I thought I had it all planned. We were going to take Chance and Blaze to the local football field to practice dog sledding. I had thought everything out except for a few minor details...
1. We were taking the dogs to a place they had never been before heavily populated by deer and rabbit and except for the fence around the actual football field was a wide open space. Which meant there were no trails or paths to follow and they were used to running down the road.
2. Two inexperienced mushers. One that had to act as the brakes by body slamming on to snow in order to stop the duo from taking off into the surrounding woods. All the while thinking for some reason they would just know to go around the field with no problem. While the other took video and thought it would be better to have them inside the fenced area. Did I mention the dogs haven't been here before?
3. Two untrained hyper sled dogs who have been cooped up due to a small injury. Who also prefer to think for themselves and when put together do their best to outwit me while using their combined strength in order to achieve their own personal goals. Have I mentioned the dogs haven't been here before?
So we take off along the back stretch along side the woods, things are going good. Until I realize they are looking for a way into the wooded area. Having a homemade sled with no brakes means using all my body strength or taking to the ground to stop them, my commands mean nothing to them. Sly grins pass between them as they are enjoy running the show. I turn them, run with them to get going, hop on the sled and in seconds we are in the woods again. I had a thousand butterflies in my stomach before we even left the house, and this first "correction" knocked the wind out of me and we were just getting started. Repeat this cycle 5 times.
I finally guide them inside the football field. I am so exhausted I lay over the sled while they pull me. I'm not thinking about much but trying to catch my breath. At least at this point they are contained, though they try to run to each side trying to get out of the few open gates. Thank goodness they were starting to slow down a bit. :)
A few times around and Daddy takes a ride. I am in desperate need to a break. My body is shaking in pure exhaustion, but I try to keep them running for Daddy. When we finally figure we've had enough, we take the short walk home. Blaze is still raring to go, Chance has calmed slightly.
It was an experience I won't forgot and an easy way to learn what NOT to do when taking your dogs sledding. lol After those first couple of times of pulling them out of the woods, I started thinking, I'm not going to make it through this. I was nervous before we started but once the wind got knocked out of me and everything was so unpredictable, unlike sledding down the road, it was a bit scary to say the least. We decided that next time we will take them straight into the fenced area and worked with them there.
We both agreed, Daddy was right to begin with. :)
Here's me taking a ride on the inside of the fence. Daddy missed all the funny shots with me holding back the dogs in the snow.
And here's Daddy on his sleigh ride.
Now after all this excitement and an achy body, I'm curling up on the couch and not moving for the rest of the night!!
Did you hear that Chance? She's going to try again. BOL
OK, give it up. What is your worst weakness with your dog? What do you struggle the most with when it comes to training your dog? My weakness is training a dog to walk on a leash. There I said it. My neighbors could get a couple good YouTube videos of my dogs pulling me down the road, jerking me this way and that. Watching me trying to hold these 80 pound beast while they pull with all their might to get closer to that important scent that they just have to check out. I have tried everything and still can't get it right. My husband laughed at me today when I told him I needed to hire a trainer so I can learn how to walk my dogs!! I didn't think it was very funny at the time.
Since the Back Dogs have been with me since they were puppies, we have found a kind of happy medium. Usually the first quarter mile is the worse, and then we seem to fall into a quick pace while we negotiate whose pulling who. But the Front Dogs....Lord have mercy!! After two years they still shoot out of the gate like a couple of thoroughbreds. Their previous owners never leashed trained, let both dogs run loose and with my training handicap we look like a couple of crazy cartoon characters flying down the road. It doesn't help that Blaze and Chance are my two main sled dogs and think every walk means pulling me down the road at top notch speed. They know no difference between the leash and the harness, all they see is glorious freedom and the room to run.
Honestly though it is extremely frustrating for me. Try as I might to change these habits, I fall into the same trap of giving in. I get tired of fighting with them and they know eventually I will cave. Every winter with the danger of snow and ice, I vow to teach them to walk properly. After a couple of months, I give up. By then it is close to spring and all my hard work is down the drain and we resume with push and pull walking.
My biggest problems are of course consistency, along with discipline and impatience. When I go for a walk, I just want to go for a walk. I don't want to train or correct, I just want to enjoy the walk. Which would be great if I was really enjoying being pulled on our walks and so I find myself at the crossroads again. I'm starting with Chance and Blaze, (yes, I am glutton for punishment) by walking them in the yard while trying to curb that jump start out of the gate. Today was a success. Both did very well. I left the gate open, while walking around the yard and slowly continued to inch out the gate, over and over. I only used treats at the end of each of our walks.
