Thursday, May 19, 2005

In uniform: PSD Rowena ON DUTY!
-Sunshine Collection

Last day in obedience class! Yeah!
-Sunshine Collection

"We Survived Dog Obedience Class!"

Well, we are $75 poorer, but maybe all the more wise as to what it is Rowena needs to know and what style works for her best. Perhaps the trainers don't always know best and perhaps a classroom bustling with unruly canines of all breeds and personalities is not the best atmosphere for her to learn these things. On the other hand, we did finish the class, though never really finishing the "whole" class. I mean, after 4 classes with the female instructor, we were switched to the male instructor's class as it first began. He let us come back for a 3rd week with him, but this basically means we left at the same spot we left off in the other class. I like this last instructor. He is good, pays attention to all his students and allows time for people/parents to ask questions. He knows what he is doing, and I can see how he could do well training dogs for different police work. (He teaches tracking). I do not believe Rowena learns best with the use of treats. She gets too demanding for them and other times, she doesn't care. The latter is probably caused by the surrounding chaos that distracts her during class. Her attention is not where it should be, but everywhere else... though this class was a lot less chaotic and this really helped Rowena focus. Next week, we will return to Gail at Cotton Hill. She has a no nonsense approach to dog training and does not encourage the use of treats. (She does not discourage it either.) She has agreed to help me deal with Rowena's various and numerous phobias. I feel that Rowena learned a lot in Gail's class the first time around and the majority of the dogs were pretty mellow. I also feel comfortable with Gail because she is the person I purchased Rowena from and I guess I feel she knows Rowena better than some generic dog trainer. Her daughter has Ro's parents and knows Border Collies well also, so I feel comfortable that both Gail and Denny can accurately answer any questions I have about Rowena. Is she normal or should I be concerned? In the meantime, I need to work with Rowena's adolescent stage more rigorously. Can't let her beat me on this one!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Wet and Tired Puppy...tucked in for the long ride home.
-Sunshine Collection

Same shepherd with Brit on the left and Jack on the right. I don't know who the black n white dog is in the middle.
-Sunshine Collection

From this year's pamphlet: The shepherd and one of his dogs (not Rosie)
-Sunshine Collection

Monday, May 16, 2005

Sheep & Wool Festival

This past weekend the three of us packed up the car and headed south to attend our first "Sheep & Wool Festival" in Contoocook, New Hampshire. Though I was really interested in seeing the fiber art things and all the wool, I love watching the dogs herd sheep. I have to say I was also eager to see that shepherd and his dogs who were at the Common Ground Fair last autumn. He was the one who said that a border collie would never make a good service dog... they are only happy if they are herding. I don't believe he really knows what kind of service I was asking of the dog. None the less, the guy pissed me off and made my heart droop after I spoke to him. Soon after, Rowena came into my life.
I was not let down. I saw the man and his dogs giving a demo at the end of the day in the upper field. Rowena in her little service vest restlessly sat by me and as the dogs were ordered about, Ro grew a bit antsy. Mind you, she had never met a sheep before this day and really wasn't sure what to make of them. She did however know dogs, and these guys looked like they were having fun. They were running around in the field and here she was, being forced to sit there. Why wasn't mommy letting her go play with the other dogs? This just didn't seem right to Rowena. She whined and whimpered and I hushed her to make sure it didn't set much louder. Suddenly, one of the dogs working the sheep, a brown tri colored female, ran over to the fence and layed flat. Her eyes were now fixed on Rowena. She had an intense look, daring her to move forward. The shepherd takes this opportunity to mention how his dog, Rose or Rosie, is guarding the fence and the sheep from this strange dog outside the fence. He says that my dog was fine, but "...if that dog jumped the fence, it would be all over." This angered me. All I could think was "If your dog attacked my dog, you would owe me your best pup!" He calls her off and tells her to go up t0 the upper gate. That way she is not near us. However, a little later Rowena managed to get out a "Yip!" I leaned over to hush her and when I look up, there is Rosie, staring intensely at Rowena again. We aren't by any means standing right next to the fence, probably a good 10- 15 feet away. This guy actually told me that I could come forward when I first approached as I had originally stood far off. Call me paranoid, but perhaps this guy was setting up this whole situation... but at whose expense? Rosie then got bored with staring from the other side of the fence and proceeded to leap over the fence and lay down under their truck. The shepherd's daughter I think had enough sense to be nervous and stood in front of Rosie to block her stare. I looked down at my left backpack shoulder strap and saw the little can of pepper spray dangling next to Ro's portable poo bag dispenser. I'd sure hate to do it, but if he has overly aggressive dogs, then they deserve an aggressive repellent. If Rosie made a move toward Rowena in an agressive manner, I would not hesitate. Chris was nervous about this Border Collie's aggressive manner with Rowena as well. He said he would throw himself between Ro and this other dog if need be. I hope we were not the only people in the audience who were bothered by this shepherd's non-chalant way of dealing with this whole situation.
When we first arrived, we met a man who took us right over to the sheep dog trials. He was attracted to us by Rowena. Down at the trials, shepherd's and their dogs wandered about awaiting their turn in the field. However, hardly a dog noticed Rowena enough to give so much as a sniff, let alone a stare. We enjoyed watching Rowena's reaction to watching sheep and dogs, and hearing the whistle commands. Chris liked to believe that Rowena was reacting excitedly at the sheep, but I know better. She wanted to "play" like the other dogs seemed to be doing. I could see her if I had let her out in the field: She would take off full blast straight for the sheep and then run around them in small circles, not getting them to go anywhere in any kind of order. It could be wooly chaos!
On my last walk with Rowena around the fair grounds, we walked through the stables where Rowena met a sheep face to face, and didn't really like the ewe. We walked around so Ro could just walk without stopping every couple of feet. We walked between barns and found the arrogant, old-fashion shepherd and his crew of dogs behide a stable gate. Rosie, the tri-colour enemy saw Rowena who was walking next to me and minding her own business, and she began digging for the other side of the gate to get to Rowena. Funny, the last time I saw a dog react this eagerly to get at Rowena was that ugly German Shepherd throwing his huge body at the windows of the house as we passed by on the sidewalk. He later ATTACKED Rowena. We did make it around with out incident and headed out to the car to leave on our long journey home. There was a sandy stream on the trail out and Rowena jumped in, not knowing the stream would be deeper than she was tall. She booked it for shore (I helped by towing her in with the leash) trying to keep as much as her body out of the water as possible. This made her look desperate, as if she were paddling against a strong current that was about to suck her down. She managed to jump in two other times after sticks before we made it out to the car, so wet puppy got her warm fuzzy blanket wrapped around her and a towel and the car heat blasting in her face as she curled up in the back seat. Blood shot eyes, Rowena survived the event. We were on our way home from our first long road trip together.
Rowena's routine had been thrown way out of wack from our travels this past weekend. This morning when I let her out of the bedroom where she spends every night with us, she peed on the floor. "Rowena... what is this?" I asked as I pointed down to the wet spot on the rug. Rowena's head goes down and she puts herself in the kennel for time out. She hadn't had an accident in a long time!

