Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mutt Strutt, Here We Come

Duncan and I are going to be doing freestyle demos at the Mutt Strutt on Saturday, September 6. Three other dog/handler teams will also perform, and we’re even going to do a group routine. The Mutt Strutt will be at Oak View Park, and is a dog walk to raise money for the Wake County Animal Center. The event is from 9 to 12. At this point, I don’t know exactly when we’re scheduled to perform, but the last thing I heard was between 10 and 10:30. I’ll post a definite time when I get it. My cropping buddy has agreed to come out and take photos of the routines (thanks, Mary!), and John said he’ll give up moving dirt around on the farm for a bit to come out and work the video camera (thanks, John!). There will also be agility and flyball demos, tons of raffles (not just for dog stuff), and a lot of vendors and exhibits. So round up your folks and come on out to support WCAC, and, more importantly, me and Duncan. If you just can’t make it, you’ll still be able to watch the freestyle fun, because I’ll have the video on YouTube and this blog sometime that Saturday (well, maybe Sunday, because I’m going to the Brooks and Dunn concert Saturday night).

Duncan and I will be dancing to “Its In His Kiss” and the team routine is to “Puttin’ On The Ritz.” Two teams and a stand-in got together last night, and we actually managed to choreograph the entire team routine in under an hour. I was pretty impressed with us. The smart thing is that we’re keeping it short (about a minute and a half) and fairly simple. After all, most people will be really impressed that we’re actually out there doing anything at all. It always boggles my mind when someone (especially a dog owner) gets excited about a basic “wait” or a “shake.” But I guess those folks just don’t take the time to work with their dogs. The hard part about the team routine is that the dogs range in size from Duncan (he’s a bit big, you know) to a Westie. And in between is a medium-sized All American (mutt) and a Sheltie (NOT a miniature Collie). We’re still working out a few of the details, like how long we want certain distances to be, because some folks have to walk pretty fast to get to their next spot, while others of us have to slow down so we don’t run anyone over. And I think we’ve found some creative ways to work to each dog’s strengths and reduce any obvious discrepancies. Not that the demo will actually go the way we plan, because they never do. But that’s part of the fun of freestyle!

Friday, July 25, 2008

With The Pleasure Comes The Pain

I love my house. I love owning a house, even if I’m just co-owning with those obnoxious mortgage company people. There are so many reasons I love my house, I’m not even going to bother listing them. I love that I have a yard to take care of (even if the front is mostly weeds). I even enjoy mowing my yard, most of the time. Just not in July, when its ridiculously hot and humid. Last summer wasn’t too bad, because it almost never rained, and Amy’s son was mowing the yard most weeks. Up until the falling out, of course, and then the mowing became mine again. This summer, though, the weather has been against me. When I have time, its raining or 100 degrees with a wall of humidity. When I don’t have time, its dry and cool. I knew the humidity was supposed to go back up today, so I made a point yesterday of getting out of the office at a reasonable hour so I could mow the grass. Both yards had to be done, because the front was looking extremely bad (not much grass, but a lot of really tall weeds), and the grass in the back was getting tall enough that I was worried about losing the dogs. I started about 7:30, and got finished shortly before dark. Tonight I’m going to do the weed-eating, since John was so kind as to fix the weed eater (thanks, John!).

Reyna and I have come to an agreement about mowing the back yard. She gets to bark at the mower for a few minutes and bite the front wheels four times, and then she has to go lay down. I have to put her ball where she can’t find it, otherwise she’ll drop it directly in front of the mower over and over, waiting on me to throw it. Duncan, of course, wants nothing to do with the mower, but he can’t stand to be inside without us, so he tries to find a resting spot that’s out of my way. Sometimes he succeeds, sometimes he has to move a few times. Last night was actually a good night to mow, though. It was fairly cool, and the dogs were feeling peppy. At one point, I stopped mowing (but left the mower running, so as not to distract Reyna), and watched them run around the yard and wrestle for about five minutes. They were having so much fun, rolling around in the damp grass cuttings. Some people don’t think animals can smile, but the expression on Duncan’s face was very clearly a huge grin of pure joy.

