Sunday, August 4, 2019

How to get a cat in the new millenium...


Finding a cat has changed a bit in recent years.  I have been catless at home for about a year;  my two litter brothers Toby and Tyler had somewhat suicidal tendencies that contributed to their passing. Between the two of them, they had seven (yes, seven) surgeries to remove GI foreign bodies...always the same thing.  I had a lovely training room for the dogs in my basement, set up with EVA foam "jigsaw" style matting for good footing for the dogs.  For some reason, the cats found this absolutely irresistible and over the years managed to  eat the edges off of 1600 ft2 of matting.  Keeping them upstairs wasn't an option, as no matter how carefully I cat-proofed they usually took about 20 seconds to find the hairband or month old bag of hot dog buns way on the back of the top of the fridge and get into trouble;  at least when they were downstairs I knew exactly what they'd eaten and usually knew pretty early when there was a problem.  I could have made them outdoor cats, but they probably would have been coyote food pretty quickly;  and they were not great candidates for clinic cats (plus we sure didn't need any more cats at the clinic anyway).  Many types of enrichment activities failed to distract them, many things designed to make the mats unattractive had no impact.  I even briefly considered removing some of their teeth...Tyler succumbed after his third surgery at 9 years old;  Toby survived four, though after the last one he spent a week in the hospital with a drain in his abdomen, trying to eat myself and my staff the entire time, and I told him I was pretty much done.  He eventually developed probable cancer in his abdomen, I was not about to do another surgery to find it and he was not a great candidate for aggressive treatment because he was such a terrible and aggressive patient (though a sweetheart at home) and so we called it quits when I no longer could keep him comfortable at age 10.  So I was not in a big hurry to run out and get more cats, plus I had the three clinic kitties to keep me happy.  I kind of figured one eventually would show up when the time was right.


Fast forward to this week.  I had lost Cory, my older sheltie in April at the age of 14 1/2, not unexpected as he had had some issues for several months, but still a tough pill to swallow.  It is never easy to lose a pet, but especially a competition dog who is also your teammate and is such a special, intense relationship.  I grieved for him terribly, but knew he had had a good life and had some peace.  Last weekend however, we diagnosed his son Robbie with a mass in his heart and despite starting chemo and doing all we could I lost him very suddenly on Friday.  Robbie was really at 9 years old in the prime of his performance career and I still thought of him as my "puppy";  he had finished his obedience and tracking goals but we were having a wonderful time doing nosework, working on a rally championship, and getting back to his first love the agility ring.  He had had exactly one sick day in his entire life up until now, so losing him was a terrible shock   And not only did I lose him, but also lost my whole coping mechanism which was always to spend time with my animals, as well as pretty much clearing my whole social calender which revolved around classes, training, and showing on the weekends.  For the first time in 30 years I had no animals in the house.  This morning was pretty rough.  I just could not stay in the house anymore alone.  Finding a puppy for competition is not an overnight proposition;  it will take a while and then it'll be at least a couple of years before we are ready to show in much of anything.  So the time seemed right to bring home a cat again;  and I really NEED a cat ASAP for my emotional support.  Cats are everywhere, shouldn't be too hard, right?   HAH!  

So, back in the 80s and 90s, getting a cat went something like this. (Don't judge me, I'm still more comfortable with my clothes from that era too).  Open door.  Cat is outside on porch.  "Honey, do you know whose cat this is?".  Cat refuses to go away.  Eventually over next few days give in, feed cat, let it in.  Voila, you are a cat owner.  Alternative route:  Every.  Single.  Walmart.  Or Kmart.  Or Kroger.  Take your pick.  On a summer weekend, SOMEONE would be in the parking lot with a box of kittens begging passersby to take one.  Or somebody at work found a cat that had kittens and bullied you into taking one.  

And actually Toby and Tyler were the first time in years I had actually gone looking for a cat.  (and don't let anyone tell you two cats are as easy as one, see above for my tale of woe.  NO MORE LITTERMATES for me.  Multiple cats, probably eventually.  But would you want your brother for a roommate for the rest of your life?  I rest my case).  They both came from one of our local county shelters who knew a sucker when they saw one and fed me the two kitten line;  plus who could leave one behind when there Stevie                                              only two?  SUCKER!

