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

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Schipperke: small shepherd, big personality


Typically long lived, usually healthy, very spunky, rather independent, and sometimes flat out stubborn - though now classified as a "Companion" breed, the Schipperke requires a certain sort of person to share their home, farm, or boat with.

One of several breeds of Belgium dogs breed out from an earlier breed (the Leauvenaar) Schipperkes share this ancestor with their larger cousin, the Belgium Groenendael. The modern breed may be mistaken for a relative of the Spitz or Pomeranian family due to their small sized, wedged shape head, perk ears,and bushy coat but their origins are as working shepherds who also guarded their masters on the way to and from market. Though now pint sized, the Schipperke retains: a willingness to protect their home and family; a suspicion of strangers; and a very large dog's attitude.


Some bloodlines are more prone to small prey drive than others but there is also a breed tendency to be good with animals they are raised with, very tolerant of children, and devoted to their own family. 


It's now believed the Schipperke is named for their shepherding origin; in the area of Belgium they are from their name translated as "little shepherd". Because they are such adaptable little dogs, willing to hunt rodents as well as guard property, they became popular as barge dogs, many people thus thinking their name was based on a translation of "little boatman." 


Barge owners, however, were not the only trades or crafts people to keep this dog and there is a legend that the first time a Schipperke's tail was cropped it was done by an angry shop owner who was tired of his neighbor's dog stealing things from him - so he chopped the dog's tail off. Of course, in Europe it is no longer allowed to crop dogs' tails and selective breeding does now result in some Schipperke being born tailless or with short tails. 

Wikipedia, Schipperkes circa 1897

Personally, I don't think the nickname or reputation of "little black devil" is deserved. These are feisty dogs but also very devoted to their people. Yes, they can be mischievous and stubborn but obviously I don't consider these devilish traits (I admittedly do live with a Bull Terrier and think the Schipperke would be easier for many people to live with). 


The Schipperke I've met have been spirited but manageable, an active breed that will grace the right family with many years of devoted companionship. Due to their small size, a brisk walk of 20 - 30 minutes and some play time inside meet the average Schipp's exercise needs; their compact size suits them to living in a range of environments.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas, Hanukah just around the corner!

I've been meaning to write a post about Schipperkes and today is once again not the day I will do that :-/  But I still have to post a brief update because Hanukah and Christmas are quickly going to be here. I'm sure the fact that seasons seem to be going more quickly every year has nothing to do with the fact I'm aging, right?

My latest questionable choice has been to sign up to do my first craft show and it will be in a rather large venue (a dome) with hundreds of other crafters. I'm pretty sure this indicates that any slim hold I had on rationality has gone out the window.

I've made some new cards, some so new I don't have pictures of them yet to share.
I was also very pleased to be able to use a few photos taken by my 10 year old nephew, who is also thrilled to have his photos featured on some cards. (If anyone is interested in ordering a Hanukah or Christmas card, I'm having free shipping on greeting cards until after the craft shows....)

This picture is by young photographer C. Korhonen

I think he's going to be a phenomenal adult photographer because he's already great and he has years ahead of him to learn more!

As soon as I can carve out some time, I will post a real post, and not just a 'hi, how is everyone!' post.

Until then, Hi, how is everyone?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

My latest thing: I probably need stronger meds

"Christmas Kitty reminds us 'the greatest gift of all is peace on earth;
the second greatest gift is including the gift receipt with every present,
thus simplifying returns.' "

When I say I probably need stronger meds I'm making a sarcastic, or tongue in check reference to the fact that I am somewhat (okay, diagnosed) as living with among other things OCD and I've fallen back into an old obsession; photography.

But I've found a way to take it to a new level by combining my photos with my writing, my sometimes biting wit, and my desire to have something to focus on when the physical pain leads me to the point of wanting something 'outside myself' to concentrate on.

Thus was born: Chi Chi Salutations.
"We're racing to wish you Happy Holidays and a Joyful New Year"

Originally, the salutations were going to be all snarky and I was going to call them salutations with scorn.

It seems though, that there are still other aspects of my personality that want to come out too, so I caved into my better nature and developed some  "Loving Lil's cards", which say nice things.

And "Gentle Jenny's" which don't say anything at all but have nice clean, white stationary inserts so people can include their own thoughts, snarky or not. We've even created some boxed collections for those inclined to gift giving.

I use some dog and cat photos.
" A wise man once said:
"To avoid a look of surprised disappointment,
don't give a dreidel to someone hoping for a diamond."

I share these words of wisdom with you in the spirit of Hanukah."

"Love is like a rose.
It may look good from a distance
but up close it's full of thorns."

