Valentine’s Day, 2012

Little Jim, resting

Today was a jumbled day of both good and bad things, and nothing is organized in my head, so this won’t be a nicely written post, but I want to get it down on ‘paper’.

Jim has been having another go-around of disc trouble, or, if it’s not a disc, back trouble of some kind, the same thing as last time.  It helped that I’ve been through it once, and he’s recovering pretty quickly this time.  But he hasn’t been eating well, and I was very happy to see him eating out of his bowl this morning (I’d been handfeeding him for several days, and using a dropper before that).  Anna Belle also chowed down beautifully.  She’d been a little under the weather, and I was glad to see her back to her old form.  She and Jim have both had a little diarrhea with bloody mucus–nothing I’m worried about yet, but I’m watching and trying to figure out the cause.  Grace has a lot of nasal mucus, even more than usual, lately, but her overall health seems somehow better–can’t figure that out, yet.  She ate well, too, and the overall tenor of the morning, judged by the dogs’ breakfast, was positive.

(I just reread that paragraph, proofreading, and saw what I’d missed, when thinking of them individually.  It seems to be a mucus issue!  Must look into this.  Could eating pork make them produce more mucus?  Or could it be ground beef?  I’ve been feeding both those things lately…and actually, the poops I’ve picked up today from the big dogs have been more mucus-y, too!  Will ask people whether it’s likely to be the beef or the pork–I’m thinkin’ pork, which I don’t feed often.)

While I was guarding Jim and his bowl, to make sure no one finished off his food while he was thinking about having more, I returned a phone call.  I’d been excited to get a message the day before from the head of our downtown animal shelter.  I’ve written here that my loved friend Jeanne is battling inoperable cancer.  Well, she’s asked me to do a little homework for her about pet charities in the area, and I’ve investigated a couple of different options.  This particular phone call was very satisfying, and maybe something good is in the works.  I’ll write more about it, I’m sure, if we can get it off the ground.  I am very happy that I get to see Jeanne in person, later this week.

I made another call, to the veterinary rehab place nearby, in order to reserve the pasture they rent out for dog play.  They’ve recently made a rule saying that they’d like no more than four dogs per handler, so I took P.D.Z. out for a walk, so he wouldn’t mind not going this time.  I wanted to give him something more special, though, so for the first time I took him upstairs to ‘Jemma and Soyer’s room’, and gave him a tasty little bone, just right for his small but powerful jaws.  He got right to it.

Then I loaded Burberry, Soyer, Jemma, and Daisy into the car.  This would be Daisy’s first time at the pasture, since they’d wanted her to have been out of the shelter for two weeks before coming.

~interruption–I’m delighted because Jim is on my lap, eating another serving of food as I type~

The pasture was a bit of a bummer today.  There was always someone coming or going, and Soyer spent a good part of our time running the perimeter, which tended to rile up Jemma and Daisy (and even Burb barked, slightly persistently, which isn’t her pattern).  This was my first chance to see Daisy in a more challenging setting, and because I don’t know her well, when I saw her arousal level rising, I decided to keep her on leash for awhile.  I was glad I’d done it, because she must have gotten a little too wound up for Jemma, who tried to tell her to knock it off.  The two dogs snarked at each other, and because of the leash, I was able to separate them fairly easily.  (In this case, I don’t think that Daisy’s being on leash contributed to the problem, but of course I’m not sure.  In general, I believe that dogs off leash feel more in control of themselves, and are usually more able to ‘keep their noses clean’.)  Soon after, I decided to call it a day there.

At first, I felt shaken up and bummed out by this.  But when I thought back to how the two dogs had gone to each other almost immediately, touched their noses together, and looked at each other with soft eyes, clearly saying, ‘No hard feelings, right?’, I felt better.  (And they played together beautifully all evening here–I think we’re good.)  There were other things making me feel better, too.  One was that, although this was a first time situation for me, I’d handled it very calmly, contributing no angst to the situation whatsoever.  I realized that I’ve learned so much about dogs, in less than a year, that I’m not even close to being the same person I was last Valentine’s Day.  If I’m right, it was on February 26th last year that Soyer came to Rochester.  There’s been a sea change in my life since then, and it feels to me like a very good one.  So this one little fact I’d learned, that dogs who appear to be ‘fighting’ almost never come out of it with even a mark on them, represented to me right then a whole body of dog knowledge I didn’t have, at this time last year.  I guess I hadn’t fully realized just how much work I’d done, and I feel good, having that in my skill box.

After I’d settled all the dogs, bringing P.D. down from his quiet room, where I saw no sign of his bone anymore, I went out to teach a music lesson.  Because I’ve been open about having been married to an abusive man, women often open up to me about their own problems, and I’ve been having some heart-to-heart talks with this student’s mom lately.  As I drove home, domestic violence was on my mind, and whether it was because of that or not, I don’t know, but when I got online and a fellow rescuer I’d just ‘befriended’ on Facebook told me that her ex had stepped on her little dog by accident and killed it, the same day her mother had died, I wondered whether it had really been an accident, or whether he’d subconsciously resented her dog, and the time she herself was spending at her mother’s hospital bed.  I carefully broached the possibility, and was stunned and really grieved when she opened up and said that he had been abusive, and that she didn’t think it was even subconscious–she felt inwardly sure he’d killed the dog on purpose.  He’d given the dog to her as a manipulative ‘guilt gift’ after one occasion when he’d been horrible to her, and she felt that he thought the dog was his to do with as he liked. 

I’d just finished being teary-eyed over my 16-or-17-year-old dog Jim, as I assembled a photo album of pics of him for the very talented artist friend who’s going to paint his portrait in watercolors, but the woman’s story made me cry again, for the unfathomable pain she must have felt and for her little dog, and with gratitude for the fact that I’d been able to keep my pets safe, even as my ex began to show animosity towards some of them.  He, too, had been resentful and awful as my dad was dying, and all kinds of memories came flooding back, memories which made me grateful for this Valentine’s Day spent without any troubles of that kind.  I looked down at Jim and thought that, sad as I was at the thought of losing him sometime fairly soon, it was no small thing that I’d been able to give him such a long and happy life, and I realized that all signs were that I’d be able to do the same for the rest of them.  

Still teary, but riding that surge of confidence, I went upstairs to get Jim some more food, and to get myself a piece of Toblerone.  Fresh from thinking about how glad I was that my ex was out of the picture, I said to myself, ‘Very good–you provided yourself with chocolate on Valentine’s Day!’ and I bit down and promptly broke a tooth–my first one–on a piece of the nougat.  Oh, that makes a person feel old…

But I’ll end on a small but magical little event that happened after I’d fed the dogs their dinners.  Soyer and Jemma eat in ‘their’ room, and Daisy eats in ‘her’ room next door, because Jemma and Soyer eat very quickly and I don’t want them hanging over the slow eaters’ bowls, and Daisy is still new here, and I want her to understand that she will never have to compete for resources.  They rest in their rooms while the slow dogs finish, and then I invite them downstairs, and they come as fast as they can, stopping only briefly to take a couple of bites of the cats’ food.  🙂  But this time, Soyer didn’t come, and I went up to his room to see what was keeping him.  He was sitting near his bed, and he looked at me very intently and beseechingly, almost desperately.  Oh, no, I thought, he’s sick!  What could have turned him from a boundingly healthy dog into this worried fellow in just twenty minutes?  I began asking him, checking his nose, petting his head to see if it was warm, but he seemed fine, yet he continued to look at me with those very intent eyes–he looked human, and I felt a little afraid.  Then he sat down again, very pointedly, facing (strangely) the corner of the room, and I realized he was using the signal I’d taught him last March, so that he’d always have a way to ask me for anything he wanted.  I followed the direction of his body, and saw a ball I use as decoration.  I asked him if that was it, but he indicated no, by his lack of interest.  Then he did an amazing thing–I’ve never seen it before.  He picked up his right paw and held it perfectly still, straight out in front of him, parallel to the floor.  It looked nothing like his ‘shake’.  It appeared to me a deliberate attempt to tell me something.  It almost gave me goosebumps.  I’ll never forget it…

~interruption, during which I cleaned mucus from Grace’s nose, had a realization about Soyer, and really did get genuine, honest-to-goodness goosebumps~

I realized it was a deliberate attempt to tell me something, and not only that–he was copying the gesture I use to tell him the same thing–he was pointing, not like a Pointer dog, but like a human being.  OMG.

