Saturday, December 5, 2009

First snow of the season.

Wet, sloppy snow today... Essentially no accumulation, as anything that built up was so wet that it washed away in short order. But for a short while, there was some slushy snow on the grass. It was coming down so fast that for a while the rain mixed in with the snow couldn't quite wash it away as fast as it was falling. Only for a while, mind you. :-p

That was enough for The Girls - Much running about, mixing the scant snow liberally with mud, rolling in the slush, and stuffing their faces into the deeper spots. Dakota, especially, made a point of plowing snow with her face... She's undoubtely been missing the white stuff!

Sorry, no pics - Between the rather heavy rain admixed with the snow, and muddy slush being flung about, I didn't dare chance the camera outside. *shrug* It was a dark grey overcast day anyway. I doubt any pics would've turned out well.

Still, The Girls got a good workout just prancing about in the cold and wet. :-)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Let sleeping dogs lie...

One on my left foot, and one on my right.

Not quite snuggling up with each other, but darn close.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Not Poetry

Note: These events are a bit old - I've been waiting to see how things fall out before posting.

So The Girls settled in togther in a satisfactory manner - Not quite closest of friends, but tollerant of each other, and somewhat social, with occasional bursts of play. Life was good!

Then the wheels come off...
Dakota went counter-surfing, and got caught (I knew she was doing this, it was just a question of catching her in the act), and so was corrected. This seems to have set of a social reaction of disturbing proportions. At least, I believe this is the proximate cause. About an hour after being corrected, Dakota jumped Suka from behind, right at my feet. OK, Rule #1 for breaking up a dog fight: DO NOT GET BETWEEN THE COMBATANTS! Fortunately, I was immediately behind the combatants, and in place to use my favorite (and maybe only safe) tool for breaking up fights: Grab one of the dogs by the hind legs, and back up - fast. Turn as you do, to force the dog to side-step to keep on her feet - this keeps her too off-balance to turn and try to bite you, if she's so inclined.

Ideally, you should have two or more people - one for each combatant - to prevent one dog from following and continuing the fight. If you don't have enough people, isolate the dogs in seperate rooms, behind fences, or if not that, then take a lead, hook it to a collar, loop it once around the dogs waist, and tie it off to something solid. Then you go after the other dog... Ideally, you want to get the dogs out of sight and sound of each other.

Within a second, Dakota had Suka pressed to the floor, still upright. Suka had twisted her magnificently flexible neck around to engage, but was still at a terrible disadvantage. When I grabbed Dakota's legs and jerked her backwards, Suka was off like a shot - headed for her crate. One combatant I needn't worry about following up! Dakota whipped her head up to look at me - I daresay she'd forgotten I was present at all, and I literally hiked her like a football back between my legs, grabbing her scruff on either side of her head, just behind her jaws. That's 100 pounds of dog, all four paws on the ground, going backwards like a pigskin at the snap... Adrenalin is potent stuff! With her head immobilized, and her attention suddenly and totally focused on me, it was clear the fight had completely gone out her. I must've roared, too, at some point, as people came running from all corners of the house. (My wife says I'm scary when I roar. Go figure.)

Dakota's head still immobilized, I frog-marched her to her crate and shut her in. Suka, I had to literally haul from her crate, so I could inspect her for injuries... And there were some. A pressure cut to her lower right eyelid, and a minor puncture about an inch below that. Messy, but minor. She allowed me to give her a complete and thorough checking, though it was clear she wanted back to the safety of her crate. Put her back to her crate, then hauled Dakota out to inspect her, too. Again, I had to haul her out - She was clearly reluctant to face me, but put up with her inspection with proper manners. No blood, but a LOT of saliva on her throat - Suka hadn't been screwing around in defense - Any better angle, and Dakota'd have taken a serious injury.

A couple stitches, and everything is well, health-wise. I became the Fun Nazi - Only one dog out of their crate at a time except when I'm immediately present, and extremely close supervision even then.

Two days later, came a near-exact repeat, dispite the close supervision, only this time with Suka getting a solid piece of Dakota in return - A seriously bloody lip - with Dakota actually doing no damage to speak of. I was now the Fun Gestapo. No more than one dog out of their crate at a time, period, no matter who is present. Both dogs sleeping in their latched crates at night. Both dogs on-lead in the house.

Since that time, some time back, Dakota has been much more obedient. She apparently had some reservations about who was in charge. Not any more - Getting man-handled like she was a puppy seems to have made an impression. Since that time, she and Suka are both at once more snarky with each other, and more tollerant of each other, if that makes any sense - They express their opinions, but also seem to get along better. Certainly the 'play' aspect of their lives has improved. I suspect that the clashes, and my immediate and very dominant response, have sorted out the relative relationships.

In retrospect, I should've gone all 'Fun Gestapo' right out the gate. Lesson learned - they're both good dogs, but dog society and people society do not correspond exactly. I need to think like a dog, and I still watch them closely. People wonder why I don't let the dogs oiut into the back yard unsupervised. I don't, because I'm thinking like a dog - I'm The Boss, and I want to make damn sure that The Girls know The Boss is watching. Dakota is huge, powerful, and fast. Suka is if anything, even faster, and has very sharp teeth. They don't get the chance to get at each other without someone responsible and capable to stop them if they forget their places again. They can play, and run and pace, and bark, and all the rest, but they also know that if they step out of line, The Boss is right there to put them back in their place. It means less screwing-off time for me, but if I wanted my time all to myself, I would've never married, much less brought dogs into the house... :-p

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

And now for something just a little different...

Pale clouds float
betwixt silv'ry moon
and silvered earth,
the breath of life
whisp-etched icy wakes
hang in the still air.

Orbit and counter,
the shadows pace
their appointed rounds.

Dark and light,
Yin and Yang,
greater and lesser
spirit and soul
boldness and caution
each within their heart
mirrors the other.

I don't often write blatent poetry - It usualy sucks rather nastily. Not, perhaps, today.

Awakened in the very early hours by invading chill, the girls decided that, seeing as I was up, it was a good time to see about their business. Under an immaculate clear sky, the full moon flooded the neighborhood with a clear silver light, bringing to ghostly life the frost-gilt landscape. The girls left pale breath-cloud wakes in the still air. The magical illumination gave substance to their forms, whilst redacting inconsequential detail. All I witnessed were two kindred spirits, the same yet different, dark and light, large and small, bold and shy, dominant and submissive, as they orbited; checking their perimeters, each other, me.

In perhaps-related news, Suka came to me this morning, and dropped a ball at my feet, backed off, and barked - tail wagging and eyes bright. In the nearly fifteen months I've known her, this is a first.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Putting my hand to the cart...

Down at The Farm this past weekend - a 'command performance,' if you'll allow me the license. HBIC needed the feed shed cleaned out, rather seriously, and I'm one of the go-to guys, it seems, for that sort of work. I don't flinch at rats, need little supervision, and am strong enough to make light of the lifting and toting.

The economy reaches into all manner of corners, and hard times mean fewer volunteer hours. The Farm is running on necessary minimums right now, those being the health, safety, and care of the dogs and other animals resident. That means that other things must give, like the cleaning and maintenace of unoccupied structures, like the feed shed. Oh, wait... Did I say "unoccupied?" I meant unoccupied by any animals that people care for. Rats had obviously been there, and had themselves a party. Spiders and grubs were in plentiful evidence, too - Grubs feeding on food spilled by the rats, and the spiders feeding on the grubs. Yes, the rats spilled food - a lot of it. Well, rats thrive on clutter, and that was what I was there to fix!

OMG! Clutter!

Clearly, there was some work to be done.

The HBIC was busy elsewhere (so busy I didn't realize until much later she was even at the farm), and it was a pleasnt day - a break in the recent rains, so I turned to and cleared the shed, tossing away what needed to be tossed, salvaging what I could, and reorganizing as I went. Sadly, a lot of food had been spoilt - hidden behind the clutter, the rats had been at it until the bags were sieves, and food once contained therein was thoroughly spoiled by rat feces and urine. Also hidden were cans of wet food that had become compromised - some had literally exploded, spraying high-velocity food into the damnest places.

Food - and money - literally down a rat-hole...

Unsalvageable - rats urinate and defecate all over what they eat, leaving it dangerous to eat by most any other animal.

One of the resident rescuees - Mickey, perhaps? - was there to supervise in the HBIC's abscence. Such a well-mannered guy! He was constantly nearby, but mostly not directly underfoot. He obeyed so well, and stayed out of the shed, even when clearly perplexed by what I was doing with that mound of spoilt food. He's going to make someone a wonderful companion - I hope he finds a home soon! If I'd so much as an inch of spare space at home, I'd take him in, in a heartbeat! Even knowing my wife would smack me a hard one (and correctly so). He's that good a dog.

