a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: March 2014

Monday, March 31, 2014

Chip Trial Day 3 Morning

SUMMARY: All is well.

Last night at bedtime, everyone settled quickly into their assigned spots. No whining, no restlessness. We slept well and the beasts actually let me wake up on my own... which was rather early, actually, but I feel good.

OK, picture Chip standing right about there, bending his knees slightly,
and springing directly onto the bed. No steps taken. Amazing.

Chip gets treats for going into the x-pen, so Boost goes into her crate alongside his pen
in hopes of getting some, too.

We went for a 2-mile walk first thing at Martial Cottle--I don't really want to get into the habit, because you know how dogs are about habits: Yeah, we ALWAYS go for a walk when we get up, so let's get up NOW! Tika had good energy again today, I'm so happy!

Chip wants to bark at other dogs and people that we pass. The people are pretty easy to manage; after a few where I just pulled the collar up under his ears for better control, kept him on a short leash, and just kept walking straight and chatting calmly, he was fine. Except for the guy on the bicycle with two huge black grocery bags over his shoulders, probably full of cans. THAT was worth some hackles and barking, but I just talked him through it calmly and he didn't go completely ape.

Other dogs are another thing, but he's actually about exactly the same as Tika that way. I manage her by keeping an eye out for other dogs, also bringing her in close so I have good control, and a little hand in the collar with "I don't think so!" calmly but firmly if needed. Also if I remember to take treats, then she gets treats if she's good and pays attention to me instead of the other dog.

He does pull on the leash, but not frenziedly; at the moment, managing it by tiny tense/release cycles: Tense briefly when he pulls, then relax when he eases up (which he has to because I applied a little tension). It's not really training, it's managing, but I might be OK with that. I tried the no-pull harness on him yesterday--it's too big, really, for Tika, although I've been using it with her for a few years now, and so it hangs on him like a tent frame, but it did help a little. Something to consider. (Basically like this

We came home and played in the yard. He's not really interested in chasing a toy much at this time. But he loved to play the Zoomies game again with me saying "go go go!" and "Reaaaaaaaadyyyy..." before it to let him know it's coming. If this keeps working, this could be nifty. Next step would be to work on his recall so that I could recall him out of the middle of a zoom. Yesssss that will be interesting.

So we have three play styles going on: Boost loves to chase the Jolly Ball and bring it back, and some some tugging. Tika likes to play tug and also just hold onto it while I tap it and her feet with my foot. Boost never would play with another toy while Tika has a toy, so she just does the border collie thing around the perimeter. This is normal for us. And now Chip and Zoomies. Well, never let it be said that all dogs are alike in personality or preferences.

For breakfast, I held Chip's bowl for a few seconds to see whether he'd sit on his own. He didn't, but when I said Sit, this time he sat immediately, and I was able to get the bowl halfway to the floor while saying "gooood boy" before he stood up. The second Sit, I got the bowl to the floor and released him with a verbal and a touch.

I'll bet he'll be sitting and waiting on his own within the next couple of meals. Dogs DO learn fast when the motivation is right.

Jeeezzze he eats slowly! But all the bowls are within a few feet of each other and we've had mealtime peace.

Now, for the last 15 minutes, Chip and Boost have been wrestling and chasing all around the office, while Tika lounges and periodically barks to let everyone know that she's still on the job.   This is completely excellent IMHO.

Because he's so dog-oriented, a perfectly dedicated trainer would probably keep him on the short leash at her side for  more of the day than I am doing, but I'm so glad that Boost is playing, too--she does love to play with other dogs and doesn't get much of a chance except at agility trials.

And now--must do some actual work that doesn't involve dogs.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


SUMMARY: Chip, Boost.

Tika wasn't in the mood.

Chip Trial Day 2 evening

SUMMARY: More Chip notes

Fixed my pocket camera. Whew! (Just a bent cover piece that affected the lens cover opening. Thank you, WWW, for having all the answers!)

