Friday, February 26, 2010

A Step Back?

  One good thing that can be said about this massive snow that we've received, is that is seems to be a confidence builder for Gibson.  We had him make so many paths for us and he got so much praise for his efforts that there was a noticeable change.  He's more relaxed, stands a bit taller and doesn't let himself get spooked over sudden noises. 
  On Sunday, I took him to Leesburg for an outing, which may  have been a mistake.  We started walking around Ida Lee Park.  That went very well!  Gibson didn't pay any attention to cars passing by, bravely barked at joggers--something he doesn't normally see--had a nice spring to his step and wagged his tail the entire time.  He was concerned over a  boy on a bike.  The little guy was almost the same height as Gibson and was wearing a bike helmet, which seemed to take Gibson aback.  Once the boy was talking and petting him, Gibson relaxed and while he seemed still puzzled by the little person with the odd thing on his head, enjoyed the pause in our walk.  We practiced show stands while skateboarders went by and everything seemed just fine.
  Our next stop was PetSmart to buy cookies.  I should have left Gibson in the car!  He was not thrilled about walking through the sliding doors and began to get apprehensive. I could see that he was trying to calm himself down and I thought a quick walk down the main aisle for Gibson to see more dogs would be good.  The store was having an adoption event so it was crowded and noisy.  As we tried to walk down the aisle, a volunteer was standing with a small dog and a pit pull.  Gibson and the pit bull greeted each other, then when Gibson started to sniff the small dog, the pit bull went after him.  We had no place to go, there was a display to the left of us, the pit bull to the right of us and more people behind us.  The volunteer didn't seem inclined to back up with his growling, snapping dog, so I shoved/pulled Gibson out of the way.  Poor Gibson, he was so rattled by it all!  I worked at calming him down and I saw someone I know, so spent a few moments chatting to him.  The pit bull was working his way down where I was standing and I decided that was a good time to pay for our cookies and get home.  Gibson didn't even attempt to make eye contact with the other dog, but the pit bull lunged again as we went to the checkout counters (this time I kept a display between us and the pit bull).  At the checkout counter, the cashier offered Gibson a cookie, but wanted to make him sit for it.  I told him that Gibson didn't know that command but the kid kept saying "sit! sit!", raising his voice each time.  Gibson went into full panic mode, tried to crawl into the space under the cash register, then tried to bolt for the door.  Outside, his tail was tucked firmly under his belly.  Once again, I massaged his ears, his tummy and could feel him start to settle.  Then, he began to get frantic again--the pit bull was coming out the door!  We dashed across the parking lot to the Sequoia.  Gibson barely waited for the back door to open before he jumped into the back and the sanctuary of his crate.  He didn't even want one of the good cookies I had just bought.  He just stared at me with his eyes big and round.  I won't be taking Gibson back to PetSmart anytime soon, and I'm wondering if this is just a setback or have I completely ruined him for the show ring?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Collies and the Blizzard

  A lot of people are wondering how our dogs cope during severe weather, like our current "Snowmaggedon", the blizzard from the week-end.  Ben and Sophie, as the seniors going on 11 years old, are house dogs as soon as the temperature starts dropping in autumn.  If we had puppies, they would also be inside.  As for the others, our kennel is well built with drop doors to keep the dogs inside during heavy wind, snow or rain.  Friday night, we dropped the doors and with their heavy show coats, the dogs generated enough body heat to keep their water buckets ice free!  When I opened the doors on Saturday morning, the dogs made short work of making paths in their runs and packing the snow down.  That night, I wasn't comfortable with closing the doors, after hearing too many reports of collapsed roofs, including on a barn.  The kennel is surrounded by trees and even our sturdy building would not be a match for a couple of those massive oaks.  I was concerned that if a tree came down, the dogs could be trapped inside.  The only effect has been that we've had to break ice in the water buckets morning and night which delights Sadie.  She's an ice cruncher!  She dunks her muzzle into the bucket, fishes around for the biggest piece she can find then happily crunches away while the water drips off her whiskers.
  The dogs love to play in the snow and they were more than ready to go out on Saturday.  I wasn't in the mood to stand outside while the snow pelted my face, so they had to wait until Sunday for a chance to play.  Lauren couldn't wait!  She barked incessantly at me as soon as I went outside with their breakfast.  Once she ate, she started jumping against the gate, pleading to go out.   I had a couple chores to do inside before they could play and as I was moving around the house, I could see Lauren steadily staring at the window, willing me to come back out.  But when I let them out, Lauren found the snow to be too deep for her liking and she kept to the couple paths we had made in front of the kennel.  Gibson, Dixie and I made two huge circles around the play yard, then everyone came running through.  Actually, for Claire and Phoebe it was more of a short stroll.  They can become quite the princesses in snow, acting as if they are too delicate to romp with the others.  Claire did forget for a minute that she couldn't be in deep snow and started to run with the gang, then made my heart skip a few beats as she turned towards me with her front leg held high, her paw dangling.  I was afraid she had somehow broken her leg, wondering how we'd get her to the vet's, only to find she had ice balls between her toes and she wanted me to take care of it!
  This morning's play session found us making more paths through the snow in the play yard. Gibson, Dixie and Sadie forged ahead and found a spot along the fence that is so packed down that they did not break through the snow. They could have easily hopped over the fence and I could see the wheels turning in Dixie's head as she was starting to figure that out. Somehow, she communicated that to Sadie and the two of them stood at the fence, almost like they were double daring each other to go over first. I decided play time was over and got everyone but those two back towards the kennel before the pack mentality started to kick in and everyone thought about hopping the fence. Fortunately, I can bribe them with the promise of a cookie and got most everyone in, but this morning Sadie and Dixie weren't buying it! They picked up on the panic in my voice and refused to come back. They started teasing me, taking a couple steps away from the fence and down the path, then bouncing back on the snow and towards the fence. Finally, the lure of cookies brought them in. All I could envision was them getting over the fence, finding packed snow on the other side, jumping on to the drive and running out to the road. We don't have too much traffice yet, but the road is basically one lane and treacherous.
  Tonight's forecast is snow through the night and heavy winds, causing drifts up to 6 feet.  I'm planning on doubling and tripling the dogs into the runs on the east side of the kennel to concentrate their body heat.  I'm not looking forward to tomorrow morning and the prospect of battling wind gusts of possibly 40 mph and blowing snow to feed the dogs.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Twister's Gone Home!

Twister's family has found him and he went home this past Thursday!!!  Just in time for the "epic" snow and a week-end of intense bonding and lots of play with his new boys, Tom and Ben!  We had been frustrated that Twister had not gone home yet since he is so sweet and loving.  We had a few inquiries, one visitor that never called back (???) and two great possibilities that resulted in friendships for us but weren't exactly right for Twister.  Then, about a week ago, Karen called and everything just clicked! They have located to Loudoun County from New Hampshire and weren't ready for a dog until now.  On their initial visit, it was mutual love at first sight.  Twister knew they were his family and tried to leave with them that day!  I had to drag him back into his kennel and look at those expressive eyes that were saying, "What gives? My family's here and I need to go with them".  Every day after that, he would look at me puzzled whenever I went into the kennel.  Finally, I could tell him the day had arrived!  He was bathed and prepped to go but was hesitant to go up the steps, since he's not used to them but then---he heard his family talking and he went right up the stairs, bounded into the kitchen, nuzzling everyone with his tail wagging!  Karen called the next day to say how well he'd adjusted already.  If it ever stops snowing, we're going to get together for doggy play dates.  I think this has been the best placement we've ever made with one of our dogs!