Whatcha doing ..?
Da man supervises as I get down to some serious organizing.

Anyway, to make short of the tale, things much improved now, with room to move around and places to put everything. What could be slavaged was, and the rest disposed of. I'm not done - more work needed, but there's only so much time in a day. I'll be back to The Farm again soon, to finish up in the feed shed, and do more catching up on those things that have gone by the wayside in these tight times. At least now, all the food can be seen, and reached. There's space, too, for more feed to be brought in, and the rat holes can be blocked - Something more perminant will be needed, but for now the food is safe.


Space to work now - And to actually store food.

Think about your charities and causes. Times are hard, and money is in short supply, but if you can spare a few hours, that may be worth far more than money. Not every task needs a speciallst - sometimes, all that's needed is a willing pair of hands. Look about, and see if there's a place you can put your hands on the cart, and give it a push.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Simple pleasures...

Dawn is yet to color the sky, nor even a hint of twilight yet shows. The grass crackles crisply under my feet... Frost is hard upon the ground, and early hints of winter's chill sting tease at my nostrils.

Moans and grunts and sighs... eight paws flail frantically in the still morning air. Suka and Dakota roll in orgiastic delight, back-scratching on the frosted lawn. The distant city glow, dimly cloud-reflected, reveals flashes of teeth and gleams of eye, but their ecstatic wriggling is defined more by hint and occlusion than by sight.

My morning is complete.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Why I love my dogs (and cats)

Not the only reason, mind you. Not even remotely. But still a big one; they keep me sane.

It's Saturday evening. I'm at work. Probably until midnight. I'll be at work tomorrow, too. I should be working this very instant, as a matter of fact, but my eyes have gone cross-ways, and I can't see clearly to do what I need to do. So I'll post here, and get a soda, and visit the head, and then stick my shoulder back to the wheel.

I've Quality-Control checked nearly ten thousand pages of clinical data today - I've another nearly seven thousand to go before I'm done today. Tomorrow will be the same, I'm sure. Nor am I alone - The boss is in, and so are many of my cow-orkers. By the time I'm done, my brain will be fried.

But when I get home, the dogs will not care. Suka will be flying about shoulder high, as she always does when I come home - no matter how long I've been gone. Dakota will wheel and prance and moan with delight, as she always does. They will make demands - Attention, a trip to the back yard, more attention. But these demands never ease, never increase - These are demands of love and they are constant. The document awaiting my attention does not love me, nor do I love it. When I get home, the dogs will make their demands, and will force me to push this never-to-be-sufficiently damned document out of my head. I will be home, and work will be sent back to where it belongs, out of mind until I actually need to face it again. Just me, and the dogs. No time, no plans, no meetings; just us doing what needs to be done in the time it takes to do it. Like no one else, Suka and Dakota can take me out of my head and pull me into the now.

Max and Tuxedo, too, will make their presence felt. Not quite as in-your-face as the girls, but every bit as insistent and relentless in their own rights. Max will creak his way to where I sit, and painfully climb to his throne of power (that being wherever he choses to plant his massive, muscular butt), and casually demand his due - a back scratch. He'll reward loyal rendition of his due with purrs and the random head-butt, and maybe a lick or two. Attending to his imperial demands is a kind of command performance zen - you must sit, and you must scritch, and you must do it until His Imperial Majesty is satisfied you've done it properly, else... The PAW! IOW, there's no end in sight until you've reached the end. Tux is less blunt, but every bit as pushy in his way. He will climb on my shoulder and purr and poke his claws into my beard, try to steal anything I have that is even remotely edible, and will sit or strop his back on anything I'm holding. At least, until I literally knock him on his side and give him a quick and vigorous whole-body rub.

But as demanding as the cats are, they too take me out of my day, and bring me mentally home, to rejoin my body already there present.

Dogs alone might not be enough. Cats alone, certainly not enough. But together, they consipire to return me to my refuge of relaxation and recuperation. Whilst they are there, work may not trouble me - I'm too busy taking care of the immediate, and being loved. I bet this document wishes it had pets. :-p

Monday, October 5, 2009

Barrier aggression, barking, and a few other things

OK, so I was asked about fence running...

Fence running, or 'barrier aggression,' is an aggressive, territorial behavior, often born out of frustration. Basically, a dog tries to get to something they want - A kid they wish to greet, another dog they want to meet or play with or chase off, a stranger they want to confront, etc. - and they find a barrier in the way. So they run along the barrier, frustrated. The longer the temptation is present, the more frustrated they get. Emotional energy starts getting stored up as the dog races back and forth, and the adrenalin starts to flow. Barking, anxiety, hostility, redireted aggression (attacking something - like a fellow pack member - that they can reach, on their side of the fence) can all follow. It very quickly becomes a habit, and can be very hard to break. Barrier aggression can lead to some seriously nasty dog fights - I've seen dogs trying to kill one another through a chainlink fence - and nearly succeed! It can lead to people getting bitten, if the dog ever manages to get past the barrier. If nothing else, it's also annoying as all hell.

The ONLY way I know to reliably stop fence running is to step on it, hard, every time it happens. With Suka, that's easy enough - With me, she's got a rock-solid recall. So, when she starts up, I recall her, immediately. Lin cannot get that level of obedience from her, so Suka will fence run when Lin is around, and I am not - Until I stick my head out a window.

Now, Dakota is a dog less focused on me, and her recall isn't (yet) as solid as it should be - She's got a bit of teenage-style rebellion in her. Basically a very good dog, but inclined to try and get away with things, if she can. This means that even as I'm improving her recall, she'll try and blow me off at times when she thinks I can't see her, or can't intervene - So I go where she can't blow me off. Right in her path. Then she gets the message. But if I move out of the line, and she thinks maybe I've stopped watching, she'll be right back at it. So I'm still stepping on that behavior - And yeah, as the weather becomes cooler, that means I'm getting my barn coat and house boots on and standing out at the fenceline at 0500. She's getting it. Slowly, but she's getting it. I've had Suka some 14 months, and had plenty of time to settle her score. Dakota is a less responsive dog, and is still very new here - She'll come around.

Other forms of barking are also things you want to watch. You see, when a dog barks at something, there are a limited number of reasons - Play, excitement, warning, threat, call for help. Play barking is fine. Excitement barking isn't a real problem, if it isn't driving you out of your head from the noise - Suka's new-found excitement barking is like getting beaten in the head with a club covered in icepicks. Standard desensitization and behavior swapping generally works with this - Create the situation that leads to the barking, then don't provide the payoff! Swap in behaviors that are not objectionable that do provide the payoff!

Suka goes insane when I grab a lead. Until recently, that meant 'going for a walk or ride.' Now, I'll sometimes walk around the house all day with a lead in my hand, and even hang out near a door. But I never put the lead on her and take her out. Yes, I've had to put up with a lot of barking, but she's learning that 'lead' =! 'walk.' Now, with any obnxoius habit, there's a last minute frenzy of a particular behavior, called an 'extinction burst,' just before the habit is discarded. Suka's at that point right now, with regards to the lead. She's putting on one last furious display of barking when I grab the lead, hoping against hope that this time, she'll get to go for a walk. But all the yammering in the world will not get that door open. Silence, and a patient sit-stay, will. I've changed the 'go for a walk' behavior to require a quiet sit-stay at the door, and when she does that on command, she gets what she so desperately wants. If she starts yammering, I turn around and walk away. Very rapidly, her behavior is changing. Soon, the freakout derby at the door will be gone - I just need to stay the course.

By the way: If I were to yield, just once, I'd have to try ten times harder to stamp out the behavior again. NOTHING re-enforces a behavior like inconsistent rewards! This is one of the reasons fence running is hard to stamp out - The dog is faster than you are. You need to try as hard as you can to stop the behavior consistently. If this means you need to physically go out to the fence in the chill early hours, well, so be it.

Warning barking is fine - Until I respond. Then, I expect the dog to shut up and let me deal with it. When Suka or Dakota bark to warn me, my immediate response is to call them to me, and thank them. Once that's done, I expect them to hush. And I enforce it. I also check out the scene of the warning - Failure to do so can lead to more barking, and / or a shift to threat barking, if the dogs think I'm not doing my job as guardian. If I'm not doing my job as guardian, they will step forward and try to take the role; Letting that happen is a BIG no-no!

'Call for help' barking is when the dog is in trouble, or is facing something that scares them badly. You MUST respond to this! Failure will at the very least jeopardize your leadership status, or worse. Maybe disasterously worse. You'll recognize the change in tone - Like a child's cry, you'll know when it's serious, and when it's less so.

