Tuesday, September 21, 2010


One of the great pleasures of my job is watching puppies play at our daycare.  There's nothing more joyful for me.  They leave all their stresses and anxieties behind and just run, romp and wrestle their cares away.  Today there was a new addition to the day care group, a sweet 12 week old puppy.  It didn't hurt any that he was one of the most beautiful German Shepherd puppies I've ever seen (a close second to my own Nyxie).  It was intriguing to watch him navigate the doggy "playground" so to speak.  Sniffing bottoms, testing limits, avoiding the humpers...all with great natural dexterity.  

Poor Nyxie never had this ease - when we took her to puppy play group at Planet Dog in Portland, she hurled herself at the gate until we were asked to take her outside for a "time out".  Red-faced, we picked our little girl out of the pen of romping puppies and dutifully took her outside and into the cold Maine air.  She showered us with kisses for the rescue.  She despised being penned in and was placed in the "shy" puppy group.  Still, no luck.

The dog park was her salvation!  She was able to get away from strange dogs there, hang out with the playmates that were her friends (Vinnie and Napoleon -that means you!) and run, run, run.  She'd run so fast, she'd tumble over her own legs and then hop up and run some more, her still-floppy ears bouncing.  Memories...

So today's puppy made me consider our need for friends, companionship and kindred spirits.  Like this puppy, we need to find our place amongst our peers.  We need safety and comfort.  We need to be corrected and we need to be bolstered.  We need understanding and appreciation.  We need love.  I don't know if I always give love as I should, but I try.  There are moments when we feel pulled under as in quicksand and that lifeline gets tossed out.  Like those first few moments of arriving on the playground, we're unsure and vulnerable. We take a chance and open up.  Friendship.  


Friday, September 17, 2010

Double Agent

Friday morning brings another long walk with the girls - first Arwen and then Nyxie.  Arwen goes out first as she's the oldest - all that fur and a little arthritis can cause a girl to suffer in the Texas heat.  She's so excited to set out, tail held high, flag flying proudly.  She's the all-sniffer and I let her get away with murder.  I act tough, but in reality, I pretty much let her sniff any old thing she wants.  She knows I'm weak when it comes to her royal fuzziness.  I feel I should keep her on the straight and narrow.

"We are on a walk!" and keep everything military style.  Nose forward, pace steady, no pulling.
The reality of it all is a bit different.

 Picture a woman walking behind her husky, being tugged, really.  We stop at about 8 feet intervals, or wherever there is a break in concrete, a patch of grass.  It's a bit like walking seizures.  Each inch is examined thoroughly.  There are little piles of poo, bugs, a bottle cap, flowers, anything and everything must be sniffed.  I am like an anchor to her drive.  Small corrections work, but I am secretly wishing for a smaller, more user-friendly Pug.  Huskies are the hippie free spirits of the dog world.  They live in the ethereal moment.  Arwen's never seen a flower she didn't have to smell.  She looks up at the clouds moving and considers chasing them.  She's the primitive warrior, the most irreverent jester.  She needs this freedom.  And I am a sap.  So what's the harm in a little hiccup-walking?

Nyxie on the other hand is the soldier.  She blazes out the door with a sense of authority, excitement, tingling anticipation.  Ears are pricked, nose is on hyper-drive.  I don't let her have an inch.  She's too strong and powerful to go unchecked.  We walk as a unit, she's attentive to my movements, eyes on me.  When she tries to tug ahead, I stop dead.  Her stop is rewarded with my forward motion.  She's a quick study.  We walk fiercely, she knows to stay close.  Eyes scanning, ears forward.  She's coming into her own.  Her fearful hesitation is gone and she's learned to trust my leadership.  She's still young and when there's something she doesn't understand, she looks to me for guidance.  Each confident attempt is rewarded.  She's still sniffing of course, (when is she not...?!) but her size allows her to sniff and walk, never breaking stride.

Today we had no yummy treats (a travesty, I know) and the poor deprived darling had to walk with substandard treats.  Now, these will do in a pinch - when we're home and I break out the box, there's no reluctance at all.  But the walks require something marvelous, something still at the store.  Luckily we had no close encounters at all today.  There was a small situation in which a lady with 2 small dogs was walking ahead of us, something which would have created a reaction previously, but only a small tail raise and a steady stare resulted.  Distraction was easily made.  Progress!

