Monday, August 18, 2014

Visiting Wolf Park

I would have posted this blog sooner but my stupid computer disk drive was acting up and I couldn't access the photos from the weekend. What is a blog post without cool pictures?? But at last, here is awesomeness :).

At the end of July I attended a three-day seminar by Ken McCort at Wolf Park in Battleground, Indiana - The Behavior of Canids: Similarities and Differences. It was amazing! :) Last year at the APDT conference I sat in on Ken's seminar so when I saw that he was coming to Wolf Park, I got excited and signed up.

The three-day seminar covered quite a bit of information and featured both Ken and Pat Goodman. They covered so many wonderful topics, I'm not sure I can choose a favorite :). But I did find reviewing the role of Dopamine (DA) and Endorphins in reward-based learning fascinating. Three years ago I attended a Karen Overall seminar and learned all about the way the brain works and how the chemicals correspond with behavior. Ken reviewed how those chemicals work with and facilitate the learning process.

When you are teaching a behavior the DA spike is after the bridge (or marker), but once you have an established behavior the DA spike actually comes at the antecedent (cue). And when you have moved the behavior to a variable reward schedule, the DA spike is still at the antecedent but it comes at a much higher level. The same follows for Endorphins, which just proves how addicting learning can be :).
<for those not familiar, the process of teaching behaviors goes: antecedent (cue), behavior, consequence, and the bridge (marker) comes at the behavior>

Obviously, the best parts of the weekend were spending time with the animals :). I mean I love learning, but hands-on learning is the best lol. We got to go in with Gray Foxes, five different wolves, and also a coyote. All three species are considered canids but all are very different from each other and act very different. There is just something so thrilling about interacting with a wild animal. Obviously, these animals are not 'completely' wild as they have been socialized to humans, but they still have all their instincts and behaviors.

The foxes were quite skittish and always seemed to be moving. They move just like cats lol!! And they even climb trees - I had no idea they could do that. The foxes were soft as well but pretty smelly. I guess their urine smell is very strong, although we couldn't smell it outside the enclosure, we could definitely smell it inside. Foxes also like to steal :). At one point I had a fox in my lap - their feet feel just like cats, seriously. Their toes are soo tiny and tight together.

The coyotes were fascinating as well. The first session, we just watched Ken work with them on some basic behaviors. It was really interesting to watch him teach the same things we teach our dogs to a pair of coyotes :). The coyotes are also very skittish and have tons of energy. You could almost feel the energy come off of them. The coyotes are super smart but very wary. You can definitely see how that attribute would help them live so close to humans and survive!

On the last day of the seminar we got to go in with one of the coyotes - Twister, the male (he less crazy than the female). We were actually the first group to get to interact with the coyotes (outside of senior Wolf Park staff) EVER. That was way cool - we got to be guinea pigs (and hey we all survived lol). We went inside the enclosure in pairs with Ken and two other staff members and we each worked a few targeting repetitions.

And obviously we interacted with the wolves! They have them divided out to keep the peace :). The first session we went in with Fiona (the dark one) and Wonton, two of the older wolves. They were obviously more used to visitors and were quite calm about everything. Fiona was a social butterfly and I'm sure she visited everyone in our group at least twice :). The wolves are incredible and when they are this well socialized, you can totally see some of our canine companion's traits in them. Just never forget these are wolves and they have a different line of communication :).

We also went in with the 2-year-olds - Bicho, Kanti, and Dharma (the darker one). Bicho and Kanti are lovingly referred to as the Butterscotch boys. They are gorgeous...and hard to tell apart! Since these three were a bit younger, they are also much more rowdy compared to the two we visited with earlier. Which I totally thought was more fun :), they reminded me of my crew lol. It was also interesting to watch the staff manage the wolves to help them maintain their level of control. Management always come into play at a certain extent until the animal you are working understands what is expected of them. Sometimes I wish pet dog owners understood this :).

