Meet our new puppy Lucky. Lucky is a "Rescue Pet" that we "rescued" from the clearance bin at Marshall's on Tuesday night. On Wednesday night Lucky came with Finney and I and my 6 year old daughter to agility class. One of the trainers made a comment that she thought Lucky could use a citronella bark collar.
Lucky barked for over an hour straight in class! Lucky also barked through most of this morning's chorus practice at my girl's elementary school.
Now in addition to dealing with, and cleaning up after three kids, two dogs and three guineas pigs, I now have a freakin' toy dog to annoy me as well. And just who do think feeds all those Webkinz on line everyday? I don't think I can count how much Kinz cash I have spent buying Collie Lollies to feed Baba our on line Collie, and she is one of about 6 Webkinz pets that we "care for".
I have drawn the line at taking care of the Shining Stars. No sir - I won't even look when the girls are on that web site.
The first night Lucky was here, my daughter made a dog bed out of a blanket on the living room floor and our new pup must have gotten "over watered". When I woke up in the morning, the blanket was soaked and the water had taken what was left off the finish on my hard wood floor leaving two dark spots in front of the TV. Isn't it ironic that with all the real pee pee I have cleaned up in the six years we have been in this house, it was a bug eyed toy dog that did my floors in.
What's that? I didn't mention that Lucky makes pee-pees? Yup right out of the side of her foot. My daughter did notice Lucky's awkward pee pee spot and she is happy to point it out to perfect strangers. Then she is more than accommodating in showing said perfect strangers just where she thinks the actual pee pee spot should be. I will give you all a hint, Lucky is a girl.
Can't fool kids, and for what reason Lucky's pee-pee hole is off to the side, I have no idea, but there seems to be no shortage of inappropriate speculation in my house.
As if being the constant companion to my 6 year old is not enough, apparently Lucky has a brilliant on line life as well, but I don't plan on going there either.
At least Lucky can't get bloat right?
This is the view I woke up to this morning. Finney thinks little 6 year old's butt makes the perfect pillow.
Now why would she need any other dogs?
Greetings readers! Just a quick how do ya do, and Happy New Years wishes for one and all.
First the big news...
Maine Today is expanding the pet section and today is the first day of the official soft launch. A Dog's Life has finally got a home, and we now live at the brand spanking new Maine Pets section.
I find this a bit ironic, because way back when my blog was pitched to Maine Today, it almost didn't get off the ground. Reason? They had no place to put a dog blog.
Now the very same powers that be have given me a home, and finally decided to pay me a paltry fee, with the chance of more mula if the new web site takes off.
What does that mean for you? That means you all should click over here a lot and forward my blogs to all your family and friends. No cutting and pasting you hear? These things are tracked!
I am going to try and write more in depth training articles mixed in as always with the usual fluff. I plan on keeping the blog focus on training and Maine. There are enough doggie blogs out there covering everything else.
To get ready for this new move, Charlee and Finney and I had to truck down to the Portland Press Herald office last month, and have official photos taken. I am happy that the chosen image includes both of my dogs, while not including the few extra chins that seem to be making more and more appearances in any photograph that I take. Poor sweet Finney took an instant dislike to the white photo paper that we had to stand on. Notice those, big tall prick ears of his are seen firmly plastered to his head. By the way, dogs whose ears have that wind swept look, like Finney's do in the picture, are exhibiting appeasement. His ears seem to be saying..."well ok, but, are you sure, this is scary." I see both of my dogs looking a little stressed in the picture, but really who could blame them. It was a teeny room and I expected a lot of them. I am just glad that Finney made the final cut, because I didn't make him stay on the paper for more than about 30 seconds.
After the scary white paper incident at the photo shoot, I nearly canceled agility lessons with Anne and I had just about convinced myself that agility was not and would never be Finn's forte. I am sure glad that I did not. Finn is a very nice jumper, and he has been smokin'. Even with my poor handling skills, we have been running courses after only a few classes. Seriously, agility is a complicated sport and it does NOT come naturally to me. When I flounder to run and train at the same time, I think it gives me a glimpse as to how new dog owners must feel. Keeps me humble!
No one was more surprised than me when we got to class and started running courses. Finn and I needed to establish lots of trust between us and I think all the ground work has really started to pay off. A sharp contrast from last winter when he was all legs and nerves. I pulled him after a few sessions and ran Charlee instead.
He did so well in agility in fact, that I then nearly pulled him from his upcoming training class. All three of my kids are sharing the dog in an intro to clicker training class with my friend Jenny Yasi.
Again---glad I didn't pull him! Dogs really can work for different handlers if you keep it positive and fun. It is a great learning experience for my kids and has really helped with that ever important human/canine bond.
This is the first time, by the way, that I have let my kids use a clicker. You should see me in their class as I force my control freak self to bite my tongue and let Yasi work her magic with them. It is imposible for me not to say something, but I am working hard on that.
I tell you my heart was bursting watching Finney work with them. He made all three of my kids feel that he loved them best, and that they were the only people on this earth when it was their respective turns, as you can see from Yasi's video of my 6 year old.
What a great (future kid's freestyle) dog!
Click treats all around.
Gina over on Pet Connection reminds us that the new year is time to check our dog's collars and be sure they are still in good repair and well fitting. Also be sure that your dog has tags that reflect phone numbers where people can get a hold of you. My dogs have my home and cell info. Let's face it, if our dog was lost, chances are we are out looking for them.
Those of you who have taken a training classes with me, will recognize this as the # 5 lecture from your first night handout and already know that dogs without tags make me crazy. Microchips are great, but they won't get your dog home on a Saturday night.
There have been quite a few times that we have had stray dogs in rescue that have been so very nice and so clearly loved that I have spent hours and hours scouring on line lost dog alerts, Craig's list and various web sites and leads, trying to reunite them with their humans. Not once was I successfully.
My kids and I seem to be magnets for wandering dogs and we have had many a dog both with and without tags, hang out at our house while we try to find the owners. Take a wild guess which one is easier?
I also have extra tags here for visiting dogs that just say reward with phone numbers. I use these for my families' dogs, foster dogs, and friend's dogs who stay over. It won't do much good for people to call the phone number on Sadie's tag number when her humans are in Argentina playing polo now will it?
We can all thank my Dad for the next tip. Change your smoke detector batteries every New Year.
Finney reminds humans to keep the darn slippery deck stairs shoveled and to please use a pet friendly ice melter. He says the snow is deep enough to loose a little dog, and that is one of the reasons he is glad he has long legs. That and the fact that he has no problem using the... ahem....facilities in the deep snow. Finney advises shoveling out potty spots for smaller dogs and puppies.
Charlee tells us that the snow will last through the night mixing with ice which should make for ideal snow ball catching. She predicts a no school announcement Monday morning which in turn will lead to more outdoor play and the chance of extreme snow ball throwage thus will be greatly increased.
Kuma says that she wishes her Dad's plane gets in safely, but that she really couldn't care less about his canceled flight, airport delays, or slick roads. She is quite content playing in the snow and chilling with her BFF Sadie.
