Tuesday, November 20, 2007

She's certainly feisty enough ...

funny face

Everywhere I take Pinky people ask, "What is she?" I always want to say "She's a dog, duh," but I can't bring myself to be rude to people (darn my upbringing!). I just say I have no idea and then politely endure people's speculation. I wish I had a dollar for every time people said "I bet she has Lab in her," because so many people say it, although I'm pretty darn there's no lab whatsoever in this pup. People just want her to fit into their taxonomy of known dog breeds, and everyone knows "lab." It's starting to look like terrier is definitely the dominant component of Pinky's mix. She's likely going to be compact: At 12 weeks she weighs 9.6 lbs (contrast that to the 20-25 lbs. a lab would weigh at 12 weeks).

Although assigning a label to Pinky doesn't concern me too much, a couple of weeks ago I began to suspect that maybe Pinky does fit a category: she's starting to seem a lot like a feist. They're very common here in NC (and throughout the South), they show up a lot in shelters and rescues, and it's not unheard of them for people to give them away (an agility friend's boyfriend got a great little "free to good home" feist puppy a few months ago). I believe my mom's little dog, Edy, who had been found wandering the streets of Eden, NC, is a feist or feist mix.

It's sort of hard to say Pinky "looks" like a feist because there is a huge variation in feist looks--most people breed them to hunt squirrels or raccoons, not to win beauty contests, so who really cares exactly how the ears are set or how wide the muzzle is? The breed is UKC recognized, however, just in case someone is itching to prance one around the ring, but the standard is very broad: all colors are acceptable, height ranges between 10 to 18 inches and weight ranges between 12 and 30 pounds. I've recently spent way too much time online looking at photos of feists and feist puppies, comparing and contrasting Pinky to the pups in the pictures. Along the way I hit on the mother lode of feist photos: Galla Creek Feist--Squirrel Hunting Dog Photo Gallery. I see lots of resemblance (coloring notwithstanding) between Pinky and pups like Snap, Jessie, Lil Bit (especially here ) and Mississippi Saddie Bell, among others.

I've always liked the feists I've met (and I absolutely love the name "feist"!), and I had often considered looking for a feist when I was "ready" for my next dog (back when I actually thought I was going to "plan" my next dog acquisition as opposed to having it be something that just happened. Ha!). So maybe thinking Pinky is a feist is really just wishful thinking or my imagination running away with me. And now I'm wondering, if she ends up being feistlike as an adult, should I just say that's what she is? I know someone who has her Missisippi shelter dog registered in agility as a feist because, hey, it looks like a feist! It's not like NAFA, USDAA, NADAC, etc. want proof. Or should I go ahead and register her with the various venues as a mixed-breed, in the hopes that whatever greatness we managed to achieve in the future will be a testament to the fact that MUTTS RULE? (For the record I should note that in the eyes of the hard-core AKC stiffs a feist IS just a mutt ... unless someday they figure they can make some much needed cash off of feist registrations, of course, in which case the feist will suddenly become a noble and venerable old breed with a proud history.)

Anyway, what I'm really hoping is that Pinky will end up being under 16", because I don't want to play with the Border Collies in USDAA. At 12 weeks she's 10" tall, which seems to be putting her around medium-sized sheltie range, according to these charts.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Feel better about your agility handling!

Watch lots of competitors at the 2007 FCI Agility World Championships send their dogs off course in the Smooth Moves Agility "Bloopers" video. While I watched I was thinking to myself, "Hey, even the world-class competitors sometimes bend over when they should stand up straight!" Not that it will make me feel like less of a dork next time I do it ...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Odds & Ends: A puppy in a coat, NADAC fun, Gomey video

my puppy is cuter than your honors studentuh oh

I took Pinky to a NADAC trial Saturday, all decked out in a homemade sweater. (Pink, of course!) I made it out of the sleeve of a fleece pullover. It worked well enough, although she still shivered a bit if I didn't keep her moving. I thought it was darn cute. The outing was good for Pinky--she can be a little tentative in new situations, but she really started to relax after a little while and seemed to be having a great time. I've got to admit it's really fun to have people ooh and ahh over my cute puppy! (For more Puppy cuteness, check out this great shot of Pinky that Mark took.)

