a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: 2014

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Chip Goes On A Sleepover

SUMMARY: This is a happy trio.

Chip has gone to spend Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and a couple more days with his Previous Boy and Previous Human Dad. I dropped him off--feeling like a mom whose kid is sleeping away from home for the first time, but I knew that he'd be happy to see the Previous Family--and I was so right!

Here's the happy reunion. They haven't seen each other since March. Brings tears to my eyes. Until Chip has to pee so I stop the video.

Evil Floors Part 27 Or Thereabouts

SUMMARY: Finally got a little video of Boost freaking out about a surface.

This is a new bridge over a culvert at Martial Cottle Park. Ten minutes later, she walked back over it like it was nothing.

Silly but cute girly.

Here's the bridge in question:

Friday, November 28, 2014

Tika's Mouth

SUMMARY: That odor. That dripping blood.

The symptoms were the same, Thanksgiving morning, as the previous huge lumpy infection/lesion thing that she had a couple of months ago that antibiotics (and losing part of her cheek) made better.

But no matter how hard I looked in her mouth (and, surprise, she was willing to let me), I saw nothing. OK, turns out it's because it's under her tongue. This--if you've never tried it--is an astounding adventure to try to see or get at.  Anyway--on antibiotics again.  (Actually a larger one and a smaller one, and then the original site is a little iffy, also.)

Tika was not thrilled with going to the vets (AKA "This torture on top of forcing me to swallow thousands of pills all the time").

I convinced her to overcome her justified concern and get out of the car. We strolled around the parking lot for 10 minutes, and her agenda consisted entirely of coming back to the parking spot and pointing out that there are doors on MUTT MVR that could conceivably be opened to let her back in.

But mostly she handled things OK and we're now both home, resting from the ordeal.

On a side sad note, the vet said that it's possible that these mouth lesions are as a result of her kidney gradually failing. Which I already knew was happening from the blood test that we did when she had that first infection.

She seems to be racing to find as many problems to survive as she can before she leaves this opportunity for extra Zukes and crosses the so-called Rainbow Bridge.  To prove what an over-achiever she is. Which, OK, Teek, I already knew.

I can commiserate. Aging is not for the hyperactive of heart and mind.  She's so slow now. Back legs weaker. Heart hanging in there against all odds.  Abdomen full of fluid despite aggressive diuretics. Occasional bouts of incontinence. The last two of which I suspect are not unrelated.

But just look at how beautiful she still is!  And smart. Good old girl, knowing exactly what car doors look like from the outside.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Morning

SUMMARY: Not much going on this morning. But poor Tika.

Because at least two of us aren't up to it, we skipped our traditional quiet us-only Thanksgiving morning hike and instead lazed around the house.

The only down side is that Tika has another infection--or whatever it is. Something horrible that she had growing in her cheek a couple of months ago that ended up dying back and leaving a gap in her cheek. Smelled awful.  Well, thought I might be smelling the same thing, but I've looked very carefully in her mouth several times the last 2 or 3 days and have seen nothing. Thing is, the smell is somewhat like the refrigerated food I've been giving her, so I decided it must be that.  But this morning, whoa!, the smell hit me in the gut when I came downstairs. Whatever it was, is back, and somewhere that I can't find. And, of course, it's the first day of a holiday weekend.  Last time, a combination of antibiotics and, well, it dying and falling out with a piece of her cheek took care of it. Don't really want to go to the emergency room. Don't know whether my vet is working tomorrow. Crud crud crud. Why didn't I just take her in yesterday to be sure? Poor girl.

However, her appetite doesn't seem to be affected.

Because we (OK, the beasts) had pumpkin pie. Well... new recipe.

Then we dashed off to Marie Callender's to -- ahem -- finish our baking for the day. French Apple Pie. Glad that I paid in advance. That's a busy place for pick-ups today! They had a whole outside tent for Feast Pick-ups, and inside they had marked the floor with colored tape leading you to the proper place for your specific pie ordering method. Pretty efficient. I think it's interesting that plain Apple pie is by far the largest stack of prepaid pies.

Now I must head off for the human feast.

Whatever you or your loved ones are eating this weekend, I hope it's delicious.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

At the School Park

SUMMARY: Just a note.

Took the Merle Girls and Chip to the school park today--first time in a long time. Drove because Tika can't manage the walk over any more. (And not sure whether I could, either.)

Let them all out of the car uncontrolled--Tika actually picked up to an excited trot to get to the gate, then did all her favorite sniffings around. Chip toted a 20' lead because we haven't worked enough on recalls in distracting environments, but I got a lot of good responses (unlike last time) and distributed a lot of treats.

Our Park friends Jake and Sheba (and their Human Parents) showed up--Chip tried to get Sheba the Pug to play, and she wanted to, apparently the first time in a long time since she has a sore back and isn't much into other dogs. Then Chip rolled over on his back to get a big tummy rub from the Human Parents.

Boost, meanwhile: All frisbee all the time.

Followed by a beautiful sunset. And through all of this, of course, I'm wishing that I hadn't left my camera in the car.

Altogether, a good outing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Myopia in Agility Dogs

SUMMARY: Guess who's nearsighted?

I do not have detailed data nor even much in the way of data at all.  But I can give you a very quick overview of measurements that identify myopia (near-sightedness). Bear with me--I'll get to the point.

Myopia is measured in diopters--OK, you don't need to know the technical details, just get the idea that 0 is normal and -5.0, for example, is very very nearsighted. From Wikipedia's article citing numbers for humans:

Myopia, which is measured in diopters by the strength or optical power of a corrective lens that focuses distant images on the retina, has also been classified by degree or severity:
  • Low myopia usually describes myopia of −3.00 diopters or less (i.e. closer to 0.00).
  • Medium myopia usually describes myopia between −3.00 and −6.00 diopters.
  • High myopia usually describes myopia of −6.00 or more. Roughly 30% of myopes have high myopia.[27]

I can also point you to a study of myopia that shows it's more common in all breeds as they age (just like in humans)  (and incidentally indicates that it's less common in guide dogs, which makes sense really--dogs who don't see optimally are unlikely to make excellent guide dogs): Myopia and Refractive Error in Dogs.

