Canine Co-Dependency

It takes a lot to get me out of the house, and very little to convince me to stay home. The last time I was out for more than a couple of minutes was January 11 when we took Oliver to the groomer, over a month ago. I’m totally okay with that.

Now, more than ever, it’s leaning toward “can’t” leave the house rather than “don’t want to.” Because…

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These two.

The last dogs to join our pack prior to Oliver and Mozzie were Brody (2006) and Darwin (2007), and I still worked outside the home at least a few days a week until 2010, so they were used to me being gone from time to time. But since Mozzie arrived in November 2016 and Oliver in February 2017, I have literally not spent one night away from home.

My sister and her husband weren’t both out of the house simultaneously for years, because their dog had health issues, and they didn’t want to stress her or have her get into trouble while she was alone. I’m not sure I fully grasped the reality of this until now.

Our son gave us a camera so we could check in on the dogs on the rare occasions we’re out, and it does help a little. At least I can be sure they haven’t decided to eat the couch or engage in a doggie death match. But I also now know Mozzie paces much of the time, climbing up to my spot on the couch and looking around forlornly, and Oliver howls. A lot. “Mamaaaaaaaaaa, where are yooooooooooouuuuuuu?”

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A still from the camera footage. Note Mozzie on the left, in my spot on the couch. Oliver, by the sliding door, is in mid-howl, nose up and sending his cry to the heavens.

I can always come up with reasons not to go out. It’s raining. It might rain. It just rained so it would be splashy and muddy. Cloudy with a chance of meatballs. It’s hot, cold, windy, or buggy. The tide is wrong. There’s an event downtown and it would be crowded. I haven’t washed my hair since Tuesday (and it’s currently Friday). It’s Saturday night and the wait for a table would be too long. The dogs are due for grooming, and if we take them to the park, people will think we don’t take care of them.

You see where I’m going with this. It doesn’t take much.

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Besides, Mozzie says I can’t get off the couch. Don’t argue with him. Cute wins every time, and he’s even bigger and cuter now.

While I generally dislike excursions into the Out, I do like vacations, though, and a combination of “what to do with the dogs” and “all our money seems to be missing” has resulted in no away-from-home time for me since we went to Walker Stalker Con in Atlanta in October 2016.

If you love The Walking Dead and have a chance to go to a Walker Stalker event…DOOOOOO IT!

Even if we nailed down funding for a trip, how would that work? Mozzie is a twitchy, anxious dog, and a strange kennel would stress him out way more than would be good for him, and probably the kennel staff.

We have a reliable petsitter who was great with Darwin and Brody, and has stopped to check in on these two once when we had to be gone all day for a family event, but that’s the extent of it so far. I’m not sure Mozzie and Oliver would be okay with only three daily check-ins like the older two were. And leaving them alone overnight…? That’s a wildcard.

One solution would be someone to stay at the house while we were gone. Sort of a rent-a-mama. The key is for someone to be here a good bit of the day, and overnight. But how to find such a person? I dislike having people in my house. Oddly, though, I find it slightly less objectionable if I’m not here and required to interact.

The other, possibly better idea is to simply take the dogs with us, but again, there are some factors to consider. If we were going on an overnight trip to attend an event, that would mean leaving them alone in a hotel room for a minimum of several hours. If Oliver howls in hotels like he does at home, we’d quickly wear out our welcome.

But if we were, for example, on a beach vacation, they’d be with us all the time, other than when we went out to dinner, and a beach house offers more privacy and a better howl-buffer than a hotel room. We frequently vacation with dog-loving friends, though, and managing stranger-dog interactions elevates the stress levels and sucks the fun right out of things. I need to be able to relax and enjoy myself, not spend all my time as a dog referee, so we don’t typically take our dogs. Except…

We took Brody with us in September 2016, because he was rapidly declining, and it was either try taking him with us or skip the trip. He had issues with our friends’ dog, and she had to hide out in the bedroom the whole time to prevent Brody barking us all deaf and traumatizing the poor dog for life. We gave up and came home after only a couple of days.

This probably boils down to taking them with us, provided they are the only dogs present in a shared house, or finding our own separate accommodations.

Or simply staying home.  Aside from the lack of beachy-ness, it’s where I usually prefer to be, anyway.

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Congratulations, It’s A Poodle!

Surprise poodles are the best poodles.

One year ago today, I woke up as the mom of one six-month-old golden retriever puppy. The plan was already in progress to find him a nice young adult golden or Labrador retriever brother.

Within eight hours, previous plans were tossed right out the window and we welcomed an almost four-month-old standard poodle puppy into the family.

Colonial Capital Humane Society posted this photo and a description, stating he required immediate rescue.

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I texted Tom to ask how we felt about standard poodles. I knew I loved them, but figured I should at least have the courtesy to ask before informing him we now had one. He responded positively, and the wheels were in motion.

