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A non-goat post!

I know, I know, a shocker! We’re nearly caught up on goats but I thought y’all might like a break. Besides, there are critters other than goats running around here, after all!

And recently we’ve discovered that we’ve been spending way too much money on dog toys. On a whim, we gave Zille an empty 2L soda with the cap on. She loved it and had a great time with it and finally crushed it into a flat mangled thing sort of reminiscent of modern sculpture, so we gave her another one. Only this time, we filled it with water first.

Gentle readers, I do wish I’d gotten video. She had the best time with that thing, and her favorite thing to do was to grab it with her front paws and shove it backwards, sending it shooting through her back legs so she could spin around, growling fiercely, and do it all over again. She did that for hours. She finally punctured it after a day or so and crushed it into the same mess as her first bottle, so we gave her another one. That one didn’t last quite so long, but she has to wait for me to finish this bottle of ginger ale before she gets another one.

As each bottle becomes a crushed and no-longer-fun mess of chewed plastic, she takes them over to a spot she’s designated for piles of things that are no longer any fun and leaves them there. At least she’s being neat about it, right?

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Songs from Manorstock ’11

The House of the Fetchy Dog

There is a house in Virginia
Where I’m the Fetchy Hound
Get in my way when the ball gets thrown
And man, I’ll mow you down

My daddy, he did Schutzhund
The sleeves, he bit them all
But the only thing I’ll ever bite
Is this here fetchy ball

My momma, she was Danca
“Chase the ball!” she said to me
And since my momma told me so
A fetchy dog I’ll be

Puppies, I must tell you
To do what I have done
Learn to be a fetchy dog
And you’ll always have fun

I’ve got one paw in the backyard
And an orange ball in my jaws
And if the monkeys won’t throw for me
I’ll smack it with my paws

There is a house in Virginia
Where I’m the fetchy hound
Get in my way when the ball gets thrown
And man, I’ll mow you down.

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The semester winds to a close.

I swear I’m still alive, but you wouldn’t know it from my online presence as the end of the semester rolls down over me. Please bear with me, gentle reader, and for that matter savage readers should bear with me as well. Classes are over in a week and I should be on to doing something more interesting than writing papers, taking tests, and tearing my hair out.

Here, have a gratuitous Zille picture.
Zille, a sable German Shepherd, stands with her body in three-quarters profile to the camera and her face turned full on toward it.  She has a huge goofy smile.  We will ignore the overgrown grass and focus on the lovely dog.

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Highlight of today’s Footsoccerball game

Things you should know before watching this video:
1) Daniel was not injured, just startled. Really, really startled.
2) Game play ceased immediately and all dogs were forced to come in the house and be bored.
3) Well, OK, not bored, but the Shedders were definitely having less fun in the house where they have to be much more polite and less zoomie.
4) Just before I started filming, I’d said “Now you just have to get the ball back to this end of the yard.”

Video opens with Daniel, a very tall Englishman, down at the far end of the yard from the camera, quite close to the shed. He is contending with Zille, a sable Shedder, and Sid, a black Shedder, for a slightly battered footsoccerball. The dogs are initially winning, but then Daniel manages to get the ball and head toward the camera with it.
Me: (completing that earlier sentence) Without hitting me.
As I speak, Sid manages a beautiful tripping maneuver on Daniel and seizes the ball. Daniel manages to stay on his feet and secure the ball again. Sid, however, in a flash of speed and determination, snatches the ball away and heads away from the camera with it toward the back corner of the yard. Daniel follows, trying to nudge the ball out of Sid’s mouth, and finally succeeds. Sid’s head flashes up and….
Daniel: (turning to the camera) He just bit me in the groin!

The record so far this season:
Daniel: 1 1
Shedders: 0 0 (violation of rule 5b by Sid, violation of newly revised rule 4)

Rules 4 and 5, as amended:
4) It is legal to bite your opponent’s clothing or fur, but you may not bite your opponent. This distinction is important.
4a) If you bite your human opponent instead of the human opponent’s clothing, play must cease.
5) It is legal to pry your opponent’s jaws off your clothing, fur, or body.
5a) If your opponent’s jaws were on your clothing, play must continue.
5b) If you are human and your opponent’s jaws are on your body, play must cease.

New rule:
10) It is legal to distract your opponent by scritching him gently behind the ear.

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I am not normally a socially responsible blogger.

Wow. Yesterday’s post on Service Dog Etiquette for the Dog Lover got more hits than anything I have written here with the exception of advertising cats what need homes. I am really seriously flattered that people who have been service dog handlers (of all stripes) for way, way longer than I have felt it was worth linking. I am a noob to having a disability (I spent a few years denying that the chronic pain was chronic — if you ignore it long enough, it goes away, right?) and a noob to being a service dog handler, so I was really kind of worried I would be “stepping on toes” or get something horribly wrong. Much love to the friends who looked it over for me before I posted and gave me helpful hints!

