Saturday, June 30, 2012

Storm Phobia

Last night, we had a severe thunderstorm (as did much of the eastern section of the country) with winds up to 80 mph.  We live next door to radio towers and a generator for  the electrical co-op, both of which have lightning rods attached.  Needless to say, lots of lightning comes our way!
  The kennel is situated between the two lightning rod locations which reduces the risk of the trees nearby or the kennel itself getting hit by lightning.  Generally, the dogs aren't concerned by the storms, they just go inside until the weather calms.  But, this summer, Mosby has developed a storm phobia.
  The storms we've had up until last night have not been bad, a few lightning strikes but mainly heavy rains.  Mosby has reacted by finding the loose spot in the kennel fencing, getting out, then standing by the gate, panting and nervous.  He's fine once I get him inside, which I now do whenever storms are predicted.
  Mosby has never been bothered by storms before but I think it must have something to do with being older.  This had happened with one of our other dogs, Abby,  a few years ago, again starting when she was about ten.  Research was in order!
  I found a couple good sites on the internet and a good book at the library.  I learned some very interesting things!
  Storm phobias can worsen as a dog ages, just as I suspected.  And, as I know from experience, the phobia can become "contagious" from one dog to another.  I don't want the other dogs to learn from Mosby that thunderstorms are something to fear so we've become very quick to get him out of the kennel.
  Behaviorists can't pinpoint what the dog is reacting to--the lightning, the thunder, the wind blowing or the sound of rain on the roof.  Some dogs will start with their phobia symptoms well before the storm arrives.  This could be caused by the sudden drop in the air pressure, the electrical charge in the air, or with their acute sense of smell, the dog can detect the change in the air scent before the storm.
  Some dogs, especially those with long coats (and Mosby has lots of coat!) can feel the static electricity of a thunderstorm before it arrives.  The electricity in the air causes little shocks to the dog, which would be very disconcerting!  This theory I have experienced myself.
  I had Abby outside with me while I was gardening.  It was a beautiful morning, blue sky and no clouds.  Suddenly, Abby became frantic and ran to the back door, scratching to get in.  She was panting heavily and showing all the signs that a storm was near.  I was puzzled as the sky was clear and no storms were predicted.  But then, the hair on my arm stood up and the lightning rod on the radio tower started to crackle.  I looked up and a dark storm cloud was overhead.  Abby and I got inside just as the cloud burst and the rain started!
  Another theory in the July/Aug 2001 issue of Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association is that genetics plays a part.  Herding dogs are bred to react quickly to stimuli but not to be aggressive from it.  A collie could have a strong reaction to the startling noise of thunder and flash of lightning but repress their natural aggressive response, thus causing their anxiety.
  For Mosby, I think it's a combination of factors.  I'm sure the change in atmospheric pressure must bother his geriatric ears and with his abundant coat, must feel the static electricity.  I not only want him in the house to relieve him of his anxiety, but that the other dogs don't learn that storms are to be feared and start to react by association.
  In Mosby's case, being inside resolves the problem so exposure therapy to de-sensitize him would not be effective.  I'm hesitant to fix the loose spot in the kennel fence on the chance that we would not be home when a storm started and Mosby would harm himself trying to get out.
  During last night's storm, we had tree limbs blow down next to the kennel.  I found Lauren outside this morning, sleeping by the front gate.  She and Mosby share their kennel spot so she's either learned from him that storms are scary or is starting with her own phobia at 8 1/2 years old.  I'm glad she was safely able to get out of her kennel when she needed to but we won't take any chances from here on out.  Both Lauren and Mosby will be indoor dogs frequently, especially during this heat wave and the chance of sudden, severe storms!  Hopefully the other dogs won't become afraid of bad weather after last night.  They seemed quite nonplussed when I checked on them this morning but did seem disappointed that my early morning visit didn't include breakfast!

What a surprise when I opened the kennel door and found these tree limbs!
Ref and Gemma didn't seem to care that this was just outside their fence.

