Saturday, October 17, 2009


SUMMARY: Twenty years ago today.
Twenty years ago this evening, just after 5:00 p.m., the Loma Prieta earthquake hit.

It was NOT the big one; registered a mere 6.9. For most of the millions of residents of the San Francisco Bay area, damage looked no worse than this (one of our chimneys) and mostly much less:

or this (a neighbor's chimney)

I already posted a brief, general account here two years ago.

And I posted some of my photos and other memorabilia on my photo site, with additional commentary about the quake.

I took no photos of the dogs and their behavior (well, I was a little preoccupied). But here's how it went with the dogs.

I was at work when the quake hit, about 15 miles from the epicenter and about 2 miles from home. After the main shaking stopped--and it continued for about 30 seconds, which feels like an eternity when the ground is shaking so hard that you can't really walk--we all evacuated rapidly into the parking lot, where we gathered around our cars listening to the car radios. (Remember--no cell phones, no world wide web. This was "the good old days"!) Aftershock followed by aftershock rolled across the earth, but none so bad as the original quake.

When the aftershocks had died off somewhat, upper management checked out the building quickly: It was a mess (yes, that's the air conditioning ducting hanging out of the ceiling and my co-worker's collapsed bookcase), but didn't look like it was on the verge of collapse. so they escorted us into the building in groups of 3 at a time--to dash in, grab our purses or car keys or wallets, and go back out the the parking lot.

So I couldn't get home for at least half an hour to an hour after the initial shake. I made a quick pass through the house, saw the disaster of broken glass and liquids in the kitchen and assorted disarray, damage, and breakage in other parts of the house, so hustled my dogs out of the house into the driveway. There we sat in the pleasant evening on lawn chairs, listening to the radio (battery-operated--no power!) and hoping that eventually my husband would call and tell us he was OK.

Sheba, our Siberian Husky, was panic-stricken. She was a known escape artist from way back, and the moving earth drove her into a frenzy of trying to get away. We were lucky once because my mother-in-law was staying with us at the time, was in the kitchen looking out at our driveway gate when the quake hit, and could see the gate swing open and Sheba try to make a break for it. We were lucky again as the days and aftershocks wore on that Sheba never did escape; one friend's dog took off and was never seen again, despite all of us plastering the neighborhoods with LOST DOG signs. The humane society reported a vastly increased number of stray dogs in the days after the quake.

Sheba hated every minute of it. I think that she was in a literal state of shock herself; eyes wide, panting uncontrollably, not interested in eating, shaking and trembling every time an aftershock came, and continuing to do so for a long time after each one. On that first night, I didn't feel comfortable sleeping in our second-floor bedroom (especially with the bureaus and closet doors and such strewn around, and especially not with the aftershocks continuing). So we opened the sofabed in the one-story part of the house and slept there.

Or, should I say, TRIED to sleep. Sheba was not a cuddling dog. But all that first night, she lay on my chest, her haunted eyes staring almost blindly at me, panting and shaking and drooling. She was 9 at the time, and I was afraid that she was on the verge of a heart attack. Took me a very long time trying to get a dial tone on the phone to call the vet. Not because the phone lines were down, oh no! But because everyone's first reaction was to pick up the phone and start calling people! So all the lines were overloaded. The radio kept telling us to STOP CALLING if it's NOT AN EMERGENCY so that people who NEEDED to use the phone for important things (e.g., calling 911) could do so.

Eventually I gave up on contacting the vet that day (and possibly the following day). She didn't relax for several days, and I'm not sure how much sleep she got during the first couple of days.

Amber, our German Shepherd/Golden mix, as a counterpoint to the husky, remained unimpressed by anything having to do with the earthquake. On an aftershock, she'd lift her head wherever she was sleeping at the time, look around in mild annoyance at the disturbance, and go right back to sleep immediately afterwards. Thank goodness, because having TWO dogs shaking and drooling and panting on my chest all night would have been a little too cozy.

And neither of them EVER gave any indication that they had an inkling about an earthquake or aftershock about to occur. None of my dogs ever have. Dang worthless earthquake predictors.

I was amused, however, when my office eventually reopened (after the earthquake safety inspectors had been through) and discovered this on my Far Side calendar for the day after the quake:

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

One Dog, Two Dog, No Dog, Three Dog

SUMMARY: Title chase this weekend, plus: What's the right number of dogs?

If all works well, this post will post itself while I am off having the time of my life making perfect weave entrances at the SMART USDAA trial in Prunedale. And working the score table. And maybe participating in:
  • Boost getting a Jumpers and a Standard leg to finish her MAD.
  • Tika getting a Steeplechase Q to finish her Tournament Master Gold.
  • Boost getting a Steeplechase Q, too, which will put them both halfway to qualifying for Nationals in the Big S.
  • Tika getting a Grand Prix Q, too, which will put her halfway to qualifying for Nationals in the Big GP.
  • Tika getting a Snooker Q to complete her Snooker Silver.

No, I don't really have anything I want to accomplish this weekend; why do you ask?

So, in case none of my dogs achieve anything this weekend and I need to replace them with something more qualifiable, let's talk about What's The Right Number of Dogs?

An agility friend is seriously in the midst of probably most likely adopting a third dog, first time she's done that (two was a leap, I believe), so wanted my opinion, me being an absolute wealth of useless, ambiguous opinions, and I agreeably rambled on about it. Here's my updated response, with photos.

One dog, December 1978 through August 1981

Amber joined me as a puppy. We were happy together. I took her many places with me. It's easy to travel with one dog. It's easy to play with one dog. One dog fits well into small spaces. It's easy to do training with one dog. And when all the Mystic Mints disappear from the box or there is poop on the carpet you know whom to talk to about it. And Amber was generally a Good Dog who generally came when called and stuff like that. Plus she'd hold a biscuit on her nose.

Two dogs, August 1981-July 1992

So I got married and figured that two people needed two dogs. Well, the new dog was very sweet but did NOT come when called and did NOT play and did NOT have any interest in doing training and could not hold a biscuit on her nose even if stapled it there (editor's note: Stapling is just a metaphor, no actual staples were used). At least Sheba and Amber got along--once in a while they'd chase each other around the yard, and they'd take turns eating from the same bowl even though we conveniently provided them with two independent bowls with actual food in both.

Sheba was not much fun to travel with and she always had to be on leash, always, or she would end up in Sheboygan. So we didn't go places with the dogs much. But at home one or the other was usually doing something entertaining, or being cute, so when one was slacking off and just hanging out, the other would gamely amuse us somehow. But if the carpet was torn to shreds, we couldn't ever be certain who was responsible, although we had a 99% probability guess on that one, SHEEEba!

One dog July 1992-May 1994

When Amber died, it just about broke my heart. This is one disadvantage of having dogs. They die. They break your heart. If you have one dog, they don't do it as often as if you have two or more dogs. The number of dogs dying seems to be proportional to the number of dogs in the family. I realized now that dogs die and furthermore, Amber died, and I would never be able to have another dog like her again and so why bother. Plus there was always dog hair everywhere and dust and dirt from the dogs everywhere and I was just tired of it, and Sheba was 11 anyway so if we just waited for her to die, which would undoubtedly be soon, then I could have a clean house again and no carpet ripped up and no spots on the lawn all the time and no worrying about dogsitters when we went places without the dogs, which was often.

Two dogs, May 1994-January 2002

When Sheba had rambled on to 13 and showed no signs of slowing down for or even being within a hundred miles of the exit from the highway of life (more metaphors, are you impressed?), it suddenly struck me that my own life would be very, very, very empty indeed if there were no dog in it, plus since Sheba did NOT play and did NOT hold a biscuit on her nose, she often bored me to tears, and wanted a dog who would be more doglike in those particular ways rather than just shedding everywhere and occasionally escaping and trying to thumb a ride to Sheboygan. And within a month, Remington came home.

Sheba was not happy about it. It was no longer easy to snuggle with both dogs, because one would be pissy about it. They did not share food bowls. Remington was generally a Good Dog but if we left him at home and took Sheba for a slow elderly walk, he shrieked, and if we left Sheba at home and took Rem for a brisk youngster walk, she'd be gone when we got back.

But, oddly enough, Sheba took one look at the young whippersnapper doing tricks for treats, and she wanted to, too! So the dog I had failed to teach even to sit when she was 3 learned, at 14, to sit and lie down on command, to shake, and to hold a biscuit on her nose! I loved it! And for the first time I really appreciated how dogs can affect each other in ways that are good for me. So maybe having more than one dog was a Good Thing.

Then I discovered dog agility. Rem went many places with me and learned many things. But Sheba was too old for that sort of stuff and her health was starting to fail. Meanwhile, "All my FRIENDS have two agility dogs, can I please please please, really, I'll take care of them!" The spouse wasn't smitten with the idea of three dogs (two dogs, two people, remember?), but meanwhile Jake became available and I really really wanted him to come home with me.