That study includes this graph--if you follow the line across, you'll see that younger dogs tend to be somewhat far-sighted (somewhere between 0 and 2) but tend to get more near-sighted with age (see that the line dips below 0):

Note also that, even with age, there are very few dogs with worse than -2 diopters.

I have had myopia since I was in about 5th grade. Wow, the world looked so much different when everything became sharp and clear as I donned my first pair of glasses!  Now, after all these many years of aging and becoming more myopic, my left eye is -2.0 and my right is -4.5 (which, if my glasses were actually made of glass, would be very very very thick).

So.  Some folks in the agility community and at UC Davis are doing studies on myopia in agility dogs. This apparently came out of one of many discussions about why some dogs have trouble jumping or who take off early when jumping.  Or, for example, knocking bars when they jump or refusing jumps.  (For anyone who has followed along here for 7 years or so, might recognize my frequent agonizing about Boost.)

They had an event at the end of August where we drove out to Davis and put our dogs over a straight line of jumps. We did this three times with and three times without some kind of contact lens in the eye (Yes! they make contacts for dogs!), sometimes to make the vision worse, sometimes to make it better) They took several people's evaluations of whether the dog did better in the first set of three or the 2nd set of three, before anyone other than the eye doc knew the state of the eyes.

I took Boost.

I have no recollection any more of whether she did better with or without the correction. However, her measurements are -3.5 in one eye and -3.25 in the other.

To understand how extreme that was, the largest adjustment in contacts that they brought with them were 3.0.

So. No wonder she knocks bars and bars and bars, and I get refusals so often, and she looks at me more and more for what to do next.  Poor girlie, if it's been like this her whole life, she's done amazingly well. Seems like it can't have been--she always seemed superfast and confident on course to begin with.

Anyway. Now, what with my back issues and all, she's retired from jumping 22" in USDAA. I'm trying not to let it break my heart that we haven't gotten the 3rd Super-Q and completed her championship. But she has really done amazingly well, with or without consideration for her eyesight.

We'll probably just play at agility from now on, assuming that I can actually run and feel safe doing so.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Milestone! Chip Came!

SUMMARY: Chip makes the decision to stop in midcharge and come back.

Chip runs to go fence barking/fighting.

With my back as it has been--almost since Chip came home--for days or weeks on end I've not even felt the urge to do any kind of training or even playing with and rewarding existing training.

I worked occasionally on "Chip, Come!" just after he'd already made the decision to come to me, intending to gradually move that back to just about the time that he was making the decision, and then to before he'd made the decision.

Previous Owner had to walk him down and corner him at the dog park because he wouldn't come. I experienced that myself when we did a dog park to experiment. My motivation should be strong because I want to allow all the dogs off leash in appropriate places and be able to know that I can call them back. Annoying having to keep Chip on a leash or long lead all the time.  Yet, with pain and medications and all that, I wasn't taking dogs anywhere anyway, so motivation lower.

But, I've been thinking more about doing stuff. On Instructor Nancy's recent suggestion, I went just for "Chip". I liked the idea anyway, because he arrived here with a weak name response (e.g., might or might not look at me when I said his name, and with not much interest; if nothing else interesting was in process, a response was more likely). And I finally had the energy to just say Chip "a million times a day" and give him a treat every time.

I had already started that as soon as he came home, at agility trials on leash in particular or while out for walks on leash. His name response improved, but again, only at close range and not reliably and not very fast.

Is the neighboring Noise Dog there?

If ya can't see 'em, smell for 'em.

Anyway--started doing it much more often three or four weeks ago, out in the yard many times (although not every time). Just taking a bag of treats and randomly calling his name and giving one for coming.   His name response in times of no more than mild arousal had become instant--that head just whips around towards me.

Did I already talk about using the Premack Principle on his fence fighting with the Noise Dog next door?  I continued doing that as well, moving farther and farther away.  Again, I wasn't consistent about doing this regularly, but when I did more of it, he more often tended to do some barking and then immediately come back to see whether he'd get a treat.

Anyway, all of this combined to where, today, the Noise Dog hit the fence and made a ruckus, and Chip bolted straight in his direction.  When Chip was nearly there, I yelled "Chip!" from almost the other side of the yard (not near him) and he slammed to a halt, turned, and trotted back to me with no hesitation.  Huzzah! That's the first time that he's taken the initiative to come back in full flight! Yowza yowza! Every other time when I tested this, he might have slowed slightly and turned his ears back towards me, but then continued on his mission.

He got a ton of treats AND the frozen chicken foot for that!  (I knew that we were close, so I'd had it in my treat pouch the last couple of times along with the other treats.)

Everyone came away happy and quiet.

Well--quiet in part because he won't do the actual barking/fence fighting if I'm standing there trying to take a photo for evidence to be used against him. He's a suspicious kind of guy.

As I washed my hands afterwards, I thought--I have to keep up on this, repeating all the time for the rest of his life, which is what I needed to do with Tika. Because if I stopped practicing, a lot, frequently, her recall deteriorated and she'd no longer, for instance, call off of chasing a squirrel.  THAT might be one advantage to starting with a puppy: If their minds grasp the recall thing very early and before they get used to doing what they want to do, maybe it wouldn't require constant intense renewal.

Boost has a pretty reliable recall. Maybe because I taught her has a puppy. Maybe because she's a Border Collie.

Well, they can't all be Border Collies, and that's just as well. Chip is really really fast, and if I can harness that into agility, he could be a Contendah--if I can ever confidently run again.

I'm rambling again. Good night!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Introducing: The Finchester Yellow

SUMMARY: Finally figured out my favorite breed's name.

In order: Amber (in 1981), Remington (in 1994), and Chip (in 2014).

(See photos of their faces.)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

It's Raining! It's Raining! It's Raining!

SUMMARY: I know that it's not a miracle, but--

Looks like it will be measurable rain. Can't even remember the last time this happened. April? March?

I hope that it keeps up enough to help my yard, or those of my many friends who have turned off their irrigation in this drought.

More, I hope that it's raining where the King Fire still runs out of control--95,000 acres and counting. 148 square miles (384 sq. km). That's three times the size of San Francisco and coming up quickly on the entire city of San Jose, which sprawls up and down and across this valley, housing a million people, and includes many square miles of open land.

