Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I was about to give up in frustration. Once again the flakey owners of an Aussie that was listed to give away on Craigslist had told me they weren’t going to be around so I could come get the Aussie in question. I had seen the ad for her a few days before. It read “Free 1 year old Aussie female”. A few key strokes later I had launched an inquiry. At first I was told someone else wanted her. Then she sent me this picture of the dog in the snow. The dog looks like she could be an Aussie. I pursued. The next message was if I wanted her I better hurry. Then they were willing to bring her to Missoula to meet me but that fell through. They said I could come get her on Wednesday morning…nope morning won’t work…not afternoon either. Then Thursday afternoon was possible and then not. Friday late morning looked like it was going to work. I had once again shifted my schedule around and was set to go. Thursday night late I got an email telling me not to come but maybe Monday. So I wrote back and told them Monday I was swamped and I was really disappointed but to call if anything changed and Friday could be worked out. I don’t know why I was so determined but I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that this little Aussie was in trouble.

Friday morning about 8 AM my phone rang it was the owner. At last I could talk to a real person and try to work it out. She was in a hurry and said she would not be home BUT would leave the dog in the back of their old truck parked out front and if I wanted the dog I could come get her from there. Visions of trying to get a protective Aussie out of their truck while it alarmed barked “Stranger Danger!!” danced in my head. When I asked the owner if that would scare the dog she said “I don’t think so”. So hoping I wouldn’t get shot by the neighbors or bit by the dog I was rescuing I agreed to give it a try. I was able to get in a few questions before she hung up. No the dog never had any shots, yes she just has a litter of pups which were weaned and placed when they were a month old, the Aussie came from a guy up in Misson and her name well after some thought the owner said “ahhh I think the kids called her Tiffany”. So armed with directions I was on my way. Darrin was of course completely against this whole idea. Although I said “It will be fine Dear” inside I had to kind of wonder.

Almost 2 hours of singing Paul Simon at the top of my lungs and a cinnamon roll later I was nearing the address. I kept telling myself if it looked weird I would just keep going. I prayed my guardian angels were near. I voiced a special prayer for my recently departed friend, Queen of Aussie and BC rescue Mary Ann Lindsay, and told her I was tuned in and to warn me. Somehow I knew she would and I felt safe. I pulled into the driveway next to the truck. The house was about 40 feet off a busy road. The fences were flat in places and I laughed remembering the owners comment that the dang dog wouldn’t stay in their fence. I sat in the van for a moment and looked around. No one was around and I could see no dog in the truck. I rolled down the window and gave a little whistle and called “Hey Tiffany?” Through the tinted windows a head appeared. So I got out with my phone in one hand and a slip lead in the other. A sweet blue merle face greeted me at the back window. I opened the truck and got a quick picture. She made it clear she was ready to GO. When she hopped out her tail followed her. Now sometimes Aussies have tails but more often Border Collies have tails, and that slight build and those flank marks. Out loud I said “Oh very funny Mary Ann…you know I don’t do Border Collie rescue!”. Knowing I could not live with myself if I left her I loaded her up. I gave out a big sigh of relief when I was a couple miles from the pickup spot. It had all worked out and she was safe.

On the way home she sang at the top of her lungs with Paul Simon. Thankfully she quieted after about 3 songs. I had to often roll down the windows to get some fresh air. She was filthy and that night she got what I am sure was her first bath. I had to go pretty slow to convince her she would survive her bath and nail clipping. Once her coat was free from the ground in poop and clean as I could get it. We started the naming process. She never responded to her name and honestly who knows if she even had one. A fresh start deserved a fresh name. I had a list of about 6 I liked but when I stumbled on Lark when reading a Nat Geo site. It said

“The larks are very interesting and hardworking birds. Admired for their camouflage and courage with which they defend their nests and raise their young against all odds. Even though they are not colorful, the patterns are beautiful.”

Well that certainly fit. She raised those pups against all odds. Looking in the dictionary it said

“Something done for fun. Verb - Enjoy oneself by behaving in a playful and mischievous way."

That fit too. I thought of her as Mary Ann’s joke on me. Going for an Aussie and coming home with a BC. Lark is settling in very well and has meshed with my pack seamlessly. The process of the light coming on in a dog is awesome. You see them realize they are safe and wanted. You see them asking tentatively at first to connect with you then like a wave crashing over them they can’t get enough. She will push herself into my hands wanting long overdue affection. She is learning her name, sit and down and trying so hard to make me happy. Already her face seems to have changed the stress is melting away. She grows more and more lovely every day. The story will unfold….

Thursday, July 21, 2011

This Spring I started thinking about adding a younger pony to my herd. I found a nearly perfect little appaloosa yearling I really wanted. But distance, weather and his current owners desire to free up the lambing barn caused it not to come together. So I was shopping for the right pony, despite Darrin's head shaking. One cold morning Carol called and said "I found a pony for you. He is free to the right home and close enough I can help you get him home. You should call and we can go see him." Being the fools we are of course we rushed right in or in this case right out the door to see the pony. You can see in the picture of the pony how pleased with herself my dear friend Carol is. Before long the new pony was standing in my corral eating my hay and I was looking for an Apple name for him. All of my ponies have apple names....cute huh? Anyway he became "Spy" or more correctly Northern Spy...its an apple, look it up.

