Monday, May 22, 2017

E-mail Problems and the New Website!

I just wanted to remind everyone to go over to where new posts are now being uploaded!  Be sure to subscribe to the new e-mail list or RSS feed.  Also apologies to those who already subscribed and got a basically blank e-mail with this mornings scheduled post.  It was an issue with the scheduling that somehow deleted my whole post, but it wont happen again.  Thank you all for sticking with me through this transition.

Monday, May 8, 2017

New Platform!

The time has come everyone!  While old posts are still going to be archived here, new posts will be at our new website. now points there.  Be sure to subscribe via e-mail, RSS, or like us on facebook to be notified of new posts.  We will see you over there!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Pet Sitters and Changing Paltforms

 Actual view from vacation

For 12 days this month we were on vacation WITHOUT the dogs.  It was an amazing time, I was in one of my closest friends weddings, but too long.  Poor Nova doesn't really do well with people other than me, so it is tough to leave her and I worry.  Typically I send Copley to hang out with his best dog buddies at our friends house and have another trusted person stay with the chihuahuas.  This was a really long trip to dump Copley on our very busy friends and our regular house sitter was out of town.  That left me with the horrifying prospect of leaving the dogs in the hands of new people!  Now don't get me wrong, I really like and trust the friends we left the dogs with but not quite as much as the regular dog sitters, who also feed raw food, take obedience at the same place as us and who my dogs are very used to.  So like any rational person I left a book and a half of printed directions, signs on all the doors and directions everywhere.  Next long vacation we are taking the dogs with us.

Nothing to see here, I am totally sane

Now that I am back I am working on re-vamping the blog.  You may have noticed the website needs a big overhaul, we have had Nova four years and she still doesn't even have an about page.  I also plan to start vlogging a little bit, so that should be fun!  With all those changes coming in the near future I am thinking of changing platforms.  Do any of you have experience with that?  I am thinking I may move most operations over to an independently hosted website and just post simultaneously on blogger for a little while.  I do a lot of web marketing for my business now and it feels so clunky to go from that to this really clunky platform for Dog In The Desert.  Our new URL would come with us.  Would most of you guys still find our new posts either through our e-mail subscription, RSS feed or facebook?  Please let me know in the comments!

I've been sorting through pictures for the new website so I had to leave you with an old favorite.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Maybe clip that leash instead of hitting your dog with it?

Hanging out by our mailbox
Me and Copley were out for a short walk around our neighborhood and had a terrifying experience.  I live in a suburban community, but it is still pretty tight quarters.  There are no sidewalks in my homeowners association and the houses are packed together.  The thing you need to take away from this information is that it is an on leash area for sure.  I am all for letting dogs run around in rural areas where it is appropriate, but my neighborhood is not one of those places.

Well I had Copley on a leash and we were headed to the mailbox down the street.  Between my house and the mail boxes there was a man standing with two large dogs, one tan and one black.  I'm not sure what they were, but they were tall.  Perhaps giant shepherds of some kind or something crossed with a big sight hound maybe?  The breed is not important to this story, the size is though.  As we approach the man starts yelling at the dogs angrily and pulls his leash out of his pocket.  I stopped to give him a chance to leash up the dog closest to him, it was sitting right next to him in easy reach.  Instead of clipping the leash to the easily accessible dog collar he starts angrily yelling at the dog and hitting him with the leash.  Not a gentle attention getting tap or anything, but hitting him.

I think this is the time I should say that based on what this guy and these dogs were wearing, I would bet this man fancies himself a "dog trainer."  These two were in vests with handles, and wearing around their necks the pinch collar/large black flat buckle collar combo that you might see on a police dog.  If you need all these thing to control your dog, why isn't a leash attached to at least one of them?  The man had cargo pants and a pouch that I imagine were not at all full of treats- as he clearly was using other (obviously ineffective) methods here, but still screamed "tough man trains tough dogs!"

Well the tan dog that is being hit with a leash finally runs away from his person and over to us.  He stopped facing me and Copley about 5 feet away, staring Copley down.  It was the frozen, terrifying stare that you read about in books.  Meanwhile the guy just continues his angry screaming.  I tried to assess my options here.  Picking Copley up was not going to work, as bending forward was only going to provoke an attack I figured.  The dog was huge, it's giant muzzle was level with my chest so if this fight happened I was probably screwed too.  I didn't have the mace I carry on walks because I was just headed to the mailbox.  This really could have been a disaster really quick here.  The fur was starting to go up on Copley's back and this tan dog ever so gently and silently began to curl his lip.  In what had to have looked comically opposite to the other mans method here I just calmly and cheerfully said "Copley!  Come on."  I have to give Copley some credit here, that dog always comes through for me in a pinch.  I want him to get his feet off a chair and you would think he was deaf, but in case of imminent dog attack or pigeon in the house he listens like a champ.  As I said Copley he looked at me and as I cheerfully asked him to move along we stepped sideways out of this dogs glare and walked away briskly at an angle.  By this time the man came over to grab the tan dog and was angrily yelling at it and glaring at me as I was saying "good dog!" to Copley.

