Monday, November 29, 2010

Sirens! Oh the terror!

I had a work Christmas function at a house near the beach on Friday, so I got N to bring the dogs, pick me up, and let them loose on the beach. While N was parked out the front a few of my work mates came to see the dogs. Barbie got a lot of pats from one in particular, and when she left, Barbie tried to squirm out the car window to follow her.

Once we got to the beach, Barbie found a Dalmatian who was very happy to run with her, wrestle with her and generally play. Barbie ran big wide loops but the Dalmatian didn't seem to notice that she was faster. The dogs ran for a bit over an hour before we took them home. They certainly enjoyed themselves.

The CGC on Saturday was postponed because the independent assessor pulled out at very close to the last minute and a new assessor could not be found. The test is now in February!

As there was no CGC test, and it was Barbie's gotcha day, we decided to take the dogs to the river for a doggie date with the two mini schnauzers (Sonny & Taco).

Barbie showed a polite interest in them but when she realised they would not chase, she lost interest pretty quickly. She did run a little with a fox terrier type dog. She also bothered a little white dog which wasn't allowed off the lead. I had to shoo her away. After we had been there for a while (and Taco swam properly for the first time), I noticed some smoke rising from a point on the other side of the river. I didn't think too much of it until it started wafting over us. Then the fire engines came, and fire engines mean sirens.

Barbie put her ears back, her tail down, and started at a trot, which built up to a higher speed run. I didn't know where she was going to go, so I followed her. I called her name and she ignored me, so I gave up and kept my eye on her. She ran a wide lap around the area and ran along the car park where we had left the car. Our car was the only one there, but for some reason she didn't recognise it and went straight past it. She then ran to the next car park, where there were many cars, and picked out a shiny black car which looks nothing like either of the cars we own. She commenced jumping up at the driver's side door (I hope not scratching it in the process!) I was close enough to her that I grabbed her pretty quickly. I didn't see any damage done to the car. I now had her by the collar, and needed to go back down to the river side to get Nic, as she had the car keys. The sirens were stopped by then I think, but the smoke was getting thicker. She refused to go closer to the smoke. I got her to trot, and we got within yelling distance. I called Nic over and told her we had to go because Barbie just wanted out. We had been there too long anyway, Bender was overtired and had ingested too much river water while swimming for his ball.

We all got into the car and went to City Farmers to grab more dog and cat food. We met the mini schnauzers there again, but I couldn't spend much time inside as Bender was not feeling well and was likely to puke or poo at any moment. Barbie was fine. As long as we were not near the sirens and smoke, she was quite happy.

Funnily enough, we have been near other types of sirens and if it's an amulance or a cop car she doesn't react. I think fire engine and smoke together are the trigger for her scared reaction. It's going to be a difficult one to work with!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mittens and the Laundry Basket

Mittens likes to sleep in the laundry basket. I'm not really sure why. I think it's just one of those strange quirks she has. She is a strange cat. Another one of her quirks is that she likes to watch you taking a shower, and when you are finished she meows and purrs and twirls around your legs. It's the only time she ever asks for attention - it's like she has decided you are clean enough to touch her because you just had a shower. Usually if you try to pat her she will pull her evil face, move away from you, and start washing herself vigorously.

Anyway, I digress.

I was at work typing away on my computer, and my mobile vibrated on the desk next to me. I opened up the message, and it was a photo. This photo:

The story was, N hadn't seen Mittens for a couple of hours, and was curious about where she had got to. N went into the spare room, and saw Mittens trapped under the washing basket on the spare bed. We haven't figured out how Mittens became trapped but she wasn't trying to free herself. She wasn't even meowing.

