Posts Tagged ‘Shelter dogs’

the dog leash, part 2

June 15, 2009

Some random observations which may later be compiled into a handout or paper for students.

I believe the leash is the most over-used and miss-used piece of equipment in the dog-training universe. It has at least three working parts:  1) the handle, designed to fit over or into the human hand,  2) the length of material, designed to determine the distance from the owner the dog can comfortably travel,  and  3) the collar around the dog’s neck, or the attachment to an existing collar around the dog’s neck, designed to control the part of the dog nearest the brain.

First, the handle for the human hand should be defined and assigned limitations. 

The leash handle is not supposed to hurt your hand, so those decorative leashes with such a tight weave that the edges cut into your fingers should be left on the rack at the discount store. Same for the leashes with leather handles and chain instead of fabric. About 10% of my basic obedience students show up with horribly painful (for the handler) leashes.

For my own dogs I prefer a heavy leash easily grasped by my fingers, soft cotton or leather. I’ve used rubber leash-handle inserts which keep fingers from being crushed and those are great for those wild-assed-shelter-dog walking episodes.

The leash in the human hand, more importantly, is not meant to harm the dog. Some of the behavior associated with the human hand and the leash handle includes:  1) the cheap shot, where the dog is standing next to their human, looking at activity in their environment, and receives a jerk to the neck as their first or only cue to pay attention to the human,  2) constant pressure, where the dog never gets to make the right choice of walking nicely beside the human because the leash is forever taut and controlling,  3) too many choices, where the dog is permitted to make all the decisions as to where the team will go, how fast, and whose space they’ll invade,  4) too rarely used, where the dog meanders off lead while the leash hangs from the human hand or sits on the kitchen counter, allowing the dog to poop in the neighbor’s yard, hike its leg on our rally obedience signs, or generally wreak havoc with the property of others,  5) walking calmly as a team, with the dog enjoying interaction with the environment but attentive to the movement of the human.

Second, the length of material between the leash handle and the dog’s neck should be defined and assigned limitations.

The length of material is meant to limit the area occupied by the dog, so an invasion of the personal space of other people or other dogs is controlled and calculated by the human part of the team. A flexi-lead, made of 10-15-feet of cord, allows the dog to invade more space than is prudent or safe. Also, that 10-15-feet of cord is incredibly dangerous and painful if it manages to wrap around your leg, ankle, or fingers while you attempt to extract yourself. Flexi’s should be outlawed at trials and are, generally, not permitted in our building. I actually own one, specifically for walking young dogs around motel parking lots, but most folks use them as a method for allowing their dog to poop in a spot where they can’t find it to pick it up. <g>

Additionally, that length of material shouldn’t be so short that the dog’s front feet are pulled off the ground. I watch conformation dogs gait down and back the ring and notice how “light on their feet” the dogs appear to be.  Seriously, those handlers are holding that line so taut and high that the dog’s front feet are barely touching the floor. Being judged on movement? Well just pull the leash up so hard that the dog’s feet aren’t weight-bearing and you show true movement, right?

With my dogs I prefer a 6-foot lead so they can walk as a group without getting under my feet.

The length of material, more importantly, is not meant to harm the dog or human. Some of the behavior associated with the length of material includes:  1)  humans wrapping the leash around and around and around their hands so that the dog, originally on a 6-foot leash and having 6-feet worth of choices, now has no choice but to be dragged about,  2) humans injuring their hands by wrapping the leash around their fingers so that every pull by the dog results in a crushed finger,  3) dogs circle the human legs creating a trip hazard, or 4) dogs put their front and/or rear legs through the leash loop, making the walk stop and making their human reach down to fix the tangled leash.

Third, the slip collar or attachment to the dog’s neck should be defined and assigned limitations.

It should not kill or maim the dog. It should not cause the dog to get caught on agility equipment, fencing, or any other element of their environment. It should include some sort of identification if the dog is visiting a strange place and if there’s a chance the dog might get lost. The slip collar or attachment shouldn’t be buried so deep in the dog’s coat that it takes longer to detach the leash than it does to run an agility course. A slip lead or infinite slip collar should not ever be left on the dog when unsupervised, or when the dog is not in training with a human. The possibility for injury or death always exists with an unlimited slip collar.

