Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday Training 13

I want to preface this post with a mention of how I spent my morning. Last night, my dog-loving second cousin called my mom to ask a favor of me. Her nearly 13 year old Rottweiler, the last of a pack that once totaled 5 or 6, had suddenly began to decline. She was calling to ask if I could drive her to the vet for the dog to be euthanized.

My first reaction was total shock - not that she was euthanizing her dog, for it was the right thing to do, but that I had been the one called on to help get the dog there. By "favor" I expected to pick her up and take her to a store, pick up dog food, or something relatively day-to-day.

After some thought, I decided to do it. Though I admittedly deal awful with anything emotional pertaining to animals (I've given up watching most of those Animal Cops shows, and Marley and Me has been downloaded for months, but never watched), it would have been selfish of me to not have helped this poor old dog and her owner, who would have had no other option except to ride in a stranger's cab car.

I woke up this morning with a knot in my stomach and a lump in my throat. How would I react to the sight of an old, sickly dog, one that would spend some of her last moments in my back seat? I hesitantly got into my car and drove the very short way to my cousin's house to pick her and her dog up.

Despite her weakness, the old girl tried valiantly to get into the car, making it halfway in. I then had to get out and help her lift her back feet over the impossible hurdle facing her.

She rode relatively quietly, and I tried my hardest to stay calm and unemotional. I got a little misty at a couple of points as my cousin spoke to her, but managed to compose myself otherwise.

When we arrived at the vet, she didn't want to budge from my car. She had positioned herself in a quasi-down position on the floor of the car, with her big, blocky Rottie head resting comfortably on the seat.

They got her out, carried her up the flight of steps in front of the office, and that was the last I saw of her.

For some reason, after I had dropped cousin and dog off, I got really upset. I did not know this dog well at all, though it is fair to say that my experiences as a youngster with the Rott pack as a whole were fond ones. Yet, I was positively distraught. I think the image of that dog looking at me with sunken and old eyes will say with me for a while.

Perhaps it was a combination of the sight of an old dog, her lifelong owner, and my own thoughts and experiences loving my own pets. But, it did shake me up, as I drove home, the tears on my face mimicking the oh-so-fitting rain that cascaded down my windshield.

My cousin called me later to thank me, and tell me that the vet said she had been riddled with cancer. The poor girl was probably living with tumors inside of her for a long time, but continued to fight it and gave no indication of her illness up until now. She slipped away peacefully into the next world.

Marge, of course, was having none of my sappiness or sadness when I got home. She was quite confused by the smells of dog that she found on my clothes. I eventually convinced her that no Rottweilers lurked in sight (ironically, they seem to be her least favorite breed), and that it was okay to cuddle instead of lay next to me on the floor, so we enjoyed a snuggle session in front of the TV for the rest of the gloomy morning.

------------------------------------


I took this picture a couple of nights ago in my car as the rain pounded over everything, but, the picture still fits today too. Of course, the weather gods had to serve rain up the Tuesday before my first agility trial, and class (along with my private lesson) was canceled.

Since I have no agility news and I covered a good deal of behavioral stuff yesterday, I figured I'd turn to the lighter side of training.

I've admittedly been lax on the trick training since Marge has learned all the basics, but I have been working on "clean up" for the past few months on and off. It started as simply shaping her to pick up the toy, then strategically placing the basket so that the toy would fall into it, then having her full-out retreive it to place it in the basket.

Our good friends over at Champion of My Heart have also taken on learning this one, though I think they've made considerably more progress than we have.

Marge can pick up any one plushie toy and deposit it into her toy basket. She has not, however, generalized the behavior to other toy-basket items, like treat toys, rubber toys, balls, and similar items. She also cannot pick up one right after the other. She tends to focus on one toy (which ever one she puts away first) and continually take it out and put it back in.

Today we had a little bit of a breakthrough with the Hol-ee Roller ball. The video below shows Marge first putting away one of her beloved frogs, and then deciding (after almost making a mistake and taking the frog back out) that the ball can go in the basket, too.



