Saturday, March 13, 2010

Saturday morning Nina picture

This particular SMNP was a little rushed, and possibly not up to the usual standard. I mean, Nina still looks her usual regal/haughty/elegant self, but I'm not particularly happy with how the photo turned out.

But I have a good reason for why the picture-taking was rushed, which I would like to present in the form of a story.

About 28 years ago, my parents taught a Sunday School class. This is less impressive than it sounds: the church was only about thirty people, a handful of whom were teenagers, and Mom and Dad, who at the time would have been in their late twenties, were the people closest in age to the teenagers, so they were the ones who had to teach the class, by process of elimination.

And the only thing I actually remember about this period, and the reason why I brought it up, is that at some point the word "fervor" came up in the reading. I'm guessing, having Googled about a bit, that the verse in question was probably Romans 12:11, which the New International Version renders as "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." Most other translations use "fervent" instead, but for reasons which are about to become obvious, I am pretty sure that "fervor" was the critical word here.

Anyway. The meaning is fairly clear in context, but it would not have been a familiar word to your average 16-year-old rural Iowan in the year 1982 or whenever it was. And so one of the guys was moved to comment how strange a word it was, and how it sounded like a dog's name, like "Rover" or something. ("Here Fervor! C'mere, boy! Good Fervor!") Which Mom and Dad at some point mentioned in my hearing (I think it actually became a running joke within the class for a while).

The moral of the story -- yes, there is a moral -- is to be careful what you say around eight-year-olds, 'cause they don't necessarily remember the stuff you think they ought to.

I present to the reader my and the husband's new dog, Fervor.

Yes I am serious. That's the name we're using on the forms and stuff.

I ran through a few other mumbly multi-"R"-sound name possibilities -- Rover, River, Reaver, Turgor, Rigor, Murmur, Ardor -- but decided there was no improving on Fervor. And so he was.

He's a lab / Newfoundland mix (possibly with a little Chow in there; I've heard conflicting guesses), and if everything went according to plan, we brought him home early yesterday afternoon, after meeting him a couple times at the shelter. I know some of you were hoping for a German shepherd: sorry. We started out wanting a German shepherd, but the one we actually met was younger, and a bit too high-energy for us, and anyway I liked Fervor pretty much from the moment I saw him. (We'll never know, obviously, what his first impressions of me were.) Labs as a group do nothing for me, so I don't know what the appeal was exactly.

I knew there was a good chance he would be our dog when I spent the car ride home after that first meeting coming up with reasons why it would be a terrible idea to adopt him.

And there did appear to be several. He's big: he'll need a lot of food. He's energetic: he was acting all soulful and mellow while caged up in the shelter, but the first time they took him out to let us walk him around and stuff, I nearly dislocated a shoulder. He's very heavy and strong: if he decides he wants to go somewhere . . . well, it's possible to convince him otherwise, but you have to be pretty alert. One moment of hesitation and you're skidding over the mud on your heels as if on waterskis. (Actually happened once.) The only saving grace is that he's not exactly going to go work for dog NASA, if you know what I mean, and he'll forget what he wanted to do if you can distract him for a second with something else. Lord help us should Timmy ever fall in the well.

We're not his first family; he'd been adopted previously by someone who had an older dog already, and was too much for the other dog to handle, so they brought him back to the shelter after a month. Before that, he was a stray. We'd worried a lot about adopting him -- would he need to be coaxed into the car, would he try to chew on the plants (With as many as we have, and as big as he is, there wasn't a lot we could do to get them out of his reach, though I think the ones that are low are, with one exception, neither irreplaceably expensive nor dangerously toxic. The exception is a single large Dieffenbachia, and I'm not actually sure what to do about it.), would he knock stuff over, would he try to chase every dog, cat, and squirrel we saw on walks, and so forth.

So far, though, almost everything's been good. He didn't even need to be told to get in the car, and seems to love riding around in it. He's shown almost no interest in the plants, and the interest he's shown so far was that he thought he needed to mark my Tradescantia pallida as his territory. Which is gross, but better that than trying to eat them. He seems to be fine with his crate, he was much better on the walk in town yesterday than he'd been either time we walked him at the shelter, and he's barely barked or whined since we got him home (and even when he did bark or whine, it was kind of tentative, like he didn't really want to). He's a little overeager to play, and a little insistent about being petted sometimes, but that's digging pretty deep to find flaws.

