Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
As I've said before, while I recognize that the exercise of determining Kirby's various bloodline components is rather pointless, it is kind of interesting to me. We probably won't learn anything about him that we haven't already figured out in a couple of years with him, but you never know. There is some real value in knowing parentage. For example, when we first brought him into the vet for his puppy vaccinations, the vet told us that he looked like he had dachshund in him, and that dachshunds are more prone to having bad reactions to vaccines. He gave us instructions on symptoms and what to do if we noticed anything strange going on. That was one of the best examples I can think of for knowing something about the parentage of your dog. Fortunately, Kirby's long body shape was as good an indicator as a DNA test at the time.
Still, I think knowing his breed ancestry is mostly just a fun thing. But why? Perhaps it's because I, myself, am a human mutt of sorts. My ancestors came from at least six different European countries. When I travel in Europe, as long as I don't speak English, people seldom guess where I'm from (apparently my accent when speaking French doesn't sound remotely English...but my French isn't good enough to be a native speaker). I've asked people to guess where I'm from, and they usually pick some culturally mixed country like Belgium or Luxembourg or Switzerland.
I did have someone once tell me I look Irish. That's interesting, because Irish is the one bloodline that's closest to the old country (Great Grandpa came to the New World in the mid-1800s vs. the 1600s and 1700s for the rest of my ancestors). One British fellow once told me my nose and mouth look like the people from one specific area in Wales. I'm told the Allens (my maiden name) were originally from Wales, so maybe there's something to it.
Regardless of DNA, I'm a cultural mutt, as many Americans are. My relatives are all so removed from anything "old country" that we don't have traditions like my more purebred friends do. For example, I grew up in northern Iowa. Most of the kids I went to school with were of German or Scandinavian descent (sometimes both). My friends' families used to have exotic food traditions like making krumkake or lefsa or, god-forbid, lutefisk. My family had roast beef and mashed potatoes and apple pie. Nothing wrong with that! But it was just not very exotic. The closest thing to an "old country" tradition in my family was that my mother learned to cook from her grandmother, who was of French-Canadian ancestry and somehow managed to pass on the tradition of cooking with herbs and garlic. This constituted spicy food in our neck of the prairie. We ate really tasty roast beef.
A few years ago I undertook a bit of family history research (which unveiled the French-Canadian mystery of the garlicy food). I wanted to know more about where my ancestors came from. While it has had little influence over my day to day life, I think I just wanted to know something about my own DNA and my own cultural heritage. What I realized is that no matter where my ancestors came from, I will always be culturally an American, as were my parents and grandparents and great-grandparents (except the Irishman), and on and on for several generations before that. Perhaps the fact that my ancestors came over from their respective countries and intermarried with people from other cultures does somehow inform how I am. Perhaps this has stoked my wanderlust, my interest in learning about other cultures. Or maybe it's just fun to know.
Monday, December 15, 2008
The Canine Heritage Breed Test -- "identifies over 100 breeds" $99.95
I had one previous comment that recommended the DDC. I'd love to know if any of my readers have had experience with these and is willing to venture forth with a recommendation? Visuals for your consideration...
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Every now and again the subject of "what the heck is Kirby?" comes up. I recently received a comment on one of my earlier posts from someone else who had adopted a puppy that looked like Kirby and wondered if we ever figured out what he is. We see little Kirby look-alikes quite often, and it always makes me wonder if he is he a throw-back to some early black-and-tan terrier...with very old genes that manage to sprout out of lots of breed combinations?
As an adult, Kirby's looks have changed somewhat. His hair is longer, particularly his beard and head furnishings. His coat has turned more gray than black, giving him coloring almost identical to a Yorkshire Terrier. His longer-than-tall body still suggests dachshund or shorty Jack Russell. His tendency to herd us around and his love of playing fetch suggest some herding dog... And that bark sounds identical to any of the half-dozen or so schnauzers in our neighborhood.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter, but it's rather fun to play the guessing game. Still, from time to time I ponder getting one of those canine DNA tests, just to see what it comes back with (and if we're guessing anywhere close to the mark). I ran across the Canine Heritage dog DNA test. The video cracked me up. I'm not sure why. I think it was the expression on some of the dogs' faces. It sort of made me realize how silly the whole idea is. Then again, I've truly enjoyed some of the sillier moments in my life.
If any of my readers have used one of these DNA tests or has one to recommend, I'd love to hear from you.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
This little guy was running around marking his territory at the Basilica of St. Mary Magdalen in Vezelay. The woman walking him said he was a "teckel" (French for dachshund) and he came there every day to make the rounds. He had shorter legs, of course, but the resemblance to Kirby was remarkable.
Sensing a curiosity in the dog, I said "hello" in French. Suddenly her ears loosened and her tail started wagging. I said "come here" in French and she started trotting toward us. Within minutes she was crossing the bridge and coming over to give us a cautious hello sniff. Once she had sniffed us and decided we were OK, she ran down the trail, jumped up on the wall next to the moat and waited for us to catch up to her. She then proceeded to lead us down the trail, around the chateau, through the sideyard and into the lovely gardens at the back. She checked back occasionally to wag and cheerfully took us around the entire castle grounds before she said her goodbyes and returned to her post in front of the chateau.
