How Can I Give Up My Dog? part 2

Note: If you haven’t already, read part 1 of this post here.

Taking Seva to training classes at Helping Paws each week has been a big part of my life for over 2 years. Besides classes at the training center, we train in public several times a week. While it would be an exaggeration to say Seva has been my constant companion, I do work from home and take her places, so we see a lot of each other.

A few weeks ago, Seva spent the weekend with S., a woman in need of a successor dog who used to be a vet tech.

I spent the weekend convinced S. was falling in love with Seva. How could she not?

I’ve gone on vacation and left Seva with other Helping Paws families. It’s a nice break, like when the kids have a sleepover and you get to go out or stay in, grown-up style. This weekend was different.

I must have told myself 50 times that S. would say “yes” to Seva, and I would soon be saying “good bye” to her.

Waiting for life-changing news is never easy. (Sure, on the spectrum of life-changing news, learning whether or not I’ll get to keep a dog is relatively low, not like getting test results from a doctor. I do have perspective, but this is a blog about the Wonder Dog so bear with me.) The thing is, most news you wait for is one of two things: good or bad. Whichever way Seva’s weekend with S. went, I would be torn.

I want her. I’ll miss her. I would never stand in her way. I love her. I don’t need her. She should be with someone who needs her. S. will love her as much as I do. What if Seva misses me? I might never see her again.

And around and around I went.

When I picked up Seva from Helping Paws, I let her out of a crate and she leapt on me, all tongue and paws and uncontained joy. She’s a kisser. Always has been. The moment she was first placed in my arms, I looked down and she lifted her chin and licked my face. She was barely 8 weeks old.


  • A tired puppy.


Turns out, S. didn’t love her.

Seva had done well during the pre-matching, but didn’t want to retrieve for S. at her house. And she was a little bit naughty. Seva found some duct tape serving a purpose she couldn’t see, so she gnawed at it till she got a corner lifted and pulled it off.

She does have a naughty streak. Her new thing is to bound over while I’m working at my desk and stare me down. If I tell her to go away, she runs off and finds something to shred, like a piece of mail. My next move is to leash her to furniture. Hers is to whine. It’s a dreadful, high-pitched sound. My final move is to capitulate. We take a walk.

Besides not retrieving, some barking, and tearing of duct tape, S. reported that Seva’s allergies are bad.

Bad as in pull-her-from-the-program bad.

I heard this from one of the trainers when I picked up Seva, so it was almost official, but not quite. E. has the final say. I went to the following Big Dog class as though everything was normal, except it wasn’t.

We went to Centennial Lakes in Edina. As I walked Seva around the lake, I started thinking, this is it. Toward the end of class, I had Seva in a Drop-Stay on the sidewalk and E. came over to talk.

E. told me they couldn’t place Seva due to her allergies, and I almost cried. I admit, that’s kind of weird. I knew it was coming and had been thinking about it for 2 days. Still, when you hear it from E., it’s final. It felt like the closing of a door.

All those great reasons I had for getting into the program, all the effort put into training this dog, the classes and field trips and other training teams…done.

We agreed that I’d go on the next couple of field trips as though nothing had happened, giving E. time to make an announcement to the class. We also agreed the news could go public after the Foster Family Recognition Ice Cream Social.


The Big Dogs at Union Depot--our last class.

The Big Dogs at Union Depot–our last class.


Last night, Seva and I made our final visit to Helping Paws as a training team. I received a certificate for the work we’ve done, and E. announced that Seva is having a career change.

That’s what it’s called, a career change. I’ve heard that only about 60% of dogs graduate. Problems with the training, personality, health, even odd quirks like a phobia of stairs can prevent a dog from graduating. Seva actually had 3 strikes against her: her hip sockets are only “fair,” she’s an indiscriminate eater, and she has allergies. The hip sockets concern is minor compared to the others. She is getting better about eating everything in sight, and I don’t expect this to be a problem for long. It’s the allergies that determined her fate–and mine.


Recognizing Seva's Career Change

Recognizing Seva’s Career Change


Seva is now my dog.

What’s more, we’re going to be a demo team for Helping Paws. That means she keeps the blue pack and we will answer calls to show the world what a service dog can do for a person. In a year or two, when she’s mellowed even more, I’ll probably look into a therapy dog program as well.







A Tail of Woe

Last Friday Seva was spayed, so for the past week she’s been mostly confined to the house. I put away all of her balls, blocked the stairs, and forbid anyone excite her, never mind wrestle with her.

This poor puppy. It’s very hard.

The day of the surgery, I picked her up from Oak Knoll Animal Hospital. We love our vets, but it’ll be best if she doesn’t remember this visit–and I’m sure she won’t thanks to the anesthesia! She wagged her tail a little, then sprawled on the floor. After a lot of coaxing, I got her out the door and halfway to the car, then she lay down on the sidewalk. After more coaxing I got her to the car and she hopped inside as soon as the door was open. There was no way I was going to get her in the back seat, so she rode home in the footwell in the front, snoring all the way. She conked out in the snow beside our driveway, too. I think it took us half an hour to get home with all the naps between the vet and the house!