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And now, we return to our usual programming, which is to say WHO WANTS SID PICTURES? I knew you did. Sunday was phenomenally warm and sunny and a good day for me pain-wise and balance-wise, so we got outside in the yard and played fetch. I also set up the cheesy home agility set to play with. Sid cannot be inspired to move above a plod, and had a tendency to just plow through the jump. On the other hand, with a clicker and some kibble I had Tink and Beowulf doing Performing Doberman Tricks inside five minutes. I had Beowulf down-stay near the jump at a 90 degree angle to it, and then got Tink to do a beautiful string of jump, turn, jump, turn, jump, leap over Beowulf, skid into a “Sit up and beg” all for a click and a couple kibbles. I think it was because the sun was nice and bright and I took care to tap the crossbar and make sure she noticed it.

Anyway, Sid pictures! My handsome boy.
Sid, a black German Shedder who is 8 months old, trots toward the camera.  His ears are slightly worried, his eyes have some urgency to them, and his cheeks are a little pooched out.  Water drips from his mighty jaws, which are closed.
Here is Sid trying to fetch me a mouthful of water. It did not work out very well for him.

To the left, Zille, a 2 and a half year old sable Shedder, heads out of frame, a ball in her mouth.  Center frame, Sid has a really odd expression on his face and his mouth is half-open.  Anyone who has spent time with dogs will recognize that he is about to try biting Zille on the butt to see what happens.
Here is Sid about to get his ass kicked by Zille.

Center frame, Sid runs joyously toward the camera, his eyes bright and his pink tongue flying.  His course has been carefully plotted to be at 45 degrees to that of Zille, who is just to the viewer's right, trying to get past him so she can return the ball to her person.

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Rainy Day

Sunday morning was cool and rainy and the dogs (particularly Sid) were bored, so I thought I would get out the tunnel that came with the cheesy home agility kit I’d bought and teach him to go through it. It actually went very well, and I wish I had pics to show you proof of the one time Sid went through the tunnel, but I don’t. Because shortly after Sid’s one trip through, Braxton Bragg realized there was cheese in the tunnel and camped out in it, defending it from all canine comers with swats of his formidable paws.

Braxton, a stocky black cat, stands in a blue vinyl tunnel, looking off to one side and licking his lips.  It is quite clear that no dogs are going to be allowed into the magical cheese-producing tunnel while Braxton has anything to say about it.

Sid tried to enter the end of the tunnel near me, and got swatted for his pains. Tink thought to go to the other end, which Brax wasn’t defending, only to have him stomp to that end of the tunnel and take a swing at her. So it was with great sadness that I turned to asking dogs to down for cheese. In the next photo, you see Tink the Mercenary checking to make sure that I really do have cheese in my hand now that she’s bothered to down. In the background, Zille patiently demonstrates her excellent down-stay, waiting for her turn for more cheese.

Tink is not about to down without a payout.

Tink’s eye socket is looking pretty good these days, as you can see. The swelling is totally gone and the lids are entirely healed together, leaving just a slightly oddly shaped depression where the eye used to be. There’s enough “overhang” from the bone at the edges of her eyesocket that I could probably get a custom-molded piece of something soft and foamy to stay in there, and I am contemplating various devices incorporating LEDs or lasers or something, because the only thing that could possibly be cooler than Tink is “Tink with a laser eye.”

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What’s in a name?

Siddy’s AKC registration has come through, a process that was a little more fraught on the breeder end than usual what with his parents being foreigners. This is not terribly important to me since he can’t be shown in conformation because of his undescended testicle, and I don’t want to do AKC-sanctioned dog sports with him. Most of them require a lot more mobility than I have, anyway, if you’ve ever watched agility handlers running between obstacles you’d know what I mean.

It does, however, mean I need to pick a registered name for him. Christine, his breeder, is lobbying for his puppy name, so he’d be “Blackthorn’s Obsidian.” I am admittedly willing to run my ideas by her because she does have a vested interest in not having someone run a search for her kennel name and turn up “Blackthorn’s One Ball Wonder” or similar. But it seems so simplistic to use his puppy name when Zille got a fancible new adult registered name (Blackthorn’s Karimihome, because I love the song “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and her puppy name was Karisma, call name “Kari” before she became Zille) and Tink features the ultimate in over-the-top fancible registered names: Fadinha dos Olhos Verdes (“little green-eyed fairy” in Portuguese, her eyes were quite green as a puppy and it ties into the Tink name).

