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Archive for the ‘Play & Recreation’ Category

I must have been out of my mind the day I wished Rufus wasn’t so lazy. You’re probably saying, “Well, you know they say to be careful what you wish for…you just might get it.”  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Like I said, outta my ever-loving mind.

The only reason I wished for Rufus to not be so lazy (mind you, I didn’t wish for him to be active, just to not be so lazy) was because I was getting tired of dragging him off the couch…and out of the car…and out of his kennel…and off of my bed.  My arms and back were threatening to mutiny if I kept using them to haul fat-boy Rufus around.

The one time I took him hiking with the other dogs, I had to help him climb up some of the boulders on the hike out. Before this, I had never had to help a dog climb up a moderately steep incline–usually they were the ones pulling me. Let me tell you…it was quite awkward, trying not to slip while pushing Rufus’ derriere in front of me. He basically would just put his front legs up on the boulders and look back at me, waiting for his push. I tried to see if he could do it on his own, but he just rested his head on the rock and looked at me like I was the cruellest person in the world for not helping him. Finally I gave in (because if I hadn’t, I would have been there all week) and hoisted him up the rest of the trail until the area levelled out and he could make it on his own. Needless to say, since all the attempts I have made to get Rufus to really exercise seemed to end up with my arms falling out of their sockets, I gave up.

Rufus Before...

Over the last few months, Rufus has battled ongoing skin issues.  It started as soon as I rescued him.  He had road rash from being run over and was on antibiotics to help his skin heal.  Even after his skin healed, though, he never seemed to grow new hair and was losing what he did have left and right.

I scraped him several times looking for mange mites.  I never found any under the microscope, but because he was a pit bull type dog (they are notorious for getting demodex mites) and because he was itchy (pruritic) and because sometimes you don’t find the mites, I treated him empirically with Ivermectin for three months.  The missing hair around his eyes (an area you can’t really scrape without sedation) grew back, but the rest of him stayed as bald as ever.

I changed his food to grain free and only fed him a fish based diet. I added fatty acid supplements to his food, antihistamines to his medication routine and bathed him with oatmeal-based shampoo. His pruritus continued to worsen and he started to stink really bad. He had horrible seborrhea (oiliness to his skin), developed comedones (fancy term for blackheads) and continued to lose hair. I performed skin cytologies and more antibiotics and anti-seborrhea/antipruritic/antimicrobial/antifungal shampoo were tried. He became less itchy, but the comedones were so bad that he looked like he was growing mold. Through it all, he continued to lose hair. I could either have his skin biopsied and/or start allergy testing or see the veterinary dermatologist.

Instead of putting him under anesthesia for the biopsy, I decided that I would see the dermatologist first. In preparation for that visit, I decided to go ahead and perform a complete blood profile on him. I remember joking with one of the veterinarians at work:

“Wouldn’t it be funny if he just had a low thyroid?”

“Well, it would be an easy fix, but juvenile hypothyroidism is just so rare. One can always hope,” she replied.

Then I really started to think about it. Maybe he DID have a low thyroid. Other than the fact that it is very rare for a dog to have juvenile hypothyroidism, he did fit the other criteria:

  • Poor hair coat with lack of growth and general alopecia–Yep.  With his patchy baldness, he was starting to look like a chupacabra mixed with a hippo.
  • Lethargy–Check. It he was any lazier, people were going to start assuming he was just a weird dog-shaped pillow.
  • Mental dullness–Uh oh. I was pretty sure his IQ was well below normal for a canine…or a rock.
  • Heat seeker–Yep!  Rufus hated the cold weather and I had to give him Charley’s old jacket to wear else he trembled uncontrollably, even in 68 degree weather.
  • Gain in body weight–This was the whole reason I was trying to get his lazy behind off the couch to begin with. He was definitely becoming more rotund.
  • Neuromuscular signs–Hmmm. Rufus had been observed to do some weird head bobbles and tremors at times. I thought maybe it was just because his head was too heavy.
  • Myxedema of the face–Also known as thickened or swollen skin, this leads to the tragic expression seen in dogs with severe hypothyroidism. Rufus definitely looked tragic, with thick eyebrow folds and drooping skin.  I thought he just looked sad because I made him get off the couch every once in a while.

Rufus’ bloodwork came back with a few discrepancies:  he was slightly anemic, his cholesterol was elevated and his free T4 and total T4 were both very, very low;  all of these tests displayed biochemical trends that are usually seen in true hypothyroid dogs. In fact, his free T4 value was so very low, it was reported as “less than” the lowest number they record. I had my solution to his skin issue (and his other issues, as well). All I had to do was supplement him with thyroid hormone, no need to see the dermatologist just yet.

Rufus After

Fast forward one month. Holy mother of dog! Rufus is a new canine.  His hair coat has almost completely grown back in, his oiliness has disappeared, he lost eight pounds without any change to his diet, his tragic expression has almost gone away completely and, in answer to my wish, he has become turbo-charged. Whereas before he would only play for a few minutes, now he wants to play ALL DAY LONG. Grimm is worn out, Zella is worn out, I’m worn out. And guess what? Rufus can actually run and gallop and jump up into the car on his own. He drags me out the door by his leash rather than the other way around. AND he can go outside in 60 degree weather (like today) and not shiver at all. Now, he still likes the couch, but these days he uses it more as a springboard to jump off of rather than a bed. At times I’ve almost been tempted to stop his supplementation, just to have lazy Rufus back for a bit. But…then his hair will fall out and he’ll stink again.

The only symptom that hasn’t gone away is the mental dullness. Thyroid hormones did not make him a genius overnight. He will probably always be a little slow mentally. Puppies who don’t have enough thyroid hormone during development can have impeded mental function and retardation of growth (they call this “cretinism”). They  can  still grow once supplementation is started, but they can not catch up mentally.

So there you have it. I got exactly what I wished for (a less lazy dog with better skin) but found out I was not yet prepared for all that entailed. Now I guess I need to wish for a magical way to exercise and entertain Rufus so Grimm and Zella don’t become worn out. Then again, if I wish that, there is no telling what cruel joke fate would play on me. I just might get it.

