Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Quiet Holiday!

Happy non denominational gift giving season everyone!  Around here we will be exchanging gifts on the 21st (the solstice) the 24th (Christmas) and the 12 days of pre-Christian tree related holiday season from the 21st to the 1st thanks to my wonderful Mom who puts together the 12 days for us every year.

Today is still the big day for us though and I just can't get over how different this Christmas was than years past.  For the first time in a long time I am living in a house with a bunch of well behaved adult dogs who for the most part avoid trouble.  As I said on Facebook earlier- there is something to be said for a house full of dogs following the rules but I just can't help but miss shooing dogs away from the presents, pulling wrapping paper out of their mouths and running behind them as they attempt to run away with the most fragile Christmas gift they can find.  No one even tried to drink my coffee this morning as I sat under the tree opening presents.  Ben even jokingly offered Kerrigan a cookie and she actually turned her head to the side, knowing it had to be a trick because she was not allowed to eat that.

For Nova this christmas could not have been more different from the last one.  The picture at the top of this post is her watching us open presents from under the tree.  She stayed a foot or two away from the action but she was interested and not scared this year.  When I woke up the first thing she did was run over to my chair for a cuddle- kinda amazing considering that last year I couldn't even touch her.  Here are a few shots of her this morning- excuse that "just go out of bed look" I thought it was too cute not to share.


Then here is Kerri.  She usually sleeps in that spot of sun and today she didn't let any gift giving get in her way.

Copley was literally too boring to photograph, I have enough pictures of him sleeping on the couch.  You will have to enjoy this out-take of our holiday photo shoot!

Happy holidays everyone!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Meet The Bloggers Blog Hop

Meet the Pet Bloggers Hop

Hey Everybody!  Today I am going to be participating in a blog hop all about getting to know the people behind the pet blogs.  I found out about the hop through our buddy Nola.  She sent me over to Bringing Up Bella to learn more (you could go there to learn more too).

To participate you need to post a picture of you and answer at least five of twenty questions.  Here we go-

 That is me and Copley in the Rockies on his first vacation with us.  Now on to the questions.

What's your favorite non-animal related book?
The Golden Compass
What's your favorite non-animal related movie?
Star Wars: Return of The Jedi
What's your favorite non-animal related food?
Pho (a Vietnamese soup dish)
Who's your favorite actor?
Jeffrey Wright
What's one thing you have to do every day?
Feed the dogs!
What do you wish you were more skilled at?
What's your favorite holiday?
Favorite meal?
Roasted Duck
What do you like to do in your free time?
Play computer games, hike and camp

What is one thing you've done that you're most proud of?
It would have to be one of my designs.  I work in a design field and I have a few works that I am very proud of.
How is your pet most like you?
None of us like loud noises and we enjoy the peace and quiet at our house.
If you could change one thing about your life what would it be?
I would have a bigger backyard!  (I'm working on changing that one)
Other than blogging, what are three things you do that bring you joy?
My job as a designer, spending time with my family and training my dogs (in no particular order)
If you didn't have your current pets, what pets would you choose to have?
I have always loved Shiba Inus and Basenjies (can you tell I love super easy to train, people loving dogs :P)  I have met many of them and they have always appealed to me.  The independence, the sparky personalities, I just love them both.  I am considering my time taming Nova as training for future Basenji ownership.

That's all about me I guess!  Now check out some of the other bloggers out there!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

One Year With Nova- February and March

The dogs motto for these two months is "Thank you dear friends."

I spent a good chunk of that time (looking back at the calendar it was 22 days) away from home with my Grandmother.  She fell ill while visiting us during Thanksgiving of 2012 and passed away on March 21st, the first day of spring.  She was one of my biggest supporters in life and she was a woman who I looked up to very much.  She loved her family and spent a lot of her life raising us.  I say "us" because my family has an "it takes a village" view on child rearing and Grandma had a hand in at least four generations of that village.