Even though at the time it was all too weird for me to realize what I realized just now, I got down on my hands and knees to see if I could see anything strange (I was thinking, ‘mouse’).  He began scrabbling at a pile of clothing which had partly fallen out of a big storage bag.  I moved the clothes a little more, to help him.  And then he reached in and delicately picked up something with his teeth, and showed it to me.  P.D.Z.’s bone!  He’d buried it, and Soyer, although he could have eaten it as an after-dinner snack, had wanted to ask me if it was OK for him to have it!  Good boy, I said, good boy, Soyer, you eat that bone!  And he ate it, looking happy, and after that he came downstairs and was my dog again, not a furry visitor with special powers, from another planet.   

Well, everything is normal here now, after a slightly abnormal day.  Grace is making a big fuss over something which I’ll have to puzzle out–it’s not one of the obvious ones.  Maybe she just wants me to come to bed–Brigadoon used to do that, and Grace IS part Terrier (and, come to think of it, her Terrier part could easily be Cairn).  Annie has walked in, ready for me to lie down next to her in the big bed–that’s a ‘for sure’–don’t need to puzzle it out.  If I don’t get into bed right away, she goes back to her bed, and tries again in a few minutes…there she goes–I missed her this time, but I’ll hurry up now.

I am very thankful for this life with dogs I’ve made for myself, hard as it is at times.

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A Daisy In The Sun

Loves me; loves me not--I think we got lucky this time.

Daisy investigates, 1/22/12
Upstate Daisy, 1/22/12

I’m in between a rehearsal and a concert at the note factory, so I can’t write much.  We’ve been playing in the sunny, snowy yard.  I just uploaded over 200 pictures–I think some are duplicates, though–but I’ll just post a couple, so you can see how she’s doing.  She is so alert, so intelligent…dogs are just miraculous, aren’t they? 

Daisy on Sunday, January 22, 2012

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A Daisy For Jeanne

Daisy's intake photo, Manhattan ACC

I wrote about my friend Jeanne in my last entry.  I have checked with her, and yes, she wants to follow the Daisy story, so here goes.  This won’t be an elegantly written piece–I’ll just get the facts down.  I’m tired!  It took me most of my energy to actually do the Daisy rescue, and there’s not much left over for writing about it.

Here’s the nutshell version of the Daisy back story.  I saw her picture one night on the Urgent Part 2 page on Facebook, in the photo album called, To Be Destroyed _______ (fill in the next day of the week).  Urgent Part 2 is a person or group of people, anonymous, although I’m sure plenty of New Yorkers know the inside scoop.  Urgent networks the animals in the three NYC ‘shelters’ (or killing factories):  Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. 

I wished I hadn’t seen Daisy’s picture, once I’d read her evaluation.  I thought she had no chance to get out of there alive, with an eval like that.  I’ll add it to this blog post, so you can read it, too.  I wonder whether you’ll notice, as I did, the apparent discrepancies between her owner surrender form and her eval.  Anyway, I started networking her, but had little hope.  If you scroll down the ‘thread’ under her picture, you can follow the story as it unfolded.

You’ll see there that I was absolutely delighted when I found someone to take her–someone other than me, that is.  At this point, I need to give names to a few of the key players:

Deb, who’s the head of the rescue group which agreed to ‘pull’ Daisy.  To ‘pull’ a dog means only that you call the shelter and say, don’t kill this one–we have another place for it to go.  It does not mean that you physically remove the dog from the shelter.  The transporter usually does that, or so I gather. 

Helping Hounds is the rescue group in a city one hour away from me which agreed to take Daisy into its adoption program.  Karen is one of the people in charge at Helping Hounds.

Patricia is a transporter in the NYC area.  She drives dogs (and maybe cats) hither and yon, especially dogs rescued by Deb’s group.

The Mayor’s Alliance is a group of transporters who drive dogs and cats from the NYC area shelters to their ‘safe’ destinations–either to their new adopters (known as, ‘forever homes’, or, somewhat saccharinely :), ‘furever homes’), or to rescues.

Oh, dear, I’m so tired that I just have to get this down quickly, so Jeanne’ll have something to read.  OK–after Helping Hounds had agreed to take Daisy, Deb arranged with the Mayor’s Alliance to transport Daisy.  They agreed to take her all the way to Syracuse!  I was thrilled.  I had saved a dog’s life, but it was not going to come and live with me–hooray!

Not so fast, sucker.  The next day, or two days, later, Deb called.  The Mayor’s Alliance, she said, had some concerns about transporting such an aggressive dog.  I didn’t buy this; I really didn’t.  They transport aggressive dogs frequently.  In fact, she’d accidentally sent me someone else’s transport form originally–not Daisy’s–and it said right on it, ‘aggressive’.  So I argued, mildly.  She started reading me the eval, as proof of the Mayor’s Alliance people’s concerns.  It was, obviously, the first time she was reading it–kind of surprising and frustrating to me.  I had read it over and over again, and practically had it memorized.  I somehow knew from it, I guess by reading between the lines and taking into account her owner surender form, that Daisy was not truly aggressive.  Famous last words, right?  Nah, we’re good…just keep reading.  🙂 

There wasn’t much I could do.  Deb wanted to use Patricia, is what I think.  I have no idea why, but she’d done the same thing in my dog Grace’s case.  I guess she just likes to use Patricia.  That’s a long story, but I’m too tired, so I have to sum this up really briefly, for Jeanne.

When Helping Hounds found out that the Mayor’s people wouldn’t drive Daisy because she was too aggressive, they backed out.  After several other arrangements for Daisy’s transport had been made and discarded for various reasons, Deb told me that, in fact, the Mayor’s people had not refused to drive Daisy.  So all of that was for nought, and because of Deb’s whim, I now have another dog at my house.  I really could wring her neck.  However, maybe it’s all for the best, because Karen at Helping Hounds hadn’t inspired much confidence in me.  For one thing, she kept calling me by the wrong name (a similar one to my real name), meaning that she had not researched me, which is really not cool, in rescue land.  You need to know with whom you’re working  (although there wasn’t time to get clear whether I’d be fostering for her or whether she had her own foster, before Deb threw the monkey wrench in, so maybe we wouldn’t really have been working together).  Also, before she had backed out completely (which I’m not sure she really ever did, and I will check–it was just what Deb said to me, and I no longer trust everything she tells me, for obvious reasons), she wanted me to take Daisy for two weeks, check her out, in terms of her temperament, ‘push her’ (meaning, try to get her to display the aggression they’d reported), and then, if she came through it all with flying colors and I told them she was rock solid, they’d take her.  Did I mention that Karen is an attorney?  😉  Yeah, right, Karen, I’m going to tell you Daisy will never bite anyone in her whole life, so you can sue me.  I wouldn’t tell you that about Lassie, for goodness’ sake.   And I’m not even a trainer, which you’d know, if you’d checked me out enough to know my name…

The more I learn, the less I’m impressed by many rescues and rescuers.

Anyway, as I said, maybe it’s all for the best.  Crazily, the Mayor’s Alliance did end up driving Miss Daisy to meet Martha, a very trustworthy transporter I preferred to use.  I called Martha while she was driving, and she told me that Daisy was a ‘big mush’, current terminology for a dog who just wants to love and be loved.  As I got out of the car at our meeting place, I saw Daisy’s tail start to wag, back there in Martha’s back seat.  It was fun to meet Martha finally, after seeing her on Facebook and hearing about her from my artist friend, the woman who adopted Rupert, formerly Reynard.  Daisy was sad to say goodbye to Martha, which was touching.  I had had her pegged as a sensitive dog who attaches easily, and that was what she looked like, as we transferred her to my car (I had to climb in first, with beef, before she’d get in, poor thing).

Now I’m so tired I can’t even stay awake, so I’ll try really hard to be brief.

The ride home was uneventful.  I couldn’t coax her into the passenger seat, but I handed beef bits back and petted her face.  She was too excited to do potties when we arrived home, but I got her into her bedroom, and the other dogs didn’t fuss too much.  I fed her, gave her water, and left her for the night.  The next day–No!  It’s TODAY!  No wonder I’m tired–this was a long one!  Anyway, today I began getting to know her.  Here’s the deal so far:

She’s not aggressive, although she is the kind of dog who would not take kindly to rough handling, and who might let you know with what I call a feint–a fast movement which mimics a bite (by the way, Deb finally told me that she’d learned from Manhattan ACC that Daisy never actually bit anyone, but it was too late for Helping Hounds).  Back to Daisy today–she’s perfectly housebroken–she held it from 5:00 that evening until 10:00 the next morning.  Oops–I’m still thinking it was longer ago than it is–she held it from yesterday at 5:00 until 10:00 AM today.  She’s not a greedy eater, but she likes treats.  She ignores my cats.  She’s extremely smart and easily trained.  I thought I’d be telling you that her body language, when she hears my dogs through the walls and floors, doesn’t appear to indicate dog/dog aggression or even reactivity, but…guess what?

