Monday, June 30, 2008

Rescue Dogs

I need to get serious for a few minutes. A friend has tapped into my guilt over breeding my dogs and I need to explain my feelings. When my first litter was born in 1961 I was a kid and the breeding was accidental. Yes, my bitch should have been spayed and would have been if I had the money available to do it at that time. I believe very strongly in subsidized spay and neuter programs. I really think a big part of the problem would be addressed if more people were able to afford the procedures. Yes, vets need to make a living, but pet overpopulation is their problem, too.

Anyway, even though I was quite young, I managed to find good loving homes for my puppies and as I stated once before, they lived into their teens. Since the time I had that litter and my second litter, in 2006, I have shared my home with eight rescued dogs, all of whom were either abused or neglected. We also took in two others that we fostered and found them safe permanent homes.

When I got involved with Portuguese Water Dogs I didn't intend to breed, but slowly came to that decision. We proceeded only after all health screenings were done. Right up to the day we bred Samba, I still wondered if I was doing the right thing. I am terribly aware of the numbers of dogs and puppies that desperately need homes. I have even had doubts at times since my pups arrived as to whether I did the right thing.

Bentley was my first PWD and as much as I loved him, he was not the finest example of breeding. I very much wanted to combine certain lines and produce the best litter I could. Fudge is from a fine line of American produced show dogs and Samba is from Portuguese working dogs. I think our pups are a great combination of the two.
Every day when I look at them I feel pride and amazement at what we've produced. Having held them when they were seconds old and having been there for every event in their lives, has given us a very special bond.

We now have twelve dogs, eight PWDs and four mixed breed rescued dogs that all still carry baggage from their early days of abuse. We have had to work extra hard to get past their early memories and behavior problems, but it was worth every minute. I don't think we treat our mixed breed dogs any differently than our purebreds. They get the same food, health care and training. They travel with us and sleep with us. There is no difference. We will probably own more rescues in the future, as there is no shortage of them.

Yes, I feel guilty at times. Perhaps I am perpetuating the problem. My females are all spayed and all but two males are neutered. Fudge was purchased on a breeding contract. I am obligated to either freeze semen or keep him intact. I'm not sure I'm finished showing him, so for now he will remain intact. Noah is currently intact. I haven't made up my mind yet what I'm doing with him. He will certainly not be allowed to roam or have access to any intact females.

I have read a number of reports lately on the medical pros and cons of spaying and neutering. Our breed club recommends waiting until the animal is fourteen months old. We had Bentley neutered when he was 6 months old and he had a number of problems with his back and legs. He never developed the heavy muscles that I see in my current PWDs. I don't know if waiting is the reason, but if it saves the dog the pain that Bentley lived with, then it is surely worth waiting.

Will I breed again? Probably not. I won't say never. My guilt is close to the surface on this subject and I can only do my best for my dogs and encourage others to do the same. I try to be available to my puppy buyers for any help or encouragement I can give. I can support local shelters and continue my own education on health and legal issues. My dogs are now, and have always been an important part of my life.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dirt For Dessert

It rained all day yesterday. The dogs got very excited today when they saw the sunshine. They needed a good run and they got several. The pups run in a pack with a different leader each time. Bailey spends most of her time outside following the trails of rabbits and squirrels, but today she joined in the run. Some of them carry toys as they run.

They love to run through my gardens. We put wire fencing around the rock garden to give it a chance at survival. Then they started running through the butterfly garden. They started breaking the butterfly bushes, so I put fencing around the larger one. Then the pink coneflowers started to bloom and the crazy dogs started snapping the heads off the flowers as quickly as they opened. I stretched the fencing around them, too.

These coneflowers appeared to be safe from the marauding dog pack, but this afternoon Norma Jean stood on her back legs and stretched to grab the one below. She snapped the head off , ripped the petals off and left it at the door for me.

The smaller butterfly bush has started to flower. I think they're late this year. So far I haven't seen any butterflies on it.
I'll probably have to find some more fencing to protect this bush, too.

For dinner tonight the pups had Boo's Stew on their dog food. It's their favorite, especially Noah. He cleans his bowl, checks Sky's bowl, then begs for more. The big dogs had cold spaghetti on their dinner. Yum. They all really like it.

After dinner, when everyone was outside playing, Tsar scratched at a patch of dirt in the yard, then he started licking at it. He does this a lot, even though I discourage it. He's taught Fudge to do it, too. Now, several of the pups eat dirt, too, but they pull the grass up by the roots to get at the dirt. We have too many bare spots in the yard already.

Samba, Tess and Norma Jean like to scratch at the grass, then roll in it. We have a pretty steep hill in the yard, so when they start rolling, they sometimes end up at the bottom of the hill.

It was sunny, but it was very hot and after a good hard run everyone wanted to get back inside with the air conditioning.

Sky and Noah waiting at the back door.

Norma Jean wants to cool off, too.

Tess waiting for her cookie.

Monty doesn't run much anymore, but he watches the pups chase each other.

Samba get right in the middle of the pack. She's always loved to run and sometimes will race at top speed from one side of the yard to the other all by herself. She has to get that energy out.

