Monday, August 20, 2012

A Pretty Good Life

  My husband changed jobs in May.  He's much happier in his new job, however, the pay isn't quite as much as his old job.  I'd rather he be happy over money, but it will put a pinch on dog showing so I've been looking for a part time job.  I'm not looking for a new career, benefits or a lot of hours, just something flexible so I can have week-ends off when needed.  Apparently, that's a tall order!  I've inquired/applied for several jobs but only four have led to interviews or some type of follow up and I haven't been hired yet.  I'm trying to not let this bother my ego!  In my former life, I managed the circulation department for a public library and now I'm applying for entry level jobs.  I'm sure when hiring personnel see my resume that they consider me over qualified and think I won't stay in the position for very long.  I'm also competing with much younger applicants who don't have husband, household and dog obligations.
  Last week, I had a working interview for a kennel assistant.  I thought this would be an ideal job as I could do it early in the morning, be with dogs and I'm certainly accustomed to scooping poop!  It was an eye opening experience.  Within a few minutes, I decided it was not the position for me.  The work itself was fine, but the facility and atmosphere was not.
  Of course, I was the oldest one so I didn't think the other assistants would want someone old enough to be their mother joining them!  I pretty much worked solo, cleaning and disinfecting the crates.  When it was time for group play, I played with the dogs while they checked their phone and texted.  I thought the staff and other applicants would be vet tech students, junior dog handlers or dog lovers but no.  One person said she didn't even have dogs, she thought they were a lot of work!
  What I really didn't like was the facility.  I'm fairly familiar with the county code on kennels and of course the facility would have been inspected before being allowed to open.  However, the crates and outdoor area all seemed to be of minimum size allowed.  If the dogs didn't get group play, they stayed in their crates all day and exercise was going to the other side of their run to relieve themselves.  One poor dog appears to have been abandoned by its owner.  He's been there for over a month, never gets walked, brushed or pet by the staff.
  The group play is letting the dogs in a yard for fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes in the afternoon.  There was only one toy in the yard for them.  Inside, the dogs only have toys if their owners bring them from home.
  The facility itself was immaculate, twice daily cleaning of crates and runs, bowls washed after every meal and bedding washed daily.  But the bedding was flimsy, many of the mats full of holes.  If a dog had a water bucket instead of a bowl, that indicated they would chew their bedding and couldn't have a mat.  They had to sleep on the concrete floor, not that the bedding made it much softer.
  Other than playtime for the lucky few, there wasn't much else to stimulate the dogs.  The staff didn't seem to pet the dogs much when they were being fed, no radio, no toys.  As I worked, I kept thinking about my own dogs and the life they have.
  While I don't have concrete runs so I don't hose down the kennel twice a day, I still spend a lot of time outside.  Their indoor kennels and outside runs are at least twice the size of county code.  The indoor kennels are lined with  rubber mats and have a cot if the dog will use it instead of treating it like a giant chew toy.  Everybody gets a good morning hug and kiss when they get breakfast.  More hugs and kisses when I clean their run or a little bit of playing if they are in the mood.  Each dog gets a misting and brushing when I pick up their bowls.  When the weather is nice, they have their group play--but it's all day long!  Their play yards have a lot of toys and they also have the stimulation of watching the horses at an adjacent farm, joggers, bikers or the wildlife.  All in all, a pretty good life!
  I didn't get the kennel assistant position but I knew that day I wouldn't accept it if it was offered.  Even though most of the dogs were there for boarding and would be home after their owners' vacations, I felt it was a routine that was very foreign to them.  I wondered what my dogs would think if they suddenly went to a kennel for a week (not that we could afford boarding for that many dogs!).
