A Little Sunshine

bootcuddle

Sunshine (a.k.a Sunny)

We’ve finally added to our pack after about a year of thinking about it, much to the chagrin of Boots! [Mother has it right for once. – Boots] I had been wanting to get a young dog to play with Sammy, who seemed to be pretty bored and ran outside to bark a lot. Molly is 10 and just isn’t interested in being as active as Sammy. She’s actually healthier than when we first got her thanks to our alternative vet and our own efforts at providing a really clean, raw diet. But Molly is more of a chew-on-a-stick kind of dog and Sammy is more of a chase-and-kill-a-stick dog.

Well, we went to visit some friends and it turned out that their dog had a litter, and they were down to one pup who needed a home. We couldn’t resist! [Because Mother has no willpower! And of course nobody asked me about it. – Boots] As you can tell from the picture, Sunshine is a yellow lab (our third now, sheesh), and she’s almost 5 months old. I woke up the day after I got her and panicked, thinking “what have we done?!” I wasn’t really thinking about going through puppy training again, but it just seemed right to take her home.

It turns out she’s a great fit into our family. She has puppy energy but she’s a calm dog. She lays around with the other dogs or just lays quietly on her bed chewing on a bone. When we go outside she runs around with Sammy, then she’s content to lay in the woods and chew on a stick. We’ve had to train her from the ground up, starting with potty training, but we’ve only had two accidents in the house and she seems to have the idea down pat. She learned to use the dog door in about 10 minutes. The stairs were a challenge, but with some encouragement she’s doing just fine. She’s super smart and very sweet. She’s had to learn not to aggravate the cats [I got her good yesterday! – Boots] and it only took her a day to learn how to walk on a leash.

dogfriends

Sammy and Sunny, friends at last!

It took Sammy and Molly several days to warm up to her. Sammy was very territorial and didn’t want to have anything to do with her, but after about 4 days he suddenly decided it would be fun to chase her around the back yard, and now they are buds. They lay on the floor together and face-fight, and Sammy is showing her how to patrol the back yard like Charlie taught him. She follows him around, sniffing everything he sniffs and peeing in the same places. Molly doesn’t mind Sunshine now, unless the puppy steps on her while she and Sammy are horsing around…then you will hear the big dog growl. :-)

The Cesar Milan training we have done with the older dogs has proved invaluable. The three dogs are truly acting like a calm pack now, and I can even walk all three of them together by myself with no problems. We haven’t encountered another dog on a walk yet, however, so we’ll see how it goes. But I don’t think we’d be having such an easy time of it if we hadn’t already put Cesar’s principles into practice.

Sunshine is irresistibly cute and cuddly, and she makes us laugh. She and Sammy are a riot together! I’m sure Boots will get used to having another smelly beast in the house…eventually. [Don’t count on it Mother…]

 

The Big Sneeze

Part of the challenge of doing this new training with the dogs is the complete and total stubborn personality of…Sammy. Sammy is very independent, and he simply doesn’t understand why I think I’m the boss. [I am the boss, Mother….hello! ~Boots]

Six-pound bossy cats notwithstanding, I am one of the bosses and I’ve struggled daily with reminding Sammy of this. He will mind my husband almost without question. Even when I am at my calm-assertive best I struggle with Sammy. Molly will generally concede to me not because she thinks I’m the boss but because she is a love-bug and is thinking of future cuddles. She just wants to please.

Sammy is a different story. As soon as I give him a command, he sneezes. Then he sneezes again. And again. The first few times this happened I thought he was just sneezing. After almost a year, I can say definitively that he is not just sneezing. He’s saying no! He’s just like a toddler who learns to say no and then says it every chance he gets. I try hard not to laugh since that would be undermining the seriousness of my commands but it’s really almost comical when he does it.

I can get Sammy to mind me, I just have to say the command a few times (or a dozen times). It’s frustrating but every now and then he’ll do something without me giving him a command. He knows what I want him to do – he’s a very smart dog. He just generally doesn’t want to do it. I think what keeps our relationship going is that as stubborn as he is, he loves to cuddle (see previous posts) and I know he loves me.

