Summer fun in the water

I knew that Winn was something special when she spotted the newspaper on the sidewalk, made her way down the porch steps and brought the paper into the kitchen for a reward. She was only 4 months old! I had tried to show her how to do that two or three times a couple of weeks before but I didn’t think she was getting it and figured she was too young and we would try again when she was older. That was the first time that she showed me she really was absorbing what I was trying to teach her to do and could put it together at a later time.  I was instantly aware that I had a true working dog on my hands and we could explore all kinds fun activities together.

Last summer I observed some friends water training their Newfies and then I volunteered at our local Newfoundland Club’s annual water test. I had never been to a test before and was just beginning to learn about water work with Newfoundlands but after that experience I was hooked!

When I got home from that test, I knew it was something that I wanted to do with Winn so I purchased a recommended book that was dedicated to training for the three different levels of the water test.  We played retrieval games with bumpers and a life jacket.  I filled her wading pool with water so that she could dunk her face for carrots and hot dogs as well as diving rings. We went swimming in a doggie pool during the winter months, throwing in different articles for her to retrieve and even doing a little jumping off of the pool deck to encourage her playfulness in the water.

When spring rolled around, I was excited to actually start training for the test. We have good friends who have enjoyed doing water and draft work with Newfies for many years.  They were teaching a water work seminar for the Central Ontario Newfoundland Club over Memorial Day Weekend and I decided that would be a great way to spend the weekend with our friends, learning new skills and being surrounded by fellow Newfie lovers.

They went through each of the different exercises and showed us how to break them into small segments.  We learned tips and tricks to practice on land as well as in the water, and each exercise was introduced to each team individually in a gentle and fun way.

Land work: practicing going out and around and revving her up by having fun with her fetching articles.

Learning Take A Line, one of the most difficult exercises:

Introducing the boat, taking treats and pulling it in:

Swim With Handler, our favorite exercise that we had been doing all winter at the indoor doggie pool:

When we returned home, we had to wait a few more weeks for the weather to cooperate but we were invited to train with two other families at a nearby lake.  We spent almost every Saturday or Sunday with them and Winn took to it amazingly well.  We each took turns with our dogs, helping each other out with exercises by acting like a drowning victim, dropping articles in the water or rowing the boat. IMG_8075.jpgAs the weeks passed, Winn was executing everything really well.  When she was first learning Take A Line, we put a long line on her to help guide to the caller, then swim around them and back to shore.  After only 2 or 3 times with the long line, she understood what she was supposed to do and after that I didn’t put the long line on again. She was great at retrieval, was starting to understand Tow A Boat and was perfect with the Basic Control exercises.  I even found myself giving tips to others on heeling and recall!IMG_7773Once I was pretty confident with our skills, I started getting more excited about entering a water test.  There were several tests planned in our area, all on different weekends so I started filling out the paperwork and entered 4 different tests with the hope of getting into and competing in 2 or 3.  In addition to our own club’s test which would be the last one of the summer, we got into one in Indiana and one in Michigan.  I really hoped that we would have success in at least one of them.

We continued practicing, fine tuning each exercise so that we were doing what was needed to pass and building her strength and stamina.  She wore a life jacket during practice and I was planning on taking it off and doing a full practice run of the test the week before our first water test in Indiana. I wrote a post a while back explaining why Newfies wear life jackets when they train and you can read that here. Everything was going according to plan until the night before that designated practice and Winn went into heat!  I knew it was coming sometime soon but I didn’t expect it that night.  We would have to stay home and wouldn’t have any more time in the water until we showed up for our first test.  I would just have to cross my fingers and go for it. That would add an extra layer of difficulty, she would most likely be more distracted and would have a harder time focusing on me.  I had also severely sprained my ankle the week before and had skipped practice.  By the time we tested, it was 3 weeks since we had been in the water and she wouldn’t be cleared to practice again until 2 weeks after we got back and that was the weekend of the Michigan test.  It was time to have faith in our skills and go out and have a good time no matter how it may end up!IMG_8091next post: our first water test!

National Black Dog Day

Today, October 1st, is National Black Dog Day.

This holiday was created to bring awareness to the plight of black dogs in shelters and Black Dog Syndrome.

Black dogs can take up to 4 times longer to get adopted than lighter color dogs.  There are several reasons for this starting with the mistaken impression that black dogs are more aggressive than other colors.  Any dog lover can tell you that hair color does not determine personality!

