Farewell, Big Dog

We said goodbye to our Big Dog Shy in late January 2016.  We were lucky enough to adopt Shy as a rescue dog in July 2010.  Our 9-year-old male Vizsla, Flash, died prematurely from cancer.  I looked at all of the Vizsla rescue websites on the West Coast, hoping to find an adoptable dog the same age as Flash.  I found Shy on the Utah Idaho Vizsla Rescue website.

Friends of ours from Eastern Washington fostered Shy at the time.  When they came to Western Washington from their home in Ephrata for a dog show, we arranged to take Shy for a weekend trial – and ended up keeping him from then on.  Surprise, surprise.

Shy was very loving and wanted nothing more than to cuddle up with you on the couch.  He was also extremely anxious.  Shy’s previous owners apparently put him out in the back yard and didn’t let him back in the house.  When Shy first came to live with us, it was difficult to coax him off of his bed to go outside.  It was also a challenge to get him to drink enough water.  Eventually, he learned that if he went outside to pee, he could usually come right back in, especially in bad weather.  

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Sweet Dreams, Molly

Our sweet rescue Vizsla Molly died on Sunday.  She became a member of our family on February 10, 2007.  She was our Funny Valentine.

We believe Molly was around 12 years out when she came to live with us, so would have been around 17 years old when she died.  That’s a long life for a dog of any breed.  Molly enjoyed life and had a happy, easy going disposition.  She got along well with people, dogs and cats.

Molly’s presence enriched our lives.  She was wonderfully entertaining!  Molly’s zest for life displayed itself in many ways:  her enthusiastic spins while playing, her special way of greeting people, her daily naps underneath her blanket on her favorite chair, her insistence that someone sit on the couch with her in the evening, her single bark at the door when she wanted outside and her ability to monitor the activity in the kitchen while sleeping soundly in the living room, to name a few.

We miss Molly and treasure our memories of her many awesome qualities and endearing mannerisms.

Thanks to Kenneth Hopping for allowing me to use the photo shown after the break.

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No Reasonable Expectation of Treats for a Thieving Big Dog

Shy (a.k.a. The Big Dog) stole a bunch of training treats off of the kitchen counter the other day.  We have been putting training treats there ever since puppy Pip came to live with us over 7 months ago.  Shy’s recent theft was the first time he helped himself to the treats.  I cut up some high value treats – lamb hearts and wieners – for Pip to eat at conformation handling class.  Shy watched me expectantly as I cut up the treats and I let him have some.

When I put the leftover treats back in the same spot after class, it seems that Shy was overcome by temptation and devoured the treats without making a sound.  We know he most likely did it, and not one of the other dogs, because Dee caught him putting his paws up on the counter later that day.  We now put the treats out of his reach farther away from the edge of the counter, but where they are easily accessible to randomly treat good behavior from all of the dogs, with the primary training focus on Pip.

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Mouthful of Potholders – Molly’s Defining Moment

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She concentrated on the salmon skin tantalizingly dangling before her eyes as one human held up the baked fillet while the other scraped off the skin.  Suddenly, she saw her chance and sprang forward with lightning speed.  She was sure she nabbed the luscious skin, but when her front feet landed on the kitchen floor, she realized that all she had was a mouthful of potholders.  She spit them out on the floor, thoroughly disgusted with her prize.  The humans laughed at her antics, adding insult to injury.

Molly is our 16 plus year old senior rescue dog.  A tweet from Dog Star Daily regarding a webpage on Muttville about the benefits of adopting a senior dog inspired me to write a post about Molly.

Hikers found Molly at the Taylor River trail head, near North Bend, Washington, in February 2007.  She was sitting on a bridge near the beginning of the trail.  Instead of going on a hike, the hikers put Molly in their car and took her to the King County Animal Shelter at Crossroads in Bellevue, Washington.  Taylor River trail head is a remote location, making it unlikely that Molly wandered there by herself.  She was probably deliberately dropped off there.  Many thanks to these hikers and other people like them who inconvenience themselves to help abandoned, lost and stray animals.