Lots of pictures of flowers from my gardens; sometimes with blank inserts and sometimes not.

Framed photo

I've also spent time in the local Quincy Mine Historical Park, taking photos of the shaft house, hoist house, and ruins.

Blank card

Ore car and rail ruins, shaft house

After the historical park, I had to start framing some of my photos, including making a few framed photo collages.

"To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under heaven."

After framing photos, the next compulsion was to combine some photos with lines of scripture that just seemed to fit.

So now, I have a new thing, an Etsy shop where I feature framed photos and photo cards: Etsy page
I haven't gotten into twitter, but I do have an older fashioned Facebook page: Facebook

I have already achieved the first goal of having something to think about besides my physical pain. I wouldn't mind some help spreading the word though, because I've just realized I'm running out of room to store all this stuff and I can't stop making it! I have new ideas, new photos ordered, new frames....and any money that comes in is already spent on keeping the dogs (and cats) in the style to which they want to remain accustomed. Those silly medical bills can't be allowed to put a dent in the kibble fund now, can they?

"When your birthday falls during the Holiday Season,
sometimes it can feel like people forget about you.

You don't have to wear antlers though, to get our attention;
 you're noteworthy just the way you are.

(Of course, if you do decide to wear antlers, be sure to share a selfie.)"
I've even made my sister's dog and cat pose for me, along with all my pups.
I'm sure they at least wished my arthritis hadn't kept me from going back to my other former hobby of crocheting ...but considering some of the crochet cat and dog costumes out there, they really wouldn't have been any better off. Chi Chi for example could totally rock a crochet fedora.

So if you know anyone who still uses old fashioned cards or who is looking for industrial, historical, or floral photos send them our way. We're generally in an accommodating mood, unless you're talking to Chi Chi, which is why he is not in charge of customer relations.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Good bye sweet Jeffie

We sadly woke to the news of Jeffie's passing (Run free dear Jeffie), shared by our mutual friend-blogger Carin at Dakota's Den. Sweet, darling Jeffie has passed.

Our heartfelt sympathy is with Sue, her husband, and with Rudy and Rosie, who now go on without much loved Jeffie.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Good thoughts for Jeffie

Copyright Talksing-dogs.com - http://www.talking-dogs.com/

Social media has opened a new range of possibilities and connections in the world. One of the many ways people now connect is through blogging; some of us follow blogs, some of us belong to groups that blog around particular themes. When one blogs around a theme that is shared with others, and belongs to a group that shares interests, one can actually form friendships with people one only typically meets online. Sometimes these online friendships have opportunities for in-person encounters, sometimes they do not.

My Sue made jewels - http://www.forloveofadog.com/
One of the members of an online community I belong to, someone who has become my friend in virtual space, is going through a terrible time. Many who read this will know her; even those who do not know her and share our interest in dogs will want to stop by and wish her well I'm sure.

Sue writes over at Talking Dogs Blog: (http://www.talking-dogs.com/) and sells her amazing jewelry at For Love of a Dog: (http://www.forloveofadog.com/)
I personally cherish a necklace and earrings that Sue made, they're really lovely.

Sue's current crew includes Jeffie, Rudy, and Rosie. Recently Jeffie has become very ill, and vets are struggling to figure out why. Jeffie is the senior dog in Sue's home, a sweetie who has always gotten along with the world. Today, our thoughts are completely with Sue, her husband, and her furkids, especially Jeffie.
Rudy is Jeffie's dog and Rosie's much loved oldest brother.
If wishes and prayers can help, then Jeffie will soon be well.

Stay strong friends.

Copyright Talking-dogs.com - http://www.talking-dogs.com/

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

COPD in dogs II: Life can go on; adjustments that help

This is the face of an old dog with COPD.
This is the face of a dog who has been living with COPD for about two years.

This is a face belonging to a dog who has just eaten a biscuit, something she still finds tremendous pleasure in doing. And as a measure of how much liveliness is still housed in her aging body, each time I pressed the camera button to take the picture, the old face that had been looking directly into the lens moved in the time it took the aperture to snap. She was very hopeful that another biscuit was going to appear in her immediate area.

Yes, she does have a specially purchased, orthopedic bed.
No, she doesn't use it; she prefers to make her own bed out of dirty laundry. Being the facilitator that I am, I now leave things waiting to be washed in a pile for her. She likes the pile placed near my closet, which does mean sometimes "clean" clothes are in reality just clothes that hung for a while before getting washed again...I will not be one whit happier though, when I no longer need to wash my clean clothes because they no longer have picked up a lot of collie hair waiting to be worn.

