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.




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.


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…




The Great Chicken Caper

I’m pretty sure they were planning it from the moment they saw me take the chicken breasts out of the freezer. I usually put meat in the oven to thaw because so far none of the animals in the house have learned how to open the oven door. Yet. When I checked the chicken it wasn’t quite ready for cooking so I set it in a pan of warm water in the sink. Usually I cover it with a cast iron pan lid which is heavy enough to deter the rodents, but this time I neglected that step. Big mistake.

I went outside to do a bit of gardening and came back in about 45 minutes later. I had the dogs outside with me, and I let them go in the house while I took some flower pictures in the garden. I came inside and looked in the sink…the pan of water was there, but no chicken. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach as I asked my husband if he had moved the chicken. The answer was no. Uh oh.

That’s when I noticed the plastic bits on the floor. Uh oh again. Not surprisingly, all the animals were in hiding, except for Boots. [Why should I hide? I didn’t do anything wrong. Mother is being hysterical about the stupid chicken. – Boots]  I checked around for the rest of the chicken package and when I didn’t see it I went out to the back yard, the final resting place of many liberated food items.

Sure enough, Sammy was out there on the lawn and he looked up at me, looking VERY guilty. When I called his name he wagged his tail and came running up to me with his guilty, sideways crab run. I looked over the deck railing and there was the chicken package, minus the chicken. At least this time he didn’t eat all the plastic.

I figure what happened is that Boots dragged the chicken out of the sink. I don’t know how she did it because the package weighed more than she does! [It was easy – Mother is so clueless. – Boots] She probably ate her fill while we were out in the garden and when I let the dogs in the house Sammy grabbed what was left and ran.

This is not the first time these two have conspired to steal dinner. A few weeks ago I cooked two steaks for my husband, one for dinner and one for the next day (our steaks from the butcher some two to a package and I didn’t want mine). I mistakenly left one on the counter. Boots grabbed the steak off the counter and tried to make off with it. Sammy ran up to her, she growled at him with a mouthful of steak (hilarious!) and he snatched it away and ran outside to eat it. [I am going to get back at that stupid dog, just you wait. – Boots]

I’m pretty sure Molly and Little Miss were innocent in the Chicken Caper. Sammy and Boots are the real delinquents in the family. [Says you. – Boots]


Oh those kids….I mean dogs

We’ve had some challenges with Molly lately, the first being that she had a sudden flare-up of an ear infection that required emergency care. Once we got that under control, she injured one of her legs jumping into the back of the truck. Luckily, one of our friends is a vet who does chiropractic, cranio-sacral work, acupuncture and homeopathy. Molly got an appointment with her yesterday, which helped a lot, and she’ll be getting a homeopathic work-up soon to deal with a deep-seated systemic infection that anti-biotics haven’t touched, and that she’s probably had since before we got her.

I think the hard part for me when an animal gets sick is they can’t actually tell you how they feel. It would be the same for a baby or toddler who can’t talk yet – how do you know what to do? I guess the key is to get the right kind of help and stay positive and never give up. My sister is my hero because she’s gone through some serious illnesses with two of her kids. They are doing great now and she never stopped projecting a positive attitude, no matter how scary it got. I’m in the minor leagues when it comes to that because I’ve only had pets, not kids.

With all the attention being on Molly lately, Sammy’s been a bit jealous and acting out. I took the dogs out in the pasture with me the other day while gardening and I had Sammy secured to a tree on a tie-out line. This was after he had already snapped his leather lead chasing the neighbor’s dogs. Once I got him tied up again I started doing my work, and my husband drove up in our big pickup after going to get a load of compost. Well, Molly took off to greet him and Sammy took off right after her, forgetting (or not caring) that he was still tied up. I saw it all happen from a distance and couldn’t stop it – Sammy reached the end of his line and jerked himself off his feet. He flipped in the air and slipped right out of his harness and ran up to greet his papa. I think this guy is going to need a chirpractic tune-up with the vet!



Sammy Patrol

Sammy keeping an eye on the backyard.

Sammy’s big brother Charlie taught him a lot in the six months they were together. One of the things he taught Sammy was how to conduct a security patrol.