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I think I have the laziest dog on the planet.  How do I know, you ask?  Well, I’m pretty sure the following criteria qualify him as the most sluggish around:

  • His favorite walk is from my bed to the couch.
  • He refuses to catch a ball and, instead, lets it bounce off his forehead.
  • The above also applies with a frisbee.
  • He only goes the minimal distance required in the yard to do his business.
  • All the bunnies and squirrels laugh when he is around.
  • He is slowly becoming part of the sofa (see previous posts).

Rufus has seriously let himself go.  His lack of movement has caused his waist to expand a bit and I fear his limbs will deteriorate.  I gave him some slack earlier in the year, thinking his laziness was due mostly to the extremely hot weather we had earlier in the summer.  Now that it is cooling off a bit, I expected to see his frisky side come out.  Nope.  He just asked for a blanket to keep him warm in his slumber.  The time had come to force the issue and get him off his behind.

 

"Okay, fine.  Let's get this show on the road.  I'm ready to sweat!"

“Okay, fine. Let’s get this show on the road. I’m ready to sweat!”

 

I thought it might be fun to try Rufus out as a jogging partner.  I figured since he just sort of shambles anyway, I could go really slow (which is my prefered pace) and enjoy the scenery.  Rufus could get his blood flowing, I could slowly get back into running and we could bond over the experience.  Imagine my surprise, then, when I had my arm almost pulled out of my socket.  It’s not what you think, though.  Rufus did almost dislocate my shoulder, but not because he took off like a rocket.

We started slowly, Rufus trotting beautifully by my side.  “This is great,” I thought.  “Rufus makes an excellent poster boy for jogging with your dog!”

The joke, however, was on me.  Here I was, jogging happily down the road, stupid smile on my face, enjoying the cool brisk evening air, hand in Rufus’ leash, when all of a sudden Rufus decided he didn’t want to run anymore (and run is being generous…he was barely trotting).  Instead of slowing down first like any normal dog (or any other being with any type of motor skill), he just stopped and flopped immediately onto his side, perfectly imitating a beached whale caught on the asphalt.  I, in my jogging enthusiasm, did not realize he had crumpled himself onto the road and I kept going until whiplash and an almost dislocated shoulder from the sudden dog anchor stopped me in my tracks.

“Rufus!  What the heck, buddy?  Come on, let’s go!”

I tugged at the leash.  Dull, glazed over eyes stared out at me from Rufus’ skull.  Dear God!  Had I killed my dog?  Did he have a heart attack?  I bent down and checked him out.  He proceeded to roll on his back and solicit belly rubs.   Big faker.  I prodded him with my foot.

“Get up.  Let’s go, doofus.”

He rolled back onto his side and just laid there.  I tugged again at the leash.  Nothing.  I started to drag him, thinking he would get up and start walking.  Nope.  I dragged him two feet with his harness before I gave up.  He still wouldn’t budge.  Since we were only fifty feet from the house at this point, I thought I would call his bluff and just leave him.  I turned around and jogged towards home.  This finally got him to sit up and acknowledge me, but he wasn’t moving anywhere.

“Come on, Rufus.  Come here!  Ok, fine.  I promise I won’t make you run anymore.”  He still looked doubtful.  Time for the ultimate bribe.

“Rufus!  Come here!”  Blank dog stare.

“If you come now, I’ll let you snooze the rest of the evening away on the couch…and I’ll throw in some peanut butter!”

**Boing!!**  That dog actually galloped back home and beat me to the front door.  As soon as I let him in, he jumped on the couch.  Even though Grimm was in his favorite spot, he didn’t care.  He just climbed on top of Grimm and commenced his snooze fest.

"I never want to leave the couch ever again...or you, Grimm."

“I never want to leave the couch ever again…or you, Grimm.”

 

Obviously Rufus will have to stick to sleeping and wrestling as his sports of choice.  I guess he really isn’t built to be a runner.  He has more of a couch potato weightlifter physique.  Really, though, is being lazy all that bad?  If sleeping on soft surfaces makes him happier than frantically chasing frisbees, that’s fine.  Grimm and Zella are more than happy to be my running buddies.  Rufus can come if he wants and we’ll slow our pace to make him happy when the time comes.  I will enjoy the dog he is rather than try to turn him into something he isn’t.  I’ll take him any way, shape or form, even when he’s out of shape and his form looks more like a sofa pillow and less like a dog.  As long as he’s happy, I’m happy.  At least I know I’ll have company when I, too, want to be a couch potato.

 

"dkkj"

“Okay, no more pictures…and no more running!  Take off these sweatbands!”

 

“You gotta know when to be lazy. Done correctly, it’s an art form that benefits everyone.” 
― Nicholas Sparks, The Choice

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Being the new kid on the block can bring challenges.  You have to make new friends, avoid new enemies, prove yourself worthy in a lot of ways.  Making that transition can be hard and finding new buddies to share life’s experiences can be that much harder.  So, when you are finally accepted into the fold, life feels complete.  What could be better?

 

Battle Over The Stick

 

Rufus was accepted as one of the gang right off the bat…even before I officially decided to keep him.  I thought Grimm might be a little jealous of the new guy since his position of youngest was being usurped by a new hellion.  I had visions of gang initiations and hazing going through my head.  I could just imagine Grimm, Zella and Charley making Rufus dress like a cat and meow all day or forcing him to give them his ration of treats and food as tribute.  But did they?  Nope.  They took him in and immediately made him feel welcome–sharing their toys, their food, their beds, their love.  He became their newest little buddy.

 

Grimm vs. Zella & Rufus

 

Maybe, I thought to myself, the dogs knew at that time that he wasn’t supposed to be a permanent resident.  They were just being polite.  Now that I’ve officially adopted him (and by officially, I mean I just said, “Okay, I guess you can stay”), I thought maybe the jealousy would start.  Dogs can sense so much–surely they can determine through their canine superpowers when something is temporary versus permanent.  Surely they would gauge the subtle shift in the environment when Rufus was given tenure.  Surely the petty squabbles would commence.