  • Fetch. He almost fetches. Sometimes brings it back partway, sometimes all the way, sometimes not at all. Wants us to chase him, at which point he'll scoop it up (if we take a step towards it). Neither Boost nor I will play that game, however.
  • Catching. Doesn't seem to have the idea of catching things--toys, food, whatever. Seems startled that things would actually land on him. More experiments needed. Easy-peasy to teach a dog to catch if he doesn't already do it (in my experience so far).
  • Bone. He found an old bone that the dogs had lost interest in. Has been carrying it around and chewing on it delicately off and on. Nice that he's got that. Of course, now that he thinks it's cool, so does Boost (who has paid no attention to it for months).

  • Dog door. He so far hasn't shown a clue about how to use the doggie door. I am happy with that at the moment; means that I can keep tabs on him more easily during the times when I let him off leash.  I seem to recall thinking that about Tika and Boost, too, but then after 2 or 3 days, poom!, they figured it out on their own. He watches with amazement as the Merle Girls bip through a solid wall! And is a bit offput by the flap flapping back behind them. I think he'll figure it out eventually.
  • Zoomies. Chip got the Zoomies in the yard in a big way after dinner, and I encouraged him by saying go go go! and giving the Play Fingers as he went by. Would be nice to have a dog who could be exercised that way if needed.
  • Mouth. He has some mouthiness that I'm not keen on. Grabbed my hand a little more firmly when cleaning his paws this evening. I held his collar and told him firmly No. Later, we were playing with a toy, practicing having him Give it to me and I give it back. Doing pretty good. Then he grabbed my hand once as I took the toy. He got  a collar grab and No on that one, too.  He's not biting, but it is him trying to get the upper hand. Or mouth, whatever. Something to watch.  It's true that he barely knows who I am yet, but that's not something he should do even so.
  • Relaxing. After another walk, some playing in the yard, dinner, and a bit more general wandering around, I suddenly realized that all 3 dogs were sacked out on the floor around me, snoozing. Chip is starting to relax, trying out the various dog beds, even closing his eyes for a while. 
  • Tired Human Mom. I am so, so tired. Other than moving a bunch of things around (including his huge and heavy crate), also standing and sitting and inning and outing and managing 3 dogs on leash for *two* walks today and a whole lot more bending over than usual... emotionally, mentally, physically worn out, and my back is aggravated. I feel that it was all worthwhile, though.  I bought hot dogs this evening but ran out of energy to do more treat-based training.  At this point, everything I do with him I'm evaluating or training even if it's play. It's important that he have fun and enjoy doing things with me. And it's important for him to learn a lot of things that i need him to know. I *do* try to make training = play almost all the time. But it's a higher level of intensity than I've really put out for a while the the dogs. Well, certainly I don't have to train everything all at once. 

Posted two weeks' worth all at once.

SUMMARY: So if you're just dropping in here--

--start at March 19th for the beginning of the Chip thing.

Hose Dog!

SUMMARY: Found a thing he really loves.

Turned on the hose sprayer to spray something off my shoe, and Chip went wild! He loves madly dashing after the hose spray and doesn't seem to care whether he gets wet.

I've wanted a dog who does that--makes it SO much easier when it's hot to cool them down. Boost likes it, but if she gets sprayed in the face too often, she backs off. Plus she grabs towards the sprayer, and I'm always afraid that she'll hurt her teeth. But the two of them got a few minutes of fun play in the hose this afternoon.

Too bad there's a major drought; can't do this very often.

Chip Trial Day 2

SUMMARY: Morning activities and lessons

After months and months of not adding anything here to Taj MuttHall Dog Diary, I find that there is so very much to say with another dog in the house. I'm trying to collect all my thoughts, since this is supposed to be a trial run and I want to be sure that I don't forget anything important.

I've been griping about the Merle Girls having somehow decided that 7:30 is the time to be awake in recent weeks, but Mr. Chip thought that 7:00 was better. Since he's used to getting up earlier, I gave him this, this time.

Let him outside with the other dogs and they did their morning patrol and all did their business.

He stood with me on leash while I sent Boost down the driveway to get the newspaper and didn't try to chase her, although he watched carefully. Still on a short leash attached to me inside. I sat at the table to eat breakfast and read the paper, but frankly didn't get much reading done, as there was so much activity from the dogs (not frenzied, just moving, changing places, all the tension and uncertainty).

But--Tika did not snarl at him this morning. Guess a night in her usual spot on my bed with the young upstart in his place made her feel more secure. That's a relief. (Well, until he gets REALLY close to her face.)

