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.