Friday, February 27, 2015

Momma Told Me There'd Be Days Like This.........

Dog Agility is a dog sport in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy.
Dogs run off leash with no food or toys as incentives and the handler can touch neither the dog nor the obstacles.  Consequently, the handler's controls are limited to voice, movement and various body signals requiring exceptional training of the animal and coordination of the handler.

As most of you know, I've been training Lord Malcolm and Lady McKenzie since the Vet completed their puppy vaccinations.  We've had our ups and downs in training and in getting to know and trust each other.  Malcolm loved agility as a youngster until I unfortunately put him in the very uncomfortable position of trialing him too early.  He was not comfortable with the high amount of energy in the room and not only failed miserably on his first and only trial but began to act quite aggressive to other dogs that day.  From that point on, he never really liked agility.  He would do  it if I made him, but he wasn't having fun.  Had I had any sense at the time, which I admit that I didn't;  I would have forfeited my entry fee and taken him home.  Since then, he and I have been working on his reactivity to other dogs by taking him to strange places like Pets Mart and Lowe's where he can go in and be in strange places and where he is likely to meet other dogs.  We also go to the dog park;  not to go in and play, but to walk the outside of the fence.  We appreciate any dog that will come to the fence to see who we are because that gives us another chance NOT to react negatively.  After a couple of years of us doing this, Malcolm is learning to trust me and looks to me for guidance on how to behave.  He is a much calmer and happier dog than 2 years ago.  He has even been known to kiss a horse recently on a walk.  This is something that could never have happened 2 years ago.  The horse would have been bitten and the dog would probably be dead.  We've come a long way.

McKenzie, while much slower to pick up on agility, and therefore having never done a trial, really loves going to class and learning new courses.  As a team, I have to guide her where she should go and in what direction she should take each obstacle.  She has to trust me and listen and watch me always.  Something as simple as holding an arm out or bringing it down to my side will send her in a direction.  She will either go out away from me or come back toward me.  Well, that's in a perfect world.  (BIG SMILE)  Momma (should have)  told me that there would be days like this!

Dogs have moods just like we do.  Sometimes, they just don't feel like doing something.  Problem is, they can't express it verbally.  McKenzie had her mind on greeting all of her friends at the dog club, both human and canine.  We had arrived a bit after most others were there and she had to go straight into a kennel so that I could go have a look at the course and figure out how to get through it.  She got her wiggle-butt in a kink over anything that wiggled under her feet, even though she walks those obstacles all the time with little to no problem.  Then she started refusing to jump.  She made it perfectly clear to me that she wasn't going to play until she sniffed out what the other dogs were getting for treats.  

Different course, same night.  She wasn't doing it.  And she's a Boxer, so she wins. 

Malcolm happened to be with me that night so I tired him on the course.  I had him jumping lower jumps because he hadn't seen this equipment in 2 years.  He did very well for the 1st time in that long.

This is McKenzie the week before.  I put this video in just to prove that she can do it and she does enjoy it when she has her mind on it.

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Beautiful Life

A Rare, Beautiful and Gentle Spirit.

Nessie the Monster, Duchess of Hagg, Canine Good Citizen
Registered Therapy Dog

December 28th, 2003 - February 9, 2015
Twelve Years, One Month, Twelve Days

I'll begin my story at the beginning.

WishBone was a wild man.  I always thought that he would calm down by the age of 3.  But he didn't. At some point, it had occurred to me that he might be better with a playmate, though we had never owned 2 dogs at the same time.  It just seemed to me like that's what he needed.  Not being the greatest of dog trainers (which could explain why WishBone was so wild), I was nervous to go ahead and get another dog, so I waited.  Finally, when he turned 4 and started to calm down just a hair, I decided I would be able to handle another so I began my search.  My husband wasn't for the idea, but there would be no stopping me on this one.  I was all in.  I didn't want to spend a lot of money for a top quality dog, but was scared to go to a shelter for one, thinking that if other people couldn't handle the dog, then neither could I.....  I've learned a lot since then.  I found Nessie in the newspaper.

