Friday, November 26, 2010

The American Kennel Club and Me

I asked for, and received, "The Complete Dog Book" for Christmas in 1961.  (This was the new revised edition of the official American Kennel Club listing of breed standards, histories and descriptions.)  I was nine years old and I pored over that book for about 40 years!  That book lists six groups of dogs as follows: 24 sporting breeds, 19 hounds, 28 working breeds, 20 terriers, 16 toy breeds and 9 non-sporting for a total of 116 AKC recognized breeds.  I thought that was the total of all breeds in the world.  It was enough for me to daydream about.  I think I longed for over half of the breeds in that book at one time or another.

I now own the 19th edition of "The Complete Dog Book" which was copyrighted in 1998.  This one lists eight groups as follows:  24 sporting breeds, 22 hounds, 20 working breeds, 25 terriers, 19 toy breeds, 16 non-sporting breeds, 17 herding breeds and 5 miscellaneous for a total now of 148 AKC recognized breeds.

I'm not an authority and I'm not likely to be a prominent or recognized dog trainer.  I am just an average dog owner who loves to train and compete with her dogs.  I also have this long standing love affair with the AKC.  Maybe it's only because I didn't know there was anything else out there.  Still - my feelings about dogs are tangled up with THE American Kennel Club.  It's what I grew up daydreaming about and it's part of my dog related history.

I have owned three AKC registered Samoyeds so far.  I began training and showing when I got Jazz, who was my second Samoyed.  We competed in AKC events only, until I went to a NADAC agility trial and was hooked on the opportunity to run six times in one day and the more relaxed atmosphere of the NADAC agility trials.  Jazz is now registered in NADAC and competes in that venue also.  Recently I attended my first UKC obedience and rally trial and Jazz and Coach are both UKC registered now as well.  I plan to compete in UKC in the future.

My goal in competing with my dogs is to have a stronger relationship with them and to be sure that they stay active, interested and alert as long as possible.  Jazz has recently had surgery on both knees.  I don't know if he will ever be 100% again.  As far as I know, AKC does not have a veteran's class in agility or obedience.  Agility does have a preferred class, but Jazz still has to jump 20" in preferred.  He can entered skilled and veterans in NADAC and jump 12"!  I fully expect him to be able to compete in NADAC in the near future.  I think we might be able to return to AKC, but that will be much farther down the road.  Obedience is worse.  He is 25+ inches at the shoulder so he has to jump 26" in obedience and 52" broad jumps.  There isn't much of a run to get up momentum to go over these jumps.  I'm not sure he will ever be able to jump these distances again.  I'm not sure why the AKC couldn't have a veteran obedience class that would allow Jazz to continue to compete, but jump lower and shorter jumps.  UKC has veterans classes with lower jump heights, which is why we are now planning to enter UKC obedience.  Jazz is not totally in love with obedience, but he hates being left out of anything.  I hate leaving him behind.

I would also like to see AKC agility have more opportunities for the dogs to run in one day.  It's a lot of work to pack up dogs, travel to a show, unpack everything, and then run twice (three times if FAST is offered.)  I love a dog trial, but it would be more fun for me and the dogs if there were more opportunities to run in one day.  Obedience has lots of nonregular and nontitling classes.  I would like to see more opportunities to have some fun at agility trials as well.

My last comment about AKC trials is something that I feel most strongly about.  I hear AKC and non-AKC people constantly complaining that AKC events are too serious.  Everyone is stressed out and unfriendly.  AKC is just not fun.  I think this is true to some extent, but "AKC" is not a person.  The people at these trials are us!  If we don't want the trial atmosphere to be stressed and unfriendly, relax and be nice!  I like to think that the trials held by my club are among the most relaxed and friendly around.  I think each host club has the opportunity to contribute to a more relaxed and friendly atmosphere.  I am so pleased that non-AKC recognized breeds and mixed breed dogs are now included in AKC trials.  I hope that these new entrants will contribute to a more relaxed atmosphere. 

I think it is a compliment to the AKC that so many people so desperately want to do well at AKC trials.  For many of us - it's "the big dance."  Still - it's a great opportunity to have fun with dogs and people.  I hope the AKC continues to grow and change.  Maybe add more agility classes - titling or not - and a preferred level to lower jump heights in obedience?  What would you like to see AKC change?  Any thoughts?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What Jazz And Coach Had To Say

I have been considering calling the animal communicator for a long time, but Melinda's blog finally pushed me over the edge.  I made the appointment for 7PM and Jazz tore his knee about 7AM of the same day.  I almost called and canceled, but I was hoping she could help him get ready for surgery.  I'm so glad I called her.  She's so much fun to talk with and I learned a lot about my dogs.  I will warn all of you now - I believe this is all true.  I WANT to believe it, there is no harm in believing it, and it just feels right.  I get tired of pretending it's goofy or that I'm too smart to believe it.  It isn't goofy and I am a believer.  So here's what the dogs had to say.

Linda (the communicator) didn't want any information about the dogs except name and breed.  She had no clues at all.  She said she would talk with Jazz first and was quiet for a while.  He was asleep on the couch and I saw his ears prick up for a minute.  She asked if he was the one with the goobery eyes and headache.  He has had some eye irritation for a few days - the headache was news to me.  She said he had a headache and his left ear really hurt.  Coach had been screeching in his left ear just minutes before.  I know I had a headache so I'm assuming that was the cause of Jazz's headache as well!

He didn't complain about anything else except his right lower back was sore.  That would be from months of overusing his right leg while the left one healed.  I finally told her about his knee issues and she tried to find out how his legs felt.  He told her that he was fine and it was the steps that were to blame.  He said he did just fine if it was flat and a straight line.  He told her he would get there.  She said he is a very determined dog!  I had to laugh about the stairs thing because he had just been to the vet and since his knee was hurt I had to carry him up the stairs.  He really hates to be carried.  I think it's funny that he blames the steps for his problems.  This whole conversation made me realize that he honestly hadn't figured out that his right leg was that badly hurt.  It was too recent.

Next she asked him about Coach.  He told her that Coach is a smart aleck.  She asked if Coach was clever and he said yeah, but he was definitely not very happy about it.  Jazz said that Coach is "good boy".  He is definitely jealous.  He also said that he doesn't like the way Coach plays - he said Coach cheats.  Linda said that Jazz is very mature and wonders why I brought Coach home.  This is not a huge surprise.  He also said that Coach body slammed him in the right side.  Again - no surprise there - Coach body slams everyone!

I asked her to find out how Jazz feels about obedience.  His behavior in the ring suggests he hates it!  He told her that he has a real cool, quick sit.  She was laughing - she said he is very proud of his sit.  This cracks me up.  Part of rehab for the knee has been sit/stands.  He is so excited to get to do them because he hasn't been able to do anything for weeks.  I have been praising the heck out of his efforts and had just been telling him how quickly he was sitting after weeks of slow creaky sits.  He said obedience is OK but agility is more fun because he likes the talking.  I knew he had more fun in agility, but I never thought the talking part was that big a deal to him.  I think I can use that information to help him with obedience.  We'll see.

I had been trying my own communicating lately to help him stop being so afraid of thunderstorms.  I put him in his kennel, laid down beside, put the kennel cover on and told him over and over that it was safe.  It seemed to work and I asked Linda to see if he really heard me.  She said he kept saying something about fabric making it safe.  By Jove I think he got it!

She tried to tell him that he needed surgery again but he would be able to do agility after the surgery healed.  He said he really liked agility because he can fly.  I don't know - run fast? top of the A frame?  I'll watch and see if I can figure out what he meant by that.  He told Linda that we are a team.  I can't think of a nicer compliment.

Then it was Coach's turn.  Oh my.  He was laying in his kennel chewing a bone.  He stopped chewing for a second, cocked his head and went back to chewing.  The first thing he told her was that he didn't do anything different.  He did the same thing he always does and it wasn't his fault.  I was really floored.  She said he was feeling guilty.  I don't know if this was because I hollered at him to make him leave Jazz alone (he was pulling Jazz's tail to try to get him to play) or if the earlier mentioned body slam is when Jazz hurt his knee.  Either way, the poor little guy is only being a pup.  No blame from me or Jazz as far as I can tell.

He thinks Jazz is a goody two shoes.  He said Jazz is always perfect.  At least they are equally jealous of each other!

Linda said he is at that "know it all" teenager stage - no surprise to anyone who knows him.  She described him as tough, but not a bully.  Pushy (oh yes), determined, independent thinking like a cat.  She said he thinks of me as a playmate.  He likes agility because it's a game we play together, but he likes to play with me in general.  I have to graduate from playmate to team mate, but I'm sure we'll get there.

