One Week In

Well it’s been one full week here and adjusting to life in the Pacific Northwest. There have been a lot of adjusting for all of us. The dogs are trying to figure out what is going on, from one home totally chaotic at the end to no home staying a pet spa during the day and sleeping in hotels before getting on the road, to a three day road trip, sleeping in better hotels. Walks consisted of rest stop strolls along a busy highway. Now they have been thrown into apartment living, with people and dogs always close by and walks are done always on the leash, sidewalks and groomed landscaping. So far no place to get off leash and run until totally spent.

I’m going from a home I didn’t like but knew every corner to homeless spending time driving around trying to get everything wrapped up before a long tiresome three day road trip to coming to rest more than eighteen hundred miles away from the city and state where I lived my whole life. Apartment living here means no real privacy because of the climate, there is no air conditioning so everyone has their windows and doors open. I got to listen to a fierce argument between the couple in the next building at eleven o’clock the other night. The downside to hearing the fight was that the couple fought in their native tongue and I didn’t understand a word. How am I supposed to eavesdrop when I don’t understand a thing said?

Poor Mitch, he probably has the hardest adjustment of all of us. He’s been out here displaced since mid-May and has had to find a place to live that would eventually house all of us. He had to find where to shop, where to get gas and how to get back and forth to work and home all by himself. We have one couple living here that have been good friends for a long time, Mitch works with the wife and I worked with the husband, that live here and have been so helpful for him, but it is still a huge adjustment.

Now I come crashing back into his life bringing all of my chaos and lack of organization. He has had almost three months of orderly boring routines and all of a sudden there are messes in every room in our two bedroom apartment. Even though we still have no furniture or most of our personal possessions, which it seems takes longer to travel from Missouri to Washington than a 1995 station wagon with two dogs, I have managed to upend every room. I can make more and bigger messes than the best, I am quite the pro, so you can imagine adjusting to me again is taking its’ toll on Mitch.

The biggest adjustment overall is that now we are retraining the dogs to be better leash walkers. With all of the people and dogs squished into such close quarters we constantly run into other renters and their dogs. Charlie and Orso have not done well in the past with other dogs walking in their path. We always found an escape there and here there isn’t an escape. We have not been consistent with leash training and other dogs in the past and now we’re paying for it. Oh I forgot to mention the bicycles, there are bicycle riders everywhere. It’s very popular here and that’s another problem for the dogs. They lunge and try to charge the riders. Bad, bad, bad. I am trying to redirect their attention to me when we walk by carrying dog treats and feeding them to the dogs as bikes, walkers, runners or dogs are around. Of course after one week I can’t tell if it is working or not. I think that Orso has gained five pounds though.

I have decided that I want to move to a house that is secluded without so many people around. Now I’m looking online for houses that are a ways out, maybe in the booger woods and who knows maybe I will find one before our furniture gets here.

An Animal Lover

Let me start off by saying I am a consummate dog lover. I will pet any dog that comes my way; from tiny to huge I love them all. I can even go a step further and say I am an animal lover. Cats, dogs, rabbits, etc, I think they are all pretty awesome. I know that probably sounds a bit like an enigma since I am also a bird hunter, but hunting is for food not for trophies. So in my mind it balances out.

Back to my “I am a consummate dog lover” statement, I love them all, but at the same time I am well aware of the power and strength of any dog, no matter its’ size or temperament. I believe that all dogs big and small should be properly socialized and trained to behave in a calm well behaved manner. Granted not every dog is going to perfect every day, but with consistent work, you should be able to walk with them and not have an aggressive dog. Good behavior starts at your end of the leash.

I am also a strong believer that not everyone should own a dog, some people are just not fit to take care of themselves let alone a creature that relies on them for all of their needs. Just as important is that people need to research the breed of dog they want to have before getting something just because it looks cute or the size of the dog. Looks are not the “begin and end all” of getting a dog. Do you have the time and patience to give a certain breed the exercise and interaction it may require? If not then please don’t get the dog, everyone will end up unhappy and the dog may end up in a shelter or worse put down.

This morning on our walk we ran across such a case in my humble opinion. There is a woman who lives a couple of streets over that own two Cane Corsos, a two year old male and a one year old female, neither of which is neutered. The male weighs in at about a hundred and ten pounds and the female is only about seventy five pounds. We have run across her walking her dogs on occasion, but Mitch has been with me to help, not this morning, though. The male is animal aggressive and lunges growling and barking which sends our dogs straight to the same red zone level in zero to ten seconds flat. Then we have a potentially serious situation on our hands. The woman does everything she can to hold the dog back, him standing on his hind legs straining to break free and one of these days I think it will happen. He is only going to get stronger as he gets older. Don’t get me wrong these are beautiful dogs and quite friendly when I approached her “dog less”. But when there is another dog in close proximity look out scout.