 

Three Pups Carry A Stick

 

Unless playing tug of war with a stick counts, then I was completely mistaken. You see, that is what is remarkable about dogs.  They have an innate sense of goodwill (well, most dogs, anyway) about taking things at face value.  The newbie didn’t have to prove his worth to them or remake himself to fit their ideals.  He could be himself, and they theirs, with no apologies for their quirks, no expectations to become something more or less…no hidden agendas, no subterfuge, no scheming or gossip.  How refreshing it would be to live in a world such as this!  To be able to just say what you mean and mean what you say…well, why can’t we?

 

Teamwork

 

 

Rufus couldn’t be happier about being accepted into the fold.  To belong to something…to be part of something…isn’t that what most of us desire?  Don’t we, too, understand the feeling of wanting to fit in and the joy of finding true friendship?  As long as we can be ourselves and be true to our spirit, then finding our niche should bring us joy.  Love your friends and accept them for who they are.  And if your friends also love to tug on sticks as much as you, well that is a huge bonus!  Tug away, my friends…tug away.

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How can two very lovely dogs go from this

 

What Big Teeth You Have!

 

 

to this

 

 

Dumb and Dumber

 

in a matter of three seconds?  If you answered “brain damage”, I suspect you might be right.  I think my dogs have been eating lead paint…or drinking…again.

King Knucklehead (that would be Grimm), however, chose not to participate in the day’s shenanigans.  (Shocking, I know.  I checked his brow for a fever.) However, just because one does not willingly join in with the antics of others does not mean that one is immune to being pulled into their affairs.  See what I mean?

 

 

You Eat Grimm's Leg, I'll Eat Yours

 

Zella the Zany and Rufus the Dufus (or Doofus, however you want to spell it is fine) were determined to drag Grimm the Grump into their canine capers. Grimm, however, just wanted to bask in the warmth of the sun.  The wild woofers, however, just kept gnawing at his leg until he said, “ENOUGH!”

 

 

Don't Bite My Leg!

 

 

Rufus couldn’t help but give a little sass back, but he and Zella decided to leave Grimm the Grumpy Pants alone.  With a huge, dramatic sigh, Grimm went inside to lie down next to Charley.  Even though Zella and Rufus were leaving him alone, being next to Charley would guarantee that they wouldn’t try any funny business.  No dog dares to wake Charley without a very good reason.  Charley may be old, but he’s fierce and doesn’t take kindly to being roused from his beauty sleep by the likes of barbarian canines.

So, for now, Grimm is safe from the doofuses (or is that doofi?).  I fear, however, that it will not be long before Grimm reclaims his role as their witless leader.  If he doesn’t, Rufus may take the role…if so, God help us all.

 

 

Rufus the Dufus

 

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My dogs love frisbees.  LOVE them.  The problem, though, is that these plastic discs last about two seconds around my house.  They can only hold up so long against the catching, chomping, chewing, crunching and tugging done to them by my canines.  Until I go shopping again, they are an endangered commodity.

 

Rufus With Blue Frisbee

 

Somehow, Rufus found an almost completely intact specimen today.  This is like finding the Holy Grail–it’s rumored to exist, but no one knows where to find it. Where it was discovered, I’ll never know.  Perhaps it was one of Grimm’s secretly hidden discs.  He has a few caches of favorite things around the yard; problem is, he forgets where he places these items.  My guess is that Rufus just happened to stumble upon one of these treasures.

 

Chewing on the Frisbee

 

 

Rufus started to munch on the frisbee, savoring the subtle flavors of the plastic and further mangling its rim.  Of course, his crunching sounds of contentment soon attracted the attention of the current frisbee king at my house–Grimm.

 

 

The Theft

 

 

Grimm:  What’s this?  What you got there, Rufus?

Rufus:  Nothing, I don’t have anything.  Just chewing on a stick.

Grimm:  Oh, no.  I know what chewing on a stick sounds like.  You’ve got a frisbee, don’t you?  Is that one of MY frisbees?

Rufus:  It’s mine!  I found it all by myself.  Just go away and leave me alone.

Of course, now that a frisbee was involved, Grimm had no intention of just walking away.  Where frisbees are concerned, Grimm is like a crack addict.  He would definitely end up as a destitute frisbee whore turning tricks on a corner if I didn’t keep him regularly supplied.  Since stock was running low, Grimm was getting a little edgy about his next fix.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, so Grimm decided to just steal the disc from Rufus.

 

 

Going, Going, Gone

 

Grimm took the frisbee and ran.  The adrenaline sparked by his theft coursed through his veins, providing extra speed.  Rufus’ short legs would never be able to catch him and both dogs knew it.

 

 

Bring My Frisbee Back

 

Rufus was devastated.  He was so mad at Grimm–Grimm was the one who introduced him to the awesomeness of frisbees to begin with!  He felt betrayed, humiliated, and downright angry.

 

 

Zella Consoles Rufus

 

 

Zella tried her best to console Rufus.  After all, she knew what he was going through.  Many a beloved disc had been run into the ground, sometimes very savagely, by Grimm.  She comforted Rufus as best as she could.

 

 

Frisbee King

 

 

They both looked over to where Grimm stood, smugly crunching on the stolen frisbee.  Enough was enough.  They decided then and there it was time to de-throne the self-proclaimed Frisbee King.  Rufus started work on a plan to win back his disc.

 

 

Stakeout

 

 

Hiding behind some sticks (not his best camouflage, I know, but Grimm was paying more attention to his contraband anyways), Rufus observed his opponent in order to find an area of weakness.  Unable to find any, he proceeded to his backup strategy:  act like a crazy, rabid dog and just flat out attack Grimm.

 

 

Kung Fu Moves

 

 

His daring move caused Grimm to momentarily drop the stolen disc.  Rufus jumped and growled and brought forth his best impersonation of an ogre in order to try and gain possession of the frisbee.  Grimm, though, was up for the challenge.

 

 

Epic Battle For The Frisbee

 

 

 

Both dogs proceeded to try to overcome the other.  The epic battle for the frisbee began.  Seriously, folks, dogs the world over will be woofing about this battle for decades to come.  Grimm eventually got too hot to continue warring with Rufus.  No way was Rufus calling a time-out for Grimm to cool off–it was either stay and fight and get heat stroke, or just give up the frisbee already. Grimm decided to go take a swim in the water trough instead.