Funny how she doesn't mind being trapped somewhere, but if I try to give her a worm pill or try to put a flea preventing spot on her neck she howls and growls and huffs and puffs and squirms to try and get away.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Barbie the Submarine

A lot of dogs don't like water, but Barbie loves it. She knows it cools her down, I think that Greyhounds learn that at a very early stage. When she goes for a run, she generates a lot of heat, so if there is an available body of water, she will lie in it and dunk her head under. We went to Whiteman Park yesterday, and it was pretty humid. Barbie had done some hot laps, and then jumped into the old horse trough. She was on her belly, skinny elbows against the slimy concrete bottom of the trough, and was dunking her head under and blowing bubbles! It looked so funny. I think it's her way of stopping the water going up her nose. She is a real little smartie.

I haven't seen her swim yet and I'm not sure if she will try. She has seen Bender swim but she doesn't really seem bothered to follow him. She'd rather lie there like a crocodile with her nose poking out, and dunking her head under to blow bubbles!

There was a small grey dog there. I held on to Barbie when they came into the gate, and once they were in and the little dog was off the leash I let Barbie go. Barbie looked like she was going to stalk up to the dog, then decided to play chicken with it's mum. She bolted towards her and gave her a fright! Barbie and the little grey dog (called Pepper) had a good play, though Barbie was prancing, and landed on him once or twice. He let her know in no uncertain terms he did not like to be stepped on.

Barbie's CGC exam is on Saturday. I have been working on her down/stays on hard surfaces, as I realised that I had been letting her practice on the carpet or grass and so she didn't want to lie on the hard surface at Billy's for very long. She is only allowed to break 3 times but I'm confident that I can get a good stay out of her.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Memories - Bender's Problem Solving

One of my fond memories of a young Bender involved a kong, a galvanised metal bucket full of water and a backyard BBQ.

Bender was playing his favorite game with the BBQ guests - fetch with his Kong. He got very hot and tired, so he ran to his water bucket to get a drink. He still had his Kong in his mouth. He released the Kong when he went to drink the water, and the Kong fell to the bottom of the full water bucket.

Bender was very attached to his Kong, but he isn't the type of dog that will stick his head underwater. He hates water up his nose and in his eyes. Being a very young dog, he didn't really know how to get his Kong back. The bucket of water was very full.

It took him a minute or so, examining the problem before him. He wanted his Kong. His Kong was at the bottom of a bucket of water. He didn't want to dunk his head into the water. There was only one way he could see - drink all the water so that he could get his Kong.

I had been sitting on the back steps of the house watching him, and it took me a while to figure out what he was doing. At first I thought he was just thirsty. Then I saw the look on his face, he was forcing himself to drink. He would pause for a bit, and then resume drinking. He even had a puke and went back to drinking. He was very determined.

Eventually, after he had made himself vomit, I decided he wouldn't give up, and I fished the Kong out for him. I would like to think that he would tip the bucket over now instead of trying to drink the whole bucket of water, but I am not too sure that his problem solving abilities have gotten that far. Maybe I should test him?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thoughts on Travel without the furkids

My pets are all young. The oldest is Froufrou, turning 5 in December. Still, it is very clear to me how short my time with them is going to be. I expect that the cats will live to be ancient, bony, goddesses, I don't expect the dogs to last that long. My first dog died of a mysterious neurological illness after just a year, and so while they have their expected life spans, anything can happen!

Time away from us is hard for the fur kids as well. I have found a really cool kennel that allows them to run around in a fenced paddock all day, but there's only so long you would want your dogs in that kind of environment. I left Bender and Barbie there for a few days and they had gone a bit feral when they got back home.

Most people I know view travel as a 'knotch on your belt', and do all those Facebook apps where you plot all the cities & towns you've been to. Peru was the latest 'must go' location, and quite a few people have fairly new albums. All the photos look similar, just different faces in them.

Not to say I am totally devoid of wanderlust, but when it means being away from the creatures I love, it is tempered somewhat. That doesn't seem to be the case for N, who hadn't been overseas when she met me. Trips are also limited by the fact that I only get 4 weeks leave a year. N has a more flexible roster that allows her to take more time off. She seems to accumulate Days In Lieu far more easily as well. They discourage that kind of thing at my workplace, stating that we must have a good work/life balance. I would be happier if we knocked the working week down to 35 hours though.

