Tag Archives: pets

Annie the adventurer…who knew?

Every time Annie does something remotely “dog like”, I take note.

Behaviors that might seem completely normal and maybe even annoying in other dogs, are behaviors that she is learning.  She wouldn’t take a treat from my hand.  She wouldn’t come into the same room with me.  She wouldn’t go through new doorways.  She wouldn’t go upstairs.  She wouldn’t voluntarily leave her crate. She wouldn’t leave our yard to go to the car or for a walk. Slowly, as she got more comfortable with us and her new home, she started doing these things.  One day at time.  Sometimes she would regress, and we would start over, trying to make her comfortable.

She still won’t roll over for a belly rub. She still barks out of fear when someone other than my husband or I walks through the door, even if it’s someone she knows well.  She still hides behind me when we are out for a walk and someone is walking towards us.

Imagine my surprise Sunday morning, when I heard a commotion at the front door.  Maisie and Winn were crowded together with their tails were wagging and I could tell they either saw someone on the sidewalk or even on the porch that they knew.  Annie was in the middle of the living room barking her alarm bark.

I went to the door and my next door neighbor was there.  He didn’t ring the bell but when I opened the door, he said one of them was wandering outside in front of his house and he had just brought her back. Winn had recently brought in the paper and maybe I didn’t latch the door all of the way.  I was a little surprised, but thanked him for returning the rascal.  I figured it was Maisie.  As he turned to go down the stairs, he said “it was the dark one”.  The dark one!  I said, “Annie?”. “Yep”.

I couldn’t believe it!  I was cleaning the bathroom when I heard her barking, and that’s when I went around the corner and saw the other two with their wagging tails at the door.  Apparently he had returned Annie, she ran inside and then started barking which led the other two to check out whatever was happening.  I can not believe she actually left the house and went for a stroll.  That is something completely new!

I certainly don’t take it lightly that she got out, but there is a part of me that can’t help but smile because it’s one more little sign that lets me know that she is confident enough in her surroundings that she thought she would go say hello to the neighbor.

Water Weekend Wrap-up

I went into this weekend not knowing what to expect.  I had volunteered to steward, stating that I would be happy to do whatever was needed.  I was there to learn, and I thought the best way to do that was to be involved.

I’ve always loved being near water, but I get a little nervous about what may wrap itself around my legs.  When I found out I would be in the water, I smiled and said to myself “buck up, nothing is going to bite you”.  It was the best experience I could hope for! To be in the water, and see these dogs swimming out to save and rescue a “drowning” victim were among the best moments of the day for me.

Newfoundlands LOVE the water, and even though I suspected some of their owners were not keen on getting wet, they were willing to do it for their dogs.  This proved to be an activity of incredible bonding and the stimulation of their working dog instincts.

As the day went on, one thing became clear. Everyone here was doing it to have fun with their dogs and the titles were secondary.  I think these pictures show that beautifully.

 

 

At the end of day 1 I was exhausted.  I had gone out and treaded water in a really strong current 9 times.  At this point, I was feeling cold and clammy, my muscles were wobbly and I wrapped myself in a towel to wait for the final WRD entrant.

The last two dogs were both in season, one for WD and one for WRD.  The WD would go first so I needed to wait until she was done before I would do my final exercise as a steward.

I had seen the owner much earlier in the day for check in and early morning meetings and then she disappeared to wait off site with her dog until it was time for them to compete.  I had heard her say it was their first water test and she seemed very nervous. As I watched her do a quick pre-swim with her dog, I must admit, I assumed they would not pass.  9 dogs had already tried with just 1 able to get their Water Dog title.

I was feeling weary, and had put my camera away for the day.  This would be the first one I actually would watch all the way through without being behind my lens and I’m so glad I did.  When I’m taking pictures, I don’t notice what else might be going on outside my viewfinder.  This time, I was able to watch not only the dog and handler, but also the judges and the other spectators around me and it was a very special experience.

When they started with Basic Control, they went through it together as a perfect example of what controlled walking should be. Luna was close to her hip the entire time and automatically sat when her handler came to halt.  Prior to the stay and recall exercise, I heard the judge ask her if she was ok.  She said she just needed to catch her breath, her heart was racing.  She seemed like a picture of complete control, but was still so nervous!

Single Retrieve was quick and efficient, the first two exercises were easily passed.  While they waited for the canoe to clear the area after they placed the boat cushion, I watched her kneel by her dog, whispering in her ear, giving constant hand signals until they were given the start signal.  Luna charged out, grabbed the cushion and returned it to her handler on shore.  Later I heard her say she was nervous about that one.  She had to borrow a boat cushion from Ashley and Cass because they had only practiced with a life jacket.

Now it was time for the Take A Line.  This had been a tricky one for most dogs, and everyone on the beach was watching.  I heard one of the event organizers pacing behind me, whispering that she was so nervous for her.

