Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Day In The Life Of Griffin (Today My Little Lucifer)

Ah puppyhood; the image below says it all.  How innocent he looks!  Wrong! 

I imagine it has something to do with the fact that our temperatures have dropped 20 degrees and with the cooler weather, everything for Griffin seems more appealing.  He has been being such a good little lad at 4 months and 46 pounds that I almost feel guilty complaining.  However, yesterday was a stellar day in terms of him proving that yes, indeed, he is still a puppy.

He went through his usual morning routine of streaking like a bullet back and forth on the deck for probably an hour as he did laps around Denaya who just looks at him with her usual disdain.  Perhaps if she had a cup of coffee in the mornings, she would get a bigger kick out of him.  I'm thinking of trying it.  He seems undaunted that she is not impressed by his agility nor his energy level as he streaks past her with one toy, then another toy, even throwing in some barking spins as he tries to capture her attention.  Finally, after realizing that he is not going to get far with the Ice Princess I suppose, he decides to go in search of fun.  He finds it; in the form of Bob's grassy area that Bob put in specifically FOR Griffin.  I think Griffin missed the memo on this addition as for some crazy reason, he seems to want to UNMAKE it.  He somehow manages with his little baby malamute teeth to find the seam in the sod and proceed to rip off strips and then fling them all over the backyard for Bob to find and put back.  Bob puts rocks or bricks on top of them to hold them down; Griffin moves the bricks.  Bob puts up a fence to keep him out of the grassy area until such time as he can quit doing this.  Griffin leans on the fence and bends it down to where he can jump in; but strangely he cannot get back OUT.

Well, having rearranged the grassy area to his satisfaction, and being covered from head to toe now in dirt and mud, he discovers my flower garden yet again and proceeds to get under THAT fence and dig away.  Two large bare areas later, he proudly decides to go check back to see if Denaya has observed all his little antics, all the while tracking mud and dirt all the way up the freshly cleaned deck.  When Bob steps out to check on him, the grassy area is pretty much trashed (yet again), the deck is now COVERED in mud and dirt (not to mention one little Lucifer being a mud pie), and he can look down and spy what he has done to my flower gardens again!  Good times!

You would think that this would suffice for one day's entertainment for our little Griffin but no.  He is not done yet.  He is just getting started. When I get off work and proceed to go into the kitchen to start dinner, Bob is in the living room and he is talking to me.  We are actually BOTH right there.  Griffin is in the house now running from the dining room to the living room playing with toys, trying to annoy Denaya who is secretly plotting how she is going to dispose of him.  We don't really think anything about the noise we hear until it dawns on both of us at the same time; oh NO!  It was a gnawing noise and that can never be good.  We both jumped at the same time to spy Griffin chewing the front off of one of the upholstered dining room chairs!  That was quick.  Home & Garden is not going to like that look!  Minutes later, after having reprimanded the devil, after having sprayed all the other chairs with Bitter Apple see link for spray, we both are stunned.  How can such a little dog do so much damage in such a short period of time?  Especially while we are RIGHT THERE! Last week it was Bob's Bose headphones and the same thing.  He was sitting right there; somehow Griffin snapped the cord right in half and managed to bite off a piece of the ear piece all in the space of 2 seconds.  Frightening is what it is.

I was very happy to see the day come to an end and head to bed for a little reading, a little TV and maybe a little playtime with Lucifer.  I decided though it was a good time for a soak; that would really be a good thing to help me relax.  Thankfully, I had more fabric for the chairs; we can have the chair redone so it was not a total disaster.  It was just a very long day.  "Calgon Take Me Away" never sounded so inviting. As I was soaking my cares away, eyes closed, I suddenly got the feeling that I was not alone.  On opening my eyes, there he stood; looking at me with pure mischief in his eyes.  I was worried for a minute that he was going to "take the plunge" and decide to jump into the jacuzzi with me.  He decided to just look and then go on his merry way.  Of course, he scoots out and goes into our bedroom, where he proceeds to relieve himself on the floor; something he has never done!  Now all I can say here is that this about tears it.  If that is the kind of response I can count on when someone sees me naked, I guess it's over!  Good lord!  Bob came flying in when he heard me yell.  Of course he ended up thinking it was very amusing that on seeing my naked person, Griffin decided he needed to relieve himself.  Hopefully, this will not be an ongoing pattern but I think in the future, I should remain covered at all times.  Definitely got the feeling that I brought out the best in him! 

Yesterday was a long, long day.  Today (thus far) has been better but the day is still young.  We are predicted to get snow tonight so heaven only knows what Lucifer will dream up to do tomorrow!

The Canine Chronicles, Cast of Characters Part 4 or Taming of the Shrew

As I have mentioned in previous parts of the dog stories, Denaya came to us as a ticking time bomb.  She was well cared for of course by the rescue people see link for adoption.  Unfortunately, when we first had Denaya, she was terrified of most everything except us; and our 2 dogs. We of course don't know what happened in terms of the abuse she suffered, except that she was starved almost to the point of death. She was terrified of grass; she would not walk on it and only walked on the perimeter. She was terrified of stairs, inside or outside. She was terrified of LIFE in some respects. If something fell on the floor (as benign as a paper towel roll) to avoid a blow, she would flatten herself on the floor and duck down. She could not play. She also had the widest stubborn streak I have yet to encounter. You could not pull her, prod her, yank her to do what she did not want to do without her going completely beserk, as in screaming like a howler monkey. All of those things sound like something someone else might think to "break" but I decided to do what I had done in training Kodi.  I worked her as much as I could to the point where I realized that I was getting a negative response, meaning she was not doing what I asked. Then I switched tactics to something else, anything else, made sure I got her to do as I asked at least once so I "won", then ended the session. I could always come back to it, which I did, and that always worked. The more I went head to head with Denaya, the less I got from her; but if I just took a break, ended on a positive note and retried a short while later, it was magic.

I also decided to decondition her in terms of food as well since she had been starved; we never knew what could possibly happen in the event that food were an issue. I had to start from scratch because she was so terried of everything, including the crate.  I eventually worked her into getting into the crate for treats, then meals, then going inside for a "rest". The first few times, I actually crawled into the crate myself.  (Bob tried to lock me in but I escaped!) I began then to make her sit patiently before eating with a wait command. Then I began interrupting her feedings by also making her wait.  I took the bowl up or simply made her sit and wait to resume eating. There were times when I wondered if I was truly and genuinely insane doing these things, but I had read enough and asked enough questions to know that a dog who was in a down-under position was going to try no matter what to be the alpha.  When you are dealing with a breed like this, there has to be an alpha but it has to be human.  Bob did not want this job, so I decided I could do it. It was frightening at first as they do have very big teeth!

I eventually trusted her to the point where I called her up onto the bed for playtime and when I first bumped her or told her it was time to go about her business and get down, she growled at me. That worried me not a little bit! I literally jumped off the bed but mid jump I realized the mistake. I had to call it and I had to call it right then, so pretending bravery I did not have, I jumped back on the bed and proceeded to wrestle with her, then repeated the instruction to get down.  The moment ended pleasantly; whew! Gradually, I just worked with her more and more and if she exhibited behaviors that I felt were troubling or could potentially end up having her become aggressive, I gave her a sharp command to knock it off and then encouraged the behavior that I wanted instead.  For the most part, that really works. Occasionally, there are times though when just their raw instincts and their past (at least in Denaya's case) catch up with them. For me, the trick has always been not to put them in that situation so it cannot happen but there are always times when you are not prepared. I do not encourage anyone other than Bob and I to wave food around Denaya.  That to me would be like waving a red flag around a bull. I do not think she would attack anyone for food but it could be a disaster simply because of the size of her teeth if she lunged for it and her size at 85 pounds. It could also potentially be a disaster simply because she is conditioned to not turn down food having been starved.  When feeding her any treats or anything I need to have IN my hand physically, I always go at her with an open hand and with the command "easy". She has been through too much to just assume that she can rationalize that she will always be fed or that she will always get what she was supposed to get. It is just a precautionary measure with her but as well works for any large dog or one that might be of a mind to snap hungrily at something.

As well, we have always proceeded with caution when people want to socialize their dogs with her, especially if the dog is small. She has never done anything but nip anyone else's dogs but the fact remains that again, she has a background that is not good.  I always say I would rather still have a friend or a neighbor that is friendly over having my dog kill or maime someone's pet! That is why we are so adamant now about socializing Griffin the puppy as he will not have all these ghosts of the past hanging over him if he is raised in a healthy environment and is used to the "world". I also proceed with caution when there are dogs off leash that run at us or approach us as I certainly perceive a threat and am never sure what Denaya might interpret this as.  It helps to assume karate poses, too and act VERY tough, and yell a lot. We have a command for our dogs that we use with the running but it applies in general.  We say "leave it", which means no matter what someone or something is doing to you, ignore it and pay attention to me; if it is running, keep on going and ignore the 4 dogs that just came out after us!  If it is something that has just accidentally dropped on the floor, don't touch it! 

It has helped us many times but as Bob found out in the not too distant past, it is invaluable.  He was walking the 2 dogs before Kodi died and a corgi on a leash in someone's front yard lunged for our dogs as they passed.  He never saw the dog coming as the yard was blocked from view by a huge truck in the driveway. The dog's leash snapped and this dog got busy trying to get the better of these 2 very huge dogs who now were ticked at being lunged at. When in doubt, lunge back, which they did.  Bob unfortunately was lying on the sidewalk by this time none to happy since they had yanked him off his feet but he managed to get out "leave it" and they did. I always think that you pretty much can bet on what YOUR dog will do if you know the dog(s) well enough; it is the other person's dog that you can never be completely sure about so best to be prepared.

