Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ohio race and training

In addition to the Rig Rondy, we also attended the Farmpark Challenge again this year.  I love the venue for this race.  The people are always friendly and helpful.  Unfortunately, I didn't get any pics of me and the team this year, but got some good starting chute pics of other racers and of Princess:

We again came in 7th in the class (is this a theme this year?), but had the fastest purebred team time in the 4 dog class.  Yay Team Wyrd!

Since then we've been doing some training runs, as we spent way too much on Christmas.  Hoping to get to some snow races later this year, but without time to train on snow (snow?  what snow?), I'm not very optimistic regarding our ability to race on a sled.  I'm only hoping to stay on it and not get myself or the dogs injured.

The one great thing that has come out of this is that I've finally had the chance to get Cowboy out with the team, and the boy is a natural!  He's a little nervous when we get him out on the gangline, but once we take off, he is hauling hard on the tug the whole way with the biggest grin you've ever seen on a sibe.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Rig Rondezvous (Bill Leonard Memorial Race)

The trip up to the Illinois race was very long and very scary.  First mishap, Velvet chewed through her leash, and while I was trying to keep her from jumping out when we stopped to walk the others, Bucky jumped over the top of me!  With my heart in my throat, I called, and thank god he's such a good boy he came instantly to my side!  Whew!  I'm glad I do recall training!
I would be devastated if anything happened to my TV buddy!

Each time I would have to hold back the dogs while I switched a lead from a walked dog to Velvet, then remove that leash again before heading back out so she couldn't chew through that one too.  She had already put teeth marks in a second leash.

Next stop, it was Princess who managed to get by me.  I've taken these dogs on several trips before and have not had as much trouble as this one!  Princess is pretty good at coming to me, but I have to be fast.  She came back to me and spun around just as fast and I was able to grab her leash before she took off again.

When we reached the hotel, Velvet and Princess got loose!  With two of them running I was sure we would lose them, but I quickly dropped to the ground and urgently called to them both.  Thank goodness again, they both came to my call!  Jim grabbed Velvet while I grabbed Princess even though Jim was still holding on to Bucky.  The two dogs tripped him up and fortunately he kept hold of Velvet and was laying on Bucky's leash.  I ran over with Princess and helped him up as I grabbed Bucky's leash and Velvet's collar.  By this time I was fearful, wondering what else would go wrong.  My stomach was doing flipflops and I had a sickly feeling that wasn't all.  My premonition turned out true as when I took the two girls out (Princess and Velvet) later that night on the long leads, the one holding Princess simply snapped in two at the clasp!  It was a nearly new lead too!  Again, I thank my stars that Princess is so well trained.  She didn't come directly back to me, so I told her to get in the truck, and immediately the came to wait by the door where I was able to catch her.

With some trepidation we spent the night without any further mishaps, got our early wake-up call even though I was already awake, having slept very little because Velvet insisted on sleeping on my head.  We had breakfast and headed out to the site.

Thankfully, there were no further mishaps for our lot, and we were able to attend the musher's meeting, prepare for the race and run the race.  Freya and Princess did phenomenal at lead, and only were uncertain on one turn and heading for the finish chute (Freya hates going in to the crowd and Princess wants to be in the center of the crowd instead of in the chute).  Yukon and Bucky were amped up!  All four dogs loped the entire 2.5 mile course with gusto!  We passed two other teams with only Bucky wanting to do a social call, but Yukon kept him from nosing too close to the other team.  The course was wonderful, packed grassy farm trail that was perfect on the dogs' feet!  The turns were exciting, and at one point I was up on two wheels, but we made each turn at high speed and it was great fun!  We made great time and came in 7th out of 20 entrants.

I feel really good about this as I know at least 3-4 of the front runners were well respected racers, and all of them had time and training trails to put miles on their dogs that I could only dream of.  I am extremely happy with the performance of my dogs!  So kudos to my team of awesome and wonderful PB Sibes!  I couldn't ask for better dogs!  Congratulations to all that ran the race, so glad I got to attend.  Thanks again to the organizers and volunteers!  You all made it possible for me to see the best of my dogs in action.  The food was awesome too!  The chili was amazing and just what we needed to warm up on the cold day!  Don't know if I will be able to make it so far next year, but definitely enjoyed this premiere race/fun run!

The drive back was thankfully uneventful if long and tiring.  9 hours including stops for people and dogs.  But it was well worth it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cooling Off

So far we've had two training runs, one for 1 mile, and the second for 2 miles.  Velvet has taken Princess' place while she is recovering from being spayed.  I now have a full 4 team that I won't have to worry about heats or pregnancy keeping me from any races.  Velvet stepped up to the challenge of running with the race team with gusto and enthusiasm, and like her mother and father is proving to be a great asset.  If only she was as big and strong as Bandit.  Strength and endurance were a little on the low side last year, so I plan on building more of both this year.  With Velvet's smaller size though, strength is still going to be an issue.  To work on this, I've created a grass course I plan on running when it is cool enough.  With the greater resistance of the grass track, I hope to encourage a better strength and stamina than in previous years. 

I also have a place where I can run a longer course to build a bit more distance endurance this year, but it is a bit of a drive, so will probably only be able to run it on weekends or sneak in a run on wednesdays when I take Ghost to show classes (at the same place)  Due to changed finances, I have a limited racing budget this year, so will only be planning a limited amount of events.  Having fun with my dogs is still my #1 priority, so we will be planning to hit up events with a larger fun factor.

Been working on getting the RV roof redone, and though it is a lot of work, I think this time we will be in good shape once I'm finished.  We still have a long way to go considering what I had to work with.
Here you can see quite a bit of the corrosion that was underneath the rubberized coating.  I've had to take a steel brush to it to clean it away before putting down primer.  I've probably got about half done before I had to cover the RV back up because of the rains.  Hopefully it will be clear enough to continue working on it come Thursday.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Top Dog of the Kennel

Cowboy has found his place in our kennel, and surprisingly enough, he is top dog.  Even Moony and Samantha back down from him!!!  He is a real sweetheart though, and one thing that has endeared him to all the dogs, is that he loves to play with everybody.  He's not vengeful or angry if he doesn't get what he wants, but he will playfully mouth the object of his frustration, play-growl , and play-bow until he bugs them into giving him what he wants, or they both go off and playfully forget whatever it was.  It is the oddest mode of domination I've ever seen from a dog, and the most wonderfully pleasant way to make it to top dog.

