Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Poo Bags for Christmas

The last few weeks have been a little frazzled in our household. I had to take off the week after Thanksgiving for a family emergency and Chopper had to be boarded. Apparently running home in the middle of the day and packing for him and me in an hour and rushing to the Kennel was a sign to him that all was not well. He was a little more vocal than usual at drop off and seems to have shrunk while he was away. All that and he has to go back for more than week during Christmas.

Given the unexpected circumstances Christmas shopping ceased and I haven't done much to catch up during the last week or so. I did order Chopper something nice for Christmas and some treats but generally speaking he's not going to make out as well as he has in the past.

We are running low on poo bags though so he may end up getting a supply of those for the holidays. That seems like it could be the doggy equivalent of coal though. I'm sure once he notices the treats though he won't really care. Another reason dogs are better than people.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chopper Christmas

Every year I have a Chopper Christmas. During the weekend before I fly across country to be with my family there is a special day just for Chopper. He opens gifts, I let him eat people food for breakfast and we go on an outing or a long walk. The first year I had Chopper though I flew him across country with me. This is a story of that Christmas.

Almost immediately after I adopted him in March I began to research how to get him to Pennsylvania for Christmas. I learned about the acceptable crates that could fly (not the one we had already bought), the paperwork needed (lots) and cost. (At the time it was $100 to fly him each way. The new crate was another $100. The cost for the flight has gone up a lot since then.)

One of my big concerns was weight. Chopper was a 9 month old 43 pound puppy when I adopted him but he kept growing. And growing. And growing. Despite the assurance of the vet that he would "just fill out a little." The airline we were flying had a 100 pound weight limit at that time BUT that included the dog and the crate. Chopper was weighing in at over sixty pounds back then. I was buying his crate online and trying to figure out how much they weighed. There was not a lot of information on all the crates available. Finally I found one that said it was 30 pounds. That left me not a lot of wiggle room for Chopper to keep growing. I cut back treats to keep in at under the weight limit. (He is now somewhere between 70 and 78 pounds so if the weight limit was still in place we would be in trouble.)

Next there was the hassle of getting the actual flight. The crate had to be big enough for him to stand up and turn around in so we ended up with a pretty big crate which therefore did not fit in the loading door to all planes. My parents live closest to the airport in Harrisburg, PA. But none of the planes that flew in had big enough doors. Not to mention there were no direct flights there from LAX. So Chopper and I had to take two flights to get to Philadelphia where my parents picked us up. Sheesh.

Then there was weather to worry about. If it was below some temperature on the ground or predicted to be where he was flying to he couldn't go. TH is meant having a deposit for Christmas at somewhere he could be boarded just in case the temperature got too low and stressing out the whole week before about whether or not he would make it on the flight. And the the added stress that once I got him to Pennsylvania would I get him back?

I enlisted a friend to drive us to the airport in LA in my SUV that would fit the crate, Chopper and my luggage and the cart. The cart is this awful thing at my office that has a pop up handle that I borrowed because I wasn't sure the crate would fit on the carts at the airport. After all that Chopper had to ride in the crate in the car, which he was not happy about. This did not bode well for the airplane ride. In the twenty minutes it took to get to the airport Chopper cried and ripped to shreds the airplane piddle pad that was in his crate. He then refused to go potty once we were at the airport. Meanwhile my friend was hungover and texting her boyfriend every three seconds. I took the cart and the crate with the dog in it and she took my luggage. The elevator in the parking lot however only fit me and the cart. I got us in and when it was time to get out we got stuck. I couldn't turn the cart in there. When I did turn the cart the crate tipped over and got stuck between the wall of the elevator and the cart. Chopper gave me a look from inside that crate right then that said "What are you doing to me?" I pulled it together and got him back on the cart and after riding up and down only one extra time than was necessary got the darn thing rolled out.

Now all we had to do was check in.

The lines at LAX at Christmas time are awful. Doesn't matter the day or time. This happened to be a weekend so even worse. There was no special line for large or unusual objects (which dogs and crates fall into) so I was directed to wait in the regular line and have my friend wait with the cart on the side. When it was finally my turn and the dog came rolling up next to me the airline employee was not too happy with us. She tried to pawn me off on someone else but I told her this is where I was told to go (I was not going to get in another line). So we had to lift the crate and dog on to the scale (he passed) then put more stickers on the crate (even though I had pre-purchased all required stickers ahead of time) that said "Live Animal" all over them then fill out more paperwork (because the dog did not have a reservation it is first come first served so you have to be early but not too early or they won't take the dog). After all that we headed to TSA.

Now for as unfriendly as the airline lady was the TSA guys were super friendly. They had me take Chopper out (we tried one more time to make him go potty) and they checked inside the crate. And then we put him back in. At this point Chopper had had a tranquilizer but he was still on complete alert barking at things and whining in the crate. One of the rules with the crate is that you have to tie it with cable ties so the dog does not escape. I had ties but the TSA guys assured me they would take care of it. So they rolled Chopper away. He screamed the whole way.

The next time I saw Chopper was at the layover with the crate coming out of the plane. I never saw the crate go on the other plane so I was a little nervous if he would be in Philly with me when I got there.

I had instructed my parents to bring scissors so we could cut the ties off and free Chopper upon his arrival in Philly. After asking numerous people where the large items/dogs come from we were instructed to wait at an elevator. Not to get in the elevator - just to wait at it and the "items" would come. After awhile the elevator doors opened and there were three crates (and no person) inside. Two were tiny little puppies with big curly ribbons on top - no doubt someone's Christmas gifts and then there was screaming, whining Chopper in his giant crate. Without any ties. Luckily for me Chopper is more apt to stay in a crate when he doesn't know someone then try and flee. The piddle pad (that had replaced the one he had chewed) was in perfect condition. I took him out to go potty and nothing. See the airports were all surrounded by sidewalk. No trees, no bushes, no grass, no dirt. Chopper doesn't potty on sidewalk.

Then we disassembled the crate and loaded everyone in the car. I was worried about the two hour drive back coupled with the long plane rides without peeing. At the last minute I saw some pine trees and dirt and ran him over and he relieved himself.

Christmas was great. He got lots of presents. He boarded at the vet's for the night when we went to NYC. Then we had to leave again.

The experience at the Philadelphia airport was the exact opposite. The airline lady was super nice (he didn't' get weighed) and she wasn't annoyed about the paperwork or anything. The TSA guy was another story. He made me take Chopper out of his crate. Ok. Then he told me to "make him jump up." This dog had just had a tranquilizer and now knew what was coming so he wasn't in the best mood. "Jump up?" I asked. "Yes I need to see his stomach." I guess in case Chopper was trying to smuggle something back to California. "Can I lift him up?" "That's fine." He looked at his belly. I guess he passed that test. Then he inspected the crate - he didn't' comment on the prime rib bone from Christmas dinner my mother insisted he needed to fly back with. Then we had to put the cable ties on. Turns out that one tie wasn't enough to reach around the crate and the door of the crate so I had to put two together. I tried to get my mother to help me and the TSA guy said she couldn't touch the crate. Sheesh. Again they wheeled him off and he went screaming all the way.

Upon arrival at LAX there was more screaming and crying until he was released from the crate (this time we really did need the scissors). We were both glad to get home that night.

So yes it was a lot of work and super stressful but it was great to have him with me. The down side was that it didn't snow that year in Pennsylvania until after we left and he didn't get to see the snow. For now we are happy having our Chopper Christmases and lending our crate to a friend whose dog has flown back to the East Coast a few times. He keeps chewing through the cable ties and last year bent the gate open and broke his tooth so I think he's staying home this year too.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chopper's Halloween

This little corner of Chopper's world seems to have been a little forgotten. Chopper and I are still running around doing our thing - visiting Starbucks, running in Agility League (though Chopper is more of a prancer than a runner), outings to the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica now that the tourists are gone. And a lot of work on my part.

