What the dog has been up to lately

Honey
A goofball at heart.

Little Pyrrha stories from this week:

Mmm, toothpaste!

Guion called me yesterday and asked, “So, is too much dog toothpaste toxic?”

Oh, boy. I made another overconfident mistake with Pyrrha and thought we could trust her alone in the house, out of her crate, for an hour. She doesn’t get into anything when we’re home and we left her alone for 30 minutes the other day and nothing was touched; she was just dozing in her crate. So, I was all, “Sweet, she’ll be great on her own! We won’t even be gone that long.”

Pyr, however, found her canine toothpaste down in the bottom of a bin and went to TOWN on it. Guion said she was covered in gooey, green paste when he found her. It was all over the carpet, all over her paws, and the tube was obliterated. She’d sucked out all the paste and had started to chew up the plastic tube itself when Guion came home.

I proceeded to panic a little, and panicked even more when my I told my boss, she called her vet friend, and the vet friend said, “Call the animal poison control center immediately!” But Guion didn’t report that she was acting sick, and the toothpaste was a “natural” brand, so it didn’t have the typical chemical cocktail. And the poison control hotline costs $65.

So, I got in touch with her foster, her fairy-dog-mother, who recommended that I call the vet. I did, and they told me not to freak out, that she’d probably have an upset stomach and possibly vomit. She slept through the night without incident, though, and seems totally fine today, except for those sticky green stains still on her front legs…

What contraband item has your dog ingested? Did you freak out?

Crushin’ on Camden

Pyrrha is still getting used to greeting other dogs on leash, but I think she’s made pretty significant improvements since we first brought her home. She is still scared of any and all dogs, but I’ve been relaxing my hold on the leash a LOT and calming down significantly, and I think that’s helped tremendously. Her hackles still go up and her tail still tucks, but she seems like she wants to greet them now and she hasn’t had any snarling or growling incidents in a month. We’re still moving slowly with it, but I have been delighted to discover one thing: CAMDEN.

There is a young female chocolate-colored pit bull who lives on our street. Her name is Camden and we often see her out walking with her humans. I don’t know what it is or why, but Pyrrha ADORES Camden. Camden is the only dog that I’ve ever seen Pyrrha genuinely happy to spot. She runs right up to her, all wags and smiles, and starts to play bow all over the place. Camden responds in kind, and the other night, the two of them romped around in our front yard for a bit (albeit on long leads). It totally made my day.

Camden’s humans were shocked when I told them that Pyrrha doesn’t like other dogs. “Are you sure? She is so good with Camden! She loves her!” They protested. I said it was true, but it seems that Pyrrha only has room in her heart for Camden. They seemed pleased and surprised to hear that their baby was the only one who could tame our fearful beast.

Camden doesn’t have a fenced-in yard, so I told her people that we really ought to have a play-date with the girls. We didn’t exchange any information, however, so I’m hoping we’ll run into them again soon and make that happen.

Does your dog have a best friend? A dog he or she instantly preferred over others, for seemingly no apparent reason?

Touch!

After my big fail of an attempt to teach Pyrrha to target, I am happy to report that she has successfully learned the “touch” cue! I took a lot of your advice to heart and stepped back a lot before I tried to re-teach it to her. I tried again when she was in a happy, relaxed space and I didn’t make any suspicious movements (like trying to pick up a clicker). She learned the cue in about four repetitions, and now we’re practicing it in other rooms, environments, and with other people. She performed it successfully with Guion last night, too. I am hoping that this command will be a helpful focusing bridge for her when we start obedience school in a few weeks.

What new command or behavior is your dog learning now?

A few nights with Zoe

Zoe on the kitchen floor. Source: Me

This past weekend, my husband and I house/dog-sat for some friends of ours. Kendra and Ehren have a 7-year-old black lab/border collie mix named Zoe. Guion was excited that they had a piano in the house; I, naturally, was way more excited that they had a dog.

I’d met Zoe once before at a crawfish boil that Kendra and Ehren hosted. I was extremely impressed by her calmness and tolerance. She patiently submitted to having a grabby 10-month-old baby stick his hands into her mouth and ears. I was anxious about it, but Kendra was right there and assured me that Zoe would be fine. And she was. Zoe rolled her eyes up to look at Kendra, as if to say, “Look how patient I am. This baby is trying to gag me and I am letting him. Because I am a very good dog.”

And she is.

Zoe in her chair. Source: Me

Understandably, Zoe was pretty anxious about what we were doing in her house on Saturday night. She is extremely submissive and doesn’t really have much desire to protect anything. She rolled over on her back continuously until we were able to calm her down. We spoke softly to her, slipped her a treat, and soon she seemed much more at ease about our brief residence in her home.

On Sunday mid-morning, I took Zoe on a long walk around a circle of pretty residential streets. She pulled a lot at first, but once she figured out that we weren’t going to move until there was some slack in the line, she calmed down and was an excellent walking partner.

Going on daily walks is actually one of the things that I am most looking forward to about getting a dog. (I may not say this after we have the dog, especially in brutal January, but still!) I eat well, but I do not make time for much physical activity, and I am looking forward to having to care for an animal who requires a good amount of daily motion.

There is also something very soothing and meditative about walking with a dog. There is no need for conversation; you merely listen to each other, observing nature and feeling your bodies relax and refocus. I love walking dogs and I wish I could do it all day long.

The other thing that Zoe reminded me of is the calmness of touch. I’m reading Suzanne Clothier’s book Bones Would Rain from the Sky right now, and in it she talks about how she was impressed by famed horse trainer Linda Tellington-Jones’ injunction to always use “soft hands” when working with animals. Remembering this charge is a great way to prevent yourself from lashing out in anger or impatience.

While Guion was out grabbing lunch, I sat on the living room floor with Zoe. She crawled over to me and put her muzzle up against my leg. I started slowly massaging her back and neck. She seemed to like it, and so she rolled over, inviting me to do her underside. If I paused for a second, she urged me on with her nose, as if to say, “Don’t stop now!” We continued this session for a good 15 minutes and it was very peaceful. I was reminded of a scene in the documentary “Dogs Decoded” that talked about how petting a dog releases a similar burst of the “happiness/bonding” hormone oxytocin in both the dog and the human.

It made me wonder about dog massage. In April, the New York Times ran an article about dog massage that sparked my interest: Dog Massage? Isn’t Petting Enough? I saw that Modern Dog Magazine also ran a short, illustrated piece about how to massage your dog. I’d like to learn more. Has anyone ever tried this before? Do you practice it regularly with your own pooches?

Overall, the long weekend with Zoe just increased my already burgeoning desire to have a dog. It was a good exercise in canine parenting and Zoe was a wonderful and patient teacher. I look forward to getting to see her again soon.