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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Walking on ice

Yup, we head out the door as usual around 8am. The dogs have two layers on: fleece, then a warm coat over. No boots for the dogs today: that's for snow which can freeze between their toes and damage their feet. They wait for W and me at the door while we bundle up to meet the 22oF morning.

Our driveway is deceptive. No slipping or sliding as we hike its steep gravel. The street is another matter.

We live on the side of a hill, perhaps a tenth of a mile from the top. It's the part of the walk I detest because my body is not warmed up yet. First we climb the 150' driveway, then tramp up 2 blocks to the intersection. (Wah wah. Whining, when I should be thankful that it is very good at trimming thighs and glutes.)

The top of Finn Hill is a plateau of gently rolling roads. I fall once, crossing a patch of ice that runs across a sidewalk. Yoga classes have improved my balance to where it's a slow controlled decent with no harm done. The dogs find their grip on the pavement and trot along behind, then beside, then in front with permission. Thankfully, there's no more pulling me headlong - they've become good walkers, and a good team.

We can't believe it. Instead of being tired out by 2 miles +, they are energized and frisky. W and I have oatmeal and tea for breakfast while they play. Then they can't wait for their food: chicken today. I wash their dishes, fill them with fresh water and poultry, and they spring into their crates, and chomp down. There's no sound but the munching and crunching by contented animals. Good doggies!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Socialization continues

Bella can be a wild thing around other people. Yesterday she growled and lunged at a neighbor as we passed by on the bike. She broke her leash last week to go after two dogs who were walking by peacefully. Today we had guests with two little kids: she snapped at one as he put his hand out to pet her while she was curled on the sofa. She'd smelled him, he'd done nothing threatening. She just wasn't confident about his approach.

I've had enough of sternly saying "No, Bella!" only to hear her growl and carry on. So we had the young boys pet her gently while I muzzled her with my hand. I also didn't let her retreat today under the DR table away from company, but made her sit with us among the conversation and laughter. At the end of the visit, she hung around and was friendly and not at all nippy.

She's such a beauty and such a sweety around us at home. I don't want her getting a yappy, nervous poodle reputation in our larger family and friend circle. It's time to bring her into the happy-go-lucky and relaxed state of Spike. He wins friends easily. Everyone wants to take him home.

The dogs went easily into their crates after company left. They haven't made a peep since, falling asleep in their dens. Good doggies!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day

We're back from a 3-mile, 1-hour walk. Bella's energy matches Spike's since we've been feeding raw. Some mornings I wish dogs didn't need walking! Last week, I was moaning about it while leaving my 6 - 7.30am exercise class. "Oh, I'm already sore, and now I have to go home and walk the dogs!" (We walk 1.5 - 3 miles every morning. Photo: noses facing)

"What!" said the teacher. "You're walking after this? I'm not working you hard enough... Now you know why I have a cat." HA HA Wouldn't trade that "we-hafta-walk-doggies" for 10 cats!

The dog full-raincoats arrived from DINODirect a few days ago. Spike ran away the first time I tried to get his hind legs in. Bella immediately lay down with the hood almost over her eyes and wouldn't move. They got the hang of it once we were walking. They were cleaner and drier than usual after our trek in the pelting rain.

Christmas Eve, Bella was not happy with my brother's Russel Terrier Jack, who came for a visit. Bella growled and retreated everytime he came near, refusing to play. I finally put her into her crate at supper and she felt safe. Spike and the very relaxed Jack got along just fine.

Spike was everyone's friend, including 2-yr old Maurin, who loves dogs but is rough with them. Spike tolerated Maurin tugging and petting him at the Christmas Eve party and moved away when he'd had enough. Bella lay down and growled quietly when he pulled her ear. I don't blame her, but quickly took Maurin away, and kept my eye on him. He's too pesky and persistent for little dogs. It's Bella's house and she respects people... but Maurin's mom was not making him mind. Bella is very snuggly, so kind people are all her friends! That said, she may not growl at anyone. "Flee!"-ing like Spike, is better.

Bella is still not secure around other dogs. Last week she broke her leash on our walk, straining to go after a pair of Akitas. I don't know who was more surprised, the Akitas - that a little yapper would take them on - or Bella, at breaking loose to run up to them. I picked her off their heels, scolded her, and fixed the leash. The Akita owner was NOT happy with us. The last few days, we've worked hard on not letting Bella fix her attention when dogs approach, and she's doing better.

