So we went out for a lovely lunch yesterday at a Chinese restaurant run be Vietnamese people in one of the ugliest strip malls in San Diego. The kids were mostly perfect, although they cried a lot when our lunch companions tried to hold them. We need to work on that.

When we got home, we headed upstairs to feed the kids and put them down for a nap. On the way up the stairs, I took a hilarious picture of Cobra, triumphantly brandishing her mom's breast pump bottle/suction cup contraptions. (Mom won't let me publish this picture because I'm too inept to figure out how to crop her face out of picture and she doesn't want her image associated with this blog.)

Right after snapping the pic, I accused my wife of farting. We both instinctively looked around for the dog, whereupon we discovered a black pool of putrescence dripping down the stairs and splashed up onto the wall.

This is on the carpet that we had installed in the addition about three months ago.

After a long bout of cussing, I set to the task of cleaning up the mess as Mom fed Cobra and Butterbean. The cussing continued throughout, and the dog, Stella, cowered in the farthest corner of the house. As I waited for the carpet cleaner to soak in, I dashed off this little note to the listserve hosted by the breeder who was responsible for creating our dog:

Hi fellow Swissy owners,

I thought I would turn to you before contacting the Swissy rescue society.

Stella (Maximus x Inside Affair 2007) is a strikingly beautiful, 120 lb female with a very sweet temperament. She's been through two levels of obedience training in which she was a solid B student, and, despite her initial anxiety, has become a good wagon-puller. However, she has a few, um...irksome traits not well suited to a house pet.

Her skittishness is almost crippling. If I scoot a box two inches on the wood floor, she goes crashing through the house to escape the perceived threat. Same with a plastic bag, or any bumping or shuffling of items. When I carry something scary, she stays 1/2 step in front of me, cowering and cringing, and inevitably getting herself backed into a corner. I have tried some desensitization with treats, and it works okay while we are training, but in day-to-day life, that goes out the window.

She has persistent but unpredictable urinary incontinence. We waited to get her spayed (as recommended) until she had gone through heat (a 28-day nightmare), but it doesn't seem to have helped. She still dribbles regularly and occasionally pees in her sleep, most memorably on the first night after we had new carpet installed. Our vet started her on estrogen therapy a week ago, but I didn't like her diagnosis. The vet says she has "spayed bitch incontinence. " I pointed out that she had it before she was spayed; but the vet insists that hormone therapy should be the first step. I wanted to try to get her on the anti-anxiety med Clomipramine- -which has the welcome side effect of urinary retention--and kill two birds with one stone. The vet didn't agree.

The cause of my immediate frustration is her digestive problems. She has room-clearing gas about 90% of the time. Gas relief remedies from the pet store don't do much. I started giving her Gas-X recently, and that seems to help. I don't know if I should do that regularly--I should ask the vet. Stella also has bouts of diarrhea (or at least very loose stools) that last for weeks at a time. I have experimented with different foods; but the gas is almost always present and the diarrhea comes and goes regardless of what kind of food she has. She is in the midst of one of these bouts right now, and I am currently letting the carpet cleaner soak into the section of our stairs where she shat all over the still-new-but- no-longer- pristine carpet while we were out to lunch.

I know that none of the above behaviors are her fault (how can we blame a creature we bred to our specifications for anything?), and I know there are probably medical solutions for them. I also realize that, since my wife and I had twins 8 months ago, my patience with Stella is getting short. I know there are worse problems that dogs can have. And I know that Swissy's aren't known as low-maintenance dogs. But seriously. Is this typical?

Can someone offer me some solutions, or share some worse stories so I don't feel so beleaguered?

I feel a little better now.

Andy Hinds

The breeder called me within five minutes and talked me down for about half an hour. And then I started receiving angry responses from other Swissy owners on the listserve. Apparently, I am an ogre who torments his dog with babies and boxes. Whatevz.

And yes, I know that as a person who had to fill out an application with a personal statement and have an interview in order to be considered worthy of paying a lot of money and flying to another state to acquire a fancy purebred dog while perfectly good mutts languish in shelters, I deserve everything I get. I offer myself willingly as an object of your Schadenfreude. You are welcome.

Perhaps you would also enjoy knowing my rationale for getting a purebred. It goes something like this: "I'm not getting a dog out of altruism. I want a dog with certain characteristics. Dogs do not occur naturally. They are man-made. I want one that is made to my specifications. Mutts can be great, and I would adopt dozens of them if I had the acreage. But I have specific needs in the one dog I can fit in my life, and by getting a particular breed, I have a better chance of meeting those needs." Oh, the hubris!

Here's the good news and product endorsement. I scrubbed the crap out of the carpet (literally and figuratively) with Bac-Out by Biokleen, and then used Biokleen Carpet and Rug Cleaner in our rug shampooer rig. Now the carpet looks fine. It still smells a little funky, but I will continue to work on it.

Stella is now canus non grata upstairs. The stairs are blocked off by boxes. I am an ogre.

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