Discussing dog breeds, dog-adoption, and the human-canine connection.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Halloween: What Will Your Dog Wear?

Yoda Pug

For those of you who don't share my family's view that Halloween is one of the great holidays of the year (hey, free candy) it might seem a little premature to be discussing All Hallows eve. It is only a handful of days a year, however, when a person can legitimately consider dressing their dogs up for a reason.

And I've been noticing lately, that some people really enjoy dressing their dogs up, so having a totally, socially legit reason for doing so...well, you need to plan ahead. With just about a month until the big day if you should suddenly feel inspired you still have time to start sewing - or ordering - to costume your canine friend appropriately.

The baby Gracie

I will confess, I'm not usually a dog dresser upper. However,  Gracie was about 4 months old the first time Halloween rolled around in her young life and -- with a certain amount of encouragement from my young nephews -- I did in fact try to costume her for the event.

At this point I would like to be able to show you a picture of little Gracie in her costume. In fact, it didn't go so well. Even as we were dressing her, she was ripping the costume into pieces. The adorable pirate costume didn't last long enough for even one picture, not that she was still long enough for a picture. She was too busy knocking her pirate hat off so that it could meet its untimely demise.

She did look really adorable for a few seconds -- and my nephews loved the hat and the faux weaponry in the belt. Gracie decided I think though, that if she allowed herself to be dressed on that occasion she would be setting a precedent that she did not want to live with. Better to nip-it-in-the-bud.

The majority of costumes do seem to be designed for the smaller, apparently more accepting of their fate, breeds of dogs.  Or perhaps there are more small dog owners who will take the time to dress their dogs. Not sure which came first actually...the availability of small dog costumes of the willingness of small dog owners to dress their canine friends for success.

In fact, I've visited some sites where people who live with larger canines have complained that they can't find costumes to fit their large dogs. I've noticed though that a lot of people are ready to rise to the challenge and make their own costumes for the dogs in their lives.

I almost wonder what would happen if we could take some of this creative talent and focus it on solving some of the world's bigger problems...like getting Donald Trump to be more creative in his attire. Just think what dog costume-creators could do with The Donald!

By the way, is anyone else noticing the correlation between owning a Pug and needing to dress it up? Apparently Pugs have not learned the Bull Terrier trick of destroying a costume on contact.
Although, I have recently benefited from some sharing of some appropriately festooned Bull Terriers; they like to dress up for fund raisers which I think is a worthy cause!

Badger, Dressed to Impress

And then of course, there are always days when one feels like dressing up a bit just for the fun of it.

Thanks for the photo shares Jess :-) 

So I'm wondering - who dresses up the dogs, who dresses up with the dogs, and any shares of costumed canine pictures welcome -

Remember - plan early before all the good dog Haloweed costume ideas are sucked out of the universe!

Ninja Bull Terrier - notice the use of a stuffie stand-in


Friday, September 23, 2011

English Bull Terriers Unite for Better Web Access!

Gracie online

Uh-oh. Gracie has been reading over my shoulder when I'm online and she's on the verge of discovering that other dogs have it a lot better than she does. I may be in trouble.

Turns out that approximately 6.8 million dog owners in North America are giving presents - even wrapping them - for their dogs. While my girls do get new toys throughout the year, I'm a little worried that their going to discover that some dogs are actually getting Christmas stockings, and wrapped gifts under the tree.

Or birthday parties - I don't do very well keeping track of birthdays - ask my brother. He gets a card maybe once every three years.

Where's my cake?

And it turns out there are much more devoted people companions out there that not only remember birthdays, but bake cakes and plan parties for their canine companions. If Gracie gets wind of this I will never hear the end of it!

I raised the wrapping presents subject on a site I visit, asking how many people wrap the presents they give their animal companions. That's when I found out that not only are a lot of people wrapping - they are cooking special meals.
Yikes! I sometimes share my food with the girls, but we're lucky if I cook at all in my house. Heating a bowl of instant oatmeal has been more my speed lately.

I can't imagine what is going to happen if, while reading over my shoulder, Gracie finds out there is a fellow canine out there getting bacon wrapped sausage on Christmas day! She already questions my household management.

It isn't just that Gracie is going to be disappointed to discover she isn't getting cake and sausage. There is the special apparel she doesn't get to wear - even when it is Bull Terrier themed.

In fact, I won't even let her pierce her ears.

There are the special events she does not get to attend.

And then, there are the sports I don't let her take part in.

Sadly for her, she owns neither a skate board or a surf board. The last board she had was a plain old 2 x 2 that she and Lil found on the ground and chewed the end off of.

 And to top it all off - she doesn't even have her own car - never mind a parking spot.

She's one of the un-cool kids who gets dropped off places. In the family vehcile. With her dorky younger sister hanging out the window (her older sister hides behind the seat, too embarrassed to be seen with any of us.)

