Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It's never a Happy Howl-a-ween for Ike

For a dog who thinks people are creepy, Halloween has got to rank up there as one of the worst holidays. Loads of children dressed up in odd accroutements. Eeek! What could be scarier for a scaredy dog? Possibly July 4th if said dog is also noise sensitive, huh-hmmmm.

Ike and I took an illegal walk down by a small creek that runs through Canton and abuts the park where NO DOGS ARE ALLOWED. Since it was already pitch black out and no one could see us, in order to save my sanity and my dog's, I broke the silly law. And in this case I do think it is unfair. But anyway....

Ike was a good boy with the children we saw. Definitely his ears were pricked, tail erect, do I need to start barking madly stare but MINIMAL barks and minimal treating. Yippeee!!

We are now safely sequestered in my house. I have no doorbell because of a karma incident over the summer - I yelled at a magazine seller who rang my doorbell three times in a row. I told him he was never going to make any sales if he kept doing that. After I went upstairs he vandalized my doorbell. Ah well, I deserved it! And this way unless I am expecting you, I will never know you came. Hee, hee.... And Ike is safe from scary children dressed up as ghouls and goblins.

Happy Howl-a-ween!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I think it must be a full moon, again!

Today, is an early to work, early to leave day for me. I was feeling kind of under the weather with allergies and thought I would just practice some agility with Ike in my in-laws' large, flat backyard and take the boy for a walk.

Prior to bringing out my equipment a huge, older bull mastiff strolled into the yard. He was completely oblivious. There is a auto renovation place a few houses down right near a footbridge that leads to a lovely park where NO DOGS ARE ALLOWED. Anyway, early mornings I have seen him in that neck of the woods. One of my big pet peeves is unleashed, loose dogs on a BUSY main street (Washington Street in Canton). I have actually called Animal Control about my father-in-law's neighbors before.

I waited until the mastiff was gone I assumed back with his owner, and brought out my equipment. Then I went and got Ike. I decided to work on get-outs with Ike since at the Act-Up trial he really thought about taking the distance obstacle (a jump) in Chances. I set up two jumps at a bit more than a 90 degree angle to each other leading into the poles. I also wanted to work on Ike's weave pole entries when he has some speed.

Ike did REALLY well with the get-outs. Thanks to Katrin I have become MUCH more patient and I let him figure out what the heck I wanted. Hooray!! Patience works. Then the mastiff came back. Ike started to get distracted and barky. I asked him for a sit and was just waiting for the mastiff to go back where it came from. I wasn't sure what to do. The dog was oblivious. I didn't want to yell "Go Home" for fear of riling Ike up when he was off lead. The mastiff continued into my in-laws' backyard and Ike went ballistic, broke his sit, and tried to attack the mastiff. It is a testament to either how nice the damn dog is or how old he is because he didn't do anything to Ike. He just kind of snarled. I went to break it up and a neighbor came to help. Stupid people. The mastiff wandered back to the garage. I didn't go over and say anything. I was only slightly upset considering what had just happened and potentially dealing with an ignoramus was not going to calm me down.

We went back to work. Not surprisingly Ike was a bit distracted. We practiced for about 40 minutes, interspersing sits and down on only a verbal command or only a hand signal. Ike was a good boy. I am VERY pleased with how he seemed to grasp the get-outs. yay!

We finished up the evening with a leisurely 40 minute walk, Ike sniffing, and me daydreaming about houses that have flat backyards.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Big Dog Playgroup, or not thinking

Ike continues his love affair with Baxter, the black lab. He also seriously considered playing with Niche who was REALLY trying to get Ike to play. Hooray!

Today reminded me that I HAVE to listen when the little voice in my head says it might be wise for Ike and I to leave. When I do not listen is when things go wrong and often times, like tonight, it's my fault!

At the end of big dog playgroup Lisa went to get Ryan and bring him in. Ike hates puppies. I leashed Ike and considered scooping him up and putting him in the car. I didn't. Aaack. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Ryan came over, Ike went charging and I pulled back and up essentially hanging Ike. Yeah, nice, huh? I feel like a complete *ss.

It was a complete regression. I am in the midst of being extremely pissed off at myself for not paying attention to the inner voice. I'm not sure how long it will take me to get over being angry with myself and I am not sure how far I set Ike back in his hate of puppies. Well, I certainly reinforced it, that's for sure. Like I said, STUPID!

And to top it off I stopped at Foxboro Animal Hospital on the way home to weigh Ike. Katrin said she thought he looked fatter, well he is!! He has gained a pound and a half. meanwhile he is only getting 3 ounces of meat a day. Argh! I think I should have stayed in bed today. Tomorrow I am getting up early and using my light box (for SAD).

So, "Real Dogs Don't Frisbee?"

Ike had a very quiet relaxing weekend. I let him sleep in on Saturday and I went to playgroup at Marlene's house all alone! I got some dog-talking in which is good.

Sunday Ike and I went up to my mother's for a family meal. My nana's cousin is in town from California.

The exciting news is that Ike played with Nellie. Well, Nellie tried to get Ike to play and he sort of did! And he chased the frisbee!! like mad.

So, we are reaching a new comfort level. He is chasing things not only in public, but with ANOTHER dog there. This is big news.

He's a goofball about the frisbee. He chases it and then can't figure out how to get it up off of the ground, so he digs at it. Very cute.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Good Manners Class # 2

Eeek!! Talk about confusion....

No one was on time + three new student and their dogs = COMPLETE chaos!! and I say I like trial by fire. ha!!

There are two rat terriers (2 yo and 5 mo), both were able to pay attention and wanted to work. Hooray. One I would like to steal for an agility dog/freestyle dog. Very cool, able learner. Two beagles that are way overstimulated!! and not very food motivated due to being over stimulated. If they weren't already getting the porky-beagle look I would think they were another breed!! Just kidding.

