Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Training Day - Dun dun duuuuuuuun!

Well, I was just about to post something about Ava's new training gear and I realized that I hadn't mentioned it yet. I should fix that, right?

Last Saturday, Ava and I started a Canine Juvenile Manners class at a wonderful local trainer that I was referred to. I didn't think that I'd ever find a decent trainer around here - or any trainer aside from Petsmart for that matter, but now that I did, I wish I woulda found her sooner! The trainer is a golden breeder who shows as well as offering obedience, rally, and agility classes, plus boarding. I've never even found a good, ethical breeder around me, so I'm absolutely thrilled with Pine Mountain!

Ava's class is only 6 weeks long, but then again it was only $96 - so much better tahn other places around here that I'm sure would be, uhm, less-good. I really had fun, but it was really hard. Ava's so terribly ADD and she wants to play with everyone so badly that her attention span is just...nonexistent. She wasn't the oldest dog of the class, but at 14 months, she was definitely one of the older ones. There were six other dogs, adding up to my lucky number of seven so that's another good thing. Silly, I know, but it works for me! There was a gorgeous Dobe, a King Charles Cavalier, a Brittany (ohmygosh, I think Brittanys are the cutest little spaniels and I've never seen one aside from pictures before. I wanted to snuggle the little pup so bad!), a Mastiff puppy, a Miniature Schnauzer, an adorable little mix from the shelter. And, of course, a gorgeous Siberian Husky puppy with the most beautiful blue eyes. She was my personal favorite, but I might be slightly biased. Just a tad. Maybe.

Anywhos! Ava and the Brittany, Scout, spent pretty much the entire class trying to get to each other and barking back and forth. Next time, I'm going to position myself away from Scout because its too much of a distraction for both pups. But, of course, Ava reacted to everyone else too. She was just like a retarded goldfish in a bowl of glitter. It was crazy! The hardest part of the whole class was keeping her under control and keeping her attention. My arm was sore for a few days afterwards from just holding onto her leash so tightly. But apart from that, she knew the commands we were doing that day. She just chose not to listen to them too much. I mean, she's a husky and all, so I kinda expected that and I'm not upset over it, it was just a bit embarrassing and I know she can do so much better. She's so insanely smart and we communicate so well with each other, but she essentially threw it all to the wind. Granted, it was also the first class, so she was more confused than me, I'm sure. She was definitely more comfy than me though! I was so nervous and shy about it that I was having a hard time, but hopefully I'll come out of it. Not to mention the fact that the building doesn't have air condition, just fans and breezes. Ava and I are alike in the sense that we both have insanely low heat tolerances. At some point, our brains just sizzle and there's not any more synapses even attempting to work. We were both practically sizzling at the end of class.

Aside from the fact that it was really tough, I learned a lot during that first class. First of all - just because Ava can do something at home doesn't mean she'll do it when there's something more fun distracting her on the other end of the room. Secondly, the only thing worse than the smell of green tripe is burnt green tripe. I baked some treats for her to really keep her attention - namely in the form of beef heart bits and green tripe. And, yeah....totally smelled funky. I bought some liverwurst today though, on the advice of people from Dogster telling me how it was awesome for training, and it was actually nastier than dealing with the tripe. I can't believe people eat that stuff...It just made me sick to my stomach to deal with cutting it up some tonight. Ugh. Third, while the martingale collar is effective to keep her from slipping her collar (which is the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened in public with Ava...), it does nothing to deter her from lunging to try and play. The trainer saw that I was having issues with it though - she's really great at paying attention to everyone at once and fixing issues. She set me up with an Easy Walk harness or something like that. One of the harnesses with the ring on the front of the chest that causes the dog to turn as it pulls. It's absofreakinglutely amazing! Ava is definitely not a fan though. She has yet to slip out of it too, but she's trying. She'll do the buck, backup, pop, and wiggle move to try and shimmy out of it and run after whatever she's got her eye on. She's learning how the pulling works with it, and how the bucking works too, but its taking a while. She's not bucking as badly since the last time that she tried it she ended up throwing herself into a spinning front-flip where she landed on her back in the middle of the yard - and looked positively pissed about it. But she's learning to walk by my side. I'm still working on the clicker with it too, but she's just not terribly food motivated or toy motivated or anything motivated if she's on a walk wanting to go after something. We're working really hard on it though! The only downside was that it didn't come in pink, so I had to go with black and silver. Yes, I am that picky about pretty colors too...