This morning walking in the dark I saw her walking toward us and she had both dogs with her. I moved as far to the left as I could and downed both Charlie and Orso, spoke calmly and quietly telling them to “leave” and re-adjusted my hold to the low end of their harnesses for a better grip. My two did awesome comparatively speaking. The woman moved as far to the left as she could and tried to get hers under control but the male immediately lunged growling and barking at us raising the female to the same frenzied state. Mine started to respond in kind when her two went at each other in a horrific dog fight with the woman on the end of the leashes. I jerked both leashes of my two and turned back the way we came and I walked as fast I possibly could to get away. I felt terrible for that woman but I was not going to put my dogs and myself in harm’s way. Even as I rounded the curve in the road and was out of sight I could hear them go at each again.

It was a very sobering and scary experience, which I hope to never live through again. It really drives home just how important working with your dog is, for their sakes and your own.

I’m Going Solo Again

It’s just like old times. It’s just the dogs and me, facing life all alone in the wee hours of the morning. It has been eleven weeks since my foot surgery and one week bootless. This morning was the first morning that it was just me holding both leashes wandering around in the predawn hours. It was a nice quiet morning all by ourselves, no critters or other vermin about. It was a slow walk much to dogs dismay, my foot is still stiff and a bit tender, but I’m walking, and that is a wonderful feeling.

Charlie kept an eye on the road ahead as usual always on the hunt. Orso snatched as much tall grass to munch on along the way as always. The world is his “All You Can Eat Buffet”. I’ve never had a dog that will eat just about everything he comes across. Tall grass, mulberries and wild blackberries in the summer, acorns in the fall and hackberries in the winter are all on the menu, plus the undesirables, goose poop and deer droppings are quite the delicacy. Yuck.

This morning was quite uneventful and for that I am very grateful, because I know in the not too distant future, something will be out waiting for us. Waiting to run in front of us or make a noise in the dark and the dogs will lunge and drag me around like a boat anchor, and hopefully my foot will be able to take it, not to mention the rest of my body.

But there is hope, our wonderful friends that walked the dogs for me while I recovered also worked with them daily, training them to heel, do stupid pet tricks and not lunge at other dogs on the walk. I intend to carry on and continue the training; otherwise we’ll have dog stew for dinner. Just kidding, we don’t eat stew in the summer.

It felt good though, almost as though life is almost in balance again.

There Are no Witnesses in the Dark

In the early predawn mornings when it’s still very dark, no one is awake to see what goes on during my walks with the two terrorists, aka Orso and Charlie.   Only the deer and raccoons are around to witness their antics.  I’m talking about them jerking me around, getting the leashes tangled up and charging at the nocturnal animals keeping my chiropractor in business.

It’s bad enough going on a walk in the dark and twisting an ankle stepping off the road into the ditch, which I have done on more than one occasion, causing me to wonder if I’m going to be able to walk home when I’m a mile away from the house.  No one else is around to see my gracelessness or help me if I get hurt.  It’s just the dogs and me.  I’ve even fallen over a giant boulder in the middle of the road.  I’m that graceful.  At least in the dark no one else is there to laugh at me.

Not today though.  After I got home from work this evening, I took the dogs on their afternoon walk which is when everyone is coming home from work.  The walk down to the dam was uneventful, a very pleasant stroll for the three of us.  The dogs were behaving themselves and enjoyed the romp at the dam.  On the return trip home we ran into a friend and his two dogs, which I used as a training session for Orso, working on his sudden aggression lunging at other dogs.  So far so good, Charlie was a champ and behaved perfectly and after a rough start Orso got into the moment and behaved very calmly walking back and forth in front of my friend and his dogs.  We almost looked like a Cesar Milan episode.

After the successful walk-by the dogs and I continued on our way home.  We had just rounded the second curve in the road when Charlie circled around behind me to pee on a bush causing me to try and whip the leash over my head and twist my arm around when Orso stepped back toward me.  I tripped over Orso and fell hard twisting my ankle and knee.  Right there in broad daylight for everyone to see.  As I sat there in the road feeling foolish, Orso came over to check on me and let me know he loves me even though I am the most graceless woman in the world.

There’s something to be said for walking in the dark.

One Week and No Shopping

It’s been a week now and no more shopping in the kitchen while we’re not home.  Fresh batteries make all the difference in the world.  That and moving the transmitter closer to the entryway hall.  Evidently  someone or some ones got shocked and got the hint.  Stay out!   Now Orso and AJ wait to be invited into the kitchen.  Maybe I should feel guilty, but I don’t.  It’s not that I enjoy their pain, in fact I can’t stand see any of them get shocked, but lord I am so tired of cleaning up after the mayhem and destruction or re-purchasing things that have been broken when they get bored. 