It is a start. Blaze will of course be my worse case. She has the drive and tunnel vision of a racer. She is also smart as whip, gets bored easy, and is already figuring out ways to outsmart me, in less than ten minutes. She knows what a pushover I am and how to push my buttons. Well, the challenge is on. We'll just see how much we butt heads this time around. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Yes, they are really in there. Three years ago at about this time this is what we saw when we got x-rays to find out how many puppies were inside. Although they don't show up on this photo, each black dot represents the center of a puppy head. These pictures were taken at 45 days from the first day of breeding and was too early for a clear definition of the puppies skulls. Their bones were just beginning to calcify and only made a slight impression on the x-ray. The vet took three different shots hoping for a clearer pictures. Though this x-ray only shows four puppies, they confirmed at the time there were six. We later got x-rays done at 54 days confirming there were 10 puppy skeletons inside. Their heads were near the bottom while their spines went up to Silver's backbone.
54 day x-ray.
Can you find 10 puppy heads?
At about the seventh week I was able to feel movement from the puppies closest to the pelvic region. I could lay my hand on them and feel this flutter under Silver's fur. At eight weeks I was able to feel a few of the puppies individually, but there was nothing like seeing that first x-ray and having solid proof they were really in there. It was one thing to feel and know, it was another to actually see them. I was unable to take my eyes off the x-ray pictures as reality began to really sink in. It was exciting and scary and humbling all at the same time. We were going to be Grandparents!!
There is something about those moments that quiet you and thrill you all at the same time. Silver's entire pregnancy was such wonderful and beautiful experience. We were so honored to partake in the journey of the beauty of life that was created by two such unique dogs. It was worth all the worries and fear, to have all of the love that surrounded us each day about the true meaning of life.
I can still not put into words how seeing those x-rays made me feel and I don't know that I ever could. The beauty and mystery of it, I can never forget.
The 24 Paws knew they hadn't been their best but they were going to make sure that Santa stopped by there house tonight!
Queen Silver rang out the order from her throne...
Zappa be on the look for that jolly red Santa.
Zappa at your service.
I hear him, Santa's on the roof.
I got his hat!
Santa can't go anywhere without his hat!!
Someone please tell Santa this wasn't my idea.
I don't want to end up on the naughty list for next year!
Seeing how the Back Dogs were making the situation worse for everyone the Front Dogs came to the rescue!
I found Santa's booty!
And I've got your hat Santa.
Once again the Blaze and Chance saved the Back Dogs and Christmas for the 24 Paws, but there is no telling what the Back Dogs might pull for next year!!
Merry Christmas to all our fellow bloggers!!
We would like to thank all of you for being part of our lives and this awesome animal loving community. It is wonderful to know others who feel the same way about their animals as we do. Thank you for letting us be part of your family as you have ours.
We headed out in the truck for an errand we had to run. We threw the dog sled, harness and lines in the truck along with Zappa. We were going dog sledding!
Now Zappa is more of a muscle man, he doesn't take to the lead very well, but having a single cab truck we could only take one dog and he's the easiest on the ride. After we were hooked up, Daddy was at the corner of the road, while I got the pleasure of taking the first ride. Zappa was a little anxious at first, but once we got moving he took to pulling well.
Zappa needs to be directed and motivated to pull, which is what Daddy is for, giving him a target and a reason. Which is what the lead dog would do if we had either Blaze or Fiona there. The lead dog also sets the pace, so there wasn't much speed involved with just Zappa pulling.
We took turns encouraging him while the other rode the sled. Enough that he could get a good workout, without being too sore the next day. For not having a lead dog to run with and his first time on the snow this year, Zappa did great. Next time, we'll be sure to take Blaze or Fiona for him to run with.
Here's a short video of Zappa's run! You'll have to forgive the shakiness, Daddy is still learning how to operate camera!! BOL
Well, I'm just going to say it...we have six awesome dogs. There's just no getting around it. The last couple of weeks it has felt like the whole year has caught up with me and has run me into the ground. I just haven't been able to do the normal things like walks or extra playtime and for some reason the dogs have accepted that. How do they do that? How can they just know and not pester me for more attention? When I need something I have a hard time sitting idle and being patient, but they seem to understand. They don't fuss or whine or complain or get angry, they just wait for me. They are just there by my side, enjoying our time together, whatever that entails. It is like they have slowed right down with me. It is difficult not to feel bad or guilty, but they seem to be taking it stride.