Class was okay. We reviewed "watch me" and "sit," introduced "down," and talked about why massage was good for your dog. Did a wee bit of LLW (Loose Leash Walking). Considering the three new students arrived at different times and only one knew what a clicker is, it wasn't TOO terrible.

And hey, at least I am not teaching six weeks of privates again. This session should be extremely interesting/entertaining/and frustrating. Yeah! I'll take it.

And this is why I don't like a lot of humans....

Owners Surrender 150 Guinea Pigs to the MSPCA Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Worcester area owners of 150 Guinea Pigs have formally surrendered the pets to the MSPCA after initial steps to foster the animals were deemed inappropriate. Following the acceptance of the Guinea Pigs, the pets arrived at the MSPCA’s Animal Care and Adoption Centers at Boston, Nevins Farm and Western New England. Veterinarian teams were at each location to administer triage services as well as volunteers who aided in cleaning each animal (below right).

At this time the MSPCA is requesting donations to aid in the purchasing of medical needs and supplies for each of the 150 Guinea Pigs as well as the thousands of animals that it cares for each year. Donations are being accepted online by clicking here. Volunteers wishing to foster these and other pets as they heal and become socialized should contact each of the adoption centers separately (contact information below).

MSPCA at Nevins Farm 400 BroadwayMethuen, MA 01844(978) 687-7453

Western New England Animal Care and Adoption Center171 Union St.Springfield, MA 01105(413) 736-2992

My g-pig Zeek came from the Metro South shelter. He was one of 30 g-pigs that were surrendered last spring - lots of babies. : (

Just a REMINDER to Vote!!

Now I understand how Bush was re-elected. Oops, did I say that?

Just kidding.

Vote on the new blog name....or send me suggestions. AND you can vote more than once. hee, hee!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ike and Learning

Ike's default position when he didn't know what I wanted used to be the sit. He was not a thinking dog.

Very slowly I was able to convince him if he thought for himself he wouldn't be struck down by a tall scary man with a hat and an umbrella.

Last night Ike and I were playing with his target plates (yes, he has multiple target plates - he thinks they are great fun!) and I added his pink kitty and an empty margarine container. I decided I would up the ante and change the object I wanted him to target at random and he had to figure out which one I wanted him to pounce on through trial and error. It was SO much fun to see him run over and pounce, look at me, wag his stub, and pounce on another plate until he heard the "click" of success.

Ike enjoys this game so much, he grins the entire time and his little stub wags like mad. It makes me so happy to have a thinking dog, and I think Ike's life is much richer for it.

Odd Dream - not Ike related

Last night I had a super bizarre dream. I dreamt I was going to be visiting my brother Mat in Virginia who recently adopted Lab/Pit x. I sent him Katrin's Puppy Manual (in real life) and haven't heard a peep from him. This is not at all unusual in my family; we aren't SO close. And Mat is Mat on top of that.

Anyway, in my dream Mat was FURIOUS with me for sending him the puppy manual and I had gotten his dog's name wrong. My mother told me it was Grendel (from Beowulf), in my dream Mat told me it was Shylock. He was under NO circumstances going to use a reward based system to train Shylock. He thought that was the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard of, bribing a dog. And that I had the gall to suggest it to him infuriated him.

In my dream I asked how he planned on training his dog and he said he had a choke collar and the dog would "learn" just fine. Bear in mind this is not what my brother is actually like - he's a real mellow sort. I think this is based on the Performance Plus rental and some discussions I have had recently and the fact that I haven't heard from him since I sent him the Manual.

Anyway, I went off on how being physically corrected doesn't "teach" the dog anything, and can potentially create aggression issues, especially if the handler is new to the game. I warned him that a 4-month old puppy on a choke was very likely to end up with a damaged trachea, etc. I could not get through to him.

In my dream we could not reach any sort of middle ground/compromise and I cancelled my trip to Virginia!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ike Luvs Baxter Black

Ike’s evolution continues!

Yesterday I brought Ike to Katrin’s adult dog playgroup. Ike was a really good boy with all of the dogs, Niche (FCR), Monty (CWC), Heidi (BMD), and Baxter (LR), at the playgroup.

The dogs seemed to have a good time and if Baxter is a regular I can’t wait for Ike to have an opportunity to attend playgroup again. Ike was doing the Schnauzer grapple to Baxter, play bowing, everything. I was laughing SO hard.

This marks the second time in three days that Ike has instigated play with a large, exuberant breed dog. Yipee-Yahoo!!!

I got a little nervous when the dogs started running because Ike would jump up on Baxter barking, but I didn’t do anything about it. I showed remarkable restraint and guess what, it was fine. Yay! I’m not clear if Ike trying to interrupt the running behavior or if that was how he was trying to join the running play. I have to ask Katrin what she thinks.

Shaya and her mum arrived at about 5:30 with their two dogs, Tom and Opal (Greyhound). Tom likes to play chase, so he would take off with Monty trying to herd him and Opal galloping along. Very funny! And fast!

All in all it was a very nice hour. And as a bonus I got to see how big Lisa’s Vizla Ryan has gotten!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A 3-Q-ful Weekend

This weekend Ike and I competed in the Act-Up Agility NADAC Trial. We had a GREAT weekend with Ike completing his NADAC Novice Regular title (30 points in Regular Qs). He is now Silvermist Icebreaker CGC TDI NAC.

Day 1

Saturday we were entered in Regular 1 and Regular 2. These two runs incorporate all of the obstacles (except for the table and teeter which NADAC currently doesn’t use for safety issues). I also entered Ike in Chances, which is similar to Gamblers in that it has a significant distance challenge; Touch n Go, tunnels and contact obstacles; and Jumpers, jumps, jumps, jumps and a tunnel.

