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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Learning to wait

Spike has settled down since Bella has arrived. He trots along with his Outward Hound jacket, pockets filled with stones. He takes his job seriously and holds Bella back, making her walk beside me rather than lunging in front.

Spike and Bella met a pair of lively sheepdogs at the far end of the neighborhood. The other hounds were barking up a storm, but settled down when the owner sat them down and made them visit. Spike peed on the lady's boots before I caught him. I apologized profusely.

She said, "Oh, dogs! Don't feel bad. My two have tried every trick on me already." Maybe Spike smelled something on her boots.

Today was a reading day for me, so after our walk through the neighborhood, we settled into the conservatory. The dogs got treats a few times for being settled (tiny garlic liver cubes).

Bella loves her camo bed and stays snuggled up most of the time. Spike is restless, snoozing for 15 minutes and then on the go again. When I took an afternoon nap, they wrestled each other on the floor and then curled up together on the sheepskin rug beside the bed.

After supper, I dipped some dry bread into lamb gravy and put it into their crates for bedtime. They couldn't hop in fast enough! Good doggies.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Drip dry

We met our neighborhood nemesis on the last mile of a three-mile morning's walk in the Seattle mist. Benny is a calm, off-leash herding dog who acts like he could care less about us. Seeing him usually sends Bella - and then Spike - into a barking frenzy. Today, after I put a stop to the racket, I asked the couple for permission to officially introduce the dogs.

"Sure, but Benny doesn't like small dogs," said the owners. "We tell him little dogs are mean and vicious." (Which probably explains the vibes Bella is picking up.)

Small dogs often are poorly socialized by doting owners. It's easier to let a little dog get away with things. I know I'm tempted because mine are so darn cute. I remind myself that they need boundaries and live happier as dogs than people. A dog who knows what's expected is more readily accepted by people and dogs around them, too.

"Their people keep picking them up, and they never learn good manners," said the dog walkers. But they stopped, let the dogs sniff around Benny, and all was well. He ignored them and walked up to his owner with a patient and relaxed stance.

"Hope that's done it," we said as we walked away. We're tired of Bella yapping and straining on the leash when Benny comes into view. If I don't catch her early, she sets Spike off, too.

I wouldn't trust our dogs off-leash yet: when Bella first got here, she and Spike tried to attack other dogs. They've been very good lately, and even ignored a cat this morning to walk peacefully by when I said, "Leave it." But off-leash? wouldn't count on it at this point.

We got in the front door, where the dogs wait patiently for me to take off their dripping coats and dry their legs and tummies. No sense in wiping the grit onto our rugs (especially in a shoe-free house.) When they were clean, they sprinted their loop through the kitchen, DR, LR, family room, and hall until they were panting. With 20 minutes on the treadmill in the evenings, they've become fit and content. Bella eats almost as much as Spike most days.

Otherwise, it's been a few days of walking and normal life around here. I've kept my eye on Bella, and yes... she's the one who starts the fun. She'll jump Spike when he's not looking and run away. If he doesn't chase her or catch her right away, she'll do it over and over. And if he chooses a toy, he might as well just hand it over unless he's in the mood for tug-of-war.

Spike never retaliates or goes after her toy unless they are fetching and he knows there's food. He snaps up any treats she drops. He's quick and efficient, but she's getting faster and hardly gives up a thing!

"Mom, I think Bella is getting food-driven," remarked Jono. She's still fussier about the treats she works for than Spike, though. Spike: it's edible, it goes down the hatch.

The kids were over Sunday for lunch. Watching them play, my daughter-in-law remarked that I have the pair I hoped for, two dogs who play happily together and keep each other amused. So true. Good doggies!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Walking fools

Not even Spike wants to go for a walk in the downpour this morning. His Outward Hound jacket with rocks in the pocket goes on without a hitch, but I have to give him a little tug before he starts moving toward the rain outside. We're all in rain gear. Bella has a new-to-her yellow raincoat, but when she puts her head down, it slips over her eyes and brings her to a skidding halt. She plants her feet until I pull the hood back away from her eyes and then she carries on, sulking. She puts her head down a few times and trips over the front. I try not to laugh out loud, but it catches me off guard. Really, I don't blame her for not wanting to wear the coat, but I dislike the smell and dirt of wet dog hair and it's cold outdoors. She had the sniffles earlier in the week, so "Bella-baby, it's for YOUR good."

When we get home, both dogs have wet, gritty stomachs and legs. I pick up Bella at the front door and carry her straight to the shower so she can't wipe herself off on our sofas. She's getting better: we have a designated blanket on one couch where she can do a "Wipe." She gives me a poodle-grin of satisfaction when I tell her she's a good girl.

