Isn’t it amazing how after you’ve personally experienced something you magically become an expert on the subject overnight? Ah…technology. Google, how I love you!
The newest development in the life of my dogs is that Shelby is going through her first heat cycle. So that’s fun. Note, before anyone freaks out about the pros and cons of spaying/neutering your pet, let me mention that we literally had no choice about whether or not to spay Shelby. Shelby has a very common medical…quirk, let’s say, called a recessed vulva (ew, right?). I’m not going to go into all the gory details here, but basically, Shelby’s first heat is going to correct this problem. Our only other option was to increase the cost of spaying into the thousands of dollars. So…heat it is. Breeding, it is not (hopefully).
I noticed about a week ago or so that she started taking quite the interest in her ahem…nether regions. It was like she just discovered she had it and boy was it fun!
As the days went on, she started behaving very strangely. For one, she started wandering more. Shelby is very rarely ever on a leash, and she hardly ever leaves my side except to go chase the occasional squirrel or the ball, but she never leaves the property. I’ve done extensive training with her to make sure this is the case. Her recall is superb, so you can understand how disturbed I was when she found her way three yards down and didn’t respond to my recall or my silly displays to get her to come back. Eventually, she did come back, but only after a misplaced tractor scared the living daylights out of her, and she came running to hide behind my legs. Oh mom? You’re here? How long have you been following me? Well, good thing you are, because man that John Deere that is just sitting there with no one on it sure is scary right? Let’s go home now.
Uh huh. Guess who is going to be going outside with a leash (maybe two) for a while?
So naturally, I did what I always do when something is off with either of my dogs – I called the vet, who just laughed and said to go and buy some diapers, because heat was on its way.
Woah, woah, woah. Slow down. So you mean to tell me that not only does my dog have to wear a diaper around the house, and I have to bathe her every day for at least a week if not more, but she is going to lose her freaking mind too? Nuh uh. I didn’t sign up for this. How do I get the payment plan for the spaying surgery to fix her vulva again?
Of course, Joe wasn’t thrilled with my plan on spending the extra couple thousand bucks to avoid this entire train wreck. He also didn’t go for my argument, “But baby, this is going to affect her training schedule so badly! She is going to have to wait another four weeks to get into her treibball class now!” Unmoving. The man doesn’t feel a thing I swear (just kidding!).
So here we are, off on another adventure, waiting for our puppy to turn into a woman. Oh the joys. Resigned to the fact that this was going to happen, whether I wanted it to or not, I sat down to start doing my research. I started by talking to Shelby’s trainers. Fortunately, she can attend herding classes while she is in heat as long as she isn’t a complete idiot and as long as I put Vicks on her tail (apparently this helps mask the scent of her rather fragrant pheromones). Unfortunately, she cannot go to her dog sport class while she’s in heat. But I can start her in June (assuming she has come out of her cycle by then). Most unfortunately, both of her trainers warned me that if she was acting this way already, there was a very good chance her behavior was going to get more erratic before it went back to normal, but not to worry because it had nothing to do with training and as soon as it was over she was going to be just fine. They told me to keep training with her as normal, but to be warned that she probably wasn’t going to listen at all, because, “the first heat is always the worst in dogs like this”. Goodie.
Next, I started reading every forum and medical article I could find about signs of heat, how your dog is going to act in heat and what I could do to help her through the process. For the record, the first thing I googled was, “Do dogs lose their damn minds during heat?” There are more hits on this than you might think. I did eventually turn to more serious searches, after I got in several good laughs. As it turns out, heat in dogs is as variable as its counterpart in women. Some dogs soar through heat without ever showing any behavioral signs of it (the physical symptoms are…rather noticeable, obviously, at least in German Shepherds). There are other dogs who get extremely moody, who get really clingy, who get aggressive, who seem, as one article I read kindly put it, “To get a little bit whacky”.
Shelby falls into this second category of “whacky”. The barking started yesterday. Oh God, the incessant barking. Normally, Shelby cues to go outside by doing one of two things – she will ring her bells, or, if we aren’t paying enough attention to her, she will climb to the fifth step, which is right above the couch and bark down at us.
Apparently, heat makes the dog feel like they need to pee…constantly. From what I’ve read and heard, this is because the more they pee, the more pheromones they can leave behind, the more potential suitors they can attract. So Shelby naturally spends most of her evenings now on the fifth step, wildly barking down at us. When I take her out, she goes a little then comes back in. Thirty-seven seconds later, she is up the steps, barking at me, to which I have no other choice but to respond, “What a trollop” (one of my new favorite words).
Then there is the new clinginess. Shelby has always been something of a cuddler, and because the training that we do encourages her to see me as the center of all things wonderful on earth, she has always had a tendency to follow me wherever I go. That has reached a whole new level. In the house, she needs to be in constant physical contact with me (when she isn’t barking to go outside and work the corner). It’s gotten to the point where before, she would lay outside the bathroom door and wait for me to come out, now, she pushes the door open (or jumps on it, scratching the painted glass with her nails) and barges in and puts her head on my knees while I’m going to the bathroom. Let’s just say this is very weird for me.
When she isn’t in my lap, she needs to be right on top of Smokey, who is becoming more and more interested in her by the moment. If I need to tell him to stop trying to violate his sister one more time, I may lose it. Honestly, I don’t know what he thinks he is going to accomplish, his stud days are long since gone.
This morning, Smokey decided to be the big tough guy on the block and mark every few feet, which he doesn’t normally do, with his leg lifted high and proud – see this other dogs? Yeah, I’m leaving you a message – that’s my woman. Gross Smokey, she’s your sister. At which point Joe interjects in my mind for the millionth time, “She is not. They are not actually blood related.” Okay, fine, they are not actually blood related, but he doesn’t have the equipment to the job anyway, so what is his problem?
Well, other dogs can now smell Shelby from up to a mile away, so maybe some of Smokey’s brazen markings will keep them at bay, or I will literally have to be that parent that beats potential suitors away with sticks.
Shelby, for her part, is essentially under house arrest. She can’t go anywhere off leash until this storm has passed. Her sleeping on the bed privileges have been revoked. During the day while we are at work, all the doors and windows are locked (the air conditioner has to be turned on already, nice for the electric bill), because I don’t think our flimsy little screens are going to keep some of those wandering dogs at bay, and I don’t want to come home to any dead dogs. She can go for hikes, but we have to make sure we drive her off the property to some remote location where there is no chance of someone inadvertently following her home or trying to eat Joe or me for access to our sexy new woman. And of course, there are the diapers, right? Thank God I’ve been one of those annoying people who dresses my dogs up since Shelby was a puppy, because me putting children’s underwear lined with maxi pads on her didn’t seem that bizarre to her – although I did need to clarify to the checkout lady at Target that they were for my dog, to which Joe responded, “Babe, she didn’t even ask, you don’t need to tell her that.”
Last night while we sat on the couch and called Shelby every name for a loose woman in the book (which, by the way, there are a lot of them – what’s the deal with that?); I said to Joe, “I think our puppy has done gone lost her mind.”
Joe nodded and said, “Maybe we should have paid for the surgery.”