Classic: Brody The Mouse-Barker

Some of you might remember Brody, our dearly departed Great Pyrenees, patroller of the yard and guardian of all the things. These classic posts took place ten years ago at our house in Minnesota.

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Rodent Rescue Part One:

I’m not at my most mentally acute at 5:25 a.m. Or at 6:25. Or, truthfully, 7:25. This morning at 5:25 I was in the shower when I heard Brody barking outside. Admittedly, Brody does bark outside a lot. Every day. Until I go outside and chase his fluffy Pyr-butt into the house before the neighbors call Animal Control.

But this was not his usual guardian-type “Brrrrrrrr-ROO-ROO-ROO!” It was a constant series of short, staccato, emphatic yips, and he sounded a bit agitated. The last I’d seen him, he was near the pool, an area in which he doesn’t tend to spend a lot of time due to the risk of accidentally dampening his paws. Brody isn’t a fan of anything moist, unless it is frozen and piled in drifts in the yard.

I told myself I’d just quickly finish my shower, and then go see what his problem was. Then I got thinking, “What if the big idiot fell in the pool?” He’s never been in there, so he isn’t aware of the stairs at the shallow end as a means of exiting the dreaded aquatic death trap. I began picturing a 100-pound, soaking wet, massively furry, coat-blowing, freaked-out, pissed-off Great Pyrenees who would take until September to dry and decided I’d better get out of the shower and see what was going on.

I wrapped a towel around myself and ventured out to the sliding glass doors, where I observed Brody lying by the pool, front paws draped over the edge, staring intently at something in the water, and barking like a broken record. Clearly, further investigation was in order. I hopped back in the shower to rinse off, then threw on some clothes and headed outside.

It wasn’t hard to figure out what was inspiring Brody’s bark-fest. There was a mouse (or possibly a vole; I don’t really know the difference) swimming in the pool. Actually, he was drowning in the pool. He’d paddle frantically for a few seconds, slip beneath the surface, then fight his way back up. I had to help him!

I’m an animal-lover, obviously. I go out of my way not to kill things, at least as long as they stay in the Great Outdoors where they belong. If this mouse (or possibly vole) were pooping in my silverware drawer, I would immediately set a death-inducing trap to put an end to his intrusion once and for all.

I looked around for the pool net and didn’t see it. I did see the pole on which the net belongs, but the net was nowhere to be found. I stuck the pole in the water, and Mr. Mouse tried to climb up on it, but it was too narrow and slippery, and he kept falling off.

Next, I grabbed a beach towel that was lying near one of the Adirondack chairs, and tossed that onto the surface of the water, thinking he could scurry up onto that and I could pull him out, without having to risk actual hand-to-mouse contact. He did not see the carefully thought-out logic and refused to approach the floating towel.

Finally, I picked up a stainless steel bowl, waited for drowny-mouse to get close to the side, and scooped him to safety. I deposited him in the mulch near the fence, hoping Brody didn’t pounce and eat him. That would have been bitterly ironic after my heroic efforts to keep the little rodent alive. Brody continued to monitor the pool for wildlife, and I watched the mouse (or vole) huddle by the fence and begin to groom himself back into composure.

This was a lot for me to accomplish by just after 5:30 in the morning! Plus, it totally blew my morning routine, and we all know how I thrive on routine, especially in the early morning hours when independent thought is far more difficult than it is later in the day.

I hope Mr. Mouse (or Vole) returns my good deed by staying out of my pantry and silverware drawer. If he is foolish enough to pack up his entire rodent family and move in, I will have no qualms about smushing all their little heads in my decidedly not humane mousetraps. I have rules. Just stay out of my house, and we’ll get along fine.

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Rodent Rescue Repeat:

Something suspicious is going on in the rodent world. Once again, before 5:30 a.m., Brody discovered a mouse swimming in the pool. I’m pretty sure it’s a mouse now, because I think voles have shorter tails. I probably need to research that. But if these guys would just stay the hell out of my pool, I’d be spared the necessity of answering this crucial question, which would be fantastic because I really don’t have the time.

This mouse was in much better shape than the one yesterday (if, in fact, it is a different mouse at all), apparently having gone into the drink not too long before he was discovered. Tom had returned the pool net to the patio area, since yesterday it had been downstairs somewhere so he could repair some tears in it.

I scooped mousey-boy into the net and began raising him out of the water. You’d think he’d be grateful, but was he? No, he leaped out of the net and back into the water (which made Brody eight different kinds of crazy) several times before I basically dipped and flung him in the general direction of the fence, where he rustled through the grape vines.

Now I have serious questions. What is going on with these mice? I haven’t fished a mouse out of the pool all summer, and now I’ve done so two days in a row. I have several theories.

  1. This was the same mouse, and he either has suicidal tendencies or was brain damaged in his near-drowning yesterday and returned to the pool as the result of a post-traumatic episode.
  2. These mice were contestants in some kind of rodent reality show, the object of which is to last the longest in the giant, chlorinated ocean. 5:00-5:30 a.m. is prime time for mouse television viewing.
  3. These are teenage male mice, and this is their version of Jackass.

Butch: Hey, Ralphie, bet you can’t swim across that pool, bite the dog on the nose, and then swim back.

Ralphie: Sure I can, Butch, just watch me!

(Splash, paddle-paddle-paddle, gasp, sputter, glug)

Ralphie: Hey, Butch, little help here?

Butch: (Coming from the bushes) Snicker, snort. What a moron.

  1. For some reason, Brody has become the nemesis of all the neighborhood mice, and this is an assassination attempt. They are trying to lure him to a watery death, and the Suicide Swimmer is bait.
  2. They are not mice at all. They are lemmings.

I suppose it could also be a well-planned diversionary tactic, keeping me focused on the back yard while hordes of mice are moving into our laundry room. I hope that’s not it, because I really don’t enjoy tracking mouse-trap casualties on the whiteboard in the kitchen (much). At one point a few years ago it read: “Lori, 11: Mice, 0.”

Ultimately, I just hope Brody’s bladder doesn’t explode. He’s so focused on patrolling the pool for mice that I think he’s forgetting to go out in the yard to take care of necessities. Which, of course, could also be part of the mice’s global dog-destruction plan.

I would feel a lot better if I could decide if these mice are really smart or really dumb. That would help me narrow down the possibilities.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

Cockers

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.

Sprocket

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.