Sunday, October 31, 2010

Another Lesson from the Golden

When the dog doesn’t come to the house when called, you don’t panic. You go outside to see where the dog is. When you circle your yard and no dog, you start to panic.

OMG, I circled our ten acres calling his name, “Shaker”. Panic was beginning to set in, more incredulity. Carrvilla is setup like a fortress. We have double fences. This isn’t a dog who wants to get out of here. He’s usually waiting at the door.

I trotted along the fence line adjacent to the forest preserve. The fence looks fine. This dog would run up to me if he were outside. By now I’m having a serious conversation with God.

Kirt, my husband got the car out. Oh, no, that meant he hadn’t found him either. My panic hit a whole new level. Shaker is so soft with human being; everybody falls in love with him. He is my golden boy. If he were human I’d probably spoil the heck of him. Spoiled or well loved, there's a thin line.My stomach was beginning to churn.

Next on my list was to call the police. This dog never wants to be far from us. The gates were closed; nothing was amiss. Where's the dog?

Before I got back from my romp around the perimeter Kirt went back to the yard for another look. From the corner behind a storage shed, not five from where we had called, “Shaker” was a huge brush pile. Kirt heard the rustling of tell-tale dog steps in the leaves.

The little blonde boy got stuck in the brush pile. He didn’t bark. He didn’t cry. He just waited to be found.

My golden reminded me how important those we love are. Enjoy the day.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

More Satos on The Hill Discussion

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2010 More Satos on The Hill Discussion

Melissa said...

Your description of the saber tail is so vivid. I've seen this "walk" before... many times. I am amazed at how Stormy defers and avoids conflict. I imagine not every male he meets has the same reaction. In the domestic dog life I see every day that stiff, straight tailed male walk is most often countered by the same body language. I would love to see how this is worked out without constraints (NO I don't want to see a dog fight but would rather like to see the lack of fight). I imagine much of this body language prevents fighting rather than encourages it.

Fights do occur especially in breeding season or when interlopers are looking for a spot to live. The older and wiser a street dog gets, the better the use of body language.

The neighborhood dogs learn how to work out their differences. They don’t want to be injured. Even Lance knows when to put that saber down.

Blondie is definitely forceful. I have often wondered if these dogs/bitches that seem to always need to be physical have some underlying lack of confidence. Fear? Weakness? Pain?

In our dogs, I would have to agree about underlying lack of confidence. Blondie is the big bitch on the hill, she is very confident. She thinks all the resources are hers. Except when I’m there, the dogs only know scarcity of resources. Sharing is a new concept for her.

Not sure if there is anything there but it seems that Snow white is so confident even when her body language is complete deferment. She is not looking afraid. She is not doubting the responses she will get with what she is saying. I can't see in the pictures if Snow is actually injured by these "maulings" but I imagine it is not serious and likely never breaks the skin. Otherwise I wouldn't expect her confidence when in close proximity to Blondie. Just some thoughts.

Snow has no broken skin. Dogs can deliver very painful bites with the back molars without breaking skin. Judging by the screams I hear, this is what I think is happening.

Blondie has chased her off many times, but the dogs are fed here. Even if she hasn’t gotten any yet, Snow knows we feed dogs.

In the picture for this post Blondie has Snow pinned, but isn’t biting. Snow doesn’t fight back. Gandhi would be proud.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Submission, The Subtle Art

Lance brandishing his tail like a saber keeps an eye on fair Snow White. He does nothing to protect her from Blondie or Bonita. His other eye waits for Stormy to make a move toward Snow.

Stormy (fuzzy white dog with brown patch over tail) is eager to give Snow a macho greeting. He would be mounting her if it weren’t for Lance and Blondie. His ears are forward. He is ready to spring. Stormy is not normally cow hocked. Notice the energy in his rear legs. While you’re back there check out the position of his little rat tail. He’s too smart to send the wrong signal to Lance, who could really hurt him.

Blondie is the big bitch on the hill. Her posture reflects her position. In the front she is over her toes much the same way Lance is. The way her tail is curled over her back displays her status. Females don’t poke their tails straight out the way the guys do. High status chicks display for the boys with the curled tails.

Smart adolescence Bonita hangs back waiting to see what will happen. Bonita’s tail will curve over her back like Blondie’s when she’s done something like chase an interloper off.

Snow White’s tail is tucked. Her head is low, but what’s interesting is the way she holds her neck out and vulnerable. In this picture Snow’s body language is controlling what the others do.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What's a Girl Got To Do To Be Welcome Here?

Snow White’s winning ways were on trial in this photo.