As far as the dogs go over that time Ben would probably be better suited to write this.  After one stint away from home when my wonderful husband reported every day things were going "great!"  I came home to a husband with a bloody hand and a makeshift dog catcher pole in the corner.  I suspect that "great" might not adequately describe the state of affairs at the house over that time.

One Nova highlight I DO remember is that near the beginning of March we had a bit of a breakthrough.  Nova came over while I was petting Kerri and let me scratch her under the chin.  It was like a lightbulb went off in her head and she realized petting was great!  Literally overnight she went from a dog who I could not touch to a dog that was becoming pushy and possessive of my lap.  I started scratching her back, and her chin and her butt and literally every moment she could Nova would come to me for attention.  We quickly nipped the possession problem with Nova by immediately removing myself any time she was possessive.  I did the same thing with Kerri- who not as overt with her jealousy about sharing my lap- still had a little bump here or there.

I am actually surprised that Nova did as well as she did with me out of the house so much.  Speaking of "it takes a village" though- we had a LOT of help during that time and I could not be more grateful.  Nova's favorite person and his girlfriend helped Ben while I was out of town and stopped by the house to feed Nova while we both were away for 3 days for Grandma's service.   Mosby's parents took Copley and Kerri at their house with less than 24 hours notice but Nova was not in a state to take a doggie vacation.  I am just so glad we have friends who are willing to help us out.

Not much of a Nova update eh?  Well I will have much more to tell you in the April and May post.

Monday, December 2, 2013

One Year With Nova- December and January

Happy Adopion Day Nova Bear!!!

I can't believe it has been a whole year since we got Nova.  I've decided to re-cap her story month by month to celebrate and look back on the past year.  Mostly I want to say she is an amazing dog who has taught me so much about training, how dogs brains work and areas where I wasn't quite doing things right.  BUT if the person who bred her mother then let her puppies end up on the street is out there I want them to know they have done a horrible thing, and no matter how great Nova is today, she never should have existed in the first place.  The reason I ended up with a quivering disaster of a dog in my house is because I was cleaning up other people's careless messes and I wish I never had to do that.  I do however, still love her and here is our story, part 1 of 6.

When we first got her home she wouldn't even stand up.  She just crept along the ground and huddled frozen in any corner she could.  She was totally shut down and we had no idea what dog was under there.  So we put her in a crate, put a thundershirt on her and ignored her completely.  We would leave food for her when we left the house and it got eaten, but never when we were home.  Copley cuddled with her and Kerri whined a lot, but the people pretended she wasn't there.  The first little bit was pretty rough for her.  Being plucked off the street and put in a house had to have been like an alien abduction for her.  I do believe all she ever knew was the outdoors and I have serious doubts that she was ever owned by anyone.  It was rough too because she had to keep going back to the vet for dressing changes on her rear feet where half torn off dew claws were removed all the way.  I began to think she would huddle in the back of that crate for months.  Then about a week later I saw this.

I honestly could not believe it.  That really was the first moment I saw her stand up straight.  I'm glad my first thought was to take a picture so Ben could see how short she was.  I really had thought she was taller.

Now we had a dog who stood up.  Great.  Lets see what the next step is.  That is how we tackled everything, particularly in the beginning.  I couldn't think about next month, or next year, or how I was going to live with her, I just had to do one thing at a time.  What is the next step after crawling around on the ground in fear?  Standing up straight with her tail tucked between her legs.  Great.  Mission accomplished. 

Now that we had a dog who stood up I expanded her world a little outside of the crate.  She was in the living room right next to the Christmas tree and to be honest sometimes I thought she would live in that pen for the rest of her life.  I still could only touch her by cornering her (something that made me more than a little anxious) but she was warming up to the world.  I sat in that pen and spent hours getting her used to a collar, or at least associating good things with it.  She got a grasp of the clicker in there too.  That clicker was the only thing she connected with early on.  It was consistent, she controlled it and it was not human.  To this day it is our primary tool with her, and her list of clicker tricks is growing by the day.