  I know the general perception is that our dog are "kennel dogs" because they are housed outside.  People think they don't get much attention or interaction with us but that isn't true at all.  Our dogs pretty much dictate to us our schedules, vacations and now employment.  If I had taken that job, or something like it, it will impact my dog time too much.  And, we can't have something like that!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Individual Personalities

  Last week, we had our gutters cleaned.  After the crew was finished, one asked if he could visit the dogs.  Of course I said yes and gave him a tour.  As I introduced him to each of the dogs, he commented that I knew each by name and seemed very surprised about it!
  I know many people perceive those of us with multiple dogs to consider them a business and are surprised that we love our dogs with the same intensity that they have for their one house dog.  For us, the kennel is a practical way to house the collies.  I can't imagine what our house would look like if we had nine large dogs running through it all the time!
  I'm equally baffled though, by people who are surprised that I can tell the dogs apart.  I've heard that comment ever since we had more than one dog.  Besides the obvious differences--coat color, coat length, markings--each dog has distinct personalities and quirks.
  For instance, Jackson won't eat until he's had his "love fest".  He practically quivers as I'm distributing the food bowls, then races outside to greet me at his gate as he's the first to have his kennel cleaned.  He greets me as if I haven't just seen him and given him his hug.  He leans against my leg, his head and ears get a thorough scratching, then he walks with me while I clean his kennel.  He watches me as I clean the next kennel, and only after that goes inside to eat.
  His grandmother, Lauren, is the opposite.  Meal time is the best time of day for her and nothing will stop her from getting to her bowl!  She jumps up and down in anticipation of eating, sometimes so high I'm afraid she'll go over the gate!  Lauren doesn't even notice when I scratch her back as she eats, her enjoyment of breakfast or dinner is so great.
  Lauren is also our "town crier".  I said she was a tattle-tale but our handler had the more flattering term for her.  She lets us know when deer are in the yard (sometimes waaaaay back in the yard but she thinks it's important to let us know), when one of the dogs is mis-behaving or she thinks breakfast is late.
  Phoebe and Claire also enjoy their meals and do a synchronized jump as I give them their bowls.  They are not as athletic as Lauren and don't jump as high.  Phoebe likes to conserve her energy and will find her bed as soon as she finishes eating.  Her biggest pet peeve is cats.  She doesn't like them at all, objecting to the semi-feral cat that visits us or the house cats that are peacefully sleeping by the wood stove.
  Claire is quiet and can get overlooked when she's by her more dominant sister.  Phoebe pushes her aside for attention, the cot, the daily brushing and Claire readily gives way.  Usually, this works to Claire's advantage as we try to make up for it with extra hugs.
  Dixie is the opposite of her mother and aunt in many ways.  Besides being smooth, while they are rough coated, she can be hard headed and determined to have her way.  When I tell her "no, you can't nip at my shoes" she'll sneak behind me and nip my backside!  Dixie is very athletic and our only dog that likes to play fetch.  She will chase after a toy until my arm gets tired and is disappointed when I stop playing (which is when the nipping starts, I think she's trying to keep me playing).
  Mosby is the old man but doesn't realize it.  He thinks he's the pack leader but the girls put him in his place!  He pushes himself into any activity they are doing, often clumsily knocking into someone.  Sometimes, they gang up on him, knocking him down and rolling him about.  Mosby always gets back up, covered in leaves and grass clippings, sometimes a little stiff, then goes right back to whatever behavior earned him the put-down!  I often have to separate him from the others on play days as even I can see he's annoying, although he just wants to be part of the gang.
  Ref looks big and dominate, but he's a marshmallow.  He doesn't like Jackson or Mosby and will posture if they are near him.  When I call him out on it, he immediately flattens his ears and leans against my leg, with a "I don't really mean it" look on his face.  I call him my delicate flower as he refuses to leave his kennel when it rains.  Even on cloudy days, he stays inside, only poking his nose out and looking anxious as I clean his kennel.  If he does have to walk in the rain, he almost cringes, as if he expects the raindrops to weigh a ton!