Does that make me a bad pet owner?  Maybe, but I like to think that this was the best decision we could make under the circumstances.  We can’t afford to take them to doggie daycare four to five days a week.  Crating didn’t work for AJ, he just destroyed crates, both the metal and the plastic airline crates.  A dog isn’t much of a watch dog in a crate anyway.  He can bark, but little else.  I don’t think Cesar Milan would come to our home.  Our problem isn’t television viewing worthy.  How would he even correct the problem?  We could set up webcams to see who the culprit(s) might be.  Then what, hide in the bathroom off the kitchen to wait for the culprit to come shopping, then jump out and issue a correction?  My luck Cesar would jump out to catch the dog or dogs in the act, startle them so badly they attack him and we get sued.  Now that would be television viewing worthy, us in court.

It is really maddening  because when we’re home everything is wonderful.  It’s like having three large rugs that occasionally change location on the floor.  I keep the television on when I leave so they hear human voices and don’t feel alone.  Maybe that’s the problem, I have the wrong channel on.  We just don’t know what gets them going and when.  Is it right after I leave, sometime in the middle or right before I get home?  I guess we really should set up a webcam, if for nothing else than the entertainment value.  I could upload the antics on You Tube then everyone could feel my pain.

Rule Number One – Change the Batteries

Rule number one – when you buy batteries to replace the dead ones in the indoor shock collars for the dogs, it’s always a good idea to actually change them.  I bought the batteries for the collars the very next morning and as is always the case, I got busy multitasking and totally forgot to change out the dead for the freshly charged batteries.  We had dinner plans that night with my best friend and her significant other, who were in town only for the weekend, so I was busy trying to get everything done for the day and prod Mitch along. 

Mitch is busy working on our latest renovation project since the bathroom finally was finished.  The latest project is totally gutting the dining room and sheet rocking the room ceiling and walls and covering the hard wood floors with bamboo.  Mitch is not a social butterfly, hermit fits the description better, so getting him to stop the rehab and get cleaned up in a timely fashion, is like prodding a giant tortoise to walk faster.  Not going to happen.  So while I’m prodding, nagging and giving him the Look, I completely forgot to change out the batteries.  We go to dinner and have a great time, because once I finally get Mitch out of the cave and into the light, he opens up and enjoys himself.  He’ll even grudgingly admit it later, maybe.   

We get home to barking dogs waiting for me to open the door and once inside, I’m overwhelmed with the wave of destruction the dogs have waged on the kitchen.  In the living room an empty butter container that had housed an unopened pound of whipped butter that one or more dogs had taken from the kitchen table and consumed.  Yummy, eating a pound of butter.  I can’t wait to see which dog ate that.  Farther in the living was a plastic jar of honey or what was left of it.  The lid had been chewed off and the top of the jar had been chewed with about one quarter of the honey eaten.  I picked up the empty butter container, lid and the honey jar and walked into the kitchen to survey the damage waiting for me.  The recycle bin had been opened and contents strewn about.  Why, it’s not like anything in there was edible.

The trash can was knocked over again with trash all over the floor.  Orso also left a wonderful gift in the guest bathroom off the kitchen, he peed on the tile floor.  Lovely.  Surprisingly no one looked at all remorseful.  Imagine that.

The trashcan will now be removed and a smaller one will go under the sink.  God help me if they figure out how to open cabinet doors.  The butter and honey get put up higher, just like living with toddlers and the recycle container will be emptied more often and left outside when I’m gone. 

Oh yes and I am going to change the batteries in the collars right now.

A New Day Walking the Dogs

In our efforts to get the dogs under some semblance of control when out walking and meeting others on our walks, making them sit and wait to be greeted instead of rushing up to be the greeters is one of our training routines.  Not that we have that many.  I’ve also been working with them to not charge at something that goes bump in the night on our predawn walks.  It hasn’t worked as quickly as I would like, but we’re getting there. 

We found the best walking harness for dogs that pull and tug on the leash.  Charlie has been a tugger since day one.  All of our efforts to get him to heel or at least not strain on the leash have been a waste up to now.  Mitch and I both thought we were going to have to have shoulder surgery just from walking him.  But not now, thanks to the find of the century or at least the find of the month, we tried the Easy Walk Harness, another harness of last resorts so to speak, and it’s awesome.  No more pulling and tugging, walking Charlie is almost a pleasure.  Almost, he still has to stop, sniff and pee on everything.  No getting your heart rate up with my dogs.  Another problem walking with hunting dogs.  They’re always hunting.

The other morning while Orso was stopped doing his thing, Charlie spotted some creature running up ahead in the dark.  I was paying attention to Orso and not Charlie so imagine my surprise when I felt this slight tug on my right arm.  I turned just in time to see Charlie flip head over heels and land on his side in the road.  He looked up at me with a look of total shock.  Evidently when he decided to chase the unseen animal, the harness literally pulled him off of his feet with just a mere tug on the leash.  I looked down at him laying there and laughed out loud, thinking this was the best twenty five dollars I ever spent. 