I can honestly say, that's the first time I've ever had a tour led by a canine. But she did an excellent job!
This adorable old French bulldog was sitting in the doorway of a little shop in Arles. That face...
Before I continue, I want to say that for years we have enjoyed traveling in France and have come to expect certain things. Sometimes cultural change is hard to take, especially when we want things to be just as we fondly remember them on previous vacations. But in at least a couple of ways, things in Paris are changing for the better. For example, the smoking ban in restaurants and other public buildings is GREAT. We could sit in restaurants and even bars in the evenings without choking on the blue haze. Of course, we had to pass through a cloud of blue smoke on the way in the door, but it was still an improvement not to have the "non-smoking" table a mere three inches from the "smoking" table next door.
People also seem a tad more casual in Paris than they used to be, and this is reflected in their dog behavior -- we noticed this time that the French dogs were, with few exceptions, far more friendly than they used to be. In past trips, particularly in Paris, we always remarked at how aloof the dogs were...no matter which breed, they would walk alongside their owners without ever acknowledging passers-by. Apparently that was the way dogs were trained and expected to behave. Well, on this trip most of the Parisian dogs we passed cheerfully looked up at us, tails wagging. Some even came over to say hello. In our experience, that wouldn't have happened even five years ago...
Another positive thing we noticed was a significant reduction in the amount of dog poop on the sidewalk. Anyone who has spent any time walking around Paris has, at some point, spent some time scraping off the bottom of their shoes... I don't know whether they're just doing a better job of sweeping or if "le pooper scooper" has also made its way to France, but either way, it's an improvement.
Sitting in cafes with dogs curled up under the tables is a very French experience, and it always makes us miss our dogs. Perhaps someday an enlightened airline will allow dogs to be in the cabin with their owners -- not just the teeny under-the-seat variety. We would buy spaces for our dogs to come with us on longer trips if we had the chance, and I have to believe a lot of other folks would as well.
Monday, November 24, 2008
But hey, excuses aside, we had a wonderful vacation in France. We really missed having Baxter and Kirby with us -- but fortunately, we were able to con my brother-in-law and my mom into taking turns dog-sitting/house-sitting the entire time. The dogs missed us, we're told, but I think they got the royal treatment while we were gone.
Of course, we saw a fair number of adorable, scruffy dogs while in France...most passing by too quickly to get a photo (got a couple, which will be shared soon). The French have managed to develop a number of breeds of dog that sport that adorable, unkempt look. Perhaps that's yet another reason I like traveling in France so much (that and the culture, the food and the landscape). Among the dog-related highlights of our trip were:
Spotting a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon in a small Burgundy town.
Meeting a Kirby look-alike at Vezelay (for some reason the wirehaired dachsunds in France have shorter ears than here)
Getting a tour of a castle garden from an adorable black lab (seriously, more on that later).
We had a wonderful time, and if you want to see a few of the photos, you can find our friend Kathleen's pics here. (I didn't bring my camera so must rely on Kathleen's and my husbands photos, the latter of which are still to come...)
Sunday, October 26, 2008
I'm sure that if we had never trimmed Baxter's ears, he'd have chestnut-colored locks down to his knees (I've considered letting them grow just to find out...I think the max we've ever let them go is about 2" below the bottoms of his ears). Baxter's head hair and "bangs" also seem to grow until we cut them (which is usually about the time we either a) can't see his eyes or b) he starts running into furniture -- both of which occur around the same time).
Kirby's ear hair grows similarly long, although because his ears are only half-bent, it mostly forms into little tufts at the tips of his ears that stick out to the side and bob when he trots down the street. Kirby doesn't suffer from the same vision issues as Baxter, but he just looks a lot better with his hair out of his eyes, so his bangs get a trimming now and again too.
Inspired by another Wirehaired Pointing Griffon we met at the dog park yesterday (a cute, oversized female that, based on her size and place of origin, may be one of Baxter's nieces), who had her ears trimmed close and looked very cute, we decided it was time to give Baxter a trim. We trimmed his ears to just below the earline and trimmed the top of his head to stand up more. He looks quite handsome.
While we were at it, we decided to trim Kirby's ears to the length they were when he was a puppy. We trimmed a little off the top of his head, but left the rest of his facial hair and beard alone. Interestingly enough, with the short, trimmed ears and the big beard, Kirby now looks a LOT like a Schnauzer. It really changes the shape of his head to see his little bent ears (they don't bend as perfectly as a purebred Schnauzer -- each ear bends at a slightly different place to give him a charminly asymetrical look...) I kind of miss the little bobbing tufts when he walks, but he's now cute in a different sort of way.
Pictures to come after the forthcoming bath...
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Kirby's latest development -- which I unfortunately missed today -- involved Kirby positioning himself between my husband and the television and executing a perfect sit-up, without prompting.
Any dog can sit-up, you may say. Thing is, we never really bothered to teach this to Kirby. His idea of a sit up has always been more like a jump-up-and-down-on-the-hind-legs sort of activity. He has seen Baxter attempt to do a sit-up...which, given Baxter's size and legginess, usually ends up being a cute but rather lopsided quick pass at the effort. So for Kirby to just plop down onto his bum and pull up into a steady, perfect sit-up was quite a surprise.
