Sunday, July 25, 2021
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
Katie needed a haircut.
About two months ago, we took Katie to the PetSmart grooming salon, where she was pampered with a bath, haircut, and pedicure. Cost for seniors? $46. We wouldn’t go the poorhouse spending that much every two months, but it would be nice if we didn’t have that expense. We thought we would try grooming her ourselves.
Years ago I would periodically shear my little poodle-Chihuahua mix, Poochi. His face resembled a poodle, with curly hair on top. The sides of his body with more Chihuahua-like, soft and long. He did not shed. I confess that it never occurred to me to take him to a groomer. Instead, I would plop him on the floor and take out my scissors and trim him. He was my beloved little Benjie-dog.
|Yes, that is a picture of me, holding Poochi, around 1986.|
|Poochi really was a Benji-dog. He needed a trim here.|
When we decided to adopt Katie, we knew she would need regular grooming. We thought we would take her to a professional the first time and then see if we could do it ourselves. As you know, we are big on DIYing.
Unsure how our grooming experiment would turn out—whether she would be patient with us and if we (Jim) were adept with the clippers—we decided initially to use the equipment we had on hand. Jim rigged up a stand to hold a leash on his potting bench, and we got out the electric hair clippers I use to cut Jim’s hair.
|This was the start of our Great Experiment. Jim rigged up a leash by his potting table.|
The first phase of our experiment went well: Katie was patient, and Jim was mastering the cutting technique. However, we quickly saw that our Gerry-rigged leash stand needed to be improved, and we should get cordless (and quieter) grooming shears. After one clipping along Katie’s backside and a bit along her legs, the hot sun got the better of us, and we decided to postpone the rest of the grooming until after we purchased better equipment.
Fast forward one week: Amazon delivered our new equipment and we were ready to try it out.
Success! I can’t say Katie was particularly pleased with the leash stand (we finished the pedicure and face-grooming on the ground), but she was good. And the clippers! Wow. It was like shearing a sheep, the way the fur came off.
We are pleased with the results of our grooming experiment. I don’t think we will go into the grooming business, but we will recoup the cost of the equipment with the next haircutting we give her.
|Such a pretty girl!|
Until next time,
Your Reluctant ROVER,
Thursday, July 1, 2021
Katie is an awesome dog: She is smart. She is loving. She loves her walks. She lavishes me with affection whenever I am gone more than 15 minutes. She rarely barks, except to tell us she needs (or wants) to go out or if she wants to play.
Playing to Katie means going through her training routine; it’s a game to her. “Katie, come!” “Katie, sit!” “Katie, place!” “Katie, up!” She especially like “Katie, up!” because this give her permission to jump up onto a chair or couch. (She rarely does this on her own.)
I sometimes get down on the floor to play with her, but this play is very limited, since she does not know (or care about) tug-of-war or fetch. I’ve purchased several different balls to try to get her interested in playing fetch. The only one she liked was a solid rubber one, which she started chewing. Rubber is not good for the digestive system, so that ball has been put aside.
Play time started to change last week after Jim and I adopted a kitten from the Humane Society.
I think the “play gene” is activated as soon as a kitten is born. Lex Luthor (the name the Human Society dubbed this tiny, 10-week-old black kitten) flits from one toy to another—or creates his own by grabbing (and untying) shoelaces, swatting electrical cords, and chasing himself around the house. He especially likes to play with little balls— fluffy greens ones, crinkly rosy ones, and plastic red ones with bells inside.
Katie has decided that if Lex wants to play with a ball (especially the red jingle-bell balls), she wants to play, too.
As soon as she hears Lex batting the ball around the floor, she comes up to him (no fear of cats) and she noses it away from him, nabs the ball with her mouth, and then tosses it into the air! When it lands, she quickly grabs it before Lex can get to it and takes it back to her “place”—an area rug behind the couch where we keep all of her chewies, unused toys, and grooming equipment. Once she has brought “her” toy “home,” she chews on it for a few minutes, and then disregards it. Play time over. A bit of jealousy?