Ike received full Qualifying scores in both his Regular runs (10 points each), coming in second out of classes of 4. Yay, Ike!! In Regular 1 Ike was a wee bit slow on the dogwalk, stopped between the 4th and 5th weave poles which just goes to show you how fast he was moving (for him) if he could still qualify. Regular run 2 he was WAY faster, but did stop to look at the judge like he had four heads. Both runs were clean.

In the Chances course the tape was set up so Ike took one jump and then a second jump that was at, maybe a 90 degree angle, 4+ feet from mum. The great news is that Ike SERIOUSLY considered taking the jump. Then he realized I wasn’t there and he wasn’t sure if he should. But he CONSIDERED it. Hooray!!

Touch n Go he was a good boy, just a few seconds over time.

Jumpers we ran in the dark, no joke. I could barely make out Sandy’s face talking to her before our run. I am glad we ran it though – Ike had taken a long nap after Touch n Go and he was rarin’ to go. His eyes were bright and he wanted to play! Unfortunately we entered the tunnel the wrong direction, but he was FLYING and I made some crosses that I typically wouldn’t make with him and he didn’t blow up. Yay!! I am starting to trust Ike more and he is starting to trust me more. Our YPS was 2.99 and this was with going in the tunnel the incorrect direction and then sending him through it the correct direction.

We both went home and CRASHED hard after helping to secure the big tent where the trial secretary is located. The winds picked up significantly and it was kind of scary!

Day 2

Ike was entered in Jumpers, Regular 3, Regular 4, and Double Shot Tunnelers.

Double Shot Tunnelers is running a course that is all tunnels and then repeating it! After the MAP Trial I realized that Ike thinks Tunnelers is pretty stupid and I was going to scratch from both. However, since Ike was moving much faster I decided I would run the first half of Double Shot, or one Tunnelers course.

I can’t remember what happened in Jumpers!! I think we were just too slow. Regular 3 Ike ran beautifully and we Q’d again (another FULL Q). We were a bit slower than Saturday, coming in 3rd out of four. Regular 4 there was a discrimination issue with the A-Frame and a tunnel. Ike chose the tunnel and, oh well. He was running very nicely for me. I need to work on my get-outs!

Tunnelers he was flying and missed Q’ing by a couple of seconds. He broke the 3 YPS mark for the first time. He was going 3.11 YPS! Yay! I think Jumpers, Touch n Go, and Tunnelers are more difficult for Ike because the course times are faster – the dog is RUNNING more. Ike isn’t a dog who likes to run purely for the pleasure of it and his idea of what’s fast isn’t the same as NADAC’s!

Final Thoughts

Saturday Ike initiated play with a male Australian Shepherd!! Holy Cow!! This is the first time Ike has initiated play with a LARGER, exuberant breed.

Our friends Shaya (a Junior Handler) and her All-American Tom were entered in the trial on Saturday, too. I hope that Shaya enjoyed the exposure to a different organization’s trial atmosphere. Unfortunately Tom had a bad case of the zoomies and was all over the place. Shaya handled it with aplomb and received LOTS of support from other people at the trial, which says a lot for the attitude of the organization’s members. Tom is damn fast, that’s for sure; and unlike Ike he likes to run!

Marlene and Kody stopped by to continue Kody’s exposure to stimulating environments. It was great to see both Marlene and Kody; I think Kody was VERY good dog!!

Sunday Ike initiated play with multiple small dogs including Squish, his Chihuahua boyfriend, and probably the nicest Chihuahua I have ever met.

In general this was an awesome trial for us. Ike was moving MUCH faster than he ever has before and his weave performance was closer to what it is like in practice. This is mostly due to the fact that I realized during the MAP Trial I did not give Ike the same signals I give him during practice. So I tried very hard to keep moving and do what I do in practice.

I think that Ike and I are started to trust each other more. I also think Ike is starting to enjoy himself more in agility. Hooray!!

Friday, October 19, 2007

My little demo dog

I currently spend Thursday nights at the Metro South MSPCA on the Brockton/Easton line. I assist another trainer in teaching Good Manners Classes, Puppy Classes, and occasionally Canine Good Citizen classes. Yesterday evening was the first class of a new Good Manners session and that requires a demo dog. Denise, the woman I train with, asked if I could bring Ike.

Ike was an excellent boy. We are supposed to have 5 students in this class, and only one couple showed up. That doesn't bode well. The couple is in their late 60s/early 70s and Ike grumbled a bit at the man initially. He was tall, wearing a hat, you know the drill.

However, Ike settled right down and gave me EXCELLENT attention the entire hour!

Ike demo'd "Watch" and "Sit." The trouble with "Sit" is the second I move my hand near his nose he sits. Oh well, I was able to explain it to the couple. I almost think a shelter dog would be a better demo dog as they don't know anything half the time and the other half they are so distracted it is tough to get their attention. I think it would make the behaviors seem more attainable to the students.

This session Denise is going to be my "assistant" and I am going to be the instructor. This is the last session that we will be using this program and she offered me the opportunity to teach it, hooray! I am a bit nervous, but hopefully that will pass - I have been assisting her for the past two years I should be dreaming about this stuff. I will keep you'all posted on how I do. I know that Denise will give me helpful and honest feedback.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Yippee for Jumps!

I recently had my birthday and for months I was planning on asking for a chute. As I have frequently commented, Ike has chute performance issues.

Recently I was made aware, once more, of how much Ike doesn't really care for jumping and how it would benefit us to practice more. HOWEVER, that would mean having jumps. I didn't want to buy them because I KNOW I can make them. Again, HOWEVER, when do I have the time?

So, I broke down and asked for two competition quality jumps for my birthday.