One possible remaining problem, and it's a biggie: I may be allergic. I've gotten itchy arms a time or two after being with him, but that's also happened when I wasn't around him -- so far, all allergy-type symptoms have happened under ambiguous circumstances (e.g. for itchy-arm stuff, I'd also been around cats, to which I am definitely allergic, and for asthma-type stuff, that's only happened after taking him on a long walk in fairly cool weather, which cold and exercise have both set asthma off with no dog present). I'm inclined to think that if there were serious allergies, things would be more obvious, dramatic, and clear-cut than this, but I have been both completely convinced that I am not allergic to Fervor, and completely convinced that I am, in the last 24 hours. I guess we'll be finding out.

Other than that -- which may or may not be a problem -- things have gone better than I'd thought they would.

Very nearly perfect, in fact.

So probably I am allergic.

I expect to continue posting pictures of Nina, 'cause it's not like she's suddenly no longer interesting just because we have a dog. However, the Saturday blogging will probably evolve into "Saturday morning Nina and/or Fervor picture" posts, according to who's being more photogenic that week. The other alternative is to get even further away from plants and become more of a pet blog, which I'd just as soon not do. I mean, I like and read other people's pet posts, but I figure most of you are here for the plants, and I'd actually prefer to talk about the plants. If I think the world has a burning need to hear about what Fervor's up to, in theory I can always start another blog, right?


Ginny Burton said...

He's very handsome! And Nina looks like she could handle being the sole female in a testosterone-heavy household.

Maybe you could train the two of them: Nina could ride on Fervor's back. She might like being out of the terrarium. What a great Saturday morning picture that would be!

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

Awww, what a handsome dude! I'm so happy to hear that you guys got a dog. And I am looking forward to reading about him now and then.

Unknown said...

Congratulations on the dog. Please don't let Nina onto him, as if he'll notice her, he'll probably try to eat her. :<

As appealing as the entire 'dog rider' idea sounds...

Mmm... Elfquest.

Diane said...

Congratulations! Fervor is a beauty! Having a dog around makes life so much better. I look forward to lots of stories and pictures!

Paul said...

Congrats on the dog!

Allergy-wise, there is, of course, the chance that you might be allergic to whatever shampoo or flea dip or whatever they may have used on Fervor -- assuming that they had done so.

A friend of mine is allergic to cats, dogs, and guinea pigs yet she still owns 2 dogs and 3 guinea pigs (her hubby doesn't care for cats so none of those) but still enjoys them all the same.

Don't get overly worried about Fervor harming Nina. It's unlikely that he'd take much interest in her.

mr_subjunctive said...

Ginny Burton / Errant / Paul:

Even if Fervor would leave Nina alone, I'm guessing Nina would jump off of him as soon as she thought she could. And judging by the way he gets when he sees any other animals, I wouldn't be surprised if he did try to eat her once she was loose. So that's not much of an option.


Really? Having a dog around makes life better?

I'm just wanting to make sure. Yesterday was fine, but today he's been kind of a pain: wouldn't let me put the harness on to take him out (he thinks we're playing, and jumps around and play-bites and stuff, which is fun for about five seconds and then becomes aggravating); it's cold and wet out, so the walk was pretty miserable for me (asthma-ish, though nothing remotely life-threatening, plus also cold and wet and half-blind, 'cause my glasses were covered with water droplets almost immediately); he got part of a rawhide chew stuck in the back of his throat and I had to pull it out for him (see above comment re: dog NASA -- he's probably going to have to have more supervision with those or else fewer rawhide toys); and all of this happened in three hours without me receiving a proper night's sleep or adequate caffeination first. It's not that I don't still like him, understand, but I was having sort of a stressful day anyway (new watering cycle begins), so I'm not at my most mellow and flexible.

So I'd just like confirmation that dogs improve life.


If the dog allergies are in fact dog allergies, and they wind up being anywhere near as debilitating as the cat allergies, he's gonna go back to the shelter. That's not even a question. The cat allergies are unbearable, and if we could have had a cat without me dying, we probably wouldn't even have thought about a dog.

So far, though, there's no indication that this is as bad as the cat allergies, if they even exist in the first place. Still trying to figure it all out. It'd be nice if it were just a matter of the shampoo or whatever.

Tigerdawn said...

He's a beautiful dog! I would like to recommend watching or reading something by Caesar Milan. He has great insight into dog behavior.

I hope you don't have allergies; that would suck.

Perhaps you could do a Saturday Morning Nina Post and a Sunday Morning Fervor Post.

CelticRose said...

Lol at the Nina pic -- those crickets do like to live dangerously, don't they?

Fervor is gorgeous! And yes, having owned both dogs and cats and lived without either, I think I can say with some authority that pets in general improve your life. Dogs are a bit more work than cats, but they also give you much more affection, so it's worth it. Plus, they genuinely believe that you're the most awesome person on the planet, and who couldn't love that? ;-)

I hope you're not allergic to Fervor, but it is possible to live with animals if the allergies are mild.

