A blog about my life with dogs.......

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My dog, your dog, the individual.

Puppies Comet and Cupid

If you read the last post then you know that because of my lack in judgment I lost my dog.Then, thankfully, found him. I have put so much work into Comet it's just plain crazy. I have put more work into Comet and his recall than some dog owners who have very reliable off leash dogs. So what's MY problem? My expectations of my dog. Comet is the offspring of a working Great Pyrenees and an English Shepard. I've never met Comets father, but I have heard about him. Lots of my neighbors have met him, and the friendly folks at the Cedar Valley Humane Society (2years ago) knew him by name. Like most Great Pyrenees, Comets' father was a wanderer. His people had lots of trouble keeping him in and he was known for taking off and roaming long distances. 

When Comet was a pup I spent a day volunteering for Great Pyrenees Rescue of Iowa to get to know the dogs there. Archie, still listed on GPRI's website as adopted, was a dog I found in my neighborhood and believe to be a brother of Comets from a previous litter. The woman in charge made it clear to me that this is a wonderful, handsome and strong willed breed that is very loving but also very drawn to roam. From the start I have known that Comet would not likely be a good off leash dog, so I put lots of work into his recall, and continue to. In a class room full of dogs his recall is spectacular. In the woods, he may always forget I exist and choose to roam.

At 2 years old Comet has many other talents. At a local group home Comet is the highlight of the day for the residents. One of these residents recently fell ill and was hospitalized for an extended period. When she moved to a floor that allowed therapy dogs I didn't hesitate to ask for the okay to bring him in. I knew it would brighten one sick woman's day. It would be Comets first time in a hospital setting and first ride in an elevator. I thought we would be stopped on our way in but we walked in without the lift of an eye. I was glad it was just the two of us on the elevator just in case Comet got nervous, but he stood politely like a champ and when we arrived at the patience's room he cuddled next to her in bed. When nurses came in and we had to back off Comet sat politely curled in a chair next to the woman's mother who also happened to be very sick herself. She petted Comets head, and told us about making funeral plans earlier that day for her and for her daughter . "It's better to be prepared , I guess" she said looking into Comets eyes. Maybe she wasn't telling us after all, maybe she was just telling Comet.

Comet spent over an hour being petted and adored. He seemed to know this was the time to be gentle and quiet. When nurses came and went he wagged his tail but nothing more. No excited barking. No herding. For the last half of the visit the patient held Comets leash. Her hands were so shaky from her illness and meds that she had been unable hold a cup or a telephone but she had no trouble at all holding onto Comets leash. After taking treats gently from her hands he fell asleep at the foot of her wheelchair.

Comet is a wonderful and special dog. But he's not like your dog and the wonderful special dog that your dog is. It's easy to forget when we see breed standards, or we watch other people with there dogs and wish we could do what they do, that training isn't the be all end all. Each dog is an individual. Comet and I have built up a relationship of trust. He seems to trust that I will not take him into harms way(other than that evil ear cleaning and bummer bath time) and I trust that he will not become scared and act out when the IV machine starts loudly beeping and 2 new people walk quickly into the room.

We trust eachother.I just have to make sure I don't misplace that trust, oh say, in the woods.

Tool Box
Have you heard about the Nina Ottosson interactive dog games?
No, this is not a video game for you, it's,....well.... like a board game for your dog!
Check it out. It's a fun way to spend a cold and rainy afternoon with your dog.
 I have the Dog Brick game. While I myself wouldn't collect them all, 
having one is a fun thing to have around. 
Have you ever felt physically exhausted but mentally bored? Or vice versa?
Your dog can feel the same way. These games are meant to mentally stimulate your dog to work out problems and be rewarded when they achieve success.

To end this blog here is a link to another dog individual. A German Shepard named Buddy.....

and speaking of special dogs here is a photo I haven't looked at in a very long time......
......a photo of 3 very special dogs.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pup-Pup! Where are you?!?!

Yes, one of Comets' several names is pup-pup. He also goes by Comie, Com-Com, Puppy Boy and Com-ers. It's a wonder he knows his name at all! I've been working on recall with Comet since he was 12 weeks old. At 18 weeks I started taking him to my grandparents 10 acre property, together we would forge the snow. Me, trudging in my boots and snow pants, him happily leaping the snow and running circles around me or sniffing at tracks of bird feet. If he ventured too far off I would get his attention, and then make a silly commotion and run in the opposite direction from him as if I just found the most awesome thing ever. When Comet would begin to bound towards me I would say "Come!" in a happy voice and when he arrived to me we would have a party. I would give him a treat, or a few and pull out a super duper special toy like a raccoon tail on a rope, then I would keep running so he could chase it, then let him chew for a minute,then we would move on. When we arrived at the wooded area of the property I would wait until he became distracted from me and I would hide behind a bush or a big tree. Young pups, would rather follow you around then wonder alone and he would quickly begin searching for me When he found me again we would party. After the first time I did this it became very difficult to get far enough away from him to hide at all! He kept his eye on me all the time, and though very curious about everything, chose me over distractions. That was then.

This is now.
About 10 days ago Comet and I were on a hike and he took off. It was all my fault. After nearly 2 years of working on his recall, hiking together, car rides, training classes, trips to and from doggy day care, camping trips together, playing fetch, the list goes on,... I was itching to hike with him no leash attached.

