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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Another direction

Hi everyone!!

Sheltie-Mom here. I just wanted to let everyone know that I am really going to be focusing on our other Sheltie blog for a little while. Not to say that there won't be just was many amusing Sheltie posts here, but the other blog is really going to allow me to post on a more daily basis about the healing I'm doing, and how much the Shelties are helping. I don't want to bore you with too many of the details here, but I have had a rough go the past few months. It's been a really trying and difficult time, and I am so thankful (and lucky!) to have had my girls help me through it all. If any one would like to check out our other blog, a new post is up today. The other blog is: http://heart-dogsheal.blogspot.com/.

Thank you all so much for reading, and of course for all the well-wishes and support. It really is great therapy to be able to write and post as much as I can...and to know that people are reading it?? Its been truly amazing!

Hugs from the Shelties, and Sheltie-Mom!!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sheltie HUMILIATION

My poor Shelties. For a month now, they have been suffering cruel neglect, and now have also suffered the cruel hand of abuse. Someone please call Sheltie Rescue.

OK, so that is in THEIR mind. I admit, they haven't had all of the luxuries that they are used to having lavished upon them lately. Not only have I been in and out of the hospital (where I am right now), but inbetween these hospital stays, I have denied them their favorite things: walking and playing outside. Now, it hasn't been entirely my fault. I have been out of work for a month(on docotors orders) and feel that, for some reason, not being able to work ALSO means that I am not able to go for our long winter walks. And NO, I am not able to sit outside on a 20 degree day and throw the ball/frisbee until my arm feels like its going to fall off either. I know. Its very unfair to the Shelties. I mean, they're looking at it like "woohoo! Mom's on VACATION!! When are we going to the park? Or hiking? Or to the mountains? Or out to PLAY??" They dont seem to understand that "mommy can't breathe". OK, that's a lie. They're Shelties. Of COURSE they understand. They just seem to "conveniently" ignore the fact. They seem to be blissfully unaware that mommy is PANTING when she does the simplest task. But I dunno. Maybe Im taking their repetitive bahviors that border line OCD the wrong way. I mean, maybe they're using their special Sheltie Jedi powers to heal me; if it wasn't for their incessant barking, or their constant staring that I can feel deep into my SOUL, then I proabably wouldn't get up and push myself at all. Maybe they aren't being pushy and demanding for their own benefit but for mine? Yeah. That's what Im going to keep telling myself. I know...what ever it takes me to get to sleep at night.

So, anyways, back to the horrible conditions that my dogs live in. The neglect, as stated above, has been obvious, and severe. They seem to conveniently forget that any energy that I DO have is expended on playing Sheltie-Speedway, Sheltie-Wars, or loading the Buster Cube with snacks. They just know that they miss their walks, and like to sit near the door with a pained, depressed look on their face to make sure that I don't forget that they are suffering too. But the abuse. The abuse just started. The abuse has been so bad, that when I came into the hospital this time, and they asked me if I felt safe at home, I honestly contemplated saying "No. No I do not." But then I realized if I told them the truth, they probably would have had psych down there so fast I wouldn't have even had time to explain before they slapped the straight-jacket on me. No, I do not feel safe at home, because I am convinced that my Shelties are plotting against me. They are plotting evil, retaliatory things. And now I am scared.

What has turned my sweet and innocent (looking) Shelties into revenge-seeking mad-dogs? I'll tell you what. It is something that strikes fear into the hearts of every Sheltie out there. Something so scary, every fiber of their being is shaken. They actually quake in their little Sheltie-boots when they hear the dreaded word uttered. And that word is:

B A T H.

I know. Im hoping that the Sheltie Parents out there reading this had the decency to cover their Shelties eyes. I dont want to be the reason for Shelties all over the world running amok in a frenzied panic. I dont want to be featured on the 6 o'clock news. I dont need that kind of press. It's bad enough that my Shelties are forcing me to even right this blog, so that they can get their story of peril and the meanness of their owner out there. I'm waiting for the Sheltie Police to come kicking down my door Van Damme style any minute now. I can just see it: they stun me with super-sonic, high pitched Sheltie Barking, and then they bring me under control by using their powerful "Sheltie Eye" and intimidating Mean-Teeth. It's a scary thought. But Im going to continue with the story anyways. Because the threat of the Sheltie Police is strong, but the duress from my OWN Shelties is stronger.

It started out completely innocently. My mom was pressuring me to give the girls a bath for a long time now. And I totally would have complied, if it wasn't for that small, insignificant, yet ever persistant problem of being unable to breathe. And being as anal-retentive and over-protective as I am of the Ladies, I refuse to send them to a groomer, or have my mother bathe them. (I used to work at a grooming shop, and know how rough groomers can be when the dogs don't cooperate, and, lets face it, when my mom doesnt force dry or blow dry the girls, but just leaves them to air-dry, they just don't look or feel the same. So I had to do it...) So I put it off for as long as I could. I mean, they weren't FILTHY...it's not like they run around herding sheep all day. (*chuckling to myself* Yeah RIGHT...) And haven't I already mentioned the inability to get outside for walks or for play sessions? If anything, their DUSTY, not dirty!! And Shelties coats are wonderful in that they shed dirt very easily (Ive had the girls up to their chests in thick, caked on mud. But as soon as it dries, it just crumbles and falls right out of the coat) and they don't smell like other dogs do. So, sure, they could have USED the bath, but they were OK not having one for a bit. I mean, I kept their feet and nails trimmed and checked their ears to make sure they weren't dirty. I was doing what I could, with what I had.

But, since they put in the stent last week to try and alleviate some of my breathing problems, I started feeling better. So, I decided why not? Why not give it a go, and see what I can do?? It will be good for my doctors to know what I still can/cannot do when I go to see them next week for a follow up. I mean, without me trying things and getting data, how will they let me go back to work? So, I planned on brushing them one day at home, and then the next day bringing them for baths. I don't bathe them at home because it's much harder; too much hair clogs the drain, my back hurts too much from bending on the floor at the side of our tub, and it's much harder to dry them. We go to a self-serve dog-wash, where you bring the dog, and they do the clean up. In theory, anyways. I mean, you have to rinse down the tub walls and clean the hair off the floor so you don't get charged an extra fee. But that is still WAY easier than doing it at home. And they are usually stocked with all of the grooming supplies that you need: brushes, combs, scissors, shampoos and conditioners. Although I have all of my own stuff, so I bring it along.

So, I started the brushing on one day, and I called and booked the grooming-room for 2 hours the next day. My mom was going to drive us all up (it was her only day off...she really is a Saint!) and then let me see what I could do. But she'd be there to finish the job, if necessary. If only we knew then what horror was to transpire.

I started, like always, with Heidi. She's got a lot more coat than Shelby, and it is thicker and more typical for the breed. Also, because it's a lot longer, it requires more trimming too. I worked on her, brushing, combing and RAKING (with an under-coat rake) for about an hour and a half. Finally, I trimmed her feet, ears and bummy (which is totally embarassing for her...). I then worked on Shelby. Shelbys coat is much shorter, and less dense in some ways. Her undercoat is very cottony, and therefore she has a TON of it. So, she took me about the same amount of time. By the time I was done clipping her, my arms felt like they were going to fall off. It's been a long time since I've worked that hard! And you can probably see why, if you look at the picture. I probably could have made a whole new Sheltie baby-sister out of all the hair! But I do have to say (and not because they are making me...) that they really are quite easy to groom. You know, for dogs that have more hair than body mass. They both lie down on their sides, and are content being line-brushed and combed. There are a few parts that they arent the biggest fans of, though. They dont really like getting their nails clipped, dont really like getting their ears cleaned and they find getting their bummies trimmed totally hoffifying and embarassing. But over all, the brushing part isn't that bad. Its when we get in the car and, just when theyre thinking that I am finally taking them some place fun, we get out at the bath place. The looks on their little Sheltie faces are priceless...their eyes dialate, their ears go back, and they start whining pleadingly: "Please don't bring us in there! PLEASE don't bring us in there!!!" But, alas, an appointment has to be kept. And in we go, towards the impending doom.