The fabulous Lisa Lee of CCHS left work to go take possession of the puppy. She even stopped by Tom’s store and told him she was there with his “son.” Now, Tom had never met Lisa before, and our son and his wife were currently on a plane back to Minnesota from a cruise vacation, so he was a bit perplexed. It was sheer brilliance on Lisa’s part, though, because if any part of Tom was having second thoughts about adopting the poodle-puppy, the point was now moot. He was immediately a poodle-dad.

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We met Lisa after Tom got off work, and this is when I met the puppy we would name Oliver

The poor pup had had a very traumatic few days, and was a bit overwhelmed. Within a day, though, he and Mozzie were playing and bonding, and adopting Oliver was probably the best pack-building decision we’ve ever made.

 

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Oliver will be 16 months old next week, and Mozzie will be 18 months on the same day. We’re looking forward to many years of fun and frolic with our two boys.

Happy gotcha day, Oliver! We love you!

 

To Tear or Not To Tear the Tearribles

Last summer, I contributed to a Kickstarter for a new dog toy, called Tearribles. The idea was to create a toy that was hard to destroy, but still allowed dogs the fun of tearing things apart. For my reward, I chose one XL Tearrible, the big purple monster.

There are four parts that can be pulled off–the tail, each arm, and the legs (which are one piece). The body is covered in the customary plush fabric with a layer of stuffing underneath. Inside, however, is an underlying structure, made with a sturdy nylon mesh with more stuffing and a squeaker.

Nylon mesh is also used in Fluff & Tuff toys, which are my favorite for my two rambunctious, determined puppies. I have four or five of them, and they have yet to inflict significant damage to any of them, and the newest ones are already four months old.

The removable bits of the Tearrible are held securely in place with double strips of heavy-duty Velcro, so you can tuck them back into place when they are pulled off.

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This all sounded great, and an extra interesting activity for Destructo Dogs 1 and 2. But as the saying goes, “no plan survives first contact with the enemy.”

Once Mozzie decided the Tearrible wasn’t going to explode, attack him, or make a sound like the freezer opening (his weirdest phobia, which is saying something, because he has a lot), he immediately focused on the tail. He pulled it off approximately 47 thousand times, and the tail-bit is small enough that I didn’t want him chewing it independently of the toy for fear he’d find a way to swallow it, so I put it away.

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The ears are non-removable and stick up, so one ear also received some toothy attention. They’ve pulled an arm off once or twice, and they’ve been replaced successfully. They have yet, after about a month, to pull off the legs.

Deprived of the option of removing the tail another ten thousand times, Mozzie focused on the tail-hole. He has totally ripped Mr. Tearrible a new one, removing all stuffing within tooth-range, which I pick up and throw away. I couldn’t reattach the tail now if I wanted to. While the toy is looking a little the worse for wear, the inner nylon layer remains intact, keeping the bulk of the stuffing and the squeaker inside.

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Having tear-off-able parts is probably a ton of fun for a lot of dogs, but I don’t think Mozzie and Oliver fully appreciate it. They’re really only interested right now because of the tail-hole and what they might be able to pull out of it.

If I were redesigning this toy, I think I’d do away with the tail, as that’s obviously a weak spot and resulted in these two being qualified canine proctologists. Or the tail could be large enough that it wouldn’t be a potential choking hazard or gastrointestinal obstruction for a large dog. The ears are also vulnerable and should perhaps be reinforced somehow or done away with.

The pricing ranges from $20 for the small Tearrible to $30 for extra-large, which is not out of line with other quality toys. I pay about $20 for the smaller Fluff & Tuff toys, and $30 for the extra-large gator. Since Oliver and Mozzie aren’t all that into the “rip the purple monster limb from limb” part of the Tearrible experience, I probably won’t buy another, sticking to the one-piece Fluff & Tuff toys instead. The plush outer casing over the nylon mesh is used in both Tearribles and Fluff & Tuff, and is a great element to reduce the amount of toy-unstuffing your dogs do.

If your dogs like dismembering things rather than de-stuff-ify-ing everything, this could be a fun toy to add to the collection. It’s well-made and well-designed for what it’s supposed to accomplish. My guys just seem to have different priorities.

Tell me…what are your dogs’ favorite toys?

Classic: Innocent or a Diabolical Plot?

In November of 2007, we welcomed a three-year-old golden retriever into our pack. He was under 60 pounds, emaciated and neglected, saved from that life by golden rescue. We named him Darwin.

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Despite his trauma, he was the sunniest, bounciest, happiest, cutest golden retriever I’d ever seen. He was also extremely ornery. This Classic Fermented Fur post describes when I pondered that he might actually have an evil agenda.

Though I describe him as “barely sixty pounds” in the post, which first appeared exactly ten years ago today, he was still recovering. He eventually chunked out at around 85 pounds, which was a little too much, despite his enthusiastic fence-running, but he was healthy and happy, and we sure did adore him.

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Darwin didn’t know how to not be enthusiastic about every single thing.


Darwin doesn’t play fair. He is some kind of canine nuclear reactor with the ability to take a finite number of cute doggie molecules and fuse them in an out of control chain reaction, creating an infinite Cuteness Output.

