Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Giant Schnauzer vs Malinois

After we lost Coda I knew we would get another dog but I wasn't sure what breed it would be. Was I willing to risk getting another Giant? Coda's epilepsy had drained our savings and our emotions.

Of one thing I was certain. The dog, no matter the breed, was to be from working lines. My goal would be Schutzhund.

The two breeds on the top of my list were the Belgian Malinois and the Giant Schnauzer. I wasn't ready for a puppy yet so I decided to foster one of each to help with the decision.

Along came Rebel the Malinois, a personal foster for a friend. Rebel had been held back as a puppy because he had megaesophagus. Seeing him growing up in a run I offered to look after him until he found a home.

Chevy the Giant Schnauzer was from the same breeder as Coda. At first he offered me a puppy at half price which I politely declined. He then offered us a young male who was returned to him for aggression issues. We declined that as well.

Soon after that we got another call from the breeder... He had another proposal for me. I went in to meet with him and was introduced to Chevy, a dog he was planning to show but who wasn't doing well in his kennel set up and was spooking at everything. He asked if I would take him, train and socialize him. Chevy would go back for showing and breeding but would spend the rest of his time with us. I think he was truly shocked that I turned down the 'free' show dog. I did however offer to look after Chevy for a while and get him out into the world.

So for a while I had two Belgians and a Schnauzer. Rebel found a home in Saskatchewan and Chevy went back to the breeder.

Rebel and Ceilidh colliding with Chevy laughing at them.

Since I don't have a Malinois you already know the conclusion... a Giant Schnauzer named Bullet. Something I've never regretted.

While I'm continually drawn to the Malinois like a moth to a flame, my experiences with Ceilidh (a post for another time) and stories of other Belgians I know personally have made me cautious of going there. That could change. Aamer from our club will be bringing home a new Malinois puppy this year and I'm looking forward to seeing it grow up.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Journey to the land of the setting sun.

A journey led two friends down an illuminated path to rediscover a world we all inhabit but rarely take time to appreciate. Once there they marveled at a miniature dimension containing the power to kindle the grandest of senses.

They encountered one creature proudly navigating his group of zeppelins into the breeze, the gentle sky fire wafting through his antennae and around his stained glass wings.

Two friends became four as they spent time reuniting with their long-legged shadows, a visual reminder of a certainty in our lives: The brighter the light the more intense the darkness.

They contemplated how there will be occasions when we have the power to turn and face the light, others where we must wait patently for the sun to rise again in her own time. How we must learn to distinguish the difference, taking great care not to waste valuable time in gloom when we can spin into gladness.

Together they whispered a prayer to once again witness the sun's soft rays breaking the horizon with nothing but birdsong as accompaniment. To be the ones to welcome her back into our lives the next morning.

At peace, they wished the sun a good night.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Lazy... or efficient?

Why hold on when the toy balances comfortably on your tooth?! Lexus runs down the trail like this, it's a talent of hers.

She's ambidextrous.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Carefree abandon

While reviewing shots of my garden I found I'd caught Lexington enjoying a carefree roll in the grass. She has such fun! I envy children who can still play in the dirt or throw themselves down a hill with abandon. As we grow up we start to think of reasons why we shouldn't... when maybe we should remember all the reasons why we should. Then do the laundry.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Ok, so supposedly there was an earthquake in Quebec that could be felt around here. While it might seem tame to many, an earthquake, no matter how small, is exciting news to us. It will probably make the front page of our local newspapers.

AND I MISSED IT! Bullet and I were walking outside, in a busy park with lots of construction going on and never felt a thing.

Bullet, don't you know it's part of your job description to warn me of such things? Watch and learn from this dog in California:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I know for sure what I want to do... I think.

Life is full of choices. Personally I tend to over-analyze every choice until I give myself a headache but often there isn't an easy answer. Decisions are always harder when you want both things equally.

For example: Should I trial Bullet in July? Or not?

The trial is close and there will be no need for a hotel. Bullet knows the field and I'd be comfortable trialing there. It's a month away so I'd be able to visit a few times at least, and it's the only club I can get to during the week for practice. If I get Bullet's full SchH 2 there then I can trial for his SchH 3 in the fall. This is something I really, really want to do.

Then I consider the heat in mid July. Bullet doesn't handle heat well and I am not willing to endanger him for the sake of a title. Heat stroke can happen quickly. We could use more practice with blinds and other things but if my aim is perfection I will never trial so that isn't my biggest concern. I need to see how he is with the trial decoy, make sure Bullet's comfortable and the decoy is safe for him.

