Friday, July 31, 2009

Food Frenzy

Hi all, the Margedog herself is here for a change. I stole the blog password from my hooman to bring light to the abuse I endured the other day while trying to enjoy a slice of aguamelon. (Some of you hoomans call it watermelon, but my family always tells me to "go drink some agua" so I figured it must be the same for this big juicy red fruit since it has so much agua in it. My hooman says it's the only word that stuck with her after years of Spanish in her elementary school days. Not that I know what Spanish or elementary school is.)

But aaanyway, see this?! Isn't it a disgrace!! Aguamelon on the nose? Milkbones, okay, even a slice of cheese, okay. But AGUAMELON! I only get it a couple of times a year, and I have to sit there with my freakin' head perfectly still balancing a tiny piece on my noise just to be allowed to get a taste!

Thank goD she let me have a couple more bites after that! I can't believe the two leggers didn't want it. Something about it being too old and too soft. They're crazy! I didn't find a darn thing wrong with it!

Okay, okay, on second thought I guess the balancing on the nose act wasn't so bad. I got to enjoy alot of tasty aguamelon because of it. I looove aguamelon. It's the only thing I like from the summer. Thunder, people, heat! Go away!!!! But aguamelon.. can't you stay the whole year round? Pleeeease? My hooman says its never as fresh in the cold months, but I don't believe her because she didn't like this aguamelon either! Ohh.. I can see it now.. aguamelon and snow.. now THAT would be a good life!!

My hooman promises she'll be back on the weekend with updates about everything else. It's rainy here and she doesn't have much news today, so I wanted to come tell y'all about one of my favorites food in the whole wide world. :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

House of Joy

Agility, much to my dismay, was cancelled AGAIN tonight. We have now gone two weeks without a class. In one way, I guess it's not really a bad thing, given the issues we've been up against. But it really would have felt nice to get back on to the field..

So, to fill the void in our schedule, I decided a trip to my grandmother's house was in order. Marge lover her, and she loves Marge, so it is always a possible choice for an outing. We called ahead and set up a visit with the Cavalier x Bichon puppies across the street, who Marge adores to bits.

They played for about an hour, racing around the yard like crazy dogs. Ralphie and Marge especially like doing this.

Usually Gidget keeps to the sidelines, but she got into it too at some points.

Marge usually play bows zillions of times while there. I think she feels safe playing with them, since they're small and don't jump on her. They prefer to chase.

Here they are practicing recall. Ralphie kept trying to inch up, Gidget tried her hardest to look uninterested, and Marge was so excited by the thought of treats that she sat there attentively waiting to be called.

It was a fun visit. Marge heard some noises that freaked her out, but thanks in part to something - maybe the 3 mg of melatonin I wound up giving her before we went - she didn't go into panic mode.

After a while we went back to my grandma's, where Marge and I waited outside for a bit because my uncle, who does not like dogs, had stopped by. There were more scary noises, but thanks to our new FEAST game, where I slide kibble in all different directions across the floor, she got through it.

She did get to briefly meet my uncle, and seemed to like him too. She was nervous of him, but her whole body wagged with not a hackle raised or growl uttered. +1!

The rest of the time, she dozed contentedly on the rug as we sat and spoke with one another. She was so comfortable that she didn't even want to leave. My grandmother's neighborhood is very quiet, so nothing was bothersome to her.

I was glad to have a day with Marge where she got a decent amount of exercise and exposure to her favorite things without being too afraid. Hopefully we'll have more repeats of these kinds of things in the near future.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Under the Influence

Here's Marge doing her best frog impression.  I suspect she is waiting for dinner, as she knows to go to her corner and wait patiently for us to release her. We don't catch her laying like this often, so I thought this picture that my sister snapped the other day was a good one to show - especially since she spent a good deal of her day in this corner, dozing contentedly, as I sat in the chair pictured, browsing on my laptop.  In fact, that's what we're doing right now!  You can count this picture for Cookie and Cinnamon's game that they have been so nice as to tag us in.

Last night, Marge had her first 1.5 milligrams of Melatonin.  For those that don't know, it's a natural hormone often supplemented as a sleep aid in people, but appears to have a high rate of success when used in the treatment of phobias, particularly sound phobias, for fearful dogs.  I don't think it's a wonder drug, nor will it (or anything) turn my dog into a perfectly "normal" tail-wagging-at-everyone kind of pooch, but if it helps keep Marge under threshold (ie., not running away fearing for her life) so that I can do my part (which means doling out LOTS of treats in the face of scary things), then I'll call it successful.  I don't think it will do anything in the event of full-out fireworks, but hopefully it'll help her recover more quickly to the random crashes, bangs and booms that happen around here due to fireworks, construction, or anything else.

We had a bad, long bout of thunderstorms here yesterday, and while Marge was dealing okay, I figured that it might be a good time to give her the first dose.  The worst of the thunder was over with by then, but we did have some rumbles for a while afterwards.