I didn't run today. I watched the dogs and thought about my next projects. I found this lovely yarn. The colors are so soft and pretty. The yarn is a chenille , so it's really soft, too. I didn't have a specific project in mind, I just liked the colors, so I'm trying to decide what to make with it.

I've gotten behind on my Christmas projects, so I have to get them going soon. If only the house would clean itself. Housework seems like such a waste of time. Sure, it looks nice for about 24 hours, then it all needs to be done all over again. There are so many better ways to spend time, reading books, listening to music, visiting museums, watching old movies, knitting or doing embroidery, sewing, chatting with friends or playing with dogs. I'll never win an award for my housekeeping, but someday I may put a title on one of my dogs or enter some needlework at the Faire. That seems much more important.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Great Hunter

Some people don't give dogs credit for any thought other than "where's my next meal?" I disagree. I live with some very smart dogs that play jokes, set up traps for each other, figure out solutions to problems, dream and daydream.

Tsar is a good example. Tsar is a pretty good hunter, given the small opportunity he has to practice. He has caught a number of moles. His method is to sit quietly
and stare at the molehill until the mole sticks his head out. He has endless patience.Then, bam, he hits it with his foot. Sometimes this kills the mole, in which case Tsar brings the body to the door and leaves it for me to find. If the mole is only stunned, he starts flipping it in the air and batting at it. I put a stop to this play as soon as possible.

Tsar chases rabbits and squirrels and stalks birds, looking like a huge black cat. He creeps along the ground, moving one slow step after the other. Except for one squirrel, he has never caught any of these creatures. He has brought turtles to the door, alive. I release them into the woods. He used to pick up toads and bring them to me. I discourage that strongly. Not only don't I want him hurting the toads, but some toads are toxic to dogs.

When there is no big game for him to hunt, Tsar pretends it exists. Yesterday I snapped some pictures of him hunting and fighting with his prey.

Whats that sound?

It's a dangerous, wild stick.

I've got it, but it's putting up a struggle.

It's trying to escape by flying, but I can fly, too.

It's not getting away from me.

I killed it, now I can eat my kill.

This little playacting goes on for awhile and I witness it pretty often, but because my camera is slow, I can't really capture it well in pictures. When you see him doing this, it's obvious what's going on in his mind. He's very catlike even though he's a 65 pound dog. He's graceful and fun to watch. We both agree that he's a great hunter.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Doing What Water Dogs Do

Today we went to visit Splash and Grace. We planned to go to the lake even though the weather looked threatening. We took Morgan with us.

Splash and Grace led us to the boat dock in their golf cart. We followed in our car.

Morgan has never been on a boat and we weren't sure how she would handle it. She's prone to panic attacks but once she managed the big jump onto the deck she seemed to enjoy the ride. She did stick close to Rob.

Grace and Splash were very excited about our adventure. They go boating often, but were pretty happy to have us along.

Splash was the lookout.

Morgan relaxed and decided she liked boating. It's kind of like sticking your whole body out the window of the car.

Splash says we're almost there.

Grace had to share the news that we were almost there with her guests.

This is what Water Dogs were born to do.

Come on in, Morgan. The water's great.

Sexism exists in the dog world. Grace swims out to get the float and brings it halfway back, then Splash takes it from her and brings it to be thrown again. The female does twice the work for half the credit.

J says that Grace took to the water very naturally. She doesn't seem to tire from swimming out to retrieve her float. She gets really excited as soon as she knows she's going swimming.

She has started to dive, but chose not to today. She's still just a bit nervous about it. She definitely wants to and I'm sure she'll be doing it soon just as eagerly as Splash does.

The solution seemed to be two floats.

Splash makes it look easy.

Time to come aboard and dry off.

Grace has a good shake.

It's time to go.

We were surprised that Morgan went in the water. We were not thrilled that she decided to roll on the beach when she came out. A bath is in the near future. She did great for the first time out.

Grace hates to leave.

Splash dries off in his own way while Grace stands watch.

That was a great trip. The storm held off and the day turned hot and sunny, perfect boating weather. Everyone had a good time, humans and canines.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dog Days

My Grandfather used to talk about the Dog Days of Summer being the hot days when you didn't want to do anything but sit in the shade. Today was definitely one of those days. The temperature hit 90 and it was humid, too. I've had a whole week of not really wanting to do much. I was discouraged last week after class, so this week I concentrated on 'sits' and 'downs' with the pups. I didn't think they really had it yet and I didn't want to move on until they understood what I wanted. I worked a little on 'sit-stay' with Fudge and on 'down' using only a voice command and no hand signals. We really didn't do as much practice as we should have.

In class tonight I was prepared to be embarrassed, but Lola did pretty decent 'sits' and 'downs'. Although her attention didn't last all the way through class, she did last longer than she ever has before.

Fudge was wonderful. He did great 'sits' and 'downs' with only voice. He did a good 'sit-stay' and did a fair 'down-stay'. He even did a good 'heel'. There may be hope for that boy yet. He seemed to be tuned in better than he has been in the other classes.