  In looks, Gemma is a female version of Ref but her personality is completely different.  She can be most stubborn and dismissive of things she's not interested in.  It could be a toy or the show ring.  She's actually looked a judge up and down, gave like a "phhttt" sound, clearly decided he wasn't worth her time and that she was bored.  But when she wants something, I can practically see the wheels turning as she tries to figure out how to get it.  She has a very sweet face, which she uses to get me to relax my guard, then quickly tries to stick her nose in my pocket, grab the brush out of my hand, knock a water bottler off the grooming table...
  Gibson is the smartest one of the group.  He's a fast learner, picking up on how to do something after seeing it once or twice.  Unfortunately, he watches Gemma and can figure out how to accomplish whatever mischief she's attempting.
  While I try not to have favorites, Gibson is my special love, filling the space that Ben left.  Gibson is always sensitive to my moods, knowing when to act like a clown or when to snuggle.  He has expressive, brown eyes that look like melted chocolate.  Sometimes, I see him sitting in his yard, watching the house and of course I have to run outside to spend extra time with him.  But since I try not to play favorites, everyone ends up with a hug and a pet!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Doing Battle

  I know one reason why the dogs want out of the kennel---fleas!  We've been doing battle since the beginning of July.  My vet's office says this has been the worst summer for fleas that they have seen, and I can attest to that!
  I saw a few fleas on Ref when I was getting him ready for the shows in July.  I bathed him in a citrusy shampoo, which usual takes care of the stray flea or two that start to show up at the end of the Frontline cycle.  This time, it did nothing, and to my horror, I was finding more fleas on Ref at the show site.  A friend told me about Capstar, a great pill that kills all the fleas on a dog within half an hour.  I stopped at the vets on the way home that day and bought Capstar for all the dogs.  It worked!  But, unfortunately, it doesn't repel fleas so my problem came right back and worse.
  I gave the dogs their monthly Frontline but I was still finding fleas on the dogs and they were still scratching.  I tried treating the kennel yards with a spray but couldn't seem to completely eradicate those pests.
  Unfortunately, I came down with a summer cold that went into a sinus infection, knocking me out of commission for a couple of days.  Of course, that was all the fleas needed!  Just that fast, they were everywhere.  Dixie, Lauren and Phoebe started scratching so bad that they had bare patches on their legs.  I knew I had to draw up a battle plan!
  The weather cooperated that the dogs could be in the yards while I fought the war.  Over the course of two days, all the dogs got flea baths.  I closed up the windows and doors in the kennel, stuffed cracks with newspapers and flea bombed the building.  While the bombs were working inside, I sprayed the outside with a strong insecticide that we had bought from the farm supply store.  All the dog mats, towels and soft toys were washed in hot, hot water.  After the dogs came inside for their baths, I vacuumed the area rugs and every crevice of our downstairs, not wanting to transfer the flea problem to  our house.  At the end of the week, the dogs were due for their topical flea preventive but this time I used K-9 Advantix instead of Frontline.  Finally, the fleas were gone!
  I'm not saying we've won the war but I think we have the upper hand (although I say that with my fingers and toes crossed!).  One of my vets said that Frontline is just not effective this year and to keep up with the K-9 Advantix.  I'm glad to have Capstar in our arsenal now, too.  I can buy that through Amazon, which makes it much more affordable.
  I don't like that I had to use so many pesticides on and around the dogs to get rid of these fleas.  We had spread lime in the kennel in late spring in an attempt to not have fleas start.  I think next year we'll do that again, but as soon as the weather starts to warm, probably in March.  I also want to plant lavender, a natural repellant, around the kennel and play yards.  I'll need to stick with the K-9 Advantix applications, not all year, but start those in the spring, too, instead of early summer.  We have so much wildlife that come near and through the yards that I know I can never prevent fleas completely.
  It 's good to see the dogs comfortable again, even though we are still dealing with some 90+ degree days and August humidity.  I think they'd agree with me, though, that a killing frost would be welcome at any time!