Then here comes the black dog jogging down the street at us.  Luckily this one was much friendlier and assumed the "I sniff your but you sniff mine" position with Copley.  I was not thrilled about this as Copley's hackles were still up and he was clearly a little uncomfortable from our last encounter.  This dog was so tall that Copley fit all the way under him and as I was trying to figure a way to pull him out without us getting tangled up (I only had a 4 foot leash to work with and I didn't want to drop it if I didn't have to) I look down and see Copley comically wincing as this dogs giant balls hit him in the face.  It was the only hilarious part of this whole experience.

We took a quick turn around the corner and loitered at the mailbox for a long time to give the dogs a chance to move along.  I have not seen them since and it has been a few days.  Hopefully they were just visitors to the neighborhood. 

P.S.- A few resources if you are either the guy hitting his dogs for no reason in the name of "training" (indicating you might want to learn a little about the real science behind dog behavior) or if you think you might run into someone like that on the street (at least one of you will have some read on what the dog is thinking).  My favorite behaviorist Particia McConnell has some great books The Other End of the Leash and For The Love of a Dog  Those two taught me a lot of what I know about dog body language and have helped me so much in my interactions with our dogs and dogs out in the world over the years.  

Or find a local positive reinforcement based trainer and take a class.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

New Year New Tooth!

Post Root Canal and Pre Crown

The Final Product

This is a story of root canals, dentists and pet insurance gone right!

A few days before Christmas I came home and found Copley with a lump on the side of his face under his eye.  We had been rummaging in the garage a lot due to the pilot light going out on our hot water heater so I figured it might have been a spider bite or something like that.  I gave the poor guy a benadryl and called our vet.  Luckily our vet is a wonderful lady who always answers the phone.  She informed me it was likely actually an abscessed tooth!  It being 6pm already there was not a whole lot to be done that night so she suggested I visit a vet who did root canals in the morning with the hopes that we could save the tooth.
The Lump
I am all for saving teeth.  In most practices vets just pull teeth, but Las Vegas is lucky enough to have a veterinary practice that regularly does root canals and other advanced dental work (if you are in Las Vegas and looking, it is Dr. Hewitt at Cheyenne West Animal Hospital).  Even though we knew it would be more expensive we decided to try to save the tooth. 

He looks thrilled for the dentist!

That night from my vet, and the next day from the vet who did dental work I learned something really interesting.  Dogs only actually eat their food with four teeth.    Two molars (top and bottom) on each side of their mouth.  The other teeth are mostly for ripping flesh off bones.  Admittedly my dogs probably do a little more flesh taring than your average kibble fed dog, but it is still not the main activity for a domestic dog.  While a lot of dogs do ok with no teeth at all (I have seen foster dogs that can actually get a lot done with just gums) it is pretty bad to loose any of those four teeth.  It would have basically forced Copley to move all of his eating to the other side of his mouth.  To my great relief many vets and techs told me what a young dog he was at only eight to be loosing teeth like that!  Copley acts like a grumpy old man from time to time so hearing medical professionals call him young was both reassuring and refreshing. 

As our options were being laid out at the vets office a crown came up.  I just about fell out of my seat as dollar signs swirled in front of my eyes!  I told the vet that the root canal and filling to continue to at least use most of the tooth seemed like the best plan considering it seemed unlikely pet insurance would cover a crown for a dog!  The vet in turn asked who I had insurance through and after I informed him it was Pet Plan he told me I was probably in luck.  I don't know why I figured a crown was out of the question but he believed it was covered.  After all he had a pile of literature about how this was really the best option for his long term health.  We left the office agreeing to read more about crowns and submit the procedure for pre-approval with Pet Plan to help with our decision.  The more I read about the procedure the more I was convinced the crown was best for Copley.  Luckily for us the procedure was approved just after Christmas and Copley went in for a root canal.