The acceptance level that dogs have simply amazes me. Their intuition is astounding. Their understanding is beyond comprehension. Six dogs that are taking care of me more than I can take care of them at this time. In this quiet understanding I find myself reflecting at how incredible they all are, the progress they have all made, and the promises of the future. There is a reason dogs are man's best friend. There is a reason these creatures of the wild are domesticated for human companionship and the fact that if I never had another scrap of food for them they would still love and be there for me.
I have discovered that that love goes both ways. I actually discovered the relationship of love after my first cat died. I never fully understood what my love did for her. I was always focused on what her love meant to me. I had never fully realized the impact my love had on her and that it was more than just providing food and shelter. She was the first one who taught me this give and take connection and opened my world further into having a true relationship with my animals. I have always been aware of how they are changing my life but it is like a brand new discovery to realize I am changing theirs. I find myself humbled that my love means something to them.
It is these relationships that have taught me the most about myself and how we are all intertwined and the real beauty of love between all creatures.
Have you ever met a dog who's eyes stayed with you long after you had left? I met a dog whom we hope will be our future stud for Blaze. I had seen him from a far and in pictures, but I had my first face to face meeting with him today. As I walked to the fence, he cautiously crouched a bit, sniffed my hand through the gate, then popped up with his paws on top of the fence. I looked deeply into his eyes and felt his warm tender soul. His spirit so gentle and forgiving. I was stunned. Never had I met a dog with such a heart of kindness. I captured his spirit and let it follow me on the ride home.
I instantly began to compare this dog to what was missing in Brut. Brut has always been more of a wild animal spirit and has never been calm by nature. He reminds me sometimes of a lion or tiger on the prowl. His spirit is more primitive like that of an native drum. He thrives to survive and runs on complete instinct. Every move he makes is with vibrant passion. He has been sculpted with our care and training, but I don't believe there will ever be a true taming of the beast within.
Brut was the first to greet me as I walked in the door, the second our eyes met I burst into tears. For I knew instantly what our future stud was missing and why he had stared at me with wonder in his eyes as we held our gaze. The difference was love. Brut may never have the kindred spirit of the this dog, but his eyes flow with the passion of being loved. The other dog has been cared for but has never really been loved.
I am astounded by this other dog and how this beautiful creature can stay so loving and true to his nature without really being loved. I am so touched that this dog let me see into his heart and show me who he really is. He is everything I am looking for in a male and I feel honored for him to be our stud for Blaze.
The best cuddler out of the bunch is Chance. If I want to take a nap or need a good squeeze, he's the dog to go to. No matter how I'm feeling he curls up in my lap and makes me feel better. Ain't nothing like having a 79 pound lap dog! Chance has a way of plopping on your lap or slamming up next to let me know he's there and that he will always be there.
I am starting to notice a riff between the Back Dogs. Out of the six dogs, Blaze and Brut are not fixed and Blaze is due to go into season next month. What I never noticed before or it was too subtle to pick up is Brut is now starting to hit on Fiona. I know that male dogs can still perform even if they are fixed, but I have never noticed any signs of Fiona being in cycle. Brut and her had two different stand offs that turned into a fight and then into instant play. I am uncertain what to make of it, as this is the first I've ever noticed it.
Brut is always trying to mount Silver and even though she was fixed after she had her puppies, he still continues to try, but I have never seen him try to mount Fiona. I'm not sure if it is just because Blaze is starting to cycle up and Brut is trying to find someone or if Fiona is putting out signals or if it is a combination of both.
Our dogs cycle twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall/winter. I have found with our dogs that the cycle is the strongest in the fall/winter season. I don't know if that is just their lineage or has something to do with the Husky in them. What ever the case we are in for an intense couple of months with hormones running high.
I have also noticed that Zappa has been growling and guarding against Brut when he comes too close to Fiona. All the while keeping an eye on Blaze and Chance because he thinks Blaze is his too. As if things weren't complicated enough with two packs.
