Friday, December 31, 2010

Goals for a New Year!

I have had the last two weeks off, from work and University and it's been a great chance to stop, take some time to get caught up on sleep, crafting, dog training, family but mainly to do some reflecting. And, in the tradition of New Year's Resolutions, I know I want to set some goals for the New Year as it helps to focus my energy and drive.

I have lots of things whirling around in my mind, as I am pondering what I want to accomplish in the new year. Lots of them have to do with the dogs, but there are lots of personal goals too.

Personally speaking, I want to accomplish the following....
1. Finish my MEd. I could be done at Christmas, next year if I focus and get busy on my research. I only have one class left, then I am on to Thesis work and this is really, REALLY important to me.

2. Work. I need to make some serious decisions about work as I am finding my job to be a little more stressful than I thought possible,  this year. Yes, I am a teacher and I work with Special Needs kids which automatically makes it a difficult job, but I am finding that I am carrying more worry, related to the job than I really should be. So, I need to find ways to let it go or I am going to find myself ill. And, I guess I know I am on the verge of some changes, as I finish up my education and think about my PhD, so I need to figure out the next steps. Do I take a leave from my job next year to focus on my Thesis? Do I take a chance and leave teaching to do something else? It's unclear right now!

3. I need to focus on ME. I am busy, there is no question of that. But, in the midst of that busy life, I have forgotten to take care of some of the things I need to focus on: proper eating, cooking more, sleeping enough, not being such a stressball. So, in the spirit of taking care of me, I want to focus on my nutrition. I want to cook more from scratch and to actually savour and enjoy what I am eating. Hopefully along the way, I'll lose a pound of two as well!

4. Writing. I love to write. This blog is a bit of an outlet for me, but it's pretty raw and thrown together most of the time. I really do love working with words and I want to find some time and space to weave something together. I want to dust off my short story writing and get back to it. It's a big part of who I am, but I've lost it over the last while.

In terms of the dogs, I want to accomplish the following:
1. Spike: I want to actually get a Q in agility! I want to keep on trucking with the agility work and see where he can go! Specifically, I want to teach him directions; Switch with a left/right command. I also want to get his weaves and contacts even more reliable. I also want to work on teaching him some new tricks. I want to continue his therapy dog work and get him certified to work with children as well.

2. Sophie: I want to continue to improve Soph's health. She's happier than she's been in over a year; the sparkle is back! I want to continue to foster that. And, if we can manage to do some Obedience and Agility along the way, that's a bonus!!  I would love, LOVE to get her CD, in Obedience. Sophie is the reigning queen of tricks in this house and I want to continue to work her magic and learn a few new things.

3. Murphy: I want to do some basic obedience with her. She needs more attention and focus, so I figure if I can teach her some basics, maybe I can increase her capacity to focus and learn. As well, I want to continue with agility with her. She's got a LONG WAY to go before I can run her in a trial, but whatever... it's a fun journey training a terrier, right?  I also want to work on some trick training with this poochy of mine.

I have some big ideas of what I want to accomplish in 2011, and I have no idea if I have the ability to actually stick to it, but I know that if I don't spell it out for myself, I won't actually do anything. So, here goes to a new journey.... I have no idea where I'll find myself next fall, or really even next December 31st, but I can tell you this much, I'm hoping to enjoy the journey a whole lot more than I did in 2010. It wasn't an easy year, personally, but I feel like this is a chance to get myself back on track and loving the life I am creating. Here's to health, hope, happiness.  May you find the same things too!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Agility Woman

I HAD to share this one... so funny and perhaps a little bit true?!?

Getting back to normal (or some semblance thereof)

I'm back from my annual Christmas trek home to my parents place. I left Spike and Sophie behind, at Rebecca's and lugged Miss. Murphy with me so at least I'd have some company on the drive. I figured, she's small, how much trouble could she be?

