Monday, February 28, 2011

Floors and Bikejors

Saturday bright and early, Yukon got me up, pushing me with his nose in the middle of my shoulderblades to try to roll me out of bed. When I looked at him with bleary eyes, he got all excited, and 'oh woah woah'd' me until I blinked several times, looked at the clock in disbelief and let him know it was Saturday! He got a huge grin, spun around in circles, 'hawuoofed' and ran out the door in that hunched excited play-run that you would expect to see a 3 month old puppy exhibit rather than a 4 year old 65 lb dog.

Zipping back in he danced around with his hind quarters in the air hawuoofing and roh roahing.

"I take it this means you want to go for a run?" As soon as I said it, he danced on his hind legs, waving his front paws in the air howling like a mad thing.

Now I've seen a lot of strange behaviors from Yukon, but this took the cake, and grinning like a fool, I threw some grubbies (dog clothes) on and went to check the temp. The outside thermometer said 28 degrees (F), and I began to understand his glee. "You know, race season is over for us." I said, and he cocked his head sideways and put his nose on his harness.

I swear that dog could speak if he had the right vocal chords. "Ok who's going with us?" The chorus began. Bandit was my first choice, but when I grabbed his harness, he ran out the back dog door. After several minutes of calling him while Princess did her best to get herself in the harness I was holding, I put it up and got out her harness. I dropped the walkie talkie next to Jim on his bed while I put the other in my parka, and took Princess and Yukon out to the bike.

I kept us to only a 2 miler, just to keep them in shape, and barely took the edge off their energy, but it was mentally sufficient for both of them as we came back in near record time. Princess dove headfirst into the freezer as I struggled to get the meat patties out without her absconding with the lot. Once the dogs were relieved of their harnesses and the bike put away, I got to work on the dining room.

For three weeks I've been chomping at the bit to get our new wood flooring down. I couldn't wait any longer, so did the cleanup and moving of the fridge myself. Jim helped me with the rest, and I ripped up the carpet and padding on half of the floor. After sweeping and lightly sponging down the underlayment, I put down the padding for the new flooring and began to lay down the slats. It was a long day, and by dinner time I was ready to call it quits until Sunday. Just over a third of the dining room had a gorgeous oak paneling, and I admired it from the living room.

Sunday early, Samantha tried to tickle me awake, poking me with her nose in my neck, then my armpit (she loves to do this to Jim and James because they are ticklish, but sometimes she forgets, I'm not ticklish like they are). I am a light sleeper though, and got up with a yawn. Checking the temp, it was 34, and I really wanted to see how well Bucky could do in lead, so harnessed him, much to his delight and Moon as she whined and danced and was ready to go.

They both did excellent, but by the mile mark, Moon was obviously slowing, so I turned them around and kept Bucky to a slower pace on the way back. He was all in to running, and wouldn't be distracted by animal or bird. He followed the route unerringly and unwaveringly up until we reached the neighbor's dogs. Only then did he swerve to try to go see them, but a quick "Leave It!" put him back on track. Moony did great, though not quite as fit as Bucky, she tried to keep up and keep her tug tight the whole way, so I slowed Bucky down so she could feel like she was pulling the whole way. When we got back, I fed them their snacks, rubbed them down, and checked their feet while taking their harnesses off. Then it was out to scrape the yard.

With those chores done, I started back up on the floor. Moony had done great on the run and had played around in the yard afterwards, and she seemed ok. Jim and I moved the furniture off the rest of the carpet. I then ripped up the other half of the carpet and padding, and had James help me throw them out before Jim and he left to do the shopping and I continued to work on the floor.

When Jim came back, he handed out hooves. Some time after that, Moony came out of Jim's bedroom, but didn't make it out the dog door before throwing up on the new flooring. Somewhat miffed, I had Jim clean it up, but it was soon apparent that Moony was not feeling well. I checked her over, but could not find anything apparent. Her stomach was not distended, her pulse and temperature seemed fine, she just seemed ill, and I felt a bit guilty for running her, but she seemed quite fine earlier and even up until early afternoon was fine. It came on very sudden. She spent most of the afternoon and evening lying on Jim's bed, and though she was alert it was obvious she was not feeling well. We kept checking on her and speculating as to what would cause this sudden illness. She couldn't keep anything down, and threw up twice on Jim's bed and twice on the new floor which I had just finished.

The floor looked great though, but it was overshadowed by an ill puppy. She was still moping on Jim's bed when I went to sleep, but round about 11pm she came happily into my room and laid down by the food bowl. A short time later she ate some then laid down again. A while after that, she got up and drank some water and ate some more, then went to sleep all without throwing up. In relief I went to sleep knowing that she felt better.

