Thursday, November 30, 2006

Pre-snow Frisbee Fun

Again with the annoyance at my camera! Any movement at all is's so frustrating. Here are the results of trying to capture Abby last week in full frisbee glory:

Best place to drop a frisbee is in the mud puddle, or course.
That way you'll know where it is when you're done drinking.

This is really weird. Why is she so upright??

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

If I don't know what it is...I should scream at it.

Add 'sleds' to Abby's fear list...actually...more like list of things that really really annoy her. She didn't seem too scared of the happy sledding child that she was screaming at. Also add loud chopping (garlic, in this case) noises to the list. Oh - and roommates laughing loudly. Sigh.

Abby's Words

Here's a list of the commands and words that Abby knows (95 right now!):

The Basics (21):
  • Focus (look at me)
  • Sit
  • Off (the person, chair, couch, table..etc.)
  • Down (lie down)
  • Stay
  • Come
  • Stand
  • Up (jump up on something, front legs only in lap)
  • All the way up (jump all the way onto lap)
  • Alright (release word)
  • Gentle (take treat gently)
  • That’s enough (to stop begging, etc.)
  • Drop (emergency down)
  • Go pee
  • Walk
  • Cookie
  • Oops (didn't do right command)
  • That's enough (stop what you're doing)
  • No
  • Yes (marker like the clicker)
  • Ready (something's about to happen like ball being thrown)
  • By me (walk away - added Jan 07)

Walking commands/commands to move her (28):

  • Let's go (walk on loose leash)
  • Heel (walk by left side)
  • Place (left side of me)
  • Switch (right side of me)
  • Front (sit facing me and look at me)
  • Around me (all the way around me)
  • Swing (around me and into left heel position)
  • Back (walk backwards)
  • Slow (walk slow)
  • Fast (walk fast)
  • Stop (don’t move)
  • Go in your house (crate)
  • Go to your bed
  • Find [insert me, my parents, roommates or other pets by name], 7 total
  • Where's ________? (same as find)
  • Wait (pause)
  • Get in the car
  • Get in the back (of the car)
  • Go inside (the house)
  • Go outside (the house)
  • Here (come to where I'm pointing)
  • Through (go between my legs)

Using her feet (6):

  • Shake (right foot)
  • Paw (left foot)
  • Lift (leg, for drying or if leash is caught)
  • Wave
  • High Five
  • Hit (the ground when lying down or anything I point to)

Using her mouth (16):

  • Leave it (the garbage, dropped piece of food, etc.)
  • Take it
  • Speak
  • Quiet
  • Give a kiss
  • Get 'it' (what I'm pointing to)
  • Get the ball
  • Get the toy (a fleecy toy, working on learning specific ones)
  • Get the frisbee
  • Bring it to me
  • Out (spit something out)
  • Tug
  • Catch
  • Get your collar (and bring it to me)
  • Get your leash (and bring it to me)
  • Go get a drink

Other tricks (13):

  • Right (spin right)
  • Left (spin left)
  • Touch (her nose to my open hand)
  • Take a Bow (added Jan 07)
  • Get me a drink (open mini fridge and bring me the water bottle inside)
  • Close the door (fridge or back door)
  • Get the door (open the back door by pulling the rope on the handle)
  • Sleep (lay head on floor)
  • Go around (a post, etc.)
  • Roll (onto side)
  • Bounce (straight up in the air)
  • Check for squirrels (put front legs up on a tree)
  • Crawl (working on it)

Agility words (11):

  • Go…. (for out-work)
  • Tunnel
  • A-frame
  • Walk-it
  • Table
  • Weave
  • Chute
  • Over
  • Hoop
  • Teeter
  • Target (2 on 2 off)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Are you suuure this isn't a piece of meat? It sure tastes good!

Death to Squeaker

Abby has this really weird and funny thing for the squeakers that are found in dog toys. I bought a pack of them because I was going to try and use them for training, or try and make some toys out of them. Turns out I don't need to do anything with them - they provide plenty of entertainment all on their own. She makes the same faces to scare the squeaker into surrendering as she does with ants and spiders, except she leaves out the part where she rolls on the offending bug to try and kill it. With the squeaker she prefers the toss in the air and squash tactics.

I see you there squeaker. Don't you dare make any moves!
I'm gonna getcha! Gotcha!

Monday, November 27, 2006


Tryp coming to live with us was definitely the highlight of this term. He was my roommate's foster dog, and he lived with us from the beginning of October until this past Saturday. He got adopted by such a nice couple, which is the only thing that makes it ok that he's gone. It's just so hard once you get used to a dog and start to really love them! I hope that the next foster dog is as awesome as Tryp, but it would be pretty hard to measure up to him. He's good with pretty much everything - he's just one of those laid back, mellow dogs. He's got tons of energy for his age (somewhere between 8-11 probably), and he was probably pretty wild when he was even younger. Now he's just a sweet, perfect guy.
Abby will probably miss him even more than I do - she and Tryp were in love! They wrestled every day for hours.