 

 

Got My Frisbee Back

 

 

Rufus claimed his prize–the shabby, worn piece of plastic.  He went back to his chewing spot and commenced the whittling of the disc.  Grimm, impressed by the littler dog’s courage and fortitude, let him be.  Rufus became the Frisbee King, for today at least.  I better stock up on more discs, and soon, before more havoc strikes my canine kingdom (or Grimm starts showing up on street corners jonesing for a frisbee fix). Maybe it’s time for an intervention.  Anyone know of any good canine frisbee rehabs?

 

 

 

 

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What is it about a stick that attracts a dog?  Sure, they are fun to chew on and chase and even carry around at times, but when the stick is as big as the dog, you would think things would get a little awkward.  Obviously, Zella doesn’t care:

 

Yippee!! I found a stick that is as long as me!

 

**Prance, prance, prance**
Sure, this may look awkward as this heavy branch pulls my head sideways, but boy am I having fun!

 

I present to you…my stick. Please oh please oh please throw it for me! Pretty please?

 

Grimm, like any younger sibling, coveted the big stick that Zella had found.  He tried to steal it from her a few times and even offered her a chewed up frisbee in exchange.  But really–who in their right mind would exchange such an awesome piece of wood for a ragtag piece of plastic?

Not to be outdone, Grimm found his own stick–the mightiest stick of all (at least that could be found in my backyard at the moment):

 

Ha! My stick is bigger than your stick, Zella! Who’s more awesome now, huh?

 

Grimm’s stick was so long and bulky, he had trouble carrying it around.  He kept tripping over it and finally he settled for just chewing on it.  When he got tired of munching on his tree branch, he just sat and stared at it and laid by it and babysat the stick for a while.

Zella saw the monstrous stick and of course she wanted what Grimm had found.  No way was little brother going to have the more mighty length of wood.  She didn’t try to bargain for it or perform some covert operation to steal the stick–she just flat out took it from him.

 

I’ll take this, thank you very much.

 

You would have thought that the stick was big enough for them to share–Grimm could gnaw on one end while Zella pulverized the other.  Oh, no…Zella wanted to drag the giant stick around the yard–without Grimm’s help.  She got stuck a few times trying to bring her prize with her, and even tried to bring it indoors at one point, but no way was she giving Grimm back his stick.  It was hers now. Grimm had to settle for her cast-off branch.

 

This giant stick sure is tasty! It may take me a while to turn it into sawdust.

 

What was Charley doing, you may ask, while the younger ones battled over stick supremacy?  Well, Charley doesn’t really care about sticks.  He only would ever fetch sticks when swimming was involved, and since he doesn’t do much of that anymore, he proceeded to perform the one skill he has absolutely mastered over the years:  steal my bed.

 

Those wild young ‘uns can keep their rough, hard sticks. I prefer comfy, soft beds. And yep, you ain’t seeing things. I do have my rump on my owner’s pillow. I make my own rules–ain’t nobody gonna tell me I have to use a pillow only for my noggin.

 

Well, guess who’s changing their sheets today?  Thanks, Charley, for putting your dog butt on my pillow.  Just glad you are comfortable.

**Sigh.**

 

 

 

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Apparently Grimm thinks he is some sort of Tarzan.  See for yourself:

“AaaaaaahhhhUhUhAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUhUhAaaaaaahhhh!!!”

Earlier this week, he and Zella decided that it would be awesome to mimic beavers and gnaw one of the climbing arms of my Lady Banks rose off of its base.  This old rose has climbed all over the hackberry tree it neighbors and thus this vine was very well anchored in and around the tree.  Once separated from its base, the vine then became a free-floating, dangling stem for the dogs to grip onto and hang from.  Zella quickly tired of the swinging-from-the-vine game and decided to go munch on a frisbee instead.  Grimm, however, thinks he is some gravity defying Cirque du Soleil protege and refuses to leave the vine alone.

When he grabs the vine with his mouth, his front legs can no longer reach the ground.  At times, his whole body is dangling from the rose vine as he slowly twirls in a circle.  He tugs and wrestles with the organic climber but no matter how hard he tries, he cannot pull the vine down.  He has, however, caused the vine to knock against some of the dead limbs of the hackberry tree which support it, so at least he has managed to prune the tree for me.

Zella also pretends she is Tarzan at times, although she likes to swing from a proper rope and not a vine.  Here she is doing her impersonation of soap on a rope.

Some dogs really enjoy tugging on a rope or other such toy.  Certain breeds, especially pit bulls, American bulldogs and other “bully breeds”, have a deep, ingrained desire to grasp, hold and tug.  This was originally what these types of dogs where bred for and this genetic trait can be seen in our dogs today.  With their big ol’ heads and strong necks and jaws, these dogs can literally dangle from a rope or other such instrument.  However, this sort of grasping and grappling isn’t so easy on their teeth, especially when you have a dog like Grimm who now thinks any tree branch within mouth’s reach would be fun to try to hang from.

See any splinters in there? Take a good look–this may be the last time Grimm has pretty teeth. Because he likes to hang from woody vines and tree limbs, he may soon start looking like a hillbilly.

Tarzan…I mean Grimm…hopefully will become tired of swinging from his vine.  It looks like this vine may very soon become too high for him to reach.  All of his chomping and tugging has slowly whittled away it’s end.  Time to get out more ropes so I can save my trees.  Apparently my dog has a chainsaw for a mouth.

“AaaaaaaahhhhUHUHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUHUHAaaaaaaahhhhh!!

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Grimm has been operating in only two modes lately:  dead to the world and go speed racer.  He is either passed out cold or running full blast.  I bet you can guess which rate of motion drives me crazy.  Why can’t he have a happy medium? To make things even more interesting, he somehow enlisted Zella in on the action, so now it is double the anarchy, double the fuss.

Charley tries to help me keep the younger ones in line. He referees their play and corrects them when they get too rowdy. When they are especially bad, Charley bores them to tears with stories of life when he was younger. “Back in my day, we didn’t have them fancy frisbees you young ‘uns love to chase. We had to chase old tin pie pans…or rocks…or if you were really lucky, you got to chase a stick.”

