Wednesday, April 29, 2009

In the dog box!

Damage Assessment...

  • Three curtain drapes, two couches, three cushions, one throw.
  • Two pairs of long pants, two track suit tops.
  • Two dresses, one shawl.
  • Four pairs of sandals.

  • Two antique dining room table legs.
  • One book shelf, two desks' legs, skirting boards.
  • One cell phone charger
  • One garden

Friday, April 24, 2009

Bad, bad hair days!

I woke up as sick as a dog. I could hardly lift my head from the pillow. I just managed to stagger to the kitchen, feed the pups and take them outside to do their business. Then I would crash back into my bed.

Later that evening I had to face what I had been avoiding all day. A kitchen floor and passage full of dirty newspaper and dog's business. Just the thought of getting down on my hands and knees to clean it up, made me feel really, really sick.

In desperation I thought "I have to do some damage limitation!" So I decided that I would limit the territory that the pups had access to at night time. This required inspired thinking when it came to setting up road blocks. I rummaged through my garage and attic.

First I dragged a bench into the kitchen which restricted access. I then set up barriers in the passage so that they only had two metres of floor space instead of 15 metres.

All of this, as you can imagine took quite a bit of energy. Then I cleaned the floor, put down fresh newspaper, fed and watered the pups and took them outside for their ritual pee/poop/play time.
Sometime during the mayhem, Jemma slipped inside the kitchen. I returned to find a fresh puddle of urine right next to the up-ended bench. If I did not know better, I feel this was a protest action. Muttering and cursing under my breath, I grabbed my cleaning kit and once again cleaned, disinfected and sprayed the floor with vinegar (neutralises the smell of urine).

I was ready to snap. I was going to bite some body's head off. But then the words of my puppy trainer kept my temper on a leash.

  • Never raise your hand in anger against your dog. It must always be seen as a symbol of love and caring. Dogs that are beaten and obey out of fear often become dogs that are aggressive, unpredictable and anti-social.
  • If you are in a bad mood ( stressed, angry, frustrated ) rather leave your dogs in case your emotions spill over causing a negative interaction with them.

So I decided the wise thing to do that night was to walk away. The next day I felt better especially when I saw that my damage limitation barriers had worked. I only had to clean two metres of floor instead of the entire kitchen and passage way. Now the pups had less choice and the garden was becoming their inevitable destination.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Deception and Deceit

As you may recall, Jamie is not exactly into food. It is amazing the lengths one will go to in an effort to persuade your dog to eat. I have unashamedly resorted to deception and deceit.This requires great patience and a lot of experimentation.

First I sit like a Wimbledon umpire between my two dogs to ensure fair play. Jemma jumps into her bowl with gusto whilst Jamie shows a vague interest in the proceedings.

When Jemma is two thirds of the way through her meal, Jamie decides it's time to zero into her bowl.

So Jemma starts eating Jamie's food. This is when the umpire is called upon to intervene using various options:

  1. Juggling Act: Juggle the bowls back and forth between the dogs in order to confuse them. However ensure that the right bowl finally ends up in front of the right dog. (Jamie still manages to suss out which is Jemma's bowl)

  2. The Disappearing Bowl: Remove Jemma's bowl from play so that Jamie has only one choice. Then when he is not looking, sneak Jemma's bowl back in front of her.

  3. Rapid Transfer: If Jamie insists on eating out of Jemma's bowl, shovel handfuls of food from his bowl into Jemma's bowl and hope you've estimated correctly how much to leave for Jemma in Jamie's bowl. (Confused yet?)

  4. Hand Feeding: Use a saccharine sweet voice to persuade Jamie that the food in his bowl is the same as the food in Jemma's bowl. This is done by hand feeding him small amounts of pellets or dropping them near his bowl.

  5. Less is More. ( You won't believe this one. ) Put a bigger bowl in front of Jamie so that he thinks he is getting less when in fact he is getting more. This is to trick him into thinking he is losing out and better get a move on.