About a month ago I had contact with an old foster dogs' family, everything was going great with them. Camping, hiking, running, all with no leash?!?! Amazing! Wonderful! Wait, why can't I do that!?!?!?
I do my best to hike with my dogs 3-6 times a week. I love it, the fresh air, sunshine and solitude help me feel free and released from the grind of cleaning my house and working my job. Unfortunately my chronic back pain (at age 27!)has begun to put in a vote in all my physical activities. Regular hiking with leashed dogs has been a rough go lately. A lot of the time the dogs are so great, they walk near my side and about 85% of the time I find myself holding the leash loosely with just two fingers. But when Comet gets excited to sniff a tree that was freshly peed on and speeds up in that direction even if the pressure is minimal enough I can still hold the leash with two fingers it sends a zap of pain down my back. I have ended many hikes in tears this year. 2 monthes ago I limited myself to hiking with only 1 dog at time instead of 2, only walk 1 at a time around the neighborhood or on the nature trail(some days I cheat, when I'm feeling good).

Sigh. I'm okay.

10 days ago I was hiking with one dog. Comet. It was a beautiful day. The fall leaves were turning, and the weather was cool but good. The park was empty, what luck! Comet and I claimed the trails as our own and climbed the hills instead of taking the flat paths. The whole hike in I just kept thinking about how much work I have put into his recall. No one else in the park. He tugged against the leash a little to sniff at a bush his nose couldn't reach. I cringed. Pain. I was holding the leash with only one finger. I knelt down on the grassy path and looked up at slope of the hill and back at Comet. I looked at my phone for the time.

"Well, I've got an extra hour to find you if you take off." I said and looked at my handsome fluff ball. I pulled out a bacon treat from my pocket and broke it into 4 pieces. We hit the trail hard. Comet galloped up the hill full speed and circled around at the top and stood looking back at me. We were both panting. I smacked my hands against the grassy ground and called him to me, he ran right into me. We happily hiked along together  for another mile, him running ahead then circling back to me. I reinforced his recall by giving him treats randomly when we came back to me, other times petting him and releasing him, or playing chase. We were the only two beings in the universe! Both our mouths wide open taking in the air as we took the long way up the next hill. I made lots of noise when calling Comet back to me, hoping to keep any wildlife from tempting him. We took the hill. As I moved into the hook in the trail I called Comet back to me and I could see he had taken off further this time. His tail confidently in the air and his nose to the ground, he didn't look up at me. But he turned back in my direction and I exhaled. I squatted to pee behind a bush and clicked my tongue to him as I stood again. Comet was bounding up the hill to me as I heard a rustle to my left. 3 deer determined to get away from both of us stood 10 feet from me and 40 from Comet. I called to Comet. No such luck.
This is how my dog forgot that I existed.
If you are ever in a situation attempting to retrieve a dog, chasing the dog is NOT the right thing to do. Four legs are faster than 2. If you are looking for your lost dog and you see him across a grassy meadow, or whatever the scene may be, kneel down and call to him, lay flat on the ground so he might come investigate you or call to him and run away hoping he will chase you.
There I was, on the highest hill in the park overlooking forest and prairie. Alone. In the distance I could hear brush crackle and leaves whoosh under set of four fast moving feet, until that faded away. I checked the time. I still had my hour. If I spend the entire hour looking for him I will still make it back in time to finish things at home and make it to work on time. I convince myself there is no reason to get upset and hike around to the fence. I think maybe he jumped the fence chasing the deer. Several NO TRESPASSING and PRIVATE PROPERTY signs are nailed to trees. The barb wire fence is old and bent. This fence couldn't stop a blind cow from crossing it. I walk the fence line and see a deer stand in a tree. I call and call.
"Comet! Come here boy!"
"Com, Com! Come on Comers!"
"Pup pup! Where are you?" I click my tongue and scan the forest. Then take a moment to listen. Leaves everywhere. If he were anywhere near here I would here him rustling the leaves.
I move to the open prairie where the sound of his moments would be silent in the soft dry grass.Out in the open prairie the wind is blowing the sound of my voice away. The clock is ticking. I hike fast. Scan the prairie and the forest edge. I call and call, then I listen. Hike fast. Cover ground. I scan the pasture next to the park where 4 horses are swooshing their tails. Grazing.
I'm talking to myself now, trying to keep my spirits up. My hours almost up.
"At least he's not chasing horses!" I gasp and circle the trail and climb the hill again. I call and call. My hour is up. I have to go to work soon. Overnight shift. Work 27 hours in two days with a 3 hour break. Craig takes care of the boys (dogs, I call my pack "the boys") while I'm gone. I have to find him. Now.
I head down the hill picking up speed as I go. Brainstorm. I just read an article in BARK about how to find a lost dog. That was more geared to city dwellers, I think, as I imagine the photos of people in rain parkas holding large signs at busy intersections. The signs had photos of a chihuahua and said "missing dog" in bright red letters.There are no busy intersections near the top of Wicciup Hill. For that I am thankful.

I took the long trail back to the parking lot and look over the pastures again. When I got to the main entrance I went to the information desk. No one was there. I used my phone to post a picture of Comet on Facebook with the caption "missing dog, last seen Wicciup Hill Park PLEASE HELP!". On the information desk at the park are maps of the hiking trails and park I grabbed a marker from the desk and put an X where comet was last seen and wrote on the back of each map
70lbs, UTD shots
Please help!