Grimm never just walks anywhere anymore.  He sprints…and makes himself an obstacle course, too.  For example, if he and I are leaving the bedroom to, say, go to the kitchen, he sprints out the bedroom door, jumps completely over the two steps that lead into the living room, jumps onto the couch, runs it’s length two or three times, jumps off the couch and runs a lap or two around it, scoots under the kitchen table, commando crawls under a dining room chair, then speed slides into the kitchen where he comes to an immediate halt and sits pretty, waiting for a possible treat.  Makes me tired just typing it.  At this point, I seriously wouldn’t be surprised if my Evel Knievel canine decided to add a circle of fire to his route.   Why he can’t just walk straight from the bedroom to the kitchen is beyond me.  My room is only about 25 feet from the kitchen–Grimm’s circuitous route has to at least triple the distance.  Seems to me the shorter route would get him to the treat faster.

*Boing*! Gotta keep moving! Come on, Zella, no time to waste!

My wild dog does the same thing outside.  I expect him to run around when he’s out there, but there’s run around and then there is run A round.  Grimm literally runs three full, perfect circles of the yard before he commences exploration of his terrain.  He makes up obstacle courses outside, too–over the bush, through the culvert, backflip off the deck and weave through the bamboo. I get dizzy just watching him.

Now I know what you are going to say:  you must not be exercizing him enough.  Unless I can find an Olympic marathon runner who wants to have a tag-a-long canine training partner, there is not much more I can do.  I run him. I work him.  I let him play with his canine buddies for hours (three hours today). At this point, I feel like I am just helping him increase his stamina and am shooting myself in the foot.  Don’t get me wrong–I tire him out and he sleeps like the dead, but once he’s refreshed, well, life in the fast lane commences–again.

I brought back my frisbee AND Zella at the same time!

Lately, he can’t even seem to just sit still.  He’s constantly shuffling his feet and his butt keeps bopping from side to side.  I frequently find myself telling him, “Calm your body!”  When he’s in a down, he slithers side to side like he needs to itch his back.  Really, he’s just inch-worming his way slowly across the floor. Technically, he’s doing what was asked–he’s still down–he’s just not staying put.  I have to make everything extremely clear with him.  It’s like making a deal with the devil–gotta read the fine print or else he’ll walk on a technicality.

Grimm’s crazy energy seems to correspond with the cooler weather we’ve been having.  If it actually gets really cold, maybe he’ll hibernate and I won’t have to worry about wearing him out.  This life in the fast lane is tiring business.  I’m ready for a slow ride–it’s time to take it easy.

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Since Grimm has been extra mischievous and impish lately, full of the devil as they say, I thought it was only fitting for him to become one for a day.  What better time than Halloween for him to live out his devilish fantasies?

I placed the horns on his head and tied his cape and collar around his neck.  I thought for sure he would then proceed to buck and writhe in an elaborate attempt to rid himself of his constricting garments.  Instead, something strange happened.  The little hellion actually just sat there…and watched me…and then proceeded to parade around the house like a proud peacock.

Can a dog get into character?  Because I swear this one did.  If he had been given a pitchfork, I’m fairly sure he would have started poking and prodding Charley and Zella with it.  I had to look closely–was his tail developing a swelling at the end resembling a pointed spade?  Were those horns really part of the costume or part of Grimm?  I think I saw him looking for the matches and I’m pretty sure I heard him asking Zella what brimstone was.

Grimm:  Come, my minions.  We must venture forth and tempt the righteous and collect the wicked.

Me:  Um, Grimm?  Where are you taking Zella and Charley?  You guys aren’t allowed to leave by yourselves.

Grimm:  Begone, foolish human.  I am the Prince of Darkness, el diablo malo.  I am off to bargain for souls and I need my underlings to help keep track of my converts and to bring the hellfire and brimstone.  Zella, you’re in charge of fire. Charley, you get the brimstone.

Me:  Wait…what?  You are taking this devil business a little too far.  You are not really the devil.  Well, sometimes you act like one…but that’s beside the point. You are only wearing a costume–it’s pretend.   As in NOT REAL.  And when did you start speaking Spanish?

Grimm:  Oh.  So I don’t have to really gather souls and live underground with fire?  Whew.  That’s a relief.  Fire kinda scares me.  I do like having horns, though.  Can I keep the horns?  Oh, and my friend Chico the chihuahua has been teaching me a few words in Spanish.  Did you know that caca means…..

Me:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Lose the cape and horns, Lucifer.  I want my Grimm back.

So things have pretty much returned to normal.  Grimm’s happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care attitude has returned.  He even redeemed himself of his wicked ways yesterday when he very graciously donated half a liter of blood to a very sweet, but very sick golden retriever.  I think I may have even seen the hint of a halo around his head when he ran through the sunlight this afternoon.  Angelic Grimm has made an appearance–we’ll see how long it takes for the devil to return.  In the meantime, have a safe, fun and happy Halloween!

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Halloween is almost here and it is time to answer the all important question–which costumes should the dogs wear this year?  This is more difficult to answer than one might think.  First of all, do I buy off the rack or attempt to put something together?  There are a few (okay, quite a few) problems with me making costumes.  I really can’t sew well–or at all, really–and trying to be creative and come up with something new just isn’t happening.  So, off the rack it will be.

Now, since I have medium to large dogs, finding already made costumes to fit them is rather difficult.  Most of the cute or more original stuff is made for the smallish tykes.  Most times I have to look at children’s costumes to see what is available.  The other option, I guess, is to put girdles on all of them and tell them to suck in.

Zella looked pretty darn cute as a squirrel, although she thought her head piece made a better toy than a hat. She would take it off every 5 minutes and I would find her carrying it around like it was one of her stuffed babies.

Lastly, I have to consider the complexity of the costume.  Charley, my old boy, isn’t fazed by much and I could dress him in the most complex of style without any problems.  Zella is a little fussy about too much head ornamentation so I have to limit her costume to more simple styles.

Charley makes a mighty fine cowboy. Over the years, he has also been dressed as an angel, a convict, a shark, a pig, a devil and a lobster.
I have way too many dog costumes.

