Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Monday's Trial...and Tribulations

This weekend was Monday's debut into AKC Beginner Novice and oh gee what a debut it was :).

We crashed and burned...

Image  found on Wikicommons: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

All joking aside, it wasn't actually horrible - I have seen other people's dogs behave worse in the ring. And at the end of the day she was happy to be in the ring, there weren't any signs of major stress, and she was eager to work with me. She just couldn't gather herself enough to focus for the first few minutes in the ring - which is enough to garner us a non-qualifying run. And she couldn't handle the stay, which I knew going in would be a problem.

High Points

  • She handled the show environment pretty well and wasn't reactive at all on Sunday.
  • She stayed in the sit-stay while I walked all the way around the ring, she only stood up when I started walking towards her (which is huge for her!) both days.
  • She did the sit for exam perfect both days.
  • She did great on the recall
  • She was excited to be at the show both days and eager to work with me.

Low Points

  • She had a lot of problem with heeling (which is one of her strengths!!) and was very curious about the whole ring and all the distractions.
  • She forgot what a front was on Saturday, she remembered on Sunday but it was delayed.

But hey we had more high points than low points and now we know what kind of things are going to hard for her to handle. Life has been really crazy at my house lately so I was also at major fault here because I didn't put enough time into her training as I should have. Bad Erin!

But now we have a new goal - qualifying at the upcoming February show! :)

I'm ready whenever you are!!

Monday, November 25, 2013


We have been cleaning out the garage and reorganizing so that we can fit everything inside before winter comes (which we are a bit late on that, um hello snow, but better late than never!) and I found my channel weave set! I, of course, got excited and brought it all inside so I could clean it up and put it together.

The bundle of parts :), all cleaned and ready for action.
Monday thought they were pretty interesting...
I didn't want to put them together outside because it was cold (and I am a wuss about cold) so I thought the office would be fine :). I forgot how much room they take up when they are all standing!!! I actually have a 12 weave pole set but my room was not big enough to accommodate that so I only set up half - making it a 6 weave pole set. Now I had this set made for me by a fellow kennel club member (no one wants to see me with a saw - those sharp things are tricky!!), but it's pretty easy to make your own. Or you could always buy a set, I think I saw them for around $65.

It has been a few years since I have used these weaves so I needed a refresher course on how to put everything together. I found really good instructions on www.instantagility.com - this page also includes how to actually make your set if you are handyman-inclined. If I could follow the directions and pictures, than anyone can :). So I got down to work and started attaching the PVC pipe pieces.

Monday supervised. She was apparently not happy about her job.
It actually went pretty quickly once I started recognizing all the different pieces :). But now I just have to figure out where I am going to put it since the yard has snow all over it and it doesn't fit in the office (at least not well enough to actually them). I bet I could run it down the hallway, haha and then Nicholas would have weave too. Well that's an interesting visual :).

Vito checking out the weave poles. He vaguely remembers these :)
We'll have to use the extra time on our Thanksgiving break to work weave poles and refresh everyone's brains. It's been quite awhile since I've done agility with any of the crew.

Monday does not look thrilled about this idea...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Monkey Trouble...whodunit?







Hmmm, they all look guilty...Who do you think roughed up Monkey?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tuesday Training Tip: Beginner Novice Week 4

Fun Match Time!

I took Monday to a Fun Match this past weekend to further prepare her for the upcoming Obedience Trial. A Fun Match is an informal dog event where you practice your obedience class exercises but pretend it's a show environment. So you sign up for whichever class you are getting to show in (Beginner Novice for us!) and wait for your turn in the ring. When in the ring, a 'judge' walks you through the exercises like it would happen in trial but it's much more laid back and you are allowed to train in the ring.

Monday waiting her turn and giving me excellent focus (for cookies!).