Also one of our favorite holidays has come and gone - Halloween. In the spirit of keeping up Chopper's end of his adoption bargain he willingly subjected himself to yet another costume. I think he wouldn't have agreed if he had known I would make him wear costumes that matched me.

We went to the Zoom Room's Halloween Party as Mickey and Minnie and I forced him into donning the costumes again on Halloween for trick or treaters. We only got one trick or treater this year (which means Chopper got to sample some Skittles and he likes them). But on the positive side Chopper didn't bark at her or her dog that accompanied her to the door.

Chopper, however, was not a fan of all things Halloween this year. Our neighborhood notoriously has some GREAT Halloween decorations. Inflatable spiders, clowns with heads removed, talking lights, ghosts hanging from four story high palm trees. Everyone goes all out. This year one of our favorite houses had a few new decorations however - giant cats.

Chopper and I were on our morning walk and I was admiring the decorations and didn't notice that when we came around the corner there were two giant inflatable cats - with moving heads and glowing eyes - in the driveway of this house. These cats were at least seven feet tall and in the crouching attack position. Chopper immediately started growling and then barking and refused to cross in front of these cats - he was convinced that they were, in fact, giant cats that were obviously going to kill him. After a lot of convincing and more pulling on his leash I got him past the house but he refused to stop staring at the house and growling and even ignored his doggy buddies at the park. So what did I do - well the next day I videotaped it. It's pretty hilarious (though not as great as that first day). By the fourth time we passed the house that week he was not at all affected by the those cats and this week when a giant inflatable football player appeared he gave it a quick inspection and decided it meant no harm and moved on. Another learning/conditioning experience for the old guy.

Now we are getting ready for Christmas (work obligations means that we have for the time being at least had to "cancel" Thanksgiving at our house - although I managed to pick up some special Thanksgiving Dinner canned wet food for my favorite guy). Chopper's been on his best behavior recently - I think he's trying to get on Santa's "nice" list (as opposed to the "naughty" list).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Locked Out

Chopper has had his share of accidents and trips to the vets for ridiculous things but in hindsight the most hilarious thing that dog has ever done is lock me out of my own house.

I had not had Chopper very long at this point and a few friends from work were coming over to hang out - they had gone to pick up food and I had driven home to take Chopper out for his walk. I got to the front door and as usual Chopper came running to the front door to greet me (I could see him through the window). But when I tried to open the door it wouldn't quite open. I told Chopper to move as I thought he was blocking the door. But that didn't work. A few more shoves and odd looks from Chopper and I figured out what had happened. For some reason my door had three locks when I moved in - a deadbolt, a chain and one of those flippy kind that they have in hotels. Chopper had jumped up at some point during the day and flipped the flippy one over just enough that it was keeping me from getting the door open. After a few minutes Chopper stopped waiting for me to come in and went back to his bone (thanks buddy).

Now how to get in. By this time my friends had arrived and we came up with a plan. The windows in the front weren't open enough and the ones in the kitchen would require a ladder but the bathroom window in the back facing the parking lot was open - now it was high but we backed my Blazer up to the window and lowered my friend through the window. It wasn't quite that easy as the window had a screen we had to push out and the window sill was full of shampoo bottles and what not. Needless to say this all made a bit of a racket (not that my neighbors noticed) when it came crashing down into the bathtub and by the time my friend got inside poor Chopper was quite upset.

The first thing I did when I got inside was get a screwdriver and take the lock off the door. I'm not sure Chopper would ever be able to stay in a hotel (ones that would allow it) as he could possibly get himself trapped inside.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Therapy Dog Class: The Conclusion

Well we finished our six weeks of Therapy Dog class. Needless to say Chopper has no fear of wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, large wood boxes falling on the floor and annoying children's toys (but if I drop a remote he jumps three feet in the air - go figure).

On the last day of class some of the dogs were missing (again) so there were only four of us - which Chopper doesn't mind at all. We went through a simulated version of the testing situation since the trainer is not certified to give a therapy dog test for the licensing organizations. The intent with Chopper was never for him to be a therapy dog - he has a few too many neuroses for the time being - but someday it may be in the cards for him. Chopper did extremely well on everything but the trainer didn't give him the "hug test" as we know Chopper is not a fan of this (unless its me doing the hugging).

One area where Chopper has improved leaps and bounds is with the supervised separation. He initially stayed with the trainer but after a few weeks I wanted him to try it with a new person - enter the pretty girl behind the counter. Up until a few weeks ago Chopper wasn't aware she existed - which is how he likes it. She didn't try and pet him before he was ready or even talk to him. Then I started giving her treats to give him while we were waiting for our turn on activities and then it was time for her to take him. The first time I handed the leash over he tried to follow me. The second week he sat on the floor with her. The next week she was awarded with a kiss before class started and needless to say was fine when I left him with her during the separation part of class. Now Chopper and I have taken three back-to-back classes at the Zoom Room so he had about 5 months of seeing her once a week until he was ready to be totally 100% friends with this person. But still it is impressive for him and if she ever needs a therapy dog Chopper will be ready!

All in all we had lots of fun taking the class and now we are doing Agility League which meets up once a week and the dogs run through the obstacles and see who has the best time. Chopper is pretty slow (I'm usually in front of him) and he doesn't like jumping through the tire but I can't get over how well he listens to me and knows where I want him to go (even when I use the wrong words). Agility League runs almost until Christmas so we will be busy until then.

Emergency Preparedness

Living close to the mountains in Los Angeles, which have a tendency to erupt in flames every few years, there have been a few times when I thought I would need to evacuate - along with Chopper. That coupled with his insistence on being somewhat of a walking disaster has made me a little hyper vigilant about dog safety.

I've take a dog safety class where we learned how to do CPR on a dog and the Heimlich maneuver as well (which was needed one time in the car when he started gagging on his own throw up in the middle of East LA). And we have a dog first aid book at home and first aid kit with all the essentials. But a few days ago I came across the Wag'n Pet First Aid Bandanna, and I think it is something we will need to invest in - and possibly give as presents this coming holiday season - and they are only around $10 each!

The basic idea with this product is that all the need-to-know basic dog safety information you need is on the bandanna (but the site does suggest taking a pet first aide course) - and you can use the bandanna as a bandage or muzzle or what not in such an emergency. As someone who takes their dog hiking in an area where there are signs warning of rattlesnakes and a host of other things that could go wrong - I think this product is great.

This site also sells pet-first aide kits and will let you sponsor an pet oxygen mask for your local fire station or first responders. These kits allow firefighters and other first responders to give oxygen to both conscious pets that have suffered from smoke inhalation and unconscious pets that need to be resuscitated after breathing in fumes. Most fire departments don't have the funds for the equipment so it is essential that people step up and purchase these items for their community. It is $70 to send a kit to your fire department and because October is National Fire Safety Month the shipping and handling is covered through the end of the month!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Therapy Dog Class Week 4

Chopper was really on his best behavior the other night before class - almost made it the whole way to class without his blindfold thingamajig without barking (a semi on the 405 was just too much to resist). So I was pretty pleased with him before we even started class.

One of the new activities we tried were walking around in a circle with treats in the middle of the room. Poor old hungry Chopper tried to veer toward those treats a few times but the treats I had were a given (versus him stealing a giant bully stick that I would likely be able to pull out of his mouth) so after a few half-hearted attempts he was compliant with just walking beside me like the good dog he sometimes pretends to be. One of the other dogs though is afraid of pig ears and another one played it cool until the end and then shot toward a piece of chicken like a speeding bullet. In the end none of the dogs got any of the treats.

