Archives for September 2010

Last Chance!!

Just a reminder that today is your last chance to vote in the rescue dogs calendar contest!!  Tonight the comments will be closed and tomorrow I will tally them up and announce your winners!

So go ahead and vote!

Why are you still sitting there?  Go vote!  And then bring me a cookie.

Jack of no trades

Master of Sassmouth.

Don’t worry, it will all make sense eventually.

Did you get a chance to watch the National Sheepdog Finals this past weekend (as instructed!!)?  Man, what a bunch of nail-biter performances!  Patrick Shannahan and Riggs laid down a simply lovely run to win the whole shebang after a kind of “eep!  zomg, what’s going on?” gather.  If you missed it, you missed one hell of a show!

This was the first time, I believe, that the finals have ever been live-broadcast on any medium and I think there were a few thousand people watching the best sheepdogs and handlers in North America do their thang.  I was amused to see some of my FB friends who are not sheepdoggie types intrigued enough to tune in and watch, and even get excited about it. It’s hard not to get excited about watching something so innately beautiful.  If you’ve never seen a dog do a double lift before, I hope you were impressed!

I could do that. Look how herdy I am.

Yeahright.  Staring Dexter down is not “herding” West!

I’m not going to pontificate on the finer points of what makes a stockdog a stockdog, as it would bore most of you senseless and I also am not an expert on the subject, having achieved only the lowliest of accomplishments in the ‘sport’ of sheepherding, such as it were.  I am greatly interested in the subject though, and read / talk about it a lot, and believe firmly that preserving the working nature of the border collie breed is an important thing to do.  Breeding for sport or conformation, or candy colours or even just money is a sucky and demeaning thing to do.  The border collie is versatile, but it’s not a versatile breed, if you understand the distinction; it was bred to do one thing, and that thing happens to encompass a lot of qualities that make it versatile.  But as soon as you start thinking that it’s possible to leave working out of the equation and make the border collie a versatile breed of mere dog, you begin to lose the the very thing you liked about border collies in the first place.

IOW, the border collie is the master of one trade; jacked up, it’s just a dog.

Earlier this week, rumour has it that Dexter’s sister Ginny went and met some woolies and did not a bad job of working them, though she preferred to move the chickens around, those being a little less scary that the big ole mean sheep.  This information, coupled with watching the finals, fired up the old “hey I wanna do that” flame smoldering away in the back of my brain.  But I have been there, and I don’t *really* want to go down that path again.  I have a jack of all trades dog; her name is Piper.  She has competed in stockdog stuff, flyball and agility – she does okay at all of them, and excels at none of them.  That may be because she’s Piper, or it may be because I wanted it all, and focused very hard on nothing.  Who can say?

Of course, I have a dog who would undoubtedly be very good at stockdog work, were his handler so inclined.  He also happens to be the best looking border collie to walk the face of this earth.

Who dat?

I know that with the right amount of work, Dex would probably make a very lovely working sheepdog.  I know this not because he walks around like this all the time:

but rather because I know his family tree and both sides funnel down from accomplished, purpose bred, working dogs.  Had his litter been bred on purpose, his life right now might be very different.  Most assuredly, he wouldn’t be assaulted by pesty foster dogs every time he moves a muscle.


But I got Dexter so that together we could excel at a sport I do love, which is agility.  I think that if I wanted a real sheepdog, I would have to chuck out the dreams of him being a sport dog – after all, it’s not too difficult to acquire agility equipment by saving my pennies, but it’s a lot harder to buy land and sheep!  And besides, if I decided to pursue stockdog stuff with Dex, I’d have to get ANOTHER dog to do agility with, and since I already have a bit of a surplus, that seems foolish.

SOMEdogs in my collection are not very good sport dogs.

Wootie: I’m ignoring you

TWooie: Is that a rabbit?  Yummy.