Grimm has never dressed up for Halloween before–this will be our first together.  I already know his costume will need to be fairly simple.  Anything around his legs or feet will be eaten in less than two seconds.  I’m pretty sure anything tied around his head will have him rolling around on the ground like a spastic inchworm trying to get it off.  Plus, I have a sinking suspicion he may try to eat the other dogs costumes off of them, too.  Hmmm…I need to incorporate a muzzle into his costume, I think, and all I can think of at the moment that may work is Hannibal Lecter.

Grimm scared Zella senseless when he pretended to be a demon ghost.

Grimm is no help when I ask him what he wants to be for Halloween.  First he wanted to be a frisbee, then he wanted to be a flip-flop.  I explained to him that frisbees and flip-flops aren’t really scary, so he needed to think of something else.

Grimm:  So, I need to dress up as something scary?  Is that the idea?

Me:  Yes, exactly.  The scarier the better.  Think of what is scariest to you to help you decide.

Grimm:  [thinking hard, smoke is coming out of his ears]  Okay, I know what I’m going to be.

Me:  Okay, what?

Grimm:  A vacuum cleaner.

Okay, so maybe I should have clarified a few things for him before we had this conversation.  He is still trying to grasp the trick-or-treat thing.  I can understand his confusion.  For him, it has always been trick-then-treat because I use a lot of food and treats in training.  The possibility of getting a treat without a trick baffles him.  I’m afraid this holiday may turn him into a real monster.  Treats for free from lots of awesome people?  Well, Halloween just may become his favorite holiday.  I may never get this dog out of a costume ever again.

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What a gorgeous day we had today in Austin!  Perfect temperature, perfect blue sky, perfect pure sunlight pouring down.  My yard, however, was not looking so perfect…straggly, even.  Time to put on the gardening gloves.

First order of business was to pull up all the dead sunflower stalks from earlier in the summer.  Grimm decided he was going to help by bringing me pieces to add to the pile.  Because the dried stalks still have a few dried sunflower heads attached, seeds are still present, too.  To keep the birds happy and to provide a place for the smaller critters to hide, I add the stalks to several brush piles I have strategically placed around the yard.  These piles are nestled in the mini-bamboo forests I have cultivated around the perimeter of my property.  The bamboo makes a perfect natural fence and with the brush hidden inside, my neighbors can’t complain about unsightly brush piles.

Step 1: Bring the stick to the stick pile. Step 2: Drop the stick on the pile. Step 3: Tap the stick into place with your foot. Step 4: Watch the stick carefully to make sure it stays in place.

Grimm was so excited to be able to help today.  I think, ladies and gentlemen, I have found Grimm’s niche:  gardening.  Granted, it took about 10 minutes for him to bring one little stick over (first he had to munch on it to make it the appropriate size, I guess), but he did add, well, five stalks to the pile.  Once he gets his stick fetching skills honed, we’ll have to start on digging next.  Maybe by next month he’ll be talented enough to work the mower.  One can hope, right?

Grimm takes his time finding the perfect spot to place his dried sunflower stalk.

While Grimm worked at collecting sticks, Zella chased a few bunnies.  I was a little surprised that Grimm stayed with me and not with her, but, as a lot of you now know, Grimm is a velcro dog–even the excitement of a rabbit chase can’t get him to truly leave my side.  He watched Zella, though, as she sprung through the tall grass.  Finally, she flushed one his way and he joined in the hunt.  Not to worry, though, they never came close to catching any of those agile rabbits.

Grimm watches Zella chase bunnies in the field next to my house.

 

Getting outside on such a glorious day really lifted my spirits!  The last few weeks have been a little rough and I didn’t realize how much I missed just being able to putter around outside (with the dogs, of course).  Plus, if you’ve been following or reading this blog, you’ll know that I was Freshly Pressed this week. All of your stories about your own critters and kind words of encouragement really heartened my spirits.  I would never have thought that one little story, on one little blog,  about one little (well, okay, big) dog could create such an overwhelming response!

So, thank you.  Thank you for embracing my stories and empathizing with my frustration.  I now know more about all of your toilet habits, too, which is not something many people can say.

Grimm thanks you, too.  He was elated to learn that there are other dogs out there who didn’t read their Rules and Regulations in Regards to Living in the Human World handbook, either.  He feels a little better knowing he’s not the only one with a paper fetish and a strong desire to hang out with his person by the commode.

For now, it’s back to stick clearing duty.  This garden isn’t going to prune itself. I’ll leave that chore to Grimm.  He likes to eat paper, and isn’t paper just pulverized sticks?

Maybe I’ll just munch on this stick for a while. Tastes like chicken.

 

 

 

 

 

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Fall seemed to blast into central Texas today.  It was actually cold (only a high of 75 degrees) and raining off and on.  I dread taking the dogs out on days like today because of the mud factor.  The drought has killed off most of the Augustine grass that used to carpet the front part of my back yard, which means that the sparse native grass doesn’t completely cover the clay that is exposed.  With the rain, the clay has turned into the consistency of thick peanut butter, which is awfully fun to clean from dog paws–and by awfully fun, I mean just awful.  I figured, if we’re gonna get dirty, might as well go all out.  So I let all three of them sniff and explore to their little hearts content in the land surrounding my house.

I live in a neighborhood that was developed over old farm and ranch land, so occasionally I find some interesting things when digging in the dirt or when the rain washes some of it away.  Today, Grimm found himself an awesome old bone sticking out of the dirt–the humerus of a cow.  He pried it loose from the dirt and mud and proceeded to parade it in front of Zella and Charley.  Never mind that the bone was old, brittle and dirty.  Grimm had it and they wanted it.  So, the game of bones began.

Zella tried brute strength–she tackled Grimm and grabbed the end of the bone sticking out of his mouth.  They toiled back and forth, but no matter how hard Zella tried, she could not get a firm enough grip on the condyle portion jutting from Grimm’s mouth.  In frustration, she gave up.  Grimm taunted her some more–come on, come get this from me…if you dare!

Since brute force wasn’t in her favor, she tried a new tactic more in character with her sex–intimacy.   She ran up to Grimm, mounted him and thrust so hard against him that she knocked him down to the ground.  Now, I know in dogs this is more about dominance and, in Zella’s case, frustration.  Her assault, however, caused Grimm to drop his bone.  Grimm jumped up, momentarily forgetting the bone, and proceeded to wrestle with Zella.