Things went so extremely well today that this evening I was able to introduce Daisy to my whole pack.  How crazy is that?  I thought I’d be keeping her secluded for at least two weeks.  This dog was made out to be Cujo!  Instead, after one day she’s snuggling with me, sniffing gently at my cats, and starting to play with my dogs!  I’m sure there will be plenty more to work on, but whatever they’re doing to evaluate dogs, it’s not working well.  As if we didn’t know that…(eye roll).

Daisy’s coat is in rough shape–dry, flaky, shedding.  My friend Kate said to give her some eggs, and in about two weeks I’d see a difference, so I made her two scrambled eggs, and enjoyed watching her gobble them.  So far, eggs and cheese are her favorites.  I gave her a skin supplement, too, with fish oil and other stuff in it.

Earlier today, when I still had no idea of introducting Daisy to anyone, I’d planned to let her out in the yard after my other dogs were sleepy,  hoping they wouldn’t look out and see her.  So, in an effort to exhaust them pleasantly, I rented the fenced pasture at the veterinary therapy/rehab place near here, and let ’em rip (not Grace and the other oldsters, but the ones who like to fly around and catch balls in the snow).  We were there for a long time, and they are indeed quite exhausted, and I’m sure the exercise helped their meeting with Daisy go well.

So it was quite a day.  It’s been quite a week, with all the ups and downs of Daisy’s rescue.  Jeanne, I’ve felt very lonely at different times during this–I keep thinking back to Soyer, and how I wasn’t alone at all when I met him, and how, even later, when everyone else had quit, you were always there.  I felt so afraid and alone, wondering if Daisy was going to bite me.  But writing this has somehow made me feel less lonely.  I’m glad to have a good report for you, and now I’ll go and try to remember how to attach her Facebook ‘thread’ to this, so you can read her eval and stuff. 

Tomorrow it’s the note factory, bigtime–Itzhak Perlman playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.  How I’m going to get it all done, I don’t know.  I will, though, and I’ll give you the Daisy report tomorrow night or the next morning.  Thinking of you with love, and a hug ((( Jeanne )))

Here’s Daisy’s thread:!/photo.php?fbid=346253075387578&set=a.346871301992422.93279.152876678058553&type=3&theater

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aka Brain, or, Little Grey Cells

Two days ago, I learned that my friend Jeanne, referred to in this blog until now as, ‘Dog Goddess’, the woman who for four solid months helped me in every way with Sawyere (now Soyer), has an incurable, inoperable type of cancer, plus two other kinds.  She starts chemo two days from today.  I want to be with her in any way that she finds helpful, and she’s told us that talking tires her very quickly.  I’ve taken a long break from my blog (I think it’s because I wrote such a feisty, pointed entry about dominance theory training that I scared myself…well, I was scared to read the comments–that’s closer to the truth), but Jeanne has always told me that she reads everything I write, and loves it all, and never gets tired of reading ‘all things dog’.  So it’s time for me to write about dogs again, for Jeanne and for myself.

The other night, when I was at Pet$aver getting chewing treats for the dogs, a woman came in with a small, fluffy lowrider dog named Munchkin, whom she’d recently adopted from the downtown pound.  He was a very friendly, likeable fellow, and I was surprised when she said he was, ‘the dumbest dog’.  Don’t worry–this story doesn’t have a sad ending.  I showed enough concern about what she’d said for her to see where my mind was going, and she told me there was no chance she would ever give the dog back–she keeps ’em ’til death do us part, no matter what.  And she realized (based on other signs) that he probably hadn’t had too much with which to exercise his mind, at his previous owners’.  Nice lady.  

Anyway, apropos of the dumb dog thing, she told us about a Schnauzer she used to have–lived to fourteen–who was so smart it could spell (I know, I know, lots of dogs can spell, but by that point I trusted her, and I bet it was a very smart dog.) 

It made me think about my Schnauzer mix, in the photo.  You probably know his name is Giovanni, but a few weeks ago I found myself cooing to him, ‘I wish I’d named you Brain, because you are the smartest dog I’ve ever met, and you are a little bunch of grey matter, so Brain would be the perfect name for you, my friend.’  I don’t actually believe Brain is a great dog name–people would either think the owner is weird, or couldn’t spell Brian–but every day lately I get more proof of his smarts. 

 I have taught a few of the dogs to stand up, but not Gio.  This morning I was handing out training treats in a group session, asking everyone to do whatever tricks they knew (except for Jim, Annie, and Grace, who get treats for being alive).  I did a couple of the ‘stand up’ dogs in a row, and damned if I didn’t look back into the second row and see Giovanni, standing up beautifully, unasked, just because he was paying such close attention to the procedural options for getting more treats.  He was so pleased when I made a huge fuss over him and immediately asked him to stand up on purpose (and then slipped him not one, but maybe six treats).  He is a genius, and would be a whiz at traditional obedience, or anything, really. 

Ooh–that reminds me of what another smartie did yesterday.  Soyer is as smart as Giovanni, but Soyer is more emotional with it.  Giovanni would be the straight A+ kid, unflappable in a test, rock solid, confident, and kinda proud of himself–proud of knowing all the answers.  He’d probably even raise his hand first, at every question, no matter what the other kids thought.  Soyer would need the teacher to be nice to him, or he might not do as well.  He would need to feel appreciated.  For Giovanni, getting it right is reward enough, although he loves the praise, too (and he knows it’s no more than his due :)).  Soyer lives for the praise–it’s the reason for his doing what you’re asking.  He’s not interested in getting it right just to show he knows it.  But he is a natural whiz kid, just the same. 

Yesterday I came upon him worrying at the futon, trying to move the padded part to get to the frame, which is made of wooden slats.  I asked him to move over to one side of it, so I could lift up half of it.  He did, although I don’t know how he knew what I meant, and it took a couple of tries.  Under that half was a tennis ball and two dog bowls.  I showed those to him one by one, but they were not what he was looking for.  I put that half back down, asked him to move onto it (and he had already learned the technique, from that one earlier request, and went right over), and I lifted the other half. 

Eureka!  There is my white squeaky ball, said Soyer.  I will use my teeth to get it out.  Hmm…I cannot do that because these pieces of wood are too close together for me to pull it through.  No problem–I will just stick my paw through, whack it down to the end of this whole wooden thing, and I’ll have it.  Here goes…oops, I hit it too hard and it bounced off the wall and went back under…gotta whack it just a little less hard next time (he was like Bob Barker playing, ‘A Hole in One…or Two’ game on, ‘The Price Is Right’)…Yes!  There she is!  My ball!  It all happened so fast–maybe three seconds for the whole reasoning process and the three tries, one with his mouth and two paw whacks.  What a genius. 

He really should be playing Treibball, and I don’t say that just because of this incident.  If you remember from earlier in this blog, he was the god of pushing balls with his nose, very far and very fast, when he first came to Rochester and was living in boarding.  It was Jeanne who discovered this skill of his, and it was that discovery which was responsible for his first leap forward.  He’d been starved for exercise for a long time, and all the running he did, nosing the balls around for Jeanne and me, got his endorphins flowing again and began calming him.  At the time, Jeanne and I thought of Treibball, but we didn’t think he’d ever be able to do an activity where other dogs were present.  Not so!  Aww, look at him now, Jeanne…

So Soyer should be doing Treibball, and Gio should be doing agility.  Burberry should be doing scent tracking.  Charlotte has become very Border Collie-esque, helping Burberry train whomever needs it, and generally making sure everyone is doing everything right.  She always points it out to me if someone has left a little wet spot on the floor.  So she could be the one who comes and tells me that Burberry got her head trapped in a raccoon’s hollow tree, Soyer pushed one of the balls into a swamp, and Giovanni won’t come down off that agility teeter totter thing… 

How cool would all these activities be?  For one thing, I would drop several pounds.  🙂  And we could all live in a Winnebago (cats, too), and drive around to our different sports, and cheer each other on, and celebrate with early bedtimes involving naturally shed antlers and cozy murder mysteries…I think someday this will happen, or a form of it, anyway.  And sometimes we’ll follow Simo’s lead, and sit in chaises in the sun.  In fact, we won’t even need to take a class in that–it’s been on our itinerary a few times in the past.  😉

I will begin to visualize these things more seriously.  What is it that Maria says in, ‘The Sound of Music’, something about us having to look for our lives, look for our happiness?  Maybe it’s the Reverend Mother who says it first, to Maria, and she tells the Captain.  Anyway, I’m going to be looking a little more actively, from now on.

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Feeding Fossils To My Friends

Got a few more things about dogs and food. 

