Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sometimes it just works...

As part of the home-boarding, I regularly meet people as they come to the house and drop their dogs off. I even walk with and meet with some clients outside of any boarding arrangement. But sometimes, as was the case last May with Max and Becky, I get to meet people who really do stand out for just being so damned nice, down to earth, and full of good humour. This weekend I boarded a GSD named Taz (who I naturally renamed to Tazmaria Olmalero), and a Collie Cross (I think it's crossed with a Staffie) named Wilf (who I naturally renamed to Wilfred Bramble), owned by Graham and Lisa.

From the very first moment I met Lisa and Graham, I just knew I liked them. They were open, funny (believe me, I can't even own a toilet brush any more), and sociable. Their dogs were an absolute credit to them, and their GSD, Taz, has reminded me just how much I miss owning GSDs.

You see, before Ellie, I'd always owned GSDs, but grew disheartened as a result of the sheer number of them that have developed fear-aggression through the lack of nerve caused by the reckless over-breeding in the UK in recent years. Taz, while still only a few months old, seems set to be representative of the breed as I once knew them to be - courageous, loyal, steady in nerve, and with gorgeously rich and deep colours.

Having Taz for the weekend certainly reminded me just how much I miss the traits of the GSD - the laying in doorways to watch both the exits and the entrances, the leg hugging, and the constant look of alertness.

Ellie took to both of them without any issue. Wilf is quite a timid wee thing, though he also has a devilish side in him that likes to wind Taz up from time to time, while Tax is a typical young dog - always experimenting and finding out where the limits are. She did put herself right in Ellie's face at one point, but a quick growl and snap from Ellie quickly made Taz realise that's probably not the right way to behave.
Once they sorted boundaries and space out, they were all just fine and dandy.

I really do love watching how dogs communicate their feelings. They are so much better at it than we humans. They don't hold grudges, are always consistent, and are absolute masters of subtlety. Touch wood, despite all the dogs that have come through, we've never once had a fight yet. I believe this is because as each dog has come through, I've learnt more about their sometimes very subtle signals and how to interpret them. But I digress.

On Wednesday, Teal'c the Rottweiler arrives for a couple of nights! Teal'c is my surrogate Rottweiler. I see her just about every week as her owner, Sue, and I take dog walks together. I guess she's the dog that I never really allowed myself to have. :)

This afternoon's challenge, to teach Ellie to put herself onto the weighing scales. That should be an easy one to do. I don't see why I should be the only one who has to be reminded how much weight I am putting on as I get older!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Kizzie Whizz Bang

"I can't believe you've read her blog and still want to board her", "I think you're mad". There were just some of the lines that the owner said to me as she delivered her much-loved Labradoodle, Kizzie, to me for a weekend of home-boarding.

Kizzie is a five-month old Labradoodle, and, like all Labradoodles I've ever met and boarded, she is a live-wire. On her first night I decided to sleep downstairs with her as she is so young. I left the door of her crate open and figured that because I knew she was there, I would only sleep lightly anyway. I woke up to a really quite unique sound that, I hope, needs little more explanation than the next line gives; poor Kizzie had raging diarrhea. I got up and cleaned and disinfected the floors. This happened several times throughout the night. By early Saturday morning, after seeing the world through extremely tired eyes, even I was starting to thinking that maybe I was mad.

However, then the day moved on and I have to tell you, I really fell in love with Kizzie. She had been with me long enough by then to work out that standing by the back door would see her get let out, which helped with her runny tummy timing issues. But more importantly, I had learned that she's a really very inquisitive dog that would be just perfect for heelwork to music, trick training, or for assistance tasks. She has a natural curiosity and eagerness. When I washed my hands at the sink, she jumped in the bath, placed her paws on the sink edge, and began to lap the water. When I polished, she wanted to take the cloth, when I took my shoes off, she wanted to take them. With both the latter things, I encouraged her by briefly letting her hold each item before taking it from her. (The owners had stated that I was free to teach her new things.)

You see, to me, a behaviour is only a bad behaviour if you can't find a use for it. If a dog will take your shoe then you have half of a "Fetch my shoes" routine. If a dog will steal your duster, then you have half of a "Do the Dusting" routine. You see my point? It's all about how you channel these behaviours. But I digress. My point is that I see Kizzie as one of those special dogs that has all of the enthusiasm and the intelligence to really be quite a remarkable dog.

I've boarded many dogs where I've fallen for their charms, and loved having them around. However, Kizzie is the first dog that I've thought, "you know what, I'd have that dog". Such is my belief in her capacity for excellence.

As it happened, I ended up sleeping downstairs with her each and every night of her stay as she just wasn't able to go all night without the diarrhea. The difference though was that she was now wise enough to wake me and let me know she needed to go. Another sign that she's a really smart dog. This morning, I woke up to the sight of Kizzie laying by my side, on her back, with all four paws in the air. Her nose was tucked into my ear, snoring away without a care in the world.

You can read more about Kizzie in her regularly updated blog.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ellie Sings the Blues...

Here it is, by popular demand... Ellie Sings the Blues!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Things can only get butter...

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of home-boarding a new guest - Charlie. You know, I don't know what it is, but the dogs I am receiving for boarding lately just seem to be getting better and better. Charlie is an eight year old with the spirit of a three year old. He would happily run and play when I took him out, but he also just loved to lay on my chest as I laid on the sofa to watch television. He got on very well with Ellie and with all the other dogs we met on our walks too. Seriously, how can I not love what I do? I wouldn't swap it for the world. It's dogs like Charlie (and several others I should add) that remind me why I love the company of dogs as much as I do.

In other news... Who knew - Ellie can sing! I discovered this by accident the other morning. I was laid in bed and Ellie was laid on me as she tends to do each morning. I began to call her name in a somewhat high-pitched tone "Ellie Bellyyyyyyyyy", and before I knew it she was singing at me! I tried again and, sure enough, she repeated it. I've now done it several times in different contexts and she is quite happy to sing along to my high-pitched screeching! So there you go, another unknown talent tapped into!

In one of my previous posts I mentioned how Ellie is changing insofar as she's getting more courageous, more willing to take risks, and more ready to try her luck from time to time. The other night Jan was preparing a bacon sandwich for herself. She buttered her bread and then returned to the living room while the bacon cooked. After a few minutes there was a slurping sound coming from the kitchen. Jan went to investigate. The buttered bread had become - how can I say this - unbuttered. Ellie had put her front paws on the worktop and carefully licked every trace of butter, leaving the bread in perfect condition and unmoved. Well, perfect except for the shallow valley that was etched into the bread where her tongue had run along it. I love dogs with spirit! :)

I took Ellie to the grounds of Belton House the other day with my good friend Sue, and her Rottie, Teal'c. Despite it only being about fifteen minutes away from me (if that) I've never actually walked Ellie around it. There are plenty of deer in the park, and so I was curious to see how Ellie would be around them. While she never really got that close to them, she seemed completely oblivious to their existence. Me however, I couldn't resist getting as close as possible to them in order to snap a photo. This week, weather permitting, we're taking Teal'c and Ellie to the beach at Anderby Creek! Ellie and I haven't been there for ages and I can't wait.

Friday, April 2, 2010

New Design...

Yes, it's that time of year again when Ellie's blog has to represent the change in the weather. With that in mind, Ellie has knocked up a little spring design. We hope you like it!

In other news, it looks like Ellie will be taking part in this year's canine display event at Belton again. More to come soon...