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.