Last week we also started learning "down" with "head down." Chopper didn't seem to really get it - he did it a few times but sometimes he would crawl toward me instead (my hand was in the same place with the treat as when he does that so I can see the confusion). But this week I said "down" then I said "head down" and he put his head all the way on the floor. I thought it was just a coincidence that he laid down like that. Then I tried again, and he got it right again. I kept doing it and he kept putting his head down and looking up at me with his big eyes. I looked around and everyone else was on the floor trying to coax their dogs to put their heads down. Some went on their sides, some on their backs, one would make his head hover right above the ground but Chopper seemed to be the only one who could do it with a command while I was standing. Way to go Chopper!

We also practiced the supervised separation again. Normally two dogs do this at a time and since we first took the CGC class Chopper has gone with the trainer and the other dog has gone with the front desk person who helps out during this part of class. For the last few weeks Chopper has been getting treats from her every time we come to class - just for sitting. He's been so good about this (and he was in such a good mood) that I though it was time for her to supervise him and the trainer agreed. So the hand off happened and I left her with a lot of treats. At first Chopper tried to follow me (which he had stopped doing with the trainer) but I just told him he was fine and left. It took a lot of self-control to not peak in the room. When I was called back there was Chopper sitting and getting treats and giving his paw. He had somehow managed to get his Gentle Leader off without the person noticing though. He's sneaky. But there was no screaming or whining (like he does at the groomer's) or refusing to walk (like he does at the vet's). If only the vet would come to class every week.

I'm pretty sure we did more than that during class that was new but it's Monday and those were the highlights. We've signed up for Agility League after this class ends which goes almost until Christmas - so we'll be busy busy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Therapy Dog Class Week 3

Chopper has not been in good spirits lately since the after dinner snack ban has gone into effect so he refused to write something about the last Therapy Dog Class.

We had a week off from class which was great timing as I had to pack for a trip to Orlando that night (and I never pack early). But when we came back this week all the dogs were back! There was also a visitor who stood in the waiting area the whole time. Chopper doesn't always like visitors in the waiting area - sometimes he barks, sometimes he just keeps running over to the wall to see if they will have treats but he ignored this guy the whole time so I was quite proud of him for that. (I think the fact that treats have been in low quantity lately and the fact that I had treats was enough of a incentive to keep him from being distracted.)

We practiced with all the equipment again (it had treats on it so we were good to go) and reviewed all the other skills we've been working on.

This week though we actually put a label on the dog taking treats from someone with a walker or wheelchair - "come visit." Granted Chopper was on his way to visiting already but I think this could work to my advantage in other situations and to help introduce Chopper to strangers - if he's doing a command he will pay attention to that (and the treats) and not worry about whether someone is going to do whatever he thinks in his little head strangers do to dogs. (I've explained on multiple occasions that I wouldn't ever let anyone hit him but that explanation appears to be a little higher than his language skills at the current time.)

We also worked on more distractions. This time the trainer came up behind the dog and "kicked" them. It wasn't a real kick - just a toe tap - but I guess it was to simulate someone accidentally bumping into them. Poor Chopper was facing me and concentrating really hard on his "look at me" command and didn't even turn his head when he got toe tapped but those giant ears went so far back he looked like he didn't have any at all and his eyes were as big as saucers. I was so happy he didn't jump around or bark or hide - yeah Chopper! (Although yesterday he jumped three feet in the air and did a 180 when I hit a tree with my head and the leaves rustled - apparently he thinks the attack is coming from the trees.)

Also during supervised separation he tried to start playing with his buddy Mumble (who was also practicing supervised alone time) which apparently is not what is supposed to be done during supervised separation. (I wonder how long until I can leave him with someone at Starbucks while I run inside? I'm guessing not until he is very old and has weak eyes and legs and the person smells like me - so this side of never.)

I think Chopper has been working very nicely on overcoming his fears and if the trainer ever needs a therapy dog - Chopper is his guy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Therapy Dog Class Week 2

So last Thursday was my second Therapy Dog Class and I was tardy.  I don't like being tardy.  I was mopey the whole car ride because I knew we were going to be late - something about too much traffic.  When we did finally get there (we carpooled with Mumble) there were only two other dogs there.  The other two were missing.  I guess everyone was having a rough day.  Those dogs were big German Shepards.  My mom insists they were there the week before but I don't remember those dogs and coupled with my distress at being late I barked at those dogs and had a general bad attitude for about five minutes.  After that I was ready to participate. 

We did some review from last week and some of the new stuff we did was a little harder.

The instructor would come over and stomp his foot near us, roll around in a wheelchair real close, talk loudly, and all sorts of things we were supposed maybe be scared of BUT the point is for us to not to react.  I didn't react - when it was happening to me.  But I'm a sensitive guy and one of those German Shepards was not fond of all of that nonsense and was trying to get away or cry - so I would bark sometimes or cry when that happened.  I don't like seeing a lady in distress.

We also worked on some stays BUT this week the instructor made our people go to the other side of the room and then RAN up and down between us and our people.  I was okay with this - twice (and so were the other dogs) but right before the third time we all had a look - the look that told him we didn't want to do it again so we stopped.

I was a little naughty at one point.  We were doing some down stays across the room and I was not paying attention to my mommy but only because Mumble's mom had some delicious treats that I wanted in my tummy.  My mom saw me looking at her and she waved and clapped her arms to get me to look at her but I wouldn't do it (although I stayed where I was supposed to) then when she said "here" I went over there instead of "here" to get some of those treats.  She was not pleased with this. 

We have a week off this week which will allow me some time to gather my thoughts.  Then I'm off to another staycation at the Kennel Club while my mom goes to Florida.  It's too hot for me there, I did't want to go (but she could have asked).

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Search and Rescue Dogs of 9/11

I came across this short video today about one of the search and rescue dogs used at Ground Zero in the aftermath of 9/11 who is still alive. The most touching part for me was the fact that the dog not only helped find those people that were lost but also helped comfort the people that were still there.

9/11 tribute clip from on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Vet Visit

Last night was probably one of our most uneventful vet visits in some time - no blood, no fungus, no urine test, no blood test - just your run of the mill annual check up and one vaccine. Chopper even behaved better during his examination.

The vet visit started with the weigh-in though and someone is now a whopping 78 lbs. He's supposed to be 70 lbs. Last year he was 72 lbs - although he had dropped some weight after that. I told the vet how much he walks (at least 40 minutes a day), that he has other activities (the beach, agility, etc.) and the amount of food he eats (1/2 cup dry in the morning and 1/2 can of wet food and 1/2 dry in the evening) and, as usual, they said "that's all." Also I don't think Chopper gets a ton of treats - what may be the problem though is his after dinner routine.

Before you feed Chopper in the evening he is content to lay down, get his neck scratched or bark at a neighbor. Once he eats though he realizes that he is STARVING. He starts going to the treat jars and begging, opening drawers underneath the treat jars (it's a file drawer), crying, poking the furniture, taking his puzzles off the shelf, scratching at the bathroom door (there's no food in there), searching all his treat toys for one tiny piece of food until I get so annoyed that I give him a piece of chicken. Then the process starts all over again and I give him a tiny rawhide with a piece of chicken on it. This can go on for some time until he throws himself on the floor and goes to sleep.

Well, Mr. Chopper, I think your after dinner snack days are numbered.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Therapy Dog Class Week 1

I am now enrolled in my fourth class of the year at the Zoom Room.  I think this may be a little overboard but my mom would like me to be well-educated (and well-behaved) so I endure the endless classes.  Plus she says it is more interesting than American Diplomatic History or Legal Ethics (what was she thinking taking those classes anyway?). 