As to malmutes being watchdogs, another myth there. Malamutes are so social that I believe they would welcome the burglar and show him where everything good is located! We had this proven to us a few years ago when our automatic garage door opener broke and we had to leave the door up all night until the repairman could get there the next morning. By the next morning, several very expensive tools were long gone. Someone had literally walked in and walked off with a pressure washer, a large saw and various other items, all while our dogs looked in the window at them. I imagine they waved as the burglar left and were trying to convey "Can't we come along?" They simply are not by nature guard dogs or anything remotely resembling a watchdog. They usually only bark when they want to catch someone's attention; or they howl. I have only heard ours bark if someone is out in the open land or down the road and they can't understand why they are not coming their way! They may bark at deer, they may bark for food, but whereas a lab or a retriever will be The Protector, the malamute is just a social animal who greets friend or foe exactly the same way. About the only protective factor you may find in a malamute is that people who are not "dog people" tend to stay far, far away especially when they spy the incisors!

Malamutes do sometimes have a terrible reputation though and they are often lumped in with huskies, akitas and other artic breeds who are likewise labeled across the board as biters or aggressive dogs. I have always maintained that as with ANY breed, there are no bad dogs, just bad owners. It is all about how you train your dog whatever the breed, but most especially with malamutes or certain other breeds.  First you have to understand them and then you have to make sure that you train them correctly.  Most importantly though, you have to know their limitations. They will only live up to the expectations that you hold them to.  Like any breed, a malamute definitely wants to please but not in the same way as for instance a Labrador. Malamutes are free thinkers; they are doers.  They are high energy dogs.  They do need the stimulus of being socialized with people and animals.  The need regular HARD exercise and they also need to be expected to succeed in any given situation. But the situations have to be appropriate and more importantly appropriate to the individual dog.  If the dog has been trained and for instance you know that they socialize well with small dogs, then that works.  However, if you have never exposed them to small dogs and they are an adult malamute, I would proceed with extreme caution until it was evident that they could be trusted.  They require a lot of patience and a strong hand, not in terms of muscling them to bend to someone's will, but just in terms of consistency, nonstop training, being aware of their strengths and weaknesses and making sure there is a human alpha who has the last "say".  Unlike other breeds, they can be territorial and they can develop very bad habits; again, that is where thinking outside the box or before there is a problem helps.

I have read many places that it is best if you have an alpha female NOT to introduce or bring in another female for a companion because they will fight over who will be the alpha, but if you introduce the opposite sex dog, they can live more companionably together. With ours, that certainly has seemed to be the case.  Denaya exerted herself as the alpha from the beginning but the 2 dogs were both males.  It will be interesting to see if she retains her crown with Griffin. She even won out over Pele who had been the undisputed alpha forever; Kodi was just never cut out for the role nor did he ever want it.  He was a gentle giant and he had no problem at all being a subject rather than king.  The most important thing I have found with any of our dogs is just not to put them into situations where you are pretty sure they can fail; any situation that you put them in should have at least more of a chance of being a success rather than a failure.  Then you have to work to make sure that they are successful. If you feel confident, they feel confident, and if you are happy, they are happy. Being prepared in case they do seem to be failing is important as well or having a back-up plan.  I have friends who have frowned on me introducing dogs on leashes and keeping mine on a leash until I am 100% certain that it will go well for everyone concerned.  That is my way of assuring that I have a "way out" if something should go wrong. Likewise, knowing that my malamutes do not do the recall command well, if I want to exercise them in a park, I make sure that it is a completely enclosed park so that I am not jogging down the road after them. 

On returning home with Griffin, he was already about half the size of Denaya as she is quite stunted from her abuse.  We had made a special exercise pen so that Denaya could see Griffin and be right next to him but she could not lunge at him right away just in case she was so inclined.  We then introduced her to Griffin with a leash on and let him do his antics with not only a fence between them but also a leash on her just in case she did not take well to this new addition.  She looked absolutely shocked out of her fur and looked from one to the other of us as if to say "I leave for a day or so to go to the kennel and you bring THIS back?"  She was a little indignant that instead of her Kodi coming back, now she had this little upstart to deal with but her goodness won out over any jealousy and it has continued to work well.  She spent the first week with her ears back most of the time but I think in her case, she simply did not understand any of it.  She does not speak "puppy" and I wonder if she ever did know how to relax and play with total abandon.  Gradually as time wore on, she did seem a bit miffed at times that she had this shadow following her everywhere and each and every time she turned around, he was right there.  However, Griffin was wise enough to realize that this was not going to be a replacement for his mama and that this egg was going to be a tough one to crack.  He kept his distance but after about 10 days or so, his puppy exuberance unfortunately got the better of him and he made the mistake of jumping on her back.  She let him know very quickly what she thought of that maneuver and bit him; she even drew blood, a little prick on the nose.  Undaunted, he continued to follow her around though did not attempt the jumping maneuvers again.  Yet he was not intimidated to the point where he ran from her either, so I think this gave her the message that he was going to keep it up until something changed.

Now, 6 weeks or so of their coexisting, she has nipped at him a couple of times but never made a mark again.  He seems to sense quickly when he has gone too far and backs off right away.  She watches him and seems at times just to not know how to let go and play; a paw will come out and bat at him, or she will throw herself down and try to be playful but something holds her back.  We are sure it will come about in time just as it did with Kodi.  It literally took 2 months for them to run and wrestle together and before that time, she made his life a living nightmare with her "attitude".  I have to believe that it will be the same way with Griffin.  Just one day she will decide it is okay and no more worries.  Then they will get down to the business of wholehearted playfulness.  The fact that she tolerates him and walks side by side with him in training, allows him to bump her, get his body ON her body if they are lying down together; these are all encouraging signs that it will get better.  It is a sad thing that she has been so damaged but then again, watching her heal right before your eyes is a wonderful gift.  Love does that and I think Denaya is a testimony to the power of love on so many levels from so many sources.  As we think to the future and carting with them or doing snowshoes or cross country skiing, I am ecstatic that I have my canine pals to share life with.  They are all such treasures and such individual inspirations in their own ways; even though so often we outlive them, I do believe it is better to have loved and lost some of them than not to have loved them at all. 

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Canine Chronicles, Cast of Characters Take 3

If anyone has read my other posts, I am sure it would be very evident that our new little porch guest did not get up and amble away the next morning, happy to be going back to his "home". In fact, he got up and ambled all right; right after the kids when they went to the bus stop and stood patiently and adoringly looking after them as they waved goodbye, probably all the while hoping that their mom had rescued yet another pet for them to love. As soon as the bus moved on down the road, the dog was back on the front porch curled up as if he had been there all along. Upon seeing him still there when he left for the day's route, Bob sighed and said "I knew it; here we go again." I quickly reassured him that this was not my intention and that I was going to call Paws and Claws and the newspaper as soon as he drove out of sight to try to find out where this poor dog belonged; I was convinced that someone had to be looking for him and that it would be a great thing to reunite him with his owner. That was what this was all about in truth; I was convinced that he had gotten lost somehow and someone must surely be missing him. He wasn't the cutest little thing obviously; we later figured out he must have been lab mixed with basset hound as all his legs were bowed and turned inward. He was the most god-awful dog to look at almost to the point of being cute because he was so ugly! I quickly posted him everywhere I knew to post him including putting an ad in all the papers; in the meantime though, he could not keep living on the front porch so of course, I brought him in and cleaned him up with a bath and a collar and turned him out to join the other dogs. I should really have realized how misguided I was in thinking I would ever be seeing that dog leave. He ended up going to clinic after clinic at the pet stores for adoption. We would dress him up with a little kerchief and he would go with the Paws and Claws folks and sit for hours waiting for someone to adopt him. They had given him the name by this time of Little Dog. He really was not that little weighing in at about 45 pounds, but I guess compared to my others, he was little! After some time had passed, I finally got a phone call from the ad I had posted in the paper and the fellow said that he knew I was describing a dog that had lived next door to him because I had nailed his description; there could not possibly be 2 dogs that had these unusual characteristics. He then proceeded to tell me that he had gone to the house, knocked on the door and showed the owner the paper exclaiming exuberantly "I think this lady found your dog". He told me on the phone that the woman looked like she'd seen a ghost and then began muttering and proclaiming she did not have a dog, never had had a dog. Once he started to look about at the inside of her house, he began to feel very upset at the thought of returning ANY dog to this situation and he told me he was convinced that she had tried to do something terrible to the dog; perhaps she took him somewhere and dumped him or tried to do something bad to him. He was none too happy when he called me at the prospect of this dog going back there and begged me not to return him. He kept telling me that she definitely did not sound as if she wanted the dog back, so any home I could procure for him would be better than what he had been living in. Well, that was a sad turn of events and in retrospect, I probably should have turned the woman in. I could not imagine, however, turning this sweet dog back to someone like this though so began now in earnest to try and find him a home. But no one wanted him! One Saturday after he had been making the pet store circuit all day long, I had dropped by the last store to see how it was going, hoping and praying that someone would have taken pity on the poor thing and given him a home. On approaching his little caged area, there he sat, alone, hopeful, just looking at everyone with his sad eyes as if to say "What's wrong with me? Why doesn't anyone want me?" I was so upset when I saw him sitting there all alone and knowing the chances were nil that someone was going to adopt him. When I went up to talk to the gals to see how they had done with him, they let me know they had had 1 request for him but that couple wanted to bring him into an unfenced yard and then stake him out while they were at work all day. There was just no way that they were going to let the couple adopt him and if they had, I'm sure I would have spoken up there and then for him. While I was standing there feeling so dejected at all my pointless efforts to find him a good home, Bob had come up behind me and he put his arms around me. He whispered close to my ear "We'll just take him and keep him; he's only half a dog anyway so what's the harm?" How could someone not love a man like this with such a big heart? It wasn't that I wanted this dog in particular or that I had been maneuvering to get him; it was just too sad that no one else wanted him and I hated to see him not have a loving family. Thus Pele joined the pack (Jon named him after the soccer great because of his legs; how ironic). He turned out to the most loyal, grateful dog I have yet to encounter and I have to believe when he finally died just a few years ago, he must have been upwards of 17 years old.