I received an email from NW Vizsla Rescue asking me if I could go by the shelter on my way home from work to identify whether a dog there was a Vizsla.  Dee and I both worked in downtown Seattle at the time and commuted together.  We snuck out of work a few minutes early so that we could get to the shelter before it closed for the day.

Molly was lying curled up in a cage when we first saw her.  We were instructed by the shelter staff that we could look at her, but that we couldn’t touch her until she became available for adoption 3 days later.  The thing that struck me when I first saw her was that her ears are deformed.  Vizslas are supposed to have beautiful, silky, flop ears.  Molly’s ears are shrived up by hemotomas.  That type of hematoma is caused by the dog shaking its head due to a chronic ear infection and is a sign of neglect.  Molly was well cared for in other ways and was even a touch overweight.  We stood there peering in at Molly and discussing her ears.  After a couple of minutes, Molly engaged us by wagging her tail at us without moving any other part of her body, a very Vizsla thing to do.  We determined that she must be a Vizsla and left the shelter.

I didn’t think Molly was very adoptable, due to her ears and her age.  Most people who plan to adopt a Vizsla want a young dog that matches their image of a Vizsla.  Although I didn’t think Molly was very adoptable, we were reluctant to take her ourselves, since we already had 3 dogs.

I initially told my contact at NW Vizsla Rescue that we could foster Molly for 2 weeks.  By the time Molly was available for adoption from the shelter 3 days later, we had decided to keep her as our own pet.  We are very happy that we did!  Molly has been an important part of our family for a little over 4 years now.  Both the animal shelter staff and our vet estimated that she was 12 years old when she first joined our family.

Molly is quite charismatic!  She is easily the best socialized dog I have ever met.  She gets along well with people, other dogs and cats.  She is very low key in greeting other animals, sniffing and allowing others to sniff her without getting excited – it’s a routine aspect of life for her.  She continually demonstrated the proper technique for greeting the cat to Flash (p. 5), the agility dog in the weave pole picture to the right.  Molly simply walks up to the cat, sticks her nose in the cat’s face, then walks away.  Flash never did catch on and couldn’t approach the cat without quivering all over.

Molly’s people greeting is colorful.  She sticks her head in a person’s crotch and pushes up with the top of her skull while enthusiastically wagging her tail.  Some people won’t let Molly greet them this way.  They are missing out.  I have the good fortune of receiving Molly’s special greeting at least once a day. 

Molly was very playful for the first few years she was with us, less so now.  Molly would race around the yard with the other dogs, then do a stationary spin.  She would keep her back end in the same spot while whirling her front end around in a circle, like a horse in a reining competition.  It’s great fun to see!  The only other dog I have seen do that is Chiz, the first Vizsla I ever met.  I think it’s a special dog that spins on her own like that and feel delighted every time I see Molly do it.

Molly rarely spins anymore, but does still race around the yard sometimes.  She even plays with Pip, the puppy, now and then.  Pip always tries to get Molly to play with him and is pleasantly surprised when she does.  Pip knows he needs to respect Molly.  She has never put him in his place, but he knew from the moment he met her that he better respect her.

Molly spends a lot of time sleeping.  In the morning, she likes to sleep under a blanket on her favorite chair.  In the evening, she wants someone to sit on the couch with her.  Anyone who will sit on the couch with Molly in the evening is her new best friend.

We feel that Molly has enriched our lives.  We would have missed out on many wonderful moments had we passed up the opportunity to adopt this senior dog.

Pip is Here!

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Pip is our new 8 week old Vizsla puppy!  We are very excited and happy to have Pip join our family!  We picked him up from his breeder on Saturday morning.  That gave Pip and us all day Saturday to adjust to each other and for Pip to investigate his new surroundings before bedtime.  We enjoyed several very fun and short training sessions, just 2 to 3 minutes each.  We taught come, sit and down, using kibble and liver food rewards.  Pip successfully performed each of these exercises, helping us feel successful, too.

