Saturday, February 28, 2009

Knock Down, Killed and Eaten!

I make jokes about that all the time. Knock Down, Killed and Eaten! is going to be my obituary. All in fun, until Sunday when I actual thought it was going to happen.

Dogs bite. That is just a fact. They bite other dogs, they bite people. They bite for good reasons, bad reasons, and sometimes no reason at all.

I have been bitten 5 times in 6+ years.
A Rottweiler on the thumb
Something small and fuzzy that I can't remember on the back of my hand.
A Teacup Poodle on my lip, ouch.
A Pomeranian through a work glove and my finger nail, bigger ouch.
And now a Boxer on my forearm.

Statistically speaking, verses the shear number of dogs that stay here, not too bad.

The first and the fourth, I got breaking up a dog fight. Not really unexpected.

The second and third were out of the blue, stroke of lightning kind of bites. The dog is frightened, lunges out. They are fast and over just as fast. The dog was afraid, he made me stop and now it is over. These kinds of bites can come from any dog, no matter how well behaved. Freak a dog out, and he will chomp on you once and be done with it. Most of the time, the chomp is just a snap - no contact. Often, it will be more of a warning shot over the bow. Most dogs will lunge and snap to miss just to warn you off.

The fifth was a dog declaring his territory with the intent to really hurt me. We had trouble with this dog from the moment he arrived on Friday. He and his daughter were just fine when Mom and Dad were still here, but shortly after when my dog sitter went to let them out, he lunged at her hand on the gate. She called me and I told her, 'If you don't feel comfortable, don't let them out."

Maybe I should have taken my own advice.

When I got home on Saturday, I let all the other dogs out for dinnertime play. When I went in, I made a point of feeding these two dogs last. That basically lowers their status in the pack. I found them to be both very submissive when I went in to feed them. And even quite lovey. They were all over my hands, licking my gloves. I thought that their 'time-out' had mellowed them.

So, I went back out and let just those two have some playtime. The female came out, no problem. She came up to me for some petting and went on to explore the play yard. The male would not come out of his run. This is a first for me. He stood in his outside run with the gate wide open and was barking at me, defending his territory. I have never seen any dog be that defensive about the kennel space. Most dogs don't even care if other dogs go into their runs.

I just let him alone. I did my usual with a skittish dog, no eye contact, no direct movement toward them. He did eventually come out, but would always run back in. I was thinking that made them easy to put away. And that night they were.

Sunday breakfast, he is pretty much over the territorial stand in the run and is out with his daughter. He eventually goes back in on his own, but I can't get the female to go in. I am not really up for grabbing a shoving this female in. So, I am trying to get her to approach the kennel by petting the male. This works after awhile and they are both back in. No sign of aggression this time, at all. Just defiance of going in, but that is a pretty typical response to the end of playtime. I was actually thinking that she might be afraid of the male and that is what is holding up her going in.

Sunday lunch, I take my camera down to get a picture of this dog barking out an open gate, but he never does it. Everything is fine until I try to put them away. He is already in and the female is running around anywhere but in. I try to tempt her over with loving on the male, again. This is going well until he gives out one of his 'This is MINE' barks. I pull my hands away before I even finish the thought process. Good thing, he was going for me, big time. He wasn't going for a warning shot over the bow either, he was aiming to maim.

I was backing away and realizing that I had to control him or he would get me, all at the same time. I grabbed for his collar, and landed the grab. Thank, God! I started dragging him back to his run and as I shoved him in, he turned and bit down on my left arm. I just kept shutting the gate and he had to let go as it closed.

My husband heard the commotion and ran down to help me out. We got the female into a different kennel and called it good. We put everyone else away, fed the puppies their lunch, and I called the owners to ask them if someone could pick up their dogs. They said they would come home and get them. I can't tell you how relieved I was to hear that. Most people can't come home early and I would have been stuck with a dog I couldn't let out or dare to even feed or water.

