Category Archives: Zoe

On Human Separation Anxiety/Our European Adventure

Happy New Year, friends! We hope that 2013 is a happy and healthy year for all of you.

Things have been quiet on the blog and our Facebook page because K. and I went on our first European vacation together. When one of my dear friends from graduate school (who happens to be the momma of this precious girl) got engaged and decided to have her wedding in Germany (where she’s from), K. and I knew we couldn’t miss it! Given that K. and I haven’t been on a real vacation together since our short honeymoon nearly three years ago, we thought it was about time to take a trip.

When a bunch of our Chicago friends also decided to go to the wedding in Bonn, we, along with the wedding party, decided to spend New Years in Berlin. Since I had studied there for a summer two years ago, I was quite excited about the prospect! We also decided that since we would be in Europe anyway, we couldn’t miss visiting my host family in Strasbourg (I was an exchange student in high school and we’ve stayed in touch). And if we’d be in France, we decided to visit Paris too. So, our “little” vacation soon developed into a two-week long European excursion.

While I was super excited about the prospect of spending much-needed time away with K., I immediately became anxious about the idea of leaving the animals. Because K. used to be a cook,his combined unpredictable schedule and measly salary made travel for him impossible. So when I would have to leave for school-related events, he would be able to stay home with the animals. And even then, the longest I’d been away from Zoe was 4 days (that was hard for me!).

I am fortunate enough to have a younger brother who is a huge animal lover and agreed to stay at our place while K. and I were away. He is a senior in college, and would be on winter break, so the timing was perfect. (He is also waiting to hear back from veterinary schools right now, so keep your fingers crossed for him!!!!). I knew that he would be responsible, and I was happy that his girlfriend would be staying with him to help (she’s a fellow animal-lover with whom he started a student group that visits the local animal shelter to socialize the cats and dogs). I also enlisted the help of three wonderful SociaBulls friends to serve as back-ups (with house keys!) in the event that my brother needed help. I also had my parents nearby, and my extended family too. In short, Freddie, Stella, and Zoe would be in the best possible hands.

And yet, I couldn’t stop worrying. After reading Josh at That Touch of Pit’s post about his own anxieties about leaving Lucy, I knew he would be a good person to consult. He gave me some very sound suggestions: 1) first and foremost, make sure your completely trust your animals’ caretaker; 2) provide as much information as you can (veterinary info, emergency contacts, poison control, etc.); 3) notify your regular vet that you will be traveling and give them the name of the animals’ caretaker. I followed his advice and wrote a novel packet for my brother with all the information I could think of — and then some. I also left him our Care Credit Card in the event he needed to visit the vet, and also provided tons of emergency contacts (i.e., SociaBulls friends) who lived nearby and had our keys. I also spoke with my friends at Two Pitties in the City, Our Waldo Bungie, and Pittieful Love because I knew they had also traveled and left their pets at home. They all gave me great advice and support!

The day we left, the state where my brother lives got hit by a huge snow storm. While it was fine in Chicago, it was not safe for him to drive here. That meant that two of my fantastic “back-ups” sprung into action and agreed to stay here with the pets until my brother could arrive. Fortunately, the roads got cleared quickly, and my brother was able to come after all. While that was nerve-wracking for me, I was glad that I had taken the time to plan ahead and have friends “on call.”

I then tried to breathe and stop worrying. I basically emerged from the womb worrying, so this was not an easy thing to do.

But then, we arrived in Paris and I saw this:

And this:

Being surrounded by so much beauty made me pause and realize that I was in PARIS! And after that, I was able to relax. I skyped with my brother (and the animals) every few days, and my brother texted us daily updates. Having those reassurances made it possible for me sit back and enjoy the trip.

Back at home, Zoe had a great time with my family over the holidays.

Okay, here’s the point where I’m going to pretty much going to stop talking about animals (gasp!) and post tons of photos of my trip. Feel free to skip or peruse as you wish!

When we arrived in the morning, we had already been awake for 24 hours and were super jet lagged. We really wanted to go to sleep, but we forced ourselves to stay awake until ten that night. It was tough, but we managed by walking around and seeing all the sights:

We also ate lots of delicious food:

Double fisting ice cream cones from Maison Berthillon

Thank goodness K. is good with maps. If I was getting us around, we would always be lost.

Paris is magical at night. It’s a cliche to say that, but it’s so true.

More food (can you tell we like to eat?!).