Since I'm planning on continuing to at least one of the three agility classes offered at Pine Mountain - then maybe even on to competing if Ava has enough of a knack for it and enjoys it enough - I started looking into portable crates. If I haven't mentioned it yet, I have a tiny car. Think of something like a Hot Wheels car on steroids. Yeah. And Ava's wire crate has to be wedged into the trunk to make it fit, and even then you have to wiggle the seats up a bit to make the hatchback close right. Not that I don't love my car or anything, but its not terribly roomy. So I was pricing popup, soft-sided crates - and dying inside a little bit every time I saw how expensive they were for a dog of Ava's size - and I only found one that was really promising. Again, it didn't come in pink, but then again, the only ones that came in pink were really bulky looking and well over $100. I found one at CleanRun that I loved - big enough for Ava, really cheap, and very very compact. It's actually a few inches longer than Ava's regular crate at 40" x 25" x 25" - but when it folds up into a little circle, its 14" in diameter and about 2" tall. Very very awesome - and small enough to fit into my purse when I need it. I didn't buy it yet because I was waiting to get reimbursed for selling some textbooks online (-insert happydance here-). Then today, I ran to walmart for some liverwurst and I was passing by the pet's section when I saw the exact same crate, only $5 cheaper. So, needless to say, it came home with me tonight.

{ps - i love how you can see her tags so prettily here}

Its blue and red, so not so pretty, but Ava actually likes it. I was really surprised because I have a hamper that pops up something like that and she's definitely not a fan of it. But she walked back into the new crate like it was nothing - Snickers too even! Snickers has a terrible phobia of crates/pens/kennels/cages/etc so that really surprised me that he would even look at it, much less walk in and lay down. I'm teaching Ava to use it already too. Her wire crate is called her "box," and she knows how to get into her box on command, so this new one is going to be her "pen" so that it won't confuse her. She's pretty good at it so far! And perfectly comfy in it too. Now, if I could just pop it open without accidentally smacking myself in the face with it, I'd be just dandy...

Our next class is Saturday! I can't wait for it =]

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Yearly Checkup - aka Yearly Jab-Fest

Well, yesterday was Ava's first yearly checkup. Things went decently, although she did act up quite a bit. I took a baggie of noms with me so I could work with her on obedience while we were in the waiting room. We walked in, handed the receptionist our lovely bag-o-poo, and started doing tricks since we had the waiting room to ourselves. Since I got there early, they worked us in a little bit early. Ava had no issue walking up on the scale and then just standing there for a bit, which is a huge deal after I was afraid that she'd pick up on Snickers' scale phobia. She's exactly 42.0 pounds. That's about 40 pounds of sheer muscle and 2 pounds of fur, if you break it down. The vet said that hopefully she'll fill out soon, but I honestly don't think she will. For one thing, she's stayed exactly the same weight and size-wise (she's actually lost a few ounces since she was last at the vet, but that was before she blew her coat out). Secondly, I think she's found her perfect weight. She's not underweight or overweight - she's just right. Perfect waist and figure, but not overly bony. And beautiful, if I do say so myself!

But anyways! Then came the physical exam, which was considerably harder. First he checked her for fleas, which I could have told him that she had. We picked up some particularly stubborn - and freaking mammoth - fleas in Georgia a few weeks ago and I just can't seem to get rid of them. I told him that Ava has reactions to everything that I've tried on her and explained that I bathe her and use citrus oils to keep the fleas at bay. I didn't explain the diatomaceous earth though, especially since I tried to explain it before and he was doubtful and tried to sell me Frontline. He tried to sell me Frontline this time too - which not only doesn't work but causes Ava to react. Then he checked her eyes, ears, mouth, etc and she absolutely flipped out. She wasn't trying to bite him or anything, just backing up and bobbing her head whenever he tried to hold onto her head. She's never done it before but apparently now I'm gonna have to work on it with her...