In all my 35+ years of being a dog listener, this is the first time I've ever seen a dog use this method of gaining community/pack support.  It is a pleasant change from fighting, intimidation and bullying.  He is an unanimous, elected by the pack, leader.  Who would have thought dogs could be diplomats?  Kudos to you Cowboy for showing our dogs that you don't have to be mean to be Top Dog.

Finally starting to breathe again

After holding our breath for so long.  Technically there are two more days of danger, but I'm almost certain all the dogs have already been through what they were going to go through.  I am ever so grateful to all our FB friends and those following this blog.  Your prayers and well wishes have been heard and I am more than sure made a difference.  With your help and that of the Parvaid and Vibactra remedies, our dogs have only had one instance of vomiting, some of them had spotty diarrhea, but all continuously eating and drinking normally.  In other words we have not had another acute case as yet and hopefully won't.  The fear is beginning to ebb, and this coming weekend the disinfecting will begin again.  After four more weeks will be the final disinfection before the virus is no longer commutable and we can lift our self imposed quarrantine.  We continue to watch and pray that none of the dogs has a relapse, our last remaining fear.

Cowboy will be neutered mid to end of September, with Velvet to be spayed shortly thereafter or at the same time.  We are waiting until we are sure the virus is completely shed from every dog before any sort of procedure that could potentially lower their immune response.  It has been a trip through one hell I hope I never have to see again.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cowboy vs. Bucky

In case you ever wondered where the term pissing contest came from, I can tell you first hand.  This morning while feeding the dogs, Cowboy and Bucky were in my room awaiting their food while Ghost was in his crate chowing down.  I come back in only to find Cowboy and Bucky taking turns trying to pee in Ghost's food and claim it for their own.  Needless to say, this did not go down well with me or Ghost.

Annoyed, I went to get the cleaner and air freshener, but when I came back both Cowboy and Bucky had been at it again, this time, claiming my computer chair.  Seriously boys!  Take your pissing contest OUTSIDE!!!

Ghost on the other hand was being cuddly and playful, so I threw the hexhedral rubber ball.  He is such a good boy, and bounced around with it as he brought it back to me.  We played some tug-o-war before he let me have it to throw again.  His happy play does wonders to help heal the wounds of my heart.

But as I go to get breakfast for myself, my eyes catch on the wooden box on the mantle.  Bandit, how I tried to give you the best life you could have!  It seems so unfair to fall victim to epilepsy, and just when things settled down again and you were stable on your meds to be so cruelly ambushed by this horrid disease!  We still are mystified as to the source.  Nothing makes sense any more. 

Freya nudges me, and woos at me, trying her best to get my attention, and I sit with her on the floor, rubbing her belly and hugging her.  I know she misses her boy.  She would normally be in the yard playing with him.  I couldn't help the tears.  The aching in my soul as I held her brings more tears, but a warm tongue licks them away as Yukon give me his little high-pitched "OH!"  He wants in on the hugs too!  I'm soon buried in a sea of warm fuzzy bodies, and somehow my heart feels better.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Weary but hopeful.

There is a bone-aching weariness that sets in after several nights spent only dozing lightly listening for the unmistakable sounds of a dog wretching.  Every cough, every slight wheeze, each little sneeze has me awake and on-edge.  I lie awake for an hour or more after every time, afraid I might miss the actual heaves and one of my furry kids perish before I can get to them.  Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night and call each one by name to reassure myself they are still there, alert, alive.  The stress has played havoc with both my physical and mental health.

At work, most don't understand what these dogs mean to me.  They are essentially my furry god-children.  I was there at most of their birthing, raised them from their first breath of life.  They are my companions, and for my team, we share a one-ness of soul.  No one will understand our bond unless they too have felt the call of the pack, run with their team, gloried in the poetry of motion to the rhythm and beat of padded feet.  There is something wild, primal, exhillerating in the comradarie of a musher and their dogs.  Off the trail, they speak to me, comfort me, tease and play like any good friend.  I delight in their antics as they delight in my attention.  They are my heart and soul. 

The thought that I may have to stand by and watch them die an agonizing death before my eyes is beyond horror, beyond the scope of my worst nightmares.  I would gladly face a deadly torment of a thousand terrors before seeing harm come to my pack, but in this I am near helpless and at the mercy of fate.  Even so, I search daily for the miracle, the key to safeguard that which is so dear to me.  I beseach the winds, the waters, the fires and the earth to be kind.  I pray to our creator to spare them, and try the remedy that others have found helpful that my scientific mind tries to reject.  My heart knows not the logic, only the fear and pain of losing those in my care.  The aching hole in my heart where Bandit so recently warmed it is like a howling wind that whispers my name.

A day passes, then two, each odd behavior, each quirk magnified a thousand times as I keep my vigil.  Days pass in a blur, the fear clouds everything, always lurking.  One dog is sluggish and my heart accellerates as adrenaline flows through my veins.  I check them carefully, their eyes, their gums, their belly temperature, their smell.  Though some seem slightly warm, they are still eager to receive their food, and I sigh as I let the high alert slowly drain from me.  I watch them carefully to be sure they are taking in water, and follow them outside.

After seven days it is still hard for the reality to sink in that Bandit is gone.  We have given the Parvaid remedy to our remaining dogs for five days, the recommended time period.  Their last dose was administered this morning.  It has become a waiting game as we have done all we could.  It remains for us to keep vigil for another five days to be on the safe side.  I don't think we will ever be able to relax again.

This morning all the dogs were frisky, alert and happy, almost enough to make me think the danger has passed, but I know in my heart it is still lurking like a monstrous predator waiting to strike.  That monster will be lurking for another 7 years minimum, hiding under the surface of the soil laughing as we lower our guard.  It is patient, merciless, relentless and without remorse.  It is a cold hearted killer.