First, I heard from Rescue Chocolate today, the place that donates 100% of their profits to pet rescues, and they’d love us to vote for them–they’ve been nominated for Best Vegan Chocolate.  I went to the voting site and found it very interesting–usually I’m impatient at the time you have to spend.  There were other categories besides chocolate–lots of ’em–and I enjoyed learning which products are vegan and cruelty free.  I was very happy to see Mrs. Meyers Clean Day products under the house/laundry cleaning heading, as those are what I use, and I really enjoy them.  Here’s the link if you’d like to vote:

The next thing is that I went out to buy more Harmony Farms kibble today, and all the Wegman’s stores near me were out of the big bags of the regular flavor.  At the last one I visited, I asked someone in customer service to call around for me, and, at the last store she tried, she found three bags.  I asked to have them held for me, and I drove right there to get them.  Who thought dog food would be such a hot commodity?  But lately I’ve been noticing that there is usually only one big bag left when I go to buy, and I guess it must be getting more popular.  There are always plenty of small bags, but you pay more.  And the big bag (17 or 17.5 pounds) lasts me only between 4 and 6 meals, so the small bags would be a pain.  I will have to buy the big bags whenever I’m at Wegman’s, whether or not I actually need it.  I suggested that they order more, and maybe check to see if there’s a bigger bag available (I’d love that savings).

I’ve started totting up the cost of my dog meals, more or less, so I can write it here.  I don’t like that kind of reckoning, so it’s been helpful for me to have a reason for doing it.  I buy meat on sale for them, whenever I can, and plan my shopping trips so that I hit Tops after 2:00 PM, which is more or less when they put the discount stickers on the meat whose ‘use by’ date is approaching quickly.  Yesterday I struck it rich, with several packages of beef for under $2.50 a pound, and some pork at close to the same price.  Last week I’d found big bags of spinach which were a manager’s special at Wegman’s (don’t know why), priced at 99 cents per bag.  I bought them all, because spinach may be the nutrient-rich food my dogs love the most.  One pound of spinach is enough for two generously-spinached meals, and about $3.00 worth of the beef also made two meals.  I don’t know how to add up the cost of the rice or oatmeal, since I just eyeball it. 

Tonight they had pork with summer squash and apples, liberally sprinkled with cinnamon and lightly sprinkled with turmeric.  Dogs love cinnamon, and it’s so good for keeping blood sugar stabilized (and for a host of other things, too).  I’ve been adding the turmeric for its anti-tumor and growth abilities–I think I told you that I’m also making a paste out of it, to apply to actual growths.  Speaking of that, now that I’ve learned about the anti-tumor properties of thuja from Dr. Karen Becker’s site (she’s a holistic veterinarian), I need to investigate what form to give that in.  Here’s a link to her site:

Today’s last thing about food started out as a thing about fleas.  This year is the first one in which I’m trying to go without putting chemicals on my pets for fleas and ticks, and it’s a very big step for me.  In the past I was grateful for the chemicals, honestly.  If I were to have even a few fleas here, it could get really nasty, pretty fast.  And now that the intense heat has finally broken, and we’ve had rain, I expect both the flea and tick populations to take off.  So I don’t want to push my luck, although I’ve been so lucky so far that I wonder if the flea issue is generally overblown in the media (umm…that wouldn’t be surprising, would it?)

So today I went to our biggest natural food store, in search of neem oil.  The knowledgeable salesperson there helped me investigate a lot of different products built around neem, some intended for humans and some for pets.  When she told me that tea tree oil has a similar effect, though, I decided not to purchase neem, since I have a great tea tree based spray already.  It’s marketed for hot spots, but I bought it for its skin-soothing, anti-fungal properties, not knowing that it’s good at repelling bugs.  Since I had the tea tree covered, I bought, instead, a different repellent spray, with cinnamon as one of the main ingredients.  I’ll let you know how it works.

The salesperson also showed me the food-grade diatomaceous earth (a fine powder, made of ground up fossils of single-celled creatures), which can be rubbed onto your cat or dog’s fur to repel insects, and also added to food, to banish intestinal parasites.  So the dogs had it in their dinner tonight, and I’ll be thrilled if it works.  I’m not sure I’ll ever know if it works, though, whereas with the flea and tick stuff it should be possible to tell (unless, for some odd reason, we just aren’t getting the bugs this summer, because of our strange weather).

Well, because of having to hunt down the Harmony Farms, I spent much more time than usual today at grocery stores, and it was the kind of errand-doing that makes me tired.  Also, I feel a bit wrung out emotionally, from having written such an intense, feisty (bitchy?) blog entry yesterday.  It made me scared.  I did not put a link to it on my Facebook page, as I usually do, because it was much more in-your-face than I usually like to be, and I know I’ll lose some friends through it. 

But just now I saw this quote in a rescuer’s status, and I’ve decided to go ahead and link to this blog entry and to the other one, and let the chips fall where they may.

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

And, I found when I googled the above quote, she also said, “Do one thing every day which scares you.”  There you go.  Done.

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In Which I Do A Written Two Finger Poke

Thank goodness I was able to find this article I’ve been looking for.  And I found, also, that other information on this topic isn’t tough to locate.  I wonder why the general public has somehow missed it.  😉  Actually, I’m being nasty and sarcastic.  I think, as I’ve said, that most people enjoy having an ostensible reason to throw their weight around and show their dog who’s boss, and so even scores of articles pointing out that the original research on pack hierarchical structure has been shown to be flawed might be conveniently ‘overlooked’.  But if you haven’t heard the news and would like to broaden your perspective, here’s a good explanation of what went wrong with the original studies:

And now here’s a Facebook thread from my page, which started after I posted a link to, ‘Holy Shih Tzu’, another blog entry I’d written.  This thread has probably raised my blood pressure.  Three days later, some of the things written here are still ‘repeating’ in my heart and mind like emotional acid reflux; word bile.  I wish I’d had the link to the above article all ready to post, the evening this thread opened up.  I’d like to be able to take a couple of Tums for my excess mental acid, and it occurred to me that addressing each of the things that really ‘got’ me here would be therapeutic.  So I’ll interrupt the thread and explain what has my mind roiling, and why.  My additions will be in italics.  I deleted a couple of lines from the thread that had nothing to do with dogs.

Starting 2 feel more & more convinced that the combination of the faddish cult of Cesar Millan-style dominance theory training, practiced by a nation of angry citizens who feel life is out of control & just want 2 control SOMEthing, is not only not helping R dogs with their behavioral issues, but is actually causing a great deal of canine aggression, 2 the point where I think R whole relationship w/ dogs is at risk.

Well, today seems like another good day for pissing people off, so I’m gonna do my first anti-Cesar Millan blog. He seems like a nice enough man, and I read his book, and I think he probably does…

    • Male Cesarite:  Cesar preaches calm leadership. His human model for this is Oprah Winfrey.

    • Cellopets:  Calm leadership is excellent, and I’m sure he’s great at it. Unfortunately, people who want to control others seem to see dominance theory training as their license to rule.

    • Male Cesarite:  I agree with you Cellopets. Most people probably resort to yelling and even hitting. Cesar never raises his voice and doesn’t hit the dogs. He pokes them with two fingers to get their attention. I’m just saying that Cesar is not preaching “discipline” to be some kind of angry, violent correction. In fact, quite the opposite, he insists you remain calm at all times because the dog will channel your negative energy.
    • Cellopets:  You know, that two finger poke isn’t such a great idea, though, for any dog who might someday fall into other hands. I’ve heard from a very good trainer (Victoria Stilwell) that it can cause real aggression in dogs, and it’s a big problem because kids tend to poke just like that. I THINK she said that dog bites to kids stats are rising. You really should not use any physical manipulation to correct a dog. And no, I would think Cesar doesn’t get angry. But calm, controlled punishment is still not the same as discipline, and I’m sure the correct word for what he meant is ‘punishment’. (In other words, not all punishment is angry or violent, but that doesn’t mean it’s not punishment.)