Now, where we go the "bath house" is a small room with a tub, cage bank (for cage drying) and a grooming table. That's really it. I bring all of my own brushes, combs, cleaners (ear cleaner, shampoos, conditioner, etc.) and also bring a blow dryer and an extension cord. (The outlet is across the room from the grooming table, near the cage bank.) I have the same routine for each dog. I start with Heidi (who is visibly shaking) and put her up on the table and brush her a little bit. Only to make sure that there are no tangles since yesterday, and to get any more loose hair off (yeah right, like there can possibly be any more hair to come off...) One of the first things they teach you in the grooming class I took in college is: "if you don't need it, don't wash it". So, once the coat is all set, I clean their ears. I use an all natural product that, although it works, smells pretty bad. I can just IMAGINE what it must smell like to them. I don't blame them for wrinkling their Sheltie noses, and moving their faces away. After their ears are done, I put them in the tub. And this is the point where they are fully aware of the trauma that is about to take place. This, I think, is the place where the evil plotting of revenge starts. It is certainly when I start getting the dirty looks...

So, theyre in the tub. I start by hosing them down (after I've checked the water temp, of course). This first part is where I lose my Shelties and gain Whippets.


I have no idea where my collies who have fur to survive on the Shetland Islands went. I have two skinny, naked Whippets. Huh. I'll have to keep a look out for my Shelties... Anyways, once theyre all wet down, I have them face the wall, away from the drain. I proceed to (cover you Shelties' eyes here...Oh, and if your squeemish or have a weak stomach move on to the next part) pull up their tails and (*gulp!) empty their anal glands. Yeah. I don't really mind doing it, but THEY certainly do! They turn and look at me like they cannot BELIEVE what I am doing. Like I am some kind of perve enjoying it. Yeah, OK girls. THIS is why I give you a bath. Because I really, REALLY want to empty your anal glands. OK. Right. Anyways, after that mess is over, I rinse them down again. (If you've ever emptied a dogs anal glands, this is an obvious step.) Then, I shampoo them. Oh my god, you'd think that I was dumping acid on them and then lathering it up. Again, I am amazed at the expressions these dogs give me sometimes. When the shampoo first goes on, its squinted eyes, a lowered head, and a puckered face. Then, they start to look pitiful.
And Shelby is the QUEEN of the pitiful "woe is me" look. I mean, I think this dog has it down to a science. I swear that when Im not home, she practices in a mirror like a model going to their first casting call. It's pathetic. And what's worse, is that she SWAYS back and forth...I asked her if she was enjoying it' and gets so relaxed that she starts sleeping standing up. She insists that that's totally ridiculous, and that she is just trying to avoid passing out from the fumes eminating from the frothy lather. Yeah, OK Shelby. Your a sleep-stander. And you're in denile.
Here are some examples of Shelby's pathetic look:

So, after the lathering stage, which does take a while, as you do have to get ALL of that hair clean, then I rinse them. Again. As soon as all of the shampoo is out, I put on the conditioner. I don't use too much, because I don't want their coat to be heavy or greasy. But I do use enough that I notice the difference. I leave that on for a few minutes (all the while, they stand in the tub giving me the most evil, disgusted looks I have ever seen on a dogs' face) and then rinse it off.
Once everything is out of the coat, I squeeze it dry, and then grab the towels. Yes, towles, as in plural. That coat can hold a lot of water! After towel drying them to the point where they look a little more Sheltie like, I then get the "secret stuff". A friend of mine told me about this after she used it on her corgis and I noticed how wonderful their coat felt. The secret stuff is: Show Sheen. Yes, it is used for horses, but it also works wonders on a dogs coat too. Its almost like tefloning them. They stay cleaner longer, and their coat stays pretty and fluffy. I spray them down (again, enough to notice, but not enough to weight down the coat or make it greasy) and then I force dry them.
Not Quite there yet, but getting close!

Are we done YET??

They're actually really good with the force dryer. Even though it sounds like F-14's taking off in the grooming area, they really don't mind. I think they do the equation in their Sheltie heads: Bite loud hose that blows air at you, stay wet. Tolerate loud hose that blows air at you, get dry. Stand there and be good, and shake on command while air from loud hose blows at you, get dryer faster! They figure it out pretty quick. Of course they do. They're Shelties. So, after a few go rounds with the force dryer, I then stick them in the "puppy oven". OK, its not really called that. I don't actually mince them up, put them in a "puppy oven" and make delicious Sheltie pies and Sheltie MeatLoaf. Its the cage bank, and it has the blowing hoses of a BIG dryer attatched to the front. They HATE it. They hate it, because they hate me. They hate me, because I position the hoses in just the right way, that no matter where they are in the cage, they're getting blown dry. They can't lie down, sit up, or stand with out the warm air flowing through their beautiful hair. OK, see, this is the problem. This isn't exactly how they see it. They see it as being stuck in this tiny box where they are absolutely miserable. They can't lie down, sit up, or stand because the ANNOYING wind is being blown through their STILL WET hair. This is where the evil looks really take off. This is where Heidi shines. Where her sister has perfected the "Oh My GOD, I am the saddest most pathetic creature on this entire Earth" look, Heidi has the "I am so angry I cant even stand to look at you, but Im going to force myself because I want you to SEE the anger and annoyance in my EYES". Another new model who spends all of her time practicing. Thats it. No more shiney surfaces at Sheltie-face height at home.
Finally, when Shelby is done with her bath, I stop Heidi's blatant torture by removing her from the "puppy oven", and putting Shelby in there instead. Now comes the final, but no less abusive step of being blown dry by hand. Shelby stays in "the oven", and Heidi goes back up on the table. And I get out my pin brush, and line brush her again. I want to make sure that they're no longer wet (which, I have to admit, must be uncomfortable and can lead to hot spots) and make sure that they have that beautiful, flowy Sheltie coat that everyone loves. I want to make sure that they're not full of cow-licks from sitting or laying awkwardly in "the oven". This usually doesnt take long. Heidis pretty good at this, but her one BIG pet peeve happens during this step: I try to blow dry the hair leading from her neck to her ears. She HATES it. She ducks and dodges like a WWI dog fighting pilot. Shes a pro. Fortunately, it doesn't last that long. No, not because I physically pin her down saying "you're going to sit still, and LIKE IT!" (although the thought has crossed my mind...) but because the table is up against the wall, so I just have to find the right angle where she can be comfortable (i.e. not able to twist her head like an owl) and I can get the job done. Once she's "fluffed and buffed", I get Shelby. Her drying process in the "puppy oven" is a bit shorter, so I have to hand dry her a little longer. It doesn't really matter, because shes great at it. Not nearly as "sensative" (i.e. EVIL) as Heidi, so it's not so bad.

So, FINALLY, I have two gorgeous, fluffy, tefloned, clean Shelties. And they know it to. Its like that commercial that you see during dog-shows: the Petco one where the terrier runs by the mirror after his ball, but stops midway and looks at his reflection. Then he stops AGAIN on the way back after getting the ball. Yeah. That commercial was clearly made by some one who owns or has owned Shelties. These dogs can't walk by a CLEAN CAR without checking themselves out. It's a little disgusting. I knew I had snobs, but didnt realize they were so vain.