Sept-Dec 2006: Abby Lives with Me!

Practicing "table" in our yard.

After living at school away from my doggies for 3 years, I finally get to have Abby live with me this year. It's my first year living off campus, in a dog friendly garden suite. It is so wonderful to get to go to school and have my puppy here all the time! At first I was really worried about having enough time. Abby and I seem to have adapted to each other really well though. She settles down very well for the most part when I have to study, and is ready to go when I take a break to play with her or take her out. She pretty much does what I do. She is my little shadow - the only time she isn't with me is when I go into the bathroom and shut the door. Then she runs into my roommate's bedroom to get a shoulder massage, and when she heard the toilet flush, she's right outside the bathroom door again. It's pretty funny that my one roommate knows exactly when I go into the bathroom and for how long!
Abby and I have a pretty regular routine. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning we go to the big field by our house from 9:00-9:45 to play ball or frisbee. We know the regulars there - Baxter and Franny. Abby doesn't interact with them (too into her toy) but she seems to like being around them. Tuesday and Thursday mornings we do a leash walk from about 8:00-8:30. Tuesday night is agility, and Thursday is right before the weekend when I have lots of time to spend with her. Our routine is going to be a bit different now, I guess, but when Tryp was here we'd do a long evening walk from about 6:00-7:30 every night (but Tuesday). Saturday and Sunday mornings we went to the school field from about 10-11, then did a short evening walk. Now that Tryp isn't here it will be hard to get going on those dark, cold, rainy evenings. I'm sure Abby will help get me out the door with her funny whining (only funny when I'm not trying to study for something!).

Destuffing her Kong on my Microbi notes
Being a student and having a dog at the same time definitely isn't for everyone, but it is so so good for me. I really use Abby as a de-stresser. She reminds me that there is more than just school in my life. Yes, I have become basically a recluse except for going for walks...but I like it that way! Sadly, I'd rather spend Friday night curled up on the couch watching a movie with Abby than out partying. I am glad that I had three years with no real responsibility so that I could find out what a normal university student's life is like. If I hadn't, I'd probably wish I could go out all the time and that I didn't have to take care of Abby. But this way I feel like I've been there, done that, and can now do what I really want to do - and it feels like such a privilege to get to go to school and have a dog at the same time!

There are times when it's hard having Abby, mostly when she misbehaves. Sometimes I really wish I could take her anywhere and not worry obsessively - I wish I could hike with her anywhere, and take advantage of the fact that she won't ever run away when off leash, and bring her to fields even when there are kids playing or sports games. But...I can' least not yet, maybe not ever. Tonight was a relatively bad night actually. I brought Abby to the field because of all the snow, which I don't usually do in the evenings because there are lots of dogs. But I really wanted to let her run around with them. At first she was fine, but then we started playing with the frisbee (maybe I should have just left it at home..but I really need it as a distraction for her sometimes!). There was another dog who kept stealing it, and would snarl Abby away from it. That dog's owner took the frisbee away from her dog and gave it to Abby...her dog then jumped on Abby snarling, and Abby ran away and jumped on 3 other dogs in quick succession snarling at them. They'd done nothing to her at all. This keeps happening - she doesn't go for the original dog, but redirects towards other, meeker dogs instead. I don't really know what to do about it, other than not bring her around big groups of dogs. It seems like it's just too much for her to handle.

Freak Snowstorm!

We got lots and lots of snow, and it isn't even December yet! Apparently there hasn't been weather this extreme here in a couple of decades. This weekend I had a love/hate relationship with the snow. We went to an agility trial on Sunday and Abby and I were both freezing cold the entire time. We did advanced snooker, masters jumpers, advanced team and two steeplechase runs. I messed up jumpers by forgetting the course, and Abby missed her targets in one of the steeplechase runs. The snooker went well though, and Abby got a first place with a Q! By the afternoon, there was an advisory not to drive on the highway unless it was a life or death situation - there were cars in the ditches everywhere, tons of wind and white out conditions. But...we drove home anyway. It was probably a dumb idea, but we made it safely. Took us three hours to do an hour long drive. When I woke up this morning, I couldn't hate the snow anymore because Abby just loves it so much! I let her out in the yard and she was racing around in circles and pouncing. We even managed to play ball without losing it.

Abby likes to bury her head in the snow for no apparent

Pleeeease throw the ball!
Peppy came outside to scare Abby.

Darla stayed in this spot the whole day.

