September 28, 2012 - My Ella is a chow hound. Not only does she eat everything I offer her, including lemon slices, but she thinks the purpose of walks is to see how much food she can find. It's amazing what she comes up with. In the first year and a half that I had her, we spent one night at the emergency vet after she ingested paintballs, and she also had to see a specialist to remove a peanut fragment that she tried to cough up but which got caught above her soft palette in the back of her nose instead. I mention this so that maybe you'll understand why I panicked when the cap from a container holding a fly paper strip disappeared after I dropped it. I didn't think much of it at the time, just finished putting the strip up, and then looked around to pick up the cap, which I had heard fall, but it was nowhere to be found. I wouldn't have been overly concerned, except that the top had a thumbtack pushed through it for hanging the strip.
Posted by Mary Straus at 01:02PM Comments (10)
September 23, 2012 - I just finished reading a book about the life and death -- of a special dog, a much-loved Border Collie. Of course, I cried like a baby at the end of it, knowing how hard it is to lose such a very special dog. I have to say I haven't cried like that in a long time, and even as I think about it now . . . Somehow it really hit me especially hard, since the description of the dog reminded me so much of my dog DeeDee, who I still always think about. The dog in the book was independent, didn't care much for cuddling, kept her own counsel, but always aware of her owners presence, whereabouts, and predicaments, and always wanted to work. DeeDee always wanted to be with me, though she, too, was not crazy about hearing sweet nothings. And when I took her to try out some sheep, she made my jaw drop; she knew exactly what she was supposed to do without having any prior experience. And yet, she wouldnt work with the sheep and the instructor unless I was in the ring.
Posted by Tricia Breen at 05:08PM Comments (9)
September 17, 2012 - Ive liked individual dogs of pretty much every breed at some point or another. But there are times when Ive also NOT liked dogs of some breed when it wasnt even warranted. I guess youd call it profiling or discrimination. For the October issue of WDJ, I needed a dog to model a number of no-pull harnesses, so I could photograph them before sending them to WDJ Training Editor Pat Miller to review them. I purchased a size medium in all the harnesses so that Pat would stand the best chance of finding dogs to wear and try out the products. But for the photographs, I had additional requirements of the models: they also had to be a light color and short-haired, so the harnesses could be seen easily.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:32AM Comments (19)
September 9, 2012 - Today my dog Boo and I visited with my ex-husband. We are good friends, with too little time to visit frequently, and Jim misses and loves Boo tremendously. Boo is a dog who doesn't vocalize much in general. When he sees Jim, he whines and howls in excitement. He jumps on him, howls and dances and groans with a great display of animation. He doesn't do this with anyone else. We haven't lived together for at least 5-6 years. Yet every time Boo sees Jim, he can hardly contain himself. When we part company after our visit, Boo doesn't want to get in the car, and he stares out the back window at Jim, howling as we leave. It breaks my heart. On the other hand, after our visit, Boo has a smile on his face, and appears to be very grateful for this visit.
Posted by Tricia Breen at 03:00PM Comments (7)
August 29, 2012 - Not two weeks ago, I posted a piece about the possibility that competition among the dogs in my pack had encouraged my dog Otto to develop previously unseen swimming and fetching skills. Here is the flip side: An un-socialized, formerly feral dog who I am fostering seems to have inspired both Otto AND Tito the Chihuahua to start chasing my cats off my property! Otto has never chased my cats. Tito has, occasionally, but hes the same size as my cats, and if they stand their ground, he halts in mid-charge and seems to pretend that he was in the middle of something else, like trying to remember his cell phone number. But suddenly, with the arrival of a mid-sized foster dog who has no qualms about chasing the cats, both Otto and Tito have decided that the activity *is* great fun. And Im having trouble convincing one of my kitties to come home (from the far side of my fences) at all.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:44PM Comments (10)
August 27, 2012 - I feel as if I have written this story a hundred times, but its worth writing again: Please go check your dogs collar RIGHT NOW and make sure that the numbers on its ID tags are current. And then, think about his microchip he HAS an implanted identification microchip, doesnt he? Is it currently registered with a microchip registration company? And if so, does the registry have your current contact information? A good friend lost her dog last week, and only after he went missing did she realize that his ID tag on his collar has only the number for her landline phone long since disconnected in favor of a mobile phone.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 01:24PM Comments (8)
August 20, 2012 - My dog, Otto, has never been all that excited about fetch. Certainly not like my previous dog, a Border Collie fetchaholic named Rupert. You could make Rupert leap to his feet and run around to look for a ball if you just mimed the very first part of a throwing gesture, drawing your hand back over your shoulder. Otto will chase something if you throw it but then he may or may not pick it up, and if he does, he is unlikely to bring it back to you. Only when the planets are aligned just so -- the fetch item is one of his favorite toys (only certain squishy balls and squeaky stuffed animals, once in a blue moon a flying disc); its not too hot; he hasnt been for a run for a couple of days will he reliably retrieve more than once or twice in a row.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:44PM Comments (3)
August 13, 2012 - Ages ago, I edited a horse magazine, and for a time, published a column written by the noted animal communicator Penelope Smith. I really enjoyed the opportunity to talk to Smith each month, and as we discussed the column, wed sometimes veer off into a talk about a general topic having to do with animals and our relationships with them. Despite my preconceptions of someone who purports to talk to the animals as being nutty, I found Smith to be incredibly insightful, wise, and humorous. She was empathetic and yet practical. I bought several of her books on interspecies communication and was fascinated by her accounts of experiences with hundreds of animals.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 11:39AM Comments (20)
August 6, 2012 - Volunteering at my local shelter this past weekend, I was photographing a cute senior Chihuahua (in an effort to better represent him on the shelter website) when I noticed something on his tummy. At first I thought it was discolored for a health reason. But when another volunteer and I rolled him over for a closer look, I could see that he was tattooed. As we stretched him in such a way to reveal the whole tattoo, I was in the process of telling my fellow volunteer that this was once a common practice that before identification microchips became common, dogs were sometimes tattooed with the owners drivers license number or phone number. But then we decoded the message. It looked like this...