When Sheba died at 17, Jake was in our yard within a week. And we started doing agility.

So I discovered--duh--it's blatantly twice as expensive to have two dogs when you're competing in agility. It's not just twice the food and twice the basic vet bills and so on--it's twice the weekly lessons (money and time), twice the training in the yard (time), twice the entry fees (money), twice the work at a trial (pottying, warming up, cooling down, planning different handling strategies or courses because they run differently and have different strengths and weaknesses).

On the other hand, if one was injured, the other was still running. If one was having zero-qualifying weekends, the other was doing SOMETHING right so I wouldn't sink into a self-pitying pit of rancid despair (not quite worked into a blatant metaphor but close enough). So there were definitely advantages.

And, for two Basically Good Dogs, walking two dogs wasn't too hard, snuggling two dogs wasn't too hard, training two dogs wasn't too hard because one would wait when told.

But these two dogs despised each other. Fights were too common. It was extremely unpleasant. Plus they were boy dogs, so instead of making dead patches on my lawn, they peed all over the sides of things. And, once one did it, the other had to, too.

Three dogs, January 2002-March 2003

Both dogs were getting older. Jake had arthritis in his back. I figured that neither of them had more than a couple of good agility years left. I wanted to bring a third dog on board so that I wouldn't be left without an agility dog. After a divorce (really only very little to do with the dogs), and the purchase of a new Agility House, Tika came home with me.

Jake was grumpy about it, but Tika knew how to keep out of his way. It was a lot of fun having a new dog to teach from scratch to avoid making all the training mistakes I had made with the first two. I really enjoyed getting started with her, although, boy, training classes for THREE dogs was quite a wallet-unloader.

I used to go for nice peaceful mile-long walks every day with Jake and Remington, but Tika was a tremendous handful. I did it anyway because the other two dogs were manageable, but it became a bit stressful trying to walk her, too.

Tika entered her first trial with one run the same weekend that Remington first showed obvious-enough signs that something was wrong with him, so I never did have complete entry fees for three full dogs at a single trial, but my two "elderly dogs" up to that point (Rem 9, Jake 11) were still competing just fine so it could have gotten quite pricey--and REALLY busy--at trials.

But now I could take one dog for a walk at a time and not feel guilty because there'd be two dogs at home together. This didn't stop them from complaining about it, but I always felt much better that they were together. This way, I could work on Tika's leash-training by herself, could walk an ill Remington by himself, could walk Good Dog Jake for just a nice relaxing peaceful walk by ourselves. There were advantages to three dogs.

Plus, the things that Jake and Remington both did well at (not running out the front door, for example), Tika seemed to notice and learn from. (She was not so good at it later after Rem died, so actually having TWO other experienced dogs in the house was a very good thing for a rambunctious youngster.)

But three dogs on the bed was a real mess, especially with the two boys being picky about their personal space. I tried to train Tika to sleep in a crate off the bed, but my training failed--on me. So I had to manipulate myself all the time to sleep around 3 dogs on a king sized bed who didn't want to be within 3 feet of each other.

Two dogs, March 2003-2004ish

So, after Remington died, I discovered again how much I liked having two dogs. One on either end of the bed. One on either side of me for snuggling. One per hand when out walking. Two at a competition was plenty.

Three dogs, 2004ish-2005ish

And then I got a renter housemate who had a dog, too.

This actually worked out well, because I could play with and even dabble in agility with the third dog, but then turn him over to his mom for vet bills and feeding and walking and grooming and all that stuff.

Jake, whom I thought would have retired from agility years ago, kept going and going, but I knew that at his age (13ish), it couldn't last forever, and then I'd be down to only one agility dog again, and that's a terrible thing (what if one is injured? Then I'd have NO agility dogs!). I had thought that I might make little black Casey my 3rd, but then they moved out.

Two dogs briefly in 2005

When Casey left, Tika was already 4, and I figured it was time to bring in a 3rd dog again. It was a hard choice from a living perspective, though, because I REALLY liked having just 2 dogs everywhere except for competing at agility trials. But, still, Boost joined us shortly thereafter.

Three dogs April 2005-Feb 2007

Once again, I delighted in teaching my young new dog all kinds of wonderful new things. A puppy is a challenge, but also a joy in seeing her catch onto ideas.

But three dogs are harder. Harder to line up for photos. Harder to snuggle with--you just cannot do 3 simultaneously. More gear to carry and more space taken up at agility trials. One dog you can tuck in almost anywhere. Even with two dogs, you can get by without your own canopy if you're clever. But with three dogs, you gotta have the whole shebang (not to be confused with Sheboygan).

Harder to sleep with and manage in hotel rooms and vehicles. Two crates fit neatly across the back of the minivan, but not 3.

Two dogs Feb 2007-present

Abruptly, I found myself again with only two dogs. Sure, I missed Jake, but I don't miss having the three dogs. Except when I want to walk one dog at a time, or take one dog somewhere, I don't feel comfortable leaving the other dog home alone, so I am doomed to always have two dogs with me wherever I go. Don't like that part.

General discussion about how many dogs

First, I think that if you have found a dog that seems right to you and you have the time and energy for another dog, you should take him/her home. I've looked at so many dogs and thought "welllll allllmost but not quite," that I value it when I have a take-home response to a dog.

Second, I find two dogs much easier than three. I can walk 2 dogs at a time, pet 2 dogs at a time. Three dogs--depends on the dogs--gets to be a challenge, because now you're using one hand to manage two dogs. Some people just never do that--I've talked to folks who always just walk one dog at a time, whether "out for a walk" or just pottying at a trial. Tika is a tremendous chore to walk with. I managed it with Jake and Remington because they were pretty good on leash, but I find that her bad habits on leash tend to drift over to Boost and the thought of adding a 3rd dog to this mess deters me. So some of that really does depend on the dogs.

However, I also have the question lingering all the time about what happens when my current dogs get older, from an agility perspective. One answer would be to drop out of agility for a while. Sometimes I feel like I'm ready to do that. Sometimes I don't. Assuming that I'm still in an agility frame of mind, in 3 years, Boost will be 6 and Tika will be 10 and I'd want to start thinking about a puppy or young dog that year. I'm guessing that Tika won't be competing when she's 11 or 12. But I've been fooled before (witness Jake at 15). If I *don't* get a 3rd dog, and if these guys live good long healthy lives, let's say Tika dies at 15, boost will be 11 and might not be competing, either. That could be a long dry spell w/out competition.

On the other hand, having only one dog competing would be considerably less expensive. :-)

Somehow I've managed to keep 2 dogs competing most of the time. Tika had just attended her first couple of trials when Remington got sick and died, so I had 3 dogs entered in maybe 2 or 3 trials. Boost had just attended her first couple of trials when Jake suddenly went. At trials where I've had only one dog to run, it has been both relaxing and boring. And one or the other of them usually does *something* well, whereas back when I was one-dog with Remington and he didn't do well (which was often), it really bummed me.

Jake and Remington fought. I hated it. I don't miss that part, but that was the same whether I had just them or added Tika. But I wonder how I'd have felt if, say, I'd already had Rem and Tika and then added Jake. Dunno.

Adding Boost to the Tika/Jake combination was both good and bad. Jake was a grouch but there was something about the way Tika handled his snarfs that made them cautious partners. Tika's the only dog that Jake would play fetch around, and she'd run in and scoop up his toy or ricochet off him half the time and he usually let her get away with it (after a 2 or 3 month adjustment period, at least). And he'd imitate what she did and follow her around, and she'd pay attention to things he did to earn rewards. They were never friends, though. Tika loved Boost. They play with each other regularly. Jake hated Boost and she really felt the brunt of it, being a puppy. I tried to keep them apart but sometimes I just slipped up and he'd be all over her. And I don't know how much of it was because she was a puppy, because she was new, because she didn't know how to deal with him like Tika did, because he was jealous in his own weird way at her taking time from Tika, or because he could.

I am one of those sort of ambiguous dog people. I love having my dogs around. I am so tired of the dirt and the hair and the overhead. I would really miss not having a dog around. I might actually enjoy living without dogs (but it's been so long since I've really done so that I'm not sure about that). The thought of losing them both for some reason sometimes terrifies me. It happens to people, losing two dogs in a short period of time. Three dogs seems less likely that you'd ever suddenly find yourself dogless, sort of an insurance policy of unconditional love or something.

And I don't think that 3 dogs makes it any more complicated in feeding--I just use dry kibble--or keeping the house and yard cleaned. If I'm going to sweep the floor, it doesn't matter how many dogs have shed on it. If I'm wandering around the yard picking up poop twice a day, it doesn't matter how many individual poops there are.

But expenses definitely go up with a 3rd dog. Half again as much food. Half again as many medical bills. If for some reason you need to board them or otherwise cared for (I seldom do, but sometimes), the expenses are per dog. Same if you have them groomed (I seldom do because of the cost, but would if I could afford it). If you have all of them in classes of some kind, it's per dog.