It was quite a weekend! I wish I lived closer (it's a 7-hour drive for me to get there), I would totally visit all the time. I will definitely have to carve out some time to visit next year and bring along Nicholas :). I think he would love it! I highly recommend attending a seminar out there or even just visiting on a regular day and doing the tour. You won't regret it!

**All photos pictured here were taken by Monty Sloan during the weekend seminar and are posted with permission.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Medical Roller Coaster of Life...Starring Bourbon, Monday and Rookie!

I think August is going to be a weird month, here we are 5 days into it and already I am wore out!

Poor Bourbon isn't feeling real well, we are crossing our fingers it's an easy fix but nothing that concerns our dogs is ever easy :). Over the past month, Bourbon has started two fights - one with Monday and one with Rookie. Both fights resulted in superficial wounds on the other dogs and relatively little damage to Bourbon. But this behavior is very uncharacteristic of Bourbon so we got a little worried.

I took Bourbon in to the vet to get his blood drawn the day after the last fight. He just hadn't been himself - he was very mopey and tired and just overall cranky - and so I had feeling there something medical going on. Plus, he's 9 so now I'm sure the health problems will start piling on :(. And surprise surprise, we got his blood work back and he is SUPER low thryoid. Like severely low because my dogs don't do anything half way - it's go big or go home at our house! Low thyroid (t4) for dogs is 1.2 and guess what Bourbon's value was.... 0.2. Practically nonexistent :(.

So we have two issues that we are possibly looking at: hypothyroidism or some kind cancer/disease/illness that is causing low thyroid. The rest of his blood work was great. So we are going to start a low dose of thryoid supplementation and see if he starts feeling better. We'll retest him in a month and hopefully our issue will be solved (if only it is that easy!!!).

So while we were worrying over Bourbon and managing our household to make sure he is kept separate most of the time so nobody annoys him, Monday decided she needed some attention as well. Yesterday, I had her babygated in the living room while I was gone with Rookie to the vet (more on that below) and when I got back she had eaten part of a towel that we were using as a rug at the front door. Really, Monday?!?! Ugh, she seems to do this once a year and I have no idea what triggers it. So off to our vet clinic we went to get her to puke. She puked up three times, each with copious amounts of towel in them. So here's hoping we got it all. Needless to say, she's eating some canned food for the next few days in case she needs to puke more (raw food coming back up is the NASTIEST thing in this world, seriously).

This was a full size bath towel...
And while Bourbon is cranky and Monday is trying to die, Rookie had to go in for a recheck on his demodex. We are still doing the Ivermectin but he is no longer on Cephalexin. Sadly, Dr. Noxon still found mites (and some mite families!) on him so we are continuing the Ivermectin for another two months and then will do another recheck. I think Rookie will be on Ivermectin for about year...but on the bright side - he'll never have heartworms lol! :)

Previous Posts in Rookie's Journey

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

So knock on wood the rest of our month starts an upward climb :).

Friday, August 1, 2014

What The Dog Knows {book review}

What The Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs by Cat Warren

Cat Warren is a university professor and former journalist with an admittedly odd hobby: She and her German shepherd have spent the last seven years searching for the dead. Solo is a cadaver dog. What started as a way to harness Solo's unruly energy and enthusiasm soon became a calling that introduced Warren to the hidden and fascinating universe of working dogs, their handlers, and their trainers.

Solo has a fine nose and knows how to use it, but he's only one of many thousands of working dogs all over the United States and beyond. In What the Dog Knows, Warren uses her ongoing work with Solo as a way to explore a captivating field that includes cadaver dogs, drug- and bone-detecting K9s, tracking and apprehension dogs - even dogs who can locate unmarked graves of Civil War soldiers and help find drowning victims more than two hundred feet below the surface a lake. Working dogs' abilities may seem magical or mysterious, but Warren shows the multifaceted science, the rigorous training, and the skilled handling that underlie the amazing abilities of dogs who work with their noses.

