Thursday, February 28, 2008

More Visitors?

As I mentioned before, Duncan is taking his hole patrol duties very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that he found two more entrances into the yard. They were covered with leaves, and I wouldn’t have seen them if he hadn’t shown them to me (and before someone pops up with the idea that he dug them himself, these holes go into tunnels, and the exits for both tunnels are about 8 inches outside the fence). The holes are almost perfectly round, with no loose dirt inside the fence. Every time we go outside, Duncan does a sniff test on each hole. I can tell that whatever odor he smells is stronger occasionally, because he’ll really fixate on a hole for several minutes. I still don’t know why the animals would bother with these tunnels and holes, since the holes are the size of the spaces in the fence and the exit holes are even smaller. I’d think it’d be easier to just pop through the fence...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Run, Sheep, Run

Saturday, the pups and I went to Pittsboro to see a trainer about instinct tests for herding for both dogs and carting for Duncan. I’d have to say that the day was a definite success; both educational and highly entertaining.

The trainer has a flock of sheep, but for testing purposes, she only uses three. She also has goats, geese, chickens, a cow, three dogs and a couple of cats. She said that, during testing, she looks for more than just interest from the dog. Too much interest in the sheep is just as bad (and potentially worse) than no interest. She also watches how the three sheep respond to the dog, as well as what the goats in the next pen do. Apparently, the goats get very agitated if the dog being tested has too much prey drive.

We worked Reyna first, then Duncan. Then we did a bit of carting with Duncan, and then worked Reyna with the sheep again, and then Duncan again. Oh, and the stick she’s carrying isn’t to whack the dogs, its to block them from going in certain directions and to keep them from getting between her and the sheep. If I understood correctly, the dog is always supposed to be on the outside, with the sheep between the dog and the handler. Or something like that. She said if I decided to do more of this, she’d have me work with her dog while I was figuring out what I was supposed to do, so that I wouldn’t frustrate my dogs. Makes sense to me.

Reyna had a bit of trouble grasping the idea at first. I think she was just too surprised by the idea that she was not only allowed to chase the sheep, but she was actually being encouraged. The sheep stayed pretty relaxed (according to the trainer) and the goats weren’t at all interested in Reyna. Although, she was very interested in them… After a few minutes, Reyna seemed to have at least a general idea of what was going on, and she seemed to be enjoying it. One thing the trainer noticed with Reyna is that she doesn’t like to change direction too much. She figured it probably hurts Reyna’s hips, because the dog is supposed to stop and rock backwards to change direction. The second time through, though, Reyna figured out she could do a quick hop to the side and change directions, without ever rocking backwards.

Duncan was very interesting to watch. The sheep did not like him at first, and one of the goats was upset when Duncan was in the pen. The trainer said that it was most likely because the sheep and goat could tell that Duncan had less self-control than Reyna did. Of course, that might have had something to do with the fact that Duncan was lunging and whining for the first few minutes. The sheep and goats seemed fine for Duncan’s second run, though, probably because he’d finally calmed down a good bit. Isn’t that strange – I’d never thought I’d ever say that Duncan was more wound up than Reyna about something, or that it would take him longer to calm down… Anyway, Duncan took to chasing, er, herding the sheep pretty quickly, and seemed to think it was a wonderful game. He kept grabbing at them, and I had to explain to the trainer that Duncan has always been pretty mouthy. She said that it was pretty obvious he wasn’t trying to hurt them, and it didn’t seem to upset the sheep, so I guess its no big deal. She said the next time we go, she might have him try herding the geese. I don’t know that that’s a good idea, but they’re her geese…

The carting session went as smoothly as I figured it would. She has a very light-weight PVC cart that she uses with beginners, and Duncan was totally oblivious to the fact that he was dragging something. The next time we go, we’re going to measure Duncan and then add some length to the cart, because the only probably he really had was that he’s just too long for that particular cart. She had the shafts as far back as she could, and Duncan was still bumping the cart with his back feet half the time.


Something dug two holes into (or out of) the yard. I saw the holes yesterday evening, but have no idea what critter dug them. Both holes veer off to the left just after crossing the fence line. Whatever type of animal is using these holes is small enough to have just gone through the fence, so I’m not sure why they would bother with all that extra effort.

The scratch marks beside this one are Duncan’s contribution.

Duncan also added to this one, digging up a bit more dirt around the entrance.