Ike and I practiced yesterday evening with our new jumps. I set up the teeter, the new jumps in a 180, and the weaves. He was FLYING! He has started to hop through his weaves. Yay! Yay! Yay! The only bad thing about this much faster performance is that he is starting to over shoot his weave entry and sometimes during the weaves he is moving so fast he misses a weave. John suggested that everyone deals with this as their dogs become faster and more confident and I will just have to practice more so he has better muscle control. Thoughts from the group?

Should I condition him to slow prior to the weaves or is that self-defeating? As you all know I have worked HARD to make him faster!

Other Random Ike Thoughts

The past month has been awash with change for Ike. I have been thinking about this a lot, about what might have caused it. In my last lesson with Erin S. she commented that she feels dogs never change unless we change. Alright, so something about the way I view the world or do things has changed.

Lets see, Katrin and I had a real heart-to-heart about what my expectations and hopes for Ike are about a month and a half ago. Perhaps verbalizing my real dream for Ike, of him attaining a level of comfort with the world at large that he doesn't currently have, has helped us move closer to that goal?

I can't help but think it was only a month ago that I switched Ike to a completely raw diet and all of these changes started to occur. I was speaking to my friend Michele yesterday about Ike and before I could mention the raw diet, she mentioned how we had stopped going to the rehab a little more than a month ago. Hmmm....

Last night I told John all of my theories about why Ike has changed and John, very logically said, "Well, there have been some subtractions but there has also been addition. You've been working with him every day. Of course he's going to make progress." Now that isn't necessarily always true, but there is truth in the fact that I have been focusing much more energy on what Ike needs and what his capabilities at the moment are.

I do have relapses (ahem, Tuesday), but I'm getting better. Ike is not a mini-Julie! He is a miniature schnauzer named Ike with some baggage (that's getting lighter [or more manageable] by the day)!


It's been called to my attention that I am being a goober with Ike. I set up these play dates for Ike with Ellie for him to WATCH her and then yesterday I spent a lot of time trying to entice him to do things. "Scary" for Ike things. Drat. Not the point, Julie!!

The good news is that Ike watched Ellie do "Touch" with great interest. This is something we have not been able to master no matter how much we try. Ike's idea of "Touch" is to paw at the object OR if it is my hand, maybe bump it with the bridge of his muzzle.

He also chose to do the SeeSaw out of the blue, and did it correctly. And he played with Ellie.

Unfortunately I am not sure if three positives outweigh 4 "scary" things. It might be a wash. HOWEVER, it has served as a great reminder to me about what the point of this exercise is. And the point is to do what Ike wants and let him WATCH. Not what Julie wants Ike to do!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"Scary things" at Ellie's

Ike and I spent an hour with Ellie and Leah today. Ike was being a bit odd. It took 50 minutes for him to play with Ellie! We spent most of the time talking and trying to get Ike to do various "scary" things.

Scary thing # 1: Leah and Ellie have an Agilelite tunnel. It is not currently staked down and rolls slightly when the dogs go in it. Ellie went running through and I sent Ike in after her. He almost jumped out of his skin when it rocked. I proceeded to toss lots of the Plato Salmon strips in the tunnel. Ike would put both front feet in and STRETCH to get the bits of treats. Multiple times he scared the crap out of himself when he moved too quickly and the tunnel rocked.

Scary thing # 2: The table. Ellie adores the table and hops up on it with abandon. It is probably set at 24 -36" high. Last week I was able to lure Ike up on the table. This week....good gods we must have spent nearly 10-15 minutes trying to get him to hop up on it. Finally, he does it from a stand still right beside it. He just does NOT like to jump or exert himself if he doesn't have to.

Scary thing # 3: Ellie readily takes treats from Leah's mouth. I know for a fact Ike will not do this. I have tried to get him to years ago. Since he was being such an odd duck tonight I figured, eh, why not try it. It was hysterical. You could SEE Ike thinking about it. He wanted SO badly to take the treat. He would look away and bump his head under my chin, then look at me, get very close, and look a way. I was giggling so badly. Leah suggested I start by holding the treat close to my mouth so I can talk to him while he is working up his courage!

Scary thing # 4: ELLIE! This week Ike thought Ellie was just too odd. We practiced having him touch her because he was acting so odd. I think most of you have seen when a dog gets to close or too in his space and he vacates it in the blink of an eye? Well, that is what he was doing with Ellie tonight.

As the hour wound down Ike FINALLY decided he wanted to play with Ellie. She is so graceful, she makes him look like a bull in a china shop. Trying to get him to play she does these "drive-bys" where she goes FLYING past him and he is left looking for her. I was laughing so hard my eyes started tearing up! At one point she goosed him. I have never seen Ike look so offended. Hysterical.

We stopped by Katrin's to get a couple of runs in with Nancy & Remy and Sandy & Sadie. Every one's performances are really coming along, which is exciting to see. They were practicing with 12 weave poles and Ike was popping out at 8. Hmmm...who said that would happen? ; )

Anyway, I took out one of the sets of weave poles because I didn't want to drive Ike insane after his hour with Ellie. I will have to get a set of competition poles and work the 12-weaves as a new obstacle.

At one point we did the pole, tunnel, and my intention was to have him do the dogwalk. I was at the dog walk peeking over my shoulder and no Ike. He is on top of the A-Frame. I told him to go ahead, A-Frame, and he was BESIDE himself with happiness when he came flying off it. He was doing his wiggle-puppy routine - grinning and little stub going a mile a minute. Like I said last post, he is REALLY beginning to enjoy himself. It was fun for me to have Sandy and Nancy see how happy he can be.

After we cleaned up Katrin came out for a moment with Monty. Monty, Sadie, and Remy started having a grand old time and Katrin said I should go ahead and let Ike go. Well, he did immediately run over there but I don't *think* he was inappropriate. He just kind of raced around at the edge of their play, barking (of course, no fun without the fun police!). Wow!! And he seems to like Monty which is cool.