Being a vegetarian in Paris = eating a lot of cheese. I was okay with that.

Only in Paris would it be necessary to have this sign in front of an ice cream and chocolate shop.

This was the best dinner we had in Paris:

We visited my favorite cemetery:

My expression: “Why are you taking a photo of me?” 
Père Lachaise Cemetery
We got to visit Proust:

And Jim Morrison:

We also saw everything from the whimsical to the beautiful:

So many bookstores.

Sacré Coeur of Montmartre

Obligatory Eiffel Tower shot.
It was just so nice to get to spend time together.
After Paris, we took the train to Strasbourg, which is a beautiful city with an entirely different feel:
Strasbourg is beautiful. It rained the whole time we were there though.

A mixture of German and French!
We were with my host family for Christmas. It was four hours of French deliciousness. It was so special to get to see them and to spend the holiday in France.

And here was Bonn, which is also lovely: 
Stieff Bears!

 My friend’s parents made us an incredible Bavarian breakfast:

Beer with breakfast = we love Germany.

Being the vegetarian I am, I took photos before the meat came out! Sorry sausage lovers. Trust me, there was a lot of wurst.

Here’s more Bonn:

A child playing on top of martyr statues


In the US, something is old if it’s 200 years old. This building dates back to the 13th century!

Beethoven was born in Bonn.
This is where Beethoven was born and lived until he was 22 (1792).

In Germany, it is socially acceptable for adults to drink Apfelschorle, which is basically carbonated apple juice. It. Is. Delicious.

I was very happy.

After celebrating at the wedding and eating/drinking our way through Bonn, we took the train to Berlin:  

We stayed in Mitte (formerly East Berlin) right near the Fernsehturm.
The Rotes Rathaus.

The world clock at Alexanderplatz.
Obligatory meat photo:


We saw all the sights along Unter den Linden:

Berliner Dom

I have no idea what is happening here: 
Brandenburger Tor: 
The rebuilt Hotel Adlon.

Berlin is filled Stolpersteine, which can literally be translated as “stumbling stones.”

“Here lived Irma Rosenthal. Born 1910. Deported 194?. Murdered in Auschwitz.”
“Here lived Karla Rosenthal. Born 1920. Deported 1943. Murdered in Auschwitz.”
“Here lived Ellen Rosenthal. Born 1933. Deported 1943. Murdered in Auschwitz.”

We also walked all over various other parts of Berlin:

Outside the Anne Frank Zentrum.

Berlin at night:

A building in the former East. “Capitalism murders, destroys, kills.”

“Men’s Fashion: XXL-XXXXXXXXL” 

And more sightseeing during the day:

Checkpoint Charlie.

They had a really interesting museum that we visited. It’s amazing what lengths people went to to try to escape East Germany.

Berlin has a big Turkish population = amazing food. This is the best Döner in Berlin.

In Berlin, New Years Eve is CRAZY. Picture the 4th of July in the United States, but way more fireworks in the streets.

The view from our apartment on New Year’s Eve.

We thought that the rumors of people shooting fireworks at other people in the street wasn’t true. It was.

A firework shot at an S-Bahn station that got stuck in a pipe.

Here are some other random highlights from the trip:

This is what happens when four Americans with a sweet tooth stay in one apartment in Berlin. 

The fancy department store in West Berlin. 

 They have a HUGE food section filled with culinary delights from all over the world:

Mmmmm. German mustard.

Most of the American food was gross and expensive!

Well, that’s it. When we got home, everything was perfect. My brother and his girlfriend did a wonderful job. Zoe and Freddie were very happy to see us. Stella is another story, but she’ll come around… 

Back to the usual.

P.S. Zoe’s surgery is on Monday, so I’ll be updating you on that soon! Please keep her in your thoughts!


Zoe Update

Well, it’s the midst of finals week and I have revisions of a very important paper due on Friday. Instead of working on that though, I thought I’d redirect my anxiety into blogging.

As I mentioned last week and posted on Facebook, we had thought Zoe had partially torn her ACL in both her hind legs. The plan was to just try to keep her calm and see if the anti-inflammatories made a difference. If the tears were partial, there was no need for a surgical consult right away. However, after giving it more thought and speaking with our vet again, K.and I decided that it would be best to take Zoe to an orthopedic surgeon now because it would allow us to know exactly what is going on with her. Once we had all the necessary information, then we could begin to outline all our options.