My goal with Monday was to see how we handled the extra distraction with the other dogs and for me to practice to being relaxed, LOL! She did much better than I expected but there also wasn't as many dogs as I thought there would be either :). I, of course, was just as nervous as I thought I would be (even though it's a fun match and doesn't mean anything I still can't help it). I must have performance anxiety. So while I was busy trying to be zen-like and take deep breaths, Monday was being her usual self and seemed to take most everything in stride.

I had to keep up a high rate of reinforcement while we were waiting for our turn in the ring, which isn't unusual. She has this horrible tendency to bark when she gets excited but luckily I kept her to just three quick (they were very quick!) barking episodes. She was even able to let me go into the ring for the debriefing while a friend held her (and gave her treats, she can be bough don't forget that!).

Once in the ring, our heeling was ok - she has a tendency to forge and that seemed to be exaggerated in the ring because of all the distractions. She didn't sit on the front for the recall - first time that had ever happened! And the stay...well it was more like what stay? :) I left her and started walking around the ring and she stayed until I got behind her but then she stood up. This is going to be our Achilles heel and obviously I'm not going to have it 'fixed' by Saturday. Plus this weekend there will be three times the amount of distractions. Oy!

Monday on the way home. She was a bit tired :).

Wish us luck! This will be quite the experience :).

Friday, November 15, 2013

Gotta Lotta Mites <...still...>

Rookie is looking better than ever but sadly is still scraping positive for Demodex. We just can't win with this boy! We had him scraped a few weeks ago and several mites were found on scrapings from his face, feet, and legs. It was very disappointing overall, but at least there were less mites found than previously so we are moving forward. Just very, very slowly.

He's growing up so fast!!!
I went ahead and had him scraped this past weekend as well for comparison purposes :). This scraping only showed one mite!! ONE MITE :). While normally it's really hard to demodex mites on any skin scrapings, it's at least way less than we had been seeing before. I did a slight jig when I heard one mite, LOL.


Rookie is still taking Transfer Factor and I plan to continue that for the rest of his life. He is also still dining on Stella and Chewy's frozen patties. I have been changing protein sources on him pretty continuously and while he has LOVED them all, he has done best on Duck Duck Goose and Surf 'N Turf. I think it's because those are 'cool' meat sources. He is currently gorging out on Dandy Lamb - they have such cute names :).

He is still also getting Ivermectin, although we have lowered the dose from 1.3 mL to 0.3 mL. I have not continued with the milk thistle for a few months, mostly because we ran out and I've been lazy on ordering another supply. But it hasn't made a noticeable difference yet. He is also no longer doing any other immune support besides the Transfer Factor. Maybe in the Spring we'll start something up again when he had more chance of a flare-up, however I did not notice any real improvements while he was on them or anytime after.

Rookie is still getting antibiotics in the form of Cephalexin because of the threat of pustules and staph infection. Luckily, his feet are almost back to normal - well his version of normal anyway. They are a lot less swollen and actually have hair on them! Plus they aren't bleeding anymore which is huge :).

Big, beautiful feet :).

Going Forward

So now we are just going to hopefully maintain this through winter and keep scraping! I will have to reevaluate before Spring hits though because last year his issues started again when Spring blomed. So I think next year we are going to start prevention early and be ready so that it doesn't get out of control and then reassess with whatever happens. Maybe we should move south to get away from the allergens :), haha.

Previous Posts in Rookie's Journey

April 2013, Damn Those Mites!
August 2013, Rookie Update!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Jeter

My fourth foster broke the law on cuteness and taught me that dogs are truly social creatures and thrive with companionship.

Jeter came into IDR+ as a stray - he was really thin and had so much dead and sun-bleached hair that he had spots. It was quite pathetic, but after a good diet and lots of brushing he started to look like a normal doberman again :).

A picture of Jeter with his horrible coat.
This was before he came to me for fostering.
Even at 2 years old, Jeter was still very much a puppy and just loved to play. He loved to play so much he was quite pesky and wouldn't take no for an answer from the other dogs. Vito and Bourbon alternatively loved and hated him depending on how tired they were :). Jeter certainly kept them busy! He also loved everyone he met and had never met an enemy. His whole butt would wiggle with delight anyone paid attention to him. He thrived on attention - from either people or dogs - and never got enough of it.

