Monday, June 30, 2008

More Beach, More Friends

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.

Beach Photo - 20 June 2008

I love this photo from our previous trip to the coast...Kirby got to the stick first, but Baxter caught up fast...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Welcome to Reverse Peristalsis Week

We've used up an inordinate amount of paper towel this week cleaning up after our dogs' gravity-defying acts. The thing that amazes me is just how long something can stay inside of a dog before the stomach decides to toss it back where it came from.

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

Beach Dogs

We just returned from spending a few days at the coast, blessed by glorious weather and plenty of time for wandering down the beaches, playing fetch with the dogs and reading. We had a great time, the dogs had a great time and, of course, it all went by too fast.

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

A Little Too Neighborly

The weather has been glorious for the past couple of days. And, like most Portlanders when the sun finally decides to make a showing, the dogs have been feeling particularly frisky. And I'm just now realizing that the brief bit of freedom we were allowing the dogs on rainy days is now over.

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 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.