TWooie is destined to hold down the dog beds for the remainder of his chubby, smiling little life.  That’s okay, he’s kind of already middle aged and it’s a lot better than being someone’s whipping boy.  I think he likes his life here, and me, I’m mad-crazy in love with the TWoo just for who he is.  I know all my friends nod and smile indulgently when I say that, as nobody seems to be able to figure out the attraction of the TWoo except me.  All I know is that when the TWoo is happy, I’m happy.

But Mr. Woo has all kinds of potential hiding in his Flamboyance™.  It drives me crazy that he cannot sustain an interest in any one thing long enough to develop a real skill at it.  I know it’s in there, but Woo marches to the beat of his own drummer – and as our instructor said about him last night: “Woo is not letting anyone else in on the Rules of WooLand.  He knows what they are, but he’s not telling.”

Mr. Woo is a Jack of No Trades!!!

We already know that he’s no sheepdog.  The only and only time he met sheep it was an accident – Before I released Woo from the truck I asked Cheryl anxiously if her fences were secure and she said, very smugly I might add, that “not even her Jack Russell could get through the fence holes.”  Well, Wootie is not one to let a pesty little thing like the laws of physics get in the way of pursuing his dreams, and the next thing we knew a thundering mass of sheep went flying by on the OTHER side of a fence, with Mr. Woo attached to one of them.  And by attached, I mean …. like, have you ever seen those suckerfish that attach themselves to the sides of sharks?  Yeah, so there’s Wootie, teeth embedded firmly in the wool of one of Cheryl’s sheep, ALL FOUR feet streaming out gracefully in the air behind him as the sheep ran by.  Oh to have had a camera handy.  *pout*

We already know that Woo is no flyball dog.  I brought him to a few flyball practices and he stood on the sidelines and watched with polite but detached interest as the dogs whipped up and down the lanes.  He didn’t even pull on his leash, just soaked up the atmosphere with a kind of Buddha-like observance.  During the break he wandered to the flyball box, gave it a sniff, looked at me and said “Really?  There are just tennis balls in it?  Are you sure that’s it?” and then wandered out of the building.

We already know that Woo is no agility dog.  While it remains one of my life’s greatest ironies that he is a “natural jumper” there is just not enough breath in my body to offer complete instructions to him while running the course.  Because Wootie pooh-poohs primitive commands like “TUNNEL!”  One must ask him, with deference, if he will please consider entering the green tunnel with the yellow sandbags located directly beneath the A-Frame and exit it in a timely manner on the opposite side, if he would be ever so kind.  He’s the only dog I own – or indeed have ever met – who can’t seem to learn a one-word directive, but understands full sentences.  His favourite sentence is “If you please do X for me, I will reward you with a cookie upon completion.”  Sometimes I wonder if he is really dog, or actually a bewitched human that some evil sorcerer turned into a dog.

Having run out of sports to fail at with Wootie, I was intrigued when one of my friends invited me to Dock Diving practice.  You know, like Splashdogs / Long Jumping?  She wondered if I had any dogs who would be interested in trying it out, and I immediately pointed at Wootie.

Although in retrospect, I should have tried it with Dexter, since today he was the only dog who would jump into the river.

We had our first practice last night!  I sadly have no photos to share because it was too dark in the pool room.  Next time we will turn on more lights and I will try to photograph or video it for you.

It’s too early to tell if Wootie will become a competitive Splashdog, but I did find one thing he is excellent at – SASSING ME AND EVERYONE AROUND ME.

He was at first reluctant to jump in the pool – it didn’t look like a lake, and it didn’t smell like one either.  He then didn’t want to jump in the pool because the instructor was in the pool, and he felt like she should get out of the pool.  There was a lot of barking right in her face “GET OUT! GET OUT! IT’S DANGEROUS IN THERE, PLUS IT’S MY POOL! DON’T TOUCH ME OR MY TOY!

What?  It was my pool!

Eventually we learned that if the instructor turned her back and pretended not to watch him, he would jump straight in … most of the time.  Sometimes he had to yell at me for a while first, or run over and yell at her, or turn in circles and yell at the ceiling.  He is such an ODD little dog.

