He does not judge

Berger Picard / Berger de Picardie / Picardy Shepherd Dog / Bacardi Shepherd

“A dog is better than I am, for he has love and he does not judge.”

— Abbot Xanthios, ancient Christian mystic, quoted by the Monks of New Skete

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A beautiful sentiment — and a true one, I think. I love the wisdom of the Desert Fathers. If you have any taste for ancient Christian mysticism, I highly recommend Thomas Merton’s edited collection of their sayings.

Hope you have peaceful weekends ahead! It’s hard to believe that summer is nearly done.

Checking in on me

Checking in on me

Wherever I go, I always get the sense that someone is following me…

(Truthfully, I like having such a sweet dog who likes to keep constant tabs on me. This might annoy some people, but I love it. Yes, even when she tries to squeeze herself into our tiny bathroom with me. And all this from a dog who would formerly hide from us in corners of the house! She is such a gem. I can’t help it; I like to gush about her sometimes. It always makes my day to remember how far she’s come.)

The best deal

A woman and her dog. by Stepan Obruchkov, via Flickr
(c) Stepan Obruchkov.

“Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made. ”

— Roger Caras

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I agree with you there, Caras!

We are going to visit my in-laws this weekend, with the primary aim of meeting baby Georgia! FINALLY! I am so excited. Thanks for all of your advice about Pyrrha and the baby; I will strive to make Pyrrha feel loved and not incite any jealousy between her and her new aunt. I hope it all goes well and that Pyr doesn’t play too roughly with her. Will be coming home with lots pictures! Have a great weekend, everyone.

Until one has loved an animal

Now I'm relaxed
Pyr, in the yard.

“Until one has loved an animal, part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

— Anatole France

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As much as I may try to avoid oversentimentality toward animals, I do really believe this is true. Loving animals feels like unlocking a different chamber of the heart. Especially when the animal in question is a dog.

Thanks for all of your advice about nail trimming. We are still working on it. I fear I may have to resort to calling in a professional. I think she would actually have to be physically restrained to get her nails trimmed at this point. (Or do I just need to run her on asphalt more often?? But those dew claw nails are really getting bad.) Anyway. I’ll keep you posted. Sigh. Why is it that some dogs never seem to need this done? That we could be that lucky…

Wishing you warm and happy weekends!

My little dog knows me

A fashionable woman in Berlin and her dachshund. Source: Glamcanyon.

“I am I because my little dog knows me.”

Gertrude Stein

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Hope you all have cozy and pleasant weekends! I am looking forward to a weekend at home, sans house guests, to take Pyr on long walks around town and enjoy the gorgeous autumn foliage. Wishing the same to all of you!

Filling an emptiness

Photo: Henning Nilson.

“Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, filling an emptiness we don’t even know we have.”

 — Thom Jones

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It’s true, isn’t it?

Have had a totally crazy week, and I have been feeling guilty, because Pyrrha has gotten fewer walks and less attention than normal. The guilt! It is suffocating. Maybe next week will be a little better?

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Pup links!

At the end of the fence. By Flickr user meeganz.

Dog-related links from around the Web this past week:

The Search-and-Rescue Dogs of 9/11. As we remember the tragedy of 11 September 2001 today, I was very moved to reflect on these series of beautiful portraits of rescue dogs from Ground Zero, shot by photographer Charlotte Dumas. (The Hydrant)

DIY Physical Exam: An “Owner’s Manual” for Your Dog. Have any of you been following The Bark’s DIY physical exam guides? I’ve found them to be extremely helpful and informative. I confess that I really should know more about how my dog’s body actually works and how to read concerning signs. This is part two of a four-part series. (The Bark blog)

Scent Games: Educating Your Dog’s Nose. Lots of interesting links featured on The Hydrant, apparently! I loved this article by John Rice and Suzanne Clothier about games to play with your dog that utilize her nose. Pyrrha is extremely nose-oriented and I’m looking forward to playing some of these scent games with her. (The Hydrant)

Do You Just Love Dogs? Or Do You Respect Them? This post by Pamela really caught my attention. I know a lot of people who profess to just LOVE dogs, and I don’t doubt that they do, but they don’t seem to have any grasp on reading dog body language, or recognizing when a dog is too tired, too scared, too what-have-you to engage. Props for this post. Her question is a good one, too: How do we encourage more dog lovers to actually respect dogs, too? (Something Wagging This Way Comes)

7 Years After Katrina, New Orleans Is Overrun by Wild Dogs. It is easy to forget cities struck by natural disasters, particularly once the disaster has faded into distant memory. The devastating consequences of Hurricane Katrina on literally thousands and thousands of domestic animals was apparent from the outset, but seven years later, stray dogs are continuing to multiply and spread across the city. An eye-opening account of the difficult situation of abandoned dogs in New Orleans. (The Atlantic Monthly)

Ian Healy: Dog Portraits. This is the style of a dog portrait I can really get behind: Modern and fun, but accurate and talented. Now I’m kind of wanting one of Pyrrha for our sea-foam green walls… Have you had a work of art commissioned of your dog? Would you? (The Hydrant)

The Reverse Romney. As many of you in the United States, I am sure, I am getting sick to death of hearing about the November election. I’m ready for it to be over! But this did make me chuckle. (Maddie the Coonhound)

Also, just for kicks: Pyrrha was featured on F-Yeah German Shepherds. ♥

Learning to love her human dad

Guion and Pyrrha
Guion and Pyrrha at Yappy Hour.