After quick introductions to the steward and waiting patiently for their signal, Luna struck out with the line just as she should. When she was almost to the steward she turned back, and her handler became louder and more animated as she redirected her to go back and go around the steward.  Luna turned around, headed toward the steward and then once again turned too soon to go back to shore.  One more time she was quickly redirected and this time followed the steward’s calls and splashes as she worked her way around and then headed to shore.  The cheers on the beach erupted, we were all invested  in the success of this young team!

Only 2 exercises left, Tow A Boat and Swim With Handler.  For Tow A Boat, Luna swam straight out, grabbed her bumper and turned to pull the boat back to the beach.  Her handler was exciting to watch.  She was making pulling motions with both of her arms screaming “pull, girlfriend, pull”  “you got this” “almost there” “pull, pull, pull”. I  think we all assumed if she could do this, we were looking at a new Water Dog!

Swim With Handler seemed like formality and as Luna towed her handler back to shore, the joy on beach was electric.  As they climbed out of the water, her handler burst into tears of joy, and I have to say, so did many of us.  We had just watched something truly special.

I don’t even remember my final time in the water for the Life Ring exercise.  I was so energized and preoccupied by what I had just seen.  This was the most perfectly photogenic moment and team, and while I don’t have any photos I know that I will be able to visualize it clearly for a very long time.

On my way to my car, I stopped by to congratulate her and told her what it joy it was to watch her and Luna master their first water test.  I wish I had told her that she was an inspiration.  She and her husband had worked with Luna on their own and hadn’t trained with a water group.  They focused on obedience and land work because they were only able to get in the water 6 or 7 times this summer.  I had wondered if it was possible to train alone and she had just proven that it was.

Winn is young so I didn’t try to find a training group this summer, and I have met people to train with next year, but I tend to be a loner so until we join a group, we will keep doing our work together with the plan of entering the Water Dog test next year.

 

 

 

 

Water Weekend part 2

After 9 of the 10 junior level Water Dog entrants had finished, it was time for a lunch break and then the senior level Water Rescue Dog exercises would begin.

So far, only one new Water Dog title had been awarded, but several of the dogs from day 1 would try again on day 2.  The final dog that was left was in season (heat) and allowed to compete, she just had to do it at the end of the day once all of the other dogs had taken their turn.

The WRD exercises build on the skills from the junior level and are more complex. The 6 exercises are: Directed Retrieve, Retrieve Off A Boat, Take A Life Ring, Underwater Retrieve, Take A Line/Tow A Boat and Rescue.

I was excited to see this group since part of this test involved jumping off of a boat and I had my camera ready!

The dog featured in most of the pictures is Anna.  She was a rescue that was adopted when she was about 2 years old. She started training once she was with her new family and was here to re-qualify, meaning she had already gotten her title and was doing it again.  She was amazing to watch! She charged through each exercise with speed, enthusiasm and perfection and showed everyone on the beach that she could do each exercise as it was intended.

  1. Double Retrieve: 2 stewards row out and drop a life jacket and a boat cushion. Each item is retrieved and delivered to their handler in a specific order determined by the judges.IMG_6431

    Anna was so fast with each item, I didn’t catch the signals that she was given! Being expected to do it in a certain order by following their handlers’ signals was amazing to watch.  A couple of dogs, mixed up the order and this dog had to deal with a big current that swept his boat cushion out of the area but he went for it and brought it back after a much farther swim than expected.

  2. Retrieve Off A Boat: The dog leaps off of the boat to retrieve a floating paddle and returns it to their handler in the boat.

    I also need to feature this guy who had such a beautiful jump and held his paddle high in the air as he returned to the boat.  He was also a re-qualifier.

    What can go wrong? I quickly learned that not all dogs are that eager to jump!

    This sweet girl proudly brought her paddle to shore.IMG_6138

  3. Take A Life Ring: The dog carries a life ring out to a “drowning” victim who is splashing and calling for help.  He must ignore two other swimmers who are quietly bobbing nearby (I was on of those swimmers) and then tow the victim to shore.  Clarence is featured for this exercise.

This was a tough exercise. A couple of dogs went to the quiet swimmers rather than the calling swimmer and returned to shore without a victim.

4. Underwater Retrieve: The dog retrieves a sunken item from elbow deep water and delivers it to their handler. Once again, Anna was so fast I had a hard time catching it but I did get some good pictures of another boy excitedly doing this exercise.

5. Take A Line/Tow A Boat: The dog carries a line out from shore to a waiting boat. The steward grabs the line and the dog turns and tows the boat, beaching it on shore.

Just like take a line, and take a life ring, this exercise was very challenging and most of the dogs weren’t able to pass.