As for the trial itself, Lucy rocked it. Running her just felt terrific, and we got 10 out of 12 Qs. One of our Tunnelers runs was a minor heartbreak as our only fault was going .02 seconds over time, and it was all because I pulled away from a tunnel entrance too early and Lucy came with me. It was a small mistake, but at the Elite level the times are so tight that even a small thing will put you over.

Gomey only ran on Sunday, and ended up with just one Q (Jumpers). He was leaping contacts left and right, and we had a few off-courses as well. In our Regular run we racked up 75 course faults ... I don't even remember what they all were. Still, he had better focus than we usually have on our home turf at PBH.

I rarely get videos of our runs anymore because I get tired of figuring out which of my friends aren't busy with their own dogs right when I'm about to run and asking them to video us, but two weeks ago at the ASCA trial someone got a few of Gomey's runs for me. Here's one:

And in other agility news: Apparently AMBOR closed up shop abruptly last week, with no announcement or fanfare. According to Sharon Nelson of NADAC (which has owned AMBOR for more than a year), the person who had been running AMBOR just decided she didn't want to do it anymore. According to Sharon, all that is necessary to keep it going is for someone to step up and take over the duties, as she has no interest in maintaining it herself. (I never bothered to register with AMBOR myself.)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Uh oh ... I'm going to be one of those people who puts a sweater on her dog ...

I have a coat for Lucy but she hates it. I've only made her wear it when it's really cold, and only because I can't stand to watch her shiver. She'd rather shiver, I think.

But it looks like Pinky Laverne is going to be a short-haired dog, and if I ever want her to wear a coat I should get her accustomed to it now. I'll have a great opportunity on Saturday because she'll be spending the day at a NADAC trial with Lucy and I and I think it's going to be really chilly, at least in the morning.

Still, I hate to go out and buy her a little coat when she will just outgrow it very quickly, so I think I'll see if this tip from the Make blog works: How to make a dog sweater from a sock. Pinky weighed in at a whopping 7.3 lbs. Tuesday (she's about 10 weeks now), so I may have to steal a big sock from Mark to make sure it fits. I'll post the results here, of course!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

USDAA: Something for everyone (to gripe about)

A lot of people are upset with USDAA lately because they were a bit tardy in posting the Nationals results on their web site. There have also been many complaints on the USDAA e-mail list that the formula for awarding Top Ten points and Snooker Super Qs is unfair to small dogs because it's based on the number of dogs in a class and the mini classes are often very small (I disagree that it's unfair but I don't feel like going into it right now). But I have a grouse that's a lot closer to home: I was checking some recently posted results for a trial in September, and they attributed most of Mr. Gomez's results from that trial to Lucy!

I was flabbergasted--how can it make sense to have a dog entered in 16" Championship classes at the Masters level and also running in 22" Performance I and II classes at the very same trial? Is anyone paying attention? But wait, that's not all--in one class, PI Relay, they have Mr. Gomez and Lucy as partners! Yes, I apparently ran my dogs together in a relay! (OK, so I could have conceivably gotten another handler to run one of them and pulled it off, but still ...)

This isn't the first time USDAA has screwed up our results--they "lost" two of Lucy's Qs a couple of years ago. In all fairness to USDAA, I'm quite willing to believe that the host club screwed up all the results and someone at USDAA just entered the data without questioning it. But I'm a little concerned that my e-mail to USDAA requesting that they fix the errors has gone gone unacknowledged. I understand that they are busy with the Nationals aftermath, but couldn't they at least send some sort of form e-mail acknowledging receipt of my e-mail and promising to follow up? How long should I wait before sending another e-mail asking them to fix the errors? This means a lot more to me than how long it took them to post the results for Nationals--I couldn't care less about that.