Jim has picked up Bandit's ashes and my heart aches anew.  I know when I see them, it will finally release a tide of pain and anguish that has been kept at bay.  At home I have some mulberry saplings that I am raising from the seeds of a mulberry I picked and dried.  When I transplant them, some of Bandit's ashes will be with them, giving his spirit a place to return should he wish, an anchor in the tides of forever.  They will be his trees, his fruits, his love returned to us.  Two of them will go with our orchard, and the rest will be planted in front of our home.  They will be a living monument that will hopefully stand for many generations.

Friday, August 3, 2012

On Vigil

The Parvo horror has us all on edge, and interfering with our ability to grieve for our beloved boy.  As with anything that crosses our path, I've tried to put together as much research as possible as well as doing all we can to prevent a re-occurance.  This disease is probably the most horrible to ever have to deal with.  It is incredibly contagious, is active in the soil for at least 7 years and has a very high mortality rate in the young and old.  If this was a human disease, it would have been worse than the 1918 flu epidemic, but like flu, the parvovirus is a constantly evolving virus that defies the complacency of vaccination.  Since 1970, there have been 4 known mutations, the base virus, strain a which primarily attacks the digestion (the most mild version still breaks down the walls of the intestines and causes severe hemorhaging in the young and old.  It is the blood in the intestines and stomach that causes the 'parvo smell'), strain b which primarily attacks the organs and bone marrow (the most deadly strain prior to), strain c which does both and defies previous vaccination, is virulent in adults as well as the young and old, though is still considered more mild in healthy adults, it still has an unacceptably high mortality rate.  Like too many of the folks I know that own kennels I found myself horrified over the lack of information that was passed along to me regarding Parvo.  This disease is far worse than I had ever imagined, and should be required research for everyone who aspires to own a kennel. 

What I find is shocking that not very many people know just how utterly contagious this disease is, how long it can contaminate the very land on which your kennel stands, and just what can be done to help these poor animals that contract the disease.

For instance I had never heard that there is as big a danger of overhydrating a parvo dog as there is for dehydration!  This makes me wonder how many dogs died because of overhydrating and were mistakenly assumed it was because the virus made the heart too weak to continue!  I've agonized over this fact for many hours.  In my research I learned that yes, the virus does attack the heart, but heart failure can be prevented if, after a bowel movement and the dog becomes very weak, no fluids are given for 4 hours because the excess fluids strain the heart to collapse.  Was this what happened to Bandit, or was it truly the virus that stopped his heart?  I've also learned that simple things like anti-inflammation aids for the intestines can mean the difference between life and death.  A very simple solution like Tamiflu can save your puppy or dog, yet how many vets know and prescribe this?

There are so many things that even people with experience with Parvo didn't know that I've found in researching this virus that it makes me very sad this information isn't general knowledge.  If it were, there might be far less deaths with this terrible disease.  I've also learned that only two things can kill the virus, one is bleach and the other is a product called Kennel Klean.  But even with these aids, cross-infection is nearly inevitable.  Flies, clothing, skin contact, birds, small animals, other insects etc can all carry the virus and deposit it where it can be ingested in addition to contact with an infected dog.  The incubation period can be as little as 3 days or as many as 16, and any time during incubation your dog will not test positive on a parvo test, but may still carry the virus.  It will only show up once they start throwing up and having diarrhea, and by then it is almost too late!  Every second counts.

I've found a product I am currently using to help the rest of my pack ward off this terrible disease and praying this is going to work.  I've done a lot of herbal remedy research in the past, and the contents of this concoction appear sound to my research, mints to aid digestion, anti-inflammatories, anti-microbials, essences to help with diarrhea, etc.  The stuff is called Parvaid, and is used in conjuction with another product Vibactra both manufactured by Amber Tech.  I found out about this product from recommendations from a few kennel owners who have used it not only to nurse several litters of parvo puppies back to life, but to prevent secondary infections in their kennels.  So far this stuff appears to be a godsend.  The dogs I feared were acting as if they were coming down with it/had a temperature and beginnings of lethargy appear to have shook it off in a matter of hours after the first dose.  After the fourth dose of parvaid and 2nd dose of Vibactra, all our dogs appear to be bright eyed and energetic again.  After all my looking in to this horrid disease, I was skeptical this stuff would help, but now I wonder why its use isn't so widely spread?  How many dogs might have survived had the owners had this stuff on hand?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Heartache and Fear

Saturday, July 28th, all was right with the world, Bandit had been microchipped and a small portion of the burden of fear of him being lost without meds was lifted.

On August 1st, our beautiful, wonderful gentle giant Bandit passed away.  Somehow, unknown to us, he was exposed to the Parvovirus and his compromised immune system could not cope. 

On the 30th he didn't eat all of his fish at first, laid down for a couple of hours, but was up again after that, eating and playing with the other dogs.  It was some unusual behavior, but he has at times not wanted to eat in the mornings.  I mentioned this to Jim and told him he might want to call the vet and see if he could be scheduled for a bile acid test to be sure he was not suffering from liver or kidney damage because of his meds.  He seemed fine the rest of the day. 

On the morning of the 31st, at breakfast and morning meds time, he went outside and hid in a doghouse.  This was completely not like him at all, and I woke my husband and told him to take Bandit in.  I had no reason to suspect Parvo, he had his puppy shots and a one year shot, he was just due this month for his booster, plus he was an adult.  He was not throwing up, no diarrhea, just unwilling to move, but this was alarming enough and completely unlike his happy go-lucky self. 

I went to work and Jim called the vet and they told him they didn't have an opening until late afternoon.  Jim called me from the vet and told me he tested positive for Parvo after having diarrhea at the vet's.  The news went through me with a shock of fear.  We have 12 other dogs that may have been exposed!  In rising fear and panic, I begged leave from work and drove home.  Bandit was put on IV fluids and kept overnight at the vet, and I began a disinfection of our house and dogyard.  Our greatest worry was Ghost, our show pup as though he had all his boosters, he was still at the greatest risk.  We were worried about Bandit, but as an adult dog, we thought he would be strong enough to pull through, and indeed after an hour on fluids he seemed to come around and was partially alert.

