Sunday, January 30, 2011

Are We Having Fun Yet?

I looked at Coach's nose this morning and saw pink and red marks on it.  My first thought was, "OH NO - not another unpronounceable disease!"  Luckily (?) it turns out it's teeth marks.  Careful investigation shows that these teeth marks match Jazz's teeth exactly!  What a surprise.

I have watched them "play" for over a year now and I am still fascinated by the whole process.  Jazz always gets what he wants.  He still has a very weak right leg from the knee surgery, he's eight pounds lighter and six years older.  Coach could pound him to sand if he wanted to, but he doesn't.  I give them each an identical Kong.  They settle in for a while and then Coach takes his Kong and drops it in front of Jazz.  Coach barks and puppy-bows and carries on.  Jazz takes the Kong, tucks it under his front paws, and rests his chin on it.  End of play.  Does that sound like fun to you?  Coach has temper tantrums and shrieks and carries on.  For a while I was stupid enough to take the Kong back from Jazz and give it to Coach.  Minutes later we were in for reruns and more puppy tantrums.  What the heck?  Once I saw Coach want something so desperately that he grabbed Jazz's right leg and pulled.  Jazz was hurt that time and limped for a few days, but as soon as Jazz cried, Coach dropped the toy and even limping - Jazz picked it up and took it with him.

When Coach arrived I imagined my dogs cuddled together, sleeping sweetly.  Many of you have shown me pictures of this kind of behavior.  I don't know why I imagined Jazz doing that - he usually doesn't like cuddling with me.   The reality is somewhat less sweet.  During phase two of my "two dog" life, I saw Jazz as a selfish, evil thing.  My beloved, sweet boy behaved like a nasty little bully!  Maybe he knew all along that he would have to exercise extreme measures or Coach would bowl him over.  Maybe he really is a selfish pain in the butt.  I don't pretend to understand the whole thing.  I do know that Jazz has never drawn real blood or caused Coach any permanent injury.  Coach was instrumental in at least one of Jazz's broken knees, but only because the knee was weak and the puppy was the last straw.  I am certain it would have broken sooner or later and I suspect that it will hurt less in the end than it did before it was broken.  (Shredding ligaments are certainly as painful as arthritis.)

So here we are - the three of us.  Every single day we have another game of puppy wars.  Coach decides he wants to play (all day every day) and Jazz wants to lay down and rest a minute.  Coach grabs Jazz's feet and tries to drag him off the couch.  If Jazz goes in his kennel, Coach stands at the doorway barking and slapping Jazz in the face.  That often ends in little pink spots on Coach's nose!  Phase two usually involves toys.  Coach gets a toy and carries it around trying to coax Jazz to play.  Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't.   When it doesn't, Coach throws the toy at Jazz.  Usually hitting him in the head or face.  Jazz calmly confiscates the toy.  I used to try to help.  I am not qualified to help.  Coach sometimes throws the toy at me.  I am not always as calm as Jazz and I'm not equipped to bite Coach's nose.

The flip side of this ridiculous mess seems to be genuine pack solidarity.  Jazz spends the night wherever he wants to and Coach sleeps in his crate.  If Coach wants to get up before I do, (did I say if?) Jazz will start poking me in the face and trying to get me up.  When Jazz had his surgeries, Coach was definitely concerned and missing his big brother.  They also take turns barking at strange dogs or whatever they bark at in the evening.  One dog is outside barking and the other looks alert, listens and decides whether this is a two dog job.  Usually it's best handled by the original barker.  Sometimes, two dogs are required.  I have no idea why and I have not seen any pattern concerning which dog is the barker or the listener.  It seems random.

I still have hopes of peaceful piles of sleeping dogs.  Sometimes I believe in Santa Claus.  I really love watching them interact.  I have learned so much about how they think.  I don't think I can every truly "get it" but I will try.  I have learned to trust that they will work it out.  My current approach is to be sure I help them keep the level of excitement manageable.  The only thing that gets them in a real fight is me.  They will fight over me or something I'm planning to give them.  I have never seen them really fight over anything else.  Definitely a lesson on the evils of jealousy.

How many of you really have dogs that cuddle together?  I'd love to know.  Does breed matter?  I assume gender matters.  I would be interested in anyone's thoughts.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Odd and Ends

It seems like a lot of my four and two legged friends are having health problems.  So I just want to tell everyone to hang in there, my thoughts are with you all.

Jazz has been recovering much more slowly from his second knee surgery than he did from the first.  I suspect it's more mental than physical.  I think he's much more insecure about it all.  He actually refused a teeter and acted afraid of it the other day.  I don't remember him ever worrying about them in his life.  We are past that now and he's getting pretty excited about them since I've been treating the heck out of  them!  Today he finally jumped into the SUV without help.  That seems like a big step to me.  (It's also a huge weight off my back - literally!)  The chiropractor suggested tying something to his left leg so he will use the right leg more.  I tied everything I could think of to it and he ignored it all.  I finally tied a bell on a rope to his left leg so it dragged and clanged behind him.  He walked into his kennel and took it off.  My new plan is just to get him running and climbing as much as possible because he needs both legs to do that.

Another small health issue is teeth.  Jazz has always had beautiful white teeth.  They have only been cleaned once and he is going on eight years old.  Very little plaque buildup or signs of redness in the gums and he has lovely breath!  Coach's canines were all covered in yellowy hard plaque and red around the gums.  He chews constantly, but can't chew those rope things because he swallows the rope in one piece and then it's surgery time again.  I found the Busy Buddy bristle bone chew toy and in one week all the plaque was gone from his canines.  I have a bunch of them around the house now and it is the only toy that both dogs will consistently fight over, drag off in a corner and chew.  I'm spending a fortune on the rawhide discs, but great toy.

Coach is still big, loud, pushy and wild.  He's learning two by two weave poles and is getting pretty good at sets of four - I'm thinking we'll go to six soon, but trying to be patient.   We are working running contacts and I don't treat unless he runs through the yellow - any jumping and he has to do it over.  Today he got to the down side of the A frame and I swear he did an exaggerated stomping motion through the yellow.  I treated the heck out of it - stomp away little friend, just run through the yellow and no cheating with a leap at the end!  We went to a walk through of the new AKC Beginning Novice Obedience this morning.  Coach is maybe a little more "beginning" than I thought he was.  He has been so good at heeling, but he was not interested today.  Way too distracted.  He did a nice sit stay though, so all is not lost.

I am really missing agility trials these days.  Hopefully, both dogs will be ready to compete in agility again by spring time.  We keep practicing, trying to get Jazz healthy and trying to teach Coach to work quietly and concentrate!

Hope everyone is well and enjoying their dogs this winter.