When we first moved here, Charlie was our only dog and we didn’t have a fenced backyard. We weren’t too worried about it because Charlie never roamed very far and always came back. When we would go out in the hot tub, Charlie used to sit at the corner of the house, on alert, at a spot where he could see the driveway approach and the whole back of the property, protecting us while we were tubbing. He was such a great dog….

Well, after we got Cowboy Joe the Great Escape Artist, we had to fence part of the back. Joe used to dig under the fence, find holes to go through and one “last straw” day he actually sailed over the top. From then on, my goal was to contain at least one dog (Charlie) so they wouldn’t run off together for hours. In any case, Charlie started to perimeter patrol every night, running around the whole fenced area before coming in for the night.

I think Charlie saw it as his job to teach Sammy the basics, as Sammy now does the same thing.  Charlie also used to sit just where Sammy is sitting in the picture above, on the top step of the back deck, with his front legs on the step below. For me, having Sammy takes a little bit of the hurt out of losing Charlie.

Our big, beautiful Charlie on watch.


The Roll of Joy

You’ve probably seen your dog do this…The Roll of Joy. I wish I had a picture or video to post but it’s an elusive moment that I haven’t been able to capture on camera yet. Usually it’s done on the grass, that wonderful, twisty dance on the back that dogs like to do. Charlie used to do it with a stick in his mouth, which we called The Roll of Joy With Stick. Sammy doesn’t do the roll very often for some reason. Maybe because his hair is really short and he doesn’t shed much. Molly, however, is a master at this.

In the winter, she’ll run outside (not on leash since she’s a good girl), grab a mouthful of snow and crunch it up, then roll on her back. Snow, ice, it doesn’t matter. In fact, I think she prefers ice. She’ll find an icy slope of snow that has built up around the house, roll on her back and slide down the slope head first! Someday I will get a video of this. Last year we got two feet of snow in one day, so we had a huge pile of snow in the front yard from all the snow that we shoveled off the walk and that came off the roof. For a few months, until it melted, Molly had the perfect icy slide for her unique Slide of Joy. It was about a five-foot long icy slope and when she landed at the bottom she’d squirm around for a few minutes looking very happy.

Horses also do the Roll of Joy, and the most amazing thing I ever saw was a giant Belgian draft horse doing it in our pasture. We had a logger guy here to take care of about 50 trees that blew down in a windstorm shortly after we moved in. Instead of letting a logging operation go in and tear up the forest, we hired this guy who used two draft horses to pull the logs through the woods to our driveway, where we had them milled. He left the horses in our pasture overnight so he wouldn’t have to keep carting them back and forth, and one day I looked out and saw this huge horse doing exactly what the dogs do. It was incredible!

Maybe when it thaws I’ll try the Roll of Joy for myself….



The not-so-indestructible Kong

I love Kong dog toys. They’re red, so they’re easy to spot in the woods and in the snow. They’re rubber so they are fairly durable and you don’t have to keep buying them every week. But, they’re not indestructible. Case in point is the ball at right, which used to be round. Sammy has been working on it over the past two and a half years, taking it apart one chunk at a time. Most of the time I’m able to pick up the little chunks and throw them away so he doesn’t swallow them. Other times, I’m sure he’s had interesting-looking poops!

When we first got Sammy, I bought all kinds of toys that were supposed to be tough and indestructible. He tore all of them apart within hours. The Kong is the only thing that has given him pause. He used to have a bone-shaped Kong, but he ate the ends off of it and then it disappeared in the woods. There are actually 4 of the round Kong balls in the woods surrounding our house. Sammy and Charlie ran off with them and then dropped them out there. Someday maybe we’ll get them back. For the record, the woods in our neighborhood are also hiding: one frisbee, one dog vest, and one dog bootie.

Charlie was famous for losing his Kong balls. Once we took him to California and were playing on the beach. We had just bought him two new round Kong balls. He took one and dropped it at the water’s edge. The ocean came and took it. Stupid me, I threw him the other one. He dropped it at the water’s edge and the ocean came and took it. Oh well.

The only Kong that Sammy hasn’t been able to tear up is the large, bulbous one (I don’t know what that shape is called). It’s his favorite because it’s oddly shaped, and when you throw it it bounces in terribly interesting ways. Molly is only interested in the Kong when Sammy has it in his mouth, because then she can play tug-of-war with him. It’s pretty hilarious to see them lip-to-lip, their snouts mashed together while they try to get the other one to drop the ball!