He’s a smallish golden retriever, but he has about a million dogs’ worth of adorable packed into his barely sixty pounds.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a direct correlation between Darwin’s Cuteness Output and the Orneriness Quotient. If I could find a way to break the link between those, he’d be the perfect dog. I imagine it’s some sort of evolutionary defense mechanism. In fact, the more I think about it, the cuteness is probably multiplying in proportion to his orneriness because it’s much more difficult to bash a really, really adorable dog in the head with a boot. Clever, Darwin, very clever.

It’s impossible to throw him off the bed when he gets all curled up just where I need to be and looks at me and flutters his tail. When he has his head on the pillow, too, I can’t even muster up a good glare.

It’s impossible to refuse to pet him when he’s draped over the back of the love seat, toy in his mouth and tail wagging.

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Try to resist this. I dare you. It cannot be done.

I can’t yell at him when he slurps up all the coffee in the cup I left on the end table, because it makes him so happy, and he seems to make a real effort not to make a huge mess. Clearly, I am the untrained one, if I’m still leaving coffee on the end table in the first place. And this is a dog that does not need caffeine.

It’s impossible to ignore him when he finally comes back in after an extended fence-barking episode, because he looks at me with that huge golden grin on his frosty, bark-breath encrusted face (Seriously! Whisker-cicles!), seeming to say, “Wow, I just had the best time, but now I’m overflowing with indescribable joy merely to be in your presence.”

There’s no way I can shove him down to the foot of the bed so I can reclaim some small scrap of my own blanket because he then rolls over on his back and I am compelled to scratch his chin and chest and hold his enormous paw for a while.

When he first began getting clear up in the bay window, my instinctive reaction was to make him get down. Dogs don’t belong in the window, right? But he looked so cute standing up there. Plus, his tail thumping on the screen greets me as I make my way from the garage to the house after work.

Then he started sacking out on the windowsill, watching the world go by, and that was even more adorable. It is now Darwin’s window. I’ve given up my claim. I’m thinking of padding the windowsill so he can be even more comfy. One additional benefit is that Brody gets up there less (though he mostly confined his window-time to only his front two paws), because when he got excited over something outside, he tended to claw the screens to shreds.

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After coming across the Obey the Purebreed website, I’m developing a new theory. Dogs use cuteness as the ultimate weapon. If they amass enough “cute,” they gain the ability to get away with anything they want, moving them further along in their diabolical plan for world domination.

I’m not sure, but I think Darwin may soon become their leader.

I just hope the chain reaction which generates all that dog-appeal is not truly nuclear. Because if it is, I am so doomed. He does have that golden glow, but so far I have no reason to believe he is radioactive.

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The Universe Is a Jerk

Yesterday, I shared this Classic Fermented Fur post about when I cut the quick on one of Ozark’s front toenails and it didn’t want to stop bleeding. I found a non-stick pad and some Vet-Wrap to solve the problem.

I hadn’t even thought of Vet-Wrap in years, but I found myself needing to order some today. The only explanation is that the Universe noticed yesterday’s post and has a twisted sense of humor.

The last day or so, Oliver has been licking his left front paw. Mozzie, being a golden and by definition a caring, sympathetic dog, has been helping. Which is really the opposite of helpful. They sometimes do this if Oliver has just been to the groomer and has some clipper burn on his toes, but he hasn’t been to the groomer in almost a month. (Note to self, schedule that for in a few weeks.)

I thought maybe he stepped in something interesting in the yard and it would pass as soon as all the lickable goodness was gone. But a while ago, he was on the couch with me and I noticed his left dew claw was at an odd angle.

Standard poodles normally have their dew claws removed when they’re a few days old. They also customarily (in the US) have their tails docked by 1/3 to 1/2 so the remaining tail is straight. I’m very firmly against cosmetic alterations such as tail docking and ear cropping, so I was fine with Oliver having a natural tail. Dew claws can be a problem if they’re loose or floppy because they tend to catch on things, but Oliver’s are nice and tight, so I wasn’t worried.

But I probably should’ve been because at some point recently, he must have caught it on something. Now it’s loose-ish, and sticking out enough I noticed it through his long leg-hair.

What to do? I’d really like to avoid a trip to the vet. The first thing they’d do is suggest I have the dew claw removed, likely both of them, and at his age this is a pretty big deal. For three-day-old puppies, the cartilage is still developing, so it’s a simple snip and a dab of surgical glue, though I would still rather not do this unless I had a reason, like the puppy was going to be a field dog and likely to injure it. But at over a year old, this would be amputation, involve general anesthesia, stitches, bandages, and probably the Cone of Shame.

I think the first step is to see if I can manage this. It doesn’t appear to be painful, since he’s not limping or holding his paw up, and he’s still tearing up the yard running around with Mozzie. Other than some licking, and giving me dirty looks when I try to examine it, it doesn’t seem to be bothering him a lot.