Seva coming home


Last night Scott sat on the floor and she climbed on him, put her face in his, and grabbed his hand in her mouth to nibble on it. These were all clear invitations to play, and all Scott could do was sit there and laugh sympathetically.

This morning, Seva was feeling really good, romping around the kitchen and dining room, so I opened the hallway to her. Little did I know, at the end of the hallway was an open door. Long story short: she swallowed one of the kid’s socks.

We didn’t know for sure, even after sticking my fingers down her throat and doing a sock count in the kid’s room. Just to be safe, I force-fed her 2 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide and waited.**

She barfed 7 times. The sock came up in round 4. ICK!

Our morning started out so good, too!


I can’t believe you made me swallow that!


The Wonder Dog is not having a very good week, but it has to get better from here!


** It’s 1 teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide / 10 pounds of dog.

Oh, Happy Day!

At last Seva’s long quarantine is over! She’ll be in diapers at home a little while longer, but she is allowed to roam the streets once more. We took our first walk in three weeks on Saturday without incident. No little boy dogs trailed behind us. In fact, the couple of dogs we saw ignored us completely.

Sunday we went snowshoeing on the golf course. This dog could not have been happier!

Winter play

It’s Hard Being a Puppy

When Seva lies under a chair most of day with her chin on the floor, drooling, you know something is wrong.


Poor pup.


Seva has been sleeping a lot this past week. She’d been away from home for the first time over Labor Day weekend. The report from the puppy sitter was that she had a grand old time and there were no problems or concerns, until Sunday morning when she ate a sock.

That’s right. Seva got hold of one of their daughter’s anklets and before they could reach her, it was down her throat. They gave her a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide and she vomited it up. The whole episode only took a few minutes, and all’s well that ends well, right?

We were not upset with the sitters. We were only surprised it hadn’t happened sooner. Seva has a penchant for socks, especially dirty socks.

This dog will let me riffle my fingers through her food while she eats, but she knows exactly what is forbidden fruit and then the chase is on. She locks her jaw over the snatched object and bolts until nabbed. Do you know what a dog does when it really wants to keep something away from someone else? She swallows it. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

You have no idea how many times a day I put my fingers in that dog’s mouth! My fingers and knuckles have been crunched in her teeth while I’m rummaging around her tonsils more times than I care to think about. Not to mention the saliva. (Oops, did I mention it?) Dog saliva is rather thick and slimy. It really coats. The yuck factor is high on this one.


Squirrel brains.


Recently, Seva managed to remove the ear from this squirrel and then pull out a sizable chunk of brains. The wad of stuffing is larger than it looks. Here, it’s been compacted by her attempt to swallow it. Scott held her head while I worked my fingers down her throat. Deep enough to gag her. I had teeth marks almost to my wrist. Don’t worry, we got the ear, too.

You can see why we weren’t upset with the sitters.

Seva spent the last week out of sorts. We thought being away from home and the sock incident had taken a toll on her. She was rejecting her food and lethargic. Then the diarrhea started. We thought it was probably a stomach bug. Then Sunday evening the excessive drooling started.

Uh oh.

We spent Monday morning at the vet. Xrays, stool, blood–enough said about that! Being new to this dog-mama role, I was introduced to another new term: Dietary Indiscretion. That means Seva will eat anything. A N Y T H I N G.

Sticks, grass, dirt, socks, squirrel brains, walnut husks. She must be able to smell those things. She knows right where the squirrels have left them and pulls them out of bushes, grass, leaves. For as many as I’ve pulled out of her jaws, I’m sure she’s swallowed plenty.

Seva is on three new pills and a prescription food. Already, Tuesday, she is feeling better. Happily the drooling is almost gone. Have you ever found your dog’s muzzle and chest sopping wet from drool? Or stepped in the pools of it on the floor. Yep, definite yuck factor here.

Scott and I were remarking that through all of this (going back to week two), Seva has been mellow, accepting, and downright cheerful. I am beyond tired of diet changes, medications, vulva washes, etc. etc., but I couldn’t ask for a sweeter puppy to be on the receiving end of things. And for that, I am grateful!


Nap time.




New Parent Panic: A Saga in Three Acts


Any parent gets to know her child’s body intimately. It goes with being responsible for a helpless being. There are diapers to change and cradle cap to grease up and the three a.m. vomit down your neck. You can’t be squeamish as a new parent. That is as true for puppies as it is for babies. This saga begins with a urinary tract infection (UTI) and ends (I hope) with vulva washing.

Ages ago, when Seva was ten weeks old—ten weeks ago really, but it feels like actual ages—she was peeing a lot, about every twenty minutes, and having more in-house accidents. I took her to the vet to check for a UTI and she was prescribed antibiotics. Simple enough.

Her ears started looking pink and bumpy. I assumed it was a heat rash since this is a spring litter and the weather was turning hot.

Toward the end of the course of antibiotics for the UTI, we went to training class and someone said she had a bump on her nose. So she did. She and her brother, Roger, had greeted each other with lots of teeth, so that was no surprise. After class she took a nap, and when I got her up to go the vet for her vaccination, she had more bumps on her nose, but Roger was nowhere to blame. By the time Dr. Smith was looking at her, she was covered in boils!