It is fun to watch Katie and Lex together. As I have mentioned in other blog entries, Katie was raised as a breeder dog. She had no social skills—with people, nor with other animals. She barely knows what to do when she meets another dog. When she spies another canine down the block while taking a walk, she eagerly trots up to within a few feet of the dog. Then she stops. She lets the other dog sniff and check her out. Only occasionally does she reciprocate.
Because of she was cloistered for her first three years, she does not know that dogs naturally chase squirrels, lizards, and cats. The squirrels and lizards in our yard are safe. When we come upon a cat during our walks, she stops to look but does not do anything else.
Given her lack of experience with cats, we were not concerned about her accepting even a grown cat, although an adult cat probably would not want anything to do with her. So, we decided a kitten would be a good choice.
Lex doesn’t know he is supposed to be afraid of this gigantic canine, and Katie doesn’t know she is supposed to chase this tiny feline. (Perhaps that will change if or when Lex lets her feel his claws.) The two are not best friends, nor are they yet especially playful with each other. But the friendship is new, and it is fun to watch as it grows.
Your Relucant ROVER,
Sunday, June 13, 2021
In the Sunday comics section of the local newspaper, Marmaduke, a Great Dane, famously buries (and digs up) bones in his back yard. I always thought bone-burying dog behavior was an exaggeration exploited for the funny papers.
It is not.
Katie does the same thing.
We noticed this behavior several weeks ago. I had given Katie a hard-chew that was shaped like a bone. After gnawing on it for a while, she picked it up and carried it outside with her. She then explored all of the flower beds to find an appropriate place to bury it.
Jim and I both chuckled over this, and didn’t pay too much attention to what she was doing or how she was doing it. But over the weeks, we have continued to watch her and enjoy her treasure-hunting/retrieval.
Just like cartoon canines, Katie sniffs around until she finds her bone (the same one she originally buried). Once she locates it, she exhumes it, takes it in her mouth, and scurries around the yard to scout out another appropriate internment. She will stop, try the soil, and go to another site if the dirt is too hard or if there are too many tree roots with which to contend until she finds the perfect burial ground.
Once she has found the right spot, he uses her front paws to dig a hole deep enough to entomb her treasure. Then she plops the bone into the hole and proceeds to cover it up—not with her paws, but with her snout! (We always know when she has buried a bone: She snorts to get rid of the dust in her nostrils!)
Here is a short video:
Not every treasure gets buried outdoors, of course. Some get buried in the house. I gave her a commercially purchased four-inch long beef bone filled with a peanut-butter concoction. After licking out as much of the “marrow” as she could, she repeatedly has carried the bone around the house until she finds an appropriate grave. I have found the bone hidden in a corner and under the couch, and concealed under some pillows on the couch. She keeps very busy safeguarding her cache.
Surprisingly, Katie does not bury real bones. When we have treated her to the remnants of our barbecued ribs, she enjoys chewing for every bit of leftover meat, grist, and marrow. Then she walks away from them. No burying attempts.
Katie, you are puzzling; you are amazing.
Until next time,
Your Reluctant ROVER,
Monday, May 24, 2021
Even before we adopted Katie, we had decided that we would invest in hiring a trainer once we acquired a dog, if only to reinforce basic commands. The question was, “Which trainer?”
Most pet stores offer some type of group dog training, which would be the most economical, but we quickly realized that Katie would not respond to that training: She was afraid of strangers as well as other dogs and would virtually freeze. Even if she got comfortable in the training situation, she did not respond to treats. She had never had treats as a breeder dog.
One of the people at our vet’s office recommended Sit Happens dog training company. Danny, a representative from the company, came to our house to explain the company’s philosophies, show off its successes, explain how the training worked, and observe Katie.
Danny said Katie’s disinterest in treats was not a problem; Sit Happens recommends using an electronic collar for training. The pulse does not hurt the dog, but the dog responds well (and quickly) to it. We agreed this type of training would be appropriate for Katie, and agreed to purchase the collar. We then debated if we should buy the three-lesson or five-lesson package. (The five-lesson package included lifetime reinforcement training, if needed.) Naturally, we expected Danny to recommend the more costly five-lesson package.
