Sunday, December 2, 2012

Thanking an anonymous Good Samaritan

Just about 7 years ago a Good Samaritan stopped to pick up an over-sized, over-confident pup and delivered him to the SPCA of Wake County.
That event set off a sequence of events that would change my life forever; because you see, that pup wound up in my house, as 'mine'. It was fate.
This story though isn't about the pup - we call him Bugsy- or even how much we love him. I can assure you the latter is not quantifiable.
This is a story of gratitude. My gratitude.
And it is a story of how deeply my life has been changed because of the pup some unknown person stopped to pick up and deliver to the adoption center.
I fell hard for this pup. His personality & intelligence was booming even at the shelter. He was pure cheek. He had me laughing & impressed within a minute.
What I didn't realize is although these qualities made him adorable in my eyes, it also meant he was a handful, a soon to be VERY large, handful.
I knew for years that I wanted a dog and had a clear vision of what life would be like with my furry friend. Within the first two weeks of owning Bugsy I realized I was overmatched, and this wasn’t exactly the furry friend I had imagined.
I had no choice but to become the owner this pup deserved. And that meant I had an awful lot to learn in a hurry.
So I began reading and practicing with Bugsy. I bought training tools and toys. Loads and loads of toys. We exercised a lot. A whole lot. We went to classes.
Despite all this, we didn't really get the results we hoped for, Bugsy was never destructive and was potty trained more easily than you can imagine, but he was independent, powerful, frenetic, exuberant, prey driven and the devil incarnate, in that cheeky way.
I turned to the internet. I found a dog forum. It was full of very knowledgeable, dedicated and experienced dog people. And this is where the story really gets interesting……….
The world I began to uncover - the world of canines - was incredible to me. I couldn't get enough information; be it on training, health, behavior, breed characteristics or more, I was fascinated.
I also was learning about puppy mills, shelters that are just collection centers for euthanasia, animal cruelty, backyard breeders, 'outside' dogs and the general poor welfare that tens of thousands of dogs experience here in NC (& elsewhere).
I was so very naive. But I am not any longer.
As all this learning was taking place I was also forging friendships. Friends who I feel closer to than any friends I've had as an adult, some of whom  I have never sat face to face with.  We have the same beliefs and we work to a common goal.  This network extends through the 50 states, Canada, the UK, and more. My Facebook collection of friends is overwhelmingly 'dog connections'.
One of the ways in which it is so easy to help is by using Facebook.  Facebook has to be one of the most successful tools for animal rescue organizations ever. They post animals in need or need for funds or need for support and they get it, from everywhere, not just from their local area. All of my friends & I receive feeds from the various rescues. With a click of the mouse we connect dogs in need with people in the appropriate geographic region.
Good things happen. Daily.

It's an incredible network that was unimaginable just a few years back.
Unimaginable because Facebook didn't exist (email connections were good but not capable of the reach of Facebook) and unimaginable for me pre-Bugsy, because my personal network was small and had no area of focus.  And I was so na├»ve.
It is because of Bugsy and my need to become a better owner for him, that I have learned so much and met so many incredible people and become an advocate for animals in need.

My life is so much fuller. Beyond words fuller.  Amazingly fuller.
For having Bugsy, who has turned out to be an incredible dog, still pure cheek, but now we see that as a guaranteed smile. I only need to think of him and my heart is full and a smile breaks out across my face.
It is fuller for all the wonderful people that are in my life because we are 'dog people'.
Fuller for the experiencing the rewarding feeling of helping a dog in need.
Fuller for having gained knowledge and being able to share it with others.
Fuller for having a cause that matters.
All because someone stopped to pick up a lone pup wandering the streets of Raleigh instead of driving by.
Every once in a while I consider what if they didn’t stop…………….and wow I am so very glad they did.
I cannot thank that person enough.
I know I won’t drive past a wandering dog.
Too much good can come from stopping.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Duke Canine Cognition Center trip #3

Bugsy and I were invited back to the Duke Canine Cognition Center a third time.
Now if you read about our first trip you would know that being invited back wasn't something I saw coming. I think that visit was my most embarrassing Bugsy moment ever.