Overall, I prefer being a 2-dog person. And the odds are good that someday I'll find myself with 3 dogs again. But here's the other thing: Several people have told me that 4 dogs are easier than 3, because you can do everything 2 dogs at a time without one dog feeling left out and making a fuss or being resentful. Huh. Dunno. But just in case you find TWO dogs you really like--well--you can give it a try and let me know.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Choosing a Dog

SUMMARY: There are so many ways to go about it, and so few of them have anything to do with anything but what feels right.

One fun thing about participating in the dog-agility blogging community is seeing recurring themes that transcend geographical location, breed of dog, general drift of a specific blog site, and so on.

Such as: Choosing your next dog. Here are some recent discussions on this topic in other dog-agility blogs:

Here's how I've chosen my dogs:
  • Amber: One night, coming home from the swing shift, I caught a prowler looking in my apartment window. It terrified me. The next morning, co-workers announced that their German Shepherd and their Golden Retriever were pregnant and they'd have puppies in a few weeks. Those were 2 of the breeds I thought I might want some day (Collie being the other). (Ah! Research!) I'd never heard of puppy testing. Puppies were just something that you picked one of and took home. So I did. Of the litter, four were black, but two were the same beautiful blonde as my family's mixed-breed dog, and I picked one for my own. I no longer remember how I chose one over the other; I did agonize for a while over whether to take BOTH.
  • Sheba the Wonder-Husky: When I got married, I figured that my spouse needed a dog of his own. He thought Siberian Huskies were beautiful. I read a little about them in my dog books and agreed that they were beautiful. (Ah! Research!) So I haunted the humane society for several weeks, rejecting a variety of Siberians for a variety of reasons (should I have been suspicious that there were so many stray huskies?). Then I found one with a sign on her run saying something like "Lone Star is a sweet, wonderful, delightful dog. We have already held her two weeks past her euthanasia date because she really needs to go home with someone. Please help." (I have no idea where she'd been hiding during my previous trips.) She did indeed seem to be the sweetest, gentlest, calmest, most beautiful dog in the universe. My new spouse agreed, we took her home, and renamed her Sheba.
  • Remington the Squirrelhund: Two years after Amber died, I had decided that I finally was ready for another dog. But now, 15 years after her birth, I knew a lot more about dogs. I did a lot of reading. We went to dog shows and talked to the breeders and owners of several breeds that we were interested in. I narrowed it down to probably Australian Shepherd or Border Collie (mind you, this was before I had ever heard of dog agility). Then, one day, we went to a pet store to buy food on sale, and NARF was having an adoption fair for their rescues, and I found Remington, and he looked just like Amber, and he went home with us right then. (Ah! Research!)
  • Jake the SemiDachshund: He had belonged to a fellow club member who was also my obedience instructor, and Remington and Jake had been on a team together at a USDAA trial. For some reason I really liked him. (Ah! Research!) When he became available for adoption (this story is quite shortened for this post), our husky was barely on her dying legs and my spouse didn't want three dogs and felt it wasn't fair to an old, ailing dog to have a new dog in the house. I kept stalling Jake's current foster home and, finally, the inevitable happened and our 17-year-old husky died. Jake came home with me the following week.
  • Tika: Remington was getting old. Jake was getting older. It was time to start looking for another dog to start training as my next agility dog. Rem was never big on tug of war or fetch, and I knew that I wanted a dog who liked those things. I wanted one with drive and intelligence for agility. I wanted one who would snuggle. I had recently divorced and was living in a rental. An agility acquaintance was fostering a beautiful Kelpie mix that I would have taken home with me, but the landlord was an idiot and I didn't want to risk anything by bringing in a third dog. But, with this discussion, the acquaintance became a friend and she kept me in mind as she got other foster dogs. She showed me two or three other dogs over the next few months, which I rejected. Shortly after I moved into my own home, she introduced me to Tika, who loved to tug, would stop immediately to snuggle, was a gorgeous blue merle (which I've wanted since I was a kid), an Australian Shepherd-type dog (see research before Remington came home), and yet different enough from standard Aussies to appeal to me (I liked the shorter-haired, longer-legged ones). I think it was the blue merle as much as anything that kept drawing me to her, because she barked barked barked barked BARKED, at anything and everything. Well--the friend made progress on that, and a couple of months after I first saw her, I finally decided to bring her home on a trial basis. She never left.
  • Boost: OK, REALLY long story. Read it here.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Retrospective Photos

SUMMARY: From my collection, one of each dog.

For the Power Paws new years party, Instructor N is gathering photos and video clips from students for a show. These agility photos aren't necessarily the best ones of my dogs, but they are distinctive in one way or another. For this blog, for completeness, I added photos of my first two (preagility) dogs. I have very few photos of them, turns out, and most of them are lying down. Wish I had tons more, but nooo--these are the best photos of the whole dogs.
Amber, my first dog, German Shepherd/Golden Retriever. Here she's about a year old. Got her at 6 weeks; she lived to 13.
Sheba, our Siberian Husky. Came to us at about 6-12 months just after we got married and barely predeceased our marriage (her: 17 years; us: 19).
Remington. He was about 10 months when we adopted him, and 3 when he started agility. I chose this one for the presentation because it shows the whole dog and has me in it, and I realize that it's been almost 5 years since I lost him, so there may be many people who know me but don't remember him. Almost inconceivable that it's been that long--he was just lying on that bed in the corner only yesterday, wasn't it?
This remains one of my favorite photos of Jake, who joined us when he was 6.
Tika, adopted at about a year old. Picked this photo for the presentation because it's the funniest weave photo I've ever seen.
Boost is only the second dog I've had as a real puppy--about 3 months when she came home. I don't have a lot of photos of her doing agility yet, but this surely shows off her teeter speed--although lately she's often been sliding into a slam-down, which is a joy to behold.

(Oh, by the way, here's a photo of Boost's mom, Tala. Nah, there's no family resemblance--)

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

What to Feed a Performance Dog?

SUMMARY: I know next to nothing about nutrition, but it's always a hot topic when it comes up.

Backfill: Added one more section of links, Nov 30 noonish

I feed my dogs Nutro Natural Choice Chicken and Rice. I got here down a long path.

Grocery-store kibble

My first two dogs thrived on whatever name-brand kibble we could buy on sale at the grocery store. Amber, a Shepherd/Golden mix, lived to 13 1/2 with very few health problems, mostly apalling flea-related skin problems (this was before Advantage and that ilk). Sheba, a siberian husky, lived to 17 and I don't think had a sick day in her life, even when blood tests in her dotage said that she should've been at death's door.

Move to Science Diet for digestive reasons

Remington, my third dog, threw up or had diarrhea constantly. It wasn't just the kibble-- Pigs ears made him sick, where my first two dogs had ingested them with no problems. So did rawhide, sometimes. A very occasional can of dogfood gave him diarrhea. And so on. My vet suggested two or three varieties of kibble, and we tried them all, and then settled happily on Science Diet when it seemed to cure his intestinal ailments.

Move to Nutro for weight and performance reasons

When we added Jake to the family, we discovered that his love of fruit combined with our highly productive fig, plum, and apple trees meant that he was battling weight gain constantly. Not good for an agility dog, and I didn't want to cut out his kibble entirely--an all-fruit diet, I suspected, wasn't the healthiest nutrionally for any dog, let alone an active agility beastie. My agility instructor suggested Nutro Max as being a high-performance food that also helped keep the weight off. We switched both dogs, and Remington tolerated that as well, and it seemed to help. Eventually I switched to Natural Choice when weight-maintenance became less of an issue.

More high-powered kibble

These days, the same instructors have been feeding their dogs a couple of different products. One, Caribou Creek, is developed and used by sled-dog racers--they refer to it fondly as "rocket fuel." It's expensive and they buy it by the pallet-load for discounts and allow students to also buy it at cost. Lately, they say, "We are feeding Solid Gold's "Barking At The Moon" kibble. It is a high protein/fat, low carb food with salmon as the main ingredient. The dogs love it."