So that was my communicator experience.  It was great!  I will certainly call her again one of these days.  I learned so much about both dogs.  I think these were mostly things I knew, but the difference in perspective was very interesting and the whole experience was just plain fun.  I sure needed the distraction the night before Jazz had to have surgery!  Thanks Linda - from me and the boys.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Another Knee Bites the Dust

On the 12 week anniversary of knee surgery on the left knee, Jazz tore the right knee.  This time the ACL was completely torn (only partial last time) and the miniscus (sp?) is intact (torn but left in last time.)  I just don't have the heart to get too dramatic about all this.  As my husband said when I asked for a divorce - I'm pretty disappointed.

The knee tore on Wednesday and I had him in to the surgeon and my vet on Wednesday afternoon.  I scheduled surgery for Thursday morning.  I felt like the longer we waited, the more muscle mass he would lose.  He still hasn't built his left leg up to strength and I just didn't want him to lose any more muscle than absolutely necessary.  We met with Dr Aper (the regular surgeon at Eastern Iowa Veterinary Specialty Clinic) who was on maternity leave for the last surgery.  She discussed a new procedure called a tightrope surgery.  This one does not involve breaking or cutting the bone.  I think it is similar to an older surgery that didn't work because they didn't have strong enough material.  Now they have a material that is used to replace human tendons.  They drill into the bone and tie this stuff around the joint to hold it in place.  It doesn't stretch or break like the old fishing line did, so it is a great answer.  Dr Aper has been doing these for a year or two I think.  Anyway - we had that one done.

Meanwhile, the left knee had opened a small hole and was draining fluid again.  It has been a problem since the original surgery and drove me crazy because the incision didn't want to heal.  Dr Aper looked at it and said it appeared that the implant was infected and might need to come out at some point.  I decided that "some point" is now.  Our luck has not been good and I don't want to see him almost healed and then have another surgery with another two weeks of restricted activity.  So the implant was removed at the same time as the tightrope surgery was done.  They tell me he no longer needs it in there since the knee is so thoroughly healed.  This is the hardware they removed - cool huh?
So we start over with rehab.  The amazing thing is how different this surgery has gone so far.  He is walking on both legs and has been since the day of surgery.  He wants to get out and walk and I have to restrain him.  Last time he basically slept for seven weeks.  The incision is clean and has never drained at all.  It is healing so quickly and nicely I am afraid I will jinx it by talking about it.  He is also eating well.  His overall appearance and attitude are great.  I hope and pray it stays that way.  I know that one reason for walking on both legs is that the left one is still weak so he really has to use both.  Last time he could do fine on three legs and didn't need to try to use the left one.

I talked with the animal communicator that Melinda talked about in her blog on Wednesday night before the surgery.  I will tell you more about that next time.  She was so terrific and I really learned a lot.  Anyway- she said Jazz didn't think there was anything wrong with him.  He said the problem was with the stairs.  He said he did just fine if he could go somewhere straight and flat!  I'm not positive he really knew he had hurt his knee permanently since he had been sleeping ever since it was hurt.  Anyway - I asked her to try to tell him about the surgery and tell him that he should be good and he would get well soon.  Who knows what he heard, but she tried and he has been great.

I think both vets and all the vet techs have pointed out that he can't tear his knee again because both knees are done.  I guess that's a positive thing.  This twelve weeks is up on December 30.  I am really looking forward to New Year's Eve!

Friday, September 24, 2010


I tried to make a list of all the words I use to tell my dogs what to do - or not to do.  I sorted the list by categories - home, obedience, agility.  Many of the words are used in all places.  Stay always means stay, but OK means get up and move around in obedience, free means stop staying and run like a crazy dog in agility.  I keep remembering more words I use or creating new ones.  We are walking, walking, jogging, walking in order to get Jazz healthy again and I live on a busy rural road.  No sidewalks and narrow shoulders.  I am teaching the dogs the word shoulder (couldn't think of anything else) and it means get off the pavement and face yourselves into the ditch.  Hopefully it will keep us all from getting run over by the idiots who drive giant camper things towing cars at 50 miles an hour down a narrow gravel road.

One of the problems with so many words is that I forget them - hence the list!  I also use them wrong, change my mind and generally worry more about them than is really appropriate.  I listen to other people's words and change my mind some more.  I have word envy.

I learned in a recent class that I need a single, easy, marker word.  Good dog, way to go, yippee etc are not very easy for the dog to recognize and take too long to say.  I started using the word yes.  Maybe some of you are smart enough to see this one coming.  I am running around the agility course yelling yes, yes!!, YES!! and I sound like that incredibly stupid annoying shampoo commercial.  I don't have much pride, (if I did I might have gotten a nice border collie instead of Samoyeds,) but I really feel like a moron yelling yes all the time.  I know lots of other people who use that word and it sounds fine, it just doesn't sound fine when I use it.  So I changed my mind and decided to use click.  It's short, easy to remember, doesn't sound any dumber than any other marker word and it's not very likely to be used in any other context.

So now I have this nice shiny new marker word.  I wonder how long it will take me to learn to use it?  The dogs understand that click is good and gets them a treat because I loaded the word the same way I loaded a real clicker.  Click treat, click treat.  Last night at agility practice I said - " boy!"  I said "click ....good boy."  I said jump and pointed at a tunnel.  I said "click jump."  I said "weave" and then said click before he ever did the weaves.  You see the problem.

Words.  It's a good thing the dogs don't really seem to pay any attention to what I say.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to work on that too, but right now - who could blame them?

By the way - Coach has revisited the vet and his boys now have some kind of secondary infection.  What a mess.  Who knows what comedy of errors has caused this, but we are still working on a solution.  Her comment was - for now - let's just leave his testicles alone.  We are using antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.  She doesn't think I did anything wrong, just a case of too much of a good thing maybe?

I'll go back to something I can handle - click - treat. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

True Confessions

I sincerely hope my vet does not read this blog.  If she does - please forgive me - I am desperate!

The latest health crisis at my house is ringworm.  (EEEWWW.  Not a worm, just a fungus.)  Coach has this obnoxious fungus and it has come to rest in a very delicate part of his anatomy.  I might have noticed this except for two things - I never look at "the boys" and I really have no idea what they're supposed to look like.  Don't get me wrong - in general I know what they look like, but who knew they weren't supposed to have pink on them?  Maybe they are and this is just the wrong kind of pink? Anyway - now that the problem has been discovered we are taking corrective measures.

My vet is a wonderful, knowledgeable person and I trust her completely.  The remedy for this miserable fungus is a medicated shampoo.  I am supposed to shampoo the offending area and about 6 inches around it with this shampoo.  Here is the kicker - twice a day for a week, once a day for another 2 weeks and every other day for a month.  I need to wear rubber gloves, clean carefully or throw away any utensils and generally be careful not to get ringworm or pass it along to Jazz. This is not something Coach enjoys.  I am stiff in so many places from puppy wrangling.  I am also surprised by how hard it is to actually get a good angle on his little friends.  Believe me when I tell you this whole process is miserable and time consuming.

So here comes the true confessions part.  I have a groomer who is my friend.  I trust her and she has a great deal of experience with all kinds of dog related skin issues.  She recommended I might try using oil of oregano to cure the ringworm.  I did some internet research and it sounded promising.  I do not have the courage to call my vet and ask her about this.  I decided to compromise.  I will try the oil in the morning and use the shampoo in the evening.  If it doesn't appear to be clearing up I will go back to strictly shampoo.

The thing about this oil is that it burns a little.  I decided to be safe and test it on myself first.  I tried it on the inside of my thigh and it does burn.  It feels a little bit like extreme nettles.  I diluted it a little and applied it to Coach's ... well you get the idea.  First he looked startled and tried to lick it.  Based on his reaction, it also burns in the mouth.  He stood up and looked at his behind a few times and then started trotting around.  He tucked his tail, flattened his ears and dashed out the dog door into the back yard.  Jazz was sleeping by the dog door and seemed to lift one eyebrow and think "hmmm?"  Two seconds later, poor Coach dashed back through the dog door still moving in a fairly urgent manner.  Jazz jumped up and trotted over to Coach.  They touched noses and Jazz immediately noticed a strong scent from the other end of Coach.  I swear the poor puppy smells like pizza now!  Strong pizza, but pizza nevertheless.  Jazz was very surprised and showed considerable interest.  By then the stinging must have subsided and Coach settled down.