8,000 people currently fight this fire, which threatens 12,000 individual homes as they try to hold it back.

This is not the biggest fire we've ever had (although it rapidly approaches the top 20), and it's not the only fire currently burning in California, but we have agility friends who live in the area, and it's the worst going at the moment.

But--it's raining!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

All About my Siberian Husky

SUMMARY: Sheba the Wonder Husky.

(Wow, no posts for an entire month? I have so much to say, too! Maybe later--)

Sheba lived to the wonderful age of 16.  (See a few photos on Sheba's Page.)

Here's her entire history with us in a single wonderful image:

Found in imgur.com: Most accurate description of a Siberian husky I've come across.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Another Goodbye

SUMMARY: A very personal goodbye, indeed.

I've had the illness commonly known as depression about four times in my life. After my divorce in 2000 (and a whole slew of other things at the same time), I was lucky to find a woman in independent practice who walked me gently through my grief and pain.

But when I switched to Kaiser, I no longer had access to her.

Two and a half years ago, when I realized again that the darkness and immobility had crept in, I asked for an appointment with a counselor and they assigned me to Dan Tindle.

He worked with me for over two years, both individually and in a close-knit weekly group. Gradually, with me resisting and even kicking and screaming (mostly metaphorically) a good portion of the way, he educated, prodded, joked, listened, prodded more, asked hard questions, provided deeper insight into my approach to life, and supported me in so many ways. By May of this year, I realized one day that I just felt--happy and contented. And again the next day. And again later that week--happy and confident. I came to realize that, wow, I had completely exited the house of depression and moved into a healthy mental and emotional state. 

I retired from the group and our regular sessions at that time because I had found my firm footing and was ready to go it alone.

I went back to talk to him once in May when the young woman I knew in agility dropped dead suddenly of a heart attack and I was struggling with the grief of that and of the sudden loss of a friend's small dog. He helped me through that in a single visit; helped me to find a path for my sorrow and pain.  
I most recently made an appointment to see him on August 5th because of the sudden and rather stunning developments with my spine. We talked and I brought him up to date on my back issues and how I'm doing, which, in fact, was very well. I'm functional and calm and, for the most part, avoiding the spinning-out-of-control "Why me" and "Life will be horrible" sorts of typhoons, which I doubt that I could have done a year ago, or even 5 or 6 years ago. 

Three days after that, he died of a heart attack. Very sudden. He's about 10 years younger than I am, a big health food guy, a runner. 

I feel lost. Grief stricken. Stunned.  And I feel for his other patients as well who are still in process. Shocked. 

I think the world of him. He shared of himself and his own journey to emotional well-being as well as bringing out our deepest fears and needs and angers and pains, and helping us to find a way through them. He was funny, smart, clever, intense, honest, direct, perceptive, determined, deeply caring, opinionated, oh so much fun to talk to (well, except when he was working hard at getting me to drag out the things that I didn't want to drag out, and even so, I found it fascinating at every step, how he just knew where to dig and what to say and when--to me and to others).

I -- am stuck at where to go from here. I had been comforted by the fact that he'd be there if I ever needed his skills again. I'm angry at the universe for taking such an amazing man who had so very much to contribute to the world.  I believe that he and others in the department gave me the skills to work through this. But--


Goodbye, Dan. You were wonderful. I'll miss you. And thank you with all my heart for helping me to find my life again.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Must Be In A Singin' Kinda Mood

SUMMARY: More edited lyrics

Thanks, Andy Williams.  

Blue merle, lighter than a tri
Your eyes are like the sky, today
You toy chaser, you fast racer
However you're playing, I'm playing your way.

OK, that's it, you'll have to fill in the rest, I've got physical therapy things to do.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Smart Border Collie--Oh, Never Mind

SUMMARY: Where's your dish?

Boost is really a very smart dog, but some things don't prove it.

If I tell her to "Bring me your dish," or "Find your dish!" she will bring me her dish if it's within easy view, but if it's not, she kind of turns her head left and right and then just shrugs and looks at me.

I've been trying to train her to do better at the search by putting her into a down, clearly picking up her dish, walking into another room, setting it down, coming back, and telling her to find her dish. 90% of the time, she races into the other room and dashes around until she finds it (this is after a few weeks of practice). The other 10%, she looks around the room in which I put her in a down and then looks at me as if, "Well, I have no idea!" Really, she doesn't remember seeing me pick it up 30 seconds ago, carry it into the other room, and come back without it? Sigh.

This evening she showed a particularly dense portion of her brain. She finished eating dinner in the kitchenette. I walked around the counter into the kitchen (all one room really), told her to bring me her dish, which she did, and I put food into it, which she ate. Then I walked back around the counter into the kitchenette and she followed me. I told her to bring me her dish. She went frantic all around me, picking up everything she saw and dumping it at my feet and then searching frantically some more--but never once taking 4 steps to go back around the counter to where she had taken her dish half a minute ago.

My mind boggles.

Anyone else have those odd blind spots in their dog's brain?

I love my border collie. It's probably too much to expect her to be brilliant all the time, but these don't even make any sense. Ah, well.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Chip the Almost Trick Dog

SUMMARY: Seminar.

Before my back went south, I signed up for a tricks-for-agility seminar with Chip. I've been considering my pain levels ever since, trying to decide whether to cancel and try to find a replacement for my spot.

But I've had several goodish days lately, so we went. A friend drove and picked up me and Chip after noon and helped carry stuff. That was lovely, about the only way that we'd have made it.

Chip lasted about 2 hours into the 4-hour session before he more or less shut down.That's actually good for him--when I first got him, learning new stuff was very stressful for him and he might last 2 or 3 minutes before stress signs started appearing and he'd quickly shut down.

Today that became obvious when he stopped accepting treats for anything except a couple of very familiar behaviors (nose touch to my hand, "shake" which is almost ready for primetime finally).  Also didn't want to try anything or do anything.

And my back had had enough at about the same time despite me trying to manage everything to avoid aggravating the nerves.  I spent several sessions, while others were practicing, lying on the lawn with Chip and stroking or massaging him. Lots of people thought it was cute and took photos (hope I get some). They didn't necessarily all know that we were both pretty much done for the day!  