  6. Give up until the next meal. But beware! Don't overcompensate because then he won't eat his next meal.

I am sticking to my dog food of choice because despite his irregular eating habits, his coat is still glossy and he looks good. But since one needs to feed puppies three times a day for at least six months, I estimate that this takes up almost an hour of my day. (Another hidden cost factor because time is money!)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Wild Thing!

Several months before my pups arrival, a large ginger feral cat "The Wild Thing" had taken a liking to my garden.

But I worried that a clash between it and my pups could be fatal for the pups. Could it bring disease into my garden? "Don't worry," soothed my puppy trainer. "Cross infection between species is very rare and it will probably just move on if it finds the pups too annoying."
Well, one Sunday morning the dreaded encounter took place. I heard a lot of barking. The siege was being led by Jemma as they shouted at this strange new creature. But ginger cat sat like a sphinx, unmoving, majestic and barely a flicker of an eyelid.
After about 20 minutes my pups lost interest. This was no fun!

"The Wild Thing" eventually walked nonchalantly off.
One match to the ginger cat but was this the end of the game?

Retirement Villages that ban pets, piss me off!

It has been scientifically proven that interaction between humans and pets increases the dopamine levels in one's brain (the chemicals that make us feel good). Organisations take dogs to visit the elderly, the disabled, children in hospital and orphanages because they know contact with animals will increase the physical and emotional well being of these people.

My friend Lilian is in her 80's. She moved to a retirement village with a little dog called Dee Dee. Last week after 16 years of companionship, her dog had to be put down. Lilian says of Dee Dee "She gave me more than I ever gave her. She looked after me! When I came home she was always welcoming. She was another breath in the house and the sound of her snoring was music to my ears. I relied on her for 24 hours of affection."

Lilian is not allowed to replace her pet. So who will wake Lilian up every day? Who will walk with her in the evenings, watch TV with her and sleep by her bed at night? Who will fill the hole in Lilian's heart?

My mother also lives in a retirement village and would love to have a dog to cuddle and take for walks. But the rules say no pets.

Who are these cretins who make these archaic rules? Wake up!

Pets are critical for the emotional and physical well being of many of the elderly and should be considered a therapeutic necessity.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Obituary for Zita

Today Jamie's puppy class was missing one puppy. Zita, the Rottweiler had died in a freak accident. Her owner was walking her in the garden and gave her a treat to praise her. Somehow Zita started choking on the treat and could not breathe. They rushed her to the vet, but it was too late.

Zita and Jamie were especially friendly in class. Zita had started out very nervous but in three weeks at school, she had made tremendous strides in confidence. This was due to the love, hard work and dedication of her owner.

We were all very upset by this news and our hearts go out to Zita's owner.

Meanwhile Jemma had her first class and was the second smallest in a class with a Boxer, Staffi, miniature Schnauzer and two mixed breeds. She got a bit overwhelmed by the Boxer but Jamie was also allowed to attend the class. Being older he kept the Boxer occupied.

Because Jamie and Jemma are in different classes on the same day, I wasn't sure what to do with each of them whilst the other was in class. But my puppy trainer said that as they were not disruptive it was alright for them to be at both classes. One of the assistants took care of Jamie for which I'm really grateful.

Let's hope that this works out as I would hate to have to leave one puppy at home alone.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The next day...

The next morning Jamie looked OK.

He spent the day playing with Jemma and sleeping. When I fed them both their mid-day meal, I could not believe my eyes. Jamie was actually gobbling down his food.

Jamie was hungry! Hurrah!


Everything came to a head on Thursday night.

Jamie had eaten only half his daily allowance without much enthusiasm. Then at half past five, he vomited it all up onto the carpet. He then spent the next half hour retching and rushing around the garden trying to find a hiding place in his distress. When the shivering and retching did not stop, I dialed the vet. It was half an hour before closing time.
I bundled both pups in the car and fretted my way through rush hour traffic to the surgery.

By sheer coincidence, my puppy trainer was there and she used her Tellington TTouch techniques to calm Jamie down as I poured out my woeful story. The TTouch was incredible as I literally felt Jamie's body gradually stop shaking. (It is something I definitely want to investigate further). I was so concerned that he had swallowed something that was causing a blockage or that his eating habits were a symptom of something seriously wrong.