Duncan is on hole patrol, and is taking his duties very seriously. I’ve seen him outside several times today, sniffing around the holes and looking into the woods behind the fence.

Its Official

This was waiting for me when I got home Friday. Its finally all over....

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Happy Day!

Reyna is officially off the Phenobarbital! The only medication she is taking now is the Rimadyl for her hips. And she's been feeling so good that most days I can give her just a quarter of the prescribed dose. Its amazing, really. I finally have my dog back, attitude and all.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Some Exciting News

Josh and Stephanie are expecting a baby in late August/early September. Josh called Friday and said that the ultrasound showed just one baby (not the twins or triplets that I thought would be really fun). They’ll find out if it’s a boy or girl in about eight weeks. Peyton really wants a little sister, though.

Off To The Vet We Go

Last weekend, I realized that Reyna had a lump on her right rear leg, between the foot pad and the ankle. I had noticed her licking at that spot earlier, and then on Saturday afternoon, I realized she was limping a bit and she would sit in a way to keep that spot off the ground. When I examined the area, she was pretty sensitive about it, and there was a noticeable swelling. Not something easily seen, because of the fur, but definitely easy to feel.

Monday afternoon, we went to the vet’s. It was nice to realize that the last time we were there for a problem was back in November, when Reyna got caught in Duncan’s collar. We’d made it almost three whole months without an incident.

The vet took a sample of the lump and was able to tell me that there were no cancerous cells, which was a HUGE relief. He did see inflamed and infected cells, which made sense. He said it looked like an acral lick granuloma, but the problem with that theory was that dogs don’t get acral lick granulomas in that particular area. But, this is Reyna. We both agreed that, with her obsessive-compulsive personality, its entirely possible that something scratched her, she licked the spot to make it feel better, and then just couldn’t stop. I hadn’t noticed her licking the area all that much, but this pesky job thing does keep me out of the house a good bit.

So, for the last week, we’ve been treating the area like an acral lick, and I’m to call the vet tomorrow and update him. Thankfully, the swelling does seem to have gone down over the last few days. Unfortunately, since we started messing with that spot, Reyna’s been licking it more than ever, so I’ve had to really keep on her about that. She has this funny habit of licking really fast as soon as I tell her to stop, almost as if she knows I’m going to make her stop and she has to get in as many licks as possible before I get to her. It would be cute, if it weren’t so darn annoying.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Buffalo Bones

As we’re all aware (and if we weren’t, we are now), Reyna is mildly allergic to beef. Because of this, buying beef soup bones for the dogs is pretty much out of the question. So, a couple of weeks ago, I bought three bison bones, instead. They were each about 8 inches long, and still had chunks of meat on them. I had to get three, because Reyna and Duncan each get a bone, and there’s a spare. Because Reyna will take Duncan’s bone, and Duncan takes the spare. And then Reyna takes Duncan’s bone, and Duncan takes the spare. This usually goes on until the bones have been eaten. If there are just two bones, Reyna takes Duncan’s, and Duncan looks pathetic until I give him Reyna’s old bone. And then Reyna takes Duncan’s, and Duncan looks pathetic. Its just something they do.

On this particular day, I put all three buffalo bones on the living room floor after thawing them (Reyna doesn’t like her bones to be icy). Reyna checked them out and then ignored them (she doesn’t actually like them colder than room temp… she’s a bit picky about that). Duncan just stared at the bones, almost as if he couldn’t believe his luck. After about 15 minutes, Reyna picked up one of the bones and took it outside. I usually don’t encourage that because of the ants, but its cold enough that ants aren’t an issue. I didn’t pay too much attention to what was happening until I heard a lot of leaf rustling. When I stepped out on the deck, Duncan was standing at the corner, looking underneath. Reyna was burying the bone in the pile of leaves under the deck. When she was finished, she came inside and laid down. Duncan came in and sat by the chair, and just watched Reyna.

10 minutes later, Reyna hopped up, grabbed the second bone, and headed outside. This time, I grabbed my camera as I followed her out. While Duncan and I watched, Reyna buried the bone next to the tree in the back yard. And by bury, I mean she dug a hole about 3 inches deep, dropped the bone, and then pushed a bit of dirt and a few leaves on top of it.

Not exactly the most effective burial, but she seemed happy with it. She also seemed rather surprised when she looked up and realized that Duncan and I were both watching her.

