Monday, July 07, 2014

Getting ready for prime time

Teddy and I ventured back into the realm of competitive obedience on Saturday. We went to a Correction Clinic (practice obedience trial) hosted by a local club.
I realized when I got there how much my training has changed over the last few years. Teddy was one of only a handful of dogs at the match who wasn't wearing a training (choke) or prong collar. I've become immersed in "positive reinforcement" training. I'd forgotten it was the rule, rather than the exception, to actually use "corrections" at a Correction Clinic.
You don't have to, of course. So I didn't. And Teddy did great!
We tried our hand at both Beginner Novice and Novice exercises and Teddy would have qualified in both if it had been a "real" trial.
So it's time to go for the real thing and actually enter a competition. I spent a chunk of time this morning waffling about it. I found a relatively close trial, with great judges, and sat there with my entry all filled out, thinking "I have until Wednesday, maybe I'll see how he does in class tomorrow and then decide," and "Maybe I'll just enter Beginner, instead of Novice, just to see how he does."
I'm not sure why competition has become such a bug-a-boo for me. Teddy knows what he's supposed to do, I know what I'm supposed to do. And I won't be devastated if we don't succeed. But I didn't seem able to hit "enter" for that entry.
Then my sister reminded me of my resolve. "Just put your big-girl pants on and enter Novice." So I did. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Still learning, after all these years

Last night there was some wild and woolly weather in the Chicago area. My phone kept announcing weather alerts, watches, warnings, etc. The thunder was almost continuous for a couple of hours. We've been lucky that none of our current crew of dogs cares about loud noises - thunder and fireworks don't usually bother this bunch.
So I was at my wit's end last night - Roc couldn't settle. He was panting, restless, and shaking. I didn't know what to do. I took him out for a potty break. We got a little wet in the rain, but it didn't solve his discomfort. I took away the cooling mat he usually lies on in the evening. That wasn't it. I held him close, that didn't help.
Finally, feeling like a really bad dog-mom, I put him on the floor (he can't get on or off the furniture himself any more) and basically threw my hands up.
He went over to the bed that was his favorite for years before his back problems. Climbed in and went to sleep. Napped comfortably there until bedtime.
Sorry, dude. I know you've never really been much of a lap dog/cuddler. There are times when a guy needs some "me" time.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Team for a lifetime

As Roc requires more of my time and attention I worry that Teddy isn't getting enough of either. It's a balancing act that's part of everyone's life, since we haven't found a way to stretch time.
To make sure I'm not falling behind with training and spending time with the Ted-Monster, I go to obedience or agility class even on the days I'd rather just collapse on the couch after work.
I always wind up being happy I went - one of the reasons I have dogs is that I love spending time with them, I enjoy the training process, and it's wonderful when you see your dog finally "get" the behavior you're working on. You can almost see Teddy being proud of himself.
It's also an opportunity to spend an hour - even if it's the only hour you get all week - to ignore all of the stresses and demands on your time. I can shut out everything else when I'm training my dog. Precious time, indeed.
I extend that time for a few minutes every day. Whether we work on a perfect "front" or a faster "recall," or just try to get a few, perfect heeling steps, I meet Teddy's eyes, we're working together, and we're a team.
The training and teamwork lasts a lifetime. Roc remembers all those little things, too. And when I ask him for one of them - his tail still wags.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Living with a little old dog

Roc on his 12th birthday in December, 2013
I went into the vet's office this morning to pick up some medicine refills for Roc. My little old man isn't doing all that great these days - something happened to his back in December and he's losing the use of his back legs.
In all honesty, neither the vet nor I really expected him to still be here in June - if we hadn't been able to control his pain, he wouldn't be. He has trouble getting up from a sit or from lying down, his back legs don't always turn when he does, and he doesn't always realize that his right, rear paw is upside down. I fix it for him.
And because of the medication he's on, he gets really warm. So I bought a bunch of flexible cooler sheets that rotate in and out of the freezer and under his towel on the couch. So he's cool enough to enjoy watching his beloved television.
Teddy and I wanted to
go walking on vacation.
 Roc came along strapped
to my front in his Pooch Pack.
And he's lost feeling and control of his back end, he doesn't always know when he has to poop and doesn't always make it outside anymore. But he still yells for his dinner (and breakfast, and snacks), and he still likes to play with his toys (even if "fetch" is just a few inches in front of him), and he still likes it when I hold him and give him big, smacky kisses. And he still loves barking at the lawn service, the mail carrier, the UPS guy, and his brother.
Today the vet gave me "the talk." She was acting as Roc's advocate - she's known him since I brought him home as a four-month-old puppy. She wants to make sure that Roc is still here because he's happy, not because I need him to be. I was able to reassure her - according to her own rules, which she told me years ago, it's not time. It's a good way to know - think of your dog's three favorite things. When two of them are gone, it's probably time.
I've let my friends know that vacations I've planned probably won't be happening - Roc can't travel and I won't leave him now. Having a little old dog restricts the time I can be away from home - he needs his medicine twice a day, and really can't "hold it" for more than a few hours anymore.
Non-dog people might think it's not worth it. But they'd be wrong. Roc is still my best little buddy, my first obedience dog, and my responsibility. And the day I brought him home I made a promise to him that I'd always be there for him. And I will.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Securing my dogs' future

The last week has found us deeply immersed in the dog world - and wanting to share. The best way we can think of is to dust off the old blog and give it another spin. We're hoping to make it a habit - but not going to promise.