Gratuitous Gomey blogging ...

Originally uploaded by Mr. Gomez
I have nothing useful to say; I just wanted to post this great photo of Mr. Gomez that Mark took. Here's another. And another.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Baby steps for puppy

pinky laverne

Pinky Laverne went to her first Puppy Primer class last night. She's way smaller and younger than the other puppies and they frighten her a bit. So far her only real socialization has been playing with a few adult dogs because they don't barrel toward her like gangbusters they way puppies do. She's only about 10 weeks old, and last week she weighed 6.1 lbs. (she's due for another weigh-in tonight). I'd really love to find her some appropriately sized puppy playmates.

She's also a bit afraid of humans sometimes. We did an exercise in class where each of us went in turn to the other people's puppies and fed them treats while handling their paws, ears and tails (to accustom them to human handling and help them accept things like vets and groomers). Pinky was reluctant to be close enough to the people for the handling part, so we just had people feed her treats. It's weird because sometimes she'll run right up to people and other times she's afraid. I think being in the class environment with all that puppy energy for the first time was stressful for her. She will probably improve over the next few weeks. I think that when we're done with this session I'll repeat Puppy Primer again instead of moving her up to Senior Puppy right away in the hopes that next time around, being older and a bit bigger, Pinky will be able to actually interact with the other pups.

As far as her general training, we're taking baby steps. Potty training is going really well because we have established a system and a schedule and we (the humans) have been diligent about sticking to it. We've had only a few accidents and they were all human error. Pinky seems to be trying her best to accommodate our desire that she do her business outdoors. I think she shares that goal.

I'm doing a lot more "play training" than anything else--encouraging her to play tug, having her fetch a ball and return to a game of tug (foundation for flyball!), and getting her to bite toys instead of hands. As far as control behaviors, we're doing attention to name, sit and down, but I'm taking it slowly and patiently because she's only 10 weeks old and has a rather short attention span.

Lucy and Mr. Gomez aren't exactly thrilled with the new addition, but they're slowly accepting her. She's never allowed unsupervised access to them, and so far all the time they spend together is limited to short sessions in the backyard, where the dogs have some room to escape from the pestering little midget. We're trying to keep all the interactions between the dogs as positive as possible, both to help the dogs accept Pinky and so that she doesn't learn grouchiness from them. Lucy is much more accepting than Mr. Gomez, who is just a big old grump sometimes. We call him the "fun police" because he can't stand it when someone besides himself is having a good time.

So I know it sounds like I've really decided for reals to keep Pinky, and I think that's probably true, but I'm leaving the "official" decision until she's been through puppy primer. I figure that will let me really get an idea of how she will fit the family and my dog-sport goals, but she'll still be at a cute and very adoptable age (with the bonus of having gotten lots of training) if it seems like it's not going to work. But so far everything seems to feel right.

The one big question that can't be really answered right now is her adult size. We have no idea what's in her mix, so we can only guess based on her growth rate so far. I've been trying to find as much information as possible about growth rates of various breeds so I can make a comparison. Right now I'm guessing she's on track to be about cocker spaniel size, which would be great.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

When dogs attack .. or no good deed goes unpunished

Ugh, what an awful morning I had today. I was driving to the grocery store when I saw a big brown dog running full-speed across an intersection ahead of me with no owner in sight. My instinct was to go after him and see if I could catch up to him and look for tags. I turned onto the street he was on, and immediately saw why the dog had been going so fast--it was on the attack. A woman was screaming "Get off my dog! Get off my dog!" while the brown dog attempted to maul her akita. I pulled over and jumped out of my car as a guy with a wide-eyed confused look on his face came out of the closest house.