I decided right then that I was going to get Orso one too.  Now the morning walks will definitely be more sedate and safer for me.

Time Out For Charlie

We abdicated a good night’s sleep in our bed ten years ago when Mitch said, “If that’s the worst thing AJ does, I can live with him sleeping in bed with us.”  This was in response to AJ sneaking in bed with Mitch after I left for work in the mornings.  Now every night it’s a race to claim the best spot and still have the ability to move my legs during the night.  I’m a light restless sleeper, while Mitch sleeps like the dead.  In order for me to get some semblance of a good night’s sleep, we try to position the dogs thusly, Orso at Mitch’s feet because of his size and sleeping like the dead too.  Most nights AJ will opt for the sleep ball next to my side of the bed, unless it thunders, then he has to sleep against me, panting and shaking so bad it’s like sleeping in one of those vibrating beds.  Charlie starts off at the foot of the bed on my side until Mitch drags him closer to him, so that I have leg room.  Mitch is very thoughtful giving me more of the bed, I think this is to minimize me being cranky the next day.

Last night though Charlie decided he didn’t want to move from my feet.  Coaxing him wasn’t working for Mitch so he tried grabbing Charlie’s chest and pulling the dog toward him.  Charlie responded by growling at Mitch.  Big mistake.  In order to show who was alpha (with thumbs) and who wasn’t, Mitch made Charlie get off the bed.  Charlie defiant as ever walked around to my side of the bed jumped back up but as a conciliatory move he moved a bit closer to Mitch or he was planning to eat Mitch in his sleep, I’m not sure which.  Well once Mitch had set the bar, he couldn’t back down and let Charlie sleep on the bed, so Mitch got out of bed walked around to the end of the bed and grabbed his collar to pull him off the bed.  Charlie, defiant and psycho stupidly growled again, this time baring his teeth getting into the challenging behavior thinking he was going show Mitch who was who.  That display of defiance bought Charlie a time out in the bathroom with the door closed.

During the clash of wills, AJ slept in the sleep ball unconcerned, more dog food for him if Mitch killed Charlie and Orso laid in bed watching staying very still to avoid any fallout.  After about fifteen minutes Charlie whined, Mitch looked at me and I said, “You have to go get him not me, otherwise it will undo you establishing yourself as the alpha male.  Mitch let him out and made him lay down on the floor as punishment.  After an eternity for Charlie, 3 minutes, Mitch called him up in bed.  Charlie came and laid down in the middle of the bed close to Mitch and was very contrite.  I still think he wants to eat Mitch while he’s sleeping.

It’s Them or Me

It’s them or me, and my money is on me. I’m the one with the opposable thumbs. I have the power to reason through a problem. I have tenacity. I also have osteoporosis. I was diagnosed in the fall of last year. Me with osteoporosis, no way. I’ve taken calcium religiously for decades. I was devastated when I found out. I’ve always thought that I was unbreakable. No matter how many times the dogs knocked me down; (and they knocked me down a lot) I would get right back up with nothing more than a few bruise to show for it.  Well there was that one time I tripped over the dogs on a walk and tore the cartilage in my knee.  Mitch had to walk home get the El Camino then come back and get me sitting on the side of the road.  Not now.  I have 5% bone loss, which I was told is significant bone loss. So now I’m taking my weekly dose of Fosamax and have realized that I’m quite breakable.  I’m now afraid of falling and breaking something.  I don’t like feeling this way.  I don’t like fear. 

I’ve not taken the lunging or the yanking the dogs do while walking seriously until now.  It’s been a source of entertainment and fodder for my stories.  But now I’ve realized that together the three dogs are much bigger and stronger than me.  I was five foot two before osteoporosis and losing a half inch, which makes me a great boat anchor dragging behind the leashes, but little more than that if the three choose to charge after the object of their interest. 

Basically they’re good dogs, fairly well behaved, but tend to feed off of each other’s emotions.  If one gets excited about seeing someone, the other two join in and I can’t hold them back.  Not anymore.  So now the serious training begins.  I know labs are hardheaded and stubborn, Orso especially seems awfully thick at times, brilliant other times.  We call him “Box of Rocks”.  Charlie is just hardheaded and willful.  When it comes to a battle of the wills, he will not budge one iota.  The thought of violence is often considered with him.  AJ is soft and submissive, but when no one expects it, he will instigate trouble then stand back and let the other two get yelled at.  Sneaky.

Training three dogs at once is a challenge.  One at a time would be easier, but I don’t have the time to work with each dog individually.  So three at a time is our only option.  I’ve given Mitch the ultimatum, “It’s either they get trained to exhibit patience and not lunge or we can’t have the dogs”.  And I have no intention of not having the dogs.

So it’s them or me.  Bet on me.