Thursday, September 22, 2016

I Love My Trainer

It's Thursday, so that means nosework training. Jedi and I have been training at the same place since January. It's the highlight of my week. And with all the nosework trials next month we're really stepping it up. I'm excited and nervous at the same time.

We would have never gotten to this point without the encouragement and direction of our trainer. We started taking classes with her because the location was convenient. It's a five minute drive from my house and she had a daytime class. I've stayed with her for nine months because she's absolutely incredible. She has a knack for reading dogs. There are three German shepherds in our class and each one is different. Trainer will set up a scenario and say "I predict that Jedi will do this, Tundra will do that, and Ayko will do something completely different." Funny thing, she's usually right.

Trainer has the ability to tailor instruction to each dog so that he will succeed. It's amazing to watch. Some dogs pick up new things faster than others, and sometimes that makes owners me feel bad. Not Trainer, she actually enjoys coming at a problem from a different angle so that a dog will get the concept. I love my trainer!

So, you can imagine my surprise when Trainer told us today that she has to close the business. She's moving and taking a "real job." I can't begin to describe how depressed I am right now. I don't know if we'll ever find somebody able to fill her shoes. I just want to cry!

For now we're going to keep training. I want us to do well at the trials next month -- it would make her proud. But after the holidays we'll have to figure out something. I'd hate to lose momentum. And crazy as it may sound, I love getting together with friends and working our dogs. I don't want to lose it. Any ideas? -- K

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Why Won't People Do Things With Their Dogs?!

Stock photo, not one of mine
When I took over as president of the Dog Club, one of the things I wanted to do was get people out and doing more with their dogs. (We have German shepherds -- these are not good dogs for sitting around the house doing nothing.) Well, this goal has proved to be more difficult than I thought. I've found all kinds activities for members and their dogs that were inexpensive (if not free). Very seldom do I get more than a half dozen people to show up. It's disheartening.

Last Saturday the Club held a Canine Good Citizen test. I put a lot of work into this. I found a park and tried to pick a date that didn't conflict with anything. I sent the requirements out via email months in advance and told people to practice -- it's not as easy as you may think. I sent out multiple reminders. I had the club member administering the test do a presentation at our monthly meeting. The Club charged $5 -- just enough to cover the cost of forms -- and the administrator promised to retest any dog that didn't pass for free at a later date. (Seriously, you can't find a better deal anywhere!) Well, four people showed up. FOUR. I was disappointed. So much so that I've deleted the first few drafts of this post because they were too negative -- even for me. *sigh*

Me and Jedi in St. Augustine
I can't understand why people don't want to do things with their dogs -- especially people who go out of their way to join a dog club. I've been trying to reinstate the Club's weekly training get-togethers for over a year now. Members all say "Great idea!" but when I ask for specifics like "Please scout out locations" or "Pick a regular day and time" the membership instantly becomes apathetic.

Roxy and I enjoying
a picnic at the beach
I'm frustrated. I estimate that 75% of the dogs in our club seldom leave their houses. What kind of life is that for a dog? (Even more tragic for a breed that needs physical activity and mental stimulation.) After every lackluster turnout a nagging voice reminds me that all the time and energy I spend setting up activities for members and their dogs takes away from time and energy I could be spending with my own dogs.

OK, enough whining. I know it's not productive. When I was elected president I told the Club that I would only do two years, so I'm done in June regardless of what happens. I'll continue to do my best until then, hoping that the few who do show up enjoy themselves. In the meantime, do you have any ideas to increase interest? How do I convey the fun, excitement and -- dare I say -- emotional fulfillment you get from doing things with your dog? Or should I just say "Screw it, let them figure it out themselves" and play with my pups instead? -- K

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Jedi Gump

I took Jedi for a walk in the park. He jumped up on a park bench and I immediately thought of one of my favorite movies -- Forrest Gump. What would Forrest say if he were a dog? I'm thinking maybe something like:

It's Silly Sunday -- what do you expect? Want some more silliness? Check out the posts below. As usual, thanks to Sandee at Comedy Plus for putting this hop together every week. Later, -- K

Friday, September 16, 2016

Dumping Your Dog

One of the worst parts about being the German Shepherd Dog Club president is that my information is out there for the world to see. People find my email and phone number on the website and contact me about all sorts of things. Sometimes they contact me about dumping dogs. My heart breaks every time. For some reason, it's harder to deal with this as Club president than it is as animal control officer. Maybe because when I'm in uniform I expect it. (Wow, how cynical is that?)