So, I took Zoe to the orthopedic surgeon for a consult last week, and the news was not what we were hoping to hear: Zoe has fully torn both her ACLs. She needs surgery as soon as possible. The longer we wait, the worse the potential for severe arthritis in her knees becomes.

Photo by A. of Two Pitties.

After examining Zoe, the surgeon explained that she is a classic patient for this kind of injury: young, exuberant, and athletic. Her limp isn’t as pronounced because the injury is in both of her hind legs, which has allowed her to better mask it. (I know, it sounds counterintuitive to me too). The good news is that Zoe hardly seems to know she’s hurt. While she is very stiff going up stairs or climbing up furniture, she does not act like she is in serious pain. But after examining her x-rays and palpating her knees, the surgeon said that there are basically no ligaments left.

While she said she wouldn’t recommend this for all her patients, the surgeon recommended that Zoe have a TTA procedure on both her hind legs at once. Operating on both legs at the same time used to be frowned upon in the veterinary world, but apparently the technology has gotten better and for dogs like Zoe, it’s the best option. The alternative would be to operate on one leg, wait 8 weeks for it to begin to heal, and then put Zoe through the surgery and recovery all over again.

So here is the new plan: Zoe will have surgery on January 7, 2013. She will stay overnight at the hospital, and then will be in an e-collar for two weeks to avoid infection. (The surgeon said that she’s had dogs lick the incision site, and then develop a fierce infection. Upon treating the infection, it would go dormant and reassert itself a year or two later, forcing the removal of the implant!). After the surgery, Zoe is not to run, jump, or play at all for eight weeks in order to allow her knees to heal. (Obviously, the cats will have to remain separated from her at all times). We will also do extensive physical therapy with her for at least three months.

In the weeks leading up to the surgery, we are supposed to keep Zoe as calm as possible. She is not supposed to run, play, or walk longer than 10-15 minutes at a time. We usually walk 2 hours a day, but now we can only do 10 minute walks, three times a day. That is a quarter of her regular exercise.

No SociaBulls for a long, long time. 😦

We also have to carry her up and down the stairs (we live in a building without an elevator).

To help us with the stairs, we purchased something called the “help ’em up harness.” It’s great — the only problem is that Zoe hates it and starts shaking whenever I take it out. She doesn’t understand why she can’t just get up and down the stairs in her own way (who cares if she looks like a bunny trying to do it?!). I’ve been trying to slowly get her acclimated to the harness by associating it with positive things like treats and short walks, and in the meantime, I have been carrying her up and down the stairs. My arms, legs, and back are pretty sore, so I think I might need to move to the harness soon to avoid really hurting myself! Though Zoe is a petite girl, she’s still 50+ pounds.

Then there’s the financial issue. Let’s just say that we will be paying off this surgery for a long, long time. Unfortunately, we do not have pet insurance. We had been planning on purchasing it for Zoe, but then her allergies started, and we thought we would no longer be able to be approved anywhere. I don’t think that’s even true, but it’s too late now. (See Two Pitties in the City for a fantastic post on dog insurance — don’t make our mistake!!). Obviously, we would do anything for Zoe and want only the best for her, so we will make it work somehow.

Beyond those challenges, we’ve encountered other side effects resulting from Zoe’s decreased physical activity. See Exhibit A:

Do you see Zoe in this photo? 

We received this gem of a photo from our dog walker. As you can see, Zoe pulled the blanket that was over her crate inside, and also managed to pull a pillow from our couch into her crate and destroy it. Such an event happened twice in a week.

See Exhibit B:

Ironically, I gave K. this blanket while he was recovering from his own ACL surgery.
Yes, she destroyed K.’s beloved Bears blanket, which she somehow pulled into her crate from the couch. 
Over the past two years with Zoe, she’s only shredded something in her crate twice — and that was within the first few weeks of bringing her home. Without her regular exercise, Zoe is redirecting her energy in negative ways. I’ve tried using brain toys and giving her special bones to chew, which do seem to help. Still, nothing replaces a good long walk — for either of us. I’m particularly devastated to miss SociaBulls walks, which have been a regular part of our weekend routine for the past year (though at least I can participate in my capacity as new member co-coordinator and as a dogless walker!).
Photo by A. of Two Pitties.
I’m sorry if this post has been a downer, but I’m still processing all of this. I know that we are lucky that Zoe is not suffering from anything life-threatening, and that we have access to such wonderful veterinary care. The months ahead will be a challenge, but I know we will get through it somehow! 
If anyone has been through a similar experience, I would love to hear how you managed. Any advice about keeping Zoe calm (and anything else) is welcome! Thanks for the support, friends.