Anyway we are going on an overseas holiday next year. The longest I could manage is just over 6 weeks. Mainly limited by the leave available to me, but also by my desire to be near my fur kids! I'm not sure N understands. I also want to travel within Australia some more. The country is vast and there are many places we haven't been. It would be most awesome if we could do some kind of mega road trip and take the dogs with us at least. I joke that I want to be a 'grey nomad' without the grey, but N isn't super keen on Australia-travel.

I will get 3 months worth of long service leave if I stay at my current organisation for another 5 years. That might be the soonest I could go on such a road trip. By then Barbie will be 8, and Bender will be 9. Probably good ages if they are still fit and strong and healthy.

In the meantime I need to organise a first camping trip for Barbie. I can't believe we haven't been camping together yet! We need a bigger tent so that both the dogs will fit without forcing me to curl up like a echidna.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dogs of Old - Rusty

These photos are from 1993 - 1994. I was only just a teenager and had a little black plastic Kodak camera. I was not particularly gifted at photography. I grew up with a Kelpie X called Rusty, and here he is. When I see Frankie from Greyhounds CAN sit it reminds me of this dog.

Rusty was a guard dog above all else. He was particularly protective of his property. He used to jump on the fence and bark at people passing by. When I took Bender down to my parent's place, the fence got a similar pounding from him. It was pretty funny actually, some kids on BMX bikes rode past, and were doing skids on the footpath. Bender, Barbie, Harry AND nudge all ran at the fence, though Bender was the only one who jumped up and barked.

Rusty wasn't actually allowed on the bed, hence the sheepish looks on his face. Occasionally someone would say 'where's Rust?' and you could be guaranteed to find him there.

Last but not least, Rusty ate disgusting food. It is called PAL and it comes in big tins. He had a human plate allocated to him - I think it was an ugly cracked plate. I'm not sure if he ever had his own specific dog bowl. Looking at that 'food' now I wonder how he managed to get so portly as there didn't appear to be a lot of actual meat in it. It does however explain why his farts were so bad !

Rusty was my best friend growing up, and when I left home I missed him a lot, as well as my cat Tabitha (who I will upload photos of soon). Rusty and I used to go for walks every day after school. We would meet up with a friend and his Rottweiler, Luger and the dogs would run free around the estuary while we talked. Rusty was my confidante, my protector and my exercise buddy. I was very glad to have him around. My mother had another dog back then too, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel called Sam, but I did not have the same connection with him. I thought he was just a pest.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Drama in B-Town

We went on our walk a little later than usual last night because it took me a while to work up the energy after cooking dinner. We went for our usual amble around our usual track, and as we approached the park we heard sirens and the roar of a big diesel fire truck approaching. These sounds were preoccupying Barbie so much that she didn't want to sit at the street corner. It is a bit unusual to hear a fire truck approaching in our neighbourhood. We kept walking and I noticed that there was smoke around. The fire engines stopped at the top of a hill and started putting otu a fire in a town house. They were a fair way away, probably at least 800 metres, as they were on the other side of the park, but the sound was carrying well. They were using megaphone/loudspeakers and the amplified voices were giving Barbie the willies. She was pulling on the lead. The dogs both pulled (gently) all the way home, only stopping to sniff a couple of times. As we turned down a quiet dead end street which is very close to the house, Barbie just stopped and peed on the road. Very unusual, but I guess she knew she was almost home and hadn't done it yet because she had been spooked by the fire engine and their amplified voices.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Doggies keeping each other fit

Before we got Barbie, Bender had started getting a little hefty. The heaviest I weighed him at was 27kg. His ribs were nowhere to be seen though you could feel them if you poked him hard enough. Noone noticed the extra weight, because the majority of dogs in Australia are overweight. Given how hard he is on his joints though, particularly his wrists, I wanted him to be as lean as possible.