Bourbon and Jeter were twins :).
Jeter was the first foster dog I enrolled in obedience classes (this is a trend I do with all my fosters now). Since he was a young, doberteen full of piss and vinegar I thought obedience classes would be great for him and I was right. He LOVED them. He got to show off his new skills and totally shined being the center of attention. He was such a fast learner because he loved to please :). And he loved having a 'family' (even if it was temporary) that included him in activities.

Luckily, while Jeter was still much like a puppy in regards to personality, he did still have some house manners. He refrained from getting on the counters or trying to get into the trash which is always a plus! Most fosters come with some horrible house manners but Jeter was very good. He did still have to be crated when you weren't home though because his natural curiosity got him into trouble (mostly with chewing!!). And as with most dobermans, Jeter was a velcro dog. He'd follow you from room to room to see what you were doing and if he could do it too. He fit right into our household with ease and it was hard letting him go.

Jeter, Majestic, and Bourbon cuddling on the couch.
But he had to go because I had already pulled another foster! I was doubling up for a few weeks (Jeter was super easy)  :). I was sad to see him go but I already had another foster to focus on and I had prepared Jeter as much as I was ever going to be able to. He got adopted by a wonderful family, I wish they had stayed in touch but it's easy to let time go by and forget.

When you have an easy foster do you find that it's easier to move on when they've been adopted? I've found that the more emotion I invest in them, the harder it is to let them go - so the easy ones to foster are also the easiest ones to let go.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Wobble Wobble Wobble

I wish I could be writing Gobble Gobble Gobble since we are coming up on Turkey Time, but nope this is not a celebratory post.

I took Baron in to see a surgeon last week for a final diagnosis/opinion on his problem. I had wanted to consult with a neurologist, however there is only one locally (at Iowa State University) and I am not familiar with him. So instead I took him to Dr. Reimer at Iowa Veterinary Referral Center. I had received many great opinions/recommendations for him so I scheduled an appointment with him and hoped for the best.

Baron waiting in the exam room.
Baron was an absolute angel at the vet, which is surprising :), and Dr. Reimer really liked him. He did confirm the wobblers diagnosis and now I am taking steps to help Baron be comfortable. At this point we are opting to not do surgery (it's at minimum $2,000 eek! plus an initial $1,500 to find out if he's even a good candidate for it) so we are moving forward with medical management.

I briefly described wobblers in my post last year on Baron's acute pain and subsequent journey to the ISU Vet ER. With wobblers the neurological signs happen because of spinal cord compression. In Baron's case it's caused by compression of the spinal nerves or nerve roots between vertebrae C5 and C7 and this can actually cause a great deal of pain/discomfort. Dr. Reimer performed a physical and a neurological examination which was interesting to see. Who knew you use one of those reflex hammers so many places on dogs? :)

Besides the wobbly gait and neck pain, Baron is also experiencing:

  • a lot of muscle loss through the shoulders
  • limb weakness and difficulty rising after sitting or lying down
  • loss of fine motor skills (problems stopping and turning)

Luckily, wobblers is usually a slow, progressive disease unless it's a case stemming from acute trauma, than it progresses very rapidly. We should still be able to enjoy much more time with our elderly man :).

Baron was tuckered out from the morning's vet appointment.

Medical Management

Wobblers can be treated medically or surgically.  Medical management usually consists of anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the spinal cord swelling along with restricted activity. Also, no collars should be used because it is a neck problem. We are using a chest harness to help take that pressure off. We are also going to continue the chiropractor appointments and add in acupuncture and possibly laser therapy.