So last week we started with Therapy Dog Class. For the record, at the current time, we have no intentions that I will actually become a therapy dog.  I'm a little scared of children and some elderly citizens as well.  I'm sure there are other people that need a therapy dog and maybe someday (when I take the class a fifth time) I can help those people.  For now the main objective, according to my mom, is to get me conditioned to different situations.  I say - bring it on!

This time there are only six dogs in the class which give me a little more breathing room - I like it.  I was there early last week and only one dog was there and she wanted to be my friend.  We did the sniff test and I decided she was a good apple.  Next my buddy Mumble got there - I didn't know he was in that class too - we got to sit next to each other so that was good (also he didn't like his dried apple treats so I got to eat all of them - I just love that dog).  Anyway then these very large German Shepards with very serious parents came in. I like serious people - they don't let a bunch of shenanigans go on.  Then there is a tiny dog who seems a little skittish.  There were no barking puppies.

There was a lot of talking that I wasn't interested in - something about finding out which organization you needed to be certified through to work where you wanted to do therapy dog.  And that you could only have one and not the other.  He did say that one thought you should never be away from your dog (I would like to be in that group please).  Then we got the names of the other dogs and their people.  I'm not good with names but there is always a Bella or Stella in there somewhere.

After the introductions we got down to work.  We practiced some stand stays, some down stays and then the hard part  - the props.  The trainer brought out a wheelchair and an IV pole and we had to take treats and not bark.  I did GREAT - you would think I wasn't terrified of the vet (maybe I just need a regular people doctor?). 

We also practiced getting pet by the trainer and looking at our parents when the trainer went by (I went to the trainer instead on this one as he gives me yummy treats).  Can't wait to see what's on the agenda for class this week.

Tonight I have to go to the vet's for a checkup and a vaccination (I am not happy about this).  I keep telling my mom we need to find a belief system that doesn't believe in doctors or vaccinations so I don't have to go through with this nonsense every few months.  She said I wouldn't be able to go to the Zoom Room or daycare though.  I told her I could live with that if it meant no more needles. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Do Your Ears Hang Low?

Today as I was getting ready for work I saw a piece about a black and tan coonhound on Good Morning America. They were talking about a coonhound in Colorado who was the Guinness Book World Record Title holder for the longest ears on a living dog.

His left ear is 12.25 inches and his right ear is 13.5 inches long. For fun I measured - well tried to measure - one of Chopper's ears this morning. I couldn't get an exact measurement because he was very wiggly and kept trying to eat the tape measure but his right ear appears to be just over five inches.

Chopper's ears are the source for quite a bit of amusement and giggles. Just this weekend Chopper was in the bedroom while a friend was visiting and he must have fallen asleep right in front of the door and one of those ears was sticking out under the door - I guess he didn't want to miss out on the conversation.

Chopper's ears have also been the cause for numerous trips to the vet. Just last year he had an ear infection in one ear that required several trips to the vet. The reason it was several and not one is that Chopper was not a very good patient when it came to getting ear drops - he would wiggle away, he would bark, he hide his head and any other antic that would cause the drops to not get in his ear. Finally I was reduced to putting the drops in while he was relieving himself outside. Inevitably if you did get the drops in the ear there would be a giant shake of the head and the drops would come flying out all over you. After a few visits the vet gave us a pill.

One of Chopper's most infamous ear incidents was several years ago and involved a lot of clean up and a lot of MacGyvering on my part. We had just returned from our walk and he was barking at something on the porch. I hustled him inside to get him to be quiet and all of sudden there were blood drops on the floor. I checked his feet for any scrapes but this was quickly ruled out as Chopper is very sensitive about his feet (he will stop and lift his foot and refuse to walk if he has anything foreign on his foot) so it seemed unlikely that he would not have thrown himself on the floor in screaming agony if his foot was bleeding. After a quick body check I found the culprit - his ear.

He had somehow cut a tiny little nick in his right ear. I applied pressure and figured that would stop the bleeding and we would be on our way. Every time I took the towel off he would give his head a big vigorous shake and the bleeding would start again. Not only that but the head shake and bleeding ear resulted in blood splatter all over everything. EVERYTHING. Tiny drops of coonhound blood were on the kitchen table, the walls, the closet door, the hardwood floors.

I tried wrapping the tip of his ear in multiple layers of band-aids and gauze. He would shake it off. I tried that blood clotting dog first aid stuff. He would shake it off. After a few hours of the tiny drop bleeding I decided that we needed to go to the vet. I wasn't sure if I couldn't get it to stop if he could lose a lot of blood or if he required stitches or not.

Once at the vet they sedated him and got a look at the ear. Turns out the ear had scabbed up by this time and the vet said she couldn't even get it to start bleeding again. She also said no stitches were required. I got a drowsy dog and a bill. Of course as soon as the drugs wore off he started shaking his head and the bleeding started again. I was able to get it to stop this time and the vet assured me that stitches were not necessary. After that we were able to keep it from opening up again but Chopper had a little nick in his ear for some time (one day I looked and it has just disappeared).

Clean up continued for a few weeks. You would all of a sudden see tiny drops of blood on the wall where you thought you had cleaned it up already. I'm sure if you brought in one of those black light blood finder things you see on television that you would still be able to see the spots all over the walls.

A few months later I was at a doggy first aid presentation and thought I would stump the person and asked how she would have kept the ear from bleeding. She thought a moment and said to fold the ear over on top of his head and tie it up with a gauze around his head. Where was she during the blood spattering? Now I know for next time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Off With Her Feathers

A few months ago I attended an agility competition. A friend was interested in getting her dog involved in competitions so we drove out to a field in the middle of nowhere with no seating and very little shade and lots of dirt to see the dogs run the course. Meanwhile there were some stands set up selling agility related goods to the participants and spectators (it seemed to just be us). My friend decided to get her dog some real rabbit fur toy like the dogs at the competition had. I assured her Chopper was not interested in toys anymore and didn't need one. She got him one anyway (although she said shew as getting her dog two toys). When she brought him one he went NUTS for that toy. Apparently the hunter in him was awakened by whatever smell only he could smell and he shook that thing around for dear life. (In my defense he sees real rabbits all the time on our walks and shows them no interest so how was I supposed to know a little rabbit fur on some felt would get him all riled up.)

Fast forward a few weeks later and I decided to buy a Marie Antoinette doll from The Doll Farm on Etsy. I had seen one of these dolls at a tea shop in San Francisco during several trips home and had been trying to justify the purchase since I am neither a particular Marie Antoinette fan or a doll collector. But she was funky and unexpected and I wanted her.

This picture doesn't really do the doll justice. She stands about two feet tall and is all handmade. Something I didn't know, however, was that her feathers were all natural. The doll was shipped to my office where she stayed for a few days but I really wanted her at home. My boss was admiring her one day and said "Oh Chopper is going to go after those feathers." I assured her he would not that he doesn't really play with toys anymore (sound familiar?). So I brought her home and while Chopper seemed mildly interested in her as I carried her inside he didn't seem overly interested (it was more the way he smells a Target bag full of shampoo then a bag from the pet store full of treats type of interest). So I placed her on my bed and walked out of the room.

No sooner had I sat down in the living room then I heard the tell tall jingle of Chopper's multiple tags. "What are you doing?" The only response was more jingles. I ran in to the room to find Chopper on top of poor Marie Antoinette and red feathers everywhere. It looked like some red bird had been killed on my bed.

Upon inspection I realized that Marie was quite all right but her feathers were a different story. He seemed to have pulled them out and then tried to kill them.

I emailed the seller and asked if I could purchase more feathers. That's when I was informed that the feathers were natural and she does not attach them permanently because of this sort of thing (how often are dogs trying to kill Marie's fascinator?) and because they fade after some time. It took a few weeks of her searching but eventually she was able to locate the exact same plume for Marie and it arrived safely. I think Chopper was even more grateful than me that Marie was restored to her former beauty - he likes sleeping inside at night.

