Saturday, September 29, 2007

New Frontiers!

Long time no update. Moxie is doing well with her training. We are working with a new trainer at the obedience club and are really being challenged. She loves working with me in class and learning. Its fun for her. We worked some on weaves the other day and she is starting to go out and do them without me next to her which is a huge step for us. There is a UKC Obedience comp in Denton tomorrow that I've decided not to enter as we are at the open level in UKC and not ready to compete. We have everything except a reliable drop on recall and dumbell retrieve. I am using the Shirley Chong method to teaching the retrieve and we are making real progress, but still have a ways to go.

I have the trialing bug though, BAD! I would love to find an APDT Rally trial, an ASCA obedience or agility trial of any flavor to compete in. Moxie and I are bored! We want some rosettes for all our hard work.

On the cat front, Kobie's paw has healed perfectly and he has had no futher complications. Sully has had a setback. His stools went soft on me again after I took him off his supplements, so I put him back on the slippery elm, probiotics and digestive enzymes. He's on a three times a week dose of budesonide and his stools are coming back to normal. This tells me, though, that we are probably dealing with IBD as it recurrs when we stop treatment. I was hoping it was just residual inflamation from the coccidal infection.

Finally, a bit of my own news. My obedience club, GTDOG, approved me as a trainer and I'm doing my first basic class starting next session. I'm super nervous and excited. It should be fun, I just hope I'm good at it!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Lightbulb Moment

I'm reading the book, "Control Unleashed" by Leslie McDevitt and so far its been pretty good, but doesn't really apply to me and Moxie because Moxie doesn't have reactivity issues, and she rarely ever has a "shut down" moment any more. Though its all good stuff to know so I can help others who have dogs that do have these issues. Moxie's big issue that I was hoping the CU course would help with is she becomes so excited over certain things that her brain fogs over and she can't concentrate, listen, or learn anything. Its a big problem in agility, it also happens sometimes in obedience.

Last night, Moxie and I went to our twice a month visit to UBH to do pet assited therapy. On these visits, we set up a short agility course and have the dogs run the course, then get the patients to work the dogs through the course. Moxie gets SO WORKED UP she isn't listening to the patients commands and it ends one of two ways, either everyone laughs at the silly dog, or the patient feels like a failure, which is something I would really like to avoid. Something else she does on these visits is she fixates on treats. She won't calm down for petting, or pay attention to the patients. She keeps her eyes focused on me at all times, ever vigilant, hoping for a treat. So while I was reading the book last night, it was talking about rewarding calm behavior and I finally made the connection that half of Moxie's problem is she is overmotivated by food.

I started to really think about it, and I almost always feed her when she's in an excited state of mind. Including meals, she is always worked up and excited before meals and I reward that state of mind by feeding her. So, the new regiment is no food until she is relaxed. We are going to do some relaxation excercises with the ultimate goal being an ability to cue relaxation. I want to build in an off switch basically. The book has given me some good starting points, but if anyone has any ideas feel free to chime in.

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In other news, SULLY HAS NORMAL POOP! The budesenide has worked wonders for him and so far no unwanted side effects. I am slowly weaning him off all his supplements. Hopefully, once we stop the budesenide, he will continue to have solid stool. Everyone keep your paws crossed!

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Declaw Remorse and Training Breakthroughs!

I got Kobie about six years ago, and as a matter of course, I got him declawed the same time I had him neutered. I was young and dumb and thought that 1)declawing wasn't causing any real long term harm to the cat and 2)that it would be impossible to teach a n adult cat how to use his claws indoors, and 3) that because my other cats were declawed, I had to declaw Kobie.

I have since discovered how wrong I was, on all three counts. I have since trained several cats to properly use their claws indoors. I have since learned of, and seen first hand, the deep psychological and physical damage that declawing causes. I have declaw remorse, in a bad way. And to make it all worse, six years after the fact, Kobie has developed a painful declaw complication. His toenail was not entirely removed in the first go, and has for the past several months, been slowing regrowing through the bone and under the skin of his toe. This has caused pain, swelling, infection, and drainage. He had to have surgery today to remove the bone spur and sharp little kitty claw. I almost cried when I saw it, I can only imagine how painful that must have been. And now he will need to recover from a (second) amputation of the last digit of that toe. My poor baby.

There are 101 reasons not to declaw your cat, and this is reason number 101.
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He deserves better than this. :(

On a happier note, Moxie and I had a wonderful night training with our club, GTDOG. We spent the first hour helping people from the community train their dogs to be well mannered pets. This is very rewarding in and of itself. You should have seen the look of sheer joy and amazement on this dear womans face when her 6 month old lab puppy finally "got" sit. The light finally came on, and she starting picking things up faster and faster as the night went on. I love teaching, its quite satisfying.

The second hour Moxie and I did some formal obedience practice. We started with heelwork and I must say Moxie was looking fantastic. She was flashy, she was correct, she was "On" and it showed. Her turns, her pivots, her halts, her finishes, she never put a paw wrong the whole night. I was so pleased with her. If we can perform like that in a trial we'll be coming home with a HIT and titles coming out our ears! *Dreams of a High in Trial Win* As icing on the cake tonight, Moxie and I finally clicked on two skills we've been working on for a long time now.

Get Out: Go away from me and around a stationary object as directed. This is something I have been trying to teach her for use in both agility and obedience. She needs to work away from me more in agility and Get out would make that easier. My dream would be to be able to stand in the middle of the ring and call out commands and let Moxie run the course (hey, we can all dream can't we?) This is also an essential skill for Utility level obedience and several skills in Advanced and Excellent Rally. Moxie, I could tell, was quite pleased with herself and happily "Got out" around an alley-oop, cones, bowls, toys, whatever I told her. She was having a great time. She knew she had "gotten it" and was quite pleased with herself.