Warren interviews cognitive psychologists, historians, medical examiners, epidemiologists, and forensic anthropologists, as well as the breeders, trainers, and handlers who work with and rely on these remarkable and adaptable animals daily. Clear-eyed and unsentimental, Warren explains why our partnerships with dogs is woven into the fabric of society and why we keep finding new uses for their wonderful noses.

My Thoughts
I seriously loved this book :). Cat did a great job of interjecting research, history, and science throughout the story so that it was informative but not dry or boring. It was a nice balance between academic discussions and real-life anecdotes of Solo's development. And who knew pigs, cats and even vultures have all been studied for cadaver tracking! LOL, I would have loved to have seen some of those training sessions :).

It was also refreshing to read about someone actually doing what we always preach about: becoming the person our dog needs us to be. "Don't try to fit a square dog into a round hole." I think many people have experienced this - just look at all the dogs being given up throughout the shelter system - but Cat stuck through it and found out what made her dog tick. What she did requires a lot of commitment, patience, and a very real desire to learn something from her dog. They were bot restless and in need of purpose and direction, and they found it together. I loved her vivid descriptions of their many adventures and I'm sure you will to. I totally recommend that everyone read this book! :)

Check out the other books I've reviewed:

Dog is My Co-Pilot

Thursday, July 31, 2014

July Bark Box!

Our third Bark Box (and it just might be our final one unfortunately - it just depends on the generosity of Grandma!). The dogs were so excited when the box came, I'm pretty sure they can now read BARK BOX and know what it means presents lol.

And inside....

Loopies Fish Bones Toy
Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming...your pup's got a new fishy friend! This extra-durable, neon blue ocean-dweller from Loopies is ready for tugging, tossing, cruising the tides - and whatever else your pup has in store for them.
Bixbi Daily Essentials Chicken Breast Jerky Treats
Wheat, corn, and soy-free, these USA made and sourced jerky treats are packed full of anti-oxidant rich whole foods including blueberries, cranberries, reishi mushrooms and of course - delicious chicken! From the heart of Colorado to a satisfied pup tummy in no time flat.
Etta Says Duck Chew
Made from wholesome American Duck, Etta Says duck chews have always been a favorite to pups, whether near the sea or miles away. Who can blame them?
Healthy Dogma Coconut Flavor Barkers
When it comes to making healthy decisions about your dog's nutrition, make sure you pick a treat that has no additives or artificial fillers. Coconut Barkers are a yummy all natural and grain & gluten free treat for your pet. Your canine will go crazy for their bone-like shape!
Mr. Barksmith's Pina Colada Smoothie
If you like Pina Colada and getting lost in the...well, you know the rest! Isn't it time to share a tropical moment with your pup and make sure they don't miss out on this classic summertime treat? Each treat is made from human-grade food ingredients, is wheat, gluten and dairy free, and can be enjoyed at room temperature or frozen - pawfect for those extra hot summer days. One for them, one for you. Knock it back and repeat!

We love trying new things each month, especially since most of these products aren't things we regularly come across in our dog shopping :).

Vito really, really enjoyed the fish :).
In fact he tried to kill Mr. Fish but it was to no avail...Mr. Fish is made of some sturdy stuff!!

Does your dog kill toys like Vito? We love it when he self-plays like this - it can get very entertaining :).

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Happy 7th Birthday Vito!!!

Yesterday was Vito's 7th Birthday! I can't believe how fast the years are accumulating :). He's slowly starting to show his age and going slightly grey around the white of his muzzle. Luckily, he is brindle so it's not really noticeable!

I was a bad parent and forgot about his special day (in my defense I knew it was this week, I just thought it was tomorrow LOL) so Vito got to have his fun today instead...and hey he'll never know the difference!

There's nothing more soothing than the twinkle in your eye, your wagging tail, your loving woof, and your tennis ball addiction. On your Birthday I wish that you never grow up and keep harassing me with your mischievous best.