My first cat of my own Phinneas came to me as a fanbelt kitty through a summer job as I was leaving for vet school (he lived to be 19 and was the world's most easygoing cat).  When I bought my practice, I inherited Morris (one of my favorite cats ever) and Miss Kitty;  Mo even passed Phinnie and made it to 20.  Phinneas was joined at home by Hoppy, another fanbelt kitty tripod and Simba, who was tied to our front door one Saturday morning missing the tip of his tail.  (It is a law that if you work in veterinary medicine a certain percentage of your pets must be missing various body parts.  The dirty little secret of the profession is that we kidnap these cats, harvest their parts and leave them packed on ice in hotel bathtubs and these are the ones who track us down and blackmail us for alimony for the rest of their days).   Grouchie, my favorite all time cat, came to live at the clinic when my tech moved to England.  Stevie came to us when a former employee found him by her barn;  he was blind, broken jaw dangling, weighed about 3 lbs but of uncertain age (hard to age a cat whose teeth are lying on the floor- was he young and growing or just really THAT emaciated?).  But he was orange and purred...and as previously established, I am a sucker.  I am NOT an orthopod, but managed to fix the jaw, get him through the fatty liver syndrome from not being able to eat, he recovered his vision which was presumably from head trauma, and somehow never went back to be the barn cat that was supposed to be the agreement....Beetle and Ebony came to us when a good friend became terminally ill. And these are just the ones I kept, I've lost track of the similar cases we've found homes for, though with less and less frequency over the years.


So basically, finding a cat was never really a problem.  NOT getting stuck with lots of cats was much more the issue.  Fast forward to the new millenium of cat ownership.  First, you need a computer.  Finding a cat has a lot more in common with E-harmony and online matchmaking than with old style pet sourcing options.  Except you're not considered a pedophile if you are interested in the very young.  And, I've gotta say, have you LOOKED at some of those cat's photos on petfinder?  Let's just say if it WAS E-harmony you'd be thinking serial killer and be worried about waking up dead.  I am thinking of offering to go take photos for some of these groups because these poor kitties definitely need some glamour shots.

So yesterday in an attempt NOT to go home to an empty house, I stopped at our local Petsmart and braved the madness and chaos of pet adoption Saturdays to scope out the possibilities.  This was, of course, before I realized the necessity of a computer search first.  Obviously I was living in the era of singles bars and church singles groups, depending on your leanings.  It was pretty close to time for them to wrap up and most of the cats were horrified that I had not properly introduced myself online before just SHOWING UP like a savage. 

Tyler and Stevie

But there is no accounting for chemistry.  There were several very cute, very generic looking kittens doing very cute, generic kitten things.  There was also one very sorry, mangy looking, black cat who claimed to be 8 years old but I'm guessing was 13 if he was a day (doesn't it just figure that cat's are vain and liars just like people), with a giant jutting jaw presumably from a granuloma and cauliflower ears.  He reminded me of Jane Goodall's chimpanzee called David Greybeard.   But across the room  our eyes met...and he had some great lines.  He               Beetle
 really knew how to suck up to a                                                                                                     
girl.  I left without talking to anyone but kept thinking about that cat all evening.  He made me think of the country songs about the girls all getting prettier at closing time and last night I came in at 2 with a 10 but at 10 I woke up with a 2...when you have beer goggles OR tear goggles on, it's amazing what can look good.  But, hey, I'm not in the supermodel category myself so no judgement.

Ebony.  A very bitter, bitter Ebony.  

So this morning I woke up and was having a bit of a rough time.  I HAD to get out of the house and I really needed a cat today, if at all possible.  I am starting to develop a little more sympathy for people I may have judged in the past for buying pets impulsively.  Though I really had been prepared for this for a year, I was just waiting for the right time and now was definitely it.  I met my parents for lunch, confessed to my folly, and headed back to Petsmart.  The scruffy looking cat was still there, still looking like everything I had never wanted...but there was still just something about him.  We talked for a bit, had a little light petting, and I finally took the plunge and approached the rescue folks.  But there was one big was he with dogs?  Uh oh.  He needs to be an only cat, not good with other animals.  So our little flirtation ended, as eventually there would definitely be other animals. I just can't commit to monogamy at this time.   The kittens were still there and still cute, but apparently it is now a common thing to require you to adopt TWO kittens.  So they won't be lonely.  (Though I thought the whole point was he was supposed to keep me company so I  wouldn't be lonely...).  Oh honey.  Do I look like I was born yesterday?  (apparently not, but we'll get to that later in the story).  I've been down that road before and I am not doing a threesome- it's just you and me baby.  