With my dogs I prefer a 6-foot lead attached to a martingale (limited slip) collar which is removed when the dog runs agility. Kory has a really neat collar made by Canine Buddy (“A professional lead for everyone”) which has a woven martingale neck-piece, attached to a rubberized “shock absorber” collar tightener, both of which get attached to a regular clip leash. (www.caninebuddy.com)

The collar around the dog’s neck, more importantly, is not meant to harm or kill the dog. Some of the behavior associated with the dog’s collar includes:  1) use of a choke chain or prong collar (aka “pinch” collar) and jerking the dog’s head, regardless of prudent training methodologies recommended by the manufacturer’s of these devices,  2) leaving fixed collars too tight or too loose, allowing the dog to slowly strangle or allowing the dog to slip out and disappear,  3) putting slip chains on puppies or adult dogs as their full-time apparel, leading to countless deaths by strangulation every year. (I once witnessed a treasured black lab puppy put in a vehicle for a nap and found, an hour later, strangled with his own choke chain. So very, very sad.)

In other news — Erica is right — the 2-Minute Dog Training homework handouts for Go Rally Training Manual should be single sheets, front and back, with 3-hole punch potential, rather than landscape-style brochures.

the wrath of God

June 3, 2009

I’ve made the decision to relinquish the volunteer coordinator job at HSOV (Marietta’s local shelter) but continue providing training materials, and to continue training dogs and helping with adoptions.

The volunteer coordinator job has requirements I cannot fill — the coordinator :   1) needs to be at the shelter when the volunteers come,  2) needs to have some power to require orientations of all volunteers,  and 3) needs to lead volunteers to committed relationships with the shelter.

With the introduction of Hickory into our home I’ve not been able to go to the shelter for a few weeks, and I believe I need to give up that job and just continue as a volunteer when I’m able to resume visits to the shelter.

So 3 days ago I’d decided to announce this at last night’s board meeting and hand over all the applications which have been cluttering my desk for 6 months. Two days ago I was informed that another woman wanted the job. She’s a bit of a nut-job and no one on the staff can stand her. She’s very pushy, knows everything, brings a slew of out-of-control kids every time she visits, and generally wreaks havoc. I was asked to stay on just to thwart her efforts.

Since she has become a thorn in my side as volunteer coordinator (she refuses to be coordinated or follow anybody’s rules) I decided to stand with the staff, and against her.

First, since we’re hosting a training retreat and they asked for group dinners, I was responsible for feeding 8 people last evening, so timing became an issue. I figured if I left here at 6:15 I’d have no trouble making a 6:30 meeting.

Second, a huge storm loomed west of us as I drove to Marietta. I figured I’d beat the storm to town and be fine.

Third, I made a list of the things I’ve done as volunteer coordinator. I don’t mind quitting the job but I refuse to be fired from a volunteer position. <g>

Well, I figured wrong.   First, the meeting started at 6:00 p.m. so I was 15 minutes late before I ever left home. Second, the storm was all around us so it beat me to Marietta and I sat in my truck for 10 minutes while marble-sized hail beat down and sheets of rain struck (it looked like hurricane coverage by the Weather Channel). Third, no one tried to fire me and, since I arrived 45 minutes late for a 1-hour meeting, my information was anti-climactic to say the least.

So then I tried to get home. The storm was loaded with rain, so every street coming off Harmar Hill was closed due to water pouring down. All the street lights were out and 90% of the businesses were closed prematurely.

After attempting 3 ascents of Harmar Hill (Gilman Ave., Lancaster Street, Pearl Street) and being turned back by high, moving water, I headed south on Rt. 7 towards Belpre.

Instead of 20 minutes my drive home took slightly over an hour. Parts of Rt. 339 coming north out of Belpre were very wet though I experienced no flooding.  I couldn’t take my mind off the little section of Rt. 676 from Watertown to our place, just 2 miles, but 1.5 miles of that cruises alongside a little stream.  If that stream was flooded I’d be walking the last mile.

Thankfully it wasn’t and, as the last light was lost, I pulled thankfully into the driveway.

I’m not overly religious, in terms of organizations and the community of religious folks, but I AM superstitious, I guess.  I felt I’d dodged the wrath of God somehow.

But, if that storm was the wrath of God, what had everyone ELSE done to piss him off?

swimming and the stockdogs

May 28, 2009

We have a series of 5 camps in 5 weeks, so our attention must be constantly on “what needs done now versus what can wait.”

I’ve chosen this time of year to make sure all the dogs get their wellness checks, get their teeth cleaned, and that the old dogs’ pain meds for arthritis are adequate.

Bud’s focus is on camps, facility maintenance, and Kory the wonder puppy. My focus is on camp meals, continuing business, facility maintenance, cleaning, and the remaining 9 dogs.

The hardest elements for me:  to keep focused, to keep proper perspective, and to hold the line between what parts of our place are public and what parts are private. All while maintaining my resolutions to be less judgemental, to think before I speak, and to get more fit.

Yesterday I awoke at 6am, prepped for swimming, fed 9 dogs, then took the two old Sheltie boys to the vet’s office by 7:30 for their teeth cleaning appointment. I left the vet’s office for the YMCA, arriving about 10 minutes before I usually do, and started swimming.