And then came the jabs. They're my least favorite part of every exam and I don't even get them. Ugh. My vet isn't exactly holistic like I'd love, but there aren't any around here. He's not terribly vax heavy, but he still utilizes them much more than I, in my nonprofessional and internet-educated opinion, would ever use. I try to be really polite and all, but I really do feel like a bitch at times. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not going in there and demanding this and that. But I do think that I know a decent amount on the subject, more than the average patient for sure, and I realize that I have some unconventional views on the subject. But no matter how much I might know about it, the reality is that I'm the most timid, shy, unconfident person you'll meet. I find it very hard to speak my mind about something, even if I know exactly what I'm talking about and I'm talking to someone who knows less than me. So it really is hard for me to speak up and debate with the vet about this every time I go to see him. But I do. Every single time.

This time he wanted to give either the lepto booster or a puppy booster. First, she had one lepto shot when we had a lepto scare last fall. I wouldn't ever let him give it to her in the combination shot because it has such a high reaction rate, especially since she seems to be a particularly sensitive doggy. She had a fever and was really lethargic for a few days after the first shot, so she never got the second one. And she's never getting boostered for it. So I told him that was out. Then he said that she was due a "distemper and parvo" booster, so I asked if he had just a distemper booster. Apparently the only way he can get it is mixed with parvo, which was fine with me. Then I was like, "So, its just distemper and parvo? Not both of those mixed with everything else?" His answer? "Oh, well, we only have it in the 5 shot combo with -insert rambling of other needless vax here- in it." So my thoughts were that I was going to agree to a distemper shot and have the rest of them thrown in as bonuses? Very glad that I asked! I told him that I'd skip the booster and have her titered in a few years to see if I thought it was necessary. He said he wouldn't booster her, but he "strongly advised against it" and that his dogs would definitely be getting their boosters. Well, mine won't. I asked him if it was the same shot that she got last year and he said that yes, it was the exact same shot that she received last year with no side effects. So then I asked, "If its the same shot, why did it only 'last' one year last time and will supposedly 'last' three years this time?" He then explained that the reasons puppies get several rounds of shots is to boost their immunity and catch their system right as the mother's antibodies are disappearing. Then he said that the yearly shot was to booster their system and that it lasted three years. Which totally didn't answer my question, but okay. Uhm, she still wasn't getting it. Right before we left, I asked him if she was old enough to start agility and he said yes, but then added that he would never let his dogs take agility classes or obedience classes without being up to date on all of their vaccinations. I smiled, said thank you, and cued Ava for the door while my inner smartass responded in my head.

So remember everyone! Just say no to toxic jabbings!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Ava's Gotcha Day - Part II

This is extremely image heavy. Just to warn you =]
And the first bit is actually a repost of the first part of this blog, but I really screwed up that one so I thought I'd just redo it. I uploaded the wrong version for a scheduled update while we were out of town, then I needed to actually finish the blog. So, here it is! Enjoy!

I’ve always wanted a husky, at least since I was in the second grade. That’s when I read the Call of the Wild and I was hooked on the idea of a husky. About five years later, I got Snickers, a mix with mostly German Shepherd in him, and then a few years later, I finally got Ava. I spent a few years reading up on huskies and found out that they were much more than just really pretty sled dogs, but I found all of their weird quirks endearing – and I still do. I contacted some breeders, and because of that I learned that there’s a huge difference between a “good breeder” and a “breeder.” Because of Ava, I learned everything about the world of dog breeding, about holistic care, and even about good foods because, before I started researching for a husky, Snickers was eating Beneful. I was saving for a husky from one of three or four breeders (in fact, I dubbed my first bank account The Husky Puppy Fund). Then I spotted her on petfinder when she was 8 weeks old and that was it.

