Saturday, March 31, 2007

Real Earthdog!

Today a cold front is swept through Missouri. It pushed a squall line before it. A series of small but very intense storms. At 3:00, when I was supposed to be practicing Earthdog at Jenn's house on her above-ground tunnels it was pouring rain. Training cancelled.

By 5:30, the storms had dissolved to high scudding clouds and the dogs and I headed to Bradford. Being several hundred acres of very gently rolling open ground, Bradford tends to be a wind and weather attractor. I got out of the car into straight-line winds of 35-40 mph. The grass was tipped in silver as it bent to the gusts, rippling stiffly, an almost undiscernable hiss below the full-throated roar in my ears. Our way out, we were pushed by the pressure out of the Southwest, the dogs springing up dashes of water as they ran.

I headed straight north, then East on one of the farm roads. Zipper, in front of me, nosed, stopped dead, and jumped back a foot, then ran forward again. He'd found a mostly-dead vole. He dispatched it then took off with it. He wasn't quite sure what to do with it though. He dropped it in a nearby field then stood over it. I praised him highly and picked him up with it in his mouth. Fortunately he dropped it soon after. We turned and came back. Walking west into the wind meant leaning forward and gasping a bit. I turned the corner South and Zipper was off again, this time at a field edge. He hunted then started digging--a mouse nest!

So though Zipper may never get an AKC Earthdog title, he's proven he can hunt vermin, even in a roaring gale. He can dig out mice nests too. He was very proud of himself!

Summary updates

Several short notes.

First, I'm still updating TotalMinPin. Check it out! I've added a great new link to a canine genetics predictor and an article on housebreaking. I've also added a big article on Min Pin coat color genetics.

I've decided to try a different food. It's not a decision made lightly. I've fed Eukanuba Premium Performance for years and have had excellent results with it. And no, I don't think the Euk is poisoned. I think it's a really good premium food. But having to check Zipper for kidney function since he did have some of the tainted food was something that really made me want to start looking around. I have decided to try Innova Evo, partly because they use very tight quality control on the ingredients in the food. I'm not sure if I'll stick with it—I'll let you know. The Evo is basically raw diet in kibble form (or I should probably say cooked, because I'm sure it's heated). There are no grains. I don't actually have a problem with grains, and didn't choose it because of its lack of grains but because of the overall very high quality of the ingredient list.

The dogs are fighting over pressed rawhides. Cala is chewing one, Zipper and Viva both have one available just for them but only want the one Cala has, and Cala is not about to let them have it. Dogs.

Friday, March 30, 2007

He's just so cuuuttte.

Okay, I confess. Even after a year, I'm still sort of agog at just how darn cute Zipper is.

I grew up with a succession of dogs, mostly mixed breeds with the exception of one psychotic Scottish Terrier. The last dog we had before all of us went off to college was a dachshund/whatever mix named Polly who resembled a small coffee table with legs. And I always wanted big dogs. We never had one.

When I got my first Doberman I was graduating college and moving out on my own. I wanted a dog that would make me feel safe. This was in the early 1980s and Dobermans were at the height of their popularity. I was very lucky with Blue. He was the product of a puppy mill (I didn't know any better). But he was truly a great dog. I fell in love with the breed and have had them ever since. And the size of Dobermans has always been something I've liked. I liked having a bigger dog. I like their heft and presence, their gravitas. In all these years, sometimes living in very marginal neighborhoods (a crack addict killed 3 people less than half a mile from where I lived once) I've never had any problems. A Doberman looks like no other breed and is unmistakable. People cross to the other side of the street when they see you.

But having Dobermans comes with burdens too. People have sometimes unreasonable fears. It can be hard to get insurance. I encounter breed prejudice even in agility and obedience judges. Sometimes young toughs think it would be funny to bark and lunge at my Dobermans. I have to keep them inside when I'm not home even though I have a dog door and fenced yard, because I've caught people shooting at them with bb guns and throwing rocks at them. Dobermans don't live long enough and have some really serious health issues.

I'd been contemplating a smaller breed for quite awhile when I was offered Zipper. I actually didn't want a toy dog. Too small, too fragile. I'm not light and I live with two Dobermans, one of which has more drive than a Ferrari and who is not at all cat safe. I had settled on a Rat Terrier as my perfect smaller breed--sturdy, not as driven or dog-aggressive as a lot of the Jacks, and generally does well in agility. But Pam and Eddie (Eddie really) convinced me to come out and look at their litter.

