Saturday, December 23, 2006
This got me to thinking of similar bouts of excess in the human world...those times when something good, done to excess, is not so good. Of course, the first thing I think of is eating chocolate -- something that can be a heavenly taste experience or an expressway to thunder-thighs if not done in moderation. My mother is a chocoholic (I know where I get those genes from), and at one point she had a "bag-a-day" semi-sweet chocolate chip habit. She'd carry a little bowl full of chocolate chips around and eat them throughout the day. She didn't have any other vices to speak of and, fortunately, she's one of those naturally thin people, so she wasn't aware she had a "problem." Finally her doctor made an intervention (of sorts) when her cholesterol climbed well over 200. She cut back to a couple handfuls a day and the numbers dropped. Now, years later, she's moved on to a few squares of European 70% dark chocolate a day. She figures if she's going to cut back on chocolate, it might as well be the good stuff. I couldn't agree more.
By far my favorite "done to excess" story happened while I was at a music retreat with a small women's choir a number of years ago. One of the gals was knitting an afghan for a boy she knew who loved all things John Deere. It was bright green and yellow and the gal was having so much fun knitting, the afghan just kept getting bigger and bigger. Finally, one evening, we decided she needed a "knitting intervention." We surrounded her and told her to put down the knitting needles NOW. Then one of the choir members said something that still makes me laugh to this day. As the knitter sat there, looking rather perplexed, with the giant afghan sprawled out at her feet, a quick-witted gal spoke up, "You really have to stop knitting this thing, because at this point you could use it for a tractor cozy."
We all laughed so hard, most of us were in tears. Laughter. Now there's something you can never have too much of.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
While Kirby's looking a bit less like a dachsund than he did as a younger puppy, his diminutive size (he's 5+ months old now and still barely 15 pounds) suggests that Papa was a pint-sized Romeo. Whether he was a dachsund or a schnauzer or a yorkie or some mix thereof, we're not quite sure. All I know is this little guy is a terrier through and through.
Nurture. We have a pretty calm household, and the environment isn't appreciably different from when Baxter was a puppy. If anything it's calmer. One difference is the birth order thing...Certainly Baxter's early upbringing was a bit different because he was an only puppy, thus most of his actions were focused on us. Kirby has Baxter to chew on. Still, we do our best to treat both dogs fairly, recognizing that Baxter holds a senior pack position. And it is our hope that Baxter will instill some of his calm, soulful, obedient qualities in the new puppy. I believe Baxter is having some influence on the little guy, but it's tempered by the fact that Kirby is just wired differently.
The Puppy Thing. Baxter and Kirby each have their own set of unique, endearing qualities. And I realize that some of Kirby's quirks are just puppy qualities. When I get frustrated at Kirby's relentless play-battles with Baxter, I just need to remember that wrestling was also one of Baxter's favorite puppy pastimes, he just didn't have a canine rival around 24/7 to jockey with for pack position. Once we got around other dogs, I have to admit Baxter was pretty gonzo. He could wrestle for hour on end at the dog park, if we'd let him. And another of his classic puppy behaviors was to find the oldest, grumpiest dogs at the dog park and run circles around them, play bow at them, jump up on them and try to instigate a snarl or maybe a good chase. Now the tables are turned and seven-year-old Baxter doesn't think it's so funny when Kirby tries the same thing.
Nature. Classic birth order and puppy behavior aside, there is definitely a bit of nature coming through here. Even though Baxter was a bunctious puppy, he always had a retriever-type personality: a pretty good listener, responsive to commands and focused on pleasing us (most of the time).
As we watch Kirby grow, we see a little terrier emerging from Kirby's deep gene pool. I know terriers pretty well. Growing up, my family had a Cairn Terrier, Katie, and we all fell in love with her spunky terrier personality. Kirby's personality is so much like Katie's, there is no doubt in my mind that Kirby's father was an earth-dog. Here's why...
Kirby's Top Ten Terrier Traits (not in any particular order):
1) Independent. Kirby likes to be held and petted, but it's always on his terms. He's just as happy most of the time to lay under the couch or run around and squeak his toy while we're watching television.
2) Quick. I've never seen a dog move as quickly as Kirby. Nothing passes him by. And he can go from zero to top speed in fractions of a second.
3) Going to ground. In the house, this translates into going under anything he can squeeze under, the tighter the squeeze the better. Katie came into our house as a puppy and immediately claimed the space under the sofa as her nest. Kirby did the exact same thing.
4) Smart. Just like Katie, Kirby is smart as a whip. He learns quickly and is a very good problem-solver (e.g. figuring out how to escape his pen on the first day we had him home).
5) Strong-willed. And just like Katie, he may understand a command, but whether or not he actually DOES what you ask of him is based on some internal compass, not any sort of desire to please you. That said, he has learned something -- perhaps from watching Baxter -- that we never adequately taught Katie..."Give." If Kirby has something in his mouth, even if it's something he really, really likes, he will give it up without a fight when we tell him to. "Come" is another story, however.
6) Near-sighted. It's fun to compare and contrast the eyesight of the pointer and the terrier. Baxter sees remarkably well at a distance. He can spot something small moving in the grass many yards away. Up close, however, he can't find something that sitting right in front of him unless he does it by smell. He also tends to run into furniture. Kirby is just the opposite. He barks at my husband when he's a few yards away and then looks embarassed when he approaches and realizes it's alpha guy. But Kirby can spot the tiniest insect movement in the grass or a speck of something on the floor and pounce on it. He navigates around the furniture at high rates of speed when he does his evening "Kirby Derby" and never runs into anything.
7) Talkative. Baxter didn't bark until he was well beyond Kirby's age. He whined and howled occasionally, but barking just wasn't his thing (and still isn't, except for announcing the UPS guy and the neighbor in the backyard). Kirby, on the other hand, already has quite a vocabulary of barks, which he uses quite effectively. The one I hear most often is the one that accompanies a direct stare into my eyes, and I'm pretty sure it says, "I demand your attention this very instant because I want something and you are paying attention to the computer instead of me!" I should temper this by saying that, thank goodness, Kirby doesn't bark all the time. He seems to have a pretty good sense of when a bark will help and when it will not. Baxter's influence is definitely helping this. When the neighbor's Mini-Cujo chihuahua-pom is ripping up the fence next door, Kirby now barks once or twice and stops. The first couple of weeks, he barked in unison with Mini-Cujo, ready to join in the fight. Baxter never barks at the neighbor dogs, and Kirby seems to have taken a cue from this. Kirby still has to register his disapproval, however. After all, he has some terrier dignity to uphold...
8) Driven to dig. Baxter has, on occasion, dug holes, but it's not a major pastime for him. He's far more interested in what's happening in the shrubs or up in the trees. Katie, on the other hand, was born digging, I think. She dug up all sorts of interesting things, and had a particular interest in moles and gophers. Enter Kirby. From day one, he has been nose-to-the-ground every time he goes outside. And if he hears or sees something interesting down there, his first reaction is to start digging. We're trying to nip this in the bud, but there's no denying it's his natural instinct to move earth around.
9) Intense. Baxter has always had soulful eyes. People comment that when he gazes into their eyes, it's as if he's reading their thoughts. As a pup, Baxter's eyes were golden amber, and with age they've mellowed to a light brown. But they still have that soulful, pensive expression. When you look into Kirby's eyes, you see a whole different guy. Just like Katie (whom the neighbor boy used to call "The Fire-Dog,") there's a wee bit of fire in Kirby's intense, dark eyes. It's a terrier fire. I'd know that expression anywhere.
10) Charming. No matter how many times a day I have to tell Kirby "NO!", he still charms the heck out of me. When he sits there looking up at me with that scruffy little face, I melt.
It all makes sense.