So I had figured out last night that I had to check out the websites and I had backup options.  I trudged off to yet ANOTHER Petsmart in Newport, but this one only had four or five kittens, and most of them were pending.  The rest were female, and I am pretty much a hetero cat owner.  I like the boys and my forays into relationships with cats of my own sex have been much less satisfying (sorry Miss Kitty and Ebby).  

I was running out of options and starting to get a little panicky.  I am not exactly at my most sane and emotionally stable right now.  So I got on the expressway (which is a true test of commitment in a relationship, to get on the highway in Cincinnati in August means you have to have a cooler full of provisions, an extra gas can, and a week off of work).  And I drove to freaking MASON which for those of you keeping score is a good 45 minute drive if there's no traffic.  In Mason I went to Petco, where there actually were some really beautiful kittens, definitely the supermodels of the current inventory.  They were all pretty zonked from a weekend of voguing for the prospective owners and so personality was a bit hard to evaluate...but once again, they wanted them adopted in pairs.  No adult kitties there.  I did talk to their folks, but no one was authorized to make any exceptions and it was clearly going to be a fairly long and drawn out process to obtain one if it could indeed be done.  Did I mention that I really NEED. A. CAT. NOW.  I'm starting to feel like Jon Cusack in The Sure Thing and I may actually be willing to drive to California if necessary...

I have one last option and just about an hour to make it happen.  Did you know that there are actually cat cafes?  I am clearly in the wrong business because this is an absolutely brilliant business plan.  I headed off to the Kitty Brew, which took a bit of GPS wizardry to find in the basement on the backside of an otherwise respectable looking strip mall.  Kitty Brew is kind of the Bunny Ranch of the cat world, though I'm assured it's completely legal.  First you go into the coffee shop, where you buy a pricey beverage called something cutesy and cat related and then you pay.  Ten dollars.  To pet cats.  Which, for most of my life, including every damn work day, all day, six days a week, 52 weeks a year, I can do for free, or actually GET PAID FOR MYSELF.  But you know what?  They must put roofies or something in the beverages because I actually paid the man (a young, hip, Starbucks-y looking barrista who enthusiastically told me they had several different discounts including a senior discount and then only charged me $8.50, so apparently I do NOT look like I was born yesterday.  But still.  8.50 to pet cats.).  Then you have to go outside and go in ANOTHER door with your magic password and you get to meet the kitties, see who you like the looks of, and then sit and make small talk with to see if you're into the same sort of things.  However you might want to interpret that.  They don't actually line them up like at the Bunny Ranch, but I think that's mostly because they're, well, cats, and that would be WAY too complicated.  The place was furnished with chairs and tables in tasteful little conversation groups and lots and lots of cat trees.  And lots and lots of cats.  Big cats, little cats, solid colored cats, multicolored cats, young cats, old cats, cats missing body parts.  One cat was apparently the receptionist because she immediately jumped up on the counter to greet me and directed me into the middle of the room.  On my first step, I looked down and a small orange kitten chased a ball across my foot.  You may have noticed in looking at the pictures in this post that I have a certain type I am attracted to.  