After observing Katie, though, he said, “I don’t think you’ll need the five-lesson package.” He was right; we barely needed the three lessons we bought, because Katie is a quick learner—and because I was committed to do the practicing required. After two lessons she was doing three basic commands: “Katie, come,” “Katie, sit,” and “Katie, place.” (This last one tells her to stay in her bed or her “place” in the living room.) She also quickly learned, “Katie, stay,” although she doesn’t always stay as long as I would like her to. We’re working on that, however.
One of the things our trainer Michele did not have to teach Katie was to stop barking at and jumping on strangers. Once in a while (not always) she will bark when someone comes to the door, but she hushes quickly at my command. And she does not jump on people. Although Michele did not have to teach Katie restraint with strangers, she did have to teach her something that most dogs do instinctively—to jump up onto furniture! Unlike any other dog I have ever known, Katie did not know how to jump on the couch or a chair. Michele showed us how to train her to “up.” After some reluctance, Katie learned and discovered it was fun to jump up!
During those first weeks of training, I diligently worked with Katie on her commands several times a day. As she was learning to obey, Katie decided that our training times were play times. Consequently, whenever she wants to play, she demands going through our training routine, especially the “Katie, up!” command. (Interestingly, she rarely jumps up on the couch or a chair on her own, only when we tell her to.) And when I decide play time needs to end, I command her to “Katie, place” and go to her spot in the living room, where she sits and gets quiet.
I no longer need the collar to make her obey. She can even be out in the front yard without a leash, when we are out there.
The training was expensive, but it was well worth its cost. Sit, does in fact, happen.
Until next time,
Your Reluctant ROVER,
Sunday, May 2, 2021
Before adopting Katie, our rescued Bichon Frise, who was raised as a breeder, I had had only two exposures to dog breeding. The first was about 50 years ago. Our next-door neighbor had purchased an English Sheepdog, a big, beautiful, gentle animal with a full, bushy coat. She was a pet, but the neighbor also intended to breed her and sell the pups. I don’t know if he ever did, since we moved out of the neighborhood before she was bred.
Fast forward to last year: We were storing our truck camper in the backyard of a lady who bred dachshunds. At that time she had a female wiener dog and five offspring. The female was her pet, and I believe she intended to keep most (if not all) of the current litter. She raised the dogs with love and kindness, because they were her friends first and an income source second.
Periodically I had read about puppy mills; there are many in the rural areas of Florida and southern Georgia. These animal farms breed for profit, at the cost of humane care for the dogs. Females in puppy mills are forced to reproduce each time they are in heat, until they can no longer bear. The dogs live in tiny cages, receive little care or exercise, and have no interaction with people. Often their cages are filthy, and they lie in their own excrement.
According to the Humane Society, most dogs sold in pet stores or online are bred in such deplorable conditions.
Katie was raised to breed, but she did not come from a puppy mill. The “dog lady” (the head of Wags-Rescue, in Jesup, Ga.) said she had developed a unique relationship with a local breeder, who had approached her to adopt out dogs when they reached the end of their breeding—five years. The dog lady said the breeder had a dedicated barn in which she raised many different types of dogs. Each dog had its own kennel as well as a dog run and was able to exercise. All of the dogs, male and female, received regular shots and veterinary care. The dog lady had inspected the breeder’s establishment and was satisfied that although the dogs were not pets, they were cared clean, manicured, and cared for. Consequently, she often had purebreds available for adoption.
|A very scared Katie, the day we picked her up from the adoption agency.|
A key phrase in this description is “not pets.” I didn’t realize the implication of that phrase until we brought Katie home.
On the drive home, I held her on my lap; she trembled the entire two-hour ride to her forever home. Car rides were foreign to her. At home, she quickly learned where her water and food bowls were. And she acclimated to her new bed in our room.
But she had no social skills, actually no “dog” skills either.