Oh....and I was stranded at my parents' house during the snow....and while I could have walked to the store, I really didn't feel like it. They had no meat - so Abby is now back on kibble. I know it's bad to go kibble with/right to raw because apparently the kibble slows down the raw in the system. As far as I know it's ok to go the other way around. I think I'll leave Abby on kibble at least until January, when I really have the time to make the switch.
I also got scared because my friend told me she spends 400/month to feed her 2 medium sized dogs raw...even though I've been doing my research and I still think I'd be spending less than a an 8th of that.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Going Raw?

I'm thinking of going raw with Abby. I have to say that I really didn't think I'd ever be making this decision. Before the summer, I had never heard much about raw, other than seeing people wearing shirts that said "barf" on them. I thought it was some crazy fad. As I started hearing more about it, I think I thought of every question that is answered (very well) on this site:
I'm pretty skeptical when it comes to things like this. I like to see studies that have been done, and actual proof other than people saying that it's great. Unfortunately, there haven't been many studies done about raw diets vs. kibble. So, in this case, I think I'm going to have to go with my gut feeling..and strangely enough that feeling is to go with raw. My main reason right now is that Abby really does not like kibble. I've tried Innova (Evo and Chicken), California Natural, Wellness, and a couple of the vet diets (when I got free bags in the summer). Some of the foods I didn't like the ingredients/protein levels of, and Abby didn't like the taste of any of them. She will eat if there are other dogs threatening to steal her food, or if she is really hungry...but it's no fun feeding your dog something that she doesn't like!
So, that's reason (1) - Abby would love raw. Reason (2) is that I like trying everything out myself to see if I like it, especially when it relates to dogs. For collars, for example - I've tried choke chains, prong collars, haltis, sense-ation harnesses, gentle leaders, flat collars, martingales. Reason (3) is kind of an exclusion criteria reason: Why do I feed her kibble anyway?
-cheap? nope, definitely not cheap for the high end kibble. If I deal hunt, cheap raw is a possibility. I should do a price comparison though to check.
-easy? not really, since Abby won't eat it. I have to add can, mix types of kibble, try to "train" her to eat...definitely not as easy as feeding a food she'd like.
-easy to buy? yes, easy to buy especially since a big bag lasts months.
-healthy? yeah, high quality kibble has everything dogs need...but then I really thought dogs 'needed' more than I'm now learning. I was picturing all the supplements you'd have to add to a raw diet, but now I'm learning that dogs just need meat and bones, basically (raw meaty bones, meat, and organ meat). In other words, I'd be going with the prey model of raw diets instead of the barf model (which is apparently outdated now).
-no risk of salmonella? ok so this is something that is pretty gross about raw food. I don't really like the idea of having raw meat all over Abby's face and feet, and possibly dragged around the house if I don't watch her carefully. I do think I can train her easily to stay in one spot to eat, though, so at least there wouldn't be chicken carcasses dragged through the roommates' beds. As far as her feet being covered in germs goes...well...we're all pretty healthy in this house, so a couple of germs can't hurt..right? Besides, salmonella is everywhere outside, so it's not like I'm letting some rare pathogen into our house.

Ok so I just did a quick price comparison. I'm pretty sure I feed Abby a 30 lb bag of kibble in a little over 2 months, and that the bag that I bought last was about $50-60, so that's a bit less than $25-30/month for kibble.
Abby is 28 lbs, so going by the 3% rule for raw diets, she should get between 0.6-0.9 lbs of meat/day. This means that in a month Abby needs b/w 18-27 lbs of meat. Somebody told me you can get chicken really cheap in Chinatown, for about 20 cents/lb (maybe only if you buy tons at a time though, and I have no freezer space). I went to the petstore today and saw that their cheapest meat (ground with the bone, but not with organs - I need to check out the organs price) is about $1.50/0.4 lbs. Soo here's where I get confused because I'm not really sure how much of the ground meat I should be giving her compared to the meaty bones. Say I were to give her a chicken 'part' every day (back and leg or something) and then half a package of meat every day, that would end up being $1/ about $30/month. I guess if I decide to actually go through with this I'll see if that ends up being the real price. It would really help to have a deep freezer to stop up on a lot of meat at once...hmmm.

Here's Abby last night eating a chicken leg attached to back - her first time ever eating raw!
All of the websites and everything say to just switch cold turkey, but I'm too chicken to do that (oh so many possible puns in that sentence it's not even funny). So Abby had kibble yesterday morning, then that chicken last night, kibble this morning (didn't eat it though) and another chicken thingy tonight. She was still really hungry though so she then had 2 cups of kibble...more than she usually eats all day. Very strange... Maybe there isn't enough meat on those chicken bones? They looked pretty meaty to me.
If I do switch completely to raw, it will be after xmas break - when I actually have time to go look for deals on meat. I definitely should not be driving around Chinatown during finals trying to find cheap chicken bits.
Abby really REALLY loves those chicken legs/backs though...after finishing she rolls around, licks her lips and does these huge happy looking yawns.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

First snow of the season!