We were very fortunate that this fell next to the kennel and not on it! Only the top rail of the fence had minor damage.

This tree limb was on the play yard fence.  The dogs were content to stay in the kennel with their fan while David was busy with the chain saw!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Fat Balls

Earlier this year, we decided to not do any more shows until the fall, giving Ref and Jackson time to mature and develop.  Funny, how quickly plans change!
  One morning, I looked at Ref and he had seemingly changed overnight from a gangly, leggy boy to a male with more muscle and mature body.  I looked over at Jackson and his coat was blooming and he was standing with a nice arch to his neck and a beautiful expression on his face.  Hmmmm...should we reconsider our decision?  I barely broached the subject to David, who interrupted me to say, "have you noticed that Ref has put on weight"?  We decided to plan on entering a cluster of shows the first weekend of July, but on the caveat that Ref needed a bit more weight before the entry was due.
  I researched the internet to see if there was a better way to put pounds on a dog instead of just adding more food to his bowl.  That method usually leads to diarrhea, which seems to defeat the purpose of adding the food!  To my surprise, there are actual recipes for "Satin Balls" or "Fat Balls" to help in this situation.
  There were several variations, many involving cereal, which I didn't want Ref to have.  I chose this recipe:

10 pounds of uncooked, ground beef
10 ounces uncooked oatmeal
6 raw egg yolks
10 ounces wheat germ
10 ounces molasses

Mix well, roll into balls (I make meatball size), refrigerate enough for a few days and freeze the rest.

  I've been mixing one to two balls into Ref's dry food at each meal.  He loves it, of course!  Within a few days, he had put on the extra weight we wanted and I mailed in the entries.
  Jackson has some sixth sense about dog shows and started his old trick of not eating all of his meals once the entry had left the mailbox.  It's hard to maintain a good weight on him anyway, so now Jackson is on "fat balls".  I'm giving him more meatballs at each meal, using two to three, to basically coat his dry food so he eats it all.  I have a week, we'll have to see what happens!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Dinner

  David received a nice gift certificate for Father's Day from our oldest son and daughter in law so we ate out tonight!  MacDowell Brew Kitchen has outdoor seating, allows dogs there and I realized I needed to add to my blog list of dog friendly restaurants.  (this might need to be my summer project!)  We've eaten at this Leesburg restaurant before so we know the menu is great but took Ref along to judge the atmosphere for the canine contingent.
  Ref had a great time!  The outdoor dining is beach themed--sand, tropical plants, wooden tables, music and a play area for kids.  Ref enjoyed the attention from the restaurant staff and fellow diners.  He watched the little ones play in the sand, snuffled in the sand himself, then laid under the table while we ate.  I tried to share my fish and chips with him, but Ref didn't care for anything but the fish (although he did seem interested in trying David's beer!).
  It's always fun to take one of the smooth coats out and hear the various guesses from people as to what breed of dog we have.  Tonight was a new one--a man thought Ref was part beagle!  We're always quick to let people know that a smooth coat collie is a terrific breed and let them pet the dog so they can experience some collie love.  We held up traffic in the parking lot as one group spent so much time petting Ref and asking questions about smooth collies.  I think at least one person in that group will want to add a collie to their home!
Ref got a sandy nose from snuffling so much!

Surveying the dining area.

I shared my fish and chips but Ref didn't like the batter.  He only ate the fish!

Relaxing in the shade of the table.

A Rhodesian Ridgeback came out for dinner, too!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Jackson's Birthday

  Jackson is two years old today!  To celebrate, I made the Blue Blue Berry Berry Bun Buns from the Three Dog Bakery Cookbook.  It's a quick treat to make and the dogs really enjoy them.  I always seem to have the ingredients on hand, so it's my go-to recipe for doggy birthdays!
  Today is overcast with rain showers, so the birthday party was very low key.  I skipped the birthday bath, probably to Jackson's delight, but he did get his nails filed and a good brushing. He was glad to get that part of his celebration out of the way!  Nails filing is not his favorite thing.
  We had quality time together after his brushing and then I let him in the yard for a short run.  Jackson didn't want to run and only explored for a bit before acting like he wanted to go back into the kennel.  Yesterday, I gave him a big beef knuckle bone and he had been chewing on that before I brought him into the house for his brushing.  All that gnawing must have worn him out--but his teeth are gleaming!
The muffins cooling before the "party"

Jackson after his brushing.  Poor lighting in the room  but his sweet expression still comes through!