Spy's story wasn't very long. He was bought by this woman at auction as a stallion to breed her mini mare. When she sold the mare, Spy was gelded. She said her grand-daughter rode him and spent time with him but it should have tipped me off that she also said he is NOT a kids horse. Also the woman said she was going to be gone a lot this summer and the pony could not be on pasture due to near founder. This was the reason for the "free to good home" status. All that was fine with me. I can monitor the pasture and no kids on the scene here. So I adjusted my dreams of a appaloosa spotted pony and went pinto again. To his credit however he does have some nice round appy style spots on his hip....just three, but I am counting them. Which brings me to the topic of this post...trust.

It didn't take me long to figure out Spy had been cowboyed a bit in his life. I am suspecting that the grand-daughter, if she did ride him, didn't have much fun. The first time I put my niece, Aubree, up on him he got a little hoppy. His back humped up and he really wanted to put his head down and do a try out for the Miles City Bucking Horse Auction. Aubree is not a classic trained rider but that ranch kid is darn sticky when it comes to staying on a horse. Between my efforts to keep his head up and him moving forward and Aubree's ability to stay in the middle of him it only took a few of days before we could longe him in a nice easy circle with Aubree aboard. We didn't hurt or scare him in this process we just let him figure out it was easier to stay relaxed and make Spy think it was all his idea. When a horse, or any animal for that matter, is "shown who is boss", spanked or one of the other neanderthal techniques it violates trust. This violation starts to erode the whole relationship. Do you trust people who hurt you? Do you really like them? In my opinion it really is unfair to punish someone for not knowing what you want. I am not saying I never correct my animals, I do. If they know the rules or the task and they chose not to do it a correction makes sense. This does not violate trust because it is simply a consequence of a bad choice. Further corrections or consequences should not be confused with punishment or worse torture. To be effective the animal can't be afraid to make a mistake. This is what Spy is in the process of figuring out. In time he will learn that a tap on the butt isn't going to turn into a huge fight for survival. His trust is being built brick by brick into something solid. Those little experiences like asking him to walk across concrete or across a wooden bridge will help him learn that I will not ask him to do something hurtful even if it is a little scary at first.
By the way. After I wrote this I had the chance to go to the movie, BUCK. I highly recommend it to all animal lovers. I found so many links to what I was just writing about. I can't wait to see it again.

Monday, July 11, 2011

When I got my very first greyhound almost a million years ago. I knew exactly what I wanted...a small brindle female. What I ended up with was a PERFECT big fawn boy. Sometimes what you think you want isn't at all the dog who needs you or the dog who fits your needs. I don't mean to sound glib when I say when an adopter tells me they want a certain color or gender I rarely listen. My quest is to find the dog that really matches them. If they then veto the perfect match....well then that's their problem. I mean honestly if you have a super busy noisy home and the dog you pick the dog who is the color and gender you want BUT that dog is shy and is easily spooked well sorry its not a match made in heaven. When things fall apart in a home it never is because the greyhound is fawn and not brindle. It is because the personalities didn't mesh. You can learn to love a dog of the wrong color if it is perfect in other ways. Its hard to fall in love if you are trying to sleep and your high energy greyhound is bouncing off the walls or destroying the couch...again. What brought this to mind was Bek is working with a first time greyhound home. Their requirement list was pretty short....but it included the phrase "no brindle". Well long story short the dog who caught their eye and is headed to their home right now is Irish Song a sweet and lovely brindle girl. Congrats to them and to Song the most recent wrong colored adoption.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Spent a few minutes giving Sandy a much needed bath. She loves to get into the wading pools and lay down. But what ends up happening it seems to put them in to overdrive with hair growth which means they shed more. But it is worth the extra baths. She so loves to lay out there.

At the dog show we bought a couple bottles of mink oil shampoo to try on the greyhounds with bad coats. I can't wait to use it on Helen. But for Sandy this morning I used our old stand by greyhound soap. For those of you who don't know we make our own shampoo for the rescue dogs. We mix up equal parts of Murphy's Wood Oil Soap and Lemon Joy Dish Soap. If left on for about 10 minutes it has proven to be a great flea killer too. It doesn't protect them long term, we use Frontline for that, but it does kill the live little biting hitchhikers. If you plan right you can reuse your Lemon Joy bottle as a mixing and shampoo bottle.

Also a heads up. The Greyhound Picnic is coming. We planned it the same day as part of the Irish Scottish Festival in Hamilton. Our hope is that people can do both. It looks like the greyhounds have been invited to walk in the festival parade. Stay tuned for details. Also be sure to pre order your plaid greyhound collars from Collar Crazy!! If you pre order and Prepay we can get them here before the parade. I will get back to you with prices and where to send the money on that one.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Many moons have passed since my last blog entry. But I am missing blogging as a writing outlet so I take up my keyboard after a long break. Inspired in part by a off handed comment made by Doug, the recent adopter of Serious Fire Power. I guess I get thinking that I am just rambling along keeping a blog and no one is reading it. But when he told me he enjoyed it and then today another friend commented on it I realized maybe....just maybe I am not just talking to myself.