While this skirmish was playing out, Charley watched from the fringes.  As soon as the bone fell from Grimm’s mouth, Charley watched for the perfect moment to dart in for the steal.  As soon as Grimm went chasing after Zella, sans bone, Charley skulked in and started gnawing on the bone.  Grimm heard the scrape of tooth on his prize and ran back to liberate his haul.  Grimm ran up and wrenched the bone from Charley’s grasp.  The bounty was his!  The game of bones was won!

Watching them struggle to gain the bone was exactly like the canine version of Game of Thrones.   There was deceit, sexual overtures and dirty, grueling battles.  The only thing missing was a dwarf–maybe next time we’ll invite the neighbor’s chihuahua to the game.  I finally stepped in and took the bone for myself and hosed all the dogs down.  I cleaned off the bone and let Grimm have a few moments of kingly glory.  After all, winter is coming–the bleak days ahead will not be favorable for playing the game of bones.

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The weather here in Austin finally cooperated.  It was a chilly 77 degrees this morning (I know, all things are relative; but if you live in central Texas, you have to be part reptile, and anything between 65 and 90 degrees is “chilly”.)  Perfect weather for EXTREME SPORTSdog scootering.

Okay, I’ll admit, dog scootering doesn’t sound that extreme, more mediocre at best. And no, it’s not watching a dog scoot around on it’s butt.  Dog scootering is akin to dog mushing, but instead of a sled, you use a scooter of some type while the dog/dogs pull you.  Some people call it scooter-joring or dryland mushing, but those terms sound no better.

I use a measly Razor scooter because:  I already had one handy (yes, I am 35 going on 12);  I’m not dedicated enough to the sport to buy a $300 plus scooter; it’s small, light and easily portable;  and I find the tiny four inch wheels and low carriage greatly increase the risk of a rock or crack in the asphalt causing a major crash and road rash.  I know, extremely stupid, but that’s what makes it an EXTREME SPORT.

I apparently want to make it even more extreme.  Only one of my dogs is even remotely trained in formal pulling.  Grimm doesn’t know “Gee” from “Whiz” and to him “Whoa” means keep running as fast as you can.  He also has a bad habit of looking around and not focusing on the job at hand.  Zella has a fairly good grasp of “Gee”, “Haw”, “Go Steady” and “Yip Yip” (I use this as the command for speed up).  Grimm does like to mimic his smaller, older “sister”, so he does fairly well for a beginner.

Two extremely fast and agile pit bulls pulling like crazy make for one exciting ride. Zooming along at 15-20 mph (I know, doesn’t seem that fast, but 4 inch wheels/looming death, remember?) can be quite exhilarating.  I definitely get lots of comments and strange looks from people.  Most people think a scooter powered by pit bulls definitely helps to keep Austin weird.  Honestly, though, it’s a great workout for them and me, both mentally and physically.  You wouldn’t believe how much you use your core muscles for stability.  They sleep like babies the rest of the day.

You will probably never see dog scootering enter the EXTREME SPORTS arena, but trust me when I say it can be extreme–extremely stupid if you’re not careful.  Do as I say, not as I do and all that.  My dogs and I are just doing our part to reduce our use of fossil fuels.  Pit bull power could be another source of green energy, if you’re up for the challenge!

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Summer is officially here–already the temperature here in Central Texas is in the triple digits.  The dogs don’t get as much outdoor time when it is this hot.  The risk of heat stroke is too severe when you have dogs who don’t know when to quit.  Instead, we play outside in the early morning or later evening hours and they take “cool off  breaks” by jumping in the water trough (when it is not being hogged by the humans).

Zella waits her turn to jump into the water trough. My father routinely likes to wallow in the water trough, too, when he comes to visit.

The other way we keep cool is by consuming tasty treats, and by tasty treats, I mean cold watermelon.  Nothing beats the heat better than sweet, juicy chunks of perfectly sweet melon.  My dogs love munching on watermelon, even if they only receive mostly the rind portion.

Zella munches on her piece of watermelon.

Charley demonstrating the correct technique used by carnivores to eat a juicy piece of melon. First rule is to scrape out the red, meaty part.

Zella offers her assistance to Grimm in consuming his piece of watermelon.

As long as the air conditioner keeps ticking, we’ll be in good shape.  With a fridge full of watermelon as backup, we’re sure to stay cool and content.

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“If we don’t chase things,  the things following us can catch up.”

–L.M. Montgomery

My two younger dogs love to play chase.  Up, down, back and forth they race, dancing around each other in a complicated ritual.  And, for the most part, their game is ritualized, with an unspoken set of rules.  For them, the rules are as follows:

Rule #1:   Grimm is always the chaser, Zella (holding a high value toy) is always the quarry.  This is how she likes to play the game, and as she is the boss, this is how it is played.  If Grimm grabs a treasured toy (usually a frisbee) and flaunts it in front of Zella, she totally ignores him.  She will usually go on a hunt for her own frisbee in order to start the game.

Zella starts the game by searching for a frisbee.

Grimm gets ready to start the chase.

Rule #2:  The chaser (Grimm) is never allowed to tackle the quarry.  He tried that tactic once and Zella quickly put a stop to it (she is very good at effectively correcting another dog without actually hurting the other dog in any way).  The chaser may nip at heels, tail or flanks, but he better not actually jump on the quarry.  Now, if Grimm gets going too fast and it looks like a tackle may happen or appears unavoidable, he actually now will speed up and jump completely over Zella, at which point she will turn around and sprint the other way.

The chase is on!

Grimm nips at her flanks, and Zella puts on speed.

Rule #3:  When the chaser finally catches his quarry, the quarry must play tug with the valuable object before the chase can restart (this is Grimm’s rule, and since Zella set the other rules, it is only fair that he has one, too).  This usually lasts for about three to five minutes, then Zella gives him the frisbee.  He carries it around for a little while, then gets bored and drops it.  He saunters over to some greenery in the yard and starts his impression of a goat.  All the while he is munching his greens, he is eyeing the frisbee and pretending not to see Zella sneak around to snatch it up again.  As soon as she has it in her possession, the game renews.

