Grep was our first dog as a couple. We had moved to one of Westbrook Commons' dog-allowed townhouses specifically so that we could get a small dog, and it wasn't long after we moved in that we were looking for ads in the local paper. We knew we wanted a toy poodle--this was the breed Paul knew and loved (an apricot toy named Schotzie from his high school years). Sometime in September 1995 we found an ad for a local breeder in Churchville and drove out to take a look.
I remember there being two litters available, a white set and a black set. I think Paul was leaning towards a white one since it resembled Schotzie, but I wanted a tiny black female runt. He was willing to bend, so that's who went home with us. $500 later, we were dog owners! We were so happy driving home: our first dog. She was about the size of one hand (about 8 weeks old). That first night, we had planned to have her sleep in a small crate next to the bed. A lot of crying later, she started an Erkkila dog tradition...sleeping in the bed with mommy and daddy. I was worried we'd crush her, but she eventually found her way curled up next to my neck. To this day, she sleeps on a pillow between the wall and my pillow (unless it's hot out, when she asks to be moved to the floor).
Grep was a pretty typical puppy. She loved to drag socks around the house between her legs--we called them carcasses. She was particularly fond of the squirrels out back...she would press her little round belly on the sliding glass door and let loose her tiny, high pitched barks. We would ride our bikes all around Henrietta with her stuffed in the top of a backpack--until the day she wriggled her way out, then we had to stop that practice. She was feisty (and still is); Paul pretend-wrestled with her (putting her on her back and tickling her) mercilessly (his quote about puppies is you need to torment them). Whatever it was, nature or 'torment', she ended up a very sweet-natured dog.
We started getting her groomed very early so that she would be used to the process (since, as a poodle, she would be needing periodic grooming for her whole life). Sue at Petsmart did great with her and we took Grep there for a number of years. Sue was always happy to see Grep because Grep is apparently gentle and submissive even when being groomed.
Grep even flew with us to California when we got married in May of 1996. Running around under the giant sequoias with the mail-order minister's dog, she was one of the very few (other than my parents and the minister's family) present at the wedding. I think it was around her time she began fearing other dogs, as a stranger's 3-legged German Shepherd was rather mean to her during the visit (we sometimes tease her about '3 legged wolves'). While she tolerates the other dogs we eventually acquired and even allowed them to sit near her, she still is not comfortable with them, and never seeks them out. She is definitely a submissive dog.
It was during those years at Westbrook that we found out she had a condition typical to very small dogs--a luxating (luxated?) patella. This means that the groove into which her kneecap is supposed to sit was a bit shallow, causing it to slip off to the side from time to time. Dogs with this problem will limp and eventually require surgery. It was a lot of money for us at the time (around $700), but of course we took her to a specialist to have it corrected.
We moved to our house in Palmyra in January of 1998. It was around this time that we became acquainted with Dr. Jon Krause and his staff at the Palmyra Animal Hospital. His practice was not what we were used to--not like the big animal hospital-type practices, but more homey---in fact, the practice is located in a small converted house. We grew to love his manner with our dogs, his stories about dogs he had had, his front desk staff (very friendly; we knew them all by first name and they knew all our stories after awhile), and even his prices--more in this in LupiStory. When Grep's patella started slipping again, rather than taking her to the specialist again, we had Dr. Krause fix it and she hasn't had a problem since.
In fall of 2001, we noticed Grep was peeing a lot more than usual. What we thought was just an infection turned out to be diabetes. Dr. Krause suggested first trying a change in diet (Hill's W/D) to see if it would help. When it didn't, we began a life-long (for Grep) routine of 2 shots of insulin per day (started with Humulin-U since it's a long-acting insulin). Eventually, after a lot of blood-glucose curves by Dr. Krause and staff and a lot of urine testing at home, we got her stabilized and happy again...besides the peeing, she had been very short on energy and rather listless near the time she was diagnosed. She perked right up again once she was on insulin.
The fortunate thing about Grep is, while she is on a restricted diet, she will eat just about anything and never tires of her prescription food. In fact, we wonder if it was her weight (which had creeped up over the years) which contributed to her diabetes, or whether it was genetic. Guess we'll never know, short of more diabetes research and a DNA test.