The Raw (BARF) diet

Meanwhile, it appears that large portions of the agility community have gone to the BARF diet (stands for various things), basically raw food, that is, largely uncooked meat and bones. I have several problems with this:
  • Time. I'm stressed in my life without taking the time to shop for, preserve, and prepare this food. It's so much easier to buy a bag on my way past the neighborhood pet store, and to scoop a bowl of kibble.
  • Expense: Nutro isn't cheap, but for a limited budget, it's much less expensive than a BARF diet.
  • Quality. I don't trust the safety of raw meats in my grocery stores for *me*; why would I feed it to my dogs? Other people do. That's fine for them. Otherwise, you buy it from people who prepare the food for you from trusted sources. That's THEIR trusted sources.
  • Storage: I have one large bin for 50 lbs of kibble. That lasts me a month. I don't know that I could fit even a week's worth of raw diet into my fridge or freezer--they're already full.
  • Safety: Bones. I've had it drilled into me for so long that splintery and raw bones are dangerous for dogs that I can't buy into it. I think that most of the prepared foods are ground up, but I dunno. An agility acquaintance's dog died last year from a perforated something caused by eating a raw bone. OK, sure, sometimes dogs choke to death on kibble, too. Somehow that seems like less of a risk to me.
  • Nutrition: Huh, OK, this is where my lack of expertise and knowledge comes in. I just don't know and have no good way of finding out. Read this excellent post by a veterinarian on the lack of data about this. I believe that, based on my dogs' general health, that any name brand dog food is probably nutritionally complete.
  • Taste: I don't think my dogs care. You should see Tika leap into the air and salivate just before she gets her kibble. Not willing to put time, money, storage, etc. etc. into something that doesn't matter to them.

Links to more info

  •, pro-raw, has a "Myths" page and other info.
  •, a seller of packaged raw food, has a lot of info on their site promoting the raw diet and theirs in particular, just for comparison.
  • has tons of info related to dog food, recalls, nutrition, and so on. The site owner is a proponent of raw diet but it looks to me as if she has taken care to be sure that most of the info provided is generally useful and unbiased.
  • Second Chance Ranch is anti-raw-food and has a second page with links to tons of vets and others who are also anti.
  •, a holistic animal care site, also anti-raw.
(Thanks to Elayne for the anti- links for balance here, although she's pro-raw.)

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Friday, February 23, 2007

More about the AKC

SUMMARY: Various comments, observations, and posts.

Another blogger's thoughts about the survey

"I feel so dirty".

Questions in and about the survey

Some of my observations on a few (not all) survey questions:
  • What is your relationship to the AKC? (Select all that apply.) One advantage to having registered Boost with AKC is that now I have the feeling that they'll consider my opinion to be worth something, because I am in fact now a purebred dog owner. I already know from my experience with Amber (OK, nearly 30 years ago, but still smarts) that they think that non-AKC dogs and non-purebred owners aren't worth much.

  • Should mixed breeds be restricted from qualifying for the AKC Companion Events' national championships and/or invitationals? (Yes/ No /I don't know) This is my main reason for voting for this, to allow mixed breeds to compete here. AKC gets to pick who's on the world cup team, and they do it primarily based on results of these events, and non-AKC dogs aren't eligible. Now, there's nothing in the survey about world cup specifically, and it might not be up to the AKC, it might be up to the FCI, and even if it is up to the AKC, they'll probably make it impossible for a non-AKC dog to be on the world cup team. But at least we'll have our chance to prove that we could be.

  • Please rate your agreement with the following statements (strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree).

  • Kennel clubs should serve owners of all dogs - purebreds and/or mixed breeds. Well, duh, a dog's a dog. Strongly agree. I realize that that's not AKC's charter--it is to promote purebred dogs. But you don't know how long it took me to figure out, back in my early days of agility, that when I got a premium for an "all-breed" competition, they didn't really mean anything like "all", by a long shot.

  • Expanding mixed breed dogs' participation in AKC events will lessen AKC's commitment to the purebred dog. Doubtful. You can read their stance in their presentation about why they're proposing adding mixed-breeds: To prove once and for all that they're inferior to purebreds.

  • AKC would abandon years of tradition by allowing mixed breed competition. How do you respond to that? Fact: yes. Inference: Who knows? If you agree with this fact, will they consider that to be a negative thing? Do they realize that they have a true/false question that's not soliciting an opinion?

  • Exposing mixed breed dog owners to AKC Companion Events and educating them about AKC breeds may encourage them to make their next dog a purebred. Well, duh, exposing anyone to anything may make them act differently in the future.

  • The inclusion of mixed breed dog owners will lead to people without breeding and/or exhibiting experience joining clubs and influencing policy making. The first of two trick questions. Well, another duh, of course it will. Is this a bad thing? I think not. But AKC probably thinks it is.

  • The inclusion of mixed breed dog owners will lead to animal rights activists joining clubs and influencing policy making. Second trick question. This sounds like a good thing, right? Isn't everyone for animal rights? But nooo--I know from previous AKC statments that, to them, "animal rights activists" means "PETA extremists". But the question doesn't SAY "PETA extremists," so I can't respond to that inference. I can only hope that yes, indeed, animal rights activists who feel that it's a travesty that puppy mills can churn out AKC puppies in deplorable conditions and promote them as desireable offspring will in fact influence policy making. In any event, I'm pretty sure that if they get a lot of "agrees" on this one, they'll think that's bad.

Comments from fellow Bay Teamers about the survey materials

  • (Referring to her mixed-breed agility dog:) I would have put [my dog] up against any purebred. She may not have got 200s in obedience, but the 197/8s sure beat enough other people. Many people do get a purebred, after having a mix breed so they could compete in events.

  • (Long-time rescue foster home, agility with a variety of dogs:) I suggested the playing field be level, and may the best dog(s) win! Now, WHO would be afraid of that?

  • (Mandy, long-time boxer & golden owner, competes in NADAC, CPE, USDAA, AKC:) This is also a group that planned to allow puppies to be sold in pet stores last year until there was a huge uproar from their base. Not sure why I would support a group whose purpose in inviting me to participate is to 1) demonstrate that my dogs are inferior to purebreds and 2) generate more income for them while not allowing full participation. Thankfully, I don't need the AKC to give me its blessing to compete with my dog.

  • (Katie, owner of Labs, all rescue dogs:) Rome wasn't built in a day, and I welcome the opportunity to tell the AKC that I would like to see all dogs participate equally. The AKC is in a position to do a lot of good on behalf of all dogs, or a lot of evil on behalf of unscrupulous breeders. The more their constituency can help to drag them kicking and screaming in the right direction, the better.

  • (Jennifer, owner of a variety of dogs including border collies, competes in NADAC, CPE, USDAA-- In response to AKC packet statement: "Purebreds consistently score better than mixed breeds in head-to-head competition. The U.S. Dog Agility Association has given 63 lifetime achievement awards for outstanding performance, and only three of those have gone to mixed breed dogs.") One thing I noticed is that their information packet is very disingenuous, not to mention wrong in places - USDAA has 150 lifetime achievement award winners listed on their website, with the number of mixed breeds in the double digits not 3 or 4 or whatever number AKC gives. Also the vast majority of the winners are Border Collies (surprise!) and most breeds have no winners at all - so that doesn't really translate to purebreds always beating mixed breeds when they compete together . . I added in the Comments section that I read the numbers to indicate that mixed breeds beat most purebreds when they compete (just to be wicked - I really don't care who beats whom). I won't switch from my present organizations no matter what AKC does.

The cheating mini-Aussie

(email from a purebred-owning friend who has competed very successfully in AKC, USDAA, and CPE at least:)
So a 12" jumping Aussie (Willow) won the top Aussie of the year awards, as well as winning the 12" class at the AKC invitational.

The Aussie parent club has complained, because Willow is an ILP, and she and her parents are registered as North American Shepherds (aka mini-Aussies) with the North American Shepherd parent club.

As a result, AKC has changed its ILP rules as follows (forwarded AKC posting):
As you all probably know, a formal complaint was filed with the American Kennel Club in November, identifying the North American Shepherd, Blue Moon Shine on Willow, as being ineligible for Indefinite Listing Privileges with the AKC because she is not a purebred Australian Shepherd, but is the offspring of two NAMASCUSA- registered North American Shepherds.

As a direct consequence of the formal complaint, the AKC Board of Directors discussed the matter at its January Board meeting. The AKC acted in record time to amend the rules for applying to receive Indefinite Listing Privileges.

Beginning immediately, persons applying for an ILP are required to attest that neither the dog on the application nor its parents has been registered, *or identified, anywhere* as a breed other than that stated on the application.

That means from now on, people who register their dogs with MASCA and/or NAMASCUSA (and/or NSDR-MA, etc. etc. etc.) or compete with their dogs as Miniature Australian Shepherds or Toy Australian Shepherds in MASCA/NAMASCUSA, ASCA or any Rare Breed events, or even identify their dogs on their own websites as Miniature or Toy Australian Shepherds, will be out of luck if they think they can cheat their way into competing in AKC performance events.

If an owner of a Miniature Australian (aka North American) Shepherd or Toy Australian Shepherd knows that it or its parents have been registered - or even just identifed *anywhere* - as a Miniature Australian Shepherd (North American Shepherd, Toy Australian Shepherd, etc. etc. etc.) that dog is explicitly *excluded* from Indefinite Listing Privilege eligibility.