I ordered some Vet-Wrap and medical tape, but even with Amazon Prime it will take two days to arrive. So I checked the “medical supplies and owie-repairer” basket in my bathroom and found a roll of gauze and some waterproof tape. Oliver was surprisingly cooperative as I wrapped it. My theory is that holding the dew claw tight to his leg for a couple of days should give it a chance to heal and tighten back in place.

I hope he’ll leave the bandage alone. I have a large Comfy Cone, but I have a feeling this would introduce more chaos into the household dynamics than any of us would like. He’s currently in his crate with a bully stick, my theory being this will keep him from paying attention to the bandage-wrapped appendage until he gets a bit used to having it on there.

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The Poodle Is Not Amused

I guess we’ll see. If he won’t leave it alone, or if this doesn’t work and he keeps messing with it after I take off the bandage, we’ll have to visit the vet. Since by then I’ll have tried the “wrap the area and cross my fingers and hope for the best” option, the next step might end up being amputation.

He’s a poodle, and therefore brilliant, so maybe I can explain it to him. If he gives it some thought, I’m sure he’ll recognize the benefits of keeping all his original parts where they belong.

Nothing to do now but wait and see.

Classic: Worst. Dog-Mom. Ever

This edition of Fermented Fur appeared ten years ago today, and involves Ozark, our much-loved and much-missed 110-pound Pyr/Lab mix. Behold…

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He was so sweet and gentle and patient, and I definitely tried that patience in this post. I’m glad I blogged about a lot of these things, because I only vaguely recall some of them, and even the crazy memories make me smile.


I started out with only the best of intentions. That’s how I always start out, being a basically well-meaning person. It’s not my fault if things turn out like crap half the time.

I’ve been treating Ozark’s rancid left ear for a couple of weeks, but not as consistently as I should have. As a result of my semi-inadvertent neglect, I decided last night that he should go to work with me tomorrow for a thorough deep cleaning. After that, we can formulate a new treatment strategy, and start out with a whole bunch less brown, smelly ear gunk, increasing our chances of success.

Before I could take Ozark to the clinic, it was necessary to give him a good brush-out. He’s been looking a little bedraggled the last few weeks, and if I took him looking like that, I would be forced to hang my head in shame. I borrowed a Furminator (a nifty super-duper undercoat rake) from a fellow golden owner two weeks ago, and had yet to so much as remove the blade cover. So, today was the day.

After getting through the morning household chores, I put Brody and Darwin outside so they didn’t complicate the grooming process. Sprocket got to stay, because he never complicates anything.

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Sprocket’s motto: I’ll just be over here, not bothering anybody.

Darwin immediately began running the fence and barking like crazy, but I couldn’t do anything about it just then. I made a mental note to strangle him later.

I spent the next twenty minutes or so brushing Ozark, and got enough undercoat (without even trying) to fill two paper grocery bags. I could have brushed for another hour and at least tripled the fur-removal total, but portions of my right arm were becoming numb. Time to move on to trimming the foot-fur and toenails.

As usual, I nicked the quick of one nail, this time on the left front foot. I applied some stop-bleeding liquid, and all appeared to be well. Ozark was not totally thrilled, but he’s a very tolerant dog and not prone to holding grudges. I picked up the fur and toenail remnants and ran the vacuum, exploding one bag, installing another one, and vacuuming again. This is the standard procedure.

A bit later, Ozark went outside. When he came in, I noticed him lying in the living room licking his paw. Then I noticed his extremely bloody foot. Then I noticed the numerous drippy blood spots all over the carpet.

Not one to panic, I went and got the peroxide, some paper towels, and the anti-bleeding stuff (though I was beginning to doubt its effectiveness). The problem was that his footie was now bleeding quite a bit, and I couldn’t blot the blood flowing from his nail and then get the liquid on it fast enough. Hmm. A new strategy was clearly needed.

I poured a whole gob of the liquid onto a paper towel, and it turns to a gel once it’s out of the bottle. I needed to work quickly. Next step, transfer gob of gel onto my finger, blot blood with other hand, rapidly apply goo to damaged toenail. Observe. No new blood appearing on perturbed pet’s paw. Eeeeexcellent.

Step back. Watch neurotic dog begin licking damaged digit, thus removing anti-bleeding goo. Witness creation of spectacular new bloodstain on carpet. Time to haul out the big guns now.

Somewhere under one of the kitchen cabinets I had a small brown paper lunch bag with first aid supplies I had brought home when Ozark had a sore on his foreleg that he wouldn’t leave alone. I never used it, but had a hunch it was about to come in very handy. I gathered the peroxide, Telfa pads, medical adhesive tape, anti-bleeding goo (which may or may not be totally worthless), and a roll of purple Vet-Wrap bandage.

Ozark looked at me with tremendous apprehension and attempted to flee, leaving a trail of bloody toe-prints in his wake. I intercepted and returned him to the “treatment area.” (On the floor in front of the aquarium) I repeated the whole blood-blotting-and-goo-applying process, this time following it up with the swift slapping-on of a Telfa pad over the end of his foot. I secured the pad with a systematically-placed round of Vet-Wrap, which was in turn secured with white medical adhesive tape. Wow, that looks almost professional.

