Archive for December, 2010

Christmas Bear

A very Merry Christmas from Little Bear…






and Annie






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Good girl..ZAP!

Oh dear. What was that about good intentions?

I’m off work today having succumbed to a really rotten cold. I can’t remember the last sick day I had, probably a combination of a constitution of a pit pony and the feeling that being a home worker, illness shouldn’t stop me working even from my sick bed!

But today I drew a line and decided that I was going to follow doctors orders in the hope that proper rest would give my cold it’s marching orders and see me well for Christmas.

Having spent all day in bed and with my cabin fever hitting the roof I decided to spend 10 minutes doing some training with Little Bear and Annie.  They LOVE training and against the prevailing advice which says always train separately, at the moment I’m training them together. This is mainly for LB’s benefit as he has quite a low frustration threshold and I found (completely by accident) that the concept of ‘taking turns’ in training increased his focus and responsiveness while also teaching him to calm his pants.  Annie also seems to pick things up more quickly if LB can already do them.

Now, although LB has a fairly impressive repertoire of tricks, Annie only learned to sit a few months ago when she came to live with us so we’re still working on the basics with her. Down is one of the new ones and so being thoughtful (or overly fussy!) I pulled out a throw so that they wouldn’t have to lay on the hard wooden floor.

It was all going beautifully. They were both waiting patiently between turns; LB proved that he is now master of the targeting game; paws were proffered, waved and high-fived on request. Annie did a couple of lovely downs and a perfect down-sit transition. Then, a new one for her, she did a lovely ‘paw touch’ on the target, ‘Good girl!’ I cooed in my really embarrassing dog training voice while holding out her treat and ZAP! One super static electric shock from my fingers straight into her poor unsuspecting nose. Poor Annie and damn the stupid flaming (probably part nylon) throw we were all sitting on.

After seeking refuge on the ‘non-electrifying’ couch and hoovering up a few treats for good measure she got her nerve up and took one gingerly out of my fingers…but only using the side of her mouth and her tongue for fear that her nose would no doubt get another zapping.

Sigh, I was wondering if I should have stayed in bed – and I bet Annie’s wishing I had!

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Little Bear hates dog coats. I can’t say I’m particularly fond of them either. In my view if you want something to dress up in outfits buy a Barbie doll or have kids, but don’t make a fool of your poor dog. But, even I have to admit that when the weather is really bad, a coat to keep your best friend warm and dry feels like the kind thing to do.

Struggling with a cruciate injury that seems to be worse in cold weather, Annie needs a coat and always seems delighted to have it put on. She’s such a poppet I’m sure she’d stand happily and let you wrap her in tin foil if you wanted to. Little Bear however runs a mile at the mere sight of his coat. Not a problem, except that he hates the rain and shivers in the cold.

I’ve coaxed, I’ve bribed, I’ve ignored and he’s won paws down every time.  Once wrapped in the offending coat, he turns into statue Bear. I timed him the other day – he didn’t move an inch for over 35 minutes!

His first coat is a little on the chunky side so I even resorted to hand sewing him a lightweight fleece in the hopes that he’d at least get some benefit on the coldest days and we’d at least get out the door in the rain.

Its first outing was not so much of a walk as it was a drag and he eventually showed his utter contempt for it by throwing himself onto someones front lawn sideways, sticking his bum in the air and basically looking like he’d slipped a disc in a yoga class!

Admitting defeat the padded coat was destined for the rescue centre and the hand made thing I kept for posterity – that is until we hit -6 and saw him shivering BEFORE we set off for a walk!

Out came the fleece coat and we set off for our nightly walk. Sick of ‘statue Bear’ I gave up after 15 minutes and took it off him. He sprang to life was suddenly hopping around like a Spring lamb. Annie on the other hand, unable to join him in the bouncing about stakes looked freezing, so I took the little fleece and tucked it around her shoulders – a feeble act really as she’s three times his size but she wagged happily and it saved me from carrying it.

