The Real Time Canine II

After spending 2 years writing the Real Time Canine, the adventure continues with The Real Time Canine II. Read along as I look for just the right puppy to continue the experience. After false starts with Tim and Jed, I am currently training young Tam, and Spot, which are both off to a strong start. Please visit the RTC II to read about training sessions as they occur.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Small Part of the Big Picture

Not a care in the world
This is my foster dog, Brady, about 9 o'clock this morning lying in a warm spot on the back of my couch dreaming of barking his fool head off, running up and down the fence line while I bring the sheep in at night. He could be dreaming of his 1st home from which he was ejected for being a...well, for being a dog, or maybe of a bright future where the phrase, *foster dog* becomes unnecessary. Apparently we have that one in common.

6 months ago I had it on my heart to foster a dog for the same rescue that brought me Dexter, my little man. Since that 6 pound mutt transformed my life with nothing more than his being, I figured I owed 'em one. As you can imagine, they had one that needed to be moved right now. 

After an owner surrendered him at a couple years old on some lame excuse, he changed hands a few times in foster care, then came to me. I assessed the situation and decided he was stressed beyond the pale, and a little frantic over who knows what beyond the shifting sands under his itchy feet, red from food allergies. He had some odd behaviors. 

He had trouble sitting still, relaxing was out of the question. He paced, he barked at everything and nothing, and he pee'd on my $1,500 curtains...twice. Welcome to the world of fostering dogs. Dexter tolerated him, but did the Mexican hat dance, or at least a hat-less rendition, whenever I so much as said Brady's name. Brady tried to ignore him, but banished himself none the less to the back of the cushy armchair, or the arms of the couch. Out of my reach, but more importantly, out of Dexter's. 

After a couple of false starts, (the curtains,) the 3 of us found a rhythm. I secured  a Border Collie kennel with an ex-pen making it little-dog proof, and that's where Brady went while I was at work with his treats, blankets and toys. The 3 of us had breakfast together, then Brady went into the dog yard with the Border Collies while I did chores. Into the kennel for the day, then into the house for dinner and the night. No way would Dexter allow him on the bed, so Brady managed very well in his crate, and there was peace in the kingdom. But there was no permanent home on the horizon, and I began to feel a foster-failure coming on.

After 6 months together, that all changed with an email from Barbara. Her beloved MinPin, Solo, had passed away from old age, and Bruce insisted she needed another. Barbara wasn't sure she was ready, but thought Bruce might know better. I think Bruce needed another. I think they both did.

I'm just back from making the change. The image I have burned into my psyche today is of Brady's face staring after his truck as I drove away. He looked confused...and worried. He looked like the *after* pictures I see posted on rescue Facebook sites of dogs that have just been dumped at shelters by sorry excuses for human beings who thought it was OK to dispose of their dog. I didn't dispose of Brady. I loved him. Sitting here hours later, that sad, little face makes me cry. 

Eventually, I hope to replace that image with this one. 
The 3 Bs, Bruce, Brady and Barbara
Will I foster again? I think so. I'm going to take some *us time* for me and Dexter and see how I feel after Meeker. Playing a small part in Brady's quality of life is rewarding. Knowing Bruce and Barbara is tremendous. I instantly liked them. Watching Bruce attentive and tender with Brady restored something in me that was waning. Remembering Brady will be heartbreaking for a while, but we'll be in touch.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

5 Days to Dust

The Notice
This is all that's left. After 7 years of loving each other, countless days and thousands upon thousands of  miles together, all that's left of my big dog, Taddymoor Mirk, is this notice.  They'll try another delivery on Monday between 10 and 2.

The decision to put him down was easy. A brave, stoic dog that rarely showed signs of it, he was in obvious pain from the fist-sized splenic tumor that appeared on x-ray and ultra-sound. Accepting that decision makes me inconsolable at times. I miss my dog. I didn't have time to prepare. There was no warning. He was 11.