Let me state, though, that while I manage a veterinary hospital, I am not now, nor have I ever been a veterinary technician. I do, however, observe a certain amount of treatment, and I watch a lot of Emergency Vets on Animal Planet. At any rate, I thought I did a right-fine bandaging job, considering.

Ozark begs to differ. As far as he’s concerned, his entire left front leg is no longer part of his body. He lies by the aquarium, giving me that mournful, incredulous, “how could you do this to me” look. Whenever he tried to stand up, he’d look at his foot as if it belonged to some other dog with zero fashion sense (I rather liked the purple, but maybe he didn’t) and lie back down. I finally enticed him up onto the couch with me, so there’s a slight chance I’ve been forgiven.

It’s entirely possible I wrapped his paw in some unnatural and potentially hazardous position. It’s also possible I wrapped it too tightly, and he has no circulation below his elbow. For these reasons, I will take it off before bed tonight, and hope it doesn’t start bleeding again. I’m not even going to think about removing the eleven thousand blood spots from the carpet until I’m sure this entire unfortunate situation is behind us.

Now I have two reasons to take him to work tomorrow, I guess. Ear and foot. Of course, if he didn’t already have a disgusting ear, I wouldn’t have been hacking away at his toenails today, and we wouldn’t have the toe problem. All my fault, of course.

At least he smells pleasantly of peach-kava grooming spray and is relatively tangle-free.

 

Rescuing the Rescued Poodle

Oliver the Wonder Poodle has been with us almost a year. On his gotcha-versary, expect a lengthy post about everything he’s taught me about poodles in that time. But one very amusing thing happened around six weeks after he arrived and opened my eyes to the ingenuity, curiosity, and unflappable nature of the breed. He was five and a half months old and a bit over thirty pounds at the time, and too smart and intrepid for his own good.

My mornings follow a very structured routine, because I am Not A Morning Person, and varying from the expected process results in chaos and throws me off for the rest of the day. Things must not happen out of order, and nothing requiring independent thought can take place until I’ve been up at least an hour. If I ever experience an early morning house fire, I’m doomed.

Having two puppies made this a challenge, but we were doing pretty well. They wake me up every morning–really heckkin’ early–all happy and wiggly and adorable, they get breakfast, I get coffee, and everybody is set.

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I know this is dim and grainy, but I did warn you they wake me up early. This is what I see every morning when I open my eyes. Not a bad way to start the day.

One particular morning in early April, I took the dogs out then popped back inside to unload the dishwasher and let them run off some puppy mania. A few minutes later, I noticed Mozzie at the sliding door. He had on his “worried ears,” and his eyebrows clearly communicated “you’re not going to like this, but I swear I had nothing to do with it.”

I looked for Oliver, but no Oliver was to be found. I put my shoes back on and clomped down the deck steps into the yard, but still didn’t see a poodle puppy. Mozzie decided to be helpful–because he’s a golden and that’s what they do–and pointed out a hole under the lattice surrounding the deck.

Aha.

Investigation quickly revealed the wayward poodle under the enclosed deck. For reasons known only to him, Oliver had dug under the lattice, wriggled under the deck, and now couldn’t get out because the angle of the hole was wrong.

Thankfully, he wasn’t upset about it. If he’d been freaking out, I’d have had to go all mama-dog and rip off the lattice and probably die of splinter poisoning. But Oliver knew he wasn’t in immediate danger, and I had everything under control. Poodles have a lot of incredible abilities, but mind-reading isn’t one of them. This was fortunate, because if he knew what I was thinking just then, he’d have been a lot more concerned.

He sat there looking at me, confident and unperturbed. I, however, was fairly perturbed. I hadn’t had coffee yet, and I avoid physical exertion at all times, but it was evident I would have to dig the little monster out of there before my coffee-drinking could resume.

I located the garden rake, which would have to do, because while I was sure we owned a shovel, it was probably in the shed, which was padlocked. I had a key to this, of course, but figuring out which one it was would require more mental dexterity than I have before coffee.

Rake in hand, I set about deepening the hole and extending the angle back under the deck so Oliver could crawl out.

Dig, dig, dig. Scoop, scoop, scoop. Pause to catch my breath and look at the unrepentant poodle sitting there smiling at me through the lattice-holes.

Oliver occasionally attempted to help, but didn’t seem to be very effective. I was calling bullshit on the whole thing, because he got under there in the first place, and those paws looked pretty capable, but all he could do was scratch around, occasionally nibble at the dirt, and stick his naughty-but-adorable head out.

Mozzie mostly paced nervously and wandered over from time to time to assess my progress and make sure nobody was in trouble. He’d done his “come quick, Timmy fell down the well” part, which was apparently as involved as he planned to be in the whole matter.