All I knew to do was to avoid putting my hands anywhere near the dogs' mouths. Even a dog that's not human-aggressive is likely to bite--hard--at whatever is close during a fight. The only thing I could think of is something Val Olszyk once mentioned about breaking up dogfights: If there's a tail, use it. So I grabbed the attacking dog's tail, and pulled. The neighbor guy saw what I was up to and also grabbed the tail, so I told him to hold it while I grabbed the dog's rear haunches and pulled. We managed to pull him off the other dog, and I told the guy to keep hold of the tail while I reached into my car and got a slip lead (handy things, slip-leads). Unfortunately, the dog turned and snapped at him so he dropped the tail and it launched another attack on the akita.

At this point the woman started screaming, in a really nasty tone, at us "Get this dog off my dog NOW! It's going to kill him! Get him off!" I wanted to yell back "What the *%&@ do you think I'm doing here, lady?" I mean, why be bitchy to people who are trying to help you? We were putting ourselves at personal risk to help this woman, and she was being really nasty. Seriously, if I hadn't been thinking of her poor dog, I would have saved myself a lot of risk (and, as it turned out, about an hour of my time) by getting back in my car and driving off. OK, I know I couldn't have actually done that, but she really pissed me off.

At any rate, we successfully separated the dogs and I got a slip-lead around the brown dog's neck. I told the neighbor guy to hold it tight while I got my cell phone and called 911 for animal control. While I was calling, the woman with the dog left, staring over her shoulder at us--actually it looked more like glaring than staring--but saying nothing. I wanted to say "Oh, and you're welcome, by the way ... saving your dog's life was nothing, really!" but I was busy talking to the dispatcher.

So the dispatcher said they'd send animal control right out. Ha, I thought, Durham Animal Control never gets "right out" anywhere. I figured I'd be lucky if they showed up at all. After I got off the phone a guy pulls up in his car and said "So what just happened here?"

"This dog just attacked some lady's dog," I said. "She left. I've called 911 and they're sending Animal Control--the dog's got no collar or tags."

"Oh, it's not your dog?" he said.

"No, I just stopped to help," I said.

"Oh--that was my girlfriend whose dog was attacked," he said, and it dawned on me that she must have thought it was my dog, which might explain why she was such a bitch to me. She never bothered to ask, though, did she?

Anyway, boyfriend dude left (probably the prospect of waiting and waiting for Durham Animal Control didn't appeal to him, either). After a half-hour, during which the nice and helpful neighbor guy waited with me even though he was late to meet a friend), I called 911 again. They said an officer was on his way. I didn't really believe them, but I told the neighbor guy that he should go meet his friend and I'd just hang out in his yard.

At this point, the dog was nice and calm, and behaving like a real sweetheart. It was obvious he was someone's pet because he looked well-taken care of (except that he was obviously overfed, but I rarely see a pet dog that isn't.) I tried to guess his mix--he looked part bull mastiff, but they aren't actually all that common so it must have been something else. His head was shaped like a Rottweiler's, but he had the coloring of a fawn boxer. A boxweiler, maybe? He seemed happy to be hanging out with us there, and I started to feel bad that he was going to be crammed in the animal control truck (if they ever showed up, that is). But he was so dog-aggressive he definitely had to be taken off the street and I certainly wasn't bringing him home with me. I wondered if his people even realized their dog had escaped.

So roughly an hour after the whole thing started, the animal control guy showed up, put the dog in his truck. I went on to the store, etcetera, and when I got home there was an e-mail to the neighborhood list from someone whose neighbors were missing a dog fitting the description of the I apprehended. I wrote back and told them what happened and that animal control has the dog.

For more info on ways to break up a dogfight that might be better than the ones I used, see this web page. (You have to scroll down about 5 screens past ads for the guys DVDs. I don't know if I agree with any of the guy's other dog-training advice because I haven't read it, but his fight-breaking advice looks like it would work).

Oh, and I'm going to make sure I always have a slip-lead in my car. Although I hope I don't run into to many more dogfights.