Jim went off to his classes, and James was a great help cleaning up the dogyard and putting down disinfectant on every place he could find.  Fear for our other dogs and worry for Bandit kept me from sleep.  Ghost seemed a bit lethargic in the morning, but then sometimes he is, but this scare had me doubly worried that this time it wasn't from him being a laid back personality.  Eager to get news of Bandit and to schedule Ghost for an exam/Parvo test, I called our vet.  Some instinct told me that something was wrong when I didn't get an answer.  A nagging fear began itching at the back of my mind.  I tried to call again a half hour later, and then again after another 30 minutes.  Meantime I was busying myself cleaning, but just before another 30 minutes passed, I received a call from the vet. 

She told me Bandit had passed away.  He had been fine when they checked on him at 3:30am, but sometime between then and 6am he had passed on.  Run Free my wonderful boy!  Somewhere on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge I know you will be leading a team of huskies, running like the wind and playing hard!

Ghost came up negative on the test, and even though it is good news, it only means he has not begun to shed the virus (if he has it).  So now we are on a constant vigil for up to 10 days to be sure none of the other dogs contract the virus.  We ordered a product on-line called Parvaid in hopes the testimonials and anecdotal accounts from known kennels in favor of this product are true.  Our hope is that if another dog appears to show the signs, we can begin their treatment with this product while awaiting vetrinary assistance. 

Fear is at an all-time high, fear for our furry family which makes you question all your decisions and philosophies.  Was I right to get Bandit micro-chipped?  Was it a good idea to have free association among all the dogs?  Would they be safer in divided quarters?  Would they still be happy?  All these things and more keep plaguing me as we watch and clean while we wait.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Summer musings

Returning to our kennel is a Freya daughter, Velvet (Meecha as she was known in her former home).  Like so many who have been affected by the horrible economy, Velvet's family found themselves unable to stay in their country home, and mournfully contacted us.  Hopefully there will come a time when she can rejoin them, but meanwhile, she has made herself at home here. 

Velvet is so very much like her mother, smart, built for speed, athletic, and more than her fair share of intelligence.  After close to a month of feeding her premium food spiked with homecooked, vitamins, fatty skins and honey, she is up to optimal weight and even more energetic than she was previously.  I can't wait to put her in harness once the weather cools off.

Speaking of which, it has been a record breaking summer heat here.  Bleh!  I really need to move someplace colder...

Bandit has been doing well so far, and this weekend he gets his microchip.  This will be a bit of a relief knowing he will have his medical information on file so that if he ever gets out or lost somehow, and if they scan his chip they will immediately know he needs medication.  Bandit is thrilled to have his little sister back, and loves playing with her.  Velvet's best buddy, though, is Ghost, who isn't so little any more.  He is a gorgeous nearly grown boy!  With a small break in the heat, I can start preparing him for the Lexington show.  He has the freeze down pat, but needs work on stacking and heel.  He's pretty smart though, so I know it won't take him long.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Moony the Bully

Lately Moony has developed a disturbing habit which I'm having to train her out of.  I can only assume that while I am not there during the day, she is allowed to snatch things from other dogs and keep them even attacking them for the item.  The key here being that she keeps the item she fought for. 

This morning I gave Princess an egg, but before she could get out the door with it, Moony was on her.  Fortunately I was only a long step away, and was able to grab Moony, get the egg and give it back to Princess and put Moony in her room.  This is not the first time she's done this, and I believe it is because Jim has let her keep the items she's stolen.  So, not only do I have to train Moony out of being a bully, I have to train Jim in to not letting his little girl be a bully.

Unfortunately, Cowboy is learning from her example, and tried bullying Demon.  Fortunately, I was right there to stop them the first time.  He tried it while I was in WV and Jim stopped them, so hopefully that will be the end of it as long as Moony is shown that being a bully is not rewarding.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cherish the Moments

Bucky is a unique soul.  He loves to play, but he also loves to cuddle.  This morning he insistantly crawled into my lap while I sat in the recliner.  He curled up in my lap (overflowingly since he's a pretty big dog), leaned his head into my chest, and stretched out his forearm to lay it over me.  Never had I had a dog that was so 'humanly' expressive of his love.  Most are like Yukon, content to hug and love in a canine fashion, but not Bucky.  That just isn't good enough for him, he wants so much to imitate how Jim and I show love for each other.  It is touching in a way that is difficult to explain, but oh so wonderfuly fulfilling.

This morning he sat with me like that for close to an hour even though I know it is a bit uncomfortable and probably too warm for him.  The devotion of this boy is simply incredible.  In harness he pulls his heart out, and will lead or follow equally willingly, though he prefers lead (problem is he gets distracted easily, so I have to put him with a dog that doesn't get distracted from running).  At home he is incredibly loving and loves nothing more than to be petted and loved on.  Well, maybe he also loves laying in front of the AC when it is warm out...

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Yukon is probably one of my most enigmatic dogs.  Serene and contemplative when he's not playing.  There is a sadness in his soul that is buried deep in his eyes.  He has known betrayal and abandonment and is afraid at times to trust and love unconditionally.  It has taken three years to finally let go of his hurt and realize that we will never allow that to happen to him again.

This morning he came to me full of love and the want for reassurance and company.  He approached with tail wagging, a shy smile, body canted, ears back and head slightly lowered showing me respect and love.  His tongue licked my lower jaw first, then my face as I rubbed his ears and belly.  Knowing he had my acceptance of his attention, he put his front paws on the chair between my knees and leaned closer so that I could hug him.  His head rested firmly on my shoulder in a return hug as he let out a sigh of contentment.  I could feel the unconditional love, respect and adoration from him as clearly as I might my husband or son.  He trusts me, and his faith is in me.  I'm sure he felt my love, respect and adoration for him as well. 