Suddenly interested in the offending garment, Little Bear spent the rest of the walk nuzzling at Annie’s shoulders. She of course completely ignored him and trotted home happily in her new shoulder throw.

Coats? I love them!

Annie got a coat of her own the next day when it became clear that the weather wasn’t going to improve any time soon. As the mercury hit a new low, I decided to try Little Bear ‘one last time’ and guess what? He wore the fleece for the whole walk without stopping once! I was utterly amazed.

So today, as we prepared to venture out into the fresh snow that descended overnight, I put on his heavier weight coat and guess what? Not only does he now seem perfectly able to walk in it (without stopping) but he can run around the field like a mad thing and catch tennis balls wearing it!

I’m at a loss to explain the change of heart. We’ve had bitterly cold weather and deeper snow in the past few years and nothing has persuaded him to even walk in his coat – let alone charge about like he did today.  We’ve kicked around a few theories; maybe he saw Annie in hers and thought ‘what the heck’; maybe he’s not been really cold before; but whatever it is, I’m just glad that my shivering, ‘I don’t walk in the rain mamma’ dog are perhaps over for good.

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So this is it then?

I read a lovely book the other day ‘Give a dog a home’ by Graeme Sims. In it he talks about his 14 (yes, 14!) collies and how one, despite being adopted many years ago, still on occasion throws him a look that says ‘I knew it was too good to last.’ Now, I’m as soft as they come when it comes to animals, but do they really think like that? Don’t we envy dogs for their wonderful ability to live in the now?

I might have dismissed his interpretation, had it not been for Annie’s reaction yesterday. Still under vets orders for her cruciate ligament, she’s confined to lead walks only in the hope that the rest will avoid the need for surgery. The cold seems to aggravate it too and as temperatures hit the ‘seriously past funny’ point yesterday I popped her in the car during my lunch hour and drove her to the pet shop to buy her a coat.

Annie’s a wonderfully happy-go-lucky looking dog but she wears her anxiety as clearly as her delight and getting into the car without Little Bear was the first thing to furrow her brow. No Bear usually means she’s not going somewhere fun and if she could have placed a bet I suppose her money would have been on a trip to the vet.

Normally sprawled on the back seat, her worried little face filled my rear view mirror for the whole trip. Now we’re in the very lucky position of having three great pet shops within about a 2 mile radius, two of them independents too. Being a dog addict I already knew that they didn’t have the type of coat I wanted in the two we visit most often and so we headed to the third, which also happens to be a boarding and quarantine kennels.

Her face as I opened the car door was everything that Sims had described. Maybe it was the barking from the kennels all around us, the strange surroundings or the cacophony of stress hormones and smells I can only imagine were wafting through the air, but Annie was suddenly frozen to the back seat. Most tellingly, as I fiddled with her harness clip, a job normally made all the more fiddly by her enthusiasm to get wherever we’re going, there was no thumping tail no eagerness to get out. She crossed the car park low and slow – poor darling, despite my chipperness she obviously didn’t have a good vibe about this.

On opening the door to the pet shop it was as if a rather large Labrador sized penny suddenly dropped! Instantly transformed, she bounced like it was an Olympic sport (not great for her cruciate!) wagged up a storm and mouthed my hand excitedly. This was one relieved looking dog!

Our need to feel like ‘rescuers’ often makes us see things that maybe just aren’t there. How many owners of rescue dogs just can’t help but share their dogs sad story with all and sundry?  I’m sure if their dogs could talk a few would say something along with ‘Jeez, dad, will you let it go? I’ve so moved on now!’

We project emotions onto our dogs and imagine them entertaining feelings that in all honesty, I hope they don’t have the capacity to feel.  But it’s also easy to forget that it’s probably going to take months if not years for Annie to feel fully settled and relax in the knowledge that this is her forever home now and that we are people that she can trust.

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