We now were a 4-dog family again and off we went to give the kids the news. Not long after our decision to keep little Pele, however, I noticed that all my dogs were scratching and scratching in a way that was not indicative of fleas. Rather, this was some sort of skin condition that was turning from bad to worse as Molly especially began to lose big chunks of hair and skin from her legs. I took her to the vet to find out what it could be and as luck would have it, MY luck at any rate, they all had mange see link. Could I possibly ever catch a break? Bob of course was overjoyed when I came home and gave him the good news; I'm sure Pele had brought it into our midst and now we were in a terrible situation having 4 dogs, it being winter, and treatments being mandatory in the form of dips, medications and salves. At first, nothing was working and the dogs were becoming more and more tattered looking; we were afraid we were going to have to shave all 4 of them and then keep them indoors until their hair grew back! Finally, a friend of mine who was a vet decided to take them all to her clinic and bathe them all repeatedly while we bombed and washed everything we could find AND burned the wooden dog house. After about a 3-day stay at the vet's, finally we got the mites eradicated and then all that was left was treating the individual dogs' bare patches with creams and medicines 4 times a day! At least we finally got it under control and eventually the dogs did heal up.

Somewhere along the way in all this madness, when we were a 4-dog family, I had read an article about making your own dog treats. As an aside, I do not love to cook; I am in LOVE with cooking among other things and if there is a recipe to be made, I usually find it and give it a try. Well, combining my love for my dogs with cooking was just too much for me and I had to try it. I thought it would be so neat to be able to create biscuits and cookies for them to enjoy, lovingly made with the freshest ingredients; much like I cooked for my family. One day when I was recovering from bronchitis and was supposed to be taking it easy, I decided to go ahead and just whip up some liver cookies that I found the recipe for. I set about throwing those together, popped them in the oven and then proceeded to set them on the counter to cool. I went back to reading on the couch where I was when I heard the back door open, then close and figured Bob had come in from the backyard. I really did not give it much thought until I heard a muffled "What the HECK is in these?" obviously being spoken around a mouth full of something. I just had time to process the thought "There is no WAY he ate those" and then I thought again "What are the chances?" Bob is now gagging full bore and proceeding to spit out the food into the sink, muttering, cursing, saying all kinds of interesting things as he spits and spits to get the food out of his mouth, running water, gulping down glasses full, trying to wash the taste out of his mouth! By now, I've started to laugh but the bronchitis has gotten the best of me and I begin to cough and cough so that I can't get a word out for the coughing and he is STILL spitting and gagging, slurping up water like his tongue was on fire. He is just shuddering at the taste in his mouth and when I finally am able to croak out "Those were liver cookies for the DOGS" it was probably better that he did not know! Then he began to yell in earnest "How could you put those things on the counter and not put a SIGN on them to not eat them?" I'm holding my sides now from laughing and I can't believe that he really expected me to post a sign that there was "dangerous" food on the counter! I finally am able to speak again and proceed to offer up the thought that perhaps the smell in the kitchen might have clued someone in that they were not your "run of the mill" cookies, and that furthermore, people ought not to be running around sticking things in their mouth that they have no idea what they are for! Then I asked him if he wanted some kibble to go with his cookies or maybe a nice big fat juicy bone. I do not think I was making many points. Nor was I with the barking noises I made the rest of the afternoon and evening. Or the reference to hoping he didn't lift his leg on my plants! It was just too easy to get material from the whole episode. You would think that he learned to always ask after that when he spied something on the counter but unfortunately, he did not!

During the time we had the labs as well, I took up soccer at the ripe old age of 38 and began jogging in between games to get my endurance up. It seemed logical to me to take the labs as they needed the exercise and as I did not jog very fast, it was okay for Molly. One fall day, one of the kids had a soccer game at the local junior high school.  I decided to go take the girls for a run, then end up over at the game so that I could ride home with Bob and the kids in the van. I made my circuit and got there a little worse for the wear but feeling good that I'd worked out and worked them out as well. It was a beautiful sunny day and I flopped down on the ground to watch the game and cool down. I became so engrossed in the soccer game that unfortunately I never noticed what was going on around me; unfortunately, the labs did. There was apparently a dog at the other end of the field and they definitely spied it. I had the leash wrapped around my wrist and was just sitting there minding my own business when suddenly I was jerked prone onto the grass and I was moving; far faster than I wanted to be as they were literally pulling me down the field trying to go after the dog who was coincidentally running away! Someone finally saw me being pulled along like I was body surfing on the grass and stepped in; they stopped the game (much to my child's horror) and had to make sure that the goofy lady was untangled from the dog mess and that she wasn't hurt! Oh brother - my pride was killing me! I had grass stains all over my shirt; I'm surprised I did not have grass in my teeth, and my left arm felt at least 2 feet longer than my right. Not to mention the whole front of my body was tingling from the "grass burn" I'd just received from chest to toe! Everyone was laughing and laughing as they helped me to my feet; all except my child! She already was not crazy about soccer and now this. At least no one was seriously hurt!

One year for Christmas, my daughter for some reason decided I needed a cockatoo. I had had a canary for a few years and was sad when he had died but truly, with all the dogs, I had not really thought much of replacing him with another bird. It turned out that this bird was hand raised and unfortunately for me, since I was the only one home all the time doing medical transcription, tag, I was it. The bird would scream nonstop if you did not take him out of the cage and perch him on your shoulder, so most days, I felt like Pirate Audrey - Ahoy Matey! All I needed was an eye patch. I actually began to have neck problems because I had to keep my neck turned a certain way to keep him from pecking on my headset while I tried to listen to files. It was truly a little aggravating but being the Pet Woman that I claim to be, how could I complain? I also went to the pet store and of course got books on how best to raise this bird that was so kindly given to me but the most important point that kept standing out glaringly in all the books was that these birds were NOT recommended in a household with dogs but most especially BIRD dogs. Hmmm...unfortunately as I looked from the book to my dogs, all 4 of them coincidentally being bird dogs, I had a sinking feeling. I pointed this out repeatedly to everyone in the household; that our little cockatoo was never and I mean never to be left alone with the dogs and we should never leave the cage open so that he could have "free range". It was a lot of pressure but I felt certain that I could probably keep the bird safe; or so I hoped. If you could just forget the having a bird on your shoulder scenario and the crook in my neck problem, it was not all bad I guess. He was a very clever bird and could be very entertaining, when he wasn't squawking! One night on our anniversary, we had gone out to dinner with some friends and then had gone back to their house for a glass of wine and visiting when the phone rang and as soon as I heard my daughter's sobbing, I knew. She had been washing the 2 labs to try and earn extra spending money and on bringing one of them out from the bath and drying the other, in their post-bath exuberance, the dogs had spied the cockatoo in the cage and proceeded to grab the cage and get enough of a handle on it to cause it to shift. One thing led to another and before Katie could stop them, the cage fell apart and both dogs had trapped the bird.  All it took was one bite and little Peetie was no more. I don't know who I felt sorrier for, my poor little girl or the poor little bird. Hindsight is still 20/20 and I guess the book was right - cockatoos do not do well with bird dogs!

Seasons come and seasons go and unfortunately, we lost Salty after he had lived to be a very old man; oh we missed him when he died! He was just the sweetest of fellows and how he loved to ride in the van with Bob. I think he must have been upwards of 15 years old as well when he died as he had come to us at the age of 6 or more. Then we lost Mariah to cancer as she had a burst lesion in her shoulder that had already spread so the thought of amputation was not even a consideration.  Her quality of life would have been so diminished it did not seem fair to her. She was the ultimate ball dog, the ultimate swimmer and to take that away from her would have been nothing short of cruel. She was our youngest tragedy as she only lived to be 6 years old but we made sure her last days were filled with trips to the water she so loved and her days were filled with the sprinkler and the ball. We decided with Mariah to have her put down at home in the backyard where she loved to be so she would not be frightened as her cancer had spread to her brain already; she was unable to do as much as she had just a short time before. My vet friend came over and did the deed, and although we all sobbed our hearts out, it was the most humane way to do such a sad thing. She was not scared and she knew she was loved as she drifted off to sleep hopefully to a world where there was no more pain and she could run happily forever. I think that is the kindest gift we can give to our pets that have loved us so thoroughly; to give them peace in their suffering and to help them if at all possible not to be afraid.

Kodi came into our lives shortly after losing Mariah and then the malamute moments started; we were never the same again. I could probably write an entire book on how Kodi impacted my life and our lives in general with his personality and his "quirks". He was a very intuitive dog though and did seem to sense when he needed to appear smaller as in approaching children or an elderly person and then at other times, his exuberance was overwhelming. He seemed to have a penchant for jumping on my poor daughter and always it seemed when she was wearing white! He definitely required a firm hand (or a knee to the chest) to convince him that certain things were not appropriate at times but at other times, he was such a quick study of situations that he was amazing. When you most needed him to go softly, he did and that was what remained the most important thing. I think he lived to send Bob into fits though with his chewing antics and never lost that knack even after 10 years. If a remote was left on the coffee table at "Kodi level", it was meant for him and I would hear "KOOOODDDDIIIII" being blasted from upstairs; I would know he had done it again. One night towards the end of his life, Bob had taken out leftovers for our dinner later and had them all lined up on the counter in the kitchen in their respective containers. I was downstairs working and Bob was upstairs working. He said he vaguely heard a little rustling for a moment in the kitchen and he thought I had come up to start fixing dinner. The next thing he knew, on walking into the kitchen, all the containers were lined up on the floor and all of them were EMPTY! Kodi had cleaned out the turkey breast, the beef, the potatoes, the BROCCOLI, and everything else but he had not left a mess or a crumb anywhere and all the containers were licked clean as a whistle. He was lying very contentedly on his bed and Bob could have sworn he heard him belch quietly! He came flying downstairs to let me know we had nothing left but all I could do was laugh about it. He was one clever dog. I had been in the kitchen before and preparing something only to hear only a "pop" and turned just in time to see him very casually pulling a roast or something off the counter. He was so tall that he had no trouble at all reaching up to grab something; most of the time he was excellent about leaving things alone. But then again, he was a dog and a very high energy dog at that especially with the steroid treatment for his Addison's.  You just had to be aware and take steps to help him succeed rather than fail. After the above gluttony he enjoyed the one evening at our expense, I actually was happy for him just in that he got to enjoy a full meal deal.  He had been on a special diet for so long with his disease that it probably was a real treat for him to have "indulged". The nicest part was that it didn't even make him sick. I was most grateful that he did get to grow old with Denaya and that he had the good fortune to somehow "tame" the shrew so to speak as without Kodi and Kodi's love for her, I do not think she ever would have turned out to be the dog that she is today suffering such abuse and neglect so early in her young life. That tale to come next.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Canine Chronicles, Cast of Characters Part Deux