Sadie has issued a snowball between the toes alert for all dogs but especially for retriever types with webbed feet. The snow ball between the toes alert will be in effect until at least 5 PM tomorrow, but maybe until spring. She really doesn't know how those things work, and advises humans to keep a close watch on their dog's feet.
this just in-
Kuma has issued a possible "snow sticking to the coat of some breeds alert" and advises owners of dogs with certain coat types to get towels and their camera ready.
You know those commercials on TBS, where there is a call center and people call up and tell a story, to find out if it their story is funny and if it is ok to laugh?
Well I am the caller, and you are my TBS laugh call center.
Sadie is here. She is still sugar and spice and everything nice, but add to that a wee bit of adolescence and she needs to be watched all the time or she gets her self in trouble.
14 year old son came home about 9:30 Monday night, to find that Sadie had ripped some pink insulation off the wall in the furnace room and scattered pink fluff on the floor in his bedroom. He doesn't bother to tell me, and for what must have been the first time in his entire life, he cleans up a mess. In hindsight, I think he was trying to cover for her. He now knows now that he should have told me in case Sadie needed to got to the vet!
He also doesn't wash his hands.
Fast forward to the morning. I hear a "What the *#@!!" !! and a "Sadie" and a "moooooommmmm!"coming from his room, and I go down to see him itching his....umm nether region. Apparently he scratched during the night and spread the fiberglass insulation 'down there'.
I assess the situation and tell him to take a shower, or get a wash cloth....but nooooo, he is a middle schooler after all, and instead of washing the vile stuff off, he marches straight out the door.
As I watch him walk to the bus stop...hupping and pulling and scratching all the way, I laughed. I laughed a lot! Then I laughed more everytime I told the story.
In the early morning light, I am feeling a bit guilty about the whole thing. But deep down I am still laughing because everyone knows that middle schoolers know everything.
Sadie says: What? Why does everyone think it was me?
Bed time story hour at my house. The dogs always join us. Sandy (on the bed) enjoys our nightly ritual to.
Finn arrived just a bit late. He was sleeping on his bed and he was quite exhausted from our weekend away at the Brown Dog Inn. The kids, dogs and I took care of the kennel over the weekend while Holly went to her Mom's 80th Birthday party in Florida.
Shortly there after I heard...
"he has all the blanket, get off my feet, your hogging the bed and move dog move!" When I went back into the room, this is what I saw.
Sandy was forced to find a soft spot elsewhere, but he sure didn't go willingly.
Earlier today while browsing at The Kittery Trading Post, I snuck up on my 10 year old and observed her looking intently at boots that looked very much like the ones pictured below.
Not knowing I was behind her, she exclaimed out loud:
"What the heck! Those boots look like someone skinned a Collie!"
Then she turned to the woman standing next to her and in her best dramatic voice exclaimed:
"I hope no Collies had to die in the name of fashion!" Then as she lightly bopped her head from side to side and back again, she let out a
disapproving "mmm mmm mmmm."
There was laughter heard from as far as a few isles away and I proudly claimed her publicly as my kid.
"Finn and Charlee's Excellent Adventure"
"International dogs of mystery"
"Charlee looks on with interest as Finn's snout points the way to Camp Buster"
"No matter where you go, there you are"
Saturday's Dog Day event found my 10 year old daughter with camera in hand. She took a lot of great pictures, like this one of
our good friends Dixie and Cider.
She also took a lot of less traditional photos that I dismissed at first, but after viewing them for a while I think they just may have merit. Art even maybe.
What do you all think? Are they cool, or am I just being a Mom?
Now be objective and let yourself imagine that they were shot by a famous photographer...not a 10 year old with her Mom's automatic digital camera.
Saturday marked Skyline Farm's first and hopefully annual Dog Day. With me was Charlee, Finney and my 10 year old daughter, who by the way is today's guest photographer.
My Freestyle demo to the song Locomotion at 12:30 was more than a bit sketchy in parts, but considering that Charlee has been out of work since mid July with a neck injury, and a badly cut ped,
she was more focused than I probably deserved. It was a lesson for fellow trainer Jenny Yasi and I on how to work our dogs under less than perfect conditions.
The very small ring was surrounded by dogs in very close proximity (always a challenge for my reactive dog) , and there were tons of treats littered on the ground where training sessions had been going on throughout the morning. Oh and did I mention the two horses that were ridden through the field that set off all the dogs barking mid way through my performance? Charlee kept her cool, but she was far from her peak. Me, I just had to laugh. What else could I do?
Recently I have begun to look at my Smooth Collie Finney in a new light. Some of you may know that I never thought the dog was very bright. Ok, I admit it, we all called him Forest Gump. Well I would like to amend that and offer a public apology to Finney. It was Jenny Yasi who pointed out to me that Finney is very much like a chemistry professor. He is methodical and maybe even a bit odd, but
there are lots of smarts under the nerdy exterior. Finney got his first 15 seconds of fame in the demo ring yesterday, where he was surprisingly flawless in a very short "How to get started in Freestyle demo". He breezed through target heeling, and several types of spins, and he even managed a bow at the end while offering total attention the entire time. Good boy Finney! Until very recently I didn't see him as a Freestyle prospect, but he is a gorgeous mover and his happy springy step makes him look like he is floating above the ground. Of course he is a much slower thinker than Charlee but I am (slowly) learning to adjust to that. He has a calm and cool disposition and is a very likable dog both with people and other dogs. Finn started his life with me very fearful, but we seem to have worked through most of that.
My dogs are like the tortoise and the hare and we all know that slow and steady won that race.
There were quite a few dogs who got to try agility for the very first time and I think a new crop of agility fanatics was born yesterday at Starline Farm.
Cudo's to Diana Logan CPDT for putting it all together.
H. Smith photos
Several years ago, I perused the pages of Dog Heaven in a book store. It is a lovely child's book and at that time I made a mental note to myself that it would be a great gift to give a child to help ease the loss of their dog.
Yesterday was my daughter's 6th birthday party and my sister came up for a visit. We both did fine all day, and didn't mention Belmont once. When I walked her to her car to say goodbye, it was there that I saw of a copy of Dog Heaven sitting on her front seat. The book was a gift from her good friend and my sister had only just received it on her way to the party.
Neither one of us could look at the book, and in turn we could not even look at each other. We said a hasty goodbye and went on our respective teary ways.
My sister was comforted by the lovely gift from her friend and in turn her friend is ok with the fact that it may take my sister a very long time to open the cover, let alone read it.
"In heaven, dogs run free in endless fields, nap on fluffy clouds, are given treats by passing angels".
Busy Busy busy. I am up to my eyeballs in work, both business related and personal. Getting my three little munchkins back to school was no easy task. Hopefully by next week we should all be back in fall mode. The transition from summer to September gets me every time.
All my blogging energies have been sucked dry by a very serious summer long health scare with my Mom, and the death of my sister's dog.
Sweet and wonderful Belmont seen here and here in past blogs lost a ridiculously quick battle to lymphoma at only 5 years old. Born in my sister's kitchen, he was a very special boy and at this time, my sister and I can't even talk to each other on the phone. It just hurts too much.
In just weeks, he was gone.