We also have to rearrange our sleeping arrangements for him as he usually sleeps in his kennel in our bedroom. Sadly, our bedroom is upstairs in the half-story and the stairs are a huge problem for him. So we are moving his kennel downstairs and starting to recondition him to a new routine. Since he is already a slightly anxious dog, this is not going so well right now. But we are going to stick it out for a little while longer to see if repetitive routine exposure will start to kick in. He's been classically conditioned to the kennel routine in our house for so long that we are going to have major hurdles changing and rebuilding this.

Medical management is typically used with older dogs with mild symptoms, and dogs with multiple locations of spinal cord compression. Baron is seven and the typical life span of Dobermans is only about ten years. Ironically, his heart and everything else is good so he might out-average the statistic :).

The goal of surgery is to stop the progression of clinical signs. But because the spinal cord compression has been occurring over a long period of time, there is typically permanent spinal cord damage that can't be undone. Most dogs never walk normally even with surgery, however many will improve to be able to have a good quality of life.

We chose to not do surgery at this point for several reasons - age, severity of symptoms (his are milder at this point), and cost vs. benefit. The average life span of dogs treated medically versus surgically is the same so it's not a question of extending his life. It's more a question of what I can deal with as an owner and what Baron's quality of life is. I happen to think that we can maintain a good quality of life for Baron without surgery. Obviously, if that changes we will have to step back and re-evaluate.

Think good thoughts for the old man and wish us luck rearranging the household!!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Scent of the Missing {book review}

Scent of the Missing

by Susannah Charleson


A dog lover and pilot with search experience herself, Susannah Charleson decided to volunteer with a local canine team and soon discovered firsthand the long hours, nonexistent pay, and often heart-wrenching results they face. Once she qualified to train a dog of her won, she got Puzzle, a Gold Retriever puppy who exhibited unique aptitudes as a working dog but who was less interested in the role of compliant house pet. Scent of the Missing is the story of Susannah and Puzzle's adventures as they search for the missing - a lost teen, an Alzheimer's patient, signs of the crew amid the debris of the space shuttle Columbia disaster - and unravel the mystery of the bond between humans and dogs. It's an unforgettable memoir from a search-and-rescue pilot and her spirited canine partner.

My Thoughts

This book is interesting and informative, bouncing between stories from Susannah's experience training her own search dog and stories of Susannah's experience in the field, with and without her dog. The author has excellent way of telling a story and an eye for small details that really bring locations alive. She paints the efforts of Search and Rescue dogs and their handlers in a vivid light.

Search and Rescue (SAR) organizations are often made up entirely of unpaid volunteers, who give up their weekends and after-work hours to train dogs, and remain on-call at all times to respond to missing persons calls or calls to find bodies. Given the wide variety of situations search dogs face, their training is quite complex and time-intensive. It's a lot less glamorous than you might think :). Susannah's  description of the recovery of wreckage (and fragments of human remains) from the space shuttle Columbia was horrifying, and the account of the tornado devastation around Moore, OK (from 1999) was especially sad, considering the recent tragedy there.

The book does suffer a few flaws in my eyes. A cryptic health crisis seems like a major twist in the last part of the book and we never know what is really going on. Another issue was that several of the searches described did not have clear outcomes. They just ended abruptly. In some ways this mirrors the way any searcher may have to deal with simply not having answers, but it would have been more cohesive to have some sort of resolutions. I was also hoping for a few more stories about the other dogs on the SAR team :). It would have been nice to get a better sense of the team that she spends all her time with.

All in all, definitely a worthy read for anybody who loves dogs and the work they do.

For More Information

Check out the other books I've reviewed:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

It's Tumor Time

Ahh, that makes me think of MC Hammer and his wonderful pants :). But that's not what I am here to share so I'm getting out of the 90's and back into business. Monday's business to be specific.

Whatcha talkin' bout momma? What's my business? 
Monday had two lumps removed last week :(. She had this thing growing on her head and it was just awful. I had it aspirated and several of the cells looked suspicious. How do cells look suspicious? I have no idea, it's not like they were stealing or furtively glancing around for something to steal, but nonetheless they were deemed suspicious. So off with her head! Well, not her whole head just the suspicious part of it ;).