That big sneeze, though….ohhh it gets me!

 

 

 

Render unto Cesar….

Okay, the name is spelled a bit differently but my husband and I have to give Cesar Millan his due. The guys knows dogs. My parents used to tell me about the Dog Whisperer show and we kind of didn’t believe it would be any good. However, last summer we started watching the old episodes on Netflix and we were amazed at how well this guy reads dogs. He’s really reading their energy, not their personality, and he’s also reading the energy of the owners.

We started implementing his training primarily to keep the dogs calm when someone comes to the door or when they are meeting new people. The dogs really didn’t understand at first. Why the heck are we making them sit all the time??? I went on an unexpected trip shortly after we started the training and Steve had to deal with the dogs on his own and keep the training going. He spent 45 minutes one day getting Molly to submit so he could give them their meal. He took both dogs for a run on leash, on his bike no less, and got them to heel perfectly. When I got home I had to immediately get with the program so I wouldn’t undo all the good work he did.

Luckily I was able to assert myself enough to get them to adhere to the training. You’ll notice on Cesar’s show that there’s always a weak link in the pack — that’s me. I’m the softie, so I had to toughen up to do this work with the dogs. As with kids, the key is consistency. If you give in just once, the dogs will assume you are no longer in control. [You never are in control, Mother!  -Boots]

It’s going pretty well overall. I make them sit on their beds while I prepare their meal, so there’s no more jumping around in the kitchen. In fact, they are banned from the kitchen any time I am cooking, which is so much nicer. They are no longer tripping me up and begging for food at the cutting board. If they stay on their beds they get a treat. It really has taken a lot of stress off me.

They wait before we go out the door – no more rushing around me and knocking me off my feet. They wait before we go down the stairs from the bedroom – no more running around me and tripping me as I go down the stairs. They heel really well when we go for a walk. It’s really been quite nice to calm down the frenzy we were used to dealing with. They no longer (for the most part) attack the door when someone walks up. This has been especially evident with Molly. She’s pretty calm now, which is nice.

The one habit we can’t break is getting up on the couch. I no longer bring them up for cuddles, I cuddle them on the floor. But they still assume the couch is their territory, so we have to block it off with baby gates. We also have to put a big book on Steve’s recliner before we go to bed at night or Sammy will sneak down there when he thinks we’re asleep and spend the night on the recliner. If the book isn’t sufficiently large to deter him, he’ll spend an uncomfortable night curled around it, just to prove he can.

All in all, I highly recommend trying Cesar’s methods. It’s the most effective thing we’ve found so far.

 

 

 

I’m Still The Boss

Mother is busy with those stupid beasts, doing who knows what, so I am taking the opportunity to enlighten you more about the wonderfulness of me. There is so much to say….where do I start?

I am nearly 20 years old, and I have to say that I only get better with age. Mother is practically neurotic about grooming me, but really, I think she has lost her mind. Who cares if my fur is perfect? I am perfect, and that is all that matters. I think perhaps Mother has some “issues” she needs to work out.

Father continues to worship me, as is my due. He sometimes tries to put that stupid “zapper” thing on me when he thinks I am sleeping but I just move around until it falls off. I mean really! They are always trying to do something to me with a comb or a zapper or some stupid vitamin. I will let them know when I want a dumb vitamin and then they may serve me. I cannot believe how long it has taken me to train these two.

They became all concerned the other day because I vomited a few times…who cares? I have the right to vomit if I want and it is none of their business. So what if the big stereo speaker was ruined? If they are so concerned about it they should not leave it next to the warm fireplace like that. I am much more important than some stupid stereo equipment. They spend too much time listening to that stupid music anyway. I hate that stupid jazz and that dumb Jimi Hendrix person. What did he ever do that was so special?

I almost nailed that hairy, smelly beast Sammy when I vomited. That was almost worth the discomfort! Mother and Father have spent the last few days fussing over him for some dumb reason, but I think he was faking it the whole time. He is not always as dumb as he looks.