Still, a couple of behaviors that were not too different from his normal life he was eventually willing to try, and he had some fun playing with very simple behaviors with a friend who kept providing different kinds of treats after my kinds fell from favor. So he did end up relaxing and enjoying himself again.

But the seminar was fun and I got a few new tips and it was excellent experience for him.  Maybe tomorrow I'll list the things that we worked on.

Tonight--pretty sore among my various aggravated nerves, and very tired.  Off to bed with me.

About My Back

SUMMARY: Bringing my blog up to date on this topic.

I had not expected my body and life to take a turn in this direction, but they have, so here we go.

I've mentioned my recent back pain over the last year a few times.

I have a bit of history of back issues related to spine problems--bad one back in 2000/2001, when I was on disability and couldn't do much of anything, then using a lot of caution since then or risk sciatic pain creeping quickly in, then the current bout that started early last year, got a bit worse, got a bit better so that I could start doing longer walks again, but up until 3 or 4 months ago it did not interfere with actually doing agility. Got slowly worse again to where I couldn't actually do agility, more than maybe one run a day.

Then abruptly one morning I couldn't stand up, I was in so much pain.

The short story is that my lumbar (lower) spine is suffering the effects from degenerative disk disease and arthritis and probably bad luck and is now so contorted that nerve pain is constant. I have discovered gradually that hobbling downstairs and using the exercycle for 5-10 minutes followed by basic core exercises and stretching allows me to operate in an upright position per my design specs, but the individual parts are wearing out and I can't get replacements. Icing helps temporarily. Heating helps temporarily. Stretching helps temporarily, but only to ease the pain, not make it go away.

I'm out on short-term disability again while investigating whether very serious surgery is my only solution and meanwhile trying to ease the pain a bit. Just being out from work I think helps a bit--not so stressful, no requirement to be on the computer any longer than I feel comfortable doing, and so on. However, I was enjoying my current long-term assignment and it was sad to clear out my cubicle and leave it behind for now. Hoping that's not long term, but still TBD.

There's no way I can do agility at this time. Any kind of training at all is hard when trying to avoid any kind of bending, and sitting hurts, and standing up hurts. Bah, I say.

I'm not trapped at home: Driving is comfortable. Places where I can sit immobile for a while (e.g., movie theaters with good seats) are OK, as are places where I can lean forward onto a table to take the weight off my spine/backside are OK. Hard to work under such restraints.

Also on assorted meds trying to ease the pain, so I spend a lot of time just sleeping.

But I've been in a good state emotionally all spring and into summer, and despite the challenges, I'm still there, just occasionally whining to myself and having a brief self-pity party. Then I'm off and running (figuratively) again, setting up appointments, doing research, gathering data, and so on.

People have been very helpful and understanding. It's amazing how many of my friends have had some kind of back surgery or have avoided it but still have problems.

I might need that deeply involved and complex surgery. We'll see--but if I do, it'll probably be sooner rather than later. Oh, boy, something to look forward to: Being out on disability and in a lot of pain for up to a year. But if it fixes the problem...


Hope all of your backs are doing well.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Rumors abound--is the song about Tika? Or Boost or--?

SUMMARY: It's altered lyrics day!

Oh we started several years ago when I was still quite naive.
You said that you'd do anything for toys and that you would never eat.
But you've turned into a big food hog and now you want all my treats.
I had some treats, they were Zukes in my pocket, Zukes in my pocket and--

You're so trained, you prob'ly think you've earned all those treats
You're so trained, I bet you think you've earned all those treats, don't you, don't you?

(For reference: Original music, ref. verse 2 (at 1:10))

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tika staggering

SUMMARY: Just a note for myself.

This evening, when Tika was partway through dinner, she started to walk away from her dish. Not unusual; she walks away from her dish partway through almost every meal lately. Oftentimes just to enjoy having me feed it to her a handful at a time onto the floor or onto the bed or whatever.

But this time, she staggered, as if about to collapse.  I grabbed her and held her for a few seconds. She seemed to be breathing OK, so it wasn't kibble caught in her throat. I let go, and she took a few more steps, staggering/reeling.  I grabbed her and held her again for a bit longer, and stroked her, and then let her go--and she was fine. Went onto the deck, one of her favorite places, and lay down.

I just want to remember exactly when this happened.

This was very much like what happened that day in November at the agility trial when we discovered that she had heart problems, and after which she pretty much retired.

In the month or so before I lost Jake, he had a couple of brief episodes like this, which I chalked up to too much exercise or some such. After it was all over, it seemed more likely that these had been ministrokes or tiny seizures.

With Tika, sure, it could be a little stroke, or another instance of her heart not pumping properly and not enough oxygen in the brain. A tiny heart attack?

I'm trying not to be sad and scared.  It's been almost 2 years since the heart disease diagnosis, after which I thought I might lose her any day. She could still hang in there.

Or not.

Time will tell.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Aftermath and analysis

SUMMARY: In which Human Mom dons her sleuthing hat and tries hard not to feel horribly guilty.

The master bedroom has a walk-in closet with sliding doors. There's a bed in the corner there--put it there for Tika one night a long time ago and she used it for a while but then stopped. Chip often snoozes there, at least for a while, at bedtime or after.

This is where I found him, way back at the end of May, on a hot evening after I had been out, nearing heatstroke after hiding here from the Dang Fireworks. The windows were closed because it was hot out. The room was hot. No air movement. And no water within reach.  But apparently it was the best place to get away from the noise.

Since then, I've had a water bowl in the master bath (not the closet), just in case.

On the 3rd, all the windows were open to let the evening air in because it wasn't quite that hot. Evidence said that he had in fact sought shelter here for a while: The bed had a large wet spot on one side. Either he peed there or he lay there, panting and drooling, which stressed dogs do.

At some point, probably because the windows/drapes were open, he realized that this was not a safe place. I'm guessing that he first went to the other end of the hallway to the renter's room, as it was the only other door open on that floor. That's where he tore apart the miniblinds and left smears of blood everywhere on the blinds, windowsill, windowframe, and window.

I was sure that he must have sliced open his pads on the narrow metal slats of the blinds.

Apparently when he got the window fully open and pushed out the screen, he thought better of it, thank goodness, and headed back into the hallway.