    • Male Cesarite:  Dogs correct each other using soft bites. Cesar’s finger nip is supposed to mimic that natural dog correction. We can agree to disagree (as always! LOL) on that. Willie has done it to Keira and she’s no worse for it (IMHO). And I don’t about “punishment” vs “correction”. Every dog trainer I’ve ever had has physically put a dog in a sit or down to teach them.  (I’ve already addressed this in, ‘For Kim, Allison, and Keith’.  I am embarrassed on behalf of the trainers he’s seen, and I know who one of them is, since he mentions her later in the thread.  I already knew that she makes extensive use of shock collars, but here I learned that she needs to physically put a dog into a sit.  That’s embarrassing.)  Is that “punishment”? It is physical correction. Cesar doesn’t put the dogs in time out or physically punish them. If you watch his show it is somewhat amazing how little correction he actually uses. I agree that most people are not capable of maintaining the calm that Cesar does and they probably misapply his principles replacing his calm leadership and “correction” with more aggressive discipline. But I don’t blame Cesar for that, I blame the people misunderstanding/misapplyi​ng the idea of leadership.  (If Cesar cared more about dogs than he did about his bank balance, he’d take responsibility for the fact that thousands of people are misapplying his already scientifically flawed methods, and would think about changing his message, because clearly something is not working, and he appears to know it.*)  That’s really all he preaches: be the pack leader. Calmly, consistently, 24/7. It’s basic pack psychology really.
    • Cellopets:  Well, if you ever really go into this pack psychology thing you’ll find that it’s all based on flawed research. But let’s call it a day on this. You’re sure you’re right, and I’m sure you’re wrong, and I don’t see where we can get with that…
    • Male Cesarite:  Well the Purely Positives can’t be based on good pack psychology because I’ve never seen wolves handing out treats.  (There goes my blood pressure again…this is just too ignorant for someone who teaches science at the college level.  Treats are just a conveniently portable, dispensable form of positive reinforcement.  I’m sure wolves have many different options for giving positive reinforcement to one another.  Dogs do, too.  So do humans, to one another and to dogs–petting, grooming, playing, etc.)  I’m not sure what I said that would feel hopeless.  (The bit about having to physically place a dog into a ‘sit’ is what made me feel hopeless, about outdated training methods in our city.)  And I’m not sure why you feel that your view and mine are so different.  (Please, don’t try to take our differences away from me.  I’m very fond of them.)  How leadership is executed can be open to debate and I don’t know why anything I said would be so offensive.  (The thing about the ‘sit’ wasn’t offensive per se.  I’m just embarrassed that our city appears to be such a hick town that the shock collar peddlers are still the go-to trainers for many people.)  I’m not advocating punishing a dog just correcting bad behavior in a calm, consistent manner. I’m sure there are some flaws in studies of pack psychology as there are in many fields. But my own observations indicate that most packs have a tandem leadership with a male alpha and a female alpha.  (He must be…what?…using his vacation time to blend into packs of wolves or feral dogs, a la Romulus and Remus?)  And the alphas maintain their leadership by usually gentle correction. Mother dogs correct their young using soft bites. I’ve seen it. We can argue over how effective a mimic Cesar’s two finger “bite” is but it is hard to argue that it is without precedent in the dog world. Frankly, the problem with dogs from both a training and a veterinary standpoint is that everything is a matter of dogma and no one is willing to discuss it. Try discussing advantages/disadvantages of spay/neuter with your vet and see if you get anywhere despite legitimate veterinary studies that show it isn’t all positive and there are age considerations.  (MAJOR blood pressure spike at this.  You know, if you read much of my blog, how highly I think of my vet, MVDVM, Most Valued Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.  MVDMV most certainly DID talk through the pros and cons and scheduling options of sterilization; for instance, he took all the time we needed to explain to me which cancers seemed to be helped by early spaying, and which by late, and which they aren’t sure about yet.  So now I know about this Cesarite that he goes to what I consider lousy trainers, and he himself is saying here that he has a dogmatic vet, and yet he thinks he has the answers?)  Frankly, I’m frustrated with the dogma from all sides and I think the animals are the ones that suffer.  (Own your own dogma, buddy.)
    • Female Cesarite:  Cellopets, having spent some time watching both Victoria’s and Cesar’s shows as my husband and son were learning about dogs before and since we “rescued” ours a few years ago, I have to say I’m with Cesar. Dogs are dogs, not kids.  (The worst blood pressure spike of all.  ‘Dogs are dogs, not kids.’  Uh…were you having trouble distinguishing them, before you started watching Cesar’s show?  😉  Or are you saying you think I’M the one who has trouble?  Or, is it possible that you have the unmitigated gall (love that phrase) to be saying that VICTORIA STILWELL thinks dogs are kids?  And that’s all before we even get started on the implications of what she wrote–what it says about how she feels about dogs AND kids…)  Even some of Cesar’s shows have him dealing with people who thought they were using his methods but were actually way off base* (see above).  The simple fact is that discipline and punishment are not the same thing, though many people confuse that. The whole pack-leader/dominance thing is misunderstood and misused. I think, when utilized properly, Cesar’s methods are the simplest, most effective and humane methods out there. Victoria is a dog trainer. Cesar is a dog psychologist.  (This is so spurious that I almost can’t stand to address it.  Both people are trainers, and, although there’s no such thing as a dog psychologist, I believe she means, ‘behaviorist’, and I’m sure both of them would say, with good reason, that they’re behaviorists.)  They do not do the same thing and Cesar will say so.  (Well, that’s good, anyway.  I’d hate to think he was giving anyone the impression that Victoria has to use a two-finger poke to get a dog’s attention.)  I have heard Victoria badmouth Cesar (Good for her!  I hope many people join her, because it would be in the dogs’ best interests.  When I went to her seminar, she didn’t mention him at all, by the way.) but have never heard Cesar say anything bad about anyone.  (Well, that’s insincere of him, since he’s obviously not in agreement with the positive reinforcement, negative punishment trainers, but very clever–‘Look how nice I am!  I never say a mean word about anyone, and, as you see, people are impressed by it!  It’s great for the bank balance!)  I sincerely believe that the people who don’t believe Cesar’s methods work (Who said they didn’t work?  I sure didn’t.  I said they’re not humane.  Shock collars work, too.  All you have to do to use these quick-fix methods is agree to compromise the quality of the relationship possible between a human and a dog.  Simply sacrifice the dog’s right to choose.) don’t understand them (It’s you who don’t understand.  Talk to me again after you’ve read, ‘Bones Would Rain From The Sky’.) and their “evidence” against him is of people misusing his methods.  Cesar does not “punish” any animal.  (Yes, he does.  The word, ‘correction’, in the dog training world, means, ‘punishment’.)  He disciplines. There is a huge difference.  (Look up the word, ‘discipline’ in Merriam Webster.  Actually, two of the definitions are, ‘punish’, and, ‘punishment’.  And the other ones aren’t exactly what you seem to mean.  So what, really, are you saying?)  As musicians, we know a great deal about discipline (uh…that’s SELF discipline you’re talking about there, and doesn’t enter into this dog training discussion in any way) and would not/could not be successful without it.
    • Male Cesarite: @Female Cesarite I (obviously) agree with you for the most part. No “system” is every perfect and people are not dogs and I think the dogs kind of know that.  (KIND OF?  Ya THINK?  Burberry, tell me, have you penetrated my disguise and discovered I’m not a dog?  This is just one of the many flaws in the now-passe studies.  They apparently failed to think it mattered that dogs might not be expecting us to behave as they themselves did, having cleverly noticed that we smell funny and walk on only two of our legs and have no tails and hate rolling in dead fish and produce unusual mouth sounds.)  The hard part about Cesar’s program is the need to exercise leadership of the pack 24/7.  (I find no difficulty in this whatsoever.  Really.  And I somehow manage it without Cesar’s help!)  We all want to just spoil our fur babies (Speak for yourself.  I do NOT want to ‘spoil’ anyone.  I have never referred to my dogs as ‘fur babies’–I think it’s an old-maidish term, actually–anyway, my dogs are all adults, with fully adult intelligences–and have never even thought it.  If, by spoiling, you mean I feed my dogs unusually excellent food, give them more time and exercise, and more natural living conditions, than what many people do, I concede that that’s possible.  But I most certainly don’t treat them like children, except that I respect that they have their own unique, valid ways of looking at the world, as I would with kids.)  and cuddle them and love them and we sometimes don’t consider the implications of that for the dog.  (You think cuddling and loving a dog will have negative implications for it?  Like what?  Will it try to dominate you if you love it?)  To use Cesar’s method requires being a calm (hard to do when the dog shreds your favorite shoe) (I do agree it’s hard to always be calm.  Although chewed shoes don’t rile me, I’m far from perfect, and used to lose my temper often when trying to work on loose-leash walking with the then-adolescent Burb.  Losing your temper at a dog is pathetic and nasty, and I can’t excuse myself for that.  But having an actual policy of, ‘OK to dominate’–using alpha rolls, for instance–is much worse.  At least when I lost my temper it was an occasional failure of an otherwise good system, instead of just being a bad system.)  consistent leader not a task master. I think a lot of his method and success boils down to his simple idea that you should “master the walk”. You lead, the dog follows. He walks a dozen dogs off leash without trouble and without yelling or hitting or anything.  (This is much easier to do than most people realize.  I did it myself–although with only a half dozen or a little over–for years.)  If a dog misbehaves he just gives a little hiss and they fall back in line. I’ve seen a little fight break out in his pack when a new dog comes in and he just steps in and gives his “Zsh” and a dozen pits, Rotties and Shepherds all stop and lay down at once.  (Here he wrote a trainer’s name and business name, and I’m removing them because I don’t wish to be a source of negative publicity for this person) is a Cornell educated master trainer who uses methods similar to Cesar and who, in fact, recommends her clients read Cesar’s book. If you know anyone in the area that has used her for a dog, you’ll know how much they swear by her. (another name I want to protect) brought his bulldog there for a two week in-house rehab and when he got it back he said that if he didn’t know better he’d swear she had switched dogs on him.  (This is too sad…I BET he’d swear that.  You leave home and family and go away for two weeks to a place where someone administers shocks to modify your behavior, and you’ll come back quite different, too.  Poor bulldog…I was told by one of the trainer’s employees, a person who also advocates the use of shock collars, that what went on behind the scenes there, the high level of the shocks administered, was too much for (the employee) to be comfortable with.)  She takes the dogs on multiple daily walks where she is the alpha and then does hour-long training sessions with the dogs. Her idea (much like Cesar’s) is that dogs want leadership, most dogs are not themselves natural alphas and forcing them to be alphas by NOT leading them unbalances their pscyhes. By leading the walk and teaching the dog to look to you for commands to obey makes the dog himself much happier because he is a beta dog in a stable pack. I know some of the Purely Positives don’t like his methods because he does use his two finger poke to get the dogs attention (it really is fairly benign to my eye) (wonder if he’d think it benign if his supervisor poked him like that) and he will sometimes roll the dogs which the Purely Positives don’t like. (Neither do the dogs, which is much more important, or should be, if only for the reason that it will increase the possibility of their showing aggression to humans, which is liable to get them killed, and which might also harm the humans.) But there is precedence in dog behavior for both behaviors. I know it can be overdone and Cesar himself is constantly telling people they are sending the dog the wrong message and they are confusing the dog by not being consistent in the application of the boundaries. And it is hard to always know what the right thing to do is and you don’t want to teach a dog to not be a dog…like never barking. But you do want the dog to stop barking if you request it. I mean when you look at the very aggressive dogs that he has “rehabilitated” (his term, he doesn’t like “train” as he doesn’t consider himself a trainer), you have to give him credit for saving the lives of many, many dogs who would otherwise have been euthanized for aggression.  (Although I am thankful for any dog saved, he’s saved such a puny number, compared to the numbers of dogs becoming aggressive–and we all know where that often leads–because of the careless application by the general public of methods that aren’t scientifically sound nor psychologically safe to begin with.)  Is he perfect? Absolutely not. Do people misunderstand/misuse his advice? Absolutely. But I just hate to completely dismiss his message. He was immensely helpful to me in understanding and modifying Willie’s behavior when the Pyrenees in him came out (wonder if he thinks things about his students like, ‘uh oh, the Chinese in him is coming out–time for an alpha roll.’  It’s so easy to waste a lot of time judging your dog by its breed.  Please, SEE YOUR DOG.  Your individual dog, not its breed reputation.  Read the Clothier book.) It’s a tough breed and so many of them get put to sleep for aggression that is natural in the breed (uh…sorry to disagree, but that is NOT the right word to use for the Pyr characteristic I believe you mean–I think the word, ‘aggression’, is being used way too often to describe other things) when people are unable to control it. And I think much of his advice worked when I integrated Keira into the pack. And it worked wonders with Willie which is also part of what Cesar preaches: the power of the pack and the stability dogs gain from being a member of a pack.  (Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I do think that a great part of Cesar’s success has come from having a large number of dogs.  To me, my own success is proof of it.  But should I blow my own horn because of it?  I don’t think so.  I’m just lucky, and so is Cesar, to be able to have enough dogs to get the pack benefit.)  I might have accidentally deleted words here that I’ve got Willie is 1000% better with all other dogs since Keira became part of his pack. He is much calmer and friendlier and seems much better balanced and happy. (not surprising–dogs are gregarious animals, and I personally feel that it’s a form of deprivation to ask a dog to live at home without any other member of its species)  That’s why I can’t so easily dismiss Cesar’s Way even if people misuse it or misunderstand it. I’ve seen it work. (This is illogical.  He has just finished saying that one dog got 1000% better simply because another dog joined him in the household (giving credit to the comfort of a ‘pack’, even if it’s a pack of two), and then he says that the credit should go to Cesar.)
No more thinking about this for me.  This entry will do enough harm as it is.  I am tired of feeling so passionate about this…
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BooBoo, Barbo, And Bandit Biscuits