There could be a list as long as Gracie's front forelimb of the perks, specialized foods, clothes, beds, outings...well, there is just a lot of stuff out there that she is not getting to take part in.

And that was okay in the old days!

Back before the world wide web was making all this information available, dogs like Gracie, who lived in rural areas, had no idea what they were missing in the world. Oh sure, if the country dog ever visited the city they might get called "bumpkin" but a respectable country dog could go their whole life and never step paw in the Big Apple or even downtown Moose Jaw.

Now though, just a few mouse clicks away, Gracie is able to find out about how other dogs are living.

How can my country girl compete with the fancy, fashion conscious pups whose people have much deeper pockets? When I see an outfit like this I think - wow - I bet that cost a week's worth of kibble!

So while the computer gives us lots of opportunities for learning about different cultures, and about how others live, and lots of other cool information, I can't help but think that I'm going to have to start putting parental controls in place to ensure Gracie doesn't spend too much time web surfing. I don't want her to think that she's missing anything important.

At this rate, I might even have to take away her cell phone....

And now it gets worse - in an attempt to inform Gracie about other special things she's missing, her new Bully friends Daisy and Badger sent her an email with  family pictures showing her the fun they get to have all the time!

Oh dear, if Gracie ever gets to Daisy and Badger's emails before me I'll really be in trouble.

Daisy eating ice cream and being watered by her personal water carrier - boy would Gracie like to have her own personal assistant to feed her ice cream and carry her water....

Badger apperantly doesn't get things as cushy as Daisy - he takes his vacations by mail.
And while Daisy gets the cushy spot on the couch he has to perch on the arm...poor, poor boy. His life is almost as hard as Gracie's :-)

Thanks for emailing guys - Gracie is glad to know she has friends out there who understand how hard she has it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Eating it Does Not Make it Edible.

I currently live with three dogs.

Jenny, the Collie, believes that only certain things are meant to be eaten. Unfortunately, dog food often does not fall into this category.

She likes "people food" but with her sensitive stomach and skin her food choices seldom agree with her.
 Her diet is largely made up of salmon based kibble. She would prefer a diet of bread, bacon, and gravy.

 Then there is Gracie, the English Bull Terrier and Lilith the Labrador. For these girls there is nothing they meet in life that lacks the potential to join the "food group." If it doesn't move too fast to get away, it can potentially be eaten. What I would like them to realize is that eating something does not make it edible, i.e. taking something into the mouth does not automatically make it food. In people there is a disorder called Pica, where a person is compelled to eat non-food items.
In dogs I think we just call this behavior stupid.

So far we've been lucky. And when I say lucky, I don't mean that I've always managed to catch them in the act. I mean that luckily we haven't so far had to rush to the vet for emergency surgery to remove a bowl obstruction.

Lil's bowl - before she started chewing the center out

I was reminded of how lucky we are when I was cleaning up after Lil this morning. Last night she apparently found and grabbed a few mouthfuls from the bag of clean rabbit bedding - compressed paper pellets, very dark grey in color. Sure, it might look a tiny bit like small dog kibble...I can't believe it tastes anything like it and it certainly doesn't smell like food. It smells like compressed paper!

A few weeks ago I was cleaning up after Gracie and figured out where the role of blue painter's tape I couldn't find had gotten to. Here's some trivia for you; blue painters tape, when chewed up, glues together and forms chunks like rubber. Which can be swallowed/eaten if you are so inclined. It can not, however, be digested.

I could in fact give you a list of things that Gracie and I have discovered cannot be digested - even if they can be eaten. Again, though, I'm just thankful that so far I've managed to keep the really dangerous stuff out of reach OR she hasn't tried to eat the stuff that could be dangerous that is in reach.

It is all well and good to "puppy proof" our houses however, we do reach a point where if you want to have anything -- I mean anything -- in your house, there is the possibility of a dog trying to eat it. Let's see if I can illustrate with some examples.

This link is not for the squeamish amongst you. Its a YouTube video of one of the more unbelievable cases I've heard of - a Boxer who managed to swallow an entire telescoping mop handle - whole.  Yeah, didn't chew it into pieces, just swallowed. Yuck.

What I find interesting is that my dogs have LOTS of dog appropriate things they could be chewing on. Instead, they seem to prefer the non-approved items.
Why chew a dog bone when you can destroy a paint brush?

If you're noticing a painting theme - I recently have spent numerous weekends in a row getting the outside of my house painted. I've had help from family and oh so much help from Gracie and Lil!
For example, we used some power tools - which meant having an electric extension chord outside. Thank goodness it was unplugged when Lil found it - one of my helpers left the unplugged chord in her pen. First she removed the end. Then she dismantled the removed end. Really helpful.