Instead of worrying about “can I swim for an additional 10 minutes? that would be an hour and 25 minutes!” I just calmed myself and swam, and swam, and swam. It was lovely. Then an hour of water aerobics with my Mom. Then dash home to prep for dinner.

Last night was make-your-own-taco night, so I prepared 3 meats and got them into oven-proof dishes before going to the training building to watch some agility. Kory is having some problems being over-stimulated while other dogs are running with Bud, so I worked with him a little and then brought him into the house.

At 3:15pm I headed back into Marietta to pick the boys up and to make appointments for the remaining 4 dogs for Monday. Bogie was a little groggy but could walk, while Birdie (who must have been the second in line for cleaning) was barely awake and had to be carried.

We got home by 4:30 and I started prepping the cold elements to dinner, started the oven to warm the meats, and made rice. Dinner was set by 5:50pm and campers were hungry.

I spent 30 minutes while other campers were eating, talking with Mary Ellen from Texas about the issues she’s having with her stock-dog BC. No dog is perfect and sometimes a stock-dog needs to be a stock-dog.

Dear breeders — You breed a litter of border collies and have a bossy, pushy bitch puppy who dominates the entire litter and is a bully. That does NOT make her a prime candidate for agility training, where dogs spend 90% of their training time either standing in line, walking around to potty, or confined to a crate. It actually takes more than muscle and bone to make an agility dog. They have to be able to self-calm, to accept a good bit of space invasion, and to spend endless hours bored to sleep. Please stop breeding high-drive stockdogs and selling them to dog trainers who don’t spend 12 hours a day moving stock.

In my experience with my dear Red-dog I realized too late that a dog was incapable of functioning in the presence of other dogs, that she’d never be able to focus her formidable physical skills on the sports I enjoy, and that she’d not be anyone’s companion (other than mine). Red is now my chambermaid’s companion, is my guardian, is my lifelong adoring observer. She’ll probably never be a performance dog, and that’s fine with me because I’m able to accommodate a number of dogs here.

Others aren’t so fortunate. They have room for only 1 or 2 dogs in their house. If they choose the wrong puppy, if they’re convinced to take the wrong dog, they have 2 options — give up on dog agility or get rid of the dog. Society tells us that re-homing the dog means we’re giving up on them.

I learned years ago that my home is not the best home for all dogs. Some dogs need more one-on-one time, some need more attention in general, some need more work, some need more structure.

When your home isn’t right for a dog, find a home that IS right. And don’t wait until you’ve had the dog 4 years and you feel like a failure — like you’re getting rid of a problem. Do what’s best for the dog and what is best for you.

By the way, finding a home that is right for the dog is a hard task. I’m not talking about dumping the dog at the local shelter, or passing the job onto a rescue group already burdened with hundreds of unwanted dogs. I’m talking about searches, interviews, home visits, and the real work of finding the proper home for a special dog.

The sort of work breeders should be doing, in my opinion.

Oh! Yesterday, during water aerobics, a lady swam over to me and said, “you’re into dogs, right?” I always hesitate to answer yes, because 99% of the questions that follow have to do with breeding dogs or getting rid of puppies. This question was no different, “how long does it take for puppies to be born?” I felt my blood pressure rising and said, “I’m a spay/neuter advocate and have never bred a litter of pups, so I don’t know.”

She went on to describe her son’s female dog who, when she came in heat, was allowed to stay out in the yard as before. One day a beagle arrived to service her and the son said, “well, he’s too small to breed her.” However, next morning, the bitch had been bred (how can anyone be that dumb?). Now, having done little or no health care for the female, they’re curious as to when the puppies will arrive.

“He should get her spayed when possible, if he’s not going to pay attention and be more careful with her,” I said, with a bit of an edge to my voice, “and he’s going to get an opportunity to find out how difficult it is to find homes for 10-12 puppies.” Another nearby swimmer said, “they’ll probably end up with you, Marsha, out at the shelter.”

The lady who asked the question, finding us an uncomfortable spot on which to land, returned to her place in the pool. No problem. No great loss. Last month this same lady said, “Oh, I brought a bunch of letters in for you folks to help me stuff and address — they’re letters demanding that our legislators become pro-life!” “Sorry,” I responded, “I believe in a woman’s choice and I believe that legislators should support that right to choose.”

So we already weren’t friends. <g>

Bud’s new puppy, “Hickory”

May 8, 2009

Well, at least I THINK his name is going to be Hickory. “Country Dream Hickory” probably, as a registered name.

I’m looking forward to getting my 2-Minute sport foundation packets out for his breakfast, lunch and dinner. As with any dog, we begin with attention to name (or re-name) and recall.