I'm such a procrastinator! I was all prepared to study - played frisbee in the living room with Abby for awhile, settled her down with a bully stick (ew I was so grossed out when I found out what those are made of), got out my textbook...and then ended up here, on the computer, to post some (not very good) pictures from the hike this weekend! I really wish I had a better digital camera. I keep seeing amazing pictures that people take of their dogs, and I can only take decent ones if it's a still shot - and how often am I going to get a picture of Abby staying still??

It was absolutely gorgeous up on Cypress - lots of fresh snow, and not as many people as there will be later on when the mountain is actually open. We hiked for a couple of hours and the dogs had a blast! There were 9 dogs and 5 people. I wish I'd taken some pictures of Abby getting reacquainted with the snow - she was rolling around in it and generally going nuts.

Abby and Tryp at the lookout

Cody, Fyvish, Amigo, Toby, Tyler, Tycho, Zeus, Tryp and Abby

I guess I should really use the last 5 minutes of Abby being distracted by her chew to study...I have to post pictures of Abby and Tryp cuddling and playing soon. They are so cute.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Fear List

I've become obsessed with finding online information to help me with Abby. I'm not sure why I didn't look online sooner, but it's a good thing I didn't. I think I've spent more time online looking for information this past week than actually working with Abby. Pretty counterproductive. This is awful! I'm supposed to be studying, but instead I can't stop checking message board after message board. I joined a few yahoo groups too - AgBeh (Aggressive Behaviours) and Shy-K9s. I just read an article in the Shy-k9s archive, and it's nothing too new or different, but I'm going to take their suggestion to write down all of the things that Abby is afraid of and the fear reactions that she displays. So here goes:

Things that she is afraid of:
-people in uniform
-skateboards/shopping carts/scooters
-being leaned over
-being stared at
-being "thumped" on her ribcage
-dogs that are bigger than her
-more than one dog sniffing her at once

-taking treats with a hard mouth
-not taking treats
-raising hackles
-licking lips
-breathing quickly

Phew. That's a lot of things to worry about in life - for both of us. Even when I'm walking without her and a skateboard goes by, I tense up and my heart starts racing. Next thing you know I'm going to jump on a skateboarder while snarling...

Here's a typical freaked out look:

What is she?

This is by far the most common question I get asked when out with Abby. And I don't know for sure that people aren't actually inquiring about what species she is, becuase sometimes I wonder that myself. Actually I lied about it being the most common's probably tied with "what happened to her tail" and "can't you get her to shut up?". Ok, no, people usually only think the shutting up part but don't actually ask (because I wouldn't hear them over the manic barking). So...what is Abby? Who knows. I think I've finally come to terms with the fact that she it a mutt and I will never know what she is. But it's still fun to guess! She's 29lbs and about 18" tall. The most common guesses are mixes involving Whippet, Jack Russell, Aussie, and Belgian Shepherd. However - I don't know about in Utah, but I've never heard of any stray Whippets around here, or of any roaming Belgian Malinois. There have been a couple of "Border Collie x Jack Russell" guesses, but for one thing that thought is so scary that I would rather not contemplate it, and also, the only thing Abby really has in common with a Border Collie is the intensity, as far as I can tell. Oh and there have been the guesses of Boxer and Pitbull...uh...suuure. Another common comment is "she looks like a Mexican beach dog!". I think that if we threw all the dog breeds together and let them reproduce indiscriminantly for years and years, the product would be billions of Abbys. Now that is a terrifying thought.
If you look at Abby's brothers, their coats are more Jack Russell-y. A litter of dogs can have one mother and multiple fathers, but I don't think that's the case with Abby's litter becuase they look so much alike except for the coat (and act alike too - we met with one of the brothers' owners). Another mystery is why someone would crop their tails. Some guy at the dog park told me that inbred puppies are sometimes born with kinked tails that need to be cropped - not sure if I believe that. Maybe someone was trying to pass the puppies off as purebreds? It's all a big mystery...

Brother #1 - so cute! Look at those freckly legs.

Brother #2 - Cha-Chi....