The first day she showed everyone how much... I left her in her crate, while my mother and I went shopping. She was crying when I left and apparently never stopped. It got so mindnumbingly bad for my dad, he let her out of her crate. She insisted on running slightly neurotic laps around the house until it drove him even crazier. So, he attempted to recrate her, which Murph decided wouldn't be happening any time soon, thank you very much. He finally cornered her on their bed where she promptly peed when he reached for her. Sigh. Thank you Murphy, you've made a great impression. He unceremoniously locked her back in her crate, and he hunkered down to wait for my return. The rest of the trip was interesting to say the least; Murphy loved, LOVED playing with my mom's dogs. She spent hours wrestling with Buddy, the Bichon mix. But, when there were too many people around (which was often), she hunkered down under the table with a long cover on it, and hid. Or, worse, would bark from her safe space. I knew Murphy was shy, but this was way beyond what I expected, to be honest. It got so bad, actually by the last day I was there, she decided to stop eating even. Needless to say, she slept most of yesterday, but by last night was starting to bounce around like normal. This morning, she's truly back to normal, jumping around like a Jack, wrestling with Ben and chewing on a bone.

Spike and Sophie had a great time at Rebecca's. Sophie, for some reason insists on eating strange things and throwing up, without fail, the night before she returns home. Rebecca has grown used to this occurence at least and is never really worried about it; she knows all about the labby propensity for throwing up. They were both exhausted yesterday and slept a big chunk of the day as well. That's good, because I'm back on track today with getting Sophie back in shape; she has some serious fetch to play as she continues to rebuild muscle tone.

Ben trundled off to another kennel for the few days I was gone; Bec was full and Joanne had room for a large New Hope dog. Benny had fun, playing with lots of other dogs and continuing to learn about things like stairs and crates and the like.  He's a good dog, but not very food motivated at the moment, so is interesting to work with and teach. I picked him up yesterday and all is back to normal here. He goes for his neuter today, then I am not sure how many days I'll have him. The family he met liked him (if you like labs, there's nothing really here to not love!) so he'll leave for his trial as soon as he's recovered enough from his surgery. They have a very young child so whether Ben stays or not will totally depend on how gentle he is with her. The initial meeting was fantastic, but I keep thinking, I've barely had the boy at my house. Really, I feel like I am still getting to know him so until he goes on the trial and they see how he settles, we won't know.

Anyway, I love being on a complete break from work and school! It gives me time to hang out with the dogs, quilt (yes, all washed and it's starting to fray nicely. It's on my bed now), read books for me (as opposed to research!), even write a little. I am hoping to do some cooking and maybe even a bit of baking. I am a little dizzied by how fast the break is going and while I do enjoy routines, it's lovely to develop a different routine for a couple weeks. Ah well, before I know it, it'll be winter break.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Christmas Project Completed!

I made my first ever quilt last Christmas break and while I was TIRED by the end, I had fallen in love with quilting. So, when the opportunity came (and a great fabric sale!), I bought the fixin's to do my second which I started in February. I have not had the energy or focus to work on it because of work and school but it seemed a great chance to dig it out, and get it done! So, without further ado, I give you, my quiliting adventure, from start to finish!

Spike and Sophie help me lay it out! Thanks guys!!

All laid out and ready to go! I learned through the first experience it's WISE to take photos as you go, because both times, I referred back to early photos to make sure I was still on track.

Sophie approves of the brown and pink colour scheme.

Ahhh! Cozy for napping.

That's all I managed until this summer, when I did a few rows, but nothing really major. So, once Christmas began and I had the time and focus to work on it, I really got down to business. Here's how the rest progressed:

I sewed the quilt into rows of 12 to begin, then sewed the rows together into thirds. I find it easier to work with it this way. So, that's the first third.

This is the first half, all sewed together. It's 6 rows, by 12 rows.

Second half, before after sewing it together.

Somewhere towards the end of sewing rows into thirds, Murphy decided to cuddle up with the quilt in her way of helping.

The girls both curl up in the chair, next to me to "supervise" the progress. 

Yup, Sophie's keeping an eye on the hard work.

So is Murphy, all cuddled up in last Christmas' quilt project.

And, finally, here it is... my completed, 12X12 rag quilt. I still have to clip the edges and launder my quilt so it begins to fray, but all the sewing is DONE! 