When Dr. Krause sold his practice (2004-ish?), we stuck it out for awhile since we could still occasionally see Dr. Krause and we loved his staff (Ann, Susan, Linda). But the prices did start going up steeply, especially on the prescription food (we ended up being charged $50 for a ~$30 case of food one day, and that was the last straw). We saw less and less of Dr. Krause, Susan was moving to Florida, and prices on most procedures was increasing, so we made the painful decision to switch vets. While I regretted it, we figured if we were going to pay more anyway, and not see Dr. Krause anymore, we would switch to another local vet that offered 24-hour emergency on-call service. We had always thought about that before (after hours care for Palmyra Animal Hospital was and is handled by Vet Specialists of Rochester, a 45 minute drive from our home), but our loyalty to Dr. Krause and his staff kept us in place. Since we seemed to be starting over with a brand new vet and lots of his new staff anyway, we decided it was time. The fact that Macedon Vet Care still only charged ~$35 for a case of Grep's food (although still charged more than we were used to for regular procedures) helped, and Dr. Linda Schneider's sensitive handling of Peanut's being put to sleep during a weekend emergency visit cemented the deal. (See PeanutStory).
Speaking of switching, while we had for a few years been driving Grep to Petsmart in Henrietta solely to see Sue for grooming, we found that Petsmart was hiring newer groomers and we were not always able to get Sue. Since it was a 45 minute drive and we weren't always able to get the groomer we wanted, we decided to switch to Clip N Cuddle in the same plaza as our new vet. While the results are sometimes a bit inconsistent (she seems to get a slightly different haircut every time---sometimes ears left long, sometimes face, etc.), we are generally happy with the services and especially the prices, and definitely the convenience. Not to mention, it's right next to McDonalds so we pick the dogs up a treat on the way home. The new groomer says one day when grooming Grep, Grep got tired and rested her chin on the groomer's shoulder while she was being clipped.
Grep's use of insulin has seemed to vary over the years. When we started, we had to go to a special pharmacist to have weaker solutions of insulin mixed up since the amounts were so tiny, but we had creeped up to using up to 16 or 17 units a day of humulin-U over the years, so we could just pick up regular-strenth insulin at the local Rite-Aid. But recently, she started becoming hypoglycemic a lot (ie, not enough sugar--too much insulin), so we ended up cutting back. With Dr. Schneider's assistance, and once Humulin-U went off the market (or is still going off, not sure), we switched her to Humulin-N in smaller doses and she's doing fine. She *is* developing cataracts gradually, but I think this is fairly typical for poodles--Peanut certainly had them. She still keeps up fairly well on walks, although sometimes she gets sore and requires a children's aspirin afterwards. Sometimes I think she just pretends to be tired when really she just wants to lag behind, sniff everything, and pee on absolutely everything (her only sign of territoriality is insisting upon peeing wherever one of our other dogs has just 'gone'). At any rate, I carry along her 'puppy sling' (a little velcroed pack that you put over your shoulders and lets you carry a small dog, sitting up, against your belly or chest) on long walks. She zones out in that thing, especially if you hand her a golf ball to carry in her mouth. (Grep has, since puppyhood, loved two toys above all others--plastic bottlecaps, which we jokingly say she pronounces bot-tle-cap in distinct syllables, and golf balls. She actually knows the word for 'golf ball' so we can't actually say this in front of her or she'll be watching for one the rest of the day.)
Grep may be submissive to the other dogs, avoiding them as much as possible, but when it comes to cleaning a dinner plate she will stick her face right in under Sobe, if necessary, to get as much licking in as possible. She is a food hound. She lives for the 2 meals and 2 snacks she gets daily, and is always waiting near the other dogs' raised bowls for accidentally-dropped treats.
Everyone that meets her remarks on her rag-doll like passivity. You can pick her up and carry her around on her back like a baby, and she never complains. She loves laps, unless it's really hot out (she has the thickest, curliest blackish-silver coat). She only barks when the other dogs start up (and even then has a very gentle bark), and when I'm preparing her food (a bit more insistent). She's also Paul's favorite. I even think she's been sitting with me more lately, sensing that I miss having a poodle next to me (Peanut was my lap dog). All in all, you couldn't ask for a better first dog.
Tricks: sit, lie down, roach (feet up in the air), roll over, speak (don't ever teach your dog 'speak' unless you want them barking every time they want something from you, like food)
Likes: food, people, bottlecaps, golf balls, riding on the 4-wheeler
Could do without: other dogs, long walks