Bloody footprints led down the main stairs and after that it's hard to tell where first, but I'd guess across the carpet into the living room and to the front window to try to get out there. Bloody footprints then went into the dining room, through the kitchen, back out to the front hall, and down the minor steps to the lowest floor. There were bloody footprints on the carpet into my office, and into the downstairs bath and laundry room, and then the damage to the doorframe to the garage door.

Basically he went into every available room in the house looking for solace and didn't find it.

Finally went out the doggie door, which says that he truly felt the world was ending, because when I'm here and there are a lot of fireworks, he will not go out into the yard. It must have taken a tremendous act of bravery.

I don't know whether he tried any other ways of getting out... the east gate, which he's periodically been digging under and I've been refilling, was untouched. There aren't a lot of ways for him to try jumping the fences. which are 7 feet (2.13 meters) and are reasonably new and pretty solid, although I did check all along it for holes underneath or loose/damaged boards or signs of toenails on the wood. Found a few here and there, but could've been from dogs chasing squirrels.

It's possible that he tried climbing onto this pile of pipes, which used to be raised on supports at either end, where the remaining board and pipes are.

However, this is the smoking gun: The attention that he paid to the west gate. He clearly worked at it for a while. All along the bottom, there's this (that's about a one inch gap at the bottom above the concrete):

Then this, along and just above the horizontal board at the upper area of the gate:

If he had hit just to the right, he could've opened the gate and gone out, but I doubt that happened. I think that he gained purchase on that top board, dug rear claws into the cross-board, and went up and over the top.

He's just a little dog (not quite 20" (50cm) at the shoulder) and the gate is 7' at the peak (over 6' at the low points). But he is agile.

And then he vanished.

Skip forward to the early evening of July 4th. Chip has been home with me since just before 1:00. He's lying there sleeping.  I receive two phone calls about 20 minutes apart from people who have seen my dog running down Blossom Hill (a major 40 MPH thoroughfare) and saw my posters. I explained that I had my dog, and they both said that's odd, it looks just like him, down to the red collar and all.

So I am revising what I think happened on the night of the 3rd: The "white dog" that people reported being near the VTA station over a mile southwest of me around one a.m. was not Chip--it was the same dog who was running down Blossom Hill the next evening.  Because that's exactly where I was afraid that Chip had been headed (when I thought it was him) if he had continued in the same direction. Which means that Chip didn't travel *quite* as far and had probably headed northeast from the very beginning--the direction in which we picked him up.

As it turns out, his only injuries were a deep but open, not-too-wide scrape on one knee (he's showing you where it is here) and one damaged toenail--I could see the blood in it still when he got home. No damage to his pads at all, thank goodness.

On the 4th, he was clearly one exhausted doggie. Lay around all day, never going out into the yard unless I went. In fact, stuck within a few feet of me wherever I went all day. In the yard, he showed some interest in the toy that I threw for Boost, but trotted a couple of steps and then stopped. Probably very sore from all that running and traveling.

Starting in the late afternoon, I played a long fireworks video on my computer. Didn't seem to bother him at all, so I just gradually upped the volume, what the heck.  (This is not the first time 've done this, but mostly it was after his initial scare a month back.)

In the evening, when we started hearing the first few booms, I went out onto the porch with all 3 dogs and a ton of chopped-up hot dogs and we did tricks and Chip got a treat every time he alerted to a boom. Eventually it was too much for him and we went inside and that tiny effort was over for the evening.

He paced a bit--from one room to another, then stood there waiting for the next sound, then moved again. Often to stand next to me, then to leave again. I'd pet him when he was near and talk to him quietly about the loud booms. Around 8:30, he finally wanted to climb into my lap.

So we sat there like that for a while; I draped the corner of a lightweight afghan over his ears and eyes and he seemed to relax more.

When we went up to bed shortly thereafter, I firmly shut the windows and drapes, set up a laptop playing the fireworks video. It didn't sound a lot like real fireworks, but it masked all but the loudest sounds, and actually worked like white noise for me.

I lay down on my side, invited chip up next to me, and we nestled like two spoons. I draped the corner of my comforter over his ears and eyes, my arm over his side and back leg, and we both settled quickly and slept.

Now everything's pretty much back to normal except that I'm concerned about leaving him home alone.  The evening of the 5th stayed quiet until about 9:30, and I dared to hope that that meant that everyone had used up their fireworks, but nooooo--started in again, and went until 1-frigging-thirty in the morning, off and on.   We made do once again, but it wasn't as intense and Chip didn't really want to spoon again and i didn't play the fireworks again and all was, well, as well as could be for the booms outside.

I hope that he never again has to have an adventure like this. Nor I.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Speaking of dogs being scared of fireworks

SUMMARY: Can laugh at it now--

Added a 3rd & 4th, July 5.

Comics of dogs and fireworks and being scared. What can I say?

Chip is home!

SUMMARY: He was missing only 14 hours or so, but it seemed like weeks.

[Oh, sorry everyone--I wrote this all up and then went off to eat and sleep without actually posting!]

I got home last night about 10, after a pleasant evening with friends. My renter, who had also just gotten home, said, "What happened to Chip?"

Me: "?"

She said that he had crashed through/knocked down the gate into her area, and there was blood on the windowsills.

Me: "?!?!?!*%*#" and a bit of calling Chip, which she had already done.

Her 2nd-floor windows--with the brand-new miniblinds that I installed with much cursing and fuming just 3 months ago--now look like this.  (This photo is today; she cleaned up all the blood smeared all over them and the windowsill. You're welcome.) The screen on the less-damaged window was pushed out of the window. Feared that he might have jumped.

Bloody footprints went down the main stairs and across my ivory carpet (not my choice of colors) in the living room...

...and all the way across the windowsill on the living room's picture window...

I felt like I was in a bad murder mystery scene.
All the way through the front hallway into the kitchen, then back down the lower stairs...

to the garage door, which he also customized some...

Now THAT is a dog in a blind panic from fireworks, because the dog door was available. I really assume that he finally went through there and over the very tall gate.

And then--no sign of him. I checked the entire house and yard to be sure.

Then the exact order of things is a little foggy, but this is the general idea.