I walked into the kennel room and there they were. Six 3-month-old puppies. All I could see at first were blurs that looked like little brown pieces of popcorn. Boing-bing-boing. I sat on the floor and was swarmed by tiny puppies. I was offered the choice of two males. One I decided was just a bit more reserved than I wanted. I still wasn't sure I wanted one at all. But I realized this was a great opportunity to get a really, really nice puppy. So Zipper entered m y life and the rest, as they say, is history.

Okay, I guess I've wandered all over the place with this post without ever addressing the title, which is that he's just so darn CUTE. After all these years of having big dogs, his very smallness is just totally fascinating to me. I love having a dog I can carry. I love having little crates, little food, little poops. But most of all, I'm totally fascinated with how much of a dog he is, just in a very small package. Which sounds stupid, but I think in my mind anything that little should be a cat. Not a dog. His feet are no bigger than my thumb for Lord's sake. Yet he is all dog and all boy-dog at that. Last night I gave him a rub down before I went to sleep. He stood there and hummed with pleasure. And yep, he was just so darn CUTE.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Unpleasant dooty

I have a confession to make. I'm a really lousy housekeeper. And no. I don't mean it like most women say it. Most women say "Oh, the house is just filthy" and go on and on about how "awful" it is in a insipid, simpering way. Then you walk in their house and you're blinded by gleaming surfaces and perfect paint jobs.

I'm not one of those women. Really. I decided long ago to embrace being a bad housekeeper. If that means I rarely have company over, so be it. I'm clean, my clothes are clean, the dogs are clean and the dishes get done. What more do you want!

I'm also really bad about picking up the dog yard. It's a pretty good sized yard, and in the summer mother nature takes care of the messes pretty well. I have a dog door in my basement, and the dogs let themselves out and well, life is good.

Now Viva is pica. If you don't know what that means, it means that she eats things. In her case, cloth. Anything she can get ahold of. It's gotten worse through the years. So now all blankets, coverlets, and throws will be eaten. And digested. She's getting old, her bones hurt some, and I don't like leaving her in a bare crate--but it's that or have her eat whatever bedding I put in there. And at night, she eats anything I leave on the couch, down to the cushions.

Cala isn't as bad, though she too will indulge in some cloth eating. But woe betide the stuffed toy, which gets devoured with relish.

And of course everything that goes in must come out. Which is why I looked out my kitchen window the other day and realized my back yard looked like an explosion at a carpet factory. It's been a bad winter, which has meant Viva doesn't take a step into the yard she doesn't have to--so the effect was especially bad nearer the house. And I've got a guy coming to Mow. So there I was last night, picking up poop. And more poop, and lots and lots of poop-impregnated-with-cloth. Not fun. But my yard looks much better today!

Except I looked out there the other day and it looked like an explosion at a carpet factory

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Green as, well, green

Ever notice how ordinary the word 'green' is? Five letters, and it really doesn't do a very good job. Think about it. I mean, you see the word "purple" and you've got a pretty darn good idea what color that is. It's purple. What else is purple but purple?

But green? What a nondescript word. Which is probably why we have so many different kinds of green. Forest. Celery. Sage. Chartreuse. Kelly. Emerald. Spring. Grass. I'm sure there are more I'm leaving out. And even with those, the words just aren't right. Take Grass Green. Visualize it. Now, really. Does that look at all like green grass? Not in my part of the world. Not right now.

A little less than a week ago I posted about Spring being Spranging, and I could tell because it was warm and the trees were starting to bud. That was last Wednesday. This is Tuesday. Last week the grass was still mostly dead and spring was weather, not color.

Well there's been some explodiating going on. BOOM. Five days. Friday no trees were blooming and no daffodils were out. Today yards and woods are still a sculpture of grey branches, but glowing in absolute full bloom is every tree that puts out flowers. Cherry, crabapple, bradford pear, wild plum, redbud, pink magnolia, dogwood. Wham. Here it is folks!

And today the grass is green. No, it wasn't green yesterday. Swear to God, yesterday it was still mostly brown. Today it's green. And it's not grass green either. It's throbbing, pulsing, almost hard-to-look at. It's shades of neon down to deepest black. If you are so unfortunate as to live in the west or Southwest, you have never seen this green. Today, here in central Missouri, you walk out a door, any door, and you gasp. The eye has been resigned these past months to a muted subtle palate of sedge, tan, grey, and brown overlaid at times with blue white snow. At first, the eye isn't quite sure what to DO with this color. It blinks and tears up a little. A painful green this, for just a moment until the brilliance of it stabs into your soul and you gasp with the exiliration of its glory.