Finally, I was sweaty and my back was cramping, I had dirt embedded in my knees and under my nails, and I probably had spiders in my hair, but Oliver managed to squirm out under the lattice. I immediately dropped a log in the hole to prevent further incidents. Mozzie was ecstatic, because his buddy was available for chasing again and I had stopped scowling and muttering.

Having puppies was not on my to-do list before I got these two. I’d been declaring emphatically for the past ten years that my puppy-wrangling days were behind me. I could not have been more wrong. Despite the house training and crazy antics, these two goobers have brightened my world and made my life a lot more interesting.

I just prefer it if they save the interesting stuff for after I’ve had coffee.

Rescues and Purebreds and Breeders…Oh, My!

I love dogs–all dogs. From the tiniest, yappiest, nippiest fluff-nuggets to the behemoths who weigh well into triple digits, poop like Clydesdales, and need their own couch. Or your couch. You can sit on the floor, puny human.

Tom and I got our first dog, a buff cocker spaniel we named Porsche, in 1988. She was followed in 1989 by Flash, a buff and white cocker, and Cricket, a black cocker, in 1991. Mozzie and Oliver are dogs number 13 and 14, respectively. Of those 14 dogs, twelve were purebred.

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Wait…what? How can I support rescue and still have purebred dogs, you ask?

I can, and I do, and I don’t have to justify myself to anyone about it. But I will explain.

All those years ago, I’d never heard of a puppy mill. Those cocker spaniels all came from Petland stores in the Indianapolis area. Hey, they had “papers!” The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval of the dog world, right? Nope. That’s a big ol’ nopeasaurus. My poor cockerpack was a grab-bag of genetic issues, and thus my education began.

In 1994, I got my first golden retriever and the canine love of my life, Ripley. From a backyard breeder. I’d learned not to buy from pet stores, but hadn’t quite figured things out completely. Ripley had bilateral hip surgery at six months old, because his dysplasia was so bad he could already barely walk. Lesson learned.

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My poor puppy! But we had 12 wonderful, active, happy years after this.

From then on, dogs #5-12 (and #14) were all rescues, through  rescue groups and one private adoption. At times, we had as many as seven dogs, which sounds slightly less clinically insane when you remember I worked in veterinary clinics, was on the board of the regional golden retriever rescue group, was active in the county kennel club and Pyr rescue, and founded a chapter of Therapy Dogs International. Honestly, it’s a miracle I didn’t have twenty-seven, so you should really be congratulating me on my superhuman restraint.

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Sprocket, our first RAGOM rescue boy

But all but two of those dogs were still purebred.  Undocumented, unregistered, but they were all golden retrievers, one Great Pyrenees, and now one standard poodle, with two exceptions.

As I said, I love all dogs, from their boopable snoots to their long-waggy or stubby-wiggly tails and the bottoms of their so-cute paws. I’m aware anyone can walk into any shelter in any community and walk out with a wonderful canine companion the same day. I get it, and I encourage people to do so. But you also have to do some homework so you  have some idea what you’re getting. For example, if you live in a community where you can’t have a fence, and houses are close together, you should probably stay away from scent hounds, because they will follow their noses into the next county and sing the song of their people at ear-shattering volume whenever the spirit moves them.

The thing is, with mixes, you don’t always know what you’re getting, and there’s no reliable way to tell. I have very specific things I need in a dog for him to fit into my life and my pack with minimal conflict for all involved, and I have a much better chance of achieving this if I select breeds whose primary temperament and behaviors match these criteria. I’m sometimes criticized for this, but believe me, purebred dogs need rescue too.

You can’t look at the puppy in the shelter and be sure what he’s made of. He could be a mix of any number of breeds, and you can’t know–unless you have a crystal ball, and if you do, can I please borrow it?–which traits of any of those breeds will manifest. He might look 90% like one of his primary breeds, but his temperament might be 90% like another part of his genetic makeup, and they might be wildly different from what you’d expect.

Let’s look at my two mix-boys as examples.

One day, Tom called me and said, “You’ll never guess what I’m looking at.” Well, no, given that vague non-question, I couldn’t. Turned out the answer was “a golden retriever/Great Pyrenees mix.” Who, coincidentally, needed a new home. And that’s when we adopted Gulliver.

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Now, the mistake people might make is thinking a golden/Pyr mix is essentially a gorgeous, extra-fluffy golden retriever. No doubt about it, Gulliver was breathtaking. Just look at this face.

Gullyface

But Gulliver’s personality was 100% Pyr. He was sweet and loving, but reserved. We thought he needed a Pyrish friend, and soon Ozark joined the family.

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Ozark was a Lab/Pyr mix, and his temperament was 75% retriever and 25% Pyr, while he looked like an extra-fluffy Lab or golden.

If you take retrievers (Lab or golden) and Pyrs, you have four possible options, in varying degrees.