Tonight we tried to get him to do it again, to no avail. Apparently he doesn't do it on request. He did his usual bouncing and when I tried making him sit and pulling him up into a sit-up position, he wouldn't stay there (although when Baxter saw this, he himself executed a real sit-up, with an adorable air of "so there").
We have no idea where Kirby's random sit-up came from or when it will come back. I guess we'll just have to try to watch more television...
Friday, October 17, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Baxter is fully aware of the command to walk at heel or close. With biscuits in my pocket he's capable of near-perfect execution of any command. (Sans biscuits he prefers just a slight bit of tension on the leash, but he's been pretty good lately.) Of course, no dog is perfect, and with or without biscuits at stake, the sight of a cat running across the street will send Baxter into a lurching frenzy that ends up bringing my shoulder to the brink of dislocation -- thus the Gentle Leader.
Kirby, on the other hand, is smaller and much easier to control, so the pulling has chiefly gone unchecked. He can run full speed out to the end of his leash without so much as dislocating one of my fingers. Over the past 10 months we haven't been walking very long distances, but if we don't put his harness on him and just go with the collar, the gagging, wheezing and constant pull at the leash is even more unnerving. Shame on us for not ever teaching him to walk at heel or at least close (heel is actually a bit unnerving, I find, with a little dog...too close to being under foot).
So today we took advantage of the nice, cool, sunny morning to try to give Kirby a lesson. He is a quick learner. He's so responsive to any sort of harsh tone or movement, the mere act of barking a command along with a quick snap of the leash (no chain collar required) pretty much stopped him in his tracks. It took a few blocks for him to realize these were not just a chain of random jerking events, but once he made the connection, he was really quite good at checking himself when he got a pull going.
I know, this will take consistency and effort on our part to instill the importance of not choking himself every time he's out for a walk, but I think Kirby gets it. Now if big brother Baxter can set a consistently good example, we'll all be having a much better time on those long walks to come.
Friday, October 10, 2008
No more. I broke up at least three chases around the upstairs today. I actually let them go for a while until the pitch got to a level where I knew there would be tears from somebody...probably me.
Brothers. It's interesting how frequently the behavior of Baxter and Kirby resembles fraternal relations in my husband's family growing up, or so I'm told. In any case, a little part of me is happy to see all the frolicking going on.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Of course, even if Kirby's the little lord, Baxter is still the prince. Kirby's imposed lack of free stairway access has also hampered Baxter's ability to sit at his favorite perch, so I'm sure that in no time the two of them will soon be dukeing it out for the high spot.
In the meantime, it's just great to see him so happy to run with abandon. I'm sure the Kirby Derby will have a renaissance as well...
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Monday, October 06, 2008
Saturday, September 13, 2008
This past week involved a couple of days of client meetings accompanied by rich food, so this morning was one of those times a run seemed like a good idea. I started off alone. I'd like to run in the company of others, but it has never quite worked out with my family. My husband is a runner, but he's much too fast for me. He actually runs. I usually do something more akin to interval training (run...walk...run...walk).
I tried running with Baxter a few years ago. Big mistake. He would go for quite a while at a perfect clip, right at my side, just long enough for me to stop thinking "watch the dog, watch the dog." Then suddenly he'd decide to check out that cat on the porch across the street and lunge in front of me. I dare not say what was going through my mind in those slow-motion moments as I sailed head first over Baxter's back toward an up-close experience with the asphalt. After the second time this happened -- the time I ended up in the emergency room getting seven stitches in my chin -- I decided I'd better leave the dog at home.
The nice thing about leaving the dogs at home is the wonderful greeting I get when I return. For them, it's both an opportunity to lavish enthusiastic greetings on one of the alpha dogs AND enjoy a tasty, salty snack (aka licking sweaty legs). It's a feeling I can only describe as being at once soothing and annoying.
Today was a rare day when I actually met up with my husband toward the end of his much longer run. We ran together for a spell (he had the patience to walk up a hill with me) and just having him there at my side boosted my stick-to-it-ness as we ran the last bit home.
On our re-entry, I learned that the alpha male's legs are far tastier than mine. We each got our respective greetings, and as the dogs ran back and forth between us, I got about two licks from each dog before they returned to #1 and attacked him like a pair of off-the-wagon dieters at a smorgasbord. He had to fight them off. It was actually kind of funny to watch.
Maybe when I get to the point that I can run the full route with the alpha male I'll be tasty too. For now, I'll just do what I can and keep a bit more salt to myself.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Just who is the alpha of the pack is pretty obvious in our home. When I come in the door by myself, the dogs rush me and shower me with happy, bouncing, wagging, slobbery greetings. When my husband and I come in the door together, the dogs first rush him with happy, bouncing, wagging slobbery greetings, THEN they come over and lavish me with more of the same. I guess somebody has to be first, and in the dogs' world, that would be alpha male.
This became distinctly more apparent when we were taking care of our friends' dog. Suddenly we had three canines in the house and the new dog immediately understood the order of things. It was as if there were some unwritten rule on the door: "To all canines: When you're here, the big guy with the deep voice is in charge. In his absence, try to mind #2, but just know she's a bit of a pushover. Hide behind her legs when in trouble."