Black dogs are harder to photograph, so when shelters post pictures of black dogs it can be harder to see their facial features and people searching online will pass them by.  Black dogs also don’t show up as well in the shelters, they blend in with the shadows and if they are shy or scared they may stay in the back of their kennel and are less visible and once again it can be harder to see their facial features.

Personally, I love black dogs and my world wouldn’t be the same without them!  I have a lot of black in my wardrobe, and black hair blends in far better than light hair on my dark-colored pants.

We have had two black rescue dogs, Charlie and Annie and would like to give a shout out to some of our favorite black rescue dog friends.  We are so glad your forever families didn’t give a hoot about Black Dog Syndrome and took you home to give you your wonderful lives!

We love you Precious, Sammy Davis, Lance, Elsa, Eivor, Mona, Sugar, Rosie, Anna, Geordie, Luna, Barley and so many more!The Perfect Spot for

 

Puppy Mill Awareness Day

Puppy Mill Awareness Day

Today is Puppy Mill Awareness Day and I must shine the light onto Annie.

We adopted her when she was 9 1/2. She had been in foster care for a year after being rescued along with 43 other senior and sick Newfoundlands from a puppy mill that had been in business for decades.

I had a feeling she would need some extra loving when we brought her home. We had adopted rescue dogs before, but I had never been exposed to such a deeply traumatized dog.

The first few weeks were difficult, really difficult.

The best way to describe her would be completely shut down.  Her eyes were vacant as they darted side to side, nervously watching everyone around her. She trotted around in circles, not  coming directly toward me if I called her.  She didn’t like narrow spaces, going through doorways, stairs or getting into the car.  She would put on the brakes and become dead weight until she was ready to do something.

She was terrified of men, especially young men and anyone in a baseball cap.

She didn’t like going outside by herself, especially at night.  I would walk beside her in circles around the yard to try to get her to go potty.  In the beginning, she preferred a spot in the house where no one could see her.  She found that easier than having to go through the door and venturing outside. I learned to watch for certain subtle signals and I would walk with her to the door so that we could go out.

She would sneak out of her crate and watch me from afar, but if I caught her eye, she would run back to her crate and hide.  The only time I could call her out of her crate was feeding time, when I would set her bowl down in the kitchen.

I spent a lot of time sitting on the floor a few feet from her crate.  I would quietly read or work on my laptop, usually with some treats next to me and slowly, very slowly, she would start to move closer to the edge of the crate.  I knew we were making progress when she would stretch out in her crate or have her body half in and half out reaching for one of the treats.  Eventually she left her crate and made her way toward the middle of the room to stretch out on the rug.IMG_0995She always hid from visitors, choosing the safety of her crate. Often times she would start out barking, eventually stopping to listen to our voices. Occasionally she would make her way out so she could take a look at whoever was there.  Sometimes she was brave enough to join us in the same room, sometimes not.  Chances were better if the voices were all female.

Her leash was like a security blanket.  If her leash was on and I was holding it, she felt safe. If it seemed like she wanted to visit a room with strangers (peering in multiple times and waiting by the doorway), I would put on her leash and she would immediately come with me to say hello.  After scanning the room, she would then relax by my feet and go to sleep.

She was the bravest dog I’ve ever known.

Her life was so hard before she was rescued, but figuring out life after being rescued was hard too.

I slept on the couch in the same room with her for the first two weeks, I didn’t want to leave her alone in a strange, new environment and she wouldn’t come upstairs with us at night.

It took a few weeks til we started to see changes in her as she began to trust us.  She was so sweet, so gentle and so guarded.  I did my best to always use a soft voice with her and not make any sudden movements.  I let her take her time getting used to us and our house and eventually she relaxed and started to let us see more of her personality.

When she was ready, she finally climbed the stairs to an unknown part of the house and was rewarded with a big comfy bed. She had never had a bed of her own and she would snuggle into it every night, rub her face along the bumper and let out happy, groaning sounds.

She loved food of any kind and eventually was underfoot whenever we were in the kitchen.

She learned to love car rides, walks and little adventures but she always remained glued to my side.  She never strayed far from me, trusting that I would take care of her in every new situation.

I got used to having her by my side and at my feet, wherever I was.  She became my constant companion and her eyes were happy and filled with love.Version 2Last year, I wrote about the day she got her new rabies certificate that listed my name as her owner.  We were finally able to shed the last physical reminder of where she came from. That was such a memorable day for me. You can read about it here.

She blossomed in her final years but she was never fully able to exorcise her demons.  Every now and then, something would remind her of her previous life and I could see it in her response.