This recipe is from the mother they loved/love, Kate.

Peachy Keen Oatmeal Biscuits

* 2 cups rolled oats
* 3/4 cup water, divided
* 1/4 cup diced peaches
* 1 tbsp canola oil
* 1 tbsp molasses, blackstrap
* 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
* 1 cup whole wheat flour
* 1 tsp cinnamon


1. Preheat oven to 350° F
2. In a large bowl, stir together the rolled oats and 1/2 cup of the water.
3. In a food processor, puree the peaches, canola oil, molasses, vanilla and 1/8 cup of water.
4. Stir the peach mixture into the oats.
5. Add the flour, cinnamon and 1/8 cup of water.
6. Using a large fork, combine all the ingredients. The oats will want to stick together.
7. Break apart the oats until all the flour is incorporated.
8. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
9. Using a 1 inch cookie scooper, scoop cookies onto the prepared baking sheeet.
10. Flatten each scoop to make a flat round cookie shape.
11. Bake for 15 minutes.
12. Turn off the oven and let the cookies cool in the oven.
13. If you and your dog can’t wait, cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

Storing – This dog cookie recipe will keep fresh in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. Freeze the cookies for up to 6 months.

Yield – Using a 1 inch cookie scooper, you will get 2 dozen biscuits.

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For Kim, Allison, And Keith

Anja (below, in comments) is right.  This blog entry is itself like a doggie stew–I’ve put in all kinds of different things–and she threw her ingredients in, too.  🙂 

What are the chances?  On the exact same day that I come to the conclusion that the reason many people from the general dog-owning public prefer Cesar Millan-style dominance theory training, over the much more scientific and incidentally more humane positive reinforcement/negative punishment-style training, is because tons of people get their jollies from controlling whatever living being they can get their hands on, the issue of domestic violence is offered up on a platter for me to ponder, not once, not twice, but more times than you’d think would be statistically probable.

The training question is huge, and the thought I had (I’m going to go so far as to call it a realization) depressed me.  To know that many folks you’d think would be more aware of progress in training methods are still convinced that we need to use physical control and discipline with our dogs, makes me despair sometimes.  

One person’s input that packed a wallop:  an acquaintance said he’d never been to a trainer who didn’t use physical manipulation to get a dog into a sit.  This plummeted me into the depths, temporarily.  Teaching a dog to sit is so easy that a toddler still in diapers can do it.  You just need to be able to stand quietly in front of a dog, looking like you’re waiting for something, and the dog will sit.  A freaking Roomba set on ‘pause’ could probably train a dog to sit, once the dog got used to it.  And a trainer who has to push a dog into a sit isn’t worth what you’d pay for the Roomba (and don’t forget that the Roomba will do your floors, too).

But this subject is so loaded that I’m leaving it for a day when I didn’t spend all day thinking about it.  At the bottom of this entry I’ll put a link to today’s most outrageous control freaky domestic violence incident involving a pet.  But the ‘meat’ of this entry will be about something much less controversial (although it still features in many ‘discussions’ between dog lovers):  dog food.

A friend asked what she could do about her dog, who was somewhat obsessed with getting himself on the outside of people food.  For today, I’m going to be as brief as I can, and provide links and stuff tomorrow.  Two things pop out at me for now.

Thing One:  The present-day kibble industry is very recent.  If you think back, you’ll realize that, even in your parents’ day (if you’re close to middle age), people were feeding ‘people food’ to their dogs.  The kibble manufacturers did a masterful marketing job, but its days are numbered, and that’s a good thing.  More on that (lots more, if I can find it) tomorrow or the next day.

Thing Two:  a tale from Suzanne Clothier’s fantastic book, ‘Bones Would Rain From The Sky’ (short form of the title, which is commonly used)

Client brought dog to her; said dog was picky eater and would not eat her dog food.  Dog too thin, not very healthy, just not thriving.  Client/owner convinced dog being manipulative, holding out for better, staging hunger protest or something similar.  Offered as proof, ‘whenever I have chicken, she’s right there, begging her head off!  And she licks my oatmeal bowl clean every morning.  But will the little diva eat her food?  Oh, no.  She’s so stubborn I don’t know what to do anymore.’  (major paraphrase, done from memory)

I have no idea what any of you are thinking at this point.  For me, it was obvious where this was going, but the client was a little hard to convince at first.