In other news, I decided to try a can of pennies as a correction tool to decrease the amount of Reyna’s boredom barking. It was actually moderately effective. She doesn’t seem to think it’s a punishment of any kind, but it does distract her enough that she stops the barking. We’ll see if that continues. Duncan seems to have decided it’s The Can From Hell, which is too bad, since he never actually does anything to warrant the correction. After using it only a few times, Duncan has started flinching and moving away from the can when Reyna barks. Yes, that's right. He has figured out why I’m shaking the can. I'm telling you, he's smarter than he lets on...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Happy Birthday, Duncan!

Saturday was Duncan's 3rd birthday. We celebrated by earning his first leg towards his HCT, and then he got to have KFC chicken and a biscuit with dinner. The cake had to wait til we were back in town today.

Herding Clips

This is the first leg of the HCT, run on Saturday.

And this is the second leg, run on Sunday. It almost looks like a different dog, he so much more energetic.

Herding Trial - Day Two

We got to the trial grounds about 10:45, and Duncan’s class was scheduled to run no earlier than noon. Duncan was definitely feeling peppier Sunday, and was more like his normal self in the ring. That almost backfired on us, though. If he’d been slower and less active, like Saturday, our second run probably would have gone more smoothly. Duncan qualified for his second leg of the HCT with absolutely no help from me. I was trying to follow the instructions our trainer had given me that morning, as she was handling another dog in a different class. The judge gave me conflicting instructions while we were in the ring, so I ended up completely confused about what I should have been doing. Claire had told me to block Duncan from coming around me, but the judge told me that by blocking him I was frustrating him, and he was taking that out on the sheep. I think the final assessment (agreed to by both Claire and the judge) was that Duncan should never ever be worked in such a small ring, as there just isn’t enough space for such a big dog to do his job. But we got through it, and that’s what matters the most.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Herding Trial – Day One

Today was the first day of the two day trial Duncan and I are attending. We got to the trial field shortly after 7:00, and he didn’t run until a little after 12:00. Having a dog in only one class definitely makes for a long day. Poor Duncan was miserably hot, even though I hosed him down with cold water a couple of times. He behaved beautifully, of course, sitting in the back of the truck or on the ground beside me.

When we went to start the Herding Certification Test, he seemed more clingy than usual, fussing a bit when Claire took him away from me to stretch out a bit. He did very little for Claire in the pen and kept coming back to the fence to look for me. The judge looked like he was getting ready to NQ Duncan, so I asked if he thought it would be a good idea for me to go in the pen and try to work him. So, I ended up working Duncan for the test while Claire took pictures (Mom took video footage, which will be posted late Monday).

The nice thing about this level is that the judge walks you through what he wants, and will actually go in the pen and assist. I definitely had him do that, as I hadn’t been planning to handle Duncan this time. Duncan settled down as soon as I walked into the pen. He did very well, although he wasn’t as quick or as interested in the sheep as he normally is. I’m sure he was just hot and stressed. Regardless of that, though, he qualified. With me handling him, earned his first leg towards his HCT title. Tomorrow, we’ll go the trial area later in the morning, so that he won’t be as hot and tired for the second leg of the test.

Duncan has been passed out cold since we got back to the hotel room, but he has defended us twice against the terror that is the housekeeping staff.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Good And Bad

A little over a year ago, I bought an orthopedic dog bed for Reyna. I wasn’t sure if she’d use it or eat it, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that she really likes sleeping on it. Duncan also really likes the bed, but of course they can’t both be on the bed at the same time. Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that Duncan has looked very depressed when he’s realized that Reyna was already using the bed when he decided he wanted to nap on it. At times, he would sneak onto the bed when she was distracted, just so he could beat her to it. Last week, I decided to order another orthopedic bed just for Duncan. It arrived Wednesday, and as soon as I put it on the floor, he hopped right on it. Thursday, I saw Reyna get on the new bed once, and Duncan got on the old bed once, but they pretty much kept to the new pattern (Reyna on the older burgundy, Duncan on the new blue).