So, all in all, the bath-day went alright. I made it through (albeit VERY slowly-it took 2 1/2 hours just for baths and blow drying!) and was still breathing at the end. The Shelties survived too. They have PTSD, but they made it. In fact, it turned out that we were all pretty exhausted when all was said and done. They were so tired that they went home and slept. Actually, they tried sleeping at the bathig place. And as they were still tired when we actually went to bed, I felt comfortable enough to even sleep with both of my eyes closed that night. I did not worry about waking up with a pillow (or clean Sheltie body) over my face, trying to smother me. Now that they're rested however...I've got to watch my back. I see them together a lot since bath day; which is unusual, because theyre Shelties. They usually like their space. Seeing them togther so much is unnerving. I KNOW that they're plotting something truly spectacular. I'll make sure to check my toilet seat for plastic wrap before I go, and make sure that there aren't hidden doggy "gifts" (you know, the ones usually left OUT SIDE) in my shoes. You never know when you have dogs this smart. You've gotta be on your toes. Sometimes they use their gifts for good (I'm waiting for my tax return, done and filed by the girls a few days before this alleged "incident of abuse") and sometimes they use their gifts for evil (like standing on each others backs to get my socks/undergarments from INSIDE my 3 1/2' tall hamper with a LID on it). I'm starting to wonder if they're really doggy Jedi, or whether they have gone over to the "Dark Side". I'm worried I no longer have Yoda and Obi Wan, but the Evil Emporer and Darth Vader. I'll just have to turn them back to good: lots of treats, and lots of toys. Bribery can go a long way with Shelties...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Ed. note: I wrote this in two parts, one in the hospital, and one when I got home. I have to say, there is nothing more amazing, heart-filling, and constant than a dogs ability to forgive. I think that my absence last night did not go unnoticed. I think they have stopped being angry with me because of the (*whispers*) bath. They were so happy and over joyed to see me from my brief stay away; it was really heart warming. I know I missed them so much it hurt...for just the brief few hours over night. It was them that I focused on when I was getting the IV in and the blood-draws. And I didn't notice if the Shelties in my thoughts were clean or dirty; all that mattered was that they were there for me. And I hope that, despite the awfulness of the baths, I have been there for them. If they love me even half as much as I love them, it's all worth it. Evil looks and all.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sheltie feeding frenzy!

There is this great story that was published in this past issue of the "Sheltie International" magazine, which is a copy of a note that the owner had written for someone taking care of her Sheltie's while she was away. The title of the piece is "Dog sitting: truth is stranger than fiction." It was originally published in the February 2008 issue of the AKC Gazette, in the Sheltie breed column. It is one of the funniest things I've ever read. It entails all sorts of overly-detailed issues specific to this family of dogs including managing baby gates, feedings, and bed time. At the start of the piece, the author mentions that this particular sitter, oddly enough, never returned!

I think the reason why I find this so funny, is because my notes look EXTREMELY similar to this one! When I dropped off my girls for my friend Becky to watch, I believe that my "note" was a 3 page, back and front NOVEL that detailed everything about my girls day, from sun up to sun down. Even now when I found myself in the hospital, I was having to give detailed instructions to my Mom (whom I live with)DAILY so that my girls could be FED. (Well, fed properly, I should say. I'm sure if she bought a bag of "Old Roy" and let them at it, they would still be here today. Fat and unhealthy, but here.) I so applaud my mom for not only getting everything right, but loving my girls (and loving me!) so much, that she even TRIED during what was a very stressful time. One morning when I called her, she was sitting on the floor PLAYING GAMES (see previous post!) with them. She does love them very much, and I think really understands how important they are to me; and therefore how important their health and well being is.

So, as I'm looking to tomorrow, when I will be once again hospitalized for yet another procedure, I'm preparing my "list" of instructions for my mom to follow so that the girls can be fed. Why, are you wondering, is feeding my dogs so difficult? Well, I transitioned from kibble to raw last February. I had wanted to do it far before that, but wanted to do it the right way: run bloodwork, UA's, and fecals before and after their transition so that I could prove to my (traditional) vet that I wasn't going to kill them. Their switch to raw was due to the fact that I started working at their vets office, which made running all of those tests a little more affordable, and my vet could now see them fairly regularly (they could now come in to just say hello). So, I did my research, and chose a pre-made frozen raw diet that I was happy with. I also picked a second brand, so that after 6 months I could reevaluate how they were doing (and re-run the lab tests for firm results) and then I could switch. It's very important to switch brands because, lets face it, not everyone can get it right all of the time.

Their transition was very easy. They were on a very high quality kibble to start off with, and I had been adding things to it, like raw meat (from Bravo!), veggies, fruits and tripe, right along. They virtually switched over night, and have not had ANY problems since. The only illness that they had over the past year, was a doggy stomach bug that brought a few days of diarrhea, and they picked that up from the playgroup. (Which was confirmed when other dogs from the group had reported the illness before my girls came down with symptoms.) Even then, their little bug lasted for less time, and they did not need anything except a day fast, and some Slippery-Elm to make them feel a bit better. I love how they look and act on raw, and I believe that they really FEEL great too. Heidi's limp is loads better (so much so that we may try NADAC when I get better) and they both have more energy than before.

So why, you are still wondering, is it so hard to feed my girls if I feed a pre-made frozen raw? Shouldn't I only have to thaw it? Yes, I do have to do that, but I also still like adding in some of my own stuff as well. I usually will blend things, when necessary, pour them into mini-muffin cups and then freeze them. I then thaw these (different things for different days) and add them to the raw. Yes, it is totally anal. I really REALLY am a lot more careful with the things that I put into my girls mouths', vs. my own. I may eat any old vegetables, but I have to get theirs at "Whole Foods Market." I may stop at McDonald's on the way home from a show, but they can't get the disgusting pink (yes PINK) milk-bone cookie offered by the cashier at the doggy store. They don't get anything with artificial colors or flavorings, they get no "gluten" of any kind (wheat, corn, soy, NOTHING) and I check into the sourcing of ingredients in their pre-made food. Luckily, I have a lot of resources so that I can do all of this crazy research. (Our favorite magazine "The Whole Dog Journal", and our friend Dawn who owns "The Natural Dog" in Newburyport.

So, what do I "blend up"? I have two veggie mixes, two fruit mixes, sheep's yogurt and tripe (venison or lamb). The mixes are:
Green Veggie: celery, sugar snap peas, broccoli, green beans and romaine lettuce.
Orange Veggie: sweet potato, pumpkin, and carrots.
Red Fruit: strawberries, blue berries, raspberries, black berries, and cranberries.
Yellow Fruit: oranges, apples, plums (or peaches) and pears.
*These are just the ingredients of the current mixes; I switch up the produce according to the season. Some things are a staple: oranges and apples, all the berries, and pumpkin. But almost everything else changes.

And of course, when you have a raw diet, its important to supplement too. Now, the diet is "technically" complete, so you shouldn't go too crazy with the supplements, so I just do what I think my girls need: probiotics, salmon oil, vitamin E, flax oil, vitamin C, apple cider vinegar, bone-meal powder, cod liver oil, honey and coconut oil. These supplements are also only given on specific days, with specific meals.

So, now that you know the "bones" of my girls' diet, lets see how it all comes together! (Mom, this is for you!):
This is all per dog, per meal

Monday:
1-1/4 large patty (comes out to 2 oz)
1-small nugget (1 oz)
1/2 red fruit
1/2 yogurt
1/8 tsp Vitamin C
1/8 tsp probiotic
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
*Instructions: thaw meat (whole 8 oz. patty, 4-1 oz. nuggets) in large stainless steel bowl. In small bowl, thaw 1 red fruit (again, frozen mini-muffin cup worth) and 1 yogurt. They will be liquidy when thawed. Mix together, then divide between both dogs bowls.) Mix fruit/yogurt and meat well. Add supplement's. Put remaining 1/2 large patty and 2 nuggets in fridge for dinner meal.

Tuesday:
1-1/4 large patty
1-nugget
1/2 orange veggie
1/2 tripe
2 pumps of salmon oil
1 squirt (about 1/4-1/2 tsp) flax oil
5 drops vitamin E
1/8 tsp probiotic
*Instructions: thaw meat in large stainless steel bowl. Thaw tripe and orange veggies in small bowl. (These stay pretty firm, so don't mix, you can just cut them). When thawed, cut in half and give half of each to each dog.Mix tripe, veggies and meat, and then add supplement's. Use remaining meat for dinner meal.


Wednesday:
1- 1/4 large patty
1- nugget
Eggs
1/8 tsp bone-meal powder
1/2 tsp cod liver oil
1/8 tsp probiotics
*Instructions: start thawing meat in large SS bowl. Once thawed, scramble two eggs with about 2 tbs of milk. Cook eggs. Split cooked eggs in half. Put 1 half in container (to be refrigerated for dinner). Split remaining half between both dogs for breakfast. Mix meat and eggs, then add supplement's. Do the same for dinner.

Thursday:
1- 1/4 large patty
1- nugget
1/2 yellow fruit
1/2 yogurt
1/8 tsp Vitamin C
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/8 tsp probiotic
*Instructions: follow same instructions as Monday night. Thaw and mix fruit and yogurt, then divide.