Yesterday our training club addressed an important issue for all of us who love our pets and consider them members of the family - estate planning and pet trusts. There was an article going around the internet a few weeks ago entitled "Will you be coming home to your pet." Lots of good ideas (entering an ICE number in your cell phone, hiding a key so your emergency contact has access to your home, etc.) for emergencies, but not long-term planning.

There were over 20 people at our club meeting - all of them deeply involved in dog training, dog sports, dog competition. And not one of us raised our hands when the speaker, Peter Canalia ( asked us if we had created a pet trust. Ooops.

According to Mr. Canalia, 10% of the pets euthanized in this country every year lose their lives because their owners made no provisions for their care. I'm not going to let that happen to my dogs.

Based on what I've learned, I think a Pet Trust is the best solution - naming a trustee to oversee the funds,
 and a caretaker to oversee the pets. And back-ups for both of them. It doesn't have to be a boat-load of money in the trust, and I can even buy a life insurance policy to fund it - just name the trust as the beneficiary. It seems like a relatively easy and painless way of making sure my pets get the care they deserve.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

It’s not funny – it’s your fault

I have an online friend who, almost daily, mentions her poodle puppy’s naughtiness. He chewed up a couple leashes, he counter-surfed and smashed dinner to the floor. He strewed the nice, clean laundry all over the house. He knocked over some plants.
It’s in line with the “dog shaming” posts that people are uploading – hanging a sign around their dogs’ necks detailing the dog’s supposedly shameful behavior.
I don’t think it’s funny. Any of it. And it’s not the dog’s fault – it’s yours.
If you know your dog is prone to chewing stuff up – why is it loose in the house when you run out for 10 minutes? And why do you act surprised when your own experience has taught you to expect exactly the result you got?
Why don’t you just crate your dog for those 10 minutes and, when you get back, spend another 10 teaching your dog to “leave it?” You spent that much time cleaning up the mess he left.
Don’t these people see what I see? If your dog gets in the garbage every day – don’t take a picture of it and “shame” the dog. You’re just telling us you’re a bad dog owner.
Instead, pay some attention! If you can’t bring yourself to crate the dog when you’re not paying attention, snap on his leash and tie it to your belt loop. If he’s always in sight, you have every opportunity to reward him for being “good.”
Dog training should be about paying attention and teaching your dog how to make good choices. Limit his access to “naughty” behavior and reward behavior you want.
One of my instructors often reminds us of this Albert Einstein quote: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Thursday, May 09, 2013

I own my dogs

They are my property and I own them.
I’m not a pet “guardian” or pet “parent.” I paid money to acquire my dogs; I own them, I didn’t adopt them and I can do what I like with them.
Seems rather a harsh statement, doesn’t it? I have good reason for it. Dogs have no rights in our legal system. The law considers them property, so I do, too.
This way I’m the only one with authority over their treatment, care, and whereabouts. I know what’s best for my dogs and try my best to achieve it.
The most prominent “animal rights” organizations have begun referring to pet owners as “pet parents” or “guardians.” I find this very scary. One group is talking now about “adopting” pets, not only from shelters, but from responsible breeders.  I know, having dug deep into the innards of these groups, that their ultimate goal is a world in which humans and animals have no interaction. Their objective is not only a completely vegan human society, but one in which all animals are “left alone.” No pets, no farm animals, no zoos, no animal sanctuaries, no veterinarians. No contact. Completely separate worlds for animals and people.
I don’t know for sure about your dogs, but only one of mine is capable of finding her own food – and she really didn’t care for the rabbit once she’d caught it. None of mine would survive a winter in the wild. You’ll find them curled up in front of the heat vents all winter.
While I do believe that every animal (and person!) should live free from suffering, I don’t think that animals suffer merely by being in human care. I think most pets are appreciated, well-cared-for and indulged. Their lives, as well as those of their owners, are improved by the relationship.
In casual conversation I do refer to my “kids.” But I know they’re not – they’ll never “grow up” to lead independent lives and be taxpayers. I didn’t adopt my dogs – I bought them, under contract. That is our legal relationship. And that’s fine – because I know what’s best for them.