The "Fun Police"

Photo-shopped courtesy of Cat. Thank you!!!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Performance Plus Ring Rental

I met up with Shaya and Tom today to practice at Performance Plus in Taunton. While the equipment was in good shape and easily accessible, I spotted WAY too many pinch collars for my personal comfort. So, is it wonky to not want to give my money to a place that promotes their use? I have no qualms about people who have been trained to use pinches correctly using them, it just bugs me to no end to see a trainer pop one on a dog, give joe-average owner a five minute lesson and expect their dog to be okay. I think if joe-average owner were willing to put the time in with their dog (and this goes for the trainer, too) they wouldn't need a pinch. Okay, I am putting my soapbox away. Sorry.

Back to agility....

Considering that there was a puppy class getting acclimated in the building, and Shaya is in her teen years, Ike was GREAT! He paid great attention to me and was very responsive. His weave performance has continued to improve and get faster. He really "gets" the idea of weaving now. He was able to make correct weave entries from some really off angles.

Additionally I am trying very hard to incorporate running laterally and continuing to move, not stopping for Ike. It seems to be paying off.

Towards the end of our hour Shaya asked if I wanted to run Tom and she could run Ike. She and Ike were GREAT together. I was impressed Ike was willing to work for her; he didn't want to leave her afterward. Tom on the other hand did not think I was that interesting. Oye, I can see what it will be like when I have a faster dog. Like Shaya said about Ike, I have time to think. Yup, that's a slower dog for you. And Ike really is faster, I swear!!

Anyway, I feel good about tonight's practice session. Ike continues to surprise me by enjoying agility more and more.

Biodegradable "Poop" Bags

Some of you may have noticed the Blog Action Day banner on my blog recently. Some of you may have clicked on it and discovered that Blogger is promoting something called Blog Action Day. Today, October 15th, is Blog Action Day and the issue this year is the environment. Every blogger that registered to take part in Blog Action Day, currently 15,175 blogs, agreed to publish a post focusing on their topic and the environment. I thought it would be interesting to write a post about our dogs and the environment.

If, like me, you like in a less rural area and do not have a fenced back yard, you probably walk your dog at least twice a day. The average dog can produce 274 pounds of waste each year. Assuming your dog goes to the bathroom twice a day that is two plastic bags per day every day of the year. This ends up being at a minimum 730 plastic bags annually per dog – if not more depending on what your dog has gotten into!

There are 4 trillion to 5 trillion nondegradable plastic bags used worldwide annually (1 trillion is equal to 2 million millions!). 430,000 gallons of oil is needed to produce 100 million (not trillion, mind you) nondegradable plastic bags. Many people feel it is foolish to purchase bags when supermarkets supply them so readily. However, each supermarket plastic bag is nondegradable and costs 2 to 3 cents compared to a biodegradable bag which ranges anywhere from 5 to 10 cents. Not that big of a difference.

So, it appears we as dog owners who care about the environment have a couple of options, use biodegradable bags or carry a pooper scooper while we walk. While there is one man in my town who does walk with a pooper scooper (eco-gods love him), my dog is not guaranteed to be calm enough for that. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can click and treat and carry a pooper scooper. As a result, I resort to the BioBag Dog poop bags. These bags are made from corn and are compostable.

The next ideal step to take would be to create a composting spot in your yard. Since I rent this is not currently an option. Another option is the Doggie Dooley carried by Drs Foster and Smith. The Doggie Dooley is an in ground container that acts as a mini-septic system.

Ultimately as our world becomes more and more congested, we have to do our part to make sure that our world stays livable. One way we can help to do that is by giving up the convenience of plastic bags. Pay a couple of dollars more for biodegradable bags and make a conscience effort to do a small part towards helping our environment stay healthy. Of course I will be the first to acknowledge that biodegradable bags aren’t perfect – stick them in a landfill and it will take them longer to degrade, but it is a start.


Dog Waste Composting Guide

Only Natural Pet Store - BioBag reseller

Reusable Bags – Facts and Figures

WorldWatch Institute


AgiltyNerd also took part in Blog Action Day. Read his post on Outdoor Compact Fluorescent Floodlights, this would be useful for those who have an outdoor area and lights. (jealous!)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Who is this dog?

Yesterday morning Ike and I met up with some Shelter-agility friends for a play group at my friend Marlene's (with the two Goldens). I am very jealous of her backyard - it is fenced and gorgeous! I have mentioned it before. ; ) Since Shelter agility was cancelled for the rest of the year due to a parvo outbreak, we decided we would have a weekly playgroup. A lot of the dogs would rather play than do Agility-for-Fun anyway!

Yesterday our friend Maria, who has a very sweet ShepherdX named Gypsy, was able to make it and she brought her older dog Jazmine as well. Well, Jazmine is a red hound-like X, and wouldn't you know it...Ike took a liking to her! At this point I think the red dog thing is beyond coincidence, I think it is a preference! Weird.

At first Ike was horrified because there was a lot of running and rough housing going on. Kody (GR), Sandy (ShepherdX), and Gypsy (ShepherdX) all LOVE to play rough and tumble. Amazingly, Ike didn't feel the need to act like the fun police, he just removed himself from the scene. Cool. Maybe 20 minutes into the hour and a half Ike was back with us hanging out when he all of a sudden started sniffing Jaz and doing the butt check. Yay!

He actually started grappling with her and playing. Jaz is bigger than Ike and usually the dogs he likes and singles out for play are his size or smaller, so this was super cool. Michele pointed out that Jaz is older and gentler, so he might feel more comfortable with her. Periodically throughout the playgroup I would notice Ike over sniffing Jazmine or butt checking her. How awesome! I am going to have to beg Maria to bring Jaz every week!