Dogs don’t lie.  Dogs aren’t manipulative, as we can be (although they can train us, but that’s something different).  Dogs don’t have all the weird relationships with food that we do.  If the dog was desperately begging for chicken and licked up every speck of oatmeal, it’s because those were good things for it to eat.  Once Suzanne persuaded the owner to try it, the dog’s health took a major leap upwards, in every way.  (It’s probable that this particular dog had allergies to a lot of other dog food ingredients, which is why she needed a purer diet to be in good health.)  All of us have stories like this. 

(Now don’t be a smart-tail and say that your dog begs for chocolate–should you feed her chocolate?  No!  The dog in the story wasn’t messing around–she was desperately craving the foods which she could sense were the only ones her body could utilize, and this may be the case with my friend’s dog, too.  There’s certainly no harm whatsoever in trying a more ‘people-food based’ diet for a dog like that.)

Not every dog thrives on the same ingredients.  You need to observe your dog, and tweak what you’re serving to meet his or her needs.  And, in general, dogs like variety in their meals.  If you think otherwise, you can thank the same kibble industry that brainwashed us into thinking that is was OK to feed our best friends greasy little balls from a bag with an expiration date sometime in the next decade, day after day, with no added anything.

People sometimes think that dry food is better for a dog’s teeth than ‘wet’ food.  Even that’s not true.  When you eat a Triscuit, it’s nice and crunchy.  But within seconds it becomes a mushy paste that sticks to your teeth just as much as a marshmallow does.  It’s bones that help clean a dog’s teeth–intense chewing on a resistant surface–not kibble.

Having bashed kibble a bit, let me say that all kibbles are not equal.  There are some really great ones out there, and I had to learn about them for Soyer.  The trainer who worked with Soyer at the beginning feeds her own dogs a raw diet (I’ll add at least one link about that, tomorrow), which wasn’t possible at Soyer’s boarding facility, and I cook for my own dogs, which wasn’t possible either (although I began cooking extra stew, and taking it to Soyer in microwave-safe containers), so Soyer needed to eat kibble, and we got him one of the best that money could buy, in our opinion:  grain-free Canidae.  There are lots of other excellent ones, and if people want to read about them here, I’ll write about them.  I suspect, though, that the information is easy to come by.  Still, you might want personal testimonials from other owners, so just write in, if so.

I bought Soyer’s food at a store we have here called Country Max.  It stocks a wide variety of high-end pet foods, in addition to some of the less expensive ones.  For my own dogs, I wanted to use a kibble base, and I wanted it to be a kibble for which I didn’t have to go to a special store.  I wanted to be able to buy my kibble at our 24-hour supermarket, so that I would never risk being without it.

Luckily for me, right around the same time I began to learn a little more about canine nutrition and came to that decision, a decent, all-natural kibble appeared on our grocery store shelves here:  Harmony Farms.

I don’t know what a Canidae-level owner would feel about Harmony Farms.  For me, it’s a very nice step up from Science Diet, which is what I used to feed, thinking (brainwashed by my former vet’s office) that I was doing a good thing for my dogs.  Science Diet, frankly, is a terrible choice.  I think you’d be better off with most store brands.  I’m quite sure you’d be better off with Purina One, or Rachael Ray’s Nutrish.

My dogs really like the Harmony Farms (not the diet bag, though–just the regular stuff in the green bag), and have never once tired of it.  Maybe someday, when I have fewer dogs or dogs with special needs, I’ll feed one of the super high-end kibbles (although I still feel that supplementation with freshly cooked ‘stew’ is the most important contributor to my dogs’ good health and longevity).  For right now, this is really working.  The price isn’t too bad–it works out to be about $1 per pound.  It’s a better price at Wegman’s than at Tops, and the bigger the bag, the better the value, as you’d expect (although it’s not an infallible rule).

I feed the dogs twice a day, morning and late afternoon.  I cook a ‘stew’ to mix into their kibble.  If you want to try it, it’s easy and satisfying for the cook, I’d say.  You can really exercise your creativity.  I can’t tell you quantities, for obvious reasons, but you can hardly go wrong.  Make a little the first day, and if your dog is looking for more, make more for the next meal.  If you make too much, cool it and refrigerate it for later.

Boil some water in a saucepan.  If you have some leftover all-0r-almost-all-natural broth (low sodium), add it to the water.  If you want to give your dog a real treat, buy a jar of Gerber baby food (beef, chicken, ham, turkey, or lamb) and add that to the water (and be sure to rinse out that jar to get every last bit–dogs and cats love meat baby food, as a general rule, and it’s good to keep some on hand for giving pills, coaxing the appetite of an ailing pet, etc.)

If you’re using raw meat that day (thin chicken breast cut into pieces, or ground beef, turkey, or chicken, add it at this point, and cook for a couple of minutes.

Now add a little grain (this is controversial–many dedicated, knowledgeable owners and trainers are looking for grain-free diets lately), avoiding corn.  Corn isn’t truly bad for dogs; it’s just not too useful to their bodies, except as fiber.  If you don’t believe it, feed your dog some frozen corn or corn on the cob and notice the yellow polka-dotted poop you get the next day.  Most kibble is loaded with corn (the Science Diet, for instance, is outrageously corny).  Harmony Farms is not.  I use rice (mostly white, believe it or not, unless I want to add fiber, because the brown, like corn, tends to go right through them), oatmeal (my preferred grain), or, occasionally, pasta (elbows or broken-up thin spaghetti).  

Cook until the grain is close to finished (depending on your veggie/fruit), and add a vegetable or fruit (apple is the fruit I almost always use–had some gassy dogs with peaches, but it may have been because it was new to them).  I usually use frozen veggies, in the interests of time, but fresh would be wonderful.  My dogs really love spinach and peas, and they like carrots and beans very much, too.  The big bags of mixed veggies are a good variety (although there’s some corn in there), and a good bargain: 91.6 cents per pound, I believe, at Wegman’s. 

I cook the veggies just enough to make them palatable.  I cook the apples a little longer, until they’re fairly mushy.  Dogs love apples, and you can use all-natural applesauce on days when you’re rushed.  I keep that in the pantry year-round.  Use any veg or fruit your dog likes, except–and this is a big exception–grapes or raisins and onions.  I have found it better to avoid tomatoes, peppers, and loads of garlic, too, although a moderate amount of garlic is very nice, and they love it.

Lastly, add cooked meat, if you’re using it–chicken or turkey from the day before, or pot roast, or pork chops…go for lean meats, since too much fat is not only not great for any of us, but can actually cause serious problems for a dog, if he or she isn’t used to having much fat (I think this can happen to us, too).  Don’t feed much (or any) sausages or hot dogs or luncheon meat–nitrites and nitrates should be avoided even more for dogs than we avoid them ourselves.  One of the easiest meats to add, and one of the dogs’ all-time faves, is canned tuna.  I always have it in the house, for them, and the cats, and me. 

Mix it thoroughly, let it cool for a while (definitely check the temperature before setting it down for your dog), pour some on top of the kibble, and stir.  If you try this, friend, I hope you’ll let me know what your people food-obsessed doggie thinks of it.  I confess that I hope very much you’ll try it, as I suspect your dog, whom you told me was a shelter bounce-back (a few times!), hasn’t always had people who cared as much about him as you do, nor too much good food.

For folks who are OK in the financial department but who have very little time, check out The Honest Kitchen.  Their raw, dehydrated diets are great.  You just soak them for a few minutes to rehydrate, and serve, and they can be stored, dehydrated, for ages at room temperature.  My dogs really loved, ‘Thrive’–I served it in place of their homemade ‘stew’.

Please, anybody, write in with your tips about creatively and healthily feeding our dogs–thanks!

I'll deal with the bone issue tomorrow--kind of controversial.

 Here’s the link to the most depressing domestic violence article I saw today (you might not want to taint your soul by reading it, seriously):

something much more wholesome--the meal tray at my house

P.S.  I always keep some cans of different flavors of Harmony Farms wet food in the house, too, in case it’s a really rushed day and I can’t cook for them.  I just make a thick broth from the canned food and warm water, and they really like it.

P.P.S.  I was wrong.  My favorite grain is not oatmeal, although that’s wonderful.  Even better is quinoa, and my dogs just love it.  It’s a little pricier and takes a teeny bit longer to cook, so I buy it less frequently, but the extra protein and yummy taste are so worth it.