Friday:
1- 1/4 large patty
1- nugget
1/2 green fruit
1/2 tripe
2 pumps salmon oil
1 squeeze (1/4-1/2 tsp) flax oil
5 drops vitamin E
1/8 tsp probiotic
*Instructions: follow instructions from Tuesday. Thaw veggies and tripe, split, and then mix with meat.

Saturday:
1- 1/4 large patty
1- nugget
Eggs
1 tsp molasses
1/8 tsp probiotic
*Instructions: follow instructions for eggs on Wednesday. Mix eggs and meat, then add molasses and probiotics.
Sunday:
Morning:
1 can of fish (Evangers mackerel- 5 oz. can)
2 tbs "The Honest Kitchen" mix (powder)
*Instructions: Put two tbs. of THK into each bowl. Add two tbs of hot water. Mix, and then let thicken. Open can of fish. The fish are WHOLE. Cut whole fish in half, and divide between dogs. Any fish parts, divide and add to each bowl as well. Mix THK and fish. No supplements in morning meal.

Evening:
2 tbs "The Honest Kitchen"
1/2 container of cottage cheese
1/2 heaping tsp of coconut oil
1 tbs of honey
*Instructions: Thaw cottage cheese in hot water bath. When thawed, start with THK. Put 2 tbs. of powder in each bowl. Add 2 tbs. hot water. Mix, and let thicken. Then, add 1/2 container or thawed cottage cheese to each bowl. Mix with THK, and add supplements.

I mean, COME ON! How easy is that!?!? Its just following a simple pattern: fruit/yogurt, veggies/tripe, eggs. Repeat. Sunday, is an alternate, non-raw meat day. Just to give their bodies a break.

Now, for the most part, it isn't that bad. But the FISH...the fish takes some getting used to. The first time that I opened a can, I couldn't believe that there were WHOLE fish in there! And they still had eyes!!! And because they are cooked, they still have their bones (one of the benefits of using them) so when you cut into them, you can see their bones too. They're pretty nasty looking, and they smell like old, fishy cat food (which is essentially what they are) but the girls love them. I use the Honest Kitchen as a base on Sunday, because it has so many other things in it that their raw base doesn't have. Its just nice to know that they're getting those things in their diet. The cottage cheese comes from the idea of fasting you dog. Depending on what books you read, and what diet you follow, (home made diets) they will have you include a day of fasting. Now, a lot of people can't do a full day, because their dogs follow them around (or do more than that-bark, whine, paw, etc.) when its feeding time, because the dogs are on a schedule. I didn't really see the point of doing a fasting day, so I used some of their suggestions, and incorporated a "meat free" day at the end of the week (or beginning...I guess it depends on how you look at Sunday!)

Now, I wanted to post this because feeding my dogs, making their food, and watching them enjoy it is something that I really like to do. I cant tell you the last time that I cooked a really good, big meal for myself, but I was up the day after Christmas blending tripe because I was running low. Indeed, one of my favorite Christmas gifts, the food processor that I got from my mom this year, enabled me to do that! I did not post this because I think that everyone should follow my girls' diet. On the contrary, I believe that when you decide on a food or diet, I don't think you should tell ANYONE! There are hundreds of message boards all over the Internet with people flaming and becoming way more angry than necessary because they disagree on food and diets. Although raw is becoming a lot more widely accepted (even by veterinarians) it is still controversial. Yes, it is the right diet for my girls. But doing it the right way is most of the battle. Doing research, and making sure that the food is handled and kept properly is part of the territory, so if you're lazy and not prepared to do that, then raw isn't for you. For example, I HAND WASH my dogs dishes every time I feed them. They get sanitized through the dishwasher a few times a week. I take the food out, and thaw it in a warm water bath every morning. I don't microwave it, and don't leave it to sit out. I also make sure that I don't buy or make so much food that the freezer gets over crowded, so I can avoid freezer burn and ice crystals.

I hope you enjoyed, and maybe chuckled a bit at how CRAZY I am when it comes to their food. And just from writing this, I know that I appreciate my moms efforts in helping to take care of my girls even more. Yes, feeding this way is time consuming, but the benefits that I see are worth it. And my girls are worth every dollar spent, every minute blending, and every stomach lurch I feel when I see those fish looking up at me! Now, go and feed your dogs, will you? And make sure that you are checking ingredients. Aren't your dogs worth it too??

And just so you get inspired, hes some views of Shelby enjoying (almost obscenely) her dinner:



Oh My GOD, this is SO GOOD! *nom nom nom*

See? I told you I could eat it all in less than 15 seconds!


I'm going to lick my bowl clean...just for good measure...


Have...to get...every...MOLECULE....


And Im gonna lick the sides too...just in case...

Oh my god! Theres another dog trying to eat my food! Oh wait...thats just my reflection in a my LICKED CLEAN bowl...




Saturday, February 7, 2009

Dog Law: Every Dog Owner Should Be Aware

OK, I know that this post is diverging quite a bit from what I usually write about. This isn't going to be a silly post about my silly girls. I want to post this, because I feel like it is so important to get this message out there to my fellow dog owners. I am sure that most of you are already aware of it the issues being raised all over the country threatening our rights as dog owners, but this issue really hit home for me. The issue that is causing me so much ANGER, is the proposed House Docket #653, that is being proposed in the Massachusetts congress. This is the "anti-debarking" bill. This bill is trying to make "bark softening" illegal in this state. It is proposing that if someone BREAKS THIS LAW, then they will be sentenced to a JAIL TERM of up to FIVE YEARS in prison, and/or a FINE of up to $2,500!!! The other statements in the bill allow for exceptions for "medical purposes", and only allow veterinarians the ability to do the procedure legally (duh...).

The people behind this bill are all the usual suspects: the same people that are behind BSL, and mandatory spay/neuter bills. These are the people who are trying every day to take our rights as dog owners away.

Now, I have been on the fence about a lot of these issues. Take the cropping debate: I do agree that it seems frivolous to force a pet to go through the pain of a cosmetic surgery just to meet the breed standard. But on the same note, I believe in the sport of purebreds, and think it is important that we keep our breeds as close to the standard as possible: the standard was written as a blue print for the breeds, so that we can keep them as close in form and function that they were originally bred for. So I am undecided. I mean, people go through cosmetic surgery all the time; as with any surgery, there are risks, but it is also safe enough for doctors to continue to allow it to take place. And pain management has come so far, that people are continuing to be willing to go through the surgery, despite the pain that comes with it. But would it be fair, or socially acceptable for people to put their CHILDREN through cosmetic surgery? I'm sure that there are people in the world who do it, but if it tried to become more mainstream, I think there would be a huge outcry from the general public. This is the root of my internal struggle about the cropping/docking debate: Are our dogs still animals to us, whom we continue to breed for generations, even though their original jobs have virtually vanished? Or are they furry children, important members of our family that we should show the same respect to? I am lucky that I do not have a breed that needs to be cosmetically altered; I would not know what to do if I found myself on the edge of the great precipice that is the decision of whether to dock/crop or not.

But, on some issues where I had been on the fence, I made a decision about after a little self education. An example of this is the greyhound racing bill that went to vote in this last election. The debate was over whether or not the state should ban greyhound racing. The side that was FOR the ban, was the same side that now wants to make "de-barking" (or "bark-softening") illegal. Their argument was that greyhound racing is cruel; the people who are in charge of caring for the racers are cruel and neglectful, and the sport itself is cruel, where many dogs sustain major injuries. The only opposition (that the general public saw) were ads about how many people at the tracks would lose their jobs. For me, as for a lot of people, the decision was easy. I cared way more about the poor, neglected and injured dogs, than I did about a few hundred people being out of work. The ban would be "for the greater good". It was only AFTER the election had come (which my conscience is eased by my inability to vote this year) that I came to know the other side of the debate. The other side being beyond just a few people losing their jobs. The other side that showed the true colors of the people who had originally proposed the bill, and the people who had jumped on the band wagon and who were now staunch supporters. The heart of the argument was brought to my attention by a friend of mine who had a retired racer. He was the bestest, smartest, COOLEST greyhound ever! He was a greyhound who knew how to sit (I know!) and sang on command. His owner, my friend Alyssa, sent out an email explaining to everyone why it was so important to the working-dog cause to keep this sport alive. She explained that she had been to the track for a retired-racers get-together and saw for herself how well the track/dogs still racing were kept, and saw how much joy the retirees had at being able to perform their job once more. And she went on to say what the real issue at heart was: this was just a stepping stone for people to start making it illegal for dog owners to be doing all kinds of activities with their dogs, because other people have deemed them "unsafe" or "inhumane". I mean, how much longer will it take them to start pointing out how many injuries there are because of agility? Or comparing us to over obsessive "Pageant Mothers" who disregard our dogs well being so that we can win a few more ribbons? I don't think that these issues are far off. I think its a very bleak outlook for the purebred dog and working dog activities if we don't start standing up to these people and fighting back. I think that the AKC needs to step it up, and so does the individual dog owner.