I've read that one reason dogs make such great family companions is because they are pack animals with a strong sense of rank and order. When the humans in the family assume pack leadership and offer up consistent, well communicated rules, the dogs seem happier than ever because they know what's expected of them and where they stand.
Sometimes I look at Baxter when he's sitting there next to me on a hot day, panting, with that giant pink tongue draping loosely over his huge canine teeth and I realize this guy could rip my arm off if he wanted to. But instead he treats me with respect (most of the time) and sweetness and a devotion I often feel I don't deserve. When it's just the two of us, he knows I'm in charge.
But when my husband comes home, the pack order shifts...and my husband becomes the undisputed top dog. Some say dogs give men this position because they have deeper voices and, to a dog, a deep growl has much more authority, whereas a higher pitch -- like the female voice -- is associated with play and affection. I think that's probably some of it in our family. The dogs are much more deferential to him. And let's face it, no matter how low I try to make my voice, I just don't sound as scary when I'm upset about something.
Also, the dogs clearly see the driver's seat as the alpha position in the car. Or Baxter does, anyway. If he's ever left in the car without being behind the gate, he will ALWAYS go and sit behind the steering wheel, even though it's the seat with the least room for him to lay down. It's the power position. And I have to admit, when I get the chance, I defer to the alpha to do the driving. This is not because I'm old fashioned or because I think he's a better driver. I just like being the passenger better than being the driver.
But when it comes to alpha-ness, there's more to it than that. As much as I hate to admit it, my husband does a better job of consistently enforcing the rules. The fact that I sometimes slip up and don't make the dogs mind some rule we set for them means they see me as just a wee bit more of a pushover than the alpha male is. Fair enough.
There are some special advantages to being the cuddly pushover. For example, I always get to find out first when someone wants something. I'm usually the first one to get the unwavering stare, the pawing and, in Kirby's case, the earnest little growly yowling. If I don't respond, they move on to the big guy and work him over. I used to do something similar with my parents when I was a youth.
Even though Baxter and Kirby never get scraps from our dinner plates, and we've taught them not to beg, it hasn't escaped my attention that I'm usually the one they sit next to when we're eating. It's humbling to realize you have been identified as the weakest link. And when we add someone new to the mix, say my mother, the dogs immediately shift their attention to her, hoping that we might forget to tell the visitor about the rules of the house and some tidbit of dinner will make its way down off the plate.
A few years ago we had a guest for Thanksgiving who had two charming habits that Baxter simply adored. 1) She fed her own dogs table scraps as she was eating and had no qualms about maintaining the same practice with other peoples' dogs, and 2) she dropped a lot of crumbs by accident. Baxter didn't leave her side for four hours.
Between the two dogs, pecking order is a constant negotiation. But at least it's clear to them that my husband and I are the top two, and I can live with that.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Baxter, on the other hand, trembles at the mere mention of the word "bath." I'm not exaggerating. In fact, if one of us goes anywhere in proximity to the bathroom and says "Baxter," he'll run for his bed and lay there, visibly trembling, until he's dragged away by the collar.
This morning Baxter's dog breath seemed particularly pungent, so we decided it was time to brush the big guy's teeth. As my husband loaded up the special dog toothbrush with special dog toothpaste, he literally had to fight Kirby off.
Baxter hid under my desk, shaking like a leaf.
I finally wedged my leg behind him and managed to push him out into the open, where my husband sat, waiting with the toothbrush. It was an ordeal. I'm not sure Baxter's breath smells any better -- he hasn't even tried panting at me since the brushing... Hey, maybe we're onto something else here!
Friday, August 22, 2008
Baxter has always been brave in the face of uncertainty. He faces whatever life throws at him with the unflappability and curiosity of a gun dog. When he sees a new person standing in the yard or walking toward him on the street, he walks right up to them quietly...not in a particularly waggy, friendly way, but rather in the spirit of investigation. When there's a loud noise, Baxter runs toward it -- whether it be thunder, a gun shot in the woods or me dropping a kitchen utensil. When we're in a new place, he's an intrepid explorer, running ahead of the pack (as far as we'll let him go), sticking his nose into every nook and cranny. Whenever a box is opened or a bag is unzipped, Baxter is there with his nose right in it. And, as I've mentioned before, every single birthday gift and holiday package we've sent over the past nine years has had Baxter nose hair stuck to the scotch tape.
Kirby is a whole different animal. Frequently, when we open the door to go outside, he exits the house with a deep woof, as if to tell the world "I'm Kirby, I'm tough and I just wanted to let you all know I've arrived." Yet, when he is surprised by a new person in the yard or a neighbor coming out their door, his first reaction is an alarm bark. Any loud noises at all (even just a loud clank of a spoon in an empty bowl) send Kirby under the sofa. If it's thundering outside, we literally have to drag him out from under the furniture to go out and do his business. He'd rather burst than go where the noise is. And I certainly don't have to tell you the reaction when the local air show a couple of weeks ago brought in some fighter planes who made their big turns over our house.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Though I must add that our 100+ degree days seemed a distant memory as I donned a RAIN COAT to go to work today... Ok, the thunder the other night was cool and the rain was kind of refreshing. But I can't help feeling like those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest make a sort of deal with Mother Nature: we will put up with the seemingly endless drizzle for nine months, just for the privilege of having a perfect summer. For me, a perfect summer involves rain showers that last a few hours, maybe a day. Then bring on the sunshine. Oh, wait, at this very moment the sun is out AND it's raining. Ahhh, Mother Nature has a sense of humor...