As if I did not have enough troubles already with Ky the wonder dog, then along came Salty, or as we always called him Salty Dog. As the advice I had received thus far had been dead on from my illustrious trainer regarding Ky, of course I believed that this would solve all our problems. If she said that Ky simply needed a companion and that this would keep her from roaming around the neighborhood looking for trouble (and the occasional poodle), I was willing to do it toot sweet, no questions asked! So one spring Friday afternoon, my trainer extraordinaire dropped off the most horrid looking dog I had ever seen! I could not help but think to myself "Couldn't the dog at LEAST have been good looking?" Priorities! Lana basically pulled up with the dog in the car, waltzed him into the backyard and deposited him in my care; so much for training helpful hints! Here I was stuck with now a snarling border collie and one as yet unrecognizable breed of dog who was absolutely scared witless. It did not help poor Salty one iota that this border collie did not seem to want him there AT ALL. He was panicked from the beginning. I imagine it did not boost his confidence much seeing me leash up Ky as she immediately took after him to show him who was running this little ranch and poor Salty ended up cowering behind me I'm sure thinking that perhaps his fate (the pound) could certainly not have been any worse than this; death by slow biting torture. Bob had not gotten home yet nor had the kids so after about an hour of trying my best to "introduce" the two dogs to each other and getting nothing for the effort but a snarling match (all one-sided), I decided maybe I should go try and clean up this poor dog and at least try to make his ugliness a little better! I left the wild woman dog outside and proceeded to wrestle poor quaking Salty into the bathtub in the house and have at him with good old elbow grease and a warm bath. Much to my total amazement, what emerged from under this brown stained MESS of a dog was the most elegant beauty of a dog I have ever seen! When I hear the phrase diamond in the rough, Salty Dog comes to mind. Here was this filthy dirt-covered animal transformed into a beautifully marked collie/whippet mix; elegance always came to mind where Salty was concerned; refined in a certain canine way, and dainty; all those rolled into one was Salty Dog. I was totally amazed at what I had uncovered; unfortunately his upgraded appearance had no effect on Ky. If anything, she snarled at him even more since he obviously had gotten the attention! What ensued over the next week was a very tenuous stand-off. I ended up keeping Ky on a leash at all times and with me at all times while I gave Salty the run of the house or yard, wherever we were, but at least this way, I had control over Ky and could keep her from tearing him limb from limb at any given moment. Salty began to relax a bit and warm to his new surroundings, all except Ky of course. It came out later on that he had been abused and was totally freaked by boys and men; how convenient since I had 2 boys and 1 husband! He at first clung to Katie and I and followed us about like our shadow but eventually over time, he began to realize that not all men were created equal and ended up being Bob's dog; one of the happiest moments for all of us was when he came to sit near Bob and ended up with his head on Bob's foot. He ended up being a great protector of our boys whereas he was very wary of other boys about the same age of the boys who had abused him. Eventually Ky struck some sort of peace treaty with Salty and left him alone, although the fact that Salty was part whippet did not hurt! He was always able to outrun her by a mile and one day even sailed right over the fence (much to even HIS surprise I think) trying to out-maneuver her and get away. He was a beautiful boy and the gentlest of spirits; I'm not convinced that getting him did any good whatsoever for Ky's temperament but I guess as in all things, we saved another dog and had a friend for life so it must have been worth it! 

After a few months of coexisting and finally being able to strike a balance with the 2 dogs, summer came rolling along and with it came the constant flurry of sports activity in baseball with the kids. About late June, I had heard rumors about 2 black lab puppies that someone had found attacking their trash and as rumor had it, a family up the way had adopted these 2 pups. That lasted about a finger snap and the pups were turned back out literally onto the street again. On returning home one night from a baseball game with the boys in the car, Bob spied the 2 pups and apparently their mother on the 4-lane road near the house. He was furious that these 2 puppies especially were out roaming as they were way too young, barely 6 weeks. He managed to get them in the car with the boys and then proceeded to start asking around as to the whereabouts of the owner. He ended up driving over to the fellow's house and returning the dogs to him letting him know where he had seen them out and about and how dangerous it was on the road and that they'd almost been hit. Thinking he had definitely done HIS good deed, off he went. On the 4th of July, Jon had a baseball game and I had stayed home to cook and get ready for the festivities only to have Bob drive up about midday with Jon barely able to contain himself and leaping from the car as it stopped in the driveway. He bounds out of the car with his bat bag in tow and runs to me to show me that there are 2 black lab puppies in the bag. He is bursting with pride for his dad because he has brought the puppies home! I have to say I was stunned. Bob had seen the 2 puppies again on the 4-lane road this time alone and had again scooped them up and returned them to the owner, only to have the owner tell him that he was going to let them go again and if he was so darned concerned about their welfare, maybe HE should just take them and keep them; surprisingly Bob did! I have never been so amazed in my life (or so in love).  I asked him what were we going to do with 4 dogs? Even I was a bit overwhelmed at the thought of having 2 puppies since I'd never had a real live puppy before, let alone 2 at the same time. Bob was convinced though that with all the baseball games we'd be going to over the summer, and them being black labs and so beautiful, we should have no problem whatsoever finding them a home; we didn't!

So began the long, long summer. In retrospect, I think it was good that we were considerably younger or we may not have been up to the task of raising 2 puppies. They were wonderful puppies from the very beginning although having 2 made it nearly impossible for us to get much sleep. They had also come to us filthy with fleas and of course that infested our other dogs not to mention our house and yard so that required an exhausting amount of effort to eradicate. Just the day to day (and night to night) raising of 2 puppies kept us very busy and very tired throughout the summer as they rarely slept for more than a few hours and because there were 2, awakened each other to play.  For some odd reason though, Ky took to the puppies like a duck to water. She loved the puppies and was in her element trying to mother them. She would mother hen them around outside just as she was programmed to do; her herding instincts totally kicked in and she seemed to be in doggie heaven having a job to do. She even forgot all about terrorizing Salty, and Salty was so easy going anyway, he did not mind the addition of 2 little upstarts into his world. The summer baseball circuit with the kids continued and every evening or weekend it seemed we were all off to the fields with our pups in tow (which we had of course named by now to make things "easier" - Molly and Mariah).  We were bombarded every game with folks giving us their names and phone numbers wanting to take one of the puppies when they were ready to go. Unfortunately, the puppies had begun to grow on us and now we were debating which puppy to keep of the 2 because we had fallen yet again in dog love. However, with 5 people in the family, the chances of agreeing on the one dog were nil. Someone wanted Molly, another someone wanted Mariah and on and on it went. The obvious outcome was just that; totally obvious. We ended up finding them both a great home - ours! We could not part with them when all was said and done and we very quickly became a 4-dog family. The icing on the cake came when both the puppies got parvo; Labradors are probably the most susceptible breed to get parvo and a huge vet bill later, it was nearly fatal for Mariah.  see link  The vet was advising that we put Mariah to sleep because she was not recovering as Molly had; Bob went to the vet to be with her when they did the deed and on seeing him, she had a miraculous recovery. We were a 4-dog family once more!

On beginning to train the labs, I noticed that Mariah was picking up the commands and simply acing the training while I was having a terrible time with Molly doing some of the commands. At first I thought she was being stubborn or purposefully obtuse but then one afternoon, I noticed on the "sit" command that she was making a groaning sound when she sat. Since she was only 6 months old, I could not imagine why she would be in any pain on sitting, but that led me to being on the lookout for any further symptoms. Rather quickly, I began to realize that she was having trouble lying down as well and any efforts that did not involve standing were being expressed with a groan/moan. On taking her to the vet for a confirmation, an x-ray later, I had the answer and it was not pleasant - grade IV hip dysplasia. The vet advised that we just have her put to sleep as the risks of surgery were great and the cost prohibitive to try and correct it. Unfortunately for me, I was head over heels in love with this particular puppy and the thought of putting her to sleep was out of the question. Of all the luck in the world and who could have guessed! I ended up taking her to a DOG orthopedist and as one hip was not so far gone as the other one, the only procedure available was a huge affair of titanium plates and screws to put the hip back to usefulness but involved breaking the leg in several places and putting it back together again. The other side that was already out of the socket would have to be sawed off and nailed back to bone but that could not be done until the more extensive procedure had healed. On talking it over with Bob, we decided just to take the plunge and try to save the dog; the extensive hip surgery ended up costing as much as a small car, and we could not drive Molly! The most unfortunate thing about it was that when I arrived to pick her up, I received the information that I had not been told before the surgery; that she would be able to put NO weight on the leg for 4-6 weeks. She would have to be sedated and carried everywhere until the hardware had a chance to heal. Her surgery was called a triple pelvic osteotomy see link and after the first 4-6 weeks, then the dog's muscles had to be exercised to bring back those around the osteotomy and restrengthen the leg, most desirably by swimming. Well, that certainly made things simple! I picked her up and got her home and crated, then set about moving my entire home office to the downstairs level in the family room, then proceeded to have her strapped to my ankle with a leash for the next 4-6 weeks while she healed. She spent every day all day literally chained to me and I lifted and carried her outside and back until the leg healed. I have to say that the surgery changed her life though. We were steadfastly careful about her not jumping up or down and we let her live as gentle a life as she desired. She had the other leg done shortly after and that was a relatively minor procedure in comparison see link. Again, she had to recuperate and then swimming was the recommended exercise for rejuvenating the muscles; unfortunately our local high school frowned upon bringing dogs to the pool so I found a lake where I could daily take the kids and the 2 labs to swim and that sufficed. Mariah actually became the enticement for Molly to swim, as Mariah was the ultimate ball dog/retriever. If we threw the ball a thousand times into the lake, Mariah would go swim out to retrieve it; Molly was the most disinterested Labrador in retrieving that has ever lived. She would much rather sit and stare at the moon, the stars or the clouds than retrieve anything; yet if Mariah was swimming out, she could not be left behind, so she would walk in and start swimming to reach her. It ended up being quite effective in getting her to exercise whether she was so inclined or not. And it was marvelous exercise for the kids as well. The surgery while ending up being far more than I expected in terms of convalescence and cost, could not have been more successful. A dog that was pronounced a virtual death sentence ended up living until almost 14 years of age; the investment certainly paid off as she was the most wonderful dog ever!