Personally I think this is pretty sad. The mini-Aussies are very few generations from being Aussies, and they are awesome dogs. It is a shame that they are being removed from AKC competition because they don't satisfy the breed standard as far as the parent club is concerned. Of course, I think mixed breeds should be able to compete in AKC events too, and I keep hearing AKC is moving that way, which makes this decision strange.

You can see the complaint here.

Response 1 (Gail, purebred owner at top of both AKC and USDAA agility):
I'm ambivalent about this issue because of the special way in which dogs qualify to compete in the Invitational. If Willow won the 12" class at the regular Nationals I would have no qualms, because she'd get through to the final purely on the dog's merits relative to many other dogs. But that's not the case for the Invitational.

Qualifying for the Invitational is based on your AKC speed points in ExB Std and JWW plus 10 points for each double Q. You have to be among the top 5 in your breed to be invited (or if one them declines, #6). This system greatly favors dogs that measure into a lower-than-normal jump height because they tend to earn more speed points due to the slower SCT. In addition, if you barely measure under, you will be one of the longest-legged dogs in your class, so you'll often place, thereby getting multipliers for your speed points.

So Willow, who is barely under 14" (if she really is; a lot of the dogs at the Invitational looked like mis-measures), is at an advantage compared to regular Aussies who have to compete with BCs etc. and won't always be at the top of their height class. The two very small Aussies owned by the Carruzos were also at the Invitational for the same reason, but in the 16" class. So most of the Aussies that attended were not good examples of the breed standard, and since the whole point of the Invitational is to highlight the breeds . . .

The same thing was true for BC; at least 3 were in the 16" class.

All the pems that went to the Invitational were 8" dogs. That's because they are at the top of that height class, and it's a less competitive class than 12" where the larger corgis compete. I watched these dogs. A couple were good; [my corgi] at 11-/12 would have done much better than the others, but of course he never places anymore and racks up fewer points. Plus a lot of the little pems don't do USDAA because they'd have to jump 12", so they spend all their time at AKC trials, again racking up more points.

Beyond the way one qualifies to go to the Invitational, there is another rule that gave Willow an unfair advantage. Only one dog of each breed could go into the final in each height. So that means only 1 sheltie could go through to the final. The shelties were all in the 12" class, so one had to not only run clean all four rounds, one had to be the fastest of 5 shelties. Willow had no competitors.

Because the Invitational is explicitly not about identifying the most athletic agility dogs or the best teams, but rather is about highlighting all their approved breeds, I think that what AKC did makes senses. That's a separate issue from the Nationals, where I wish they'd let any dog compete, because that is a true skill competition.

My question (not so much in response to previous post but to original AKC): So if the dog hadn't registered elsewhere as a "Miniature Aussie", then AKC's "cheating" complaint would go away? Odd.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Christmas Rawhides

SUMMARY: Different dogs, different rawhide personalities. (This was one of several scenarios that I had envisioned as part of my Christmas letter. But I pared a lot out of it, so you-all get it on my blog, instead.)

Sheba and Amber: Christmas 1983, just a couple of normal dog pet pals enjoying a treat. Maybe Sheba wants to enjoy two treats.
Jake Step 1: Carry his gift around looking concerned and mildly reproving.
Tika Step 1: Tear off enough paper to get to work. No nonsense here.
Jake Step 2: Carry his gift around looking concerned and mildly reproving.
Boost Step 1: Carry it to bed and check it out cautiously.
Jake step 3: Carry it to bed and monitor for intruders.
Boost step 2: Bury the rawhide in a secret place.
Jake step 4: Carefully remove just enough paper to tempt the other dogs to just dare to try to come take it.
Boost's cleverly buried rawhide bone. No one will find it now.
Jake step 5: Carry his gift around looking concerned and mildly reproving.

In the Olden Days, when we had Sheba and Amber (who were just normal sort of pet dogs, although special in their own ways), we gave them giant rawhides for Christmas every year. They'd pull the wrapping paper off and lie there chewing on them for a while and eventually get tired of them and then chew on them off and on for maybe weeks.

Remington was completely spooked by giant rawhide. (He was a sensitive soul.) He just wouldn't go within a foot or two of one, although he'd chew small rawhides with pleasure. After two or three attempts in different years, we just gave up.

It occurred to me that I hadn't tried giant rawhide bones with any of my current dogs for Christmas, I don't think. So I bought three large rawhides, wrapped them loosely with just one piece of tape holding the paper, and handed them out.

Tika immediately trotted to the den, gently tore off enough paper, one small bit at a time, to get at one of the big knobby ends, and proceeded to gnaw. Normal. Except for the wrapping paper remaining on half the bone, for hours.

Jake, typically, carried his slowly around or just stood in one place, looking concerned and occasionally shooting me admonitory glances for saddling him with such a huge responsibility. Eventually he retired to his bed and let it rest beside him for a while, while he monitored the environment for encroaching canids. When none approached him, he appeared disappointed at not having a chance to warn them off, so after a while he tore the wrapping off half the bone and went back to carrying it around past the other dogs, looking concerned.

Boost took it gingerly, watched the other dogs for a couple of minutes, then took it to her bed, where she examined it closely for a while. Then she determined that the best course of action was to bury it where no one else could find it while she decided the ideal plan of attack. A couple of hours later, Jake found the cleverly hidden package and walked around with THAT one for a while, looking concerned. Eventually, it disappeared again, and I assumed that Boost had buried it again. Apparently she had, but in some odd corner of the living room, because the next day Jake found it again (still wrapped) and carried it around for a while before Boost finally took over once more and removed the wrapping paper to give it some chewing.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Differences Among Three Dogs

So there I was, out in the front yard, pitchforking another one of the 13 cartloads of woodchips that I hauled today, when suddenly there was this cute (grown-up) border collie puppy wandering towards me to see what I was up to. I thought I had closed the gate carefully. The puppy said hi when I called her over, then followed me cheerily as I rushed towards the side yard to get to the presumably open gate before Tika could get there.

It was indeed open. And Jake was standing there, not setting a foot outside, waiting for permission like a good boy.

Tika, thank goodness, hadn't figured out yet that the gate was open. She might have waited briefly but, after noticing that I wasn't in range, would have taken off like a missile down the street, legs a-blur, ignoring my entreaties to return.

She did appear as I started mucking with the gate. Turns out that the little string that goes through the fence to lift the latch had somehow become tangled in a dangling fir branch, which kept the latch from closing quite completely even though it had sounded like it when I pulled it to.

So today, for our lessons, Tika and I worked on the eternally challenging Tika-on-a-20-foot-lead partial freedom and recalls and paying attention to me when she came back longer than just to snatch a reward from my hand.

This will never happen, never in a million years. Boost's a year old and she doesn't do that. Jake never did that. Both of them (and the late lamented Remington and Amber) would never take off except maybe after an obvious cat or squirrel, which was scary enough, but they all mostly just hung out to check out the yard, see what I was doing, watch the world go by. Oh, well, there was Sheba, too--there are several reasons I occasionally call Tika "Sheba"--but I blame her behavior on her not-so-distant wolf ancestors.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

It's Done a Million Times a Day

It's done a million times a day, but it's different when it's your puppy. This morning I dropped Boost off at the vet's to be spayed. The operation will be done around noon and I'm supposed to call around 4:30, when she should be reasonably woken up, to check how things went.

One of the benefits of being so immersed in the World Of Dogs is that I get tremendous amounts of information about dog training, behavior, feeding, health, activities, name it. One of the disadvantages is that I get enough information sometimes to be frightening. I've heard so many stories in recent years about dogs who do badly under anesthesia, and particularly about performance dogs. So the stories say that it has to do with the type of anesthesia, or the overuse of anesthesia, or the "pre-anesthesia" that the dogs get before they go into the operating room, or the quantity (or lack) of body fat, or the breed of the dog, or who knows what.

We had a big email discussion two weeks ago on this topic among my dog-agility club members—about 170 well-educated, dog-experienced, worldly, knowledgeable people. And what it came down to was that everyone had a horror story about themselves or about someone they could specifically identify by name (including someone who uses my same vet), and could identify trends that many people seem to be aware of, but no one could cite published articles or specific recommendations by vets (although some apparently avoid certain anasthesias but not for any well-researched reasons).

One lady runs a blood bank for dogs—the only one in CA, one of the few in the country (and one that contributed to Remington's well-being during his last months whenever he needed transfusions); they won't use Border Collies at all as donors because of problems they've had with the breed. I meant to grill her this weekend for details, as she was my partner for Team Relay, but I just didn't even think of it at the right time all weekend.

I asked so many more questions of my vet this time around than I ever did with my first puppy, back in 1978. We had quite a long discussion about "old wives' anesthesia tales" and about modern techniques for administering anesthesia and so on. And yet, when I walked out of the vet's office this morning after leaving Boost there, I was shaking and on the verge of tears.