So, to make a longer story not too much longer when an orange kitty lets me pick it up and purrs when I rub its ears and sucks up to me a little bit I pretty much am a goner.  So I found myself filling out an adoption application that was roughly the same length as my vet school application and gave the same tiny boxes to put way too much information.  They want to know about ALL my animals I've had (didn't they talk to the barrista who could tell them that given my advanced years that was likely to be a lot?).  Ok, so I might just hit the highlights.  And what happened to all of them?  Well, they died.  Most of them pretty well into old age, several of them after a valiant fight with multiple surgeries or chemo.  But are they just going to think I got tired of them, took them in the back yard and offed them and went and got a new one (clearly, given the difficulty of this whole process that seems a less than reasonable plan to me, but who knows what they will think?).  Nowhere did they ask about what I had bought primarily for my animals (a house, a car, a new clinic), what percentage of the house was allocated to their needs (a whole floor, as well as a substantial amount of my own living space and more than half of my bed) or let me show the three giant baskets of toys, plus the "spare"bags in the spare room.  Are they going to blackball me because I've owned male dogs who were not neutered (show dog, who never had an unplanned breeding, had thousands of dollars worth of genetic testing, and produced exactly three offspring who were pretty darn good performance dogs in their own rights with plenty of letters after their names).  It would not be an unusual event.  Though I must point out, even HUMAN adoptions don't require you to take a vow of celibacy until the world's overpopulation and unwanted child problem is resolved.  

So the jury is still out, I came home with the hope of a kitten but still an empty house.  Borrowed my parents' dog for the rest of the evening while they were out which makes it a little better, and will hope to hear good news and be a new cat owner again soon.  Who knew it could be so difficult?  

And I bet you would never guess reading this that my heart is still in a million tiny pieces all over the floor.  But at least it was $10 (or $8.50) well spent watching and petting cats and making me feel better for a little while.  Stay tuned for the outcome of the great kitten search.

PS- as an addendum there is an outdoor cat who lives at Kitty Brew named Will Feral.  BEST CAT NAME EVER.


Friday, May 3, 2019

Microchips...make sure you follow through!

I know it's been a while since I posted...bad Becky!  However I wanted to make this info available somewhere I could refer people back to easily.  I wanted to talk about microchips and how to maximize your pet's protection.

For those who are completely unfamiliar, it is common practice to microchip pets in order to give them a permanent ID and help facilitate their return should they become lost.  The microchip is the size of a grain of rice and is injected under the skin over the shoulderblades where it SHOULD stay for the life of the pet.  A scanner can be used to read the chip number and use the information to identify the pet and it's owner.  Microchips CANNOT be used to track the pet using GPS.  They use RFID technology which uses radio waves to transmit the info.  Most shelters routinely scan dogs at intake to find owner info;  also most pets adopted from shelters are microchipped prior to adoption.  In addition, microchips are often used to permanently identify pets when performing pre-breeding testing such as OFA radiographs for hip certification, eye exams, and DNA testing.  If your pet travels internationally, it is also likely that it must be microchipped to ensure that the health information that accompanies it belongs to that pet alone.

One of the downsides to microchip technology is that it has not been well standardized, so there are differing types of chips some of which can only be read by their own or "universal" scanners.  The technology between the US and other countries also has sometimes been different, so chips implanted in one country might not be read by scanners in another.  Chips can have 9, 10, or 15 digits.  In general we would recommend using an ISO compliant chip.  Home Again and Avid EURO chips are 10 digit ISO compliant and are the most common ones used in the US;  they can be read by most scanners.  Regular Avid chips are 9 digit and cannot be read in Europe or by many US scanners.  AKC Reunite chips are 15 digits which is the world standard, but there may still be scanners in the US that do not read them.  We use Home Again chips in our practice, as we have found they are generally read by almost all scanners and are the least likely to migrate.

The most important thing to remember after your pet is microchipped is that the CHIP MUST BE REGISTERED IN ORDER FOR IT TO BE USED TO TRACK YOUR PET.  This is the step that many pet owners forget and it is the most important one to remember!  I typically recommend and use the AKC Reunite microchip registry (even though I prefer Home Again chips).  You can enroll online at  They charge a reasonable fee for lifetime registration, are a stable entity, and participate in the AAHA universal microchip lookup.  Other chip registries may charge annual fees and offer many "value added" services.  It is important to realize that microchip registration is SEPARATE from AKC registration;  it must be completed separately (although it can be done at the same time as AKC individual registration).  Your pet does not have to be AKC registered or even a dog to use AKC Reunite- you can register your cat's microchip as well.  The most important things to remember when choosing a registry are 1) DO IT!  Make sure to register your pet's chip and keep the name and phone number of the registry and your pet's microchip number where you can find them easily (I email them to myself and save the email to a permanent file in my email program titled "Pet's info" etc).  2) Choose a registry which participates in the AAHA universal microchip lookup program (  3).  Once your pet is registered, go to the universal lookup page and make sure when you plug in the chip number that the correct registry comes up with the correct date for most recent changes.  4) Go to the page for the registry you have chosen, plug in your chip number, and make sure all of the info is correct 5) Whenever your contact info changes, try to remember to update your info.  However, if your pet is lost, the FIRST thing you should do is immediately check your info to make sure it is up to date and report your pet as lost to your registry (this is where knowing your microchip number is handy, but if you at least know the registry you used you can call and do this over the phone).  