I’m curious as to how he’ll relate to the other dogs, who he’ll choose to torment, whether he’ll have respect for the oldsters.

Today I worked with my mother’s day gift to myself, a little string trimmer that runs off a battery. Convenience = 5 stars. Charge time = 1 star. I guess it runs about as long as I like to string trim, so I’ll be doing trimming in little bits.

Bud left this morning for his yearly Altoona (PA) seminar. He took Hazard and Blue — these girls are becoming great travelers though I’m not sure he’ll be able to handle them AND a puppy while traveling. If he wants to, I’m sure he will.

This morning I arrived at the YMCA pool about 10 minutes early, so swam for about 80 minutes, followed by an hour of aerobics. My goal is to build to 90 minutes by summer, either swimming alone or a combination of swimming and water aerobics.

About 45 minutes into the swim I felt so hungry I thought I’d be sick. I rested and brought my heart rate down a touch, then started again and got over the feeling. I’m very pleased with the results I’m seeing from the exercise in the pool.

After swimming I swung through McDonalds for 2 chicken sandwiches and a diet coke. I ate one sandwich and saved one for dog treats at the shelter. I’ve had no luck getting shelter dogs to each hot dogs, ham, treats, nothing. I figured they would eat chicken from McDonalds.

When I got to the shelter half the dogs were in outdoor pens. The smell was overwhelming. HSOV is using a new cleanser which deoderizes but the staff must be diluting it too much because it isn’t working very well. Or perhaps I arrived before the night’s smell had a chance to clear.

I strolled around the outdoor pens, drawn to a white GSD bitch who looked quite bedraggled. I tore off a piece of chicken and she sniffed it but refused to move from her sit, and refused to take the chicken. I tossed it onto the floor near her and turned away. She sniffed at it, but looked back up at me.

I walked 20 feet away and she leaned over, picked up the chicken, and ate it. I walked back and tore off another piece. By the time we finished our interaction she was taking little bits of chicken out of my hand and eating it. If I did nothing else today I’d be pleased that I connected — on one level at least — with this poor girl.

I worked with a couple of dogs, including a black lab mix with something wrong with his rear legs. He also had a fully engorged tick on his face so I took him into the guts of the shelter, found a worker, and got the tick removed.

We spent half an hour together in the hallway outside of the large adoption room. He decided the kittens in the towers weren’t as interesting as he thought they might be at first.

Most of the dogs at the shelter are too big and too boisterous for my trick knee, but I was able to spend a little time with a couple of them. There’s a purebred Sheltie going to rescue tomorrow so I left her alone and focused on dogs up for adoption.

The smell remained overwhelming and, after 90 minutes, I had to leave. By comparison, the Parkersburg shelter is kept clean and neat, is well-run, and is about as long a drive. Whether it was the smell today, or the 5-camps-in-6-weeks schedule coming up, I’m wondering how focused I’ll stay on shelter activities.

I don’t want to stop helping them but I question whether my contribution is worthwhile. I’ll keep restocking the 2-Min. D.T. brochures, keep talking with adopters, keep helping with dog training, and I’ll re-evaluate my committment every couple of weeks or so.

Is it really possible that the smell could drive me away?

everything takes too much time

May 7, 2009

Like everyone else there are too many things I want to do with my time.

Before last week’s camp I made a list of all the chores and activities I wanted to fit into my week. Swimming, water aerobics, fixing camp dinners, doing lunch-break workshops (more on those later), running to Marietta for groceries, running to Watertown for ice and beer, fostering Mercy, blogging, completing paperwork, packing the truck for Saturday’s trial, grooming dogs, working dogs, housework and laundry were all on that list.

Then I made a schedule in which I tried to fit all the most important elements. It all looked possible, on paper.

First thing to be dropped, in favor of assisting campers and arranging to feed everyone, was swimming and water aerobics. Second thing to be dropped was blogging.

Frankly, I checked my blog page daily, looked at my stats, thought about writing something, and withdrew from the site from shear exhaustion. Blogging involves about 30 minutes of focus on the events of the day and some days I just don’t have the time to think about what I have to do.

I’m going to try to do better because I want a continuous record of what happens in my life and what I think about it. For folks who are reading, I want to help with training. I had an elderly student last weekend who said, “I looked at the 2-Minute Dog Trainer stuff but it was all about camps and your foster dog.” Well, of course, she wasn’t looking at the 2-Minute Dog Trainer stuff so much as she was reading my blog.