I walked and drove around the neighborhood calling his name for maybe an hour. Came back home and dealt with things like finding good photos of  him for lost dog posting, posted on Craigslist, updated his contact info for his microchip (still had his previous owner's disconnected phone number), emailed his previous owner, posted a notice on NextDoor for all my surrounding neighborhoods, posted on FaceBook for all my friends in and out of the dog world.

Went back out for a while and checked Martial Cottle Park a bit and went farther afield, maybe half a mile or so.

Came home again about midnight, checked email (a few "hope you find him"). And a phone call from a dog agility friend offering to come help search tonight! I said that since fireworks were still going off, he was probably still running and it made more sense to wait until morning.

Then went to work creating a flyer that I could email around, post on facebook, and print up a zillion in the morning to go around the area. Checked email about 1:30 and OMG there was a note from someone on NextDoor who had nearly run into a big white scared/lost looking dog about a mile and a half southwest of me. Sure sounded like him.  I raced out there and walked and called and looked for about half an hour.

I haven't posted much about my back/nerve/muscle problems, but it hurt like heck to walk and those parts of me were pretty miserable.

Got back home and discovered emails from two NextDoor neighbors (whom I've never met) who were back out in the area searching for him, too!  If I ever doubt human nature, I just have to remember all of this.

One said that they thought he'd gone up the bike path, so I drove out to various ends of the bike path to call his name. (Boost accompanied me on a couple of outings, hoping Chip might smell her and come out.)

Poor Boost and Tika, with me racing in and out and giving them "guard the house goodies" over and over, were a little confused & worried, I think.

Finally I'd done everything I could think to do (looked for other online sites to post lost dog info, read some info on best ways to find lost dogs [which I was already largely familiar with from our escapades with our husky years ago]), scrolled through ALL the found dog photos at the closest shelter--they post them every hour 24/7! More good humans doing that work.

So got into bed around 3:30, managed to drop off around 4.
Tip: The only reason I managed to do it is because I have a tendency to catastrophize (what if he was hit by a car? what if someone steals him? etc.) so I have been practicing for many months to recognize that that's what it is: A form of predicting the future and of course you can't predict the future. So I concentrate on the here and now--I've done what i can for tonight. I need some sleep to be able to function. Chip has my phone numbers and a microchip, so it will be easy for someone to contact me.-- and this allowed me to drift off.
But woke up again at 6, only 2 hours later. Intended to just check email and go back to bed, but there were already emails from friends saying, "I'm here in the area and looking" and "what can we do, we're on our way over?" and my sister apparently saw my post when she woke up early and showed up at my door at 7 (lives half an hour away). So I found myself coordinating emails and cell phone calls and groups of people who were communicating with each other and me, largely with group texts which I had no idea how to do on the cell phones, but we made it work.

I searched for nearby vets and other dog-related businesses (pet stores, boarding, etc) and printed a zillion flyers and lists of addresses for people to post things at.

That sounds quite compact, but really was constant activity for me and them, no down moments to even think about food (although I did eventually actually get dressed).

It all culminated at about noon like the classic peak of a movie storyline when 5 people--two searchers in cars,  two searchers who'd hauled their segways over here and had been searching, and another person just arriving--all appeared at my front door at the same time and we stood there with my sleepless-fried brain trying to make decisions with arms and fingers all pointing in various directions and flyers flying left and right and then--

My home phone rang.  I had not been using my home phone in all of this. But it is the *first* number on the tag on Chip's collar.

I ran and grabbed it. Not a very good connection with a man who didn't speak English all that well. He asked whether I was missing a dog and I said yes! And we had some other conversation that was muddled--he couldn't stay, he had to go to work, etc with me saying, no! I'm coming over NOW, where ARE you?

When we straightened that out, he was at the social services building about 4.5 miles northeast--which would put him about 6 miles from where folks thought he was sighted last night where we were concentrating our search.  When he said, "there's something wrong with his foot," I was positive it was really him.

My sister stayed here to man the phones and whatnot, one friend tossed me into her car to drive over there, another friend tossed a bucket and bottle of water and bag of goodies into my lap from her car, and off we went.

Seemed like a 50-mile drive, and then there he was with 2 guys by the side of the road! She screeched to a halt, I ran crying down the sidewalk (oh, did my back and leg hurt? I don't remember that at all, just crying and running). They were smiling as I came. I handed them all the cash I had with me (they hadn't asked for a reward, but seemed like the right thing to do. Wish I'd had more.) and thanked them over and over, took off their leash and put on my friend's leash.

Chip? Oh, hi, Mom. Good to see you, I'm kinda tired. Can we go now? Very calm, very stoic as we examined the huge bloody spot on one rear knee. I think he'll live. Very low-key when we got home and didn't lie down for a while; thinking that he must've had a good night's sleep curled up somewhere.

So--thanks ever so much to all the people who gave up parts of their night's sleep to help search or to talk to me (some of whom I never knew before), who showed up unasked in the wee hours ofa holiday morning to spend it searching for my dog and posting flyers, who let me know that they'd be on their way as soon as their schedule allowed it, who blew off part or all of their Friday agility competition to help, who gave me emotional support, who organized the help while I was brain-fried, who gave my dogs their own treats when he got home, and I can't even think of  everything. My heart is filled with your generosity and kindness.

I'm going to list names later if people don't mind being mentioned publicly, but I want to be sure that it's complete, so that'll be after I get some food and sleep.

You are all wonderful. I'm grateful and honored and so much in everyone's debt.

Chip is out and lost and scared

SUMMARY: Effing illegal fireworks.

He was OK when I was out Tuesday evening. I didn't think I needed to worry about the evening of the 3rd, and I was planning on being here on the 4th.

He's gone. Tore up his feet and/or mouth trying to get out, and my doorframe and metal miniblinds (most likely the source of all of his bloody footprints).

I got home at 10 and then went out looking for him. Also posted on the Next Door neighborhood list and craigslist. At about 1:30, after making a flyer, I saw an email that said that someone had seen a scared, lost-looking big white dog down by the VTA/chynoweth station. That's well over a mile from here.

I went back out and can you believe it two of my neighbors have been out looking, too--the ones who saw him in their car and another who saw our messages online.

No sign of him. My back is in agony and starting to spasm--more meds are in order.