Starting on his muffins.

Strolling the yard.

Jackson posed for me and let me get a couple good shots!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


  I received two nice e-mails last week with updates on Bijou and Tiriel (Treasure)!
  Bijou is doing great and has completely adjusted to her new home.  She loves her children, plays with them and is a full member of the family.
  Tiriel is also doing well.  She "guards" the yard from deer invasions, enjoys going to the dog park and has completed her first obedience course. (an "A" student, of course!)
  Tiriel has also learned the enjoyment of the couch, or maybe she just wants to be a lap dog!  Christine wrote, "she just started this two days ago - and Al was on the sofa when she first did it.  She starts by jumping up with her front paws to give you a "hug" and nibble on your head.  Then she gradually climbs on up and just smiles.  We both agree that we shouldn't let her get away with this, but she's just so darn cute that we haven't had the heart to correct her yet".

Thursday, June 7, 2012


  Last Friday, June 1, we said good-bye to Sophie.  Her final days were a rapid slide of physical abilities.  We had to help her get up, help her gain her balance and when she walked outside, would lean against our legs to help steady herself.  Even at that, she would fall frequently while she was walking.  Her appetite decreased, too--although she still liked her evening treats!  We started to add treats to her food bowl to entice her to eat.  Sophie would pick the treats out and leave the kibble, sometimes going for a day and a half before eating a full meal.   By Friday, the expression in Sophie's eyes told me that she was not enjoying life anymore.  As painful as the decision was, I had to do what was best for our girl.
  The vet thought Sophie had an age related brain tumor, which caused the balance issues.  I had been researching her symptoms on the internet and wasn't surprised by the diagnosis.  Dr. Robbins offered the option of treating Sophie with steroids, which would mask the symptoms, improve the quality of her life, but only for a short time.  I couldn't see making Sophie go through the physical decline again, just so we could keep her for another week or so.  As I held her for her shot, the vet asked if I was ready.  I started to say "no," as I'm never ready to part with one of our animals.  But, I always have to accept what is needed for them so I nodded my head.
  Sophie was the first dog that I picked from a litter to be a show dog.  The stud's owner came to evaluate the litter and asked who I thought was the best. When I said Sophie, and Deanna told me I was correct, it was the greatest feeling!  A few years later, when I worked with Sophie, Ben and Mosby in a handler's class, a long time collie/sheltie breeder told me that Sophie was the best of the three.  She thought I should be concentrating on getting Sophie's championship.
  However, Sophie didn't like to show.  It took a long time just to get her to tolerate car rides without getting nervous and car sick.  Someone told me Sophie was just a country girl who wanted to be home!  We tried her in the ring, anyway.  Mid way through her very short show career, she adjusted to traveling and got her first point on February 15, 2004.  We changed handlers soon after that and though Ellen worked very hard with Sophie, it was pretty clear that it was an uphill battle.  We decided to give Sophie about ten shows to change her mind.  Some shows Sophie would have a bit of a spark but when we saw her in the ring at her second to last show, she looked absolutely miserable!  We decided enough was enough but for some reason decided to keep Sophie in her last show on May 17 (our wedding anniversary).  She must have known that she was coming home after that as Ellen said Sophie walked in the ring a different dog!  She was confident, held herself proudly and won Winners Bitch, Best of Winners and Best of Opposite Sex!  What an anniversary gift she gave us!  It was tempting to keep showing Sophie as the judge loved her and she received many compliments from ringside.  However, a deal was a deal and we brought Sophie home, content that she had finished on top!
Sophie at the start of her show career.

Sophie's second and final win.