When Nyxie was good and tired, I pulled out my long 30 ft lead and we did a bit of "stay, approach, come" work just for a bit of mental stimulation.  She did a strange thing then.  This was the leash we used with protection training.  During this, her goal when allowed, was to bite the handler's sleeve and hang on.  To get to that point, she had to run at the handler not around him.  Today, when I allowed her to "come" to me from a lying down "stay", she ran at me and didn't swerve.  Of course there was no bite, but she's never bodily tackled me before. Her usual run at me is a game where she swerves out of the way at the last moment, like playing "chicken".  I think she remembered the leash and her previous training.  She also had the presence of mind to understand that biting would have ended badly for both of us.  After a few goes at me (which are quite humbling, really as you recognize that 75 lbs of pure muscle have just hurled themselves at you and you're bracing to stay upright!), entirely controlled by command to "come!", she understood that this was not the same game as before.  I can only imagine what my neighbors must've thought...both the human and the wild ones.

I like to imagine that there are coyotes, raccoons, hawks, all around us, watching us as we play in their world.  They must wonder at us - we're a spectacle.  What an eyeful today!  Maybe they think I'm a spy.  I'm seen with the strangest characters.  First, the hippie wild child, then the soldier girl.
I'm a double agent.
Truth is stranger than fiction...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Help me win a NON micro water bowl for Arwen!!

LuckyPups is offering a free, personalized dog bowl for one lucky winner with great friends!! The baby's picture with the most "likes" wins!!  Many of you know about Arwen's micro water bowl issue. She needs a new water bowl!! Please help my little girl get a brand new, personalized water bowl!! You just need to go to  http://www....facebook.com/luckypups.shop on Facebook.  First you will need to "LIKE" LuckyPups, then "LIKE" Arwen's picture.  I suppose some of you will want to upload your own pic and have a chance to win, but I hope you'll "LIKE" Arwen's pic, too!!  What a fun way to start the week!  She is the adorable husky in the hamper, as seen above.


Friday, September 10, 2010


I am so very proud of my Nyxie -  I have to share with you.  As some of you may know, Nyxie is a shy baby.  She has a "wide defense perimeter" as her Schutzhund handler told me when we had decided to work with her.  As she's a pet and not a border patrol dog or a K9 military service dog, I need to make the world she knows a less threatening place.  She will alert and bark at anyone who gets too close or is perceived as a threat.  If the person persists in befriending her, the warning barks will turn into play barks and soon she's bringing her tennis ball for the person to throw.  I believe we need to boost her confidence and her sharp Czech lines will be more, well...in check.

The girls each get a long walk when mornings allow and today I took Nyxie out last, just as the lawn crew was finishing around the complex.  After a nice, long trek, both she and I were limber enough to run and we jogged a bit.  Suddenly, we were trapped at a crossroads.

In order to get back home, we had to pass a man measuring, cutting and carrying large rolls of carpet into a new unit.  She watched him with erect ears, body on high alert.  Being the prepared dog-mom that I am, I immediately popped open the treat pouch at my waist (Yes, it's like a fanny pack, and yes, I feel like a dork.).  Through a practiced "Look" command by which she's been trained to focus on my eyes - to attend to me and me only - she gets treats and I pop 'em at her like the "Giver of All Good Things" Pez dispenser that I am.  She practices the "look" command each time she's served meals, regardless of who's feeding her, so it's become automatic.  There are awkward moments when I'll be yelling "look!" at Matt or T to point something out and she will come running or pop up from a nap, just to look at me.

That little dog actually got so relaxed with the carpet guy (who was doing all kinds of "odd" movements and gestures - not what she would ever encounter on a daily basis) not 50 ft from her, that she laid down and turned her back to him for my treats!  After he went inside, we passed by his area to be trapped by 3 lawn guys blowing around all the freshly cut grass trimmings.  I worried for a split second that all that good work would be lost through panic.  I moved her about 15 ft from them, and we settled on the grass.  Again, she laid down and took my treats with gusto.  Sometimes her eyes would focus on them, but not terribly intently.  One man even came to within 10 ft of us with the loud leaf blower and still, no negative reaction.  What an accomplishment!

