Sunday, February 27, 2011

Handmade and Made to Order Signs - new in the Etsy shop!

I tried a new craft, sign-making.  It's pretty fun, really!  I'd like to make some new dog and cat signs soon, but I started with my Irish roots first and a movie quote from Doc Holliday in Tombstone that always makes me smile.  Let me know what you think, or if you have any suggestions you'd like to see.  I can definitely make a sign to order.  Maybe with your blog' name or your favorite pooch's pet name?  

You can go directly to my Etsy store here
Thanks for looking and happy Sundog!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Part V - Growing Up

Nyxie's awkward puppyhood seemed to be zooming past me at break-neck speed.  There were days that I'd look at her adoringly in the morning, then by evening, she'd look older.  I loved seeing her develop, but I also realized how much I was starting to miss that fat-bellied little pup who first came home with us.  She was becoming more agile, more able, even graceful.

Nyxie Noodle (One of our silly names for her - an offshoot of Noodle Cart Nyxie - don't ask, we're not really sure.) never had that super lanky, noodly GSD look, though.  And her ears stood pretty quickly on their own.  As she grew, she looked like a tiny version of what I see today.  A mini German Shepherd with fairly even proportions.  This was something we were surprised by after watching so many other GSD puppies go through the long legged, ears falling into themselves and every which way stage.  Unmistakable adolescence - you can see it a mile away.  We've been told this was due to her diet.  The raw diet being more appropriate for a dog, so therefore the stages of growth were more even.  Maybe this is a myth, but we saw it in action.  Her head, especially those enormous ears, and her paws were the things that stood out and gave us a hint as to her future stature.

In an effort to socialize this growing girl, and blow off puppy energy with zoomies, my friend Jamie and I had weekly play-dates with our pups at one of the Portland dog parks.  She would bring her delicate (but speedy) little Italian Greyhound, Vinnie.  And I would bring my clumsy little pup, eager for playtime in the grass rather than on pavement.  They were about the same size, and when Nyxie's excitement would get too much for Vinnie, he would let baby Nyx know in no uncertain terms.  Puppy Lesson # 3681 learned.  "THAT was too much bitey-mouth..."

Another good friend, Heather would occasionally bring along her Springer Spaniel, Napoleon, to these play-dates.  Poor Vinnie now had 2 wacky pups to contend with rather than the one.  Mostly, though, the 2 pups would entertain each other in a jumbled ball of puppy energy.  Colliding over and over, toppling clumsily into legs and fur, with tails, teeth and ears flying.  Dog park days were magical - there's nothing more joyful than watching puppies play.

The water bowl was in constant need of refilling.  Nyxie discovered the art of digging and loved the feel of the brown earth on her paws and nose.  We practiced recalls, sits, stays and walking heels off lead.  My little Nyxie blossomed!

Nyxie loved to tear around the wide open spaces and play chase with the other puppies.  If an adult dog chased her, she'd run until they overtook her, then she'd throw herself on her back and scream.  A long recall and a treat would usually snap her out of it.  Back she'd fly, her little puppy legs betraying her and sending her sprawling.  She'd bounce back up, shake it off and bound over to me.   She played well with Vinnie and Napoleon.  As always, she was loyal to her pack.   

On one such dog park trip, Nyxie went to hop back into Jamie's van and into her crate.  Her paw got stuck in the slats at the bottom of the crate door.  

She screamed.  I screamed.
She panicked.  I panicked.

Jamie calmly reached in, pulled her paw back and released her.  I cried like a weenie.  That's when I knew how deeply I was in love.  Like a mother whose child gets hurt for the 1st time, I felt her pain, her fear.  I'd have to learn to toughen up.  Nyxie shrugged it off, lay in her crate and sunk those puppy teeth into a big rubber ladybug that protested loudly with each chomp.

"I'm ok, mom, I've got this ladybug!"

We hadn't left the parking lot before she was fast asleep.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day...a bit late

I am intentionally sending you love letters late.  Why reserve one day for expressing love?

I'm a lucky woman to have found such wonderful, like-minded individuals here.  The creative ways in which you show how much you love your furkids spreads a bit of goodness out into our universe.  Something we clearly need more of!

Each night when I come home, I look forward to seeing what my online friends and their kiddos are up to.  I've only lived in TX for a couple of years and have a tiny handful of friends.  I feel so far from my friends in Maine.  I work a gabillion hours a week, and between the kid and kiddos, sometimes I feel isolated.  Not here, though - there's so much positivity and beauty!  This online community is all about comfort, kindred spirits and those special creatures that share our lives.

In a word - LOVE!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Part IV - Learning

Back to the Nyxie story...Part IV

Each new day brought new experiences for Nyxie.  Watching a puppy take in the world with fresh eyes, evaluate each human event and convert it into "dog" is amazing.  Each morning, she would sit up, stretch into a lovely downward dog position, tongue curled in a wide open yawn.  Then the kisses started.  Kisses for us and then a shower of them for her sisters.  Nyxie was a reserved pup around people, but every day she became more and more attached.  She made fast friends with Arwen, who was more than willing to have a prodigy.  She schooled her in the morning routine of potty break, breakfast and snuggling.  And Nyxie took it all in, mesmerized by her big sister's wisdom.

