Sunday, July 29, 2012

Maisy CD-C!

Maisy finished her CDSP Novice Obedience title yesterday. Here's her run:

She scored a 183, which is really quite good considering her... creative... heeling during the figure 8. I'm not sure what that was all about, although I have some ideas. Notably, I have done practically no training with her. I had good intentions, but I've been busy at work and something had to give. And since I enjoy hiking with her more than training, well... the training gave.

I had also given her a clonidine that morning, just to be safe. I did that partly because her favorite auntie and best doggie friend slept over the night before the trial (and good stress is still stress, after all), and because after the last trial, I thought maybe having it on board in advance would help. It did not. It's supposed to calm a dog down, and it calmed her just a bit too much. I think if she'd had more spunk, she wouldn't have lagged as bad. Oh well- now I know. We'll only use it when she's getting over the top.

I'm really pleased with her performance. Her heeling, while not great, really wasn't that bad. She absolutely nailed the honor exercise (I wish I'd gotten video!), and the judge complimented her very nice stand for exam.

Anyway, this means that my recovering reactive dog is now URO1 Maisy CD-C, RL2, RL1X, CGC.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

In Memory of Beckett

(Bushwacker Danny)
February 24, 2005- July 17, 2012
(Photo by Megan Nelson)

My dear friend Elizabeth let her sweet dog go this morning after a brief but fierce fight with osteosarcoma. He was born "Bushwacker Danny." A racing greyhound who was moderately successful at the track, he raced for three years before being retired. But he was so much more than that. Beckett was, first and foremost, a loved and cherished member of the family. Elizabeth adored her dog, and it showed. Beckett adored his person, and that showed too. 

Enjoying a patch of sun on the softest surface in the yard.

Beckett was possibly the world's laziest dog. He loved nothing more than a cozy bed. If there was a soft surface, you could be sure he'd find it and lay on it. He also loved his crate, and could often be found lounging inside. In fact, if you tried to keep him up past his bedtime, he would put himself in any crate he could find, even if he didn't technically fit. 

I'll take this one, thank you. 

Still, Beck was a greyhound, and with that came bursts of crazy energy. If his first love was Elizabeth and his second love a bed, then his third was definitely Cuz balls. He went nuts for them, chasing them with gleeful abandon. Even better if the Cuz was thrown in the water. I wouldn't have expected a greyhound to like swimming, but he thought it great fun. And if he could prevent another dog from getting to the ball? Why, that was the greatest fun of all. 

Cooling off on a hot summer's day last summer.

Although people don't think you can train greyhounds, Elizabeth knew you can. Although she's probably the least competitive person on the planet, she and Beckett did earn their APDT Level 1 title together last year. Better yet, they also won the Sophie Award, which is given to the level 1A team that best exemplifies teamwork and relationship. Watch this video and you'll understand why (my favorite moment happens at about 2:25). 

Beckett demonstrates my favorite trick of his: "Cuddle."

And speaking of relationships, last summer theirs was put to the test when a huge storm caught them unawares while they were out canoeing. The canoe capsized and all their gear- including Beckett's leash and treats- sunk to the bottom of the river. With nothing but their shared history to see them through the next 24 hours, Elizabeth and Beckett somehow made it through the night, fought their way through downed trees, and got home safe and sound. 

Photo by Megan Nelson.

I don't know how to end this except to say: Beckett, you were an amazing dog, and you will be missed. Zichronam Liv'racha. May your memory be a blessing. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Thunder and Fireworks and Noise, Oh My!

I had been waiting for this day to come. Ever since I'd read in Patricia McConnell's book For the Love of a Dog that thunder phobia is most likely to start between the ages of 3 and 7, I'd been worrying. Maisy had always slept through storms like they weren't even happening, yet she was so sensitive to nearly inaudible (to me, anyway) noises that I just knew it was coming.

And it did. Of course, there was a special little irony in it happening less than 72 hours after we'd gotten a gold star from the veterinary behaviorist. Maybe that jinxed us, or maybe it was a coincidence, but either way, when the storm started getting noisy, Maisy started getting antsy.

First, she pressed herself up as close to me as she could get. Then, she started to pant slightly, even though the air conditioner had made the house quite cold. Finally, she began to tremble and shake. I gave her a dose of her as-needed anxiety medication, and gradually the shaking and panting stopped, although she stayed curled up next to me.