Gratefully my Mom's issues have finally gotten under control, but Belmont's illness and death has zapped all my creativity and left a hole in the universe.
That's Bell in front with his Mom Tess, and Charlee
Photo of the Heron taken at Evergreen Cemetery direct through (leashed) Charlee's ears.
Finney the dog, Onion the rat, and my son all share a snack on the back porch this morning.
Now that Finney has sniffed Onion's butt, he feels they have finally been formally introduced.
Anyone care to guess what this body posture means?
Charlee my wing nut dog turns 8 today. For her birthday present this year, she is getting a visit to a homeopathic vet for chiropractic and acupuncture. She has had some weird lameness on and off, and after nearly two years of not knowing what the heck was going on with her, I am now 90 % sure it is located in her neck. She is fine right now, but if I can't get a handle on it, I will officially retire her from agility and maybe even freestyle. Her latest lameness came on while playing tug with me at agility class and she hadn't even been over any obstacles.
I had pretty much decided to retire her from agility years ago, when my 3 kids were just too little for me to even do agility. The day I stopped was the day my baby climbed out of the stroller she was strapped into during class.
For some time I thought that Charlee was having problems with her hips. At her last vet visit, hips were ruled completely ruled out. I started Finney in agility over the winter, and re-caught the agility bug big time. On a whim, I tried Charlee in a private session and she LOVED it and she had been totally sound until very recently. She hadn't forgotten any of her foundation training in nearly 6 years, only this time around, she was smarter and bolder, and we worked much better together as a team, and best of all, she still had tons of speed, drive and enthusiasm. The days of the dog running next to me and spinning because I couldn't keep up, was mostly a thing of a the past, and suddenly I could send her to obstacles. It was exhilarating for me to be so in tune with my dog, and Charlee clearly enjoyed every minute of it. Stay tuned to find out if we retire or finally compete. I am hoping she just needs alignment, but more likely, time is creeping up on her.
I think all in all, Charlee's all time best birthday present was the placement of our foster dog Chase on Tuesday, who she took an instant dislike to.
Happy Life Chase! Charlee says; "hope it works out for you, because I don't want you back". Me and the kids would take Chase back in a heartbeat.
Hard to believe we were gone only 24 hours. Tuesday night straight from agility class, the kids, dogs and I drove down to Massachusetts to visit with my parents and see the fireworks in Boston. The weather was not on our side and we came home early, but not before we had a great family visit, swam in my parents pool, and visited the New England Aquarium. Have you ever seen Sea Dragons? They are still my favorite exhibit.
But the thing that was the most special to me, was our very early off leash dog run over at Belle Isle Marsh---my old neighborhood. Belle Isle holds a piece of my heart and it is the only place you can take dogs to run off leash in the East Boston/Revere area. There are leash laws of course , but for as long as I can remember, dogs have run off leash at Belle Isle. If you go make sure you leave the marsh by 7:30 am and do check for your dog for ticks.
Belle Isle is 350 acres of reclaimed marsh land with 7 acres of walking trails. When I was a kid, it was the site of a drive inn movie theater, but because of it's proximity to Logan Airport and the fact that it is on a flight path, it wasn't open for very long. After the drive inn closed, the area became an informal dumping ground, and for years the Friends of Belle Isle Marsh tirelessly cleaned and reclaimed what is now a pristine city oasis.
It was my last dog Dina's favorite place on earth to visit, and it was always a very special place for all my childhood dogs before her. When Dina passed, I took her ashes and placed them under a wild rose bush in the middle of the field.
In keeping with the Jewish tradition, we always place a few rocks at her resting spot when we visit, and as always, we brought with us some very special rocks from Maine.
In the photo, just to the right of Charlee, lies Dina under the wild rose shrub.
I never once regretted the decision to bring her there.
We added two new pets. Meet
Yes they are baby rats. Finney has been learning the ever important lesson...We don't eat family members! He has a high prey drive and he is obviously not to be trusted near them for a while. Finn was way too interested when they first arrived 2 weeks ago, but we have worked on quite a few self control, calming exercises in the presence of the rats, and he has become more directed at food when the rats come out, then the rodents themselves. Got to love classical conditioning. The rats are a precursor to Finney that something good will happen when they appear. In Finn's case this usually happens to be in the form of cheese. Thank you Pavlov! It is very important to train Finn to ignore the rats, as kids are kids and they are quite likely to forget that dogs are dogs. Charlee on the other hand, while a card carrying prey stocker of the canine kind, will not touch them as she truley understands that we don't eat family members. After all in the dog's world, the rats are our resource, not theirs.
I have said for years that I am not rodent ready, but my kids won me over when they printed out all sorts of interesting articles on clicker training rats.
In the not too distant future I hope to be blogging our
rats doing agility on a
course that we made ourselves.
We have already begun basic training and both rats are very smart. Interesting to note that Ice is the calm, outgoing, and social one and Onion is more nervous, shy and timid, and she likes women more than men, which is very much like having two puppy littermates. And just like having littermate pups in the same household, Onion will need lots more handling, socializing, training, and much more one on one time away from her sibling if she is ever to overcome this. Lucky for her, we have lots of rat trainers in this house. Our rat's breeder keeps telling me over and over that they can learn anything dogs can and that some can even be litter trained.
We have already introduced a clicker to them just to get them used to the noise, in conjunction with the kids giving them special treats. And just like pups, they are extremely food motivated. But unlike puppies, rats have a very strong "explore" drive , so it will be a challenge to learn how to redirect that.
For the record it took the kids years to get me rodent ready, and the rats sceeve me out, especially their long rat tails. But I do (kind of) like the rats and the rats really seem to like me. I would like them much better with a docked tail - like little mini rat pugs. Of course it would be cruel to dock a rat's tail- (or any tail!) and I am not advocating that by any means, and I would NEVER do such a thing, but I can dream right?
I can still hear the echo's of , but "come on Mom...please....you can train a rat to do anything a dog can do and you can write about it"....sigh, my kids sure got my number.
File under - what I did for love.
Charlee and I have started agility in earnest again and she needs to loose quite a bit of weight so as not to put too much stress on her aging joints and muscles.
She wants you all to know that she is not happy-
and that we never feed her-
and that you can put food in her bowl at any time. Any time at all, cause her humans don't feed her you know.
There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
It is hard to believe that Brewster has lived for more than a year after being diagnosed with Lymphoma. I no longer believe anything that I did has helped to keep him well. I think he is just one amazing dog. Brewster the amazing Golden, who has been my friend for most of his 9 years, seems to have taken a turn for the worse.
Right now at 4 am, he is outside on my deck and refuses to come in. He won't even lick peanut butter, his all time favorite food, off of my finger and, well of course I am just plain sad. He doesn't appear to be in pain. He is not limping, has none of the open sores that I have worked so hard to keep under control for these last months, but he just looks distant. He looks like he has given up. I will continue to try to get him to eat today.