She came back inside and laid down, like nothing had happened. I could tell that Duncan wasn’t too sure if he wanted to come back in, or if he wanted to go check out the bone. But he came back in the house and sat down, watching Reyna. A few minutes later, Reyna got up and went outside, but stopped on the deck when she realized Duncan and I were following her (notice the streak of dirt across her nose). Instead of going with her original plan, she just went back in the house and laid down.

About 10 minutes after that, though, she hopped up, grabbed the third bone, and trotted outside. This one, she decided to bury next to the fence, using the same method of shallow hole, a little dirt, and some leaves.

I’m not sure if she was so absorbed in what she was doing that she wasn’t paying attention, but once again, she seemed very surprised to realize that Duncan and I were watching her.

When she was finished, she went back in the house and laid down. Duncan went in right behind her, sat down, and looked pretty confused about the whole thing. Not too long after that, Duncan went outside and headed straight for the tree. Before he could do too much, though, Reyna popped out of the house to see what was going on. Duncan didn’t seem happy with the audience, so he went back inside.

About 20 minutes went by, and Duncan decided to go outside again. This time, he went for the fence. He actually had the bone uncovered before he realized we were watching him.

Later that afternoon, Duncan went outside and got the bone that was under the deck. He took it to the middle of the yard and laid down with it. Didn’t actually chew on it, just laid next to it for about 20 minutes, and then came back in the house.

The next day, the bone buried by the tree was in the yard. It was another two days before the bone buried by the fence was brought out. Only once (that I know of) has one of the bones been brought back into the house. Reyna brought one in last Friday afternoon, and wandered around the living room and hall, looking for a good place to bury it. She tried digging a hole in her bed, but apparently didn’t like the results. She seemed to consider the idea of burying it her chair, but, surprisingly, dismissed that location. After about 5 minutes of looking around for the right spot, she took the bone back outside.

Each morning and every evening after work, the bones are all in different places in the yard. I can tell they’ve been working on them, digging out some of the marrow. I’m glad they’re enjoying them, but I really didn’t expect the bones to generate so much entertainment. I guess I’ll have to get smaller bones next time, because once the weather warms up, I won’t let them keep bones with meat and marrow out in the yard. I have a real issue with how much the ants seem to love those bones.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Playtime at our house can get a bit rough, not to mention a bit noisy. The roughhousing is all in good fun, though, no matter how it might actually look or sound. I took loads of pictures of the dogs playing this past weekend, and decided to share some of my favorites. I thought about putting them in some sort of order that might make sense if these were the only images seen, as opposed to the order in which they were actually taken. But I’m too lazy to do that. So keep in mind that these pictures are from different play times during the day.

Here’s Reyna doing her typical run at Duncan, to see how fast she can make him hit the ground. Notice the curled lip and shiny teeth.

Duncan is always braver when Reyna’s back is turned.

Duncan just realized that Reyna slowed down...

And Duncan decides to try for a quick getaway.

Duncan has a habit of loving on Reyna right before he tries to instigate something.

This is one of those moments where everyone freezes for a few seconds. Then, at some mysterious signal, both dogs explode into action at the same time.

Here’s one of Duncan stomping on the brakes.

Most of the time, Reyna chases Duncan. She lets him chase her when she’s in a really playful mood.

I just really like this picture...

Another shot of Duncan trying to get Reyna to play.

This tree is their favorite place for chasing. They will make laps around the tree, changing directions in a split second.

It always makes me laugh, the way Reyna so easily rolls Duncan over. He has never intentionally knocked her down.

Another neat moment in time...

They love each other.

They really do.

Well, maybe not.

One of Reyna’s favorite tricks is to go for Duncan’s ankles. He ends up doing a funny hopping maneuver, and he has the worst time getting back at her when she’s that low.

The standard dominance pose, where Reyna puts her head on Duncan’s shoulders. He does it to her, too, usually when he’s trying to start something.

Reyna’s a happy girl, running after Duncan.