That brings me to option three. To never trial Bullet again and retire him from Schutzhund. This is ALWAYS a possibility in my head and always has been – it's nothing new. I love this dog and while the sport is exhilarating there is always danger involved, especially with Bullet. He's accident prone and throws himself over, through and around things with no concept of self preservation. Every time he crashes this option flashes like a neon light in my head. There are safer sports out there that he'd be just as happy doing. He adores tracking, I really want to start carting again and obedience is a given. And truthfully? Sometimes I get tired driving all over Ontario.

But I love training with my friends... I love the intricacies of the sport... I'd miss it. Sigh.

Perhaps I'm crazy for not always knowing what I want to do. Maybe I'm crazy because I think about these things so hard. Or maybe, just maybe, I care about my dog and I'm not crazy at all. Since most of this over-analyzing goes on in the privacy of my mind and rarely leaks out through my mouth or fingers I'm not bothering anyone but myself.

One good thing is that nobody cares about the final decision but me, and it doesn't matter anyway! :)

So... I'm going to play it by ear. Visit the club to train. Enter, and if it's too hot, pull him. Yes, that is my decision. For now.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Main Street singing on Main Street

Lexus and I enjoyed an afternoon at an outdoor festival where a friend's quartet, Main Street, was singing... on Main Street.

Never having been in such a large noisy crowd Lexus did great. She WAS tempted to bite the balloons children were waving around her, but contained herself nicely.

I do believe she's looking up that man's shorts!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fieldside chatter

People come and people go from a dog sport like Schutzhund. Could be that they are between dogs. Perhaps they've entered a new life stage and found their time schedules don't accommodate training and/or trialing. They may just need a break. It doesn't mean they won't be back.

Friends have fights. Become enemies. Make up. People move from one club to another... then move back. Or not. It's a small, small, fluid world.

Take care when you talk about another person. Word spreads, grows and develops a life that could very well come back to haunt you. Someone not involved in the conversation may overhear a part without the full story and off it goes without your knowledge.

Even an innocent comment can be taken the wrong way. What you say and what the listening ear hears might not be the same thing, interpretation is funny like that. Sometimes it is an honest mistake, but the human race has a way of skewing things to fit their preconceived ideas. Just look at "science", if you want backup for any view it's often possible to find it in a study. It's hard for us to stay neutral and non judgemental.

In your own circle you get to know the dog/human teams pretty well and can help each other out, but if visiting a new club or watching someone at a trial you should be slow in developing an opinion... When you watch a person and their dog don't be in a rush to judge. If you find you must judge, keep it to yourself unless asked by the person themselves. Even then you must tread lightly. We all know how easy it is to hurt someone.

The thing is, you aren't privy to the details of other people's lives – details that would help the accuracy of your opinion. Things like:

How often are they able to train?
This makes a huge difference in progress, especially in the three pronged sport of Schutzhund. For some, tracking is a thorn in their side. Maybe they don't have time or space to train, some just hate it. Others struggle in obedience. In protection you do eventually need a field with 6 blinds, and their access to a decoy helps, no doubt about that one. Because of work schedules they may only train a few times a month, rather than a few times a week.

What is the history of their dog?
Could be that they bought a pet dog, discovered the sport and are working with what they've got. I've met a few rescue dogs working and have been impressed with how they are coming along, yet even the best bred and selected dogs might not have what it takes.

Who do they have to help them?

Or support can be priceless.

What training method do they use?
Not everyone trains the same way. This is a huge topic in and of itself as we all know!

Did you catch them on a bad day?
Maybe their dog is sore. Their female is coming into season. Sometimes the owner doesn't even know! We all have bad days – I'm talking about both ends of the leash.

How long have they been in the sport?
Every dog, every session, every training obstacle you find yourself behind helps you grow. Experience matters. Being new is not something to criticize.

What are their goals?

Some train with the podium in mind. Others just to pass quality time with their dogs. Both extremes are ok. If you are insecure enough to feel the need to compare yourself to someone not doing as well, that's your problem. And it's a sad one.

With how Schutzhund is structured we all have a lot of time to stand around and develop our fieldside chattering skills. I am nowhere near perfect and I'm going to try even harder to monitor what I say and what kind of conversations I end up in. Aim to be supportive. Offer opinions only when asked. To stay positive. You know, keep it fun the way it should be!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The beat on the street

Watching the reaction of the public to different puppies/dogs is a form of entertainment. It's true, try it sometime.

Here are some of my observations:

So many choices...