Blaze is the only female out of the litter who isn't fixed and we are thinking of having a litter with her to keep and carry on the lineage. I would like to blame the reason Brut isn't fixed on my husband with that male thing, but I can't bring myself to do it either. It is a choice we have made with both dogs and I know it is one that many are against for many reasons. I had no problem doing it with any of the other dogs, yet just don't feel right with Brut and Blaze.
So that means taking extra precautions and measures with the Back Dogs to ensure safety for all of the dogs. I won't lie, it won't be easy, but we have been through this before. And if there is one thing I am grateful for, it is that Blaze and Brut are permenently seperated at this time and have no contact. That's half the battle right there!
This was practice shot for our Christmas Cards for 2006. Brut was about 10 weeks old and as yes he did eventually grow into those huge ears. Neither Silver nor Alex were particularly fond of this set up. Yes, that's Alex glaring at us. He was probably thinking he is getting much too old for these shenanigans!! It was our last Christmas with him. Silver just pouted.
Do you see the ducks?
Our two ducks at the time on top of the couch in the cage.
We only have the white one left.
Luigi will be 10 years old next April!
He may outlive the dogs! Pet ducks have been known to live 20 years or more.
Somehow we managed to get a shot with Daddy and I holding the cats, the three dogs and the ducks.
It was the last Christmas card photo we took with everyone all together.
We had an amazing day with the dogs today. We rarely have company, but today a couple of friends came over for dinner. These two friends have met each dog several times individually and not at our home. We weren't worried, but the dogs act different together in their packs and at home then they do when they are alone and out and about.
Since these friends weren't complete strangers, most of the battle was already won, but how would they take to these friends being in their home? They were fantastic. They didn't act any different then if it was just us home. All of the dogs were comfortable and relax and seeing that they had already developed a bond with these friends made all the difference. This made a very relaxing day and eliminated any concerns we might have had with the dogs.
A simple experience that turned out beautifully. We are both so proud of all of the dogs that gives us more confidence in them considering the limited exposure they have had to company in the house. It was a great feeling to be able to trust them not realizing the prep work we had already done was going to pay off so well. We are both pleased with the success and welcome the chance to do it again.
I play fight with my dogs and Brut is no different. It is what dogs do with other dogs. I did it for that sole purpose. It is part of playtime. As Brut got older and his aggressions with other dogs became apparent, it didn't stop me from playing rough with him. Then I heard experts state that you shouldn't play fight, play tug-of-war or wrestle with an aggressive dog. That didn't stop me either. Granted Brut's reactions were not towards me, but he did assert himself with strong dominance.
I understand the need to express anger and frustration and to do so constructively. I have my own boxing bag and gloves. It made perfect sense to me that Brut needed that type of outlet as well. So I gave him myself. Together we fought out our frustrations and anger by challenging and trying to outsmart each other. Since neither of us were out to hurt the other on purpose, we were able to vent and learn from each other.
Since Brut wasn't socialized with his litter mates, where he should have learned about bite inhibitions, he began to learn with me. He knew nothing about what was proper and OK when it came to his mouth. When he bit too hard, I yelled and then I would stop all movement. When I stopped he let go. He eventually learned when his bite was too hard and it became softer. If he really started to get out of control, like jumping at my face, all play stopped immediately. He associated no movement with no play.
Teaching him about bite inhibitions were not part of my strategy when I would fight with him. In fact, I knew nothing of bite control or the fact that he was suppose to have learnt this from his mother and litter mates. I just knew he bit too hard. I knew nothing about how dogs challenged each other for dominance, another lesson we both learned by play fighting. No books, training, or knowledge of dog behavior, we simply played like dogs and it taught us both what we needed to learn. Our play was from the heart and everything else worked itself out.
Sometimes too much knowledge hinders the natural order of things.
P.S. I had a bit of a blogger meltdown yesterday when doing some corrections to my header image. I seem to be having a problem with getting it back to it's full size. If there is anyone who knows how to fix this or HTML, I would greatly appreciate the help. Thanks
Many days I feel like my days are well balanced between the two packs. There are days when one pack may receive more attention than the other or days when certain dogs are singled out, but I still try to maintain a balance and meet everyone needs. Then there are days like today when I feel like I have failed every single one of them.
