Monday, May 31, 2010
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
Sunday, May 23, 2010
We had been there for 30 minutes or so, my girls running the fence with ‘the pack’. All was well with my heart rate until Jamie thoughtfully suggested that maybe it was time to bring one of her dogs into the area with my dogs. I was game, leerily might I add, but ready to try it.
I was on the side with their dogs, shooting photos and debated accompanying her over to greyhound land, but both Jamie and Deena felt all would be well. So Jamie took Brynda, forever more in my head nicknamed “the guinea pig”, and strolled right into the area with my girls. Who promptly went absolutely ballistic trying to say hi. Then they ratcheted it up a notch.
The guinea pig.
Did I mention the panic? That’s about when it really hit. Heart pounding, I decided it would be a teensy bit better if I was in the pen as an additional safeguard for Brynda and scootched on over there. I am rather proud I managed to do it without actually running so everyone didn’t see just how freaked out I was. You know, keeping up appearances. Though I do believe I broke a speed walking record.
By the time I got to the churning mass of dog flesh, claws and teeth, Willow and Dru were in the process of tag teaming Brynda, trying to roll her. It was like a bad martial art film where the fighters actually wait ‘til the other one is done before entering the fray. Breeze was behaving, only because she is still a little apprehensive around Jamie and wouldn’t get close.
I jumped in and tried to restore some order. “Relax, Suzanne, they are working it out.” Then I spent the next 5 minutes learning what I needed to do to get the girls to behave appropriately in that type of situation. This whole thing about remaining calm while your dogs behave horribly is damned near impossible. I was quite concerned one of the dogs was going to get hurt. And might I add, the whole time Jamie just calmly stood there, correcting gently but convincingly, being Brynda’s safe anchor point.
The thing of it is, my girls want to play and hang out, you know, party at the dog park, but are just clueless as to how and I don't know how to teach them. So that’s what we are learning and Brynda is the perfect dog to show them.
After a bit, the girls toned it down from ballistic to excited and tried playing appropriately. I only needed to ‘bite’ them with my claw-like hand every so often. Once Brynda was not harassed quite so much by Dru and Willow she was able to wander further off, so Breeze got to try this new playing thing. She was way better at it than Willow and Dru. My blood pressure started slowly returning to normal. And Jamie pronounced this experiment a success, with more work to be done in the future. Though, I still wasn’t able to fully relax until Brynda and Jamie were on their side of the fence. Whew.
I needed a nap when I got home.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Day three - the walk.
I had the following day off work and decided to cancel all appointments so I could work instead with Breeze. The first thing we (meaning me, ‘cuz she was having none of it.) decided to try was a simple walk. Sheryl had said Breeze really liked walks, though she was usually terrified of everything while outside. I unnecessarily called for Willow, who was already at the door anticipating our morning jaunt, so Breeze would check out what was going on. Willow tilted pointy nose up at the ‘dressed’ command and we slipped the leash on with Breeze watching the ritual. With Willow prancing around ready to go, I knelt down and held out the leash for Breeze, being sure not to look her directly in the eye. Taking into consideration our lessons from the night before, I was excessively praising Willow for getting dressed. I didn’t move towards Breeze at all, having decided I would let her make all the decisions. She wouldn’t cross the last 5 feet between us; though I could tell she really wanted to do so.
We stayed that way for about 10 minutes. Me holding the leash, arms trembling at being held out so long, Willow confused with all the extended praise, and Breeze pacing back and forth just out of arm’s reach. We weren’t getting anywhere. So I showed Breeze the lead, draped it across the back of the couch, stood up and opened the door, sauntered out with Willow and closed the door on Breeze. We got to the end of the driveway before she realized we had actually left the building and were taking the walk without her.
I could hear her all the way down the street, howling like a banshee. Willow and I did a short walk, though I made sure we walked out of sight of the front window where Breeze was watching us, and were gone long enough to get the point across.
When we came back in the house I left Willow’s lead on (which confused her to no end) as I gave her lots of praise for going on the very short walk, (which confused her to the other end, but she worked with me by being excited to still have the leash on and recognizing the potential for another outing). I knelt down as I had done before and held the leash out to Breeze, again without making direct eye contact.
Breeze skittered around inching closer on each pass she made. Around minute 5, with my knees aching, arms sore, and realizing patience was going to be the buzz word of the day, Breeze walked into the martingale. I gave her lots of verbal praise, (but didn’t reach out to touch her) turned right around, opened the door and out we went; making the walk her big reward and deciding to forgo putting the halter that she always wore with Sheryl, for the benefits of going outside immediately.
