Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ridley meets more of the family

Little Ridley met two more family members today: Roya and her son, Bart. Roya is Cooper's mother and Bart is a full brother, from a previous litter. Because she had not been exposed to other dogs and seemed suspicious of their intentions, I have carefully introduced Ridley to new adult dogs whom I know will be good with her. It wouldn't do at all to have her meet a new dog who acts aggressively toward her and reinforces her opinions, so I do not take her into pet stores or (never, never, never!) to a dog park. If all goes well, she will learn how to understand and speak appropriate dog body language and will not react aggressively.

She met Cooper and adores him. Next she met Arec, the Small Munsterlander and she likes him, too. He outruns her and doesn't play like Cooper does with her, so she doesn't find him quite as intriguing. Cooper runs in circles around her, engaging her to play. She met Pre, a young male malinois, within days of coming home and his enthusiasm was too much for her! He threw himself into an exhuberant play bow and when his front legs slapped the ground, she gave a shrill little half-bark, half-shriek. She was brave enough to follow when he moved away, but the face to face was a wee bit much for her at that time. Still, he was not aggressive toward her in any way that would leave her with a bad impression.

So today it was time to broaden her horizons and meet two more adult dogs. Ridley lacked exposure with adults, and if she does not learn how to respect them and respond properly she may start unintended fights. The time to learn those lessons is before she is big enough to fight rather than submit. Roya is a wonderfully patient teacher of puppies. Bart doesn't have a mean bone in his body. Ridley accompanied me to the kennel, where I let Roya and Bart out. They came tearing out into the grass, chasing and leaping and Ridley jumped right in. She did not show the hesitancy that she originally did when meeting new dogs, so that is good.

I took the gang of three for a walk (me: walk, them: run, run run!) around the property. Ridley chased them both, and jumped on their heads when she had the chance. I was surprised with Roya's patience, as Ridley made growly puppy noises and bit at her.

Apparently it did not cross the threshold to requiring action, Roya ignored it and Ridley stopped. Go figure. I have seen Roya squash devil puppy antics by pushing her shoulder into them and laying on them until they cease resistance, and I watched Cooper do the same thing to Ridley last week. But today, Ridley was allowed to be a puppy and none of her behavior rose to the level of correction. I called the three of them to me and fed them and also threw food on the ground. Wisely, Ridley did not attempt to guard the food or challenge the big dogs for it. And the big dogs both knew this striped squirt was no threat, so they just ate what they wanted.

It was a good walk, and a good lesson for Ridley.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cooper earns CGC at EWWBK

Last Saturday I loaded some of the crew and headed to Rosendale, where the EWWBK held a CGC and training day. Although the weather outlookwas bleak on Friday, Saturday actually turned out to be a nice sweatshirt-weather day. There were probably half a dozen dogs there for the Canine Good Citizen test. My dog, Cooper, was among them. My Search and Rescue team requires their canine team members to have a CGC, and I do it with all my dogs. It is a basic test that is easily in reach of any dog, no matter the age or size and is well recognized. It demonstrates that a dog can be a good citizen of the community, not aggressive to people or other dogs when accompanied by the handler. As simple as it is, it is still nice to hear the words "you passed". With that evaluation you receive a certificate from AKC and can order special collar tags and even a patch for your shirt or jacket. Minna Nousiainen-Becher put together adorable gift bags for the participants, with Halloween decorations on the front and doggie cookies inside. I think they may have been from Two Paws Up bakery, as they were those cute iced, decorated doggie cookies. I know, because they smelled good and I gave one a nibble just to sure it was meant for the dog!

The club-- or Klub, as it is called officially-- also held a Halloween costume contest. I forgot all about it until the last minute, and then time and lack of creative thought got the best of me and I didn't bring a costume. I wish I had, as there were some cute ones there. Those present got to vote on the winners and the winners also got a special gift bag. They served a delicious lunch, as well.