Today, grass is the star. The blooming trees serve a complimentary color to its lushness, but they cannot draw the eye from the green, even in their glory.

Tomorrow or the next day the other greens will show up, building a symphony of harmonics. The acid green of walnut and elm tree leaves. The pinkish beige with the barest hint of sage that is the tiny new leaf of hundred year old whiteoaks.

Today however, has only one green.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Happy Birthday little bean!

Born March 26, 2002. She's five today. She looked so innocent then--sweet baby girl. She used to sleep with her tongue poked out just the tiniest bit. Every once in awhile she still does.

She always was a good actress.

Tough, driven, determined. Screams through life at 90 miles an hour and lord help anybody who gets in the way. Hardest dog I've ever trained. I sometimes say that Cala is the dog that makes me look like a bad dog trainer.

I think the honest truth is that Cala is the dog that proves I still have a long way to go as a dog trainer. The truth is she really does care about pleasing me and hates when I get mad at her but she just always forgets that until she's in the middle of what she wanted to do.

Cala is probably the smartest dog I've ever owned, and I've never owned a dumb one. Clicker trained and shaped, given the opportunity to think and problem solve, she demonstrates both the best and worst qualities of that technique. Seeing a conundrum she will actively work to solve it, trying the most obvious course first, then puzzling through all other permutations. And "give up" is just not in her vocabulary. Unfortunately a lot of her effort goes into things like stealing kleenex, eating paper (she ate, entirely, one of Zipper's show photos), and endless permutations of "get Mom to throw the toy." This dog would probably die happy if I just threw a toy for her 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Well I take that back. If I threw the ball 6 hours and did agility the other 6 hours.

No one who has watched Cala on an agility course ever forgets her. Yodeling and screaming with each step, her motto is "more is better." She once racked up 15 faults on an Open Jumpers course, completing her own version of the course twice and within course time. The judge told me she got carpal tunnel from raising her hands so much.

So baby girl, happy birthday. May we enjoy each day we have together. If you keep showing me that life is something to be attacked at full speed with a yell, maybe I'll finally learn the lesson myself.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Training section started

I've got a start on the training section of ( Check it out. Much, much more to come but I've got a ton of web work for actual paying customers to do today, and having just had a joltingly expensive brake job, I need to work on those!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

I'd forget my head...

if it wasn't screwed on. I mean I've done some dumb stuff, but tonight ranks right up there.

It was Errand Afternoon. I loaded all three dogs in the car. I needed to run by the store, get gas, go by Vicki's house and let out her dogs for her since she was at a wedding in Kansas City today. I then went to the new building, checked to make sure it was secure and to see if mail had come, and worked Cala on some of the agility equipment. Then we headed to Bradford.

Had a great walk at Bradford though I had to haul Zipper's little stub tail out of a hole when he decided he could do earthdog for real and tried to go down something ominously large--groundhog? Badger? (and yes, we saw a badger out there last year and it scared the beejaysus out of all of us). Loaded dogs back in the car. Got everybody water.

I guess now is a good time to describe my van. I have a Windstar. The two Dobe crates face the back tailgate. Behind Viva's crate, facing the passenger side sliding door, is Zipper's little crate. And at the moment, the rest of the van is pretty much a mess. Extra coats and beds, blankets, training stuff, toys from past agility trials, leads, collars, bumpers, dumbbells, harnesses, tracking line, flags--it's a huge muddled pile that I need to conquer sometime soon, because something tells me there are some treats-gone-bad somewhere in the pile. Got the picture in your head? Okay.

I went to a nice leisurely (and cheep!) supper at Tequila's with a friend. I left the back vents open on the van and the windows gapped about 6". Locked it and left. The dogs are so used to being in the car that it's pretty much just like home.

Finished supper and gossip (a bit thin on the gossip since a lot of people are out of town this weekend), wandered back to the car, got in, and started home. Windows were still open and when I heard a rustling sound right behind my seat I assume it's the wind. I came to a stoplight. I heard another rustle. A LOUD one. Craned my head around, and spotted a little red nose, very definitely not in his crate. Scares the crap out of me! How did he get out of his crate? Did somebody try to steal him? Snapped my head the other direction, looked at his crate. The door isn't open, but it could be unlatched, I couldn't tell and the light had turned green.