I spent that whole first walk talking to both dogs, trying to get Breeze used to my voice. For anyone peeking out their front window, I was that crazy lady, you know the one you see carrying on a full conversation with her animals. Asking what to have for dinner? If they think the market will improve tomorrow? Should we clean the bathroom? I was really hoping it looked like I was singing along with an iPod.
I realized Breeze responded better when I pitched my voice a little higher and made everything sound like a ‘good girl’; happy, encouraging, exciting. Willow was thrilled with all the good things she was doing. “Good girl Willow, walking past those barking dogs. Good girl Willow, seeum people. Good girl Willow, ignoring the big truck.” Breeze kept one eye on me and one eye out for any other dangers along the route. Not trusting me anymore than any other threat. She hung pretty tight to Willow for the entire walk, using her as a security blanket.
It was early morning and I lived in a quiet neighborhood, so there weren’t many scary things along our route. That helped, she only completely froze a few times where she wouldn’t move any further. Those were panic moments when someone came into view or dogs rushed the fence or she heard something or a tree branch moved in the breeze. Short of dragging her when she froze, she wasn’t going anywhere. So we would wait until the threat was nullified, perhaps the person went back in the house, the car drove past or there wasn’t a follow up loud noise, before we would attempt moving again. We did it all at Breeze’s pace. She managed well and would eventually start moving again on her own and we circled the block.
Then we got back to my driveway. And that’s when she planted and wouldn’t go any further. At all. Period. No way, no how. Thank you very much for the walk, I’m not entering that house. She just rooted to the spot. I never fully appreciated that saying until right then.
It took just as long to get down the last bit of drive as it had to do the whole rest of the walk. Nothing I did worked to get her to go the last 30 feet to the front door. I waited for her to move once she had analyzed the threat. Nope, the threat was going into the house. I started with praising and coaxing. Nope. You would have thought the house had bullied her, stolen her lunch money, given her a swirly and thrown her in the dumpster. She wasn’t going near it.
I’m going through options trying to figure out how this was going to work. Maybe get Willow into the house so I have only Breeze to work with. Can I tie Breeze to something until I get Willow into the house? If I let Willow’s leash go will she stay with us? Maybe tie Willow to something…Crap, there’s nothing within reach! What would Cesar do!?!
I finally realized this was something that was not going to happen by letting her work it out herself. So I gave her leash a little tug. Then commenced the real defiance. Breeze lowered her head and pulled backwards trying to slip the Martingale. Damn tiny greyhound heads, anyway. She was determined to escape; it was as simple as that. I did as all greyhound owners learn the first week of ownership - the how to prevent the slippery I’m-going-to-test your-knowledge-about-greyhounds-getting-out-of-their-leashes move, and swung the martingale so the lead was under her chin and pulled downward on the leash, locking it in behind her ears. She dug in and pulled harder, twisting her head from side to side. Now it was my turn to be the one to say 'nope, not gonna happen'. Once she realized I knew that little move she stopped pulling backwards and re-planted. Well crap, I'd just lost 5 feet of ground. Now what?
She wasn't going to move willingly. We established that. So I did what I didn't want to do and forced her move. We made it to the door with intermittent tugging, begging, pulling, praising, dragging and quiet cussing. Mostly in short bursts with breaks in between. The praise at each hard-earned step went completely unheeded. I was as exhausted as Breeze by the time we finally made it into the house, so I made a mental note to fix the drag marks in the gravel of the drive after taking a nap.
Sheryl’s response to the ‘what the hell just happened?’ phone call that occurred the moment we got the door safely closed behind us and leashes off: “Wow she did really well if you got her all the way to the end of the driveway before she froze. She stopped at the end of our street for me. I wasn’t sure how I was getting her home. Tomorrow just do slight and quick sideways tugs on the halter and she will eventually take that one step that will get her going again.”
Oh, that's why Breeze never went anywhere without both martingale and halter. Note to self, no matter how long it takes to put the halter on in the future, do so. Far less stress about the very real possibility of an escaping dog and more control on getting her started walking again when she freezes. I started to realize the enormity of what I had gotten myself into and all that I needed to learn.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Between crazy dog sprints, Willow harassing Dru and Dru harassing Breeze the girls would attentively watch the dogs in the other run. They were fascinated with the white dog that just kept chasing after a ball and bringing it back, the black and brown dogs that rolled around the pen playing with each other, and most importantly the little, tiny dogs that ran around looking like training lures. Myself, I was just happy there were 3 play areas and they were in the one separate from ours so I didn’t have to worry about my girls misbehaving and showing off their social ineptitude.