My biggest problem seems to be that I resist cloning technology which would allow me to have several copies of myself running around so that I could be doing what I'm trying to do and supervising my helpers all at the same time. Between my two girls and my family there was a lot of unsupervised activity going on; I was only ever in one place at a time. Most inefficient on my part. Basically asking the dogs to find some extra curricular chewing activities. And hey, once you've chewed it, why not try and swallow? Isn't that what food is - anything you swallow?

Can I taste that camera?

I expected Lil to like her groceries. I've never met a Labrador who wouldn't eat all the food they could get their mouth on. And I've known more than one Lab who has eaten to the point of getting sick - gotten sick - then gone back for me. Yeah, that's gross but that's also what I would consider 'typical Lab behavior.'

I just wish I could convince her to stick to her groceries and other dog appropriate chewing items. But most of all - I wish Lil and Gracie would quit eating things that aren't food!

Who knew that was such an outrageous expectation?

The only good news -- they don't appear to be food aggressive. They share everything, including the pieces of paint brush I caught them with two nights ago. They were making it kindling, but they were working together in a spirit of harmony. I guess that's something.

Honest warden, I thought that roll of tape was part of the chow line.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Where's My Dog's Otter Tail?

This is not an otter tail...

This is Lil

It is hard to get all of  Lil in one picture; either she's moving towards the camera or her tail is moving too fast to capture.

This is Lil's tail

This may sound a little harsh but sometimes, when I think about Lilith's tail, I cringe.

What a Lab is supposed to look like

A nice example in the show ring
According to the breed standard, one of the significant features of the Labrador is supposed to be the breed's "otter tail." The tail is a working component of a working breed. The Lab uses their tail to maneuver in water as they retrieve birds. The water is often cold, and choppy. The tail acts like a rudder for the dog as she swims. Remember, this breed originated in the sea off the coast of Newfoundland.

A proper Lab tail

Lil better stay off of rough seas.
Since there's nothing I like better than a nicely built Lab, I thought I would hit myself over the head with all the ways that Lil's tail doesn't measure up.

First, her tail is a little long, a little thin.
Long enough to curl over her back when she's really happy. Yikes! She's not a husky. Her tail is not supposed to curl up.

A proper Lab tail is short and thick and strong enough to keep it from happily curling up. The tail is supposed to be a blunt instrument of death with which a Lab can chop people down at the knee. They can knock small children over with their tail, break vases with their tail, chop kindling with their tail.

Lil's tail could practically be used for dental floss. It is light, thin, long. If it were about 3/4 of an inch shorter - naturally born - it would be a much better tail, a much more practical, useful, closer to breed standard tail.

A better imperfect tail (they aren't supposed to be fringed but at least it is thick)

So what happened to my Lab's otter tail? A few things I suspect.

I knowingly acquired a Lab from parents who were field trial champions, not crossed out very regularly to bench champions. Additionally, they were bred to hunt on land as well as in water. Lil's mom in particular is an American bred, upland game bird dog. She is a little longer in the leg and tail and works on land really well. But she passed on her imperfect tail to her daughter.

Also, I picked Lil for temperament over confirmation. Her sister Edith had better confirmation. But Edith was a bit of a crier. An out and out howler actually, who did not adapt as well to change as Lil did.
Honestly, Edith was suspicious of change, loud, and little closer to the timid end of the spectrum.
Even though she was a good looking girl, Edith's personality and I were not a good match.

Nitro Steel, Lil's dad

Of course, Lilith is still a baby.
Her dad, Nitro Steel, has a very nice tail and the chunkier build I like in a Lab.
So there's always hope that Lil's tail will fill out ... bwahahahaha. Who ever heard of a tail filling out?
She has about as much chance of the rest of her body shrinking a little. No, the best hope is that she'll grow a little more and her tail will look more proportionate to her length. It could happen.

Okay, it almost looks like a respectable tail in this picture

In the meantime I have a Lab with an imperfect tail.
For someone who is a little obsessive compulsive, it is something of a cross to bear - the Lab in my life does not have a proper otter tail.
Oh sure, I have a loving family, a job I like, reasons for getting up in the morning.

But OMG that tail!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lassie was average - for a Collie

Ask anyone who lives with a Collie and they will agree - Lassie was pretty average - for a Collie.  Collies in general, Rough or Smooth, are lovely companions, devoted to their families, willing to go anywhere and do almost anything with you.

Lassie and Timmy

Fortunately, most families do not have children like little Timmy, who every week could be counted on to find a new way to test Lassie's devotion and willingness to, yet once again, get an adult to come to Timmy's aid. Collies, developed as herding dogs, are usually content to transfer their loyalty to shepherding and protecting a flock of sheep, to a child or children. So if you have a small or large flock of children, a Collie will help you watch over them.