Most of these things make perfect sense as inbred qualities for a terrier dog, whose traditional job has been to hunt small, ground-dwelling vermin. If you're a terrier, you need to work independently, after all, the farmer's not going down the rodent-hole with you. You need to be able to see up-close, move quickly, jump at a moment's notice and be even more crafty and willful than the varmint you're chasing. Purebred terrier groups still hold "going to ground" competitions as a way to showcase these qualities. Had he a fancier pedigree, Kirby would be right up there with the best of them, I'm sure.
Likewise, Baxter's qualities make perfect sense for a pointer-retriever. When your target is a pheasant, you need to be able to spot it from far enough away not to scare it, pay attention to what the hunter wants you to do, approach quietly and patiently hold a point until the hunter gets within range. Then you need to remain calm as the bird bursts out of the grass and the hunter shoots his deafeningly loud gun and then tells you to go fetch the bird. That takes nerves of steel and a keen awareness of what's expected of you at any given time.
It's going to be fun to watch this combination of nature and nurture develop as Kirby grows up with Baxter's calm, patient influence. Kirby will never be a bird dog, but maybe it will bring out his inner shepherd...
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Of course, Kirby is a puppy, and puppies are pretty notorious for doing just about anything to get what they want. But I'm trying to figure out what I can do to teach Kirby some manners. I scold him and pull him off Baxter, but seconds later he's back with gusto, cheerfully yanking on Baxter's toy until he wins.
Baxter is also trying to teach Kirby some manners, to little avail. Most toys Baxter doesn't fuss too much about, but the pressed rawhide bone is another story entirely. Baxter does not give this up without a fight. So Kirby has resorted to some more creative tactics, one of which is the stealth approach...
Kirby leaves his little rawhide bone and crawls on his belly, edging closer and closer to Baxter until his nose is right under Baxter's, within a tongue's lick of the big rawhide. Once Kirby's in Baxter's peripheral vision, one can hear a very low growl. As Kirby approaches, Baxter's growl gets louder. Once the growl reaches a serious decibel level, Kirby rolls over and pretends like he's only stretching. He looks up at Baxter as if to say, "Who me? After your rawhide? Certainly not!"
Then as soon as Baxter stops for a breather, Kirby strikes like a little cobra, grabbing the bone (and sometimes Baxter's moustache) in the process. By this point Baxter's growl has developed a bear-like quality, with a hint of that Cujo-esque frothy sound. This is accompanied by a showing of teeth unlike anything I've ever seen Baxter do previously. (Honestly, for years I wondered if Baxter was capable of showing his teeth...I guess he just had no reason to.)
Of course, Baxter is all threats and no action. He may sound frightening enough to make the puppy pause for a second (and the hair stand up on the back of my neck), but then, in the midst of all the teeth and growling, Baxter lets the puppy reach right into his comparatively giant mouth and pull the rawhide out.
I'm very pleased that Baxter doesn't crush Kirby's head, as he's had many opportunities to do so. But there's also a part of me that wishes Baxter would inflict just enough fear or pain (nothing requiring stiches or bone-setting mind you), to teach Kirby that it's NOT OK to just come and take whatever you want.
Perhaps my occasional interventions are hampering the process. Perhaps Baxter knows he has to behave around me, and if I weren't around, the puppy would be learning his lessons a bit more quickly. But at this point, you can bet I'm not leaving these two alone in the same room with a rawhide for more than a minutes at a time.
Friday, December 15, 2006
You see, when I started writing, both Baxter and Kirby were in here, amusing themselves with the array of toys I have scattered about my office. But when I "awoke" from my state of concentration, I heard absolutely nothing. I looked up to see if the gate had been breached (Kirby is an escape artist). Nope, just like I left it. "Where are the dogs!?!" my mind raced... I then noticed that Kirby and Baxter were both stretched out on the floor sleeping - Kirby under the desk and Baxter on the other side of it. It was a beautiful thing to behold, such peace. No wrestling, no squeaking, no scratching. Just blissful canine sleep.
Kirby's now jumping up at me, his signal that he's back up and at 'em and wanting a biology break, so I'm calling it a day.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Like many children, Kirby doesn't like to go to bed at night. He can't keep asking for a glass of water or another bedtime story, but his way of communicating that is picking up a toy and running away with it. The word "come" might as well not exist when Kirby sprints from under the sofa to under the chair, as one or two adult humans chase him around the living room. He thinks this is really fun. Knowing they have to get up at 5:30am, the humans do not find this particularly amusing.
Contrast this with Baxter, who thoroughly understands the bedtime ritual. In fact, if we don't head for the bedroom at our usual time (say on a weekend when we're watching a DVD), Baxter will go in by himself and curl up on his bed for the night.
Hoping to inspire this type of behavior in the puppy, last night, instead of chasing Kirby around the living room, I followed Baxter into the bedroom. Of course, curious as he is, Kirby couldn't resist following me...albeit from a distance. I went over to Baxter, and as Kirby stood in the doorway, I started praising Baxter for being such a good boy and getting into his bed. (I really went overboard on this. ) Within about 20 seconds Kirby was standing next to me, watching all the hugs and compliments being lavished upon his rival. Kirby looked at Baxter, looked at me, turned around and walked into his crate and sat there as if to say: "Ok, now it's MY turn!" Of course, I then turned my praises to Kirby, shut the door to the crate and everyone went to bed.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
In the past couple of days, Baxter has even been laying down on the floor to get closer to Kirby's height (probably in part to keep Kirby from jumping up at his face), and he lets Kirby crawl all over him. Kirby always obliges by pouncing on him and making play-bites to Baxter's neck. When Baxter's had enough, he jumps to his feet, flips Kirby over and holds him down at the neck until he stops squirming. Of course, being the relentless terrier he is, Kirby usually pops right back up and starts again. When Baxter has had enough, he lets Kirby know and, much to my amazement, Kirby is now occasionally backing off.
Of course, it's always a bit daunting for peace-loving humans to watch two dogs wrestling -- it seems like such a rough and, at times, near-violent activity. But for dogs, it's an important part of learning their boundaries and establishing their places in the pack order. I have to resist the urge to break up every tussle, because Baxter and Kirby need to sort things out in their own way. I do step in occasionally, when things get a bit too rough and furniture is in danger or when I think Baxter deserves a break.
Baxter seems more secure of his place now, but Kirby hasn't given up trying to move up in the pack order. Sorry, Kirby, you may be tenacious, but Baxter gets to keep the "top dog" designation.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
I kept recalling what is probably the most famous dog-neutering cartoon ever...the Far Side panel with the dog hanging his head out the car window bragging to the neighbor dog that he was going to get "tutored."
Kirby was so cheerful about going in. He's cheerful about everything. I felt pangs of fear as the assistant took him into the back, his little tail wagging. We picked him up in the late afternoon and he was one groggy little puppy. It's the first time we've seen him move that slowly. He curled up next to Baxter and wanted nothing more than to cuddle. What a sweetheart. Today he's up and at 'em and you'd never know anything happened. We're trying to limit his activity while he heals, but now that he and Baxter are on equal footing hormone-wise, it's going to be interesting watching the interactions over the next few days and weeks.
Dogs definitely know the difference. When Baxter was intact, the year-old neighbor dog, Phoebe, acted like she was afraid of him. Whenever he came around she would immediately get down on her belly and submit to him. Baxter thought this was pretty cool, being a puppy and all. But after he was neutered, Phoebe's demeanor changed completely. Suddenly she was the dominant one, putting Baxter in his proper place as a newly minted neuter puppy. Eventually things evened out and Phoebe and Baxter became friends and daily walking buddies until we moved away.
Kirby has definitely been attempting to usurp Baxter's position in the family, and Baxter has seemed pretty conflicted about it, at times almost deferential to the puppy. So this will be interesting.