After that, we did a little training for the afternoon. I took the opportunity to practice the same things I was working on at home with Cooper, so he could see that it is really just the SSDD. (anyone read Stephen King's "Dreamcatcher?" SSDD) I have taught him to run blinds on the down field side and so we reinforced that and the little man did it perfectly! Ran one blind, with a catch in the middle, then the other, then two blinds. We worked on a couple other exercises and he gripped well, worked hard. It was a nice addition to his CGC day. Little Ridley came out, as well, and got to visit a new location and to do some biting play. She is showing improvement every day at finding her comfort level with being in new places.

The end to a perfect day was attending the Green Bay Gamblers "Caps for Cancer" game that evening, having them win against the Indiana Ice 3-0 in a shut out and purchasing my favorite player's jersey in the auction! And now, for your enjoyment, some hockey photos. My favorite player this year is Anders Lee, who is from Edina, MN. I forgive him for being a Vikings fan so long as they win games.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cooper- the little boy is growing up

Cooper is growing up! Oh, do I love that dog! It is hard not to make comparisons with other dogs but we inevitably do. Cooper turned two years old on July 30th and for the longest time I thought he was just a puppy-head. At some point, he turned a corner and all of a sudden my puppy had turned into a wonderful young adult. In disaster work, he is more focused and thoughtful than Jinx. I have always compared Jinx to the energy of a shotgun blast with bird pellets-- shot flying everywhere! She would run out at a hundred miles an hour, without stopping to focus on where she was going. Ladder? Why climb when I can just jump to the top! Cooper, on the other hand, takes direction well and is so willing to try anything I ask. He is sociable with dogs and people. And he is one handsome dude! Our obedience isn't quite where I want it for schutzhund competition but it will be there by next year's trial season. We started as a puppy with the Knut Fuchs methods, between the legs, and so I have very nice position. Cooper is very fast. His grips as full and hard and I am looking forward his career. He is a Nico van Neerland son, and I think he looks very similar to his father. I predict that once he is out and competing, people will be asking for Cooper vom Foxtal puppies....

My name is RIDLEY

I have a new puppy. Her name is RIDLEY! And Good Lord, look at those ears!! I've looked and looked for something I liked that had more size and also great hip scores. I had been supposed to get a pup from Ridley's breeder last December, but only one pup was born and it died shortly after birth in a litter sired by Titan. In the meantime, I found Izzy, who stole my heart and then broke it when it turned out her hips were horrible. So, when Sam Reed called me to tell me that Elka had three female pups and it so happened I was supposed to be in Connecticut at the same time the pups would be ready to go home, it was game on!
I wished that there had been 10 boys and 1 girl but I was willing to look and see if I liked any of the girls. Elka has the BEST PennHip scores of all Dutch Shepherds in the database. And I really want that. Again I made a choice of a puppy that I wouldn't recommend to someone else. There was little communication as the pups grew. No photos, no video. No Volhard puppy tests.
No contract to sign. On the plus side of the column the parents had PennHip scores and the litter is UKC registered, and the pup was up to date on shots. No tattoo or microchip. I did not get to see the parents work. And the pups had not been exposed to the wide variety of things I do with my own litters, even to the extent that when placed on grass, only the pup I chose felt confident enough to move and pursue. They were on concrete in their kennel and on the deck, but apparently not anywhere else.
So, as I said.... I wouldn't recommend this as a selection process! However, Ridley was totally focused on biting the towel no matter what environment she was in. We carried the pups to a weight room they had not previously visited and she continued playing tug. When the tug was "dead" the other puppy was bored and left it to explore while Ridley guarded it and continued to interact. She also showed a natural retrieve. When I dropped my big ring of keys, she ran to it and carried it off, playing keep away with the other pup. I decided that I could work with that.
She had never been in a crate, but after only a couple whimpers she never whined again during our 20+ hour journey home. And no messes! No anxious drooling or worry. She got out and potty and played at the rest stops and was an excellent traveler.
On our first vet visit she weighed 16 pounds. I had her microchipped and she gave no indication that she even felt it. whoa. high pain tolerance! She wasn't thrilled with the vet and even at her age will growl and bark. She has issues with suspicion she has to overcome, due to her lack of exposure. I have a couple months of intensive work while I can still imprint, so will drag the little munchkin everywhere with me!
It took me the first week to really create food drive. She tended to pick at her food and leave it, so that changed immediately. Now she is very food driven and will take food from strangers, even if suspicious. The world was big and scarey but between the food and the prey drive, she will go through anything. One lesson she has had to learn is that jumping on me and randomly biting is not acceptable. She would throw a little hissy when restricted from something she wanted, or just try to get my attention, by flinging herself at me and biting. NOT acceptable. The first time she got her little muzzle whapped she sat and licked it and looked puzzled like "THAT never happened before!" Slowly but surely, she is learning.
We take walks around the property where she is exposed to different terrains and covers and the sounds of nature. Today I threw her toy into the tall grass and the weeds and she showed very nice hunt drive. She has terrific prey drive and when I am carrying the toy she has intense focus as she looks up at me. But the hunt drive is so nice to see. I restrained her and threw the toy into cover and then released her to find it. She couldn't see it with her eyes, and I could see her working the scent. What a delight! I was very pleased with her persistence. She did not give up and come to me to fix things for her; she kept searching until she found it.
She thinks Cooper is pretty cool and likes to play with him. It's funny, she will chase him and play, but when Pre gave an enthusiastic play bow, slapping his front legs to the ground, it startled her and she yelped! But here she is in action with Cooper, her pal.

