Have I gone crazy!?

I live downtown in an itty-bitty apartment with not just one, but THREE children all under the age of 5 and my hubby. We have a cat. I work as a receptionist at a vet clinic seeing lots of puppies and kittens every day. You'd think I have my fix, right? WRONG! We end up opening our heart and our home to 2 rescues... and that's it! I must be dog-gone mad!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pepper's Foster Sister

So we have a new foster puppy, Mocha! Mocha is a husky (I think potentially german shepherd) mix, 9 months old. Brown and beautiful. She was brought into the rescue as a dog in the Montana Creek raid (if you haven't heard or read this story, click HERE!). She was a little puppy back then! Since January she has been adopted... and returned... 3 times. And I'm trying to figure out why!

We would keep her if we lived in a house and not an apartment. It's ridiculously hard not getting attached to such a beautiful big dog that is so good!

You see, Pepper was technically a rescue FAIL. Because she would've never gotten adopted. She is so "stranger shy" that no one would've come into our home, met with Pepper, and decided to keep her. One look at her growling like Cujo and they would be like, "Ew. Never mind." But she likes us, so I guess that makes her ok.

Mocha, on the other hand, is absolutely lovable (and gorgeous besides)! She is gentle with you, loves children and other dogs. She puts her head on your lap and looks at you with these gorgeous amber eyes and you melt. She is potty trained. She likes to chew but waits for you to give her toys. Or she'll bring something to you and stare at you to see if you tell her "leave it" or if it's ok for her to play with. When everyone is all mellow, she'll just grab a toy and lay down.

I mean, I live in an apartment. She's a husky mix. And we're doing great! That says something. Did I mention she's only 9 months old? So she's an adolescent husky mix (high energy gallore) and she's still very well behaved! She doesn't jump on furniture or on you. She rarely howls.

She does require daily walks, which are strenuous for me because she pulls on the leash... like a mushing dog. She just wants to haul all the time. So we go out for 45 minutes, only walk for about 15, and spend 30 minutes spinning in circles while she's training to loose-leash walk.

She deserves a fenced yard where she can bounce and frolic and play! And a home that will love her and work with her till the day she passes on.

Pepper likes her. I will put Mocha in her kennel for the night and Pepper will jump in and lie on her... and they cuddle for the night. Pepper grooms her (and it gets on Mocha's nerve). And they play tag all the time. Pepper still growls at her if she's going near her food dish or Pepper's cat (Leo, our actual cat. Which Pepper never gave a flip about, but she won't let Mocha near him). But she's more relaxed on our walks around Mocha. And I'm hoping that through this she becomes less and less shy. I want Pepper to be social enough to go to doggy day care and spend the day playing with other dogs and other people. I think Pepper is active enough, and she is a sweet dog, if she can get past her insecurities... maybe it takes a little buddy to help... or in Mocha's case, a bigger foster sister!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Thunderbird Falls

So we went hiking again, only I was disappointed that dogs couldn't be off-leash at this particular trail. So Pepper didn't enjoy it AS much but she hiked 2 hours up and down hill to the waterfall and back. She's terrified of water though (LOL).

She did ok! She even let some kids pet her! They asked me, and I had a chance to tell her to sit and the kids approached her and pet her around the face and she was ok! (YAY!) and then she sniffed other dogs. There was a pitbull on a choke collar that looked like he wanted to eat her and the owners cautioned me that he was dog aggressive... which wasn't easy because the trail is wet dirt road, with a cliff on one side, and doesn't give you room to go AROUND people. So I picked her up and we single-filed past him. But otherwise did ok. Constantly went by the baby to make sure the baby was ok.

I think she enjoys going with us off leash more. She was pulling a little bit, trying to get ahead, and had a bit of a cower the whole hike... I think she felt she was in trouble or something! But man we got home, I let her off the leash while we cleaned out the car, and she was running and jumping and still came to us whenever we called her.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Food Journey...

Raw? Science Diet? Orijen? Natural?

I thought I knew the answer... now I'm finding it's more of a game of whatever Pepper will eat.

I want her to be healthy. I want her to eat the healthiest possible for her, as a canine, and I quickly figured out by the bouts of diarrhea that the grilled cheese sandwhich Caleb snuck into her kennel is not optimal.

So we have a 25 lb bag of Natural Balance and she won't eat it. Unless I make it a soup w/ some chicken broth. I don't know how often I have chicken broth available, specially unseasoned and unsalted. Not to mention giving her mushy food does NOTHING for her teeth and her breath. So I'm willing to go with whatever works on her teeth.