And I'm not going to lie. Feeling this way is new to me. I mean, sure, I read all of the posts and articles regarding BSL, but wasn't that affected because I own such a docile breed. People said that again, this was just the beginning and if we don't start taking a stand, then it wont just be the "bully breeds" targeted here. I mean, if a group of people can make a decision about another group, and have that decision listened to and upheld, what is stopping that same group (or a different one) to start having problems with YOUR BREED, and bringing them to the spotlight as well? And this is what is happening with this "anti-devocalization" bill. They are in essence making it very hard to own a certain group of dogs; specifically herding and toy breeds. The people behind these bills are the people who are waging a behind the scenes war on the purebred dog community. Now, this specific bill doesn't have specific breeds in its language, but make no mistake, it is still aimed directly at us. Most of the people who end up getting their dogs "devocalized" are people who raise such breeds as: Shelties, Collies, Aussies, Papillons etc. Mostly the breeds to have their barks softened are the herding breeds. As I stated in the previous post, barking is one of the many tools in the bags of herding dogs to help them move stock (usually many MANY times their size). It is a trait that we as humans bred into them. And now, even though fairly few dogs have maintained their stock herding jobs (except recreation ally) they have continued to be vocal. It is a trait that people are (well, educated people) are aware of, and we keep these dogs knowing full well that this is one of their many characteristics.

But what they aren't realizing, is that this legislation is going to affect way more dogs than just these select few. I mean, their mission is to save the dogs in the shelters, but those shelter dogs may be barkers too. Either because they are a mixture of breeds who may tend to be vocal, or because it is a behavior that they learned in their life before going to the shelter (which may, in fact, be the reason they were dumped or given up in the first place!). So this legislation is going to hurt everyone. I think the dogs are going to be the ones who ultimately suffer. I think people will be more apt now to surrender a dog (or cat, as they can also be "devocalized) who has a barking issue. And these people who will be surrendering these pets are not going to be the dedicated breeder who loves their breed (they're just going to move to a new state) but it is going to be the general public-educated or not. Even the most studious new dog owner who selected a breed that is not known for barking, may end up with a dog who breaks the mold. They may get a new puppy that is overly vocal, or even if they go to their local pound, shelter, or breed rescue to adopt a dog, they might find themselves in the same situation. So, although the bill sounds like it has good intentions behind it, there will be a lot of problems to come if it passes.

And this is the BIG issue with laws regarding pet ownership. I understand that these issues are being brought to the table because we are having so many pet problems in this country (and others) including over-population (overly full shelters, and a high euthanasia rate), puppy mills and dog fighting. But why does every solution that is brought to the table a mandatory one? Why does it have to be MANDATORY spay and neuter? Why does it have to be ILLEGAL to own a certain breed, or to have your pets bark quieted? Why aren't there any options?

I know people are thinking "well, if you don't like these idea, what are yours?" Well, I have some. I am not a law maker, and these are of course only my opinions. But when it comes to mandatory spay/neuter why cant it be a fee, or tax process? There is a feel (fairly small) to keep your pets intact, and a much larger fee to breed your dogs. BUT, the catch is that the fee to breed can be waived IF the breeder has proof of genetic testing done on each parent. These tests can be set forth by the breeds parent club, who know the breed the best and have the best intentions at heart. Once the testing has been done, they go to the town hall and get their certificate that allows them to breed, and not have a fee. And this is the beauty of it: the general public can now tell good breeders from bad. No certificate, no testing done. You automatically know that the breeder cannot care THAT much, because the testing wasn't done. And the fee for breeding is HIGHER than the tests cost, so it is much more economical to just do the testing anyway.

Now BSL is pretty self explanatory: PUNISH THE DEED, NOT THE BREED. Its as simple as that. If a dog hasn't done anything wrong, there is no reason what the dog cannot be a much loved member of the family. This is just like saying every (insert race here) person is a bank robber-just because you once saw a bank get robbed by this type of person. Its completely ridiculous, and archaic.

And finally, the one that hits so close to home for me is bark-softening. I don't understand why it has to be made ILLEGAL so NO ONE can have it done. Why cant it be a tax/fee that you need to pay to your town if you want to get it done? You pay the fee; the town issues you a certificate that you then take to your vet so the procedure can be done. This is a way that the TOWN can monitor how many dogs a person is keeping (i.e. getting devocalized: this is for the argument that people may be keeping hoards of dogs as fighters or in a mill situation) and vets can also be aware that the owner is doing his due diligence. Now, if someone wants to (or has to) get their pet devocalized THAT BAD, they'll have to put up with the fee. The only exemptions to the fee are medical necessities. Now, I'm sure too that there is some type of certification and training that vets can get so that they can be allowed to perform this procedure. That way, we can make sure not just anyone can do it; it eliminates a lot of the "risks and pain" that the supports are claiming that the procedure entails. To get a really good idea of what "bark-softening" is all about, please check out: http://www.naiaonline.org/body/articles/archives/debark_qna.htm

Now, I have been on my soap box for a pretty long time, but I just ask that you stick with me for just a little longer. I want to let you know that I do not have either of my girls "de-barked". I have never owned a "bark-softened" dog. Why this issue is so important to me, is because my breed, and my dogs in particular, are barkers. I have already explained why they happen to be so vocal. But their vocality is part of their charm; it is part of what makes them Shelties. I will not give up my love and passion for the breed just because someone says that they have "undesirable" traits, and then take away my right to help lessen those same traits that they have a problem with. I do not have a problem with anyone who "de-barks" their dog; if they are an educated dog owner, and they buy or rescue a Sheltie from a reputable place, and they immediately get that dog "de-barked", I don't have a problem with that. I think it is much worse to have a dog continuing to stay in rescue and missing out on a great home, because that person (who does agility, herding and obedience) lives in an apartment. This is the situation that scares me so much. Here I am spending more money on their food than some people spend on their human kids, spending my days off at dog shows and therapy visits, and spending what little energy I have to play with them and keep them exercised and happy, and then some where down the road, I may not be able to stay where I am living, or have to resort to TRULY cruel and painful measures to quiet my "chatty" dogs. If it comes down to neighbors complaining about my barking dogs (who are barking at squirrels, cars pulling in, because they're happy...) and then having to make the gut-wrenching decision of: moving, debarking, electronic collars, or getting rid of my girls, I'm going to go with the "debarking". In terms of moving, it is going to be very difficult moving somewhere else where this wont continue to be a problem. I would no sooner be able to give up my dogs, than detach both my legs, and I would rather have them go through a short, one time procedure of being de-barked versus having them be miserable EVERY DAY sitting at home with a collar that SHOCKS THEM when they make noise. There isn't even a question in my mind that I would chose the "bark-softening" procedure. Now, for me, this is the only situation that I would do it: if my neighbors were having such a problem with them that those would be my only options. I personally enjoy their barkiness and little moans and sighs, and although I know those wont be eliminated when their barks were softened, I still do like them at full volume.