Our relationship is built on respect, trust and love.  He respects my ability to provide for him and knows his world is controlled by me, at the same time he trusts that I am benevolent and will make sure he does not go hungry, and I will protect him from fear and pain.  More than that, he loves me because I provide for him with love and has learned I would not betray that love.

For my part, I respect his power, his strength, agility and sheer athleticism and I provide him the venue to explore and revel in his power.  It is beautiful for me to watch him run, and being a part of his pack when he runs is like no other feeling on earth.  We are one, and we run because we can, and it is pure joy.  I trust him that he will never lash out at me and will respect my wishes as I have his best interests at heart when I ask something of him.  I reward him with love and with special treats for his good behaviors and for a reward for running with the pack. 

I also respect he is a forever young and inquisitive mind, and keep alert for him getting in to things he shouldn't.  But there is no fear in the admonishment, no bullying.  He has learned that I would never hurt or bully him in to something he did not want to do, but I will intervene when his or another's safety is at risk. 

The three years it has taken to build this relationship with him have been well worth it.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cowboy, Ghost, Ace and Princess, or how I lost my house to the dogs again

A friend asked if I had room for another running dog as he didn't want to show any more.  After a bit of a discussion, I asked if it would be ok if I tried to rehabilitate him back to the show ring.  The problem was that he had been terribly frightened at a show and did not seem to want to go to another show.  And so it was that I met my friend down in Bowling Green and picked up Cowboy.
He's a very sweet gentle soul with a lovely smile.  It took less than an hour to finish the introductions, and soon he was good friends with Bucky and Princess who thought I brought her home a boy toy. 

Needless to say, she had to be kept separate from him as she, Ace and Freya decided that would be an opportune moment to go in to heat.  All thought of beginning Cowboy's rehab training had to be set aside while I dealt with keeping the girls away from him, and housetraining him not to mark everywhere.  It was also hard to get his attention away from raging hormones, so I took the time to earn his trust, give him time to adjust to his new home, and learn the ropes.
Cowboy was an immediate hit with the younger boys, being about the same age.  They romped and played and played and romped around the acre of yard.  With the older boys, he was a new face and was treated with friendly uncertainty, but no aggression.  Moony soon took charge of showing him around and teaching him about his new home.  At night he slept by my bed in the crate while the girls were in heat, a welcome change from having to shuffle him out and the girls in and vice versa during the day.  He loves the crate, and even when it is open and he is inside while the girls are out, he can often be found laying down in it.  In order to make things easier on us and to fulfill my promise to ensure that the epilepsy gene is not passed on, we had Freya spayed.  This was a very hard decision, as she is a tremendous leader dog and her work ethic is amazing.  It was hard to decide it wasn't worth the risk to breed her again.  Our foundation hope now lies with Princess and Ace.

Ghost also loves to play with him, and is getting so big!  Soon it will be time to take him to the shows.  His training is coming along very well, however, it has been hard to get him to the Kennel Club practices since my husband now goes to school in the evenings.  But we will be gearing up for puppy matches starting next month.

Meanwhile our AC gave out, so we had to get some window units, and our roof was torn up by a storm.  Fortunately the insurance helped pay for our new roof, but not the AC.  It will probably be some time until we can afford to replace that.  Oh and my husband's car was on its last legs, so we traded it in for a 2012 Subaru Impreza.  Great gas mileage, and I'm pretty pleased with the pep and features.

Over the past few weeks, Cowboy's confidence and comfort level has grown and he has become an integral part of our family and pack.  He loves the big yard and loves being able to play with the other dogs.  This morning I was able to allow the girls to interact with him without him attempting to mount even though Princess played with him.  Cowboy seemed completely uninterested in anything but play, not even a sniff, so we should be ok.  It will be a relief to not have to shuffle dogs in and out for 5 or 6 months.  With that out of the way, I should be able to concentrate on Ghost's and Cowboy's show training.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dog cookies, Iditarod and other things

In an effort to ensure our and our dogs' diets are more healthy, we've been pretty busy around here.  So far we have baked up eight dozen dog cookies (frugally, they are half the cost of store bought and we know what is and isn't in them), 40lbs of homecooked dog food, 10lbs of chicken jerky, 5lbs of dried fruits, planted 22 sweatpea plants and have a dozen tomatoes almost ready to plant.  I also have two dozen carrot clusters ready to plant in a week or so.  Of the things, we probably still have about 3lbs chicken jerky, no fruit, two dozen cookies because we baked more last night, and 10lbs of homecooked dog food.  The plants are doing well, and my orchard is beginning to bud.  Of the 9 fruit trees I've planted, 7 are still looking good, so I'm hoping we might actually get a couple of fruits this year.  Spreading diatomaceous earth and planting natural deterrants around the orchard for wild animals, so hopefully the fruit will last long enough to harvest.

Been trying to get the dogs out at least every other day for walks, and spending at least an hour a day in the dog yard playing and running with them besides them being able to spend the rest of the days and nights in the house if they so please.  My bond with the pack is stronger than ever and it is fun and amazing to be a part of their social interaction.  They never cease to amaze me with their devotion and loving natures.

Ghost is growing by the day and his adult coat is almost in.  He has the most beautiful pattern, and it accents his lines well.  He is going to be one striking boy!

Bandit has been doing well, and we hope he will continue to do well now that we know exactly what level of medication he has to be at.  So though we are busy with spring planting, cleaning and repairs, at least we are not in a state of emergency.

On the mushing front, I have been very happy to follow the Iditarod with an insider package.  Just wish I had more time to use it.  However, today has been very riviting, and I hope to watch the live finish in just a few hours.  Aliy has given Dallas Seavy a run for his money, but unless he has a mishap, it looks like Dallas will take the win.  It is still a running game between Aliy and Ramey Smythe for second though, but she's staying a constant mileage ahead of him.  This has been one of the most exciting races in years!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Puppy Love

Ghost has been doing very well with us, and has quickly become a beloved member of the pack.  Each of the dogs have taken turns playing with him and making him feel welcome.  He has two surrogate moms, Moony and Ace.  Both girls dote on him as if he were their own. 
Lately he and Princess have become playmates, and she plays with him quite a bit.  I even caught him playing with Samantha and even Demon.  Yukon will play by running at him with his roar then jump over him as he cowers.  He'll also let Ghost chase him around.  Bandit and Ghost play constantly, and we have to keep an eye on them as Bandit sometimes doesn't know when to stop (meds impair his judgement).  Bucky too will get a little rough, but generally backs off when Ghost whines.