Well, I hear Mother coming back into the house with those dumb dogs, so I better go pretend I am sleeping on top of the stereo cabinet. If I stay up there long enough, Mother will airlift me at bedtime to the cozy bedroom upstairs. She is so easy to manipulate!

~ Boots

 

 

If it’s not one thing…

There’s just no end to the drama with Sammy! Today he got out of bed, went outside to pee then came back in and was shaking and looking like he was going to throw up. We immediately put the zapper on him, which is our first line of defense with our dogs. If you haven’t checked out the zapper link, do so. We have averted many disasters, human and animal, with this simple and effective technology.

The zapper got him calmed down a bit and I was able to get him to lie down on his bed. I kept the zapper on him and ran my hand down his back to calm him down and get his energy running again. After about an hour I remembered that I had some charcoal biscuits from when the stray dogs visited, so I gave him a few. He ate them eagerly, so I figured he couldn’t be too bad off.

It’s hard to know what’s going on in a situation like this. Our dogs have a very clean diet and there’s not much in the way of vegetation in our back yard that can cause trouble. When we moved here there was a deadly nightshade plant growing under and through our back deck. I didn’t know it was poisonous until our dog Charlie became sick one day and had pink foam dripping out of his mouth. I discovered the red berries out back, looked up the plant and found it was highly poisonous. I have since ripped it out by roots, but it’s stubborn and grows back. I pulled more vines this summer, but it’s possible I missed a few and that Sammy found some dried berries. The dried berries are even more toxic than the ripe berries!

The other thought was that he ate some pine bark and toxified himself that way. Yesterday afternoon he had bumps (hives) on the top of his head, which happens once in a while. We haven’t been able to figure out what he is getting into that causes this. We got rid of all his synthetic Kong toys and I have scoured the back yard several times looking for anything that could be upsetting his system. No luck. However, pine bark has a lot of a turpentine-like chemical in it, so it’s possible he’s just reached his limit. That boy does love to chew on his sticks!

So anyway, after I gave him the charcoal biscuits he perked up quite a bit. Charcoal is a natural detoxer as it absorbs toxins, so it’s always a good idea to have some on hand. In an emergency you can burn some toast and give that to your dog. After a few more hours we went outside and Sammy was running around like normal and pooped a lot. Success!

Sammy’s like that kid who’s a magnet for trouble. Before he was six months old I had aleady called the emergency vet three or four times. Once because he had a foxtail in his ear which had to be extracted, once because he ate a package of meat with the plastic still on it, etc. He’s been a challenge from the start. He’s the one who got hit by the car, eats anything he can find, gets sharp objects stuck in his toes, and is Trouble in general. We love him like crazy but we do have to keep a close eye on him!

 

 

Owie, my toe hurts

Sammy has had a tough couple of days. The other day he ran outside to chase some deer away from our backyard fence, and when he came back in he was limping. I checked his feet and found that he had torn one of his toenails and the torn part was sticking out at a 90-degree angle. Ouch! That hurts no matter who you are.

Sammy has spent the last few nights being very restless, coming over to wake me up and not wanting to lay down on his bed and go to sleep. I thought maybe he had to go outside, so I tried to get him to go downstairs so I could let him out. Normally, he’d let himself out through the dog door, but we’ve blocked it off the past few days since the weather has been really cold and the “Extreme Weather” dog door doesn’t deal well with extreme weather, unless you’re just talking about rain.

Turns out Sammy just wanted me to wake up and cuddle him and pet him, and generally sympathize with his plight. [What a wimp! You won’t catch me whining like that. ~ Boots] In any case, today I used a zapper to help reduce the pain, then I took advantage of his natural restlessness and took him outside to run around. I didn’t have the stomach to rip or cut the hanging nail piece off, but I thought if he got excited and ran around it might come off by itself. Sure enough, we got back in the house and the split nail was gone, and all that was left was a rather bloody mess.