When Race’s new mum game to pick him up, she brought us some new toys, which was super nice of her!  One of them was a Chuck-It© brand floating bumper toy:

which up until now has remained in the drawer.  I am tired of losing toys in the river (one soccer ball, one frisbee, one Kong) so I haven’t busted it out yet.  But it got him all fired up at diving class, so I guess that’s our new motivator.

Except I am already kind of bored.

I wish TWooie would swim / dive. Can’t you just picture what an adorable team they would make??  Synchro-Diving maybe?

I am hoping this is the sport for Woo!!  And as an added bonus, he was SUPER clean when we were finished :)

If you’re in the Lower Mainland and you are interested in joining us for dock driving practice, contact me for information on location, cost and our next practice.  It’s really super fun, and I would love to see the sport gain a foothold here!  And if you come to the next practice, you can meet West!

But don’t come near me, or look at me.

Because, of course, West is still with me.  Lots of sympathetic emails, nobody willing to take him on :(  In the meantime, he is experiencing a second puppyhood and eating things in my house.  Maybe Dexter has passed on his secret manual to “driving Food Lady insane” because yesterday he went into my laundry hamper and ate two pairs of my underpants!!!  DAMMIT!!!

Uh oh.  I think she’s talking to you, some other dog!

I Gotta Bone To Pick With You

Remove facebox and go away now plz.  Kthxbai.

We were recently gifted with a box of rawhide bones.  I don’t feed these things to my dogs, as I prefer to give them healthier, raw bones to snack on, but I figured what the heck … they’d come in handy for those super shitty weather days, or the odd occasion after work where I am just too tired to go out in the dark for another walk.

I put this latter theory to the test on Wednesday night.  Dexter made short work of his, as did Tweed.  TWooie and West have both apparently never seen a rawhide, did not recognize them as food and abandoned theirs immediately.  Piper sat on hers, atop a dog bed, and growled at everydog who so much as looked in her direction.  And Wootie carried his around the house crying, because he wanted to take it outside and bury it and I wouldn’t let him.

Rawhide: 60% fail rate.

The uneaten rawhide sticks have been floating around the house for the last couple of days.  I keep picking them up and Wootie keeps finding my hiding places, and taking them away, just to carry them around whimpering.  Because Wootie has more fortitude than me, I eventually gave in and let him take one outside today on our afternoon walk.  I then asked him if he would like to give it to me for safe keeping.

Not hardly, woman.

But Woo … I have cookies.  And I will trade you one for the rawhide.

But if I put it down, someone will take it from me.

I better just run away and hide it.

Smart decision Woo … cuz the Red Tide Of Rawhide Death is coming for you!

Eventually we worked out a swap, and a game!  He would give me the rawhide, I would give him a cookie, and then I would throw the rawhide as far as I could and he would race frantically after his flying treasure.  Since Mr. Woo has now almost entirely abandoned playing fetch with me in favour of hunting wabbits, the game was fun for both of us.  Well, at least for me.  Maybe for him it was rather stressful ;-)

TWooie was also interested in the rawhide, maybe because it was pre-gnawed and therefore more resembled something he could eat.  As I have so far not been even slightly successful in interesting the TWoo in toy games, I thought this could be a good opportunity to transition him to something interactive.  I threw the rawhide for him and he actually ran after it!  So far, so good.  And then he tried to go bury it (and someone said they didn’t think the WooTWoo are related??) so I was once again forced to playing the cookie-swap game.

What I forgot is that TWooie takes his treasures very, very seriously.  When he released the rawhide for the cookie, it did indeed get stolen from under his feet, and this caused him no end of trauma.

I could have sworn I left it right here.  Where the f*ck is it?  Which one of you f*ckers stole my thingie?

And then he took it out on an innocent bystander.  Yes, that is a long strand of West hair in his mouth!

You suck, TWoo.

Actually, YOU suck, West.

Say whaaat?