Friday, May 13, 2005

Speedy Recall while off-leash, playing in the Bangor Forest
-Sunshine Collection

"Here I Come, Ma!!" Rowena at full-throttle.
Sunshine Collection

Off-leash time for Rowena
Sunshine Collection

"When Smart Dogs Don't Listen"

Recall is an activity I do on a regular basis to see if Rowena is still listening to me. This training activity is especially important when we play out in the field or forest as I take her off- leash. She needs to come promptly when I call her and obey all the commands I "bark" her way for her safety, my safety and the safety of others. I have never had to have her on a leash in the field since day one. Yes, day one she was responding to her name and never running off. She has always been very good at listening to me, coming when called, & recently, refocussing. On one occasion in the City Forest, she chose to not listen to a single command, angering me red. Assuming a touch of adolescent behavior, I threaten Rowena with Leash restrictions next walk. However, by two weeks she was fine. Well, this past tuesday, our busy day, I took Rowena to the field for her weekly scheduled romp. I did some training with her but she didn't seem to want to do anything. At the end, I was going to take her to the pond-like area when she saw a runner making his way off the field, and moving towards the parking lot. She took off and I tried to call her back. No immediate response, but eventually she does turn around and come back towards me. Just when I think I have regained control over her, she turns around and goes after him again! I am yelling at her to COME (now!) and NO which basically means stop doing what you are about to do. She doesn't listen at all. The man turns a round and yells at her to try to startle her back to me. She just kind of runs back a few steps and looks at him like "Are you for real??" Well eventually she comes back and just in time as the runner had proceeded to exit the field and now ran on the parking lot busy with post-lunchtime traffic. So, Here I am, scolding Rowena and trying to get her to refocus, trying to take some deep breathes for myself and thinking that Rowena had indeed refocused successfully as she had been doing really well lately, when She turns around and darts back after this runner who is now running behind parked cars. I lose it. I am screaming at her to come to me in all the ways that are familiar to Rowena and I mean... in near panic. Screaming til the smoothness of my voice actually breaks. It is times like these that I discover how high- pitched and shrill my yelling voice can be. Still, Rowena remains unmoved and undaunted by it. The man appears to be a nice guy as he takes a detour off his running route to run Rowena back onto the field ant to me. I thank him and apologize, stating that this is not her usual behavior. His reply was: "She likes me." I can't think of a whole lot of people she doesn't like. I remember thinking to myself how I was not liking the behavior of this dog smiling coyly in front of me at this moment, panting and expecting another great getaway very soon. I scolded her intensely, gave her some water and snapped her leashed onto her collar. "No. Forget it. Playtime is over. You are on leash-restriction now. That was very, very bad! NO." and I escort her off the field as I try to breathe the anxious uncried tears back down my throat. I look at my watch and am horrified to discover that we may miss the bus. We don't, and I eventually calm myself down and make-up with Rowena. I dread tonight's obedience class, fearing that this whole thing in the field is an example of how class will go. I approach the instructor and tell him before class what had happened, and he simply says that she is still young, testing me, probably just behaving like a teenager. I shouldn't trust her off a leash yet. He doesn't hear me say that this behavior is totally unlike her at all... that she has always been very good at coming when called. Sometimes these "professionals" just do not listen. My words fell on deaf ears. Maybe other people's dogs shouldn't be trusted off- leash, but mine can be. We have been having off-leash playtime with her since we first got her. She does not chase every runner or moving object as this trainer says. She often begins to, but turns around when I call her. These people, they think they know everything, but they don't know me or my dog at all. That just is NOT Rowena. Tomorrow, 3 days after Rowena's disobedience at of-leash playtime, I will try again in the field. I will not give her as many second- chances this time. Maybe it is time for me to do another "Alpha take-down". Maybe she is forgetting who is the Alpha in this partnership.