Blondie, Stormy and Bonita had just finished breakfast. Snow was in her spot in the tall grass.

It drove me nuts that I hadn’t been able to feed Snow. Blondie called the shots with whether she got close to the house or not.

Small piles of kibble placed on the veranda caused Stormy, Blondie and Bonita to race around trying to gobble the food up. Too much food, too many places a dog’s dilemma they ran from pile to pile. Then I put piles outside the rails of the veranda on the sidewalk. They didn’t know what to do to guard their food. They looked at each other like, “What do we do?”

Then Snow White stepped out of the tall grass and stood there. What makes this pose so winsome?

Look at her tail. She is excited; there’s food just yards in front of her. Her tail is down, but not tucked. The tail position is one of total respect or submission. She wants to be allowed to eat.

Her head is held high. I think it looks hopeful, but that’s my human interpretation. Her ears are not focused forward, they off to the side in what I call “mousecateer” ears. The Mickey Mouse Club kids always wore the silly ears and big smiles. A dog’s friendly ears remind me of that.

Snow is giving a friendly face; look at her mouth and just how much tongue she lets show. This is a beautiful let’s be friends image.

Will this lovely lady’s winsome ways conquer Blondie’s me, mine agenda?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Snow in The Grass

For days Snow White hid in the tall grass at the edge of the yard. During the night we’d hear Snow screaming in pain when she ventured too close for Blondie’s comfort.

Snow wandered the neighborhood looking for a spot to live. While people are good about feeding the satos (street dogs), they tend to chase the females off unless there is something about the her they like. It is definitely more difficult for the girls.

Resources are scarce, so resident street dogs protect their spots for interlopers. Blondie lead the charge to chase Snow away. Her daughter, Bonita, has had her own problems. She follows her mom backing her up.

Stormy, the resident male would gladly welcome the slender female with delicate features. Wherever Snow White goes a bigger stronger male is sure to follow. Stormy’s number one priority is keeping his spot, so he has his paws full.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More Satos on The Hill

Lance, the handsome American Staffordshire Terrier, followed the vagrant Snow White into our yard.

Snow White is a yearling lab x pit looking for a spot she where she can exist. She sleeps in the grass along the roads. I’ve also seen her in a rat hunting party.

Rat hunting parties are cool, if you can get past the rat part.

Snow always seems to have some male following, sniffing her butt. It doesn’t seem to matter if she’s in heat or not. Sometimes she has a second male dogging her prince charming waiting for him to go home.

In Puerto Rico dogs scour the countryside looking for a meal much the same way coyotes do in Illinois. The big difference is that dogs are tame.

People feed the feral dogs rather than feeding the rats. Puerto Rican people seem to enjoy the street dogs when their numbers are not burdensome.

Lance brandishes his tail like a saber. At times the saber is the first thing you would notice about him. He exudes confidence. His head is held high. In a group of males in this neighborhood, he is recognizable as the cock of the walk.

Blondie, the big bitch on campus, has Snow pinned. She's telling her how it's gonna be.
You can see where Stormy's head is. Notice his tail position. He is never happy when Lance is around.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Intro to the Satos on The Hill

Have you read The Hidden Life of Dogs by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas?

As appalled as I was that someone would let their dogs roam in an unsafe way, I was fascinated by what they did. Come on, weren’t you?

Don’t want to sound like I’m bashing Ms. Thomas. I can remember a time in America when it was common for kids and family pets to be roaming the block. That’s how I grew up in New Orleans. These days kids and pets are locked up safely at home.

Frequently I think of how Ms. Thomas would relish meeting my visiting canine friends in Puerto Rico.

Stormy, Blondie and Bonita are the resident street dogs in my neighborhood, the home team of the satos on the hill. Sato is Puerto Rican slang for street dog.

Stormy, a Border Collie x Terrier cross, was a street wise yearling when we met in fall of 2005. Stormy had no sooner unpacked his bags when he began to protect the three households where he was fed. Car chasing with gusto came just a little later.

In Puerto Rico it’s a fact of life that it is better to feed leftovers to the satos than put them in the can to feed a rat. Street dogs here continue to provide the same service to mankind that they have since the beginning of our relationship with them. Think about how awesome that is.

Blondie, a Pit-bull, came into the neighborhood sometime between 2007 and 2009. She looked like she had one litter when we met her in spring of 2009.

Blondie lead with her heart, if you were good to her she’d wag her tail so hard it would whip her body from side to side. She would throw her back squealing a high pitched sound. For the longest time she did that squeal of joy whenever we came home.