I'm glad that he's socialized enough to back off and doesn't want to fight about it. And I'm happy that I have dogs who aren't dog aggressive.

Then, oh my what fun and excitement:

I let him off leash in my bedroom while I did my morning ablutions and dressed, and he and Boost started the preliminary cautious play bows and little pushes at each other, and then full pandemonium ensued. They played chase over, under, and around the bed, they wrestled, they chased some more, wrestled some more, chased and ran. Boy, those are fast and agile dogs!

Tika stood and barked at them in her "You're having fun! I think that's exciting!" way, and then she grabbed her bed and played with it with me, which she hasn't often wanted to do in the last couple or three months. Halleluia!

I cried a bit as she also seemed to want Boost to pay attention to her--until maybe a year or so ago, *they* used to wrestle gently with each other on my bed in the morning. But still, things I think were OK all around and there was happy energy from everyone.

We walked to the schoolyard where we play frisbee. It's 2/3 of a mile one way, and Tika did great! She's dragged so quickly lately even on shorter walks. I'm not sure whether the new dog is energizing her or prodding her, but I was delighted about her activity level; we walked briskly all the way there and all the way back and she even chased the frisbee a couple of times.

At the park, I attached Chip to a 12-foot lead and let him loose, having seen how much he wants to follow Boost around the house and yard when he gets a chance and deciding to rely on that attraction. He chased Boost for a while as I threw the frisbee--wow, he can move!--but then he'd lose interest and wander off in some other direction.  I tried calling him a couple of times but didn't get much response, so I stopped that, as I don't want him to get into the habit of ignoring me when I call. Instead, I'd just walk calmly but briskly to where he was, step on the end of the lead so he couldn't go anywhere,  and bring him back to me for praise and treats.

It's only noon, and I have lots of things to think about:
  • He has an OK "Sit" but thinks about it, and no duration on it once he's down.
  • He has a pretty iffy "Down", and also no duration once he's down.
  • Need to work on recall just using his name; I prefer to do that with my dogs, get an instant head turn and response when I say their name, and reserve the extra "come" for emergencies, which I also need to work on.
  • For meals, my dogs sit, I put the bowls down, and then they wait until I release them. He didn't want to sit as I stood there with his bowl, but did finally about the 4th time I told him to. (Yeah, I'm repeating the command, which I don't like, but I'm going to work with what he's got initially.) Then as soon as I started to move the bowl, he stood up. It took about 8 tries before he didn't immediately stand up as I moved the bowl, so he was getting it, and I was then able to put my hand in his collar to hold him there while I set the bowl down, praised, and then released him.
  • Zukes are NOT a high value treat to him. Drat. He'll take them slowly here in the house, but as if he's afraid that eating the pomegranate seed means that he'll have to stay here forever.  Didn't care about them at all when outside. Seems to like cheese a little better. Will go buy some hot dogs later and see how those work.
  • Part of the challenge with determining high-value treats for him is that he is so circumspect about taking things from me, and so gentle when he does. I need to better understand his "very excited" from "yeah, OK, give it here if you insist." 
  • He digs in when I try to pull him towards me when he's facing me on leash rather than coming.
  • His toenails need clipping (and they've never been clipped). So do my dogs'. Sighhhhh the never-ending toenail thing. We'll see how he does with a basic clipper and with the dremel.
  • He wasn't thrilled about me picking up his feet to wipe them off with a rag after coming in from the yard. He actually put his mouth on my hand (very gently). I just stopped in position, told him gently that I understood but that he needed to let me do this. And then he did let me.
  • After the walk and the exercise and breakfast, I put him in his crate to take a nap. I've been sitting here for probably almost an hour, and my dogs have mostly been napping the whole time, but I've seen him put his head down only once.  He's watching, watching, watching. Pawed at the crate door a couple of times but then did, at least, lie down.  Hmmm. Well, this is an unfamiliar situation for him.
  • Introduced him to the clicker. Not bothered by the noise at all. I think I made progress within about 3 minutes of getting him to move his nose towards a target in my hand, but he was only mildly focused. Treats not high enough value, that's just the problem right now. 
  • A quarter of his meal this morning was one of my dogs' kibbles. He ate that first! So he should be fine on a varied kibble diet. And Tika liked the quarter of her breakfast that was his food. Good trade, for an old dog who's not always that interested in her food any more.
  • Pity that my pocket camera is having problems at the moment; I'd like to be taking more photos but the SLRs are so bulky and heavy.
  • Played some crate games with him, just rewarding quickly with treats as he went in, treats as he stayed in when I opened the door, and practicing using "Break" as a release word to come back out. His current word for getting in the crate is "Crate." Long-term, I'd need to change either that or Break, as they sound too much alike.
  • Man, that crate is HUGE for him. 
  • He's actually good about going into the crate when told, and is comfortable there. But when I got home last night after being gone for a few hours, and after he was out for a bit, and I needed to put him back in for a bit, no, he did not want to go back in. Hence the crate games this morning. 
  • There is so much to do to get from here to Agility-Doing Dog! But he's so sweet, and has a good foundation and a good personality, and I think we'll both like the process. We'll just see how easily he picks up some tricks when I figure out higher-value nom-noms.
  • I need to start saying "Good dog!" again instead of "Good girl" or "good boy". Dogs don't care, but for some odd reason I do.
  • He's actually pretty good on leash going for that long walk. Time will tell whether he's really good or just on best behavior in an unfamiliar situation.
  • He is cautious about some new things (like the triceratops yesterday) but bold enough to check them out. This is good.
  • Emailed a brief status last night to Owner; response this morning that he thought about him all night and it's odd not to have Chip there. I sure understand that.
Anyway, all is peaceful at the moment and I'm caught up on my thoughts and observations and things are going well, I believe.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Chip trial day 1