Can't wait to start the next project... somehow, I've convinced my mom to give me her old quilting fabrics so I can try my hand at a "real" quilt; something other than a rag quilt. And, I have scraps from both quilt projects left over to make little quilts for the dogs for in their crates. Might as well use them for a project, right?? It should keep me going for the rest of the holiday, that's for sure.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Play in the yard

I did it. I overcame my fear of "what if?!?" and let Spike and Ben meet. Last night, Spike was allowed a careful, very fast, sneaky sniff as Ben was distracted by something else. No problem. Today, I took everyone out in the yard for a play.  Ben spent the whole time running after everyone. Sophie spent her time avoiding Murphy. Spike spent the time running circles around Ben, barking at him. Yup. it's a good thing Ben just goes with the flow or that could have gotten very ugly.  For now, Ben and Spike will have supervised plays in the yard, and maybe, MAYBE little sessions, both loose in the house. But, that's it. I have no trust for what Spike could potentially do to Benny.

In other news, Ben is meeting a family tonight! If he passes the "I love everyone, including toddlers" he may well have a home already! Cross fingers and paws folks, this boy deserves the best home possible. Poor boy can't go until his ear infection is cleared up as he can't be neutered until it's under control but it'd be nice to know he's moving on to a great family after Christmas. It's my new record for an application on a foster; he was up on petfinder less than 6 hours when the application came in! Way to go Benny, you deserve the best home ever!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Introducing Gentle Ben

Ben is starting to settle in around here. He's a bit of a mystery to me, as he won't eat at this point; he takes treats only but will not eat his kibble. I've never met a lab who wouldn't eat!! However, the poor boy is completely out of his element; he has been taught NOTHING in his short life. He doesn't sit or down on command. He didn't know how to do stairs until yesterday. He hadn't been in a car until 2 days ago. And he's a HUGE (76 pounds worth!) boy but sooo gentle.

It's a horrible pic, I know. He would NOT sit still during his photo shoot and since he can't even sit on command, this was a huge challenge to get anything of him!

Ben is hysterically funny; he bounces in front of me, with a big toothy grin, as if to say "I'm cute! Pet me!".  And he loves Soph already; they've been playing nicely in the yard together. That alone is shocking to me; Soph plays with him. They bounce in and out of play bows, then off to run and body slam each other. It's quite funny. He's even great with Murph! I have to be honest, I haven't introduced Spike yet because he's so big that if something went wrong, I don't know how I'd be able to intervene. That being said, I have no indicators that it would go badly, but I still worry.

Look at me! I'm cute!!  He WAS looking at me directly with his toothy grin but silly boy bounced and moved his head as the photo snapped, LOL

In any case, he's beautiful! He might be a big, black boy, but someone is going to get an gentle giant in this dog. He's truly got a beautiful temperament! If he wasn't soooo darned big, he'd be staying here for sure!

Don't move, don't move! Shoot, you moved. It's blurry now! Sigh.

Pretty boy! I have to get some photos of him with Sophie to show the size difference. She looks dainty next to him!

Smile, Ben!

Oh, wiggle bum! That would have been a great photo, silly boy!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

So I didn't get puppies, I got Ben instead....

Alright, it's true. My labby loving heart nearly broke two days ago when the call came for a purebred, Black Lab boy to come into New Hope. He's 15 months old and a gentle soul but his owner, (who also was his breeder) decided that he was a bother as he was trying to move to Ontario, after splitting up with his wife. Said owner never even gave him a name, he just called him Boy. So, I broke down and brought Gentle Ben home. He's a big, blocky lab and is quite a pretty boy. He's laid back and sweet; wanting to hang out and learn about living in a house with lots of attention. Poor boy goes to the vet for his shots this afternoon and to discuss neutering (let me tell you, that has to happen SOON!)  He'll also be getting a bath today as he smells like cigarette smoke. I'm happy we could help this poor boy out; if he'd gone to the SPCA, there's no telling what would have happened. Yes, he's all lab and sweet, but he's scared and not showing himself well. He's really submissive and laid back, but I am sure that would cause people to move on by his kennel run. That's the problem for Big, Black Dogs. They DO get overlooked in the shelter, so I am pretty sure he wouldn't have even made it to Christmas necessarily.

Anyway, stay tuned for Gentle Ben's petfinder page and pictures! I'll get them done today!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reflections on Rescue

It's been a difficult month in the world of dog rescue. I'm not going to lie about that. But, then, the reality is that no month is easy in dog rescue. But, I have to admit, I think the Saskatchewan Doggy Rescue Community is pretty darn spectacular!