People comment that she looks old. Well folks, none of us are getting younger. I adopted Jenny at least 8 years ago and she was at least 2 - 3 then. Add to that the consideration that over two of those (approx.)11 years of living have included living with chronic breathing problems and I think the old girl is holding her own.

As those who have read this blog over time know, Jenny isn't the only member of the household to have had some health issues over the last few years. So I don't blog as often as I once did, however, much of our blog is meant to be a reference and is used by such by readers who are searching for particular topics.

On occasion I will be contacted by someone who has come across my first posting about COPD in dogs, someone looking for information because their own dog is recently diagnosed with the disease; the pain and concern they feel is palpable and familiar. Recently when responding to one such reader, I realized that after 2 years of living with this, Jenny is an icon of hope, a reminder that the diagnosis is a caution, but not one that should result in total despair.

Some of what we've learned (warning, there are a few gross details in what follows):

  • there will be good days and bad
  • bad days will include hard sneezes that break tiny blood vessels, resulting in very concerning looking blood tinged mucus
  • good days will include sneezes that shoot out a stream of 'regular' mucus
  • you will get used to looking at mucus and judging relative health by it
  • it's handy to keep facial tissues or soft toilet tissue in every room your dog visits
  • and always carry a few tissues in your pocket
  • walks become slower
  • there's more time to admire the scenery when you walk
  • your canine friend will need an increased amount of sleep
  • your sleep will sometimes be troubled, when you worry over raspy breathing
  • your dog will sometimes sleep better than you do
  • mucus in, mucus out - sometimes stool is affected
Window AC unit


We live near Lake Superior; our area is muggy in summer, dry in winter. Summer we run an air conditioner for dehumidifying, winter we run a humidifier to add moisture to the air. On cool, clear days Jenny enjoys laying out on the lawn.

Those who live with COPD require more calories to breath. Higher protein, higher fiber, moderate carb kibble helps provide the energy without too much fat. Jenny's experimented with a few foods and we're about to try a kibble marketed as 'puppy' food for the protein/fiber/carb balance. We'll update if that works. Unfortunately, Miss Jenny has a sometimes sensitive system, so there's no guarantee this food will agree with her - she and I have both adapted to trial and error in finding what works.

Speaking of what does work: the medicine we've found the most relief from is an over the counter mucus reducer. We've used both the brand name Mucinex DM and the generic equivalent (look for the DM which a vet suggested I think of as 'dog medicine'.) We don't use it every day, we do use it when Jenny seems to be producing more mucus than 'normal' for her. I think seasonal allergens play a role in how much she is producing.

The other night after dark, it was cold and clear and Jenny and I were both a bit sore but wanting a walk. The stars were out and bright. We strolled down the street, I with my cane, no leash required. We paused a few times to smell things. We may not be moving as fast as we once did but we had a nice walk, we enjoyed ourselves, and we will continue to do so for some time yet.

COPD is an adjustment. It isn't a death sentence.
Please remember this if a dog you love is diagnosed as living with it.

Might as well sleep...until I get more biscuits
or a walk.

I can't believe there isn't one more biscuit

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

National Dog Day: Does my Dog need a Dog?

The first added, and senior dog in my current family
 gets along with everyone
As dog people know, today is National Dog Day. Seems like a good time to answer a question I sometimes get asked about keeping dogs with dogs, i.e. "Would my dog be happier with another dog in the house?"

The answer to this question depends on:
a) one's dog
b) the second dog that is introduced into the home.

The second added, now middle aged dog
who has a dominant personality

But first let's acknowledge that generally speaking, dogs are pack animals who require social interaction with pack members not just to be happy and healthy, but to understand their own place in the world. The dog brain is wired in such a way that dogs want to understand their position in the world in relation to the other members of their pack. Some dogs are naturally submissive, some naturally dominant, and many will show varying degrees of submission or dominance based on who else is in their pack. If the pack changes, then so can the amount of submission or dominance a dog displays.

The third added, youngest, largest dog in our family
likes her family better than outsiders

My own home has recently been an example of what happens when two dogs with dominant personalities clash. Unfortunately, there was nothing equal about this clash and the much smaller dog now realizes that despite his natural urge to be in charge, that isn't going to work with a similarly tempered dog who is over five times his size. In the dog world might does make right.

The last added, 2nd senior, and would be boss
of the dogs - if the spot weren't already taken

Also worth noting; domesticated dogs perceive their packs to be made up of both the other animals and people in their world. Humans have rank in the pack and optimally, a level headed human will be the pack leader; when the dog holds the alpha spot in the family this generally results in behavior problems.