Two days later, my Dad took a few days off work so we could drive from WV to SC to pick her up since I’m so bad with directions that I’d never make it there alone. We finally made it to the rescue about three hours later than we’d planned – and four hours later than mapquest had said we would. The rescue was really based in someone’s house. He was a musher who had several huskies himself, as well as several rescued huskies up for adoption, including Ava’s two littermates and her parents, and a few wolves rescued from people who thought they’d make cute pets. It was storming so bad that we’d had to stop several times and we still couldn’t really see, so we had to run into the house where he already had her inside and waiting. He was cradling her when we came in and dried off a bit. We talked for a little while, although I don’t actually remember any of the conversation because I was locked onto her and resisting the urge to snatch her and cuddle her myself. He stopped midsentence, looked at me and smiled, then went, “Here, I suppose you want this?” and handed her to me. We stayed for about an hour, just talking about huskies in general before finally deciding to head home. She spent the entire 13 hour ride home curled up in my arms. Even the guy from the rescue said he’d never seen a puppy take to someone so fast and so completely.

And here’s the weird thing, or perhaps the perfect thing. As we were leaving to get her, I had the extreme sense of déjà vu, reminding me of a dream that I’d forgotten. In the dream, I had been going to South Carolina to pick up a small female husky puppy, with a red coat and blue eyes. And there wasn’t a single breeder in South Carolina that I’d considered going to.

When we finally did make it home, she immediately made herself at home and stole Snick’s bone while he was trying to figure out what the little ball of fluff was, why it was in his house, and why it kept wanting to chew on him. It took him about three weeks to completely warm up to her. First of all, he’s a pretty shy, timid big guy – really the epitome of a gentle giant. Secondly, Ava had no concept of the hierarchy of the house, so to speak. She moved right in like she owned the place and was absolutely merciless to Snickers when it came to playing. He was almost too nice to put her in her place, but he finally did.

Back when she was small enough to fit in the bathroom sink, she had her first bath. That was also the first time I heard the Husky Death Howl.

The next week, we had some family drop in with their min-pin mix, so he and Ava got to play while they were about the same size. This was also when she discovered that she loved to swim in the waterbowl outside.

From when she was just home with us, I made sure that Ava was on the furniture often because I wanted her to know she was allowed there. Luckily with Mom’s limited knowledge of dog training (even more limited than mine), she didn’t see a problem with it and just assumed that Ava would just stop getting on stuff when she was slightly bigger. Nope! She’s still a furniture dog and is currently napping on the couch, with her head resting on a pillow.

From an early age, she also learned to attack Mom’s knitting. This is her showing off her trophy from battling an afgan and apparently winning.

She’s always known how to use a pillow with no problems!

Ten weeks old! Just a week after we brought her home.

The very first hole she dug. D’awww! Coincidentally, this is also the very first hole in the backyard that nearly snapped my ankle…

We still had Teddy, a puppy that someone dumped at our house, at this point. She absolutely adored Teddy and they played so much! Teddy had a lot of issues, but over the few months that we had him, we were working them out and trying to find someone to adopt him. One of his bigger issues though was that he absolutely panicked if he was confined to a fenced in yard for more than a few minutes, so he stayed outside of the fence most of the time. These pictures were taken just a few days before he was hit by a car and had to be put down. Ironically, the person who ran him over was a regular in the neighborhood and had to have seen him before, plus they were on their way to the church up the road and never even braked before or after running him over. People can be so worthless, can’t they? But that’s another story.

Ava loved the little water dish that we had outside and, whenever she played and got hot, she’d run to it to cool down. It was the official Husky Cooling Station. Just two or three months after the first picture, she’d gotten so big that we had to upgrade her to the Husky Cooling Station Deluxe – aka a big tub filled with water that came up to her neck.

I also used the tub to get her to chase a diving ring. She actually caught it…Amazing…

Yup. Still a furniture dog!

And yes, still stealing things from Snickers. I love the before and after pictures though!

Passed out after running in circles in the new living room arrangement.