March-May 2005: From Dog-less to Outdogged

After Sam died, I went to bed and didn't get up for almost a week. The first few days, I couldn't even drink water without gagging. I think it was the third day that I brought my laptop to bed and started compulsively looking at rescue sites. I definitely wasn't looking for a new dog - I was just doing something to take my mind off of Sam, and perusing rescue sites was what I did on a very regular (...couple of times a day...) basis. So I was on petfinder, the lange foundation site, brindleweb, and the TDBCR site. After looking at the border collie site I decided that I had to foster a dog in the summer, or I wasn't going to be able to be at home like I had planned. Everything to do with home was painful - there was no Sam snuggled next to me in bed, no Sam dancing around barking for his dinner, no Sam standing next to me bugeyed telling me he needed to go for a walk NOW. So I emailed TDBCR with my foster application, and tried to think about helping another rescue dog instead of dwelling on my constant thought about Sam. It was at least something to stop me crying.

A couple of weeks later I'd had an interview and the plan was that I'd finish finals, visit my grandma in LA, then come back and foster a border collie. I was secretly hoping that my parents would fall in love with the foster dog (I knew I would, that was guaranteed) and would want to keep it. I don't exactly know what I was thinking with the new dog plan. After high school I'd left home to go live in residence at university, and I'd left Sam (and Zoe, obviously) at home with my parents. It was a pretty good arrangement, since Sam was well behaved for my parents, but was always over the top happy to see me when I came home every few weekends. I don't know how happy Sam was - my parents always said he seemed confused the the next few days after I visited, and would sleep on my bed alone until he realized I wasn't coming back. I think I was foolishly thinking that my parents would fall in love with the foster dog, and we'd continue on like we had before. The dog would be theirs when I was living at school, and mine when I came home to visit since I would have worked with it all summer. What I really wanted was to just have Sam back...I was also trying not to think about the fact that a border collie was almost guaranteed to be way too much dog for my parents, who've never really had to train a dog. I did all of Sam's training, and even though I thought he was pretty good, my mom always walked him with a halti so that he wouldn't pull her over. Zoe should have had way more training but since she was so small her snarly barking at other dogs was always laughed at by people. But leave my parents with a crazy, hyped up border collie looking for a job? Definitely not going to happen.

After finals my mom and I went to LA for one of our regular visits to see my grandma. Sometime after realizing that failing border collie fostering 101 was not going to happen, and I think it may have been on the flight to LA, I'd come to the decision that I was going to go to the Lange Foundation, find the perfect dog, bring it home as a temporary "foster", and we'd end up keeping it. I've always been a very stubborn person...and once I make up my mind..well let's just say you're never going to be able to say anything that will change it.

Our flight got in to LA late Monday night. First thing Tuesday morning I told my mom I was going to walk dogs at Lange, and that she might as well stay home and rest...all part of the plan, of course. It had been 3 months since Sam had died, but it was still hard not to cry when everyone at the shelter told me how sorry they were. I had been on the Lange website, and had seen only one dog that looked promising. How stupid was I to be deciding about dogs by their picture and 2 sentences about them? VERY VERY STUPID! I have definitely learned my lesson. I guess since it worked out so well with Sam, who I basically chose because he was the right size and seemed like a nice dog, I thought it would work again. For one thing, these dogs are in a shelter and not in foster homes - who knows what they're like in a home environment. Also, Sam was seven - a seven yr old dog is pretty much who he is. A nine month old dog, which is the age of the dog that looked promising, and also the age that Crazy was, is definitely NOT who she is going to be...everything can change between adolescence and adulthood. It frustrates me to no end knowing how stupid I was. Did I have any kind of temperament test in mind? no. Did I have a personality in mind? no. Did I have any ideas about how to manage any kind of aggression? no. The only encounters I'd had with aggressive dogs was with Zoe's dog aggression and territorial aggression. We hired the only trainer we knew of, who is very very popular where I live, and who is known for being ok for showring obedience...but useless for anything else. She told us that Zoe had claimed the yard as her own, so we should no longer let anyone enter our house through the yard. Yup, that was about the only advice we got.

Soo back to me walking around the shelter. The dog I'd seen online, Jonah, was a red and white Aussie mix. He seemed like a nice dog, but they told me that he had it in for cats. So..that ruled out Jonah, in my books. Peppy gave me scars on my arms from when Sam came home, and all Sam ever did was try to sniff Peppy's butt ever so nicely. I'd seen another cute picture on the website, but for some reason I got the impression that the dog, called "Shawnie", had really short legs like a corgi mix. I don't know why, but I wanted another medium sized dog, and she seemed too small. When I saw her in the shelter though...I pretty much fell in love with her right then.
With Sam it had been more of a ...gradual love. He was annoying in the shelter, super barky all the time. When I walked him he'd grab the leash and yank it, or try to slip his collar and run away. He wasn't interested in attention - he just wanted out of his cage.
Shawnie, though, was adorable. When I walked by her cage she started bouncing about four feet straight up, over and over. She definitely didn't have short legs! In fact her legs were super long, and she was built like a whippet, but a tiny bit stockier. I went in and sat with her and she crawled into my lap. Half an hour later she was in the back of the car and I was driving back to my grandma's house.