The vet calmly examined Jamie, felt his abdomen and did some blood tests. He said there was nothing wrong with the blood results and he could detect nothing serious in his stomach except that he had diarrhea. He gave Jamie an injection for nausea and vomiting and told me to watch him overnight. If he continued vomiting to bring him back. But otherwise not to worry and to give him some tablets to stabilise his stomach. As far as the non-eating issue was concerned, he said Jamie was in excellent condition and I should not stress too much about it unless his condition deteriorated.

Poor Jemma had been waiting patiently in the car when Jamie and I stepped out the vet's surgery into the night. As I left I saw a woman weeping, silhouetted in the vet's window. Her dog was being put down.

The fright over Jamie and my empathy with that woman bubbled to the surface and I cried all the way home.

Does Jamie have anorexia?

From Day 1, Jamie has been picky about food. Now, I say again, this is unheard of in a Beagle. My previous Beagles would gorge themselves on anything and everything in sight. Keeping their weight down was a big problem.

But no, not James. Sometimes I had to feed him by dropping a few pellets at a time next to his bowl. Can you imagine how long that took! Maybe he didn't like the super expensive food I was feeding him. I experimented with different brands and used a bit of gravy to add incentive, but nothing seemed to be working.
My puppy trainer said that when Jemma arrived, the competition might give him the push he needed to eat more.

But even with Jemma there gobbling up her food, Jamie would look at his bowl and wander away. He did take a certain amount of interest in Jemma's bowl but not enough to entice him.

All mothers know what it's like to have children with picky food habits. You sometimes want to tear your hair out!

Sibling Rivalry...

The first couple of days was definitely a battle for dominance. Jamie was bigger and sat on top of Jemma who sneaked in nasty bites to Jamie's ears. At times it became so intense that the fur stood up on their backs. When I waded in to try and keep the peace it only made things worse as they competed for my attention.

I realised that this was one battle I would have to sit out. They would have to sort this out themselves as my presence often made it worse. The first night they declared a truce and slept together.

Strangely enough, it was Jamie who seemed to be more insecure and more easily startled than before. Was it the confusion of the change in homes, the new rival or just a stage he was going through? Jemma on the other hand was a little trooper. She took everything in her stride - her new owner, home, a bullying brother and never once did her little flag-like tail droop. Fearless Jemma.

By day two I noticed that playtime between the two was getting less violent. There were fewer yelps of pain and more fun barking and growling. My puppy trainer said it would take at least a week for the two of them to settle down.

But what concerned me was whether or not I was giving Jemma enough individual attention. Again my trainer assured me that separating them would only stress one or the other. I was to try and dole out equal measures of love and have them sit on either side of me on the floor while we watched TV.

I also had far more "accidents" with Jemma as I was not able to watch her with the single minded intensity that I had watched Jamie to ensure that he peed and pooped outside. "Nevermind, girls learn much faster than boys," soothed my trainer.

But man oh man, will I be pleased when I stop having to clean and disinfect the kitchen floor every morning! Here's a tip. Diluted vinegar apparently neutralises the smell of urine. It's the smell that draws them back to the same spot over and over again. Well, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

Maybe I'm just not good at cleaning kitchen floors!

The B-eagle has landed!

On arrival in Johannesburg, I knew everyone was waiting excitedly outside, including Jamie. The two pups arrived safely and were delivered to the fragile items section.
But where was my suitcase? What a time to have a baggage delay. I waited ages for that damn suitcase, but when I finally rolled into arrivals I felt I was bringing home gold.
Then the big puppy swop took place amidst tangled leads and puppy greetings. I got Jamie back and handed over the breeder's puppy which was hugged by her two ecstatic little girls. Also a blanket that smelt of the litter to comfort the new pup during her first days in a strange home.

Now to get to the parking lot. My sister carried Jamie, the suitcase and bags went on the trolley whilst Jemma sat in the trolley's basket like the Queen of Sheba.
It was a show stopper of note! Everyone was cooing and asking if they could touch the pups. I was even handed business cards from people saying they wanted a puppy!