All of this happened before I would even look at my arm. I find that the adrenaline can carry you pretty far, until you see the blood. Don't look, that's my advice, if you need to get something done before you freak out. Turns out that my arm only has a very nasty bruise. I feel that I should write a letter thanking the Lands End company for my winter coat. It saved my arm. Had this been summer, that dog would have taken the meat off the bone.

Once again, never a dull moment at the Ranch

Friday, February 27, 2009

Maki, Maki, Maki

If loving you was just much less painful.

Maki is my one and only Mastidore - half Mastiff, half Lab.

So she is big, her paws are huge.
She is playful, that is the lab.
She is determined and a bit pushy, that is the Mastiff.
And she is the most confident and secure dog on the planet.

Let me explain.

When not running and wrestling with all the other dogs, Maki wants loving. She will demand it by jumping up on me, or just putting her paw on me. Getting a love tap from Maki is comparable to being hit by a velvet covered brick. I keeping putting her paws down while I launch into 'ear nuggies', 'collar scratchings' and her favorite 'rub the fuzzy butt'. (You can win over any dogs with these three maneuvers.) But this is never enough for Maki, all petting sessions end in her stretched out on the ground awaiting a tummy rub. I am a bit hesitant to drop to the ground with this many big and bouncy dogs just waiting to include me in the wrestling. But not Maki. As I start in, all the other dogs show up. Sniffing and smelling, even stepping over Maki. It takes a very secure dog to stay in the most vulnerable of positions and let other dogs sniff them. Maki is only mad because I can't keep rubbing in the middle of a dog pile.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Feast or Famine?

I had 2 days off from doggies this week. The puppies went home at 9 am on Monday and I didn't get any new dogs until about 9 am on Wednesday. That was two mornings with only baby and kids to deal with and two nights of not having to trek out into the cold just before bedtime. Maybe the recession does have its silver lining?

My business has been way off since December, but I am not usually totally empty. I have had a number of weeks when there is only one dog here for days at a time. That is boring and unprofitable for me, as well as boring for the dogs. So, the downturn is even hurting the canines.

But my empty and briefly, totally clean, kennel is once again stuffed to the rafters.

Everyone showed up yesterday, 4 reservation and 2 emergency drop offs, total of 9 dogs. Mostly all big dogs, mostly all Labrador or bit of Labrador. With so many big and bouncy dogs, the play is pretty intense. I mostly try to stay out of the way, with little luck. I am desperately trying to protect my left arm from impacts with even less luck. (I got bit last weekend, but that is another post)

I will try to get some pictures today.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Getting the Right Dog to Arrive Makes All the Difference

I was having a lousy week.

The dogs aren't playing together well. When everything jives around here, this job is a joy. When the dogs aren't having a good time, I clench up about it.

Diesel has been here awhile now and was honestly getting bored. When Khiya arrived the other day, I thought I had a good play team. Not so much. Khiya acts all excited to play with Diesel, but her enthusiasm fades in under a minute. Diesel is still suffering from his inability to read the body language of other dogs. (I was wondering if it was because he must have been taken away from his litter early.) The growls, the showing of teeth, even snapping doesn't register with him as anything more than, "Let's play MORE!"

Really, he is that oblivious.

So I had my hands full, with keeping these two apart and still try to get them to get some exercise.

Then came Dusty. He is new, small, skittish and is to be no where near either Khiya or Diesel.


And today came Smokey and saved my week. Smokey might be freaked out by people but dogs love him. Diesel just keeps trying to mount him and Smokey just stands there and takes it. Smokey is also big enough that there is no fear of Diesel smooshing him. Diesel was attempting to mount a Boston Terrier over the weekend, but that is another post. When Smokey breaks free of Diesel's affection, then Khiya joins the group for a lap around the play yard. Dusty is being happily ignored by the big dogs and is settling into the Ranch just fine.

And I have big sigh of relief.