I say all of this because behind all of those cute, fluffy puppies in pet store windows and featured online, there is a mama that isn’t getting the proper care, love and affection that she deserves. I fell in love with one of those mamas, and she was unlike any other dog I’ve ever known.

My Brown Newfies has written an important post about how to spot a puppy mill puppy. It’s not specific to Newfoundlands, but to all puppies featured in newspapers, online, in pet stores or sold out of the back of a truck in a parking lot. You can read it here.

Shelters are filled with dogs that were purchased this way. Reputable breeders would never want one of their dogs to end up in a shelter and will always take their dogs back to find them a new home.  It’s usually stated in a contract that is signed at the time of purchase.  A reputable breeder will expect some sort of contact with you, the new owner. They want to know where their puppies are going and what their home life will be like. They most certainly would never sell to a broker or 3rd party.

So please, if there is a specific breed you have heart set on, do your homework and research breeders before you purchase that squirmy, fuzzy puppy.  If you aren’t allowed to meet the mama and see how she lives, don’t buy the puppy.

If you are in hurry to bring home a wonderful new family pet or don’t have a breed preference, check out your local shelter or rescue group.  I guarantee you will find a dog that will love you unconditionally and will fill your heart more than you could possibly imagine.IMG_2956

I have written more about Annie’s recovery and becoming a part of our family here.

 

 

Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day

Today is Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day.

The first dog that I fell in love with was Sabrina.  My parents brought her home right around my 10th birthday, so I always felt like she was a special present for me. She was a beautiful Malamute that made quite an impression on my family.  She gave us endless stories that still bring us laughs when we reminisce.

She was impossible to contain and she constantly escaped the yard to roam the neighborhood, leaving mischief and mayhem in her wake. She broke into multiple houses through doggie doors, doors left ajar, sliding doors that she could pull open and screen doors that she could push through. She knew when it was feeding time nearby and stole many meals from less assertive dogs. She ate one woman’s make-up, coming home with lipstick all over her face. My mother answered many phone calls from disgruntled neighbors. She hunted skunks and would bring them home and curl up with them in her dirt hole.  She smelled like skunk for months on end, we could never fully get the smell out before she would bring home another.  She preferred to be outside, especially in the winter.  We had her sleep inside but she let us know that she found it way too hot and would be happier in the yard. I can’t imagine how much trouble she would have caused if she wasn’t in the house at least some of the time! She was one of kind and I will never forget her.IMG_8259Bogart was my husbands bachelor dog and easily adapted to our growing and changing family.  He was so gentle but also had a talent for escaping and getting into things.  I wrote about him on National Mutt Day, you can read more about him here.7626C075-79E2-44B8-B7A1-9A8553501AABWhen we moved into our current house, there were two Newfoundlands in the neighborhood that I noticed while out for their daily walk.  I thought they were the most beautiful dogs I’d ever seen and after meeting and talking to their owners, I just knew that was the breed for me.

Bailey was my first Newfoundland. I wouldn’t describe her as having the typical Newfie temperament, she was loud, pushy and very domineering.  She respected me as the leader of our pack but she treated everyone else (human and canine) as be her underling.  I wish I knew then what I know now about training and handling a strong-willed dog.  She had the working instinct and she eagerly did her daily job of bringing in the paper. She also loved to carry in the groceries.  She would have been a wonderful Water Dog but at that time in my life I was consumed with raising my two young children and I was content to have Bailey as my house companion.  I didn’t take her out much, she wasn’t aggressive but she did try to assert herself as boss with other dogs and I wasn’t comfortable taking the risk of meeting another Alpha dog that would challenge her back. She behaved the way I wanted her to in the house and yard and I left it at that. She was the first dog that was all mine and I adored her.IMG_8258Charlie  was a Newfoundland/Labrador mix that we adopted several months after we said goodbye to Bogart.  Bailey was about a year old and we missed having two dogs. We think he was about three years old when he was found with another small dog in the woods in Tennessee and they were both transported to Illinois by a rescue group.  He was very thin when we brought him home and he was always a hunter, I assume because he lived in the wild before he was found.   We frequently found dead animals (squirrels, birds, possums and chipmunks) in the yard. He loved to be warm. He would curl up next to radiators and sit as close to the fireplace as he could get.  His fur would be hot to the touch, but he would be so content. He tried curling up with Bailey whenever he could but she was always hot and she would “kangaroo leg” him to get him to back off.  Bailey constantly bossed him around and he was pretty tolerant of her moods.  Occasionally he would let her know that he’d had enough and she would look so offended when he snarled at her.  She never really understood why there might be a problem, but they bonded well and depended on each other for the rest of their lives. Charlie curled up by my feet and died 2 weeks after Bailey died and I will always remember them together; they lived together and they died together.IMG_8257After losing Bailey and Charlie, I vowed to never again have two dogs close in age, the heartache was just too much.  When Maisie was three years old I found Annie.  Her age was presumed to be between 7-9 when she was rescued and she had been in foster care for a year.  After doing some internet research on my own, I believe she was 9 1/2 when we adopted her.  She was a puppy mill mama that was severely traumatized from years of abuse and neglect but she found a new life after she was rescued and blossomed in the two years that she was a part of our family.  The first time I heard the term “heart dog”, I considered all of my dogs as my heart dog, I love them all so much.  That was until I met Annie.  There was something very different about our bond, probably because she needed me so much and I was driven to show her as much love as possible to make up for all of the years that we didn’t have together.  She was very, very special and she changed me.  She made me a better person and those two short years were a lifetime for us. She will always be with me, she is my heart dog and I wish I had more time with her.IMG_1189