Here's to many more years of your barking, jumping, swimming, and otherwise neurotic behavior dear :). We love you Mr. Vito and wouldn't have you any other way!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

River Update: Where Has the Foster Gone?

Back to catching up...I need to update you guys on River! It's a bit of a story, sorry it took me so long to tell it!!

Back in May on Memorial Day weekend I drove up to the Quad Cities with River to meet a potential adopter. Of course they loved him (who wouldn't fall for his handsome face) and decided to adopt him. So off River went with his new adopters and off to home I went to plan our Jamaica vacation.

On our way to meet the adopters, River is such a great car rider!
Oddly, the location I met the adopters at was just off of River Drive...
I thought that was very appropriate :).
Sadly, the very next day I had some distraught text messages that River was displaying some pretty severe separation anxiety at the adopters' home. He never displayed any of that here and looking back, I wonder if it was because of all our dogs. At the adopters' home, there was just one dog and they weren't mingled yet (since it was so new and the dog was tiny). But River had destroyed his crate and several things in the bedroom he was crated in as well breaking out of the bedroom and going through the trash. Needless to say it was a huge mess :(.

The crate River ate through and the bed he destroyed.
The adopters' were pretty upset and wanted to return River right away. Unfortunately, this was right before our Jamaica vacation so I couldn't take him back here. We had them drop River off at one of the boarding kennels we work with for the time being, until we could find a different foster home or until I got back from vacation. Luckily, another volunteer stepped up and took River so that he didn't have to stay in the kennel very long. He doesn't do well in that situation and he was deteriorating very quickly :(. There was no way he would have lasted at the kennel until I was back from vacation.

River is still available through Illinois Doberman Rescue Plus, he's just now enjoying his stay at a different foster home. I miss the handsome man sometimes but he is doing great in his current location and that is all that matters :).

The last picture I took of River :).

Good luck, River, on finding your forever home! :) We still love you and wish you well on your journey!

Monday, July 14, 2014

June Bark Box!

I am SO behind on my blog...I apologize!! We have been doing so much traveling lately and it doesn't seem to end until September :). Back in June (see how far behind I am!!!) we got our second Bark Box and it was just as exciting!! There's just something so much fun about receiving a box full of surprise presents :).

So what was inside?!?

R2P Monkey Silly Buns
From king of the jungle to your living room, this plush will make a great new pack member. With enticing crinkle and squeaking sounds, this silly bum (indeed it is!) is great for monkeying around.
Benebone Nylon Chew
Made with real bacon and no artificial flavors, this is seriously delicious experience for the equally serious chewer. Who needs only two prongs to chew when Benebone gives ya three! Double the fun? We say triple it!
Green Bark Gummies Hip & Joint Treats
Green Bark Gummies aren't just delish, but also support joint health for your pup while they're out and about! with NutriCHIA, Glucosamine, and Chondroitin to maintain flexibility and mobility, these goodies will help your pup keep on playing till the sun sets...and long after!
Benny Bully's Beef Liver & Banana Treats
Made with beef liver and banana, this Potassium and Electrolyte-rich goodie from Benny Bully's isn't just tasty, it's also packed with Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Manganese, and Folate. No chemicals added - only the best for your best bud!

The treats are always a huge hit over here with our dog's bottomless stomachs :). I don't think they have received anything they didn't love! They really liked the Green Bark Gummies for general treats and the Beef Liver and Banana treats for training. Rookie is the lucky winner that will get the Benebone Nylon chew (Bourbon got the Zuke's bone from the last box). And Monday was the lucky girl who got to play with the new toy first (the toy from the last box is most definitely Rookie's lol).

She loved the toy.
This box had a fun little decal inside it too that I just couldn't resist :).

We can't wait to see what we receive for July (which should actually be next week lol!!!!).

This month's theme was Paris :).

Monday, June 30, 2014

Happy 5th Gotcha Day Monday!