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Monday, June 30, 2008
We finally got both Baxter and Kirby all bathed and smelling sweet after the last trip to the beach when some dear friends invited us out for another day of frolicking...this time with Baxter's old pal Phoebe, the Portuguese Water Dog.
While we humans enjoyed the company of both local and out-of-town friends, the three dogs had a terrific time chasing balls, retrieving sticks and romping in the surf.
Kirby and Baxter did their usual dismantling of my husband's driftwood beach sculpture (a tradition in our family)...
With Portys and Griffons both supposedly having retrieving talents in their bloodlines, one would have expected both Phoebe and Baxter to out-fetch Kirby. Well, when everyone saw the ball at the same time, the big dogs definitely got there first. But we couldn't help laughing on a few occasions when Baxter and Phoebe did their usual anticipatory run-out-in-front-to-get-a-head-start-on-the-ball routines only to be surprised when the the ball was thrown in a different direction.
Kirby, on the other hand, waited to see what direction the ball was thrown in, THEN he started after it, got a significant lead and proudly beat the big dogs to it. And Kirby actually brought the ball back to us so we could throw it again. More evidence of that collie/shepherd blood in there somewhere.
To Phoebe's credit, she probably did more fetching than any of them. She has no fear of the incoming surf and LOVES to go out in the water to get the ball. Interestingly enough, our friends tell us Phoebe doesn't like to swim in lakes or rivers. Bax is just the opposite. He doesn't like the surf and only enters it up to his knees, and that begrudgingly. But give him a lake or river and he's diving in after anything we throw. Kirby doesn't much like water anywhere except when he's thirsty or getting a warm bath at home (which, oddly enough, Baxter hates...near-frozen snow melt is fine, warm bath at home brings on fits and shakes).
Go figure. Dog psyches. In any case, everyone had a fantastic time out there once again.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Case in point: seaweed. Day before yesterday, a good four days after having returned from the coast, Baxter approached me with a very hang-dog look. He stood drooping in front of his empty food bowl and proceeded to urp up a several nearly-intact pieces of seaweed. It took about three tries on Baxter's part (and about 12 paper towels on my part...apologies to the trees but I just couldn't use one of my good kitchen towels on it) to get it all handled. I guess Baxter will never be a) a vegetarian or b) Japanese.
Not to be outdone, Kirby gingerly slid beneath my husband's feet at his desk this afternoon and proceeded to choke up a rather substantial hair ball. Kirby hasn't hacked-up a hair ball since his days as a kitten. I guess he's been saving it up. Or maybe it's because he and Baxter are once again engaging in their little wrestling matches and Kirby goes straight for the Griffon moustache hair... Another half-dozen paper towels later, Kirby acts like nothing happened.
Ah, the joys of dog ownership. Apologies again to the trees.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
We decided to let Kirby have a wee bit more exercise this time, and I think it was good for his little heart just to have the freedom to frolic on the beach. Kirby learned a few things about coastal fauna (yes, sometimes those little shells in the sand MOVE), and we learned that Kirby has the ability to jump with all four feet simultaneously, at least a yard in the air.
Some of Kirby's mystery ancestry also came through this time... When walking with us off leash he suddenly turned into a little shepherd dog... We couldn't figure out what he was doing at first. I thought he was just frightened and hiding behind our legs. Then I realized that he was, quite methodically, running back and forth behind our heels, from my husband to me to Baxter back to me and back to my husband. He'd circle around the side, pull in close, fade back, cross back over to the other side, etc. We were being HERDED down the beach. Yes, Kirby's mother was some sort of shepherd mix... whether that be German or Australian or what, we're not exactly sure. But our little "terrier" suddenly reminded me an awful lot of my friend's Shetland Sheepdog. I guess Kirby was just doing his part to keep the pack together and fulfill some sort of genetic destiny.
Now, Baxter's a pro at going to the beach and he always approaches it with absolute glee. Among Baxter's favorite beach attractions are:
- driftwood sticks -- pick it up and look exceedingly eager to play fetch, get someone to throw it, then chase it, grab it, pretend like you're going to bring it back, then run right past the thrower, lay down on the beach 100 yards away and proceed to pulverize it into wood chips before they come and take it away
- dead birds -- great to roll in, and nothing gets the whole family to come running any quicker
- salt water -- so delicious and it works like a laxative!
- dried seaweed encrusted with shells -- crunchy, salty goodness
- wet dogs -- it's a big, wet, sandy dog party out here
- freedom -- get that gentle leader off and GO!
And for us, one of the sweet side effects of spending the day romping on the beach is sleeping in the next morning... the sun rises without the dogs, who snore away until well past 8am (a record for Kirby).
More to come...with pictures!
