Thursday, July 30, 2009

Parvo Convalescence

Our parvovirus victim Bruce is recovering well. He's still isolated from his sister, as the virus is supposed to be extremely thick in his stool right now, and so he's still living on a concrete surface which is regularly washed down with bleach-water. If there's one thing we DON'T need, it's a nice rich layer of parvovirus on our property.

I'm still feeding him boiled chicken and rice, this batch with a potato added for some extra minerals. He's still getting a spoonful of yogurt, as well, with each meal, though sometimes he skips that bit. By now, though, he's beginning to get regular puppy kibble as well, and some of the gizzard blend I give to everyone else. It's full of nice immune system boosters like vitamin C and echinacea, and it doesn't seem to be hurting him any.

In fact, he's acting perfectly well these days. This morning we engaged in his own personal version of fetch, which is more like playing catch with a toddler than anything else. He doesn't bring the toy back. He flings it back. His aim is decent; it's usually within a couple of feet of my ankles. He runs in crazy circles and shuttles between tosses. He's getting exercise and we're interacting, which is pretty much the point, so this is an "If it ain't broke, don't break it" situation. Formal retrieves are for formal retrieves. Games should be games.

This morning he also demonstrated his other unusual talent, or pastime, or however one wishes to look at it. He is a first-class mumbler. I was treated to a soliloquy roughly half an hour long this morning because, though his pen is roofed over, the roof was not up to holding out the rain we were having and there was a waterfall where he wished to relieve himself. I didn't understand a word, mind you, but the gist was clear enough. Teaching him "Speak" should be very easy! Eventually the rain let up, the waterfall faded to a dribble, and he deposited a pile at the greatest possible distance from his food and bed. I approved and cleaned it up. He really is doing his darnedest to be a good boy. We'll both be happier when all the contracted work on the house is done.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wolf moment

Wolves, dogs, close enough. If you're keeping tabs on wildlife and outdoor living, you probably have heard about the wolf hunts in Alaska.

Males vs. Females

Nearly everyone goes to look at the new litter of puppies, the rescue website, or the animal shelter's holdings with a notion in mind of what they want. Big, small; outgoing, reserved; color preference; male or female.

Especially male or female.

Right now, I have a surprising stash of male dogs -- three, which is three more than usual. They're good fellows, and very solicitous, and very protective. However, I like to go for walks with my dogs, and I like to actually walk when we do this. Today, Dustin and I went for a short little hike. We probably managed an average speed of about three miles an hour, but that was an average. Boy dogs stop. A lot.

Girl dogs, on the other hand, do sometimes like to mark territory. However, the most territorial girls I've known still consider three or four markings to be enough to claim the whole park for their own. With a certain sort of self-confidence, in fact, some girls will claim all of Yellowstone with one good mark. "It's cool. I like it. There, now it's mine."

The boy will claim each and every vertical thing along the way. "Mine, mine, mine... Oh, yeah, hold up, that's mine, too." It does get to be a bit of a drag.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dogs, Mirrors, and Intelligence

I've been told various solid facts about dogs and mirrors: dogs aren't visual enough to notice reflections, they don't understand reflections, they lose interest as soon as they realize they can't smell the other dog, and so on.

Here's your solid fact from me: it depends on the dog.

Tasha, our longcoat shepherd, will ride in the back of the car and look at us in the rearview. She likes to check in that way. There is definite eye contact, and if we smile at her, she will thump her tail. This is supposed to be beyond canine comprehension, as though we'd found her programming the DVR to record "Good Dog U." for later. She seems to find it quite natural.

Wanda, now five and a half months old, has been experimenting with the bedroom in the mirror. The other night, I was sitting on the bed, and she decided to have a good gawk at my reflection. I waved at her reflection. She wagged a little and turned to look straight at me. Then she got up, walked around the dresser, and peered at where my reflection would have seemed to her to be located. Then she went back to the mirror and watched me in it again. She went back and forth to make sure there was only one of me a couple of times. When I laughed, she cocked her head and pondered, apparently, that she only heard one of me. She seems now to have a pretty good idea of how a mirror works -- but she was experimenting to find out. To me, both the experimenting and the apparent comprehension suggest a good deal of intelligence.