Two valuable lessons were learned from this entire shenanigan: 1) Chopper does still like toys but only if they contain some part of something that used to be alive; and 2) Chopper was not a French revolutionary in a former life as Marie's head was still intact at the end of the day.

Friday, August 26, 2011

National Dog Day

It is apparently National Dog Day. The official website for National Dog Day had a list of 50 ways to celebrate. I decided to take a look and see if Chopper and I were fulfilling our duties. (For the detailed original list with links to other organizations click here.)

1. Adopt a dog from your local shelter. Check - that's how I got into this mess.

2. Be prepared for a new dog by buying a book about new dogs. I did this before I got a dog - I got Dogs for Dummies or some such thing - if I was recommending a book for new dog owners though I would probably recommend a book by Tamar Gellar and then Marley & Me or some other book where the dog is a disaster. Just to be prepared.

3. Donate blankets, food and toys to a local shelter. We've done this before but need to do it again. I have a box full of toys that Chopper never used that could go to a good home.,

4. Organize a peaceful demonstration in front of a store that sells puppies. If Chopper showed up there would be nothing peaceful about a demonstration.

5. Write your Congressman to ask them to support a ban on puppy mills. Here's a link that will help you find out who your representative in Congress is for this and other good causes.

6. Assist an ill or elderly neighbor by walking their dog.

7. Have a National Dog Day party and invite your friends and their dogs. I like throwing parties but I think some of the other suggestions might be better. Plus Chopper already had a birthday party - I don't want him to be a party animal.

8. Join an online dog community.

9. Host a National Dog Day event/fundraiser.

10. Have a Witty Wocks made to look like your pet. I had no idea what this meant but it is apparently a rock painted like your pet. I will admit to having artwork with Chopper and wanting more but I don't think this is up our alley.

11. Have a portrait painted of your dog. This is on my list of things I want but I can't make up my mind about the style I want and they are pretty expensive - so it goes on the wish list.

12. Buy your dog a fun new dog toy. It just so happens that a Nina Ottosson dog puzzle is on its way to our house now. We already have two. I love these things.

13. Take your dog to a doggy play resort. I don't' know what this means either but Chopper goes to the Zoom Room for agility, scent discrimination, etc., so I think he's covered on this one.

14. There was no #14. Why? Is this a bad doggy luck number.

15. Brush your dog. We do this a few times a week. Since starting Chopper on fish oil though hardly any fur comes off anymore.

16. Give your dog a massage. I have read a little about the T-touch method and Chopper does enjoy a good rub down now and then.

17. Get your dog some leash training lessons. We are good on this (with the exception of garbage day). Next.

18. Buy your dog a new collar, leash or outfit. Hmm. I don't think he needs another collar but I think there is a brand new one in the cabinet so I can fake it.

19. Purchase a carrier for your dog. I bought a CR-V instead of a Mini Cooper - he's good.

20. Take your dog to the beach. Chopper's favorite place ever - we are frequent visitors.

21. Purchase natural cleaners. I will admit that I have not investigated this in any way. Something else to worry about.

22. Dog proof your home. This isn't an issue anymore but Chopper was a cord chewer, blind puller, book eating puppy mess so I was pretty adamant about things back then. Now he just seems to sleep and eat when I'm not home.

23. Buy your dog an accessory. We'll pass.

24. Install a care safety harness. Chopper rides in the cargo area and I've recently started clipping him in with a tie down to a hook in the car to prevent him from running away in a car accident.

25. Switch to a holistic brand of dog food. As I've shared before Chopper is on organic grain-free food that I really like.

26. Hire a pet photographer. Also on the top of my doggy wish list.

27. Pamper your dog by purchasing him a luxury item. Not sure what that means - Chopper would prefer a salami though.

28. Buy your dog a new bed. Yeah we don't need a fifth bed.

29. Take your dog on a pet friendly vacation. I think this requires further investigation. Chopper has traveled to San Francisco and Pennsylvania before so he has some experience in this area.

30. Buy matching t-shirts. We did this on Election Day 2008 - once is enough.

31. Create your dog a profile. Apparently a huge % of dogs have facebook pages.

32. Have a custom dog house built. We don't have anywhere to put that but if we did we may do it.

33. Buy a dog gate to keep the dog out of hazardous areas of the house. I have no hazardous areas and he jumps over dog gates. Next.

34. Dog proof your pool. I wish I had this problem.

35. Buy a canine first aid kit and put in car. We have a dog first aid book and I've put together a doggy first aid kit for the car. Then I have it if we're out and also if home.

36. Microchip and ID your dog. He's got both and a Blanket ID. I couldn't get rid of him if I tried.

37. Make sure your dog has all vaccines and regular health exams. Yes, yes, yes. Chopper sees his vet at least once a year for a check up (all sorts of samples are taken) and then when he needs to for something odd - usually involving his ears.

38. Wear a t-shirt with a dog on it. My mom bought me a coonhound t-shirt the first Christmas I had Chopper. I wear it to bed.

39. Switch to filtered water. We're a tap water family.

40. Teach your children not to pull on a dog's tail or ears. I don't have children but I wish other people would do this. Chopper's tail apparently calls out to children. He's been chased through a Pottery Barn by an infant trying to snatch it.

41. Pledge to walk your dog everyday for proper health and behavior management. I don't understand people who don't walk their dog. You shouldn't have got a dog then.

42. Teach your dog some obedience skills. Check, check, check. Chopper is over educated.

43. Take your dog to an elderly community to spread some love. Good idea if your dog would cooperate. Chopper doesn't seem to like the "elderly."

44. Buy your little dog doggie steps so he can cuddle in bed with you. No little dog, no cuddling in bed. Chopper sleeps on the floor on a dog bed.

45. Buy your dog a designer crate. We've taken down our crate but my mom had sewn a cover for it when it was up. Loved it.

46. Choose pet friendly fabrics. Fabrics came first then the dog - I am looking at new furniture and taking this into consideration but not as much so because he's not a puppy anymore.

47. Install a fence so your dog can run around. Another problem I wish I had.

48. Don't chain your dog up outside, let him live inside. Chopper is an inside dog.

49. Carpet stairs to reduce risk of slipping. We don't have stairs but never thought of this before.

50. Pledge to never hit or yell at your dog, be patient and give lots of praise. This is a biggy in our house. Chopper initially reacted a lot when you would tell him just "no" as a puppy - he was probably abused as a young puppy - and I've worked hard with him to try and get over all of this but when he does have a bad day he is separated from everyone else for a period of time. He has even learned to separate himself if he doesn't want attention.

Well I think we are pretty good and there are a few things we will have to try and be better about. I don't think Chopper has much to complain about though.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Waterfront Property

A few nights ago I was getting ready to take Chopper out for his last bathroom break when I heard some rushing water. My building has had problems with pipes before but this sounded like a lot of water. I hooked Chopper up to his leash and went outside to find that we had a river running in front of our building. A pipe had burst in the community garden out front and we live on a hill so the water was literally rushing down the hill.

Chopper was not at all upset by this turn of events. He seemed to want to get in the water (it was after midnight so I was not obliging) and not come back in the house. Later (after the firemen had left but before the Department of Water and Power got there) he scratched at the door to go out again. I took him out thinking he wasn't feeling well but he just wanted to see the water. Sheesh.