3 years old in South Wales
The first time I saw him was on a small patch of wet grass just outside the Millichap's kennel on Hendre Owen Farm in Port Talbot, South Wales. Mirk was 3 at the time with an expression that read; "I love to work all day. Let's go." The 2nd time I saw him was on a bright green hillside fetching a flock of Leah Millichap's registered Texel sheep. Richard warned me to stand back as they barrelled past me to his feet. Mirk was working with older full sister and brother, Jen and Cap the last time I saw him before coming home with his half-brother, Lad. They were gathering 150 lambs off the hill that were sold to a neighbor. Let me put it like this; the dogs were efficient.

6 months later Richard offered to sell Mirk. A full year after that I picked him up at LAX and set about learning to handle a confidently powerful hill dog. I want to be very clear about this; there's nothing quite like it. I never once asked that he didn't give me more. He never failed to bring me sheep anywhere I ever ran him. He could catch a sheep's eye like no other I've owned, and loved to shed and pen. Mirk was fearless. He was graceful. He was gentle.

                                Photo by Gloria Atwater
Sonoma Wine Country Sheepdog Trial, March, 2013
My friend, and one of the classiest veterinarians I've ever known, Dr. Joy Thayer, helped me at the end. It's an hour and a half to her clinic, but I had a bad feeling about this one, and Mirkie deserved the best I could do. I'm not sure which of us I was trying to shield as I stroked his beautiful face leaning close to obscure that final act. I kept telling him he was good as I experienced the last beat of his massive heart. It was 6 months to the day after Price died.

Last September, Mirk competed at Soldier Hollow, Meeker, and the huge, semi-final course of our Oregon national finals. In January, he reveled at his appointed job of exhaust dog at Snowbirds. On big, obstinate ewes that were uncommonly treacherous, he did himself proud 3 months ago at the Wine Country Sheepdog Trial.  This week it took just 5 days to go from my big, handsome boy to heartbreak to dust.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

"I Breathe"

Warning; This video is an hour long, and it's heartbreaking. But, I've had enough. I'm exposing the truth about the AKC - puppy mill connection in every way I can. Won't you please join me by sharing Lily's story? ...Please?

Lily was an AKC registered Italian Greyhound bought by a rescue at auction after 7 years of torture in a puppy mill. The condition of her face was caused by rot and decay from an injury that went untreated.

The injury most likely occurred from Lily trying to chew her way out of wire-cage confinement.

National Mill Dog Rescue tried to save her, but it was too late. There was already too much damage. The roof of her mouth was gone, further decay could not be halted and she was euthanized at just 8 years old.

Lily had weaned a litter of puppies just a few weeks prior to her rescue.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Here's Our Chance