Now, whether I am imagining an improvement or not is debatable, BUT Marge was able to lay in my lap for a while just after getting the pill.  Then, while it was quiet, she had no problem going out to potty and coming back in for a HUGE slurp of water.

The rest of the night, I don't think she went under the desk for any significant amount of time.  She instead laid on a mat similar to the one pictured near my desk, flat out on her side.  Any time there was a rumble of thunder, she got a bit of cheese, though I don't think she even needed it. 

She got her second 1.5 mg dose this morning at about 11:15 AM.  I figured I'd give it to her so that we could take a long walk in the field, despite it being hot and humid.  I think she enjoyed herself for the most part.. since it is a sports field there are garbage cans scattered throughout it, and we had a great deal of fun running from can to can so that Marge could sniff.  Sorry I don't have pictures - it's tough cramming my phone, treats and a clicker into my pockets - though I hope to have some pictures soon because it really is cute and she looks awfully happy doing it.

She did hear some distant crashes and bangs from the construction going on nearby and got a little concerned about it, but never crossed that pivotal line where all hell breaks loose and she is completely unresponsive.  I do think it has more to do with the relative quietness of the booms rather than the Melatonin, though. 

When we got back, a neighbor who Marge does not know very well dropped by.  In haste, I grabbed Marge's collar while opening the door to let her in.  Marge met her with sniffs and wags, raised her hackles for a brief minute but did not look particularly distressed.  I fed her treats for the remainder of the woman's short visit.  While we do have to work on door manners, I thought it was good that someone did get through the door without being met by Marge's grumbles.  Seems like it's mostly a problem with men.

Just now, we followed our dinner time ritual of going outside with almost a meals' worth of kibble to click and treat for any calm glance at a stranger, loud sound, etc.  Of course, I also reward for eye contact. 

I'd say she did very well - we wandered up the sidewalk for about 7 or 8 houses, and then she started to get to a point where she looked a bit bothered, so we called it quits.  She did not run home, though.. she walked right next to me, offering eye contact frequently.  After that we walked up a bit farther to the field.  On the way she reached out and sniffed a female passer-by who looked a bit afraid. Oh well.. don't fault me for it, but I'd rather the woman be afraid than my dog!

We stayed in the field for a little bit, Marge sniffed around and actually wasn't all that interested in the treats (which COULD have been a calming signal to diffuse stress, but lets count it as a positive for now).  She, again, heard some sort of distant loud noise but didn't get freaked.  

Perhaps the most positive part was that her least favorite person in the world, who she last encountered back in June, passed us on the opposite side of the street.  Marge did not bark, and though she did tense up, she responded to the clicker and offered eye contact back to me very quickly.  We hung around outside for a few more minutes, kibble flying everywhere, and now we're here!

So we've had a fairly good day so far.  I refuse to walk in my neighborhood after 6PM due to the looming threat of stray fireworks going off, but we may take a trip down to the beach depending on how busy it seems out.  

As for the Melatonin, we'll continue at this very low dose into tomorrow.  I don't want to raise the dose yet since we have Agility, and although it's not supposed to make them drowsy, you never know if it could.  The next nice day available to go to the park, I'm going to give her a larger dose so that I can see if it helps her any in regards to walking around people.  The vet told me to do 2 mg twice a day for 3 weeks, but I'd rather use the lowest dose possible and work my way up as necessary.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wet Dog

We went to Wolfe's Pond today for a much-needed dose of the wild. Marge was only 100% comfortable on the wooded trails and NOT where there were lots of people and kids and noises, but since I have not yet heard back from my vet (hopefully tomorrow morning) there is no use in belaboring the issue.

Marge has slowly been getting more comfortable with water. Though she refuses to go in the ocean, she will willingly cross very shallow streams and such and will go deeper as long as there are treats.

We were walking along the pond and I decided to throw a treat it for Marge to go out and get. I'm always concerned about Marge swallowing too much water when she wades because she likes to stick her nose in and blow bubbles, but this spot wasn't particularly algae-ridden or anything. I did it a few times only a few feet from shore, and then tossed one a bit father in.

Marge must have either forgot for the moment that she was running into a pond, or simply didn't know that the pond would drop off. So I threw it in, and BAM! She went off running, like I have never seen her do in water. Once she was outfar enough that the bottom dropped off, she kind of did a faceplant into the water, got herself completely soaked, and stood there for a couple of seconds in what seemed like total disbelief. Unfortunately, it was not caught on camera. This is how she looked immediately after, though:

Thankfully, it didn't bother her too much, because we played the treat-in-pond game a few more times after that and she didn't mind at all. After that, she zoomed up and down the shore rather blissfully. She won't go in so far that her feet don't touch the bottom, but I'm thinking that one day I'll just go in with her and convince her that it's fun to actually swim.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday Training 2

I may or may not make Tuesday Training a Margeblog tradition, but since it works again for this week, I may as well go with it for now.