Back up (Back straight) : Heeling backwards, both in a straight line and in a figure 8. We were getting this right 90% of the time by the end of the night. Right now she mostly just scoots or shuffles backward with very little control in her direction. But she did have a couple of good attempts were she moved her feet independently and deliberately. I think we are getting there. I think, as with Get Out, once she gets this, there will be no stopping her.

So overall, I am quite pleased. Now to find some trials to enter, both agility and obedience. I want to enter the TWANG ASCA Agility trial in December, and would love to find an obedience trial in October or November. Anyone has any leads, let me know!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Furry Angels

Well the therapy visit on Friday went really well (once I finally made it there). Moxie just LOVED the kids and they just LOVED her. They wanted her to play with them on the playground equipment (Which happens to be one of moxie's favorite things to do!) So she ran through the plastic tunnels and up and down the slides and over the swingy bridges and kids romped and chased and hugged all over her! I don't know who was having a better time, her or the kids.

These kids are going through some tough times. At the moment they are living in a safe house, their mothers have left an abusive relationship and many are in hiding, fearing for their lives. Most left with nothing but the clothes on their back. I loved that I was able to share my dog with these kids, give them a night where they didn't have to think about friends, homes, pets, belongings and lives left behind and the strange newness of their current situation. The moms were able to relax and have a good time too. They were eager to chat with regular folk. I'm sure they feel quite isolated and lonely. When a battered women makes the brave decision to leave the abusive relationship, it usually also means leaving behind her entire life, her things, her friends, her job, etc. I can't remember the exact statistic, but a shocking number of women who are murdered are killed by their partners, so the desperation these women are feeling is based in a certain cold harsh reality. I admire their courage. I wish I could do more for them.

Really, I don't know who benefited the most from our visit, Moxie, the kids, their moms, or me. It was a good night all around.

Today Moxie was the Rally Obedience Demo dog at the Bow Wow Pow Wow in The Colony. Moxie was proud to represent GTDOG and strut her stuff. She did well, unfortunately, no one really cared. I'm sure we would have gotten more of a response with an agility demo, but what people don't realize is that ill mannered dogs won't do agility either! Besides, Rally is such fun. Oh well, perhaps it really wasn't the right crowd.

Moxie has always been a challenging dog to work because her drive overrides her brain sometimes. She gets so worked up that she can't concentrate and listen to me. I was recommended a book called "Control Unleashed" that is supposed to help with this. I got it in the mail today and I can't wait to read it.

Update on the cats. I took Kobie and Sully to work with me yesterday. Kobie got his yearly labwork done and it was all normal. He also has a strange abscess on his toe that the doctors think is a declaw regrow. He will have surgery next week to investigate. This is reason like 500 that I wish I had never declawed him. I'm so sad, and so sorry that I did that to poor Kobie. He will never know the satisfaction of a nice full body stretch, never be able to properly climb or scratch. He may develop arthritis due to being forced to walk in an unatural position. And now this! He will have to have another painful operation to declaw him AGAIN. I could just kick myself. I should have known better. Thurston and Sully both have all the claws they were born with and I don't intend to change that.

Sully got his last kitten vaccine and his microchip implanted. We also rechecked his stool, which is still diarrhea, but showed nothing unusual upon anaylsis, as per ususal. We are going to try him on a course of a GI acting steroid called Budesenide. I was afraid to put him on steroids because of their immuno suppressive effects, but this is supposed to act only on the GI tract and no where else in his system, so I thought I would give it a go. For those keeping up with the homeopathy treatment, we are now on Slippery Elm, Probiotic mix, Digestive Enzymes, Psyllium Husks, and Collostrum. He's on an entirely grain free diet. The next step is to switch to a novel protein limited ingredient food, but I really don't think this is a food allergy issue, as protein allergies in cats are actually pretty rare.

So thats the scoop on the poop! Glad you tuned in!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

School is back in session

After a five week break in training, Moxie and I hit it hard again tonight. We did alot of heel work and worked on our open level obedience excercises. Its been a while since we've done any of that and it shows. Her drop on recall is hit of miss and her dumbell retrieve is awful! We didn't have a broadjump to practice with, I think I may invest in one soon. We don't get to use the broadjump often enough in agility or obedience practice.

She did wonderful as per usual. I have to really watch MY attitude when we train. She really picks up on it when I'm frustrated or tired. She had a couple of shut down moments on me tonight. During the dumbell retrieve, I think she got spooked when the dumbell clattered on the floor. We took a short potty break and moved on to something else and she perked right up. We ended the night with a fun game of fetch.

Moxie has a busy week coming up. We have a therapy visit Friday Night at Friends of the Family battered women's shelter. Then Saturday we have another visit at a nursing home and then we will head over to the BowWow PowWow in The Colony where our club is giving a Rally Demonstration. I'm looking forward to it. The weather has been so nice lately, hopefully it lasts through the weekend.

The cats have been spoiled this week. I bought them a new cat tree, a new scratching post, and some new litter mats to prevent tracking. Moxie's new food came in too. I decided on Wellness CORE Reduced fat. We'll give it a try and see how it goes. This is what the cats are eating now. Though, Now that I've settled on a dry food for the cats, I've about decided an all wet formula is best. Figures. I've two bags of their old food to give to some needy kitties somewhere. Anyone have any suggestions?

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