When a dog barks at an approaching stranger, they're warning at a minimum, and they may be threatening and / or calling for help, too. When the stranger passes on, the dog thinks "Ah-ha! I barked at the threat, and the threat went away! Mission accomplished!" Instant re-enforcement! When it happens again, well, that (in the dog's mind) is proof that the barking works. Now the mailman comes by, and walks Right. Up. To. The. House. The barking isn't working! So the dog barks louder, maybe spins around in frustration, bounces up and down a bit. The mailman moves on with his appointed rounds. The dog has now learned that truly obnoxious, over-the-top barking repells serious threats!

So, what do I do? I step up. I respond to the call for help. I relieve them at sentry, and require my dogs to take a subordinate role. I am the boss, the guard, the Alpha. When my dogs try to step in front of me to defend the territory, I stop them, and make damn sure they understand that I'm on the job. When my dog barks to warn me, I acknowledge the warning, and then tell her to stand down - I've got it now. "Thank you Dakota. That'll do. Good girl." If she doesn't stop, now she's disrespecting my authority. "Dakota. Come. Down. Stay."

Of course, I'm not a professional - I only play one at home. This is what I've learned from reading and talking to people I respect and from trial and error over time. There are most certainly people whom are much more sophisticated and scientific about this. Likewise, I live in an urban neighborhood - Things that I cannot tollerate because they disrupt the peace, might be much more acceptable or even desirable in more rural environments.

In general, I believe that "a tired dog is a good dog" but that can backfire on you - Teach a dog that every day they're going to get a lot of exercise, and then fail to provide it for a couple days, and you've got a potential problem on your hands! I keep my dogs exercised enough to keep them lean and fit, but I do it in differing ways. Sometimes, a nice walk on Main Street. Sometimes, a walk through a park, or the neighborhood. Sometimes, it's only in the back yard. Sometimes, it's in the house (usually when my wife isn't home!). Sometime, it's mental instead of physical - "hide and seek," "shell game," and obedience training all work a dog's mind well. Exercise alone will not produce all the behaviors you want, though, nor will it eliminate bad behaviors. For that, you need to train.

For a little relevent reading (I won't call it 'light!'), I suggest books by the Monks of New Skete, and Leslie McDevitt. Do a quick 'Google;' those names are easy to find on the 'web. There are many more books out there, but those are the ones I started with.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Strange ways...

Recent observations have me increasingly bemused. Adding Dakota to the family has pried open aspects of Suka's personality* that I'd never expected, and some that frankly, I'd just as soon not experience.

Some very knowledgeable people have called Suka a 'weenie.' It's not that they dislike her; it's that they've noticed she's an innate stress puppy. She doesn't like strange situations, and even familiar situations that she cannot control cause her a very strong stress and avoidance reaction. So when she suddenly showed up as dominant over Dakota, there were a few "Huh?" reactions. Including, frankly, from me. OK, Dakota is not a 'hard' dog. In fact, she's quite 'soft,' but Suka is also a soft dog, and a mere one-third Dakota's size. Dakota can literally fit Suka's entire head in her mouth. This didn't even cause Suka to hestitate a second. My 'stress pup' literally charged straight into the teeth of the lumbering giant, and made her submit.

We've all seen Chihuahuas make a big dog back down, but most Chi's I know aren't exactly 'soft.' What makes a 'soft' dog suddenly act like queen bitch of the world? There are dominance signals and cues that dogs share that are NOT part of their commonly-observed personalities. It's subtle - maybe too subtle for me to discern. Certainly the overt signals are clear enough - Tail upright, rigid 'at attention' stance, boldly upright ears and direct stare. 'Teeing Off,' snatching precidence of action, snapping, growling, gatekeeping, resource guarding... Those area all obvious to any observer. But what signal tells one when to challenge for position? What signal tells a dog when the pecking order has been established, and it's OK to ease off? It's clear when dominace is being established, and when it has been established, but the transitions between states, most especially the 'backing off' stage, are a bit of a mystery to me.

Anyway, Suka is clearly in 'maintenance mode' with Dakota - She's not nearly as bitchy as she was, and maybe some of that is due to me putting her back 'in school' herself, and (re)establishing my place as boss. When did I know it was time to ease off? Frankly, I'm not sure I know that, either! I missed that transition, too - Just one day, I looked back and noticed that I wasn't bearing down as hard as I had previously, and didn't need to, either.

One thing Suka doesn't do much of any more is 'fence run.' Fence running is an aggressive activity. Most trainers will not permit it - I certainly don't. But in my daughter's presence, Suka would try it - Until I stuck my head out a window and called her off. Now, Dakota fence runs, and Suka stands back and supervises. And Dakota is an enthusiastic fence runner! I have to physically go to the fence and block her. She gets the message quickly enough, but until I get there, she's baying away in that deep thunderous voice of hers. Suka, meanwhile, goes quickly about her business, and returns to guard the garage door.

Dakota has, as mentioned previously, taught Suka to play. She's not good at it yet, but she's learning. Play has brought with it excitement barking. Suka used to be a remarkably quiet dog. Not so any longer... She now sounds like pretty much every other Border Collie or BC-cross you've ever met: Out of her furry little mind when there's something exciting about to happen. This is a development I could've done without... She's not bark-screaming yet, but I will no longer rule that possibility out.

'Something Exciting,' unfortunately, now includes being fed. I've put Dakota and Suka on similar diets, mostly out of convenience. It meets both their nutritional needs, with a slight tweak for Dakota (Joint supplements - She's a BIG girl!), and Suka has found the new taste to be very much to her liking. Before, she ate pretty much when she felt like it. Now, she's in her crate, squeaking, barking, and yammering in anticipation... Ready to stuff her face into her bowl. One bonus to her new eagerness to eat; she and Dakota finish at about the same instant. This means no fights over food.

I had made the mistake of believing her personality largely exposed to me. Now, I see there are whole new depths. I think I'm going to try her on 'fetch' again. I may be taking another stab at Monster Creation, but what the heck... If nothing else, the new behaviors are diverting and interesting.

* Yes, dogs have personalities. I know, I know - Most readers here aren't going to dispute that. Yet I do occasionally get accused of anthropomorphism when discussing animals' personalities. It's empirically obvious that different animals for the same specied and even sam breed behave differently from their fellows, in ways subtle and not-so-subtle-at-all. Further, science has observed and confirmed these differences. So there, doubters! Nyah!

Saturday, September 26, 2009


In the predawn twilight, four glowing eyes rush.

Back, forwards, hints of glinting teeth and growling and fierce postures, the furry bodies race each other.

Suka has learned to play.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Meanwhile, back at The Farm...

Spent a bit of time down at The Farm, this AM. Didn't take Suka, as she's been exposed to Dakota, and whilst Dakota has a clean bill of health, you never know what mild, sub-clinical illness she might be harboring. It'd be some kind of serious rude to expose the rescuees at The Farm to some bug they'd never seen before. So - Suka stays away for a few more weeks longer.

Not as many dogs at The Farm as there sometimes are, and maybe that's a good thing - The economy has been having obvious impact on volunteer hours, and whilst the core work is getting done, it's a bit of strain. Some projects that need doing have been hanging-fire. Some key projects have been done, but more could be done, if there were hours available. Recently, there was a massive work day, and the bathing room was given a major face-lift. Some used, but still very serviceable medical holding kennels were added, and it's made a major imrovement on the quality of care for the dogs staging through the bathing room. Not to mention making things much easier to keep clean!

Well, today, I was put to the task of clearing out some blown appliances from the kennel house. A fairly straight-forward task, save that rats have been tearing at the infrastructure, so there was a bit of cleaning up to be done. Also, the dogs have been digging at the foundation again, and had created a completely undermined tunnel-like structure right at the cargo door - One that wouldn't hold my weight for a second, much less my weight plus a dolly holding a washing machine.

So... Find a hunk of heavy-duty plywood, bridge the gap, and work the appliances out to where I can get the dolly under them, then haul them out and into the play yard. Next, haul the equipment across the play yard, avoiding all the ankle breakers the dogs have thoughtfully dug for us there... Oh, and dodge the dogs, too... Including the pinheaded booger who has been so severely under-socialized and left so free of discipline that his idea of a friendly greeting is to bite you. >:-(

Finally, out through the dog-lock and then across the yard, over to the dumpster area. One washer, one dryer, both elderly and quite heavy. Then clean the mess left behind, and replace the washer - A reverse pilgrimage from above - whilst breaking up scuffles between Pinhead and the other dogs, and fending him off, too.

Also, moved some spare stainless kennels, to make space for a freezer, then moved the freezer.

That's all - About two and half hours, all told. Not my usual stay, but time was a bit pressurized; My hours are subject to squeezing by the economy too, and I've not spent near as much time down at The Farm this summer as I'd have liked to have done.