SUMMARY: Getting accustomed to each other; figuring out bed time.

Backfill: Added March 30

Chip (Chipper) is here. Arrived about 4:00 and I needed to leave shortly for my company's annual holiday party. (Yes, really.)

Owner and Chip came into the house on leash. I had put Boost behind the gate in the living room so that he wouldn't be overwhelmed coming in. Tika was out of sight, but showed up as Owner and I were chatting. That meeting went OK, so I unhooked his leash to see what would happen, and mostly he looked like he was sticking around; he seemed slightly concerned but not cowed by any means. So I stepped around the corner to let Boost loose; had to convince her to come out (I think she thought she was supposed to stay there), and when I stepped back into the kitchen, there was a big yellow puddle on the floor.

Owner didn't see it happen, either, because I think he was paying attention to me. I assume that it was a stressing Chip, since neither of my dogs have ever done that when other dogs have come into the house. Quick cleanup with paper towels and Nature's Miracle.

At one point, Chip popped up to his hind legs, paws on the edge of the stove to sniff; I was able to grab him quickly and say, "I don't think so!" Probably not an issue really, but something to keep an eye on until I'm positive.

Then we went out to the back yard. He checked out everything briskly, and marked everything briskly, too. Had a brief entertaining interlude with Mr. Triceratops while Chip tried to decide whether he was a real critter or not. Sorry, didn't have my camera out for that amusement, didn't want the distraction.

Owner left Chip's crate--a huuuuuge Varikennel from when he used to have a Catahoula. Some toys, bowls, bag of food, leash. After we both watched Chip for a bit and I asked what I could think of to ask, then Owner left fairly quickly, or, he said, "I'll start to cry." Chip has had a good home but we'll see whether I can maybe give him a bit more.

He went into his crate easily on command, I gave all the dogs Guard The House Goodies, and went out for the evening.

Came back about 3 and a half hours later, let him out into the yard where he did his business. Then I kept him on a short leash attached to me while I did a few things around the house, checked my email, and so on. He whined quietly a lot when I wasn't actually doing anything. He got petted when he lay calmly next to me and other times, too. He is SO soft.

Boost seems to mostly accept that he's here. She's looking for more attention from me and I'm trying to give her at least equal attention. She seems somewhat interested in his existence but is trying not to show it. He's definitely interested in her existence and follows her around when I let him off leash in the yard.

Tika is not happy; she actually exposes her teeth with a snarl when he comes close to her face, especially if she's right next to me. Never have seen her do that to another dog, but obviously everyone's a bit tense at the moment. He's good and backs off but I'm mostly trying to keep him away from her (he wants to make friends) and giving Tika plenty of loving, too.