Abby, and she was soon renamed, had been in three different homes already, in 6 months. She was transferred to Lange from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, in Utah, when she was about 4 months old, with her two brothers. Who knows if this is really true, but the problem in the first home was that they realized they just didn't have time for a dog, and she was digging up their yard, the 2nd home was a couple and Abby was just too terrified of the man, and the 3rd home had kids, and Abby growled at one of them when she had a bone. At the time I thought - ok, these aren't major problems.

Hiding from the big scary world.
What do I think now? Well, she's finally settled down slightly, but in normal dog terms Abby is a neurotic ball of energy. Without something to do, she will go outside and dig - not just small holes, but dig as deep as she possibly can. But this is probably the least of the problems. The fact that she was terrified of men? She's still terrified, of most strangers. But instead of running away like she used to, she'll tell them to back off as soon as they make a wrong snarling and snapping. Growling at kids? She is allowed nowhere near kids, after snapping once at a girl who was petting her, and then lunging at a group of kids ont the beach. Add to that the fact that she is a complete control freak, can be bossy with dogs and with people, is a one person dog, is instantly tuned into anything fast moving....well let's just say she's no Sam. Let's also say that I haven't yet met a border collie that is any crazier than my very own Nut.

But...I didn't know any of these things. I thought I had a sweet shy dog in the back of the car who would be easily 'turned around' once she was in a loving home. I thought all she needed was some stability, and she would soon be a "normal" social dog like Sam. The convincing the parents part was relatively easy this time, since we all missed Sam so much, and since Abby's deer look appealed so much to my mom. We flew Abby home with us, and that's when the NuttyMutt started to emerge...

May-August 2005: Deceptively well behaved

There are a lot of things I wish I'd done with Abby last summer that I didn't know about and didn't do. I was convinced, the whole summer, that if I just took her everywhere and brought her to the dog park all the time, and did lots of obedience with her, she'd transform into a well adjusted dog. Giving her tons of exercise and bringing her everywhere with me was definitely a good thing (who knows what her brother is like, who is just as shy but is only taken out for a few 15 minute leash walks every day). I wish I had noticed that she didn't just "love other dogs" like I thought - she did love to play with *most* dogs, but she was usually either very very scared when she first met them, or very very pushy. When we saw people on leash walks, she always had her eye on them as they were passing by. On hikes, she'd go leaping off the trail if there was a group of people on the trail, or a biker, or a jogger. She would go racing in the opposite direction at the sound of a skateboard. At home, Peppy would chase her around the house constantly, so she was scared to leave my bedroom unless it was to go under the tv room desk or into her crate.

I think the biggest thing that I did wrong was not using treats when out with Abby. With Sam, I'd had to bring treats every time I was going to let him off the leash. He was some kind of Northern breed X, and he had a definite tendency to go wandering off on his own. Even with the treats, there was no guarantee that he'd be coming back to me every time I called, no matter how much I practiced. When I got Abby, it was almost like having a different species from Sam and Zoe. After she got over her initial fear of commands (at first she would roll over on her back if I spoke to her using anything but the highest pitch possible, or touched her body at all), she was and is incredibly responsive. I start to say the word "heel", and she's at my side looking up at me before it's even out of my mouth. Off leash, she never lets me out of her sight (unless she's chasing dogs...), and she would never dream of running away. The world is a big scary place, and she would have no idea what to do in it alone. When Sam ran away, and I would be freaking out about where he was, I would always picture him happily strolling down the street, tongue hanging out, ready to go home with whoever invited him. If I were to picture Abby as a stray...people would think she was some kind of mutant tailless coyote and she would definitely never let herself be caught.
But anyway, back to treats: I was so happy that Abby would do whatever I asked of her without treats that I barely used them, except for teaching her a new command. I was one of those people who thought that treats = bribery. Stupid, I know. If I'd done something as simple as getting her to sit or look at me for a treat when we saw people and bikes and joggers and kids...and all those other scary things, I think it would have made a huge difference. But I was oblivious to the fact that as Abby got more confident, she was more willing to protect herself, and me, from everything that was so scary.

The one really good thing that I did with Abby last summer was start Agility with her. Even though almost everything in everyday life scared her, she was completely confident in the agility room from the beginning. In her first class she was running through the tunnels, leaping over the jumps, even going through the chute and over the walk-it - just for fun! She loved it. And I loved doing agility with her, especially at the beginning, before she knew just how exciting it was. Once she decided that it was probably the 2nd most exciting thing ever (after fast moving dogs), she started sounding like a dying seal in between every turn. That made agility slightly less fun, since I had to either have her doing tricks the entire time to distract her, or put her in the front room. I'm happy to say that she is *mostly* past that stage, and can sit pretty calmly waiting for her turn now.