Two Years Later: Zoe’s "Gotcha Day"

Two years ago today, K. and I took Zoe home.

Zoe the day I met/fell in love with her! 

As I’ve said in the past, it was not an easy task to adopt Zoe. I was met with resistance on all sides: from my landlord, my friends, and even my husband. But one by one, they all came around.

How can anyone resist that face!? 

The day we took her home was one of the happiest of my life.

To say that Zoe has brought me joy would be an understatement. She has completely changed my life.

Through her, I have made wonderful new friends (including Zoe’s foster parents!). I have learned about what it means to own a dog in a bustling metropolis, and have been able to be part of a group that works to promote responsible dog ownership. Zoe forces me to get outside my own head and get outdoors — something that is difficult when one is a full-time Ph.D student.

Zoe’s “I’m bored stop studying face.” 

And she always makes me laugh.

Photo by A. of Two Pitties.

We are so happy that two years ago today, we took her home. Happy “Gotcha” Day, Zoe! We love you.

Update: Zoe loves life a little too hard (no, really)

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Zoe loves life.

She is just a happy dog. All the time. 
All it takes is fleeting eye contact to get Zoe’s tail wagging.
Zoe loves blankets.
Or rather, being underneath blankets.
And cats.
Well, sort of.
Zoe loves naptime with her people,
and SociaBulls walks.
(Thanks TwoPitties for the photo!).
Even when she’s experiencing something she hates, she can’t stay upset for long. 
She’s just a really goofy dog who always makes us laugh.
Part of her zest for life manifests itself in feats of athleticism. She’s been known to jump over other dogs, cats, human beings, and various pieces of furniture. While I try to channel her energy in long walks, sometimes that isn’t enough. 
As anyone who has been following us on Facebook knows, Zoe has been limping on and off in her back legs for the past few months. At first, I thought she had just played too hard and maybe strained a muscle. When the limp went away, I figured I was right. But then I started to notice that she was still having a difficult time climbing up our stairs or jumping onto the couch. Her movements were stiff, almost arthritic. For a two year old dog, we knew something was wrong. When she became nearly unable to put weight on her left hind leg after a walk, I called the vet. We brought her in for x-rays, and it turns out that she has partially tore her ACL (it’s called a CCL for dogs) in both of her back legs. This accounts for her “bunny hop” method for traversing stairs and her difficulty with repetitive movements (like going from a sit to a stand). Apparently, this is a very common injury in larger dogs. We don’t know exactly when or how Zoe did this, but somewhere over the course of her life-loving antics, she managed to do serious injury to both her hind legs. The good news is that since our vet visit, we have put her on an anti-inflammatory, which has helped a lot. She doesn’t seem to be in pain, and as everyone on our SociaBulls walk yesterday could see, she is certainly acting like her normal self. 
Photo by A. of Two Pitties.
So what does this mean? Well, we’re not quite sure yet. It’s possible, and perhaps likely, that Zoe will fully tear her ACL in both legs. (When a dog, or human for that matter, tears one ACL, the other one is often next to go). The plan currently is to see how Zoe does after this round of anti-inflammatories, and then reconvene with the vet. We’ll also probably have a consult with an orthopedic surgeon to see what our options are. As of right now, I am definitely not inclined to rush to surgery, especially when her only symptoms now are only stiffness after walks. I’ll never forget when K. tore his ACL playing soccer, and how traumatic and painful his surgery and recovery were. We don’t want to put Zoe through something like that unless it’s absolutely necessary. 
For the time being we’ll wait and do our best to keep Zoe calm, which has been the real challenge. The vet has said that we are allowed to keep walking her because it’s safer to tire her out that way than to risk the alternative (i.e., the zoomies), but she still has a lot of energy. 
In any event, I really appreciate the outpouring of love when we posted the news on our Facebook page, and I know that many of you have been through similar ordeals with your pups. I’ve appreciated your advice and stories. I’ll be keeping you posted! 

"Your Dog Eats What?!": The Controversial Subject of Dog Food

When I tell people that my dog eats kangaroo, they think I’m joking. Why would I — a vegetarian for nearly 15 years — permit my beloved dog to feast on such an adorable marsupial?