Then Barbie came along. If anything Bender is getting more food than before because they both get a lot of treats, treat to go out in the morning, treat to go to bed with at night, and training treats. When Barbie arrived she weighted about 24kgs (I can't remember exactly)

They both recently went to the vet for their annual vaccinations. Bender now weighs 22kgs. We noticed he had thinned out around the middle though his shoulders and thighs are starting to resemble greyhound proportions. When the vet examined him he said 'wow, he's really fit'. I will get some extra weight on him soon before he goes to the kennels in January because he seems to shed fat there too. I don't want him getting much thinner. Being at a lighter weight, and getting daily glucosamine supplements, have meant that he no longer pulls up lame in the front end after a running session at the beach/river/park. He is 5 years old next March and he is still the fastest dog at the park (except for Barbie).

Barbie weighs 25.8kgs. Most of that weight gain has been muscle, and she had lost weight after being spayed when we got her. She is leaner than the majority of adopted greyhounds that I have met.

Even though our yard is small, the dogs chase each other around for stints during the day. They get to run off leash a couple of times a week, and get walked every other day for at least half an hour. On the weekends if they are lucky they get to go out on individual outings.

Yesterday I went to take Barbie out first. I took my keys, and walked down the driveway to my car, and realised that the rear right hand tyre was dead flat. My car is a fourby with big fat tyres, fitted out for off roading. It is very noticable when one of the tyres is flat! I took Barbie back down the driveway, and attempted to go inside to swap keys so I could take N's car. Barbie refused to enter the house! She thought I was going to con her somehow. I pushed her in from behind, and swapped keys. She was very happy to be led out again and jump into N's car with a tiny piece of Schmacko as a lure. We were going to a street festival down the road and I wanted to know how she would deal with crowds of people. I didn't account for the drumming troupe and the brass band though. She dealt with the multiple popping balloons well. She reacted but recovered quickly. When the drummers started up though, she retreated to what she thought was a safe distance. This meant that I couldn't sit at the table with my mates! She also refused to lie down at the cafe. I am not sure if it was a fear of being stepped on or the uncomfortable nature of the paving. After we had been there for over an hour, we left. She jumped into Nic's car without a treat lure being thrown in first. A lot of people randomly patted her. She didn't know they were there before they touched her most of the time. She dealt with this very well. Bender doesn't get that kind of attention. I think it's because people are a bit more wary of him with his big fat head and excitable ways.

She was exhausted and slept. I thought about changing the tyre on my car but decided to take Bender to the river instead. I threw his ball for him for an hour or so and then went back home.

Took longer than anticipated to change the tyre as I had to jack the car and the axle up to get the wheel up high enough to swap. The spare was also a little flat so I had to pull out my little battery operated pump. It took about 20 minutes to get it up to reasonable pressure but it's all good now. The tyre was flat because it was pierced by a carpentry type screw. I think I ran over it when I was coming back from Barbie's second last CGC class. I need to find some time to go to a tyre place and find out if it's worth plugging or if I need to get a new spare. They are expensive tyres so I think if I need to replace it, I'll be looking at something second hand.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sharing is Caring

Bender asking.... "can I play with your monkey little sis?"

OK, but you aren't going to win....

We're going to tear this monkey limb from limb....

Mum decides that we should play with a different toy

We pulled and pulled, but in the end the contest was a bit uneven

Bender was the winner, but notice how Barbie is ready to pounce and reclaim her end of the rope

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The peril of treats in your pocket....

It was 37 degrees in Perth yesterday. I left the dogs inside with all of the curtains closed, and Bender did not approve. I don't think he appreciated the fact that the house was only about 30 degrees inside when I got home, and the tiled floor was nice and cool. When I got home and let them out to go to the toilet, Bender refused to come back inside.