At the very least, I will have an interesting lesson in what can be overcome in lack of early socialization. The window has not yet been closed, so I think we can get it done. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Jinx update

I don't cry any more. The punch line to that is "I don't cry any less" but that isn't true. I've come to terms with Jinx's illness to the extent that I can now appreciate the days and moments we have and not dwell on what we'll miss. I got the prognosis the first week in September and here it is October 18th, so we are a month and a half into it. The vet felt that Jinx would have approximately 2 months before the tumor invaded her spine, if it hadn't already. The symptom would be that she will start to stumble on her rear feet. I have not seen that yet.

I do look. I wonder sometimes if today will be the day I notice it. As I write this, she is laying on her back next to the couch, trying to catch Tom's eye to scratch her belly. She is doing that because she came to each of us to try and convince us to go to bed and we refused. She gets along well on her three legs. I think she may be dropping the injured leg more and sometimes it drags in the grass but not enough that it is causing abrasion yet. So far as treatment, she is only getting 1/2 deramaxx each morning for pain along with 2 chinese herbs pills twice a day, as prescribed by Dr. Strickfaden. Every two weeks she has a biocom treatment, to keep her energy level up. Jinx seems to be in good spirits. Sometimes she insists that she should go somewhere with me, and I take her. It is important to her -- and us-- that she remain the centerpiece to our daily lives that she has been.

At night, she is a bed hog. Sometimes now, however, she will scoot herself over and place her head across my chest. She presses it there and will move as close as she can. Finally she will lay her head on the pillow and go to sleep.

I am feeding her raw patties, along with kefir. When I returned from CT she looked FAT and I wondered how that could be?? As it turns out, there was a kitty conspiracy in my absence. Kia chewed a hole in the bottom of the dog food bag so that it spilled out and Jinx could clean up the loose kibble. Jinx would never tear open a bag herself, but if it just happens to be on the floor, what is a dog to do??

I whisper to Jinx that she can be my Miracle and some days I convince myself it could happen. She ran down to the schutzhund field on Saturday and showed off her change of positions, her repertoire of tricks (actually only two: lay and sit pretty) and she did a revier, bite, out. She carried the bite pillow up to the house, pushing at me and shaking it fiercely. I like to be able to make her happy. If we can make it another few weeks, we are already in the plus column. I think we can.