I put my name and phone number on the bottom and left one on the information desk. By now 3 cars were in the parking lot and each one got a flier. I called my mom as I jumped in my car and drove to the farms bordering the park. My mom was unable to help, so she sent my sister who came to the park with her dog to look. I put a flier in the mail box of a house I was sure Comet was NOT at then, but could be later while on my way to the bordering farms.
Almost 2 hours.
Pulled in to the first farm and 2 well kept blue merle Australian Shepards barked at me from there kennels attached to the house. I was relieved I was on dog loving property. When an older man in overalls answered the door I couldn't even get a sentence out .It hit me that my dog was really lost. He looked at me skeptically and said "WHAT?". I stammered that I lost my dog, could I please leave my phone number in case he saw him. The man grunted and turned away, but came back with a pad and paper and I wrote down my number and thanked him. As I walked away he hollered...
"Go ahead and take your car down this path here to my hay field. You might find him there. Wont hurt the hay any. It's already been cut."
I called out a thank you and drove past the horse pasture to the hay field. My phone rang and one of the most dog loving-est women I know was on the other line asking what she could do to help. It was a friend, the manager of my local Camp Bow Wow offering to make fliers and do what ever else she could. I was so thankful I couldn't even express it.
I drove out of the hay field with no dog.
The next bordering property had NO TRESPASSING signs and a few signs that said WARNING LIVE FIRE. My heart pounded. I put fliers in all the mailboxes until the dead end.
My time was almost out.

I drove back to the park and hiked in again. This time I dropped bits of kibble on the trail. Hey, it worked for Hansel and Gretel, right? No, but it couldn't hurt. I dropped the kibble along my route thinking that this was a really silly thing to do, but doing it anyway. I was now going to be late for work, but I had to circle the trail one more time.

Last year, in January , a very similar event happened on a hike with Comet. It was -15  degrees with windchill but I had the gear and Comet had the coat so we hiked. Long story short he got lost and I trudged through the snow for 3 hours looking for him. By the end, tear-sicles on my face, my frozen feet gave up just as I passed the spot I last saw him. When I did, I turned hearing some sound in the snow and my fuzzy puppy boy came bounding out of the wood to me. I had to work on a hunch, that this scenario could happen again. And this time I would lean my lesson. I swear!

I climbed the trails but no sight of him. Dropping kibble, I look and call. I look and call. I give in. I have to leave. Pull myself together. I hear a rustle in the bushes. I call and look. Comet bounds out of the bushes to me and I go down on my knees. I grab his collar and put my wet face on his wet matted neck of fur. I smell him. I'm glad he is here. He stinks, and he's covered with burs. Later I will find he is crawling with deer ticks. He is mud paw to belly. I hug him anyway and tell him he is a good boy. He is a terrible naughty boy and he stinks. But he came running to me, so he is good. He is safe. I am relieved. We hike fast out of the park and I have trouble updating my Facebook status to say that Comet is found. I call people to say he's okay.

They say the first few hours your dog is missing are the most critical hours to spread the word. Dogs move fast. Immediately after loosing your dog is the only time you may have any solid lead on where he has recently been. Thankfully I found him myself and didn't have to walk away from that park with out my dog. Thinking ahead of time about what you would do if you lost your dog will help you be prepared if the worst happens. I am so thankful that so many great people know my dog(and me!) and cared enough to help when we really needed it. Now I've got to make sure we don't need help again!

It is so important for your dog to wear a collar and ID tag at all times.
Micro-chipping your pet will defend you from someone else claiming your dog if he is lost.
Work on Recall with your dog regularly! And always, always reward your dog when he comes back to you. Your dog will not associate you petting him and rejoicing in his return with his chasing deer, (woof!that was like 3 hours ago) but he will associate you petting him, partying etc with him moving his body to you when you wanted him to (this time).
Remember to act fast and be diligent.
Comet in the car on the ride home after being found.
 The mud and ticks required a bath.
The burs matted his fur badly and he required not only a serious brushing but also a hair cut.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I knew this would happen!

I thought I would try to put ads up on this blog. My fear, which I had literally spoke out loud..."What if they post Cesear ads on my blog!?!"
My fear has come true. Please don't buy any Ceaser Millian books because you saw an ad of his on this blog .
I do not endorse him.
I decided to remove ads from this blog.

phew. now that that is out of the way, please do look forward to my next real blog post (as in one unlike this one!)  which will include a story about Comet getting lost last week and some helpful advice about what to do if your dog goes missing....and more!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Big vs Little Dog