As you know, I coordinate intakes for New Hope Dog Rescue. Simply, this means, if you have a dog you don't want, and you want New Hope to take them, you talk to me. Or, if we get a message about a stray or pound dog, I call them back, get the information then send that off to our foster home coordinator to see if we can fit the dog in. I maintain a LONG list for owner surrenders. It can take months to get an owner surrender in, as we are a small, volunteer run organization and can only take as many dogs as we have resources to take.  And, I am just one of many volunteers who make this all work.

What I hate about rescue is that I see the worst of people. I get the angry "What do you mean you can't take my dog tonight" phone calls. I get the intakes for "my ten year old dog I've had since he was a pup is an inconvience now that I want to travel so can you rehome him for me?". I get intakes for dogs whose owners are truly heartbroken to give them up but life circumstances are just to great and they need help. So, I see the spectrum.  It's hard to not get frustrated and give up, I'll be honest.

But, then we have moments when I have to jump up and down and scream, cheering for us! This was one such week. About 3 weeks ago, we got call about a litter of 10 husky pups, taken away from mama dog way to young and they needed a place to go. So, we took them. Then, 3 days ago, we got a call about a dog tied to a doghouse, with no food, no warmth and 1 week old pups. There were 9 of them, I believe. We found them room. Then yesterday, there was another. This time a Lab with her 10 puppies, could we find room?  We all groaned, thought, "Wow? Can we??"  We've never, NEVER had this many dogs before, or this many puppies. Apparently, we CAN! We had one home graciously open their doors and say, yes, they can come here for Christmas. And, even better, another dog rescue, Bright Eyes,  in the province opened their doors and said they could take them for us. So, we saved 11 more lives and that rocks!  I feel proud to work with an organization that DOES make a difference. It's good to remember that in the discouraging moments.

Anyway, I just thought I would share this morning as Christmas , well winter, can be a very difficult time in the world of dog rescue. Support your local rescue, people, it's worth it!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A little bit of this and that

You'll notice I've overhauled the blog. I like it, I have to admit. This is what happens when you are procrastinating from writing semester end papers. And, are home, struggling with the flu not able to attend things like agility classes or even work. I don't like to share my germs so I have elected to stay at home and get better.

Sophie thinks she's died and gone to doggy heaven... she's been getting daily off leash runs and LOVES it! I like LOVE that she hasn't limped at all! This makes me happy! The chiropractic likened it to a human with their sciatic nerve out; it's painful enough to make you limp and for Sophie, it was enough to cause her intermittent lameness.  I was reading  Mango's blog yesterday which is filled all kinds of good ideas to help with stretching and rebuilding muscle tone. He has a sore leg as well and is working hard to build up the muscle tone, much like Sophie Dawg so I took some notes and am working on it with her. She doesn't mind; in fact, Sophie is happy to be getting all this attention and work!

Spike on the other hand has been pouting. He doesn't like that Sophie cuts into his valuable training time. Poor boy isn't all that thrilled that we are taking an extended break from Flyball as well; in the midst of Spike's injury and recovery, I realized I just don't have the time to commit to practices. So, I cut back on my dog sport involvement and am just focusing on agility at the moment. Murphy is just grateful I've had the flu the last days and have stayed home, hanging out on the couch with her. She'd rather I stayed home all the time to be at her beck and call, to be honest. I might like that too, as she sleeps much better when she hasn't been crated all day.

In other news, many of you know that I am involved with dog rescue. I coordinate the intakes for New Hope Dog Rescue in Saskatoon and I also occasionally foster. It's been a tough winter thus far; we've had far more than our fair share of puppies come through our doors and I just thought I would share a few of their little faces. Seriously, someone needs to take these little cuties home or I may end up with a puppy or two extra here. They have to go SOMEWHERE as we have a Mama and her 9 pups coming in today. Mama was tied to a dog house and the pups are about a week old. It's cold out there folks, far too cold for week old puppies to be living in a dog house. I actually think my buddy Rebecca  will be taking them in, but I may help her out and bring home one of them myself. We'll see...

Anyway, here's Bella. Ain't she a little doll of a husky mix?  You seriously should consider adopting her!

Or, Aeron perhaps. He's a handsome little guy!

Or little Morrigan, the one I want to foster. I can't resist those little eyes. 