This morning she was back to her happy playful self, thank goodness! I hugged and kissed her before leaving.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bikejor with Moon Dancer and One on One with Bandit

Saturday I decided to help my husband exercise his puppy Moon Dancer (she's getting on the chubby side), much to her delight! Moony loves to mush, but gets left out a lot because of her hernia (Samantha pulled a little hard on her umbilical, and though it is healed, Jim still worries far too much about it). I tried to get Ace connected up too, but she still doesn't want to run, so I ended up taking her back in to the house and going solo with Moony. She did great, and I was careful to get her to turn around after just under a mile. I think I'll start taking her out with Princess. Sunday I had Bandit out in harness connected to me, and a leash so I could help turn him for some Gee-Haw training. We jogged (I should say Bandit jogged and I tried to keep my legs under me) around the side-yard/field as I would suddenly call out Gee or Haw. Bandit did really excellent, and each time he turned I would tell him good Gee and give him a piece of hot dog (we get a 5 lb bag of them for really cheap, chop them up, toast them, and use them for training treats). Only once on Gee and once on Haw did I have to give him a gentle turn reminder with the leash. He knew what to do already, it was simply re-enforcement training for him, something I hope to repeat at least two to four times a month during the off-season with him. On the schedule is a lot of hiking and possibly some camping in between show weekends.

This morning (Friday) I saw an amazing sight, something that has never happened before. Samantha was PLAYING with G'kar!!!!! I was thrilled to see this, as it was the first time ever they've faced each other playfully instead of posturing! I guess she is finally getting out of the estrogen driven Alpha female mode! It is a happy day!

On the other hand though, Freya has been unusually clingy and howls/whines/complains when I leave my desk where she likes to hide beneath me. If she has to go out, she whines and howls at me until I go outside with her. She's getting really big and I'm hoping it is only from large puppies and not a big number of them. Guess we will find out next week when she goes for her pre-natal. (gotta poke Jim to get him to make her an appointment.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Race Day

I appologize for including a pic from last year. Brilliant me remembered to bring the camera, but left it in the truck during the race.

Since the start times were going to be close together and not much time between classes, I hurried and got our four dogs on the new drop leads Jim had made to attach to the trailer. This allowed me to bootie them up, and them to promptly remove the booties. After re-booting the dogs, I got their harnesses on, and gave them some water. It was pushing 43 degrees and climbing by the time I was done and I was worried. Jim was able to put the snow hook into the soft ground to help hold the rig in place while I hooked up the dogs and he stood on the gangline.

Getting the dogs and rig across the railroad tracks and the highway proved to be the next challenge we faced. After Jim trying to lead the dogs while I rode the cart and the brakes proved to be very inefficient, Jim got on the cart and I lead the dogs. All was going well until we needed to stop. Jim tried putting his feet down. 4 dogs > Jim's feet, and they pulled the cart over his ankle. I asked him why he didn't use the brake? It is still a mystery to me. Fortunately he was only bruised, and we continued on. Once in the grass by the start zone, Jim set the hook while I held the dogs.

The weather was pushing 45 degrees and climbing by the time the two dog class was done. We waited for the start of the 4 dog, hoping to be done before it got too hot. After a long unexpected break, 2 freight trains full of loud horns and nervous dogs later we finally got to start. The weather was closing in on 50 so I held the team back as much as possible. Freya unfortunately took this as a signal that she was doing the wrong thing and started to meander at the first turn, not believing I meant "Haw". A tangle later and convincing her that was the way I really did want her to go, she took off again making me ride the break to keep them from overexerting in the warm weather.

Poor Freya, she must have thought she was doing wrong again, and tried to go straight through the next turn as well. So I had to untangle her and Bucky again, and convince them which direction I wanted them to go (Gee). It took a while for her to understand that she wasn't doing wrong, and by that time she just wanted to go home. It was then I realized her heart was not in the race, but she was running because she simply loved to run. We played hopskotch with Brett and his team, and I was very proud that the dogs on my team ignored his when told to (except Bucky who thought it was social hour, but got pulled away by the other three dogs). Every turn off from the straight way became a struggle with Freya, even after the second time around the same track, so I figured it was too hot for her early pregnancy and dropped her with Jim for the final go round. At the first turn, Bucky nearly ran over Bandit and got tangled in his tugs. As Bandit straightened out, it swept Bucky off his feet and split a nail. I couldn't see how bad it was, but saw his bloody toe. Not knowing if he had also broken it and was ignoring the pain (Bucky is not known for letting a small injury stop him from running!) or if it was only a minor injury, I errored on caution and unhooked his tug, turned the cart around and headed back to the start walking alongside the cart.

This proved to be very difficult, as the dogs didn't want to pull when I wasn't in it and the cart didn't want to follow along nicely without someone to steer. Bucky was only very slightly limping, so I figured he would be ok to walk instead of call on the radio for help in getting him back. He seemed not in the least bit bothered by his bloody toe.