Cooper and the FSA that wasn't

We trained in preparation for the October 11th FSA (Foundation Skills Assessment) that was being offered by the CT USAR TF. They were offering a CSS (Canine Search Specialist) course but at a price of slightly over $1000, I opted not to attend. I have already attended two CSS courses, one at College Station, Texas and one at the same location in CT. There was a problem with communication, and apparently no one else was interested in testing and the night before I was to leave, I contacted the host and was dismayed to find there was NO TEST. Crushed. Disappointed. Angry. All those things ran through my head but I was already packed, and had also made arrangments to look at a new puppy while there. So I elected to remain positive and was offered hope that perhaps they could still put a test together for me.

I have a wonderfully supportive team, and they scrambled to put on a pre-test for me, as is required, and even to be there the morning I left on my trip to offer one final training session.

I drove straight through, stopping to let Cooper out and sleep a few hours in rest stops. Illinois oasis's are dirty and scary. Ohio has the best, with multiple offerings for food, very clean and well monitored, with good potty areas for dogs. Pennsylvania ranks highly, as well. New York has little pull-in gas station areas just off the road with no real area to rest or potty dogs. I was so blessed with good weather for my trip! Had I been traveling one week later I would have been driving in snow and rain and that 20 hour drive or so would have been purely miserable.

Once I arrived, there was still a minute chance the test might occur. On Saturday morning I showed up and learned there would not be a test after all. Instead, I spent the day training with the group there. I was able to watch the "Focused Scenting" exercises being taught by Konnie Hein and Elizabeth Kreitzler, which is their USAR adaptation of the Randy Hare detection exercises. It was quite interesting and I can see the application. Cooper was able to work on the agility elements and do a couple rubble sear ches, so it was all positive. He traveled well, eating and pottying on the road, and working once we arrived. Those are all important aspects to a dog you will expect to go on the road and work whereever you land, whether it be in schutzhund or other dog sports, or USAR. Various people expressed anger over the lack of a test and I chose to view it as a "glass half full" rather than the reverse. I had a good trip, Cooper traveled well and we got to train, so to Cooper it was all very good. If I wanted to be angry over the whole thing, it would have made for a miserable trip and potentially damaged relationships with people who may be evaluating me in the future. Do you think I have STUPID written on my forehead?!!

I am pleased with Cooper's progress and he will only get better with the time we have before the next test. I am so happy with his work and how he learns and firmly believe he is on his way to being a great dog. My team members are going to try and put together a test in the spring. I wish I could have gotten his FSA done and out of the way, but it was out of my control. Why waste energy on something I can do nothing about. Instead, we will keep training and knock the socks off our evaluators when we do test.

Friday, October 2, 2009

all things considered

All things considered, we are all doing well.

Jinx is still with us and I am grateful for each day. She is in good spirits and happy, even though she negotiates on three legs. It took me quite a few tears to get past the grief stage of her cancer. Just the mention of her name, or someone inquiring how she was doing would set me off. I am better now. Slightly. She visits Dr. Strickfaden at Countrycare in DePere for biocom treatments every two weeks. They are so good to us there. If Jinx should take a turn for the worse and we need to get in sooner, there is a note in her chart to squeeze us in. It is acts of kindness such as this that mean so much. She gets one half a deramaxx with breakfast and chinese herbs twice a day. Not bad. At first, we let her eat what she wanted and Tom liked to treat her with Frosty Paws but at our last doctor visit I noticed she had added approximately 10 lbs! yikes! Ten pounds wouldn't be such a big deal, except that I know it puts additional stress on her good leg, so she is back on a diet. I'm trying to hide it, though, by feeding her raw meat patties with frozen vegetables and so far I think it's working. If we are going somewhere and Jinx wants to go along, she goes. It's all about keeping her happy for as long as possible. She came down to the training field during our seminar with Greg Doud and took some sleeve bites, happily carrying the sleeve all the back to her bed in the house. The following week I took her with me to disaster training in Milwaukee where she would have jumped right on the rubble pile to begin searching had I not called her! Instead, we did the bark barrel exercise and she barked with the same intensity and focus as she has always had. I can't fix her, cure her, but I can make sure whatever time she has left is good.