I recently discovered a new free registry that I would recommend using IN ADDITION to your paid  regular microchip registration.  It is located at and it also participates in the universal lookup page.  The nice thing about this registry is that when someone uses the universal lookup page and clicks on it, it will immediately tell them your first name, the pet's name, any important info you want them to know, and allow them to initiate a "found pet" alert which will immediately contact them by phone, email, and text and continue to attempt contact for 4 days;  it will also automatically attempt to contact the emergency contacts and veterinarian if the owner does not respond.  I really like this because it does not rely on busy shelter personnel to continue to try and make contact (though they must at least plug in the number to the search engine).  Again, if you use this registry (and I HIGHLY recommend you do- it's free!) be sure to go back and double check all of your info to make sure numbers are correct, there are no typos, etc.  I would also recommend putting any pertinent info under the "general description" section on the page where you can add a picture.  For example, I put my dog's height, weight, age, that he belonged to a vet and was always current on all vaccines including bordetella and flu, but to please NOT vaccinate for lepto as he is allergic (well, actually he has a strong family tendency with a close family member having a near fatal reaction, but I wanted to keep it simple!).  I also noted that if he was found I was distraught and actively looking!  You could also log on at the time your pet was lost and put info such as "I am out right now searching until X:00 in the Whateverville town square area, cell phone is on".  I would NOT include any info that would make your pet more appealing for someone to keep or perhaps hold hostage, other than to reiterate that it was very much wanted and a search was ongoing.

I hope this info is helpful;  since the new free registry is available I would highly recommend dual registering with it (I would continue to do a paid registry just in case...sometimes free does not equal stable over the long term).  Double check that info, get in touch immediately if your pet gets lost, and here's hoping we never need to test the system! 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

On this day, the fifteenth anniversary of 9-11, I am proud to see that all of our Cincinnati Bengals stood for our national anthem, that almost every one removed their head coverings and placed their hand over their hearts, and not one of them chose to sit on the bench or take a knee.  I hope these young men understand that because of this flag and the people who have died to protect it, we have the right to express our opinions freely.  Yes, even if it means that entitled young men who are barely into double digits,  make millions of dollars to play a game and who think that they know what it means to be oppressed can show disrespect to the flag and our country and make an ass out of themselves in front of millions of their fellow countrymen.  What I hope they realize is that America is a melting pot, not a buffet;  that being American trumps being black or white, Democrat or Republican, Christian, Muslim, Jew or atheist.  We all are American  and bring our own flavor and contribution.  Because we are American we all have the right to express our individual cultures, religions, and opinions, but we cannot forget what has conferred this right upon us.

Fifteen years ago on a Tuesday two planes flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and changed our lives forever.  On that following weekend, my dog training club, Queen City Dog Training, had planned to hold their annual fall agility trial at Winton Woods.  Just a few days after the tragedy, we were all shaken, nothing seemed certain, and we were not sure if we should hold the trial or not.  Planes were not flying and one of our judges was therefore not able to make it.  But our trial committee decided to go ahead and proceed;  a local judge was substituted, and we all showed up, somewhat subdued and wondering if maybe this was the last trial any of us would be able to enter for a while- because our whole world had tilted on its axis and we didn't know if anything would ever be normal again.  On that Saturday morning, we raised the flag and sang the national anthem before the first dog came to the line and there was not a dry eye in the house.  And then we ran our dogs and for a few minutes all was right with the world and we felt free again.  It was a small thing, but we all felt as though we could not allow terrorists to take away our everyday lives and freedoms, and I know none of us took for granted the privilege to be there that day when so many were never coming home again. 