  • Looks like Pyr, acts like retriever
  • Looks like Pyr, acts like Pyr
  • Looks like retriever, acts like Pyr
  • Looks like retriever, acts like retriever

Gully looked like a Pyr-shaped golden and acted like a Pyr. He guarded and patrolled the yard and barked at perceived threats, real or imagined. He could lie in the snow for hours, but wouldn’t dampen one puppy-tootsie in our pool. If you threw a ball, he looked at you like “what the hell is wrong with you, throwing that thing when I’m busy monitoring the perimeter?”

Ozark had a very Lab-like appearance, though fluffier, and his outgoing, interactive personality was retriever through and through. He loved all people, like a Lab. He also adored puppies and kitties, which he would take care of, play with gently, and guard, like a Pyr. Unlike a Lab, he did not fetch and would sooner die than get in the pool.

At least Pyrs and retrievers aren’t terribly incompatible when you smush all that DNA into one dog. Gully and Ozark were fabulous dogs, and fit in well with our pack.

Dogpack

Nope, I did’t have a problem! Seven dogs. On the couch are Seko, Sprocket, Flash, Me, Cricket (she’s black, look for the tongue) and Ripley. On the floor are Gulliver and Ozark. I think this was January 2002.

I worry about less-compatible mixes. In golden rescue, for example, we saw a lot of golden/chow mixes, and it’s hard to imagine two breeds with more different temperaments and personalities. (Side note…why do we refer to dogs as having a “personality?” Does that imply they’re persons? If it does, we should apologize and find a new word immediately, because most people suck, while dogs are made of awesome. Doggonality? Puppernality? I’m open to suggestions.)

If you get that cute little golden-chow mix puppy, who looks like a super-plushy golden, thinking this will be your new “play fetch at the beach” buddy, you might both be very frustrated and disappointed if he ends up having the chow personality. (Puppernatility? I’m still working on this part…) He will not fetch that Frisbee, and if you try to make him go in the water, he will explain to you–possibly with his teeth–why that is not happening.

If he looks like a chow but has the golden “I love all humans, and I know they all love me, so I must bound up to them to facilitate the exchange of our mutual love” outlook on life, you might have a lot of people whose lives flash before their eyes when they think they’re about to be attacked by a breed of dog that typically doesn’t come running at you unless he means business and has decided he does not like you.

It’s all really confusing for everyone involved.

That’s why I tend to stick with breeds I know. I understand how Pyrs and goldens work, and now I also know how standard poodles work. (Hint: They Are Always Watching. He will let you know what he thinks of things later, as soon as he develops a foolproof strategy. Don’t argue. He’s probably right.)

Mozzie (#13) came from a breeder, and Oliver (#14) is a true urgent-case rescue through a humane society, though both are purebred. I have Mozzie’s limited AKC registration, met his parents and two of his littermates, and I am comfortable with the environment in which he was bred and raised. I know who Oliver’s parents are, though I never bothered to track down his papers because a) he’d been through several homes prior to our finding him, and b) papers don’t mean anything unless you want to compete in AKC events such as conformation or obedience, or breed them, and those things are not happening.

Oliver’s parents, Earnest and Lady Girl

When we got Mozzie, I actually got some thin-lipped, silent disapproval because he wasn’t a rescue. Know what? I’ve spent the last 20+ years as a dedicated rescue volunteer and supporter, and if I find myself dogless for the first time in 30 years and come across a puppy and decide he’s what I need, I can certainly buy a damned puppy, regardless of what anyone thinks. Do I need to say that again, louder, for those in the back? No? Good.

There’s no one “right” way to find your perfect dog. He might be waiting in a shelter or a rescue group, or there might be a breeder with a dog who is meant to be yours. The only caveat is I’ll never consider buying from a pet store, or from what I call greed-breeders. They churn out puppies as fast as the poor mama-dog’s uterus will allow, or they produce some trendy designer mixed breed and try to convince you it’s so special you should pay $1000-$2500 or more for the privilege of owning one…and in some cases both. Yeah, stay away from those assholes.

Other than that, do your own thing. Go to a shelter. Apply through an all-breed or breed-specific rescue group. Find a breeder whose head isn’t packed full of straw and illusions of fat bags with dollar signs on them. Know what you want, know what you need, know what you can handle, know what characteristics you can expect from the breed(s) involved, and find your new canine friend.

All that matters is love, and dogs are overflowing with the stuff and more than happy to share.

Let’s Meet Mozziver

I view people without dogs with either pity or suspicion, depending on whether their doglessness is because they love dogs but due to circumstances beyond their control can’t have any, or because they simply don’t like dogs. The former is tolerable because it can someday be remedied. The latter…does not compute, and I don’t think I know how to even have a conversation with those people

The week between when our beloved Great Pyrenees, Brody, died in November 2016 and when we found Mozzie and brought him home was the only time I’ve been dogless in my adult life. It was surreal beyond description, and I hope I never experience such emptiness again.

Since Mozzie and Oliver will be the stars of this show, as well as the brains of the operation, I thought we should talk about how they came to be here. As of right now, Mozzie–a golden retriever–is 17.5 months old, and Oliver–a standard poodle–is 15.5 months old.