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Finally! After years and years of so many of us spreading the word about the evil underbelly of the American Kennel Club, it has finally and definitively been exposed on national TV. This reporting is way over due but so welcome. As happy as I am about the Today Show airing this scathing condemnation of what may be the biggest sham put over on US dog-owning citizens ever, they did not go nearly far enough in their coverage. They did not make plain the single biggest reason why the AKC shamelessly supports and cultivates the success and proliferation of puppy mills. They do it for the money.
And let's never forget the horrific effect of whimsical & arbitrary AKC breed standards on dogs.
An AKC registered Dachsund with genetic maladies
With the popularization of rescue and adoption, fewer AKC puppies are being purchased, so fewer puppies are being produced, so fewer puppies are being registered. The AKC is hemorrhaging income, and they had to find a  way to stop the bleeding. It became part of their business plan to seek out and support commercial puppy suppliers, including the worst of the puppy millers, and line their pockets on the backs of unsuspecting buyers and suffering animals.
Ask yourself; "would I knowingly buy from a pet store that was supplied by a puppy mill who allowed animals to suffer?" 
Do you know the condition of the kennel where that AKC registered pet-shop puppy came from? Well, the AKC very well might, and they don't care if it was cruel and inhumane. THEY'RE ONLY INTERESTED IN THE MONEY!
Ever heard this phrase; "follow the money?"
In this video a representative of the AKC says it opposes all legislation regulating animals sales because "it's not how many dogs you own, it is the care of those animals that matters." When asked about the AKC protocol of "inspecting" kennels to insure that care, she ruefully admits they employ just 9 inspectors to cover the entire country.
When asked if she feels that number is sufficient, she replies with this non-answer; "it's the number we have." 
But having that paltry few inspectors on the payroll allows the AKC to trumpet to the suckers that they are insured of a healthy puppy from a reputable kennel because they inspect. 
It's not how efficient your inspection system that matters. It's how well you cover your ass!
Want to see where AKC registered puppies can come from? Here's an insider's look.
Are there good breeders who take exceptionally good care of the animals in their charge? Of course there are. That's not the story, but that's the well-rehearsed hue and cry of the AKC zombies. The real meat of this story is that the AKC overlooks, condones, inspects and approves the worst of the worst ones too! And they knowingly register their puppies FOR THE MONEY!!!
Are you detecting a theme here?
Upon the airing of this Today Show segment, the AKC put this on their website:
Their facts include such vague statements as; "when an AKC inspector finds substandard kennel conditions they must immediately report it" 
Define "substandard"
"there are no “AKC Registered Operations” or “AKC Registered Breeders” and that breeders use AKC services voluntarily." 
Because the breeders can get more money without any oversight of animal care.
And they go on to tell their minions:
"Please send your comments directly to the Producer of the Today Show Don Nash don.nash@nbcuni.comand the President of NBC News Phil Griffin"
"Watch the segment on the Today Show website and then go to Rossen Reports and to post your comments."
And I think that's a really good idea. I think that's exactly what we should do.
Let's make Jeff Rossen's reporting leave a mark. Finally! Here's our chance.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Lost in Translation

I wrote this post for the 2013 USBCHA National Sheepdog Finals. They have a section of their website entitled; "In the Beginning," where handlers share funny stories from their start in the sport. Some are very funny, such as my personal favorite; "The Barn Door," by Rob Drummond where he talks about a broken barn door and a half-broke dog.

Mine is a distant memory of a dog I raised on the ranch and loved completely for sentimental reasons as much for her heart. Sadly, I don't have a picture of her, but this one's for Chica...

Chica was raised on the San Felipe Ranch

Back then, 600 miles round-trip was a long way to travel for a dog trial. And, when you’re only running 1 dog in novice? Well, you gotta crack out somewhere. I cracked out in a desolate area of central California on a barren field alongside a feedlot with a mystery-breed, black and white ranch dog named Chica.

The novice always ran last and we hardy souls, there were about 4 of us, sat around all day (think 7 hours) watching the open handlers on parade with *real* Border Collies, intimidated by their perceived skill, and waiting our turn to shine, or in my case, for a turn.

It came, and I was confident. Chica, a ranch remnant, completed the outrun, all 75 yards of it, and that’s where the trouble began. I couldn’t blow a whistle yet, but had managed to get voice flanks on my edgy little dog. Try as I might, however, and as luck would have it, she wouldn’t take them…none of them…not one.

When the sheep zigged, I flanked Chica to cover, but she either ignored me outright, or went the wrong way. My collar tightened, so I did what came naturally. I raised my voice…same result. I raised it louder to my very best “outside” voice…no change. Undeterred, Chica got sheep to my feet, and we were now to the pen!

Round and round for what felt like eternity, the sheep circled, the dog flying counter to every flank I delivered until, mercifully, the clock ran out on our run. Mortified, I began to walk off the field, alternately glaring at my dog, and staring at my boots. The imagined sound of derisive whispers rang in my ears, and that’s when I heard my name.

Our judge, George Grist, had beckoned to me. Oh Gawd! It was worse than I thought. I was so bad that I required attention!!! Did he speak to everyone after their run? Who knew?

For those of you who don’t know him, George Grist has helped many handlers get their start. He’s bred lots of good dogs, helped put working Border Collies on the map, but George is not the man you’d expect to see pictured beside the word “diplomatic” in the dictionary. Webster’s notwithstanding, in his most compassionate voice, George made me laugh when he gently asked me; “Is your dog on backwards flanks?”