The next night was even worse, as it brought with it the kind of storm that uproots trees and causes massive power outages and contaminated water that will probably give you e. coli when you excitedly make coffee after the power comes back on. (True story. Mostly.)

Suddenly having a dog afraid of storms has been very hard on me. Although Maisy and I have dealt with fear issues for pretty much her entire life, the thunder phobia threw me for a loop. Before, I'd always been able to manage her fear. I could choose to avoid whatever was freaking her out if I wanted. Or I could choose to carefully expose her to it at low levels at times I was prepared to work with her, both physically and mentally.

Now, though? Well, the weather is unpredictable and uncontrollable. We can't avoid it, we can't set up the situation to make her successful, and it happens at times that are highly inconvenient, such as the middle of the night. Worse, it can happen when I'm not even home, leaving Maisy alone with her fear, something that makes me feel terrible.

And it didn't stop there. Although we didn't have any more storms over the next few weeks, we did have the 4th of July, and with it, fireworks. About the only good thing fireworks have going for them is their predictability. Well, and I suppose if we tried really hard, we could avoid them, but given that I live in the middle of a large metro, that would be hard. Still, I can't change the volume nor the timing.

I love my dog dearly, so seeing her so scared is hard on me. Feeling powerless to help her is even harder. Thankfully, I've been lucky enough to learn a bit about behavior modification and we have the support of an excellent veterinary behaviorist. With these two things in our favor, Maisy and I have been able to start dealing with her new noise issues. That doesn't make things any more pleasant, at least not right now, but it does give me hope for the future.

In the next few weeks, I'll discuss what we've done, how it's worked, and where we're at now. In the meantime, feel free to share your experiences. Is your dog afraid of thunder or other loud noises? How old was he when it started? Do you totally share my distress about not being able to protect your dog from everything? I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Review: Fresh Dog Waterless Bath Foam

When I first got the email asking if I'd like to review Fresh Dog Waterless Bath Foam, I was skeptical. I was more than a little concerned that it would simply be one of those perfumey products that masked odor instead of actually cleaning. In fact, I almost said no; my asthma tends to be aggravated by perfumes, chemicals, and even some natural scents (a lot of flowers make me wheezy). But it was a free product, and I figured that if I hated it, I could pass it on to someone with lungs a bit more normal than my own.

There is no way I'm passing this stuff on. I have tested the Fresh Dog Waterless Bath Foam twice on Maisy, and once on my friend's dog. I've been impressed with the product each time. 

Test 1: Removing Gunk
I have the habit of giving Maisy empty containers to lick out. From peanut butter jars to yogurt tubs, if the food is safe, she gets to help with clean up. Unfortunately, this practice tends to leave sticky nastiness in both her beard and eyebrow fur. It's even worse if I give her a container and then get distracted. When that happens, I forget to wipe her down when she's down, and the gunk dries on.

Fresh Dog to the rescue! Our first test was to remove some crusted on yogurt from Maisy's face. As the name implies, this product is a foam. This makes it very easy to apply precisely, and I didn't have to worry about getting it in her eyes. If the product had been a spray, I wouldn't have been able to use it for this test at all. All of the gunk came right off her face with no problem at all.

Test 2: Removing Dirt
Maisy has this weird kind-of-but-not-really wirey fur which tends to resist looking dirty. Mud dries and just falls off- quite handy! Still, she does occasionally get dirty spots, and this time, it was from some pollen she'd rubbed up against while playing in the flower bushes. I'd tried wiping off the spot with a cloth, but it stubbornly persisted, marring her pretty white ear with a garish orange mark.

Fresh Dog took this away, too! I just rubbed some of the waterless bath foam on the spot, and voila! It came right off. It was quick, it was easy, and best of all, Maisy didn't have to suffer through an entire bath for one little spot.
Test 3: Removing Odors
The final test came when my friend's dog rolled in a dead bird. This naturally resulted in a bit of stinkiness, so I offered up the wonders of the Fresh Dog Waterless Bath Foam. We rubbed it on, and soon her pup smelled vaguely like grapefruit instead of roadkill.