Haley. My parents farm dog.
 Imagine the scene, It is a lovely summer afternoon and the farmers market has a small steady stream of customers walking through the park and to the market. Comet and I scan the venders for the best deals and familiar faces. A school age boy walks up to me "May I pet your dog?" I love it when they do that!
"Yes," I say  " Thank you for asking first!" and I kneel down to the childs' level and answer his questions about my dog. His mother steps over says hello. "Thank you." She says as she walks away. As I tell Comet what a good boy he is I hear a growl and sharp bark from behind me. A woman begins to laugh. I turn to see a teeny tiny Chihuahua snarling and lunging at Comet. The woman smiles and looks from me her her snarling dog.
"Isn't she something?" She says and walks closer to Comet and I. "What a good looking god you have!" The woman continues to make polite conversation with me as her dog continues to makes threats to mine. I am monitoring the situation closely, at about 3lbs this little Napoleon can't do much damage to Comet. My worry is that Comet will grow uncomfortable and annoyed, something I already am. I slip momentarily into my imagination and see Comet swallow that sucker like a field mouse. Crunch. Crunch. Swallow.
Coming back to reality I am proud of my dog. Most of the market goers have paused from their shopping now to see the little bully lunging at my big dog, and my big dog (He is really more medium sized weighing in at 70lbs) looking away, then sitting, looking at me, then looking away.
Comet looking away is a great response to the situation. A dog exhibiting a "look away" is saying something like "I am no threat to you, I am calm, you can be too". This is exactly what I would want him to do. His sitting and then standing and repeat was a cue to me that he was getting uncomfortable trying to calm that little stinker. 

When the little dog got too close to Comet I walked in between them, putting my big shoe in front of the tiny dog. The little dog then began darting back and forth between her owners legs, continuing to lunge and bark. Comet was getting uncomfortable and I was tired of holding my tongue. I finished my shopping and got out of there. On one hand I walked away from the market very proud of how well Comet had handled that situation. I rewarded him (Did I mention this whole encounter happened in front of a home made dog treat vender?)with green bean and garlic dog treats I bought at the market. All the people at the market that day saw how well behaved my dog had been. Good boy Comet!
But on the other hand a lot of people had a good laugh at that little dogs expense. No one, not even the owner of the little dog was respecting the fact that the little tiny dog was obviously uncomfortable in that situation. Instead of taking seriously the aggression her dog was showing, the woman and many onlookers laughed and egged on the dog. The little dog may be very little, but has teeth non the less and could inflict a fair amount of damage to someone. Also, from experience I can say that many dogs visiting the farmers market have owners equally misunderstanding of there dogs and many dogs have not developed the self control Comet was able to hold during that situation. While the Crunch! Crunch! Swallow! scenario is indeed very unlikely, the situation of little dog vs big dog with a different dog could very well have turned into something much more serious. If the little dog was lunging about the market threatening other dogs and a large dog reacted the owner of the little dog would have likely been surprised and blamed the large dog for reacting if her own dog had been injured.
Lets look at it this way. If there are many children on the playground all different ages, and genders and races all visiting the same playground. The smallest of the children would never be allowed to threaten the rest with a knife! The teachers and parents would not laugh and say "Oh isn't she something!" As a little girl scared others off the monkey bars with a butterfly knife! We would NEVER do this, because we understand that this is inappropriate behavior. Now we need, as a world full of loving dog owners, to understand that a chihuahua threatening anything else is also inappropriate behavior. Then find out,.. what can we do to better understand the situation to help that dog feel more comfortable so her life can be happier?

Unfortunately, the woman and her chihuahua never asked my opinion! If you see her give her the name of this blog and tell her to pick up a copy of "Feisty Fido" by Patricia McConnell.

Having trouble with your own feisty Fido? (look into getting that book and...) Looking to improve the bond with your dog? Check out local obedience and training clubs in your area.  Look for a place that uses positive reinforcement methods and asks proof of your dogs vaccinations. In my area this is one of my favorite places to encourage someone to take a class. Check it out.

Tool Box!
 Does your dog like to chase tail?
NO! I don't mean is he good with the ladies! A big fuzzy tail is a great motivator for prey driven dogs. I remember the first time I saw the raccoon tail on a rope. If you haven't seen one click here
Yup, I've got one!

Tip of the day! Wag of the tail!

Tip of the day!
Tip of the day is about trash cans. Have you ever come home to the trash strewn all over? Oh the lovely smell of it! The longer that trash has been in the can the more tempting it is! 3 days worth of trash in the kitchen can and it's just too much to resist, dog gone it! A young dogs curiosity is bound to let loose somewhere around hour 7 of your absence at work! Be smart and keep your trash in a can (or even better in a cupboard or closet!) that can't be knocked over and easily opened. I've got a round step open can with lid (Check it out.) When I first got it I put a cinder block in the bottom. This obviously meant I had little room to put trash in this, but it weighted the can down so well that when the dogs got a whiff of  yesterdays meat wrappings they couldn't get into the can with its lid closed and weighted bottom. I am very sure that if they hadn't been fed for days and steak was in that can that indeed they could have gotten it open. However that was not the case, and what ever investigation was made into the can while I was out never resulted in the trash ending up on the floor. After a month or so of success I removed the weight and have never had trouble since. The dogs had learned it was not worth there time to mess with this trash can and the battle is won!

Wag of the Tail!
I just finished reading a really great book entitled "Part Wild" by Ceiridwen Terrill. I absolutely, recommend it to dog lovers and wolf lovers alike. If you have ever been enticed by the thought of owning a wolfdog I suggest you read this immediately! This true story of one woman's journey with her wolfdog is interspersed with research based information about wolves, dogs and wolfdogs. Temple Grandin said this book "....will make you fully understand the differences between wild and domestic animals."  I would tell you more, but you've really got to read it yourself!