I called the little snot and reached my hand back. He came to my hand and I lifted him into my lap. I found a lead in the ball-o-crap behind the seats and clipped it on him. Zipper got to ride the rest of the way home in rare style, being a REAL dog, hanging his head out the window. Back legs on my legs, front legs on the door sill. He thought it was the coolest thing evah. I hate to tell him it's very unlikely to happen again!

When I got home, the first thing I did was check where he was rustling around and see if he'd eaten anything. Looks like maybe a mint. Then I walked around and looked at his crate.

Shut and latched.

Now there are a few things that could have happened.

a) Somebody broke into my car, let Zipper out of his crate, relatched the crate, left him in the ball-o-crap, relocked my car, and left. Without causing Viva and Cala to go ape-shit and alert half the county.

b) Zipper figured out how to unlatch his crate. Let himself out, re-latched his crate, and had fun in the ball-o-crap till I got back.

c) When I put Zipper in the car and got water for him, I poured him water, put it in his crate, latched his crate, and FORGOT TO PUT THE DOG IN THE CRATE.

Gee. Wonder which one it was?

I mean, this is really sad. I got the other dogs in their crates, I put water in his crate. It's a wire crate for Lord's sake. You'd think I'd notice that the dog wasn't in there!!

I think I need a brain transplant.

Well Thank the Lord and Pass the Peas

Zipper is fine. Has a few holes in him and took an irrational (and rare) dislike to the vet's new receptionist, but his kidney and liver levels are fine. I'd also like to thank whatever higher diety there is that this vet has her own bloodwork machine--I was able to get results in a half hour.

The vet tech at my new vet is, um, interesting. Out here in the boonies (i.e., so way not California) we don't see tons of heavily tattoed people in everyday life. Bars, yes. Bikers, yes. Gas stations, yes. Vet tech with flames running up his arm, a thin goatee, and big bolts in his ears? Hmmmm. That's a bit startling.

First time I saw him I'm sure I gaped a bit. But here's the thing. He's got a great hand with the dogs and Zipper adores him. All the dogs do. So here's to tattooes!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Finally facing the truth

I'm one of those people who when faced with something that could be really bad, I just pretend it doesn't exist. La, la, I can't hear you...hands firmly over my ears. Couldn't affect me, I'll be fine, no problems here!

We all know about the pet food recall. Or at least if you don't know, you must have been on Mars or something. And though of course I, like everyone, was sympathetic at first I didn't think it touched me. After all, I feed dry food, not wet.

Except that last year I did feed some wet food. And some of it was pouched slices in gravy food that I picked up trying to find stuff that Zipper would eat. And there were a couple of times in the past few months that Zipper got sick. He'd be fine, then he'd have a night where he'd throw up and seem to feel awful, then 24 hours later he'd seem fine again. And at times he was drinking a lot of water. I thought maybe it was a little dog thing.

Now my memory isn't the greatest. Am I sure I fed one of the affected brands? No. Am I sure it happened during the period of time the food was known to be poisoned? No. Am I sure that's what made him sick? No. But it sure is a lot of coincidence.

So tomorrow it's off to the vet with Mr. Zip for a blood test for kidney function. He seems fine--he can make it through the night without any trouble at all, he doesn't drink excessively. But I'm worried about my little guy. I do know that even when I fed it, I fed small amounts on top of his existing food. Let's hope I'm wrong, let's hope he's fine and will continue to be fine.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

I am a Man With A Plan. Don't mess with it

Is it that he's a Min Pin? Or is it because he's a boy? Or is it just him? I mean the dog is barely 18 months old, and he's got a SCHEDULE and it's RIGID and don't mess with his SCHEDULE man.

If he was human he'd be the one that retired to the bathroom for an hour at precisely 9:00 a.m. and lord forfend nature not be as prompt.

The current schedule includes: I get up. I go sit on the bathroom register until Mom gets in the shower. I go to my crate before she gets out. Always. Do I go out the doggie door during that time? Mom doesn't know. I play on the bed while Mom gets dressed, then torture the Dobermans while the food is being poured. As for my food? I am a warrior, I like to be challenged. So I don't eat until the 60 pound dog with a head as big as me comes and looms over me, threatning to take it all for herself. Then I eat.very.slowly. Just to spite her.

After I eat, I go into my clubhouse crate and go back to sleep. Do not disturb me. No, I do NOT want to go out before you go to work. Leave me alone. I'll wait till lunch.