So my blog should contain at least a little 2-Min.D.T. stuff. By the way, Bud’s blog is going to be addressing his training protocols with Hickory (“Kory” for short), Bud’s soon-to-be BC puppy. I’m told I may do any obedience or rally I wish with this puppy but I’m going to try something new … his name for obedience and rally is going to be “Hick” while Bud calls him “Kory” for agility. Let’s see just how clever this little boy can be …

The name was my idea. Bud’s used golfing terms for his dogs since the days of Bogie and Birdie. But these days he’s enthralled with TREES and hasn’t picked up a golf club since I’ve known him. So I suggested we have an exercise of namin’ nuts (from “Best In Show”) — and this first nut is going to be named Hickory. <g>

In other news — I was very excited at the opportunity to present lunch-break workshops during camp weeks. These workshops were to cover several “intro” topics including:  rally, 2-Min.D.T., tracking, etc.  I also offered obedience for agility (not popular, though most campers needed this topic the most IMO).

The workshops were designed to take 45 minutes of campers’ 2-hour lunch break. These lengthy lunch breaks were originally set up so people could chill and rest before the afternoon’s activities. Before arriving for camp everyone seemed eager to fill that time with dog training rather than rest. After arriving at camp reality set in.

Out of the 3 available days for workshops last week’s campers ended up working during just 2 lunch breaks. I discovered a couple of interesting things about these workshops … 1) nobody wanted to pay extra for extra training, except 1 camper who paid twice the published rate so I’d stay and teach,  and  2) at least half the campers had other plans for lunch, even though they’d originally stated they would stay and train.

It was also more than a little uncomfortable listening to 10 minutes of excuses, reasons why they weren’t staying to train, during the time allotted to the training itself. In the end, my 15 minutes of preparation and 45 minutes of instruction turned into 90 minutes of work, times 2 days.

And, in the end, I was preaching to the choir since everyone who actually was fairly new to obedience and agility training left the building at lunch. Soooooooooo … you guessed it … lunch-break workshops are no more.

I’ll continue to offer private lessons but with a clear definition of WHO wants the lesson and WHAT topic they wish to address. In the meantime, I’ll put my “obedience for agility” sermon on hold once again. I’ll watch from the sidelines as agility enthusiasts apply mediocre-to-horrendous training to the task.

In the meantime, at last Saturday’s trial, I was pleased to see that my girls had 3-4-obstacle lead-outs in their reperitoire, as well as pretty steady table performances.

In other news, Mercy was delivered to the Humane Society of Parkersburg this morning at 7:15 for her trip to Pennsylvania to join a rescue group. I had to push myself to drive away without her. My DNA contains elements of hoarding, judging from my family, so I have to quiet those demons who whisper that no dog will be completely happy unless it’s living with me.

I just doesn’t make sense after looking at the task list above and know that, for several weeks, “grooming dogs” and “training dogs” and “walking dogs” have all been neglected for housework, meal prep, swimming, fostering, and blogging.

Central Ohio Dog Sports TDAA trial

May 6, 2009

Bud and I took our young girls to the first trial offered by Central Ohio Dog Sports. This is a group of our friends and former students who have banded together to offer TDAA trials and other events.

I was very impressed with their organization and all the special things they did to make exhibitors feel welcome, and to provide a happy, safe trialing environment.

The group made up gift bags and set them out for the first game walk-through, where everyone entered in the trial would be moving past them. The gift bags contained some candy, some dog chewies and toys (a neat little tennis ball for small dogs) and a hand-written thank you note from the committee for our support of their first trial.

They had TDAA equipment brought in by Donni and Randy Breaden, so everything was up to spec and beautifully maintained. Randy and Donni attend lots of TDAA trials in the mid-west with their troupe of yorkies.

The club had rented our old training center site, a 60 x 90 building fully matted with 3/4″ stall mats. We have the same floor here and I’d forgotten how lovely it is to run on a consistent surface.

Sally Boarman, site owner, had spiffed up the place and cleared the floor of all her equipment in preparation for the onslaught of teacup equipment and people. There was plenty of crating space, lots of room for spectators, and no one felt crowded.

Teacup agility is about as close as you can get to the dog agility of the mid-90s, when it was just catching on in this country. People watch everyone run because they can sit with their dog near the ring. They cheer for each other, and commiserate with each other over those inevitable gliches.

I was running Bud’s girls because of his sore knee, and Hazard always seems to enjoy running with me. Her first standard run was perfect, her second standard run was flawed, but both were cheered and enjoyable. No one stopped me at the exit to say, “what went wrong at the tunnel entrance?!?!” 

There wasn’t a lot of panic or angst, though I did hear later that Robin was starting to get a little frustrated with her quest for that last Superior Standard leg for her TACh — she had 6 opportunities and finished her title Sunday afternoon.