This was her head thing.
Pretty gross huh?!? And it was marring her beautiful face :(. But now it's gone and huge line of stitches is instead glaring at me every time I look at her. Luckily, stitches are also removable and will be gone next week. Here's hoping it doesn't scar too bad!!

I did find out right away that the lump she had removed from her back by the base of her tail was just a cyst. We didn't think it was anything to worry about but with the one on her head being so suspicious, we just figured while she was already under for surgery we would take that one out as well. Better safe than sorry!! I had the lump from her head sent into the pathologist and just yesterday I got the results. It's something that I can't pronounce but is definitely benign. Whew!!

Infundibular Keratinizing Acanthoma (Intracutaneous Cornifying Epithelioma)

However, you say that - that is what she had. Leave it to my dog to get something un-fun :) and also rare. I have the weird medical issue dogs, I'm pretty sure it's a curse. This is a rare skin tumor (seen in only about 2-3% of all skin tumors) and is a hair follicle tumor. Good news - it's benign; Bad news - generally reoccurring. She will probably have more of these throughout the rest of her life :(.

The really weird part is that these tumors are usually seen in males (last I checked Monday was a female but hey that could have changed ... ) and usually affect Norwegian Elkhounds and Keeshounds (doesn't really sound like Monday ... ). Goes right along with that whole - if it's not normal it will happen to me thing :). But counting my blessings it was NOT cancer.

Have your dogs had any 'rare', 'uncommon', or 'weird' diagnosis?  I seem to have a houseful of them :)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tuesday Training Tips: Beginner Novice Week 3

Sadly I wasn't able to get any pictures or video from recent escapades to go with this post. I apparently need to hire an assistant (who will work for wags and licks)!!

Monday was working on her sit-stays at a park this summer.
Check out the original blog post.


Proofing is so important when training our dogs, it's probably one of the most important steps for any behavior and yet it seems most people easily ignore it. What do I mean by proofing? Proofing, the way I see it, is testing your dog in a controlled way in order to make sure they are reliable in the presence of all manner of distractions. Many people assume that because their dog performs at home with minimal distractions that they will perform them anywhere and anytime. Pretty delusional :), but a very common mindset.

So where do you start?

First, you practice the Three D's of Dog Training somewhere familiar and where you can control all the variables:
  • Duration - length of time your dog will remain in the behavior (staying, heeling, etc.)
  • Distance - how far away from you the dog will reliably perform the behavior
  • Distractions - the dog's ability to listen and perform the behavior when presented with various levels of distractions
The key aspect to training the Three D's is of course consistency and slow progression. It's imperative that you set the dog up for success by slowly increasing the duration, distance, and distractions. Once you have practiced that repeatedly and feel your dog is reliably responding to your cues, then you start taking your show on the road - aka proofing. It is critical that you test your dog's reliability in various settings, with various distraction levels.
Baron enjoying the local farmer's market. While we were here we practiced heeling and sitting.
Check out the original blog post.
Monday gets excited very easily - she can shoot from zero to 60 faster than most cars. Sometimes it's a bit ridiculous, usually it's quite hilarious, and in public it's more than a little embarrassing :). Luckily, for the past few years we have worked on and off on her basic foundation of obedience so we have the various behaviors down (well except for stays, which we are still working on). Now I just need to focus on getting her on the road to practice her behaviors in a lot of settings. I am really worried about how she is going to react at the dog show with all that hustle and bustle going on and the number of dogs that will be everywhere! I'm already slightly hyperventilating because it's only two weeks away. How did that sneak up so fast?

I can't recreate the show setting because I will never find that many dogs in one place except for at a show, but I can do things to at least help her prepare. We are now making regular visits to our new local Petco and also to PetSmart in a neighboring town. The weather has been really crappy lately (and Monday of course melts at the first hint of rain) so we haven't been out to many parks, but if it clears up anytime soon I will try to put that on our schedule as well. This whole shorter amount of day light thing is not working for me very well either. Stupid Fall. Those are the things I am trying to do to make sure we are proofed :).