I was working at the animal care centre at school that summer, and Abby used to come with me to work every week or so. She met and was terrified of pigs, mice, rats, rabbits....the only thing she wasn't scared of were the sheep, which I found out the hard way. I was standing talking to the head vet about the sheep in the paddock next to us who had just had heart valve surgery. All of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye I see this brown blur go leaping over the fence and racing after the sheep, barking hysterically. About 2 seconds later I was a slightly slower and larger blur racing after the dog, yelling at her to "stop, stay, sit, down, waiiiiit". I eventually managed to tackle her. The vet was surprisingly very nice about the whole thing...
One of the other vets at work that summer, who was Russian, met Abby and told me that she would "turn to be two and turn to be fear biter". I did not want to hear that, and brushed it off. Sigh...

At one point in the summer our house had more animals in it than ever before. We had Abby and Zoe and Peppy, and we were fostering 4 kittens and their mom for VOKRA. I love having that many animals! I will definitely end up being a crazy dog and possibly cat lady. We ended up keeping the mom cat, whose name was Darla. None of us liked that name very much, but for some reason nothing else ended up she's still called Darla.

Two and a half months after we got Abby, we had to have Zoe put to sleep. She had heart failure, that we'd discovered two summers before. As our vet said, it's a race between heart failure and kidney failure because of all the medications that Zoe had to be on. Eventually she did go into kidney failure late at night, and we brought her to the emergency clinic to be euthanized. It was very sad, but in a different way than with Sam. Zoe was 13, and was sick for such a long time - she just got slower and slower, and we knew it was coming. Plus, losing Sam was almost a numbing experience for me. Nothing since then has felt as painful as when Sam died.

At the end of the summer, I moved back into rez, as had been the plan all along, leaving Abby with my parents. I was pretty confident that things would be fine. The only real challenge was Abby's energy level. It was impossible to exercise her enough, as we learned when she ripped up the carpet thread by thread and dug giant holes in the grass. But it was easy enough to exercise her. She'd learned to swim in the summer, and had become ball obsessed. She was also great on hikes, and would race all around making her own agility courses. She had become pretty good on the leash after all the work I'd done with her in the summer, and responded very well to my mom. She still wasn't too sure of my dad - she would walk with him, but never went up to him for attention. They would play a game in the yard that was really cute where my dad would spread his arms out to the sides and Abby would crouch and race around the yard in circles. So I moved out, feeling upset and missing Abby, and wishing that I didn't have to leave her.
Throw the ball!

March 2005: Dog-less

When I was nine I threatened to kill myself if I didn't have a dog by my 10th birthday - the result was Zoe, a 13 lb terrier mix, who made it very clear from day one that she was my mom's dog and my mom's dog only. She wouldn't go for walks with me, wouldn't play with me, and wouldn't even move from her spot by the window if my mom left the house. Being a terrier, however, she could be coerced to do just about anything for liver...but I dreamed of a dog (literally dreamed, it was recurring, and the dog was always called Sam) of a dog who would play fetch and follow me around and worship me, like Zoe worshipped my mom.

When I was fifteen I threatened my parents again. My mom had almost given in to my constant pleading for another dog, and every time we visited the Lange Foundation, she would say things like "this one's cute, and would probably get along with Zoe". By the end of the summer, I was convinced that she was on the brink of giving in. When I finally sat down with my parents to talk about it, though, they said that we couldn't adopt another dog because it would cost too much to board it when we visited LA twice a year. Zoe always flew with us in the cabin, since she was under 15 lbs - but all of the dogs I had in mind were over this weight limit. So, once again, I resorted to threatening my parents, this time saying that if I couldn't adopt a dog of my own, I would need psychological help, which would surely cost more than boarding. I think what probably convinced them in the end that the psychological help thing was true was when I ended up under a bed at my grandma's house crying like a 3 yr old and refusing to come out until they rethought their 2nd dog isn't adolescence fun?

So the result of temper-tantrum number two was beautiful, angelic Sam. I have to admit that his angelic legacy increases by about 100x every day that I live with nuttymutt...however, he was truly a Very Good Dog. When I first got him I had a lot of issues trying to train him, but looking back at it, his 'problems' seem like nothing. So he barked...a lot...and ran away every so often, usually into people's yards, just for the sake of it, after looking back at me gleefully. And was it really such a big deal that he wouldn't give up any bones that he found on walks, to the point where we had to keep Wheatabix on hand for after he ate a particularly sharp shard?