Then, much to my consternation, early last week ‘the pack’ as I thought of them, were forced to relocate to the area attached to the run we were occupying. We had just arrived and I knew I should leash my girls up and head out without finishing their morning run. However, I was on the other side of the pen and wasn’t close enough to get their leashes on before the group of humans and dogs pulled open the first of the entry gates. With a bit of concern, I moved a little faster towards the girls, keeping an eye on how they interacted with the other dogs.
Poorly, that’s how. Willow started barking and getting in the face of one of the little ones, Dru was growling and did her aggressive barking/lunging at the new dog thing, and Breeze freaked because one of the women had a orange stick for throwing a ball. And that all took place in the first minute and while the other dogs were still in the entry pen to the main run. Fantastic.
The 2 women were pretty casual about the whole thing and calmly brought their dogs into the main area. Surprising since I typically I get ‘the look’ which proceeds me heading out of the park. I have the greyhounds with absolutely no social graces. Sigh.
When the women let their dogs go in the main run, the fence running began. Chaos. My despair just grew. There was not even the slightest, littlest teensy tiny possibility of getting the girls now. They were running and completely focused on the 6 dogs on the other side of the fence. Well crap.
Hope and Joey
While am trying to think of ways to stop the melee I hear “They’re fine. This is how they form a pack.” coming from the other side of the fence. I glance over for just a second before returning my vigilant watch to the girls to see which one was going to growl/freak out/panic/get hurt first, and think “these women have no idea what they have gotten themselves into. Pack, schmack, my girls haven’t the social foggiest”
Willow running with Ruth and Micah
I looked a little closer and it dawned on me; the ladies on the other side of the fence weren’t stressed out. Not once did they indicate they were concerned with the mad action and behaviors of sprinting greyhounds interacting with their dogs. I started to relax a bit. Within a couple of minutes the dogs were doing more organized sprints along the fence. What’s this? Acceptable dog behavior? From my girls while running with other breeds? Well that obviously didn’t originate with my 3. I took a closer look at the dogs and two ladies. Hmmmm. Something’s up.
Willow with Joey and Jake
Curious, I sidled up as close as I could get to the fence without being laid out flat by 3 very happy and still running greys. Time for a little ice breaker “My girls are a bit socially stunted, so I am surprised they are running so well with your dogs.” The response “This is a good way for them to get their energy out and form pack behavior.” Before long I learned from Deena, who was talking with me, that Jamie, the woman throwing the ball, works with dogs. As in she owns a company, Seize the Leash, and does dog behavior training. Well that explains it.
By now the girls, exhausted from being tag-teamed by their 6 dogs, were lying down looking at me with the “we are ready to be transported home” faces. I packed up to go, but not before we talked pet photography. Sweet!
Brynda and Micah with Dru and Breeze
We were a bit more excited than usual to head to the park the next morning. I had my camera and couldn’t wait to get the chance to shoot photos of new dogs. The girls were on high alert, could it be? More running with those fun dogs? Yesss! If they could have done the sliding on the knees, fist pumping action move they would have.
I spent most of the time on the other side of the fence. My girls really didn’t notice. They were too busy running again. Breeze in particular was really enjoying herself. I took a bunch of photos, some of which have already been posted.
And so began a whole new era at the dog park. The girls look for Jamie, Deena, and the pack (Joey, Jake, Hope, Micah, Brynda, and Ruth) every morning. They do more running than when with the greyhounds. Joey, in particular, is a favorite since he spends more time challenging the girls than any of the others, and he does it well. I've had a fantastic time with new subjects for photos. Whee! And, as a bonus, have been getting incredible tips from both Jamie and Deena on stuff to so to help with some of the issues the girls have. FTW!
Breeze and Dru with their new friend and running partner, Joey
Last Saturday and Tuesday I went to Jamie's training classes. Holy cow did I learn a lot just by attending; and I was shooting photos (See some here), not even participating. So for all those who have dogs with behavioral problems, give Jamie a call 520.686.4246 or go by the website or blog. Prices are reasonable and the results are pretty amazing. Oh, when you go by the sites, check out some of the photos gracing the pages, taken by yours truly :)
Friday, May 14, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Anyway, each time I start up the computer or close down a window I smile. I guess because she is also. With the past posts about Breeze and the ones yet to come, I thought I would give a glimpse of what she is like now. I know it is sort of like skipping to the last page in the book when you've just opened the cover, but phhttt, I like this photo.