When she's clean, she bounces all around the house, up and down the stairs, leaping through the halls. She's almost dry before we head for the conservatory to blow-dry her the rest of the way. I'm happy that she's cooperative. When she's brushed, she's a mass of fluff, soft and cuddly. She knows she's cute, and parades around me like the Belle of the ball.

Spike is Mr. Easy. His hair is still really short, so a quick shampoo, towel dry, and 3 minutes of scooting around on a towel finishes him in a hurry. He's no longer fussy about my touching his feet, either.

I toss their toys and bedding in the washer and wash out their crates. After they fool around with a few games of tug-of-war, they down a raw half chicken leg in their clean, bare crates. Then it's time for them to settle under my desk for a rest... while I study. Good doggies!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Walkin' walking' bikin'

I took the dogs for a 3-4 mile spin today. My odometer isn't working on the bike, which usually helps me gauge their speed and distance. Bella has picked up the pace and strength. She wasn't even panting after  walking, jogging, and running. Took us nearly an hour by the time we had walked a few blocks to get Spike to "duty".

The walk is supposed to drain their energy, but both dogs are ready to play when we walk in the door! I pushed Bella off Spike this morning. She's quite aggressive at times: she watches until Spike picks up a toy and wrestles him for it. When I look over a few minutes after her challenge, she's usually chewing the plaything.

Terrier style is to hang on and pull. Poodle style is to jerk, yank, and bounce. I wonder if Spike gets a headache from hanging on while all that energy is coming his way! Spike often walks away and gets another stuffed animal after a few minutes of sustained poodle bouncing. (Which doesn't guarantee that she won't try for the new toy.)

Yesterday she yelped while they were playing, so I stopped them. Looked like Spike was chewing on her ear. "No! Spike!" He must have nipped her or pulled her ear hair... hence the wild scream.

Why on earth? Oh... she had a little piece of dog food tangled in her hair; when she jumped him, he played a while and probably smelled the food. I cut the piece of whatever out and they went back to playing around. No harm done, though for a split second she sounded like he was killing her.

Our evening routine has morphed: they are frisking around the office while I study, so I've started walking them for 10-20 minutes on the treadmill, one at a time. (Spike runs down the middle and he's stronger, so Bella gets pushed to the side if they're on together.) They get a treat each time they're done, and seem pleasantly exercised.

We still need our fresh morning air though. This is the first time we've biked in weeks, with snow outside or file drawers blocking the bike. (We rehomed piano music for a retiring teacher, which meant 5 huge drawers in the entry for a week. Ugh.) They're chomping chicken legs this morning - they just love the RAW diet and have more energy and spunk than on kibble. Who thought we needed more spunk? Good doggies!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Another dog day

The rain is pelting down. We take a quick one-mile stroll through the school yard and neighborhood. The dogs do their business in a hurry, eager to get off the dripping streets. Today it's dry dog food day, which they gulp before a snooze in the crates.

I have to finish editing my conference paper, so I pull sweaters on their little bodies and put them on the sun porch, along with some toys. When I come back, they're ready to come in. They refuse to play without me in the room, though they tussled plenty in the office earlier.

I blame the poop left in my office after lunch on Spike since I've never caught Bella in an accident. They both look innocent. Argh, I didn't see it happen, though I was in the room. I had just let them back from outside, too! Spike doesn't seem to be able to predict when he has to go, and doesn't know how to tell me when he needs out.

Spike steps on the treadmill for the first afternoon trot. (Maybe he needs a diversion.) He maintains a steady pace, the tags clinking on his collar. Bella lies down beside me on a fleecy rug, waiting her turn. Good doggies.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


We had a nice (1.5 mile) walk this morning. It's cold and Spike is almost naked under that fleecy coat. We're working on getting the treadmill walks down, too. Each spent 5 minutes trotting on the conveyer.

There were growling, licking, chewing, and other disgustingly funny noises coming from the two black heaps rolling around my office floor an hour ago. It looked and sounded like a fierce dogfight for about 3 seconds. Bella pounced on Spike. He pretended to chew on his Beanie Baby while gnawing on her. He held the toy under his paws, she'd pretend to grab it, swipe at him and snarl like a maniac, then chew on his ears and jowls. He'd reciprocate by charging her, licking her tummy (yes, she rolled over), lying beside her so she could paw him, etc. It was a lot of loud bluster and play.

Now they're busy hunting for kibble. "Find!" and off they go. I hide dog food samples under the rugs, behind furniture, and in their beds. It takes them almost 15 minutes to find all the little pieces but they stay at it longer. Hopeful. Both are good trackers and learning to use nose and paws to unearth their finds. They are so triumphant while crunching the little pebbles. (We only do this in the office so they don't think they can go rummaging through the house.)