Then the long ride home. Poor Jamie got car sick and I have been told that this is often caused by overheating and dehydration. Some dogs grow out of it and some don't.

Stepping through my front door with my two proteges was a relief. But the big question was: Were Jamie and Jemma going to like each other and be prepared to share a bed?

Well hallo Jemma!

Jemma was gorgeous. I knew that she was going to be fearless the moment I saw her sitting on a skate board. My niece gave it a push and it rolled for 4 metres with Jemma serenely balanced on top. This was going to be a puppy that wasn't fazed by much. She has her mother's crinkly face and her father's sleek body.

The breeder gave me her pedigree certificate, vaccination papers and a DVD of photos( a nice gesture as it's great to have baby pictures of the first two months).

We returned early on the day of the flight. Timing had to be spot on as the pups were put into their crates at the last moment. They could wear nothing that might hook on something, so no collars and no toys in case they chewed off an eye or swallowed material that could choke them. Just some dried meat strips and an absorbent towel and blanket.

But as we drove away, they howled so much that we stopped and let them sit on my lap while I gave them Tellington TTouch strokes to calm them. Then it was finding parking at the airport (headache!), giving them a quick drink of water and back into the crates.

As usual, the queue at departures was long and when you're carrying two crates with screaming pups, it's the last thing you need. My brother commented ironically "Now you know what it's like to travel with kids".

Obviously experienced at this kind of thing, clever brother suggested we ask the business check-in counter to help us. They kindly agreed (many thanks to the helpful and friendly SAA staff in Cape Town).

A cheerful baggage handler was assigned to accompany me and the pups through security and from there he would take them to the baggage section. When we went through the X-ray machines, the pups had to be taken out again so that the crates could be X-rayed separately. When we finally put them back in the crates, we put cable ties at each corner of the doors to prevent them accidentally opening or someone else opening them. My breeder was concerned that since the pups had only one set of vaccinations, they should not be handled by too many people. (It was a measure that paid off as one of the doors had become loose at the end of the flight.)

As they disappeared into the baggage section (no longer howling), I sat down with a sigh of relief and a quick cappuccino before boarding for the long trip back to Johannesburg!

Mission Jemma...

My second puppy, Jemma was ready to be collected in Cape Town. But this mission turned out to be more complicated than expected.

Jamie's breeder was also collecting a pup from the same breeder. We decided that I would personally fly down and bring back both puppies. There are very good pet couriers, but if you are on the same flight as your pet, they are handled as excess baggage. We felt the journey would be much shorter than going through cargo handling.

This meant that the Cape Town breeder had to crate-train our pups so that they would be used to being inside a crate by the time of the flight. I also felt it would be an opportunity for me to personally meet the breeder as well as Jemma's parents.

It was decided that while I was away for 3 days, the best option was to leave Jamie at his breeder's home as this would be familiar territory rather than put him into yet another strange environment.

I left feeling a little intimidated about the prospect of being responsible for two precious live puppies as excess baggage!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Back to School...

To make sure that we have done our homework diligently, we always repeat what we learnt in previous lessons. In the next class we learnt how to make our pups sit and lie down. We also had to walk our pups on different surfaces so they don't balk when they encounter something strange like gravel, metal, wood or plastic bubble wrap.

The following week was quite challenging. The pups had to learn to jump over obstacles, walk the plank and hopscotch across a rope ladder to help co-ordination.

Then they were introduced to strange noises and shapes in order to desensitise them. A DVD of thunder and lighting was played as background noise. Jamie did not like that! Someone in big gumboots and a large bright umbrella stomped around causing chaos. There were also large stuffed toys with their own sound effects scattered around.

But the piece-de-resistance was a large black garbage bin. When it rumbled loudly into the courtyard the pups scattered in all directions. I had to keep remembering that though one's instinct is to comfort and mollycoddle, this would be interpreted by the pups as encouraging fearful behaviour.

We also forget to praise them when they are sitting quietly and behaving well. We make the mistake of reacting only to negative behaviour. Our dogs still see that as getting attention.

So I try to remember when Jamie is being an angel to tell him so!