I urge you all to educate yourselves about specific issues regarding dog ownership, not only in your community, but throughout the country as well. Some day, and that day may be coming soon, you might find yourself in the same situation that I now find myself in: having an issue being brought up that endangers your right as a loving dog owner. The opposition states: "It is not “responsible” to bring a naturally noisy breed into an apartment, or leave any dog outside all day, then mutilate him when neighbors complain. Responsible pet owners choose the right animal for their home environment and lifestyle, and provide appropriate care." (taken from: http://network.bestfriends.org/massachusetts/news/31661.html) So, "Best Friends", you're saying that, as someone dedicated to my breed, I should NOT own any future Shelties because I find myself in an apartment? Or in a suburb? I can only own these dogs when I buy a house in the middle of nowhere, where my closest neighbors are miles away? I'm sorry, but that isn't going to work. I have a serious, SERIOUS heart condition that pretty much makes living on my own way out in the boondocks virtually impossible. Now, don't get me wrong Mr./Mrs. Legislator, this is truly where I would WANT to live, but you see, my medical condition makes it a pretty unsafe option. So, now that we know that I wont be able to live out in the sticks, I'm supposed to ignore all of the OTHER wonderful qualities that my breed has, the qualities which drew me and hundreds of thousands of other people to them in the first place, and just go get something different? Or maybe not even own a dog at all? No, that's not going to work either. You see, you are not understanding why people love their dogs so much. I can only ever speak for myself, but I AM an educated dog owner. I CHOSE my breed because of their extremely sweet temperaments and kind natures. I need a dog that I can take ANYWHERE. I can trust them in any kind of situation, with many different people. Their small size makes feeding affordable, and allows me to physically able to handle them (pick them up for transportation needs, grooming, etc.). They are Canine Good Citizens, and keep me active and healthy by allowing me to not only get out and get some more exercise, but I also am able to compete with them in a variety of venues (including agility and obedience) where I meet and make friends with many people who share my enthusiasm for the sport. These dogs are often times the glue that holds families and friendships together. These dogs are often times what keep people from doing something drastic, like ending their lives. If you start taking away the rights that we have as citizens of the United States, you are really in fact taking away a piece of what it means to be American. The Declaration of Independence clearly states: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." These dogs are giving all of those things to us: they give us joy in life every single day; they give us the liberty to be able to go out and enjoy everything that this great country has to offer; and they are the definition of happiness. Don't let politicians dictate how we have to love and care for our pets. They are only elected; and their minds change with the weather. They were so wrong when it came to Katrina, and preventing people from evacuating with their pets. So many lives, both human and animal, were lost because of their mistakes. What has changed? What makes them so qualified now, they can bring about laws governing things that they still know nothing about? Think about your loyal friend sitting beside you. Now think about breaking the law to keep him or her with you. Would you do it? I would. But I think its easier to be proactive and stop these issues before they become laws that people would be willing to break.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The cure for boredom

Did you ever hear that saying "too smart for your own good"? Well that saying takes on a whole new meaning when it applies to dogs. When I was training, we used to tell people with smart puppies all the time: "the good news is that you have a very smart puppy. The BAD news is that you have a very smart puppy." Smart dogs tend to get into a little more mischief, and tend to keep their people on their toes just a little bit more. And when you have a herding dog, this "smarty pants" attitude gets multiplied. BY TEN. When you have a herding dog that could probably do your taxes if you asked them to, your life probably isn't going to be boring. In fact, it is probably going to be the EXTREME opposite of boring! And no time is this more evident than when your dog cant get their regular exercise (which is usually the daily equivalent of running a triathlon), and you find yourself suddenly stuck with them in the house.


Now if you really think about it, it all makes sense. I mean, Shelties were bred to be out day after day moving and protecting their flocks. And doing that job was made a bit more challenging when the croft (farm) was only a small spit of land that is home to some of the worlds worst weather. You have to be able to move your sheep up and down the rocky shore according to the tides. You have to bark (loudly...and sharply...and a lot) to keep birds of prey and other predators away from your lambs. And because you live on such a tiny island, you have to be wary of strangers, but be completely loyal and biddable so your human can let you know what needs to be done.

These daily tasks made our Shelties who they are today. It explains their vocality, their sometimes aloofness with strangers and their extremely high intelligence. A good working dog will be biddable enough to listen to what his shepherd asks, but intelligent enough in his own mind to be able to decide what is best for the flock. And to make these decisions in a split second. These early demands on our furry Shetland friends made them the amazing "all around" versatile companions that they are today. But these good attributes also present a bit of a challenge. I don't know about you, but I am not able to keep a small flock of Shetland Sheep for my girls to herd and protect in my back yard. And most people, I think, are in the same situation. 9If you're not, and have some sheep, can we come over??) So it is up to us to give our dogs something else to do; they need an outlet for all of that instinctual intelligence and energy. If we do not provide our dogs with jobs, they will start to invent some of their own. And these self-discovered jobs are usually not at all to our liking. Most involve chewing, nuisance barking, herding inappropriate things (kids on bikes, joggers, CARS...), but some become a bit darker and even more troublesome: OCD behaviors, self-mutilation, and aggression. We owe it to our little buddies to make sure that they have things to keep their bodies and minds busy so that we don't have to deal with the pain and heart-ache of losing them when their behaviors spiral out of control.

So what are we city and suburb dwellers to do? Well the obvious things are to get them out doing those jobs that they were originally bred to do! Herding (for our guys), hunting, lure-coursing, earth-dog and carting are just some of the jobs that people can get their dogs involved in to keep them busy. And although I threw in those other jobs because not all of this only applies to herding breeds (how many terriers that you know still live in barns and hunt rats every day for work?) but all of those aforementioned jobs our Shelties can do too! If you check out the AWSS site (Association of Working Shetland Sheepdogs-link on sidebar), and their yahoo group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AWSS-Shelties/ then you'll find pictures and stories of these amazing dogs doing it all! And if those jobs don't suit your kids, there are always agility and obedience too. But what can you do in the mean time? What can you do if you suddenly find yourself house-bound because of illness in the middle of winter? I mean, what can you do so your SHELTIES stop STARING at you because they're bored??? You make stuff up!

I've officially been home from the hospital now for about 2 weeks. When it came to my girls, at first it was great. I think we missed each other so much (from my 12 day hospital stay) that all they wanted to do was snuggle, and be close to me. That lasted about A DAY. After that, they went back to their "lets go play!" mode. I sat them both down and explained that as I still cannot BREATHE, and although I am home and not going to work, (because I'm not able to drive), we cannot go to the park, or for our favorite walks in the woods. I also cannot sit outside and throw your ball/Frisbee for an hour. And finally, no, there will be no agility practice. As intelligent as they are, you'd think that they would remember. I think they just "yessed" me to death. They smiled and nodded their little Sheltie heads, and then Heidi proceeded to pick up her ball and drop in at my feet. As I mentioned in the last entry, it is slightly frowned upon that I give into this version of Jedi mind tricks, because if things break as a direct result of my lack of ball-throwing skills, I'm going to be in BIG trouble. Again, I explain this to the Shelties: "If I throw the ball, and something breaks, mom wont CARE how much fun you had chasing the ball. And she wont CARE how fast you brought it back. And she DEFINITELY wont CARE about how you dodged the falling object as you ran by it. Shes just going to CARE about what ever is broken, and we're going to find ourselves living outside in a cardboard box." I think that, again, they weren't really listening, as the only word that seemed to register was "outside". So, after taking the ball away (and throwing a handful of cookies on the floor to keep them busy while I hid it-Heidi will continue to stare for HOURS at the spot where it is if she knows...) I started to think of some other things we can do to "keep busy". Here's what we came up with:

1. THE BUSTER CUBE!!- Possibly the best dog toy (besides our forever friend, "Chuck-It") ever invented. I owe a steak dinner to whom ever it was who thought up this toy and brought it to households chock full of "Sheltie-boredom". It is SO GREAT! You just put some cookies in the hole on the top, shake it up (which gets the cookies lost in the vortex inside of the "cube") and then put it down and watch the fun! Now, not all dogs get the fun of "Buster Cube". I started both my girls on it as babies. Heidi is OCD about it now (playing for much longer than is necessary, even when its EMPTY) but Shelby never got the game. What she DID learn, however, is that Heidi isn't the best cookie hunter when the cookies pop out of the hole, so she follows her around to inhale anything that Heidi misses. She looks like a little Sheltie-shaped, furry vulture; but it is a little bit of an insight into how smart Shelby is. Why do all the work? Let some one else get dizzy rolling the cube around, and still reap the rewards! Now, the problem with "Buster Cube" is that it only lasts as long as the treats inside. I mean, even though Heidi will probably play with an empty cube for HOURS, it just isn't nice to let her do it. The cube works very similarly to positive training: offer a behavior (Heidi flings "cube" across floor) and you get a reward (cookie pops out). Later, when they get to be professionals (like Heidi) you can set it so not as many rewards come out. So, now they're getting rewarded only every 7th time they roll the cube. THIS is why people get addicted to slot machines! And Heidi sure is addicted!! I'm afraid I'm going to have to sign her up for BCA (Buster Cubes Annonymous).