That whole performance lasted less than five minutes.  About ten minutes later I looked over and both Jazz and Coach were examining his balls with complete fascination.  I still think it was the smell of pizza that had them confounded.  My daily routine now involves walking, stretching Jazz's thigh, doing sit stands with Jazz, putting stinging oil on Coach's boys, working, walking/running the dogs, washing Coach's guys with medicated shampoo and drying with a hair dryer, doing more stretches and sit stands with Jazz, collapsing in a heap!  Nobody should have this much fun.  Oh well - the dogs are worth it, the exercise is good for me and life at our house is never dull.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rehab - Free at Last!

It's been about a month since our last rehab post.  I reread the last post and am so pleased to see all the things that have improved.

Jazz now walks with a very slight limp.  He willingly sits although the left leg sticks out to the side a little.  He runs, climbs stairs and jumps 16" agility jumps.  He seems happy and comfortable.  We had our final recheck and the bone is healing well.  The vet said she was able to "really crank the knee" and get no indication of pain.  He has arthritis, but she said it is not nearly as bad as many she has seen.  She cleared him to begin the last phase of rehab, which is to build up to complete freedom of activity.

I still worry about some things.  He has that slight limp and I worry that it will not go away.  The vet is not willing to commit to any answer - maybe it will go away, maybe not.  He still sits a little crooked and she said he may always sit that way.  The one that bothers me most at the moment is that he will not stand on four legs.  When he stands still, he is constantly touching the floor with the left foot and then picking it up again.  The vet was concerned, but unable to find anything that caused him pain.  She is puzzled.  I suspect that it is more mental than physical with him, but I hate to assume he is not in pain and find out I'm wrong.  He seems comfortable raising the right leg and standing on the injured one if he wants to mark something.  (I really recommend walking a boy dog so that he has to lift the good leg to mark - great way to get some easy leg strengthening!)  I am now rocking him a little in the rear so he gently has to put weight on that leg and I am having him lift the right leg a few seconds at a time.  He seems to stand on all four legs when he is really interested in something or trying to "dig in" so I can't pull him away from something when I'm walking him.  We will see how it goes.

We are cleared to do everything that Jazz is willing to do except the extreme play favored by Jazz and Coach.  We will wait another four weeks before they are free to stand on their back legs and wrestle like polar bears!  We went to agility practice Thursday night and Jazz got to actually do agility.  I set the jumps at 12" and he was really cute.  He was so happy.  I even got two rear crosses from him.  We have never done rear crosses before!  He seems to have a little trouble with tunnels - he has to crouch a little to go through them so I think it may be uncomfortable for him, but he was happy to give it a try.  He is also going up and down stairs again.  He was pretty stiff on Friday, but this is the first time in about two weeks that he has raised his level of activity enough to be a little stiff.

He is not completely free of pain and he is pretty protective of that leg.  I think he needs to build confidence as well as strength.  The left leg seems to be about 80 percent the size of the right leg, so we need to continue to build muscle. I am so anxious to be able to enter an agility trial before January, but we will see how he does.  The strangest side effect of this injury is his obedience skills.  He is heeling as if it is the most fun he has ever had!  I did quite a bit of obedience training while he was recovering because it made him feel confident and happy to be participating in training with me.  (The rehab booklet specifically recommended figure eights.)  I never realized how much he enjoys the interaction that training provides.  He loves learning things and practicing things as long as I praise him and he gets treats.  He does not want to be left out of anything.

This answers a question that was bothering me.  I wondered if I should stop doing obedience with him because he didn't enjoy it.  He doesn't differentiate between obedience and agility in the way that I do.  He really seems to be happy doing anything that we can do together as long as it is a positive experience.  I am beginning to really understand and enjoy obedience and I think he will too.  I just need to be sure we're both comfortable and having fun.

Thanks to everyone for the good wishes.  I sympathize with others that have or will go through this process.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Happy Birthday Coach

Coach turned one year old on August 13th.  To say that he is at a difficult age would be an understatement.  I have never raised a puppy that was "normal" in terms of health.  Jazz was my first puppy experience and he was born with Lyme disease.  He was so sick for so much of the first year and still on Denosyl for the next year.  This is also my first experience with two dogs in my home at the same time.  To say that I have been overwhelmed, nervous, delighted and confused would be putting it mildly!

Coach is making me crazy these days and I experience the awful "I'm an idiot/lousy trainer" feeling on a regular basis.  I think it helps to remember how far we have come in a year.  So here is a list of the things we have learned:
1.  Learned when and where to pee and poop - mostly.  (We have some issue about pooping on the sidewalk instead of in the grass on a walk??  This is recent.)
2.  Learned to come when called.  (Of course recently we have learned to NOT come if something is really really important or if we are WAY too busy.)
3.  Learned basic skills of sit, down (this one is hilariously enthusiastic and always sounds to me like it hurts,) stand, heel, wait, stay (still a little shaky), OK as a release and back.
4.  Learned beginning agility skills of here, jump, tunnel, front cross and rear cross (ground work only so far), run the A Frame (contacts are still a work in progress,) teeter (hooray!) and free as a release that means "go for it!"
 5.  I almost forgot the most surprising gift of all.  He fetches!  I have never had a dog who fetches.

All of these wonderful skills are sometimes great and sometimes shaky, but I keep reminding myself that he has learned a lot in a short time.  He earned his Rally Novice title at 9 months of age!  He even got good scores doing it.

Here are things he has not learned:
1.  He has not learned to keep his screechy little mouth shut.  He seems to understand the word quiet, but doesn't really like it.  I read that I should try to understand his motivation.  Good grief - he screeches when he wants something and doesn't get it.  We are working on this, but I think it will be the toughest thing we will ever have to learn.
2.  He continues to jump on everybody.  He loves the whole world and wants to show it by knocking off your glasses, washing your whole face and ears if you let him, and generally leaping around until people back away in fear.  I think we are making progress on this one.  Thank you to my lovely family and friends for their patience and persistence in making sure he gets no reward for this foolishness.
3.  He has not learned enough agility yet to do sequences.  He isn't supposed to be able to do that at his age, but I really can't wait for the first "dancing with your dog" agility moment.
4.  He is not completely reliable walking on leash.  I am hedging on this one because he is almost as good at this as Jazz is now, but not as good as I would like.
5.  He is still too crazy to sleep with me at night or to be left out of his crate unsupervised.  I feel bad about that, but this one is just a matter of time.
6.  Hmmm - reading this list I realize that he just hasn't learned impulse control yet.  There's a big surprise!  Sometimes I'm not sure I have either.  Oh well.

So - he is a year old.  He is getting a little bossy and giving me more trouble than he did six months ago.  But mostly, he is healthy, smart, beautiful, funny, and he really likes me.  He runs agility like a wild man, loves all people and dogs, seems to have more confidence than is absolutely necessary, is not afraid of thunderstorms (what a blessing - thank you GJ,) and he really likes me.

Happy Birthday sweet baby boy.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


I have decided that the very worst part of this whole surgery is the incision.  If there were no incision we wouldn't have had to use that dratted "cone of shame!"  The last two weeks, the incision seems to be a bigger problem than the knee.  It continued to drain clear liquid, his whole leg was hot, and the drain incision at the bottom was swollen almost to golf ball size.  I took him for his second acupuncture just as these symptoms appeared and they drained it, put some stuff in it, wrapped in a loose bandage for a day, gave me more antibiotics, and I have to soak in Epsom salts and Triadine for a while.  What a mess!  It makes me feel so bad for him.  The swelling and redness went away within a day and the draining seems to have quit.  The staples are out and the main part of the incision healed well.

There are so many little things I wish the surgeon had done or told me.  I wish they had not shaved the undercoat off of his hip bone.  It seems awfully far up there and if they had stopped shaving one inch lower, he would not have gotten the sore spot on his hip bone.  I couldn't put a soft bed in his expen for a while because he had trouble laying down if he couldn't slide his front legs.  I was also concerned about the drainage from his incision making a disease-filled mess of a soft bed.  Now that those problems are ended I have put a bed in for him and the hip bone is fine.  Seems like such a little thing, but maybe it could have been prevented.

The second thing that would have been helpful from the surgeon concerns diet.  I never thought about what kind of nutrition might speed the healing process.  His appetite returned pretty quickly after we got done with the Tramadol and I was feeding him his regular food.  My vet asked about this and we discussed the calcium needed to heal that bone.  She recommended that I switch to small bite puppy food for a while.  Jazz needs the calories right now and it is very high in the nutrients needed to grow bones.  I can't prove that it helps, but it certainly makes sense to try it.