This morning (March 9) Ghost outgrew his puppy pen, he learned how to jump out of it.  Since he was big enough to get out on his own, we figured it was time he was allowed to go in and out on his own.  This morning I took down the pen. 
He is growing so fast!  He is becoming a beautiful dark gray along his back, but his neck is light white still with a line of gray on either side of it up to the top of his head around his mask.  He is getting to be one gorgeous boy!

Bandit and Ghost

Monday night the 20th, Bandit seemed to be clingy and have 'auras' where he would appear to be in ictal with no noticed seizure.  I began to worry and watch him very carefully.

Tuesday evening the 21st Bandit began having a cluster seizure event.  It started around 6:30pm.  He experienced head shaking, progressing in to stiffness and paddling and loss of bladder control.  The whole episode lasted about 30 seconds and his post ictal was a little less than a minute.  We gave him an extra 60mg pheno, and some Ice Cream to help cool his core temperature and give him back some calories (each GM is like running a marathon).  He came out of ictal, but was exhibiting strong 'auras' like being in half ictal much like the first cluster event, and I knew we were going to be in for a long night, but hoped we could keep it under control.

He had another seizure at 9:40, so we gave him the 2ml of valium we had on hand, some ice cream, and he made it another 4 hours before he had another seizure. 

At 1:30 am he started the head shaking and chomping.  I administered what is referred to as Occular Compression (the idea is to press lightly inward on the eyes which have a very direct connection to the brain in order to spark perhaps an instinctive avoidance reaction enough to bring a dog out of the nerve storm caused by the seizure).  This seemed to work and stopped his progression from head shaking (normally he goes stiff then starts paddling, loses bladder, then reverts in to post ictal) and brought him directly back instead of ictal.  We gave him ice cream again, and 1cc of the 250mg Kbr.

At 2:45 he had a GM while standing!  This was very unusual, as Bandit normally has them from sleeping.  Administered Occular Compression, but this time did not seem to help although he came out of the GM and post ictal very quickly.  We decided to wait and see if the 250mg Kbr would make a difference so decided we wouldn't take him to emergency unless he had another GM.
At 4:10am he had another GM while standing.  I administered Occular Compression, and he came out of the stiffness and did not go in to paddling.  There was no post ictal.  We decided to rush him to the emergency vet, so packed him up, and I held on to him and held his attention for the hour trip down.

We arrived shortly after 5am at BVS, and thankfully the Dr that watched over Bandit last time and knew his history was there.  He's an internal med specialist, so was very knowledgeable and very interested in Bandit's condition.  They put in a catheter and administered 10mg of valium.

At 6am Bandit had another GM while standing, I was unable to bring him out of it using OC, and the Dr seemed interested in my effort to try to bring him out of it.  The GM progressed from head shaking, chomping, stiffness, paddling and loss of bladder.  I held him down while the Vet tech administered 10mg valium into the catheter they had put in his left foreleg.

Bandit was back on his feet in less than 10 mins, and acted as if he needed to go out, so I took him for a walk outside, and at 6:49 he began seizing in the parking lot!  I administered OC while pulling him desperately towards the clinic and pleading with him to come out of it and not seize in the parking lot!  He came out of it, and I rushed him back inside.

At 7:05 he had another full GM where OC did not work.  During ictal he pood out some very nasty smelling poo, not his normal smell.  They administered another 10mg of valium, and we packed him up to go to our normal vet.

At 1030 Bandit had another GM at the normal vet's office, but they did not observe any other incidents, and told us we could pick him up in the afternoon.  At 16:30 we picked him up and brought him home, though he was still exhibiting strong auras

At 1908 he had another seizure, OC did not help, but GM was mild and ictal was very short.  We gave him the Valium we had on hand (10mg), but he was still exhibiting auras.

Sure enough at 2109 he had another GM, so we rushed him back to the ER vet and left him in their care (we were both exhausted and needed sleep)

Bandit had another seizure at 2am according to the ER vet, but that was apparently the last one they witnessed.  We picked him up around 10am, but he was still exhibiting auras, and I was afraid we would have to take him back again.  By 2pm he appeared to have a petit mal, lots of suspicious eye activity and appeared to be ictal, but I called his name and scratched his ears and he came out of it.  By 4pm his auras began to fade and I started hoping we had seen the last of the S monster for now.  I fed him 1.5 cups of moistened kibble, waited 4 hours and fed him another 1.5 cups of moistened kibble to help re-hydrate him and get some calories in to him.  He had a minor spit up around 11am, and still had the shakes, but they gradually faded.

By Friday morning he was back to his cheeful self and was full of play.

Due to the expense and worry over Bandit, we decided not to attend the Kalkaska Winterfest.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Thursday night the 2nd, I took several pics of G'kar, knowing it was the last night we would have with him.

Poor old man tried to turn around and couldn't stay standing.  I remember him as a young pup, so full of life with laughing eyes.  So much has passed since then.  The twelve years we lived in North Carolina, he grew up a southern husky.  We used to call him 'Iron Gut' to honor the day he stole a whole pan of brownies off the counter and ate them all with no noticeable side effects besides a slightly softer stool than normal.  G'kar loved bread, and we always had to hide it in the fridge or inside cupboards, because if we left it out, he would eat it, even a whole loaf still unopened in the wrapper.  Still, he was a very healthy and fit dog, agile as a cat, and could jump like nobody's business.  To his credit, though he could jump the 6' fence, he never did.  He much rather stay by us at our home, and accompany me on many walks rather than take excursions on his own.  But no fence or barrier would ever come between him and me. 