A word on the Pinhead; He's a young dog - Well under a year, and possibly a pure-bred. He's a classic black-n-white rough coat, and has fabulous teeth. Which I experienced quite closely. I daresay he's never experienced real discipline in his life. Certainly, once I lowered the boom on him, he shaped-up quite a ways... For me. I do NOT appreciate being greeted by a dog that tries to get my attention by pinching my legs right through my heavy jeans. Nor do I appreciate being punched by a dog that uses his front paws to practice kick-turns off my groin. So I had to drop a hammer on Pinhead, and he eased off - Though he kept almost forgetting, and spent a lot of time directly under my feet when I needed to be walking. He's in rescue, and there's NO DAMN REASON for it. Had the parents of the kids handling him paid some attention, and applied some basic discipline, there'd be no reason for him to be a pain in the ass like he was this AM. He could be a damned good dog for someone. Instead, he's an annoyance and nuisance to everyone whom meets him, and he's going to need a fair bit of detailed work to get back on the straight and narrow. No doubt, the HBIC will manage to fix his little red wagon, or will find a willing foster to sort him out, but he should have never needed to come to us in the first place.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Well, paint me green and call me a frog... I think I just saw Suka responding to play invite from Dakota!

You'd have to know Suka, and how supremely dog-indifferent she is, to understand how remarkable is that observation.

Monday, August 31, 2009

'Tis the season...

'Tis the season...

...To blow coat.

Did *I* do that..?!
Well, some of it, anyway. To be honest, you had a lot of help...
That's right. You're busted, oh hairy one!

This short post brought to you by my de-shedding rake and bit of elbow grease.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Talking the walking carpet for a stroll...

Well, y'all know we've been taking Suka for Saturday evening walks down Main street all summer. It's "Move In" week for the U of D, and all the new students (and their parents) are swarming Newark. Seemed a good night for a little socialization

Last night, we decided to take both girls for a stroll down Main street. We've never gotten a reaction less favorable than indifferent to Suka; this time reactions were all over the map, but not a single indifferent reaction. Everyone's head, at the least, turned to look at Dakota. Jenn was handling Dakota, with Suka and I walking mostly a few steps behind, so I could watch both Dakota, and Jenn's techique (she's still learning some handling on-lead tips and tricks). Jenn did fine. Dakota did fine. Positioned where I was, though, I could clearly hear the comments that Jenn was missing. Mostly, it was some variation on "Wow! Look at that big dog!" Unfortunately, some of those "Wow!" comments were fear-tinged. Dakota is clearly a well-behaved dog, but she's not demonstrably friendly until you approach her. She doesn't insist on making friends, but will happily make nice with anyone whom approaches her. Which is fine - perfect even - in my book. I don't need a dog lunging about trying to make friends with every Tom, Dick, and Harry she sees - It's rude, from my perspective, for a dog to insist on thrusting herself into the face of people whom have shown no interest.

The problem, as I see it, is that I suspect some people whom are interested in greeting Dakota were staying back because she's so large. She's no more a threat or risk than Suka - Maybe less, to some degree, in that Suka is far more agile and much faster - but some people reacted to Dakota's sheer size as a threat. In fact, Dakota's behavior on-lead is quite a bit better than Suka's, I'm embarassed to admit. Suka must smell every smell, and so is all over the place within the scope of her lead, smelling everything she can. I had to tell her "Leave it" perhaps a score of times. Dakota, meanwhile, was quite pleased to simply walk along; Not one verbal correction required. Jenn did need to pop the lead a couple times to remind her to not pull, but even then, her idea of pulling is rather mild.

So... When presented with a clearly well-behaved dog, it's distressing to hear 'fear.' Almost as distressing were the people whom did wish to greet Dakota, but were a'feared to approach. Some of those, I was able to entice to let their desire to overcome their apprehension, with uniformly excellent results. I don't want people to fear my dogs. I want them to approach them politely, yes, but I also want them to approach - I need my dogs to behave appropriately with strangers, and there's only one way for that to happen - they must meet strangers! I do wish people were more willing to ask. With Suka, they do. With Dakota, they mostly erred on the side of not asking, even when clearly many of them wanted to. Dogs need love from people, and people benefit from loving dogs. I'm a bit sad that some people weren't taking a chance to get and give a little love. It's only their own internal filters, telling them "Big Dog - Be afraid!," that was standing between them and a little joy. After all, no one has ever been savaged by a small dog before!

I'm a bit sad that some people weren't taking a chance to get and give a little love.

Damn me, if I didn't just stumble on a deep thought.

Fear, and denying oneself a chance at findling a moment of joy for the fear of a bad reaction... Fear, based upon a person's unquestioned filters and reactions. Gee... I wonder if that's more broadly applicable than just when watching Dakota? I wonder how many times I myself have denied some moment of joy by listening too well to my inner fears and filters?

Dogs teach us many things... Most of the lessons are unplanned.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Peace... And miscellaneous

Suka and Dakota have made peace. Suka is boss, but doesn't get to abuse her status - And both of the girls seem quite happy to relax and let go of the tension.

Dakota is off-lead in the house full time now, and out of the crate most of the time. She's responding very well to command and instruction - She's actually a bit more crisp than Suka is, on some commands. Suka, meanwhile, has benefitted from a trip back to school - She's also doing very well, though is a bit more vocal than she'd previously been. She's also sporting a small scar above her right eye, courtesy of one her sets-to with Dakota. Well, when you push a big dog back into a corner, you can expect to pay a bit. This is, I suspect, one of the reasons Suka doesn't abuse her status as top bitch - Dakota could clean her clock in a heartbeat, if pressed. So Suka doesn't press. No more gatekeeping, chokepoint sniping, cheap-shotting, or resource guarding. Not by either of them.

There's a bit of thunder and lightning to accompany the storm overhead - Nothing loud or close, but Dakota is anxious - And crowding up under my chair. Right in Suka's face. And Suka is just sitting there, watching the big sissy, bemused. Suka could care less about lightning, thunder, or fireworks - She's remarkably calm, for a BC/X, in the face of noises.

Food issues have been resolved - Both are on the same diet now - and Dakota's putting back on the mass she lost whilst getting settled. Dakota's stools are a bit soft, but nothing serious. They're otherwise normal. Suka's had some small digestive upset with the shift in diet, but she's adjusting well. I've got to tweak Suka's intake, though, as she's put on a couple pounds she doesn't really need. Still within normal weight, but showing a slightly less svelt figure then previously. I will NOT have a fat BC like you so often see in conformation shows! So - A bit of tweaking, some longer walks, and we'll see her back to the nicely slender tucked-up waist. Not that she's far from that now, but I make a point of watching the dogs closely as they walk, and I can see a touch of thickening in the waist. Running my hands over her ribs tells the rest of the story - I can still feel her ribs, but they're a little deeper under the flesh than before. Not, mind you, that she'll object to the extra walks!

Not, mind you, that the extra walks will hurt me, either. :-p

Monday, August 24, 2009

Settling the order of things

Well, it's been an interesting couple days. Dakota is getting it, when I tell her I want her to do something. She listens to me - No so much the rest of the house, though that's slowly improving, too. Dakota and Suka were outside together this evening, and Suka had her hackles up for a while, but calmed down, and consented to play nice. Unfortunately, Dakota discovered something yummy (a dug up maple root - We've been doing some landscaping), and drilled Suka a good one when she came to investigate. It's clear I screwed up, in not policing the yard for all things that might be yummy to a dog. I'm still learning Dakota's tastes in this regard. Suka wouldn't have cared at all, except that Dakota was carrying it about and chewing on it. Dakota started pacing, and looking for places to hide the root, until I removed it. Then Dakota calmed down right away. So - Lesson learned - Watch Dakota closely to determine which things she finds high value, and get them out of her reach, else she may become anxious, and display a hair trigger with other dogs. Mind you, she surrendered the root to me quite graciously.

Not a disaster, though, it seems. Suka's pouting, but has backed waaaay off, and is giving way. Looks like the heirarchy is settled. Dakota is still showing no signs of jealousy, and doesn't care that I give Suka attention.
Of course, she's got Jenn, so she's not exactly starved for affection.

Oh, and I brushed Dakota out - I got enough fur out of her with the rake to knit me a yorkie. And not a minature one, either! Next up - Trimming Suka's nails. She never likes that.


I don't normally edit posts, except for information that I want people to see without having to go to the comments.

I was correct about the dominance issue being settled. I had the wrong order of things - I failed to observe closely enough. Suka was pouting alright, but that was, I now suspect, from the ouchies of getting drilled a good one by a big dog. On the other hand, her backing way off is due, it is now clear, to her having come out on top of the dominance discussion. She doesn't need to push any longer. How do I know this? Dakota submitted to Suka when Suka "teed off" on her in a clasic dominace display.