I took a short trip to another town to see about her.  She was 10 weeks old, cute;  but with splayed out feet and crazy.  The place was filthy and I didn't want to sit on the man's furniture.  I looked at her and she cuddled me.  But I put her down and thought that this was a horrible place and I didn't want to purchase from him.  I had nightmares about her living alone in that guy's garage though.  I couldn't sleep much that night.  I decided to go back the next day and pay the guy his $300 bucks and I'd just call her my 'rescue' dog.   

I brought a cat kennel (Yes, I had a cat too.  Taylor Bailey Alexander the Tailless Cat) to transport her safely.  I put her in it.  She stunk.  But it would be a short 45 minutes home.  As we were traveling down the highway, I smelled vomit.  Trying to stop my reflexive gagging, I opened the window of the Jeep and let my hair fly, not really caring what I looked like anymore.  Then some other horrible smell happened.  It was so bad that all the windows in the Jeep were down and I was still gagging.  So I drove the rest of the way with my head out the window like a dog would do..........
I remember telling her that no little girl should ever smell like that.

Well, we did make it home of course and when I let her out of that kennel, it was full of vomit and poop.  My goodness!  What a stinking mess!  The first thing I did was hose the kennel out and take the dog into the kitchen.  On came the hot water, soap and dish gloves.   A nice, luxurious bath would make us all feel better!  I don't think she appreciated it until she came out of the water and into that nice clean, warm towel.  She immediately relaxed and curled up in my hands and let me dry her.  I held her for a long long time and we got to know each other a bit.  She seemed hungry so I fed and watered her.  And after a quick trip outside, she curled up in my lap and slept for a long time.......

Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo

When I took her to the vet, he wondered out loud at why I would have chosen this dog.  She was malnourished, he said.  That's why her feet splayed out.  But he couldn't find anything so wrong with her that I couldn't fix with a bit of TLC.  One thing I know how to do is feed things, whether they are people or animals.  I could get her healthy.  So she had food available to her whenever she wanted it. And her new buddy, WishBone would see that she got exercise.

Grand Canyon

Just outside of  Los Vegas
It was hilarious (for a while) to watch those two.  Nessie was crazy.  She felt so much better after a few good meals that she just couldn't sit still.  She ran 100 miles an hour around and around the back yard and she and WishBone soon came up with what would be their very favorite game.  We named it 'Duke of the Deck' because Nessie would take off and run around the yard with a toy in her mouth and WishBone would wait for her behind the patio table.  If Ness came that way, he would stop her.  He only had to move like 3 steps to play the game and Nessie had to run around and around the table and yard.  He always won.  She never did.  But they played for hours on end everyday until WishBone finally died in 2009.  That wasn't the only game they played though.  He would stand patiently in the yard while Nessie ran and flung herself at him, puppy teeth grabbing on to anything she could.  He was blood red for a year.  She gave him a 'cauliflower' ear once.  That was a $400 surgery at the time.  His white chest was bloody.  You couldn't see any white at all.  We were so worried.  We had thought that he would be the dominate dog being a male and that much older.  But he never defended himself.  Not once did he even attempt to tell Nessie to stop.  He just stood there for a year taking everything she threw at him.  I finally couldn't take it anymore and took them to a dog obedience school (which I would later join and train the Chamberlains there) to enroll her in obedience and ask them why they thought WishBone was so passive around her.

At the school, I remember him passing out on their cool concrete floor surrounded by other dogs and went to sleep, while Nessie was in class.  The trainer just told me that when it was time, the dog would let the puppy know not to bother him.  Never had I seen that much patience.......

Then, one day about 12 or 13 months after we had brought Nessie home, I was in the kitchen cooking dinner and I heard it.  A snarl and growl unlike any Boxer play and totally out of character.  It was a very scary sound so I dropped what I was doing and ran into the family room where I saw Nessie laying on the floor limp.  Not moving a muscle.  WishBone was standing over her with her entire bitty head in his mouth.  I was horrified and shocked and aghast all at once.  I had no idea what to do. If I made a sound, surely, he would kill her.  I froze in silence like a deer in the headlights........
Then he laid her head gently on the floor.  (There was not one mark on her.  He had held her very gently and had no intention of chomping down)  She got up, shook herself and turned and pranced away with a smile on her face like nothing had happened at all.  But she NEVER tormented WishBone again.  He had had enough.  I believe that this is when she began to torment the cat....

I may be a Duchess, but nothing prevents me from a wee nip or two......