I took Quinn to the North Central Regional Championships in Harris, MN a couple weeks ago. He earned another SchH3 title, his 11th. 87-91-90. Quinn did not give me his best in tracking; in obedience he was at his 100%. He was correct in the exercises except for being slightly crooked in two returns. Other than that, it was primarily a case of the judge wanting to see more speed in the exercises, and Quinn simply isn't going to be faster. In protection he was one of the few dogs to actually run the blinds properly and his guarding was close and intense, barking was continuous. There were a couple bobblies in secondary control where he made the return to heel slightly ahead of heel position, and then flinched on the escape, jumping ahead prematurely. Because he had injured his leg, prompting a visit to the othopedic specialist since I am sooo gunshy now about such things, we did not train for two weeks preceeding so he wasn't as clean on those things as he would have been. His other point deduction was in slow outs. I did not have to give a second command, but he did not immediately release and lost points. I was happy to earn another SchH3 but really had hoped to at least place on the podium. It was funny, in a way, in that 5 or 10 years ago I would have been thrilled with scores in the 90's but now I want V scores! My expectations have changed. I had to do a little self evaluation, however, and really ask whether I should continue to campaign Quinn just to earn more titles? I do want to earn our FH, but knowing that he is trial wise about letting go and not going to score higher in many areas, despite our best efforts, I have to question whether pursuing schutzhund is for my ego or his benefit? Fernando Dosta was working dogs after the trial, helping Lisa Geller prepare for her MR Championship. I decided to work Quinn on him and see whether Quinn might have a new career in Mondioring. He asked Lisa, "so how old is this dog?" "7" "and he is a schutzhund dog?" "yes, 11xSchH3". Ferndando apparently thought he would give a couple leg bites and be done with my foolishness. He told me to post Quinn and he would deliver the bite and if Quinn didn't do that, well, then there was nothing more to be done. I had told him that Quinn had a foundation in suit/leg work and exposure to accessories but I'm sure he wrote that off as novice blather! I posted, he presented, and I gave Quinn his leg command and he hit that suit, pushing into the grip and turning his head properly. I think Fernando was surprised. We did have an electric collar on Quinn as I had said that if I elected to change sports, I was not going to exchange one "out" problem for another, and that from his first exposure "out" would mean "out" on the first command. Quinn remembered his down/guard position between the legs, and bite again when the leg was presented. So then Dosta directed me to send Quinn to the blind, saying he knew Quinn knew that but that he wanted to see the transport. Quinn had a tab on his collar and Dosta said I might have to hand it to him, as "many schutzhund dogs will bite the arm if I reach". I told him it I was quite certain he could take the tab but I would hand it to him if necessary. Well, it wasn't. Dosta moved out of the blind, with Quinn transported and then biting when be tried to escape. Next, Dosta directed me to send Quinn to jump the agility tunnel to a bite. I think he expected Quinn would land and then go back up to upper body, but he did not. He came in and bit the legs. We repeated that four times, with me calling Quinn back to me, over the tunnel to a tug bite. (I had forgotten my whistle!) Dosta told me that Quinn had the foundation for the work and that it would not be difficult. And that was that. I know Dosta is a world-class decoy and all that, but I really expected more props for the schutzhund dog!! haha!! At any rate, what I noticed was that I think Quinn was smiling!! He seemed so happy, and his tail was straight up in the air! That was more joy than I have seen in his schutzhund work lately, so I think we will pursue his basic MR titles. What the heck.
So the good, bad and ugly of Quinn is that we earned another title but found a new career.

Cooper and I are off to Connecticut next week, to take his Foundation Skills Assessment test. We did our pre test last week, and had some rough spots but Cooper is showing great promise. He is so agile and driven in his rubble search, and a monkey on the agility elements. I think he is further ahead than Jinx was at his age. With all those other things going on to tax me physically and mentally, things have caught up to me in the form of bronchitis. I started feeling sick when I got back from the Regionals, and hit the wall a few days later. This has set my training behind with Cooper and I hope to feel well enough to make the trip. My journal writing has taken a back seat to all the "doing". Maybe when I get back and things slow down I can get back into the regular routine of writing!