The exercises are going pretty well.  I don't think Jazz will be a model of speedy recovery, but I think he is doing fine.  We are about three and a half weeks past surgery and he walks on the leg and puts weight on it when he squats to poop.  The rehab schedule has us doing sits and stands and walking figure eights.  The sits are still crooked, but getting straighter every day.  He still isn't strong enough to do more than three in a row and I have just started using a wall to force them to be straighter.  The first time we tried a figure eight, he hopped at the curve where the weight changed to his injured leg.  It helped me see the benefit of that exercise.  I had to widen the curve a little, but today we did a fairly tight curve with no hopping.  The rehab schedule also has him walking on a long leash so he can trot a little if he wants.  He does not want.  Maybe tomorrow.

I find the rehab process very interesting.  He is making progress every day.  The grass is wet in the morning when we walk so I get his feet wet and then have him walk on the driveway so I can compare his foot prints.  This morning the two rear feet were identical.  He still limps a little, but each day something improves.  He is getting much harder to confine and does a pretty good job of dragging me if he sees something interesting on our walks. We continue to increase the length or our walks and I try to gauge how much he can do to make progress without getting too stiff and tired.  He comes with me when I go to agility classes and I include him in our obedience sessions.  We do our sits and figure eights when it is his turn.  He is a pretty cheerful patient.  I suppose I enjoy the rehab for the same reason I enjoy training in general.  I like to see a dog grow and learn.

We have had a few scares and I was grateful to hear from others that this is pretty common.  I have hard wood floors in my house.  I have been careful to keep the fur clipped between his toes and his toe nails short so he won't slip, but of course he did fall a few times.  I put nonslip rugs all over the floor, but if he gets excited he seems to find the one spot that is still slippery and falls.  It broke my heart to see him fall and then be unable to get up.  He whined and I was certain that he was broken again.  He would not put the leg down.  I was truly terrified!  I got him on firm footing and we walked around very slowly for a few minutes.  He seemed to test the leg and then began walking on it again.  What a relief.

I take Coach out in the evenings to play catch and Jazz is not allowed to join in yet.  He hates being left out.  I must have failed to properly latch the expen a few nights ago.  I looked up and Jazz was standing at the gate looking very pleased with himself.  He had pushed out of the expen, made it through two dog doors, and trotted to the gate to join us.  Luckily, he didn't do any damage to himself.  I wish I were not so careless,  but I am pretty sure I am not the only one to make these mistakes.

Thanks for all the good wishes and moral support.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Jazz had knee surgery (TPLO) on Wednesday the 14th or July. The decision seemed inevitable by the time I talked with my vet and the surgeon. The cost is very high and I am grateful that I can come up with it. I am certain this decision will be much more difficult if he needs the other knee done in the next year. (They tell me his chances are 50/50 that he will need the other knee done.)

I have such good friends and everyone has offered advice, sympathy and help. Thanks to all of you. Michele forwarded a copy of a pamphlet with very detailed post surgery therapy instructions. This pamphlet can be ordered through I am very grateful for this information and recommend this website to anyone whose dog is going through any kind of joint surgery or injury. I showed the pamphlet to my surgeon and he was very impressed. I am doing my best to follow these instructions.

The first stupid human trick I want to describe is that I wasn't watching him closely enough while he was not in his "cone" and he pulled the two bottom stitches loose a week after surgery. It is very embarrassing to have to admit this to the surgeon. They put the two stitches back and now I have to give him antibiotics. Bad mom.

I think that Jazz is on the slow end of the recovery curve so maybe this blog will offer encouragement to others whose dogs take their time recovering. I know some dogs walk out of the hospital. Jazz is very comfortable on three legs and did not use his leg until two days ago. I massaged, gently flexed, heated,iced and walked to no avail. Jazz was eating very little and had lost quite a bit of weight. I finally took him to Dr Mary Anson who is wonderful with him. She did acupuncture and showed me some pressure points to do acupressure with. I swear this is true - he started using his leg to balance while we were in the office waiting to pay the bill.

That night (the second Friday after surgery,) he took two or three steps in a row as we walked. I did learn that slow walking in this case has to be really slow so he is forced to use the leg. I actually ended up praising and treating each time he put his foot on the ground. Saturday morning he walked about half the time and by Sunday afternoon he was almost never hopping on three legs. He still curls his foot and puts weight on the top of it to pee and poop. I will give that a day or two and then try gently putting the foot down properly. I am also massaging that foot to help his circulation. His walk this evening was shorter because he started hopping and I figured that means the leg is tired. I made sure to ice him down well.

Another thing the Dr Mary told us was that I could put some zinc oxide on the clipper burns on his legs and on the incision to help them heal more quickly and feel better. I'm not sure how much it helps him, but I feel a lot better being able to do something for him.

He has only eaten canned food so far. I cannot convince him to eat his regular dry food. I usually have to hand feed him the food. I talked to a friend who said the same was true of her dog. I have no idea what that is about, but I am willing to do anything to get food in him so he stops losing weight. I think some of his lack of appetite is due to the Tramadol he is getting for pain. He had the last dose this afternoon. I hope he will eat better in the next few days.

I worry about him all the time, but I have faith that he will eventually be as good as new. I am grateful that he is a good dog and settles in to his crate or his exercise pen in the dining room. He has not been difficult so far. The hardest part is that he wants to walk farther than he is able to. He sure does love a walk and is able to drag me around even with his bad knee. I have to be very careful not to let him put pressure on that leg, so it is a very short leash for us.

Here are a few surgery photos. If you have to go through this, you have my sympathy. I will try to describe the recovery process as we go in hopes that other people will know a little bit about what to expect. Thanks to Becky for her journal also.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Last Run?

We all know that life is short and bad things often happen without warning. In my case, I have had some warning over the last year or two. Jazz had been limping every once in a while for almost two years. We switched him to prescription joint diet food and I have been very careful to warm him up and cool him down when we do agility or other activities. He has always kept his weight down - he eats when he burns calories and doesn't eat when he isn't exercising. (That's a nice trick I wish I had!)

Tuesday evening Jazz was standing in the yard and suddenly started crying. He is not really a crier so I was terrified. He was unable to put any weight on his left rear leg. This is the leg that has been causing him trouble, so I was really worried. I iced it a little and felt it all over. I didn't feel any breaks and it didn't seem to swell up that much. The best we can determine, he just stepped off the sidewalk and twisted his leg. I waited until morning and took him to the vet. He has torn his ACL and probably has cartilage damage in that knee also.

All I could think was - let's fix this! I am very sad to discover that fixing it will probably not be very easy. I am writing this before we have xrays or see the surgeon. I have read some of the material on knee surgeries and talked to lots of people who have been through this. I think I have talked with someone whose dog had each of the surgeries and someone who did not do surgery. I have talked to people whose dogs sailed through and are doing beautifully years later and people who had terrible experiences and limited success. I am so frightened for Jazz.

He has been hopping around on three legs since Tuesday night as we wait to see the surgeon this coming Tuesday. My heart literally feels like it is breaking, but he seems fine. He is taking pain meds and seems pretty comfortable. He is not panting or drooling and he is sleeping fine. He bounces up with his tail doing it's little pom pom shake and even stole a toy from Coach. (I am not dumb enough to let them interact, but Coach laid the toy down and turned his back. Jazz snagged it and is currently sleeping with the toy under his chin.) He cannot put any weight on the injured leg.

I am so grateful for the image of what is likely to be our last agility run. We ran the Open Jumpers course in the sweltering heat. We dropped a bar, but ended with a dash to the finish over the last three jumps. Our friends cheered, I laughed and Jazz wagged his tail and felt pretty good about himself. I am so very glad that we ended that way instead of last fall when I was letting myself get disappointed. I cannot imagine this being harder than it is, but I think I would have been even more miserable if I had ended on that note with him.

I found myself angry with Coach this morning, because he was romping around and I could only see him as a threat to Jazz. Poor little guy is just being a puppy. I will have to watch that and be careful not to neglect him. He is a great dog, but he is bigger than Jazz now and outweighs Jazz by five pounds. We will have to be careful and I will have to make very sure that Coach gets opportunities to play with my daughter's dog and burn off all that energy any way we can.

I hate leaving Jazz at home and taking Coach to training. Jazz is so shocked that he could be left behind and so unhappy about it. I have to learn to deal with all that guilt or I will make a mess out of both dogs! Coach is being surprisingly gentle around Jazz and is even more glued to my side than usual. Either he's afraid I'll start leaving him too, or he knows something's up and needs a little reassurance. Either way - he's a good little brother and is getting lots of practice on "leave it" as it applies to Jazz.

This is a fairly disorganized post. It accurately reflects my state of mind. I think I am usually a pretty optimistic person, but there is a lot of sadness in my life right now. I am determined to be positive and stop feeling sorry for myself. I really admire people that can be supportive, caring and cheerful in the face of adversity. I want to be one of those people. I hope this is the very hardest lesson Jazz still has to teach me. I may not be up to any harder ones.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Handler Training

Jazz and I finished our novice preferred standard AKC title this weekend. It was great and I am very happy to be out of novice. I am happiest to report that I have accomplished a few handler goals.