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 11:54AM Comments (17)
July 29, 2012 - In the editorial of the August issue (now online and in your mailboxes soon), I updated the story of Mickey, an-odd-but-cute looking, high-energy dog who had somehow spent almost a year at my local shelter without finding a permanent home. (He was adopted once, for a little more than two months, but was returned because the familys original dog was picking on him unmercifully.) I first wrote about Mickey in this space in May, when I started working with him prior to an all-weekend Adopt-A-Thon. I taught him to sit and in that one simple process, he learned to pay attention to humans, control his own behavior, and offer that good manners basic whenever someone paid attention to him. Unfortunately, he didnt get adopted that weekend
or for the next two months.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:00PM Comments (7)
July 21, 2012 - Otto has to coexist peacefully with chickens, foster dogs, and even adolescent CATS. You can tell from his expression he's not always thrilled about the terms, but he honors the contract nonetheless.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 02:54PM Comments (4)
July 16, 2012 - Recently we enjoyed meeting our new brother in law, and providing day care for his 4-year-old Border Collie, Sis. Arriving from northern Idaho, he was totally unprepared for the reality of traveling with a dog during a northern California heat wave. We were more than happy to offer our home and shady fenced yard to Sis so her owners could sightsee without endangering her in a hot car.
Posted by Jozette Rutherford at 08:00AM Comments (2)
July 8, 2012 - If I had to pick which training accomplishment I am most proud of with my dog Otto, Id have to consider a few. Hes got a rock-solid, enthusiastic recall that I love. When were out on the trail and he sees a duck and ducklings on the shore of the river, say, or hears a deer crashing through the brush away from us, this recall -- combined with a strong Off! (a.k.a. Leave it!) never fails to bring admiration from my walking partners. (And because I reward him so richly for this, with a veritable avalanche of tasty treats, it stays nice and strong.)
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:01PM Comments (9)
June 24, 2012 - A friend called one day to complain about his dogs latest vet bill: $300 to remove a foxtail that the dog sniffed up his nose on that mornings walk. If you live on the west coast, you are likely cringing with recognition of the problem. If you live on the east coast, chances are you have no idea of what Im talking about. Hordeum jubatum (informally called foxtail barley but infamous as foxtail grass) is a perennial plant species in the grass family Poaceae. It grows like, well, a pestilent, abundant weed all over California. When the grass is green in the spring, its pretty; it produces these lush heads that resemble a finer version or wheat or barley. But the moment the plants start to dry in the later part of the spring, the heads start to fall apart and each tiny segment of the luxuriant heads becomes a danger to any dog who goes near it.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:01PM Comments (9)
June 17, 2012 - After a lifetime of washing my dogs myself, always, Ive become addicted to taking my dogs to a groomer for even simple baths. Oh, I might still wash Otto on the back lawn in the middle of our 100-degree summers, but at any other time, Ive decided its oh-so-worth it to have the groomer handle the whole mess. Even little 10-pound Tito, with his short coat off to the groomer with you. It started last fall sometime. Someone had been forced to surrender a litter of backyard-bred (in the worst way) Labradoodles to my local shelter, and the chocolate brown puppies were thin, wormy, flea-infested, and, at the tender age of about 10 weeks, shaggy and matted to the skin in spots. They looked like a bunch of dirty mops, and they were lingering in the adoption kennels day after day. I asked the shelter director if we could possibly afford to take them to a groomer to be bathed and clipped and made to look like dogs. Well, she considered, There is a groomer in town who sometimes will take one of our tough cases and groom them for free . . . .
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:02PM Comments (21)