Saturday was Monday's official Gotcha Day!! It's been 5 years since Monday moved in and I couldn't imagine life without her. I tried to make the day special but forces conspired against me:(.  First, we went out to Ada Hayden in the morning to go for a quick walk but there was some kind of huge event going on so we didn't stop. Instead we took a quick stroll through our neighborhood - not as exciting but still nice :). The weather was not in our favor either so we mostly ended up cuddling on the couch, at least that is one of our favorite activities!!

Monday and her pouty face :) LOL.
I did stop and pick up some tasty treats in celebration of her big day. We love Brown Dog Bakery :). All the dogs were excited for the good eats...

We had to get enough to share :). Four canolis for all the family dogs,
6 frosted bones for all the dogs in the house (our 4 and 2 clients' dogs), and Monday
also got the special Birthday cookie AND the frosted dog cookie :).
Feed us!! :)
I love Rookie's pouty face in this one...and I caught Vito being silly :). 
'Quit playing around and give me my cookie Dad!' 

Oh Monday we love your silly face and intense personality. Everything my crazy lady does, she does with gusto and a dramatic flare :). Our house would definitely not be the same without her silly antics. I'm so glad we've spent these last 5 years together and I look forward to many more years filled with love and feistiness :).


Every once in awhile a dog enters your life and changes everything. Thank you Monday for being that dog and changing my life. You add bright neon color to an otherwise earth-tone existence. :)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Happy 2nd Anniversary!!

Happy anniversary to the brave man who married me and all my crazy dogs :). We'll never be bored with the adventures in our life as long as we have eachother! Nothing in this world could ever be as wonderful as the love you've given me. You are my yesterday, my today, my tomorrow, and my forever.

I have faith in our possibilities Nicholas. :)

We're going to have to do a new group photo! :)
Photo by: Kesling Photography

True love stories have no endings. ~Richard Bach

Friday, June 20, 2014

Review: Kong Jumbler

The Kong Jumbler.
The Kong Jumbler is an interesting looking toy and very multi-functional :). It squeaks, it has a tennis ball (although it's inside it and not accessible), and it has two handles for easier gripping/tugging/carrying. We got the L/XL size and it was perfect for our gang of hooligans :).

First up was Rookie, that boy loves a good toy. I was interested to see what he would do with it though. His first love is tugging - would he grab a handle and want to tug? However, he didn't want anything to do with it. I couldn't understand it at first because he LOVES toys. But apparently Stacks loves this toy to the point of obsession and his tantrum on the other side of the babygate made Rookie put on the brakes. 

Stacks and the Jumbler
Stacks was enthralled with this wonderful toy :).
So I let Stacks have the toy :). He was ecstatic to say the least, lol. His favorite part was the size and the squeaker. The Jumbler is the perfect size for him to roll around the room with his egghead :), and the squeaker kept enticing him to 'bite and kill.' It was quite hilarious to watch him!

This toy is meant to be interactive - to be played with by a dog AND it's owner. Stacks was having none of that. He was pretty sure this was his personal toy and if he let me get too close I would take it away. I kept trying to tell him the toy had two handles for a reason - one for me and one for him. But I guess he didn't believe me :). Luckily, this toy is quite durable because he was chewing for a kill bite!

This toy is meant for supervised use and, regardless what Stacks thinks, it's not meant to be a true chew toy like other KONG toys. I will have to get this back out for Stacks and work on the interactive part :). He just loved it so much he didn't want to share! Once Stacks is back in his own home, I will have to reintroduce the toy to Rookie to get his opinion :).

I really liked this toy and it looks like it will be in our play rotation for awhile!

Rookie feels like he got screwed :).

Disclaimer: The opinions in this article are my own. KONG provided the product free to review. I received no compensation or additional benefits for mentioning the products in this post.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Unexpected Acknowledgment

Bourbon got the following certificate in the mail last week
(it acknowledges the lure coursing title he received last year):

I wasn't expecting this at all! So it was a VERY nice surprise for our old man :)