Well, Marge's fear issues really are through the roof. I have been avoiding walking on the streets and instead have gone back to only walking in the field, but it seems that isn't enough. When it is relatively quiet out, she's fine. It seems the best times are late morning and early/mid afternoon. Night would be best, except for the fireworks, which have not stopped. We had a great, long walk on Sunday, where Marge passed many people in the field successfully, and ended sniffing the bushes adjacent to the playground.

The walk later that night, however, was distastrous. It started out well, with Marge playing with me, running around, etc, until a firework went off. Seriously, people.. it is July 21st. Can we stop with the fireworks? She never calmed down, freaked out when she saw any person or any dog going by, and that was it for the night.

Yesterday, she was stressed out on our morning walk to some degree. We had an okay afternoon walk, but it was hot and I didn't want to push it. We then went back out after dinner time.. some loud noise came, and I'd say she recovered about halfway before we went home. Knowing better, I skipped walking at night, because of all the fireworks, but I did take her back into the field quickly before it got dark, where I surprised her with a new squeaky toy and she played for a couple of minutes.

Today, our first walk was not good. It's raining, so I figured hey, why not go out. We walked up the block, but she heard a kid screaming and bouncing a basketball and his dog barking, all the while passing some old lady getting out of her car, so then the walk was kaput. We continued on, Marge pulling like a freight train, freaked out by the mailwoman who she has seen countless times before, didn't like the sound of the mailbox, and finished off by peeing on someones bushes. She seemed to end slightly better than full panic mode, and I took her across into Miller Field to diffuse a bit before going home.

I really don't know what to do. The noise phobia is one thing - she has always had them, and this summer has been particularly noisy, with fireworks, thunderstorms and construction that we just can't escape from. However, it is really bothering me that the fear has generalized to running away from neutral people and getting scared when she sees dogs. She saw a Doberman way off in the distance and she started to have that wide-eyed look. She saw a Boston off in the distance and wanted to flee. She saw a Chihuahua who, granted, was barking, and that REALLY scared her.

All I hope, right now, is that this isn't going to trickle down into our Agility class. She needs Agility. I hate to sound selfish, but I need it too. I need to have that one hour a week where Marge can just totally let go and enjoy herself.

I've ordered Control Unleashed, and it should be coming this week. I guess I'm going to give the vet a call tomorrow. I would like to get a blood test done on her.. several people have suggested to me that there could be an underlying medical issue. I would be willing to start a drug treatment plan, perhaps for a month or two, and then wean her off and re-evaluate her. If nothing works, it may be time for a behaviorist.. which REALLY scares me, because I don't really have the money for several hundred dollar consultations.

I've pretty much given up on the August 23 Rally trial. I don't need to go with her, only to have her totally terrified and not having fun. If things improve from now until then, it is a possibility, but most likely the door is closed on that one. I did find out that we have another NADAC trial coming up on October 31 -November 1, so depending on a lot of things, that may be a possibility. The cool weather, late in the season timing (less people, probably), location (Wolfe's Pond Park) all tempt me.. having it on Halloween weekend does bother me somewhat. Halloween is one of our do-not-walk days.

My birthday's Thursday. All I want is a happy dog. All I want is to go back to April, when we were at our personal peak, passing the CGC with flying colors. If I only knew then the things I know now.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Jam Packed

We sure did do a lot today, humans and canines alike.

First -- and this was the big surprise I was talking about on Tuesday -- Marge got to meet up with her brothers Homer, Midnight and Fergus (left to right) for the first time in a long time. We had spoke about a reunion last year, but between bad weather and busy schedules, it never came into fruition.

None of the dogs really wanted to do much of anything, and the only interaction was some sniffing. Otherwise, they all kind of just laid around by themselves. Fergus and Midnight are the most outgoing and have come out of their shells; Homer is a little more reserved.

Marge was somewhat grumpy and VERY hot. She observed Fergus digging a hole under the bench and thus learned this behavior from him today. I have NEVER seen her dig before. She dug herself a nice, dirty hole where she wanted to stay. Hopefully she doesn't start digging in the backyard.

Overall, I'd say it wasn't a success, wasn't a failure. Marge did not feel like interacting whatsoever, but neither did the others. She gave a few warnings when they got too close at the wrong times, but nothing major. I suspect the heat had alot to do with it. We did not stay long at all; we may set something up again for the cooler weather and hopefully they'll all be in better moods.

Later on in the day, we went to the Agility Field for our Rally run through. It was.. interesting. The heat was really getting to Marge so we snailed our way through the course a few times, but Marge absolutely needed the motivation of bologna to keep her going. She was so out of it that she openly accepted - and even seemed to welcome - ice cubes being rubbed on her back. And this is a dog who doesn't like water. In terms of her performance, we have some decisions to be made regarding the trial coming up on August 23, but I'll save that for another post.