The club sold lunch for $5 and had a little raffle. They provided plenty of porta-johns and parking. The weather was beautiful. The crowd was friendly and familiar.

All in all a terrific experience!

In other news, Mercy leaves us tomorrow morning for Collie rescue in PA. I’m told they are a group that fosters and places all types of herding dogs. She’ll be living in the home of the owner of the organization. They do background and vet checks before placing dogs. I’m confident my little girl is going to have a great life.

In other news, my refrigerator has been making over-much noise for the last 2 years. I thought it might be dying but my mother, who bought it in the first place, reassured me that it was working fine.

Well, 2 days ago I noticed my milk wasn’t very cold.  I thought maybe the door hadn’t shut completely. I shut it tight and swore to check it next day. Still not cold.

Now the produce is starting to smell, and the interior of the refrigerator is barely cool. I’ve got a repairman coming tomorrow morning and, in the meantime, am pricing new refrigerators because I HATE this refrigerator.

New units will run $950-$1400.  So I guess I’ll get this one fixed and put up with it for a few more years. [sigh]

In other news, I bought myself a mother’s day present (in lower case, since my kids are all dogs) yesterday — a battery powered string trimmer !!  I want to be able to spiff up the place without having to lug around gasoline cans or stretch out electric cords.

Besides, this seems a better idea ecologically.  Rechargeable batteries will provide an hour or so of string trimming. The unit came with 2 batteries, the charger, and a spool of string. We’ll see how well it functions in the real world of Country Dream.

In other news, my article in DogSports magazine is due out any day now. It’s on the Laws of a Dog In Motion as they relate to Rally-O.  And I was interviewed last week by the local newspaper and I keep hearing “the article on you in the Sunday paper was great!”  I haven’t read either yet, so I’m looking forward to that.

Our first agility camp 2009

April 27, 2009

This past weekend we had so much help from our local agility enthusiasts with spring clean-up! Tracy and Zack Waite came on Friday to sweep the floor and walls in the training building — it looked fantastic!  Then Maggie and Mark Paskawych arrived on Saturday and spent several hours picking up deadwood and chain sawing downed trees. Vicki Davis arrived mid-afternoon and weed-whacked for many hours.

The place looks really fantastic and will be much easier to keep mowed now that the high weeds and deadwood are cleared. Bud and I created a firepit last Thursday, cleaning up the area just south of our garage door, so that major project can be checked off our list.

Today is the first day of our first agility camp and we’re having beautiful spring weather. With fostering Mercy there was less time on Friday and Saturday for my spring cleaning in the house. I kept putting it off so I ended up in a cleaning frenzy on Sunday morning.

Sunday was packed with dog training and welcoming guests, as well as a bit of management for Mercy. We had our usual noon-to 4:00 agility workshops and, just to add excitement, I scheduled a 1-hour private lesson in rally-o for the morning. That meant the sweeper got left in the middle of the living room floor during afternoon workshops.

There’s not enough interest in obedience and rally from local people for me to establish group classes so I eliminated group classes and only do private lessons in obedience and rally. There’s actually more value for the buck for the student this way. No standing around …

After my beginner workshop where the dogs worked up to sequences 5-6 obstacles long (they’ve progressed really fast!) I broke away from workshops to do my chambermaid duties on one of the cottages.

Two new students had attended the advanced agility workshop, buying the cottage package (they arrived Saturday afternoon, walked their dogs, went into Marietta for dinner, had a 1-hour private lesson with Bud, stayed in a cottage, visited the pond Sunday morning, and attended the Sunday afternoon workshop).

Since we had campers arriving late afternoon the upper cottage (blue cottage) had to be cleaned and beds stripped and remade before Julie and Amanda moved into it for camp week. Interesting note — 4 days ago I was cleaning that cottage and wondering if the propane would hold out for another week. It was about 45 degrees with overnight lows in the 30s. The past 2 days have seen temps in the high 80s to 90s, so I guess my worries were unnecessary.

At 3:45 I scooped up Mercy and took her for an outing to agility class. She greeting everyone with a tremendous butt wiggle and crooked smile. I returned to the house to finish my cleaning and my Mom showed up to help.  We both hate dusting but Mom dived into it with the enthusiasm one always has for attacking someone else’s dirt.

The dust bunnies are a thing of the past.

Later Nathan Vincent arrived to help us with picking up branches that had fallen in our spring ice storm. He stopped by the house on his way home to let us know he’s the new president of his 4H club and he wants to put together a kids-and-agility outing here. Last year we had 2 kids work days and, in return for participating, they got a 2-day outing for themselves and their dogs, complete with weiner roast, pizza party, and 2 nights in cottages.