But yes, it’s true. Just like Ira Glass’s pit bull, my Zoe eats kangaroo.

(Photo from the article linked above).

Allow me to back up for a moment here.

For starters, Zoe’s freak-diet is not necessarily a detail I advertise. However, because I have a reputation for being “the crazy animal person” in most of my friends and family members’ lives, I tend to be the one they turn to with questions about animal allergies and diets. As a result, the subject arises more than you might think.

Often I get asked whether or not I feel guilty letting Zoe consume such a cute creature. The answer is yes and no. While I would prefer that everyone eat less (or no) meat, I do not impose my own dietary choices or ethical beliefs on anyone — human or animal. When it comes to Zoe, I want to feed her whatever keeps her healthy and happy — and for the time being, that happens to be kangaroo.

As I’ve mentioned numerous times, Zoe is allergic to to everything from nature itself to chicken, beef, venison, and grain. Through working with her regular vet and her dermatologist (yes, she has one of those), we keep her allergies under control through a strict regimen of weekly medicated baths, daily use antibacterial wipes, and regular doses of Hydroxyzine.

Hence the never-ending supply of pathetically cute bathtime photos.

The final and most challenging ingredient to managing Zoe’s allergies has been her diet. Indeed, the other unseemly component of Zoe’s allergies is GI upset, which was a daily reality for her. This problem is compounded by the fact that she’s a terribly picky eater. In fact, her newest favorite habit is selecting a single piece of kibble from her bowl, transferring it to the rug, and furtively consuming it. She will repeat this process multiple times a day.

It doesn’t help that a certain someone is often creeping by her food, so we’ve relocated it to her crate.

As a result of Zoe’s stomach issues, I have done my best to educate myself about all the different types of dog food on the market. I understand the importance of scrutinizing the ingredient lists for by-products and fillers. I believe that it is worth it to spend the extra money to provide the highest quality food for our pets to extend their lifespans (if that is financially feasible). And as I have said before, I have tried just about every high-end brand of dog food you can imagine. We’ve done raw food, wet food, dry food, dehydrated food — we’ve even cooked her food from the grocery store. (And by we, I mean K.). We did herbs, supplements, probiotics, etc. You name it, we’ve tried it. In spite of all these efforts, nothing seemed to prevent the upset stomach that was a daily reality for Miss Z.

Last winter when the weather grew colder (or at least cold-ish by Chicago standards), we decided to do an official diet trial. This meant that Zoe could eat nothing by a designated hypoallergenic food for a few months; she could have one protein and one starch. That’s it. No treats, no toothpaste, no cat food, no crumbs from the floor, nada.

Me? Eat that little guy’s food? Never! 

Because we had to make sure that there were no other cross-contaminants in the food processing plant, the vet recommended a prescription brand of rabbit and potato. (I don’t want to name names here, but if you want to know, Facebook message me). Beyond being very expensive, I was hesitant because it was not one of the “approved” brands I was used to buying. But at this point I figured nothing else had worked and I would give it a shot.

And sure enough, within a few weeks, we noticed a marked difference. The GI problems had all but disappeared.

The rough life Zoe leads.

After a few months on the diet, I tried integrating some of the non-hypoallergenic food back into Zoe’s meals, but the old problems came back with a vengeance. So, we remained on the hypoallergenic prescription food and Zoe continued to thrive.

Princess of all pillows.

After Zoe was on this food for about six months, the company announced it might discontinue the line. At this juncture, we had a choice: feed Zoe an outrageously expensive hydrolyzed diet or try another brand’s hypoallergenic formula that happened to feature another exotic protein: kangaroo. Again, this was not a brand I would’ve ever considered feeding Zoe in the past, but I was willing to try it.

“I eat what?!”

After the initial adjustment, Zoe has done remarkably well. Her coat and weight are great, and she has no stomach issues to speak of (except for when I occasionally cheat and allow her a forbidden Kong filled with peanut butter).

Maybe all this sounds silly, but as with human babies, dog parents have very strong opinions about what to feed their canine kids.  After going through all this with Zoe, I try not to judge; to each his or her own! She won’t be on kangaroo forever (we have to switch the protein and starches a few times a year to prevent her developing an intolerance to those!), but it looks like the prescription dog food is here to stay. So that’s where we are right now — and as long as Zoe remains as healthy as she is, this is where we will remain.

What do you feed your dog and why? Do you also feel like the issue of what to feed our pets has become a controversial topic?