Thursday was also Duncan’s trip to the vet. Turns out he has a viral infection (basically a cold) with conjunctivitis in his eyes and a secondary bacterial sinus infection. The vet said he prefers Duncan not run this weekend, but he also said that if Duncan was acting like he felt okay, then we could give it a try. He wrote us a “please excuse Duncan from PE today” note, just in case, so that I could get my trial money back. He gave me some antibiotics to help clear up the sinus infection, and the rest of it is just a time issue. Duncan also had a nasty spot under his chin, which I figure he acquired during playtime with Reyna. When the vet checked it, he realized that there was a fair amount of nasty gunk under the crusty fur, so we shaved the fur off to let the spot heal. Naturally, Duncan tried to scratch the skin off afterwards, so I used another t-shirt to keep it as protected as possible.

Today, the spot under the chin is looking better, and Duncan has stopped scratching it. He was an excellent traveler, and has been very playful all day. He’s acting like he feels much better, so we’re going to give the trial a whirl tomorrow. His run isn’t scheduled until afternoon, so that should give him time to perk up is he’s feeling a bit off in the morning.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Cross Your Paws

This is going to be a big weekend for Duncan – its his first sheep herding trial! On Friday, we’re driving to Berryville, VA. I’m hoping to get there early enough to see some of the ranch herding, as that’s what Duncan and I will be aspiring to. The regular trial events will be Saturday and Sunday. As this is our first trial, Duncan is registered for the Herding Certification Test (HCT) class. Our trainer will actually be handling him, as I don’t want to ruin his chances just because I don’t know what I’m doing. HCT is considered a pre-trial level, and its only qualify/non-qualify. There’s a Junior Herding Dog (JHD) class, which is also considered pre-trial, and I might do a day-of entry for that, if I can get approval from the trial host. Each HCT run will take at most 4 minutes, and the JHD class only allows 8 minutes. So we’re driving 11 hours round trip for 4 to 16 minutes of sheep time. Crazy, I know, but we have to start somewhere, and there aren’t more than a couple of trials a year in North Carolina. The big problem right now is that Duncan has developed a sinus problem, and if he’s visibly sick, they won’t let him run. Of course, even if it isn’t visible, if he isn’t feeling well, he probably won’t do his best (unless the sight of the sheep just completely overwhelms the cruddiness). We have a vet appointment for tomorrow afternoon. I’m not sure if I’d rather hear its just a cold or it’s a sinus infection. We can treat a sinus infection, but there’s a chance the antibiotics would make him queasy. Of all times for him to get sick…. Well, cross your paws or your fingers or your toes, or even your eyes, if that works for you, and hope for the best. I’ll be posting pics and videos of his runs this weekend.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Water Dog

We ended up at the pond all three days this past weekend. We did an hour on Friday, an hour and a half on Saturday, and just a bit over an hour on Sunday. I’d booked the pond for an hour and a half Sunday, but Reyna finally started showing signs of being tired, so we left early. Both dogs had a great time at the pond (except Duncan when he inadvertently went in the water). Reyna obviously enjoyed swimming after the various tennis balls and toys that were available, even though she almost never brought them back close enough for me to reuse. She even went off the diving dock (on purpose, unlike Duncan) once or twice. When she wasn’t swimming after a ball, she would just stand at the bank, chest deep in the water, and smile up at me. One thing I found very funny was that, even while swimming, Reyna would take the time to spin in circles. She never quite caught up to her tail, but she got pretty good at paddling around in little loops. Every now and then, she would get out and run around the grassy area with Duncan. The poor boy was pretty much on his own for entertainment, though, because Reyna definitely preferred staying in the water. I’m hoping we’ll be able to get to the pond at least once a week. It’s a 30 minute drive each way, though, so its not something we’ll be able to do every day.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Not A Happy Camper

I recently discovered that one of the dog training places we’ve used has a pond for rent at their location in Youngsville. Its only $5 for half an hour, so we rented the pond for an hour today and went to check it out. Reyna loved it, of course (she’ll get her own post about this). Duncan enjoyed it, too, but he’s still not into the whole swimming thing. He did get in up to his belly, and he seemed interested in the idea of swimming, but wasn't quite ready. I’ve ordered a life jacket for him, since its really hard to find an extra large in the stores. Hopefully, that’ll help boost his confidence just like it did Reyna’s.

