a break that had started to heal before he was rescued, but it wasn’t slowing him down at all. We walked him on the wooded trails near the shelter and he walked and ran along with us with no problems.

As we walked, I told my boyfriend, “You know what I’ve always wanted to name a dog?”
“What?” he asked.

Now, at this point, you should know something about me. I hoard animal names. If I read about a book, see a movie, or otherwise hear about some interesting character I file it away for potential future pet names. I have over two dozen cat and dog names saved up, but I’ve probably been holding on to this one longest.

“Charlie,” I said, “after the German Shepherd in All Dogs Go To Heaven.” (Which, if you don’t know, features a rascally Shepherd with a heart of gold)

“Huh,” my boyfriend replied. “He could be a Charlie.”

I knew then we were thinking the same thing. We wanted this dog.

And that’s how this guy came home with is four days later.

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This is our Charlie. He’s a German Shepherd/Australian Cattle Dog mix. At 38 pounds he’s got the size and build of a cattle dog with a more shepherd-ish color.

He so far has little interest in toys. His main hobbies include cuddling and/or following us everywhere and destroying blinds when left alone. Yup, the poor boy has some separation anxiety. This is how I happened to buy a dog crate at 7 pm on a Friday. Luckily I think the crate will help. He seems to like it, so maybe it’ll be his safe space.

Other than that he’s a doll. He loves loves loves people and cuddles and sitting with you on the couch. He walks and runs and enjoys being outside. He and Callie have had only very brief encounters. Charlie is interested in (but not at all aggressive towards) Callie. Callie has mostly ignored him and runs off to my parents’ room- her safe, dog free space- but she has slowly gotten to the point where she will venture downstairs where Charlie is and slink around for brief periods.

He accompanied my mom and I to the new apartment while we cleaned today and spent most of his time doing this

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Also, he has this adorable white spot on his chin and I love it.

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So that was really long, be we are really in love with this dog. There will surely be (many) more pictures and Charlie stories to follow.