There is some negotiation still on-going, as Dakota will defend high value objects or food, so Suka clearly hasn't completely overawed her. Never the less, Suka follows Dakota closely about the yard, ruff up, overmarking all Dakota's 'spots' and Dakota submits to this. Dakota is also yielding right of way in the choke-points in the house, and in general has become a lot less vocal.

Conversely, Dakota is interacting with people more, and more confidently.

Also, starting with Jenn, and with some tinkering with the mix of food, the feeding issue is resolved. Dakota is now eating enough to make me happy with her intake.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Guess who has the doggie magic?

My wife. :p

I confess to a bit of jealousy - I'M supposed to be the handler around here! Never the less, Jenn has gotten Dakota to eat properly - By holding her bowl for her. It wasn't the height - We ran that experiment. I can't get it to work - We ran that expeiment, too. It's not the kibble - We've got multiple samples to work from - With me, it doen't matter which kibble. With Jenn, it didn't matter which kibble, either. :p :p :p Well, Dakota is opening up fast, and is showing herself to be a love bug. So it's not like I'm denied a little affection from her, too.

Anyway, we can conclude that it was Jenn that made the difference. Dakota felt safe to eat, when Jenn held the food. This doesn't apply to training treats - Dakota will take those from anyone. Just to real 'food.' Guess who just got promoted to Dakota's #1 trainer? Heh heh heh!

Jenn is truly smitten, I believe. She pouted and made faces at me when I pointed this out, but confessed it true. If Dokota is, as I suspect, her heart dog, well, that'll make things a good deal more simple, in sorting out the differences bewteen Suka and Dakota.

All to the good!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Stranger in the house

Suka has a new housemate, at least for the near term.

Dakota, an ISSR Shiloh Shepherd, has moved in with us.

The "ISSR" part is critical - There have been multiple schisms in the breed club. Even the factions have split still further. ISSR is the parent group, still led by the breed founder, and still adhering to the original breed development plan. This is important to note, because there've been some bad words floating about about the general breed - The ISSR dogs are to a standard, and are very well documented. And no, despite scandalous slurs, there is no wolf in the breed. None, unless you're going to go about 120 thousand years ago, when wolves and dogs split.

Dakota is a five year-old plush-coat spayed female, qualified by St. John Ambulance as a therapy dog. St. John Ambulance doesn't do much, if any, work in the US, but readers from elsewhere will recognize the name - Descended from the Knights Hospitaller, they do good medical and charitable works world-wide.

Some weeks ago, Dakota's owner, a licensed breeder, woke up with a bad case of death. Cause unknown. Sometimes, quite fit and healthy people, even fairly young people, simply die, and medicine has no asnwer. Dakota and her kennel mate, Cain, have been drains on the estate ever since; Her late owner's daughter is not able to continue to run a kennel, and the dogs needed new homes, ASAP. Cain is breed-quality, so he went to a home within easy reach of a licensed breeder, for occasional stud services - The breed's genetic baseline is too narrow to casually neuter a good stud. Because of my rescue work, I was picked to take Dakota in, and get her settled down. I have first right of refusal, if I can get her settled. If not, we'll find another home for her, once she's got her head back on straight.

Make no bones about it; this is a rescue situation. Dakota's entire world has been turfed - Her 'mother' gone, her kennel mate moved off, the kennel closed, and now she's been moved to an alien environment.

The introduction plan has been pretty straight forward:
Introduce the dogs at a neutral ground ( a nearby poark - Y'all've seen images of it), walk them together about the neighborhood, then walk them around the yard, then introduce them into the house. Dakota is spending most of her time crated, to give her a chance to settle into the household by observing, with no pressure on her to make any decisions. She doesn't much care for this, and is very vocal about it. *shrug* Not a big thing - The crated dog is invisible, and she's learning.

She's been off her feed, but that's not surprising. It's very common for grieving dogs, and rescued dogs, to have some dietary issues. She *is* eating, though not as much as would make me happy. Her stools remain regular, firm, and normal, save that they're just a touch mucousy. I'm watching that, and have both the vet and her original breeder on speed dial.

Walking with Suka, or in the yard, there is no issue, but in the house, Dakota has pushed boundaries a few times, and gotten a sharp rebuke from Suka for it - Suka is a bit intimidated by Dakota's great size and noise, but has drawn some obvious boundaries, and is holding to them. Meanwhile, I've instituted NILIF with Dakota - She's an orphan, but that doesn't mean she gets to play the chuklehead! Meanwhile, crating for Dakota remains the normal course of events until such time as I feel confident letting her slowly into the full life of the family.

When Dakota is out and about, she's on the other end of a ten foot lead, tied off to my waist - She's got to follow the routine, and can't go off and just do things on her own - Not just yet. On the other hand, she's quite content to be led about. She's also an absolute slut for brushing and belly rubs. ;-)

Suka has generally taken the intrusion as well as can be expected - There's a big, loud stranger in the house! Another bitch, to boot! :-o God bless her lovely little head, Suka is behaving herself well, and is declining to start any crap. She's got a limit, and holds to it, but she doesn't go looking for trouble. I have observed some mutual resource guarding behaviors from each - I've already got Suka's number, so that's not worrisome to me - I put a stop to it. Dakota, well, she's still rattled, and will be more work. Not that I'm going to let her get away with it, mind you!

The primary action between the two remains the fenced yard, and walking on leads. In both situations, they're social and well-behaved, even rubbing shoulders companionably as they trot along. There's been some marking/counter-marking games, but those, whilst also dominance games, are without teeth, and are a more gentle means of settling dominance questions.

I really didn't want to be settling these kinds of issues so soon after Shadow's death, but it does provide a good distraction. And not just for me, but for my daughter, whom was devestated by Shadow's death.

Suka remains the dog of my heart, and if Dakota doesn't settle in, well, there are others, highly qualified, nearby whom would love to have her, once I get her head back on as straight as is possible. But I do love also Shilohs, and would love it if Dakota and Suka can come to an agreement. In her basic nature, Dakota is as good a dog as Suka, if different in expression. I owe her an honest chance - The same chance I gave Suka - to see what we'll see. I'm not rushing this, and good things take time and effort.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Heartbreak - Shadow

Shadow*, aka KittyFace, aka PricklyPaws, is failing fast.

She's gone downhill at a shocking rate, and this AM, I looked at her, and it was clear that her time has come. She can barely move, and is no longer bothering to groom herself - she can't even meow any longer - the best she can do is a horrible wheeze.

Yesterday, she could meow, and complain about wanting fresh water after Suka drank from her bowl (she's always been a bit of a prima donna about her fresh water), and whilst terribly wasted, was still vital. Today, this morning - She's a mess. Wasted, bedraggled, unable to care for herself, unable to move more than a couple inches, and pitiable.

I've called the vet. Today is her last day. I'm in tears.

Shadow has been with us through two births, two states, three homes, and, collectively, seven jobs. My children have never know a world without her.

The vet found a huge mass around one of her kidneys, and the other kidney was undetectably small. Her quality of life had become essentially nil.
It's done. She's over the bridge now.

*Sorry there are no images. Shadow lived to her name - so velvety-black and fuzzy that you could not get a good image of her - not even autofocus helped - she was a nebulous black cloud, moving silently through the house, until she suddenly fetched up on your chest, purring and drooling on you.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Skunk Catastrophe - NOT averted!

Just a quick reminder to people:

If your dog gets nailed by a skunk (as Suka did - TWICE! - today), there's a simple household-product fix:

1 Quart 3% (USP) hydrogen peroxide
1/4 Cup baking soda (NOT baking powder!)
2 Tablespoons liquid dish detergent
Up to 1 Quart tepid water.

Mix ingredients in a plastic container - Not metal
Scrub deep into the dog's coat, taking care to avoid the eyes.
Let stand for five minutes
Rinse out.

DON'T store any left-over solution!

May cause mild coat bleaching. May need to repeat once if the oils have had a chance to really soak in, or your dog was particularly persistent in bothering the skunk (Suka!).

More details, do a quick Google on "Paul Krebaum Skunk" and you'll find the inventor's home page. Yeah, there are commercial products, but this one always works, and it's inexpensive.

Suka may find herself a strawberry blonde in the AM. :-p Oh, and Lin is going to be getting some extra training on 1) How To Tell When The Dog Is About To Screw Up, and 2) How To Recall A Demented Skunk Botherer Before You Have A Problem - Again.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Year and a Day

That's how long Suka's been here with us. She sits under my desk as I write this, lying on my foot. She dropped into our family like she'd always been here. Indeed, it doesn't seem even remotely possible that she's only been here a year.