Stay tuned to see if they all find their way to Rebecca's or whether I take one. SO cute! And, just think, we managed to save 10 more dogs with a little shuffling around. All's good as long as we have foster homes!!

Anyway, here's hoping I make it back to work tomorrow. And, get my semester end papers completed. And, begin to feel human again- after all, Christmas holidays are just around the corner; I must feel better for my holidays!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Oh Yeah Sophie Girl!

First of all, I have the happiest lab in the world today. I dragged my flu-y self outside to let her run. Off leash. Outside the yard- in fact in the field behind my house. For the first time in MONTHS.  And, this little lab wants you to know she is HAPPY!  The labby bounce is back!!

Sophie was back at the chiropractor yesterday. She had three little adjustments to make and that was all. Everything that was majorly out prior to this and causing her huge issues was fine this week. So, I asked the question, I admit... I asked whether Soph could ever run agility again.  I got my answer. Yes, she can. YES, SHE CAN!!!!  Sophie has adjusted so well, she will likely be able to run agility again someday.
Of course, I am not naive enough to think this is without significant work between now and then. Sophie does not have very good muscle tone in her back end, especially on the left side since she has favoured it for years. As you can see in the picture above, she still sits wonky. But, that's due to lack of muscle tone and maybe habit, at this moment rather than pain. So, in the short term, Sophie is under strict orders to run. She is to run straight lines, and start to rebuild what she’s lost over the last 1.5 years of being a house dog. If we can do that without her alignment going out significantly, then she stands a better chance of running agility.  Just for the record, if I ever do run her in agility,  I am planning to special her, then veteran her- that means she gets a double jump height drop. Simply put, Sophie would jump 16” instead of 26” after she turns 5. So, that is far less stressful on her body. As well, she'll learn a running contact on the A-Frame to save her jarring anything. 

This will take significant work, if I decide it’s feasible and possible to run her again. I understand completely that her hips will always be loose so she will have a greater chance of arthritis long term and that her knee could be hurt again but the reality is that she is a high energy dog, needing a challenge. Sophie could re-injure herself running in the yard and I can’t keep her from being a dog. That is clear. So, I think it’s worth starting the process towards seeing if I can’t rebuild her strength and muscle tone. That alone will help her feel better.
So, the plan for now: off-leash runs. They will be shorter to start, as I am not to run her to the point of exhaustion. As she gets stronger, they will get longer. The whole goal is to run her well to rebuild muscle tone. If I run her too long, she'll get sloppy and not rebuild the muscles I want, thereby likely causing her to go out again. On the super cold days, I can run her on a treadmill. She can also swim indoors this winter.  As well, I am going to start doing her range of motion exercises that I got a little sloppy and lazy doing as she didn’t want me to do them. They hurt, she got growly with me and I stopped. They will resume now. And, I’ll work her on the peanut ball, to help with core strengthening. 

In terms of actual training, Sophie is capable of doing a much nicer sit and down than she has been able to do for well over a year. So, it’s time to reward her holding a proper sit to build those muscles. She demonstrated last night, she is capable of doing a nice, straight sit when there’s food being offered. This morning, it's a bit sloppy again. As well, I can start doing some basic foundation work in agility: contact work on my travel plank, turns around a pole, with no jump, figure 8’s around poles, with no jumps. These are little foundational things I am working with Murphy so I think if I treat Soph like a pup, not allowed to weave or jump to start, we can learn some basic handling moves together and work on her focus, before I even try jumping her. If nothing else, it’s good for her brain to learn new things.
I have no idea if Sophie will actually run agility again. I do know that I have more hope that her life has improved greatly through the excellent care Dr. Orchard has given Sophie. I think ultimately everything I have done to support her, from rehab work with Theresa at Canine Rehab Saskatoon, to the laser treatments and acupuncture I did at Acadia and now this has all brought us to the point where she feels better and I feel like I am getting my labby back. There was a time when I thought her life would be shortened due to my inability to manage her pain. Now, I think she has a happier, healthier, brighter future. And, that’s lovely!

Yeehaw Sophie Dawg!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Good News, Good News!