He ate his dinner when I gave it to him, so he can't be too stressed. Eats slowly, though. Wow, when have I ever had a dog who eats slowly?

But he uses the same gentleness when taking treats from my hand, how nice compared to Tika! Even gentler than Boost, and she's pretty gentle.

Bed time: Set up the 24"-high x-pen with his bed and my dog throw about 2 feet from my bed, up against the dresser. He didn't want to be even that separated from the rest of us. He whined, tried cautiously to climb out, which I discouraged, pushed at the (unlatched) end of the pen, which I discouraged. And then, SPROING! He was on the bed! Jeepers creepers! I grabbed him and convinced him to go back into the xpen. Yes, I do have a taller one, but I just want him to get the idea of confinement with minimal trappings, as it's so much easier. He didn't want to settle again, whined, and once again, SPROING! He was on the bed! It's as if he levitated from within this little space, standing right next to the x-pen, across the space between, and up onto my high bed. I can't even tell you how he did it, and I was watching!

Yes, I think that this dog could do agility.

He stayed in the pen this time after I put him back, but kept whining and didn't want to lie down.

Then a funny thing happened. Boost jumped off the far side of the bed, came around, looked at him curiously for a bit, and then lay down on the floor between me and the x-pen, so that her nose was just a little way away from him. Then he settled down with his nose against the x-pen closest to her. I have no idea what her motivation was, but I'm very grateful to her. (She has never slept in that location before, ever, that I can recall.)

He might end up on the bed with the other dogs eventually (sigh), but for now I want my dogs to understand that this is still their place, and him to understand that I make the rules.

Eventually Boost ended up back on the bed, he stayed in his pen, and everyone slept, more or less.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Checking out the Hmmmm dog

SUMMARY: Evaluation meeting.

Backfill: Added March 30.

Met Chip and his current owner at a dog park up in Palo Alto. I asked an agility friend who lives just a couple of blocks from there to join me and give a sanity check.

Chip's story in a few words: Adopted Chip from the shelter at 5 (!) weeks old. Divorce. No more house or back yard. Working long hours. Feels terrible about not giving Chip the attention he deserves.

My basic observations.

  • Chip is sooo skinny. Not unhealthy, no, I mean that his build is so slender, much thinner than Remington. Hard to tell compared to Tika or Boost because they have so much more hair. I can see why they might think Whippet, but otherwise he doesn't look whippetish to me.
  • He is *fast*! He loved playing chase with any dog he could convince to chase him. He looks well-proportioned for running and jumping, in my limited expertise of evaluating build. Upright more like Tika than low-slung like Boost.
  • He wants to fence-fight at other dogs approaching the park. Tika is like that, too, when there's a fence between. Like for Tika, it doesn't seem to be truly hostile, but more like wanting to have access to the other dog, and then everyone's happy.
  • His fur is soooo soft. He is sweet and gentle with me and just a happy guy. But very much more interested in the other dogs. That's not surprising; that's why he's been coming to the dog park, to run and play with the other dogs. 
  • He and my dogs were fine as we all hung out at one end of the park, as I expected--Tika's not that interested in other dogs other than an initial sniff or two, and Boost just wants someone to throw the tennis ball.
  • Oh, my, it's been enough years since I've had boy dogs that I'd kinda forgotten about the marking-everything thing.
  • He kinda comes when called. Current owner says ruefully, yes, one of the many things that Chip wasn't taught well. Wouldn't let him off leash somewhere because owner would spend a lot of time chasing him down.  Well, not like I've never dealt with an enthusiastically exploring, independent dog before. Right, Tika?

I confirm that I really am interested in him, at least on a trial basis. We agree to get together later in the week to do the hand-off.

Driving home, I'm going through a checklist of things that I'll need to do--emotionally, mentally, around the house, short term, and long term. Well, it's just for a trial basis to start with. Plus, the dog has a kid whom he sees every couple of weeks, and they're not going to do a final goodbye until we decide it's final.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


SUMMARY: A gorgeous face.

Backfill: Added March 30.

I see SO many photos of dogs who need homes. That comes from having hundreds of dog contacts on facebook and from being in a dog agility club in which people care greatly about dogs and many do rescue work (as in, rescuing the dogs, not search and rescue).