Like the rest of you, I have no idea what food to buy for him. Several months ago, I would have bought premium canned food, but right now, my head is flooded with images of pre-recall people and their sick pets. Pets who were in renal failure from eating poison pet food. These poor folks were doing what I will doing later on today, coaxing and cajoling a sick dog to eat so they can live another day. The thought of giving Brew poison food on my hands and knees along with the rest of you who have done that is just plain sickening. Have you heard that there are more recalls likely? GRRRRRR.
Brew's family is home for the season on the 22nd and I sure would like him to "go home". This dog has rallied more times than I have ever seen, and I am not giving up yet, but it is hard not to think that this is the end of the trail for Brew. My Vet said at his last visit that Brewster just didn't read the Vet manual. Some dogs are like that.
Please think good positive thoughts for Brew , and for me and the kids while you are at it. My kids are just so sad...
Finney, my young Collie boy was at the Vet yesterday. He has conjunctivitis, tested positive for Lyme, and he broke an outside front toe nail that is infected. This morning he is going under anesthesia to clean it up real good and remove the nail. Am I nervous? You bet! That is why I am up typing at 4 Am!
Finn will need to be kept quiet for a while. Possibility a month, depending on how he heals. He will come home with a bandage and an Elizabethan collar. That should be fun keeping a young active dog quiet. Good thing I am toy testing two new busy toys. The Hi.Q, (invented by a woman in Portland!)and the Treat stick. So far I am loving them both. People have begged me many times to write about how to keep a recuperating dog calm and quiet. You can bet there will a "how to" blog coming up next week on that one!
On another note, I came...this close to adopting a rescue Border Collie this weekend.
I was convinced that this dog was meant to be mine. A third dog would stretch any Mom's budget and as my good friend Sandy said in an email this morning "Fate will step in and let things happen when they are ready to happen. The time and the right dog will come".
Fate steps in...get it? Finn's toe? Yesterday in the vet office it sure seemed like I was getting a "message" loud and clear that the time is not right for a new dog. Finn's vet bill will be well over what I would have paid for the new dog and it just wouldn't be fair to Finn to add a new dog while he is munching Kongs in his crate on bed rest
Guess that's that - for now!
"Indulge your family."
Laying on the couch is middle daughter. She is home sick, and trying to get caught up on some zzz's. With her is Finney in his favorite pose, paws up, and gazing out the front window. Between them is the very sweet Gracie, our weekend puppy guest, who prior to my grabbing the camera phone, had been fast asleep on middle daughter's head.
Seems like the pups took it amongst themselves to provide a little pet therapy.
Living with the knowledge of the imminent death of an animal does weird things to a person. It helps you to appreciate life more for one, but it also takes you on an inevitable trip down memory lane. Brewster (see yesterday's post if you don't know who he is) came into my life after Dina was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It is hard to look at him and not think of her at this time. After 7 years I still miss Dina so hard it hurts.
Most of us weirdo dog people trainer types believe that dogs come into our lives for very distinct reasons and to teach us what we need to learn at that time. I can announce with some certainly that if it wasn't for Dina I would most likely not be a trainer.
She was the sweetest of sweet spirits and there is no doubt that Dina showed me the path to professional training, pet therapy and stupid pet tricks.
Charlee has been very tuned into the drama that unfolded this morning when I rushed Brewster to the Vet. Brewster is very uncomfortable and has a swollen back foot and a brand new oozing wound. Although I know that Charlee knows I am sad, clearly she is dealing with her own worries.
This is Charlee when I came home from picking the kids up at school this afternoon. There were no tails wags and eager greetings today. She didn't even get up from her vigil from the top of the stairs when I opened the front door. This is a first.
Brewster has spent the day at ground level of our split ranch, not even attempting to come upstairs. Charlee barely acknowledged that we were home and we had to walk around her. They have pretty much grown up together. Brewster is 8 and Charlee is 7. Brew has been like family since the very first month that I brought Charlee home.
The Vet described Brewster as having something they call "death breathe". This is a new development. He is now on antibiotics, and pain and inflammation meds, as well as sterile washes a few times a day. Currently the plan is for him to go home this weekend and most likely he will not be returning.
My entire house is beyond sad.
Today I have found myself planning, not one, but two doggie birthday parties. Finn's litter turns one in February, and we are renting my good friend Gail's doggie day care facility, At Your Barkin' Call for the event. A bunch of Collies and a few close freinds both human and canine. Goofy? Yes! But why not? Will we have a doggie cake? Of course!
"Rose", my most favorite therapy pup in training, turns one later this month and the hospital clinic is planning a little something special for the kids and staff.
Rose is doing wonderfully in training and that is reason enough to celebrate. That dog brings more smiles to people than any other dog I know.
Do you celebrate your dog's birthday?
About the pictures
Pictures are Riley (Sable) and Emmet (Tri and Finn's litter mate). The pictures were taken by their owner this summer at Riley's birthday and they are posed in front of the cake she baked them. Allison will be making us another cake for the Collie birthday party. I will be sure to post the recipe.
Our collie party now has a sponsor! Aaron, from the DogHouse Kitchen has generously donated a BEEFDAY CAKE. Thanks Aaron!
Brewster's lymph nodes are larger than golf balls and he is well passed his projected 2-6 months to live. Two nights ago he brought my son a tennis ball and played tug-o-war with him, wagging his tail and barking in delight, and basically acting like a normal and very happy dog.
Yet there have been mornings when he didn't go outside until nearly lunch time.
I am well aware, as you all should be, that animals are often stoic about pain. The more pain, the more stoic. It is a built in defense mechanism. I am quite sure that Brewster has a very high pain threshold, and I am questioning just how much pain he is actually in.
For the first time this morning I started him on pain medication, and not because of any one thing.
Last night, while I was watching a movie with the girls ,he asked to come up on the bed and cuddle for a little while. He was all snuggles and sweetness and he had a good roll about the bed , obviously loving every minute of it. He isn't usually allowed on furniture and I can't help but think he came up to thank us for being his buddy, or maybe it was just to ask for a good scratch.
Brewster went home for a long weekend and he is back with us until after the new year. I have already spoken to the Vet about giving him pain pills if needed so we hopefully won't have to rush off the ER during the holidays. He is doing great, but it seemed a wise precaution given that he is on his seventh month of his predicated 2-6 months to live. His lymph nodes are bigger than golf balls.
A lot of people have asked me WHY I have taken this sick dog into my home at this time. Simple. We love him and he needs us. People have asked me how can I do this to the kids, and the answer is not so simple, but I don't feel I have a choice. My kids grew up with Brew and Brewster grew up with us.
Take a look at what middle school child drew in Kindergarten.
It almost physically hurts to look at it.
I noticed signs of him failing this morning, but before I could panic he snapped out of it. I would say his quality of life is excellent, but I am certain it won't be for long.
And that does physically hurt.
I take care of a dog named Brewster.
he is fat
he lost pounds
he is a Golden Retriever
Last month I wrote that I wouldn't buy the dogs anything for the holidays. In lieu of presents, I vowed to donate money to The Rabies Challenge Fund, and I did.
And it felt really really good.
I will always suspect that Dina, my last Border Collie died from over exposure to vaccines.
If I knew then what I know now....sigh.
If you haven't sent in a donation to the fund yet, maybe a reminder that tax time is coming will help get you running for your wallet.