Our club still displays a flag- two, actually, one in each separate area of our wonderful training building;  and at the start of every trial that I have been to we still play the national anthem.  It always reminds me of that day and I will never take for granted the opportunity to do so again.  I hope these young men of the NFL, most of whom were children and many of whom were too young to really remember, never have to learn this lesson the way that we did that day.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Crazy things we do for our dogs...

Ok, I may be a little crazy....

Last summer Cory ruptured an eardrum (usually you see this after chronic ear infections, but Levi, Andy, and now Cory all as older dogs had ear drum ruptures with no history of previous or ongoing ear infections and no/minimal signs directly related to the ears- just were "not right" in training or in Cory's case, not quite eating normally and had ruled out all kinds of other issues.  I was looking for something that could cause ongoing nausea that would make him not want to eat and that was when I found the ruptured ear drum).  I treated it, it appeared to heal and the problem that had led me to find it (appetite a little off) resolved.  However, this fall I started to suspect that his hearing was starting to deteriorate.  He had reached what I call the "age of entitlement" (he turned 10 in December) where sometimes their response to previously known cues gets a little lax, and so at first I had attributed what I was seeing just to a little old timer slacking off.  But it soon became apparent that he was not hearing in certain situations.  Since he is still vigorous and active and still actively training in multiple venues, I decided to make an appointment to have his hearing tested.  Due to some scheduling issues it was going to be several weeks before I could get him in.  Not long after I scheduled the appointment, it seemed that his hearing took a nose dive and I began to suspect that not only did he have some hearing loss, but that it had progressed to a fairly profound level.

Today I took Cory to the FETCH lab at the University of Cincinnati (Facility for the Education and Testing of Canine Hearing) for a hearing test.  The test that is done (ABR or BAER test) is the same test used to evaluate hearing in newborns.  It involves applying a topical anesthetic cream (I told Cory I'd always known he was a numbskull already!), placing three electrodes by inserting tiny wires under the skin by each ear and on top of the head, and placing a soft earpiece that emits a series of clicks into the ear canal.  The electrodes measure the brainstem response to the sounds and give an evaluation of the dog's hearing capabilities.  Typically these tests are done in breeding stock or to evaluate young puppies before placement in breeds that have a high incidence of congential deafness such as Dalmations.  The test is not painful and usually can be done without anesthesia;  all that is required is that the dog hold reasonably still and tolerate the material in the ear canal. 

Cory tolerated the procedure well- he thought it was kind of a stupid way to earn cookies, and he was a little startled at first by some of the clicks, but overall figured that having the undivided attention of 3-4 people and cookies too was worth holding still for.  Unfortunately my fears were confirmed;  he has severe hearing loss in the right ear (the one that had the ruptured ear drum) and moderate to severe loss in the left.  It is likely that most of the impairment is aging related, although probably the issue with the ear drum did not help and may have contributed.  It's very typical for me to start to see hearing loss in my patients around 11 years old, so he was in the right age range although at the younger end.  However, I also think we tend to pick up on these things sooner in our competition dogs as most dogs can compensate so well around the house in familiar surroundings.  It is amazing how attuned they are to visual cues and how little the hearing loss impacts them in most situations.

So, unfortunately there is not much that can be done to return his hearing to normal.  However, as it happens, when I was a vet student one of my professors had done some work with hearing aids in dogs and prior to the visit when I started anticipating that the news might not be good I had done some research to see if anyone was still working with them (Dr. Marshall having long since retired).  As it turned out, the only person currently doing any work with canine hearing aids in the US was the very same Dr. Scheifele with whom we already had the appointment for ABR testing.  And, as it happens, I have pet insurance on Cory so I called prior to the visit to see if a hearing aid would be covered if he was a candidate.  Turns out no one had ever asked that question before, so they told me to apply for pre-approval but that they were cautiously optimistic that it would be covered. 

Hearing aids are not widely available in dogs for good reason;  they are not always a terribly practical option.  Teaching the dog to tolerate wearing them is not a simple task, but I am fairly confident that I could do this successfully;  Cory and I have a long training relationship and I had already started to lay some groundwork by conditioning him to tolerate gauze pads in his ear canals for short periods prior to the appointment.  However, an additional issue is that noises don't sound the same through the hearing aids that they did naturally and there is also a learning curve for the dogs from that standpoint as well.