It was a good thing that I had Sam when I did - he was the perfect teenage girl dog. He loved to be hugged, he would lick tears from my face (unlike Abby, who looked at me when I was crying about my grandmother being sick, ran to the other side of the room and stared at me like "omg you're LEAKING! somebody help, she's BROKEN!"), and he sometimes even managed to stay awake at night when I talked to him about how mean girls in high school are.
Sam was supposed to be two when I got him, but it turns out that he was actually closer to seven (very long story having to do with Sam's tendency to run away). He was still incredibly playful, right up until the day he died. He wasn't exactly a velcro-dog, like I'd originally dreamed of, but he was definitely mine, and he was a perfect family dog. He was the dog that little kids could rush up to and all they would get is a polite lick on the chin. I never once saw Sam defend himself from even the pushiest of dogs (he did like to hump unneuteured males though, but would end up flat on his back within about two seconds). He definitely had some quirks - he didn't like loud people, and when one of my particularly loud friends would come over he would paw at the back door and get bug-eyed and ask to go outside. I wanted to do therapy work with Sam, but I never got the chance. Other than the fact that he barked at electric wheelchairs, he would have been great!

I had Sam for four and a half years. If only I could have had him earlier so we would have been with me longer. Who knows if he was only eleven when he died - he was first found tied up to a pole with duct tape, and his rescuers thought he was a brown dog from all the filth. He was estimated to be about a year old, but he was such a puppy at heart that he may have already been older than that. Sam died on a Sunday morning, and up until Saturday evening he was throwing toys around and stealing Zoe's dinner. He'd had cruciate ligament surgery a few weeks earlier, and the vet was calling him one of the fastest recoveries he'd ever seen, even though Sam had torn both cruciates at once and had only had one operated on so far. Even with one torn ligament and one newly operated on knee, Sam was trying to run around the house. That Saturday night, though, he started acting a bit strange. He was suddenly lethargic and he wasn't acting like himself. His abdomen seemed distended, and after volunteering at the emergency clinic I was so paranoid about bloat that I had already called them up and warned them that we might be bringing him in. A few minutes after the call, Sam had a seizure. We rushed him to the emergency vet. As calm as I'd managed to be when volunteering at the emergency clinic, this was completely different. I was now holding my baby and I knew that he was dying. I could barely breathe, I was shaking. I was trying to calm Sam and tell him everything was ok and I couldn't even catch my breath. They managed to stabilize Sam somewhat throughout the night, by giving him two transfusions, but he was bleeding out somewhere. When he was transferred to critical care in the morning for an ultrasound, they took us into the room with nothing but a couch, and I knew...they told us they were 99% sure that Sam had a hemangiosarcoma, and that they could do surgery but that it was likely they would either find that the cancer had spread, or that Sam wouldn't pull through since he was so weak already. I didn't want to put Sam through surgery when they said that at best he'd have a few more months. I stayed in the room telling Sam he was the absolute best dog, and that I loved him more than anything else in the world. I stayed while they sedated him, until he was peacefully sleeping, but I couldn't stay and see him stop breathing, so I said goodbye then.


Ryan was adopted from That'll Do Border Collie Rescue in 2007 at 8 weeks old. He was my first puppy. Because of this, and because of my experiences with under socialized Abby, I made sure to make it a huge priority to socialize Ryan right. I took him somewhere new every day from the day I got him until he was at least 4-5 months old. We went to skateboard parks, playgrounds, agility trials, sports games, cafes, downtown, flyball practices, etc. Ryan is now a very good dog. He is nervous of loud kids but that's about it. He loves to play with anything I offer him and he is very easy to reward. I sometimes find it hard to teach him anything new since he is so frantic in offering everything he knows - he has been clicker trained since day 1 and when he calms down, he is actually very thoughtful. Those thoughts just happen in super speed. He is very cuddly and sweet and he always makes me laugh with his goofy smile.

Full Name: Ryan Dash
Nicknames: RyGuy, Puppy, RyRy, Frantic, Fraggle
Date of Birth: March 18th 2007
Date of Adoption: May 2007
Home Town: That'll Do Border Collie Rescue
Possible Breeds: Borderline Collie (probably mixed
with something...just not sure what)
Weight: 50 lbs

Height: 22"
Likes: Ball, tugging, disc, agility, dock diving, wrestling with Abby, chasing Abby
Dislikes: Nothing really. He's pretty much happy all the time.
First day home

10 weeks old

12 weeks old

4 months old

5 months old

6 months old

8 months old

2 years old

Ryan's Growth Chart
7.5 weeks = 6.8 lbs
8 weeks = 7.9 lbs
9 weeks = 9.5 lbs, approx 10.5"
12 weeks = 15 lbs
5 months = 28 lbs, approx 17"
6 months = 30 lbs
7.5 months = 36 lbs, approx 19.5"
10 months = 39 lbs, 20.5"
18 months = 45 lbs
24 months = 50 lbs, approx 22"