Lunchtime. I go outside, I smell the news, I putter around. Here? No, that's not quite the right spot today. How about over here? Hmmmm, not sure, let me check this spot first. (fifteen minutes later), oh, hey, perfect spot!

When Mom gets home it's time to play. Yes, you have to. No, not playing is not an option. Play, play, play and if you really love me you'll take me to Bradford. Short of that, you better entertain me.

8:30. Time for my last walk. No, I'll let myself out thank you.

9:00. Time for bed. I don't care if you're ready, I'm ready. I expect you up here, providing me with a custom person-cushion.

Thank you for your cooperation. Set in my ways? No, not at all!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spring is finally spranging

Here in Missouri it's been an awful winter. Or maybe I'm getting old. Or maybe both. First we had a record 18" of snow two days before our club's agility trial the first weekend of December. When we never have snow. Honest. And yes, for you Northerners I know that sounds like nuthin'. But if you realize the great city of Columbia, with over 250,000 miles of road, has a total of 13 plows, 2 of which were out of commission--well, it was a mess. Then the rest of December was freaky-warm, which we should have known was nature laughing at us as she got ready to lower the hammer. Started snowing in January and we still had snow on the ground just a couple of weeks ago. In fact we got 2" last Saturday.

But the trees and birds are saying it's time to be spring DAMMIT and sure enough, here it comes. Last night Zipper and I both levitated about a foot out of bed with a huge BOOM of thunder. The first spring storms are starting to roll through.

Tonight it was time for Bradford. What's Bradford you say? Oh, about 400 acres of open cropland and field. Drive down the farm road, lift the van gate, unlatch the crates, and two Dobermans explode out, hitting the ground at a dead run, then curvetting to bark, growl, wrestle. One Min Pin is screeching from the side door--let me out! let me out! Open his crate and he arcs straight out, a dark red blur in full cry.

Cala takes the lead in a big, full speed circle. In her prime, she flattens and reaches, eating ground at a tremendous rate, a sleek, black, dangerous bullet. Her mother, nearing 10, comes behind, yalping her displeasure that she is no longer as fleet of foot as she used to be. Slow down! slow down! And in a high staccato, Zipper is double forte picatta; legs pumping so fast they blur, spine flexing.

Five minutes of chaos resolves into a sort of order. Cala scalloping back and forth, now a canter, now a full-out gallop, just because it feels good. Viva hunting corn cobs, Zipper weaving in counterpoint to Cala, ever on the alert for vole-holes. He has managed to seduce Cala to the lure of warm, furry rodent and it's a rare walk where they don't pause, she digging furiously, he alternately getting in her way, chasing her dirt clods, or mimicing her with his far less powerful feet.

Tonight is a good night for me--they didn't roll in anything dead! And a disappointing one for them--nothing dead to roll in! Zipper ranges far, but always comes to my call. It's the first night they've been hot since December, and I regret not having water with me, so we curve slowly back to the car. The fields roil with migrating shorebirds who flip into the strong wind and curl away in waves.

More storms moving in on the south wind's gale, this will be the last walk for a few days.

I think I must be insane

Here I am, mostly too busy to think, and I decided to start a blog. Now mind you, I've started blogs before and gotten pretty much nowhere. So this could be a repeat of the same!

Mostly this is a place for me to talk about dog stuff, Min Pin stuff, and the little red rat himself. Why name it the Pink Pin? Figure it out.

Fair warning. I cuss sometimes. And I'm blunt. Sometimes too blunt. I have a rather boring tendency to lecture, pontificate, and generally come across as a know-it-all though I don't mean to. I also gush embarrassingly about my dogs, and you'll have to listen to Doberman stuff on top of Pin stuff. Oh the torture!

I'm sure I'll gracelessly blunder around a lot in the Min Pin world. I've been a dobe person for the last 25 years and we tend to pretty much run over anything that's in our way at the best of times. I'm stepping into the Min Pin world with no knowledge of any of the inside politics, who is who, what should never-be-said, and who has a deathless hate for what other breeder because of some slight over 20 years ago. Okay, maybe that's just the Dobe people! Boy, in that club things can get ugly in a hurry.

So to all my future enemies, let me just say "I'm sorry, I didn't know" right in advance. Get it out of the way. I honestly never mean to hurt anybody's feelings or get myself in trouble, it just sort of happens sometimes.

As for the little red guy, well he thinks he's a Doberman too.

The DDGraphix store!