I managed to make it back after everyone had already taken their dogs back to their vehicles, but I thank those that stayed behind and helped. Also thank you to Brett for use of his peroxide to help clean the wound. After cleaning up Bucky's paw, it was apparent that the injury was very minor. There was only a little blood in his fur and it had stopped shortly after I looked at it the first time. I've seen worse clipping nails. With everything packed back up, we met with the rest of the folks at the Armory for lunch. The BBQ sandwiches were outstanding, and the company even better!

Thank you Rodney for organizing the event and thanks especially to the sponsors whose support allowed the event to take place! We had a great time!

The journey home was again long and uneventful, and the pack greeted us at the door sniffing to find out where we had been. I checked each of the dogs carefully to make sure again that there was nothing else to worry about, and let them run outside and play with their packmates (more like let their packmates fuss at them for being gone somewhere without them).

Watching the interaction made me think that re-introduction of dogs taken on trips may be problematic in the future as the dogs coming in were annoyed with the dogs who had been home all the time being rather pushy about sniffing and letting them back in the house. Bandit in particular took exception to being scruitinized, and I had to chastize him for having his ruff up and growling. Freya and Samantha also were close to violence, and I had to intervene. Yukon ignored them and shot through the group as if they weren't there, and Bucky gave what he got. It was a little tense for about an hour and I had to repeatedly tell dogs to settle down.

It is food for thought and I will need to think of some intermediate re-introduction on return from trips. It is a part of the pack dynamics that has to be carefully evaluated and planned around that hadn't been much of a problem before, but as time wears on has become worse. It is an odd mixture of jealousy for my attention and elitism if I were to put it in human terms. It isn't quite the same, but it makes it easier to understand.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Music City Challenge

I love this little guy! He's so loving, intelligent and personable. In harness, he's a wildman, howling, jumping and pulling on the gangline to get going!

Friday before we left, I was sitting on the couch and asked Jim. "Do you have everything packed and ready to go?"

Jim responded, "Yup, got everything I need, got the extra ganglines, and stuff."

Just then Bucky walked over to me for some lovins, which I gave him and asked him in all seriousness. "Bucky? Do you have everything packed and ready to go?" He circled around, danced a bit, jumped up beside me, leaned into me putting his paw around me, looked into my eyes and said "Wooo-roo-row!" I love him! He's so silly!

Jim made a dog-net to keep the dogs from crawling up in the cockpit of the truck and getting out the doors when we stopped, and he slid it behind the two front seats and anchored it to the passenger handles. I loaded up all our stuff, then got the dogs, Yukon, Freya, Bandit and Bucky and gave them the command to get in. Princess began to howl like a banshee, just then starting to realize she was being left behind. The first time I had gone on a trip without her. She was heartbroken, and I hated leaving her, but there were too many reasons not to take her since Freya was going. About 10 minutes down the road I asked Jim if he remembered the hot dogs and meat snacks... nope... sigh.

It was a long and thankfully uneventful trip, and we arrived around 4pm local time. I walked the dogs in the small grassy area, disappointed that Bucky again seemed too excited to relieve himself while on a short leash. I hope this does not lead to future medical difficulties. So after unloading the stuff we need for the night, I took him out on the long orange 30' leash (at least I remembered to bring it this time). To my relief and obviously his, Bucky peed after wandering around to find just the right spot. How he manages to hold it for greater than 12 hours is beyond me.

I walked each of the dogs on the long leash, they enjoy it immensely as it allows them to run around and sniff more things without having to drag me along. With them all settled, we debated what to eat for dinner, and ended up ording chinese delivery. Kung Pao chicken went down real well and by the time we were done more of our fellow mushers were pulling in.

It was great to meet up and greet folks we are beginning to know and love, and the conversation about dogs doesn't seem awkward. We all share a great passion for their intelligence, loyalty and personalities, and like doting parents, never tire of the stories of their follies. Then there are always the "No Shit! There I was!" tales that keep us entertained for hours. It is a bonding that only comes with understanding and shared passion.

Being a couple of old farts, Jim and I turned in around 9pm local time, and Freya jumped on the bed with me and would not be moved. She spent the night curled up beside me, and I sensed her need to feel protected. It was a primal thing and I knew at that moment, there was no doubt that the mishap that allowed her to tie with Yukon had produced offspring. Female dogs if they are bonded with their owners get very clingy in the onset and even more clingy in the progression of their pregnancy. It is instinctual for them to seek protection in their vulnerability.

I had suspected she would be pregnant from the tie, but the behavior is the clincher before she begins to show. So the same pairing that produced Bandit, Bucky, Silver, Flakes (Mordechai), Kirby (our siberian poodle), and Face (Cole) is destined for another set of amazing dogs in the middle of March. We haven't yet finished our rennovations, but this will definitely speed up the urgency. For those who have seen what an amazing dog Bandit turned out to be, and what a wild man runner Bucky is, if you are interested in a pup from the same pairing, let me know. Both parents are AKC and I plan on getting both CERF scored next month at the Louisville show (providing the vet that scores will be there this year).