Seva, Roger, & Storm roughhousing at Helping Paws.


Instead of getting her vaccination, she got a steroid shot to clear up the “drug eruption” that had been caused by the antibiotics for the UTI.



This is our first year in this house. We don’t know about the previous owner, but we are not much for lawn maintenance. The maple seeds that covered our yard eventually gave way to dandelions, which have given way to clover. It’s not that we’re lazy, but we have children and a dog. We live in the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. We love squirrels and bunnies and birds, feeding everyone we can in our little sanctuary. We had a pair of mallards that I fed by hand until Seva ran them off. One day a wild turkey passed through, and one morning Scott caught a glimpse of a fox slinking along the fence. We planted a little vegetable garden to help feed our family. Of course we do not put chemicals on our yard.

Several of our pine trees died this spring. They yellowed and branches drooped. They became an eyesore, mottling the greenery that screens us from Excelsior Boulevard. When a horticulturalist from the University of Minnesota came out to look at the trees, he said he suspected a broadleaf herbicide that, if overused, gets in the soil and poisons the trees.

Seva, like all dogs, eats grass, pushes her snout into the ground, and rolls around in dirt every chance she gets. About the time the steroid shot was wearing off, we tilled up a patch of ground to plant our vegetables. Seva tore through the yard and dove into the freshly tilled dirt, kamikaze style. And her face erupted in fresh boils.

If it looks like a zebra, smells like a zebra, sounds like a zebra, it’s probably a horse.


Puppy booty–our yard is full of fun–and poison?!

A logical evaluation of the situation led me and Scott (but mostly me) to one conclusion: we were poisoning our service dog.

Here is the evidence:

1. The lady we bought the house from had moved out before it sold and her nephew was living here. We saw his Harley Davidson lamp in the bedroom and video games in the basement. Surely she had asked him to maintain the house in exchange for rent. She said, “Put some herbicide on the grass so it looks nice.” He figured if a little is good, a lot is better. And we have nine dead trees in our yard, which, according to the University of Minnesota expert, was likely caused by the overzealous use of a broadleaf herbicide the previous year.

2. Seva eats dirt.

3. If Seva were having a drug eruption, the steroid shot would have cleared it up, but her boils got worse.

4. The boils got worse right after she buried her face in the freshly tilled garden plot.

Obviously, Seva was reacting to the poison in our dirt. And obviously, we would not be allowed to keep a dog we were poisoning every time she went out to play.

Not to mention that we had just planted a vegetable garden and we intended to feed our children homegrown food, which we now knew was poisoned.

I spent the weekend in a panic. And it was all thanks to that video-gaming, Harley-riding motorhead nephew! He had gotten carried away with the death sprayer, and I blamed him for the fact that Seva was sick and about to be placed in a new foster home!

In an email to Helping Paws, I suggested she could be reacting to something in our environment without actually laying out my evidence. If they saw it my way, Seva was gone sooner than later. Eileen, the Director, said it was probably not something in our house or yard, which made me feel a little better, but I was calculating when to tell her and the vet what I knew about our pine trees and the motorhead.


The boils puppy. They were even in her eyelids.


When I took her to the vet, Seva had boils all over her face, ears, and groin. Still, Dr. Smith went for the horse, not the zebra, and diagnosed her with Puppy Strangles. It is some kind of immune system freak-out that sometimes occurs in young puppies with no known cause, and is treated with steroids.

It seems the motorhead was off the hook and so was I.



Let me summarize the third act.

Seva began a round of oral steroids and got ointment for her boils. Things were going well, then she developed another UTI. I called the emergency clinic since it was a Saturday afternoon. When I asked if it could wait until Monday, I was told, “Just don’t let it become a kidney stone.” Oh, sure, I’m going to wait until Monday now! So, $180 and a Saturday afternoon gone just to get another round of antibiotics.

Right after this trip to the emergency clinic, she developed new spots on her groin. An internet search suggested ring worm, but it was likely a staph infection. Since she was already on antibiotics for the UTI, no further trips to the vet were required–that week.

The staph.

The boils improved, but weren’t gone, so we began a second round of oral steroids. Each round lasts five weeks—she’s got one final pill in that bottle!

When we made another trip to the vet for vaccinations, I asked the vet to take a look at her girly bits, the vulvar folds actually. They had these tiny black dots all over them. It turns out, Seva has a bacterial infection there, and in her right ear as well.

I also told the vet that she was itching like crazy all over. Seva then obliged us with a demonstration by doing laps around the little room, rubbing her shoulder and side along the walls the entire way.

I left the vet with ear ointment, a vulva wash, medicated shampoo, and another round of antibiotics!

The steroids she has been on for ten weeks suppress the immune system, making her more susceptible to all these various infections.

The new parent panic has subsided. We are not poisoning our service dog! And as Act III draws to a close, Seva is finishing up the steroids, but the vulvar washes continue. And the ear ointment. And the medicated baths. So, if you want to know what I’ll be doing on Friday night, see above!

“Your Smurf village is not safe from Seva, the Wonder Pup!”