Granted there is an epilogue in this book containing the caveat that not everything is ideal. But so far, compared to what it was like - stellar. So now the posts can be enjoyed knowing there is a HEA :)
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
Saturday, May 8, 2010
I had planned on moving back to Phoenix (an event thankfully avoided by the width of a nostril hair) and had told the folks at AGR I would not be able to foster after my last foster dog found a permanent home.
Then I got the call. AGR had heard rumors that I hadn’t moved to Phoenix and were wondering if I would foster a special needs dog for a few days while she recovered from being spayed. I said yes and on a Wednesday in mid-December 2008 brought home a totally doped up dog, Wheezy. She was a challenge - wouldn’t eat anything so I couldn’t give her the pain meds which meant she didn’t feel well so wouldn’t eat anything. Snackies, cheese, peanut butter, chicken, steak. Nope, nope, nope. I finally tempted her with yogurt and peanut butter and snackies mixed together and, as a result, she got her meds. She started to feel better, started drinking when tempted with chicken broth and I stopped panicking that she was going to have to go back to the vet to be treated for dehydration. By Saturday she was behaving normally so she joined us at play date, though since she was still recovering from surgery, she stayed on the lead and we just walked around the enclosure.
Sheryl was there with Breeze and Opal and by the time Wheezy and I had finished our lap around the field she had decided she wanted to take Wheezy home with her. The only catch was that she was already at her 2 dog maximum. I suggested a trade, foster for foster. After Wheezy passed the husband acceptance test with all As we contacted AGR and did a foster swap. Not quite like the original Freaky Friday, I suppose one main difference was that it was on a Sunday and, you know, they weren’t related, though they were fosters. Anyway…Wheezy got her permanent home and a new name (Isabella aka Izzy) and Breeze got Willow and me.
Keep in mind, I had seen Breeze a couple of times a week over the past month and she knew Willow; and still the first days at my house were pretty rough. The first day I just left the back door open because she wouldn’t come inside. She just stood in the furthest corner of the yard, one leg up, tail tucked, turned in on herself, ready to run. I would occasionally catch her laying down in the grass for a moment between frantic pacing and scanning of the area each time she heard the slightest noise.
I managed to catch her in the house the first night so I could close the door for the evening. When she was in the house, she divided her time between hiding in the crate in the family room and making sure there was something; wall, couch, table, anything, between her and I. I followed her lead and stayed as far from her as possible so she didn’t feel threatened. Well any more than she already was. Trying to read her body language, I spent a while figuring out what freaked her out. Specifically. I based it on when she stood up. How close I could walk towards her, which route I could take from one room to the other, how fast I could move, how high I could raise my hands. I learned not to trap her into a room where there wasn’t an escape for her. To not make eye contact. That I couldn't carry anything. Let me tell you, it was a well deserved night of sleep for both of us.
The next morning she looked at me in terror as I came down the hall, searching about frantically for a place to hide. Trying to help avoid a complete panic, I didn’t look as her directly, going with coy glances from under eyelashes to see where she was, managing to run into only one wall, before getting the back door opened. The minute I was clear she bolted for the outside, to her safe spot. Knowing I wouldn’t get her back inside and that she was used to a doggie door and non-scheduled potty breaks, I left the door propped open when I went to work.
When I got home that evening I was greeted with Willow, who I noticed was quite happy to have a roommate, and a glimpse of a brindle tail disappearing out the back door. I tried snacky treat bribes to get her inside. Nope, me by the door was too threatening. That’s been tried before, thank you very much, that way leads to hands on and that is just unacceptable. Just slide it on out here and back away slowly.
Fortunately, that night I learned if I made ‘good girl’ noises to Willow and hugged and petted her, Breeze was intrigued, cautiously peeking around corners to investigate what was going on. Willow was quite proud of all the good things she didn’t know she was doing. She could have been nominated for the greyhound Nobel Prize with all the good deeds accomplished. Cure for dog drooling, helping free other racing greyhounds in South America, feeding starving greyhounds in Africa, teaching racing peace and saving countless bunnies all over the world.
I surreptitiously watched Breeze trying to figure out why Willow would be remotely interested in going near a human. I also caught glimpses of her longing to be with the two of us, she wanted to be involved, there was just too much fear physically limiting what she could do, it was shutting her down.
With that new bit of insight, Willow continued to get accolades until Breeze came entirely into the house. It was like watching a squirrel take a nut you’ve left on the deck, one hesitant step at a time, pausing to check surroundings, retreating then coming forward again, to finally get it and run off to the safety of their tree. Well I wanted the tree to be inside that night, so by taking the long way around and keeping her on the other side of the divider I managed to get the door shut before she could retreat to her nest and we were able to retire for the night with all doors secured. All in all, a successful day in the new foster home.