Sammy seems a lot happier, though, since the hanging nail piece isn’t stabbing his foot with pain every time he moves. Is it just me or are you terrified of trimming your dogs nails? I always figure I’m gonna do it wrong and he’ll bleed to death. :-) There’s nothing worse than hearing your pet scream in pain…

Sammy’s pretty funny as he tends to be a drama queen (king?). Molly pretty much endures any injuries stoically. Our vet friend said most Labs are like that and they won’t let you know they’re in pain until it’s really severe. A dog mommy must be observant!

 

 

 

Passing Strangers

straydogsThese two dogs showed up in our pasture earlier this year, just walked across the driveway and plopped down in the grass. I went out to investigate and they were quite shy, so I went back out with some food. The blonde dog was willing to come near me but the black dog kept his distance. I could tell, however, that they were really skinny. Their ribs were showing so I figured they were lost or had been dumped at the nearby trailhead.

I’m a softie, so I spent the next few hours plying them with food and they slowly moved closer to the house. I eventually got them corralled within the backyard fence and they settled down under the trees. They really looked like they needed a rest and as I was able to get closer to them I saw that they had small cuts and wounds on their feet and legs. Who knows what they had gone through.

I spent the rest of the day and evening feeding them, petting them and introducing them to Sammy and Molly. The introductions went okay, but I found I needed to keep their attention with treats so they wouldn’t start up with each other. At one point I had all four of them sitting in a semi-circle while I threw pecans for them to catch.

I set the visitors up for the night on thick blankets with heating pads on the back porch to keep them comfy. They were way too smelly to keep in the house! The next morning, they were gone. I figure they climbed up on the hot tub and jumped over the fence. These two must have been real wanderers. My dogs would never figure out they could get out that way (I hope!). I shed a few tears and gave up on my fantasy of adding two more dogs to the pack. Once they got to trust me they were really sweet and I was sad that I couldn’t help more.

Okay, this is where the story gets really interesting. About a month later, a teller at my bank told me that someone on her Facebook page posted about two dogs she had found. The dogs had been with her a month, she fell in love and was keeping them, and they got out when her horse kicked down a fence. The teller told me about this because I had told her the saga of my dog visitors. I showed her the picture of the dogs and she said it matched the one on her friend’s Facebook page. I was stunned!

So this woman who had found the dogs was racing around her neighborhood looking for the dogs, enlisting the aid of friends and strangers. I figured oh well, they are wanderers and they are continuing on their journey. About a week later I checked in with the teller and the woman from Facebook had found the dogs. So as far as I know, they are in a happy home across the valley from me. I’m glad I could help them in a small way to get to their next home.

 

Sometimes a boy just needs a dad cuddle

Sammy has had a tough couple of weeks. The ongoing construction on our house got really loud as the contractors began work on the second half of our roof. Sammy simply cannot abide the noise without 1) running outside every 2 minutes to investigate and bark at the contractors 2) barking at every thump, rattle and bang when he’s inside and 3) attacking the front door every time he sees movement in the front yard, which is frequently. Molly, on the other hand, is mostly calm until someone knocks on the door.  Then, it’s World War III. I had to block the dog door (although the dogs did figure out how to get the snap-on cover off!) so Molly wouldn’t run out and eat the guys who came to install some gutters. It’s always an adventure to have company.

A few days ago Sammy ripped one of his toenails when his dad was throwing a softball for him to chase. He bled all over the sidewalk, the front deck and the living room floor. I couldn’t even lift up his foot without him yelping so I just left it alone and I haven’t been throwing the Kong for him. Today, after a walk up to the mailbox during which I had to carry him because he refused to walk any further, the broken nail finally fell off. He was so distressed by the whole thing that he let his dad cuddle him the other night, which he won’t usually do.

I keep trying to figure out ways to keep the dogs occupied since we have to stay close to home while the construction work is being done. We can’t take them swimming in the river yet because Molly has a broken ear drum from an ear infection. Now that I can throw the Kong for Sammy again maybe they will calm down. Also, work has ceased for a week so we all get a break from the noise. We’ll be rubbing dog ears later to get them to release some angst!