Will try to get some sleep and decide what to do next in the morning. Hoping that someone just calls me; he does have my phone numbers on his collar. He's also microchipped but silly me I'd been meaning to getting around to finalizing that I'm Chip's new owner with his previous owner, but didn't. His previous owner's phone # on the microchip registration is no longer in service, and there are no alternatives given. I did call the registry and send in a transfer per their instructions tonight, but who knows whether it'll get updated or not.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Clicker Training

SUMMARY: So much to learn, so many dogs, so little time.

I taught Tika and Boost to stretch on command (and Boost her back legs, too), at least more or less, by following Susan Garrett's suggestion to have a clicker and treats right after you get up while you're sitting on the -- throne. Yes. Because dogs will get up off their beds and come in and stretch. What a great time to catch them doing that.

So every morning they get the commands for that while I'm there to practice, except Tika stopped wanting to several months ago, so then it was mostly Boost.

To keep things hopping, so that that's not the only thing that Boost does while we're there, I mix it up with nose touches, hand shakes, left and right. And I keep saying, Boost, I should teach you more tricks.

Now I have Chip. Chip is cheating me because he comes in to see what's going on, then goes back out into the bedroom and around the corner and I can just barely see one of his leg when he stretches. Meanwhile Boost is right in front of me, staring at me, so she'll think that any click and treat is for her.  It will be challenging to teach Chip to stretch on command.

But he has figured out that treats are being handed out, so he comes in and wants in on the action. But all he knows is a wimpy nose touch. Which gets boring. So I need to teach *him* more tricks.

Next, I'm dogsitting my sister's dog, Abby. Abby likes to greet you at any time with something in her mouth. Her most favoritest thing is socks, but anything else will suffice if the mean humans have hidden all the socks.

Me find stick!

So now *she* comes in in the morning where treats are being handed out and wants some, too. She knows "sit". But that gets boring really fast. So I decided to teach her a nose touch to the back of my hand. She seemed to get it right away. I'm experimenting with doing it in different places in the house to see whether it's really a thing or whether she's just hoping that there's food in the hand. Have worked on that for a minute or so a couple of times a day for the last 4 days.

She also hates having her paws touched or held. So I started working on that with a clicker and tasty treats, just touch her paw and click really fast before she moves it and treat. Over and over and over. I was able to touch longer and with more pressure, but always on the top of her foot. As soon as I started trying to touch the sides, it was harder because she always moved right away.

[Note about training sessions: If I have time, I do multiple passes with each dog. So, 10 treats worth of work with Tika, then with Boost, then with Chip, then back around again. For the moment, Abby is in the mix, too. This gives the dogs' brains a chance to relax and not stress out between times.  If things seem to be going well and no signs of stress, or if I need a lot of rewards in a very short period, I'll do more than 10 treats worth, maybe 20 or 30. When desensitizing Chip to the flap of the dog door, I just stood there for 5 minutes or so with a hot dog in my hand and flapped flapped flapped over and over while he just licked at the hot dog and got tiny nibbles of it. That process wouldn't have worked, I don't think, 10 treats at a time.]

So back to Chip, I decided to teach him Shake, since he doesn't yet. Have had three sessions during which I worked on shaping that (holding a treat with my thumb in my open palm, waiting for him to move a paw, then move it more, then touch my hand, etc.) with the clicker. He's starting to get it--much less time licking and much quicker to lift his paw to my hand now.

Only thing is that he much prefers his left paw than his right paw. I did teach Tika different commands and cues for left and right shake, apparently I need to do the same with him. Thinking about that, or whether it's better to find ways to make it easier for him to use his right paw first. Training tricks is so easy and yet there are so many decisions!

Then it occurred to me that maybe learning "Shake" was a better way to teach Abby to let someone hold her paw. So yesterday morning I switched to that. She was much quicker to use her paw to begin with, so after a couple of sessions, she's also already lifting her paw to my hand--but she does it at the same time as she's rooting firmly into my hand with her nose. Trying to not let her get her nose on my hand before her paw gets there now. Tricky. Have to be persistent at keeping my hand away from her nose without her getting frustrated and stop trying before she uses her paw. I think I can manage that OK.

I have probably this morning and this evening for a couple more sessions of working on that before she goes home; will see how far I get.

Meanwhile, back to Boost. Decided to work on her walking backwards. Never did solidify that thing. Making progress. She also by default wants to try to lift her back legs onto something, because I've put so many sessions into the work for her to do a handstand. But she's getting over that.

And Tika wants in on it, too. I'm trying to get her to sit up and other things to strengthen her core, but her back end is pretty weak these days. I should do this a couple of times a day every day, but just never feel like I have the time. So mostly we just do the good old tricks, anything to get her moving in tight circles or backing up.

All of this is good to give all the dogs practice at lying down and waiting their turns. Some dogs aren't quite as cooperative about this...right, CHIP??

This is also challenging when my back is killing me, which it has been doing excessively the last few days. Sucks. Working with the doctors to figure out what next.

But dogs are enjoying their treats and the attention. That's the important thing.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Graduation animated GIF

SUMMARY: Because I can...

...and because facebook won't display it animated. Bah.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Chip Training Update

SUMMARY: Wobble board, nose touch, fireworks and heat, fence barking.

We started a Foundations class last week and it's good practice for him to wait quietly in his crate (except when he periodically barked challenges at the silhouette of a dachshund lawn ornament on a nearby wall--he did something similar at a dog park with painted pictures of dogs outside the fence). Also good for me to be more focused on training.

This last week not so much for focusing; up to Portland for 2 days then another day full of graduations then a long work day and an evening out, so we practiced mostly just Saturday and Sunday.


Last week's issue: The wobble board.  Fairly early on with him, I shortened one leg of the Table (by about maybe 2 inches), played tug with Tika on it and with Boost on it for him to watch, then got him playing tug on the ground and convinced him to jump up and continue there. Other than a short period of concern, he then relaxed and paid the movement no more mind. So I figured I was OK.

Introduce the class teeter with about a 6" drop at one end to play the Bang Game (reward the dog when he makes the teeter end bang down), and he stepped on it, it moved, and he was done with that. So then: Introduce the class Wobble Board with a 10" drop and supported only in the middle rather than along one axis (like my table or the teeter) , and after putting his feet on and it moved like crazy, he'd have nothing to do with it.