Given the degree of hearing loss in the right ear, only the left ear would be a candidate for an aid.  My main reason for considering it is that Cory is still a vital and active dog,  he is still competing in agility, training in tracking, and finished his UD last spring (thankfully before the hearing loss- I struggled with trying to get his dad's UD after he was already having a lot of hearing issues and as a result never was quite able to get the final leg).  While the hearing aid would not be legal in the AKC ring, it might enable me to help continue to let him play in agility and maybe help me to transition him to running successfully without it.  I have spent a lot of time teaching him to listen to my verbals over my body language since I am so slow, now we have to find a new compromise.  It's also possible that it might be allowed in some of the other organizations that are more disability friendly.  I don't care if we ever Q again, I'd just like for him to continue to be able to play.  In addition, even just in everyday around the house issues his hearing has curtailed some of his freedom because he can't hear me calling him nor can he hear cars, etc. 

I am not sure that given the degree of impairment in the "good" ear that pursuing the hearing aid is worthwhile.  I will have to think about it for a plan is to get some ear plugs, work on conditioning him to wear them and see how readily he accepts them.  I will probably go ahead and file the pre-approval paperwork with Trupanion and see if they will cover it (if not, the answer becomes easy!).  Then I will make a final decision as to whether we will give it a go or not. 

Regardless of what I decide, I am a little sad tonight...even though I expected to hear the results we got, it is one step into old age and eventual retirement and then loss of my buddy...I am so sad that we have a finite number of times left to train together.  Until you have trained a dog for literally years to be your partner, it is hard to understand just how different the relationship is from a dog whose function is primarily as a pet.  Cory is my pet and my baby, but he is also my partner and someone I trust and rely on.  He's a link to his father who was my heart dog.  How I wish I had the answer to keeping him forever young!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Long time no post...

Once again I have been derelict in my postings...I have several topics in my head but not yet on paper, but I did think I would do a quick "light" post.  I am posting a link to a video of my rotten younger dog, Robbie.  Robbie is not quite yet ready for prime time as far as agility trials go, but he LOVES agility and in his opinion never gets enough of my training time.  Recently there has been a new show (on Dish network it's on the Rural channel, I don't think you can get it on Direct TV or Time Warner) called The Agility Show on Saturday afternoons, featuring an agility judge and showing runs and interviews with competitors from various trials he attends.  Robbie likes to watch dogs on TV and he has become OBSESSED with the Agility Show.  I DVR it for him every week and we watch it when we get home.  He will watch the entire 30 minutes intently, though during the commercials and some of the interviews he will come sit on my lap and wait for "the good stuff" to start again.  Initially he just watched, but then he started jumping at the screen and "chasing" the dogs as they ran.  This has gotten progressively more and more energetic with each episode.

Last weekend I had to be gone all day and the dogs were home alone for quite a long time, which is unusual for them as they go to work with me daily and weekends are usually spent at shows.  I often leave the TV in my bedroom on for background noise, but never really thought that they probably watched it much while I was gone.  When I returned home that night, Robbie brought me a little cosmetics bag that usually sits by the TV in my bedroom and I couldn't figure out how he had gotten up to get it (he's only 13 1/2 inches tall).  When I went in the bedroom, the towels which are folded on the shelves under the TV were all knocked around and everything was in disarray.  I could not figure out WHAT he had done, and had mental pictures of him trying to climb the shelves...It finally occurred to me that the DVR must have clicked over to the Agility Show when it came on.  I turned it on as a test, and if you click the link below you will see what must have been happening while I was gone...!

Robbie and The Agility Show

This is a funny habit, but I think it has reached the point where it is getting excessive and we are in danger of it becoming an unhealthy obsession that puts Robbie's safety and my belongings at risk.  I noticed he actually was starting to watch GOLF this weekend (and if he's not bored by golf, he'll watch anything!).  So I think we will have to start interrupting this behavior and maybe use it as a distraction while we do a little heel work!  It's much easier to prevent it BEFORE it becomes a problem than try to fix it later.