It was great fun for everyone and we’re looking forward to repeating it again this summer when everyone’s schedules thin out. Nathan has made it his project to set up this summer’s outing and it’s in good hands with him.

Bud showed Nathan how to swat at carpenter bees, which is highly gratifying. Between them they killed an additional 5-10 bees. When you live in a wooden house you hate wood-eating creatures.

my new project

April 24, 2009

Every time life gets busy and my schedule gets cluttered I’m presented with an entirely new project I simply can’t resist.

I’ve always had a soft spot for aussies, for shelter dogs, and for 3-legged dogs.  Imagine how my heart stopped beating, how I held my breath, when I received an e-mail from a local shelter asking “what breed do you think this is?”

There were pictures attached to the e-mail as well as a paragraph describing how this little black-tri aussie ended up at the shelter.  The message went, “Aussie is a 1-year-old Australian Shepherd or Border Collie, found injured 1 month ago. She had a dislocated hip and break in her leg (near the elbow) which went untreated for the past month, the finders couldn’t affort vet treatment. CPS reported the dog to us and the finders signed her over yesterday. Dr. C__ said there was no way to repair the leg and he is removing it today. She will be back at the shelter by Thursday.”

After I identified the pictured dog as an aussie, watched 7-second video clip 2-3 times, I wrote back that I’d welcome the opportunity to foster this little girl for the shelter while she recovers from this major surgery.

Who could resist this girl?  A three-legged aussie who came to the shelter as a result of being seized from a neglectful home??  Right up my alley.

So, here I sit, blogging on my laptop while keeping a watchful eye on a little girl who is recovering from major surgery — not only did she get an amputation but the shelter had her spayed while she was under anesthesia. If a human being had this surgery done they’d be in the hospital for weeks and in rehab for months.

She’s walking, a little. She’s still trying to figure out how to place that remaining back leg so that it supports her rear end. The bad leg stuck out to the side a little, and she used it like a crutch. Now she’s crutch-less and needs a few days’ experience before she learns to walk on 3 legs.

However, she LOVES people, especially men. And she has pooped (in her crate in my truck, after barking at me “hey lady, I need to take a dump!”) so the plumbing probably still works.

I’ve dribbled about 10 pieces of dog kibble in her ex-pen and, after an hour, she’s decided to stretch forward and have a little snack. Typical aussie, she doesn’t care whether she eats the Nutro Senior or the Taste-of-the-Wild smoked salmon, so long as it’s food and it’s there.

I always say, “if my dogs turn their noses up at food they’re either dying, or they’re already dead and have just shown up for a meal out of habit.” Not very funny but I’m a bit irreverant, frankly.

Helping Mercy recover from surgery is the secondary task, frankly.  Whenever I get out of sight, Mercy howls and fusses, so the much bigger task is probably going to be dealing with separation anxiety.

If you’re reading this blog you may already know I train in 2-minute increments, so here’s how the 2-minute trainer deals with separation anxiety.

We begin with the dog in a crate or ex-pen, some sort of comfortable confinement, and we move out of sight just a few feet away. If she fusses we do NOT return. Instead we wait for a one-to-two-second quiet period and then return with words of comfort and praise.

If, as we return to her, she fusses and whines, we move back to our hiding place. Rule One is simple — we move toward her with words of praise and encouragement IF she is quiet and settled. Rule Two follows along the same lines — we never move towards her with words of encouragement IF she is fussing, pacing, clawing, howling, etc.

It may take a few days to help her understand that howling and fussing earns her alone-time, quiet and settled earn her words of encouragement and human companionship.

Whether I  foster her for some nice family, foster her for my sister and brother-in-law, or adopt and keep her, this training will be invaluable. There’s just no place in my life for a dog who constantly nags me from inside a crate. That’s just annoying, frankly.

Readers — wish me luck!  Now I just have to figure out how to squeeze all the necessary dog-care moments into a day filled with swimming at the YMCA, preparing for camp, teaching Sunday workshops, getting campers into cottages, teaching lunch-break workshops, fixing campers’ dinner, helping with private lessons, etc.  Wheeeeeee !!! 

I’m perpetually grateful that, after my divorce, I met Bud Houston.  He’s my beloved husband but he’s also the provider of an opportunity to train dogs for a living. If I were working at my 9-to-5 I wouldn’t be available for such projects.

the amazing series of tubes called internet

April 17, 2009

Yesterday the world discovered a woman named Susan Boyle with the most incredible voice. She was participating in Britain’s Got Talent (the UK version of American Idol — Simon C. owns both I believe).

My friend Vicki called about 2:00 p.m. to tell me to check out the video — when I checked it had half-a-million hits already.  I walked outside to say hello to my Mom, who was on her way to dinner in Zanesville, came back into the house 10 minutes later to look at the video again and it was up to TWO million hits in 10 minutes.