When the pups had grown to be about a year old, something changed and unfortunately we never knew what heralded this change but realizing that the pups were no longer pups, Ky reverted to her old ways; unfortunately for everyone concerned, she began to attack Mariah. She never bothered the other 2 dogs and only seemed to have a penchant for terrorizing Mariah. Mariah was not a fighter and quickly began to show signs of becoming permanently damaged from all these skirmishes. Whereas before Ky had not really hurt any other dogs, she was now regularly laying into Mariah and leaving her bloodied and afraid of her own shadow. Mariah was constantly looking over her shoulder to see if Ky was after her. I think for a year or so after Ky was gone, she was still looking for her to appear. It was also obviously taking a toll on the household and on the kids having to witness these unprovoked attacks and the ensuing chaos. We realized that something had to be done and getting rid of 3 dogs was now going to prove a far more arduous task than getting rid of 1 dog and we decided that the most logical dog to go would have to be Ky. We both adamantly refused to take her to the pound or return her to a Paws and Claws situation as that would have seemed counterproductive to all that we had struggled through with her, and fortunately for us, Bob knew of a very nice elderly man he worked with who fell in love with her at first sight and ended up giving her the royal treatment for the rest of her life. Contrary to what the trainer had pounded into my head, I think Ky wanted to be a one-person dog and she did need the serenity of being the top dog. She reverted back to her old ways of getting out from time to time and shaking up a poodle or two but apparently, she was quite content to come back to her beloved master and he likewise adored her. It was a sad turn of events that we had to get rid of her after SO much effort, but it seemed like the prudent thing to do for all concerned. That was when I began to realize the importance, however, of knowing what a breed is meant to do and began to realize that all dogs are certainly not created equal!  I think back on it now and realize that Ky needed some sheep to herd or some calves to chase about and she would have been in her doggie heaven!

As the labs grew and things settled down with our 3 little housemates, it seemed that life was good. We continued on with our fast-paced lifestyle as between the 3 kids and the 3 dogs along with working, we always had plenty to do. We were forever taking the kids and the dogs in the van and heading down to the seashore for a spur-of-the-moment run on the beach or taking them all to the school for soccer games, baseball games, and picnics. Salty especially loved the ocean and the waves and never tired until his last days of running into the waves or of chasing seagulls; I always thought of his little ears as tiny propellers whirling around in sheer delight as he gracefully pranced and danced through the waves and tore down the beach in pure ectasy. Likewise, they loved the lakes and the swimming and that was always one of the most enjoyable times for the kids; having their outings but also having their best pals there beside them. How lucky we all were to have so many friends/so many great dogs! After one particularly long, busy summer, school started up again and I had been out driving with Jon to get something done for school. It was dark and we were driving home on the 4-lane road to the house by ourselves in the pouring rain when we spotted what we thought was a lab puppy in the middle of the road. NOT AGAIN I thought! This poor dog was just totally lost and trying to weave in and out of the cars; him being black was not helping his cause much as folks were nearly hitting him and honking madly at him as he stumbled from lane to lane. Finally I pulled off the road and told Jon to wait there as I ran out in the rain and tried to grab the poor thing. He was so terrified I could not get him to come to me but finally after pulling up, circling back and just watching out for him, he finally made it on his own to the side of the road. I then crept up in the van and jumped out with Jon to try and corral him and get him up into the van. We barely were able to get him in between the two of us because he was absolutely terrified of the car. On finally getting him in and taking a closer look at him, he was certainly not a puppy and he was certainly not a lab; perhaps a lab SOMETHING but he was not the cutest bow in the box! As I'm driving along I'm telling Jon that I have to do something with the dog as I simply cannot take it home; Bob would kill me for bringing home a dog, let alone if he found out that I'd dragged him out of the 4-lane in the pouring rain. (I should have remembered the 4th of July story and that probably would have been enough to convince me it would be okay.) Jon became absolutely horrified that his mother would be so cruel as to pick up a dog and save it only to try and leave it somewhere else. As so many times in my life, guilt won out and I suddenly felt very embarrassed for having entertained the idea of not saving the poor thing. On the way to the house, I formulated a plan and told Jon to just not say a word and just go along with whatever I came up; since he was as much of a rescuer as I was, he agreed without hesitation. Luckily when I arrived home, Bob was not home yet from the driving route for our business and I set about setting up the dog on the front porch. I got him some food, a blanket, water, and tried to dry him off as best I could. He was so exhausted that he barely ate a bit, drank some water, allowed me to wrap him in the blanket, and proceeded to just drop off to sleep right away. He seemed so grateful I felt terrible leaving him out there but I had my story down and I was going to have to stick to it. My reasoning was that when he awoke, he would probably get up and amble back to where he had come from; no problem, no worries. Of course an hour or so later when Bob pulled up in the driveway and came running up the stairs tired from the traffic and the never-ending rain and led off the conversation with "what is that dog doing on the front porch?" I had 3 very inquisitive children gathered round to hear mom's great answer. It actually sounded much like the answer I gave years ago when he returned home to find the puppy in the backyard with the deaf dog; I had no problem saying it - "what dog?" He proceeds to describe a very black medium-sized dog who is sound asleep on the front porch and I feign innocence again with "I don't know what dog you are talking about but maybe he is just resting there to get out of the rain. What makes you think I know anything about it/him?" He just stares me down yet again and says "that is a very interesting story, Audrey and I'd almost believe it except that he is fast asleep wrapped in ONE OF OUR BLANKETS and he has a bowl of water and some food. Now unless he brought all those with him in a BACKPACK, where did he happen to get them?" Busted - again. I proceeded to assure Bob that he was no trouble at all; I had not introduced him to any of the dogs, so obviously I was not planning on keeping this one, and I had found him on the 4-lane after all and something had to be done. Besides, his son had been more or less accusing me of not caring if I did not intervene, so I had to set a good example and save the dog, at least temporarily. I had no doubt that he would be up and out of there by the next morning; he would sleep a bit, eat a bit, then wander off happily to his home and that would be that. I seemed to have convinced Bob by not having brought him in and bathed him! That seems to be a surefire tip-off that we are keeping the dogs when I start cleaning them up, so he was assuaged and we all went to bed thinking about the little dog that was sleeping on our front porch but convinced that he would just be a temporary guest on our front porch and wander off the next day. Little did we know! More tales to come.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Canine Chronicles, Cast of Characters Part 1

I figure I have always been in dog love of one kind or another since I was a child and I longed for a dog. I seemed to be able to relate to them in a way that I could not with cats, though growing up, cats were a pretty good substitute; better than nothing! (Sorry all you cat lovers) I worked for a lovely lady who gave me one of her dogs when I moved away at the tender age of 13, little Mumu (I did not name her so take NO blame for that one). She was Pekingese and while I loved her to death, she was not what I truly longed for though she fit the bill very nicely until I left home at 17. When I was 20, I was living in my own apartment and decided to take it upon myself to get a dog and the most logical place seemed to be the local pound. Somehow I felt better about going to get a dog that someone was throwing away or that faced certain death but once there, I was overwhelmed; who to pick? It didn't seem fair that there were so many that needed me! Finally I settled on a puppy simply because I wanted the longest time with it and there were a lot of puppies this particular time at this particular pound. I settled on an Australian shepherd that was just beautiful; it did not seem to matter that my apartment did NOT allow pets. I just very calmly in typical Audrey fashion smuggled her in under my coat. The first thing I noticed right away was that something was definitely wrong with her eyes. They were both different colors and they had flecks of something in them. Scared half to death that I had adopted a dog who was blind or going to GO blind, I whisked Kyrie off to the vet right away only to have the vet examine her and begin to laugh. "You don't know much about dogs do you, honey?" Well, obviously NOT if I did not know that Australian shepherds have 2 different colored eyes! Whew, at least my illegal pet was not going blind. The next thing that I noticed was that I dropped something right behind her in my kitchen one evening and she did not even turn her head. This time, I was dead on. My poor little puppy was stone deaf! I promptly whisked her off to the vet yet again and this time when I told him what I thought was the matter, he really started to laugh and said "what are you going to come in saying next? That she can't talk?" Well, as it turned out, he wasn't laughing after he examined her because she was in fact tone deaf. People said I probably should just get rid of her; take her back to the pound, etc. Unfortunately, the love affair had already started and she was not going anywhere except back to my apartment. Shortly after I had gotten this little puppy, I met Bob. He helped me move out of the apartment after my very considerate manager caught me with said puppy and pitched a very well deserved fit. I moved in with a friend of mine and Bob and I continued to date though he spent most of his time over at our house as it afforded more room for the puppy to grow and play since my girlfriend had 2 other dogs. We lived in southern California and the nights and days of course were pretty balmy so we usually slept with the windows open for the breeze at night. Well, one particular night, Bob had gotten off work after a full day at college, and came over exhausted; we grabbed up our puppy and headed off to bed but as soon as we were IN bed, the smell was unmistakable. Since my girlfriend left her dogs out all night in the yard and they were usually right under our bedroom window, we figured that must be it so pulled down the window and went back to the process of sleeping! Too bad as the aroma is now 50 times worse and growing by the moment; it is in fact blowing right ON us from the fan at the foot of our bed. I am furiously nudging Bob to get out of bed and flip on the light to see what the matter is and of course, there is a lovely perfumed gift from Kyrie right in FRONT of the fan! I remember Bob muttering things under his breath about people really not NEEDING a dog; it was all a lot of work, etc. etc. and it wasn't even HIS dog. Then him scooping up the mess into a can from the trash with one of my spatulas (which went the way of the can) and thinking I had better keep my mouth shut if I had a brain left in my head! So began Bob's love of the dog. A few months before Bob and I were to be married (yes, in spite of all my quirks, he still decided to take that plunge, deaf dog and all), I began to think that maybe Kyrie was lonesome because she kept jumping our fence and running away. We always got her back or she would come home but being deaf, it was a very dangerous business. She did eventually get hit by a car, not once but twice. Neither time killed her thankfully but she just never got it through her head obviously. Where was that electric fence idea then? At any rate, I decided one day after I got home from work to just "go by" the pound and see what kind of dogs they had. Big mistake. I have since been banned by my husband from ever entering a pound or a shelter. He said that he cannot trust me to do the "right thing" and look and walk away. He is truly right! I walked in and again was overwhelmed by the number of dogs that needed a home. How could I leave without taking at least one with me? Sigh. When I left, I had another puppy in tow; this time a Dalmatian/pointer mix, Serena. Now I knew that the nuptials were coming up within the month and I also knew that Bob was probably not going to like this at all so I did the only thing I knew how to do. I pretended I did not know how the dog got into our backyard. When he rolled in that night, tired from yet another day at college and his job after that, he flipped on the light on the porch to motion to Kyrie to come in and lo and behold, there was another dog sitting there. He pretty much bellowed at me "what is that in the backyard?" To which I answered of course "what are you talking about? What is what in the backyard?" (Always was so good at lying) He marches outside to see not only another puppy but a very LARGE puppy with very large feet. He is muttering and shaking his head and I start to make up all kinds of ways that this dog just happened to get in the fence and is now lying by the back door, looking very contented I might add. He is just not buying it and just fixes me with his stare so finally I just give up and start to cry. I explain to him that once I was inside the pound, I simply could not leave without rescuing one of them. I'm sorry and all that, but what was I to do? Of course he says something like "you should never have gone there to begin with" but hindsight is always 20/20 as I have learned the hard way! So many times it seems! Graciously, he allows her to stay and he of course decides that since she is a very beautiful dog and she is a companion for the poor deaf one, it will be okay.