Now Chopper has always loved the beach and I have joked on occasion that he needs to find a richer mommy to buy him a beach house in Malibu or Santa Monica. Apparently we just needed a pipe to burst to make his dreams come true. Sadly (for Chopper) the pipe was fixed and the river disappeared.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A True Tale of (Un)Ticks

Chopper is the first dog I have ever had as an adult. We had a family dog when I was very young but I was certainly not responsible for him in any way. From what I remember the dog was pretty easygoing - he would get mad when he didn't get hair bows at the groomers and stole toys from my grandmother's dog - but other than that I don't remember much. I certainly don't remember having to worry about ticks - maybe there are no ticks in San Francisco.

Anyway Chopper almost immediately made me worry on a daily basis. The first few days I had him he threw up twice. The first time in the car ride home and the second time at 2 a.m. on my birthday. At that time I was still queasy at the thought of dog throw up and had to fall asleep on the couch with a cold compress on my forehead and Chopper next to me to get over it. At this point I can have doggy throw up cleaned up in five seconds flat - ten if its on a rug.

Then we went for a hike one day and he ended up slamming himself into a rock - I thought he must have had internal organ damage. He was fine. Then one night I was petting him and I pulled something off him. It was a tick - granted I had never seen a tick and was not aware that's what it was when I was pulling it off or I would have had a heart attack. We survived - that time.

A few weeks later I was again petting Chopper and noticed a tick in his belly. I tried pulling it like I had the first time but nothing happened. Then I saw another one. And another one. His whole belly was full of ticks. I kept trying to pull them off and they stayed on. I was by now hysterical so I called my friend Carrie who immediately came over to see about Chopper's tick-infested belly. She lives a half hour away so I made myself a margarita to calm my nerves (really it was a shot of tequila in some limeade -that's what I had).

Carrie is from Georgia and had seen ticks before - on her pets, on her brother and in the woods - so I trusted she would be able to solve this issue. We flipped him over and she couldn't get the ticks out either. She lit a match and blew it out and put it near his belly and they didn't come out - we tried this a lot. By now Chopper's patience had worn thin and he was not having any more poking or prodding or flames coming near him (to this day he doesn't like flames - we had to stop putting candles on his birthday cake as he would run away from it). I decided I would take him the groomers in the morning to deal with it and went to bed.

Early the next morning I dragged Chopper down to the groomer. Chopper was on to us though and wasn't letting that guy near him either. He didn't' think he saw any ticks but couldn't be sure.

So a few hours later I took him to the vet. This was our fourth visit in probably two months. The vet looked at Chopper for about five seconds gave him a treat and said to me: "Those aren't ticks those are his nipples." What!?!?! "You know male dogs have nipples just like male people - they aren't used for anything but they are just there. See how they are in a pattern and the same on each side?" Well then I did but the night before they had not resembled any sort of pattern (even before the shot of tequila) they had just looked like ticks on my puppy. I guess you learn something new every day.

Chopper's been tick-free ever since but once in awhile he will give me a dirty look when I'm rubbing his belly.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Garbage Day

Every Tuesday I wake up with a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. It usually takes me a minute to realize why but then I hear the beeping and the slamming of garbage cans outside and I know: It's Garbage Day.

Personally I could care less - I have little trouble falling back asleep if something wakes me up and I enjoy that their is someone willing to take away all the garbage. But Chopper couldn't care more. I think the dog must have been a garbage can in a previous life or was put in a garbage truck as a young puppy. I have no idea. But ever since he came to live with me he has hated garbage trucks.

In the beginning I didn't really notice as he barked at everything that went by - garbage trucks, joggers, joggers with dogs, kids running, the UPS truck, the FedEx truck, buses - you name it he hated it. Since we live on a busy street there was almost always an opportunity to bark at something (for the amount of people that don't use public transportation in LA there a TON of buses.)

As I started to train him and he started to calm down this behavior was almost entirely extinguished. With one little exception - garbage trucks. My initial reaction was to avoid it altogether. I would take him to the dog park and then later to walk on the beach - every Tuesday morning. (I don't even want to mention what would happen if I dared to make an appointment for him to get groomed on a Tuesday.) About eighteen months ago I decided that this was ridiculous and we would have to deal with this issue.

Let me back up a second here because I'm sure by now we are thinking - so the dog barks - big deal. There is, however, not really a term for what Chopper does on garbage day but I will try and describe it. First, he hears the trucks before we even get up for the morning. He then will immediately go to the living room and get on the couch so he can monitor there whereabouts. There is usually at least one barking fit that takes place during this time period. Then once we go outside he is panting and pulling and looking for those garbage trucks. It's actually more like he is hunting. I am not sure if this dog would actually be able to tree a raccoon (what he's bred to do) but if there was a competition for tracking down a garbage truck he would be the winner. I can hear the garbage trucks when they are blocks away and they also echo off the canyons so I can only imagine what those ears of his can hear.

Then when he sees one coming he will stop and stare. The stop and stare can only be compared to that moment when a baby or child is all red and their face is scrunched up and they are taking an big intake of air so they can then let out a huge ear-piercing wail an instant later. Chopper is obviously conserving his energy for his version of a wail. Once the truck is within close proximity the show really starts. He barks his head off and jumps around from side to side. Anyone within six feet of him (the length of his leash) is in danger of getting knocked down as he flailing about. When the truck stops to pick up a garbage can this little scenario increases tenfold.

And this is why we went to the beach.

My major issue with this scenario was that I thought he could hurt me (since no one else was stupid enough to get close to him when this was happening) or his leash or collar malfunctioned and he actually got to the garbage truck. (If Chopper survived that particular confrontation I could only imagine the reaction to garbage trucks in the future.) So I decided to get serious about his garbage day training.

I gathered the necessary tools. First, got myself a treat bag that went around my waist and could stay open for easy access to treats. I couldn't get to treats fast enough if they were in my pocket. Second, Chopper had to wear his Gentle Leader - no questions about it (he hates his Gentle Leader, he has a whole face rub dance he does that drives me batty.) I couldn't control him very well with just a flat collar and he doesn't care about a choke chain or pinch collar (not to mention that to associate pain with this scenario would not work for him). The final piece of the puzzle - better treats. Chopper gets good treats to start with but we needed something better. I started buying red meat on Monday nights and grilling or browning it up for him.

Then as we would walk and we would hear the trucks I would make Chopper sit and he would get these little bits of red meat. Granted it wasn't that easy. Often times to get him to sit I would have to pull up on his Gentle Leader and repeat the command over and over again. Then I could not pause in giving him the treats - one hesitation and he would be jumping around. The garbage men started to notice and one even helped us out for a bit and would throw him treats from the truck. Over time I was able to increase the amount of time between the treats. Then we downgraded to hot dogs and regular dog treats.

In the last few weeks I have added another trick to my arsenal. In order to avoid the stalking behavior I give Chopper something else to do. I will throw a piece of kibble and tell him to go get it. This keeps him distracted from just listening for the garbage trucks and he's looking at me more to wait for the kibble. This seems to be the last piece of the puzzle as he has been doing exceptionally well the last few weeks. (I also think the conditioning in his Obedience Two class helped.) We had three weeks in a row with no outbursts (if we encounter the truck early in the walk he has more trouble). Sometimes I keep walking after the truck passes and sometimes we follow behind it and he gets treats for walking nicely.

This has been a long process - primarily because the garbage collection is only once a week - the whole neighborhood is the same day so we don't have that many opportunities to practice. And I can't control the garbage trucks. I can't make them stop next to us when he's calm or go down another street if he's having a bad day.

But he's getting better (slowly but surely). I do hope that one day he will be able to walk by garbage truck like all the other dogs in my neighborhood (with the exception of one feisty border collie) and not even notice it. Until then I will be ready with yummy treats.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Bette Davis Eyes

I usually win a staring contest with my mom. 

Look into my eyes . . . you are getting sleepy, very sleepy.  