It may snow tonight - but we're planning to put them on the treadmill for a 10-minute walk before bedtime. Good doggies!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cesar's way

Yesterday I picked up a free treadmill, which W and Jono plunked in the LR so I'd have a chance to see if it works. It's not for me, but for the dogs. Cesar Milan recommends two walks a day with our cute beasties, and I can't afford the time! I put Spike and Bella on the treadmill with no problem. I stood on either side and they were off and walking. No hesitation, no noise either.

Bella slipped off the back once when I lost hold of her collar, but otherwise they did fine. Spike is heavier than Bella and a road hawg. He tries to stay in the middle, crowding her off to the side. We'll work on that!

On the morning walk, Bella showed off new social skills: she started with her usual growl-and-hide when other dogs approached, but then shaped up to sniff and walk nicely with two separate packs from the neighborhood. Spike was his usual friendly self.

They got a bath in the afternoon. Spike did his usual scoot on the towel to dry off. Bella tried out the cage dryer I picked up on the weekend: in a half hour she was reasonably dry and oh-so-curly. I shaved her face, feet, and privates and told her she was very pretty.

Spike is never happy to have his face done and kept bucking away. I decided to have a go at other body parts first. The regular blade slipped through his fur, so I tackled him with the short blade. Oh, oh. The poor dog shrank two sizes with 2" less of hair. He looks smaller than Bella with his new crewcut.

Both dogs were frisky after we finished: they ran around the house, flipped toys in the air, and raced over for petting. After work, W played with them for a while, then admired their new moves on the treadmill. W and Jono carried that piece of heavy equipment up to my office: when the dogs get too energetic, we shall work off some of their liveliness.

They got the last little piece of smoked farmer sausage to hop in their crates for the night. Happy, clean, impatient to "go to bed"... but such good doggies!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Wet week's end

It looked gloomy and I'd slept through my normal 6am fitness class. So I thought a quick dog bike n'jog would do the trick. We went about 4 miles, with both dogs still energetic and bouncy when we got home. It had taken us almost 1.5 hours with all the non-potty stops along the way. Argh. It started to rain while we were waiting for Spike to do his 'business' (which he refused to do). We rode up and down the streets, waiting, walking on lawns, etc. No luck, but he hasn't pooped in the house so I don't know what is up.

Bella is definitely keeping up the pace and distance without strain. She's the one tugging to go faster and further while Spike trots alongside as though he's working.

In the afternoon I picked up a crate dryer and met the owner of Barkers in Edmonds, an affordable dog grooming business. I'll definitely use her services for ears, nails, etc. which the dogs don't like having done.

The dogs were happy in their Outward Hound car boosters as usual. Those have to be another "best find" on Craigslist. They make any trip a pleasure as the dogs hop in without complaints and can safely look out or snooze in comfort. It's pouring rain outside, but the dogs are pawing at their crates where night-time treats await. Good doggies.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Better and better

The past few days we have had no trouble on walks. Bella behaves like a lady, ignoring passersby. Spike trots steadily alongside with 2 smallish stones in his Outward Hound jacket pockets. Working dog? He thinks so.

I've left them on the enclosed sun porch a few times when I've had appointments. It has more room to roam than their crates and they stay warm with coats on. Their toys are played with (they're crazy at tug-of-war) but they're happy to see me, waiting at the door when they hear me get back.

After their morning walk, Bella pounced on Spike and wouldn't leave him alone. They got into a snarling match which I quickly put a stop to. She instigates their tussles - he's pretty laid back but let her know she stepped over the line today. She was surprised, yipped, and ran away.

They gulped chicken breasts for lunch today: the lucky dogs got the raw meat because a cooking date with a friend got canceled. They hopped in their crates when the sun went down and went to sleep without fussing. Good doggies!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Doggie play

Bella jumps Spike and the dog wrestling begins. They've had a lot of fun together the last few days, energized by the brisk walks in the morning. She lays down in a submissive pose, but if he stops mouthing her, she paws him to keep going. He is very gentle. She gets her chewy massage while growling menacingly as though he is killing her.

"GR grrr grrrrr, don't stop, don't stop!" Spike lies down next to her. If he tries to run off, she follows him, lies down, and begs for more. It's funny to watch. I keep my eyes on them so it doesn't escalate into aggression.

When I call their names, they look at me like, "Don't spoil the fun," walking over to say hello. They go back to pouncing on each other and play pull-toy for a while, then chew on another toy (one between them), before lying down side by side for a rest. I am so thankful that they are a good pack. Good doggies!