Time to play tug.

Grimm watches to see if Zella is going to restart the game. He dropped the frisbee in the middle of the sunflowers.

Zella gets the frisbee to begin the game all over again.

Watching my dogs play their ritualized game reminded me that all of us play our part in our own ritualized games each day.  At times we are the quarry, at other times the chaser.  I also realized when watching their play that the quarry can have just as much power as the chaser and the chaser is just as much at the mercy of the quarry.  Without one, you cannot have the other.  For me, this was again another reminder of the delicate balance we face each day, but probably don’t stop to realize it.  I would never have guessed that two pit bull’s play could spark an epiphany.   Have I ever mentioned what  terrific teachers dogs are?

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…or, more precisely, the eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) rabbit.  These cute, fluffy bunnies run rampant in central Texas because they breed like, well, rabbits.  Because of our mild winters, they can reproduce year round–they can have large litters and can reach sexual maturity in a matter of months (3 to be exact).  When you are the popular main course for coyotes, domestic dogs and cats, hawks, owls, snakes, possums, foxes, bobcats and other predators, you learn to grow up fast and hard and to have plenty of youngsters around to spread the genetic code.  Of course, you also have death by man–motor vehicles creating roadkill, wayward lawnmowers running over rabbit nests, and those well-meaning individuals who try to intervene with Mother Nature.

Zella, my 4 year old American Pit Bull Terrier, has many “jobs”–couch warmer, frisbee wrangler, food taster–but her favorite job is being the local rabbit trainer.  Every day, she makes sure those bunnies are running faster, leaping farther, and turning quicker.  She has not yet caught one, but for her I think it’s more about the chase, not the capture.

One day a few weeks ago, while out with the dogs, I noticed Zella was being very still in the empy 1/2 acre overgrown lot next to my house.  The other dogs noticed it too, and we all went to investigate.  Zella got snarky with Grimm (my other pit bull) and Charley (my 14 year old catahoula/heeler cross) when they got too close to her.  I thought, maybe, that she had found a dead critter and was keeping it all for her own.  When I got closer, she started to wiggle her tail slowly and would make deep eye contact with me, then look at the ground between her feet, then back at me again several times.  Usually if she has found something dead and she sees me coming, she either immediately starts consumption of said matter or starts to roll around on top of it, getting greasy, sticky slime all over her shoulders, chest, neck and head.  This time, she did neither.  She wasn’t jumping and lunging at it, so I was pretty sure it wasn’t a reptile of some kind (snake, lizard, turtle).  Instead, it was a nest of baby rabbits.

Zella Searches for Bunnies

Eastern cottontails don’t burrow underground–their nests are usually a few to six inches deep, lined with grasses and the mother rabbit’s fur.  This nest was far below standard–momma bunny just wasn’t trying.  It was maybe 1 inch  deep and had a few twigs around it.  No momma bunny hair in sight.  Zella stood over the little buggers, waiting for me to come.  She had not disturbed the nest or the 4 baby rabbits in any way (only dribbled some slobber on them from her panting–they were also right in the full sun).  These little guys were only about an inch and a half long, with eyes still closed, meaning 4 days old, tops.  I knew that if I left them out there, either 1) Zella would stand guard all day, 2) Charley would eventually get them and slurp them down like cocktail weenies at a free buffet, or 3) they would fry in the hot sun exposed like they were.  So I did exactly what you aren’t supposed to do with Mother Nature–I interfered.

I wrangled Grimm and Charley inside, leaving Zella to stand guard.  I collected all four babies and into the garage we went.  I placed them in a cat carrier and proceeded to learn about raising eastern cottontail babies.  Turns out, this is hard to do (like most wildlife rehabilitation).  The stress usually kills them, but trying to mimic rabbit milk is difficult, too, not to mention having to make sure they are able to establish the normal gut flora to eventually digest the plants in their diet.  To do this, you need to feed them cecotrophes.   Apparently, rabbits pass two types of stool:  the hard, round pellets you normally see, and dark, wet, sticky stool.  Cecotrophes are the second type and it is this fecal matter that contains the appropriate bacteria needed to populate the baby bunnies gut.  Because baby bunnies have an essentially sterile gut at birth, they need a momma rabbit to pass her good bacteria on to them by grooming them and by defecating around the nest where the babies can ingest these cecotrophes.  If a human decides to play momma bunny, you can go around looking for these cecotrophes and collect them and force feed them to the babies to help ensure a successful outcome.  I decided that, for one, there was no way I was ever going to find cecotrophes in my overgrown acre area and, secondly, if I started crawling around in my yard on my hands and knees looking for some, my neighbors would really think I had gone off the deep end.

I studied more on rabbit rearing habits, and learned that momma bunny usually only feeds at night, and not during the day anyway, and is usually not deterred from her babies by the smell of nearby predators.  So, I went to the spot where the nest was originally found, and basically “upgraded” it.  I dug it deeper and collected lots of grasses to line and cover it with.  I waited until dusk, then returned all the babies to the nest.  All babies were in good health when found, so I placed a few twigs over the nest to check the next morning to see if momma bunny had come to visit.

The next day, I peeked at the 4 babies under their new straw covering, and all looked fat and hydrated and content, so I let them be.  For the next 7 days, Zella dutifully went to check on them.  When Charley got close, she chased him away.  When I couldn’t ensure the dogs wouldn’t get to them when we were outside, I brought all the babies inside to the garage to stay in the cat carrier and returned them to the nest at dusk.  When they started to jump and crawl around, Zella would find them and stand over each one until I had picked each one up and returned it to the nest or I brought all of  them inside for the day.  Last I saw of them, they were 5 inches long and on their way to reaching independence.  They were already leaving the nest and eating on their own.  It appears now that they have gone their separate ways (I hope).  Zella occasionally goes to the original nest site and snuffles around, but Charley and Grimm are no longer attracted to the area.  I’m sure in a few weeks time, Zella will become these little guys personal trainer, too, ensuring that they continue to run faster and jump higher and live to pass on these genes to the next generation.

One of Zella’s baby bunnies.

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