She's opened up from a mildly cautious dog, who refused to even see the cats, to a confident, funny, happy companion. She's utterly charmed Jenn, whom swore that she wasn't a 'dog person.' I'll find Jenn scrubbing Suka's ears and making baby talk to her, when she thinks I'm not around. Suka hears when Jenn is coming home, and whines at the door for her. She'll leap in ecstasy as Jen comes through. She's the same for me, only more so. She'll follow me about the house, or run ahead, attempting to anticipate where I'm headed. She's usually right, too. She'll stick her head in my lap, or climb up in my chair, or sit on my foot, eyes glowing, and eager for attention. She's taught us, too. My daughter has gone from at the very least a bit worried about dogs, to happily assisting me in training and care of Suka. Suka has taught my son, whom is far less impulsive and much more proper with dogs now. And of course, I've learned a loads from her too - An embarasingly large amount, perhaps. I didn't know how much I didn't know until she entered my life.

She listens well, and has excellent manners... Most of the time. The prospect of an excursion, though, is enough to fry her furry little mind, and she becomes an acrobatic dervish, barely able to contain herself inside her own skin for her excitement. Outside, her dog manners are very good, but that hardly matters, because largely, she couldn't care less about other dogs. She'll greet them, then they become irrelevent - It's the scents that hold her attention. She has to smell them! In the air, or on the ground, she simply must stick her nose into them. I'd try her on tracking, but she's really not got any good handles for training - She's praise driven, and if I make the right mix, stinkykibble(tm) will do for a training treat, but not in the presence of any distraction. Once the distractions start, I've got no real training handles on her. Fortunately, she retains what she's learned. Mostly anyway.

One behavior that has defied modification is her reaction to overload. Once she's had enough fun, she has to retreat. Her crate is her shelter, or, if I'm sitting someplace where she can get there, under my legs. So - The kneehole at my desk is a favored den, as is the underside of my recliner, when I kick back. Which means, of course, that I can never move my chair carelessly! I carry a travel crate in my car when I take her places, and that's her refuge when out in public. When she's had enough fun out away from the house, that's where she'll head, given a chance. It's actually a pretty comforting default behavior - She always knows where the car is, and if she gets loose, that's exactly where I'll find her.

I mentioned that she used to pretend the cats didn't exist? Well, she's since relaxed a lot around them. In fact, she'd like to herd them, if only they'd respond. In fact, the cats are the only thing she wants to herd. The cats, of course, are less than impressed. And my cats hold their ground. So daily, I'm treated to the spectacle of Suka nose-to-nose with one of the cats, silently making horrible "I'm going to bite you soooo bad" faces whilst the cat looks back with calm equinamity. When the cat moves on, Suka will chase for a few feet, then suddenly pull up, as she remembers that when chased, these cats turn and attack. The cat will move on, leaving Suka standing there, tail wagging, neck arched, and ears pricked forward with an eager, frustrated gleam in her eyes. Suka knows all three cats by name, and when we shout at one, she'll charge up to the offender, ready to help chastize!

In short, and to sum-up, Suka fits into the family as if she were born here. So, here's to many more years with Suka in our lives - May they all be as happy as this last one has been.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lums Pond

Lums pond is one of my favorite places in the whole state... Beautiful woods, lovely (HUGE!) pond, lots of convenient places to BBQ and sit, or walk and relax, or do whatever comes to mind. Plentiful facilities, well-located and convenient, but unobtrusive and discrete. Basically, it's a civilized and convenient place, cleverly disguised as wilderness.

So, a bunch of us from the SSDCA-MAC (Shiloh Shepherd Dog Club - Mid-Atlantic Chapter) got together at the park, with yours truly serving as local host. 15 massive ISSR Shilohs, a couple of large GSDs, a Chinese Crested, and Suka... That makes roughly a ton of dogs.
Literally. ;-)

Good food, good people, great weather, and all the dogs were on their best behavior... At least until Suka rolled in something stinky. Then a couple of the bitches wanted to take a bite out of her, and a couple of the males were waaaaay more friendly than they'd been previously... What the hell did she roll in? I dunno - I couldn't smell it, but the other dogs sure could! Anyway, even that was easily managed - ISSR Shilohs are big as houses, but they're also obedient and generally mannerly. Leah and Nana took correction well, whilst Loki and Elwood made do with longing looks. Suka, on the other hand, was loftily dismissive of the effect her new perfume was having.
Who knew she was a minx..? ^,^

Lind and Ian were there, and generally well behaved, and Jenn made time out of her busy schedule to meet some of the club, their dogs, and eat the lunch I grilled for her... Then she took off with the kids, leaving me to the dogs. ;-) Not a problem... I hung out, walked Suka through the woods, played with some the Shilohs (Loki, fer instance, loves to jump up on you. He's a 7-month old pup, so it's understandable, but at 91 pounds, and looking me square in the eye on his hind legs, it's a bit of a wrestling match to get him back down again!), and shot the breeze with people I normally only meet on-line.

It was a good day.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The hot, not-so-lazy days of summer...

Long time, no posts... Not terribly sorry about that, to be honest. Job responsibilities change, Jenn's Chorale group is putting on their annual summer musical - Camelot, this time - and the kids are settling into summer camp(s).

So, among other things, I'm attending canine gets-together. First one was in Manasas, Virginia, at Bull Run State Park. Yes, that Manasas, and that Bull Run... But not at the actual battlefield! This one was for my friends in the SSDCA-MAC. That's Shiloh Shepherd Dog Club of America, Mid-Atlantic Chapter. This is the home club of the ISSR Shiloh Shepherd dog... Giant-breed dogs descended from GSDs, but not actually GSDs! No police work; gentler, more family- and child-friendly. These are working companion animals, and are not for Schutzhund or other aggressive work - Think SAR, therapy, tracking, and the like. Didn't get many shots of Suka, though there are other slide shows out there with Suka at this event... Didn't get many shots of Ian, either, though he was there... Like he was shot from a gun! Little guy clamped on to one owner's fox-terrier, and the two went runing all over the picnic site like ions out of a linear acclerator. ;-)

Anyway, slide show:

Most of those dogs are puppies! Otis, the pup Lin is mooning over, was a mere 13 weeks. Penny is 4 months - and 48 pounds! That makes her 15% heavier than Suka, a full-grown Border-mutt. And she's taller, too! Dude and Elwood are six months, and Ginger wasn't quite a year. Orion and Kuma, however are full-grown.

Anyway, the dogs were chilled-out, and Olga - the President of MAC - was able to use a somewhat skeptical Ginger as model for a number of grooming tips. It was hot enough that Ian and Jack the fox-terrier were the only real activity. Everyone else clung to the shade, and hung out. All said, a successful day. :-)

The weekend walks down Main Street are continuing and Suka does ever-better; Her willingness to relax and just 'be' are improving each time! Much of this socialization has been hampered by the disrupted schedule, and by the near-demise of Jenn's car. We're back to two functional cars again, so things are moving better than before.

Today, we were back down to Victory Farm for an Open House at the Rescue. Jenn has never been to The Farm, so I've been teased more than a little about my 'non-existent' wife. Well, today they met her! Also, Ian got his first visit to The Farm, and was very well-behaved. How a-typical! :-p Got a LOT of shots of MABCR alumni, so many, in fact, that I pruned it back pretty sharply.

HOT day, but there was a lot of shade, a good breeze, shade pavilions set up, and lots and lots of water available - stock tanks filled and set out everywhere you turned. Some of the dogs even tried out for the scuba team, submerging themselves in the stock tanks until only the tops of their heads were showing, like so many furry bullfrogs! :-D

Lots of MABCR alumni, lots of adopters; everyone looking good and happy. Add lots of good food (even if Sarah did charcoal some hotdogs!), and it was a pretty darn good day! Jenn and I went for our usual walk down Main Street, but poor Suka was wiped out - We let her sleep it off in her crate.

Slide show:

Friday, May 29, 2009

Summer's here...

The grass is thick, and growing too fast. Rain, rain, more rain, then sun... Muddy paws on my trousers, wet dog to greet me, chores, gardening, and maintenance to distract me... My days are full.

Soon, the children will be out of school - Lin isn't old enough, quite, to leave home all day. I actually trust her, and she's certainly mature enough, but Qestions Would Be Asked, and I really don't want to deal with that drama. So, I'm pawning her off on my music-teaching psuedo-sister. Whom also happens to be Lin's voice and piano coach. Pricy, but more than worth it! The girl needs a bit of social polish anyway, and my sister is just the one to gently help her down that path. :-) That leaves Ian, and he'll be easy - The Child Development Center here at work runs a full-day summer camp.