2. Sheltie WARS!- My girls love to tug. They will probably tug until all of their teeth fall out. They will tug any where, any time. This can be both a blessing and a curse. We use it for rewards for agility (we have special tuggy leashes too!) and its a great energy burner if you're in a small space. And we sure know the value of it when we can't get out and burn off some steam!! The girls will tug with me any time, and will also start Sheltie WARS! and play tug with each other. It is one of the funniest things I have ever seen, watching my girls play tug. Heidi has the wide, sweeping head flail, and Shelby has the short-burst-of-energy, kill-it-till-it's-dead head jerk. When they REALLY get into it, they sound like two rabid wolverines fighting over a scrap of meat. I have actually had people on the phone ask me if I am having a dog fight. I have to explain to them that no, those are just my two 20lb "mini-Lassies" playing tug. They usually hang up still sounding skeptical. No wonder why I don't get many visitors...

3. BULLY SPRINGS!- I am SO careful with what I give to my girls for food and treats. I am much more anal about what they eat, vs. what I eat. I will not give them rawhide (choking hazard) and not give them Greenies (intestinal blockage hazard). I will, however, give them bully sticks. I don't like the straight ones because I think they're too hard. (Heidi cracked two teeth once, and ended up with a nasty abscess) but I will give them the softer "springs". They LOVE them! As I said before, my girls are essentially furry garbage disposals on legs. But they really do get excited when they see these particular curly treats. They don't last THAT long (especially with Shelby the "annihilator") but they are good to keep them busy and keep their teeth and jaws in shape. Oh, and they're usually so focused on keeping the "spring" between their paws, that they will even temporarily stop staring at me...(key word is "temporarily")





4. Sheltie Speedway!- OK, I finally caved. I picked up the ball, and THREW IT. But WHERE I threw it is the key. I figured that if I closed ALL of the doors in the upstairs hallway, then there really isn't anything that I can break (still knocking on wood, though. With my luck I'll probably huck it so hard it will put a dent in the drywall...). The good news is that I can now let them run down a (fairly short) runway, and still have everything intact. The bad news is that I'm not "technically" supposed to go up stairs, so...we don't get to play Sheltie Speedway very often. But I think Ive provided enough entertainment regardless, don't you??

Well, just for kicks, I decided to allow one more game to take place as well. This one is specific to Heidi, as Shelby seems to smart to include herself in such a silly pasttime. This game is:

KILL THE SHOVEL!!- Heidi likes to chase things. A LOT. In the winter, it happens to be the snow shovel. In the spring and fall, it is the rake. She takes the summer off. Much to my mothers chagrin, this is something that I find HILARIOUS! On one of our favorite blogs, "Three Woofs and a Woo", "Food Lady" posted somethings that make her a rotten dog owner. Things that her dogs do that she probably shouldn't be laughing at, but they're too funny not too. THIS is one of those situations. What makes it even funnier is the fact that this dog will seemingly chase anything that moves...except sheep!! Here are some pictures of Heidi "Killing the Shovel":


So I think my girls are a little bit happier and a little more exercised this week, now that Ive been giving them some more to do. I really REALLY hope that Spring comes soon, and by that time, I'll hopefully be able to breath too! But in the mean time, I'll keep them occupied with treats and toys, and myself occupied with sharing the stories of my stuey-pendous Shelties!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sheltie Snobs

Any one who has Shelties will tell you how snobby they are. Well...most Shelties. Well...most FEMALE Shelties. Males tend to be a lot more playful and friendly with other dogs. Females...females wonder why they are forced to tolerate "lower beings" (i.e. "non-shelties"). Well my girls are snobbier than most. My girls not only take the cake, but they baked and iced it too. They have always just looked in complete disdain at other dogs. Especially retrievers. Oh, and terriers. Anyone who accidentally finds themselves in the my girls paths, actually. Its not that they HATE other dogs...I mean, they never start trouble. They don't walk into a group of dogs like a chihuahua with a napoleon-complex thinking "Hmm...I bet I can kick ALL of yo' butts. BLINDFOLDED!" They just walk into a group with a very specific mission; and that mission ain't about playing with no dogs! Heidi's mission happens to be to seek and destroy every toy that she can lay her teeth on. She first and foremost will always look for the balls. And once they are eliminated, she will quickly turn her attention to tug-ropes, frisbee's and stuffies. And when the poor, unsuspecting yellow lab puppy unceremoniously sticks its entire HEAD in Heidi's bum for a good long sniff, she has to turn around and school him.


And woe to the puppy who even ATTEMPTS that with Shelby. They usually are only able to get to Heidi's bum because she is distracted by something (something=TOY). Shelby on the other hand, walks in with her "mean-teeth" bared saying "BACK OFF" and then proceeds to find the emptiest corner, or a vacant chair. She then plants her but FIRMLY on the ground, and continues to bare her "mean-teeth" for anyone who apparently missed the message the first time around. If, however, that second message doesn't make it through the thick skulls of some dogs, then she has to "make them understand." Like the dogs who sniffed Heidi, they also get handled. LOUDLY. Shelties have this way of making this screaming bark-like sound that is the equivalent of a bag of angry cats being swung up against a wall. You can clearly tell that they're screaming "WTFBACKTFOFFBEFOREIKILLYOU!" (Or, sometimes in Heidi's case it's: "DONTTOUCHMYBALLYOUJERKORIKILLYOU!")

Now, there re exceptions to these delicate rules of Sheltie-engagement. Exceptions are made for:
1. Other Shelties
a. have to be of the same/or similar color
b. have to also understand the rules of Sheltie-engagement; no matter how handsome the stud is, we DO NOT allow long Sheltie noses to be stuck THAT FAR up our fluffy-bums!
2. Appropriate herding dogs (same rules as above)
a. we do not tolerate screaming corgi's
b. we do not tolerate Aussies who bark louder than we do
c. We do not tolerate BC's who think that they are smarter than we are
As you can see, there tends to be very few dogs indeed that my girls will actually acknowledge enough of their existence to actually take the time and socialize with. So why, WHY you ask did I take them to play group today??
I took them to a friend's playgroup for dogs today, because:
1. I have been home from the hospital for over 1 week and they are DRIVING ME CRAZY
a. the playgroup serves exercise purposes, and also a little bit of a threat: "If you don't stop that RIGHT NOW, I'm going to take you to playgroup again!!"
2. I get an ego boost
a. I enjoy being around people with dogs who (although it doesn't seem possible) bark louder and more often than the Shelties
b. I enjoy seeing other dogs who are more ball obsessed than my Heidi
c. I enjoy watching my 19 lb. Shelby take down dogs 4 times her size...and then watching them avoiding her with the expression that clearly reads: "Don't look at the Sheltie, DON'T look at the Sheltie..."
3. I can throw various toys and not get yelled at for it
a. I do not break anything that would cause the yelling.

I do enjoy the playgroups. I used to run two myself, when I worked at the training center. I enjoy watching dogs make friends, and how puppies learn new lessons from the older dogs in the group. The Shelties, I think, do enjoy it a little too. Heidi enjoys getting to chase her ball/frisbee indoors, and she gets to enjoy chasing the longer legged Aussie that steals her ball/frisbee because she is too slow.
And Shelby gets to boss dogs, other than her sister, around. When she is finally done giving her mean-teeth to all of the dogs that enter/exit the group, she will start to patrol the perimeter. Once she sees someone start to break away with the "zoomies", the chase is on! The "Fun-Police" charges out into the middle of the group, and herds the offending dog until thy stop zooming around and causing a disturbance. Usually, they just get off with a verbal warning, but sometimes the "mean-teeth" make a reappearance and the dog needs to be pulled over, and brought down. With the suspect now under control, play resumes and Shelby goes back to sitting under my chair.

I don't mind that my dogs are snobbier beyond belief. In fact, reading a lot of our new favorite blogs has shown me that A LOT of herding dog people have "snobby" dogs. Our dogs aren't necessarily anti-social because they are aggressive (I say aren't "necessarily" because ther are, of course, dogs who are dog aggressive) but as they are herding dogs, they like their SPACE. They do not enjoy some crazy lab running up and physically accosting them. (Especially Shelties because they can be quite a bit smaller than their herding cousins. Corgis are usually OK because hell, if they can avoid kicks by cattle, they can avoid an obnoxious retriever!) Our herding dogs are also usually very VERY focused on exactly what THEY want to do: usually chasing a ball or frisbee. They just don't have TIME for all of that silly wrestling mumbo jumbo.

But don't get me wrong; our herders can be EXTREMELY energetic players when they want to be. My girls can race around my back yard with the "tag-zoomies" until they almost pass out in the grass. But that's because they love each other. Or want to kill each other. Sometimes I cant tell which.

So, in conclusion, although I love my dogs, I am a bit of a sadist. I just cant help it. When you live with Jedi that can manipulate every aspect of your life, you have to gain back a little of the control. But I have to stop writing now because I can sense how both girls just woke up down stairs, and are now hungry. That's understandable. It was a very rough play-day.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Manipulation

Did you ever have that feeling like you were being watched? The feeling where your spidey-senses tingle, and the hair stands up on the back of your neck? Did you ever have that same feeling while you were asleep? The feeling that is so strong, that your spidey-senses actually wake you up out of a stone-cold sleep? You are so convinced that someone is there, that you actually sit up in bed and look wildly around your room, fully expecting someone to be there. Well, this is how I wake up. EVERY MORNING. Sometimes in the dead of NIGHT:




Sometimes, it is just Heidi.



Sometimes, it is just Shelby.



Sometimes they double-team me.



And this is what they look like when it happens in the dead of night. (Night Vision)







People who are familiar with herding dogs (and dogs in general) are aware of something called the "eye". It is that very intense, unwavering stare that herding dogs give to stock to help bend them to their will. To the stock, it looks as if they were being stalked by a fearsome predator. This is how a 35 lb. Border Collie can move a flock of sheep numbering in the hundreds, or a steer that can weigh in the hundreds of pounds. Its amazing to see a dog with a lot of natural "eye" work; they hardly have to do anything at all besides look at the stock to get them moving along. Now, Border Collies are famous for their "eye". The other herding breeds, however, tend to be more "loose eyed". Sure, you can have a Sheltie or an Aussie with a hard eye, but mostly they use other means of their herding prowess to get the stock to do what they want. This is why so many of them (*cough* SHELTIES*COUGH*) bark so much. They use their loud (and annoying...) voices to get what they want.

And although Shelties are proficient herders
(though not my girls, which is proven by this picture of Heidi with sheep:)
Shelties are not known for their "herding eye". But they do have quite another talent. They have the "Sheltie MANIPULATION eye". This is the stare that they use to bend their HUMAN STOCK to their will. THIS is the reason that I wake up every morning the way that I do. Examples of the "Manipulation Eye" are:





The scenario usually goes like this:
I am sleeping. Usually deeply. I awake from a particularly nice dream where I have won the lottery because I have that "you're being watched" feeling. I jerk violently awake, and see EYES a few inches away from my face. Luckily, it has happened so often now that I no longer fall out of bed in a heap of tangled blankets, cursing my "angels" violently. I usually just close my eyes, or roll over and try to go back to sleep. But then, their OTHER ways of manipulation start:

Heavy breathing: there is NO WAY that it gets hot enough to have to start panting in the span of a few seconds. I KNOW that you are just panting so that I have to listen to you, and feel the bed moving up and down at a quickened pace.
Smacking Lips: You do not have peanut butter, or some other sticky substance suddenly stuck to the roof of your mouth, or on your lips. There is no need to sound like a couple of 13 year-old's making-out for the first time. I know that you have started to do this because the panting has not worked.
Yawning: I know that going through your bag of manipulation tricks is exhausting, but I do not think that you are so tired that it is necessary to yawn 7 times in a row. And, as an added note, when you make extra noise ("Arooooo") when you yawn, it doesn't make it more satisfying. Again, I know your just adding the sound effects because I am still ignoring you.
Licking: Now that you have figured out that I am still ignoring you, you are now going to try and ignore me. You are now trying to make it seem like you do not care that I am ignoring you, and that you are oblivious to the fact that I do not care. So, to try and keep yourself busy, your going to lick your feet. Or your whole leg. Or every part of your body that you can reach. And then when you're done that, you're going to lick your sister. Yes, I know that you are very dirty, but really? A full scale, self-service tongue-bath is just indecent.
Pawing: Finally, when you are fully bathed, you give the old-fashioned "paw you until you bleed" routine. Yes, its an oldie, and a form that even the simplest of dogs can employ, but you know that it is effective. Even if I put in ear plugs to drown out all of the noise that you make, I cannot ignore the RAKING of your nails along my skin. Or, (directed at Shelby) I cannot ignore the feeling of bruises growing on my skin because you are standing, full weight, on very delicate pressure points along my body.

By this time, I usually get up. Not only because it is impossible to get back to sleep without the aid of pharmaceuticals, but because I am usually laughing. Now, it bears being said that it is usually HEIDI who is the major culprit. I feel badly because I think I make it seem that it is really both...but alas, it is usually the demon dressed-like-an-angel, Heidi. However, Shelby isn't completely innocent. Once she realizes that I am awake, that's when she starts the "standing" on me (usually on my STOMACH or on my HIP), and then if the standing doesn't work, and Heidi is still working on waking me up, then she will start the "OHMYGODIHEARABURGLAR!!!" barking. She will sometimes, for dramatic effect, even jump off of the bed and run to the window insisting that there is someone in a ski-mask trying to break in. Give me a BREAK.

Now, some of you may be thinking "Oh, come on. That doesn't sound so bad. My dog(s) do/does MUCH worse!" Well, the Sheltie manipulation does not end with their desire to get me out of bed. Oh no sirree jim bob.

I am actually starting to think that I have little doggy-Jedi on my hands. They do not need to wave their hands to get me to suddenly (and amazingly) change my mind. They just need to give the "Sheltie eye" and my will immediately bends. Like how when I finally do get up (their doing) I have to pee so badly that it hurts. But mysteriously I find myself passing the human bathroom and walking to the door to outside to let them go first. Huh. Then, with my bladder finally empty I go into the kitchen to prepare breakfast. But no, I'm not going to turn on the kettle, I am going to the dog freezer, and am pulling out frozen patties. That's weird. And then later when my work is done and I am ready to curl up on the couch with a good book, miraculously I find myself instead with a tug-toy in my hand, and two Obi-wan Kenobi's tugging on the other ends. WHAT is going on? How did my dogs learn how to do this? Oh, wait. They're Shelties. Just like real Jedi, they are just BORN with these abilities. They have just spent the last 6 years perfecting their mind control. Well, Bravo girls. You've done it.
Just like with real Jedi, their path from Padawan Learner to Master was not an easy one. They not only needed to learn how to manipulate minds with superior skill, but they also need to show proficient skill with their weapons- "Mean Teeth", and physical agility to dodge hyper labs, chase rogue rabbits in the yard, and slalom through weave poles. My girls have now mastered all their skills. They can make me do just about anything that they want with just "the look", they can dispel even the largest rottweilers with a flash of their teeth and gums, and can even make it through an agility course to earn the first place title, while running with a completely incompetent handler. Congratulations my girls. Even though I will forever be sleep deprived, fed second, and have chronic bladder infections from being forced to hold it longer than usually acceptable, I am proud of you because I am your dog-mother. And I love your furry little manipulative heads.