She was impeccably well-behaved otherwise. There were only a couple of other dogs around and she was either dying to sniff them or simply kept away. I am sensing a shift in Marge's preference for dogs.. the two dogs she interacted with today were intact bitches (Standard Poodle and Irish Setter), and she seemed to ENJOY being with them. Maybe they smell interesting.

All day, she was very friendly with people. She allowed pets with no hesitation from Fergus' dad and Homer/Midnight's dad, even lying on the floor at one point. Yay men! At Rally, too, she was eager to go up to people and got very excited when Susan asked her if she wanted to "go weave." (She loves the freakin' weave poles.) She has definitely become more of a people's dog lately and much less of a dog's dog.

And that was it on the Marge front.. I did, however, go out to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince at night. Afterwards, we delivered the newspapers for Sunday morning. So, I am running on 4 hours sleep and I've been up since 7. You know what that means.. goodnight (morning) everybody!

BTW, thank you all for your comments/suggestions on my last post. If I do wind up speaking with my vet this week, I will take all of these things into consideration. Thankfully, the past couple of days haven't been as bad, though we haven't been doing any regular streetwalking to accurately gage her status.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Things That Go Boom

I'm reaching my breaking point.

No matter where we go, there is a sound to scare Marge. It has never been this bad. Every single day, there is construction going on about 2 blocks over. Fine, won't walk that way. Every night, there are fireworks or some equally loud, similar sounding noise. So now we can't walk during the day and can't walk at night either.

Yesterday at the beach a firework went off literally a minute before we were about to leave.

Today she was afraid of the car.

Tonight we walked and she was afraid of every person she saw, sound she heard.

Oh, and there was a stray firework just as we were getting ready to walk down a dreaded side street. Umm, conditioning much? Here I am trying to break Marge's idea that side streets = scary, and what do I have to wind up doing? Turn around, go back the other way with a dog pulling for dear life at the other end of the leash because she just heard the one thing that sends her into a frenzy.

Now she's hiding under the desk.

We can barely walk anywhere anymore. The only "good" places are 20 minutes away by car. Her fear has gotten worse. Since May, we have been on a serious downturn.. a downturn I was able to deal with, a downturn I thought was getting better. But the past two weeks have been hell. I have had to make so many amendments as to what to do and what not to do with Marge. And now, I have made so many more.

What is there left for me to do?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tuesday Training

I have a lot of training news to report today, so bear with me.

Let's start with Marge's interactions with other dogs. We have been doing a bit more socializing as of late, as Marge's reactivity pretty much has disappeared around other dogs (with the exception of Agility, which I'll get to.)

As mentioned, she met up with two old park friends, very mellow dogs who she has seen countless times before. Aside from a fun chasing match with Henry the Chi, she just really sniffed and minded her own business. Now, neither of these dogs are the playful type, so to speak.. they're more just your hang-around kind of pups. So I'm not sure if her indifference was based in confusion on how to act, or if it was just, well, indifference, because they're not playful and neither is she.

We met up with an acquaintance of ours at the board walk. Her friend was walking a Boxer puppy roughly the same size as Marge. They did a quick sniff, with no hackles or anything from Marge. Marge jumped back once because the pup jumped up on me, but otherwise, I'd say it was a neutral, if not positive, interaction.

Later on that night we bumped into a very small, submissive looking Corgi, who Marge took to immediately. Play bowing before she even got the chance to sniff. And that was it for that night.

It was a lot for us, that's for sure. We're still doing a fair amount of ignoring other dogs and/or clicking for looking calmly, especially at Agility.

And on that note, I'll now turn my attention to the Agility class we had tonight..

In short, Marge was reactive. I think she was illustrating a couple of different "types" of reactions, though.

  • She met a well-socialized Golden for the first time ever before class. Good initially, lots of sniffing, loose body language, soft eye. Unfortunately he became too much for her, though (even after a couple of play bows from both of them) and she gave a snap at him. We did end on a good note, with Marge sniffing, play bowing, and doing her playful zoomy thing.
  • I can't remember where we were coming from, either the A-Frame or the tunnel, and she went FLYING at poor Chase the BC while barking. However, I firmly believe this was more of a chasing (or even herding, as I'm starting to think) instinct than it was a fearful response. Fortunately she came flying back when I called her. I apologized to Chase's mom.. Chase himself has some issues around other dogs (though he and Marge do get along) so I can relate to what it feels like when someone else's dog comes and bothers them.
  • Lastly, she was very unhappy with Blue the Pit Bull going over the A-Frame. She actually growled on that one. I refocused her, praised/treated, and all was well. But she DOES definitely get wide-eyed when she sees him go up higher than her. This, I think, was more of a fearful response because he IS big and he IS a bulldozer type dog. A nice dog, a happy dog, but one vastly incompatible with Miss Don't-Touch-Me-With-More-Than-Just-The-Tiniest-Tip-Of-Your-Nose.

Are these incidents related to all of the dogs she's been seeing? I'm not sure. I don't think seeing dogs outside of class translates into dog reactivity at class, especially since she has been so social in those situations AND does not show fear when merely passing dogs on the street. I do think that maybe the situation with the Golden might have started her out on the wrong foot. At the next class, which is in two weeks, not one, we are NOT going to interact with any dogs before class and we'll see if that makes any difference.

In addition, Marge was not walked much at all today, which gave me a VERY fresh dog to work with at class. Of course, that freshness can manifest itself in both positive and negative ways, as I've witnessed tonight.

On the GOOD side of behavior/training talk, Marge met a couple of people down by the boardwalk last night as well. She was good with both of them - both woman - and accepted light pets without any bribing from me. She did get the opportunity to sniff a man as well, but he wasn't a dog person... which was probably better. She was also pretty social with the people at Agility.

As for the actual training that took place at Agility, it was a rather light night, yet again, due to the temperature and Marge's all-over-the-place-ness.

  • We did some Teeter work, which went well. She plays the Bang It game very well and enjoys it immensely. She goes over the Teeter just fine, but likes to stop in the middle to wait for it to go down, so we're working on having her come all the way to the end before the teeter moves. She ran across it nicely once, and all the other times I had to help her a bit because she braced herself in the middle.
  • Finally got the Tire back out... Marge was not doing the tire well in sequence last time, but this time she acted like she's been doing it all her life.
  • No dog walk, and only a couple of random runs over the A-Frame, due to its positioning.. it was where the other dogs were running.
  • She weaved all 12 weaves, albeit bent weaves, going AWAY from me rather than being recalled to me. VERY proud of that! All of our weave sessions in the backyard have paid off.
  • Had some tunnel issues tonight, as she didn't want to be sent into them, but I don't think it's anything to be concerned about and we'll see how she is next week.
  • And now, one video, courtesy of my sister..

BTW, that's not her making that noise, it is another dog crated nearby. Couple of things I like in this video. One, I am running upright rather than slouching, at least for most of the time. Two, Marge has speed, is running in a straight line, and is attentive. However, I am throwing my arms all over the place, which is something else I have to work on. At least I finally am starting to get the running right..

So, on the docket for this week..
  • back crosses
  • going back a step and working on attention around other dogs
  • MAYBE some dog-dog interactions, if the opportunity is right.. but VERY few, if any.
  • *hopefully* starting street walks again at very quiet times.. (she has been freaked out since the 4th, and with ongoing construction two blocks away, it has been rough.)
  • fine-tuning some Rally stuff.

We have some exciting things coming up later in the week, but I'll leave you all in a state of suspense so you can come back over the weekend and see what I was talking about! Let's just hope and pray they go as planned.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Good Dogs, Good Kids

Louie was nice enough to take us to Silver Lake, so there we went again. We bumped into a couple of our old friends - Henry and Chewie, a Chihuhua and a Shepherd mix - just outside the dog run (which was peculiarly empty). Their respective owners were sad to hear of Marge's run-in with an aggressive dog there in the beginning of the year. I hung around with them for a few minutes. Marge probably remembered them, as she promptly started up a chase game with Henry, just like she always has. Other dogs started to come around, though, and although I was assured they were harmless, I didn't want to push it. Aside from agility, where I know everyone, she hasn't been in such a social situation in a long time, and handled it very well, without showing me any real signs that she was uncomfortable.

That's the sad part about not going there anymore -- because there ARE good people there who liked Marge and understood her needs, and they owned dogs who were quite compatible with her. But, as I explained, Marge has shown that she doesn't have the same "bounce back" factor as some other dogs do, and I simply cannot risk her fear issues in a place with so many unknown variables. I assured them I'd see them around the park, just not in the actual run, and I hope it is true. Marge REALLY enjoys running around on her 20' leash in the open grass, so I will hopefully get back to going there.

The rest of the time, we mozied along through the park, stopping at some points to sit and relax. Two young boys yelled out to us, asking what kind of dog Marge was and such. I invited them up to say hello to her, and they gave her some of the treats I provided. Marge, being a quintessential foodhound, kept trying to jump up on them to retrieve the treats. But, overall, it was great experience for her. It is very rare to find children who wait for clearance before approaching a dog, so I, of course, welcomed the encounter. What a breath of fresh air.

A successful day, over all. Good dogs, good kids for Marge to play with!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Back to the Crime Scene

Last night, for the first time in many, many months, we went back to Silver Lake, the park containing the small, dirty, dog run where I made my biggest mistakes as a new owner.  Of course, now knowing better (and given Marge's new-ish fears about other dogs) we stayed away and instead frolicked through the open green lawns, where not a soul was to be found.

I don't intend for this to turn into an anti-dog park post, but I do have some thoughts about my experiences there. On the one hand, I think it did help Marge in some ways.  There were times where she had a ton of fun and socialized well with other dogs, and even some people. I met lots of nice people and dogs.  However, it took a near-attack back in the late winter for me to realize that the dog park is not for us.  There are too many unpredictable dogs, it is too small, and a lot of people just don't know what they're doing.

Why did I avoid the park itself outside of the dog run for so long?  It is a nice park, with lots of trees and open space.  But, I think I just didn't want to see it.  I felt like an idiot for the longest time for having endangering my dog.  What if she had gotten hurt?  What if it created behavior issues?  I don't think Marge's current fears are linked very closely to whatever experiences she had there, but you just never know. 

When we got there, Marge knew where we were, undoubtedly.  She started whining in the car.  I don't know what kind of whine it was, but she was eager to get out.  As she soon learned, this trip - and any trip to this park from here on out - featured a 20' long leash and the open range of the Silver Lake lawns, and not the dog run where we used to go.

It was a mostly relaxing trip; a toddler kept trying to run up to us, his father barely stopped him, but when I asked the man if his child would like to give my dog a treat instead, he declined.  Bizarre.

There were some doggie distractions, too. A beagle was nearby braying his little heart out as he sniffed, and while Marge was interested, she was responsive to me.  A Pug/Beagle walked close by us, too, and Marge was almost indifferent about it.

We wandered up close to the dog run, albeit keeping some distance, and Marge neither moved towards it or away from it.  There were only two dogs in there - which left me wondering if our old friends got scared away by out-of-control dogs just as we were.  When both dogs had left, I allowed her to move closer and sniff.

And that was really it from the evening.  It was a fun time. We spent an hour in the park, and she ran around for almost the entire length of that time.  When we came home, we were both exhausted and passed out on the couch together until 2 AM.

Just as a disclaimer, although I don't think THIS dog park is good for THIS dog, I am sure there are good ones out there.  I can't imagine I'll ever opt to use one again given the things I now know and have experienced, but I suppose, like all things, they have their place in some people's lives.

 Now just some training information/upcoming things:

  • Been working on back crosses all week.  She can do it better when she's on my right side as opposed to my left.  She is getting better with each day, though, and I hope to be able to do backs over jumps at class next week.
  • Been keeping up with Rally to some degree, too.  Working primarily on pivots.  Need to work on attention, too.. I feel with all the behavior mod stuff we've been doing, the nice heel that she had back in April for the CGC is pretty much kaput.  Still waiting to hear when the run-through will be at the Agility field, though it's looking like we most likely will not be trialing in August.
  • Would like to start having Marge meet some new people again, even if it's just treat giving.  Again, this is something we did to death during the CGC, but haven't done as much of lately.  Since our last Petsmart visit was successful, I'd like to go back during the next week or so, again during a quiet time of the day.  Although the smaller stores would generally be better for actually talking with people, they usually scare the heck out of her.  So, Petsmart it'll have to be.
Going to have a pretty busy few days ahead of me, so I might not be around much.  I hope all of you have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Manning the Fort

My sister, an avid amateur photographer, wanted to go down to Fort Wadsworth today to take pictures with the fancy-shmancy big camera that my dad still has from his own photog days. I, on the other hand, was perfectly fine being delegated to my Canon point-and-shoot and took the opportunity to get some of my own shots of Marge.

She was a little unsure of the place at first, but warmed up a little bit when she saw a man chowing down on his dinner nearby. She then proceeded to sniff all over and try to climb on things like she always does.

(Yeah.. Marge ignored the Caution sign.)

I didn't know it when we got there, but they maintain a population of goats on the fort to keep down the weeds. There were a good number of them hanging over the cliff above us. They looked at Marge curiously and wagged their tails. I don't know what it means in goat language, but it was funny and intimidating all at the same time.

Marge, too, didn't know what to make of them. If they were closer, I think she would have tried to bark and scare them off. She investigated a bit, then looked worried (kids were nearby, too) so we moved away.

We spend the rest of the time on a rolling green hill, with the Verrazano Bridge sitting right next to us. (+1 to Marge for not having a care in the world about the noise it created!)

Over all, I think she enjoyed the visit. She especially loved running up and down the big hill. I was going to bring her 20' leash, but I felt a bit weird about breaking the law, which technically states that dogs much always be on a 6' leash or less, while on government property. She had a good time, anyway. I'm just glad I didn't get yanked down the hill onto my face!