I'm just glad it's over and done with and Kirby's healing well. The vet says Kirby's teeth should move into position now...and perhaps his social position will shift as well.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
It is this good behavior that made us want to get a puppy while Baxter is still young enough to interact well with a youngster. It was our hope that Baxter would model the behaviors we hoped to cultivate in a new puppy, even if the puppy was a different type of dog. To some extent, getting a puppy that has a very different personality from Baxter's is a true test of this "learn by watching" approach, because it separates some of what is innate in Baxter or his breed from what is learned.
I'm a big fan of Irene Pepperberg's work. She's a friend and former professor of mine, and she has done groundbreaking work with an African Grey parrot named Alex. Alex has learned a tremendous number of words and concepts through a model/rival technique that involves watching his trainers teach each other and be rewarded. Like children, animals seem to learn pretty effectively by watching others.
This has certainly been true already with Kirby. He has been a breeze to housebreak, I think partly because he watched Baxter ask to go outside and then be praised by us for a job well done. I tried teaching Kirby "sit" by having Baxter repeatedly sit and then get a biscuit. (I think Baxter thought I was crazy asking him to do something that simple for a biscuit, but I didn't see him complaining.) After about four rounds of Baxter's demo-sitting, Kirby looked at Baxter, looked at me, looked at the biscuit and then sat down. Wow. He has done it pretty consistently ever since. We have done the same thing with "down," although it's a bit more challenging to give Baxter a biscuit when he's down in Kirby's direct line-of-sight (thus, the next challenge).
The one that seems to be a bit more difficult for Kirby, and I think this is due to the nature of the dog, is "stay." Baxter is a pointer, so having the ability to freeze in a position is one of his genetically-encouraged abilities. This ability is one reason William Wegman chose Weimaraners as his subjects. By the time he was 12-14 weeks old, Baxter would stay in the living room while we went upstairs to hide one of his toys. He'd stay there until we gave him the "go get it!" command, then launch himself into a joyful hunt that could go on a very long time. We were amazed at Baxter's patience and his ability to focus on the hunt at such a young age.
While Kirby is very much a mixed breed, his personality appears to come from whatever terrier genes he has in there. He's bold, independent, lightning fast and jumps at the smallest movement (all benefits when your job is hunting rodents). Staying still when there's a toy to be played with is a painful thing. He's actually pretty good at paying attention (perhaps the German Shepherd genes are making a wee bit of an appearance), and he knows the command...we've been able to get as far as 10 feet away before he lunges for the toy. But to stay while we hide it out of sight in another room? No way. At least not yet.
And yet Baxter still models the perfect behavior by staying behind as Kirby follows me into the back room. This is one area where terrier training and pointer training diverge. And it's a skill that's apparently quite difficult to teach via the "learn by watching" method... expecting Kirby to learn by watching Baxter when all Baxter is doing is standing still is asking a wee bit much. In Kirby time (which is akin to New York time), that's like watching the grass grow.
So far we've been really fortunate that the puppy hasn't done any damage in the house. He has, however, done some damage to our older dog, Baxter. At least we think he has. Last week we noticed some blood on Baxter's face, on the cheek behind his mouth. It was a scratch and it was pretty enflamed. In all fairness, it's possible he got it from a shrub (Baxter has a tendency to go through shrubs rather than around them...something Griffons are known for). But a more likely scenario is an unfortunate encounter with one of Kirby's dew claws. Kirby came with a set of cat-sharp dew claws and an unquenchable desire to jump up and bat at Baxter's face.
In any case, the wound wasn't healing. Every time it would get a scab, Baxter would start scratching it and open it up again. We took him to the vet when Kirby went in for his shots last week and the vet shaved an area around the wound to get a better look. This only made things worse, because every time Baxter scratched, he'd create new wounds on the unprotected skin. (I never realized just how protective that hair is...)
We knew it was time to get a cone. Quite surprisingly, Baxter didn't object to it at all. I figured there would at least be a struggle getting the thing on him, as there usually is when we try to put on his Gentle Leader. Nope. I think this is because of two things: 1) psychology and 2) the antler effect.
1) We decided to try a bit of psychology on the dog first by making the cone a good thing. Jamie put it on himself and I praised him profusely. Baxter was intrigued. Then we put it on Baxter and praised him profusely and gave him a biscuit. It seemed to work because Baxter has worn the cone pretty much day and night for two days and has never even made an attempt to get the thing off. When we take it off to let him eat or chew his toy under supervision, he sits calmly and even sticks his neck out to help us put it back on him afterward. It is amazing.
2) Methinks there is another reason Baxter likes his cone, however. He has discovered it can be an effective, antler-like weapon (i.e. puppy repellent), when used properly. The first time Baxter, with his cone on, approached Kirby, the little guy ran and hid under the sofa. When Kirby finally came out, Baxter put his head down and charged at him. Kirby took off, tail between his legs. Even now that Kirby has sort of gotten used to seeing Baxter with this thing on, he still gives him a pretty wide berth.
And Bax has discovered that the cone offers a few other advantages as well. When he wants something and I'm not paying attention, he's found that coming up behind me and butting me with the cone usually has the desired effect. The cone also acts as a sort of parabolic dish for focusing-in on new, bark-worthy sounds coming from down the street. And, perhaps best of all, it serves as an isolation device when he wants to keep Kirby away from a toy or a piece of food.
Yes, the cone is a weird and wonderful thing. I think Baxter will be glad when it comes off for good, but for now, he's taking advantage of the situation. And my husband and I have experienced a few bouts of side-splitting laughter watching Baxter and his new-found "antlers" charging the puppy and bouncing off the furniture. It's rather like a circus around here...it's all in good fun as long as nobody gets hurt. And the clowns really do make us laugh.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Another positive aspect of dog-mania... raising money for cancer research.
The “Puppylove” project challenged 36 artists from around the world to put their creative talents to work designing dogs...Starting from Eero Arnio’s minimalist plastic dog, the artists used a variety of materials, from shoestrings (seen here) to flowers to computer hardware components. The results are some pretty cool looking puppies that are being auctioned off to raise money for cancer research.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Over the recent Thanksgiving holiday, we traveled to visit some friends and family. While killing some time in our motel room, on a lark, my husband and I shot a silly little one-take video with my phone...In honor of the day, it was a gobbling hand turkey (husband's hand, my gobble). My husband posted it on Treemo and linked to it on an art blog, Fluxlist. I don't know how many people read Fluxlist every day, but somehow our little video has become one of the "Most Viewed" on Treemo.
This fascinates me. Not just because I have an expensive film degree and my major public co-production to date was shot on a phone and posted on the Internet (although that does give me pause). It's because as of noon today, 382 people have actually watched it. Ok, a couple of them were us. But still.
Go figure. I'm pretty sure I haven't come anywhere close to having that many people read this blog since I started it this past summer. No, this is the power of video combined with the reach of the Internet (witness all the recent news headlines brought to you by camera phones). And it's also the element of human nature that makes us want to share the silliest thing we saw today with all our friends.
I'm humbled. And I have a whole new respect for Internet video as a medium to reach people. I'd better tell my husband to start his hand stretches, because I have a pretty good goat impersonation I'd like to try...
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
As Baxter and I rounded a corner and came out of the woods into a clearing, the low morning sun burst through the trees onto the field of frosty white brush and tall grass. I've often seen ice crystals sparkle in the sun, but this was extraordinary. It looked like the whole field was lit from within by a billion tiny, colored lights in and around every leaf and stem. It sparkled in red and green and blue and purple, twinkling and dancing like the stars on a crisp winter night. It was as if all the stars had been plucked from their places in the sky and sprinkled across this field to shine in the soft light of morning.
Baxter and I stood motionless. Soon the sun would climb higher in the sky and melt the icy morning into day, but for this one extraordinary moment, time seemed to stop.
Monday, November 27, 2006
The other day, when I was working with both Kirby and Baxter in my office, Kirby apparently went to sit next to the door. I was engrossed in something and didn't notice. Before a crisis occurred, Baxter came over to me and did the leg tap. I looked up, noticed Kirby and took them both outside. Bax just stood on the patio and supervised as Kirby did his business and then came back in. Bax didn't have to go, he was just making the request on Kirby's behalf.