With the service dogs in training, an adorable puppy in their mini vest draws children and adults like a magnet. If you have a group of puppies together the attention to each varies. The younger the puppy, the more they are flocked to. In the labs, chocolate is often favored over yellow and black, with black being the least noticed. If a person has had a certain breed or colour as a pet their preference is based on that dog and they'll come over to tell you stories of their "Marley". Some love the goldens and ignore labs.

My friend's chocolate lab puppy getting the attention...

The Golden/Poodle, Enzo, sucked people in with his goofy looks and behaviour. From his walk to his actions he was just plain funny. Some wanted to know what he was. I overheard more than one couple get in an argument over his breed before coming over to ask me, "Is that a Golden Doodle?" You had to laugh at the "I told you so!" that followed from the woman to the man (or vice versa).

Enzo always took his job seriously.

Some people don't like dogs, others are noticeably nervous to incredibly fearful. I've seen parents gasp and grab an eager child's hand to drag them away from the furry beast. Adults have plastered their bodies against a wall of cereal in the grocery store or turned and ran away. Some nationalities are more fearful than others and I wonder if the dogs are considered unclean or a bad omen? I'm careful to watch the reaction of people and if I sense a fear I leave the aisle or cross over to the other side of the hallway to be considerate.

We once hired a girl at our agency who lept up on her chair in fear when I brought in 8 week old Cyder (black lab). We hadn't realized she was afraid of dogs. She didn't last long for a number of reasons, and since then one of the questions asked during interviews is how a person likes dogs!

Cyder was pretty scary, wasn't she?

With Bullet the reactions are quite different. He's mainly ignored. Even as a puppy most people ignored him. Occasionally I'll get asked if he's a labradoodle (grrrr... that means it's time to groom him) or a Bouvier. Today I was asked if he was a Giant Schnauzer - yes!

Coda drew a lot more attention than Bullet, I think the difference was his build, his cropped ears and his furnishings. Overall he was flashier than Bullet perhaps?

Coda in need of a good grooming.

On the other hand, walking three Giant Schnauzers neatly by myself, two on one side and one on the other had people stopping their cars to talk to me.

Then there is Lexus. I truly wasn't expecting the reactions I would get to her. More men are interested than I'm used to. Some people absolutely adore her and have to come over to pet her. Others cross the street when they see us coming. One lunchtime while walking uptown a woman made a wide detour around us, with the comment "I don't know if it bites". Lexus was 5 months old and walking calmly at my side. With their reputation as police dogs I can understand some of this.

This week at work a tenant in our building asked me about the dogs I always brought in. He wanted to know how many dogs I had, lol! I have brought in quite a few over the years... He asked what the big black one was, and mentioned that the new one looked mean and vicious. Next time I see him and I have Lexus with me I'll see if he wants to meet her.

Monday, June 07, 2010

5 years old

Bullet and Glory turn 5 years old today.

If I ever get another dog like Bullet I'll be a lucky person. He has a tendency to crash and vocalize his way through life but that is one of the things I love most about him. He's got a sense of humor and is always up for anything, anytime.

Kevin feels the same about Glory.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Hilton Falls Loop - the longest hike I've ever taken

The Hilton Falls Loop (GCRDC1) is a 25+ km, 12 stage multi cache along the Bruce Trail in Milton Ontario. Kevin and I were on vacation and thought it would be a good one to try since we had the time... ok, so the truth is I thought it would be fun, Kevin was a good sport and came along with me. :)

We planned to do this cache in two days so we could take some side trails and find other caches in the area. Because it's a loop this ended up adding many extra kilometers to our total trip, losing the trail and backtracking/bushwhacking also added to the time and kilometers. In the end we did it in three days.

Day 1

Day one we stayed within the park boundaries of Hilton Falls and Bullet and Lexus came along for the trip. The entire hike would have been way too much for the puppy, and Bullet was trialling on the weekend so I was being overprotective and paranoid about him getting injured.

Lexus helping me navigate.

Day 2

Glory had us to herself on day two and she loved it! This day was to contain the bulk of our adventure. When we left the weather was warm, the sky was clear, the bugs were biting. A 5 km hike brought us directly to where we left off the day before and we were soon out of the park and on the Bruce Trail. The Bruce Trail is 885 km long and follows the Niagara Escarpment from Tobermory to the Niagara Falls area, with hundreds of km of side trails.

Follow the blazes...

So we walked, climbed and walked some more. We picked up a couple other caches on our route, but after a few hours we kept to the main loop. Half a km here and half a km there add up.

We got really lost at our furthest distance from the start and ended up in a construction zone on the wrong side of a wire fence. After following the boundary for a while we decided to scale it, lifted Glory over (good thing she's small) and found the trail again after some thick bushwhacking. Whew! We were only guessing the trail was in that direction.