Monday, May 09, 2005

"Puppy Love"

Puppy's first day out! 9- weeks old

Rowena is joy "caninified". Her fuzzy, plump, puppy body has stretched out into a long, glossy -coated charmer. Her eyes glimmer bright as she looks up at me, and I enjoy seeing her joyfully playing in the field or being a social butterfly as she follows me around town. People adore her. She recognises some individuals, and gets all excited... her butt and her tag wag, head lowered in typical Border Collie fashion as she awaits a greeting. She adores them. People comment on her all the time. "Oh, she's beautiful... You're beautiful! You know that?" And she does. I should have made her AKC name as "Jayden's Princess Rowena". What a better companion could I have all day than a loving faithful dog like Rowena? Who else would panic if I were to get up and leave the room to use the toilet? Who would have to follow me there and try to sniff what is on the otherside of the toilet lid? Gross. I know... but imagine how loyal, faithful and ever adoring that creature would have to be. When I go to bed, she's hot on my heels and hopping for the covers. If I get up to use the bathroom or get a drink during the night, down she hops to follow me. "Nosy-Rosey" is an appropriate nickname for her as she has to check out where I am at all times, what I am doing, where I am going, what I have... And even after I bathe her lovingly, struggle to brush her stubborn and hairy hind-quarters, and trim her bi-colored nails, she still loves me. She still wants to jump up on the couch with me afterwards. She still kisses me. So even though her bare naked freckled puppy belly has become slim and covered with fine white fur, she is still the same little charmer she's always been. (And those freckles are still there... just blanketed in the fur.)

Monday, May 02, 2005

"Lab Loves" 8/20/03 by Heather Gerquest Posted by Hello

"When Psychiatric Service Dogs Struggle"

Ever have one day (or more) where you wake up and just feel drained of all energy or just unable to rub the sand out of your eyes? Well what do I do when I feel like that and I have a Border Collie who wants me to entertain her every minute? Lucky for her, I had to go downtown to get my bus pass. I know that exercise will help me to not get so sore and I know that it will help Ro keep her muscle tone up in her hips and probably help her not be so sore as well. I had every intention of getting home from that errand and digging in some soil and breaking ground for the flowers to be planted around the building this year. So Ro and I get home, climb the stairs to go in so I could take her work harness off and get her poo bags and the pepper spray for protection. (Can't believe I forgot that stuff before we left on the errand!) We both departed to get something to drink... and well, I kind of crashed. Sure I went out on the back deck to make sure my seeds hadn't drown and to see if I couldn't muster up some energy to go down and do my thing. Rowena, full of little fears and phobias, refused to go out onto the deck. The bikes were standing side by side (plus three) and clothes fluttered about in the wind. Nermal the sociopathic cat was out with me and I am sure that didn't do much for Rowena's motivation. So I checked my roof top box garden and checked on things. The tullips continued to make their way up through the soil and many little "helicopters" had begun to grow (only to get plucked out by me). Purple coneflower began popping some young leaves up on one side, the lilac and rose bush had begun opening up their own leaves. Tiny apple trees show signs of life, making me happy that they had survived their first winter. None of the sunflower seeds I had planted in trays had begun to appears above the soil, but I had faith that if things warmed up and dried up a bit that they would begin to grow. The wind had picked up and short sleeves was feeling less appropriate than earlier. I moved the make-shift gate I had accidently left up last time I was out and poured the water out of my scrap wood bin. I did take out the packet of flower seeds and read the instructions. No. Just doesn't feel warm enough. I'll do it later. I go out to chase Nermal indoors and close the door behind us. I do a cat check with Rowena on my heels and all looks well. Now for the rest of the evening, I keep getting these looks from Rowena, like a pouting child that occasionally glances and glares up at me. I talk to her and she glances away. "No. I don't want to hear it!" Rowena seems to say. I know she is sore today but next to moderating her exercise, I can do nothing more for her. She now sleeps peacefully behind me on my fake sheepskin blanket. Her bed cover is in the wash so her bed is unavailable. So I don't know whether this fatigue thing with me is a mental or physical problem. I do know that Rowena does her job. There is not one day that I can hibernate inside and never go out. There is not more than 1 day when we get out and at least take a walk around town... just for her. I try to take her to a location where she can run unleashed at least 2 or more times a week. I cannot hide anymore. This dog makes me stick out. She makes me go out. Oh maybe I can get out with her for another late night training walk. Maybe I just need another nap.