Queen of the Couch.
And the recliner.
And often the loveseat.

For her six month birthday I bought her a new crate. Up until then she’d been using Snickers’ old plastic crate – which she could escape from pretty easily. I wanted a wire one, so I started shopping around and pricing. And then I saw it – a hot pink crate with all the little extras that I wanted like the dual doors, decent size, and amazingly cheap price. Gotta love ebay! I was a bit worried though, thinking that since it was cheap it’d be crappy, but it really has stood up wonderfully.

For her first Christmas, she went to go get her picture taken with Santa at the local petstore. Well, not exactly local, but only an hour away…Anyways, she hated Santa. It took us about 15 minutes to get a decent shot with her because she just wouldn’t hold still – and she kept trying to get behind Santa in his chair. For Christmas, they dogs also got tons of stuff. Ava got to pick out a huge raccoon toy at the petstore after dealing with Santa – and she actually did pick it out herself! She pulled it off the shelf and everything. It was, of course, the most expensive $20 plushie in the aisle…I think the favorite was the box of five 36” bully canes though. Definite keeper!

We finally moved the furniture away from the window because she was ruining it. But we gave her a table so she could sit and watch the birds. She really is just a big cat….

Fast forward to Easter and Miss Ava has channeled the spirit of the Easter Bunny. But what the picture doesn’t show is that afterwards I gave her a yummy dehydrated rabbit’s food to gnaw on. Very festive, I guess?

For Ava’s birthday, which actually was on Easter, I insisted on taking her with me to the family dinner at my grandparents’ house. We took both dogs so they could run around since my grandparents have a ton of property, although they didn’t get to play with their dogs because everyone was convinced that there would be a dogfight if two dogs that didn’t live together ever got to meet. Sigh. But it was fun nonetheless, although Ava isn’t allowed back because she scared the chickens so badly that they didn’t lay for a week…

Then for Ava’s birthday dinner she had pupcakes – basically meatloaf minus the onions and ketchup, with canned “cheese” for frosting. And a slim-jim candle, of course! Snickers had one too, but I didn’t have time to take more pictures because he ate it so fast. He literally took the whole thing in his mouth and it was gone. Ava, on the other hand, took about ten minutes to completely polish off hers. When I set a plate of food down on the little folding table in front of her though, she was obviously confused and thought it was some sort of test/trick. It was adorable!

Petsmart was having a huge sale on dog sweaters to clear out the winter ones, so I couldn’t resist buying a few for them. They were $3! And actually big enough to fit Snick and Ava! Granted, the hot pink one is Ava’s but its sized really big so it fits Snickers as well. You can really see how big she’d gotten, as opposed to when she was first home with us.

Also for her birthday, we outfitted Ava’s crate with a bed and bumpers that Mom and I made for her. We thought that she’d be old enough to not shred them. She did a little bit of shredding though, so now we’re sans one bumper and some of the stuffing from her bed. So now she’s down to her old bed that she isn’t so pleased with. She also got a custom – made collar/harness/ID tag holder from the lovely 3pooches on Etsy. She finally stopped having massive growth spurts long enough for me to decide that it was “safe” to buy a big girl set, so to speak. Its made exactly for her, from the sizing and color and fabric choices down to the pink hardwares on the buckles and all.

Click me!
Just a few days after her new walking outfit came in the mail, we went to the Walk-n-Wag for the local no-kill shelter. I won’t bog down your internets with all of those pictures, so you can click on the picture above to go see everything from the Walk!

Up until just a few weeks ago, yes, she’s still a furniture dog!

On Ava’s actual Gotcha Day we were on a roadtrip with her (which is why this blog’s posting is so screwed up and has taken me so long to get it right…), so I won’t include all of those pictures here. You’ll just have to wait until I get around to posting all of the pictures from it!

And that chronicles Ava’s first of many years with us. I can’t even begin to tell you how great it’s been, or even how much her mere presence here has changed the feel of our house and made it into more of a home. She’s every bit the husky I thought I’d be getting and a whole lot more!