But they did invite us back. And the second trip was less chaotic than the first but he still was full of his antics.  So when we received an email the other week asking us to come back for further studies, well, color me surprised.

Turns out though that they really do indeed like him there. For multiple reasons.
His eagerness, his swiftness in realizing the task, the fact he could care less where he is (this isn't really true as I think their setup with a zillion toys and nearly as many treats is his favoritest place in the world!) but what I mean is that Bugsy seems comfortable and curious no matter where he is.
He is also happy and loving and keeps the students giggling throughout.
He doesn't care when I leave the room he is ready to work and usually starts without them :)

This morning he looked particularly dapper:

A wonderful friend made him that scarf just for this occasion. The students got a good laugh from it!

Unfortunately today their video display in the waiting area wasn't working so I didn't get to 'see' him in action but I could hear everything.

I am not sure what the first part of the study was, but he was doing his job correctly and swiftly. Lots of 'good boys'.
I got the impression they were trying to trick him into thinking a treat was in a certain place but he wasn't to be fooled.

Then he came to see me again while they set up the second test. He was very intent on listening to what they were doing - I think he was cheating:

This time they put a barrier up and called him to one side where there was an opening so he could get to the student who had the treat.
They repeated that 5 times.

Once again he came and visited me while they rearranged the barrier, switching the side with the opening. The barrier was clear plexiglass so the opening was not highlighted in any other way.

This time they called him to come get the treat but he had to figure out that the opening had moved.
No surprise for me, he never even went to the previous side, he just flew through the opening to get his treat.

Afterward I was informed that he was the only 'pet' dog that had figured it out (nearly 60 tested) and that only a few service dogs had figured it out AFTER trying the side they had used previously.

So Bugsy the wonder dog (its a good thing he can't really get a swelled ego from all this) is the ONLY dog they tested that went straight to the opening after they had switched sides. Amazing!

Then they did one more test using emotional cues (excited, sad and monotone) to see how that would impact his response time.  He didn't get overly excited in response to any of those and performed the task at hand.

So overall another fun outing for us.
And another step closer to his degree

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Beach baby

I was just out on the beach watching someone struggle to contain their young beagle. I laughed knowingly as I recall all too well trying to hold on to 12 month old 100lb Bugsy our first trip here. It was all so overwhelming back then and he was completely untrustworthy off leash or even dragging a line so I would be lying if I said it was relaxing.
He took one whiff of the sea and was horrified, the waves were freaky and not to be trusted. My only experiences had been with labs, so this giant puppy who was not happy with the sea was an oddity.
One thing he clearly did love was the sand, oh how the boy loves sand!
Back then when we were tasked with holding on to the leash the wild and frenzied zoomies were a chore, for us anyway.
We didn't come back for a couple of years, but we've been back regularly since.
Watching Bugsy evolve into a water dog has been a blast.
Today for the first time he was perfectly OK getting hit by waves that powered over his back.
He kept his eye focused on his toy and would pick it from the surf as it rolled by. I was so happy to see him at ease in the waves.
So from the giant pup that thought the sea was evil and smelled terrible to the dog that runs into the sea upon hitting the beach. Awesome.
Age, bad knees, and arthritis have slowed him and somewhere along the line he became a reliable off lead dog (well most of the time).
One thing never changes, the boy loves zoomies. Watching his berserk and looney runs, sand flying, legs going in different directions, ears flapping in the wind, I understand why every trip here we are asked how old he is and people remark "oh I thought he was a puppy"
Bugsy you keep running like your butt is on fire for as long as you can, you make us all feel young again as we watch!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

so much for keeping your eye on the geese

This will be brief.
I took Bugsy for a swim this morning.

I have to very carefully walk him from the car, past a small garden next to the boat house, and to the beach area.

My eyes are always fixed on the beach area - to do this I have to be ahead of Bugsy and try to see around the corner of the boathouse.