It's a fun thing to teach her on a rainy day, because it both gets her mind going and gets her moving around, too.

Also, the other fuzzybutt in this house must make an appearance on MargeBlog today. Layla, who I have done no training with in the eleven years that I've had her, seems to be acquiring an enjoyment for trick training as well. After my sister alerted me that she now picks up her paw in the rudimentary form of a high-five, I tried my luck with her..



How cool is that?! I don't know how much she's actually "getting" it, but with the combination of the treat above her head and my verbal cue, she soon began sitting more and more quickly. So it seems like there's something there.

The agility trial news will come a little later in the week. With the morning's events and the absence of agility class tonight, I admit that my mind is a little blurry in that area right now, nor do I really have anything worthwhile to blog about yet. Either way, it looks like we'll be going to the trial on Sunday, with intent to run. If Marge is too scared, she'll chill on the sidelines and eat spoonfulls of yummy wet dog food, the most super high-value treat that I can think of. I really hope that she's able to get in the ring; I'm not looking for a Q this week, just some inclination that my dog is enjoying herself. The weater seems to be in our favor (sunny and 60) so we'll just hold out hope that it all goes okay.

23 comments:

Kari in Redwood City October 27, 2009 at 8:08 PM  

It makes me teary just reading that story. 13 is an impressive age for a rottie and sometimes it is good to think about how the owners knew it was time rather than letting the pain drag on.

Kari in Redwood City October 27, 2009 at 8:08 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mango October 27, 2009 at 9:02 PM  

Oh, I think that is even sadder than if you had stayed. Momma says that when she had to send her doggies over the bridge that watching them pass peacefully made it much easier. But it is still hard and it always makes her think how short our time is together.

Slobbers,
Mango

Carolyn October 27, 2009 at 9:04 PM  

Oh Sam,

What a bummer. I'm so sorry for your cousin and I'm sure it was very upsetting for you, too. With both Kesey and Nesta I was so bewildered by the concept of time. Where did it go? How did we get here? Kudos to your cousin for realizing it was time...and kudos to you for helping her out!

Love the kitteh training! How funny! I need to teach Cooper to clean up his toys! All in good time...

Love the rain picture. You get some pretty cool shots!

Keep up the good work!

-C

Sharon October 27, 2009 at 9:09 PM  

I used to work at a vet clinic... those decisions are hard to make, but when its time, it's a good thing the owner can make peace to do it.

I LOVE the clean up trick!! how d you do it?? I'm looking at my boys scattered mess and I would LOVE to teach him that!!

KB October 27, 2009 at 9:20 PM  

What a wonderful favor you did for your cousin. A very very hard favor but it must have made a big difference to her. I'm sure that I would have reacted the same way. It's so hard, either bringing back memories of my dogs who are gone or making me think forward for our current youngsters. So painful...

On a happier note, it's cool to see Marge getting 'clean up', and it's also neat to see you training your cat. I have no idea how trainable they are but she looked like the synapses were firing!

Scout 'n Freyja October 27, 2009 at 9:30 PM  

Our momma knows the sadness you feel - it chills the heart when we know that a good soul will be leaving for Heaven.

We are so impressed with Marge but momma is got BIG EYES lookin' at that kitty! Now she's lookin' 'round the house for ours...boy, are they in fur a surprise!

Lorenza October 27, 2009 at 10:30 PM  

Sure it was not easy to take that Rottie to the Vet but you were very nice helping your cousin.
My mom does not watch those shows either. Even when they have happy endings she cries and cries during the program.
I love Marge doing that cleaning trick!
Good girl!
Kisses and hugs
Lorenza

The Army of Four October 27, 2009 at 10:30 PM  

Thank you for taking your cousin to the vet. That couldn't have been easy and I'm sure you were a huge comfort!
Tail wags,
Storms

Khyra The Siberian Husky And Sometimes Her Mom October 27, 2009 at 10:41 PM  

My mom agrees with Mango's Momma - there is a peace in seeing how they do khross -

My mom always suggests people be there (if they khan handle it) fur that reason -

ANWYAY, WE are glad woo did 'that' favour -

Tank woo fur sharing the rest of your day with us as well!