I hear you screaming "What? Why? Who would do that?!" I've discovered that people dump their dogs for various reasons.
  • Sometimes the dogs are the last of a litter. People contact the club hoping to find buyers here. Truth is, they're wasting their time. Dog club members get their dogs from two places: a reputable rescue or a reputable breeder. We are not going to buy a dog of questionable lineage from an unknown potential backyard breeder. (Yes, I know that sounds very arrogant.)

  • Sometimes these dogs were impulse buys and owners are having buyer's remorse. Adorable puppies quickly become challenging adolescents. German Shepherds are a breed that needs plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. I've said many times, German shepherds aren't for everybody.

  • Sometimes the dogs have health or behavioral issues that owners are unable or unwilling to deal with. Owners contact the club hoping to pass their problems on to somebody else.

  • Sometimes housing situations change. Whether people are moving by choice or not, it can be difficult to find landlords and HOAs that allow large dogs or specifically German shepherds.

  • And sometimes times, the owners' health changes. These are the most heartbreaking calls. Owners become ill or disabled and can't care for a large, active dog. Even worse, owners die and family members aren't able to take the dog.

I try to be non-judgmental and empathetic when people contact me about dumping their dogs. To be honest, I fail. In my head I call the dumper all kinds of obscenities. But then I take a deep breath and try to do what's best for everybody the dog. Here's some advice that I give to the dog dumpers that cross my path.

Call your breeder (if you have one). Your breeder put a lot of time and effort into creating that dog. She cares very much what happens to it. She probably has ideas and will most likely take the dog back. Also, this may be in your contract and failing to notify her could be a breech, making you subject to legal action.

Don't wait until the last minute. Doing what's best for the dog takes time. There is nothing more frustrating than people saying that they're moving and have to get rid of the dog by 5 PM. Very few GSD rescue/foster families or perfect-fit forever homes can be found in few hour window.

Don't make any rash decisions. Every dog owner has had a "If he does that one more time . . ." moment. Chewed items, potty training setbacks, barking or jumping combined with a stressful day can make anyone want to throw in the towel. Please, sleep on it. Remember why you got the dog in the first place. Chances are you'll feel better in the morning. Then there are the women (and it's always women) who call because they've been given a "me or the dog" ultimatum. I always ask "Are you sure you're making the right choice?" We both know she's not, but 80% of these women dump their dogs anyway.

Don't forget to look for other options. Bad things happen: people lose jobs, families get evicted, pets have to make a visit to the emergency vet. All of these can be devastating to an already strapped household. Crises make people feel that they have to get rid of the dog to survive. That's not always the case. There are groups and programs that will help with food, medical expenses or temporary boarding. A good shelter will be able to point you n the right direction. An overburdened, underfunded shelter will not. Since most shelters I know fall into the second category, I suggest you start a what-if list of resources now.

Don't think you're going to make your money back. Dogs are poor monetary investments. Regardless of what you paid for your dog, he's not going to have the fair market value that you want. It's best to expect to take a loss and focus on finding the right home for your dog instead.

Don't pass the problem on because you're uncomfortable making difficult decisions. It's too late for that. You promised your dog you would do what's best for him. That includes tough decisions. If your dog is sick, go to the vet. Yes, they're expensive, especially if you have a chronic problem. If your dog is a jerk, pay for a trainer. Intensive training can also be expensive, and time consuming. If your dog has severe medical or behavioral problems, the most humane thing may be euthanasia. Bindi's family had to make that choice. It's sucked, but it was the right thing to do.

Don't repeat your mistakes. Before you go out and get another dog, honestly assess what went wrong this time. Was it a lack of time? Money? Housing? Ability? Knowledge? Make sure you're prepared next time, and make sure you're getting a dog for the right reasons.

Don't beat yourself up too much. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, things go wrong. Sometimes a dog is just mentally unstable, or a bad fit for the family, or had a serious illness. Sometimes you suddenly have to care for an aging parent, battle cancer have to take a job across the country. If you've done everything possible and you still have to give up your pets, I'm truly sorry. I've been there and I know it hurts like crazy. Forgive yourself.