Ok, so I caved. The dogs are getting presents after all. Really was there ever a doubt?
I bought 1/2 dozen extra large Natural Balance Rolls, and, 1/2 dozen Bully sticks
for my dogs and for a few of my wonderful, super, extra special clients. Nothing says I love you to a dog like meat and bull's penis right?
I have been relentlessly surfing for 2 new Pet beds. Heads up that the LL Bean Outlet in Portlland has the extra large beds for a great price. About 90 dollars with the covers. Had it in my hand. Put it back. A good friend and I have decided to try to make our own. Click here for DIY info. Basically you buy shredded memory foam in bulk and Kate will sew it. (right Kate? lol) Great idea no? Or you could re stuff an existing cover. I plan to put a Chucks pads on top of the foam as well. Much easier to keep clean and dry that way. By the way, I love chucks pads. Cotton on top, waterproof underneath. Great as a crate pad to.
Easy to clean. Easy to steal.
Oopps! Did I just write that? Like mother like daughter I guess. Right Mom?
Finney is starting agility in a few weeks and he is getting a few jackpot toys. Like most Collies, Finney is a bit cautious and these toys should help to get him motivated!
This just in! An email confirming that my FURminator has been shipped. (insert large cheers!) Check back soon for before and after pictures. Right now Charlee looks like she is wearing poofy brown dead fur pants...
And in case you were wondering, my youngest daughter is NOT getting the new pooper scooping Barbie.
Is it just me, or is Tanner eating his own crap?
What's next? Doggie Doolie Ken?
Bought 2 extra large beds at Mardens for $21!
Like the rest of the world, I have been busy.
Really really busy.
I won't bore you all with the minute details, but in between all the extra holiday stuff, and raising three kids, and keeping up the house, and caring for the dogs, I work! I love my job, but it is still work and still time spent away from my family. But yesterday I had the opportunity to combine work and family and it was a feel good job for all.
It is easy to loose sight of what is truly important in this world. Ask any happy family and they will tell you that the main thing to strive for is balance between work and family. Sounds much easier than it actually is. I can't stand the looks on my children's faces when they beg and plead with me to spend time with them instead of working. I am lucky because I love my job, and make my own hours, but I still have to leave the kids more often than I would like to.
Today was just a bit different. After school today all three of my kids came along on a job.
Help a five month old puppy at a busy shop in downtown Portland overcome his fear of little kids. Today was all about making great positive associations for the puppy with kids. By using my kids who know how to interact with dogs and have no fear, things progressed at a rapid pace.
Dogs and puppies who like kids are good with kids, and this was a job tailor made for us!
I started with 9 year old middle child. We entered dropping lots goodies on the floor and while the puppy was hesitant at first, he warmed up quickly once we added a tennis ball. Next we added the 5 year old and puppy loved her. My 13 year old son joined us shortly there after and the puppy barely even noticed him.
We stayed much longer than the usual allotted time and by the time we were getting ready to go, both my girls were nearly crying and begging to take the puppy home with us as they rolled around on the floor with him. When customers came in the 5 year old proudly announced to any one who would listen that she was the dog trainer.
When it was time to settle up my bill, I took the shop owner aside and we discussed letting the kids pick out a few things on barter. After all they did all the work. Spending a few hours with my kids, a great puppy and a wonderful owner, sure didn't much feel like work anyway. My kids were beaming with pride as they left the shop with their new acquisitions.
Money isn't everything!
Between my two dogs and the two visitors, wow, I can barely breathe! It is very nearly affecting my vision.
Any one know of a turkey left over fart antidote for dogs?
has lymphoma. I found out today when his owner called me from Massachusetts to see if Brew could come and stay with me for a while when they go away.
His vet gave him 2-6 months to live and he is at the 6 month mark. They didn't feel right about having him stay any where else. My house has been his second home since he was about 1 1/2 years old.
How could I say no? Brew and I have a huge history together.
Images of me being the one who may inevitably have to bring him on his last trip to the vets raced through my head, neck and neck with the scene of my crushed kids balling their eyes out.
I was telling an infamous Brewster story just the other day to some of the staff at the facility where "Rose" (not her real name-she is owned by a local hospital) will one day work as a therapy dog with kids. "Rose" now a full blown adolescent is trying just about everyone's patience these days and they revealed in my "bad Brew" stories.
Brewster is owned by a family who own multiple nursing homes and he was purchased to be the resident therapy dog. Only trouble was Brew had other ideas and most of them involved breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, and of course party time.
The day I was called to be his trainer, an ambulance had come to transport a resident to the hospital. The EMT's stopped in the office to check in where then 9 month old Brew hung out most of the time. Brew jumped up, grabbed the blanket off the gurney and tore off through the double doors (where he was not allowed on his own). The staff said it was like something out of a Disney movie, with people falling, and food flying. No one could catch him as he careened out of control. Up and down stairways, down hallways, in and out of rooms, knocking over most everything in his way, while shredding the blanket and having one hell of a game of tug of war with any and all who tried to get it from him.
The EMT's had to return to their facility to get another set of blankets that were sterilized by their own company, and word spread about the bad dog to area nursing homes and Ambulance companies alike.
I did a 6 week program at the facility to start and returned many times over the years for tune ups. Brew was a big time opportunist (insert thief) , as any dog with ample opportunity learns to be.
He started to come to our apartment for in home training shortly after Charlee arrived. My two young kids were taught to stay on the couch so as not to get knocked over by the young dogs wild play.
He is coming the day after Thanksgiving and I have prepared my kids as best I can for the inevitable. All of us are grateful that we will be able to say goodbye. His owners traveled quite a bit over the years and I have spent more holidays with Brewster than I have spent with some of my own family. He continued to come stay with us most of every winter, even after we moved to Maine. He is like my own dog,and he is part of my family.
It sure doesn't seem fair that at only 7 years old when he is finally fulfilling his role as resident therapy dog, his life is cut short.
I will never forget the first day he earned his keep. A woman with Alzheimer's had just been admitted and she had been removed from her home by her family because she could no longer care for herself. I was called upstairs with Brew to try to help to settle her down. She was distraught, disoriented, getting more and more agitated and she had convinced herself that she left the stove on and had to go home right away. The woman looked like my own Mom, (which was totally freaking me out) and her daughters were
overwhelmed with stress and grief. Brew sat down next to her, and she started to stroke him and then like magic, she totally relaxed. For a moment we all glimpsed her former self. Brew and I walked her to new room and helped to settle her into bed.
She fell asleep petting him. It was amazing. Really amazing.
Her daughters bought Brew a huge supply of doggie treats.
I could go and on, ( and on and on!) but I will stop here and write more about Brewster soon.
Today I am an ace sleuth detective. I slip into the furniture store wearing inconspicuous clothing and dark sunglasses, determined not to make another furniture mistake. Purchased less than a year ago, our current couch has turned out to be a “dreaded dog hair magnet.” So under the cover of anonymity, I wander purposely around the store, searching for suitable fabric that will camouflage and repel fur.