There was still a worry on the day of the procedure that the tooth could be lost.  The fracture went below the gum line and could have been so bad it was a lost cause and there was also the possibility that the infection would be so bad in the bone that the tooth had to go.  Even though it was possible it would have to be pulled I felt good that between the coverage by Pet Plan and the talented vet we were giving Copley the best chance at the best outcome.  This really almost seems like a Pet Plan ad here but I assure you it is not.  In fact I have been paying them for the last six years, not the other way around!

Loopy From The Surgery

Luckily the root canal went great and the tooth was saved!  After the root canal came a great time of paranoia for me.  They carve little ridges into the tooth to put the crown on.  In a person it is pretty easy to ensure the tooth doesn't get damaged in the week or so while the crown is being made.  You just tell the person not to chew anything on that side!  With a dog it looks a little more like clearing your entire house of anything even a little bit hard, feeding ground up mush as food and praying to the tooth fairy (she seemed the appropriate deity for this situation).  As it turned out everything went perfectly and now I am the proud owner of a dog who is the proud owner of a $2800 tooth.

Now to train him to open his mouth to show it off, this should be fun!

P.S.- What did Copley fracture his tooth on in the first place?  There is no way to know for sure, but after talking to the vet about his chewing habits his best guess was a nylabone.  Apparently the hard ones are actually hard enough to break a tooth.  Here I was thinking the only danger with a nylabone was breaking off pieces and eating them, which is why I was buying the super hard ones!  I will be kicking myself in the butt about that, so just a warning, if your dog is an intense chewer like Copley, maybe stay away from the hard nylabones.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Dog Owner Level 100 Reached

I really feel like I accomplished something today.  It wasn't that I have successfully integrated a feral dog into every day life with people, that I have solved problems with positive reinforcement that trainers told me I never would or that I have successfully raised a puppy.  It was today when I saw pieces of a Christmas ornament on the ground in a pile of puke and thought "this can be fixed."

I will say it is not quite as gross or premeditated as it may seem.  The items were in a small pile of just them, surrounded by a sticky kind of yellowish bile many dog owners may be familiar with.  I pulled them off the carpet with a paper towel.  On my way to the trash can I looked down and seeing as how everything was intact I figured I might just try to wash it off.  The plastic cleaned up beautifully, I found the ornament they fell off of and with a little bit of the proper adhesive everything was like new.  As you can see above it is like no damage has ever been done to the little reindeer.

How many people have an ornament on their tree that was once inside their dog?  This is certainly a next level of dog ownership.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

4 Years with Nova

It is hard to believe we have had Nova for 4 years.  The day I picked her up from the rescue's vet they warned me not to take her home.  She had been living feral, scavenging food behind a tire store for at least six months.  She had two puppies who both died a few weeks before she was trapped, was malnourished, upset and her first interaction with people directly was being trapped then going through surgery.  She was scared and skinny and it was hard to say what kind of dog was under all that scared.  It turns out now, 4 years later, she is actually a really amazing little chihuahua.  She is very smart, cuddly (with me), and she has great dog skills.

Her life isn't exactly the normal that a lot of other dogs experience.  She won't voluntarily let anyone but me touch her, however she will let me hold her for someone else to trim her nails and just a few weeks ago she made it peacefully through a vet exam and a rabies shot.  Nova does things on her schedule, so we try to concentrate on the important stuff and everything else comes with time.  

Most of Nova's day is spent wrestling with Kerrigan, throwing toys in Kerrigan's face and sleeping cuddled up next to her.  Those two are the best of friends, it is hard to imagine how we would have gotten Nova through these four years without Kerri.  Nova is still wary of new things, you should check out our facebook live video from her cake eating this morning.  The cake was new, and the setup was new so as you can see she is pretty unsure what to do.  Eventually she realized the new object is food and she calms down.  Letting her work through things that in return are self rewarding has been a great strategy for helping Nova learn to live in our house.

Most of her day to day life is actually very joyful.  When she is comfortable (which is most of the time) she is a fun, silly dog.  She wakes me up in the morning by bouncing on the bed, play bowing and jumping around.  As I mentioned she throws toys around to play, loves to cuddle and gets very, very excited when she sees her clicker.  Learning clicker tricks has given her a lot of confidence and is one of the things that has really helped us bond.  Giving her some control over her own life, and learning new things through positive reinforcement has been the key to her success.  It has been a long journey and sometimes it took weeks just to get to the next little step, but me and Nova worked together to get her where she is today. 

After our rather chaotic Facebook video this morning I decided to grab an interview with Nova.  She is in a much more comfortable enviroment in this video and the clicker is in my pocket.  I think it captures a little more of the excited and happy essence that is the real Nova I get to see every day.