He jumped boxes, tore up crates, soared over baby gates, tore down wood doors to be at my side.  He was my shadow in more ways than one.  He was always at my side even though he was supposed to be my husband's dog.  He slept by my bed, followed me anytime I left the room, and pined for me while I was away at work.  When I would come home he would greet me at the door with "herrrrooow!"  If he could talk, he would have, and tried to on many occasions.  He was my buddy through thick and thin, and I miss him terribly.

Jim went out and bought him a 12oz sirloin, and I heated it in the toaster oven to 180 degrees, chopped it in to bite size pieces and fed him.  He happily gobbled down the gormet offering, and let me hug him and pet him for a while.  When I let him go, he resumed his awful pain-filled pacing, his eyes glazing over again.  We gave him a full dog-aspirin, and got him to lay down after it began to take effect.  He fell immediately asleep.

At 10am I carried a distressed G'kar out to the truck.  A cranky and fussy old man to the last, not happy with the undignified means of transport, but he was in so much pain all he could do was fuss.  When I got in beside him, he did not want to sit still, but as he tried to move around in the back of our expedition, he was unable to keep to his feet.  Each time he lost control of his back legs, he screamed in agony, and I couldn't help the tears.  It tore at my very soul to feel his agony.  I managed to get him to kind of stay on the seat beside me so I could hold up his back end and relieve some of his pain.  But the corners were unkind to him, and each time he lost his footing he would scream, not a howl or yip, but a true scream.  If there was any way I could have spared him the agony kindly, I would have.  I longed for the vet we had in NC who would have come to the house, but we have no such luxury here.  Our vet here has been wonderful, don't get me wrong, and they have been very good with our pack, but they are daytime only and too many clients for housecalls.  At least they were able to fit us in with their busy schedule, and for that I was grateful.

The girls at the office were kind and sympathetic, they've known G'kar for the three years we have been here and they remarked how much he changed over the last six months since they'd seen him.  It was apparent he didn't recognize any of them, or even where he was.  The journey had taken the last out of him.  We said our goodbyes, and I lifted him on to the waiting blanket.  I stroked his head as I cried and let him know I loved him as he quickly and peacefully succumbed to the euthanizing drug.  Just as we had the responsibility to care for him in his life, we had the responsibility to ensure a peaceful ending to his suffering. 

I do believe that animals have souls, and maybe it was my imagination, or maybe it was real, but on my way home, I felt a cold touch on the side of my face.  The touch of an ethereal husky tongue, and a warm feeling came over me as if his spirit came to me and thanked me for letting him go.  At that moment, I was at peace, and began to remember the good times.  He was a wonderful dog, companion, shadow, fuzzy kid, and I had no regrets except that his life was shorter than mine.

As if the stress I was feeling was contagious, during the night at about 1:30am Sunday night/Monday morning, Bandit had his first seizure in 7 months. It was a full grand mal. It was mild, considering the GM's he had in July, with only minor head shaking progressing in to stiff arching, paddling, and teeth chomping for less than 30 seconds. Ictal was a short 2 minutes. Ice cream administered and rescue remedy after I found it. We immediately gave him an extra 60mg Pheno pill and watched him carefully. At least this ...answered the question regarding the cause of his seizures. Though the jerky treats may have been reponsible for the onset of the seizures, it is now obvious they are not responsible for his continued condition. This also answers the question of whether or not exercise has been a trigger. I had been sick the past week so had not taken them out running.

Bandit may have had another seizure Tuesday morning, but unfortunately he was outside and I found him near a wet spot that looked like it might have been his saliva.  Other than that, there were no signs and I could not be sure he actually had one, but with his medication level back up, he hasn't had a problem since.  Though we may never get all of the old Bandit back, I am thankful we have a small bit of him back.  He has become more loving and less of the drunk and disorderly overgrown 4 month old puppy.  He and the new puppy Ghost are becoming pals.

Sunday the 12th, I finally felt well enough to take the team back out for some much needed exercise.  Princess did not want to turn around when I asked Freya to come around.  This resulted in a bit of a battle of wills and a lot of untangling, but I finally managed to get her to realize that she wouldn't get any fish unless she went back to the house.  When she got it, we were hell bent for leather back towards the house. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bandit's Meds and New Additions

For a while now we have been holding our breath and praying that Bandit will never again experience the horrible cluster episode that took his memory from us.  Seven months he was seizure free, and in our happiness and need to have answers, we thought to test the theory that his epilepsy was a result of the much vilified chicken jerky treats.  Each seizure he had ever experienced has been 12 hours following eating more than one of the things, so we were almost certain the onset of his condition was caused by these vile poisonous things. (See FDA warnings regarding chicken jerky treats for pets)

So we began to reduce his meds cautiously and watch for changes.  Ever since his July cluster episode and subsequent increase of meds, Bandit has acted like a drunk and disorderly dog after his morning meds.  He jumps on and plays with all the dogs in the house regardless of whether or not they want to play.  It is hard to say no to the biggest dog in the house, and at 80 pounds, Bandit normally gets his way or the victim finds someplace to hide.

Starting in the first week of January, I reduced his Kbr from 2cc to 1.5 cc and left his pb dosage at 90mg in the morning and at night.  After only two weeks Bandit began to act more normal, and some of his old self came back.  For the first time in seven months, he crawled in to my lap for a cuddle, and I almost cried I was so happy.  Before the cluster episode he used to do this at least once a day.  So, as the third week in January rolled around, a nasty bout of the Flu went through our house, but I had to take Bandit to the vet to get his bloodwork done.  I had also finally managed to convince Jim to purchase a show line husky pup!  Despite the raging fever, I was eager to talk to Bandit's vet about further reducing his meds and to pick up our new addition to Team Wyrd!