 

DIY Dry Shampoo for pups

The first time I  heard of dry shampoo was several years ago when my 10 year old girl Bailey was admitted to the emergency vet. She was lethargic and in obvious discomfort and we didn’t know why.  Thankfully, our vet directed us to the emergency vet where she was admitted in extreme gastric distress and was there for several days.  With each update that I received about her condition, a clean up using dry shampoo was part of her routine.

Recently, it seems like dry shampoo keeps popping up in trendy beauty tip lists and I was reminded that it could be a good thing to have on hand when the girls are in between grooming sessions and need a quick clean up.

When I was at the BlogPaws conference in April,   I spent some time talking to a rep for a brand that uses human grade, organic ingredients in their products. They have a dry shampoo in their line which led me to do a little research on dry shampoos and I decided to make my own. I have 2 recipes that I’ve been using, the first made out of ingredients commonly found in the pantry and the second made with ingredients that are slightly more expensive but extremely gentle and soothing for the skin.

DIY dry shampoo for pups

I have also used the first one as a carpet deodorizer.  Over the years, I’ve sprinkled straight baking soda on my rugs, let it sit for at least 10 minutes (or longer) and vacuum.  I decided to try the blend and I liked the extra fresh fragrance boost after I cleaned it up.

Easy as 1,2,3 Dry Shampoo

An easy, inexpensive DIY dry shampoo to keep your pups fresh smelling in between baths.  

You can also swipe this out of the grooming bag and use it on yourself!

(The most difficult step of this recipe is getting the label off of the spice jar.)

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup baking soda
  • 1/3 cup corn starch
  • 5-10 drops essential oil of your choice I chose a skin safe lavender blend
  • 1 empty spice jar

Instructions

  1. Measure equal parts baking soda and corn starch into a mixing bowl.  Add essential oil and stir slowly to avoid a dust cloud.  Increase or decrease quantities based on the size of the jar.

  2. Using a funnel, transfer mix into the spice jar. Be creative with your label.

  3. Sprinkle into fur, let sit a few minutes and brush through. The baking soda neutralizes odors and the corn starch absorbs oils and acts as a de-tangler.

Recipe Notes

*As with most household items, keep out of reach and do not allow your dog to ingest large amounts of this mix.  Ingesting large amounts of baking soda can be toxic to dogs.  Sprinkling small amounts on their skin is safe, but if you notice an allergic reaction, please call your vet.

Soothing dry shampoo for dogs

This recipe includes colloidal oatmeal which is soothing for itchy, dry skin. It is also moisturizing without being oily.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup arrowroot powder
  • 1/3 cup colloidal oatmeal
  • 5-10 drops essential oil of your choice (lavender, rosemary, citrus ect.)
  • 1 empty spice jar

Instructions

  1. Mix all of the ingredients into a bowl, stirring slowly.

  2. Using a funnel, transfer into a spice jar. 

  3. Sprinkle into the fur, let sit for a few minutes and then brush through.

Recipe Notes

This is a great alternative to the Easy as 1,2,3 recipe.  For a dog with allergies or sensitive skin, colloidal oatmeal is soothing and moisturizing.

Arrowroot has similar properties to cornstarch. 

You can make your own colloidal oatmeal by buying organic oats at the grocery store (not instant) and then grinding them in a food processor or grinder into a very fine powder.

a shared life with our very large dogs

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