The look on Duncan’s face is pure joy. He loves to run. He doesn’t care if he’s running because Reyna is chasing him, if he’s running after the ball, if he’s running after a dog at the dog park, or if he’s running just for the fun of running. For a dog who is normally laid back and slow, he has some speed, and he loves to let it out.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

On Becoming A Man

Duncan turned 2 and a half last month, and he’s finally coming into his own. Over the last few months, his personality has changed in several small, almost unnoticeable ways. He’s started being more assertive with other dogs and standing up for himself (except with Reyna, of course, because he’s not stupid). At our last club meeting, he actually snarled at two different dogs who got in his space, instead of just backing away. I was actually rather proud of him. It seems as though a switch has flipped somewhere in his brain, because he’s suddenly responding to certain commands, when 4 months ago he would have given me a blank stare. Or a spin, his favorite response to any command he doesn’t know or doesn’t want to do. He’s also responding faster and moving faster, something I never would have expected. I’m even thinking about entering him in a Rally trial in July, because I think we might be able to get through the course in 4 minutes. And to top it all off, he actually jumped into the truck three times Saturday, all by himself. My little boy is growing up.

The Joy Of Multiples

When one kid gets a cold, they all get a cold. Or in our case, when one cat gets an eye problem, all the cats get it. But they takes turns. First, Per’la got it. Which is pretty normal, actually. Then Khar’pern got it. Then Loki got it. Per’la got rid of it. Loki still had it. Khar got rid of it. Belle got it. Loki still had it. Per’la got it again. Mikey got it. Loki still had it. Belle got rid of it. Per’la got rid of it. Mikey got rid of it. And yep, Loki still has it. And there’s really nothing to do for it except wait it out.

And Its Only Tuesday

This is just going to be one of those weeks. I’m in class all week, which means everything is a bit off, anyway, which doesn’t help.

Yesterday, I tried to find a bag of kibble for Reyna. Because of her allergies, she’s a bit limited in what she can eat (no lamb, beef, or chicken), and there aren’t many allergy formula kibbles out there. Nutro started making a venison and rice kibble a few months ago, and Reyna does really well with that. The problem is that PetSmart and Petco can’t keep it in stock. I checked with Nutro, and apparently their sales staff is horrible at forecasting – they didn’t think the venison kibble would do well, so they don’t have the supplies to keep making it. They won’t be distributing any more of the kibble until late March. So I spent about 3 hours on the phone and computer last night, trying to find an allergy kibble that is reasonably priced, easy to find in the area, and that Reyna might actually like. That’s not an easy combination. I’ve found a kibble that isn’t hideously expensive but does cost more than the Nutro, and I should be able to get it easily on a regular basis, but I’m not sure Reyna really likes it. I got samples of another type of kibble that she does like, but that is ridiculously expensive. So, we’ll start with the lower cost kibble and work our way up until we find something we can both agree on. Finding kibble just shouldn’t be this hard.

I don’t often think about it, but every now and then, it really bugs me that John managed to wreck my car. My poor little truck just wasn’t meant to be my primary vehicle. As if the crappy A/C and wonky heat aren’t enough, yesterday afternoon I started the truck and it was not happy. It was jumpy, ran rough, and did not want to go. After a few minutes of on and off, it went back to normal. This afternoon, it did the same thing. I called my mechanic and popped by his place to have some gas-drying stuff put in my tank. His initial thought is that I got a bad batch of gas last time I filled up. As I was leaving his shop, the truck started acting up again, and the check engine light came on. Not that I like that, but I do appreciate that it happened where the mechanic could immediately check it. Turns out one of the cylinders isn’t firing. Since I have to be in Cary the rest of the week, I’ll drop it off on Monday for him to fix.

I also finally got confirmation that my insurance is all screwed up. I changed this year from an FSA to a high-deductible plan with an HSA. Our HR guy told us in October that we wouldn’t be getting the grace period on our FSA this year, so contributions should have been going to my HSA since the first paycheck of the year. But it wasn’t, for some reason. Benefits finally managed to tell me that we are, indeed, getting the grace period for the FSA, and that I can’t start contributing to the HSA until April 1, regardless of when my FSA runs out. The company could have allowed us to roll our FSA into our HSA as of January 1, but they didn’t. Too much paperwork, apparently. This wouldn’t be a huge issue, except for that pesky nerve test and epidural I had last month. The HSA was supposed to cover my deductible for the year, but I won’t have access to it until April, and I can’t use it to pay for any thing that happens before April 1. Which means my portion of the test and epidural will come out of my pocket. That’s the kind of news I can really do without.

The only really good thing that’s happened this week is that I finally got my reimbursement back from University of Phoenix. It only took them two months to decide they should send me a check for my money. Just in time to pay for kibble and the truck...