I have no doubt that if anyone were to threaten me, Nyxie would step between us, but I think my many months of training are starting to pay off.  I'm proud of her progress.  I'm proud that I trusted my instincts and followed a positive training methodology.  I'm proud that I didn't panic in anticipation of her reaction.  Finally, I'm proud that our bond's positive energy is allowing her to trust.

Now I'm off to the store to get more treats!!!   Happy Friday!

Monday, September 6, 2010


I know you may be considering that "Ice" is a funny title for early September, but I am not referring to the frozen water that falls from the skies or that which takes shape on the ground.  No, I am referring to the magical little half-moon shapes dropped into the ice cube tray in noisy "thunks" throughout each day.  From anywhere in my home, I can call the girls by simply opening the freezer and grabbing an ice cube.  Any rattle of the bucket will send them flying to the edge of the kitchen.  Arwen will break the rules and cross the threshold, just to be a toe's lead ahead of her baby sister.

Ice cubes?  Really?  I would never have thought that such a simple treat would get such mileage!  Arwen is such an ice hound, that if I drop a bunch of cubes in the water bowl, she'll fish them out.  Entire snout into the icy water!  I suppose the cold isn't something she throws much concern towards.  Other than the icy cubes in the water, she's a bit funny about drinking water.  We won't even talk about how she feels about bath water...

After a recent urinary tract infection, we realized that she just wasn't drinking enough water.  Matt suggested that the bowl was the problem so we tried almost every bowl in the house, figuring she'd settle on one of them.  It was like trying to find the right shoe for the glass slipper.  Size, shape, glass, ceramic, then tiny sauce bowl.  Ah yes - this was the one!  So Arwen now drinks from the micro-water bowl next to the regular water bowl.  This small, white sauce bowl is rather ridiculous.  I fill it at least 7 or 8 times each day.  Royalty knows no shame.

Nyxie loves her giant water bowl and her current practically exclusive use of it!  When in desperation Arwen sinks to drinking out of it, I know she's giving me a sideways hairy eyeball.  Nyxie requires water EVERY time we return from the outside.  Even after a 2 minute quickie pee trek.  Yup - more water.  No sooner is her leash off than she's making a mad dash around the corner to the bowl.

My girls are quirky.  I suppose they take after their mother.

The picture below was taken before the use of the micro-water bowl.  Note the ice vigil...

Sunday, September 5, 2010


What a wild week!  With a schedule change at work and picking up a petsitting job over the long weekend, I've been long absent.  The girls are marveling at the new kitty smells from this moonlighting job and I'm thoroughly sniffed after each visit.  The gig involves feeding, medicating and scooping litter for 2 kitties. Each requires oral medications and one receives insulin twice daily.  A fairly easy job, but the kitties themselves have made me wonder a few things.

1) They're extremely shy and are generally hiding under the bed or behind a curtain when I arrive.  Are they always this introverted, or is my presence that intimidating?  I've tried all my tricks to get them acclimated to me and even after 4 days of twice daily visits, they regard me with disdain and fear.

2) The kitties live with a quiet and shy middle-aged woman.  She adores her kitties!  But the stillness in this house is unsettling when you stop and pet the kitties.  Now, I understand that my comfort zone in a foreign house is far different from that of the home's owner, but aside from the a/c kicking on, the house is silent.  Like mausoleum silent.

So I wonder if these kitties and their shy and quiet nature is a learned state of being, animals feeding off the energy of their humans?  Or were the kitties always shy and they simply fit right in to this lady's life?  Also, as I posted about recently, are they happy?  There's little stimulation for them aside from some foam balls that I see scattered about to play with.

I must add that the key I use to get into the house is a newly cut key just for me.  I have spent almost 30 min at a time fidgeting and finessing this key in the lock.  (Yeah, it's pretty humbling to be defeated by a simple deadbolt, but I digress...)  The kitties have ample warning that I've arrived.  Is it possible that these seemingly reticent and subdued cats are hiding their true wild natures?

"Hide the catnip, Effie, she's back!!!"

Ah, the secret lives of cats.

 And then I arrive home to tails wagging, happy whining and little joyous hops!  The girls are no good with secrets...