There I was walking along, he is already in stalk mode and been 'tapped' as a reminder to stop hunting, when suddenly my left arm goes flying ( I wish it could detach as it would be less damaged at this point) and my body is jerked back away from the beach. My eyes dart over to Beastie in time to see him nab a squirrel which was in mid-leap from a shrub to the fence or a tree.

After a short (zzzzzap) struggle Bugsy lets go of the squirrel (who was injured but able to get up a tree) but he is completely focused on the task.

No not swimming. That dang squirrel.

It took about 5 minutes to get his attention well enough to start doing some water retrieves but at no point did he stop having wayward glances to 'the tree'.

I guess we'll add that little garden to the list of temptations to avoid, sigh.

We did have a successful swimming session though and he performed superbly doing double and triple marks (retrieves).

Its a good thing I love this boy AND think he's so darn cute!

Monday, May 14, 2012

dogs are amazing

It's been too long since my last post but at times I take things for granted. I've thought about posting multiple times but then the thought passes or other things in life take over.
For whatever reason tonight I didn't let the moment pass; I was out on our porch enjoying a cool, overcast, post-rain evening. I happened to catch Bugsy, nose to the air and if he had a forehead it would have been wrinkled. You could see him thinking.
I don't know what he was thinking but he was surely thinking. It didn't take long before he headed out the flap of the dog door, that has lost its battle to survive and will be replaced this week, to investigate whatever this particularly interesting scent was. I kept watching as he cocked his head to listen, and his body took on the rigid pose of a pointer as he scoured the hedges for, well I don't know what for. After several long moments, he moved on. Now intently tracking scent on the wet grass.
This continued for 30 or more minutes and is his normal 'doings'. It is rare for him to be awake and relaxed. He is either on the job or asleep. His senses working overtime and his desire to communicate fabulously intense. Unfortunately he has mastered English much better than I have mastered 'dog'. I do try buddy I just don't have your skills!!
And I know it isn't just Bugsy, it is dogs. I was watching a 13 wk old golden today and he is learning so many wonderful things. His little brain is working hard to become as fluent in human as Bugsy's.
Heck he's trying to learn to be fluent in dog hahahaha
Watching he and Bugsy play is a study all of its own. Yesterday for the first time Bugsy really played with him. He's been thrilled to see him and has been ultra-tolerant of his puppy antics but he wasn't really playing. That all changed yesterday. I would love to know why. But that seems to be information/communication for dogs only.
And my last remarks about a recent observation are about loss.
Last August the golden across the road passed away. The owners of the new pup were his owners.
When I brought Bugsy to the house today I was startled to see Bugsy inspecting the house and all of the deceased dog's favorite places. Bugsy looked at me with a face of confusion a few times - at least that is my best read. His tail did a half wag and he looked at me with those amber eyes as if saying, where is my friend? I felt so sad. I knew I couldn't explain it to him. The pup was trying to interact and Bugsy was in search of his first friend. Then Bugsy just wanted to leave. I indulged him after securing the pup with his new antler behind his gate.
I know that many of my dog owning friends appreciate their four-legged companions to the max.
For the rest of you, take a moment to really watch your dog and see how they communicate to you. Watch them take in the world around you I guarantee you will be impressed

Monday, April 2, 2012

Why Bugsy is not my running partner

I often get asked why I don't take Bugsy running with me, the answer is very simple.
Because of these

(a fox we encountered this morning and on the way back we saw that she has a litter on the ground)

and because of these

and of course these

well and these

You can easily add deer, rabbits (before the fox ate them all), snakes, lizards, turtles, robins, & doves to this list. He moved past squirrels ages ago LOL

This morning on our post-run walk we encountered the fox pictured above, then shortly afterward some low flying geese went overhead squawking loudly, then some crows were chasing a red shouldered hawk all flying only 20 or so feet high, a rabbit scrambled out from an overgrown forsythia, a cat was under a bird feeder (GRRRRRRRRRR) and on our way home we passed the fox again this time noticing that there are a litter of cubs who were merrily playing.