The other pups are doing pretty well. Bailey, Sky and Norma Jean will do 'sit' and 'down' on voice command. Noah will 'sit' , but needs a cue for 'down'. Still he does it. Tess is having some problems with all this. I added 'down' too soon for her and now we've had to back to 'sit' and work on just that for awhile. If we go too fast, Tess gets all excited and starts running around in circles and jumping and becomes uncontrollable. I have to adjust to her pace.

Today Splash and Grace came to visit. J had some business to do in town, so the dogs spent the day with us. Splash was pretty worried about his Mom and kept running to the window to check for her. He was so distracted that he let Gracie have his stuffed kong.

After a couple hours he calmed down enough to perch in his favorite place, the back of the sofa. He also discovered that Rob is a great source for snacks. They shared an apple and he had a few doggie treats.

They even managed a short nap. They stick pretty close together. It's wonderful to see how well Grace has adjusted to her new family.

All in all it's been a pretty good ending to a blah sort of week.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer Thoughts

Today is the first full day of summer. We spent it as we've spent most of the spring, experiencing a thunder storm. This one had lots of hail included. We were having a late lunch at a restaurant when the hail started and the manager asked everyone to move to the center of the restaurant in case the windows broke. We wondered what condition the car would be in when it was over. Although there was a lot of it, the hail was only about a half inch size and didn't do any damage that we've found so far.

This is the storm moving in from the north.

This has been a strange week. Monday we went to the store and stocked up on 120 pounds of dog food for the pups. That will last about three weeks. While we were gone Morgan found the bird seed again. After the last disaster I put it in a plastic box with a snap on lid and tucked it away in the garage. She found it, opened it and dragged it around the garage leaving a trail of birdseed all over the place. What is it with her and birdseed? We had to put her plastic hat back on, because she has started chewing her tail again.

Tuesday we took Lucy to the Vet. She hasn't been eating well lately and a couple times when I've tried to give her medicine she's snapped at me. I thought she might have either some arthritis in her jaw or a bad tooth. Dr. B gave her a check up and the arthritis in her back and legs has gotten worse since February. He didn't think arthritis was in her jaw, but it did look like one molar might have a problem. The situation we're in is that Lucy is so old and her liver disease is so bad that putting her under anesthesia is dangerous. On the other hand, she shouldn't have to live in pain.

We started her on some pain meds and if that helps, we may not have to make this horrible decision. If she doesn't start feeling better, we have to weigh the risks and possibly put her under for dental work. Lucy doesn't have a lot of time left and we're trying to make the best of what time we have. This is the bad part of having a pet, but it's something I feel strongly about. I owe it to each of them to give them the best life possible and when the time comes, to make the hard decisions for them.

Wednesday night I went to bed with a headache. I thought it might go away overnight. Wrong !! By morning I had a migraine and didn't want to get up. Hungry dogs and a hungry husband demanded my appearance. I caved in and took one of my migraine pills. I try everything I can think of before taking one of these magic pills because they cost $23 apiece. I caught a mid-morning nap and the headache calmed down, but didn't go completely away.

We had a dinner engagement at 4 PM. It was really early because we had dog class at 7. Around 3 the day's storm started and it was a beaut. The tornado sirens started wailing, so I turned on the tv. The weatherman was saying that it was past us except for this little tail right over our neighborhood. Then he commented that it didn't look too bad except for the little tail. The sirens continued and Monty came over, panting and drooling and begging me to get in the closet with him, but I had to get ready to go out.

I secured all the dogs and we left. I worried about how they would do on their own. Dinner was wonderful. A friend wanted to cook for us and he did a great job. We were stuffed when we headed home to pick up Fudge and Lola. We heard that a furniture store had lost it's roof from our storm, but that was the only major damage.

I've been working hard with the dogs all week and thought I was seeing some progress. In class Lola forgot everything she had learned and spent the entire hour spinning. Fudge was so interested in what Lola was doing that I had a hard time keeping his attention. Due to the storm there were only four dogs in class and ours were certainly not the top students.

Friday we were planning on heading for the lake to see Grace swim, but when we awoke there was thunder and lightning and it had been raining all night. It didn't look like a good day for the lake, so we canceled. Actually, it cleared up and was a beautiful day, one of the few we've had recently. We've rescheduled our trip.

Here are some of the flowers I planted this year. I'm not planting many because the pups like to eat them. They've snapped the heads off most of my pink coneflowers. My favorite colors are pinks and purples and usually I plant flowers in those colors. This year I forced myself to try something different, so I went with yellows and oranges.

I used to supplement my meager income by knitting little dolls. The ones done in school colors were my best sellers. Students liked to buy them for their boyfriends or girlfriends. I kept this one because she reminded me of my days living at the beach. It seems appropriate to get her out on the first full day of summer.

I must make some more of these little dolls.

I have a little refrigerator magnet that was a Christmas gift a couple years ago. I read it every day, so I'll add it on here. It has a picture of a shaggy little dog and says this:
"To you he's a dog. To me he's an
adopted child who is short, hairy,
walks on all fours and doesn't
speak clearly. I have no problem
with any of these things."