Sunday, June 15, 2008
We live at the end of a little alley and the patch of grass just beside our house is fairly private, but it's not fenced. Because we are a ways from the cross street, from time to time we've been letting the boys out into the yard off leash. If we let them out together, they play chase and wrestle (which we're discouraging even more, as Kirby's supposed to keep relatively calm until he gets a clean bill of health from the vet). But if we let them out individually (we always go with them), they're usually very good about trotting out to the yard, doing their business and coming back to the door. Of course, ever since we've been doing this it's pretty much been cool and rainy and I think the boys just didn't want to spend time out there any more than we did.
But now that summer's finally making an appearance, things are different. Time for new rules.
On the first sunny day, Baxter, on his turn out the door, noticed the next door neighbor standing out on his porch and decided to pay a visit. He gave the man a cursory nudge, then noticed that their door was ajar. So he took it upon himself to shove the door open with his head (something he does at home with any door that's ajar) and I caught up to him just as he was about to step inside. The neighbor was a bit surprised and I was a bit embarassed.
"Curious, eh?" the neighbor asked (he's British).
"Oh, you don't know the half of it," I said as I dragged Baxter home by the collar. Baxter seemed disappointed.
Kirby is usually a bit less neighborly than Baxter. Anyone coming out of a door can be cause for alarm and is announced repeatedly until either they or he goes back inside. And Kirby is also usually a bit more focused than Baxter when it comes to yard outings. He never strays very far from the door and he usually runs right back to the door as soon as he's finished.
So, imagine my dismay this afternoon when Kirby, after finishing his business, took off. I was taking care of picking up his business and when I turned around Kirby was gone. I ran up to the back door, which was open, and asked my husband if Kirby had come inside.
"No, I thought he was with you." Egad.
At this point panic set in. Kirby has never been out of our sight (or the sight of a caregiver) since we've owned him. He has never run off and I've come to trust him. I started yelling his name, expecting him to come around the corner of the neighbor's house. Nope. Finally, I hear his little tags jingling in the distance. He has run down the alley, across the street and down the next alley to go and visit a neighbor dog who was out for a walk.
As soon as he heard my voice, he came running back, sheepishly, with his ears and tail down. I didn't want to scold him for coming when called, but I didn't have to. He knew he was a bad boy. Not only did he run, he ran ACROSS A STREET. Ok, it's not exactly a busy street. But after seeing my first dog, Katie, a little cairn terrier, meet her demise being hit by a car on a non-busy street, all sorts of nightmarish thoughts ran through my head. A moving vehicle probably wouldn't see a little dog dashing out from between the parked cars.
So much for the warm, lazy Sunday afternoon. Perfect for visiting with the neighbors. And out of the blue, Kirby decides it's time, at long last, to be neighborly.
I guess this is the price we pay for helping Kirby build his confidence. When we got him he wouldn't go up to anyone and he was afraid of getting out of our sight. Now he usually wags when he sees strangers approaching him and he has, as of today, discovered that when he's off leash, he's in charge.
No more. The days of trust and freedom in the yard are over. And, I have to say, I am a bit sad about it. It isn't just that Kirby endangered himself by running off (thank goodness it all turned out OK). Or that he's now lost the priviledge of romping around the yard unfettered. I'm sad because I've lost something too...my trust that Kirby will stay near me.
I guess if it means that Kirby is finally becoming a normal, friendly, confident little dog, that's not a bad thing. He's just going to have to be a normal, friendly, confident little dog on the end of a leash.
Friday, May 30, 2008
These, like the others, are made with a plastic film called PVA (poly-vinyl alcohol). I looked it up and everything I find seems to show that it really is water soluble and breaks down with bacteria. Then again, I'm not a scientist, so I'm not sure I totally understand what I'm reading.
Given our experiences with other "making the world better through plastic" issues, they'll probably find something dangerous about it after we've flushed thousands of them down the loo. But I guess the question is, would it be any worse for the environment than tossing your dog's doo in the local creek (a favorite of some of my neighbors, unfortunately) or preserving poop for eternity in a landfill in a normal plastic bag or some-time-less-than-eternity in a "bio-degradable" plastic bag as we do now?
Then there's the back yard dog poo composter...
If you're in a quandry, as I am, the NRDC has published a good overview on the options.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
I fear ScruffyDog has come to the nothing point. One of my dear readers finally sent me an email asking if I was OK...she hadn't seen any posts in so long, she wondered if I had fallen off the face of the earth.
Sometimes it feels that way. When the pressures of work and life come to a peak, my creative energy seems to get supressed. This is frustrating. Because if there's ever a time when one needs creative juices to flow freely, it's when the pressures of work and life come to a peak. So I conserve my energy, parsing it out to each project until there's very little left for things like blogging or working on that historical novel I've been meaning to start for the past 10 years.
The one thing I do make time for, however, is playing with the dogs. If there's anything in my life that helps to replenish that well of energy it's canine companionship. I'm not really sure why. Perhaps it's because unlike human interaction, which is wonderful but draining on me, dog interaction takes nothing away. Sure, I expend physical energy heeding the call of the dogs' biological needs, trying to coax the poop bag open on a cold morning, wiping eight wet feet, scraping up the wads of dog hair that collect on the carpeted steps. But that's just stuff to do. The time I spend playing, scratching behind ears, rolling around and napping on the floor with Baxter and Kirby comes effortlessly to me. And it regenerates me in a way nothing else can.