To take the easy way out with Siddy feels to me as if I am failing him somehow, which is silly. His actual name by which he is known and loved at home will continue to be Sid (Siddy, Siddymonster, Oh My God Sid Stop Sucking On Cats) no matter what, because it fits him in some fundamental way. His registered name will have the least effect on his life of any name ever, really, but it does feel like with the previous two dogs I managed to say something about them with their registered names: Tink, even as a pup, was a Diva and required a fancy diva name; Zille is sweet and comforting like the hymn her name is stolen from. This is also what makes Siddy’s registered name hard; I need it to say something about him. About, perhaps, the endless dance of temptation I did around him, eyeing him covetously, until when I heard he hadn’t worked out in his previous home I knew we were fated. Or maybe about the way he loves me, deeply and enthusiastically, a love that expresses itself not only in a quiet lean against me but in rapturous delight to see me again when we have been separated for a whole two minutes because I managed to go pee without him. Possibly his name should say something about his quiet steadfastness, the way he looks at strange new things that are possibly alarming, catalogs them as not something to worry about, and files them away with a total lack of drama.

It’s not, in the end, that “Blackthorn’s Obsidian” is a bad name. It’s that it doesn’t say much about him other than “I am a big black dog”. It doesn’t tell you anything about the imp of joy in his eyes when he climbs up on his rubbermaid box for the one-millionth time, and waits for me to notice and approve, or about the way he inherited his mother’s habit of giving hugs, where he comes and leans his chest into mine and drapes his big ol’ head over my shoulder or arm.

Of course, then I started discussing it with Christine (who is quite partial to “Obsidian”) and she started pointing me toward crystal healing sites. Let me just say that I am personally of the opinion that crystal healing is woo, although woo that is well-intentioned and aims to make people feel better with a minimum of nasty side-effects[1]. But anyway, what they had to say about the rock known as obsidian was things like this:

Obsidian helps to protect the very sensitive against depression. It is the stone of the soft hearted and gentle people of the world. Use obsidian to help block negativity of any kind. As a black gemstone, it symbolizes self control and resilience. Black stones have protective energies in the sense that black is the absence of light, and therefore, can be used to create invisibility. Source

Obsidian is truth-enhancing. A strongly protective stone, according to the Psychic Giant it forms a shield against negativity. It blocks psychic attack and absorbs negative energies from the environment. Obsidian draws out mental stress and tension. It stimulates growth on all levels, urging exploration of the unknown and opening new horizons. Brings clarity to the mind and clears confusion. Helps you to know who you truly are. Obsidian dissolves emotional blockages and ancient traumas. Promotes qualities of compassion and strength.

Obsidian aids the digestion and detoxifies. It reduces arthritis pain, joint problems and cramps. Warms the extremities.

Black Obsidian is a very powerful and creative stone. It increases self-control. It forces facing up to one’s true self. Releases imbalances and negative energies. Black Obsidian is protective and provides support during change. It repels negativity and disperses unloving thoughts. Source

Leaving a chunk of Obsidian by the door ensures visitors rubbish remains outside your abode.

Using it personally, you are able to work through karmic issues, make sure you are truly ready to deal with them as Obsidian is very to the point one might say.

Many use this stone for protection.

It can be used to remove negative energy from the body, to this point it also works as a pain killer.

In elixir form it balances the mental and emotional sides. It is also a good anti virus and inflammation crystal. Source

Incidentally, according to that last one, an “elixir” is what you get from letting a chunk of rock sit in water for at least a couple hours so the water picks up the rock’s “vibrations”. Right.

So there is a good case to be made for sticking with “Obsidian.” Although given that today he partially demolished a wire crate in a fit of pique because we zip-tied the thing together after he learned to disengage the front panel and let himself out, I’m highly tempted to go with “Blackthorn’s Obsidian Wrecking Ball.” Ah, puppies.


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We can never paint that door frame again.

Last night while waiting for the arrival of the Best Mother Ever, I got the bright idea to definitively measure dogs by pinning them up against the door frame between kitchen and living room and marking their heights with a pencil (first we wanted to use our front one got from Uk Oak Doors… but it’s just too great to be marked). This could have gone more smoothly. Zille came right to me, stood in place, and let herself be measured. So did Sid. So did Beowulf. Tink on the other hand first tried hunching her back to make herself taller, and then when I sighed and begged her to behave, she extended her front legs and made herself shorter. A few moments of wrestling my recalcitrant dog later, I had my pencil marks and got out the tape measure and recorded their heights on the wall.

I was so pleased with the result that I went over them with a Sharpie to immortalize them. Sid’s is the only one with a date, because Sid is still growing. I figure I’ll measure him once a month or so and keep track of his continued progress.

A section of narrow white wall with writing on it in black marker.  The highest mark is Beowulfs, at thirty and three-quarters inches.  Next down is Tink at twenty-eight and one-eighths inches.  Then comes Zille, at twenty-four and one-quarter inches, and finally Sid at twenty-three and three-quarters inches.

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Tink is officially smallest dog in the house again.