The past few months have been some what routine with foster dogs coming and going, students with dogs, seminars and dog shows. What wasn't routine was the passing of my Aussie boy Dusk on May 19th. Some of you may remember that some time ago he was diagnosed with a tumor of unknown quantity in his chest. Almost a year and a half ago my vet warned me the Dusk was a short-timer. He beat the odds for a long time but even so the loss was overwhelming....is overwhelming. I still flounder at moments to find my balance without him. More on that later...gulp...

At the moment I have a single foster dog. Helen is black, beautiful and smart as a whip. She is lots of fun and likes to be right in the middle of the action. When I let her loose in the paddock, in my mind I hear that charge bugle they play in old war movies. She does everything with zeal and with all her heart. Frankly she can stay as long as she wants. She makes me laugh out loud almost every day. Her perfect home would be active and longing for a soul mate. She would happily race you to the "M" or hang out watching reruns. She likes everyone and all dogs. I need to cat test her again because she failed to react to the cat both times I tested her...which I find hard to believe. I will test her on Sigh my black cat who may get a different response than the blondie Malarkey. I took Malarkey to cat test all the new foster greyhounds at Tripps about a month ago. We put Malarkey in one of the big wire greyhound crates and brought the greyhounds in one at a time. Malarkey, the big dummy, lolled on the bed, rolling this way and that. He stretched his feet out, purring loudly and was having the best time ever. It was if the scent of greyhounds was his catnip. Not a single dog reacted to him. I think my cat is a failure as a test cat. But Sigh the black cat is different, he is cagey and suspicious. So I will test Helen again with him and see if she reacts to him. In the meantime Helen's coat which was ratty and thin when she arrived has turned glossy. She was chosen for Montana in part because she has flea allergies. Our flea free mountain home is already changing her quality of life.

Seems like there is so many things to catch up on but I will save those for fodder for another blog day. Time for me to head out and tuck in some dogs. Its getting dark and this year someone in my usually quiet neighborhood has been testing out fireworks.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hurray it won't be long before a haul is headed our way. We only ordered one extra this time. I ordered a foster dog. A-Come-Helen she is a black 5 year old girl. Something about her face reminded me of my girl Run. The clincher for me was that she has flea allergies and I love the idea of bringing her north where fleas are few and far in between. I can't wait to see her and hope I actually get to foster her a little while before she is snatched up.

The winter here has already seemed very long. We have had lots of everything...rain, cold, ice and snow. I have been busy the last week or so with craft projects. Its been years since I just set down and enjoyed doing something with my hands with no time line hanging over me. Of course there are things I need to be doing which I am neglecting but for now it is enough to putter. One of my goals this upcoming year is to show Run in at least rally obedience. She is so smart and likes to puzzle solve which makes training her a lot of fun. But for tonight I will have to be content with listening to the wind blowing around the corners of the house and dreaming of meeting Helen and training Run.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Seems like a million miles have been covered since I last made an entry in my blog. But alas the new year is upon us and time to get caught up. Updates from the dog family....
Yahtzee the last pup from the summer rescue litter was adopted by my dog-nanny. She admitted that from the moment she first saw Yahtzee in a online video she was smitten with her. Its been a perfect match for both. The rest of my dog family has been fairly well. Dusk is over all doing well with bouts of feeling rough that last about a week followed by several weeks of feeling well. It was nearly a year ago that we first discovered the mass in his chest. At that time we really though he was a short-timer but he has proved us wrong. My puppy Tilly is now a year old, she is every bit of a princess. Darrin seems to adore her and I am SHOCKED that he snuggles with her and even lets her sleep on the bed...between us. But Tilly is a very sweet princess not the spoiled kind. Brink earned an obedience title in Sept. Showing Brink was in a word...challenging. He got to worrying in the ring and couldn't even think, but we managed to hold it together and earned his Companion Dog title. Pixie earned a Rally Advanced title. After much consideration I decided to go ahead and have her spayed. I am not really that interested in conformation and decided I would just rather be able to show her in the upper levels of obedience without the added complication of heat cycles. I would have enjoyed letting her raise a litter of pups but that alone is not reason to do it. Ivy my old lady Aussie is still as prim and quirky as ever....maybe a little more so but at 14 she can pretty much do whatever she likes. This fall through a horse trading deal made by a friend I ended up with another Aussie pup. A red tri boy which I named Jose. He fit right into the pack like he had always been here so what was meant to be temporary became permanent.

On the sight hound scene my 6 hounds are all well. Jonah just turned 10 years. I started Katy in Open obedience to hopefully show her this upcoming year. But Katy has other plans and they do not include dumbbell work. She thinks retrieving is completely beneath her. So we will work on higher levels of rally instead. The greyhound girls are all as lovely and easy to live with as ever. One thing about greyhounds they are such companionable dogs they are easy to take for granted then one day you catch a glimpse of them curled up sleeping or trotting in that elastic trot down the hall and it takes your breath away. They are not only easy to live with they are living art. So beautiful!!

Into 2011 with all the promise of the best year ever!!