Having dogs, and therefore having dog hair, you learn things about material. Parachute nylon-good; codura nylon-bad, very bad. It’s embarrassing watching the kids go off to school after their backpacks and pants appear to have spent the night down wind to a furball tumbleweed. Denim is usually good, but I do not want to live in a denim house. As a grown-up, I long for a real couch, instead of the usual fur and jelly cushions.
At the end of the aisle, I spot Ultra Suede. Very interesting. As I stand there pondering, I’m startled by a voice: “Can I help you?” Then before I can answer, I’m receiving the spiel about the wonders of this new miracle fabric: stain resistant, easy to clean, and guaranteed. “Sounds wonderful,” I say and then excuse myself to the ladies room, only to double back a few minutes later when the coast is clear. Carefully I open my zip locked bag of dog hairs and scatter a few on the sides of the arm. To my astonishment, it looks as though the couch is playing catch with the fur. My mouth is gaping as I witness a perfect couch landing. The hair went south and due west to connect with the ultra suede. Another dreaded pet hair magnet! Could there be above average static electricity today, for some reason? No, this cannot be. I have come prepared and reach into my bag to retrieve a dryer sheet. Palming the “Bounce” like a magician, I stretch my arms and covertly wipe the couch arm, and then drop a few hairs once again. Inconclusive. Back into the bag one more time for the lint brush and tape. The ultra suede passed the removal test unlike some fabrics that just seem to inhale the hair.
Moving on, I methodically test couch after couch. Some seem to be feeding on fur. Note to self; write a B-movie about couches that need dog hair to survive.
I do not even bother with the silk and chintz type materials. Never mind dog hair, they would never pass the kid test. We are a tough family-the kind of family that stain-resistant fabric was invented for.
Moving on, I arrive at the home entertainment couch. It has rocking seats, moving foot stools and hidden compartments. Storage bins could hold a weeks worth of food. The next Noreaster, we would only need to leave the couch for bathroom breaks. I start to feel sea sick, so continue on. Here is an interesting one. They call this brushed fabric. The fabric looks tough, but it’s also very similar to what we have now, and I know that doesn’t work for us.
And then I spot the leather. For a few moments I allow myself to dream of life with this beautiful couch, love seat and ottoman, but then the reality of canine toenails, Koolaid, and the ache in my foot where I was impaled by the ears of the Lego giraffe this morning sets in. We would destroy this couch in no time flat.
My high expectations are gone. I ask for several swatches and head for the car. At home I will double stick tape the swatches directly to the dog’s bed for further observation. Deep in my heart I know we will be a slip cover family for a few more years.
William Wegman fabric. It was not yet invented when The Couch was written.
Look what we got! More on Freddie, a 7 month old Maltese soon. He is here due to a work schedule change of a friend. Think good thoughts that we return him safe and in one piece. Right now I have Freddie's teeny crate with the door open, in Finney's large crate (door shut)so he can move around. I didn't feel comfortable with his puppy playpen, because my dogs and kids could easily get IN.
Please wish us extra luck, it is after all Friday the 13th.
You all gave me a lot of positive feedback concerning the blog that really wasn't so much about dogs, but more about the day to day stuff of living with dogs and kids.
If you liked the other three stories, you can appreciate this little snippet from my lunch today at Bob's Clam Hut In attendance were my three kids and both my parents.
As mentioned earlier, the valiant fight that my middle school son has waged in hopes to save Finney's manhood continues. He is relentless and we may have to consider law school for that one. Lately all his conversations seem to come back to how much he loves the puppy and that when he is older he will want a dog just like Finn and therefor he wants the option of being able to make one.
I told him, as the breeder suggested, that there are two show quality unaltered pups from Finn's litter and if they turn out genetically sound that either or both dogs will be bred in a few years and MAYBE we could get another pup then.
So today, we met my parents for lunch and the first thing out of Little H's mouth when she saw my Mom is this:
"Someone is making bread out of puppies! Someone is making bread out of puppies! Someone is making bread out of puppies!"
She was clearly thinking that Grandma needed to come to the rescue because her Mom already knew that Keyna and Lance were going to be "bread" but Mom was doing nothing to stop it.
Here is a joke to tell your kids.
Q. When is a dog not a dog?
A. When it is pure bread.
Bob's Clam Hut is located in Kittery Maine and dogs ARE allowed outside at the Picnic tables.
Yesterday the girls and I brought the dogs to a playground in Gorham to meet with Wendy and her kids for a dog/kid get together. When my daughters asked who Wendy was I told them she is a friend that we just haven't met yet.
I have been reading Wendy's writings for some time over on both her Kid Tracks blog, and her Outdoors with Children column, and I knew we would all get along and we did.
No time to blog since Charlee's Birthday.
Haven't posted for some time, largely due to the unavoidable pesky fact that there are only 24 hours in a day and at some point even I need sleep. Last week found me with 2 out of my 3 kids in summer camp, and one would think that things would be easier, but nnnnooooooo-ooo. Seems I have been taking the older two kids for granted in so far as to how much they entertain the young one. Add a new puppy and an older dog who for the first time all summer is feeling her oats and a job where I wear all the hats, plus your every day run of the mill house stuff, and I am one tired Momma.
The upside is that I had a truly special week with little H. This is especially sweet because in no time she will be off and running in Kindergarten. All last week I took time to enjoy her and did lots of Mommy things to include daily doggie hikes, the sprinkler park at Deering Oaks , swimming at Dundee Park in Windham , and we stopped by A Company of Girls to celebrate their renovation and even met Bill Ranic from the Apprentice.
The girls all said when they get rich they want teeth as white as Bills! Friday last week we met up with my oldest's son last day of summer camp with Eric Begonia of Begonia's Summer Science Camp at Scarborough Beach for one of the most perfect beach days at one of these most perfect beaches...ever. All week long the kids visited and learned about the sea and it's inhabitants. The week prior he attended Pond Ecology with Eric, and we just released two Monarch Butterflies that hatched in our fish tank, only to replace them with a baby snapping turtle that my son caught at Evergreen. No letters please you can study natural wildlife if done under the guidance of an educator and we will let Whippa (as in Whippa Snappa) free real soon. Best part of about having a baby snapping turtle is watching my kids pick beetles out of my garden. A turtle gotta eat ya know.
So enough about me and what I have been up to-you all came for the dogs.
Spending so much time with all three kids as of late, I get to converse with them much more than during the hectic school year and all three have come up with some pretty choice things to say in the last few weeks, most of it revolving around having a six month old MALE puppy. Perhaps you see where I am going with this.
First and foremost on my kids minds and tongues lately is the descent and growth of our new addition's new additions.
For those of you who came for the dog stuff, I give you some choice snippets of my last few weeks with kids and dogs.
My oldest son caught a snake in the back yard and he was showing it to our new puppy. Finn sniffed and licked it. I advised my son that he shouldn't teach the pup that snakes are friends in case we meet up with a dangerous snake some day. Just as the words escaped my mouth, the snake bit my son on the finger and the puppy killed the snake before I even blinked. My middle daughter didn't miss a beat and said:
"Our Collie is finding his inner Lassie".