The vet was enthusiastic that we wanted to try to reduce his meds and gave us the go ahead after Bandit's bloodwork came back in good standing.  Instead of reducing by 30mg a day, though, I was encouraged to take him down by 60 mg a day, so he would have 60mg pb in the morning and evening, and 1.5cc of kbr in the morning.  Happy and optimistic I headed over to Shadetree Siberians to pick up Shadetree's Ghost in the Machine "Ghost", a very beautiful boy with incredible conformation, engaging bi-eyes and gorgeous markings with the pedigree to match his great looks.  Ghost will be training up and showing this coming spring.

It took all of 30 minutes to integrate him in to the pack, all of our dogs were thrilled to have a new puppy around, especially Moony.  From the moment she saw Ghost, she decided that he would be her puppy.
Ghost quickly made his way into our hearts, and is a very fast learner.  From the first day he was good about going potty outside as long as he was taken outside when he first began to sniff for a place to go.  As the week passed, he became good at pawing at the back gate to go outside when he needed to relieve himself.  He also was quick to learn how to work the dog door and how to navigate the porch stairs.

Life in team Wyrd was good except that G'kar was very visibly aging, especially since the beginning of January.  By Wednesday his arthritis was hurting him so bad, he began falling and losing control.  He would scream pitifully for help, and I would lift him up on his four legs.  Wednesday night he slept only a coupld of hours, pacing most of the time.  Thursday our vet office was closed, and we watched G'kar's condition deteriorate rapidly and debated whether or not to take him to the emergency vet.  By afternoon it was plain that there wouldn't be much they could do to relieve his suffering, only prolong it.  His arthritis had progressed too far, an unfortunate side effect of aging.  By Thursday evening we had made the decision to let him pass, so Jim picked him out a steak and I heated it enough to kill the bacteria and fed him his last supper.

Run Free Old Man! Be Old No Longer!

It is never easy to say goodbye, even when you see it coming. Friday Feb 3rd 2012 we bid a member of our family goodbye and I held him as he sighed in relief and slowly lowered his head. 15 years he has been a member of our family, from being the 'slayer puppy' to the sled dog, to the stately elder, to the fragile old man. It was a very difficult goodbye and with much love.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Snow Fun!

Friday it finally snowed enough that I could actually slide the sled runners over the ground with one hand on the handlebar, so I was over-excited to get a chance to hook up the dogs for some real sled-dog action!  Discretion being the greater part of valor, though, I decided that three dogs would be enough to pull the sled, but not too much to get out of hand.  Freya would be great in single lead with Bandit (powerhouse) and Yukon (all around great wheeldog) in wheel.  Little did I realize that I was planning my very own snow bath. 

Remember that I train on the mountain roads normally?  Well my dogs didn't care that I was now hooked to a sled that was hooked to them, and meant to go down the meadow of my sideyard in a big loop, around the back in a big loop and back to the house.  Simple?  You would think that was a simple plan, however, Freya wasn't in on this plan.  For her, harnesses mean go down the road! 

As soon as I released the snub, Freya made a beeline for the road even though we were pointed down the hill.  This yanked the brushbow sharply left, put the sled and I on a sharp right leaning incline, and this is where I realized that the handlebar would not hold me upright.  To do all those e-mentors proud, I did not for once let go of the handlebar!  Despite the snow in my face and packing in around the collar of my coat, I held on as if my life depended on it, and it very well might have if Freya managed to drag all of us up onto the road.  Fortunately my deadweight and the weight of a sled on its side and the friction produced thereof was enough to stop 3 dogs, but not until after a lot of frantic 'Whoa's!' and 'Gee Freya!  Gee!  GeeeEEEEE!'

Showered and cleaned up from Friday, I was ready Saturday, or so I thought.  I'll put Freya and Moony together, they need some run time as a team.  No one told Freya, and she decided to play hard to get.  Princess on the otherhand was whining and jumping, touching her nose to mine (quite a feat considering she barely touches my nose with hers while I'm standing straight up) to let me know that she didn't get to go Friday and absolutely would hate me if she didn't get to go Saturday morning.  Bucky too was rather insistant, telling me he was not happy being left out Friday. 

Knowing I was going to regret it, but visions of my success running Princess and Freya on the bike trails bolstered my confidence.  Princess had done very well listening to commands and did great on turns, so I hoped she would be able to show Moony the right way to go.  So with Princess and Moony in lead and Bucky and Yukon in wheel, we... took a sharp left and headed for the road!....

Same incline, same patch of snow scrubbed from the ground, only this time, I had a line running from me to the snubline, so even though the handlebar twisted from my grip, I still had the dogs pulling on me.  I dug my heels into the tufts of grass sticking out of the snow and strained to keep from being dragged onto the pavement long enough to have James come and lead the dogs back down the hill.  Unfortunately, James didn't know to keep the gangline taught and walk the dogs in a circle.  Instead, he turned them back on eachother so by the time he got the dogs facing downhill they were in a hopeless tangled ball.  Quite a feat for just 4 dogs.

So I had James stand on the brake and drag while I untangled the tugs and ganglines, but as soon as I turned back to the sled, they turned for the road.  "GEE Princess!  GEE!"  Oh why do I bother?

Another twenty minutes and Jim stood on the brake while I turned the dogs downhill and started to lead them through the field with Jim on the runners.  When Princess finally got it that we wanted to run on the grass, she took off with JIM on the runners!  "Hang on to the handlebar no matter what!" I yelled after him.  He made it about 200 yards, the best run yet!  A low-hanging branch was his undoing.  I'll give him credit, though, he didn't let go!  I ran after him and grabbed the sled, righted it and stood on the brake while I made sure he was still alive.  Princess was screaming to go now that she got it, and I couldn't hold them for long.  I let them go and they made it the rest of the way to the bridge when I tried to get her to turn left. 

Now that the road was in front of her, she didn't want to go left.  It took a lot of coaxing and James to finally get her to turn around back on the meadow where we finally got going all the way back.... to the house... 'Haw!  Princess, Haw!"  I might as well have been yelling to myself, either that or Princess only heard 'Fish!  Princess, Fish!'

With a bruised and battered crew of humans, but a happy crew of dogs, we trundled back in to the house to feed the dogs their fish snacks and unharness them.

A short time later I caught Bandit in Jim's new chair: