Tisen and Twiggy

Tisen and Twiggy decide to raise their heads long enough for a photo op

Tisen and Twiggy decide to raise their heads long enough for a photo op

Over the holidays we had one of our favorite guests–Twiggy.  Twiggy is also a favorite of Tisen’s.

Some say that dogs have the intelligence of about a 2 year old human.  But if flirting techniques are any indicator, I’d say Tisen performs at the level of a 7 or 8 year old.  His favorite way to get Twiggy to pay attention to him is to stick a toy in her face and then make growly noises at her.  It’s like the little boy who keeps pulling a little girl’s hair.

Twiggy is the master of hard-to-get.  She ignores Tisen unless she feels like demonstrating that females are not the weaker sex.  She nips at Tisen’s legs when she wants to engage.  He invariably turns and mouths her neck.  She body-blocks him, using her height to her advantage, and then reaches around to grab hold of him with her mouth and knock him to the ground.  She often flips him completely onto his back.

Tisen, like the 7-year old human, is grateful for any attention Twiggy gives him.  He’s happy to wrestle with her even if he loses.  I sometimes imagine he loses on purpose so Twiggy will like him more.  But, in reality, Twiggy is better at wrestling.

The two of them bound toward one another like a reuniting Heathcliff and Katherine after a separation.  But, more like one of those funny commercials, Twiggy invariably switches direction at the last second and runs to me instead of Tisen.  This makes Tisen doubly jealous–both his favorite canine and his favorite human paying attention to someone else.  But, he can’t be too jealous–he loves us both.

Every time Twiggy comes to stay, she and Tisen seem to get a little cozier.  They went from taking turns sleeping on the sofa while the other slept on the floor, to each choosing an opposite end of the sofa, to now curling up together in the same spot.  Sometimes, the spot is me.  I wish I’d figured out how to take pictures of this–they piled up on top of me like I was part of the furniture.  At one point, Tisen was literally straddling Twiggy while she was laying in my lap.

Tisen lifts his head from Twiggy's back when he sees my camera

Tisen lifts his head from Twiggy’s back when he sees my camera

Making a puppy pile seems to be quite comfortable for them.  As for me, I seem to end up with bruises from foot steps, sharp elbows, and hard heads.  But, I have to admit, it’s so cute that I don’t discourage this behavior.

Another change has been the stealing of beds.  Each dog wants to be in the other dog’s bed.  But, as soon as the other dog is in a bed, that’s the one the other dog wants.  This time around, they eventually shared a bed.

I’m not sure I was supposed to let them sleep together, but I figured they were old enough to make up their own minds.  Besides, they’re old enough that all they wanted to do was sleep.

Tisen and Twiggy stopped fighting over the bed and decided to share it

Tisen and Twiggy stopped fighting over the bed and decided to share it

Hot Spots

Sometimes love hurts.  When I was young, the pain associated with love came in adolescent dramas mostly created by massive fluctuations in hormones.  These days, it comes with loving a creature who depends on me for protection.  When he hurts, I hurt.

This, of course, is my dog, Tisen.

I like to think we provide the perfect home for him.  We buy him special food.  We feed him more vitamins than we feed ourselves.  We walk him at least 2 miles every day.  I work from home–he is rarely left home alone more than a few hours a week. We take him to doggie daycare twice a week just so he gets to socialize with other dogs.

We take him to dinner with us when weather and patios permit.  We socialize with friends who invite him to come along.  We drive him places.  Sometimes, we put him in our van and drive about 100 feet away to our favorite breakfast joint and let him hang out in the van while we eat just so he doesn’t feel like he was left behind.

We also provide gentle training and positively reinforce that he is not at the top of the hierarchy in our house.  He does not seem confused on this point.

Although, he does still get quite upset when I leave, he’s handling it much better.  When we go out without him, we put his portable bed by the door so he has a comfy place to lay and when we come back, he’s still laying there, right next to the door.

We take him hiking and backpacking too, when we go.

I can’t imagine life for a dog gets a whole lot better than life with us.  I guess he could long for a fenced yard to run in.  But, I recently learned that when I drop him off at doggy daycare so he can run free and play with other dogs, he finds a hiding place where he can curl up and take a nap.

Yet, in spite of all these things, Tisen is chewing on himself.  It starts with licking.  Then, the hair starts to dissolve.  Next, the skin becomes a bright red, raw sore against his white fur.  That’s when he starts chewing.

I cannot help but get upset when I see pink irritation in his skin or when he wakes me up scratching in the middle of the night.  I don’t know what more to do about his allergies.  We’re waiting for his latest test to come back.  This one will hopefully tell us what he’s allergic to.

In the meantime, I decide to make a video.  Ever since I made the jump to my 5D Mark III, I’ve been spent my time on still images.  I literally forget sometimes that it even has the capability to shoot videos.  Tisen is perplexed by me constantly pointing the camera at him, but at least it distracts him from the itching for a while.

Cleanliness and Dogliness

Today, I practiced the art of washing a dog.

Tisen has not had a bath in a while.  It’s one of those things that seems relatively pointless to me.  You wash a dog and within a few hours, he’s dirty again.  However, with the onset of pollen alerts (in March already!), Tisen has started to itch.

I figure it’s about time to give Tisen a spa experience. With an 8 ft. sprayer that attaches to the shower head, his bath has become an aqua massage experience.  Plus, the oatmeal shampoo and medicated conditioner are supposed to stop the itching.

The first, and most challenging step, is called “how to get the dog into the bath tub.”  For the beginner, I suggest starting with a very small dog.  For those of us who like to take on large challenges, a dog that last weighed 60 pounds is a good start.

Having raised 2 Mastiffs and managed to coax them into a shower stall even though they had to bend into a C-shape to fit, I figured getting one 60ish pound terrier into a tub couldn’t be that challenging.

The magic button for Tisen is a squeaky toy.  So, I start by playing with him.  But he’s on to me.  As I get closer and closer to the bathroom door, he gets less and less enthusiastic about our game until he finally picks up ‘Possum, darts around me, and hides in a corner behind the couch.

Next, I try throwing the squeaky ball.  But he will not chase the ball towards the bathroom.  I finally manage to get him so engaged in the game, he forgets and gets close to the bathroom door.  Then, I make the ultimate error in judgment and try throwing the ball into the bathroom.  Tisen turns around and runs straight back to the corner behind the couch.

I decide the only course of action is to carry him. I can certainly lift 60 pounds.  I gather him up into my arms and try to lift with my legs.  A dog is not inherently ergonomic when it comes to lifting.  If you’re looking for a cheap way to introduce strength training into your routine, I do not recommend dog lifting.

I manage to make it to the bathroom without dropping him, although I’m certain he weighs at least 90 pounds by the time we get there.  I plop him into the tub and, thankfully, he stands still.  As long as I keep rubbing all his favorite spots while I shampoo, rinse, condition, and rinse again, he’s as happy as a clam.

In fact, I can’t figure out why he doesn’t run into the bathroom and hop into the tub every time I open the door–he seems to love every bit of it.  He especially likes to be dried.  I rub, rub, rub with a nice towel and he squirms with enthusiasm through the whole thing.

What exactly is it about the tub that makes him run away?

Who is Training Whom?

Well, it’s 10:30 and I’ve just tucked the foster dogs into their crates for the night and I’m completely exhausted.  Today’s lessons:

  1. Some dogs have to pee every 2 hours
  2. It’s easier to clean a hard-surface floor than an area rug
  3. It’s even easier to set a timer and get the dogs outside before they need to go
  4. No matter how much we walk, the humans will always be more tired than the dogs
  5. Some dogs play rough.

Two accidents today.  One on the rug and one after the rug was put away.  The big progress was that I recognized the signs that Lucy had to go out before she actually had her second accident.  The problem was that I was in the middle of a conference call and couldn’t take her out right then.  She doesn’t yet have the concept of “holding it.”

I went to a workshop on macro photography this evening.  I felt a little guilty leaving my husband home alone with the dogs for 2 1/2 hours.  We put them in their crates before he drove me to the workshop.  It was the first time they were in their crates during the day.  When he returned home, Rex was barking like mad.  I suspect we are the most popular tenants in our building right now.  Fortunately, it only took 10 minutes to run me across the river and get back.

Last night, Rex was barking furiously in his crate when we went to bed.  I got out my iPad and googled for suggestions on what to do.  I found a checklist for successful crate training:

  • Don’t use crate as punishment.  Check.
  • Feed in crate.  Check.
  • Have special treat they only get while in crate.  Check.
  • Make sure they’ve gotten plenty of exercise during the day.  Check.
  • Make sure they’ve gotten enough attention during the day.  Check.
  • Don’t feed them less than 90 minutes before they go in the crate.  Check.
  • Make sure they go out and go potty before going into the crate.  Check.
  • Cover the crate to help block out distractions.  Check.

Then, I see the suggestion of shaking a can of pennies.  I had already prepared a can of pennies in the hope of interrupting Lucy when she pees in the house.  (Unfortunately, another idea not suited for conference calls.)  But, it was 11PM and the dog was going nuts and I figured it was get him quiet or face the wrath of neighbors.  I grabbed the can of pennies, opened the bedroom door, and stood out of sight.  When Rex started barking again, I gave the can a big shake.  He stopped.  We repeated 4 times and then he laid down and remained quiet the rest of the night.  Whew.

Tonight, we are trying putting the dogs in their crates before we go to bed.  They are sleeping peacefully with us in the room.  They look exhausted.  Maybe all that walking paid off after all?

What About Paris?

Good news!  I heard from the shelter and I get to pick up our foster dogs on Tuesday.  I have become obsessed with dog preparations.  It started with a stop at the local dog supply store, Bone Appetit.

I was only looking.  I just wanted to know what kinds of toys and tools were available for dogs these days since it’s been a few years since we lost our last dog to cancer.  We met an owner and she explained a new type of leash to us that is a thick, rubber leash that prevents jerking either the dog or the owner.

This reminds me that our foster dogs don’t know how to walk on a leash. I’m not sure if a gentle leader or something like this semi-stretchy leash is a better idea to start with.  I’m pretty sure that whichever route I go, we’re going to go through a lot of bacon in the process.  🙂

I look at the display of stuffed toys on the wall and remember my own childhood when I used to save up my earnings from mowing lawns to buy myself stuffed animals.  When we discover animals that look like pelts, I realize these are not for human children.

I can’t make fun of anyone for spoiling their dogs.  Besides working on not being judgmental, I was guilty of spoiling our dogs rotten.  We used to feed them a raw diet that involved stocking a huge freezer with whole chickens, grass-fed cow bones and stomachs, livers, and a variety of other “goodies” that we would never eat ourselves.

I check out the brands of dog foods offered by this store and am happy to see that several I’m familiar with are available.  I don’t plan to go the raw food route, but I would like to use a high quality food that will help with the house breaking.

The owner tells us that the store works with the same shelter.  I’m excited to meet people who love dogs and work with the shelter–it gives me confidence that the foster dogs are being treated well and will be OK.

I return home and dig out some photos of my best friend’s dogs.  One of her dogs, Bonnie, hates the camera.  I crawled under a table to try to get a shot of her and only got the back of her black head in an even blacker shadow.  I tried sneaking a shot from my iPhone and she was even savvy to that.  No pictures of Bonnie.

The other dog, Paris, just laid there and let me shoot her for as long as I wanted.  The lighting wasn’t great, but I managed to have fun talking to her like a fashion model while I shot.  “Paris, look this way.  Oh, that’s it.  Now tilt your head.  Now raise your eyebrows.  Perfect.  Play dead.  Perfect!”

I am sure I will be posting plenty of foster dog pictures in the near future–I hope Paris isn’t jealous.

Muddy Paws

Bogart, one of our English Mastiff Canine Kids in 2008

I have the great pleasure of walking dogs today.  Taking a walk with a person versus taking a walk with two dogs are two different experiences.  Walking with a person means compromising on pace and distance based on someone else’s mood.  Walking with dogs means I get to set the pace and distance, but only if I’m willing to enforce a no-pulling rule.  Although I accommodate sudden stops of the dogs’ choosing whether for potty breaks or sniffing.  Since I don’t want the dogs to pull me, I figure I shouldn’t pull them.

Fortunately, these dogs are trained to walk with a gentle leader.  This makes things considerably easier.  If they start to pull, I stop until the leash goes slack.  That’s my goal–to get them to walk so the leash has a little slack.  After a few times, they seem to understand and we walk at the pace I choose.  At least until they stop.

One dog seems to like to sniff a lot.  I eventually realize that she is actually trying to rub off her gentle leader.  I decide to distract her by going for a short, slow jog.  This works well until the other dog suddenly needs to poop.

Apparently there is some kind of trigger that once one dog poops, the other dog will have to poop exactly 10 steps after I have tied a knot in the poop bag, forcing me to use a second bag.  That is another difference between walking with humans and dogs–on a good day, the former doesn’t require picking up poop in a plastic baggie.

We wind our way around a paved trail that goes through the woods.  They try to walk on fallen leaves or grass whenever possible.  Interestingly, neither dog wants to walk in mud or puddles.  They go around puddles without any encouragement from me.

I smile at this.  We used to have two English Mastiffs who never really noticed what they were walking through.  They would leave giant paw prints that would have strangers stopping and wondering if a bear or lion was loose in the neighborhood if they had never seen our dogs (and sometimes when they were looking at our dogs).

Then, when we got home, we would have a pile of “dog towels” by the door that we would use to wipe the mud off of their feet.  They were pretty good about standing and letting us wipe their paws, but it was hard to keep the one who went second from walking all over the place with their big muddy paws while they waited. There are a lot of days when I miss having to wipe muddy paws.

Today, I will have no muddy paws to wipe–these dogs are more dainty than I am when it comes to staying out of the mud.  But as we jog along briefly, the accompanying jingle of dog tags makes me feel like it’s going to be a good day.