 

 

Boots loves her Mommy! (Oh please, Mother)

Her Highness (oh, get over yourself Mother!)

Before Mother takes over this post and gets all hysterical, let me just say that there was really nothing wrong with me. Mother chose to abandon me for two weeks, with just Father and those smelly beasts for company. I decided that I needed to teach them all a lesson, so I just didn’t eat for a while. What is the problem here? Everyone needs a cleansing fast now and then. The fact that I lost a few pounds should not have sent the entire household into a frenzy. When Mother finally decided to come home I simply decided to eat again. No one else is the boss of me, so I do not have to eat if I don’t want to. So there. ~ Boots

Well, I wouldn’t say I got hysterical, but she did look pretty bad when I got home from a family visit. I never would have thought that Boots would mourn me [I was not! – Boots] but she seemed to perk up as soon as I got home and now she’s pretty much back to her normal, feisty self as you can see. Our other cat, Little Miss, was also missing in action and when I finally found her, she was limping badly. We kept her inside for a few days and did some therapies on her and I fed her by hand for a few meals until she perked up. I think she injured herself climbing a tree or something and she just stayed outside, not hunting, not coming in to eat, not drinking, and basically wasting away. She’s doing much better now and today I let her go outside for a little while.

Sheesh! I never would have thought our independent kitties would have so many problems while I was away. [I was not having a problem, and that stupid stripey cat is just a big lazy baby! – Boots] In any case, I get nervous about leaving my animals, even with someone caring for them, as I’ve had three pets die in my lifetime while I was on vacation. It makes me a little gun shy! [See what I mean? Hysterical! – Boots]

 

 

My life as a dog entertainer

Does this dog look crazy or what?

I’m starting to think that my purpose in life is to entertain Sammy. He certainly thinks so! When we get up in the morning, he immediately grabs whatever toy is laying close by and rushes up to me with it, sometimes throwing it at me while he wags his tail and looks expectant (or crazy – see photo). He follows me around the house just in case I suddenly do something fun. When I sit down to put my shoes on he and Molly go crazy. Molly just rushes up and bowls me over while I’m sitting on the stairs lacing my shoes. Sammy runs around throwing his toy or mock-killing it.

I’ve been taking the dogs out in the garden with me while I work and letting them roam free in the big garden complex. Sammy tried to escape a few times but he has settled down now and behaves pretty well. I’ve had to shoo him and Molly out of the beds a few times, and the other day Sammy snuck into the big veggie bed and stole a huge chunk of petrified cow poo compost. Good news is that kept him entertained with vigorous chewing for about an hour, while Molly looked on mournfully. Needless to say, kisses were out that day! Yesterday, after some random stick chewing and tug-of-war with Molly, he suddenly became crazed and ran around the garden like a maniac. Luckily I’ve trained him to stay out of the beds (mostly) so no damage was done.

A couple of times a day I take them out into the backyard for a vigorous came of fetch. Sammy may or may not play along, and Molly could usually not be bothered. She gets excited for a few minutes but quickly settles down to chew on a stick. They’ve been finding all sorts of interesting things to chew on since our roof has been under construction because our builders will throw things off the roof and clean up at the end of the day. I’m sure Sammy has had his fill of foam insulation.

I don’t really mind being a dog wrangler because I also get to be a dog cuddler. Molly will cuddle anywhere, anytime, probably because she’s knows what it’s like to be in dog prison (the shelter). Sammy takes a little more convincing. I’ll call him over to me and he walks over with his head hanging down like I’m going to beat him. I’ll never understand this since he’s been pampered by us since he was 3-1/2 months old. Sometimes he voluntarily comes over and put his paw up on my lap and lets me pick him up for a good cuddle. He just doesn’t like admitting he has a soft, gooey center!

The other funny thing that happened recently is that I found Sammy’s old leg bone Kong toy (the new one is pictured above) sitting on the other side of our road, across from our driveway. This thing has been MIA for months, and suddenly one day there it is, sitting there like he dropped it the day before. Too weird! It’s now a garden toy…