When people would see Nyxie, they were stumped. 
"Is that a Lab puppy?"
We heard it all - Lab puppy, Lab mix, chow, wolf, etc.  When we told people that she was a German Shepherd Dog, they'd shake their heads,
"But she's not black and tan..."
Finally, we gave up and started telling people she was a rare breed - an Irish Hellhound.
Somehow, this seemed to satisfy the doubters...

Our 1st walk in bustling Portland was a disaster.  Of course, in retrospect this couldn't have been a worse situation in which to put a country pup.  It had to be absolutely terrifying to Nyxie  - cars, people of all shapes, sizes and colors, bikes, loud noises.  We cut it short after a tiny little girl got loose from her mother and came running at us to pet the cutest dog ever.  Nyxie hid behind me, barking from around my legs at this poor little girl. 


I sought the advice of my wonderful friend Jamie, a dog trainer in training.  She has a brilliant little Italian Greyhound, Vinnie, who can do a huge number of tricks.  They taught me how to teach Nyxie about our world.  I had some idea, as I'd immersed myself into dog training and behavior books for years, but this was my new baby - I was going to be shaping a brand new pup!  I had to do it right.   For her sake, I didn't want her to be fearful of our world.

Jaime worked in a dog boutique called Planet Dog where they held puppy socialization classes each weekend morning, under the watchful eye of the resident dog trainer.  Matt and I agreed this would be a wonderful idea for Baby Nyx.  The puppies were separated into 2 groups.  In the 1st group, there were
 the boisterous, knock you down to play puppies, "there's nothing that scares me" puppies.  The 2nd group was the milder mannered, timid, could play independently, shy puppies.  Nyxie was put in group 2.  We watched the Group 1 puppies zoom and pounce all over each other, leaping off of giant pillows that laid against the pen's edge.  Teeth gnashed, bodies rolled - it was a good time.  Group 2 was a bit more reserved.  The quieter puppies played, too, but more tentatively.  There was definitely more butt-sniffing and chewing of toys in this pen. 

We set Nyxie down and smiled.  How very sweet!  She sniffed around and investigated some other kiddos, played for a few minutes, then started hopping on her hind legs at us.  We stepped back so she could return to playtime and ignore us.  She lunged the gates of the pen.  She started lunging the gate walls with such vigor, that she actually knocked herself back and landed hard.  The gate was having trouble containing her and some of the other parents let out "oh's!" when she jumped.  The trainer told us to come pull out our puppy and give her a time out outdoors.  She suggested a bit of down time, maybe a potty break might help her calm down.  Ouch.  We were mortified. 

At home, Nyxie's positive reinforcement training showed fast results.  She could sit, stay, come, down, and give paw like a champ by 10 weeks.  With or without treats.  This kid was (and still is... usually) brilliant.  Her brain was constantly taking it all in.  She would watch and learn each new task, trick, and job in 2 to 3 trials.  Genius puppy.  I know, I know - I'm a bit biased.  To this day, I have yet to give her a task she can't learn.  Except how to "play well with others".  We knew this would be an ongoing trial.

One of my favorite lessons that Nyxie learned early on occurred during her Piranha Puppy stage.  She mouthed my hands as puppies love to do, and each time she did so, I let out a loud puppy yelp.  To this, she would stop biting and tilt her head, looking at me.  Hand biting stopped after a day or so.  Lesson learned.  Matt thought it was cute that she would nip and play bite.  Personally, I think he secretly felt silly yelping like a puppy.  To this day, she mouths his hands while playing.  If I place my hand over his, she licks the hands.  When I take it away, more bitey hands with him.  Genius Puppy loves her mama.  Genius Puppy has learned the most important lesson of all : Don't bite the hand of the Giver of All Good Things.


To be continued in Part V - Growing Up...      

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Almost Wordless Wednesday...I want as many people to know the "real" Vick as possible

I just had to address the most recent fiasco involving Michael Vick and now the city of Dallas.  I can't say that I'm shocked, but I'm angry enough to post this today.  More on the Nyxie story later...

If you want to know the real Vick and what actually happened, please read The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant.

Here's the Amazon link if you want to buy this book.  
I just finished it and it's well-worth the read for anyone interested in justice, compassion and stories of actual redemption!  

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Part III - The Homecoming

The ongoing challenge was to find just the right name.  I was leaning towards Olivia, but Matt just didn't like that name.  We were at an impasse.