When we took Sid in for his first vet appointment, he was a skinny thing with not much muscle tone and weighed in at 58.5 pounds, which is right at or below where Tink tends to ride in terms of weight these days. He went in Friday for his lepto and Lyme boosters, and weighed in at 63.5 pounds, officially making Tink the smallest dog in the house again in terms of weight.

“Smallest dog in the house” seems like an odd moniker to apply to a dog who is 28″ at the shoulder. Tink is very oversized for a Doberman bitch, much as Beowulf is way too tall for a Doberman dog. The contrast between builds with Dobes and Shedders is pretty interesting, too. Sid and Zille are about the same height, around 24″ at the shoulder, but Zille weighs in around 70lbs and she is pretty much nothing but muscle. This is, for the record, about the same thing Beowulf weighs, and he’s 7″ taller than Zillekins. Siddy’s 5 pound weight gain has been entirely muscle; I’m keeping him on the lean side of a healthy weight to minimize stress on his joints as he grows, but his shoulders, haunches, and back have filled out with healthy (and strong!) muscle that is giving him the start of looking like the adult dog he’s going to be. That is one of the reasons why I started him on a vegan diet. You can see this review of the best Vegan dog food by The Green Forks, which was recommended to me by the best dog trainer in my town.

Meanwhile, back at the Manor, I’ve established that a few pieces of cheese will not cause Roo to vomit uncontrollably, so I’m thinking of taking up clicker training with him. I’m kind of on a training kick. I’m working with Sid because, well, he’s got a lot of work to do before he can be my Mobile Cane and Hairy Crutch, I’m periodically working with Tink[1] because she thinks it is deeply unfair that the puppy should get all the cheese, and I think it would be hilarious to have Roo doing things like jumping through hoops and otherwise performing for his food.


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On Choosing a Service Dog Candidate

A few people have asked, here and elsewhere, “Why not just train Zille?” since my post on a possible service dog puppy. Zille thanks you for your faith in her abilities, but it’s kind of a complicated question to answer. It boils down to Zille lacking the self-confidence in some situations that I’d need in a Service Dog; for instance walking next to traffic REALLY creeps her out, no matter how many treats are involved. Which is fine for a pet dog, but if she’s being my Walking Cane then having her swerve into me and attempt to put me between her and traffic isn’t going to work out so well.

Probably the best candidate in the house is actually Beowulf, who is steady in any public situation that does not involve food and capable of spending hours keeled over on his side alternately sleeping and staring into space while contemplating the vast mysteries of the universe, but he’s also six years old which means that his service life would be pretty limited. And I’d still need to put a lot of training on him to use him as a full-time Walking Cane because right now if I take him into a restaurant he is going to have no problem resting his enormous head on a table next to someone’s plate (whose is not important, could be me, could be the people at the next table) and attempting to explain that he’s just starving.

And even if Tink didn’t have a myriad of health issues of her own which affect her joint stability, well, her temperament is not at all suited to service doggery since she firmly believes that wherever she goes, she should be the center of attention and also she has no intention of peacefully walking next to me at my pace while I use her to stabilize myself. She has places to go, things to do, people to see.

That being said, there are things the existing dogs can do for me and I plan to teach them to do those things in order to brush up on my own training skills before a potential service puppy sets foot in the house. Zille, for instance, can easily learn to pick up things I have dropped (so I don’t have to bend over) and to go and fetch things for me. Beowulf can be my Walking Cane in situations where he is not likely to bring disgrace and disrepute on the noble profession of Service Dog, or make things harder for other service dog teams who may need access to that place in the future.

Because that’s the thing about using a service dog, business owners are going to judge future teams who visit their premises from you and your dog. A Service Dog isn’t just a pet that’s really well-behaved, it’s an exceptional dog who can handle huge numbers of situations with dignity and aplomb, make safety decisions for its partner on the fly, and be as unobtrusive as, well, an actual inanimate cane would be. If a service dog screws up, that’s going to make it that much harder for other teams to access that space without hassle, as the business owner may not have a lot of experience with service dog teams, and may think the disruptive dog’s behavior is typical, or may just not feel like taking the chance. It’s illegal to deny access to a service dog team, but that doesn’t mean some people won’t try it and not every service dog handler is going to have the energy to argue with the person trying to deny access.

Hence my decision that none of my current dogs are really appropriate for full-time service work, and that I should start with a cane at the moment, when I only really need assistance part-time, and work towards a service dog who does a better job of fitting the bill. This doesn’t mean I don’t adore my dogs, but that I am realistic about their abilities and what will make them happy. Zille would be miserable encountering new situations every day, with new and strange sights and sounds. Beowulf would violate service dog behavioral standards by begging for food (and possibly attempting to mug people for love). Tink, well, I don’t call her La Diva Tinkerbella for nothing.