You may notice a pillow in that pen.  It was there because my amazing husband was sleeping in there at the time so she could get used to people and wouldn't be alone at night.  We didn't yet realize that Nova hated him any more than she hated any other person and he thought it would be a good way to bond with her.  It was then that I realized my husband was in fact the most incredible person on earth and I could not possibly be luckier to have found him.  How many people would sleep on the ground of a dog pen for three weeks so that a chihuahua who you could not touch wouldn't be lonely?

Over the next several weeks I managed to get a collar on her.  Unfortunately she managed to get it right off again.  Or even worse stuck on something or in her mouth.  I saved her from strangulation on two occasions before we realized that collars were not something Nova would be wearing.  Or at least not dog collars.  I wanted her to wear a collar because she was a flight risk, but obviously it was not safe for her.  I got the great idea to get a quick release cat collar.  So I put it on her, she pulled it off, I put it on her, she pulled it off, I put it on her, she pulled it off and in we went for the next few months.  Did I mention that literally every time I cornered her to put it on I cringed, afraid that this would be the time she bit me?  In all the time we had her so far she never snapped at me, that is truly a testament to her temperament.  In case you were thinking of plucking your own traumatized chihuahua off the street I want you to know cornering a scared dog is a bad idea, you should never do it.  I cringe to think of some of the situations I put us in together early on, and I don't know I would do it again, and certainly not ever with a dog any bigger.

December brought us a dog who stood up in our presence, but never left a pen in the living room.  It brought us a dog who would eat while we watched, but would not sleep, or even close her eyes with us in the room.  She was scared all of the time.  Scared when the other dogs ran too fast, scared when anything new was in the house, scared of anything she saw us do.

This was during the two days we tried umbilical training.  Ben almost lost a toe and Nova nearly broke her neck.  It was a great idea for most people but you sometimes need to recognize when you are not "most people."

Near the beginning of January I tried working with her to take food from my hand.  It was not going swimmingly but she was getting closer and closer.  Then a friend came over and Nova decided he was the person that she trusted.  She ate right out of his hand and I informed him he had to move into my spare room.  Unfortunately he had his own place and wasn't looking for a job as a full time dog rehabilitator, but was over a lot and every time he came he gave Nova a handful of food.  Every time she took it.  By the end of the month she was taking food from me, and Ben if she thought she was actually stealing it from him.  If Ben looked like he WANTED her to have the food she hid.  But if he was giving treats to another dog, or eating a bowl of cereal she would try to steal that.  Baby steps.


 If I just...


January was a pretty rough month.  It was when we discovered Nova was not a dog.  She was in fact a Ninja.  First I would come home and find her out of the pen.  At first we thought she was burrowing under it.  So we piled things around to weigh it down.  She still got out.  Then I thought she was going on top of the crate to get there so I relocated her to the spare room with the pen in the doorway.  That was when I saw her climb it.  She climbed that pen like it was not even an obstacle.  In fact she started climbing anything she wanted to get over or out of.  She was getting braver and her smarts were starting to show.  This made me happy, but it also has led to endless frustration.

The only other exciting development of January was when I was upstairs on the computer (we have a loft that at that time was blocked off from the dogs but I could see down) and I think she forgot I was home.  I looked down as her and Kerri played with a toy they got for Christmas.  It was a Martha Stewart Elf that had no stuffing but made a crinkly noise.  They full out played, we are talking play bows and throwing the toy up in the air and the whole bit.  Then Nova saw me and ran back into her crate and started to shake.  That was the day that I knew this was going to be ok.  If she can play with Kerri we have her!  She is not so broken that she is non-functional, we just need to manufacture more circumstances where she can function.

So there is December and January for you.  I will update on the next 10 months this week.

How to Celebrate National Mutt Day!

Happy National Mutt Day! (Facebook tells me it is today but I am not sure who exactly decided it was, but I am going with it)

To celebrate why don't you take a mutt camping-

Give a Mutt a Bone-

Cuddle With a Mutt

Or if you live in Las Vegas you can adopt a discounted mutt from The Animal Foundation-

Or if you don't have a mutt at home maybe you can just pet a mutt at the park, or google image "mutt."

However you choose to celebrate be sure to have a great national mutt day!