Blondie’s dalliances with all the strong machos who came sniffing her butt in spring of 09’ produced Bonita the pitiful pup we met in January of 2010.

The puppy looked like a moth eaten old rug that needs to be put in the trash when I first saw her. Her dazed stagger going nowhere told me how close to death she was.

I enjoyed the looks on my neighbor’s faces, when I told them the puppy’s name was Bonita. One fellow spat out, “Fea!” (ugly) with a curled lip. It was rather dramatic.

When last I saw her she was in fact very pretty. The day before I left the island the man who had spurned her was on one knee coaxing her to let him pet her. Bonita pranced away with her four white sox flashing. Big smile.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What's Breed Got To Do With It?

Yesterday I did a behavior consult for a lady with a five month old German Sheppard Dog female puppy. The lady had taken her to another place for training where the puppy was labeled aggressive. She said that she was told to take her puppy to the far end of a store parking lot. There she was to reward the dog with treats when the pup focused on the her instead of barking at the activity by the door. She and her dog could return to class when the pup could focus on her reliably.

Ok, fine; that could take a long time without help and guidance. Dogs need to experience something when they are young if they are to be comfortable with it when they are older. A puppy that does not play with other dogs will not be as comfortable with other dogs when grown; unless great steps are taken to re-write write over that dog’s program.

This is actually a very lovely puppy, who is just being what she was bred to be. The GSD believes in intellectual superiority, theirs! I love the way first night students arrive with their GSD puppy or adult. A GSD announces, “GSD in the house.” Whether pup or adult it doesn’t matter. Unless trained they bark to inform.

Once you convince a GSD that you actually are smarter than they are, they can’t please you enough. All that attention is so flattering. I love working with them.

The dear lady was worried that her pup would never be able to play with other dogs. I allowed the young Shep, to sniff Klondyke, a ten year old Siberian Husky that has been coming to Carrvilla day care since he was six months of age. When I released her in the yard with the handsome old guy, Klondyke harrumphed her. To anthropomorphize, she looked like a little girl being corrected by grandpa. We watched her eyes as she learned manners from the wise old dog.

Next we did a leadership class. This taught her: A) she is not the leader; I am. B) Pay attention or one of us will get lost. This, as always, was so much fun. Humans always love to be the leader. When we are good leaders, the dog does not object. Who doesn’t love all that attention?

As my client enjoyed her dog’s attention, I decided it wasn’t enough to prove that she had just an untrained puppy, not a monster. I needed to show her that her puppy could get along with other females. Loose in the yard next to Carrvilla regular Roxie, the baby GSD yapped briefly. Perhaps she realized she wasn’t getting a reaction to her bluster. She then stood there just looking at the three year old lab. At this time I opened the gate allowing Roxie entry into the pup’s yard. The young dog’s ears went out to the side in a relaxed (non alert) position.

Puppies frequently become over exuberant, which seems to require them to sniff the older girl’s rear a tad too vigorously. You know what happens next: growl, possibly snap. The puppy girl backed off with Roxie’s growl. No snap required, yeah. This smart puppy learned to respect an older girl in one easy lesson.

That doesn’t mean she won’t get pushy with a younger or vulnerable pup. Youngsters who have been terrorized will frequently become k9 terrorists of the weak. If she gets the right experiences with good dogs, she can become a great day care dog.

The moral of the story is to be aware of breed tendencies before adjudicating a puppy aggressive. If this lady had squandered the dog’s puppyhood keeping her away from other dogs, adult inappropriate behavior is more likely to end in a fight.

This is a great puppy who learned a lot in an hour. I completely fell in love with her. Thanks for bringing her.



To me dogs are some of the most interesting beings around. I started this blog to share my experiences and my love of dogs.

When I realized that people were indeed reading what I had to say, I joined a writer’s group to improve my writing. It’s been brutal. My confidence tanked, which is why there have been no new posts to my blog since July. The criticisms of my work were taken to heart. I made changes based on group input. This resulted in further criticism. Some members of the group have been supportive, but I’ve had a lifelong battle for self esteem.

In spite of all my successes in dogs, all my clients who praise my help with their dogs; my doubts became generalized to even my abilities with dogs. It felt like a curse.

People kept coming to me for help with their dog’s behavior problems. I continued to solve their problems. It reminded me that our relationship with the dogs is what is important. Stronger than my fear of rejection and disapproval is my desire to share what I think are neat stories about dogs.

My heart reaches out to dog lovers of the planet. We share a journey with these special creatures. Thanks for reading. Your comments are always welcome. Blessings,

Tricia Carr