To set the stage, in 2016 we had two dogs. Darwin was an 11-12 year old golden retriever, and Brody was an 11 year old Great Pyrenees. They were dogs number 11 and 12 in our lifelong pack. Darwin was our sixth golden (the fifth adopted through RAGOM in Minnesota), and Brody was our first Pyr, though we’d had two Pyr mixes in the past.

brodar

Darwin and Brody

2016 turned out to be a catastrophically shitty year. Darwin was diagnosed with cancer in June, and lived only six more days. Despite being rescued at age 3 in a horribly neglected and emaciated condition, he was the happiest, bounciest, sunniest, orneriest dog in the history of ever, and losing him was crushing.

Brody had been declining for a long time, with more and more trouble with his back legs, and the day before Thanksgiving, we knew it was time. He could no longer stand or walk on his own, and at 100 pounds, we were limited in our ability to help him.

Suck X 1 million.

A few years earlier, I’d consulted the crystal ball and thought this might happen one day, and we tried to adopt a third dog, but Brody and Darwin vetoed this notion very adamantly. So I knew there would be a time I had zero dogs, though my canine-obsessed mind had trouble comprehending this.

Then it happened, my brain imploded, and things went a little crazy. The local golden rescue wasn’t getting in any young adult males (I’d applied and was stalking their page on an almost hourly basis), and neither was lab rescue. I’d toyed with the idea of a smaller breed dog, maybe a corgi or small lab mix or a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, but not having had a golden since Darwin died, it soon became evident I needed a golden in my life.

Then I saw an ad. A family had three puppies left over from a litter. They’d been supposed to go to new homes in October, but the area experienced severe flooding around then, and some puppy families backed out due to dealing with their own flood situations or being unable to reach the puppies. They were 3.5 months old, past the usual adoption age…and I had to see them.

Long story short, I found Mozzie. I had not wanted a puppy. I swore up and down, loudly, that I did not want a puppy.

Turned out I did.

Whatsit

Once Mozzie (our 13th dog and 7th golden) had been with us a month or so, I knew the only thing that could keep up with a puppy was another puppy. It damned sure wasn’t a 50-something-year-old woman who spends most of her waking hours on the couch with her laptop.

mozziepretty

Don’t let the cute fool you. He was a 900-mile-an-hour puppy whirlwind two seconds later.

And the search began. Golden rescue again, lab rescue, hoping to find Mozzie a kind, confident big brother.

Once again, the universe laughed at me. I think it might have peed itself a little.

The morning of February 13, 2017, I awoke and began checking out rescue listings, as usual. There had to be a nice, calm big brother out there for our Mozzie. Then I saw a post from Colonial Capital Humane Society. They’d been asked to assist in re-homing an almost 4-month-old standard poodle puppy. He was already in his third or fourth home, and the people who had him wanted him gone.

I applied. I messaged. I was immediately approved, because seriously, who is a better qualified puppy-mom than me? Nobody, that’s who.

Oh, I did check with Tom first. We hadn’t discussed standard poodles only because we never imagined we’d find one in this area. Finding anything that isn’t a pit bull or some sort of hound is already hard enough. All my years in vet clinics, I’d known poodles. Also, a dear friend had one, and she also had a golden when she got him, and it was a great match. Tom’s uncle had a black male standard. We were sold.

But I wanted a day or two to prepare. I’d need another crate, had to get my brain prepared for a second puppy, when I had sworn I didn’t even want one puppy. Shows how much I know.

The hitch was if we wanted him, we had to take him immediately. The people who had him had informed CCHS that they were out of puppy food and weren’t buying any more. They had also posted online and were planning to hand this puppy, who they called Scarecrow because he was afraid of everything, to the first person who knocked on their door.

Thank doG, the CCHS volunteer we were working with was having none of that. She left work and charged over to the house, literally taking this puppy out of the hands of some random person who was more than likely planning on using him to make “doodles” that could be sold at a tidy profit.

meeting oliver

So, dog #14 turned out to be standard poodle #1. We named him Oliver, and let me tell you, that dog is not afraid of anything, even a little bit, unless it’s not being the center of attention. He and Mozzie became bestest buds, and I’ve never had a more bonded pair  of brothers, ever.

The only drawback is I’m outnumbered and outsmarted. Goldens are incredibly smart, learn anything quickly, and are eager to please. Poodles are strategists, their intelligence is off the charts, and they never miss anything. The two of them together could found a mid-size nation or destroy civilization, depending on their mood.

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Since I work at home, and leave the house only under duress or promises of dirty martinis, I’m with these two 24/7. They’re my entertainment, my sounding board, my “good morning snuggles alarm clock,” my bathroom monitors, and my security system. I don’t know what I’d do without them.

What about my theory of always having at least three dogs, so I never end up in the zero-dog situation again? I think I have to let that go, because I can barely keep up with these two, and they get along so well I don’t want to do anything to upset the biscuit wagon.

So, there you have it. Mozzie and Oliver. Mozziver. The Direwolves. Poodledactyl and Goldensaurus. My boys.