Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Little Off the Ears

I'm sure there's some excellent evolutionary reason for this, but I've noticed that, much like humans, our scruffy dogs have different kinds of hair on their heads than they do on their bodies. On both of our wire-haired guys, the body hair (fur?) stops growing at a certain length and is more course in texture. But the hair on their heads and ears is soft like human hair and it just continues growing until we cut it.

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

Sit Up and Take Notice

Kirby is quite the communication stylist. He continues to develop his embouchure and now manages to make quite an excellent "aoo-aoo-aoo" when he is highly motivated to go outside. (We haven't quite gotten him to put a "t" on the end, but hey, it sounds close enough to impress visitors when we tell them our little guy speaks English.)

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

Forget Joe the Faux Plumber...Ya Gotta Love the Dog

Photo detail from New York Times

The media circus around "Joe the Plumber" (who turns out not to be a plumber after all) was a thing to behold. But in all the hoopla around this guy's 15 minutes of fame there was a labrador who absolutely charmed me with his genuine inquisitiveness -- perhaps the most genuine thing about the entire episode.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

From Heal to Heel

While Baxter was subjected to obedience training as a youth, little Kirby managed to get a pass. For one thing, he was always so good at mimicking whatever Baxter was doing, he learned most of his commands without a whole lot of effort from us. But the one thing that a good obedience class helps a dog (and their human) learn is how to walk at heel or close on a leash without pulling hard. Of course, whether or not said dog chooses to pay attention to the command is another matter and mostly the fault of the human methinks).

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

The Gloves are Off

Oh yes, word has come through loud and clear to Baxter that Kirby is now fair game. Yes, Baxter was the first to diagnose Kirby's health a couple of months ago (suddenly, it seemed, Baxter stopped treating Kirby with kid gloves and started treating him more like little brother again -- this actually prompted us to allow Kirby to exercise a bit more), but I think our concern over Kirby's welfare still had put a damper on the chasing and wrestling activity.

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

Back on the Stairway Again

The stairway gates are open and Kirby now has free run of the stairs again. The little guy is gleeful. Just tonight he started his old game of carrying the orka toy up the stairway landing and dropping it. He then parked himself on the highest point from which he could still see the living room. It was so sweet to look up there and once again see his highness, the little lord of the manor once again.

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

It's Official: Kirby is Heartworm-free!!!!!

The vet's office just called to let us know that Kirby's post-treatment heartworm test came back negative, and Baxter's "just in case" retest also came back negative. Needless to say, we are thrilled and relieved and looking forward to taking the baby gates off the stairway! Kirby gets his active life back (we sensed he was feeling good so have let him work into a bit more exercise as it is) and we're out from under that 10-month dark cloud since his diagnosis last December.


Monday, October 06, 2008

The Follow-up Heartworm Tests

Today is the day... Kirby's vet said any time on or after Oct. 6 we'd be clear to have Kirby's 6-month post-treatment retest for heartworm. The vet also wanted to test Baxter again, just to confirm his last negative test.

So we packed 'em into the car (they were very excited) and took them in for their blood tests. We won't get the results until either late today or, most likely, tomorrow. So fingers are firmly crossed here and hoping for the best. It will be so nice to give Kirby back his full, frolicking freedom.