Friday, October 28, 2005

Need a Number for Your Lottery Ticket?

A couple of weeks ago, Shakespeare was injured. Shakespeare and Inky were both out playing with us, when one chose to run clockwise around the house and the other chose to run counter-clockwise. They met at a blind corner at full gallop, with a sound that could be heard in the next county.

Both thought the other one did it on purpose. Neither apologized. We cleaned them up after the fight and treated them appropriately.

I knew Shakespeare's head was swollen and sore, so I pulled him from that weekend's Schutzhund obedience routine and entered him in tracking, instead. (I wanted to make sure our club had the minimum number of entries for a valid trial.) It was a poor showing, and we failed, and a few minutes afterwards someone reminded me that many antibiotics interfere with the sense of smell. Oh, well.

Anyway, two weeks later, Shakespeare's head still had a sizable knot on one side, and it was pretty firm. I worried about calcification -- ye gads, had he fractured his skull? -- and took him in for x-rays.

Well, yes! The impact of Shakespeare and Inky running into each other around the corner had knocked a pretty big chunk of bone loose!

More, their heads had to collide at exactly the right location and angle that it struck his skull where there was no overlying musculature to cushion the impact, where there would have been merely bruising or damaged muscle.

I'd originally told my vet that I could have set up the situation, each dog running around the house in opposite directions) at least 50 times and maybe once have seen them collide like that. Now, with all these tiny details lining up just right, he amended my statement to once in 500 times or more. He suggested we play a lottery ticket on him.

So if anyone needs a number this week, Shakespeare's ILP is 91434. And he would appreciate a share of the winnings to go toward his medical bills. :-)

(He's going to be just fine, by the way. Just a little lumpy for a while.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

How The Other Half Lives

So there I was on the sidewalk, in my black vest, black leather jacket, stringy unwashed hair and muddy paw-printed jeans. I looked like someone who should be chased away from the school playground so I couldn't give the kids free samples. And at the end of my leash was a Standard Poodle with traditional pom-poms, a pink rhinestoned collar and pink bows on her ears. :-)

Let me back up a little.

I got to learn about appearances yesterday. :-) I was filling in yesterday and today for Amy of Amy's Happy Critters, Inc., a highly-recommended pet-sitting and dog-walking service, while Amy was out with an injury. So I got to meet new dogs and go new places, which is always enjoyable.

Because I had been really harried over the last few days with WAE tests and shelter benefits and stuff, I dressed down for the day and counted on the dogs not caring. What the heck, no humans were going to see me anyway, right? (I wasn't thinking about downtown visits.) So I went out to do the dogwalking in my warm fleecy vest and grimy hair. The dogs didn't care; dogs are good that way.

But my last stop of the day was for a dog who lived in a downtown penthouse apartment, and she and I didn't necessarily look as if we went together.

This was really interesting for me, because I'm usually walking a Doberman. Now, I didn't choose Dobermans for the macho image, and I work pretty hard to make sure my dogs don't terrify people and are well-mannered in public, but generally people do respond differently to large, black dogs. And I can pretty much guarantee you that if I'd been walking my Dobes in that get-up, I would have prompted a few conversations regarding urban renewal. ;-)

But with a pink and sparkly Standard Poodle beside me, incongruous as we were, I was still approachable, and a few people commented on the "pretty dog." No comments for me. :-)

Made me think of the Ultra Disguise Kit.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Laev on joists

We're building our porch now, and Laev found the spaced joists to be a puppy playground! I didn't get a photo the first time, but here's a shot of the re-enactment. :-) Crazy fearless dog!

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Okay, so I've been slacking off. I admit it. But at least I've been feeling guilty about it.

So this afternoon I came home and took Monster Berserker Puppy out of her kennel (the only thing which still holds her, as she can escape from the other kennel and escaped today from the agility field) for a little heeling training. I selected a burlap rag for a reinforcer, as I want to work on this with a toy and I don't particularly like the idea of training with a ball (not interactive enough with me). Also, I didn't want to have to worry about good grips and bite quality, so I used a rag instead of a bite roll.

Anyway, it was a little rough at the beginning, as I had good attention and position for the short bursts of heeling (2-5 steps) but it was taking a long time to get ready to begin again after the tugging ended. I decided my rate of reinforcement was thus too low and dropped criteria -- she no longer had to be in heel position for me to start forward, just eyeballing me.