This past weekend we were visiting my husband's parents. Out of the usual routine, we neglected to pick-up Baxter's water dish when Kirby was let out to play, and he got a belly full right before bed. We held off turning in for about 45 minutes and kept taking Kirby outside, but apparently it took a bit more time to process. At 3:00 am Kirby started rattling around in his crate. Now sometimes he rattles around just in the course of changing position in the night, and we were half asleep, so our response was a bit delayed. Suddenly I heard Baxter get out of his bed, go over to the crate and then come around the side of the bed closest to the door. He sat there, staring. Then he nuzzled my husband's hand. Kirby really has to go out. I got up and took Kirby outside and he proceeded to do his business. At 3am. In the rain. And all I could think of as I stood out there, eyes half open, was how cool it was that Baxter came to us on Kirby's behalf. He's a Kirby translator. A human whisperer.
I wonder what Baxter's telling Kirby about us...?
Thursday, November 23, 2006
We've been preparing Kirby for road trips. Since our first trip home from the shelter, when little Kirby suffered from a bit of stomach upset, we've been working him into the concept of the road trip. When we go for coffee, go to the grocery store, go to the post office, the dogs go into the car for a little ride. Our strategy worked. Kirby is now just as excited about going for a ride in the car as Baxter is, and he starts bouncing up and down when he sees us head out the door with his crate.
When I was a teenager, our Cairn Terrier, Katie, had issues with travel. She was in a state of almost constant panic in the car...eyes wide, panting rapidly and growling, barking and chasing every car that went by us. I've read since that such agitation is one way dogs show that they're carsick. Fortunately, our dogs don't seem to have this problem.
One of tne things we've always appreciated about Baxter is his ability to go into what we call "travel trance." He goes into this sort of meditative state, curled-up on his bed, eyes unfocused as soon as we hit the freeway (offramps, corners and stoplights all elicit a quick pop-up and look around). Sometimes he sleeps, sometimes he just sits there. Fortunately, Kirby has picked-up on the vibe.We drove for nearly five hours on our Thanksgiving trek, and Kirby slept blissfully the whole way.
Another thing we've learned on this trip has to do with food and sharing. We assumed that Baxter wanted his own food. Every chance he gets, Kirby tries to steal Baxter's food, even though he has a full bowl of the exact same food in front of him. So we've taken to segregating them at mealtime. This morning, Baxter ate his bowl of food while Kirby was out on one of his "business trips." When Kirby returned, we put a bowl of food down for him. Kirby grabbed a few pieces and took them over to the carpet to chew. Bax then proceeded to walk over to Kirby's bowl and take a big mouth full of Kirby's food. He stood there, in front of the puppy, just munching away. Undeterred, Kirby reached in under Baxter, while he was chewing, and grabbed a few more pieces. There was no objection, no growling and no territoriality at all. They just stood there eating, one by one, happy as can be, until they were both full.
The wonders never cease.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Lately Kirby has taken to provoking Baxter whilst out in the yard doing business. Kirby does his usual "jump-up-and-bite-Baxter-on-the-face" move, and Baxter responds in kind by chasing Kirby all over the back yard. Just like in the living room, this usually ends up with Kirby on his back, and is followed by another cork-like "pop-up-and-do-it-again" move. There are slight variations to this, such as Baxter rolling on Kirby and, my personal favorite, Baxter sitting on Kirby's head. Most of the time it's just playful, but when it starts taking on a more menacing fervor, we send them to their corners.
Yesterday Baxter, who is normally a pretty calm guy but who occasionally needs to get his own yayas out by running in circles in the back yard, decided it was his turn to go wild. Without any input from Kirby, Baxter just started running and spinning, changing direction and spinning some more. Kirby managed to get caught in the swirl of things and Baxter accidentally body-slammed the little guy onto the cement patio. My husband was observing at the time (I would have probably panicked) and he said it was clearly an accident. He said Kirby just stayed there a second on the cement, then popped up and didn't seem at all hurt. But from that point forward, Kirby gave Baxter a wider berth.
Last evening, as the dogs started their usual after dinner romp, Kirby jumped at Baxter, but instead of waiting for Baxter to respond, he ran and hid under the couch. Of course, a chase ensued, much like in the yard, but Kirby wasn't quite as bold about his approaches to Baxter. He gave up sooner. It seemed, dare I say (and I don't know how long it will last), that Kirby now has a bit more respect for just how big and strong Baxter is relative to him.
Whether this lesson sticks still remains to be seen.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Kirby is a chowhound. He eats his food, then comes for Baxter's every time he gets a chance. But we've had him a couple of weeks and he hasn't gained a pound. Not even half a pound.
Now we're used to the kind of growth a large dog puppy achieves in a couple of weeks. Kirby seems to be taking his sweet time. Perhaps he's just going to be a smaller dog than we thought and has plenty of time to reach his adult weight.
We don't think he has any intestinal critters. He's had his first dose of heartworm meds, which are supposed to take care of other worms as well...unless he faked eating it and somehow managed to stash it someplace else. His coat is getting thicker, his eyes are bright and he has an over-abundance of energy (just ask Baxter).
Perhaps during these couple of weeks, between 14-16 weeks, he's just building his brain. Or perhaps our bathroom scale is just really inadequate for measuring wiggling puppies (likely). I guess we'll see when he goes in for his third round of shots after Thanksgiving.
In the meantime, he does seem to be developing hormonally and is now convinced that he's the boss of Baxter. Baxter is occasionally convinced of that as well, but I'm sure the playing field will be evened out in a few weeks when Kirby has his little surgical procedure.
Kirby seems to be developing that trait common among terriers and other earth dogs (must be the dachsund in him)...he thinks he's a lot bigger than he actually is. I hope his real size starts to catch up soon...
Friday, November 17, 2006
This morning's walk turned out to be quite a canine social event. The farmhouse down the way has a young yellow lab and an older golden retriever. Baxter loves to stop by in front of their house to say hello, but today we want another way. Somehow the dogs got out of the yard and were running around in the hayfield. Of course, they found the one break in the fence and came trotting out onto the road to greet us. I just stood there in a mass of happily wagging tails and sniffing, trying to get everyone onto the shoulder so the occasional speeding pick-up wouldn't create a disaster. Eventually everyone was sufficiently reacquainted and we continued on as the yellow dogs went back out into the field to pick up more burrs in their fur.
As we approached our neighborhood we met another little black dog, on leash, and did the familiar "you go over, I'll go under" accomodations as the dogs did their swirling greeting and leash macramé. Eventually we humans did our own introductions and the woman said "Boy, aren't you glad we don't greet each other like that?"
Yeah, I really am. And this reminded me of the "Hello my name is..." cartoon. If you know where I can find this, please type me a comment!
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Our dog-free friends who came to dinner brought a nice bottle of wine and rawhide bones for Baxter and Kirby (the wine was for us). Baxter got a huge one and Kirby got a puppy-sized one. They were both thrilled. I think it was Kirby's first experience with rawhide (aka Nirvana). Baxter doesn't get rawhide very often because he has this nasty habit of chomping through it very fast and swallowing chunks -- a big no-no. He's never had any digestive repercussions, but I have had to fish a half-chewed chunk-o-rawhide out of his choking throat before (not at all fun). Needless to say, all rawhide chewing in our house is well supervised. And, in this case, photographed.
Baxter and Kirby have been developing some interesting habits when it comes to sharing. Basically, Baxter pickes up a toy, Kirby runs over, jumps up, knocks the toy out of Baxter's mouth (Bax has a soft mouth and has never been very good at hanging on to things) and runs away with it. Bax just stands there with this "oh dear" expression on his face. He doesn't even try to get the toy back. This is the way it happens 99.9% of the time.