That's the long way around saying there are several things to consider when deciding if another dog will fit into your home:
  • How much socialization, time, play, attention do you give your dog? If your dog has a lot of one on one time with you, they may not care about having another dog around outside of playdates. Conversely, ignoring and neglecting a second dog doesn't improve anyone's quality of life. 
  • Does your dog appear to like other dogs? Have you ever hosted other dogs as overnight guests for at least several nights? Did your dog enjoy this or become annoyed at having to share?
  • Is your dog adopted from a situation where they are used to being in other dogs' company? When a mature dog or older puppy has spent their life with other dogs always around, they may find it difficult to adapt to being an only dog. Some dogs however, revel in finally having a person's undivided attention. (In our home, Jenny having been raised in a pack-kennel environment, was uncomfortable being an only dog.)
  • Do you as a dog handler have experience training and caring for more than one dog? If not, then consider working with an experienced trainer both in evaluating the dog you currently live with and any future dog you consider adding to the family.
Dogs equal in play needs but different in dominant tendencies
work well together
For those considering a second dog for the sake of the first dog, begin by evaluating if the first dog actually enjoys spending time with other dog's in their territory and space. If dog #1 is cool with others, then be practical about finding a #2 dog that is also cool with other dogs. Adopting a dog from a rescue staffed by people who can give you reliable information about how the dog does with others, is a good way to find the right dog #2.

Many of us, however, end up with second, or third dog not necessarily because of dog #1's needs, but because we ourselves discover another dog we would like to live with. That of course becomes a whole new can of worms, because dog #2 or #3 may or may not fit smoothly in.

In closing I would also suggest that in part choosing to have a single dog, or choosing to have multiple dogs is in many ways a personal choice, like having a favorite ice cream flavor or choosing to have one children or several children...not just that children are like ice cream and dogs, but one's personal preference plays a role in what one is comfortable with. Some people just aren't multiple dog people and some of us just aren't single dog people.

Thank goodness our dogs tend to be more flexible than we humans sometimes are.

For those who follow this blog and realize the turmoil our home was in for a while, I will add that things have settled down - which means the new protocols we implemented have worked. Gracie isn't allowed upstairs, when she's in she's tethered in the living room. She gets to cuddle up next to me on the couch when I'm writing, but at night she's crated and Chi Chi sleeps in bed with me. Everyone seems satisfied, happy, and healthy now and there is no longer a palpable tension when dogs do see each other. A big part of this settling was me stepping back up as a clearer expectation setter and more alert leader, who is quick to reinforce boundaries.

Thank you to everyone for the well wishes and support :-)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Behavior Modification or Time to Rehome?

This past week has been a slice of h*ll.
Between my health, including a very negative physical reaction to a new medicine, topped off by people and dog guests, the routine and peace of our home took a big hit. Normally I wouldn't mind that. But as they say, crap trickles down. Gracie has become even more protective of me. This week she started guarding me from the other dogs in the house and when she and the Chi man had a disagreement about this, the poor little Chihuahua got bitten in the face.

As if that were not bad enough, Gracie seems to have decided that the Chihuahua should no longer live here. Of course, that isn't her choice to make. And now I have to step up my game to remind her that I decide who lives here and who doesn't and the tone and limits of behavior. My extended family is worried that this is too much stress for me, given my ongoing health issues. I've waivered.

This morning I had a mini-epiphany.
Before I get to my insight though, I thought it would be a good idea to review the differences between times when a dog is in need of behavior modification/further training and when a dog may need to be rehomed.


First let us also clarify - some behavior isn't necessarily modifiable to a safe point. When a dog has a strong prey drive for example, that dog may never be totally trustworthy around smaller animals that make a sudden movement. I would argue that there is a difference between the instincts that are wired into a dog and the behaviors that a dog is trained for; some of the hardwired stuff is difficult to train around and some of the hardwired stuff may always come out, no matter the level of training a dog has.


There can also be a conflict between a dog's natural personality and training. Regardless of their respective levels of training, a nervous dog who lacks confidence is going to be more reactive than is a confident dog, or a mellow dog. If one ends up with a dog whose personality doesn't fit into their living environment, then even training may not make the fit between dog and human a good one. I've seen this with dogs who were too dominant for their handlers, and dogs who were overwhelmed by handlers who were too dominating for a gentler spirited animal.

Now let's turn to Gracie as an exemplar of where the line might be between training and rehoming.
Gracie has a strong personality, which is actually one of the things I love about her. Early on I recognized that one of my weakness as a dog handler is my low tolerance for dogs that tend to cower. While I can work with them in short bursts, it takes a lot more of my energy to be the low key, quiet person they need. I'm much more comfortable dealing with stubborn dogs than with dogs who flop over on their backs the minute one looks at them. Personality wise then, Gracie and I work.