Well, we marry and months go by; we both just go about the business of life and are content to have our 2 pups and all that life offers for a young newly married couple. My sister, however, has gone back east with her boyfriend to supposedly go to college and somehow that falls through; they need a place to stay and are heading back. We graciously say that they can live with us until they get back on their feet. I then coincidentally find out that Ms. I Was Not Supposed To Be Able To Get Pregnant is in fact very pregnant. So we decide that our little duplex/apartment is going to be tough with all these events so we had better look for a house to rent at least for a while. We find a nice house in a lovely neighborhood with a beautiful backyard. I am still working and Bob is now going to school full-time. My sister and her boyfriend are both working but this living together stuff especially as newlyweds is not all it is cracked up to be! For many reasons, most of them just my personality and liking everything a certain way, I began to grow increasingly agitated with all the chores I seemed to have to do, including taking care of 2 or 3 cats, which I did not want to do considering I was pregnant. Serena had grown into a very large dog by this time and we had discovered that she must be part goat. She was the most delightful dog yet she had a taste for anything she could chew up and try to digest. She ate tin cans; she ate drywall if she was left in the laundry room; she ate bike seats. The list went on. Well, as I was becoming more and more pregnant, becoming more and more fatigued, and getting less and less help from my sister and her boyfriend, I was sprouting devil horns. I was wishing all kinds of blights on them and most especially her boyfriend. We had our dryer go out one day and I had come home, done laundry and hung everyone's clothes out on the clothesline, then hiked it back to work at the doc office I worked at. When I got home that evening, I could hear screaming in the backyard and on coming in the house, I could see my sister's boyfriend chasing Serena around the backyard. The dog must have heard my dark desires because Serena had eaten the crotch out of every pair of pants of his that I had hung on the line to dry! She did not bother anyone else's but all his lovely jeans that he was so fussy about now were ruined beyond repair. AND to boot she had eaten the bike seat off HIS bike. I hurried into our room lest my smile give me away. Who knew I had so much power? 

After we had our first child, we had by this time moved into a house by ourselves and had our 2 dogs (and 2 cats by now thanks again to me not being able to say no). We had decided to make a bold move and move back east to Michigan where Bob was hoping to get on with the government as an accountant. We were going to be living with his sister for a few months and so we were faced with getting rid of 1 of the cats and 1 of the dogs. We had a small Toyota station wagon at the time and we were putting all our worldly goods in a U-Haul and towing that behind with my plants and my dog and cat. Since Kyrie was deaf, we felt that we owed it to her to keep her as no one would probably understand what she needed or get rid of her, so we ended up having to find a home for Serena. It was the saddest thing watching this young fellow drive off with her in his truck, but he was a fireman and he was practically crying he was so tickled to have her. I always figured that was a good match and she must have been a fine dog; she eventually did get over the goat behavior though she still liked to chew on things! We set off on a September morning with the dog in the back of the car and the cat, our 4-month-old baby on the seat of the U-Haul and away we went. We certainly got some looks pulling into a motel at the end of the day with a dog that we were calling with hand signals, a cat on a leash, and a little baby boy bundled up between us. It was not a bad trip though and I think we made it in about 5 or 6 days though I discovered on about the third day that I no longer HAD plants; the animals had eaten them. And we discovered when we first went to use the car in Michigan that we also had no brakes. Apparently the dog had been lying on the brake pedal the entire way.

Life was good; we settled in and tried to make the most of life in Michigan. Jonathan grew and turned into a toddler and all the while we still had our deaf little dog. She was a great dog and never any trouble at all unless she got it in her mind to bark in the middle of the night. There was no way to make her be quiet save for getting up and going directly to her to touch her. We got some very strange looks though as I would take Jon out in his stroller or to the park with Kyrie in tow and all the while Jon would be motioning at her. They thought of course that HE was deaf, not the dog. It was too crazy. I never saw it coming either but for years, Jon thought that all dogs responded to hand signals! It took some convincing to assure him that other dogs or MOST dogs in fact could really hear a voice! She was a great dog though and we had her until we left for Chicago to start yet another chapter of our life. She was still running away and I had a very good friend who had a very large piece of property, so after thinking about it for quite some time, we decided probably the most humane and safest thing would be to let my friend keep her. She lived a very long and happy life so that was a good thing.

Our sojourn in Chicago lasted for 5 plus years and during that time, we had so many things going on and happening to us that we did not get another dog. Our second son was born and he was born legally blind; that consumed quite a bit of time in terms of training him (and ourselves) and preparing for what the future might be and then we had our daughter quite miraculously. We did begin to notice though that our son Patrick was becoming terrified of dogs, even the 2 inch variety. I of course was taking this all in at the time and thinking "the time is right; we must get another dog". Bob I'm sure was thinking "just what we need like we need a hole in the head". About 7-8 years of living in the midwest is enough to convince anyone, especially someone with California blood in her veins that it is time to head back out west, so luckily before I made the decision to get another dog, we moved again, this time out west to the Seattle area. We had not been there very long and were swamped with the day-to-day of raising a family and working, all the usual but I could not help but notice that we were missing that canine addition. I told myself of course that I was doing it for the kids; especially Patrick. I had to get a dog into our lives so that they could grow up with one and feel the joy, the love! So I began the search through a local Paws and Claws (since I could not go to the pound, I had to go somewhere). I had a vision of a certain dog in my mind, although it was not a particular breed per se. I made the fatal mistake of taking Jon with me when I went to look at one particular dog named Ky. She was a border collie and although she was very pretty and very "peppy" to say the least, she was not my dream dog. As I turned to tell the woman housing her that I did not think this would be our choice and to thank her for her time, I looked down to see my son rolling on the floor with her in a canine embrace! I wasn't going anywhere. Forty-five minutes later I walked out with Ky the wonder dog. I simply could not say no to my son who was so obviously in dog love from the moment he saw her. Of course in retrospect, when I think back on it, he like his mother probably would have fallen for any dog! At least Bob was not surprised with this addition! He was surprised that we ended up bringing home the first dog we looked at but he knew I had been lobbying for the dog and had decided it would be a good thing for the kids. Thus began the saga of Ky. Ky was a wonderful dog; she was fiercely protective of my kids while at the same time, she would let my friend's twin toddlers grab hold of her and roll all over the floor with them, never so much as flinching. She would walk the perimeter of our backyard and in effect "guard it" every day all day long. She was a wonderful dog to have in the house. I am convinced that she literally saved Katie and my life one night when we were home alone with no car and there was a string of burglaries all around us. I'm sure she heard the perpetrators on our front deck and alerted us; snarling all the while like a pit-bull.