My biggest goal was to stop worrying about titles and find something to be happy with in every run. I don't think you can fool a dog into believing you're happy if you're not. They hear what you think instead of what you say. I never chastised Jazz or punished him in any way for bad runs. They were usually my fault at the time and certainly my fault in the long run since I am the one that trained him! The problem was my disappointment when we ran poorly. He could tell it was a problem and he lost confidence. I have worked very hard to get my "mind right!"

Saturday we ran a nice standard run in novice and then proceeded to Open jumpers. I was not convinced that I had the right approach to the course and I was a little flustered thinking I would forget where we were going. This is certainly the best way to mess up your dog's run! Jazz started cheerfully and immediately realized I was confused. He ran a few feet away from me and started barking at me. I have been embarrassed by this, frustrated by it, and confused. Saturday, I realized how funny it is. Poor dog - goofy handler! I patted my legs and asked him nicely if he would please come back and play with me. I know I was using a very cheerful voice because I was trying not to giggle. He came bouncing over with a happy look on his face and was all set to play again!

Unfortunately - the very next thing I did was to jam him into a jump and front cross too close to him. Bless his forgiving heart, he let me get away with it and we finished cheerfully. This is the second thing I am trying to learn. I memorize a course in order and with all the crosses and handling sequences I hope to use. This is fine if things go well, but if they go wrong, I am clueless! I often get lost if Jazz goes off course at all. Saturday was a case in point. Why in the world would I put him on the wrong side, too close to the jump, tell him to take the jump and immediately cross to the other side? That's just dumb. I think the ability to improvise, think on my feet and make changes depending on circumstances is mostly a matter of experience. I just need to keep working at handling and keep this in mind.

So we finished a title and I am glad, but I am extremely happy that Jazz and I had a very good time. He was proud of himself and happy to be with me. He has a little bit of arthritis in one knee and I find myself being grateful for every weekend that he is physically and mentally ready to play. It's very clear that he can play or just wander through the course because I ask him to. I am working to put the "play" back for him. I have my mind right and plan to keep it that way.

A final note on Sunday's jumpers run. It was VERY hot in that barn and the barn door was open next to the weaves. We ran fairly well until the weaves. Jazz entered nicely and a beautiful breeze blew in the door. He froze, sniffing the enticing smell of horses and feeling that cool breeze. For a second there, I stood with him and enjoyed the breeze. It was definitely not an agility moment, but I think I may remember the breeze in his fur and his nose sniffing away at the horse smell long after we are done competing. It makes me smile.

We dropped a bar a little while after that, but I said "let's run" and we ran as fast as I could over the last three jumps. It was fun and we were both happy with ourselves. So - I will continue to enjoy him, work on being more flexible, and remember those sweet moments we share. It really doesn't get much better than that!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Falling in Love

I suppose the title is a little much, but I think one of the things we enjoy about dogs is the wonderful feeling of falling in love with a dog. The relationship is so important to training and I don't know how to avoid falling in love with the silly things.

Coach is finally turning from puppy to dog. I am not a person who loves puppies or babies. I like a critter that can communicate! Babies cry, pee and sleep. Puppies bark, pee, CHEW and sleep. Coach is still a puppy, but he is fast approaching the lovely dog stage. He is nine months old and just the last week or so I have seen him settle down a little. (Hot weather is very helpful if you have a Northern breed!) He is learning so fast and is such a sincere little guy.

Jazz has always been hard to engage. He wants to run around and do his thing. He doesn't always listen well and still quits working when he is bored. He used to ignore me when he was done. Now he continues to work, but he is no good at faking enthusiasm he doesn't feel! His personality is so very different from Coach. Jazz does have a sense of humor. Non-dog people don't believe that is possible, but I am certain of it. He loves to poke me when I am not paying attention and if I jump or yelp he stands there and laughs. He also steals my things and leaves them where I will see them. When I pick them up and say "MINE" he just grins at me. He is a very sweet, funny dog.

Coach is still growing into the dog he will be, but his personality is so different from Jazz. I am just getting to know him. He is very sincere and he doesn't have much of a sense of humor. Everything about him is full speed ahead. He will be quiet and peaceful if I am doing something active. He could spend all day following me around watching me do something. (Jazz quickly gets bored and wanders off for a nap.) He works hard at doing what I ask him to do. The one trait he and Jazz have in common is lack of patience. When he doesn't understand what I want him to do, he gets pretty "chatty." Yelping and screeching are not helpful in the training process, but Coach is convinced they are necessary.

I think it's fascinating to watch the two dogs interact and to see the differences in how they learn and work. I love Jazz, but Coach is young and learning so quickly it is a joy. I always had to convince Jazz to do what I wanted. Coach is desperate to do something for me. He loves to work and has such fun at it. I hope I have learned enough from Jazz to help Coach keep that enthusiasm.

This afternoon we were practicing stays. I usually have the two dogs work separately. They tend to fight over treats and attention, which is not very helpful to the training process. Today I practiced stays together. Jazz has an excellent stay in any position and I hoped he would show Coach the ropes. Coach is able to stay fairly well if I face him, so I was working on turning my back and walking away. He came with me a few times and I gently put him back. I was watching out of the corner of my eye as I turned my back the third time. He started to get up and Jazz bared his teeth! Coach sat back down and held his stay. That really made me laugh! Maybe I should let Jazz train Coach - after all they speak the same language.

Coach held his stay a few times in a row. Something about his serious little face as I came back to him just did me in. I am now truly and completely in love. It's a wonderful feeling and I am grateful that both of my dogs are so very dear to me. The Fruitcake Lady says a woman my age should give up on men and get a good "dawg." Works for me.

Friday, May 21, 2010

We FINALLY Earned That CD

One of the reasons I write this blog is to represent the "not so great" dog trainer. I am fairly new to dog training. I have Samoyeds, which are not supposed to be that easy to train. I don't train often enough. I'm not as organized or dedicated as I would like to be. I have had some real train wrecks in the ring.

All that being said - I really wanted to put a simple little novice obedience title on Jazz. I was told that anyone can get a CD. Maybe that was meant to be encouraging, but it really put the pressure on when I failed miserably the first time we went into the obedience ring. I was also told that I would never put a CD on my dog because I didn't train him properly, wouldn't use a pinch collar, or just was too green to train a "difficult" breed. I have had judges look at me as I walked into the Novice A ring and sneer, "Novice A with a Sammy? Are you sure?" I am not dedicated, organized, etc, but I am very stubborn and it made me mad to be told we couldn't do this.

I am here to tell you that it was touch and go from the start. A smarter person would have given up. A kinder person would have let poor Jazz off the hook. He is miserable in the obedience ring. He works nicely in practice. We can get a bunch of dogs distracting him, I can put the treats away, he will heel in the food aisle at Petco on a Sunday afternoon. We walk into that obedience ring and I get nervous. We have done so poorly and I have let my disappointment show. I never yelled at him or treated him badly, but he can tell when I am disappointed. The combination of nerves and repeated failures have left him unsure and unhappy. I just hate being so dumb!

We managed to get two legs over the last twelve tries. (Yes - we have tried twelve times!) Both of those scores were in the 170s. Jazz has never lost a single point on a stand for exam, only failed the recall about three or four times by running past me and gazing longingly over the ring gate, failed one sit stay by laying down, and failed one down stay by returning to me. Get the picture? We CANNOT heel in the ring. We are getting better out of the ring, but we have failed the heel on leash! YIKES!

Last Sunday I hauled my poor sad boy into the obedience ring once again. He lagged miserably and never sat down once, but we did not fail. I always have to laugh because he won't sit during the heeling exercises and then does a lovely finish with a snappy little sit at the end. After we were done, I asked the judge if we had qualified and she laughed and said yes. She kept laughing. She said that as soon as we were done, Jazz heeled beautifully over to where she was standing and sat the minute I stopped. It really is funny, but he is great when it no longer counts. We can all bet that the problem is me and not him.

Thirteen must be my lucky number. We qualified and earned our CD. I always imagined that we would go in the ring and have that lovely moment when it all came together and we did a nice job. (I never had to worry about first place. We are often the only novice A dog in the ring.) That did not happen. We just squeaked by and got a Q.

I was absolutely thrilled. I really wanted this. I will never take Jazz into the novice ring again. We are going to learn the open exercises. I like practicing obedience and so does Jazz. Maybe I can find a way to get him happy about obedience trials. I think we'll try a few fun matches before I commit to entering open. I would really hate to decide I HAVE to get an open title. The poor dog doesn't deserve to be tortured because I don't know when to quit.