Next to consider is prey drive, since the 'issue' in our home isn't just how Gracie and I get along but how she does with other animals. Gracie has moderate prey drive. All terriers do. It was bred into them, as all the terrier breeds were designed to hunt something, and some were then bred to be more aggressive in an attempt to get them to fight each other; prey drive varies by breeds generally and individual dogs specifically. Gracie's prey drive, for example, is much lower than her 1/2 sister's was. I discovered this when we temporarily fostered her sister, who would have happily killed our pet rabbit, while Gracie was content to gently sniff noses with the rabbit.

If Gracie had a very strong prey drive, my concern would be that she sees the Chihuahua as an item of prey and that she was going to kill him if she had an opportunity. There actually is a difference between a dog fight where the smaller dog gets hurt, and a dog who starts out with the intent to kill. If one is living with a dog who will kill, then one should not attempt to keep what that dog views as prey, as a pet. That isn't fair to the other pet; not only are you placing them in danger but you're also placing them under stress. Animals have a pretty good sense of when a predator is eyeing them up and that's a harsh way to live.

I've had two large concerns over the last few days: 1) Gracie was creating too much tension and fear for the senior dogs in the house, 2) Gracie was too worried about me to enjoy her own life and was becoming a tense ball of growing aggression.

Confession - I am seriously considering if Gracie would be calmer and happier as an only dog in another home. I'm also considering: would the senior dogs in our house be safer and calmer if she left?

Even while one considers though, one must live in the moment with the dogs under one's roof and care. So while I've posted an ad to tentatively explore rehoming Gracie, I've also adopted new training and handling routines. Gracie is learning to wear a basket muzzle while sitting quietly, not because she will need to wear one often but because she needs to remember that other animals can be around without her reacting to them.

 She is on a leash which I hold when she isn't in her crate or outdoor run. This reminds Gracie that I'm in charge, that she is to look to me before acting, while also requiring her to move when I move. This disrupts her pattern of deciding when she will nap and when she will charge around the house watching out the windows, or deciding who should be allowed or excluded from the room.

She is no longer allowed upstairs - that is the senior dog zone. This is not a ghetto for seniors; they still come downstairs regularly, but they also have entire rooms to hang out in where Gracie isn't allowed. Jenny's favorite room is actually upstairs and now Gracie can't interupt her long peaceful naps there.
At the same time, when I decide to sit down and work on my laptop, Gracie can either be in her run, or on the couch next to me - no more independent wandering around the house. And just the two of us take walks, as her energy level is different from the other dogs and I want her to keep moving, not casually strolling, or stopping to sniff a lot.

In fact, it was early this morning that my mini-epiphany struck me. The rest of our quiet little village still seemed to be asleep, as we walked down the middle of the side street we live on and Gracie bounced happily along watching the world. Then she began grumbling and snorting as a single other person crossed the street behind us. Gracie looked a bit funny, walking sideways, snorting and moaning but she didn't bark or growl, and continued on with me. The other walker and I both smiled at how silly she seemed. Right about then, I realized I hadn't actually been for a walk in the past few days. I hadn't realized how much I had started to let my physical discomfort and weariness draw the edges of my world in.

The other dogs enjoy strolls but Gracie benefits from a brisk walk. Actually, it's almost a fast march. The other dogs are fairly easy going, low maintenance. Gracie is not. Or when she is allowed to 'fly under the radar' too long, she seems more likely to act out. Chi chi and Jenny both have medical concerns and are aging rapidly. Gracie is healthy and likely at the midpoint of her life. She has years left and they can be good or bad, pleasant or not. Gracie is not a simple dog to live with but we understand each other. That's when I realized: I need Gracie because Gracie needs me.

  • Gracie needs me to get up and walk her and I won't get up and walk unless someone needs me to; it's too uncomfortable so otherwise I will put it off. Her need motivates me, my own does not.
  • Gracie needs me to remember to take my medicine so I can function well; I was drifting towards indifference, tired of the side effects but now I'm reminded how important attention to these details are. 
  • Gracie needs me to be alert so that she doesn't have to be so vigilant. When I slack she's eager to help and she can't be left to her own devices in running our household.
  • In the wrong home Gracie could be a bully or bullied. She needs me to provide the balance that both keeps her in line but also recognizes how sensitive she is. 

Gracie needs me and that is what I need right now, that is really what I've always thrived on, a dog that saves me by allowing me to feel that I'm saving them.

Saved by dogs - funny how after all these years I'm yet again reminded why I chose that title for this blog.