Where have you found the best places to proof for distractions to be at? Do you practice at pet stores? Parks? Somewhere else?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pets For Life

This weekend I volunteered for the Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL) at the their Pets for Life program (a program sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States and PetSmart Charities). It was an amazing experience and I met some great people throughout the day. The pet owners were very kind and appreciative and it was awesome to see how many people care about their animals and that they were willing to wait patiently in a long line to take care of them.

The line at the beginning of the day.

Engaging Communities

On Saturday we helped 228 pets in four hours. Isn't that amazing?!? We opened the Pets for Life event at 10:00 am, but we had people lining up starting at 9:00 am. We were able to help that many animals in such a short amount of time thanks to the great organization done ahead of time. 

One of the puppies at the event enjoys a treat.
Photo by Andrea Altman
There is an assembly approach employed to minimize wait time. The goal is to be as thorough as necessary with each client while also being as quick as possible. Not an easy feat as people love to talk about their pets :). I worked as a line manager - making sure dogs were behaving appropriately, that no budging occurred, and that everyone had tools to safely contain and control their animal (leashes, collars, carriers, etc.). We had also made a separate area for reactive/stressed dogs that might not be able to handle standing in line with all those other pets and peoples - that helped keep the rowdiness down immensely.

All of the people had access to:
  • Pet passports to safely hold all their vaccination records
  • Microchipping
  • Vaccinations
  • Nail trimming
  • Spay/Neuter Vouchers
  • Free toys, food, treats, collars, etc.

Pet owners pick out free toys, treats, collars, etc for their pets.
Photo by Andrea Altman

Building Relationships

In November 2012 the US Census Bureau said more than 16% of the population lived in poverty in the United States, and over the last few years shelters nationwide has seen a huge increase of owner-surrendered dogs and cats. For the most part, these animals are not unwanted, they are just too expensive for families to keep who are already struggling to keep themselves fed and healthy.

The Pets for Life program was created, not only to let people know that help is available, but to give access to it - warmly, easily, and without judgement. The program grew out of an increasing awareness that, because of economic, social, linguistic, or cultural factors, many communities don't have access to pet care information, resources, or veterinary and related services, despite an often great need. The goal is to keep pets in homes and healthy, and this program does just that by reaching out to the under-served communities.

An appreciative and satisfied pet owner with his dog.
Photo by Andrea Altman
These communities love their pets and want to make the healthiest decisions for them, and the Pets for Life program helps remove any barriers they have in doing so. The main goal of these kinds of events is to build trust with and be of service to communities that need help. Experience shows us that when we extend our compassion (without judgement!) to humans, as well as animals, and extend resources where needed, we can create long-term and meaningful social change. Not only do the animals benefit, but the people do as well.

A Min Pin enjoying the day.
Photo by Andrea Altman
I am very proud to have volunteered and I plan to continue volunteering for this program. Pets for Life is up and running in other large cities (Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Phoenix, Charlotte, Milwaukee, and five others) across the United States, if this is something that you would like to get involved in please check out the Humane Society's webpage to see how you can get signed up to volunteer.

Also check out this great video on YouTube about the program: http://youtu.be/4u1kE8IOo7o.

Friday, November 1, 2013


This week has totally gotten away from me! Things have been happening behind the scenes so to speak and I should have several updates to share soon. This whole playing catch-up thing after taking off for a week is overrated, especially when this 'whatever-kind-of-sickness' I had drained my energy - being sick is the pits! But I have tons of posts planned to share, I'm just trying to find time to sit down and write them! Bear with me here. October was extremely busy and November is shaping up to be just as crazy but I am getting my act together :).

Monday is not impressed with my struggle.

I swear the older I get, the faster time goes by, and the more I have to try to cram into the dwindling daylight hours. Where does all the time go? :)