Oh! Did I mention I've added a reading list to the bottom of the blog post page? If you ever wonder were I come up with some of this stuff, or just want a better understanding of your own dog, pick up one (or all) of these books. Winter is coming, a good time for a good book, so tell Rover to move over and make room on the couch!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

soap box

I am a huge advocate for adopting shelter and rescue pets. But alas, I know there are at least a few people out there whose minds will not be changed no matter how long I stand on this soap box. So It's important for you folks to know what to look for in those few quality breeders out there. I am clearly biased and I will just get that out of the way right now. I have been on the rescue side of things since day one. All the pets I have had in my adulthood have been adopted. All of my adopted pets have given me unconditional love, and much more. I most certainly have loved them back. I have been a volunteer for rescues and shelters. I have known of breeders handing over packs of puppies and adult dogs to rescues because they couldn't sell them and didn't want to or couldn't afford to care for them. I know of the wrath of puppy mills and the havoc reeked on the lives of animals and people touched by those filthy places. I have overheard young people at parties, calling themselves breeders and sharing phone pictures of the puppies they bred and hearing young women coo and ask how much. I know it doesn't take much to say the words "I'm a breeder" and there is no contract protecting the lives of the animals involved. Very clearly I am biased. Being biased, doesn't mean that I am wrong. I am not wrong to advocate adoption. Neither am I wrong in educating you about the responsibility of finding a good breeder if you are set on that path.

Here are some things
* Talk to people in person. Don't trust newspaper and online ads. It's easy enough to make a website or place a newspaper ad. What isn't easy is developing a good reputation with customers, researching blood lines, doing vet checks, providing proof through documentation of health and providing appropriate socialization for dogs and puppies. (But a good breeder will do all of these things!)
* See the dogs. See the puppies and both parents. Spend time with the puppies AND the parents. The parents should be friendly to people, if they are not, that can be a trait passed on to the puppies. Are the personalities of the parents what you desire in your dog?
*See the space where the pups are raised. Are they in a shed or a barn closed off from people? Uh oh! The dogs and puppies should be spending time with people from day 1. Ask the breeder how they have managed this feat. And do your own research about puppy socialization.
*Ask for proof of the health of the parent dogs. A good breeder will absolutely have this.
*Is the breeder asking anything of you? Are they trying to interview you to see if you are a good home? Or are they trying to sell you a dog? If the second is true, walk away. Good breeders care deeply about the dogs they breed and will want you to agree to return the dog to them if ever you are unable to care for it.

I have not yet ever met a breeder I could recommend to you. Not for any breed of dog. Perhaps I am just running in the wrong circles. If you have a recommendation I would love to hear it and please put in your comment, why you think they are so great.
To be fair I will share with you that I have only 1 recommendation for a dog rescue at this time. You can see a link to their site featured on the side bar of this blog. As much as I would love to recommend 1000 rescues across the country, and I'm sure there are as many and more great ones, I have only known the inter-workings of 1 and still felt compelled to recommend adoptions from them. That said, here are some things to look for in a rescue.

*While fostering is not always possible it is the best possible place for an adoptable dog to be. A foster home can help ease a dog through the transition of re-homing.
* Talk to the people. Talk to the foster home or adoption coordinator and ask as many questions as you would like. Again, the rescue group should be doing the best they can to find the best home for the dog, NOT trying to sell you on the dog.
*Ask lots of questions. What sort of history can the rescue provide for you? They may say "We found him in a field 2 weeks ago" and that's all the history they have. So start with 2 weeks ago. Has he seen the vet? How is he around new people? How often does he bark?  etc. etc.
*Rescue groups and shelters should be tending to any and all veterinary needs of the animal in there care. After adoption, you should also take your new dog to visit the vet.

Fostering to adopt is also an option with some groups. Before you consider this ask the group what they would do if you could no longer care for the dog. While a foster home should be understanding that someone could not arrive at your door quick snap because Fluffy peed on your rug (something a proper foster home should be working on!) a rescue group should also be understanding if a dog is not the right fit for a home and do whatever they can to assist that dog in finding a more appropriate place.

Last week while I was at work a co-worker confided in me that she had been offered a promotion. She would get a better schedule and a pay raise.
"But I'm worried my quality of care for each individual will go down." She said.
"It will." I bluntly replied.
As I explained to my coworker, you may be able to do more good by helping more individuals. When that happens the quality of care you can personally provide to an individual will diminish at some level. Spreading the wealth, gives less to an individual. With dogs, you can foster one and do a great job, or maybe you can foster 2 dogs and do a great job. But at some level your quality of care will go down. If this was not true, and money grew on trees I would have 20 dogs and other animals as well. Beware of the bedraggled yes man who like to sell you their burden.

For goodness sake! Most people I have run into in the world of dogs mean to do the right thing by dogs always and forever.So instead of ending this post feeling like evil doggy doers are around every corner lets celebrate dogs with some silly, informative, and touching videos of our furry friends.

Oh geez! Dogs are special creatures.
Check out this link to the recent PBS special NATURE : Dogs That Changed the World . There is a really great intro video with some really neat dog footage that is sure to get you interested in the show.
And in case you need one more, check out this snip-it of Comet when I brought home a new ball for him to play with.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lots to Think About

Oh my goodness! This link will take you to a blog post that is sharing a photo of a dog that, at first glance, does NOT look like a real dog. Oh my! Just in time for Halloween. I feel sorry for this poor dog! What do you think?