Okay.  She’s got an amazing voice. But the really amazing thing to me, in my mid-50s, is this series of tubes called the internet. Here’s a woman from Scotland who, in 47 years has never been discovered and, in 24 hours TWO MILLION people have clicked on her video. By evening the number was NINETEEN million.

Here’s another situation … a month ago I wrote a blog about Jon and Kate Plus 8 and the idea of this family getting TWO german shepherd puppies. My little blog went from a daily readership of 20-40 people to nearly 400 — all hits stemming from searches for “Gosselin” or “Gosselin German Shepherds.”

Yet another situation … the American Kennel Club (a purebred dog registry, something that seems to get lost occasionally) has decided to allow mixed breed dogs to participate in companion-dog sports.  Dog agility, obedience, and rally will all open up to mixes in about 12 months.

AKC statistics show that 100,000 entries in agility trials went un-filled last year. They want to register mixes and fill those entries. Since my goal is to showcase the talents and skills of rescues and shelter dogs, this meshes nicely with my life plan.

I get to go to AKC trials and chat with spectators about the skills of mixed breed dogs, the capacity of a $75 shelter mutt to earn titles comparable to those of a $1000 purebred dog.

On the internet lists, however, arguments have continued for 2 days. My mailbox has received nearly 100 e-mails (mostly from the same 20 vocal people) with opinions pro and con AKC’s decision. Fifteen years ago I’d have heard this through the grapevine, weeks or months after the decision was made.

So I’m just saying …. this is an amazing series of tubes. Our generation has seen incredible changes in technology, and in skills needed to thrive in this world, and we sometimes feel overwhelmed at the tsunami of technology hitting us every day.

Is it any wonder than people walk around with their eyes on their cell phone / blackberry?  They can get every bit of information they need off the darned thing. “What time is it?” Check your cell phone.  “Where’s the nearest library?” Check your blackberry. “What’s the quickest route to Chicago?” Check your garmin, magellan, or blackberry.

No wonder no one reads anymore and newspapers are in trouble. Speaking of which — I’ve written to our local newspaper three times regarding a free column I’d provide on 2-minute-dog-training-tips. I’ve not been rebuffed so much as I’ve been ignored. They don’t even check their e-mail, probably.

In other news — our shelter’s executive director has set 5-6 weekend dates in the next 7 weeks when he needs volunteers to take dogs to mini-adoptathon events. I’ve notified volunteers and received 2 affirmatives for 2 different dates, but that won’t cover it. I’ve received a call from the organizer of one event asking if we’ll have volunteers.

The shelter will probably end up having to haul dogs and man the booth with employees or board members — our volunteers are enjoying spring weather and checking their blackberries for new on-line videos. And here I sit — blogging. <g>

The problem with zootoo (2 of 2 posts today)

April 14, 2009

There’s an interesting (and depressing, frankly) bunch of articles on the internet regarding the fact that the winner of Zootoo’s “Million Dollar Makeover” didn’t really receive any such thing.

Unbeknownst to the winners, most of their winnings were expected to be made up of discounted work by contractors, free dog food from advertisers, and donated materials. According to one story the 2009 potential winners know not to expect a big check from Zootoo.

Our own little shelter management came in second place last year. Several members of the staff were on the stage when Zootoo promised them “free food forever.”  They received a few coupons and donations of food from a manufacturer and supporter of Zootoo, but it has run out and no more is coming.

Additionally, the major of Marietta promised on camera that a new sign would direct folks from a major thoroughfare to the Humane Society … the new sign hasn’t materialized either.

I read an article some time ago about outrage. The author was asking “where’s the public outrage?”  His question had to do with the bleak economic news, but it applies to everyday disappointments as well. Where’s our outrage? Are we so accustomed to empty promises that we expect to hear them and receive nothing once the cameras are turned off?

I think scamming humane societies and having dog lovers all over the country visiting a website, creating profiles, inviting guests, writing reviews — all to earn points for a million-dollar-makeover for their shelter — is like running a scam on orphanages.

Why pick on shelters, most of whom operate on a shoestring and count on the financial support and goodwill of animal lovers in the area? Why not run a scam on yacht owners?  How about a scam targetting Hummer owners?

Shameful. I’m outraged and irritated. I understand there has been a settlement between Zootoo and the 2008 winner, with some money being awarded (click here for a zootoo journal entry addressing this: http://www.ask.com/bar?q=Zootoo+scam&page=1&qsrc=0&ab=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.zootoo.com%2Fjournals_j_sheltermakeover%2Fthisguyisadirtbag_EDA)

I suppose one should really look a gift horse in the mouth on occasion. <g>