The other exciting development is that Ike likes Marlene's across the street neighbor, a 9 yo girl (Kayla)! He actually seeks her out. I think they are going to form a mutual admiration society. Her mother came over to meet Ike because Kayla had been talking about him all week. Kayla came and hung out with us a little later and Ike actually sat as close to her as he could.

Who is this dog and what have you done with my scaredy-Schnauzer? Just kidding!! Believe me I will take these changes any day of the week!

After a very successful (IMO) playgroup Ike and I headed up to PetEdge and my mother's in Reading. Ike was really off at my mum's. I am not sure if this is because he was really tired after the playgroup & PetEdge or because he was afraid I was going to bring Nellie home with me.

Nellie was AWESOME. she was so happy to see us and playing like a mad dog with me. I was down on the ground doing playbows to her and tossing a new toy I had grabbed for her at PetEdge. She was responding and being super playful. Yay Nellie. Ike looked on in abject horror, of course.

My mum has not yet scheduled a vet appointment for Nellie, but she said she would. In her defense, she has been sick all week. Apparently at Nellie's appointment in February the vet told my mother her weight was fine. Eeeek! She weighs 32 # and is not that much taller than Ike. You can't feel her ribs! I think this is a classic case of a vet thinking it is not worth rocking the boat about a pet's weight. Bad, bad, bad. Poor Nellie. She is so fast and agile. Imagine if she was within her normal weight range? I'm going to keep working on my mum.

Schnauzer haircuts today and a practice session with our friend Shaya and her all-American Tom tomorrow (and possibly Cat). Yay!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hangin' with Ellie

Tuesday afternoon Ike and I went to hang out with Leah (human) and Ellie (3 yo Basenji). At Ryan's puppy party Ike took a real liking to Ellie and Katrin suggested I contact Leah and see if I could set up a play date. The reason, if Ike likes a dog who has great social skills, and gets to hang out with them on a regular basis, *perhaps* he will start modeling behavior after said dog.

Ike and I arrived at Leah's a little bit before 4:30. Leah has a large yard which has a fenced in field at the back. In order to get to this field you must follow a path by her large bird pen (geese and ducks). Leah took pity on Ike and took us down a trail that didn't go RIGHT by the geese/duck pen. It didn't matter though, because Ike could smell and hear the geese and ducks...he came to a complete stop. I was successfully patient! Yippee for me. I didn't pull on him or cajole him too much, I let him just think. Then Leah told Ellie to go get Ike. Ellie ran over and sniffed Ike all over. Ike still wasn't moving. Leah told Ellie to go get him once more and all of a sudden Ike started walking like nothing was wrong. Yes!

We opened the gate to Leah's fenced in area which is currently full of agility equipment and unleashed our dogs. Ellie started loping about and Ike started sniffing. 2 bowel movements later, Ike was still sniffing and Ellie was still running about. She would periodically go over to Ike and desperately try to get him to play while he looked at her like she wasn't a dog.

After about 30 or 40 minutes of this Ike decided that, Yeah, he'd like to play with Ellie. He started running about and doing the schnauzer grapple to Ellie. YAY! In fact it appears that Ellie and Ike, or their respective breeds, have pretty similar foot-y/grappling styles of play. It was a RIOT to see Ike galumphing about with a grin on his face while Ellie sped here and there. I told Leah I was going to cry, and I wasn't joking. Of course, they would be tears of happiness! The only dog Ike ever plays with is Carmen, so this is a giant-giant step forward. Not too long after this Ike stood up on my leg which has become his way of letting me know that he is all done and would like to go home.

On the walk up from the field to Leah's driveway we walked alongside the geese and ducks. I told Leah I would lend her this great book I bought for John called Enslaved by Ducks by a journalist named Bob Tartt. We joke that John is Enslaved by Cockatiels; although now it could just as easily be g-pigs. Anyway, it is a memoir detailing the various animals that came into his and his wife's lives, including quite a few ducks and geese! I think after talking to Leah that she would really enjoy it.

Ike was really intrigued by the birds, as was I. I can't wait until John and I have some land!! Leah and I agreed to meet again next week so that Ellie and Ike can continue to get acclimated to each other. On the way home I stopped at Katrin's to do a few runs with Ike. I knew Sandy & Sadie and Nancy & Remy would be there; and since the Act-Up trial is only a week away we need all the practice we can get!

Ike surprised me to no end by being much faster than usual. Hooray! Is it the food change, the hanging out with Ellie, or every little thing combined? Who knows. I feel like the ball of change has started rolling and it just keeps picking up speed. It is SO cool.

I was telling Katrin about all of this, and she suggested I might have to consider changing the name of my blog if Ike continues to be such a quick little Schnauzer. Well, jeez...that might be true....

If Ike and I perform well at Act-Up and this is a true trend I will change the name, but to what? Something that has Slow As Molasses in it. So here is the challenge, whoever can figure out/create the best new name for my blog that incorporates Slow As Molasses will win a bunch of homemade treats. Put your thinking caps on, dear friends.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Ike & Nellie update

Well, Ike continues to think Nellie is an annoying white fluff and Nellie still thinks Ike is the best thing since sliced bread. Ah dogs....

October is a big birthday month for us, so Saturday night my in-laws had immediate family over to celebrate Ike's, mine, and my SIL's birthdays. Dogs in attendance, Ike, Carmen, Nellie, and Joey (the Yorkie who has major issues all his own). Nellie did really well -she's funny, she loves my niece, nephew, and certain men (John and his father). She is absolutely drawn to the kids. Funny how some dogs adore kids and other think they are so scary.

I only stayed for dinner and dessert (about 3hrs) with the dogs. I didn't want to over stimulate Nellie too much. As it was, the three hours was the outerlimit of her threshold in my opinion.

Yesterday we took some nice long walks and the dogs had afternoon marrow bones. Nellie attacked hers with great gusto. Yay! Great to see her enjoying herself!