In other news.............
                               On my way to a work meeting yesterday I received a text canceling the meeting just as I was, by chance, driving near my local animal shelter. So Instead of turning around to drive home I picked up a cheap bag of dog treats and popped in for an hour of volunteering at my local animal shelter. Above is a snap of Spidey and Flash getting a little taste of freedom as another volunteer and I took them out to the play in the exercise yard together.
This is Frida! 
What a gorgeous dog!  After last weeks happy reunion with an old foster dog, I was pleasantly surprised this week when I came upon this and other photos (thanks oh magic of the internet and networking sites) of my once foster puppy. Frida was among a flea ridden litter of cattle dog pups once abandoned in a flooding barn and later being given away at a local park or so the story goes . One thing led to another and Frida found herself being sponsored by Protege Canine Rescue. I had the delight of fostering her. Make no mistake, a typical cattle dog pup, this puppy was a handful! I knew from day one that this adorable pup, while clearly cute to anyone that laid eyes on her, was NOT going to grow to be a dog that would fit into just any household. This is a high energy, independent and  intelligent breed. Without proper amounts of exercise and attention this pup could become a serious problem OR with the proper amount of exercise and some training could become a marvelous dog indeed.

     It is so important that when a person or family chooses a dog that they take into account the energy level, intelligence level, breed behaviors and general health and coat maintenance that will come with the dog of choice Also it is very important to understand not just the standards of the breed, if choosing a purebred dog, but the individual dogs personality. An Australian Shepard bred from working dogs may act very differently than one bred for a house pet and even puppies from the same litter may become very different dogs. Many possible adopters have preconceived notions about certain breeds of dog, or little knowledge about differing breeds and may make adoption choices based on misinformation.

     Last summer I was volunteering at an adoption event as a dog handler. I was holding the leash of a lovely brindle boxer who was about 8 years old. She was quiet and sweet, playful and very mellow. A family came along and the teenage son walked over with a gushing look of love on his face. " I LOVE boxers!" he said "Mom, look! This is the dog for us!"
The mother never came near the boxer. She waved it away, saying "That dog needs too much attention, lots of walks, tons of exercise, we don't have time for that dog! Boxers have too much energy!" Instead the woman walked over to a 75 pound husky/Akita?/Great Dane?  mix that was under a year old. She cooed over the dog as the volunteer handler struggled to manage the big exuberant animal . The woman asked several questions of the volunteer and asked her son to consider the larger dog.
     The woman wanted a family friendly dog with lower energy requirements but enough spunk to say, keep the family laughing, and the older boxer was a perfect fit. The young husky mix on the other hand would require a lot of time, patience, training and exercise. The problem: the woman was not taking into account the age and personality of the dogs as well as the breed. It is also very likely that the woman was unfamiliar with the breeds that made up the large mixed dog.

Did you know that many behavior problems are the result of lack of exercise? Next time Fido tips over the hamper and deposits dirty underpants all over your home ask yourself,.....Did Fido get a long enough walk before I left the house today? Or did he need to all out run? Do you know how much exercise Fido needs? Remember, a tired dog is a good dog!

Getting back to Frida, she is lucky enough to have found a perfect match. A home where she goes for runs regularly and camps and hikes and is allowed to be the dog she is. As a foster home, nothing makes me happier.( I am not currently fostering dogs due to personal time commitment issues. I get my volunteering fix at animal shelters when I can). Here is a couple pictures of baby Frida and my boys.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Turkey Lurkey

A few weeks ago my parents invited us, my significant other, my dogs and I to go camping with them. Young Comet had recently been exhibiting a new behavior, barking at every smell in the air after the sun set! So we decided, for my parents sake and ours, instead of bringing Comet to the camp-out we sent him to Camp Bow Wow instead. This turned out to be an incredibly smart decision and he had a blast. I know he had a blast because I checked in on him through-out the trip with my smart phone. Camp Bow Wow has cameras streaming live to the internet during all their play time! I have to admit, there was a few moments where I had to remind myself I was there to enjoy camping, not watch my dog play on the internet!

Anyway, back to the camping trip.Just as the sun was setting we arrived onto a 600 acre piece of CRP land ( Conservation Resource Program, essentially a nature preserve) and set up camp. My mom split a cooked hamburger between her grandogs Bugsy, Harry, and Cane.Cane is my sisters Husky. I put Bugsy on a long leash and we headed out for a hike. My mom had said she had heard mooing at one point and speculated cattle might be near by. I preferred not to worry my dog might run off to heard some cattle, so kept Bugsy on leash all night and decided to re-access in the morning.

As I closed my eyes and snuggled under my sleeping bag these are the last words I said. "The tent is secure and there is no way the dogs can get out, right?"
"Right" Craig said. And with that we nodded off to sleep a little before midnight. The dogs asleep at our feet.
At 4am I was woken by the sound of an animal. A rustling sound repeatedly circled the tent as I shook Craig awake, thinking a raccoon smelled our stash of honey roasted peanuts! Harry was fast asleep at our feet but as I woke Craig I realized if Bugsy was in our tent with us, he would have been barking at this animal intruder.
"It's Bugsy!" I Gasped and crawled to the tent door finding a small portion of it unzipped. As soon as I hit the door Bugsy was right there and jumped into the tent as I unzipped it further. A wet mess of burrs and fur his tongue hanging from his mouth, I thought he seemed relieved to be back in the tent with us. Bugsy laid down near us and we zipped the tent closed. "Well, I guess he's okay off leash here" I said and snuggled into my sleeping bag again to sleep.