I like the idea of a Sat. morning Nina post and a Sun. morning Fervor post. We could see both of them every week, and you'd essentially have your weekends off.

Sue Swift said...

Fervor and Nina can come visit the blog as often as they like as far as I'm concerned.
Animal allergies are sad. I had to choose between my husband and cats. It was tough ...

Anonymous said...

Oh my! I love the Nina picture -- looks as if the cricket is coming in for a sneak attack.

Dogs are lovely! It can be rough, especially someone as rambunctious as Fervor sounds, at first, but they tend to learn quickly who's boss, if they're shown strongly. A lab-Newf mix?! He is beautiful!

Diane said...

Oh, absolutely they make things better! There are some added difficulties, some of which you've already discovered. You have to think of what to do with him when you leave the house or go on vacation. He'll make messes, he'll be noisy, and he can't tell you what's wrong (my dog has been limping all day, for instance; why???). But on the other hand, you can play with him and snuggle him and walk him and interact with other dog-walkers and "talk dog" and be part of a new community. You'll adapt to the dog and he'll adapt to you and communication will become effortless; you know what he wants when his ears are a certain way, and he knows you want him to go lie down when you wave your hand a bit. You'll learn to listen for the little sounds he makes in the house - toenails, snoring, scratching - and it will feel like your house is more alive. Oh yes, having a dog is great. Give it time; he may not be obvious about it, but he's confused and feels a bit jerked around right now. Once you all get used to each other, you'll wonder why you waited so long!

Also: buy a Kong and put peanut butter in it. Keeps him busy and he can't swallow it.

Pam said...

My fingers are crossed that this is NOT dog allergies and that Fervor (great story, great name) is home to stay. I love happy dog endings.

Kenneth Moore said...

In theory, you could start another blog (but changing PATSP to a pet blog would really confuse newcomers, who would kind of think it's about plants on the basis of the name). The pictures alone might be worth it--Fervor is a great-looking dog! Reminds me of Molly, my black lab/retriever mix I had growing up. Energy and muscle, man, crazy! Up next, a bird, perhaps?

Congratulations to you and the hubby! I wish you much success with Fervor. It is, by the way, an excellent name.

Unknown said...

Saturdays sound pet perfect. He's a cutie. I hope for both of you that you aren't allergic. That'd be sad.

Pat said...

I love Fervor. I agree about the watching Cesar Milan on "The Dog Whisperer," or reading his dog books. And I agree about the Kong toy. Dogs need to chew on something, especially when they are in a new environment. Kong excercises their jaws in the best way. Trying to get the pbutter out of Kong's inside, will wear him out and he will need to take a nap, which is very calming for him. And for you. Congratulations. I love that mix. As I said before, there was one in the neighborhood and he was very big and very sweet.

Screaminggreenconure said...

Have you considered a dog training class, or some clicker training? Clicker training is based on positive reinforcement. Worked great with my two birds.

Anonymous said...

He's a beautiful dog. I'm sure it's just that everything is so new, he's like a kid, has to see everything at once. Give him some time, he'll mellow.

I feel I should add that some dogs, sometimes, find the things that smell like us irresistable; like shoes, jacket cuffs, and plastic eyeglass frames (sad, but true stories). And a friend once told me she and her partner's basset hounds would occasionally raid the laundry hamper and drag their bras and panties out to the backyard. You might want put anything that might be tempting (and expensive, or awkward) where Fervor can't get to them until you know if he does that.

And congratulations to the new parents.

paivi said...

Congratulations, Fervor looks like handsome fellow!

Dogs can be a pain, especially when you first bring a new one into the house and he's not received much training, but things will get better if you're willing to work with him a bit.

May I also offer congratulations on an obviously well-chosen name. One of my dogs is called Reaver, so I'm partial, but Fervor sounds mighty cool.

mr_subjunctive said...

Tigerdawn / Pat:

We've watched a fair amount of Cesar Millan's TV show. Not the books or DVDs or the rest of the Millan media empire, but enough to be familiar.

Sue Swift:

The husband was in a similar position; he had to choose between me and his cat. I still feel bad about this, not that it was my idea to have allergies.


We're lucky in that he's partly-trained already; not only is he old enough to be pretty well out of the puppy stage (they estimate 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 years), but he was owned by other people for about a month, and then the shelter worked with him after he was returned, for another couple months. So he was totally clear on what you're supposed to do to get into a car, he knows "sit" definitely, and occasionally (when he wants to) also "down," "stay," "come," "outside," etc. And they said he never made a mess in his cage at the shelter, not once. So we're benefiting from other people's hard work, to a point.

I also think they may have understated his intelligence.

