Saturday, November 27

Dax... unleashed!

Today was Dax's beginning agility class.

Today, he performed obstacles off leash.

Today, I had to trust a dog that I've only had for a little under 4 months.

He actually wasn't bad at all. He's fairly obedient, and since he is very people-shy, the fact that every dog had a person beside it helped tremendously, I'm sure. I just called him whenever he ran off (which was only a few times, and not very far) and he came back and sat like a good boy. :) I was pretty proud of him, because I expected much worse!

The dog walk was an interesting experience - I've never run him off-leash over it before, and I do control him a bit better with a leash ON since he thinks the dog walk is a race. Switching from physical control to voice control is always an issue with me. :) Especially when you don't fully trust your dog yet!

We had much more serious issues, like how Dax loves to jump up and bite me in-between obstacles. Or how he'll go on and perform obstacles without me.

I actually think part of his biting issue is that I'm not keeping him occupied enough. What I mean by that, is I'm slow. I'm chunky, short, and I am not a marathon runner. I have a slow amble that doesn't sit well with cattle dog darting. So as I catch up to him, he turns around, and he jumps up, grabs my shoulder, my sleeve, whatever, and then I have to stop, regain control, and continue on. Now, if I set up a series of jumps fairly close together, so he's continually busy, I don't have that problem. Until the end anyway.

Unfortunately, however, I will never be as fast as Dax. So in the meantime, when he bites, I stop, until he controls himself, and then we continue on. The fun stops when the biting begins, fun resumes when it ends.

Every day I am irritated at his ex-owner for not teaching him bite inhibition. I love Dax to pieces, but my next cattle dog WILL be an 8 or 9 week old puppy so I can stamp these issues out from the get-go, because they're almost impossible to get rid of in an older dog.

Thursday, November 25

Menagerie Mayhem Black Friday Blowouts!

Our Zazzle store is having a HUGE Black Friday sale that you won't want to miss! Now's the time to stock up on your doggie Christmas Cards, dog lover apparel, and other great pet gifts!

Note that the times are in PT!
Time Deal
12:01 AM Half Off All Mugs
2:01 AM $10 Off All Avery Binders
4:01 AM 75% Off Harry Potter T-Shirts
6:01 AM 70% Off Holiday Cards and Invites
8:01 AM 50% Off Ornaments
10:01 AM $20 Off iPhone & iPad Cases
12:01 PM 75% Off Business Cards
2:01 PM 65% Off All Posters
4:01 PM $8.80 Off $0.44 Postage Sheets
6:01 PM Half Off All T-Shirts
8:01 PM* Friday's Favorite Deal Repeat
10:01 PM* Friday's Favorite Deal Repeat

Friday's Favorite Deal will be a repeat of the two most popular deals of the day!

Remember, this is only good at our Zazzle store!

Thursday, November 4

School Spirit - And the Consequences

We got spirit, yes we do, we got spirit - oh crap, run before we get suspended!

It's amusing, yes, but recently happened to a high school student.

One high school in Massachusetts recently suspended a student for riding a horse to school.

I would love to say there's more to the story, but really, there's not much. The school was having a "spirit week," and each day was a new thing to get the kids revved up about high school. One day, they encouraged everyone to dress like a knight. Now, who's a knight without a noble steed?

One kid got permission from (and was accompanied by) his parents to ride to school, dressed as a knight, on his family's horse. After an impressive entrance, the principal suspended him on the spot. Why? Because according to this deluded educator (this guy is teaching our children, mind you), riding a horse to school is the equivalent of bringing a loaded gun into a classroom.

I'm sorry. It's not. You are massively mistaken. I'm not aware of anyone stuffing a horse in a backpack, pulling it out in homeroom, and massacring all his fellow students. Please, if I've made an error there, and someone has snuck a horse into school and performed a mass homicide, let me know. I actually think this would be offensive to anyone who has been victim to a gun in the classroom, and I feel the guy ought to apologize for his stupidity.

There are, I have been informed, still many places in the US where kids can legally ride their horse to school, particularly in rural areas. Not one of those children have been suspended for going to school.  Nor has anyone found a rule that says this teenager is NOT allowed to ride a horse to school. It appears his parents were going to take the horse back home after he arrived, so it's not even an issue of a horse hanging around all day at school.

So apparently, students, you should not go "above and beyond" in anything at school, particularly school pride, because you may end up on the wrong side of the horse.

Parents can breathe a deep sigh of relief, even though we are suffering through falling test scores, incompetent teachers, and  increased use of drugs, our schools are being kept horse-free. Isn't that a comfort?

Tuesday, November 2

Blossom Goes Raw

Blossom is my dalmatian/border collie mix. When I adopted her nearly eight years ago (she is now almost 15 years old), I took her to the vet several times because I couldn't put weight on her. She was perpetually skinny. After numerous tests and exams, the vet told me that she'd never be a chubby dog. The mix of two hyper dog breeds had made her a nervous, picky, energetic dog who would always be thin.

Two or so times a year, however, she'll go through a period of time where she doesn't want to eat. Anything. I'm one of those people who tell customers that they just need to wait it out - eventually the dog will eat, because they won't let themselves starve to death. Blossom would. When this happened the first time, I served her the same bowl of kibble for four days - and she didn't eat a single piece. She got nothing else at all - she simple refused food. On the fifth day, I caved in and gave her canned food, which she daintily lapped up.

Since that time, when we have these periods, I'll go out and buy her whatever she'll eat - which usually means going down in quality. Blossom tends to prefer the most disgusting, crappiest dog foods on the market, and as a rule, in canned form. I cringe when I feed her this disgusting smelling crap that I wouldn't even give to a stray dog. This will continue until she's no longer interested in the junk, and I switch her back to what everybody else eats.