I don't know how much of my concern is the "little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing" syndrome, and how much is the German Shepherd who lived across the street from us when I was in about 3rd grade who died while being spayed. Of course that was (gasp) almost 40 years ago, which probably put it in the stone age of dog medical care, but that has remained such a sharp and frightening memory all these years. Still, I don't remember feeling this way when Amber was spayed (ack—yes—over 25 years ago?!).

One of my club members commented to me this weekend that she's a vet tech and has helped put hundreds or thousands of dogs under anesthesia and never thinks twice about it and things work out fine—but, when it's her dog, it scares the heck out of her. So I'm not alone...


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Thursday, March 31, 2005

To Puppy or not to Puppy?

Some agility people I know have a litter of Border Collies. Both the mom and dad are excellent agility competitors. Of course you don't know how the puppies will turn out in the long run, but the odds seem good that they'll be driven competitors.

They were born on my birthday.

There are two or maybe three still available, all female. The owner thinks that the black & white one might be the better agility dog--says she's very fast, the first one to race across the yard to them, and yet totally snuggly and relaxed. The two blue merles are a bit more wriggly (to consolidate my inexperienced experiments into one word), so they might not be as relaxed and snuggly, but does that make them more driven? I'm assured that they all love chasing toys and playing tug of war (I confirmed) and that none seem to be noise sensitive. They have all kinds of things to crawl all over and around--noisy, moving, etc.--so it seems likely that they won't be intimidated by agility equipment.

The blue merle ones are kind of cute. I always did like blue merles ever since I read about them in Albert Peyson Terhune's books. And I find it very hard to get excited about owning a basic black and white Border Collie, being around dozens of them at agility trials every weekend.

But these are AKC dogs, I believe (I didn't ask but I'm pretty sure) from quite desireable parents. They're asking (gasp) $1000 each. Holy toledo. But Nike Animal Rescue (where Remington came from) is now asking adoption fees "starting at" $175. Humane Society is $145. Of course, those fees include some things, such as spay/neuter (I didn't ask what the puppy's owners preferred to have happen with their puppies).

Am I ready for a puppy? My last puppy was Amber, in early 1979. I remember being exhausted then, and I'm *already* exhausted now. Can I afford a dog of known and extraordinary ancestry? Argh.


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Thursday, July 22, 2004

Various Notes and Random Bits

  • Backfill: July 23 a.m.That Lovely London Scent: Somewhere in the past I mentioned that Tika gets catnip-style pleasure out of my used washcloths. Don't ask me, I'm not a dog. Or a cat. I got home very last Monday night--essentially Tuesday, in fact--washed my face and hands, and crawled into bed. When I dragged out of bed Tuesday morning and turned on the sink faucet to warm up water for morning face-scrubbing, Tika followed me into the bathroom, which is not unusual.
  • What is unusual is that she stopped abruptly below the towel bar, whereupon a slightly stunned or startled look crossed her face. She reared up onto her hind legs and stood there for a few moments with her superb sense of balance, examining the towel bar. Then, ever so gingerly, she took one corner of my washcloth in her frontmost teeth and pulled it, ever so fastidiously, off of the towel bar. She then carried it gently up onto my bed, where she shook it shortly twice, laid it carefully onto the bed, and rubbed her cheeks into it repeatedly for about 30 seconds. Then she was done.
    I was so stunned that I didn't scold her for taking my things from my purview. I wonder what odd or unusual odors I imported from London on the skin of my face? Perhaps it was the London Fog altogether, because when I opened my luggage to slowly begin unpacking, Jake put his nose right in there and analyzed every square inch of clothing and imported product. They usually exhibit no interest at all in my luggage or its contents.

  • Baths: I never bathes my dogs no more. Amber had very oily skin that attracted dirt like--um--dirt to an oily dog coat. Plus horrid flea allergies (this was in the days before those nifty one-spot once-a-month flea repellents). She needed bathing constantly. Sheba's pure white chest and underbelly and legs became grimy often, partly from the metal of her dangling dog tags, partly I'm sure from crawling out from under assorted fences. Remington got occasional baths, usually when Sheba needed one.
  • But I never tried just hosing Sheba down regularly. Rem, Tika, and Jake have all been hosed off frequently, because on warm days in agility it seems like the proper thing to do. In fact, I don't believe that I've ever bathed Tika, and probably hardly ever bathed Jake. I certainly don't think I've done doggie bathing since moving in here nearly 3 years ago.

    But Tika and Jake are shedding miserably, and Jake has started scratching again, so I gave them both baths yesterday in my shower stall--yes, with actualy doggie shampoo. It helped to clump and loosen the fur, and they both look particularly clean and cuddly in the aftermath. Neither were pleased about the process, but they survived admirably.

    Afterwards, I combed them each for about 10 minutes. Which removed about three mattress loads of fur but otherwise hardly seemed to make a difference.
  • Jake's legs: Once again this morning, Jake yelped just after waking up when I briskly scritched his thigh. Often when he's standing or walking slowly, I see his hind legs wobble and slew side-to-side a bit. Something I've seen with my other elderly dogs. How he can be having problems with his legs and still blitzkreig his squeakie in the yard or haul over jumps (although they're all 16" now, not the 22" to 24" he jumped in his prime) is beyond me. What a guy. But I'm cautiously concerned. Pull him from agility or not?
What I'll probably do is not enter him in everything at every trial. Maybe. If I can convince myself to not do so--
Kensington Palace and its front lawn. Think of the agility
you could do in your own front yard if you lived here!
  • Dogs in London: Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens simply seethed with dogs. All cheerful. All well-behaved. All off leash. Playing frisbee or tennis ball, running with their owners, encountering other dogs of similar size and ambition and playing wild games of chase across the verdant expanses-- And British owners are no better (maybe worse) than American owners about picking up after their dogs (saw 3 violators out of 3 observed poops!) despite the parks having their own special private privileged waste containers for doggy poo and nothing else! (Photo forthcoming.)
  • Dogs without me: Housemate reports that, while I was gone, Tika got out the front door once and (as usual) took off full speed across the nearest street. And, as usual, Casey and Jake decided it looked like fun and took off after her. Fortunately they were retrieved still alive. I don't know what to do about this problem. It's a serious problem. I need to do something. I've rambled about this problem before.

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Saturday, May 15, 2004

What Are People Thinking?

I took 2 stray dogs to the humane society this morning. Cute little things, very friendly, quite overweight, one a sheltie mix, one a spaniel mix. Both terribly overweight. One recently spayed, still has stitches.

One was wearing a collar but had no tags. The other one had no collar. They almost got run over twice--once by me backing out of my driveway and once when they ran across the street to say hi to a man walking by, who checked them for tags and then turned them loose again. Someone else thought they recognized them and suggested some houses to try; I drove them there but no one recognized them. I walked them all around the neighborhood (a mile and a half), talking to people, hoping they'd be recognized or would take me to their home, but no such luck. Drove them to the local vet to get them scanned for microchips, but no such luck.

Dropped them off at the humane society in Santa Clara this morning. They hold them for 5 days for the owners and then put them up for adoption if there are no health or personality problems and they haven't been claimed.

Why don't people ID their dogs? I think I've ranted about this before. Yet another friend told me once when the dog got out of the yard that the dog never wore tags when unsupervised in the yard because they were afraid the dog would catch the collar on something and strangle to death. Let's see, how many dozens of stray dogs with no IDs have I taken to the pound? (OK, probably only about a dozen, really.) How many people do I know or have met whose dogs have been strangled in the yard while wearing a collar? None. I'm sure it happens. I've heard that that kind of accident is more common with slip collars, which I never would leave on my dog unsupervised.

And why do people let their dogs get so overweight? OK, now I know better... Amber and Sheba both put on weight when they got to be 8 or 9 or so, and it crept on so that I hardly noticed it, then realized one day, "gee! My dog is getting fat!" and then had to put them on a diet to get the weight off again.

It's not like I had 2 available hours to do this this weekend. Thanks, idiots whose dogs don't have IDs!

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Friday, May 07, 2004

Stories that Make You Weep

The only problem with hanging around with lots of people with lots of dogs is that you hear the worst stories as well as the best. One of the shelties in our club was a regular in the USDAA top-10 16"-agility list. Owner came home one day and found him pretty much paralyzed. Apparently suffered a stroke in the spine. Is walking now, but stiffly. Agility days are gone.

Another friend works at a vet clinic. She said someone came in on Wednesday with a dog he thought was dying and didn't know why. Came home and found him sprawled and struggling in the yard under a tree. Broke his spine. Best guess is he was jumping up after squirrels and came down wrong. Had to be put to sleep.

I watch Jake's legs, knowing he's got arthritis in the lower spine. He seems to sort of stumble over his back legs or lose his equilibrium briefly there, but always corrects within a step or two and keeps going. Last night in agility class, while we were practicing aggressive Snooker moves, he turned into SuperJake, which I haven't entirely seen in quite a while on the agility field. Then once in a while I hear him drag his back toenails as he walks, but then he stops doing it as soon as I pay attention.