Fortunately for us, nothing ever came of Princess and Bandit's little rondezvous since it was a week after she was out of standing heat. It still strikes me as odd they even formed a tie at that time. Guess love was in the air... Princess still thinks she's married to Bandit, and yesterday I found her sleeping with him with her head possessively across his belly. If he sniffs at Ace, she pushes between them, just as if they were married. It is rather amusing. Ace still has not gone in to heat, but we are keeping an eye on her. If she hasn't by her second birthday, we will have the vet examine her carefully to see if there may be other reasons for her being sterile that may cause health problems later in life. So far she is healthy, happy, and oddly flirty with Bandit all the time. Whether this is to make Princess jealous or some other reason, I just don't know.

Freya informed me at 1am that she had to go out, so I threw on my dog clothes and walked her. I then walked Yukon, Bandit, then Bucky, and went back to bed. At 5:30 local time, Yukon told me in no uncertain terms that I had slept long enough! He pushed me in the back with his cold nose, trying to lift me up off the bed. His efforts were joined by Freya's barritone wooo, then Yukon scolded me for sleeping in.

"Yoh-yow-waow woo!"
"Wooo-ah-woo-woo!" Freya responded her agreement.
"Awooowoo wooo!" Bucky chimed in.
"Ohwoah-woah!" Came Bandit's bass reply.
"Shhhhssshhh!! you'll wake the neighbors!" But they were having none of my backtalk. So I quieted them by taking Freya and Yukon out together as soon as I was able to grab a sweatshirt, pants and boots.

As soon as they did their business, and I cleaned up the solid bits, I rushed them back to the room and took out Bandit and Bucky together. Bucky as usual was to excited to pee on the short leash... sigh. When I got back, Jim went down to get me coffee and a roll, and he met with Alice and her parents. When he came back to the room he brought with him some yummy blueberry rolls that Alice's mother had brought. Thank you, they were awesome!

We then went to the park (stopping for gas and breakfast for Jim since he's diabetic). The weather was warming up, and I was getting a bit worried it would be too nice (read warm) for the dogs. The sun was bright and there was a slight breeze blowing, promising an early spring day.
(to be continued)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Gearing up for Murphreesboro

Saturday was rainy so we went out and got more material for our rennovations. Wood laminate flooring for our dog entranceway which I hope to start putting down the weekend of the 19th. This coming Saturday though, is the Music City Dryland Challenge. So we are gearing up to head down to Murphreesboro, TN for probably the last race of our season. After that, I'll be putting Princess back in show classes to gear up for the upcoming show season.

She's really turned into a lovely dog with a very sweet personality. Every night she curls up behind me and puts her head by mine. If I roll or move away from her, she scoots up until she can touch me again and goes back to sleep. I know it is normally not a good thing to encourage, but she still knows she's a dog and does doggy things and knows her place in the pack. On cold winter nights, it feels good to have a warmer on my back.

I sometimes forget that I'm aging, but can't deny that all the abuse I've put myself through while younger feels the weather. I wouldn't have it any other way though. I've lived life to the fullest, had a lot of great times and adventures, tales of swordfights and worldly travels, campouts and facedowns with wild beasts. I've been a lot of places and seen a lot of things. But of them all, working with my dogs gives me the greatest satisfaction. It is that piece I'd been missing but never knew it.

The dogs love it too, and give me their all. Afterwards they are satisfied with a frozen meat snack, and then they get to lounge and reflect while the real work begins for me. Out to the yard to clean up poop, then work on the house. My husband has really embraced working with the dogs too and has started making gang lines, snub lines, and other paraphanalia that will be useful at events. This has also made me happy that he enjoys my hobby and helps with it. He has become as attached to Moon Dancer as I am to Princess, and we both are attached to all the dogs, which is a big switch for him. The dogs used to be all 'my' dogs, now they are 'our' dogs.

Saturday it began to snow after we got back, but it wasn't sticking to the ground, so we went about our chores. Sunday the snow and rain had stopped, but not enough snow to fix up and run with the sled, so I got out the cart and ran the race team. Bandit threw a bootie before we started, but kept the right rear one on the whole run. Bucky did the run with both booties on the rear the whole run. Thank goodness I don't have to order new booties for the race, and both dogs feet were in good shape, no ground down nails. I have to admire them, their feet are tough as nails, and if it weren't for grinding the toenails, they could run twice as long as I take them.

Last night (monday) it snowed again, but still the warmer weather taunts us by melting the layers before. Each time they predict more than two inches, the storm misses us, only dusting the landscape which melts the next day. Jim is all for moving further north. Me too, but gotta go where the jobs are.