This time, however, Blossom wasn't very interested in horrible food either. She'd pick out a piece or two, and leave 9/10ths of the bowl behind. All the weight I painstakingly put on her melted off, until her hips stuck out. She'd never been this scrawny. It was time for action.

One of my agility instructors feeds a raw diet called Honest Kitchen. It's human grade, and weirdly, it's dehydrated. I figured I'd give that a shot - I could just mix it in with her kibble like canned food, and since it was such a high quality, maybe she'd like it. I ordered two different kinds, and when they arrived, I mixed her a large bowl and happily set it in front of her. She looked at it, and she looked at me. She poked it with her nose. Blossom let out a huge, exasperated sigh, and left the kitchen. And that was the end of Honest Kitchen. She did eat a mouthful of the other flavor I prepared later, then kicked her food bowl as she marched away. Clearly, this food wouldn't cut it.

I then got the brilliant idea of feeding her raw. I'm not too terribly into raw foods, for one, because with six dogs, I'd have to get another full-time job to pay for it, and for two, I would be absolutely terrified of forgetting some key vitamin or something that the dogs would need for good health. However, Nature's Variety makes a frozen raw food so that you don't have to remember anything. Defrost, serve, you're done. It is, however, insanely expensive. I calculated that for the weight I would LIKE Blossom to be, she'd need to eat around 8oz a day of the raw diet. That would cost roughly $64 a month. While I do buy premium dog food for my dogs, all six of them together can live on their kibble for that same price. That's quite a cost issue.

I bought her the food, defrosted it, and decided to use a few less patties and stick them over top of a small amount of kibble, hoping she might eat the kibble so I could at least save a few dollars by not going totally raw. Normally you would want to slowly switch a dog over to raw, but when your dog isn't eating ANYTHING, you don't have much of a choice.

Blossom had that meat gulped down before I had gotten more patties out to defrost for the next meal.

Today, a few days after starting, she actually licked her bowl completely out. I can't recall the last time that has happened. She is eating the kibble (I put 1/2 cup in with each meal, and 3 medallion patties) without a problem. I really don't want to stop feeding the kibble, I want her crunching up stuff as long as she has teeth. I do squash it around a bit so the raw stuff touches all the kibble.

It's too early to see many benefits of a raw diet, but then, I didn't switch for any of those reasons. I just wanted my dog to eat. And if she wouldn't eat raw meat, I had very little hope that she'd eat anything else, either. I will say that she made the switch without any digestive problems, amazingly, and her poop is now roughly the size of rabbit pellets, which is fairly impressive. It would be nice if she gets better smelling breath.

So hopefully she'll start putting on some weight, and stop looking like Skeletor. It's pricey, for sure, but if she'll eat it, and KEEP eating it, it's worth it.

Monday, November 1

Roofus + Rally = Success!!

Day 1 Success!
   Roofus, my Old English Sheepdog, had an APDT Rally Obedience trial this past weekend. It was the second time he has trialed, and after the disastrous first one, I was pretty nervous. I'm an extremely competitive person, and when it comes to dog sports, it takes a tremendous effort on my part to stop, realize that the whole point is to have FUN, and shake off setbacks. At first, my goal for the weekend was to get one Q (or qualifying score), but after some serious thinking, I decided a more reasonable goal was to have at least ONE run (he was signed up for four) where I did not haul out the treats and NQ.

   It's not that Roofus doesn't know the signs, or that I get nervous and he doesn't listen - it's that Roofus is new to the world of trialing (he does not do agility or anything like my other dogs), and that he's an Old English Sheepdog. Roofus does rally to please me, not because of any personal desire to be a particularly obedient dog. There are a lot of new sights, sounds, and people at trials, and Roofus does not yet have that "ring mentality" where he focuses on Mom instead of wanting to go check out everything.

Our first run, well, I was having a tough time getting his attention even outside the ring, with chunks of hot dog. When it was our turn, he discovered that one of the ring crew, right outside the gate, had a breakfast sandwich. It took a long time for me to get him at the start line, sitting, and ready to go. Amazingly, we walked out of the ring with a 187 - which is a Q - and a 3rd place. The second run of the day went similarly - except I felt I had his attention more. We again scored a 187 and grabbed 3rd place. Roofus had already doubled my expectations for the weekend. One more Q and he'd have his level 1 title - but was I being unrealistic to hope that we could get it tomorrow? Was I jinxing myself to dare to hope? I decided a more reasonable goal was to simply break the 200 score barrier.

Apparently not. The first run on Sunday, Roofus marched into that ring like a pro. He was extremely attentive, to the point that I became a bit unnerved by his focus. It was a beautiful run, though, and my handsome boy walked out with a 201, second place, and his level 1 title - RL1. I actually jumped up and down with joy, the judge snickering at me. I didn't care. MY Roofus, the one everyone calls slow, dumb, unable to learn (I unfortunately sometimes fall into the habit as well) - he had just achieved what none of my other dogs have - his first rally title.

After that run, it became clear that Roofus wasn't amused at being crated any more, and he would much rather go home. He had only one more run, and the trial was moving pretty quickly, so we waited out for his first level 1B run.

It wasn't pretty. Roofus's attention was gone. There was no focus. Every once in a while he paid attention to me, but boy, was it dirty! He eeked out a 185, ironically having our lowest and highest score on the same day.

And so our Rally Obedience weekend ended - Roofus had a perfect weekend, going 4/4, and far exceeding my expectations with his performances. While I dare to dream what may happen at the next trial, I have made up new goals for him: I want to score consistently in the 190s, and I want to get his RLX title. Roofus, of course, doesn't care - as long as he is provided with plenty of hot dogs and bear hugs.