This morning I fed both dogs chicken wings. I smashed them with a tenderizing mallet first. Nellie immediately grabbed hers and started devouring it. Ike looked at me like, huh, what do you want me to do with this? I used kitchen shears to cut his wing into smaller pieces. By this time Nellie was done with her wing and trying to steal Ike's!

I barricaded Ike in the g-pig room so he could eat in peace. I think it took him a good 20 minutes to eat his - it took Nellie about 5 minutes! Amazing differences in these two dogs. After they finished I started to panic about whether a chicken wing is appropriate for a dog of Nellie's size (slightly bigger than Ike), etc. and had to e-mail Katrin! I smashed the wings first, heard lots of crunching, and no one has vomited or had blood in their stool, so yes it's okay she said! Phew. I know I will get less paranoid with time, but Nellie isn't even mine so that made me more nervous than normal.

Now I am in the process of making carrot puree for some homemade treats. I'll let you'all know how they come out.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Playgroup eval for Nellie and Marlene's house

Yesterday I took Nellie and Ike to Katrin's house for a playgroup evaluation. We all know that Ike can sometimes be a brat, and Katrin wanted to meet Nellie before letting her join playgroup Monday. I thought both dogs did well. I am really impressed with Nellie - she has been allowing me to reach down and leash her without much distress. Like a lot of shy dogs, Nellie hates when you loom over her.

One of the biggest problems with Nellie at the moment is her weight. I think she is a good 10 pounds overweight. It is heart breaking because she likes to run and climb, but wearing her fur and fat she gets out of breath so easily. It really isn't fair to her. I know Nellie is exactly not what I want/need but there is a part of me almost wants her to stay with us.

I switched her to raw as she wouldn't eat her kibble and was trying to steal Ike's food. She has been WOLFING down her food - this from a dog who would barely eat her kibble even when she is at home!

This morning we went over to my friend Marlene's house. She has a great back yard and two Golden Retrievers. Michele came with her Shepherd-mix Sandy and Marlene's future daughter-in-law Shannon brought her brother's Mastiff puppy. Lots of dogs! Ike was a bit grumble-y - I think he is out of sorts with Nellie. Also, Sandy and Kody love to play and Ike then feels the need to "police." Sandy is super with both Ike and Nellie. She REALLY likes Ike but respects he likes dogs to keep their distance. Very cool.

Friday, October 5, 2007

"Nervous Nellie"

My mum's dog Nellie is staying with me until Tuesday (10/9). Poor Nellie, poor mum. A few years ago my mum got Nellie off of Craigslist. She had been bought by a family in Wayland that thought they wanted an older dog (9 mos.) that was already housebroken, etc. and had bought the dog from a breeder they *thought* was a reputable source, the president of the North American Cockapoo Registry. Yup, you read correctly. So there-in is part of the problem.

Anyway, the breeder shipped the dog to the family and the dog was beyond traumatized. She would not eat or drink for days, just shook, etc. The family had three children, the mother taught Spanish from her home for over-achievers; it just wasn't working. So my mother adopted her. My mother's vet thinks Nellie was never socialized with humans, she LOVES other dogs. When she is running with other dogs is one of the only times her little tail comes out and up.

In her own home Nellie has come thousands of miles, and she loves me, John, and Ike, but staying with us...ouch. She arrived Wednesday night, so yesterday was the first full day she was with me. We (me, Ike, and Nellie) had a GREAT walk at about quarter past 5am, her little tail was out and wagging. She adores Ike, even though he thinks she is an annoying white fluff. When we got back to the house I put out her kibble, but she wasn't interested. Okay.

During the day Ike stays at my in-law's house with their dog Carmen and my sister-in-law's Yorkie Joey. Carmen is a b*tch and Nellie is afraid of strange men - needless to say I though it would be more stressful for my FIL and Nellie for her to stay there, so I left her at home in her crate with the birds and g-pigs. Well, Nellie doesn't have a love-love relationship with her crate; she tolerates it. This makes me feel badly, but to work I go.

I had my mother bring her DAP diffuser because this has seriously helped Nellie in her own home. For those of you who might not be familiar with this item, DAP stands for Dog Appeasing Pheromone. I believe the pheromone is similar to what a lactating female gives off to calm her puppies. It works really well with some anxious dogs and has no effect with others. (Just like anti-depressants it is similar to shooting in the dark! What works for Joe might not work for Jane.)

I had a meeting at the Shelter last night to discuss how we will be teaching the new training program and decided to bring Nellie. After being locked up all day I didn't feel it was fair for her to have to stay home. I am not sure that was the best decision. Nellie was obviously stressed out. It makes me heartsick to think about. She hid under the table we were working on and panted for 90 minutes.

Then we went to get Ike from my in-laws. Transformation! We go in the house and she eagerly sits pretty for treats and steals Ike's favorite chew. Hmmmm. This morning when I walked the two of them her little tail was up and wagging. Happy as a clam. She is a totally different dog when there is a dog around. I feel badly for her because my mother's older dog just passed away about a week and a half ago.

Sometimes I tune my mother out (hey, she's my mum!). Well, I wish I had listened to her more about Nellie. She needs to work with a good behaviorist and try to set up a solid and consistent plan to work on desensitizing Nellie to the scary world. What's so sad about this is that Nellie has the sweetest, most lovely personality - she is just scared of the big bad world.

I am bringing Nellie over to Katrin's this afternoon because I would like to have Nellie and Ike attend the adult-dog playgroup on Monday. I know Nellie will have a blast. Mr. Ike, well as we know he can be a pain sometimes!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


It might be obvious that this isn't dog related.

I took my three g-pigs to the vet today for their annual. Zeek, my $1K piggie, has a pea-sized lump so I figured what the heck - get him checked out. Well, Dr. Jackie Warner (who previously SAVED Zeek's short little piggie life) aspirated the lump and said keep and eye on it but it appears to be just an inflamed hair follicle issue. Yippee!