Amber had such arthritis as she got older, with the dragging back feet and sometimes she couldn't stand up to go to the bathroom. And Sheba of course had horrid times standing the last couple of months, dragging those back toenails again all the time, although it's not clear whether it was arthritis or something else going on in her spine. But she was about 17 (and we knew it because she lived with us for all but the first 6 months or so), so that's not unexpected. But that was why we finally had to put her to sleep--couldn't stand up on her own. Nothing wrong with her mind or her will to keep going.

Things That You Can Do Nothing About But That Can Hurt You In The Middle Of The Night Just Thinking About Them.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Deaf Dog Examples and Analysis

What's odd is that Jake seems to respond to some sounds or commands sometimes but at most times I could swear he's completely deaf (doesn't respond to his name or a squeaky directly behind him, for example). He still does "left" and "right" when in front of me and looking up at me--how does he do it?! Can dogs read lips? He hesitates before doing them, but it seems to me that he always did hesitate a bit (that one-brain-cell thing). I tried mouthing the commands without making any noise, and the percentage of times when he did nothing at all went way up--but when he did something, he usually did the right thing. Is there a subtle difference in my face/throat when I'm not actually saying anything, or is he in fact hearing some kind of sound vibration? It's intriguing...

I'm now trying to figure out how to handle a fast dog on course who doesn't really realize that he can't hear me and that I can't always get in front of. This is probably why we've been having trouble getting Snooker legs recently (no response from him when I'm trying to call him off an obstacle).

Other things that he seems to respond to:

Odd noises in the environment, but without a clear sense of direction. For example, I used the mongo hole-punch this morning while he was cat-napping on the office floor. It emitted a loud squeak/thunk. He immediately looked up, but in the opposite direction, out towards the front door, and peered in that direction as though trying to hear more.

His name when playing fetch--I send him behind me and he takes off running and I yell "Jake" and he spins back towards me. Sometimes but not every time. But lying in a quiet room facing away from me, he doesn't respond at all to anything, even me yelling his name. Is it a subtle body language thing in the yard?

The other dogs barking it up in the other room. But he doesn't immediately jump up and join them or start immediately barking. He looks up, alert, head and ears pointed in the general direction of the activity, and when the activity doesn't stop, he somewhat hesitantly gets up to go see whether something's going on. When he gets there, he joins enthusiastically in the barking. Is he responding to their physical activity somehow? (I'd be more inclined to believe this if he were lying on a floor that vibrates--but the office is on a concrete slab, and the other dogs are usually up half a story in another part of the house).

How'd he go deaf? Amber died at about 13, with arthritis in her back being her worst challenge. We never noticed her being hard of hearing. Sheba died at about 17. She had some trouble hearing, I think, but not a lot--but then, she had huge fleshy growths inside her ear canals that completely blocked them. Kind of weird but not particularly harmful. My ears sometimes start ringing when Jake gets a loud squeaky toy and squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeaks it a thousand times a minute--and he's been a lot closer to those than I've been! Could that have contributed? (Sort of like rock stars whose music deafens them at an early age.) Then there's Tika--she barked in my face yesterday and it was almost painful to my ears. Considering that she loves to chase Jake when he's playing fetch and leap at his head and yell "Bark!" as he grabs the toy, maybe that's contributed to it.

Who knows. Vet did say that most dogs by 12 or 13 experience some hearing loss.

But it is SOOOOOO heartbreaking that Jake no longer responds to the sound of a squeakie, just about his favorite thing in the universe. That hasn't stopped him, however, from squeaking them enthusiastically--maybe when they're in his mouth he still gets some vibratory feedback?

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Friday, March 12, 2004

Jake and Amber in an Encyclopedia

A community-edited encyclopedia is a cool thing. See my dogs online.


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Sunday, November 16, 2003

Dogs' Names and Attention

Now here's the thing.

Tika has figured out that I'm walking around with a pocket of goodies and when I say "Jake!", SHE runs over to see what's going on.

Seems to me I remember something like that between Remington and Sheba, or maybe Sheba and Amber--that there was something in particular that the one dog would do and so we'd say their name there, and the smart dog always figured that out, so when we'd say the other dog's name, the smart dog would go dashing over to see what fun was afoot.

Jake's not as fast a learner, but food is somewhat more powerful than the opiates released by licking one's feet, so I have hope.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Remington. Still Gone. Still Here.

7 months and a week. I wonder and wonder when the sharp pain will fade to comfortable memories. I think about Amber, now, and find only quiet, warm, increasingly spare recollections. (If my mind's lens zooms in onto the morning she died, I can still cry.) But it was 2 years--two!--after she died before I could get around the untidy emotional lump that filled my available dog-loving spaces to think about getting another dog. And it was months after Remington came home before I managed to stop comparing him at every misbehavior to beautiful Amber.

So I know that I have a long way to go. One is supposed to learn such things from history.

dog in stream At a stationery shop, browsing through greeting cards. A big yellow dog stands alone, quietly gazing at the invitation offered by a half-frozen stream meandering into the distance among misty trees. Just like Remington, standing on the edge of the path plowed through the Oregon forest, its surface hidden beneath February's winter water and ice, crowded on either side by the forest's understory. Gazing into the distance, wanting as always to explore strange new worlds but not at the cost of walking through icy slush, quiet, perhaps gazing farther than I can possibly see, around the bend, just three weeks further on and an infinite distance beyond where I can walk--I, suspecting that his tumor had again begun to hemorrhage but not yet knowing for sure, wanting to take him walking and walking forever, never stopping, but stymied by the deep and freezing waters.

Now it's a week later and I had to go back and buy that photo. I took none in those frosty Klamath woods while we were there. Photo by Keith Carter


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Sunday, July 13, 2003

Dumb Dog and Gone Remington

Dumb Tika dog. She's definitely doing the same thing she has for every other walkies method--what's the most she can pull without it horribly inconveniencing her. I think yesterday she was pulling just as much as ever, if not more, on the prong collar. Dang dang dang dang.

Missing Remington the last couple of days. Never know why this pops up. I still feel angry as much as anything. The challenge in managing it is that there's nothing and no one to be angry at, except The Fates, The Universe, The Powers That Be, The Gods.

At the time that Remington was ill and I knew that it was fatal, I developed the theory that it was easier for me for him to survive a while because I'd have a chance to develop an internal mental and emotional model of a world without Remington, and to start working through my grief ahead of time. Well, in retrospect, I think that there is no way that I could ever build a complete model of Remington dying early and me accepting it.

That's because the model that I already had--of him growing older, his muzzle getting whiter, possibly arthritis slowing him down--built slowly over 9 years and everything inside my brain and my heart wanted that model to prevail. For years, when he'd stand up after lying for a particularly long time or when especially tired, he'd push himself to a sit and then haul his backside up, almost as if his spine was pulling his legs up rather than the opposite. It was so reminiscent of what Amber looked like, trying to stand up as her arthritis became so horrible, that I already knew what he'd look like as he grew older.

Slamming an active, healthy, happy dog with a cancerous stake to the heart can't ever be reconciled with what, with all my soul, I wanted--even though, at the same time, of course, I DIDN'T want him to grow old. Still, now I think that, with Amber, even though it was excruciating losing her, at the same time I could look at the way she so badly wanted to play ball and couldn't; wanted to stand and greet me and couldn't; started losing control of bodily functions when she'd panic because she occasionally couldn't stand up; and see that her passing was in a way a relief of her inevitable increasing infirmity and pain.

With Remington, it never seemed inevitable. It seemed unjust, foul, undeserved, cursed, horrific, appalling.

The common litany among so many dog people seems to be "He's waiting for you across the rainbow bridge." Sorry. Bullshit.

I miss him so. It's been 4 months. I haven't cried this hard in at least a couple of those months. The other dogs are curled up at my feet, concern curling their bodies, ears, and tails. I wish it was Rem.


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Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Amber and Remington

Just posted photos showing Amber and Remington in Rem's bio posted March 8.


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Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Sparky's Leaving Us

My friend's Sparky dog, who long outlasted the prediction for lifespan with her cancer, is at the end. We've known it's coming; she's gotten worse and worse more rapidly lately and has deteriorated a lot, although she still perks up for special events. Her mom has arranged for the doctor to come tomorrow and give her the final injection. I'm already so exhausted, I wouldn't think that I could add another weight to my load, but even though I know that she's succeeded in living a wonderful life far beyond medical's expectations, it still feels like a defeat by the cancer demon, and I hear his footsteps growing louder. One thing about coming to the end is that the waiting and wondering is over. No more, "are we at the point of no return or will it get better again?" "am I doing the right thing?" "is s/he in too much pain?" I know the tension is felt by the dog as well.