I took Spike and Sophie both to the vet yesterday.  I had no idea what to expect, after all the grumpiness Spike has been exhibiting and that awful display with the sheltie, last weekend.  But, Spike had 3 little minor tweaks this week and has been approved to fully run agility!!!!  I can run him hard, at height and weave again with the caution to bring him back in, in 2 weeks just to make sure everything is looking ok.  So, that was fantastic news!! The limping?? Likely caused racing down the icy, back steps with Murphy hot on his tail. So any grumpiness is Spike, being Spike and I can no longer blame it on pain, ha!

Spike wants you to know that deep down, he really IS excited....

Sophie's appointment was VERY interesting!  I am not even sure what all is out on Sophie's back, although when she goes back in a week, I'll ask to see her chart. Dr. Orchard worked on her skull as Soph has always had a problem with running into things so this will help that. She worked on her lumbar region which visibly made a HUGE difference. Sophie's spine has curved up for as long as I can remember. She has a nearly straight back at the moment. But, mainly her Sacrum was out, likely causing the intermittent lameness. I'll be honest, I cried when I got home because for the FIRST TIME EVER, Sophie is holding her tail like a normal lab. She's always carried it high, and I thought it was some weird quirk she was born with. Nope, it was her sacrum all this time. So, I have no idea what her long term prognosis will be but I can tell you this: she moves better. She is actually walking far more normally. She still has a bit of the sway back going on, but it's been lessened. The reality is, Sophie will always have loose hip joints but because there was no degeneration in her X-Rays taken a little over a year ago, it never made sense that she had so many arthritic symptoms. But, she will always be at a greater than normal risk of arthritis on this joints. Just, shouldn't be at 3 years of age. And, her knee will always be an issue now; she had a partial cruciate tear and the scar tissue will always be here. But, this vet may well get her off pain meds. Or, give us access to Cartophen shots which are much better for her, long term than any other pain meds I can give. (and, at an incredible deal that made me cry in the office with the vet).  For the first time since this journey to figure Sophie out, I have an incredible sense of relief and hope. I can help this dog of mine yet. It's been a long time coming. Look out Obedience world, we're coming back!!!!

Sophie wants you to know she can sit better and lie down better already! But, sadly, it's 7AM and she refuses to model her  newfound abilities. :)

Doesn't she look grumpy?!? It's the "LEAVE ME ALONE, I KNOW YOU'RE EXCITED ALREADY!!"  look, LOL

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Oh Spike.

I know it's SUPPOSED to be Wordless Wednesday, but I haven't blogged for awhile and it's just been a blur of work, assignments, life. And, in the midst of that, I realized that Spike wasn't quite himself. He's been sleeping more than normal and has been quite grumpy with Murphy. In fact, he's been SO grumpy, he CLEARLY gave me the message that the intact male Sheltie I tried to bring home to foster was NOT coming in the house. So, at the advice of a friend, I followed my gut and decided to take him off to the vet.

I took him to someone new... Dr. Orchard who is a holistic vet and dog chiropracter and had her check him over. And, I was shocked about what she found; his jaw was out, his shoulders were both out, his left wrist, a couple ribs and his pelvis were all out. This is apparently not uncommon for a dog who participates in sports. Fortunately, by the end of the appointment, he had responded well to treatment and I scheduled a follow up for the next week. As of that appointment, his shoulder and wrist were still sore but he was feeling well enough to wait for two weeks.

In the meantime, he's on somewhat restricted activity but can still do certain things. Agility, with low jumps ok. Weaves and contacts not. Flyball, straight over the jumps ok. Box work not. So, I've been hanging out with him, letting him take it a bit easier, but doing some massage, a bit of running around the yard and play with Sophie and Murphy. He's gone to a couple agility classes and seemed to be fine. But, last night and this morning, he was clearly limping. I think my heart stopped when I saw that, at least for a second. I can't have two dogs with joint issues. I just can't.

Thank goodness we have an appointment this Saturday and in fact, this vet is so good, I am taking Sophie too. And, I am stepping up the work with Spike... more massage, peanut ball work to work on his core strength and stretches. That's really all I can do, and hope that I haven't messed the poor boy up beyond repair. I hope that he recovers quickly and we can get back to normal. I hate to think about how life will change if Spike is injured beyond my ability to help him recover enough to run the sports he loves. I just keep on trying and hoping and I guess that's all I can do!