As a side note, I think Marge is feeling better. We did some Agility in the backyard today, and while she wasn't 100% on the jumps, she did them, and she was fine with the other stuff (stair contacts, weaves, flatwork). It was much cooler here, thank goodness. Otherwise, we lounged around most of the day and romped in Miller Field in the afternoon.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lethargic Marge

It's been intesting over here at the Marge household.

Marge is VERY mopey, very sedentary during the day. I've been getting up, taking her on her 10 minute morning walk, and she is literally set until the evening. She doesn't want to do anything.

It was been hot, but not terribly so. However, the air conditioning hasn't been on, so the house has been sitting at a toasty 82-ish degrees the past couple of days. This may be a factor - she does not tolerate heat - especially humid days - well at all.

She slept all day yesterday, barely even asking to be fed. And THAT's a big deal, because we all know Marge is absolutely bonkers about her food. We did go to the park around 7:30 PM, though, and she livened up considerably.

Today was essentially the same. Moped around all day (although more excited about her food than yesterday), until I got her out of the house for Agility.

Agility was interesting.. she wasn't unwilling to train, but she was easily distracted (but no real reactive incidents, so that's a plus) and tired pretty quickly. Went over the A-Frame, Dog Walk, and even teeter with enthusiasm.

But the jumps.. oh, she really wanted nothing to do with them. We did a simple straight jump sequence to (try to) practice crosses, and while she did it, she didn't have her normal zip - the zip that got us through a 12-jump complicated sequence last week. Before the end of class, it was even worse.. she didn't pay attention at all and actually went bounding over to another dog at one point instead of waiting for my release in front of a jump.

Yet, when we came home, she had absolutely no reservations about running at top speed in Miller Field. She looked completely normal.. it was almost as if she released all of the energy she had saved up during the day.

So the pessimist in me is wondering whether something is bothering her physically.. the optimist in me is chalking it all up to the summer weather. Thoughts?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Our Weekend

Yippee! We actually had a fair bit of success this weekend.

Our holiday brought some family members back over the house. Marge had already previously met them, and although there weren't quite as many people, the activity surrounding the 4th of July brought added challenges. While we usually wait outside for our guests to arrive, especially when there are large numbers of them, we couldn't do that this time because the fireworks started early. So, instead, I sent Marge downstairs in the basement to my sister with a yummy stuffed Kong. Once everyone was inside, she came back up.

She did beautifully with them all, I'd say. She didn't annoy anyone at dinner (she usually likes to single out the weakest link and beg like there's no tomorrow) thanks to a braided bully stick that she ate about 20 feet away.

The fireworks only affected her badly at night. There were a few stray ones during the day, but they weren't loud enough to cause her any bother. She hunkered down under my sister's desk for most of the night (10ish to about 3AM) until it ended. She didn't get panicky, just gave a couple of shivers at one point. She was still able to go out for potty breaks and had no trouble accepting treats.

I bought her this stuff on Friday as a water additive. It's similar to Rescue Remedy in that it contains flower essences and not much else. It was cheap, and the guy who sold it to me told me he used it on his dog with no ill side effects many times before. It was a rash decision and the product either didn't do anything or helped minimally. If anything, I should have bought the DAP wipes that he offered me, but at 4PM the day before the 4th of July, I confess my mind just probably wasn't all there. I was freaking out, thinking she was going to panic like crazy. Thankfully, she didn't.

Over all, though, I'd say I handled the day well. She was with either my sister or me for the entire day and through the worst of the fireworks, and I refused to use the Ace that my vet prescribed to me. I am SO glad I stuck to my guns on that one.

Today was the last day of Rally class. We definitely need more practice, but we've got most of the signs nailed. There is a UKC trial coming up in August that I'm not sure whether we will enter or not. But I'll save this all for another post, as we're going to have a Rally run-through day at the agility field, and it is then that I'll likely make my decision.

On a HUGE positive note though, Marge was EXCELLENT in terms of comfort and sociability tonight at class. She said hi to Chase, the BC, before we entered the building, and did so gingerly and with ease. (I'm telling you, she has a thing for hairy male dogs.) She also PLAY BOWED to two other dogs, one of which being the GSD female who we've been hanging around while waiting on the sidelines. That earned her lots of treats. Again, we kept it short and sweet, since she DOES and likely always will have some level of fear of strange dogs sniffing her from behind. But they were great successes and a great way to end a class that has definitely been one of our biggest challenges yet.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Notes from the Past

Let me start out by playing the blog game that Anna from Pooches for Peace tagged us to play in. We were supposed to find the 6th picture in the 6th folder in our computer's pictures section and tell the story behind it.

I had to use my Photobucket. I tried using my PC's picture folder, but the picture had nothing to do with dogs so I decided against it. It was of my friends and me at a park last summer.