Rawhide is different. I don't know if Bax knew Kirby had his own rawhide or if it's just too special to relinquish, but upon receiving his rawhide bone, Baxter immediately went into lock-down mode. Kirby, who saw right away that Baxter's rawhide was bigger than his and tried to take it away (puppies, where are the manners?) received a snarl that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Kirby realized that this time it wasn't a play growl. This was serious business, this rawhide-chewing. Kirby sheepishly went back to his own puppy-sized rawhide and gnawed away with his little needle teeth. Every time we give them their bones to chew on, the same events occur, with the same results.
Sometimes the puppy seems relentless, he jumps at Bax, pulls his ears, bites his chest with those tiny teeth and climbs all over him whenever he can. Bax gets fed-up, growls, rolls the puppy over and Kirby pops back up like a cork and does it again. I was beginning to think either Bax's response was too wimpy or the puppy is still just too young and clueless to get it when he's in the danger zone. The rawhide incidents just proved to me that a) Baxter can be very un-wimpy when he wants to and b) Kirby knows when Baxter means business.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
My husband works in an office where there are a lot of dog parents. Instead of having baby pictures on every cubicle, they have an entire cubicle wall dedicated to photos of their dogs. Some are also human parents, but they share the passion for talking about their dogs, sharing pictures and comparing notes on a variety of dog-related topics. While I miss having that dog-loving social milieu, I can't complain, because my co-workers ARE dogs. I still engage in a good dog person conversation whenever I can, and the topics that seem to come up most often include:
1) Housebreaking. Never in my life am I so obsessed with pee and poop as when I'm housebreaking a puppy. Doody is inevitable and location is everything. We compare notes on things like cue words (we say "do it" and "do number two" when the pup goes, so he'll associate the words with the actions...this worked like a Pavlovian charm with Baxter, when he hears those two words, he can't hold it for long). The other night our dog-free friend leaned over and asked "so do you really call it number two?" Yeah, we do.
2) Chewing. Teething puppies are ravenous. They'll sink their teeth into just about anything, from electrical wires to your favorite Ferragamos, so finding an appropriate substitute is paramount. Debate rages on about the benefits of rawhide vs. greenies, real bones vs. nylabones. All that seems to matter to the puppy is having something to chew on and all that matters to me is catching the puppy approaching a verboten object so I can do the old "NO!, distract and replace" trick.
3) Best food and treats. We're in a pretty environmentally aware and health-conscious community, so subjects like "raw diet" and "grains cause dog allergies" and "what digestive enzymes are you feeding your pup?" are not unusual topics of conversation.
4) Control issues. Gentle leader vs. harness vs. choke chain vs. prong collar vs. that thing that gives a shock. Everyone has an opinion. No one seems to have control over their dog.
5) On the furniture or not? There are the "I'd never dream of banishing my dog from the furniture, he's part of the family" people and the "I'd never let my dog up on the furniture, he's perfectly happy in his own bed" people. We tend to fall in the second category. Our dogs are part of the family, yet they know that their role is to keep our feet warm when we watch TV. It's a pack order thing. The alphas get the couch and the big bed.
6) Dog park or no dog park? I've heard people say that dog parks are terrible for dogs, they're dangerous, dogs fight, dogs pick up diseases, etc. Personally, I like 'em. Baxter and I have had mostly great experiences at dog parks -- fellowship, lots-o-smells, very little fighting and lots of playing. Of course, where there are young dogs, there's a lot of play-fighting, and I'm convinced some people think their dogs are little furry humans and don't know the difference between a dog wrestle and a real fight. That said, we have a really excellent dog park in our town where the dog parents kick-out anyone who brings in an aggressive dog.
7) Sibling rivalry. How do I know when the play fighting turns into a deadly game of "if I whack the little guy I'm top dog again?" This is also an issue with cats. A friend got a kitten and was concerned that her young dog was going to kill the kitten because the dog was so rambuctious. Her vet, who knows the dog well, said to let the kids settle the score on their own. Sure enough they did. And, as usual, the cat is now in charge.
Oh the subjects are endless. And I enjoy every minute of talking about them. Dog people know. And I can usually tell a dog person when I meet one...they see a puppy and they melt. They talk about their dogs with a love and devotion usually reserved for talk of grandchildren. I'm sure it's somewhat of a mystery to our dog-free friends and relatives. So we'll hold out until we're among our kind, and then let the conversation roll!
Friday, November 10, 2006
It's been puppy CSI around here lately. We're trying to solve the mystery of the "spritz" that happens each time we put Kirby in his crate and leave the house. For context, Kirby's crate is inside of a little newspaper-lined pen we've set up in our kitchen. When we leave for short periods, we put Kirby in his crate to keep him from chewing up artwork and electrical wires and causing other trouble in the house (ounce of prevention...). Before we put him in, we make sure he has gone outside to do his business and hasn't had water for a while.
As we leave, Kirby barks and starts pawing at the door of the crate. We figured he must settle down eventually because he's usually quiet when we come back. But each time we return, the front of the towel in his crate is all wet. There are little droplets of liquid all along the front of the crate and on the door. Outside the door, on the newspaper, is an array of droplets. Kirby's front feet are wet, but his back feet are not.
Our first thought was that he did his #1 through the door of the crate. But oddly enough, his beard is usually wet, and laying in it is not something he's inclined to do. The wet towel doesn't smell like #1 and usually the wetness is more of a spritz than a puddle (although it has, at times, made a tiny puddle in the front of the crate). This happens every time we leave.
We decided the only way to find out what was happening while we were away was to set up a camera. So we took my laptop and Webcam into the kitchen and set it up to focus on his crate door. My husband sat in the back office with the other computer. We set up a video conversation on Messenger, then Baxter and I left for our morning walk. I could hear Kirby going into his micro-whine and bark as I closed the door.
What my husband witnessed was an act of tenacity, the likes of which he had never seen. As Kirby barked, he proceeded to flail himself against the sides of the crate and rattle the metal wire door with his front feet. He tried to chew through the holes on the side of the crate, then he pushed his snout through the bars at the bottom of the door and lifted up on it, trying to jiggle the door latch open. He did a pretty good job of rattling the door, but wasn't successful at opening it. (I should note that on his first night with us, while he was in Baxter's old crate, I didn't latch both the top and bottom of the door and Kirby managed to get it open...this he remembers, I'm sure.) He'd stop and rest for a minute or so and then start again, barking, digging at the bottom of the crate, licking and chewing on the bars of the metal crate door.
Puppy spittle. The "mystery spritz" is puppy spittle.
Now that we can close the books on this little X-File, we have to figure out how to warm Kirby up to the idea of being in his crate. He sleeps like an angel through the night now (the crate is next to our bed) and doesn't argue about it at all. But it's obviously a different story in the daytime. Perhaps we didn't do enough to get him used to the crate in a casual setting, letting him go in and out of the crate at will, so he now thinks of it as punishment.
I think we'll try leaving the door open and putting the crate into areas where we are, so he gets used to the idea that it's just a doggy bed and quiet place. And perhaps, if we're lucky, we can prevent the little guy from eventually digging a tunnel through the kitchen floor...
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Of course, all the gals in the vet's office were cooing over what a cute puppy he is. There was quite a bit of discussion about Kirby's possible parentage. We know his mom was a German Shepherd mix, and based on the looks of all the puppies, dad was most likely a Dachsund or similar mix. The vet said he definitely had aspects of both Shepherd and Dachsund. How they got together, we'll never know. But Kirby looks like he'll be a nice, small-medium-sized dog when he grows up. Right now it's a mystery and it will be fun to see which characteristics blossom with age.