He doesn’t *totally* suck.  Like most dogs with issues, things are bound to get somewhat worse before they get better.  Things like car-sickness.  I found the Gravol minimized the puking, but did nothing to stop the endless stream of copious drool that leaked out of his clenched teeth in the car, so I stocked up on towels and stepped up the laundry.  It got so bad that he would start drooling in the house when he knew it was getting close to time to leave for work, and then it got SO bad that he would start drooling when he saw me whip out the Gravol box TWO HOURS before we left, and fought me like crazy when I tried to get them down his throat.

So imagine my surprise when, while driving to agility class last night, I glanced over my shoulder and found that rather than hunched over tensely in his crate creating another one of the world’s biggest oceans, West was fast asleep in his crate, almost totally DROOL-FREE!  That was a rather sudden switch, but I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth.  I have bigger things to worry about.

West’s stranger-danger issues are becoming rapidly more pronounced.  On Tuesday we went for a walk at Bridgeman after work with a friend and West did quite a nice job of ignoring most people we encountered, which was a lot of people.  He was far too busy trying to keep an eye on Dexter, who is his most favouritest thing in the whole world.

He even sat down periodically next to women he deemed “safe” and let them scritch his ears.  Although to be completely honest, I’m not totally convinced he realized those “safe” women were not, in fact, me when he did it.  He had one minor freak out at a man who stopped dead on the trails in front of West, put his hands on his hips, leaned over and boomed “Well aren’t you are a nice looking little dog?” but he called off real fast.  So far so good.

At class last night though, different story altogether.  He has decided that The Sadist is a NO GOOD VERY BAD THING and while he would go through my “say hi!” routine with great reluctance and even take a cookie from him, there were conditions: the Sadist had to be crouched down, turned sideways, not looking at him and holding a cookie backward.  While it warms my heart to see my evil teacher in such an uncomfortable and compromising position (payback is a bitch!) it nevertheless concerns me that as soon as The Sadist stood up and squared up to West, West lost his shit.  Lots of growling and barking.  When The Sadist walked away, West went after him from behind.  This, I do not care for.  The more personal confidence West achieves, the bolder his Go Away signals are becoming.

A week ago I would have said that West’s chances of safe placement were 80% in his favour.  I’ve now downgraded him to more like 50%.  I need him to choose retreat over aggress, or he’s not going to be adoptable :(

Recently, someone who doesn’t like dogs told me that I can’t control 6 dogs.  And that someone is, sadly, right.  I mean, I CAN control 6 dogs and have done so successfully many times in the past.  But I cannot control *these* 6 dogs.  I cannot work on TWooie’s dog aggression and West’s stranger dangers at the same time.  My puppy is gettin’ the shaft, and we need to work on some impulse control and buffing up some commands that he knows, but is now lazy about following. The WooTWoo have basically given up all pretense of obedience.   But there’s just too much going on.  What West needs is a foster home who can focus on him, because I don’t want to be the reason he fails.

And that’s the un-fun of being The Rescue Lady.  I have to step up when nobody else will.  Sometimes, it just makes me want to kick something.

So I did.  I booted the soccer ball clear across the river!

Well that was exciting!  Now what?

Fool me once:

Dex went in after it the first time.  He’s still a high-swimmer!

The second time, he totally refused, so Piper had to do the deed.

Perhaps you are blithely unaware that this river is, in fact, cold.  Perhaps you’d like to come over here and let me show you how cold it is.

I can take a hint.  I stopped kicking it into the river after that.

Our walk was very leisurely, as Tweed did not want to go anywhere.  He wanted to lie down right here and eat the rawhide he’d pinched offa Wootie.

Or right here works too.

Tell you what, why don’t you just go on ahead without me?

I guess I will spend this weekend thinking about ways to help West overcome his hurdles.

Over hurdles?  I can jump over hurdles!

But if there is anyone out there in dogland who is experienced with dogs with stranger danger problems and thinks they could do a better job than me, don’t hesitate to offer!  I want West to have the best possible chance at becoming a safe canine citizen that he can.  If someone else can do what I just do not have the time to do, I’m completely comfortable handing him over.  If you think you can help West, please contact me.  I won’t be offended!!

And don’t forget that this weekend is the live broadcast of the National Sheepdog Finals!