Mahagony Sable and White Rough Collie puppy

While Collie puppies are so adorable they practically hurt your eyes, this is a great breed to consider adopting as young adults, mature dogs, and seniors. Like really good wine and stinky cheese, Collies just get better with age.

I would argue that a Collie's training also improves with age. Unlike some breeds that are quick to pick up everything and also fall all over themselves to please people (okay, I am thinking of Retrievers here) Collies remind me of C students. They're willing to do the work, they may take a little longer to remember it than the A students, they are just as willing to leave class early and don't generally feel cheated out of their education if you let them play longer and work a little less - but over time what they learn sticks with them and can be counted on as a solid base of knowledge.

Jenny smiling; she is a Mahogany Sable and White Rough Collie

I adopted Jenny through a Collie rescue contact. Jenny had spent the first two years of her life as a show dog, a life she was not thrilled with. She came from a kennel where there were a number of same-age, same-gender Collies and the breeder didn't have time to campaign them all. Shortly after I adopted Jenny the breeder regretted her decision and would have taken Jenny back (I think she wanted me to consider a trade) - but I had been quick to spay Jenny. Thus Jenny was spared the life of a breeding kennel Collie, getting out younger than most potential breeding Collies do. I would however, just as happily adopt her today, now that she is age seven or eight, as I did back then (I never did get her papers, so I don't know her actual birthdate/year.)

Blue Merle, Tri-color, Sable and White Rough Collie puppies

Jenny has won over a number of people who were not previously Collie people; sometimes people just see hair and don't realize the great package that is inside the furry body.
Like most Collies, Jenny is gentle, reasonably obedient, a sweet soul who wants to get along with everyone and is willing to tolerate all other life forms. She likes children, herds cats, and provides warning when something is seriously out of place; she was the only animal I live with who bothered to wake me up when the neighbor's house caught on fire one night.

Smooth Tri-Colored Collie

Aside from being a fine looking canine, Collies do well as family members with all kinds of families. They can be calm with elderly and very small children. They can be active joggers, walkers, or agility dogs. They also look good sitting on the seat in your car, truck, or mini-van. They'll fit in a Mini-Cooper or look right at home in a Cadillac. A Collie can dress up any car, or make anyone look a little more rugged and willing to head into the outdoors.

Blue Merle Smooth Collie

Blue Merle Rough Collie

Collies will love everyone in the family. If you enjoy brushing then get a rough collie; enjoy less brushing,  then the same great temperament, and range of colors, are available in the smooth variety.

Ruby - the amazing Collie mix
 Collies are so great in fact, that even when they're mixed in with other breeds - like my friend Ruby - you still get a fantastic dog. If you prefer your Collies with a little something else mixed in, just check out Petfinder for your next potential family member. Ruby was adopted from a shelter.

Shelters, purebred rescues, private citizens rehoming -- all possible ways to locate your own wonderful Collie.

When I was growing up my childhood companion was adopted from a farm, a Collie-Border Collie mix. Champ always looked out for me (when he wasn't out patrolling the large route he had to make every morning) and he was a very patient listener. I could even cry into his fur, hug him around the neck, or complain about school - he was steadfast in his affection and support.

Tri-Colored Rough Collie
 Collies like to walk, they need some brushing, they don't shed any more than a Labrador in my opinion (actually, Jenny sheds less than Lil her little Lab sister), they will help with any herding chores you may have, and they will look good while doing so.

Jenny - again :-)

One does have to be a little more careful with the meds they are given - for example, many have an inherited predisposition to being poisoned by certain wormers/heartworm preventions - however there are alternatives available in the same locations you buy other heartworm prevention. (Check out MRD1 online - multiple drug resistance.) You can now have your Collie tested for MRD1.

Smooth Sable Collie

Finally, a little trivia for you.
Lassie, in TV and film, was always played by boys. The producers and trainers preferred the larger, fuller roughed male collies for theatrical purposes.
No wonder they always barked their heads off when anyone asked, "What is it girl?!"

As always, I welcome other people's stories about life with Collies, wonderful Collies they've met, favorite Lassie TV moment, pictures....

If you need assistance posting pictures, forward them to me at

TV's Lassie, little Timmy and parents

Favorite Lassie Spoof from Glossynews
"Upset: Lassie Leaves Timmy Down the Well"

From Glossynews Oct. 2010

"Through an interpreter (the Dog Whisperer), Lassie has informed local police the she has no plans to tell them which well Timmy is stuck in. The famous collie, who has saved the boy from multiple wells, caves, fires, storms, lions, wolves, bears, snakes, wells, collapsing buildings, and several other life threatening situations, has said that she has had enough."

Of course, this is only a spoof - Lassie never stopped saving Timmy.
Talk about patient, forgiving, and persistent.