So even though I may not always take the time to focus on my dog blog, I always take the time to focus on its subject matter. And that's what matters most.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I'm also very happy (and relieved) to report that Baxter's follow-up heartworm test was NEGATIVE. This is further indication that Kirby most likely came to us from the shelter hosting the heartworms in his system. Not that that's a good thing...it's horrible. And it's not surprising, given that a) Kirby and his siblings ran loose on a farm with no preventative and no vaccines until they were several months old, and b) he came from Northern California, where heartworm is more common than in Oregon. But I've been carrying around more than a little guilt over the fact that I was an imperfect administrator of preventative...missing a month or being late here or there. The vet says it's unusual for one dog to get heartworm and the other not to, particularly given that Baxter is a much older dog, and that's why the vet wanted to retest. Fortunately, the preventative we gave Kirby early on probably killed the larvae and made the adult worms sterile, so he didn't infect too many other mosquitoes.
Anyway, lesson learned. And I still feel bad about missing preventative doses. Honestly, having been a Portland-ite for so long (where there is almost no incidence of heartworm), I didn't realize to what extent that Southern Oregon is in a higher risk category. I didn't develop as rigorous a habit of giving preventative as I should have. And my husband wasn't tracking on it at all, since it was a job I took on. Now both of us are tracking on it, noting the day each month when our guys get preventative and reminding each other -- even though we're now back in the Portland area and it's probably not as critical. I just know I wouldn't want either of our dogs to have to go through this process in the future.
I've also commented previously here that good-natured people who adopted Katrina rescue dogs (50% or more were estimated to be heartworm-positive) sometimes unwittingly spread heartworm to relatively free areas... all it takes is one of the small number of local mosquitoes sucking the blood of a positive dog, then spreading it to countless other dogs. And Portland is full of good-natured dog lovers, so it wouldn't surprise me if that, plus global warming, plus the way these things travel wouldn't result in rising infection rates here. Well, at least our veterinarian has practice.
That said, I'm so glad there is a treatment for heartworm. I grew up in Iowa hearing, at the time, that heartworm was basically a death sentence for the dog -- a slow and painful death sentence. Early treatments were very hard on the dogs and many didn't make it. The new treatment is still risky, but with a 98% success rate, I feel much better about Kirby's odds of getting through this and going on to be a healthy, bouncy, happy little dog.
Now if we can just keep him from bouncing and racing around the house for the next six months, until he gets his follow-up heartworm test, we should be in the clear.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Kirby is a bit lethargic, as he was after his first shot. They give the shot in the deep muscle of the lower back/hip area. Occasionally Kirby will curl around to bite at it, but for the most part he just seems tired. He also has his "panic smell." Kirby had this weird smell when we first got him as a puppy -- some of it is coming from his breath, but some of it just seems to come out of his whole body like a little cloud of stink. Now he gets that smell whenever he's frightened or really stressed. These trips to the vet really bring it on. It usually wears off in a couple of hours...hope so, because he's sleeping beside my desk...
The vet said the first of the three shots is the worst in terms of danger to the dog -- you don't know how they'll react, that's when the majority of the worms die, etc. Because Kirby did so well the first time, he's less worried this time -- but it's not over until it's over and we still need to watch him closely for a while. Restricted exercise continues for a few more months as well...
The vet said it's possible all the worms died after the first shot, but they can't get an accurate test for six months and the protocol says to treat all dogs as if they had a heavy worm load. So it's three shots no matter what. Kirby gets the third shot tomorrow morning. Poor guy, he still has a lump on his hip from the first shot last month, he got the other hip this morning. Not sure where tomorrow's will go...he's out of fresh hips to get shots in.
Thanks to all of you who are following Kirby's progress and who have sent your good wishes. They are most appreciated by all of us!
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Maybe dogs are like cars. Every time I get a new car, or even think about getting a particular model, I suddenly see them EVERYWHERE. Of course, we've had Kirby for well over a year now, but I know my ability to spot shaggy little black-and-tan dogs is definitely more acute.
Monday, March 31, 2008
I immediately thought of Kirby's dog park "cousin" Paco, who came from a shelter in Southern Oregon. Kirby came from a shelter in Northern California. Kenny's owner said she met someone who got a dog from a shelter at the Oregon Coast who looked exactly like Kenny and was about the same age.
Could there be a little, wire-haired, black-and-tan dachsund/terrier Romeo populating the West Coast?
In any case, little Kenny's tan markings are in all the same places as Kirby's and the dark part of his coat, while a little longer and softer than Kirby's, has the same mix of black and gray. His eyes have the same shape and the same dark intensity as Kirby's and that little black button of a nose is almost identical. And, of course, like Kirby at age one, Kenny wouldn't sit still long enough for me to snap a clear photo with my cell phone camera!