Resting along the way.

Later in the afternoon the sky started to darken, and quickly. There was a storm on the way and we had NO idea where we were. Our only option was to keep going.

The sky darkening over a quarry along our route.

The skies opened while we were in a forest and it gave us the whole shebang - lightening & thunder with heavy wind. A branch came down right in front of me. Thankfully we had bags with us to protect our gear. At first we were disgruntled but soon we were laughing at our predicament, if a little hysterically. It helped that we were only a few markers/hours from the end and had started to recognize where we were.

Glory and I getting wet, but we were getting closer to the end!

We lost the trail after we crossed the road pictured above and ended up, once again, on the wrong side of a fence, this time at the base of a waterfall. It was wide and shallow filled with slimy, slippery rocks. We had no option but to cross it. At first we tried to balance on the rocks, but in the end we were soaking wet anyway so we just walked through it, climbed the hill and found the trail. (Squish, Squish, Squish) A little backtracking to the next marker (over a stile that we missed!) and we were almost there!

The last marker took us back to the very first one of the day before where we spent some time looking for the cache. Note to self - ALWAYS READ THE DIRECTIONS! Turns out that there were three extra numbers at each marker that we were to mark down and do a little math to find the coordinates for the end. Good thing I had taken pictures of each marker or we would have been hiking it all over again to collect those numbers. I would have, anyway. Something tells me I don't think I could have convinced Kevin to hike the entire route again.

We were being eaten alive, we were soaking wet, cold and tired so we left finding the cache for the next day.

So very wet...

Day 3

This day was easy compared to the days before. I had the coordinates of the Hilton Loop in hand, as well as the coordinates for a few other puzzle caches that were in the park. The storm had passed, the sun was shining and we were ready to finish this beast. Bullet came along for the ride.

Bullet's ready!

A short hike brought us to the final where a small search ended in discovery. Sweet success!

The more effort something takes, the more satisfying the accomplishment. Sweet success!

To remember the day I traded a squirrel for the bulldog, perfect eh?

Overall it was a rewarding, rememberable hike that I plan on doing again. Would anyone like to join me? :)

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

One limping GSD puppy

Lexus started limping in a back leg a couple of weeks ago. Anick (Lexus' breeder and owner) had warned me when I first got her that this might happen and not to worry, Shepherds can get something called "Panosteitis", Pano for short. Basically this is nothing more than growing pains, it moves from leg to leg and can cause them pain until they are about two years old and have stopped growing.

So I wasn't too concerned. Lexus hadn't been slammed by another dog, she hadn't smashed into anything or slid out. Nothing happened, I just noticed one day that she was limping... something that would usually strike fear into my heart as I always think the worst!

I let Anick know about it and kept an eye on Lexus while keeping her quiet. After a week she was still limping in the same back leg, and while it wasn't getting worse, it was also showing no improvement. It was bad enough that she was lifting that foot right off the ground. She was irritated with it, not licking any area but kicking it out when lying there and she was restless at night. We made an appointment with the vet. Because Lexus hadn't shown any signs of pano until now, and because it was lasting so long in the one leg the possibility of injury was there.

An injury in my own dogs is one thing, I wouldn't like it but in the end I'm the only one affected. Lexus isn't mine, she's got a working future ahead of her and I would hate to have her hurt on my watch, in my care. A leg injury can be serious.

The vet checked her over, down her spine and tail, from her toes up to her hips. She couldn't be sure, but thought it could be pulled ligaments in her knee. No mention of pano. Argh! THAT wasn't something I wanted to hear!

Anick had them x-ray her hips to make sure it wasn't them. Turns out her hips look great (yay!) and the x-rays showed she did in fact have pano!

After her first dose of Metacam she was feeling better and you could see a huge difference not only in her limping (none) but her overall attitude. She was happy. I was happy.

I'm to give her Metacam on any bad days, I hope she doesn't have many of those.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Waiting for the night to fall

Kevin and I took Bullet and Lexus with us to the Mustang Drive in Theater on Sunday. A puppy's first reaction to the big screen is often comical, Lexus was anticlimactic in her reaction... in fact, she had no visible reaction whatsoever, she was too busy people watching until she fell asleep. She was great, not a peep out of her. Bullet got to wear his magical necklace so he didn't bark at everyone and get us kicked out.

"Why are we just sitting here?"

People watching...

It's not overly busy on a Sunday night, good to know for next time!

We got to see Shrek Forever After (good!) and She's Out of My League (not so good.)