In the morning everyone was surprised to see poor Bugsy covered from head to paw in burs and took turns pulling them off. After breakfast we loaded Harry into the back of the Scout (a sort of four wheeler/golf-cart hybrid)and drove the paths with Bugsy running along side until finally at the top of a hill he ran along the passenger side and barked. We slowed the Scout and he jumped in for the rest of the ride!  By lunchtime we had the scissors out and he was starting to look like a dog again. The land was beautiful. A small lake was just feet from out campsite and hills on all sides filled with trees and brush and a groomed path or two. Some of the group sat in a small fishing boat all day just fishing for the sport of it. The whole group had been seeing turkeys meandering about the trails. I expressed surprise that the turkeys didn't seem afraid of the presence of the dogs. The group laughed.
"That turkey would be up in a tree so fast and just laugh at a dog!" They laughed.
I worked on Bugsys' coat until my lunch settled and we took off for a hike. We didn't get 200 yards away before we ran into a turkey. Bugsy didn't even notice the thing! I couldn't believe it. So I got as close as I could to the turkey and tried to draw Bugsys' attention to it. Bugsy had no clue what I was getting at. My guess is, as camouflaged as the turkey was in all that foliage Bugsy just couldn't see it. But when Bugsy crossed the path of where the turkey had walked he smelled it and followed its' trail. I was all excited for him to see and smell a live turkey but when he got close, the turkey did not jump into a tree. The turkey walked into the face of a steep ravine and was trapped. Bugsy maimed that turkey. I called Bugsy and he came running, and the turkey went hobbling off and fell into a creek. Its wing was clearly very damaged. I could see it carrying its wing out from its body in an awfully crooked manner. Also I had seen Bugsy bite it's neck. The turkey was a goner. Not the kind to let an animal suffer, or a good meal go to waste with Craigs help we caught the turkey again and I snapped its neck.

I walked back to the campsite with the turkey in my hand wondering what the group would say. The turkey was definitely not laughing. But before we could reach the campsite a four wheeler rumbled up behind us. I knew immediately that this was not a member of our group. I turned to see an unfamiliar bearded man driving up to me. He identified himself as the caretaker of the land.The lump in my throat now growing, as he inquired about dead turkey in my hand I think I may have actually pointed to my dog and said "The dog did it!" After all this was a nature preserve and it was not even turkey season! The man used a knife to cut the head from the turkey and said "It's illegal as hell but you might as well get some good eat'n out it. You know how to clean a turkey?" I suddenly realized that no, I had no idea how to clean a turkey. Craig surprised me and took the turkey and the knife and said "yeah.". I went to collect some plastic bags for us to put the turkey in and and asked a group member to assist. I felt terrible. My dog made a mess and I didn't even know the first thing about cleaning it up, meaning cleaning the turkey. So I stood by and watched. We put the pieces into bags in the freezer and again headed out for our hike. Bugsy had a blast sniffing around, running ahead of us, then running back. I kept a close eye on him though and a pocket of treats just in case. I regularly reinforced his recall, to prevent the possibility of his investigation of another turkey. We had a great time. Craig and I did not eat the turkey, but Bugsy, Comet and Harry did.

Ever think about the amazing accuracy of a dogs power to shed water?
You know what I'm talking about, that head to tail shake a dog does right after you bath him.
Usually I am more often interested in getting away so I don't get a shower!
Check out this article Shake it Off in National Geographic this month.

Here is a snap of my friend Raven. He was doing me a favor by testing out a new ball I picked up at Leash on Life. What a good boy!

Tool box!
I play a fair amount of fetch at my house so I love a good ball launcher. Recently I thought I would try a new product called Petmate Go Get it Ball Launcher. It was an epic fail. I wanted to try the product because I have some back issues and thought the extending arm would be helpful in reducing repetitive bending for me. But the extending arm flew out or pulled in when you didn't want it to, like when trying to launch the ball. And the turning head made picking up the ball difficult. So I'm returning to my old favorite. The Chukit. I had been using a small Chukit for some time and loved it, but it had chew marks on the handle. I purchased the longest Chukit Ball Launcher I could find and it works amazingly well.  


I can't help myself. I have to share this fun video by the SPCA of Wake County.I have to say the facility is impressive. My apologies if you get Abba stuck in your head for the entire day, like I did!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bloat, Body score and more

-------Notes about Bloat------
Have you heard of bloat? In dogs, bloat is a condition of gases collecting and not being able to escape the body. This can involve the stomach actually twisting about. I am not a vet so I will not attempt to describe this in detail.  In any case, the animal after ingesting food becomes unable to pass it out of the body in any direction (front end or back end people!). This can be caused by a number of factors and has an increased likelihood for some breeds, specifically large breeds and breeds with a deep chest and also older dogs in general. Some have found that this more often occurs in dogs who have a dry kibble diet, which is likely related to the expansion of  kibble in the stomach.

Here are a few things you can do
*decrease your dogs chances of getting bloat by encouraging slow eating habits and encourage resting before and after meals. (sounds like a good time for a good chew on a bone! or a nap on the couch!)
*talk to your veterinarian to get the facts about bloat and find out whether or not your dog might be at higher risk.
*learn the signs of bloat and take action immediately. If bloat occurs in your dog it can become fatal in minutes so an urgent trip to the vet is a MUST.