I cannot think of any words that would give me comfort when I finally come to the same decision; how can I find anything for someone else? I know that lots of people care about me and Remington, and have shown it all along, and I think perhaps that's enough and that's all I'd need. Don't know yet, though. When Amber died, every time someone said, "I'm sorry," I'd start crying again.

I guess I could say, "Man, that Sparky is a great dog." It's true and it's important. And it doesn't demand a response. Sigh.


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Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Random Finchester Dog Notes, Part 2

Another day for jotting random things.

Glowing Eyes Canidae: Sheba's eyes, which were a clear blue in the light of day, glowed red in the dark when scattered light hit them right. Jake and Remington both have soft brown eyes. One night in the unlit exercise yard up at PowerPaws, both turned my way and caught a little reflected light--to my surprise, Jake's glowed green and Rem's were deep gold. I don't know Tika's secret fluorescence. Way back in the old days, we were teaching Sheba to be a wolf; now I'm apparently teaching Tika to be a coyote. Wonder what color coyote eyes glow?

Descending in Style: I remember so little about Amber and Sheba any more, although they were with us 13 and 16 years, respectively. I have no idea how they went down the stairs in the morning. Remington had a pretty predictable process until recently: hop out of bed, shake himself off, stop just before the top of the stairs and stretchhhhhhhhh his front legs and stretchhhhh his back legs, wag tail, then descend with quick but careful attention to each step. Jake, who pretty much goes everywhere at a minimum of a trot, runsfulltilt down and has a style over the last 3 or 4 steps that I would call, professionally, "falling." Tika takes the whole flight in about four bounds and lands halfway out into the hallway. I wait at the top until there are no more plummeting dog bodies and the all-clear has sounded.

Agility as a Motivator in Life: Reminton is almost always happier and more eager to do things the Monday and Tuesday after an agility trial. Same is still true, even though he clearly didn't have lots of energy over the weekend. I think the psychic boost is a big one for him. Eventually he realizes that I've gone back to being the boring weekday mom and settles down. But why would I ever want to stop this as long as it helps to keep him more interested in life and the world around him? Life takes some odd turns sometimes.

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Monday, February 10, 2003

Jake's Getting Older But Still A Champ

Lots of signs that Jake is getting old, and I really started putting them together this weekend.

Arthritis: In August of 2001, Jake's back became suddenly extremely painful, and xrays confirmed that he had some arthritis in his lower spine. A month of rest and anti-inflammatory meds, and he seemed completely recovered. Have seen no signs of recurring pain or disability. I did notice at the early January trial that he didn't want to jump up into my arms at the end of a run like we've always done, and I thought maybe he was just a little tired. Actually I'm trying to remember whether he was doing that occasionally at a trial or 2 late in the fall, but I don't remember clearly. In any case, this weekend he didn't even look like he was thinking that jumping up was an option--just wiggled around all happy dog with all 4 feet on the ground, every time.

Anyway, I've also noticed that, in the morning, when he always leaps into my lap at the end of breakfast for a little snuggly, lately (how long?) he's been approaching slowly instead of dashing up, jumping barely high enough instead of flying into my lap, and often not propelling his back parts high enough, so especially in the last couple of weeks I've started preparing to catch his backside so it doesn't fall back to the floor.

Another morning ritual has always been that, as soon as I show signs of being awake, Jake pops up, stretches a little, and comes wagging right up into my ear to nuzzle and push and then roll immediately onto his back and wriggle around making snorking and moofing sounds. Last couple or 3 (how long?) weeks I've finally noticed that he doesn't do that any more. Lifts his head but doesn't immediately get up. Rolls over onto his side and lifts his paw to allow some stomach rubbing. Gets up casually and comes over to say hi. Maybe a little rolling around but not as much or as enthusiastically.

At the trial this weekend, where he usually leaps into my lap on the chair when we return to our set-up after a run, he didn't want to leap onto my lap. Got onto the chair itself, carefully. And once, when he started to leap, he yelped and stopped.

As for the foot that disabled him for a couple of months in Oct & Nov, the bone spur is still there but I've seen no signs of pain or limping since then. Still, in class Wed. night a couple of people said they thought he was holding back when he was running, not reaching out all the way. When I started watching, then and this weekend, I'm pretty sure I noticed it some of the time myself.

Decisions: So what to do about agility? I've been entering him in more veterans classes, where he jumps 12" or 16" depending on the organization (compare this to the 24" he started at in USDAA and earned his ADCH at!). But in a couple of the upcoming trials, when I sent in the entry forms last month, I entered him at full height because he had seemed to be doing so well. I know that I need to contact the trial secretaries and ask them to move him to all vets, but the bigger question is--should he be doing agility at all?

You'd never know that there's anything going on to watch him chase he squeaky, or a ball, or a frisbee. (Note to self: he did some jumping for frisbees this weekend even though I was trying to keep it low--I'll bet that's what made his back more sore.) He still can rev up spectacularly for the agility courses, too, and he did very well this weekend, earning 1st, a couple of seconds, and a couple of thirds--sometimes only a second or so behind a couple of much younger, very fast shelties. He's so wiggly and cheerful after a run.

And I worry about the same thing about NOT entering him that I do with Rem--if we're at an agility trial, and other dogs (i.e., Tika), are running, he'll want to come out and run. I probably need to scale back--not enter him in everything possible like I usually do because he's always had the energy and enthusiasm to do as many runs as *I* could handle.

But I also believe that being as active as he's been has helped to keep him as active as he's been, if you know what I mean. I know that some sources think that agility causes some of the problems, but I've seen more healthier dogs doing agility & being active longer than many couch potato dogs. I dunno. Hard to say. Amber started showing signs of arthritis & slowing down I think when she was around 10 or 11, although I don't remember any more, and she of course never did agility. Sheba didn't show it til 13 or 14 or maybe later.

To the best of our knowledge, Jake turned 11 around November 1. A lot of dogs are retiring from agility much earlier, so he's had a darned good run, so to speak.

Getting old sucks.

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Monday, November 25, 2002

On to More Chemo/Jake good/Tika bored/Amber resurfaces

Remington is *so* full of energy but I think his foot is really bothering him--every time he gets excited about something and forgets and puts his foot down, it just dampens him so rapidly. He really really wanted to play in the yard today; really really wanted to do tricks; really really wanted to go for a longer walk. Poor guy.

His bloodwork shows that his white cells are doing fine 6 days after first Cytoxan dose, so we're going to go get the next 3 days of Cytoxan doses tomorrow.

Jake's foot seems to be doing OK. Still enlarged. I'm still keeping him pretty subdued on exercise (well--for him, anyway).

With 4 days gone at Disneyland and now trying to catch up on work, Tika has had no agility practice since class last week, and I really didn't spend much time with them today, and she's achin' for action.

I found a bunch of slides of my old dog Amber when she was a puppy. Will have to scan them in & make prints for my album. Maybe put a couple on the site to compare & contrast to Remington, who greatly resembles her.


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Friday, November 15, 2002

And Da Man Keeps on Playing

Remington is SO playful yesterday and today! I actually don't know how long it's been since I've seen him so eager to play. He played with a box in the yard. He played with a Big Blue Thing in the yard (looks a lot like a Tika Toy--except blue--). He picked up an old tennis ball handle in the kitchen and played a little tug of war & chase with that. He accepted a squeaky toy and led me and my sister on merry chases around and around the coffee table and the kitchen and the hallway, and actually chewed on it a bit. Don't know whether he's feeling so much better that he can hardly get over it or what.

I dread the bad thing--like Amber became suddenly very playful the day before she died in the night. I'll probably be dreading that for months. Or years. The way Rem was milking us for attention tonight, you *could* see him doing this for ages and ages. I can only hope.


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Monday, January 28, 2002

New Dog Day 7

Backfill: Nov 16 '03 She got really restless at 4 a.m. again & woke me up. Let her out, she peed immediatey & immediately came back in & settled down. Guess it shouldn't surprise me--we had a really good play session about half an hour before bed & she drank a lot afterwards. That'll teach me. Actually Jake was delighted to go out & pee at the same time, and he drank a lot at about the same time.

Rem never plays that hard, and he never needs to get up in the middle of the night, either. It's kinda funny how I'm so aware of when Jake starts getting restless or jumps off the bed in the night--then I know that he's gotta go. None of my dogs (except my first one, Amber) have come up with the idea of nudging me or licking my face. Amber just sat on me. Sheba used to lick the doorframe. Rem & Jake are so used to the dog door that they never needed to figure out how to get my attention.

I have to put her in the pen while I'm eating breakfast. My dogs are trying to be good role models & snoozing with all their might while I eat, but she wanders & wanders & wanders, and because I'm trying to concentrate on reading the paper (a chore at the time of the morning), I'm surprised when I get up again & discover various random belongings of mine scattered around the house. I think she picks them up, decides they look better over *there*, and drops them accordingly. So far she's not really playing with any of them.

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