As we drove towards home, me with one eye on the road and the other on the small, curious, silky black pup on Matt's lap.  She watched us with wonder.  I was painfully aware that this would be a tremendous transition for her.  What a turn of events for her short life!  Sometimes the sap in me thinks about the separation between litter-mates and mother.  Maybe mom is done with mothering. Tired of being tugged and climbed over.  Tired of licking and minding and herding each wriggling pup.  Maybe a part of her is relieved to have them go, but I can't help but think there's a shade of sadness in each goodbye.  The pup is almost certainly inconsolable the first night away.  Poor lost pup.  I was determined to keep this little sprout busy so she'd sleep peacefully through her first night with us.

The day was bright and sunny, and the melting snow made the roads glisten.  We decided to stop at The Christmas Tree Shops and Pet Quarters to get a couple of last minute supplies on the way home.  As we cruised along, Little Black Pup climbed into the folded  softness of Matt's jacket.  The jacket had been placed on the truck's console, between the two seats.  No sooner had she settled in, that she fell into a deep sleep.  Her morning must've been a long one.  Attending to the usual puppy business and then a bath before meeting these strange new people that couldn't take their eyes off of her.  I know puppies snooze at the drop of a hat, but I took it as a good omen.  You wouldn't fall asleep around creepy strangers, would you?

We needed some new bowls for her raw feeding, and a new bed.  I'm not entirely sure why we didn't have these things before bringing her home.  And I'm not sure why she'd need large dog bed right away as we both knew she'd be sleeping with us...I think we were both putting off the meeting with Arwen and Raven.  Dreading it, even.

I stayed in the car as Matt bought what we needed.  I stared at the sleeping pup.  Her eyes were shut and her body curled tightly, her breath came evenly.  Her tiny puppy chest rose and fell with each new breath.  She stirred when he returned with our goodies and we knew the inevitable could be put off no longer.  I started feeling sorry for the Little Black Pup (LBP), having to meet two unknown resident dogs who would ultimately decide her canine status.  I started feeling protective of her, that soft skin and tender belly.  Those flappy little ears.  Although I hoped for the best, I was worried.

I carried her up the 3 flights of stairs, her eyes wide.  More new smells.  Our apartment was strange, as are most made from older divided properties in New England.  It was a large home, divided into 3 separate apartments, one on each level.  Opening the back door to our apartment on the 3rd level, you were faced with yet another set of steep steps that would bring you directly up to the hallway of our apartment (there wasn't a door, or a gate that would stop you from tumbling to a horrible death).  We had set up a doggie gate at the top, in anticipation of her arrival.

Matt took LBP and held her in the spare bedroom.  I was tasked with opening the girls' crates.  We held our collective breath.  The girls raced in to find the source of the new scent.  Matt held her tentatively so they could smell her.  Raven took a few sniffs and walked away.  She showed initial curiosity, but then gave the appearance of losing interest, choosing instead to smell the rest of the room.  Arwen was the one we were really concerned with.  Would she accept this new baby dog into her our pack?  Would we be visiting the vet today?  Would LBP go limp and collapse like a fainting goat under the pressure?!

Arwen sniffed her in earnest, eyes wide.  She sniffed her ears, her eyes, her snout, her soft little body, and of course her tiny poop chute.  No inch of her was left unsniffed.  She would not leave her alone.  I considered the possibility that my predator dog was trying to initiate a chase by following her so closely with that snoot of hers.  LBP almost seemed annoyed.   Nervous, excited, and annoyed.  Arwen was unfaltering.  She followed her around,  and then finally did a play bow.  Exhale.

The next few hours followed with the usual dog playtime, Nyxie decided that she preferred soft, round toys.  Toys she could chomp and squeak.  Arwen mouthed at her, pushed her, prodded her, sniffed her.  Certainly in her eyes, we'd brought home a wonderful offering - one fit for a queen.  When it was feeding time, we set down her shiny new bowls and placed in it a raw chicken neck.  LBP was ravenous and it disappeared into what was later referred to as her "chicken hole".  We joked that she was quite the little chicken hawk...
Another was set down, and again, it disappeared as though by magic.

We finally settled on a name for LBP.  We named her after a beautiful black (purple really) dragon from World of Warcraft, the same game we were playing the night before.  Onyxia, shortened to Nyxie, or at that point, Baby Nyx.

Against all the conventional wisdom that says you should crate train your pup from the 1st night, I thought of an alternate strategy.  I leashed her, attached the other end to my wrist, and we let her sleep on the bed.  I could feel her stir and get up if she needed to relieve herself, but she was not allowed free reign to soil the carpet.  I'm a light sleeper, so this strategy worked safely.  She quickly learned to whine if the urge struck her in the middle of the night.

So after a long voyage with strangers at the helm, after meeting and playing with her new sisters, and after eating her usual dinner, this time from shiny new bowls, Nyxie fell asleep.  She slept deeply, drawing each breath into her tiny body.  Content, she stretched her body lengthwise as puppies do, her body pressed against mine.  I watched her chest rise and fall and knew that her tiny little puppy heart already held mine utterly.

To be continued...