The only problem little Ky had was that Ky liked to tango; with other dogs preferably, and mostly poodles for some crazy reason, although really any dog would do. She would be docile and well behaved and then the next moment, she would see a dog that just for some reason made her see red and away she'd go. There was no stopping her when she got it in her head that THAT was the dog! One day early on, I made the mistake of letting Katie walk her and she ran poor Katie into a parked car because she did not drop the leash; broke her wrist right there. The dog actually stopped what she was doing and managed to help Katie get back down the street to let me know and off we went to the hospital. That was the last time the kids were allowed to walk her! She just had this thing about getting loose and then making a beeline for someone's dog; I got to the point where I knew pretty much which dogs she was going to go after since she'd done it enough times but wow; were we every popular in our neighborhood! People do get a little ticked when your dog comes at their dog, picks it up and flings it around like a ragdoll. She never hurt a dog, never left a mark on one of the dogs, but just the thought of it really did not help us much. I took her to obedience training; we exercised her, played with her, took her everywhere. It just did not seem to be working! One weekend I decided maybe she just had trust issues. She was acting out because I did not trust her, so I took her over to the local high school and decided to just throw the ball for her and show her that I believed in her. Well, that was going pretty well; until 2 lady joggers ran past and Ky ran off right behind them. I am not a jogger by trade but I did kick it up a notch as I blasted after her screaming all the while for her to come back. She was distracted by something and the next thing I knew, I rounded a corner only to find her in someone's backyard, going after a CHAINED German shepherd. Now why was I surprised? Things had been going so well so far! I did not know what to do; I was frozen there watching this dog start to make mincemeat pie out of my stupid dog and the only thing I could THINK to do was scream. So I screamed; a window flew open, a woman leaned out and SHE screamed! We were both just standing there screaming when the door flew open and a very burly fellow yelled out "Killer, drop it". And thankfully he did! He dropped my stupid idiot dog like a limp rag into the dirt whereupon she came limping and crawling towards me. I felt like throwing her back to Killer. Every bone in my body hurt, my head was pounding from all the screaming, and then I had the arduous task of picking up my slimed dog and carrying her about half a mile back to the car where I proceeded to open the door and throw her in. She was lucky she didn't get the trunk! 

Luckily (?) she was not hurt. Bob loved the story; he was only sorry he did not get to see it! But we both decided something needed to give. The "regular" obedience obviously was not working so we began asking around for a trainer who dealt with hard to control dogs. She was actually quite manageable except for this one problem of chewing up other people's dogs. She had actually bitten a neighbor's dog under their fence and then the neighbor refused to speak to me because the only "bite" on the dog was its own tongue. I kind of thought maybe the dog bit its OWN tongue but there was no reasoning with the gal and she was really ticked at me. There were rumbles about people calling the humane society on her, etc. so I did know that it was not going to be something that was going to be happening very much longer. I signed up with this trainer Lana and we began to work. I went to a class and took Jon with me for moral support and so that he could also see what we needed to do. We ended up putting a choke collar on her, which I had never used before, and then Lana proceeded to set up Ky every 5 seconds so she could literally choke the life out of her. I am not talking just a wee snap "no" command; I am talking she just really wanted major G-force applied to this dog's neck to give her the message that this was not cool! I had a hard time with this; although since Jon had ADD and was just starting to become a pre-teen handful, I did warn him that if all didn't start going right, I was going to get one of those collars for him! (I didn't ever do it) Jon's eyes were big as saucers watching this lady try and train me to choke the living daylights out of my dog. She said that wasn't enough stimuli for her; we needed to go to the "scene of the crime", our neighborhood and confront some of the dogs she had been messing with and teach her what would happen if she did it again. I did not like this idea; I was already having enough trouble just choking the dog but I kept thinking, well, if it would work, we should do it.

Try talking to someone who isn't talking to you; and more importantly, try explaining to this woman that you have your dog trainer coming over and now you want her to let her stupid dog out (and the dog was truly stupid I have to admit so maybe Ky was on to something) and don't mind us, we're just going to choke my dog until she is half dead to teach her to leave your dog alone. Does that sound okay to you? I think half the block was out watching this, which did not help! I am shaking like a leaf as I do not like doing dogs violence. We approach the dog and Ky takes the bait so to speak and let the choking begin! Lana is standing there telling me what to do and I'm reprimanding her while applying as much force as I think I can tolerate and they are carrying on a conversation! Good lord; I was thinking "how do I get myself INTO these things" Too late, however; so we proceeded on down the street after that little session to the next enticement in Ky's book of bites and I go through the whole thing all over again. Finally after about an hour of that, and a few very distraught neighbors rushing over to ask me what the heck I'm doing, I've had enough. I just flat out told her I could not see myself doing this ever again and it was obviously not working because as soon as we finished the "lesson", she turned right back to the dog and wanted a bigger piece of it rather than a smaller! It was not becoming a deterrent at all. If anything, it was probably inflaming her! So I very gently told Lana that we were going to have to come up with something else. She says it's my call and go ahead, give up (I don't think I could have done it ever again to be honest) but she would think about it and let me know what solution she came up with. I said that was fine as long as it did not involve choking anything or anyone. 

Days later, she called with the perfect solution! She had given it much thought and what Ky needed was a companion and she had just the perfect one that had come to her attention. Would I be willing to try it out? She was 100% sure that this was going to be the solution to all of Ky's problems and we would be in doggie heaven upon adding another dog to our household! (I am a walking poster child for gullible). So of course I casually mention to Bob that I'm thinking about it and would he mind (yes he would!) but if that is what it takes, we MUST do it! If it doesn't work, we'll just not take the dog! (Oh fat chance of this happening, Audrey). Thus began the multiple dog scenario that has endured ever since in the Kirchner household. More tale to come.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Moral of The Malamute Story As I Know It and Lived To Tell The Tale

I frequently am asked why malamutes?  Why would you seek by CHOICE to have dogs that are so much work and are so "contrary" (or so it would seem to some) in their demeanor?  I guess I would have to admit shamelessly that I simply fell in love; with the breed, with the heart, with a kindred spirit that I see in them (I can be contrary). From the origins of the malamute with the Mahlemuts (Eskimos), according to an invaluable guide I have for malamute owners called Alaskan Malamutes: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual by Barron's, the dogs and their owners evolved together and through their interdependence they were thus assured of their mutual survival.  The Mahlemuts were all about cooperation, team work; work ethic if you will.  The malamute is of a similar mentality.  Of all the dog breeds that I have had the pleasure of owning over the years (tales still to come), the malamute has always been the one that stands out and has now become my most favorite.  A lot of people feel that they are aloof, pig-headed, totally unpredictable.  Of all the breeds over the years that I have trained, I can admit they have also been an exception to almost every rule!  Some people call it stubborness or an inbred refusal to be dominated; I prefer to think of it as an intelligence that is constantly on alert and waiting to be challenged.  They are not content to be animals of pure "surrender." They are not content to be "performers" in the sense that they seek only easy rewards and enjoy being on display as the "well behaved puppet".  I believe just in knowing the ones we have had the privilege to live with that they simply require more than the average dog in terms of socialization and they also require people who are willing to think "outside the box". They require a "job" more than other breeds.  They are not content to be "among their own" and just play in the yard.  They thrive on being part of a family and a social structure.  They also thrive on heavy physical exertion.  The trick with a malamute though is to make sure that there is always an alpha, and that alpha must by nature be human!  They tire easily of being "trick dogs".  I have been to countless obedience seminars and have heard basically the same thing; I have also seen it first hand.  With a malamute, your training sessions for basic commands need to be kept to a minimum; far better to have many repeat sessions per day rather than 1 or 2 long sessions because if they do a command more than once or twice correctly and you continue expecting it to be performed, you are going to get the "special ed" version.  I have come to believe in my own training with the malamutes that they are way too smart for their own good sometimes!  Even in little 4-month-old Griffin, I can see the pattern already emerging.  He will sit for me once, twice in a session.  The third time that I ask it of him, I get a hand shake, a down, or just plain zip.  He looks at me like he does not understand, which I know he does!  Once a malamute has proven to you more than once that he or she knows a "trick" and it is repeatable (in that session) it is time to move on.  You can always come back to it another time but for that session, I truly believe they are just waiting to mess with your head!  (She wants a sit; watch this!  Out comes the paw!)  As an aside though, when pulling, I have never seen them ever exhibit this behavior which reinforces that they are very smart indeed!

I have also had a lot of folks over the years tell us both that if we tried harder, we could train our dogs to be more obedient.  This is generally in terms of the little problem I like to call "jail breaks", which is really associated with the recall.  Yeah.  "Malamutes are not known for their ability on the recall." That would be the understatement of the century!  They are also not known to be the kind of dog you would put out in your front yard unleashed and unattended (if you intended that they would be there when you returned; even if you never LEFT).  I do know some people that have had success with this.  I on the other hand have never had this success and would err on the side of caution as I firmly believe that malamutes are literally born to run.  They do not do it to be bad.  They do not do it to disregard their owners' commands.  They are just by nature pack animals and especially when you have a situation with more than one dog, the situation just became even more interesting to get out and run for all they are worth.  The most amusing thing about that part is that our malamutes can creep up on us as silent as an Indian, put on their "cloaking devices" and slip by us in a heartbeat without a sound made all through the tiniest window of a cracked open door.  They will run as fast as they can as hard as they can while you yell after them to come, chase after them, run the opposite way, etc.  However, if you get into the car and merely follow them, upon seeing the car, they immediately turn and chase after the car, only to jump into the car!  They are delighted to see you and they are even more delighted that you brought the car!  Unfortunately, they probably would jump into ANYONE's car.  They are not particular about who they are socializing with or falling in love with at that moment, sad to say!

They are escape artists to the max if you are not prepared for them.  They can dig a trench or a hole faster than you can bat an eye under a fence and even though they are not small dogs, all they need is a miniscule opening to escape.  Case in point, when we moved to Central Oregon, we had a fenced yard.  It did not take Kodi and Denaya but a couple of days to discover that there was nothing under the fence preventing them from digging out.  It probably took them all of 5 seconds to dig an opening to slither through and away they went at 5:00 a.m.  First prison break.  Got them back luckily very quickly and for a week, Bob spent his "spare" time putting bricks all the way around the perimeter of the yard buried but up to the boards.  Quite effective.  We've also heard of people putting in chickenwire and different things that they will hit once they begin to dig, but brick seemed a safe bet; although it has to be brick big enough that they cannot move it!  That was an easy fix; well not for Bob obviously!  True to form though, Kodi found yet another way to bust out and it became a rather long and arduous task in trying to figure out how to cut the prison breaks.  All it took was one incisor to "snag" a piece of fence board.  How he discovered this, I have no clue.  But once he found a way to snag a tiny piece, with his huge, strong jaws, he was able to literally rip a fence board right off the fence and they were home free.  ONE skinny fence board off the fence was enough for the dogs to squeeze through and be free at last!  We had been pretty lucky for about 3 years and their prison breaks had basically been just human error; someone giving them that window of opportunity by opening a door without seeing them (again the stealth maneuver).  However, once they figured out how to pull off fence boards, we were doomed!