Duncan did unintentionally swim twice this morning. The first time he fell in because he leaned too far over the side of the diving dock. The second time, he got right up to the edge of the dock while watching Reyna, and I, encouraged him into the water. He didn’t seem pleased either time. And I noticed he didn’t go to the end of the dock again if I was too close...

Snakes And Snails And Puppy Dog Tails

Yeah, yeah, I know its "snips" not "snakes", but I don’t know what a snip is, and I did have a snake in my yard while the puppies were visiting. Duncan found the black snake one evening, and it hid under my gas tank as I was trying to hook it with a rake to get it out of the yard. I almost had him a couple of times, but that sucker was fast. My neighbor came over to help, but he turned out to be totally useless. After all, its hard to hook a snake when you have the rake hitting the ground a good 4 feet away from it. The snake ended up going into my neighbor’s yard, so maybe that’ll teach him to suck it up and get a bit closer next time.

Now, on to the puppies….

We babysat Lucky and Hart for 10 days. They’re foster puppies, and their foster parents were going out of town, and they needed a place to stay. The day before they came to our house, the puppies turned 8 weeks old. Their mom is a shepherd mix, and I’d guess these two have a fair bit of boxer and lab in them. I don’t see any shepherd in them, but a couple of their littermates look very shepherdy. The amount of cuteness in these two puppies was absolutely ridiculous. Not that I had any interest at all in adopting either of them. It’s been so long since I’ve had a puppy in the house (Duncan was such an easy puppy, he doesn’t count), I’d forgotten how exhausting it can be. And, of course, Reyna, Duncan and I all had to learn to watch where we were walking. These two girls were so little, and very quick to get underfoot. The first day, Duncan stepped on one and Reyna actually sat on one. None of us knew what had happened until Reyna stood up and we realized where the whimpering was coming from.

Lucky and Hart really loved their Uncle Duncan, and he was remarkably good with them. He tolerated quite a lot, but it was easy to see he was reaching his limit by the time the 10 days were up. His biggest problem was that they would pester him when he was laying on the couch. They also climbed on him, jumped on him, tried to chew on his face, followed him around the yard, and always wanted to sleep next to him.

What you can't tell from this photo is that Duncan is growling constantly while the puppy is jumping up, trying to get on the couch.

Reyna did pretty well with them, too. Granted, she mostly tried to ignore them, but she did tolerate some pestering. She made it very clear early on that she had 4 basic rules:
1 - Don’t put your head in her bowl of kibble while she’s eating.
2 - Don’t put your head in her bowl of water while she’s drinking.
3 - Don’t try to take her ball when she’s playing with it or when Mom is getting ready to throw it.
4 - Don’t try to get in her pool when she’s laying in it.
Other than those 4 things, Reyna was generally agreeable. But she was definitely ready for them to go home at the end of their visit.

And in true puppy fashion, absolutely nothing was safe...

Better Late Than Never

I’m finally catching up on a few posts I let slip to the end of my things-to-do list. A few weeks ago, Reyna developed a hot spot between her shoulder blades. This was the first time she’s ever had one in a location she couldn’t reach with her mouth. Unfortunately, she could reach it with her foot. I noticed it on a Sunday afternoon, and Tuesday morning we went to the vet because it was starting to look infected. The vet shaved around the spot, which made it look a bit better, and gave me antibiotics and a spray to help clear it up. The antibiotics made Reyna sick, of course, so she only got about three days of them, but that seemed to be sufficient. That Tuesday morning, though, she was very itchy, and she scratched the spot up pretty badly right after I cleaned it up and left the room. I bandaged it, but its in an awkward spot, so I also put an old t-shirt on her to help protect the area. When I got home, the bandage was gone but she was still wearing the shirt, so I called it a success. After about two weeks, I picked all the scabs of the spot, and its looked fine ever since. She’s working another area on her side right now, because we can’t go too long without having something wrong, can we?

Here's the area all nice and clean.

She wasn't thrilled about the t-shirt, but she really didn't fuss like I thought she would.