With Dustin, I'm intending to set up an experiment. I want to put him in a sit-stay facing a mirror, then stand behind him and give him a "down" signal he can only see in the reflection. If he goes down, he sees the image and understands it's a representation of the real world. If he doesn't respond, then he's not processing enough visual information to mean much to him. If he looks over his shoulder to see if I mean it, then he is aware the reflection isn't real but doesn't quite get the connection to the real event. At least, that's how I'm inclined to interpret the possibilities -- but I haven't tried it yet.

Those readers with obedience-trained dogs -- try it! Leave me a comment letting me know how it turned out!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Parvo Followup

Bruce is home! I now call him the solid-gold retriever. He's going to have to be all kinds of good boy now, but he's alive and he's eating a little, and he's very, very glad to see his people again.

The scary part is now keeping him whole, healthy, and away from his sister for a bit. Apparently parvovirus stays in the system and is shed through fecal material for a good two weeks after the puppy recovers. We've put up an isolation pen on concrete so we can clean up after him easily and thoroughly. Bleach kills the virus. Very little else does.

We have all sorts of enticing but mild goodies for him, too. Boiled chicken with rice, yogurt, very tiny pieces of steak -- he seems rather pleased by all the smorgasboard, though still quite peckish. We're working out a rotation of who cares for him at which time of day (two sets of pills) and how we're going to keep ourselves disinfected. I'm hoping to do a little obedience with him during our snuggle sessions, just to give him something to think about besides the squirrels which will no doubt tease him from beyond the fence.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Parvo Worries

Our puppy has parvo. More accurately, one of our puppies has parvovirus, and the other, to date, does not.

They have had the same vaccines on the same days. They play together and go pretty much everywhere together. However, Bruce has been at the vet since Friday being stuffed full of antivomiting, antidiarrheal, antibiotic, and antiviral drugs along with everything else in a well-rounded IV drip, being force-fed for intestinal stability, and so on. Poor puppy. I suppose once this is all over, presuming he makes it, he'll be used to being handled by people other than his two favorites. Meanwhile, Wanda is happily soaking up all her usual attention plus what he'd usually get, eating like a pony (she's too small to eat like a horse), and generally being her usual bratty cute self.

Bruce is also beginning to do a sort of bobble-head thing that worries his vets greatly. They can come up with all sorts of opportunistic diseases which might cause such a thing. I suspect, though, it is an exaggeration of a longtime Bruce trait, which is that if he is very tired and a little worried about falling asleep, he'll sit and nod for quite some time before giving up and wilting. In a strange scary place full of strange scary people, he wouldn't sleep readily.

We took him over to the emergency clinic from the regular one last night, since the span from the last person leaving on Sunday to the first one in on Monday seemed like a long time if we were worried about spiking fevers, septic attacks, or seizures. As it turned out, his temperature did go up a bit, but it also went back down again, and he was pretty stable all night. I'd call the money worthwhile for the peace of mind, but I, for one, had none anyway.

If he pulls through, we won't be looking for another home for him anymore. I think we've settled that he's our dog, whether we go sailing on to a limited registration and some spiffy performance titles or just hang out on the couch together.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tracking Update

Both dogs are still on baby-level tracks, though they're out to prove to me that they're ready for harder ones.

I ran Dustin on an hour-and-a-half old track, two turns, fifteen paces between articles, at noon. Aside from some distraction to watch a pedestrian passing the yard, he did quite well. He is sharp-nosed enough to work it partially as a trailing problem, though, and was clearly working along the edge of some shrubbery a couple of feet from the track at one point. A couple of feet, I can live with, provided he's going the right direction.

Bruce worked a straight line, only three articles, two hours old. Since he also followed my husband's track to see what had been going on with the garbage the other day -- also two hours, on the macadam driveway, for no better reason than his own curiosity -- I was confident he'd do okay. He can't always remember to down on the articles, but he finds them himself with a good low nose. Not bad for having done this perhaps ten times. I made the articles fewer and farther apart not for the sake of my back, though it appreciated stooping less, but because the pup attention span seems to be better on the track line than it is for downing. I'm willing to adjust to the pup.