Friday, November 23, 2012


On a beautiful, sunny Thanksgiving morning I am thankful that I have time to train my dogs a little.  I have a lot to be thankful for, including my family that I will spend this afternoon with, but right now I am thankful that I have been blessed with dogs who love to work with me, no matter what venue I choose.  Lately we have been focusing on obedience and getting Cory ready to show in utility (the highest of the three basic levels).  Cory is the third dog I have trained in utility;  my first dog Levi earned his Utility Dog Excellent (UDX) title and Cory's father Andy needed just one more qualifying score for his UD when he died.  Utility is a tough class for green dogs, because it involves working independently away from the handler and making decisions between "right" and "wrong" (whereas, in novice and open, pretty much the choice is a more straightforward "do it or not").  There is heeling, a signal exercise where the dog must respond to hand signals from across the ring, a scent discrimination exercise where he must choose the dumbell touched by his handler, a directed retrieve where he must choose the correct glove indicated by his handler, and the directed jumping, where he must run away from the handler in a straight line across the ring, stop and sit when directed, and then take the correct jump indicated by the handler.  While utility is the hardest class, it also is the most fun.  

While those who know me might think I got into obedience because I am somewhat of a control freak, that actually is far from the truth.  My "obedience" dogs have all had varying degrees of basic manners, with my current two probably being the worst on a day to day basis for listening and minding me.  Training in obedience has become less about demonstrating control over my dogs, and more about developing teamwork and communication with them.  The bond with a dog that you have trained to a high level is so much more intense than the one you share with a dog you just "hang with".  It is hard to describe, especially without denigrating other types of relationships, until you have experienced it, but it is like the bond you feel with a teammate on that gold medal winning team, the bond with a child that you love desperately and have known from birth, and the bond with a life partner that is your 24/7 companion all rolled into one.  For me at this point in my life, obedience training is not about ribbons or placements;  it's not about scores although I hope before we are through we will reach the level we aspire to;  it is about acheiving the mental picture in my head and the synchronicity you feel on the days when you and your dog are perfectly in tune.  The obedience regulations state that the dog should demonstrate "the utmost in willingness, enjoyment, and precision".  We have a ways to go in the precision department, but I would like to think that my dogs fit the bill on the first part.  

I am including a video below of one of Cory's recent runs in Utility A.  (If anybody has any good tips for how to improve the quality either here or on youtube, let me know- the original video is quite sharp).   This was his second show, entering for the first time away from our home club.  I chose this trial because it was a small, one ring trial;  I knew it would be fairly relaxed and I had shown under this judge before.  Although it was a one ring trial, space was very tight at ringside with no room to have the dogs inside before their turn, not much room to warm up, and varying from quiet as a church (not good for us) to sounds that really stand out because there is not much else going on.  On our first outing at the previous show, Cory did not qualify but overall I thought did not do too badly EXCEPT that he barked (a lot) on EVERY exercise.  That is not looked on kindly in obedience and I knew it was going to be a big struggle for us.  I hoped the smaller trial would not rev Cory up quite so much (he barks both when he stresses "down" and when he stresses "up", and we had one of each types of run at the last trial).  Obedience people who look at this run will no doubt be unimpressed; we blew a signal and the first scent article, we had lots of places to lose points in chunks- he forged quite a bit on his heeling, we had a couple of no-sits (really, not-quite-sits), a sloppy moving stand, an anticipated finish, a bark or two on the scent articles and the go outs and a couple of times between exercises (a HUGE improvement over the last trial), and we didn't move particularly smoothly from exercise to exercise.  All duly noted and being worked on before the next trial.  But on this day I was SO proud of my boy I could just feel my heart clench each time I looked at him.  He was amped up to the max this day;  sometimes this can be an indicator of stress but on this day Cory was giving me every one of his signs that he was having FUN and was trying his hardest to play by the rules.  Unfortunately, he usually feels compelled to remind me of this on each exercise, especially the finishes, by commenting under his breath and in this little building it was pretty easily heard by all :-).  I know just how hard it was for him to keep his focus and not explode, and I am so proud of him for trying.  The next day he was not quite as hyped up, and he made it all the way to the last jump before he chose the wrong one and NQ'd. 

We get to try again next our home club, where theoretically we might have a small advantage of a familiar ring.  Wish us luck- we'll need it!