I neglected to mention earlier that my other blog, Adopt a Scruffy Dog, has pictures of the rest of Kirby's family available for adoption. His brothers, sisters and Mom are all extremely cute, and all the puppies but one is scruffy. I wanted to take Mabel here home, but I think one puppy at a time is about all we can handle.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
For example...from day one, the puppy got the house-breaking idea. Baxter went out to do his business, Kirby watched and proceeded to do exactly what Baxter did. Next time he had to go, Kirby went and sat by the door. It was like magic. In fact, the only "accidents" Kirby has had in the house were 1) on the rug in front of the door where he goes out, and 2) in his crate, which is our fault for not getting him out soon enough and is doubly amazing because he somehow managed to get himself up against the door so he could urinate through the wire door onto the newspaper outside. Only the front rim of the crate had any evidence. (Males have a slight advantage in this regard.)
Day two, we go for a walk. Kirby is not leash-trained and starts jumping around and grabbing it and chomping on it. He sees Baxter walking nicely by Jamie's side, immediately he turns and starts trotting along beside me as if he'd done it forever. It took about 30 seconds. And it stuck...I took Kirby out for a walk by himself yesterday and this pup is leash-trained.
I decided to try something slightly more complicated... I got out the biscuits and told Baxter to sit. Baxter sat and got a biscuit. Kirby watched this and proceeded to sit immediately. Wow.
Meanwhile, Baxter seems to have gotten the idea that he needs to supervise. When the puppy goes outside (which is often) Baxter wants to go with him. Instead of milling around in the grass like he usually does, Baxter stands on the patio and watches the puppy until the puppy does his business, then accompanies Kirby back to the house. If Baxter sees the neighbor girl out in the yard next door, he does his usual "hark, who goes there" bark. Kirby looks alarmed for a few seconds, then gives a little bark himself.
Kirby has also figured out "go to work." For Baxter, this has always meant accompanying me to my office, looking briefly out the window, then laying down on the floor to snooze. Kirby now does the same thing (minus the window because he's too short). He goes immediately to the footrest under my desk and lays down to sleep. This is nice, because I can work peacefully, with only the sound of a big dog snore and a little dog snore as background.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Baxter isn't quite sure what to make of Kirby. I think it's dawning on Baxter that Kirby is sticking around, and little by little he's getting used to the idea. At the moment, both are sacked-out under my desk, Baxter on the right and the puppy on the left. Peace. This is a relatively new development, however.
Baxter's first reaction to Kirby was "if I ignore him, maybe he'll go away." This has worked well for Baxter when we've had the occasional dog visitor in our home. If the puppy touched him or approached him, he'd just get up and walk away with a rather annoyed expression on his face. After a bit, when it was apparent that the little tike wasn't going anywhere, Baxter's look got a bit more hang-dog. He would acknowledge the puppy, (hard to avoid a determined puppy when he's jumping at your snout), but he wouldn't really interact. He looked kind of mopey. We'd play with Baxter, throwing a toy and having him chase it. But Kirby chased right along, and whenever Kirby jumped up at the toy, Bax just dropped it and walked away to lay down, looking up at us with his expressive, light brown eyes as if to say "when is this going to be over?"
We were concerned about introducing a new puppy into our home, where Baxter has been the only dog for more than seven years. I have a tendency to assign human emotions to Baxter, which I know at an intellectual level, is not right. But Baxter's hang-dog reaction had me feeling particularly guilty. Baxter is my little dog prince, and he always will be. He is such a gentle soul by nature, it was hard to see him so overwhelmed by this confident, playful, tenacious puppy (definitely some terrier in there somewhere). We wanted Baxter to feel like he has a higher rank in the pack than the puppy, after all, he was here first. But whether it's because the puppy is still intact or because the puppy has a slightly more dominant personality, Baxter seemed to be having a hard time figuring out who was in charge.
The dog behavior and training books we've read all say that when you introduce a puppy, you need to let the dogs sort out the pack order and never punish the older dog for being dominant. If anything, you should support that, otherwise the puppy will get a false sense of confidence and the big dog will get bent out of shape and that's a recipe for tears. But how much do we broker the relationship? At what point should we step in?
Yesterday we went out and bought the puppy a collar, a new crate (Baxter's old crate was far too big) and a couple of toys: a chew-bone for Baxter and a puppy teething toy that looked like an oversized keyring with colored keys dangling from it for Kirby. Baxter showed no interest whatsoever in his bone, but immediately loved the keys and proceeded to take them to chew on. Of course, the puppy thought this was a fun game and tried to get the keys back. At first Bax just stood there with the keys dangling from his mouth and the puppy jumping up to grab them. Then he did a low growl, which we'd only heard him do a couple of times with the pup. Finally, when Bax was laying down to chew and the puppy boldly barged right in to take the keys (which had worked with every other toy so far), Baxter bared his teeth and let out a growl that made everybody's hair stand on end. The puppy immediately rolled over on his back, like any self-respecting puppy would. Then Bax, suddenly realizing he may have done something wrong, looked at my husband (the Alpha male in Baxter's worldview) and me to see if he was going to get punished. When the Alphas (who were rooting for Baxter to stick up for himself) clearly didn't mind, Baxter got a whole new sense of confidence. The transformation was so fast, I almost worried he'd go overboard the other way.
Today, when some friends came over to see the puppy, Bax and Kirby had a second playful interaction, and this time it took on an even more significant tone. Kirby has been steadily building confidence over the past two days and now has no qualms about running right up to Baxter and jumping on him. Today the puppy started doing his little play-bows and running in circles around Baxter, jumping on him (as if to say "tag") and then running away. Of course, Baxter used to do this mercilessly to the older dogs at the dog park when he was a pup...but the tables were turned. Suddenly, Baxter had had enough and decided to join in the play, but this time the gloves were off.
At first it was pretty hilarious, because the puppy is so quick he managed to evade Baxter's moves. But the play got a little too rambunctious and when Bax finally caught him, we got the impression that Baxter didn't realize his own strength. Concerned for the puppy's welfare, we called a truce (without punishing anyone), calmed everybody down and peace was established once again. After that little event, Baxter seemed somehow more satisfied that he'd established his seniority. Since then, Baxter's been letting the puppy walk up to him when he's laying down without getting up to walk away. And Bax seems more content to have the puppy follow him around. So now they're both sleeping peacefully under my desk.
This is going to be an interesting process. Baxter is a pretty trustworthy guy, and I don't think he'd ever deliberately harm the puppy. But he doesn't realize just how big he is. And, like any terrier-type, I don't think Kirby realizes just how small he is. So I think close supervision will be the rule until Kirby's size more closely matches his personality.
Friday, November 03, 2006
I pulled up the page with a little puppy the shelter had named Milo. He was black with tan eyebrows, nose and legs and he looked like a slightly longer-legged wirehaired dachsund. "Wow, he's pretty cute," my husband said. Along with Milo were two brothers and two sisters, different colors, and all but one was scruffy. Then we both looked at each other and some serious mind-reading went on. Instead of "good ones for the blog" my husband said "I guess we could go get one..." "They are only a couple of hours away..." I replied.
We talked about the pros and cons of getting another dog. This wasn't a new conversation -- we've been discussing it for a while -- but this time it had an air of possibility to it. We've been saying we want to get another dog while Baxter is still young enough to play with him and enjoy the company. And we thought it would be good to have Baxter, who is such a well-behaved dog, teach a new puppy some good habits. We just hadn't figured on getting one right now. But right now there was a heart-breakingly cute puppy staring back at us wistfully from the Webpage and we had the afternoon off...
We decided to go "have a look." Baxter loves car rides and the fall foliage is lovely (even in the rain) we figured. Of course, when it comes to puppies, it's tough to just "have a look"...
We hit some construction traffic and we ended up getting to the shelter just before closing. The nice young woman who worked there showed us in to the large kennel where the five puppies were milling about, along with their grandmother (apparently three generations of the family were surrendered for adoption) and a cute, but completely gonzo, dalmation puppy. The woman let us in. The dalmation proceeded to jump all over us but we eventually were able to pick up and hold each puppy except one -- the non-scruffy pup just sat in the corner and wouldn't come near us.