So that is why Bugsy is not my running partner, besides its no good for his knees

Monday, March 26, 2012

Christmas in March

As if it hasn't been wonderful enough that his next door neighbor has been fostering puppy after puppy, tonight he went shopping, got to meet a bunch of dogs, then came home, ran around playing, and within minutes some neighbors with their two little kids (3&5) came into the cul de sac on their bikes yelling "Bugs-ee" at the top of their lungs. O.M.G. His tail was wagging at a record rate and he was so excited he was levitating.
So he's beyond gleeful, the kids are running, rolling, and giggling and along comes someone walking two puppies.
He didn't know what to do
Head exploding.
He's in a very deep sleep now :)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hot Damn!!!

that's for my friend Lisa but it certainly reflects my excitement level yesterday morning.
Bugsy and I were doing our normal thing, trotted down to 'our' fields, he was let off leash and off he went sniffing and searching.
Then I saw them. At the bottom of the hill, mostly concealed by the trees and tall grasses.
About a dozen deer, white tails suddenly moving in all directions.
I quickly tweeted the Beast - who was transfixed and ready to fly.
The whistle broke his stare and he ambled back towards me, with at least one eye still watching the white tails.
A group of the deer went left into the woods. Whew.
Our intent had been to enter the woods on the right and wander down to our lake access there.
I was tweeting the whistle as necessary. Bugsy was amped and twitching. But remaining near by and checking in with me. I know he was thinking "just give me the sign, Mom" but much to his frustration I didn't.
We continued down the hill.
Oh crap!!!!!!!!!!! More deer! And they went RIGHT, into OUR woods. I had thought they had all gone left but some had just stood still until we got closer.
Another sharp tweet as Bugs was trembling and stalking as you could just barely see the deer moving through the dark woods.
I was trying to decide whether to leash him or keep challenging him.
In consideration for my shoulders I kept him off leash.
We moved parallel to the deer - them to our left in the woods, us on our path through the tall grass on the right edge of the woods.
I waited a few times to try to let them get ahead of us with the hopes they would cross in front of us to the other side of the field.
We arrived at 'our' path to 'our' hidden lake access and whoosh they crossed the path.
I am not sure how Bugsy DIDN'T have a stroke - he literally looked like he would spontaneously combust.
After waiting for them to be out of sight, I relaxed and off he went.
Amazingly not after them, he scented and scoured the landscape for any sight of them but he was able to direct him to the lake access.
Of course we got to the water and the muddy entry was full of hoof prints and a super-sized heron that gronked angrily at us for disturbing his morning

I was beyond thrilled, the adrenaline surge and the intensity of being on top of Bugsy for so long was exhilarating and exhausting.

We wandered a bit more and then headed down 'our' path to 'our' trail that splits the woods and the fields.
Good gracious what do we see - more deer!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This time flying through 'our' field.
Bugsy was very fed up with not being able to chase them so we had another power play with many whistle stays and another success.

Hot damn!!!!!!!!!!
That was a surreal experience for me and the Beast. One I am not sure I want to replicate but what an achievement for both of us.
Love you Bugs! And thanks for being so good.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bugsy's 7th SPCA dog walk!

This will be 7th year of walking my humans through the streets of Raleigh to support the SPCA which is where I lived for a short time. They are real nice there and its very clean and there are lots of things to do BUT having a family of my own is much better so I try to raise money so more strays can get homes.

I sure hope my humans walk faster this year I really want to be first in - I hate lagging behind!


love Bugsy!

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Sure, I am biased :)

But Bugsy is the best dog in the world, yup I am a beaming parent.

I had to take him to the vet today for about the one millionth time in his life. I wish that I could say that most of the time the visits are for a physical or a standard vaccination but it rarely is. Today's visit was to check out a lump under his front leg.

As always when I motioned him to come with, he got VERY happy excited. I mean anywhere you go in the car is awesome, right?

When we got there he was sniffing outside (in the pouring rain) and I said, "C'mon Bugs lets go see the doctor" and off he ran, even more excited to the front door.