We've also gone to dog parks a few times so Bella can meet various canines for socialization. With school and Christmas, it had been a while. W and I took the dogs to Warren Magnusen Dog Park late in the afternoon yesterday. It was dusk, a sleepy time that felt more like 8pm than 4.30pm. Hoards of people and their dogs were walking the trails and playing along Lake Washington. Our doggies were fine: they straggled behind or darted ahead, but always kept an eye out and came back for a treat or to check on us.

Bella surprised us. She is an amazing sprinter! All the walking, jogging, and her improved appetite has unleashed a very fast, fit, bouncy poodle. She raced past Spike several times, going far ahead of us, unlike the 'fraidy-dog she sometimes exhibits. She bounded through the grass along the trails more deer than dog, giving us a good laugh as Spike trotted along nearby. Neither of them were tired when we were done. They sprang into their car-boosters (CL finds), then wrestled toys and played for hours after we got home.

Spike had another poop incident, which W found in the hall upstairs. I let the dogs outside every 2-3 hours, but for some reason Spike can't grasp that I'd like to know when he needs to go outside OR he should hold it until the next time he is let out. He never messes his crate, so I know he can wait.

Ah, most of the time, GOOD doggies.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Home at last

The dogs were delighted to come home Friday. W said they bounced, barked, and ran around when he went to pick them up. He brought them to the airport and I was so happy to see them. Thanks, hon!

That said, we are very satisfied with the care Alexis and her mom gave the dogs while I was gone. I'd highly recommend them to anyone on the north end of Lk WA (NE Seattle, upper Eastside). We'll definitely ask them to watch Spike and Bella next time we need a minder. Alexis had a brilliant idea: tie an old sock around Spike's middle to keep him from marking the house. Great idea! He didn't seem to mind and it kept their house clean.

We went out for a long walk Saturday morning. I was up early: Missouri time is two hours ahead. The dogs rolled out of their crates, still sleepy. Coats on to ward off the rain, leash coupler ready, and we headed up the steep driveway and into the neighborhoods. I bathed and groomed them both. Two fuzzballs. Such soft hair, what pleasure to stroke.

We did two shorter walks Sunday: two miles in the morning before church, in the pouring rain... of course it was raining after blowing out Bella's curls the day before. She was instantly fuzzy again. We walked just over a mile in a dry spell about 3.15pm. It was already getting dark when we got home at 3.45pm. Unbelievable. I'm ready for longer days!

This morning they were raring to go, so we did 2.5 miles. Bella is more than keeping up with Spike. She's fit and spunky. We were all happy that it was not raining!

This morning as I was wrapping gifts, the dogs played fetch and tug-of-war. Tug-of-cat, actually (photo above). No growls, just lots of stretching and pulling the Beanie Baby kitten. BB's are well made and hold up well to small dog antics. Spike bites the eyes out of the BBs, but Bella just tussles with them.

I sat down in the hall and was playing with both dogs today when I noticed they were playing together differently than I'd ever seen. I snuck away and they continued to roll over, bump, and run around the hallway without me. They had a great play date, the first time I've seen them interact with this kind of a romp. I wonder if it's because they were around Alexis' dog and learned to play together more.

I've been watching Dog Whisperer DVDs, which have clarified some of their behaviors. It's taken a while for them to interact as a pack, but we're in no hurry. I'm walking them differently, too, always in front and not playing with them until the "work" of the walk is over.

They're happy together. Lucky us!!! We have no major issues, and Spike hasn't had an accident inside the house for months. Good doggies!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Missing the doggies

I'm away for two weeks of doctoral study. Spike and Bella are hanging out with a "dog family" who has added them to their pack.

"My nieces LOVE them," said Ali, who is the pack leader. "Between the dogs and us, we found a personality for each. Our big dog is not child-friendly, but yours are. We chose "our own" dog and walked them on separate leashes. We had a fantastic time."

What fun! Bella our snuggler curls up in bed with Ali each night. Spike spent his first night sleeping at Ali's feet, the second walking around her bed, and the third happily sleeping back in his crate.

How thankful I am for good care, to have found a place of safety and companionship for the dogs. Spike's cold is abating. Both dogs are enjoying their walks each day and comfortable with Ali's family.

However, I admit how much I miss them. I can't wait to bring them back home with me. I especially miss their little black bodies bouncing (Bella) or trotting (Spike) behind me up the stairs and down the hall. Won't be long now!

Thanks, Ali. I appreciate you. (And of course, I'm so proud of our good doggies for their adjustment and healthy attitudes.)