While I strongly believe all dogs should be spayed or neutered unless they are being shown and/or responsibly bred as part of a purebred breeding program, I still can't help but be charmed by the little "serendipity" dogs -- the black-and-tan happy accidents that charm us with their sweet, spunky little personalities and charming good looks.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Baxter seems to sense that something is different. He has been different with Kirby -- sniffing him a lot, tolerating a little more cuddling, accepting when we're paying attention to Kirby. I was away working when my husband took Kirby to the vet on Tuesday, but he said that Baxter was just out of sorts during the hours Kirby was away. And Bax seemed genuinely happy when Kirby came home. Baxter has always been an extremely sensitive dog and I think he knows something is up, probably by the way we're treating Kirby and by whatever different smells and information Kirby is conveying.
The vet put Kirby on a low dose of prednisone to reduce inflammation and I think it is making him a little hungrier. He's now begging for food with much greater intensity and keeps going over to his empty bowl to lick it. Oh well, at least it's really easy to give him his pills -- wrap 'em in pieces of cheese and they go down in one fast gulp!
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Other than the injection site irritation, Kirby is a bit low energy, but otherwise OK. He's on strict "no jumping" orders, and so far he hasn't even attempted to leave the ground. He's asleep under my desk.
Now we just wait and watch for any signs of difficult breathing or other reactions. As I've noted before, I'm told the most dangerous part of this is if a worm breaks off and goes through the blood stream it can cause a blockage somewhere. So let's hope those worms hang on until Kirby's body can eliminate them micro-bit by micro-bit.
So far so good.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Saturday, March 01, 2008
Next was a beautiful, black dog with long silky hair, this time at a pet store (yes, one would expect to find a dog walking around a pet store). I guessed him to be a Flat-Coated Retriever until he stood up and looked at me with big, droopy, soulful eyes. Big guy. I guessed Newfoundland/black lab. The woman working there said he was a stray, found wandering around the East side of town. They picked him up at the shelter. Breed-wise they had guessed the same thing. In any case, you couldn't find a sweeter, calmer dog. Who could leave a dog like that behind?
Baxter would make a wonderful store dog. I could just see him padding around and napping all day long, occasionally walking up to a shopper to sweetly say hello.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
The really funny part came when I pulled up the local "Pet Finder" channel. This one features still pictures of the dogs, as one would see them on the Internet. At first, Kirby showed the same interest as he did for the Humane Society videos. He trotted up to the TV and stood there wagging. But as he realized the big dog on the screen was staring at him, unblinking, unwavering, Kirby got a bit freaked out by the whole thing. He started backing up and barking. The picture changed. He approached. Again, the dog gave him an unyielding stare. Kirby jumped back and started barking again. My husband and I couldn't help but laugh.
We could have sat there enjoying Kirby vs. the threatening Pet Finder TV dogs all evening except it was getting late and we were worried his barking would annoy the neighbors. So we turned off the Pet Finder channel and called it a night.
Interesting sidenote: we found Kirby on Pet Finder. Photo rerun ahead...
Kirby on PetFinder
asking to be adopted
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Monday, February 18, 2008
This is Kuma. Cheryl tells me she's a labradoodle who spends a lot of her day in the Sea of Cortez. Given the resemblance to Baxter, the shape of the nose and the lighter hair around the muzzle, I'm thinking she could pass for a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon!
Either way, she makes a lovely addition to the Scruffy Dog photo collection...
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Chicita is about 2 years old and is a rescue dog. I'm guessing Yorkie mix.
Saturday, February 02, 2008
Writing in my blog is one of those expendable things. It gets put on the back burner when work or personal things become too intense. And, truly, it shouldn't. It is precisely those times when we most need to be creative, to share, to enjoy our own stories and those of others. Trouble is, all work and no play makes ScruffyDog a dull blogger. And it's been a busy work time.
I guess the dog moments that stand out most to me in the recent past are all related to the dogs telling me it's time to stop doing whatever I'm doing. They need a break from watching me work. Somewhere, down inside, I know I need a break too. I just forget, especially when I have looming deadlines to meet.
But it's not just about taking a break from work...Kirby has developed this cute-but-annoying habit of thinking that the second I sit on the sofa, he needs to go outside. You see, it's OK to take a break, as long as it's a break with the dogs. Breaks that involve, say, eating lunch or sitting down with a cup of coffee and a book or watching TV are not acceptable. Not enough action. I might as well be working, as far as Kirby's concerned.
It's like clockwork. I sit down to relax and moments later I hear this little grrrrrrrr coming from behind me. I ignore it. I hear GRRRRRRRR. Then GRRRRRRR!!!!!!! Soon Kirby's front feet are on my thigh, he's looking me right in the eye. GGGGGGGGGGGROwowowt! (see previous post re: dogs speaking English). If I continue to ignore him, I get a full-on barkfest, complete with ear-piercing, terrier (make that terror) bark that could wake the dead. OK. I give in. Of course, he doesn't really have to do anything. He just wants to go outside and smell the rain and lick the grass and soak up a little Oregon winter.
And I know it will continue because I always end up giving in. "What if he really DOES have to go?" I think to myself. Yeah, right. What a pushover.
Kirby just stuck his little head up through my legs to rest his chin on my lap. grrrrrr. He knows it's time to get off the computer and go out for the late evening trip to the yard. This time I think he's right.