More pees and one ess:  I forgot eggs!  They love eggs, any which way!  And I also forgot that the Crock Pot is invaluable for making doggie stew.  Layer the stuff in there (veggies and grains on the bottom and meat on top), turn it on low and cook it overnight, and you’ll be golden in the morning.

Posted in Dog Rescue | 4 Comments

Holy Shih Tzu

Well, today seems like another good day for pissing people off, so I’m gonna do my first anti-Cesar Millan blog.  He seems like a nice enough man, and I read his book, and I think he probably does an excellent job with the dogs he trains.  Unfortunately, I think that when the information he puts out there gets into average dog owners’ hands, it does more harm than good.

However, in the article I’ve linked to here, I can’t believe what I’m reading.  I actually had to stop, because I was getting mad, and I’ll read it again later.  But I’m pretty sure he said we should discipline our dogs for showing ‘aggression’ at the dog park.  Even implemented by his own no-doubt capable self, that advice sucks. 

Try that with your kids.  Next time they overreact to a situation, out of fear, or being overwhelmed, or even, possibly, because they have a tendency to become feisty when less than comfortable, punish them (since I believe that Cesar is using the word, ‘discipline’, here to mean some negative consequence, and that is more correctly called, ‘punishment’.  Discipline means something else.)  See what happens next time your kids are in the same situation.  Think they’ll do better?  What do you think would happen if you were to say, ‘Jeremy, dammit, if you don’t behave better at birthday parties I’m going to give you a timeout until you’re eighteen?’  Sure, Jeremy might want to avoid that so much that he’d start behaving better, but do you think he’d ever really enjoy himself at a birthday party again, ever be truly relaxed and comfortable and himself

I’m starting to feel more and more convinced that the combination of this faddish cult of Cesar Millan-style dominance theory training, practiced by a nation of angry citizens who feel life is out of control and who just want to control something, is not only not helping our dogs with their emotional and behavioral issues, but is actually causing a great deal of canine aggression, to the point where I think our whole relationship with dogs is at risk.  I believe that any display of aggression by a shelter dog means that ‘euthanasia’ (it’s in quotes because the true definition of euthanasia refers to medical reasons only) is the most likely end to his or her story.

To clarify this in my own mind:  positive-punishment (meaning, the trainer makes a negative consequence happen to the dog; in other words, the trainer takes positive action) based training tends to increase dog aggression.  Displays of aggression by a dog are more likely to land him or her in a ‘shelter’.  Once there, displays of aggression are much more likely to result in his or her death.

So, I suppose I think that trainers who work with dogs using methods which tend to increase canine aggression are, therefore, dog murderers a couple of steps removed.

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Alive In An Angry World: Better Off Dead?

This happened in a city quite near me.  It’s the capitol of our state, and it’s where my nephew lives, the one who got the awesome summer course grade I wrote about here a few days ago.  And the criminal in this news story is just about the same age as my nephew, so I felt I could envision the guy.

News items like this one are very common lately.  I can’t tell if they’re appearing more often than they used to because things like this are happening more, or because media folks now judge them to be more newsworthy, so we’re hearing more about them.  I’ve wondered that before, here, and I’m sure I’ll be writing more about it, because it seems to me to be an important question.

When someone posts a news item about pet cruelty on Facebook, people are very quick to write things like, ‘How could he/she have done that?  Only a monster would do that!’, and, ‘I wish I could swing him by a rope and drop him on the pavement on his head!’  (Things like the latter comment I find incomprehensible.  You want to do the same thing to him that he did to the dog, and it’s OK for you, but not for him?)  In my mind, I think of this as apparently necessary (for some people, anyway) but useless venting, and I try to keep my Facebook utterances free of it, not because I think venting is always a bad thing, but because I’m afraid that venting might make someone think he or she has done something, taken an action, making him or her less inclined to make an actual difference.  I have to go and look up a quote…

Here it is; unfortunately, it wasn’t attributed to anyone in particular.  I’d have liked to give credit for it, since it’s something I remind myself of almost daily, and try hard to live by. 

“The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention.”

Wow, it came out in such a big font.  Someone else must think it’s very important, too.  🙂

I need to get outside and scoop poop, so I’m going to rush through this.  And I just realized that the unusual sense of urgency I feel about scooping poop is because of the quote!  It’s fine for me to sit here writing down my thoughts, but, compared to scooping, these words are mere intentions, and scooping is a good deed.

So here’s what I was thinking, briefly.  What if that kid is not what you’d call a ‘monster’, but merely someone who has very poor anger management skills?  What if there are more people nowadays like him?  What if gigantic stressors like 9/11 and the war and the poor economy have changed people in some fundamental way, at least temporarily?

Sociologists can look back and give labels to eras and decades.  In fact, I should have researched it before writing this, because I won’t be surprised if I find that they’ve already labeled this time period.  This ain’t no 1950s we’re living in–times are tough.

And what if, in addition to having lots of tense, angry people walking around, our lifestyles have changed so that they are not at all conducive to helping a dog be happy and content?  What if we spend so much of our time sitting in front of screens of one kind or another that we’ve become a sedentary, physically unfit group, spending so little time outdoors exercising that we need a campaign to address the problem?  Do you think that could be true?  Duh, we know it’s true!  Do most dogs enjoy spending hours each day just sitting and staring?  Do we see a lot of obese feral dogs?  Uh, no. 

What if we’ve become a group of people who think that living with a dog, possibly the most good-souled animal most of us will ever get to know, is an inconvenience?  Who’s got time to walk outside?  I have a treadmill.  Training classes?  Are you kidding?  I’d have to go.  I’ll just send the dog off to that lady who trains ’em using a remote shock device.  She says the dog will come back all different, and I won’t have to do a thing except pay the bill.  And so on and so on…

I’ll finish this later.  I’ve got a lot more to write about this, but I want to scoop.  Let me just say that I’m not defending the kid in the article in the least.  I’ve lost my temper with a dog on a much smaller level, and I don’t defend myself, either.  Losing one’s temper is a pretty loserish thing to do.  You might as well just admit that you’ve failed.  Losing your temper with a lousy, dangerous driver might be one thing.  Losing your temper with a dog is always an epic fail, as they say now.

Part of what I hate about dominance theory training is that, in the hands of the general public, it walks a very fine line, and I have a feeling that many angry and/or naturally controlling people feel ‘enabled’ by it to lose their tempers with their dogs, while remaining ostensibly guilt-free (‘Cesar says I’m supposed to pin him down, to show him I’m alpha.’)  I cringe to think that long ago, for a period of weeks, I believed a colleague at work who, sincerely feeling it was right, was feeding me this stuff, giving me advice about training a dog with issues who had been passed around from home to home until he didn’t know up from down.  Thank God I figured out quickly, by trying very hard to get inside his brain even though I really didn’t know what I was doing, that the dominance junk was not at all what he needed–I feel it’s harmful in general, but it would have been particularly awful for him.  

Back to the guy in the news story.  He may really be a ‘monster’, a sociopath.  Or he might be a ‘normal’ man who totally lost it.  While no thinking person could defend what he did, either way, I think it would be very good to find out why an average person, not a monster, might do something like that.  It seems important for those of us trying to adopt out dogs to know such things.  If this really is a time in history when people’s psyches are disturbed and our general approach to daily life isn’t at all suitable to dogs, it might be a ‘perfect storm’, an unusually lousy time to find good homes for dogs.  

The people who were surrendering Burberry, at the age of only seven weeks, were having trouble controlling their anger with her; at least, the woman of the couple was, she who was Burberry’s primary caretaker.  She was so angry, in fact, that she displayed her anger in public, at my vet’s office, and that’s what prompted me to give her my phone number, in case she felt she needed some help.  It’s a complicated subject for me, because Burberry is the dog who pushed my own anger buttons, and I’ll write more about it.  I think the dogs would be better served by our honesty about this subject.  When my friend said that Jemma was pushing her anger buttons, that was all I needed to hear.  If more people were honest about their inability to manage some of their emotions, there might be fewer incidents of cruelty to animals and to people.

I am very concerned that part of the reason our ‘shelters’ are filling up with dogs is that people are finding themselves overwhelmed by too much lately, from the global situation to the chaos and rage in their own souls.  I cannot stand the idea that many people might be so psychologically unfit to have a dog that a dog might be better off dead than living with them.  Please, say it isn’t so.  Surely we can find a solution.  We must.  The universe can’t stand the waste of life and love that is happening every day in our ‘shelters’.

I’d love to know what you think about this.  Also, here’s a reminder note to myself: 

I want to write about a time when I happened to be on the spot when something similar to what’s in the news story was occurring, when I believe my intervention made a real difference.  And there was another time when there’s at least a chance I helped.

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