Now the bad news, ALL of my pigs are over weight! I thought Zeek and Izzy were in good shape, that I just had one chunky-monkey, Alley. Nope. Dr. Warner suggested getting rid of the pigs' pellets since they eat a well balanced diet of timothy hay and veggies. Poor Alley - she's going to be VERY disappointed!!

The three g-pigs during a heat wave (Izzy, Alley, and Zeek)

I love feeding Ike raw!

So, I went to the EFP seminar last week after making the transition to feeding two raw meals. I received confirmation that I am not going to blow the boy up by feeding him raw, which I guess is what I needed. I bought some Bravo! elk, buffalo, and venison. Cutting up the Bravo! rolls this weekend, I couldn't get over how much more meat-like! they are than the "complete" raw diets. Interesting - they look like raw meat while the "complete" raw food is lightly-colored, finally ground, aesthetically pleasing "medallions." Hmmmm.....I sense an undercurrent here....

This weekend I went to the supermarket super-early on Sunday and Shaw's was having a GREAT sale on chicken wings. They also had beef marrow bones and oxtails. Now, I am not sure if I should be feeding beef marrow bones from the super market on a regular basis but I figured for the price I would grab them.

Sunday afternoon I gave Ike one of the beef marrow bones. He went over, sniffed it, walked away, and looked at me like, "what's going on?" I told him to go ahead and try it, he went back and started working on it. I am a dork, but it nearly made me CRY to see him so happily licking and gnawing away. He spent a couple of hours working on that bone and he didn't even get all the marrow out of it. He had a blast!

It's so warped to me what we have done to our dogs, taking away this really natural aspect of their dietary lives because we aren't comfortable with "it" and the possible germs. They survived for a very long time without us humans micro-managing their diets.

Monday after hiking I gave Ike a chicken wing. Well, he couldn't figure out what to do with it. He took it up on the futon and tried to bury it. Needless to say, John was distressed by that! I am going to try again with the chicken wing. I think maybe he was too tired after the hike? Or maybe he's a lazy eater!? Thoughts?

Oh, and I ordered a cheap-ish scale to make sure I don't accidentally feed Ike more than he should be getting!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Yipes, I'm behind!

Where to start....a lot has been happening lately. I have noticed big changes in Ike's behavior, starting with the MAP trial. At the MAP trial, throughout the weekend, Ike was playing with dogs, and trying to play with dogs. Wow. Talk about dumbfounded (that would be me).

This past Friday I had my second lesson with Erin S. and a couple of things clicked for me. Erin pointed out that every single time I face Ike he stops dead. Now, yeah, Katrin has also pointed this out, but sometimes you have to hear something multiple times from different people before your brain processes it. So, I am trying VERY hard to run laterally and only peek over my shoulder at Ike. To date, this has been difficult because I move faster than Ike and I don't trust him! Obviously I have to start trusting him more. Ike is running more and trotting less. Yay!

Erin also commented that on the Sunday of the trial she saw Ike get totally drawn into something visually outside the ring when he was running a course. Watching him she felt like he is a dog that tunes out the verbal cheering and in fact it might distract him. Ha! I have made myself into such a cheerleader for Ike that zipping my lips now isn't coming that naturally. However, considering how reserved Ike can be it makes sense that he wouldn't necessarily want me hooting and hollering at him.

The biggest surprise of all was when Erin picked up a boring old tennis ball that had been laying in her yard. She tossed it and Ike went tearing after it. We continued to toss the tennis ball and click Ike for speed. He was totally into that darn ball even though it was really humid and a pretty boring toy as far as toys go. In fact he behaved about that ball the way he acts about the g-pigs at home...prancing after me, eyes super-bright.

We started running two obstacles at a time, and I would toss the ball afterward. For example, dog walk + tunnel + me RUNNING + toss the ball. Ike loved it until he literally ran out of steam. My homework, to select some of Ike's favorite toys to bring to our next lesson.

Saturday Ike and I went to the Foxboro YMCA Animal Awareness day. Maplewood had a table and agility demonstration set up. I also brought Carmen (or the Carmelized Onion as she is known at home). It was interesting to have them both there. I think Ike was a bit snotty - whether it was 'cause Carmen was there or just because he was feeling like it, I can't say. He started out doing really well, wanting to play with Callie (Rotti-Lab mix) and then decided he had some sort of vendetta against Ryan, Li's sweet little Vizla puppy. Ike wouldn't leave Ryan alone. It was odd to me because after Ike grumbled at Ryan at his puppy-party, he was fine with Ryan. I guess it just goes to show that what works well one day isn't okay another.

I tried to incorporate some of my new thoughts about running agility with Ike during our demo-runs and everyone said he was moving faster than usual. Hooray. Running Carmen was a blast. I can NOT wait to get her into Katrin's foundation class. Carmen is a dog that truly enjoys running, purely for fun. Now I just have to work on my bond with her.

Since the Shelter is starting a new training program, Denise the woman I train Thursdays with, asked if I would bring Carmen so we can just go through the class - as a dry run. Works for me, Carmen doesn't know anything except sit and shake. This way when we do enroll in Katrin's class Carmen will have recently been in a class/learning situation with me.

Today Ike and I went to Borderland and snuck in an hour hike after work and before the park closed. I am trying to spend more time conditioning Ike. This will work out to my benefit too!!

Ike has been on a raw-raw diet since last Sunday. I think, and I am not kidding, that he is already thinning out a bit. I have noticed a big difference in his bowel movements and water intake.

So, what is next? Lots of hiking for me and Ike. Class for Carmen. Our next lesson with Erin is the 12th and we are entered in the Act-Up trial. It looks like it will be a busy month.