Those of you who earned your CD with ease - count your blessings and remember that none of this is easy.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Agility and Enthusiasm

This is a continuation of my last post. I talked about Jazz lacking enthusiasm in the obedience ring. We have the same problem in agility. He used to have enthusiasm in the agility ring, but I think I worked real hard to kill that. I got too fixed on qualifying and let my disappointment show. I didn't take it out on him, but he knows when I am really happy and when I am disappointed. I didn't praise and party enough. I also failed to really let him know when he was right and let him know it was OK to be wrong. He doesn't like to be wrong and he works slowly so he can be sure he is right. So many mistakes for me to overcome.

Anyway - I have been reading Susan Garrett's blog and I reread the article called "But it Isn't a Border Collie." She talks about levels of arousal. Too little excitement and you get a sniffing, doodling around dog. Too much and you get zoomies and lack of attention as well. Jazz has gotten to the point that he is not excited. I worked last weekend on getting some excitement back in the game. I was really worried that I should stop doing agility with him. I hate to MAKE him do it, but I think it is good for him physically and for our relationship.

I used Susan Garrett's suggestions and one of my own. I started each warm up with a little jog. (She says she runs five minutes before each run. She must not be running NADAC. I don't think there is that much time between runs! Anyway - that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.) I then gave him a vigorous massage. More like roughing him up than massaging. He thought it was weird the first time, but liked it after that. My final warm up was to spit cheese for him to catch. He really likes that game anyway and it seemed to get him fired up. I also tried blowing in his face at the start line. That was hilarious. He leaped up, bowed, barked, danced around and took off. I may save that for desperate measures - I don't think either of us are quite ready for that kind of enthusiasm.

This routine worked very nicely. I also made absolutely sure to remember that this is fun. I praised him and enjoyed his company. REALLY enjoyed his company and the runs. I got my happy dog back. He was his old silly self. Everyone who knows us commented on the difference. He ran faster, but really he just had more fun. He galloped around with a wagging tail and a grin on his face for ten runs in two days. The last two runs on Sunday were too much. I should have pulled him. I am still learning when to quit. He was fine for those last two, just not all that excited. I don't think he was physically tired, just tired of agility.

I was so happy on the way home and he knew it. He was feeling pretty proud of himself. We qualified three times, which is pretty good for us. We still aren't as fast as we could be if he were more confident. I will continue to work on getting him excited about agility. I think he will speed up if I give him lots of positive reinforcement and make sure he has fun. If he does not speed up, but continues to have fun, I will enjoy his company and let him run.

I have to remind myself every day to have fun. I know he will be too old soon enough and I don't want to regret anything about our friendship.

Laugh at your dog today - they like it!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Obedience Trial

I always enter one trial during tax season. My own club's trial is held early in April and it is the very worst time for me to be entering a trial, but it is my own club and I always enter. This year I entered Jazz in novice obedience - with high hopes - and Coach in Rally novice - with no hope.

Jazz and I have been working very hard all winter on attention and enthusiasm. He has gone from drooping around the practice ring to an occasional, heads up pace. I tried to reward often and unexpectedly. I also tried to only reward attention. Looking at me is what counts. I have to laugh at myself because I fell for the old "northern breeds aren't supposed to look at you" line. "How can they pull a sled if they are looking at you?" Then again - who asked him to pull a sled? Silly me. I really didn't enjoy heeling either. I didn't expect him to look at me and I didn't enjoy heeling with him because I didn't understand it. No wonder we had trouble. Any way - I am on the way to trying to fix all that. I felt very encouraged by our work in training this winter and I was ready to try it in the ring.

Here was my biggest surprise. All seven years of his life, I believed that Jazz was a very confident dog. Then I met Coach and realized that Jazz is not that confident, he just isn't shy to the point of panic. What I took for indifference or confusion, is Jazz shutting down. I feel pretty bad about my misunderstanding, but nothing I can do about past mistakes now. I want to try to give him a confidence boost and see if we can have fun in the ring.

We went into the obedience ring on my birthday and I wasn't real nervous. (I have gotten very nervous in obedience and am working hard to get over that.) Jazz sat nicely at the start - he usually won't even do that. That was the highlight. I have been working on saying "ready" and giving him a treat, then starting to move and treating as soon as he comes with me. That seemed to help - he started with me. That was it. From then on he was dragging around the ring. I was much less tentative than I usually am and continued walking briskly around the ring. (I do a lovely heeling pattern when I don't have to worry about those pesky dogs!) This was at least as bad as any time we have entered the obedience ring. Rats! Oh well - I did the one thing I haven't been good at doing. I stayed totally confident and happy to see him. I told him he was great and we finished all the exercises. I left the ring and did my very best to show him how much I love him and how proud I am that he is willing to be that miserable for me. I don't know if it made a difference, but it was the best I could do.

The next day was Coach's turn. I wanted to get him in the ring at a fairly young age (eight months) and make it fun, exciting and profitable for him. I am trying to learn from my mistakes with Jazz and help Coach stay upbeat and confident. I guess so far I am doing that! He was a hoot in the ring. He nearly knocked the easel down on the way in. He was leaping around like a lunatic and I thought, "Uh oh - bad idea." We got in the ring and I asked him to sit. He plopped down and looked at me like the perfect little guy. I was way too excited about this. I sounded like a chubby, middle-aged, squeaky toy! I chirped, cheered and carried on throughout the course. I was so busy encouraging Coach and convincing him that this was fun, that I nearly missed two signs. After that, I settled down nicely. (He settled down nicely from the beginning.) Anyway - I cost us a few points, but Coach was really great. He pranced around the ring like he owned the place. We got 88 points, a qualifying leg, and 4th place out of about six dogs. What fun!

We took a "first time in the ring" picture of Coach and I. The judge offered to make it a ribbon picture. I felt kind of silly, but it really will be a nice memory of our very first ring experience. The judge made me laugh - she said she was a little concerned by the way he came in the ring, but he settled down to work very nicely. That is a great description. He really was working with me. Funny that this is the first time I have felt that in the Rally or obedience ring. Poor Jazz - we will relearn and try some more. At least I finally know what I am aiming for!

I am including a clip of Coach and I in Rally novice. The wonderful thing about video clips is that I can find the very best part to show off! Try to ignore the obnoxious, high voice I am using! Who knows where that came from!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Two Dog Family

I am finally done doing tax returns and can write about my dogs again! I have been composing this in the car and during my commute for months. Now, I am not sure how to begin.

I have never lived with more then one dog at a time. Jazz and I have been doing OK together for the last six plus years, but I decided to add Coach to our family last fall. The whole "puppy" experience is kind of like child birth. It's pretty awful at the time, but you forget the bad parts until the next time. We are now past the really messy parts, (I hope) and I am watching my two dogs become a pack. It is absolutely fascinating.

The beginning was fun to watch. Jazz has always loved to play with other dogs, but didn't have a lot of opportunities. I thought that he would be excited to play with Coach. I was wrong. He snubbed the poor little guy! I was stunned until friends told me that is pretty natural. My suspicion now is that he was just proving who was the boss. Whatever the cause, Coach was amazingly persistent and after about two days, Jazz seemed to just break down and the party was on. They ran, jumped, barked, yelped, and knocked things over. (They are still doing that pretty often.)

When they finally started playing I worried about someone getting hurt or about the two of them fighting. I had no idea dogs were so tough. Coach did end up with a "black" eye from an accidental whack in the face. Jazz and Coach both got nicks and scrapes in their ears. I have to remember to take collars off so no one tries to drag anybody around the back yard by the collar. (That is scary.) They will get up on their back legs and snarl at each other as if they are fighting to the death, then wander off. I have learned that when Coach starts yelping like he is being killed, Jazz has usually already walked away. I think the yelping is more like hollering "uncle" than actually being hurt. I always check though!

The next thing I worried about was jealousy. They would start fighting if they were both near me at the same time. I think I am lucky because the fights were mostly warnings from Jazz and no one ever got hurt. They always stopped if I just said, "That's enough." I have worked through that with them and can now pet or cuddle both dogs at the same time. It is such a terrific feeling to be squished between two big, fluffy dogs!

I was most surprised by how mean Jazz was to Coach. Jazz would take every single toy he could get and pile them in the yard. Then he laid down over them and snapped at Coach if the poor little guy tried to get them back. I was really disgusted by this greedy, rude behavior. I am proud to say that I was smart enough to leave them alone and see what developed. I did give Coach toys in his crate. As soon as he came out of the crate, he took the toys out and used them to lure Jazz outside to play with him. In the end, Coach would get whatever toy he really wanted, but he had to wait until Jazz let him have it. I believe this is just a natural way for them to work out the order of things between themselves. Again - no one got hurt at all.