Symptoms of bloat can be hard to recognize or may appear to be something different. Watch for weakness, depression, gagging but not being able to vomit, difficulty breathing, panting heavily and or having a distention of the abdomen.  Again, please talk to your vet to make sure you are properly informed.

Are you confident you know what your dogs body should look like? 
Would you be able to tell if your dog was over or under weight?
 Vets use a system to rate an animals body weight called a body score.
Tool Box!
Bubbles! Serisouly, if you have never seen a puppy excitedly jumping at bubbles and popping them with there mouth, then you are in for a treat when you do! Summer time stores are awash with bubbles to entertain children. Wintertime my house is a flutter with bubbles when I want to entertain by pup but not spend to much time freezing our paws off outside. If you have a puppy bring out the bubbles and encourage playfulness around them (happy voices, petting and playful love when they show curiosity). Adult dogs may wonder what all the fuss is about. Each dog is an individual and while some dogs will go ga-ga for bubbles others are sure to find them dull indeed.

A favorite treat, Zukes Mini Training Treats. I love them for training. They are very small, easy to handle and come in a variety of flavors so you can switch it up and surprise your pup.

A really sweet pair of dogs.
Here enjoying a fall afternoon is Wally and Gretta. Two Australian Shepherds I am proud to know. Wally was a foster puppy of mine. Recently I had a happy reunion with him and met his new 'sister', Gretta!
Wally was a wee bit camera shy, but as you can see in this next photo Gretta is a willing model!
What a peach!
In other news .......
                   My freezer is full. We ordered about one hundred and seventy pounds of meat for dog food last week. Buying in bulk saves $$$. What was on our list this time? Pork hearts, chicken livers, ground beef, chicken necks, chicken wings, ground turkey, oh my! And don't worry, we still have some cut beef femurs and buffalo bones for the chewing. Did you know that a good bone is great for your dogs dental health? 
Here is a snap of Comet sharing the back seat with the meat.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Walk, talk and sniff bum at the same time.

     There was a time when walking the two younger dogs together was a rodeo not worth my time. Loose leash walking on a 6ft leash is not a skill a puppy comes hard-wired to understand. Bugsy, adopted in his young adulthood, was once such a horrific mess on leash I had to work just to get past my own embarrassment to take him out…But at about the same time the two of them finally seemed to really get it and I made it to the next level. Double dog walks.

It was like going back in time. At first, both dogs forgot how to walk nicely on a leash whenever they saw anything move, smelled something interesting, or wanted to pee on something. Luckily for me, I had expected this (luckily?). Obedience is all about proofing under a circumstance and then adding a variable to get to the next 'level'.

Think of it like a game board. “Stay” for example. You start at level 1 in your living room with no noise, distraction, movement or other live beings. You perfect your dog staying in one place for 10 seconds, then 20 , then 30. Then your plus one becomes moving further from your dog, two feet away, 4 feet away, 6, then the other side of the room, walking out of the room etc. Once this is ‘proofed’ by perfecting it from all these distances you go back to step 1 (10 seconds, 1 foot) and add a distraction, TV, another person, an animal, or a loud truck driving by when the window is open. After all this is proofed then you move to level 2, working on stay in a different room. Next you move to the front fenced yard, eventually the back unfenced yard and once you have practiced and proofed with distractions and different distances you give it a go at the park (on leash, for 10 seconds, from 1 foot and move up from there). All the while rewarding your dog for the behavior you are looking for and marking and ignoring unwanted behaviors.
A marker is a cue that you use to convey a message to your dog. For example the sound of a clicker is a marker that tells your dog he made the right choice. In my house "ah ah ah!" is the marker to let the dog know he has made the wrong choice.
Your dog will not know what these markers mean unless you teach him. Teach a dog that the sound of a clicker is the marker for good behavior by first charging up the clicker by clicking and then quickly giving the dog a treat or two. Teach your dog that your marker word means "that is the wrong choice" by ignoring your dog and not handing over the treat you have in your hand. This may involve looking away,  turning your whole body away from your dog, or even leaving the room. This depends on the sensitivity of your dog.

Loose leash walking is just the same. You work with your dog for short distances, in one area, and then when that is perfected you add distractions. Then you work on it in a different place, for short periods with no distractions. A doggy best buddy to get excited with while on a walk (smells, sights, squirrels oh my!) is a mega distraction and all good manners can be easily forgotten.
Keep this in mind when considering adding another four legged friend!

Tool Box!
Lupine Collar/harness- a must have! I found lupine collars by fluke. They were sold at a doggy day care I worked at. In general I was attracted to buying fancy or cute looking collars. But after I realized how quickly they began to look ratty and how quickly I was replacing them I tried Lupine collars. They guarantee the collars for the lifetime of your dog and will replace a damaged collar even if chewed! My dogs have been wearing them for years. When they get dirty, I throw them in the wash. When one dog got bored and chewed the collar off another dog, I received a quick replacement free of charge.

I recently discovered these super cool toys at a local dog event. These colorful wool toys apparently retain the smell of sheep (I can't smell it, but the dogs seems to catch the whiff) for an extra draw. My dogs love them. I am training a dog who doesn't like to catch hard things in his mouth to play frisbie, and the wool frisbies are perfect for working on the game. The Tugzees are super fun as well.
A friendly cattle dog named Jack.