We are raising Pip using Ian Dunbar’s approach outlined in Before & After Getting Your Puppy: The Positive Approach to Raising a Happy, Healthy & Well-Behaved Dog.  Dunbar advocates early puppy training and socialization.  He states in his book’s introduction:

All serious adult dog behavior, training, and temperament problems can be prevented quite easily with early socialization and lure/reward, puppy-friendly training techniques.

Dunbar’s message is that if people adequately trained and socialized their dogs as young puppies, there would be far fewer dogs turned over to shelters to be euthanized.

I could have done a better job socializing puppies I raised in the past.  They were all wonderful dogs, but did not achieve the NPD (Near Perfect Dog) status Dunbar aspires to in his book.  We want Pip to be an NPD.  We have great expectations for him on a number of fronts.

Dunbar recommends giving your puppy Kong toys stuffed with kibble to prevent him from becoming a destructive chewer and/or a compulsive barker.  Kong toys are rubber dog toys that come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be stuffed with food.  We are starting with the Kong Stuff-a-Ball treat dispenser. It’s shaped a bit like a ball, except that it has straight sides with slits so that you can put kibble all around the outside of the ball.  The inside is hollow and can be stuffed with kibble.  We soften the kibble in water before stuffing the Kong toy with it.  Pip doesn’t play with the toy constantly, but is interested enough to eat the kibble off the outside and to work on getting out the food from the inside.  Odessa likes to help him by licking at the stuffed toy from the outside of Pip’s cage.

Pip is not allowed to run free in the house.  When we are not interacting with Pip and giving him 100% of our attention, he is inside a crate or a cage.  We have several crates or cages for him set up around the house.  All of our dogs have their own cages where they go when they come in from outside and where they sleep at night.  Pip sleeps in a crate in our bedroom at night for now, but will graduate to sleeping in the dog area, an area next to the kitchen, when he is housebroken. 

We are putting a lot of time and energy into Pip’s puppyhood education.  We know that some people would think what we are doing is not necessary and a waste of time, but we look forward to the day when Pip achieves NPD status.

Odessa’s Career Change

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Dee, my partner, and I welcome Odessa into our fold!  Odessa began life as a Guide Dogs for the Blind puppy.  Dee and I are Guide Dogs volunteers.  Last spring, Dee decided she wanted to raise a Guide Dog puppy.  She picked Odessa up from the Guide Dogs puppy truck in Tacoma, Washington on March 7, 2010.  Odessa, a black Labrador Retriever, was just 10 weeks old and completely adorable!

Guide Dogs for the Blind does what its name says, provide seeing eye dogs for blind and visually impaired people.  The main campus is in San Rafael, California.  There is also a campus in Boring, Oregon.  The dogs live with volunteer raisers for up to 18 months before they return to either the San Rafael or Boring campus for formalized training.  The volunteer raisers socialize the puppies and teach them basic commands.  After they return to campus, the dogs learn to work in harness.  Sometimes the dogs are not chosen to return to campus and instead are placed in pet homes.  This is called a “career change.”

We raised Odessa in our home from March until late November 2010.  Odessa is very smart, but very energetic.  Her wild streak made her a challenge to raise.  In November, she was transferred to a more experienced puppy raiser in the hopes that the experienced raiser could better help Odessa with her training issues.

Dee is partial to black Labs.  Her favorite dog, Certs, was a Lab-Australian Shepherd Mix.  Dee got Certs when he was 8 weeks old.  Certs was Dee’s companion and kept the world safe for her until his death at 16 years old.  Dee and Odessa formed a special bond.  It was tough to let Odessa go, but she did belong to Guide Dogs and had a higher calling.  We both believed Odessa would make a great Guide Dog.

Dee was ecstatic when she received a call saying that Odessa would not continue in the Guide Dog program and would we like to have Odessa as our pet.  We are sorry that Odessa did not progress in the program, but we are very happy to have her as our pet.  Welcome home, Odessa!