You know how dogs are naturally curious and chase squirrels and anything else that moves? She didn’t. I don’t know if she had ever been exposed to a squirrel or a lizard (or even other dogs, except for male breeders), since her life had been limited to a dog run. It was a couple weeks before she was willing to take a walk on a leash. (During the first attempt at a walk, she froze after about 25 feet. I had to pick her up and carry her home.)
For weeks when we took walks, she would stop abruptly whenever she saw another dog, cat, or human being. She would refuse to move until the “creature” went away.
Fortunately, Katie is learning how to be a "real" dog. I am happy to say that now she is not spooked as often by human beings who are out taking a stroll or bicycling the neighborhood, and although she still goes on alert when she sees another dog, she is willing to passively make friends with it.
She loves to be outdoors, but she still does not venture out on her own, despite our encouraging her by keeping the back door open to our fenced-in yard. Freedom is apparently a learned thing.
As time passes, however, Katie is gradually coming out of her shell, and her personality shines. My husband said it best: “She is an awesome dog.” More about that later.
Your Reluctant ROVER
Thursday, April 22, 2021
This past winter I caught the “dog bug”—that undeniable urge to adopt a small dog. The bug started small, but intensified as Jim and I began to take weekly (sometimes more often) trips down to the Jacksonville Humane Society.
Almost every time we visited, we would see one or two excellent candidates for adoption—the only problem was that they were already adopted! One day, though, I looked on the Humane Society’s website and saw a small dog that appealed to me. She seemed to be a Yorkie-mix. Usually any small dog pictured on the website was already adopted by the time we visited, but this time, the pooch was still there, homeless.
We couldn’t get a good look at her, since she was lying in her bed and did not get up to greet us, but we decided to inquire about her. The Human Society adoption counselor told us that the dog was a senior. She had just had dental surgery and would recover from that trauma, but she had an eye condition and would require constant care for the rest of her life. Adopting a dog in good health would be quite an adjustment; adopting one that required considerable care was more than I felt able to do. We decided she would not be a good fit for us. The counselor understood, but to help us adopt, she provided a list of local small-dog adoption agencies.
That night I started a search.
One link led to another, and I finally found petfinder.com, an adoption-agency aggregate, which allows you to search by zip code. I found a picture and description of a dog that appealed to me; I showed Jim, then I completed an application online.
Several days went by with no word from the agency. Finally, I received an e-mail saying the dog had been adopted. Darn!
I searched again. This time I found two different dogs and completed an application that included references. I said we would welcome either dog into our home. (Incidentally, my references were called!)
Several days later I received a phone call from the adoption “dog lady.” She said that those dogs were already adopted, but she thought we would make ideal “parents” for another dog. She then described a female Pekingese. I admitted that Pekingese was not a breed I had ever considered. We then talked some more, and she said she also had a male Shih Tzu. I warmed to the idea of a Shih Tzu. More talk, and she finally said she would have a female Bichon Frise within a week. I was familiar with Bichons. My sister Dawn had one many years ago. Her Bichon and my Poochi looked like brothers, at least from a distance.
All of these dogs were purebred. Purebred rescues? Yes! Several years ago, the dog lady explained, a breeder in her area had contacted her about adopting out dogs that were no longer going to be bred. The dogs were usually about five or six years old, both male and female. The breeder did not run a puppy mill, the dog lady explained. A personal visit to the breeding facility proved to her that the breeders were kept clean, healthy, and up-to-date on all shots.
The breeder was done working the Pekingese and Shih Tzu; thus, they were being put up for adoption. The Bichon was, too, but for a different reason: The 3-year-old Bichon had just aborted a litter. Consequently, the breeder would not use her again.
We discussed the pros and cons of each of these three breeds. The dog lady sent me pictures of all three and left it to me to make a decision about which I would like to have.
Each was cute as a button, but I leaned toward the Bichon: With her coloring and her curly coat, she reminded me most of my Poochi. And everything I read about Bichons said that they were affectionate and smart, although clingy. I decided on the Bichon. The dog lady told us we could pick her up in a few days, once she had recovered from being spayed. I could hardly wait.
Until next time,
Your Reluctant ROVER
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