We wanted to take them all home, as well as the grandma (apparently the mother had been taken to rescue, as I'm sure the post-weaning pups were driving her crazy). But we knew one puppy would be plenty for us right now. So it became less a matter of "should we" and more a matter of "which one?" Out of the litter, "Milo" stood out immediately -- not only because he was the only black-and-tan pup, but because he had that Baxter-like quality of being able to inquisitively look you straight in the eye without being aggressive. He wasn't the most assertive, and he wasn't the least assertive. He was comfortable in our arms and equally as happy bouncing around with the other puppies. One of the little females was also a real charmer, but she was definitely more assertive, jumping on grandma and nipping at her face and ears. There was something about Milo...
It was time to close the shelter. We had to decide. Milo (to be renamed) was our little guy. We said goodbye to the grandma and the other pups, did our paperwork, paid the shelter, introduced the puppy to Baxter (who was curious, but non-plussed) and were on our way home. We tossed out a variety of names. Milo was OK, but is the name of a friend's father, so it didn't feel quite right. Fergus. Duncan. Kirby. Kirby! He really looked like a Kirby. Baxter slept in the back of the car and Kirby squirmed around in a box on my lap. After about 2-1/2 hours of riding and squirming and cuddling and one bout of car-sickness (the poor puppy had just eaten dinner) we were home.
We let Baxter in the house and followed with the puppy. Bax was remarkably calm with the puppy. I could tell from his panting and expression that he was thinking "ok, is this for real or is this just a visit?" but he was very tolerant of the puppy's enthusiasm. Everywhere Baxter went, the puppy followed. Everything Baxter did, the puppy copied. It was adorable. At one point the pup stood directly under Bax's stomach and looked up, as if searching for teats. Sorry, none to be had. Baxter let the puppy know his boundaries, and we let Baxter know that he's still our #1 dog and always will be. The puppy will find his place in the pack over time. But for now, we're just charmed by his adorable scruffiness and sweet, inquisitive, good-natured personality. Kinda like a miniature Baxter, but with a little more of an independent streak.
More puppy stories in the days to come...
Thursday, November 02, 2006
There are little, lingering clues that while we were away, Sir Baxter got the royal treatment. He now thinks he needs to go out and run around the yard at least every couple of hours. Playing with ball and bunny should really be a full-time job. And of course anything we're reading is much less important than paying attention to His Highness (as conveyed by the paw on the paper and the wet nose on the knuckles).
It's quite sweet, actually, because we're missing Mom. And Baxter's current expectations give me a happy view into the three weeks of nearly full-time playing and cuddling he experienced while we were away. Sure beats the kennel any day.
So even though our little prince will have to get used to fewer outings and play sessions (I do have to get some work done), I can't help thinking he's a pretty lucky dog, whether he knows it or not.
ScruffyDog sends a ROYAL THANK YOU to Mom for doting on the grand puppy while we were away.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
By far, our favorite moments were when a couple of extremely cute toddlers...a fairy and a pink poodle respectively...decided that Baxter was more interesting than the candy and reached out to grab his nose. I'm not sure what Baxter made of all the nose-fondling and moustache-pulling, but he just stood there with a most dignified expression and let it go on. My husband and I, however, found it particularly charming, especially when Baxter reached out to lick their little faces and rounds of giggles ensued.
I don't think we've ever had so many trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood and I haven't enjoyed a Halloween as much in years. But I was looking forward to having some leftover candy...
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Monday, October 30, 2006
The alarm clock blasted me awake at 4:30am. We had a 7:30am flight from Vilnius, Lithuania (where we had just spent the better part of a week on a business trip) to Amsterdam. I generally take longer to get ready, so I went in for a shower first. As I toweled-off, I felt something small sticking out of my side. I craned my neck around to look and saw a tiny tick body with legs sticking out of my skin. The head was firmly planted in my side, but the critter didn't appear to have had much luck (or enough time) to fill up on my blood. Of course, I did what any self-respecting arachnophobe would do...I shrieked. My husband came running.
"Wow, that looks like a tick," he said, examining the critter with fascination. "Can you just get this thing out of me?!?" I replied not-so-calmly. As I stood there, naked and semi-frozen in a stupor of sleep deprivation and shock, he went down to the hotel desk to see if they had any tweezers. I must have picked it up the day before at Gruto Parkas -- a lovely park in the Lithuanian countryside that has a collection of huge bronze sculptures and other propaganda from the Soviet era (more on that interesting park another time).
Of course, the front desk did not have tweezers and stores in Lithuania don't tend to be open at 4:45 on a Sunday morning. Now nearly every Website I could find said two things definitively: "never remove a tick with your bare hands" and "always remove a tick as soon as possible" because the longer they're in, the higher your chances of contracting some dreadful disease. None said what to do if you're in a hotel in Lithuania at 4:45 in the morning with no tweezers and a hungry tick in your side. We decided to move forward with the de-ticking anyway, and my husband removed it with his fingernails, skillfully leaving the body intact, but he couldn't get the teeny fangs still in my side. We figured we'd find tweezers in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam drugstores aren't open on Sundays. At least nowhere near our hotel. So, armed with a needle from the hotel's travel sewing kit, some Gruto Parkas matches with Lenin's picture on the box and a small bottle of Lithuanian vodka (antiseptic and anesthesia), my husband (bless his heart) proceeded to surgically remove as much of the fangs as possible, but they were a bit deeper than his (or my) comfort zone allowed. This was going to require more sophisticated equipment.
I didn't particularly like wearing tick fangs in my side, but I wasn't terribly worried about getting sick from it. That changed when I got on IM with my client in Lithuania. I was laughing about having brought with me a living souvenir from Lithuania. My client immediately took on a very grave tone (as much as you can in IM) and informed me in no uncertain terms that Lithuanian ticks are extremely dangerous and can carry a very, very bad disease. Lyme? They have that, but this is worse than that. Tick-borne Encephalitis. I Googled it. You can die from it, and if you don't die, you can be permanantly impaired after suffering immeasurable pain. Ok, at this point I felt a wave of panic come over me. "You must promise to see a doctor as soon as possible," he said. I had no problem promising that.
The next morning we went to an urgent care center at the local hospital in the Amsterdam suburb near our hotel. It was under construction and parts of the ceiling were gone. That should be helpful if the tick-removal is painful, I thought to myself. After waiting what seemed like an eternity, a women came in and asked what I was there for. Assuming she was the doctor, I told her everything. She said "the doctor will be here shortly." We waited another eternity before the on-duty physician came in. I swear, he looked all of about 16.
He took one look at the tick-head wound and said "I can't do anything about this." "Um, aren't you supposed to get the head out?" I asked. "It will come out by itself eventually," he replied. I proceeded to tell him about the encephalitis virus from Lithuania, my clients said there was a vaccine, etc. He left to check with some colleagues and came back a while later with a prescription for antibiotics. "This will kill everything from the tick and you'll be fine." He left. I paid $160 Euros cash for Doogie Howser to tell me "take these pills and don't call me in the morning?" Apparently ticks in the Netherlands aren't as dangerous as Lithuanian ticks and Doogie didn't know or care much about it. This one was up to fate.
I tried to reassure myself that the tick hadn't been in very long, and my sweet clients reassured me that they and their families had been bitten many times and never had the vaccine and never got sick. I read the statistics, and while the encephalitis was a big deal in the 1990s, it is statistically pretty rare. I was on edge for a while, but eventually I got over it and enjoyed the rest of our trip.