They said we should keep his living space as simple and small as possible to begin with, just to keep from confusing him, so we've kept the doors closed on a couple rooms. Surprisingly, he won't go into those rooms even if we forget and leave them open, nor has he (so far) pushed on the husband's office door when it's closed even though the doorknob doesn't actually latch and he could get in anytime he wanted to.


My mom, weirdly, has bought him a Kong already. They haven't brought it up yet, but I'd told her over the phone that we were probably getting a dog, and which dog, and she apparently took it on herself to get him a couple toys before there was even an official adoption.

Pam / Jennifer:

The current theory at the moment is that the allergies are real, but mild enough that they're not going to be a problem. Mostly there's only an issue if he directly licks my arms or hands: I get mildly itchy. The asthma-like stuff seems to be more a function of the cold, wet weather combined with more exercise than I've had in months.

Kenneth Moore:

Well, I meant I'd keep PATSP for plants and start a new one for Fervor and Nina. Like, "The Fervor and Nina Show, Starring Fervor and Nina." Or something. But since I have trouble keeping up with PATSP alone sometimes, I think six days of plants and one day of vertebrates will work. And that can be changed if it seems not to be working.


I actually found out on Wednesday that one of my former co-workers in the garden center has the same mix, lab/newfie, and he couldn't say enough nice things about his dog.

He's actually almost too nice: we'd sort of been hoping for a little bit of a guard dog / watchdog type. Though his bark (when he uses it, which is almost never) is enough to scare most people away, I'd think.


The shelter includes a voucher for obedience training ($100 off a six-week, $120 class), which we will no doubt be taking advantage of at some point once things have settled a bit.


We can crate him if we're going to be gone for short periods during the day, though we haven't actually tried that yet (we do crate him at night, but haven't during the day so far), so I'm not sure how well it would work. So far, we've both been here when he is, to watch and see if he's interested in anything he shouldn't be, and so far, so good.


Is the etymology of "Reaver" through "Firefly," or did you come to it some other way? (Just curious.)

Anonymous said...

A big welcome to a really handsome fella. Since you're getting tons of advice I don't feel guilty about adding some more. Find a vet that you trust and - especially - like. You and he/she will become well acquainted. That's good. If he isn't already microchipped, it's a good thing to do.

And if the sorry event arises that it doesn't work for you, well, sad but it happens. In 50 years of multiple dogs I've had one mismatch that indicated the dog would be happier in some other living situation. Otherwise it just takes time to learn to live together, as it often does with humans.

And the mix sounds great. A vet I loved (he would actually treat my porcupine) advised that "hybrids" are the best kind of dog to have. And newfies and labs are pretty generally laid back after the first couple of years.

Enjoy. I wish you and Fervor and the husband happiness and fun.

ScreamingGreenConure said...

That money off voucher is a damn good deal.
It's great you chose to go to a shelter, by the way. I wish more people did that.

paivi said...

Re: Reaver

I think my then-husband came up with the name, based on a computer game I was playing at the time we got the puppy (Soul Reaver 2). Firefly might have been an additional influence though. Or maybe he just liked saying "Our Reaver can beat up your Rover"?

These days I live in Finland, so explaining the name is a bit awkward. Most people seem to assume we've just misspelled 'River'. Can't imagine what they'd make of Fervor though!

our friend Ben said...

Wow and congrats, Mr. S.! Fervor is a beautiful boy (and I'm not as a rule partial to Labs either). Don't worry about the guard-dog aspect; my huge golden retriever Molly NEVER barked, but her size terrorized any might-be bad guys anyway. I too like the idea of weekend Nina/Fervor photos/updates, but I agree with you that PATSP should focus on plants during the week. Re: allergies, if you don't want to go in for that series of anti-allergy nasal sprays, I suggest washing your hands and arms after every encounter with Fervor and keeping those dissolve-on-the-tongue sheets of Benadryl on hand at all times just in case. It's worth it! I've never given my dogs rawhide because everyone says it's bad for them, but I've never had a dog who went for the Kongs, either, unless they were squeaky Kongs rather than treat-filled versions. Sterile bones and squeaky anything have always been big hits, but you have to make sure the squeaky toys are super-tough and can't be eviscerated the second you're not looking. I also recommend any kind of sweet potato treat; Shiloh loves all of them. Welcome Fervor! And good for you for vowing to keep Nina in the spotlight.

Karen715 said...

I know I'm late to the party, but welcome, Fervor. He's a lovely dog. Lab and Newfoundland? That's a whole lotta sweet right there. I'm pretty sure that both breeds are known for their pleasant dispositions, though they definitely aren't the rocket scientists of the canine world. Of course, Newfies would have to be sweet in order co-exist with them; they're huge. There is one in my neighborhood, and I'm pretty sure I've driven cars smaller than him!