For the most part, at first it was relatively easy to get them back.  We live in a small community where people are very kind about trying to help you retrieve your dogs and our neighbors would always help us try and locate them; or someone would call and say they had them, return them or at least point us in the right direction with the car!  They never did any harm; they simply loved the freedom of being able to run to their heart's content.  Having had to give up the running on the scooter, obviously this was making it even more lucrative now to be free because they both were missing their "exercise".  However, this quickly turned into an extremely annoying habit as at any given moment, we would look outside and discover a new hole in the fence and again, no dogs.  The fact that we border on open land did not help much since there is wildlife everywhere and the chances of something happening increased every time.  We also have busy roads nearby, extremely poor night lighting on those roads, and various and sundry ranches with all kinds of livestock on them.  One particular late afternoon, after just seeing the dogs playing together outside, we looked out to discover again the hole in the fence.  We both flew into action, called neighbors, called the police department to alert them that they were loose, and jumped into separate cars to begin cruising.  We were all out in force and after 4 or so hours, not a sign of them.  I had come back by this time to call it in to the vets in the area, to the humane society, recall the police department but nothing was turning up.  Finally by 9:00 p.m. we had to just call it a day and by this time figured they had been gone for 5 hours.  That was a record; still is!  We left the lights on in the backyard where they had made their prison break although the addage is that a malamute does not come back on its own.  We reluctantly went to bed worried sick what could have happened to the two of them.  Upon arising at 5:00 the next morning, the first thing I noticed was skunk; the smell was coming in despite the closed windows (which is not that unusual given the open land) but it sure smelled pungent to say the least.  On turning around to leave the kitchen, I spied Kodi at the back door absolutely shaking.  When I opened the door, he was beside himself trying to get to me.  The first thing I noticed was the smell, the second the WET.  He was doused from head to toe in none other than skunk perfume.  Not knowing what else to do, I brought him in because he was shivering so badly and put him in his crate while I went for help - BOB!  On rushing about, I spied Denaya at the back door, not quite as bad as Kodi, but she likewise was covered with eau de skunk.  I plunked her into her crate and then set about trying to figure out what to do.

Well, in retrospect, PROBABLY not the wisest move of all time bringing the dogs indoors.  I was caught between a rock and a hard spot though was my defense and it still is (although now I think should have moved the crates outside; again with the 20/20 hindsight).  There was still a gaping hole in the fence and did not want them taking off again.  The garage had our 2 cars inside and was afraid that we would never get the smell out of them had I stowed them there.  The laundry room with the crates at the TIME seemed like the best option.  Whew; not really so much.  It literally took weeks for us to get the smell out of the house.  It took hours for us to clean their crates over and over with every chemical we could find, every spray.  Their collars were completely ruined as were all of their dog tags, all the blankets.  What a total mess.  As it happened, it had to be a cool time of year too so we had to literally wait out the sunshine and warmth to get them outside in order for Bob to bathe them in the special solution link for skunk treatment I had pulled off the internet but luckily my neighbor had all the ingredients at the ready.  Poor Kodi had apparently taken the brunt of it in his face and eyes and he was miserable for at least 3 days recovering from that little escapade.  One would have thought that maybe that would have been a lesson in what happens with a prison break but unfortunately, it only intensified both of their delight at breaking out.  We came home one day to find a gaping hole in the front fence and although thankfully they had not gone out into the open land, they obviously were long gone.  Again we tried to circle the wagons and go out looking for them to no avail.  When we finally gave up and came home, Bob was working on repairing the fence (yet again; it is obvious that my husband is a saint!) when Denaya appeared in the front yard.  Again, who knows why she came back but she was a bit bloodied and looked a little worse for the adventure, yet no Kodi.  While we were busy checking her over, the phone rang and the SHERIFF was on the line to let me know he had Kodi and he likewise was a little worse for wear (Kodi not the sheriff).  Before he could tell the whole tale, I was already babbling about was he hurt, what happened, did he get hit by a car, etc.  The poor sheriff finally asked that I please be quiet so that he could get a word in edgewise and then proceeded to tell me that both dogs had been trying to get in a llama pen; and I do not mean Fernando Llama.  (For anyone who does not know, a llama apparently can kill a dog, any dog, easily.)  So off we went to pick up the escapee and calm him down.  He was nearly hysterical (Kodi not the sheriff) as he had been slimed by something from head to toe (the sheriff was under the impression it could have been wild dogs or coyotes perhaps AFTER the llamas).  He reiterated, however, that we were "dang lucky" that one of the ranchers had not shot them on sight since they were messing around where they ought not to be messing and their "look" was enough to bring out the sharpshooter in these parts!  Great news!

Obviously, lecturing my precious darlings was not doing any good.  Obviously, nothing was doing much good at all now that they had learned this neat trick of getting out.  Being a person who refuses to give up, I decided to go to the internet for help and searched for several hours coming to the only logical conclusion available in this situation.  The electric fence.  I hated to do it but unfortunately, I felt we had no choice now.  According to all the data that I could accumulate, once the "artic" breeds discover a way out, you basically have lost the fight and they will continue to press it for all its worth.  At first, it seemed cruel on some level but then on so many other levels, it just seemed the only safe and/or smart thing to do!  If we did not break the behavior, one of these times, it would have ended up in a disaster of some nature for one or both of them and heartbreak for us.  Bob did not like this idea.  Bob did not like the idea of putting an electric fence all the way around the perimeter of our yard and charging it up (it seems Bob is always getting the labor parts).  He had been through this years ago and someone (usually me) was always going out, seeing the fence unplugged and meaning well, plugging it in when he had specifically turned it off.  He had already been tagged by the electric fence while pushing the lawnmower into it and while watering when he had specifically turned it OFF.  I think he did not trust ME was the problem (I have to admit I can see why).  However, after a lot of begging and a lot of printing off of articles and discussions with breeders, etc., I finally convinced him that this was the only way we would ever have peace of mind again and the only way we could stop this potentially deadly behavior.  Up went the fence. 

Being malamutes, they had to test it out.  I guess they figured the first time or so it was a fluke.  What surprised me the most was that Kodi really got it instantly.  In retrospect, he was never one for pain or discomfort, unless it involved his "girl" Denaya.  I think he only attempted a couple of times to even remotely get NEAR the fence after he was tagged with a pulse.  Denaya on the other hand apparently thought she was invincible as we heard her screaming and wailing about it at LEAST half a dozen times or more.  They finally began to understand that the fence was a "bad place" and at last there was peace at the Kirchner Hacienda.  The funny thing is that now we do have it turned off (I so hope Denaya does not get on-line and read this).  Griffin is still a pup and after talking with the breeder, we decided it might terrorize him and make him afraid before he is old enough to understand what the zap is for.  At present, Denaya watches him bouncing around the yard and she sees him TOUCHING the fence wire in all different situations.  When I watch her, she is literally watching HIM with her mouth hanging open as if to say "how is he DOING that?  Why isn't HE getting shocked?"  I'm hoping she thinks he is blessed somehow and thinks he has magical powers; BUT she is not willing to go check it out herself!  This is a good thing.  I still have no doubt that she was the brains behind the prison breaks and Kodi was the brawn.  Pretty much the same thing in the scootering.  Kodi did the majority of the hard work and little Princess Denaya ran along looking pretty.  I sometimes thought she was worried she might work up a sweat or muss her hair!

On the surface, it would seem that malamutes are a lot of work!!  They are and they are obviously not meant for the faint hearted.  They require a great deal of attention but the rewards are amazing.  They also require you to get inside their head a bit and figure out ways to get their cooperation and their respect.  I thought I had it all figured out when I taught them to pull/run on the scooter; then with the advent of Kodi's illness and having to give it up (Denaya absolutely would not do it alone), we had to look for different venues to give them the exercise that they crave.  They do play and wrestle, chase each other all day long; I call it kangaroo wrestling as often you will see them up on their hind legs "boxing it out"; but it is usually completely silent.  Still, they love the challenge of running and unfortunately their human family was too old and not in a position to jog with them.  We finally figured out an alternative which worked very well for them both.  We would drive them to a small ballpark here in town armed with tie-ups, a few treats and each other!  We would stand in the baseball dugouts thus blocking a "way out", tie up any loose gates that could be escape routes, and then turn them loose.  Usually they would run insanely around the field for at least 30 minutes and totally enjoy the freedom of being loose as a goose!  In the snow, it was a delight to watch them; occasionally if someone else brought a dog on the walking trail behind where we ran them, they would run the fence barking and carrying on with the dog and that was good as well.  At least they were in a contained environment where they could run to their heart's content without any pulling weight on Kodi's bones. 

Obviously, we have had very unique situations with very unique dogs.  However, to me the delight has been to try and figure out what works and to make it as painless as possible, although in saying that, you have to know your limitations and your dog's limitations as well!  (And it seriously does not hurt to have a devoted helpmate such as Bob has been!) You have to live within the breed and you have to live within your own comfort zone.  Thankfully, between Bob and I we have had a blend or adopted a blend that works with our specific animals to make it work in as painless a way as possible; but the bottom line is we simply loved the dogs.  We were willing to make the effort and think outside the traditional box; and even when faced with adversity, we knew there had to be a way to get it to work without too much pain for all involved.  In retrospect, rather than scootering, I wish I had discovered carting, as perhaps for ME it would have been less hazardous! About any breed again can do it; it is all about the weight and training them and this will probably be our new endeavor with the Princess Denaya and our little Griffin when he is old enough to pull weight.  This link to carting shows the range of breeds that are suited to it as well as the scootering.  This site link to dog play as well shows many ways to bring happy times to your life with your dog including cross country skiing (skijoring when you do it with your dogs) which I personally would also love to do (and hope to avoid trees; you can almost SENSE Bob's excitement); the possibilities are limitless and my feeling is that with malamutes or any breed that is properly trained, you can only enrich your life and open your heart to the gifts that our pets give so readily and so easily; no strings attached.  More tales to come!