It is these low days when I find myself in mental exhaustion that I just don't have the energy to give them much and they suffer. At least I think they do because it makes me suffer. There is nothing worse than not being able to give the simple things that I believe dogs need. A walk, playtime, training. I just couldn't do it today and it was difficult day with that fact alone, not to mention all the other stresses that have brought me down. It makes me feel like the worse dog mom in the world. It's difficult maintaining two packs of dogs, there is a constant back and forth that can be maddening at times. The constant division is just that, division. It hurts that things must be that way for now and sometimes makes me wish there had been a way to see into the future of Chance and Blaze's return for I would have never let them go in the first place. That along with a number of other things I wish I could have done differently in raising my dogs. I would like to fix everything between the two packs to make them one right now. Yes, I have many regrets, things I would love to do over and sometimes have a hard time accepting things as they are now, but I also know I can't change what I didn't know and what happened. Although sometimes it would be nice to start over.
I do believe everything happens for reason and that things have a way of working themselves out. I have found taking baby steps and making mistakes along the way have brought all of the dogs closer to being reunited with each other. Sometimes when depression gets the best of me, it is hard to see the progress and the reasons why, but I do know they are there. It these days that I want to just curl up with all of them and tell them how sorry I am for screwing up.
Houndstooth: Isn't it funny how certain dogs just have the ability to do things that endear them to us, even though it would bug the daylights out of us if others did it? I love his happy go lucky smile and attitude!
Which got me thinking how true that statement is. What I find cracks me up about my walk with Chance, turns into a nightmare with Blaze. Blaze is so driven, when she pulls me on our walks it turns into aggravated frustration. Blaze doesn't care whether she dragging me or not. She wants to go where she wants to go. I rarely find my walks with her to be amusing. She is wickedly smart and is always devising what works to her advantage.
It doesn't help that I'm horrible at leash training and Blaze and Chance were never leashed trained before they came back to us. Blaze uses this to her advantage. Chance does too, but he is playful smart ass about it whereas Blaze is strong willed and has a one track mind. It is difficult to find the humor with Blaze when we are always competing with each other.
Chance and Blaze
(brother and sister)
The same walk with two different dogs. What is cute and funny with one, will irritate me with the other. I can't imagine tolerating my other dogs pulling me down the street like Chance does, but then that's Chance. They each so unique with their own character, style and attitude that annoying as some things may be I wouldn't change one of them. That is the beauty of their individual personalities and all the wonderful and not so wonderful qualities that make them who they are.
Ever have one of those days when you leash your dog for a walk and they burst out the door making you feel like a cartoon character bouncing behind them? This is how Chance and I started our walk, with his bounding action that left me flailing behind him. In between catching my breath I couldn't sustain my laughter at how I must look like Shaggy trying to keep up with my white Scooby Doo.
He always has this silly, sly grin that looks back at me and says, "You wanted to go for a walk, we are going for a walk. Chance style." He keeps me reeling between the giggles and trying to keep up, until I've got to turn him around so he can take it down a notch and I can catch my breath. I have no idea how our "walks" turned into pulling game, but I love the freedom of letting him take the wheel.
With his smooth gait in constant motion, we continually negotiate on the pace. In tune and in love we stay in sync with each other as we seem to glide over the snow covered road. The dusk sky softly glows overhead as the snowflakes swirl around us. Chance throws me a smile that says, "You know you love it." I nod back. I love everything about our walks with my special Scooby Doo.
Imagine a two month old puppy, locked in a room for hours, barking with all her might for someone to save her, only to be hit and told to shut up. The door slams shut, footsteps walk away and she stands tall and barks again. She will not be ignored. She will not be broken.
She is well aware, this is not love. She knows because she had it once. Where she was cared for and free to be herself. She understands this more than he will ever know. She knows what it is like to be acknowledged and respected, it is not here. She demands what she can not be given. She will not stop until she is heard. Every blow makes her dig deeper into her soul and makes her fight harder. She will not be broken.
She started this fight without any intentions of giving up. He rubs her nose in it, kicks her, hits her, shoots her with a pellet gun, the battle has only begun. Finally at long last, the call is made, he can't take her anymore. She is going home.
Weary from her battle, her emotional wounds exposed. Blaze curls in a tight ball, scared and in shock as the terrors of what happened to her unfold within her. She is home, where she was born, but it has changed. Gone are her brothers and sisters and the fun of being together. She feels lost. Mommy and Daddy tend to her emotional and physical scars, soaking her with their tears. They understand. They understand more than she will ever know. Just a shell of herself, she fought so hard to be back here, she test them the only way she knows how. She barks and barks. Never a hand was laid on her and she proves their love is forever.