I got a sample of a Science Diet formula ("Healthy Advantage") that is available through the vet clinic I work at. The kibble is a lot bigger, but she seems to like it. She has been eating every morning and night without adding anything to it. She also gets really excited if I hold the kibble in my hand and I use it for treats in training. She gets as excited about eating this kibble on my lap as she did pop corn. It isn't the most natural formula I've scene but looking at the ingredients it's not that bad (primary ingredient is protein, not corn). I feel like it's going against my core beliefs (LOL) so to speak, but it's working. She's eating. And she's not scavanging for left overs or scraps off my kids.

I like the fact that the kibble is formulated to give her something to work on and to clean her teeth, and she already has horrible teeth, so this is a plus.

I still prefer more natural diets for dogs. I wish she just liked natural balance or wellness and made my life easier. But ok. So I'm thinking that perhaps, I can do half kibble and half natural materials. So I'm not opposed to the raw diet but I am concerned about how it translates; I don't want my dog to get E.Coli, and I don't have the mental capacity to prepare the scientifically appropriate quantities of protein, fiber, and fat out of home-made ingredients... for a dog that weighs 10 lbs and eats about 1/2 cup of food a day. I don't even worry this much about my KID'S nutrition...

... Then again, I should interject that I know how to feed my kids. I know too much carbs will get them constipated, I know how to balance breakfast, lunch and dinner so that they eat all the protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber that they need. I can choose the kinds of cereal that they like and that aren't all sugar. I can offer them fruit instead of cookies as snacks, and replace their french fries at McD's with apple dippers... And they can always tell me when their tummy doesn't feel so good, or when it hits the spot...

However with Pepper, my furry child, it's not quite as simple. And her diet isn't just about her being fed, but it affects how much she poops (which I clean up), how much she SHEDS (aha! You didn't know that did you? With appropriate amounts of omega 3 & 6 fats your dogs should shed minimally), and how much energy she has. And other than her food bowl looking just as full 3 days straight, I have no freakin' clue what's going on with her!

Anyhow, back to raw... there is a co-worker that gets gravies and raw food frozen, and then you could thaw it and feed it exclusively as the only diet for your dog... or you can use it as topping or for special meals. It didn't sound that expensive to where I wouldn't be able to try it. Then again, I can probably find out these recipies for myself (except if I do that, her food wouldn't have pheasant or bison, LOL). I already tend to prepare "special" meals for her when I get a whole chicken. I'll boil all the chicken, the gizzards, with carrots and celery, but no seasoning at all. Then I take the chicken out, season it and bake it for the family meal. I give the gizzards (unless Paul eats them first), the broth, and the veggies to Pepper for about a week, every other day.

She loves raw carrots though... and that's something I can give to her AND the kids. The kids love carrots with ranch dressing. But they'll also eat fruit and bananas and stuff...

I guess my biggest worry when it comes to dog food is how much is marketing, versus how much is science and dog biology? I feel like every brand is just trying to sell me their food. In the human world, it doesn't work because I know what I want and what I need. In the dog world, how do I know they are not just lying to me to get me to spend money on them? Grrrrr....

Sunday, June 5, 2011

She's such a dork!

I guess I lost the muse to say anything else other than the fact that she's a dork! We haven't done much this week because of other activities going on this weekend. And we shall see how she does next Saturday at the Alaska Dog and Puppy Rescue Picnic.

She is afraid of helium balloons.

I've been trying to catalog the traits that are uniquely "Pepper" versus the traits that are associated with the breed. I have to look more into the breed.

Pepper is ultimately a cuddle bug. She just waits for you all day so that she can jump on your lap and snuggle against you. She waits for you to wake up so she could cuddle with you first thing in the morning too.

When you walk out the door, she looks at you leave as if you may never come back... you may be going on deployment for all she would know! But if you offer her to come along, her expression immediately changes to one of sheer joy and anticipation.

As lazy as she is indoors, she loves hiking and walking. She can definitely out-walk me! I don't do her energy level justice. She is an athletic little dog, that's for sure.

She squeals and squeaks until you are about to lose it - over food on your lap (if you make eye contact with her and give her the impression that you'll share), and to get out of the kennel. And when you get home. Then she has this deep "I'll kill you!" bark if there's someone knocking on the door or if you bring a stranger inside.

I can't teach her to "sit" worth a lick. She did it flawlessly for me ONCE. Then it went downhill from there. She squirms and howls and whines because you are giving her attention. In any other setting she just won't do it. But she comes pretty well - unless you are in the bathroom and the water is running... or if you have a dremmel or toothbrush in your hand.

So at "obedience school" she looks like an absolute moron - and makes you look like one too. However, most of the time at HOME she looks at you and acts like she understands what you are saying. For example, if I say goodnight to the kids, she goes into her kennel and lays down - like she KNOWS! And she responds to "get off me" and "come on up" perfectly. Complex commands like, "Go in the room and get Caleb (the 18 month old) out!" she does like english is her first language. "Sit" is a concept way above her head. "Don't you eat Leo's (the cat) food!" is one she's pretty good at - and she'll stare at me while holding a paw out towards Leo's food as if to say, "This one? I can't eat out of this particular bowl right here?" But in obedience school, "stay" might as well be alien.

At home she's a total cuddly-licky-face ball of cuteness with bad breath. In fact, she has a diamond spot on the top of her head, and whenever my husband or I "push the button" it's her cue to lick you all over the face. If I say, "Go get 'im!" she will tackle with dog kisses whoever I'm pointing to. But in public anyone that tries to touch her gets growls, possibly teeth, and a very fearful and stiff posture that warns you "I'm not quite sure what I'll do to you, but I'm letting you know I don't like you!" No one else likes her, that's for sure!

I wish people out in public would see the Pepper I see at home. *sigh*.

Today I gave her a bath. It took me a while to get her to come to me in the first place. But I put her in the bathtub, got her wet, and lathered her up. Then I finished her, but I forgot to get a towel for her. I told her, "Stay right there!" I leave the bathroom. Make sure my kids are in pjs and in bed. Search for a towel among the linen. Stop to pick up something off the floor. I come back to the bathroom and she is in the exact same position I left her at, only shaking a little bit!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I found my new hiking partner!

I am so ecstatic! I think I needed this Memorial Day Weekend to show me all the good things about Pepper and not just the things that she needs workin' on.

She acts HORRIBLE when I take her to work. She is not social with strangers AT ALL. She growls and looks pissy all the time - its kinda' embarrassing. And so when I take her out for walks I have to be extra careful because she will growl at kids running up to pet her or other adults that walk a little too close. We're trying... But she's afraid of strangers and it's something that might take a while.

Well this weekend we went for a hike. We figured that Monday was the day when everyone was heading home, so it would be calmer out in nature. We picked a trail with some altitude and away from traffic. We put the baby in a stroller, packed a back pack, and brought our kids along.

Well Pepper was stoked to get to go with us. She was happy during the car ride. She was pulling ahead during the trail. There was such a free spirit about her that I started contemplating...

We're the only ones here. A few hikers have walked past and she could care less. She's smelling every tree and plant and picking up the scents of bears and moose and all the animals that have walked past on this trail. She's perfectly comfortable around my kids. What if I let her off the leash?

What if she runs off and never comes back?! We'd never find her up here and she can outrun anybody!!

I don't think she'll run away. I think she's attached enough to me to come back. She's "come" every time I've asked her without fail... I'm going to give it a shot!

So I let her off the leash. And off she runs! She's so far ahead on the trail I don't even see but the speck of her. Paul yells, "What have you done?!" I yell, "Pepper! Come!" And off in the distance I see her spec turn her head towards me - and run right back faster than she darted off! She gets so much praise for coming back, that this becomes her routine without me saying a word. She would get a little ahead of all of us, then run back and greet all of my kids (sniff them, make sure they were ok), then sniff the baby in the stroller, then sniff me and get praised (some treats) for coming back.

It was such a joy to see her soooo happy! And when we stopped to take breaks she stopped with us. She was glowing with doggy joy, the kind of contentment you see when the retriever has a ball in his mouth? Or when a rottweiler has a huge bone to settle with? That kind of... victory. Seeing her that happy (and that well behaved) made all of us happy to hike with her.

In fact, the trip was so enjoyable that we know we will probably hike every weekend now - just because we all enjoyed going with her so much! My husband and I like the excercise, my kids like the adventure... and I think Pepper finds in it a sense of adventure too.

I found a reliable hiking buddy. And Pepper found something that boosts her self-esteem, an activity where she doesn't feel afraid or threatened, but she can be the Pepper I see at home when we play fetch or I get home from work.