Now that Coach is very nearly as big as Jazz, things are changing again. I left a soft crate up in the living room for Jazz. He has never used a crate at home and I don't know why I left it up. Anyway, about a month ago, Jazz started coming inside in the evening and going into the crate to sleep. I was very surprised until I watched a little more closely. Coach would not let Jazz sleep anywhere else. He pounced and yelped until I could actually see Jazz wince with each screechy bark. Sometimes Jazz gave in and played. Sometimes he came inside and got in his crate.

That is the stage we are at these days. Coach tries to coax Jazz out of the crate. Coach tries to eat the crate. Coach sometimes tries to go in after Jazz. (That tactic is a really bad idea and results in some fairly serious snapping and snarling.) If Coach gets loud enough, Jazz comes snarling out of the crate and runs him off. Sometimes, I come snarling up and run him off! Mostly I try to distract him with something else to do. He is not an easy puppy to distract!

I have learned a lot about being assertive from watching Jazz with Coach. I don't see him as mean or selfish any more. I think he is a pretty good "big brother." He doesn't put up with a lot of really out of control behavior from Coach. They still play like crazy dogs for hours on end. Coach has learned a lot about self control and being gentle from his interactions with Jazz. Jazz has remembered how to have fun and behave like a crazy puppy once in a while. I have gained confidence in myself and the dogs. I am sure that I need to keep an eye on things, but so far they interact very well.

What they do not do is cuddle with each other, or show signs that I would interpret as love or even affection. They wrestle and fight and then go to their separate corners. Except when Coach suddenly starts using his "big boy" bark in the middle of the night. Then Jazz is right there beside him in case they have a fight on their hands. Or when I brought Coach home from the vet after surgery. I couldn't stop laughing at the amazing happy dance Jazz did. He sniffed Coach and then galloped around the yard. He wriggled and jumped and even licked Coach's ears.

I think I can watch these two interact for years and continue to learn things about dogs and maybe a little something about myself. I believe I am becoming a much better trainer by watching Jazz. It's not that I really DO anything differently. It's all about attitude with dogs. Maybe it's more about attitude in general than I realized. I'll have to keep you posted on that.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The "Dog Yard"

This is the time of year that tests the mettle of any good accountant, but I found a little time to tend to the "dog yard."

As I reported earlier, Coach ate a stuffed toy and required surgery. That in turn required some major cleaning up of the dog play area. I wanted to be sure there were no more toys he could swallow. Unfortunately, that was when the yard had about four inches of frozen snow/ice on the ground. I did what I could, but some toys were not ready for the indoor life.

I could hear his little hedgehog voice saying, "Help me, oh please help me."

After I got rid of anything that might obstruct Coach's colon I was forced to get rid of the now visible evidence that his colon was again working very well. YUCK - what a way to spend my only day off.

Lately I have been able to enjoy a little quality time in the yard with the dogs. Yesterday Coach gave me a toy that appears to date back to the beginning of time.

It's either a rope toy or a very creative moss garden. I thought it was so pretty I was trying to figure out how to keep it. Then I got a look at what that moss looks like all over a puppy's teeth. Oh no - I don't think that will do at all.

Soon it will be April 15th and I will be a free woman again. Give your accountants a break and get those taxes in NOW.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Interactive Dog Toys

I think my dogs are pretty smart. I could be wrong, but what is the deal with these interactive dog toys? Coach is driving himself and everyone else crazy, so I bought some of those toys. I agonized over how I could give him one of the toys and use the canned ID food that he is supposed to eat. (Yes, I have been stuffing a Kong with about 1/4 of his meals.) Anyway, I have been so careful to follow the vet's instructions, but I broke down and put eight pieces of kibble in one of those purple dumbbell things. I really worried about the stupid eight kibble pieces! I shouldn't have worried - there is no way that poor puppy can get the kibble out of the thing! He rolled it around a while and he could smell and hear the kibble inside. He chewed a few times and I turned around to work at the computer. I could hear him contentedly chewing on something and turned to smile lovingly at how smart I was to give him this great toy. He was chewing on the litter box! The toy was sitting untouched in the crate.

Phase two of my attempt to figure this out. I gave the dumbbell thing to Jazz. He has been down this road a time or two and he is not that easily duped. He sniffed it once, picked it up and dropped it, looked at me with total disdain and walked away. I shook it and tried to entice him. He got on the couch, closed one eye, (needed to keep the other eye open in case I went really nuts,) and ignored me.

Phase three - I tried to get the kibble out of there so it wouldn't lay around on the living room floor and rot. I stuck my finger in there and tried to pry it out. I tipped it up and tried to stomp on the end to squish it enough to get the kibble out. I used a shish kabob skewer and stuck it in the side holes. No luck. Now the stinking thing is laying around the house with eight little kibbles stuck inside of it! Dear heaven, what is wrong with me? I can't work the miserable thing. It was meant for dogs who are surely not any smarter than I am? Maybe a little smarter, but good grief!

There was some entertainment value though. Both dogs sat quietly watching me try to get the kibble out. Coach was completely quiet and totally fascinated. I guess watching me sweat, stomp, swear and shake that purple dumbbell from hell was just the ticket. My daughter's dog has proven to be smarter than me or my dogs, he just rips the thing apart. I may get out the hack saw later and see what I can do.

Friday, February 12, 2010

How not to raise a puppy

I started this blog because I thought it would be fun to be a spokesperson for the "not so perfect" dog trainers out there. When I got Coach, I continued with the "not so perfect" way to raise a puppy. I have carried "not so perfect" too far. I let Coach and Jazz play outside for hours with dozens of toys and I didn't patrol the yard enough. Poor Coach has paid for that error.

Last week Coach was sick to his stomach. I thought it was a puppy thing and didn't worry too much. He kept being sick though and when he woke up Sunday morning and refused to eat or drink anything I started to really worry. By the time I was dressed and ready to take him to the emergency clinic he was still outside throwing up on an empty stomach. I have had a sick dog or two in my day and I know when to run for the vet.

The emergency clinic did blood tests and xrays. They showed me a blurry picture with a gray and white S in the middle. Turns out intestines aren't supposed to look like that on an xray. One minute I was thinking he had some kind of virus and the next minute I realized he had an intestinal blockage and he might die. It's been a very long time since tears sprang into my eyes like that. I knew I had that stupid look on my face and I was trying very hard to hear every word she said. She asked me if they should go ahead and do the surgery. I know that there are lots of reasons a person might be unable or unwilling to schedule a surgery for their puppy. I am very grateful that I could say yes.

I asked to see him before they put him under for the surgery. I had no illusions that he cared, but I really needed to give him a hug. The vet tech asked me if he was lethargic. Anyone who knows Coach would have been shocked. He wasn't just lethargic, he was completely out of it. He stood in front of me and just looked at me. He didn't bark, jump, lick, slobber, wag his tail or try to eat my earrings. Lethargic does not begin to describe how truly miserable the poor little guy was. The only points in my favor were that he was not yet dehydrated and he did not have a fever.

I waited at home all afternoon. I was a mess. I am so grateful that my daughter lives next door and came and sat with me all afternoon. I wasn't the best company, but she sat there all day with me. The clinic finally called at just about kick off of the Super Bowl, to tell me the surgery went well. His intestine was not damaged and they took out two pieces of fabric that looked like a stuffed toy. I thought it was a teddy bear. It may have been, but I haven't found anything that looks like the remains yet. I'll keep looking.

I had to drive to the clinic through a blizzard on Monday night to bring Coach home and I worried about how Jazz would react. He seemed so peaceful and content with the puppy gone that I was afraid he would be sorry to see his little brother. I was very mistaken. I got home and had to carry 50 pounds of puppy up a flight of stairs. I put him down and walked him outside to let him pee. Jazz did the cutest happy dance I have ever seen. He raced around the yard, bounced in the air, licked Coach's ears and was generally welcoming. It was so darn cute I could hardly stand it!

Coach is healing very well, but I am still afraid he may hurt himself before he is healed. He is supposed to stay calm and quiet for two weeks. No exercise except to go outside and go to the bathroom. He has to eat canned I/D food, is wearing an inflatable collar to keep him from licking the incision, and has to stay in his crate or on a leash. It has been miserable. He barked nonstop for about three days. I figure this is my opportunity to really teach him how to behave in a crate. Tonight we are making progress. He is being quiet and I am rewarding long stretches of quiet. We are also working hard on "stay" and "leave it." Kongs are a wonderful invention and can be filled with canned dog food. Jazz is very sad and confused. Every time we go outside, Jazz tries to party with Coach. They start puppy bowing and bouncing around and I have to be the bad guy and stop all play and fun. I can't wait until a week from Sunday. I will go out there with them and instead of stopping the fun, I will join in.