Inside he was desperate to say hi to the elderly couple with the teeny dog in a crate. I couldn't hold him too well because with the wet feet and slick floors, he was splaying terribly. The couple, chuckling, said its OK let him say hi. Phew.

They left and we had some calm. I told him to 'relax' and he adopted the pose
Here's the pose

Out came a red shiba inu. Two doors away from us lives a red shiba inu. He's never met "Foxy" but he's fairly convinced that Foxy is indeed a fox. He doesn't like fox.
I was concerned.
But after a tense moment or two they were fast friends and trying to play in the lobby.

Next comes a large male bull terrier. If there is a profile of a dog that Bugsy will try to slap down it is a large, male, mostly white, bully breed. The bull terrier approached with his chest puffed and tail high. Once again I sensed some tension in Bugsy so I wrapped my arms around him and held him in place. Within a minute or two both had wagging tails and a serious wrestling match was about to take place. The front desk people were laughing out loud.

Two dogs, both of the tiny percentage of dogs likely to get a negative reaction from Bugsy and all we got was tail wags and attempts to play.
Just love my boy <3

Finally we make our way to the treatment room. Bugsy meets the vet tech as if she is a long lost friend. Next comes the doctor who is also greeted with a wagging tail.
As the vet is feeling the lump Bugsy is slobbering him with kisses. Fish kibble kisses because I had brought a bag of kibble to bribe him with.

Its decided that it is likely a lipoma (fatty lump) but it is best, due to location, to aspirate it. First they have to shave what little hair Bugsy has on his chest.
He wasn't a fan of the razor but stood still as we fed him kibble piece by piece while he got shaved. Then he kissed the tech.

Next was the vet grabbing hold of the lump and sticking a needle in it to draw out some of it for looking at.
More kibble and honestly a completely nonchalant attitude to getting stuck with the needle.
"go on and stick me with that needle just don't come back with that shaver thing!"

Afterwards he kissed the vet again profusely. He was wagging and wiggling and so happy to get a few more pieces of kibble.
At this point the vet said, "Bugsy you really need to try and be friendlier"

I was basking in the relief of the knowledge it was a lipoma and nothing to worry about (although it feels like a real sign that my boy is getting older)and watching him interact with the vet staff and the dogs that crossed his path I couldn't help but feel lucky.
Lucky to have this sweet, over-sized lover boy.
He has some traits that make him so very challenging but he has other traits that make him the easiest and best dog on earth.

Yes I know each of us thinks their dog is the best dog on earth...............well at least some of the time anyhow!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

His gift to me for 2012

Bugsy and I decided to take advantage of a pretty morning to do some field work. As per usual he wore his e-collar, for those times when he discovers something more interesting to hunt or flat out refuses to work with me.
Today we were using quail wings tied to a dummy, we have previously been working with pheasant wings and I can say without doubt that quail wings are WAY better than pheasant wings. Well if his intensity and insanity are an assessment of which is better!

He was so excited, yet he sat and waited when asked.
He tore into the long grass or woods, pointing and retrieving as asked. Delivering to hand, admittedly sometimes doing a victory lap around me before relinquishing his cherished wings.

I am not sure how long we worked but it was a blast to see him flying over logs and gullies and cleverly making his way through thick cover.
It was thrilling to work with his enthusiasm and energy.
And when I said ok Bugs let's head home, he trotted, wings in mouth to my car and waited for me.
He gave me the wings, waited to make sure I put them in the car, then hopped in the back and was ready to roll.

Not once did I even think about the e-collar, or struggle to recover the dummy, or have to remind him to stay. At one point he was in a stay over 150 yds from me and he didn't move until I sent him.

I don't think that from here on out he'll always be this good but we've been seeing signs that my silly, crazy, now 6 yr old boy is maturing.
It's wonderful and much less stressful.
Bugsy just when I think I can't love you more, you show me I can.
Thanks for a great New Year's Day hunt

A few photos
Jan 1,2012