Global Pet Food Outlet: Our Favorite Place to Get Dog Food

When I first got Chopper I thought the only downside to having a bigger dog was that I couldn't find as many outfits or put him in a bicycle basket. (He still has to wear outfits that was part of the deal when I got him - he got a home, bed, food, etc., all he had to do in exchange was wear outfits. I've had to have some custom made and make some myself but he wears them without complaining.) Another downside is that I can't pick him up when he's barking at something like you can with a small dog - hence all the training. Anyway the other real downside is that they cost more - more to board and more to feed.

In terms of the feeding, when we started out I bought Chopper some real cheap food. It was six bucks for a whole huge bag. That didn't last long and Chopper now eats organic and grain free food. He also gets organic and grain free treats. I think the change is diet has been great for him - it helps his attitude, his coat and I think long-term he will be a healthier guy. The downside - it costs a lot more to keep all that bad stuff out of his dog food. His wet food was about $2.79 a can and his big bag of dry food was upwards of $40 a bag.

On top of that I couldn't find a place that sold both his wet and dry food - so that meant two different stops for dog food. I usually couldn't go after work because there wasn't enough time so that meant schlepping Chopper all over on a weekend to buy his food. Not to mention that some of the bigger chain stores in West LA seem to have the worst customer service. One doesn't even have carts. How are you supposed to get a 35 lb bag of dog food, a case of wet food and assorted treats to the cashier and then your car (forget it if you are also lugging around a 70 lb dog who is trying to shoplift the treats from the open treat bar)? It was usually a disaster.

Then a friend turned me on to Global Pet Food Outlet. They had just opened a store in Culver City (I think they've been in Torrance for a long time). This place is the heaven of dog food. They have all the good brands (we use Party Animal wet food and Before Grain dry food) and it cost so much less than everywhere else. They have carts, they are open to 9 p.m. and Chopper behaves himself in there every time he goes (this may be my doing). The treats are also a good price too. They have a parking lot upstairs and there is an elevator so you can take your cart right on up. Also everyone there is so friendly. I like to stop by before I take Chopper to a class at the Zoom Room and we can usually get in and out in five minutes.

They also seem to carry an extensive collection of raw food in the back - there is a wall of refrigerators. I don't know much about that as Chopper doesn't seem to do well with raw food so we haven't tried it. But I never seen as much variety anywhere else in LA.

Also no open treat bar so that's one more day Chopper stays out of the slammer.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

No Sew Doggy Cape

I don't sew - I wish I did. My high school did not offer a home economics class but instead I took wood shop, stain glass and jewelery making. I wish I could add sewing to my list of skills. I thought by watching Project Runway I could learn but that didn't work.
What I can do is glue. And cut. So when it came time to make Chopper a rainbow cape for his birthday that's what I did. I used some other shirts of his to get the right length and figure out how to attach it around his next and penciled out a pattern on a large piece of red felt.

Next I just divided it up and cut out the stripes. I used felt glue (which I did not know existed the last time I made Chopper a felt outfit and this stuff is so much easier to work with than other glues I tried).

You can see where I just glued the Velcro on in the neck closure.

A little dry time and voila! An easy (but slightly time intensive) cape. I'm thinking I could easily make him a Super-Chopper cape next.

I had to use Chopper's stuffed gorilla as a model as he was not cooperating

Then on his birthday I just slipped it on him. It would sometimes wiggle to one side so I'm thinking if we make another one we may need a tummy strap as well.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Agility III - Week Four

Well we are more than halfway through Agility III (for the third time) and Chopper is making some wonderful progress. Half the battle with him is always getting him to not bark at the dog he has decided he hates in every class for the entire class. This time he knew all but two of the dogs - one doesn't pay any attention to him, which is what he prefers, and the other is a giant puppy that wants to be his friend. Chopper does not want to be that poor dog's friend.

After Week 2 was spent with that dog running over and Chopper barking at it and then all the dogs barking - I decided to take Chopper for a nice walk before class. Sure he would be tired and maybe not run as fast (but speed isn't' really his thing to start with) but maybe he wouldn't be the problem child in class. The other dog went for a walk first too - so everyone was a bit calmer.

Last night was even better (we went for a walk and the dog food store). Chopper went through all his runs almost perfectly (but with some lazy jumps) and waited for his turn very nicely (albeit while eating a treat every three seconds). The other dog appeared exhausted so she stayed in her own area. All in all we had a good class.

I think Chopper is ready to go back to Agility League - he could be a contender if he would just go a bit faster. The stopping and scratching or running to the water bowl doesn't seem to happen anymore (now that I said that he will inevitably do both next week) so his time may improve just by not taking breaks. Either way he enjoyed it but I get a little competitive and wanted him to be a little faster. Chopper is whatever the opposite of competitive is and some of his medicines that help him be calm also make him slower. So looks like we are going to be slower.

Busy Summer

I've been super busy this summer.  First, my grandpa came to visit and we had to entertain him for a week.  We went to the beach and Starbucks a lot.  I love Starbucks.  My mom lets me eat the crumbs from a scone. 

Then we started Agility 3 a few weeks ago.  I have done that class before but there is no more Agility to take.  And the best part is that Mumble is in the class and my other friends Peach and Zelda who I have known for a long time.  Since before Mumble was even born.  There is also another dog I know from my Scent Discrimination class.  Plus two other dogs that I'm still getting used to.

Then last week I had to be boarded because my mom went to Disneyland for the whole weekend.  And Mumble had family visiting - so he's bragging about his kid all over the place.  His kid threw me some treats so I think she's ok. 

One of my favorite treats is also growing in our garden - tomatoes!  My mom will pick them off the vine and give me one.  Yum!  The best tomatoes I have ever eaten. 

The best part of the summer is walking at the beach even after my mom gets home from work!  And getting frozen yogurt for a treat.

Hope you are all having a fun summer too!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Chopper's 5th Birthday Party

So now that it has been over a month since Chopper's birthday I am finally getting around to sharing some pictures. We had a rainbow themed birthday party (mainly because I wanted to try out all these rainbow recipes and crafts).

We made sure everyone knew it was Chopper's big day.

I made Chopper this cape for his party and I ordered him a crown from Young Urban Puppy for the occasion.

I decorated and made sure there were plenty of birthday sweets.

There were lots and lots of sweets.  We still have some of those Oreos laying around.

Rainbow birthday cake.

Rainbow dipped Oreos - really sweet but super cute.

I really liked the way they looked.

Rainbow dipped dog bones were a big hit!

Pupcakes!  The pupcakes came from Sprinkles and I added the Chopper heads and rainbows!

The whole dessert table!

Yes this was all a little overboard - but I had the tablecloth already and it kind of went from there.  Plus you only turn five once.

Chopper's favorite treat was the people rainbow cake - I only got one shot of the inside and it was me bribing him with the top of the cake I had to cut off to make the cake nice and flat. 

So Chopper wasn't the only one in a rainbow outfit there were corsages for the doggy guests!

I made these corsages with some felt, glue and Velcro.
Chopper's favorite part aside from the cake was opening his presents - this dog figured out how to do this at his first birthday - we haven't seen if he can open a wrapped present yet but I have a feeling it wouldn't be a problem.

I think Chopper got a little tired of having his picture taken but he looked so cute in that hat I couldn't help it.

Chopper got some birthday blues.

Dreaming about all the cake he was going to eat.

A few weeks after all this it occurred to me that Chopper looked like someone famous in that hat.

Yep - I made my dog look like Jughead.  They have the same appetite and both have long noses (although I think Chopper's looks better on him) - so I am surprised it took me this long to figure it out.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chopper is a Good Citizen!