Poor middle school boy is putting up a valiant fight in hopes that Finn can keep all his man hood in tact. I have told him at least 500 times that will not happen. On a recent lengthy car trip, he was unrelenting in his quest to save Finney's boy parts.
Those of you with boys can relate I am sure.
It went something like this.
You are not cutting off his balls.
Yes we are.
Can't he just keep one?
Isn't there a pill he can take?
They don't have birth control pills for male dogs?
I bet there is and your just not telling me because you don't want to pay for it.
Can't he get a vasectomy?
Can't we get him a custom fitted doggie condom. (honest, who can make this up)
What about if we never let him off leash?
I will watch him, I promise!
But he needs them.
Can't we invent a new pill or something?
I will walk him for the rest of his life.
Come on Mom, there has to be some other way that you are not telling me.
There is to, you just don't want to pay for it.
Can't we have one litter of pups so we can get another Finney?
Isn't there any other way?
What if I gave up my allowance for the rest of my life?
But he needs them!
That's not fair!
I made the appointment the very next day.
Little H asked what those wiggly things near Finney's butt were.
I tried to skirt this issue for some time but in the end I said "balls" (because she has heard middle school son begging and pleading the case for Finney's).
Little H said "Like eye balls? Can he see out of them"?
Gotta beat the heat where ever, whenever, and how ever you can! When 4 year old asked if she could take a dip this morning, sans bathing suit, when I dropped the 9 year old off at camp I said sure why not!
Location and more pics from today will soon be revealed in the next "Where's Charlee".
Above are my two daughters with Finnegan. As you can see the pup is doing really well walking on a loose leash. He has never learned to pull.
Gotta love it!
You are your pups teacher.
Treat a pup roughly and they will learn to be rough right back. Treat your puppy gently and he will learn to be gentle in return.
To read a great article on how to teach loose leash walking, click here to read Pam Dennison's article More Interesting Than Spit on the Sidewalk
Hylight's Finnegan Begin Again
Look what we got!
You can plan on reading more about Finnegan, our new 5 month old Smooth Collie puppy addition in the very near future. He just arrived yesterday and we are still all getting to know each other.
Here is the photo from our initial meeting on Saturday, when we took a walk in the woods to introduce him slowly to our dog Charlee.
I have 4 of his littermates in training class and each puppy is nicer than the next.
He ended up with the breeder after someone who had a deposit on him backed out. Their loss is our gain. Obviously he was waiting for us.
No hamsters were harmed during the taking of these photos!
We have been laughing really really hard, since the day that the dog discovered the ball we bought our hamster Tater-Tot for Christmas and Charlee turned the hamster into her new and unique game of hamster soccer.
Relax, I monitored the game very closely and the dog was very gentle. Game over as soon as Charlee started to get excited, and well before she got carried away. Please do not try this with your hamsters, my dog is well trained and has a reliable "off" switch, and the dog and hamster are good friends.
For several weeks I have been toying with the idea of blogging how we can teach our dogs behaviors simply by laughing. Herding breeds tend to have great senses of humor in my experience, and they are quick to learn both the good and the bad with very little encouragement of the chuckling kind. Charlee has learned some really intricate dance moves just by hanging around when I danced in the living room with the kids. The more we laugh the more into it she gets. Some of the jumps, twirls, and airs above the ground she 'offered', I have easily put on cue. The more we laugh, the wilder she dances (really!) I explained to my tricks class recently that it is like the beginnings of dressage with horses.
Intricate moves were later developed based on what the horses in the field performed naturally while at play. One day when I have more time, Charlee and I will strut our stuff in the Freestyle arena.
Is there anything, good or bad that you taught your dog while laughing?
Please post it here.
Today brought yet another pet funeral to the Smith house. Blue, one of our two 5 year old rescue parakeets, was laid to rest in the drizzle under a wild rose shrub. She is survived by her nastier sister Yellow.
For the first time in my life l lived with pets that I had no bond with. These two birds lived in my house for two years, but would still cling to the cage whenever I walked by, or fed them or cleaned the cage. These birds had no use for people, partly because they grew up with a boy who most likely abused them, and partly because the two birds had each other and had no use for us.
Like dogs, they missed an important early window where they should have been handled and socialized in a positive way.
I am sad for my kids. The bird chose to die when I was at work and my kids called me at least 7 times to give me a blow by blow of Blue's slow demise. Long distance really isn't the next best thing to being there, but at least my clients were understanding.
If she were a treasured pet, and we were rich, we might have chosen to Mummify her, the new craze of the rich and famous. Somehow, this appeals to me, although I don't have a spare $10,000 or so for the bird or the $50,000-100,000 that it would cost for the dog.
On a smaller scale, I think I would be interested in a small size urn that was a life like statue of the dog. Attention starving artists- you could make a mint on this idea!
This funny story of a writers dog over eating and the subsequent vet visit reminded me of the first week I had Charlee. My son had a fever and he accidentally dropped a purple Children's Tylenol on the deck and Charlee scarfed it right up. We called the Vet right away because Tylenol is toxic for dogs. He told us that we needed to induce vomit and he advised us to give her Hydrogen peroxide. The poor dog turned into a purple volcano. Her mouth would open and the purple fizzy lava just rose and spewed. Poor dog, it was hard not to laugh. The little kids wanted to do it again (we never did!!!).
Anyone else want to share any good "I can't believe my dog at the whole thing" tales?
( of course we all realize that dogs ingesting things they shouldn't can have grave consequences, please post only stories with happy endings!)
If you count all the goldfish, crickets, and Siamese fighting fish, then I have been to more funerals for pets than I have for people. When we lived in East Boston my son used to con me into running a cricket rescue. Whenever we were buying pet food, he would beg and plead for a dollar's worth of crickets. Sometimes they ate potatoes in their critter-keeper but usually we let them go in the yard. We often laughed on hot summer nights when people out for a leisurely stroll would stop in front of our apartment to listen the song of the crickets. Ours was the only house that had em'! When the little fellows in the critter keeper died, we always had a proper send off, complete with grave markers.
Countless numbers of gold and other fish had a burial at sea, not via the toilet, but through a hole in one end of the Cashman Boat Pier in East Boston. We (me and the kids) would take the solemn walk from apartment to pier and all of us would say a few words. Most of the time though it was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud as I laid on the the fish tales pretty thickly.
"Goldie came to us from the Early Education Center and a finer fish I have never known. He served as a sterling example to the kindergarten kids of how to care for living things, and we all enjoyed watching ______ (insert name - more often than not is was ...you guessed it "Goldie") grow into a fine fish. Goldie looked forward to the morning and evening meal and (splash) we return you now Goldie to the great circle of life."
That sort of thing.
Having kids and any kind of pet just leads to seriously somber yet silly funerals and lessons about life and death. I will never forget scattering my dog Dina's ashes over the snow in her favorite field. We were not prepared for them to pile up instead of blowing away. Each time we went to visit her we would put rocks on the site but for months her ashes were visible and we couldn't bury them because the ground was frozen. We had piles of rocks in the car that we got at the beach to stack in a mound at the site, only to return and find they had been removed, probably by other children. My kids picked only their favorite rocks, but I had to console them that other kids surely could see just how special and carefully selected each rock must have been. It was so sad that it become one of the funniest things to ever happen in my life. We would go back each time and laugh and laugh. It really was one of life's cruel jokes.