Shortly after I got home I saw my doctor and asked about it...he said "let's get it out of there," so today I went in and his assistant proceeded to surgically remove the last bits-o-tick. She said I'd probably have symptoms by now if I had contracted any tick-borne illnesses. Knock on wood, I'm feeling fine, and I'm relieved to have that episode over with! As I was leaving the doctor's office I asked the woman behind the counter how they would code a visit to remove a Lithuanian tick-fang. She replied, "Foreign body removal." Indeed.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
ScruffyDog is remiss in posting to the blog. I've been back home for a week, but wanted to spend some quality time getting over jetlag and hanging out with my mom... Grandma thoroughly spoiled Baxter while we were away, which, she says, is the job of any self-respecting grandparent (and I'd have to agree). Baxter has clearly been the little prince of the household. But, alas, Grandma has gone home and house rules are once again in force. His Scruffiness will survive, I'm sure.
Among our souvenirs of Europe are a few photos of Europe's finest scruffy dogs and a story about my up close and personal experience with the critters of Lithuania (which I will share in the days to come) . We have our priorities -- first the dogs:
Archamps, France (just outside Geneva):
"Patsi" in the parking lot of the Ibis motel
On the green in front of the museum complex
Wirehaired dachsunds appear to be the scruffy dog of choice in this neck of the Alps...
And this bearded collie gets the "more fluffy than scruffy" designation, but he was too cute to pass up...
We saw a big, scruffy dog which we believed to be a Fauve de Bretagne (the folks with him didn't speak English or French). He was quite handsome and looked a bit like Baxter with a blonde-henna hairwash. Unfortunately, some dogs see the camera as a large, threatening eye pointed at them, and this fellow was one of them...so we decided not to risk life and limb for a beauty shot.
Every scruffy dog we saw along the way reminded us of Baxter and how much we missed him. I'm still waiting for Companion Air to get some trans-Atlantic flights going so we can take Baxter with us. He would have had a ball.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
ScruffyDog is remiss in keeping up her blog postings due to a combined business trip/vacation in Europe. Meanwhile, Baxter is as home with Grandma, being spoiled and loved and probably wondering where the other two pack-mates went...
We're on the go, so not much time for updates. But let it suffice to say that Europe -- France in particular -- is full of scruffy dogs. This fellow from the road up to the Col de Joux Plane (if you saw the Tour de France this may sound familiar) ran out to inform us that his farmhouse is strictly off-limits to tourists.
By contrast, this fellow, on the streets of Vilnius, Lithuania, doesn't seem worried about much of anything.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Baxter loves my mom. Last evening, as she sat on the couch cooing sweet grandma talk to him, he just sat there in front of her, with his big scruffy head on her lap, looking up into her eyes. With her, Baxter is pretty much a saint...a well-behaved foot-warmer, biscuit beggar and general all-purpose sweet loving thing. He knows he needs to be gentle with her. No rough-housing. And he walks differently with her too. It's as if he knows just how hard he can pull.
Grandma is going to be watching the grand-dog while the dog-parents are out of town, and Baxter is going to have a ball (sure beats the boarding kennel). And when we get back, I'm sure he'll be just as sweetly spoiled as any grandchild.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
I'm currently reading a book called Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior by Temple Grandin, a woman who is, herself, a highly-functioning autistic person with a PhD in animal behavior. This book is fascinating, not only for her unique insights into animal behavior, but also for her unique insights into what it is like to have autism. As one reviewer notes, it's difficult to tell if this is a book that uses autism to help describe how animals think or if it's a book that uses animals to help describe how autistic people think. Either way, it is a fascinating read.
Grandin's premise is that people with autism think differently than "normal" people, and this different way of thinking is similar to the way animals perceive and think about their world. She explains how autistic people tend to think in pictures rather than words and often do not have the ability to draw complex, abstract conclusions based on what they are perceiving. Not being able to effectively process all the sights and sounds around them can result in a sort of sensory overload and difficulty functioning in the normal human world. She explains how autistic people tend not to see the "big picture" and are sometimes completely immersed in the details (e.g. autistic savants who can drop a box of matches and count them almost instantly).
Grandin cites research in animal behavior that suggests animals also think chiefly in pictures and, similar to some autistic people, can perform amazing feats of talent and focus, but do not necessarily extrapolate what they are perceiving into abstract thoughts and ideas in the same way normal humans do. That is not to say animals don't think or feel emotions, quite the contrary, says Grandin. By using this vastly different experience of human perception and thought, she offers a window into how animals may perceive the world and offers the perspective that there are many forms of thinking and intelligence beyond the normal human way.
The book is also interesting for the way Grandin uses language. She writes about human and animal emotions, yet her writing is itself almost devoid of emotion. She uses a lot of anecdotal evidence as well as scientific evidence to support her positions, but by far, the most interesting aspects of the book for me are her descriptions of her own experiences in the world of humans and animals. It's rare to get a glimpse of how the world looks to an autistic person, and I think she makes some compelling arguments for how understanding autism may help bridge the gap in understanding how animals and humans think in different ways.
As for understanding Baxter, well, it does explain some of his behaviors pretty well. I'll write more about that in future posts. Right now, I just look forward to finishing the book, and I'm adding it to The Truth About Dogs on my list of most interesting animal books.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Baxter wakes up in the morning with serious bed head. We're talking hair sticking out all over, moustache smooshed up on one side, an asymetrical scruffy mess. But one thing I envy about Baxter is his ability to give a good full-body shake and every hair falls into place. Well, granted, what's "in place" for Baxter is still pretty scruffy, but at least it doesn't look like morning face anymore.
I'm not so lucky. I recently got a surprise haircut. It wasn't a surprise that I got a haircut...I actually went to a salon to get one. The surprise came when she picked up the first wad of hair and cut it off about three inches shorter than I expected. What was, I thought, to be a layered bob turned out to be a short layered haircut. Most people who subsequently saw me with my new "do" said they really liked it on me, but it took me a while longer to get used to the short mop that greeted me in the mirror.
But one thing I haven't quite adjusted to is morning hair. It's pretty wild, sticking up all over, and not in that stylish "flippy" sort of way either. I guess the former length helped to weigh it down and prevent bed head, but now that it's short, those follicles seem to be having quite a rowdy time while I'm sleeping. Shaking my head only gives me a headache. Brushing? No appreciable difference. No, this haircut takes a good washing to bring out it's inner beauty. I'm afraid the people at the gym in the morning are just going to have to laugh or look the other way. And the more I stare at that strange morning "do" in the mirror, the more I realize that my hair looks like Baxter's, both in terms of it's shifting color and it's rather random shape. I've always loved scruffies, now I guess I get to BE one...at least until my shower.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
The kitten didn't seem to realize this was a threatening gesture on Baxter's part and he continued to approach us. I wrapped the leash tightly around my hand and grabbed Baxter's collar (fortunately I had the gentle leader on him today), hoping to avoid a confrontation. The kitten paused inquisitively, then continued. "Perhaps this is a fresh opportunity for Baxter to make friends with a kitty who is not already jaded around dogs," I thought to myself. Perhaps Baxter just needs a cute, clueless kitten to break the ice.
Well, ice is what the kitten got...at least at first. Baxter froze as the kitten walked right up to him and started rubbing his head and body against Baxter's leg. I reached over and petted the kitten and then I carressed Baxter gently and said soothing things like "Isn't that a nice kitty?" Baxter seemed to be in a state of shock. He didn't move a muscle. He just stood there motionless, as if under a spell, watching the kitten out of the corner of his eye. I maintained a firm grip on the leash and wondered how long this would go on. The kitten sniffed Baxter up and down and then, after thoroughly rubbing his scent on Baxter's leg, turned to walk away nonchalantly.
I think it was something about the flick of the tail as the cat turned away, but the spell was broken. Baxter waited until the cat got a few feet away (outside striking distance perhaps), and then he lunged. The chase was on. The kitten hissed and high-tailed it behind a bush while Baxter tore loose from my grip, knocked me over and pulled to the end of his leash. I ended up spread-eagle on the ground with my hands in front of me, one still holding the end of the leash. It must have been a funny scene.
Baxter seemed to be quite satisfied that he had scared the kitten away, and we continued with our walk. But we'll never be able to pass that spot again without Baxter going on high alert, I'm sure.