Chopper and I have been MIA for awhile over the last few weeks. First, Chopper's Grandpa was visiting from Pennsylvania so I took some much needed vacation time to hang out with my two favorite guys. I took them to the beach (they both love the beach) and took my dad fishing (Chopper stayed home for that one) and a host of other fun stuff.

We've also been practicing all of our skills from our Obedience 2 Class at the Zoom Room. Classes Four and Five were pretty much the same as the first three classes but all the dogs started to slowly improve. Chopper's main area of concern was the groom/vet check. We worked on it slowly with giving paw and leaving it at that. At the start of class Chopper was not so good with the down stay. He would stay while you walked away but as soon as I turned around he would come to me without being called. We practiced on our walk everyday and now he's an old pro.

Anyway last night was Class Six - the day the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test was being given. We had already signed up to take the class a second time as I didn't think six weeks was going to be enough time for the Chopper to be conditioned for all the distraction tasks and the body check. I actually forgot yesterday that we even had class until about an hour before (we made it in time). I was a little bummed on the way over because I thought everyone would pass except for Chopper even though I had already decided we would need extra time. But then I thought - let's see if he can do this - if not we'll try again.

I kept Chopper away from all the other dogs before we went in to prevent any pre-testing jitters and then we took a quick walk with Mumble and Carrie when they got there. Before we went in I turned to my dog and told him: "If I can pass the bar you can pass this test."

Well that seemed to the trick - that and the fact that all the other dogs seemed to be on their best behavior. The barking puppy didn't bark quite as much (and was as far away from us as possible) and all the other dogs were angels. Also the people who had moved around and clicked away for five weeks all stood quietly next to their dogs. The Zoom Room has never been so quiet before.

The test started with the examiner coming around and shaking hands and then coming around and petting. Chopper thought he had treats so tried to follow him when he left. We then did the body check. Chopper got his paws and teeth checked and acted like it was no big deal - that's when I first thought that maybe we had a shot at this.

Next it was time for the walking. Chopper is an excellent walker in real life (with the exception of garbage day) so this has been frustrating for me as he has not always been great at walking in a circle with the other dogs. So we did the parade once with the dogs on the outside and once on the inside - no problems (I was constantly telling Chopper to look forward and heel). Now I was thinking that we were going home with that certificate.

After that there were even more distractions but not quite like we had practiced (e.g., dropping a box, the tennis balls flying around, noisy toys) - no this time each dog took a turn walking down the middle of the room and the dog walking had to be good and the dogs waiting had to be good. I spent a lot of time talking to Chopper and telling him he was a good boy. When he seemed to be even just a slightly bit interested in turning around to see what was behind him I would tell him it was just Mumble and to look at me. Yes I lied to my dog but did I mention that there were NO TREATS allowed during the test. This dog will do anything for treats - if you don't have treats though you're on your own. So I would do it again.

Then it was time for the separation part of the test. Chopper knows the trainer so this has been going well - the first few weeks he was given treats but since then he's just been waiting nicely. (Some weeks he would pull when I first got back in the room to get to me with that big goofy grin on his face.) Chopper has improved a lot over the years in this skill in real-life situations. He will now go willingly with someone when being boarded and because we use the same groomer he goes with them as well (he doesn't like being groomed so there is some "screaming" that happens once in awhile in that situation). Even at the vet's office he will go with someone as soon as they take the leash.

So here are the ten tasks as listed by the AKC:
1) Accepting a friendly stranger
2) Sitting politely for petting
3) Appearance and Grooming
4) Out for a Walk
5) Walking Through a Crowd
6) Sit and Down on Command/Stay in Place
7) Coming When Called
8) Reaction to Another Dogs
9) Reaction to Distractions
10) Supervised Separation

And Mr. Chopper passed all of them!!! Five minutes after it was over he did bark at the dog who was there just to take the test and hadn't been in the class but we were off the clock and that's just Chopper.

So now we get to mail our form in and get an official Certificate!

Mumble and Chopper right after they passed the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Happy Birthday Chopper

Today is Chopper's birthday!

He's turning five and most days I can't believe he's that old but still only five. I have planned a party for him and we will share some pictures next week but for now I wanted to share five of my favorite things about Chopper (keeping with the theme of five).

1. His ears. Those ears have been the subject of quite a few vet visits (the time he cut one and it wouldn't stop bleeding and the world's longest ear infection) so I joke that they are the most expensive part of him but they are just so darn cute and they flop when he runs and spread out on the floor when he lays down. Adorable.

2. He will give anything the old college try. Between Chopper's anxiety and his neuroses and all the solutions I attempt to come up to combat those we have been through a lot of training, supplements, medications, products, diets and conditioning and the fact that this dog leaves the house every day still surprises me. Most 70 lb coonhounds don't do agility but it seemed like something that would make him use his brain so he wouldn't think about all the scary stuff in the world. And we loved it (even if he stops halfway through to scratch his ears). He lets me strap him into a Thundershirt or a Calming Cap for a car ride without putting up a fight. He will follow a garbage truck for two blocks getting treats all the way and trying his hardest not to bark.

3. The way he takes a bone. He will sit, sniff, inspect and then accept it and run away with it. Every time. It's like he is checking to make sure I haven't slipped some contraband into the bone.

4. That even at five people still think he's a puppy because of his goofy antics and jumping around and bowing to other dogs. I like to think this means he'll be around for a long long time.

5. He is always happy to see me. I know this is true of most dogs but it really is the best part of a dog. I can have to work late and be home two hours later than usual and he's not mad - in fact he's even more happy to see me. I can have dropped him off at the groomer's or handed him over to a vet tech for four vaccinations and when he comes back he runs to me with a big goofy look on his face.

There are many many more things I love about this dog but that's enough for now - I don't' want him to get too big of a head.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Obedience Two at the Zoom Room: Class Three

Well I wasn't too keen on going to class this week because my buddy Mumble was sick and had to stay home.  But then my mom broke out the turkey hot dogs, which we haven't had in months so I mustered some energy and went to class (after Mumble came over to say hi so I could make sure he was really ok). 

This week we did almost all the tasks on the CGC test.  First, our instructor went around and shook all the dog parents' hands.  I passed that one.

Then there was the vet inspection - as usual I was not to excited about this one.  I let the instructor get one look in my ear but then I was done.  All the other dogs think this is fun but I'm sure because I'm so much older than all of them that I know better.  My mom does not think so and says I need to get over this and she's going to keep trying until I do.  We'll see about that.

Next we practiced some distractions.  Our  instructor threw a tennis ball about a million times down the center of the room.  He would tell the parents when to give us a treat but my mom decided to try without a treat - since that is the way you have to do it during the test - and guess what?  I could have cared less about that ball.  I just watched my mom every time - some times she would tell me good job and rub my head but mostly she ignored me and I ignored that ball.  Next came the noisy baby toy.  My ears went way back when that came out and my mom took out the turkey hot dogs again so I didn't bark.

Then we had to do the down/stay and I passed like an old pro.  Then the separation and this time the instructor didn't have to give me treats (but I was very happy when my mom came back in - I ran to her - it was very cute I'm told).

Then the walking.  My mom is not happy with me about this part.  See she knew the vet inspection was going to be rough since I don't like the vet but she thought this was going to be a breeze because I walk great in my neighborhood on a loose leash or in a heel.  And I do well in crowds. (Have you ever walked through the security line and the entrance plaza at Disneyland?  Well I do all the time and I don't even care about the monorails - anymore.)  But I do not like doing this activity in class.  Sometimes I like to try and go up on the agility equipment (I miss that class), sometimes I like to sniff all the mom's purses (if they aren't using the lockers they must want me to smell them) and sometimes I just don't want some dog I don't know walking behind me. 

The solution?  My mom made me walk in a heel during our whole morning walk today.  I'm thinking I maybe should get my act together on this one.