But this morning's funeral was different. Today we buried Blazekin our red-factored canary in front of the day lilly patch. Ask any person with a rescue animal and they will tell you how it must have been fate that they came into their lives. Animal people can attach a lot of significance to meaningful numbers and signs when it comes to their adoptees. Charlee is in my home partly because I thought her birthday was the same as my last two dogs'. Hmmmmmm.
Following that reasoning, Blazekin (named after a Pokemon for those of you out of the loop) really was meant to live in our home. Nearly four years ago my husband and son were walking in East Boston when my son spotted a yellow bird amongst the trash and weeds. They quickly scooped it up in a Dunkin Donut cup that was blowing by and brought it home. At first glance I thought it was some sort of Finch, but it turned out they had found a male canary. The poor bird had suffered some sort of horrible abuse and was wrapped up in micro thin wire. His legs and wings were broken and it took us hours to get him completely untangled. Our little foundling lived in our home for over a year, but could never perch normally. We kept his cage as clean as we could and he in turn thanked us with beautiful songs daily. We were deeply saddened when our yellow bird died.
A few days after the yellow bird's passing found us visting a friend at a Petco store in Massachusetts, who worked in the bird room. Cindy had helped us with the little yellow bird's care and she gasped when I walked in exclaiming "I can't believe you are here, I was just looking for your number." She quickly ushered me into the quarrantine room where a gorgeous red canary sat convalescing for - you guessed it - another foot injury. The store could not sell him and they wanted to know if we wanted him. Of course I said yes!
So we made preparations to head home. The kids were very excited at the prospect of our newest addition. We picked out a cage and bought food but then were told that the employee who nursed him back to health had decided to take him home after all because "they had bonded".
We're told that we can't have him. We felt that bird was meant to live in our home and were saddened by this announcement. We wondered what the odds were that two injured canaries would come into our lives and just "knew" that bird was meant to be ours. The kids took it hard that the bird they had named Blazekin was not coming home with us.
Somehow I was conned into getting two parakeets at the shelter in Westbrook. The very day I brought the parakeets home I got a message from Cindy at Petco to come back and get the bird before the employee changed her mind (again). Her fellow Petco co-workers had talked her into letting us adopt Blazekin after all. So that is how we came to be a three-bird family.
Blazekin was different than any other bird I have ever known. I am sure that the care of his leg wound required that he be handled constantly and so he had become bonded more closely with his caregivers, and to me in particular. He would follow me about the house wherever I went and his songs were a special treat. On his final day, he followed me downstairs to the office and fell asleep on my desk. By the time I realized he was sick, it was too late. His was a somber funeral with not a dry eye in sight. Rest in peace, my sweet little red bird, I will forever miss you.
Monday was my first night back teaching classes. On my way out the door I spotted a sign advertising, "Free to a Good Home" for a small golden and white hamster, complete with cage. I glanced up at the calendar to be reminded that it was 7/11. I have said "No" before to hundreds of free pets (including hamsters) but the date seemed like an auspicious sign so I took him home. Apparently "Tater Tot", as he has been named by the kids, was the runt and nearly died but was nursed back to health by a Pet Quarters employee. Fast-forward a few years and I imagine that there will once again come a day where we'll gather to observe this little guy's somber funeral, the kids will be crying and I'll be saying something along the lines of, "Tater Tot was the finest hamster in the whole world and we cherished every day we had with him. We knew from the first day that he was meant to live in our house. At first we nearly all went insane when he rode that squeaky wheel night after night after night, but we learned to live with it and to love him..."
I noticed today that I'm starting to feel better. It happened about the time that my dog brought me a tennis ball for a quick game of catch. She didn't put it on the floor or fling it at me as usual, but instead brought it to the couch and interrupted my movie by placing it gently beside me with an expectant look.
Not that I was surprised.
Dogs most definitely have a sixth sense and Charlee's has been working overtime during my recuperation from stomach surgery. She gets up when I get up and follows me ever so carefully to wherever I need to go, settling down nearby. Currently she is sleeping under my desk.
My doctors orders are to not lift more than fifteen pounds. But I couldn't stand the pleading look in Charlee's eyes as I was refilling the bird feeder so it was with some trepidation that I put a halter on her and took her outside for a quick walk around the yard. I have written several times about how my dog can be reactive and will often act without thinking. But even when the neighbor's Beagles rushed their invisible fence baying loudly, she stayed by my side.
Not that I was surprised.
There is that unspoken something that can pass between man and beast. It didn't just "happen" between Charlee and I though - we earned it over time. It was during this illness that my dog crossed the invisible line from "Just Dog" to "Heart Dog." Heart dogs do not come along every day as any dog person will tell you. I have been fortunate to have had two - Dina was my first. I never thought I would have another one. Most people are lucky to have just one in their entire lifetime. A heart dog makes you think you could never own another dog because your heart will break when you loose them. A heart dog has an inexplicable connection to you - and you alone.
Charlee joined our family at a very difficult time as my Dina was dying from a brain tumor. There were times when I resented Charlee for being so alive, difficult and downright awful when my perfect (heart) dog had left me. I remember when I first started bringing her to agility lessons. My friend made the most appropriate comment saying, "Working through things with the tougher dogs can be the sweetest. Besides, anyone can train an easy dog. How boring!" I rolled my eyes just as Charlee lunged at the nearest dog and I thought again "What have I done? What was I thinking?"
Charlee has been a great learning experience for me. Not only did she do all the things that my students' dogs do - like jump up on the counter to steal food, pull, run away, and nip (Hard!) - but she also had psychological issues and would lunge at other dogs or get so high I couldn't calm her down. I even discussed the idea of trialing her on drugs with the vet. At times she reminded me of a thoroughbred race horse, snorting and prancing about with uncontrollable excitement. My Dad tells anyone who will listen how she didn't like to be petted or touched for the longest time. But he's equally quick to brag, "But just look at her now!" No one in my family let her into their hearts for the longest time and we would look at her and wonder to ourselves why she was with us when Dina's life had been cut short so early. We were all thinking it.
When I consulted two good trainer friends of mine for help with several behavior issues they both said the same thing. "Just because you can help the dog doesn't mean you should. Maybe you should send her back to rescue?". Of course I said, "No way." Maybe Charlee wasn't the level-headed demo dog that Dina had been, but I learned TONS from her about what it is like to live with a reactive dog (and a smart one at that). She has taught me many lessons that have proven invaluable to me as a trainer and in helping other people with their fearful and reactive dogs. Reading about it, watching a training video, attending seminars for reactive dogs just isn't the same as living day-to-day with the uncertainty of a reactive dog.
When I was at Maine Med last week I had the honor of a therapy dog visit and that was a wonderful experience. But my real therapist is sleeping right now under my desk. So if Dr. Charlee says I am well enough to throw a tennis ball around for a little while today, it must be true! She knows me so well...
Dina and Charlee