6. Rescue: The dog must leap from a boat to his handler who is calling him from the water, then the dog tows his handler to shore.

This was a dramatic way to finish the test and I loved seeing these dogs leap to their owners’ rescue!

Anna re-qualified both days for her 4th and 5th time!

IMG_3978I was so impressed with what I saw over the weekend. Tomorrow I will share some really sweet moments between different owners and their dogs as well as the story of a dog that I found very inspiring.

What is going on?

Yesterday, I had a post ready to go. The working title was It’s official, Annie is a city dog!

I was snapping some pictures to add to my post when I realized that perhaps things are different from what I originally thought.

The theme of the story was that Annie grew up and lived in the country before she came to live with us.  Unfortunately, for most of her life, it wasn’t the idyllic existence that one would think of for a country dog.  She and many other dogs lived in rural Michigan in an area without an animal warden. Care and conditions were terrible and there wasn’t anyone around to inspect or enforce violations.  Once she got into foster care, she was exposed to a wonderful country life with open land to explore, a pack of 6 other dogs to play and bond with as well as love, affection, vet care and regular feedings from a wonderful family.

Transitioning to our city life took her a while but she has embraced it.  We have a nice sized fenced yard and we are a couple of blocks from a bustling downtown with restaurants, shops, bakeries and coffee shops.  Walk a few blocks in a different direction and we are on the shores of Lake Michigan.  Annie loves our walks, whichever route we may take although she is always cautious and alert when we are passing strangers along the way.IMG_1364Annie’s favorite place is our backyard.  She has learned how to let herself out and will come and go to her heart’s content.  We have 3 huge, old oak trees that provide lots of shade and she is perfectly happy to lay at the top of the deck stairs or curl up in her favorite dirt hole and sniff the air before falling into a deep, contented sleep. We have plenty of small animals that enter our yard including bunnies, squirrels, chipmunks, possums and occasionally a skunk or raccoon.  She has never paid attention to any of them nor has she exhibited a prey drive.IMG_2941Imagine my horror when I opened the door Monday to let everyone inside before I left the house to run some errands and there stood Annie with a floppy, bloody, dead rat in her mouth. Yes, a rat. The most vile creature ever to walk the planet. Living near restaurants and water means that there are also rats in the area but until this summer I have been blissfully unaware of whatever may be lurking on the other side of our fence.

Two things happened this summer to encourage this invasion into our yard. First, two houses away, a dilapidated, dark and unused garage was torn down to make way for a new, modern garage with an upstairs apartment. There were rumors that rats had taken up residence there but I never saw them so I chose to pretend that they didn’t exist. Second, we replaced our fence and gate shortly before we picked up Winn.  Our old gate brushed against the sidewalk, the new gate has a pretty large gap between the sidewalk and the bottom of the gate which would allow small animals easy access to the yard.IMG_2937We started to suspect that a rat or two (I know, you see one rat and you actually have many more) were wandering into our yard about a month ago. Maisie loves to play with all creatures big and small and has been spending a lot of time sniffing and pacing in the bushes along our fence line with Winn hot on her trail.  Annie has ignored all of their excitement.

When I shrieked at Annie to drop the rat, and she did, Winn was right there eager to pick it up.  Fortunately she responded well to my hysteria and also dropped the rat and everyone ran inside avoiding my attempts to grab their collars to hurry along the process.

Once I caught my breath, I couldn’t help but wonder who had killed the rat? Maisie has picked up lots of small critters but has never killed them.  She wants to love and play with them.  Annie doesn’t have any front teeth and has never shown any interest in chasing or catching them.  Winn is interested in everything and while she did drop a baby bunny when I told her to, she wasn’t allowed the time to figure out what the natural next step might be.  Had she done it when I wasn’t around to stop her?IMG_5313I was betting on Winn but then, when I let them out later Annie was the one that was running around excitedly sniffing the bushes, around the planters and all along the fence line.  It seemed that she was the one that had scored the rat and was very proud of herself. She had officially become a city girl by catching a city rat.IMG_5316The next day, I had my camera ready when Annie and Winn gathered together and were sniffing around the same spot.  I thought it was cute and stood away from them snapping pictures when I began to get suspicious.  The were very curious about something in the dirt but so far, their mouths were empty.  I called them away and as they both came toward me, I was able to catch a glimpse of four small feet sticking out from under a plant close to the sidewalk.  Good grief, another one!  Upon closer inspection, I could tell that it was a squirrel.  I had more questions because neither one of them wanted to pick it up, they just looked at it, looked at each other and then looked at it some more. Were they leaving it alone to avoid more shrieking?

My new working theory is that there is a predator cat in the alley and these maimed creatures are making a quick escape into our yard by squeezing under the gate.  Then again, the squirrel could have just fallen out of the tree.  I’ve seen that happen before…