OK, kids handled. What about Suka? I'm changing my hours to stagger my wife's schedule a bit with mine, that'll keep Suka from being alone too long. I've found that she's no fear whatsoever of the lawn equipment, though she's not terribly fond of the noise. So, I let her supervise my yard work, which she's content to do at a distance. The front yard not being fenced, she watches from the porch on a 30' lead, and is happy, though she does on occasion rearrange the slate border of the center island with the lead. In the back yard, she normally hangs out in the garage, and observes from the shade of the doorway. I'll need a child's wading pool for later, when things get hot - Some place in which for her to lay down, get wet, and cool off.

We're continuing our trips downtown, and she's really shaping up - her winter or more-or-less isolation is sloughing off, and her 'public' face is coming out to shine.

I've plugged the gaps in the fences where Suka has managed to slip through, and no longer need to watch her quite so closely. Likewise, I've sealed off the undersides of the shed, so the skunks are less likely to camp in our yard, though there's always the off chance of one wandering through. Now, if I could only stop the squirrels from chewing up the roof of the shed...

Gonna be a busy summer. I'll try and get some more photos, when I've got the initial rush of tasks handled.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Highland Games

Took Suka & Lin to the Fair Hill Highland Games this weekend past - It was fine spring weather, and I've missed the games the last few years.

Didn't have a whole lot of time to spend - Lin was due for a chorale performance later in the afternoon - but I wanted to give Suka some more social time, and she did us proud! She doesn't mind bagpipes, but LOUD is not her friend, and Highland Gatherings are pretty much, by definition, loud! That not withstanding, she was quite the little lady, and I'm very pleased with her.

She actually barked a couple times as we were getting close - unusual for her; highly excited! Once parked, she was charmingly well-behaved, excepting that she was prone to forgetting the tension on the lead, and had to be corrected a couple of times to remind her not to pull. Other than that, she was perfect - Good dog manners with the other dogs, good people manners, and most especially, good 'strange child' manners!

It helps that the vast majority of people at the gathering had good manners themselves, and behaved well. Only once did I have to instruct a kid on the proper approach in an unfamiliar dog, and she got the lesson right away, and happily complied. I think, because this is a dog-friendly event, that we had a crowd more clued-in to the proper and expected behaviors.

Whilst there, she again stuck her nose into every interesting scent she could find, and showed the most signs of stress when the wind shifted, and a new wave of scent would waft over us. When that happened, she was all over impatient to get moving along and investigate the news scents. As soon as we started moving again, the pressure came off, and she was happy again.

Going back and forth through the venue, Suka made many new friends, canine and human both. I gathered up a large quantity of buinsess contacts in regards to merchandise for my wife whom couldn't be there, and generally enjoyed the walk. After about an hour and a half, Suka began to burn out, and made "looking for shelter" motions, so we went ahead and departed. As usual, she was just as happy to bounce into the car on leaving as she was to bounce out on arrival... I think she simply likes getting in and out of cars. :p

Lin was also spot-on for behavior. This was the first time I've turned her loose at a gathering to investigate on her own, and she was perfect - Didn't give me a single new grey hair! She was also very popular with the kids that wanted to pet Suka, and one particularly charming little girl latched on to Lin and was ready to take her home! Yeah, I'm exceedingly proud of my child, but ya know? She makes it easy. :-)

No, no pictures - I was too busy and torn too many different ways to take snaps.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mud Puppy!

It's been raining.
Much, much rain. Seattle weather, to be honest. :-p

Jenn was out at one of her Chorale's performances this evening, in the pounding rain. I left Lin in charge of herself and Suka whilst I took Ian with me to deliver Jenn to her car pool to the performance. I come back to find that Lin and Suka have taken the opportunity to play in the rain (They're a matched set of lunatics, IMO). Anyway: dog; outside; pouring rain... I'm sure y'all know where this is headed...

This is what happens when it rains...

OK, so this was all just an excuse to post a cute picture of a repentantly muddy beast... ;-)

Anyway, mad scramble to clean up the dog before Ian and I headed off to collect Jenn again. She wears formal black when performing, and I was quite sure she'd have been less-than-charmed to have been greeted by the ambulatory mud-clod on her return.

Needless to say, when we returned, guess who was outside and playing in the rain and mud again..? Teenagers... Not only not quite bright enough to come in out of the rain, but also crazy enough to go right back out into it as soon as your back is turned. :-p Fortunately, I saw what was up before we opened the front door, and was able to intercept Suka before she splashed Jenn, whom made an inspired sneak-n-dash upstairs before the dog could enthusiastically greet her in a very muddy fashion.

And just so you know; This is what Suka looks like after being cleaned. The second time.
All better now - Time to nap.

That's all. :-p

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A pleasant evening's stroll

No pictures. :-p

Jenn and I took an evening to just be. The kids were at my mother's place for the evening, and we took Suka down to main street, and went walking. Glorious weather, perfect night... Cool but comfortable for t-shirts; the day's light breeze tempering down to the merest hint of a breath - just enough to waft scents from the numerous restaurants along. Being the first really excellent weather of spring, the college students were out in mass force, spilling out of bars, chatting in the sidewalk-seating of the various restaurants, walking, joking, moving from party to party. One street over, there's a frat house that always has live music on Saturday nights... Local college bands, many of whom are quite good. Walking along, the music filled in the missing peices of atmosphere.

Suka was generally well-behaved, though there were a few examples of uncertain barking at people she found to be exceptionally strange - smokers all, and mostly men. I need to work on that - We've been neglecting her socialization; Shame on me! However, as I've no doubt said too many times, she's a good dog, and took correction well, and was willing to make friends with those strange burning people... Or at least was willing to accept that they weren't a threat, and accept a bit of scritching from them after suitable introduction. I have to say the college students were really game, working with me to help defuse Suka's anxiety with their good nature and cooperation.

Despite a thousand opportunities to snarf spilled food, raid public trash cans, and otherwise ingest things she ought not eat, she didn't take one single scrap of food from anywhere but my own hands; she really isn't food driven. :-D Instead, Suka put her nose into every nook and cranny where an interesting scent might be found - Scent driven, she most certainly is!

Jenn and I sat down at a favored spot, California Tortilla ( ), and I watched the world go by with Suka whilst Jenn went in and placed our orders. Suka was a bit anxious to get moving along again and sniff more scents - I spent maybe fifteen minutes working on getting her to settle. Settling in public is another thing that I've been neglecting; well, last night was a good chance to work on it. As we were eating, my sister and brother-in-law walked past, and also ordered. We didn't pester them, though - It was too perfect an evening, and we didn't want to intrude on their evening.

Of course, college kids being college kids, and this being a Saturday night, someone had to get stupid; every patrol car in town pulled up in front of the shop and a small swarm of blue uniforms went purposefully down the alley and into the parking lot behind the building. There are a couple bars fronting onto that parking lot, and some drama was going on. Dunno what exactly it was, but shortly, a large swarm of college kids came back out of the alley, and one kid was frog-marched out. I love small-town police - They basically walked this kid along, all in a big gaggle, two officers supporting and moving him along, the rest kinda chatting; with the kid, with each other. If it weren't for the uniforms and the handcuffs, it'd have looked like any other group of strollers out for the evening air. Suka, having settled by this point, was supremely indifferent to it all.

Strolled a bit more afterwards, stopped by Cold Stone Creamery ( ) for some really evil concoction of Jenn's, and finished up our walk juggling soda, icecream, dog, and conversation with random people who wanted to meet Suka.

Really a pleasant evening, even with the drama.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Oh, the glamor!

Country air! Scenery! Another day of shameless lounging about The Farm!

This past weekend, a transport consisting of a bitch and her (many!) pups was due in, and frankly, the inn was full! Well, something needed to be done... And the HBIC has the plan (as always): Convert the lambing stall into a canine nursery. Well, that means mucking the stall, and it hasn't been done properly since... Well, a while. See, the HBIC got herself a bit broken a while back (something about tangling with an uppity ewe and a small flock of her hangers-on), and she isn't really the lift-n-tote kinda person any more. Add to that, that volunteer hours are down (where have we heard THAT refrain before..?), and well - The stall was a bit nasty.

I've seen worse. Still, it needs work.

So, I was down at The Farm, and my biggest utility, when you get down to it, is as a "strong back, weak mind" kinda person. There were dogs to groom, and adoptions to manage, and lunch to cook... Guess which I did? Yup! Actually, I don't mind at all... It's been a long time since I mucked a stall, but the skills don't exactly vanish, and it's a straightforward, fairly mindless, but satisfying job.

Mount That's-Not-So-Bad

In I go with a hay fork, and pile up a couple loads-worth of crud. Not too nasty, really. Yeah, it's a bit damp, and the bottom layer has 'felted' into a solid sheet, but it comes up clean and easy. Then, pile it in to a wagon and haul it off to the compost pile. Small-ish wagon, so three trips. No problem!