The instructor loaned me a wobble board to bring home. Trying to get him to decide to get on the board and shape that behavior (reward for looking at it, then for moving towards it, then for a foot touch, etc, but in very small increments). After 3 days, all we had achieved was two feet on the side that's in touch with the ground. Slightest movement, and he was outa there. I propped it up some so that the drop wasn't nearly the full 10", but no go.

Boost and Tika, that's a different matter. Could hardly keep them off it, even though Tika's back legs are pretty week these days and she kept losing her footing, falling, getting back up, trying again, very excited. Boost also excited about it: Jeez, really good chicken treats just for standing on a wobbly board!  (Neither Jake nor Remington had issues about things moving under them, either--Rem used to leap onto the patio glider to get a better view of the squirrels, and that thing leaped all over the place.)
Anyway, Chip would even jump back if the board moved because the other dogs or I moved it, and Doh! it took me until today to remember how long it took to desensitize him to the motion & noise of the dog door flap:

So this morning I did a ton of Human-Mom-Bangs-Wobble-Board with him standing near it and getting a treat every time I banged it.  Did that for a total of maybe 5 minutes until he wasn't jerking every time it hit.  THEN within a few minutes more, he was getting his front feet on and leaving them on when it moved slightly (with me supporting it so it wasn't so sudden). Still cautious, but now not jumping back as soon as there was motion.

So he's just going to take longer on this before we get to the Teeter, but the teeter should be a piece of cake afterwards. Says here.


I'm still working on that haphazardly, but he's moving to touch it in various offered places now. Not all the way to ground level yet, but the touch is getting more forceful and he's doing it to various flat objects, not just the clear plastic target. When I taught this to Remington--my first-ever clicker training assignment--he was doing a forceful nose touch & moving to the target within our first 5 minutes! Chip is not that dog.


The dang dog next door likes to throw himself at the fence and make a ruckus. I've debated asking the neighbor whether we could just put in a gate and let the dogs play together, because it sure looks to me like your basic fence-fighting game: "Hold me back, hold me back!" but when you remove the fence, the dogs are best buds.


Tika occasionally gave in to temptation and returned the fence throwing/ferocious barking, but could be easily deterred.  Not Chip. I've tried chasing him away and saying No! and Cut it out! in various firm but not agitated ways. What I seemed to get was him checking to see whether I was around whenever he made a ruckus. If I just opened the back door, he'd come running, but if I didn't, or if we were already out in the yard, fageddaboudit.

I moved towards prevention rather than deterrence: If I were in the house (e.g., trying to work) and he started in at that, I just brought him inside and closed off the doggie door. Which is inconvenient for me and for the other dogs. And didn't solve the problem, just postponed it.

SOOO I reversed strategy, using his "checking in to see whether I was around" existing behavior with the Premack Principle.

Results were very good after the first couple of sessions (while I was out doing yardwork or training or whatever in the yard). By the end of it, he'd hit the fence, bark a couple of times, and look at me, instead of staying there engaging in frantic almost-uninterruptable throwing/barking. OR, even better, look back at me as he approached the fence, hence was rewarded, so never even got there. Yeah! Don't know whether this will take care of what he might do while I'm not here.

But progress feels good.

SIT/DOWN STAY: Getting longer. Trying to work it with the hose spraying (just one squirt--he's staying in position more of the time now with that one squirt).


Why on earth the Idiots are setting them off when (a) it's illegal and (b) we're in the worst drought in recorded history and fire danger is extreme and it has been very hot lately. But, whatever. Ten days ago, found out that they Freak. Chip. Out.  Neighbors, many of whom are also upset (many with freaked-out dogs of whom one actually has seizures from the experience), think that it might be graduation parties. Yeah, best way to graduate: Break the law, terrify kids and dogs for miles around, and start a raging wildfire. Good.

Chip just stands rigidly, trying to figure out where the noise is coming from, jerking his head left and right. Tries hiding in one closet, tries hiding in the other closet, tries crawling under the bed, tries to crawl into the sink (?!!!!) and around and around. He'll settle a little bit if I let him hide under my bedcovers with me (I have never ever let dogs do that before), but even that lasts only a little while. Plus it's hot!  So some nights it has been tough for me to get to sleep.

He's the first of my 7 dogs to be this way.

Yesterday, my yard hit 104 F (40 C), and it was still over 90 when I left the house around 5:30 for the evening, so I did not open the upstairs bedroom windows at that time. When I got home at 11:30, all three dogs greeted me, but then Chip disappeared. I went upstairs to open the windows and turn on the fans, and he was hiding in the big closet, curled up in the bed that I put in there. Still pretty hot up there, but if he felt safe, OK...

I left him there for a bit until I heard him sort of coughing--like he had something in his throat. Went back upstairs, and he vomited a tiny bit (on the carpet, of course). I noticed then that there were several little vomit spots like that near and in the closet. The water bowl in the upstairs bedroom was empty, so I filled that and he immediately drank a ton of water but kept that little cough and a few more little vomits as I frantically tried to clean them up. Then one big gush and all the water he had drunk came out.

That's when it occurred to me that he was in the early stages of heat stroke. (You know, sometimes I'm not too quick on these things.) Went through various stages of me figuring out what to do. Immediately wet his stomach/groin area and ears (bare skin to be cooled by the fans) and paws. He started to settle. Let him drink more water--that was a mistake, as it again came back out a few minutes later. Then I moved him and the other dogs outside (where he didnt want to go), where it was noticeably cooler than upstairs. Kept the skin parts moist and waited to see whether the coughing stopped, which it did. Left the dogs outside for a bit while I did a cursory clean-up on the various vomit sites.

Came back downstairs to find him standing on the full-height counter outside the kitchen window. I have no idea how he got up there, except that he sure can jump.  Maybe there was a firework that I didn't hear and he wanted to get back in.

I then provided a bowl of water with ice cubes and let him drink a little at a time over about 10 minutes while I held a blue-ice pack on various parts of  his body; although he already felt much cooler than he had when I first held onto him, I wanted to be sure. Fortunately he likes to be held and touched.

When he got to where he didn't want to suck down tons of water, and there had been no more coughing or vomiting, we went back upstairs to bed and everything and everyone was fine.

At 2 in the morning.