And if you do end up dropping your dog off at the shelter, go with a thick skin. Those who work there are most likely jaded and they will lump you in with all the jerks they've already dealt with. When I worked at the county shelter we took in 100+ animals a day. On a good day, we adopted out 20. Do the math. Even when you send everything you possibly can to rescues, there are still more coming in than going out. And when people are told "We are full, your animal will be euthanized" half of them just don't care. The excuses that come with the dogs are often frustrating. I've had people dump animals because:
  • "The dark fur clashes with the new furniture."
  • 'We're going on vacation and can't afford to board the pets."
  • "The landlord saw the dog and now he wants a pet deposit."
  • "We work 60 hours a week."
  • "We're having a baby next month (and yes, we adopted the dog 2 months ago)."
  • "I didn't think a lab mix would get this big."
  • "Mom is coming to visit and she's allergic."
Yeah . . . So even if you have a real emergency situation, there are 100 people before you that have already ripped the heart out of that shelter worker -- and it's only Monday. Maybe this dark-humored video will help you understand. (The premise: What if people discarded family members at the shelter like unwanted pets?)

OK, enough of the ranting. I'm going to log off and have a good cry. Then I'm going to take my dog for a walk and/or open a bottle of wine. Why? I received yet another dump request this morning. That's three this month. Apparently Dump Season came early this year. -- K

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Seeing Double

Jedi was one of 10 puppies. Ever since the whelping box, he and his brother, Dozer, have been the best of friends. They get so excited when they see each other -- whining, wagging, and dragging whoever holding the leash. Last week Jedi and Dozer met up for an event downtown. A friend snapped this picture:

It's Wordless Wednesday. Truth is, you don't need words to see how handsome these brothers are. Click around below and see what others are sharing today. -- K

Monday, September 12, 2016

Awww...A Walk in the Park

The weather is becoming more bearable. It's still in the high 80s/low 90s, but the humidity has dropped below 60%. (Desert dwelling friends, this is good. For here.)

It was 95+ degrees and 95%+ humidity last month. Trust me when I say UGH. I mentioned this on Facebook and a California friend asked why I would want to live here. My answer was "I like the affordable cost of living, conservative political climate, widespread greenery and no chance of snow." And I love parks where I can take evening walks and get pictures like this:

It's Awww...Monday. This is a hop where various bloggers try to brighten your Monday with Awww-inspiring posts. The blues and greens of Northeast Florida always make me say "Awww." How about you? Click around below and see if somebody else can get an "Awww" out of you as well. As always, thanks to Sandee for bringing this together every week. -- K

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Silly Wildlife

It's Silly Sunday. I woke up this morning thinking I didn't have anything to share. Then I went to work. Silly me, the residents of my sleepy beach town always give me interesting things to share.

Today I received a complaint of an owl attack. A man said that he was jogging early in the morning and an owl swooped down and grabbed his hat. He said it was a very large owl and he could feel the talons sinking in, but the hat kept it from cutting him. Wow. I feel for this guy, but I don't know what he expects from me. Owls are protected. Much like the children of diplomats, owls can be assholes and do whatever they want -- theft and assault included -- and there's not much anyone can do about it. That being said, I alerted Dispatch that we have a delinquent raptor in town.

(Interesting note: I also received two calls from people in the same area saying that their cats are missing. Think they could be related?)

Last week I was flagged down in the nature preserve. A man told me that there was a raccoon hanging around the picnic tables -- and it was daytime. I know this critter. I told him that she is a very friendly raccoon. People have been feeding her, despite my warnings. I assured him that she was healthy and recommended he yell and throw rocks to shoo the raccoon away. The man was flabbergasted that I wouldn't trap the raccoon and haul her off. I explained that FWC does not allow me to relocate healthy raccoons. Indignantly he said "But you don't understand, I have children." With as little sarcasm as possible, I told him "No sir, you don't understand. This is a nature preserve. Raccoons live here. This is her home." I didn't have the heart to tell him that I watched an Eastern Diamondback slither across his campsite just last week. However, I did call Dispatch to let them know that a raccoon was begging by the bathrooms, should anybody else call to complain.

Silly people. The town is a tree sanctuary. You cannot cut down a tree without the express permission of city government. No kidding! What do people expect? The place is full of wildlife. If residents knew what I knew half of them would crap their pants. I've seen foxes, coyotes, opossums, armadillos, raccoons, bobcats, otters, nutria, alligators, hawks, eagles, owls, wild pigs, lizards, turtles and snakes. Two years ago we even had a bear wandering a neighboring beach.

As I mentioned, it's Silly Sunday. A great big thank you to Sandee over at Comedy Plus for putting this together every week. Click below to see what others have to share today. Hope you have a silly Sunday too. -- Kelley