But this.

I understand that Franz Mesmer had a compelling gaze, but I think he'd lose here.

Sent to the Bay Team club list by another member.
"He is 3 yrs, mix breed most likely Whippet. He is medium size 33 lbs, with a slight build. Chipper is super sweet, fast and agile, and settles nicely when he had some exercise. He is great with people and kids, and has been in his current home since he was tiny puppy. He is also crate trained, and rides nicely in the car. Chipper is a little cautious and has some anxiety when he first meets new dogs but is not reactive. He would make a great companion for someone who likes to go for walks or could also potentially make a great agility dog."
Not that I'm quite ready for a third dog--or so I keep saying. Two hands, two dogs. Peaceful household. Tika getting older. Money. Never enough time to do everything. Etc. I've said it before.

But then, there's this.

Remember my late lamented Remington?  (He was less than a year old in these photos.)

Well, I have to get more info, obviously.

Dog Parts -- Tika Up Close and Personal

SUMMARY: Wordless Wednesday

>>  Visit the Wordless Wednesday site; lots of blogs. <<

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Words of the Day

SUMMARY: Facebook word/photo meme

There's this thing that's been going around on facebook. The original description was something like,

"To counter the horrible photos of animals being abused, let's post photos of happy, well-loved animals. I was given the word 'spunky' and here's Tootsie showing her usual spunky self. If you click Like, I'll give you a word."

Although, sometimes they changed it to "if you comment on this photo, I'll give you a word."

So, apparently, I Liked a post with the first variety and commented on a post of the 2nd variety without meaning to, and then (thinking I had no words), I asked a 3rd post for a word.  Suddenly I had 3 words from 3 different people.

Since I hate being forced into either silence or accepting a word, I rephrased like this when I finally posted:

"OK, the game has been to post positive animal photos related to a word that you've been given. (If you ask me, I'll give you a word.) I inadvertently received 3 words, which took a little pondering, but here's the result (thanks, Susan Fallon Paulsen ("dramatic"), Joni Hulen Grace ("frolic"), andMitzi Keating ("hat" -- ha ha) for the words)."

So, now, if you want a word for Facebook or for your blog or anywhere to post your own photo, ask and I shall give you one!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

And Even Better Today

SUMMARY: Another Up period for Tika

Today was even better than yesterday-- Tika did things that I don't think she's done in many days, or even several weeks in some cases:

  • Came to check out whether I was really awake in the morning (so often now, she just lies there, chin down, looking old and tired)
  • BOUNDED down the stairs! Wow!
  • Leaped into the air when I got out the leashes for a walk (well, maybe her back feet didn't quite leave the floor, but for quite a while she has just been sort of prancing quietly)
  • Went on a brisk 2-mile walk before breakfast. Such a difference from just two days ago.
  • Ate full meals of kibble both morning and evening.
  • Ate all of her pill pockets, with the pills in them, morning and evening. (When feeling poorly, as in a few days ago, she just won't.)
  • Virtually no coughing/hacking
And this is what my life with Tika has been like for months--from really bad days to really good days and everything in between, then back around again.

I'm trying to remember to hug her and pet her many times a day no matter how she's feeling.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Of Renewed Energy

SUMMARY: Tika's doing well today.

Annnnnnnnd, whew, Tika's back to more like Tika again, after 3 or 4 days of not. No coughing. Ate her kibble for breakfast--well, not all of it, and I had to put it out on the floor for her a few pieces at a time--but at least she showed interest in it and ate it without coaxing or having to try 3 or 4 varieties. Ate her pill pockets with the pills in them (which she hasn't for the last 2-3 days, typical when she's not feeling her best), has been out in the yard patrolling and just came bouncing in to say hi and get some snuggling, found the remnants of the bully stick and has gone hard to work on it, not desultorily as yesterday.

Today is a good day.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Of Tika the Old Dog, and Food, and Walks, and Bully Sticks

SUMMARY: A general decline.

It is hard to write about Tika getting older and slower and less healthy. I meant to do so regularly, to track for my own purposes, but somehow don't have the heart for it most of the time.