When N got home at about 6 we took the dogs down to the river for a romp. As soon as we got there, a big Whippet who was almost the size of Barbie came to say hello. He didn't want to run so Barbie was not that interested in him. I think he was interested in the treats in my pocket though, he attempted to put his little Whippet nose in to help himself! Wise to this move (Barbie tries it out on me occasionally), I just moved away at the right time so he did not score any goodies. Other dogs noticed that I had treats too, and before long I felt like the Pied Piper with all the dogs following me around. I let Barbie offleash and she had learned from last time where she is not allowed to go. We have a clearly defined boundary where she is allowed to run. She was polite to all the other dogs and ran big wide laps around the perimeter of her 'allowed' zone (where I can see her at all times). There isn't much danger around the place, but at her pace she can easily find herself in the 'no dogs off leash' area and then we'd be in trouble. Then she ran down to the water (where I was) and lied down in it so that her head was poking out like a little crocodile.

As always people were impressed with Barbie's speed & her recall. She is funny in that she doesn't have to be running after anything in particular. I think she conjures up an imaginary bunny to chase, or imaginary greyhounds chasing her. A lady on a bench tried to converse with me, and said that I 'did the right thing by her'. What that means.... I'm not sure. She is probably one of the smartest, quietest and most low maintenance dogs I've owned. Aside from some toilet training hiccups she has been an angel. Even when she steals things she isn't particularly destructive. I've always wanted a greyhound and the fact that she has been 'rescued' is a bonus. I think I like the term 'redeployed' better than 'retired' or 'rescued' or... 'failed racer' (Nic likes to say she is a failed greyhound). I attempted to get her to chase me by running past her but I don't think I can run fast enough to be of interest. She is more interested in running with me when I am on my bike. I really need to start bike-training her because if she is going to be babysat next year, I want the housesitter to be able to run her on leash. I don't think it will take much, just encouragement so that she doesn't cross behind the bike really. Once I get her trained up I'll get a walkydog or a springer and attach it to one of the bikes. Probably will have to be the CRX as it's the most uncustomised and is more likely to fit whoever ends up housesitting. My Long Haul Trucker is likely not to be there cos I'll be taking it touring, and the xtracycle will probably be too much for some people to handle.

I had to clip on her lead to retrieve her from the water - the sun was going down and I didn't want a wet dog stinking up the house all night. Barbie is a real water baby though I haven't seen her swim yet. The intention is to take her down to a shallow, calm beach like Esperance and teach her to swim there. If she wants to. The only problem with Esperance is the 4x4s on the beach. I have a golden rule to always keep Barbie away from motorized traffic. Once I had her out of the water, I asked a guy if he minded if I talked to his teeny blue heeler puppy. I wanted to see if Barbie would say hello to her. She did seem a little too small to be out and about in public though, since her vaccinations were probably not finished :P I gave her a piece of polony because she sat her little puppy butt on the ground when I asked. She still had little needle puppy teeth. I tried to get Barbie to say hi but she wasn't particularly interested in the little pup. I think in her experience puppies are just rude little dogs which don't deserve much attention.

Bender as usual spent the 45 minutes fetching his ball. He had a gang of dogs trailing in after him.

When we got home last night I did the written component of the Canine Good Citizen test. I have to get 90% to pass, so I made sure I checked some of the facts before I wrote my answers. I am going to make it look a bit nicer because the Word document had some formatting issues and give it to Desma on Saturday. Our course is almost over and the test looks like it's going to be on the 28 of November. It's going to be a special time for Barbie because the 29 November is her GOTCHA DAY! :) I have also made a bit of progress with targetting. I can now get Barbie to jump onto the couch to touch my hand with her nose. I can't reliably get her to jump up on her back legs to touch my hand but I think we will get there. She is a little uncoordinated, so when I got her to do it yesterday, she kicked me in the chest once, and kicked me in the mouth once. I should probably start using a target stick for this kind of thing but I think she will get more coordinated. Anyway I may be able to get her riled up by targetting for the 'jazz up, settle down' part of the test. She enjoys targetting, as she enjoys 'commando'. She doesn't enjoy stay like she enjoys moving :)
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