This helped immensely; I think the problem was that the hyperdriven tugging puppy brain could not immediately switch back into "sit and focus" mode after tugging. She'll have to be able to do that later, of course, but not just yet. :-) So if I started forward with just eye contact, she put herself into good heeling position, alert and intense, and then I could click and whip the rag out for tug. I got longer bits of heeling, too, after that. I probably could have gotten even more, but I'm trying not to push too hard.

I'd really like to get video of this and see it from a different angle. Darn having to work alone almost all of the time!

This is, by the way, a full body workout for both of us! I tired out the puppy, quitting before she was ready to quit, of course, and I completely exhausted myself. It used to be easier to swing her around :-) and I was out of breath when we were done!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Tracking Challenges, or, Let's Make This Track Just a Little Harder

So I took the dogs to the park today to track. I laid Laev's track first, no articles, and then I laid Shakespeare's track, with three articles. I really want to get Laev onto articles, so I'll start that soon.

While the track is aging, I ask Laev to do a little obedience for me. She's really distracted when I take her from the car -- that's my fault for teaching her we always track here, and I've built a pattern of wanting to go directly to the track instead of playing with me -- but after a few minutes she's doing some simply heeling with me. I put her up, take Shakespeare out for even shorter bursts of heeling, and then we start the track.

He starts down the track at a steady trot, amazing me since I thought he was a little overloaded and stressed with tracking; I guess that's what a week off will do. :-) A little struggle with the first corner, but he finds it eventually, and then we go on to the first article. Good. Continue, corner, second article, good.

I'm petting him at the second article as I glance down the remainder of the track, looking as I always do to make sure we're still on target and I know where my track is prior to sending my dog on. That's when I notice the white park pick-up truck crossing my track leg ahead.

Drat. Oh, well, it's just a big cross-track. He'll have to work through it.

I wait a moment to let the truck get fully out of our way, when I notice it slow and the driver leans out with a reacher to collect a piece of trash and toss it into the back. They'll collecting litter. Oh, no.....

I leave Shakespeare in his down and run after the truck, chasing it down the park. "Excuse me," I pant, "but did you just pick up a black leather wallet?"

There are two guys in the truck. "Yeah. Was that yours?"

I explain that I'm training tracking dogs and that I leave articles for them to find. It of course was not their fault, they weren't to know it wasn't something someone had dropped. They're very apologetic and return the wallet.

"Oh, wait," one remembers. "Were those your flags, too?"

I collect my third article and flags and call my dog. I decide to abandon the final leg of that particular track and I lay a super-short track with the wallet at the end for Shakespeare to indicate and reward him. End of track. :-)

Laev's track was also contaminated, by the truck and by a runner crossing just in front of us as she worked the first leg, but aside from some corner trouble of her own, she did alright. I had to think a little harder about what points I used for my legs, since my flags had been plucked, but the dog kept her nose to the ground the entire time.

Moral of the story: inform the maintenence workers of what you're doing. :-)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A Big, Big Mouth

Why, yes, she does have an enormous mouth. And she likes to stuff it. Here you see Laev with not one but two Dober-sized toys crammed into her maw. I'm not sure why she doesn't gag herself, but she loves this.

Friday, October 07, 2005

FEMA testing & media prejudice

We went this morning to observe FEMA Search & Rescue testing. Laev had nothing to do there, of course, but she and I played for a while and then she played with one of the certifying judges (tug). And that's the end of Laev's part in this post.

The testing was interesting. I was passingly familiar with it, but I'd never seen it before. There were several different phases: obedience, committment to scent (at least 30 seconds of continuous barking to indicate a victim), directability, and search on a rubble pile.

A TV crew came out to tape, which I thought was great. With all the BSL (breed-specific legislation) out there and pending, dogs need all the positive media they can get! Even my county is trying to sneak in BSL under the radar. We're fighting that, by the way!

Anyway, the news team got footage of a Labrador and then of a German Shepherd. They disappeared immediately before the pit bull came out to work, and I was disappointed at the unlucky timing. If the city is considering banning pit bulls (and other breeds/types of dog), they should be seeing what the dogs can offer!

The pit bull finished and left the field. And the news team reappeared suddenly, just in time to tape a yellow Labrador.

Am I the only person who thinks this looks like an deliberate attempt to leave out images of useful, life-saving pit bulls?