Meanwhile, every toy that pops up out of the snow is coming inside. I am going to be a better dog owner. I will take good care of this silly puppy and try to be sure he doesn't kill himself before he even gets through puberty!

Sunday, January 24, 2010


I am very lucky to have so many older friends and mentors.

I went to a funeral yesterday for the man who hired me at my present job. He was so smart that I often had to make him stop talking while I plodded through his explanation and caught up to his train of thought. I would then say "go" and he would continue explaining. I never did get good enough to understand his entire explanation first time through without stopping. (I did learn enough that I could go away and figure out the missing steps on my own!)

He was obnoxious, sometimes rude, brilliant, stubborn, sometimes funny, sometimes incredibly crude, and a very good man. He cared about the community, his friends, his family and his work. He worked many, many hours a week and loved it. He always championed the underdog. (I think that's why he took me under his wing.) He introduced me to some of my favorite clients and always told people I was great. His recommendation was often all I needed to win a new client.

On the way back to work after the funeral I started to think about those older people that I am losing. There have been several amazing people who have died in the last few years. They were mostly in their 80s. I understand that no one lives forever, but I will always miss their advice and support. I started to think about the possibility that I might be a person who could provide that kind of advice and support to someone else. It seems like such a big responsibility! I feel like I am slowly losing my "net." I hate to think that I will soon be the older and more experienced generation. I better work harder or I will not be up to it.

I just wish I had thanked him before he left.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Puppies - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - Part III

This is it, the final chapter in my personal puppy ponderings. This one is really ugly. I will not be including any pictures. Those of you with weak stomachs or delicate sensibilities had better skip this one. Actually - those of you that have weak stomachs might reconsider the whole puppy experience.

The ugly part about puppies is mostly related to their eating habits. Puppies will eat anything - twice. What goes in a puppy usually comes back out. When it fails to come out, you pay a huge vet bill. I have so far avoided the vet bill, but it's still a possibility.

Here is the ugliest example so far. Coach and Jazz were playing in the back yard when I heard him yelp. I ran to see what was wrong and he was chewing a piece of string. He came in when I called him - some progress has been made in the training arena! There was about an inch of green yarn (or something that looked a little like yarn) hanging out of his mouth. I went into Mommy mode and took hold of the end to get it out of his mouth. (We don't want the sweet little guy swallowing string, now do we?) I gave a little tug and he gagged very loudly. About six feet (that's right folks - I said feet) of green string came out of his mouth. I was horrified, but undeterred. I gave another little tug. He screamed and I met with considerable resistance at the end of the string. (I really don't want to imagine where the other end of that string was.) I grabbed a pair of scissors and cut the string off. EEEEEWWWWWW! I then had to watch him swallow the remainder of the string. I don't have a real strong gag reflex, but that was nasty. I decided that the only recourse was to try to "shove" the string out the other end. I fed him a great big dinner. Then we began the waiting game. He went outside that evening and again in the morning, but nothing unexpected came out. I left him playing outside with his brother while I took a shower. (They always wait until you're nice and clean to do something messy and disgusting.) I got out of the shower as Coach came galloping into the bathroom with Jazz a respectful distance behind him. He looked a little strange so I put on my glasses. You guessed it - the remaining yarn. About five more feet of yarn with various unpleasant decorations was dragging behind my lovely puppy. I did the expected thing and pulled. YUCK! I have not seen any more yarn going in or coming out since then. I hope never to repeat that experience. The final part of this story is that Jazz and Coach spent the next five minutes watching Coach's back end as if it might present them with more entertainment. Lucky for me they were disappointed.

I have more examples, but I think you get the picture. I learned this little lesson only this morning. If you see something unusual on the floor, don't get too close to it without a gas mask and a plastic bag. I think the dogs have different priorities than I do.

You really have to love them though. Otherwise - why on earth would anyone want a puppy?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Puppies - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - Part II

There are some bad things about having a puppy. At least there are bad things about having my puppy.

That was a temper tantrum. It was a fairly mild tantrum, but when he has a bad one I can't hold the camera. He starts leaping at me and batting at me and screeching at the top of his lungs. Please don't tell me to ignore it! I do that. I timed him. He can yelp at the top of his lungs for 40 minutes! No kidding! It makes my ears ring and my head ache. The worst part is that he starts this and Jazz goes outside. That means that he gets rewarded for this behavior. He hollers and Jazz stops doing whatever it is that Coach doesn't like and leaves. Coach wins. He does seem to be outgrowing this and we are working on impulse control.

He also yelps like this in his crate. Those of you who were unfortunate enough to witness a sample of this screeching during puppy class can vouch for me. It really is ugly! That was caused by the foolish idea that Coach should sit quietly in a crate. He is not very interested in sitting in a crate when there are exciting things going on outside the crate. Crate covers do not seem to help. I have had to resort to a tarp over the crate. He tried to eat the sheet that I was using. When he starts that screaming at 3:30AM it really hurts. Jazz climbs in my bed and hides his head under my body. This whole yelling and screaming thing is very bad. Very, very bad.

There are other bad things about having a puppy. They destroy things. I keep thinking I am watching him every minute. I am wrong. I no longer have toilet paper in the holder in the bathroom. I swear I would look away for one second and Coach would grab one end and unroll the whole thing before I could turn around and say "leave it." I finally gave up and put the toilet paper on the counter. I have also lost a comforter. I was getting dressed and I thought he was sitting on the floor. Again I was wrong. He was happily unstuffing my comforter. Luckily, I didn't like it that much. I am missing one hand knitted blue sock. I'm pretty sure he took it. If you see it - please try to keep him from eating it. The sock is probably ruined, but I hate to pay the vet bills if he eats the darn thing!

Finally there is the general mess, chaos and smell of puppy. Yes - I love puppy breath, but after puppy breath is other stuff. I don't know what he gets into. OK - sometimes I do know what he gets into. Either way - he often smells less than sweet. He breaks things, eats things, barks, runs around, leaps on the furniture... you get the picture. I am slowly gaining control of the puppy and regaining my life. I often get to sleep all night now. Maybe next week I can try putting the toilet paper back on the holder. Maybe I'll wait a while.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Puppies - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Part I

Coach is fast approaching five months old and it is time to reflect on the puppy experience so far. My friends are all reminding me that I told them not to let me get a puppy ever again after Jazz. Jazz was cute and annoying and very sick, so he was expensive and scary also. I decided to get Coach because I really wanted to try the puppy experience with a healthy puppy and a little more knowledge.

So we should start with the good part of puppies. There are lots of really great things about having a puppy. They are soft, sweet, cuddly and very, very cute!

How could you not love that puppy?

I have had such a great time teaching Coach tricks and getting to know him. He is very quick to learn and very intense. He does everything with enthusiasm. He has learned to heel quickly. It's been a whole new experience for me to have a puppy that is focused and enthusiastic. He is so much fun to teach and I am so much better equipped to teach him. I am very pleased to feel capable. I was nervous trying to teach Jazz. I remember feeling awkward with a leash in my hand. I couldn't figure out how to hold it and I yanked and jerked poor Jazz. It does me good to remember that time and realize that holding a leash and asking for Coach to cooperate is natural to me now. (Poor Jazz - he really is a better dog than I deserve!) So I am happy to be able to use better methods and have more confidence as I train Coach.

The last reason I wanted a puppy was for the experience of having two dogs. Jazz is a very social dog and loves to play. He is six years old, but he will play until the puppy walks away! I have really enjoyed watching the two dogs build a relationship and seeing how they interact. It has been great for Jazz to have someone besides me to play with. Coach is more centered on me than Jazz is, but he also benefits from having a "big brother." I have learned quite a bit about how to discipline a puppy by watching Jazz. He doesn't worry about hurting anyone's feelings, he doesn't care if it's fair, he just makes a choice and then tells the puppy what to do. Coach never seems to be particularly intimidated, but he usually does what Jazz wants him to do. I think I used to worry about being "mean" or "hurting the dog's feelings." That really is crazy. Jazz has taught me to get rid of that baggage and just tell them what to do. I am feeling pretty good about our little pack. (I know it's early, but one day at a time.)

So the good part of having a puppy is:
They are just darn cute and cuddly.
Training a puppy is fun and helps me see how much I have learned.
Building a pack and seeing dog social behaviors has been fascinating and instructive.

We'll talk about the Bad next time.