She hasn't been in a steady decline, but more like descending waves: Some days or weeks almost like the same old Tika; other days or weeks I wonder whether she's going to make it to the next morning. I remember just before Thanksgiving, she was so bad, I was terrified that it would be all over during the holidays. And then she perked up again.

The worst part for both of us is the Cough. Vet had said that it might be pressure from the enlarged heart or just an old, weakened esophagus that doesn't stay open as well as it used to. Sometimes she'll hardly cough for days. Other times, as in the last 3 days, it's almost constant except during the short times when she can manage to fall asleep.

And it's not so much of a cough any more--just a harsh exhale with a rattle in the throat, with every. single. breath.

Some days she's perfectly happy to eat any choice of kibble that I offer. On other days, it's the same story that I think I've mentioned before: Might or might not eat any of the different kinds of kibble. Or might eat it if I give it to her by hand a few pieces at a time. Or, not that, but only if I put a few on the carpet in front of her a few pieces at a time.

Canned food, she usually eats. But no matter what it is, she's eating less and less of it and leaves some or lots uneaten (from the dog who inhaled anything you gave her). I think that eating adds to the discomfort in her throat or whatever's causing the problem. She still looks pretty good--the advantage to a nice fluffy coat--but underneath, she feels like skin and bones.  (I haven't weighed her lately... I should... but have always done so by lifting her and stepping onto the bathrooms scale, and my back is so painful lately that I'm not eager to do it. But I should...)

She usually is happy to lick my plate, however, or eat any doggie snacks/treats or human food that I offer. Haven't tried to make a full meal of that sort of thing yet, but this week I am at the point where I really need to make the effort to cook for her and see whether that helps.

Pleez can haz more charlie bears?

She still wants to play, but the urge doesn't last very long, and she doesn't shake very hard at all when shaking the toy. She can still sometimes pull pretty darned hard with tug-of-war, but sometimes now she doesn't want to.

She pretty much never runs any more for any reason. She'll still sometimes chase a thrown frisbee or toy, a couple of times, but only at half speed, and she no longer makes an attempt to grab it off the ground, which she always excelled at, like a shortstop scooping up a ground ball.

In the last week, I've been out in the park taking her for a walk almost every day, but just for a short, slow walk.

You know, she used to be untiring; could "hike" 10 miles with me, which meant that she ran back and forth and acted as scout the entire time, so probably more like 15 or 20 miles for her, and then still wanted to play when she got home. She used to fly over jumps and through tunnels at a phenomenal speed with great joy. So this is hard for both of us to take. Yet, going for a walk is still her favorite thing in the world, even on days when she doesn't want to eat or play.

But, this week in particular, she doesn't seem to have the energy to walk very far or very fast, and she's coughing a lot, and she's not eating very much.

When she lies down or sleeps, now, she almost never lies on her side like she did her whole life; she just puts her chin down. Vet person at the seminar I did yesterday with Boost said that fluid and pressure can become worse when lying on their side, so that's probably why.

I gave The Merle Girls bully sticks about an hour ago. Tika sniffed at hers and then put her chin back down. It hurts me to see that. But, after about 15 minutes, she picked it up and started gnawing. Set it down for a bit and went out into the yard to cool down, I think (can't believe it hit almost 80F today!). I rescued it from Boost, the little thief, and gave it back to Tika when she returned.

Then Tika took it out to the back lawn--to her exact favorite spot for chewing chews, working on stuffed Kongs, and the like.

Boost will typically follow and lie a couple of feet away, hoping that Tika will give up chewing and leave it, and this evening, same thing. So all of that is normal. But Tika isn't doing much chewing, just lying there with the rawhide between her feet, panting/gasping, poor girlie.

Another agility friend's dog died suddenly today, not even 11 years old. A frequent hiking companion of ours. I cried, not just for him and his humans, but for Tika, too, after the slow walk and her eating only half a can of food, and for myself, feeling the pain of loss in advance.

Then I just now heard an odd noise in the garage and went out to look. Because of some things going on here lately, I have a couple of interesting stacks that aren't usually there of boxes and dog mats and canopies and such, and there was Boost on top of one of the piles, eagerly checking out a couple of the storage shelves that are normally way out of her reach. Her look of alert surprise when I turned on the light and saw her there made me laugh out loud, and she came bounding back into the house.

My girls.