However, I think the best part happened the next day. Unlike traditional shampoos, whose scent tends to linger for several days, Fresh Dog dissipates, leaving the dog smelling like herself instead of a fruit or flowers. My friend, a former groomer, wasn't terribly impressed by this (she said her dog smelled okay but not great the next day, although she conceded that the dead bird smell was gone), but I honestly think it's one of the strongest selling points of this product!

So, would I recommend Fresh Dog Waterless Bath Foam? Absolutely. Not only will I be keeping the sample I received, but it's highly likely I will try some of their other products. Right now, I have my eye on their traditional shampoo and conditioner. I've had a very hard time finding natural scent-free options, and this looks promising.

If you'd like to purchase Fresh Dog products, they're available online at Lock and Mane and other fine retailers.

FTC Disclosure: I received a free product in order to facilitate this review, however, I was not compensated in any other way. The opinions in this post are mine, and were not influenced by either Fresh Dog or Lock and Mane.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Follow Up with the Veterinary Behaviorist

A few weeks ago, Maisy had a follow up appointment with our veterinary behaviorist, Dr. Margaret Duxbury. I almost forgot to post about it because it was a pretty anticlimactic visit. Unlike past visits, where I've come armed with logs and graphs and charts and videos, I didn't have much to show her. Maisy is... well, pretty much normal.

I brought two videos as proof of her normalcy. The first is of her playing with other dogs. Maisy loves the little white and brown dog, and plays with her often, but while she has met the Aussie before, they've never played together.

The second video made Dr. Duxbury incredibly happy. The video looks like nothing- it's just the three of them lying around- and it's that nothingness that makes it so wonderful. Those of you have followed Maisy and I since the beginning know that this ability to relax was nonexistent only two years ago.

We chatted for a bit during the appointment, and as we did, Maisy simply laid down at my feet. Again, that sounds like nothing, but it's such a huge deal for a dog who was constantly restless and hypervigilant. (Here's a link to the before and after videos I posted last year.)

At the end of the appointment, Dr. Duxbury gave me a choice: I could either transfer Maisy's care back to our primary vet, or I could choose to do annual visits with her. I chose annual visits. I'd like to maintain the relationship we have in case things deteriorate in the future.

It's been twenty months since we first met Dr. Duxbury, and I am really just so happy that we did. Like she said, Maisy was the ideal candidate for medication, and she has responded beautifully to treatment. I will always be incredibly grateful to Dr. Duxbury for her kindness, her compassion, and her expertise. It has made such a difference in both Maisy's life and my own.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


Yesterday, Maisy and I headed over to Pet-a-Palooza, an outdoor pet expo held on the state fair grounds. I agonized over whether or not I should take her; although she is much less anxious and reactive than she used to be, I am still quite careful about where I take her. The way I see it, while reactive dogs can recover, given the right (wrong?) mix of stress or triggers, they will fall back on their old coping techniques. In the end, I decided to take her. It was free, so even if we walked in and then walked right out again, I lost nothing more than the 10 minutes or so it took me to drive over there.

As it turned out, it was just fine. It was a relatively small event in a relatively large area, which meant that we weren't crowded at all. Still, Maisy was a bit uncertain when we first arrived. There were still quite a few people and other dogs (and the St. Paul Police Dogs were doing a demo, so there were a lot of German Shepherds, which have been a long-standing trigger for Maisy). She didn't have her normal bright, confident expression, and she was definitely not as social as she usually is.

Then we ran into my friend Laura, who was there with her dogs Lance and Vito. Maisy was very excited to see all three of them, and became wiggly and happy. We stood around and talked for probably 20 minutes or so, during which time Maisy alternately begged for treats and laid down with Lance. It was very cute.

All in all, Maisy did very well. She did bark at a dog once (a greyhound, which thoroughly baffled me, as she has a greyhound friend), but I simply redirected her and she was fine. I commented on it to Laura, and she said that Maisy was basically being a normal dog. This will surprise no one that knows me in person, but I probably worry a bit too much about Maisy's behavior.

I'm glad I took her; she seemed to enjoy getting out (well, once we ran into friends), and I was pleased with her behavior. The best part was that the outing didn't seem to have any lasting impact on her. Sometimes she's a bit more wound up after this kind of outing, but there didn't seem to be any residual stress this time around. I am very, very happy with how she did.