Hugz&Khysses,
Khyra

giantspeckledchihuahua October 28, 2009 at 12:52 AM  

It was really good of you to accompany your cousin to the vet. Never an easy trip, that one.

I am going to have to work with Stumpy on the clean up trick, Love the video!

I once had a cat that could do about anything a dog could do, so I am not surprised to see Layla learning. I think it was cats that started the rumor they can't be trained! Although, I do think training is a bad choice of words.

Frankie Furter October 28, 2009 at 9:09 AM  

The greatest love of all is the love that allows for gentle leaving. We do it for our beloved pets... why not for ...????
Soooo I guess you can teach an old cat new tricks.

Anna the GSD October 28, 2009 at 9:59 AM  

Mom says you did a great thing in helping your cousin! No matter how sad it was, it was made a little better just by you showing kindness. <3

Mom also wants to know how to teach me the "put all my crap back in my toybasket trick"

I'm not so sure about that! :)

Sam October 28, 2009 at 10:21 AM  

Thank you everyone. :)

For those of you who want to learn the toy basket trick, I think I'll make a little video blog of sorts in the near future with some details on how to learn it. It is pretty easy as long as you have a clicker (need to be very quick with your rewards!)

"Ice Pony Girl" October 28, 2009 at 10:31 AM  

Thanks for helping! Reiki sent to the sweet Rottie for her journey over the Rainbow Bridge/

Fred October 28, 2009 at 11:12 AM  

This breaks my heart! I know she was glad to have you for support, though, and I know you're glad to have Marge for comfort.

PoochesForPeace October 28, 2009 at 12:15 PM  

love the vids.

Sue October 28, 2009 at 12:53 PM  

I laughed at the enthusiasm she shows in tossing her toys into the basket.

Nibbles Treats October 28, 2009 at 2:33 PM  

We know it was very hard for you. Our mom had to put JR, the English Bulldog our family had before us down and to this day, it is one of the saddest moments in her life. Thanks for being a good friend.

Lots of treats,
Tinkerbell, Oscar and Tucker

Gus, Louie and Callie October 28, 2009 at 5:48 PM  

That is such a sad story about the Rotti. Mom and Dad had a Rotti before us. He was given to Dad when the couple he lived with had a terrible falling out and the man kidnapped Rocky. After the lady got him back he never would have anything to do with her. Dad also had to take him to the vet to be euthanize. It was a very sad day in our house too.. You are so nice to take them there. I am not sure Mom could have done it..
We can't wait to hear about the trial on Sunday..

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart October 28, 2009 at 6:19 PM  

I'm so glad you could help your cousin. A few months back when I was at the vet, there was a woman there alone, waiting to euthanize her very sick dog. I thought seriously about offering to stay with her through it, but then I figured she might think I was a loon. BUT, no one should be alone in that moment.

Three cheers for Marge and "Clean Up." Thanks for the mention. I'm pretty proud of Lilly's progress with that trick.

Kathy October 28, 2009 at 6:55 PM  

What a good person you were to help, even when you knew it would be hard and I would think if I was the one asking someone to come with me just having someone who understood the loss and sadness must have helped her through that whole thing, not to mention the dog, it must have helped her knowing someone else cared.

WOW, Marge you ROCK, can she come to my house and help clean up?

Wooo hooo kittie cat that is too cool

BRUTUS October 29, 2009 at 9:45 PM  

Hey, Sam!

I am so behind on blogging, desperately trying to catch up! You had asked several questions, plus I have an agility video I'd like to share with you (can't post it on the blog due to conflicting membership in two clubs, neither can know about the other, ugh). Anyways, can you email me at hrnchardds@yahoo.com, so that have you email & can reply to you that way?? Thanks :)

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