Pyrrha has made a lot of progress with Guion lately. For the first few weeks, she seemed very nervous around him; she’d watch him like a hawk whenever he was in the same room with her. As the third week rolled around, we both were somewhat dismayed that she hadn’t warmed up to him yet. He wasn’t going anywhere, after all, and probably spent more time with her during the day than I did.

Her obvious preference for me made me feel pretty guilty. After all, I was the one who was really begging for a dog, and then we get a dog who barely gives my tolerant husband a second glance? I felt awful. She was all wiggles and wags and smiles whenever I walked in the door; Guion got a sideways glance and a slinking posture that moved her into the next room.

Love
Love.

Last week, we started pairing Guion with her most high-value treat, dried liver jerky (or something like that; a gift from our neighbor). Guion was the only one who was allowed to give it to her. That worked like a charm; she started to follow him from room to room, but this time out of a spirit of eagerness instead of watchful anxiety. He feeds her whenever he is home with her and gives her lots of gentle attention and affection.

The other night felt like a breakthrough, too: We were out in the backyard and she was in one of her crazy, playful moods. She normally invites only me to play with her; she’d never initiated play with Guion before, but on this particular night, she wiggled right up to him, gave him a play bow, and started dancing around him. Guion and I were both overjoyed. Soon they were both on the grass, wrestling around and playing Pyrrha’s version of fetch (which involves the human throwing an object, Pyrrha chasing said object, and then Pyrrha returning to human without said object). She played with him in that rough, goofy style that I’ve seen her do with other shepherds–lots of teeth, lots of tongue lolling about. (She even snuck up behind him and gave him a play bite on the back of his neck. He let out a yelp, which was sufficient correction. But then she just came back for more.)

She still has some warming up to do with him, but I feel like we’re already making great strides.

Did your dog need any help warming up to a particular family member? What did you do to help him or her feel comfortable with this person?

Weekend with Bo (and the ZoomGroom)

I’m trying to get as much time as possible with Bo before he moves to Florida at the end of June, so I kidnapped him for most of this past weekend.

On Saturday, we walked briskly in the rain and then I brought him back to our apartment to test out the ZoomGroom I recently bought. I know it’s not the most effective brush for hair removal, but I had heard good things about its massaging powers and how much dogs seem to like it.

Pile of my fur
Goofball, with a small pile of fur behind him. (We hadn't really started yet.)

When I pulled the ZoomGroom out, he became extremely excited. I think he thought it was a new chew toy. After he calmed down a bit, I was able to use it and he seemed to enjoy the whole process. The brush did pull off a lot of fur (not nearly as much as a Furminator), but it was still a considerable amount for such a seemingly simple product.

Dog hair
My pants, post-grooming session.

My only critique is that the ZoomGroom seemed like it just loosened up a bunch of fur instead of collecting it. After grooming for about 10 minutes, he was just covered in even more loose fur than when we started. I don’t know if I was using it wrong or what, but I definitely won’t be using that indoors again. There was fur flying everywhere!

Bo baby
He's just happy all the time.

Still, he seemed to enjoy the whole session.

On Sunday, we went back to the trail and hiked briefly with Bo and our friends Matt and Liz. I was just daydreaming the whole time about how soon I’d be able to do this with my OWN dog.

Moving in two weeks and one day! But who’s counting?

Pup links!

Actress Donna Drake and her cocker spaniel. Source: LIFE Magazine Archives.

Dog-related links from around the Web this past week:

The Furry Ties That Bind. A beautiful post that reflects on what it is that makes us dog people, tracing the deep connection that children often feel with dogs. (City Dog/Country Dog)

You Don’t Have To… This post by trainer Tena is a great reminder that there are multiple alternatives to any given technique or method. It’s relieving to read. I’ve had lots of people tell me that I HAVE to use a prong/choke collar if I get a German shepherd, that I have to use physical punishments, etc. As Tena would say, “You don’t have to.” There are other alternatives. Don’t do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or uneasy when it comes to training your dog. (Success Just Clicks)

Hierarchy: These Are a Few of Her Favorite Things. A ranked list of Elli’s favorite toys! This was fun to read, and a nice place to start for good ideas among the overwhelming cornucopia of dog toys. (Identity: V+E)

Conflicting Gestures of Affection. Why declaring a “National Hug Your Dog Day” might not be the best idea. (The Bark blog)

DIY: Liver and Potato Grain-Free Dog Treats. This sounds like a (fairly) easy recipe to make homemade treats. (The Hydrant)

AKC’s Top 11 Dog Breeds by City. This is an interesting report: Do certain cities prefer different breeds? It seems so! What breeds do you think are most popular in your city? And what does that say about your city? I think Charlottesville probably has a higher proportion of setters and spaniels than most cities; they seem to complement the landed gentry image that is somewhat prevalent around here. Here’s the more complete 2011 AKC breed report by city. (Woof Report)

Run, Doggy, Run. Laura Benn shares some great pointers on how to prepare yourself and your dog to run together. (iRun)