Here's what I came up with. It is a picture of a little lady Doberman who was out on a joyride at the park in May when I went to volunteer at the agility trial. She ran the most ridiculous zoomies I have ever seen. Since the entrants had to begin warming up their dogs, I offered to walk around and look for her owner. Sure enough, I stumbled upon a house on a neighboring street with the door open, and opted to ring the bell. It was her owner - who said this was not the first time the dog's gotten out, and that it was her kids' fault for leaving the door open.


Thanks for letting us play! I know we're supposed to tag people, but if you haven't played and feel like you want to, consider yourselves tagged. You have to find the 6th picture in the 6th folder of wherever, and tell the story behind it.

Anyway, now back to my Marge.

Sue from the Portuguese Water Blog asked how much I knew about Marge's previous life before I got her.

Marge is originally from Ellijay, Georgia. After speaking with one of her original rescuers, Linda, from the now-closed Noah's bArk Pet Rescue, just after we brought her home, I found out some things about her.

Her and her mother and littermates (there were 7 pups in total) were brought to the Cherokee Country Animal Shelter when the pups were just days old. The rescue, Noah's bArk, pulled the lot of them from there. One puppy and the mother found homes in Georgia. Apparently, they had "Beginner Obedience" training, but I'm not sure how extensive that was.

Their bio (which I have, it came in my adoption folder) states that they were born on June 28, 2007. They were raised, supposedly, around people and other animals; however, if I remember correctly, Linda openly admitted to my father over the phone that the puppies were not well-socialized with men. If I'm not mistaken, Linda told me directly that her husband was gravely ill at the time the pups were with her, so I am wondering if extra measures were taken to keep them away from him - hence making men scary, because the pups could only see him, but weren't allowed to interact.

Another rescue, Homeward Bound, took the six remaining pups into their care when Linda herself became very ill. I have been trying to contact them for a while, but my e-mails have gone unanswered - they either don't remember the pups, don't check their e-mail, or don't want to be bothered.

I did get to speak with someone from the rescue, a member nice enough to answer the questions that I posted to their Facebook group. Though she didn't remember the litter of pups explicitly, she did tell me the following:

"Often, the President of our group transports many dogs (sometimes 60+) from Georgia to a rescue agency in the northern States. We do this because Georgia has a serious pet over-population problem. Most Animal Control facilities are high kill shelters, and even the best behaved dogs have trouble finding homes. Even adopting out puppies can be difficult. In the north, the population problem isn't as severe, and the dogs have a much better chance.

We get the dogs from different places. Sometimes we send up our own dogs if they are having trouble getting adopted, or we take dogs from other groups. Usually though, the dogs are pulled from different Animal Control facilities before they are euthanized. That's usually the case with litters of puppies. Your dog was probably in a high kill shelter and had limited days.

The dogs are transported on a bus lined with dog crates. It's usually about a 14 hour journey.

Since we transport so many dogs, its hard to keep track of them specifically. I'm sorry I can't tell you more, but I hope I provided some of the information you were looking for."

She wound up at the shelter I used to volunteer at (it, too, closed, but the rescue itself is still in existence as a foster network) circa June 21, 2008. I have a copy of the paper that signed the dogs over. I remember them coming late in the night -- apparently, they were supposed to be taken somewhere in New Jersey (I believe a Petsmart?) but that particular place had no room for them. It does get kind of fuzzy at this point.

But, that's basically what I know about Marge's early life. Though her father may have very well been a feral dog, I truly believe her fear problems are mostly environmental - or, at least, her environment was not conducive to the formation of a well-socialized animal. She was practically born into the shelter system.. I think I'd be afraid of people after that, too. Especially after a 14 hour bus ride up North. All I can think is if there were so many dogs in that vehicle, I highly doubt they were even given a break halfway. It was probably awful - but, necessary, of course, to save them.

Brittany from Stella & Roo's Blog asked where Marge got her name from.

I actually didn't pick the name Marge for Marge. She came with the name. If I had to guess, the rescuers at Noah's bArk were the ones who originally chose it. She is named after Marge Simpson, since the litter followed a Simpsons theme - with Lisa, Bart, and Homer as names as well. But I usually ignore that, as I'm not really a Simpsons fan.

We originally had plans to change the name, and I contemplated a good bunch of names before Marge actually got to my house - Maggie, Maddie, Misty, Miley. Maggie was the frontrunner since it was so similar. There was also the idea of simply calling her "Margie" to somehow spice up "Marge" a little bit.

But, true to my nature as an awful chooser of names (I can never make a decision, hence Layla the cat still being Layla ten years later), we realized pretty quickly that the name Marge was going to stay. We tried out Margie in the beginning (and my neighbors and Grandmother still call her that) but it never stuck appreciably.

I like the name Marge. (I was actually just telling this to my Agility instructor on Tuesday.. she, too, was wondering where the name came from.) I think it is unique and cute in its own way. I think it fits her.. she just doesn't seem like a Blackie or Maggie or Princess or Roxy, etc. She's just Marge. It brings a smile to my face every time I say it.

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