First load away!

The sheep, however, were less than impressed. A pair of ewes were clearly suspicious, and spent the morning giving me the stink-eye.

Just who do ewe think you're looking at, anyway..?

Unfortunately, the first stack of muck wasn't the worst of it... Getting into the corners, things got a bit nastier. The second large pile was, well... fragrant.

Mount That's-Not-So-Nice

Some of the barn cats camped nearby to snicker at me. Or maybe to just observe the natural order of things, as humans work whilst they lounge in lordly repose.

House cats camp on your keyboard. Farm cats camp on your tractor.

Anyway, one stall, cleaned down to the deck matting. It still needed a good sweeping, but frankly, I was getting tired of taking pictures, so you'll have to do with this shot, sans sweeping. :-p

Much improved!

At this point, I really needed to get on the road, so I didn't get to participate in the spreading of shavings and straw, nor to the settling-in of mom & pups. Still, a fine, languid, glamorous day!

Please note - In this economy, many volunteer-run organizations are really hurting for volunteer hours. And yeah, some volunteer work is seriously non-glamorous. I've cleaned kennels, scooped poop, picked up dead rats, rewired electrical runs, mucked a stall, driven nails, and lifted-n-toted untold bags of food. Oh, and played with puppies and dogs, too! But I'm only one person, and there's work to be done 365 days a year. And it's not just MABCR, but *every* volunteer organization is hurting. If you're not into rescue, maybe there's some other way you can help someone... I'm sure they'll be grateful for whatever you can do!

And besides... If we had more volunteer hours, I might not have had to be the one mucking the stall!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Skunk Catastrophe; Averted

Suka has a routine - Don't all dogs? - that requires that I let her out into the pre-dawn air for her first 'business' call of the day. Letting her out is the second thing I do after waking, only following behind pulling my wellies & coat on. It's a nice time of the day, even if I am a bit muzzy-headed with sleep, and even if it's bitterly cold - The neighborhood is quiet, the Rude Dogs are still sleeping, no one is hammering at me for crisis deliverables, and I can stand there, watch Suka as she sniffs her way about the yard, and just be. It's a zen moment - a chance to open myself to the posibilities of the day.

When let into the yard, Suka patrols the boundaries, nose to the grass, checking out all the new scents that have accumulated from the night previous. She first jets straight to the back fence, to see if the Rude Dogs on the other side are available - I don't let her fence run, but she still wants to check attendance. Then she'll hook to the right, pass behind the shed, turn and follow the chainlink of the neighbor's fenceline, then cross the yard to my left, hook right again, and follow the fence back under the large pine in the corner. Only after she's done the patrol will she do her business, and run back for the house.

This morning, we awoke to a hard frost; Winter may be over, but it's leaving behind calling cards. Suka started her patrol, and as she passed behind the shed, I saw something waddle out from under the shed, headed the opposite direction... Something low, long, fluffy, and white. No - Not a cat. A skunk. A BIG skunk. Yeah, I know - Traditionally, skunks are BLACK and white. Not always, though - We've got some cocker spaniel-sized skunks around here that are predominantly white or cream, and this was one of them. My zen moment vanished in a puff of horror; Suka was within feet of one of the largest skunks I've ever seen, and she's a fiend for interesting scents...

'Left' went the skunk... 'Right' went Suka... 'OMG' went I...

Left, left, left... Right, right, right... OMGOMGOMGOMG...

Suka hooked right at the corner... The skunk vanished under the pine... Suka started to cross back to the left... I was frozen, afraid that any action might precipitate the event I feared...

Then I saw the pale bundle of fur waddling through the neighbors yard; Safe! A heartbeat later, Suka saw it too, and charged the fence, but it was already too late for her to ruin my day; The skunk was out of reach.

Sometimes, you get exactly what you pray for.

For those of you whome don't know about it, there IS an effective remedy for 'skunked' dogs; invented by research chemist Paul Krebaum, it uses common household products, and it works. There may be some slight bleaching, but, in my opinion at least, a pale dog is MUCH better than a skunked dog. I keep the ingredients in the house, just to be on the safe side. Thankfully, I didn't need it today. However, for your reference:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saturday in the Park

These photos were taken just six days after the photos in the previous post... What a difference a few days makes!

Lin walking Suka into the neighborhood park

No, there's no love here...
Neener-neener, Dad! I'm sucking up to Lin today! :-p

OK, OK - Don't cry - I still love you, you big sissy!

For a "pocket park," there's a surprisingly large number of acres here... Just behind the treeline runs White Clay Creek, which give our neighborhood a micro-climate substantially more cool that the rest of the county. White Clay Creek is nearly a small river, and frequently floods into the flat grassy area you see here:

Lots of room to explore!

The periodic flooding means that the land is useless for almost any purpose, other than public parkland. And most of teh time, it's useless for that, too... Flooded, or soaked and muddy. Nothing much, other than flood-resistant trees grows here. There are swingsets and slides and ball parks sattered through the park, but most are damaged beyond safe use by the frequent washouts.

Nothing much to look at, but, oh! The scents!
At the entrance ot the park, there's this huge old pine tree, which I love to look at... It's got character. The hole here is big enough for Suka to curl up inside.

Probably a death wound

Anyway, winter is gone... Spring is here. Soon, the park will be flooding every other weekend... Time to enjoy it whilst we can!

Winter's Last Stand

This snow storm is a few weeks past, but I only now have had time to pull the photos out of the camera. This is no doubt the last snow until November.

Somewhere in this shot, there's a dog. Can you find her?

There she is!

Snow or no snow, she's still finding all the interesting smells...

This snow lasted a little longer than many previous storms have, this past winter, and it was a pretty darn cold - roads were treacherous. If not for four-wheel drive, I'd have not gotten out of the neighborhood at all - We were losing traction the whole way.

Then, five days later, it was gone. Easy come, easy go. :-p

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Work/Life Balance. What's that..?

Work is eating my life again... *sigh*

There's an Iditarod to follow and comentate... Which isn't happening for me.
There are a bunch of collecge kids down at The Farm, doing good works and eating donated meals (including some from my family)... and I'm not able to take the time off to help out.
There are photos in my camera to post and discuss... And they'll be there a bit longer.

See, I do Clinical Submissions work for a large Pharma, and though they make a LOT of noise about Work/Life Balance, ultimately we are slaves to the submission work. Timelines are inflexible, and if some internal Medical Writers can't get their heads out of their butts and meet *their* deadlines, well, *I* have to somehow manage to collapse my timelines so the final date is met. If the work isn't done, the agency won't care if I was able to get a little time off - Our user fee will still be forfieted. If the work isn't done, the agency won't cut slack on statuitory timelines so I can lower my blood pressure. If my Study Delivery Team is clueless and befuddled, well, the agency doesn't care. Nor should they. But I will still have to find the time anyway, even if it comes out of my hide.

Bitter..? A little. I'm missing things I love. I love my job too, but not right now.

Ah, well. Suka will still be over-the-moon to see me come home. That helps a lot. :-)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Miscellaneous and Random...

So, what do I want to say here..? Hmmm. I know - I can clear up a couple back stories, with images.

It snowed last night (Saturday night, I mean). We woke to another Delaware Decorative Snow, this AM. By the time we left church, it was gone... Completely. It's snowing again, now, but this time, with a bit more enthusiasm. So... What does a Delaware Decorative Snow look like? Here ya go:

Deciding if she really wants to go out...

...Patented snow trot in mid-pace.
The camera puts more contrast on these shots than is actually available to the human eye. Without the camera and the benefit of the zoom lens, Suka's coloring really does her good service as camoflage in these conditions. I knew white-factored red sable existed for more reasons than just to look good!

Suspicious of the neighbor's dog - one of the Rude Dogs.
If you look really close, you'll see some roughness in her coat along her hips... She's blowing coat, and is seemingly less happy about the cold now. Sorry... No rolling and wriggling in the snow today.

Did I say "blowing coat?" I meant to say "Trying to reupholster the house." For instance - This is what 30 seconds of shedding dog can do to a nice fresh pillowcase:

Say now... Where did that fur come from..?

Who, me..?! Nope. Didn't do it. And I'm not on the bed right now, either.

I believe I mentioned that Suka likes to snuggle on the couch when I nap there? Well I finally got an image of that, too... Though I think she was a bit non-plussed to have her nap interrupted...

Whyfore you wake me with the flashy-thing..?

And lastly... To remind us all that spring *is* coming, and green things will be here again, a shot from last July, when Suka first came to join us - It's a shot pried out of the old camera, and more than bit fuzzy (I should known then, that the camera was dying):

Getting used to the new digs.

Anyway, that's all for now. I think I'll go out and sand the walks once more, and call it a night.