Saturday, December 14, 2013

Rigby's Broken Toe -- The Whole Story

That day in January when Rigby broke her toe was one of the most stressful days I ever spent at a vet's office with my dogs.  I didn't tell the whole story at that time because there were matters that needed to be addressed with the veterinary clinic, but at this point I think it's best that the real facts of what happened that day be told if, for no other reason, than to educate others about what can happen when you take your dog to a vet with all good intentions.

When I brought Rigby home I wanted to give her every chance to live a healthy life, so I decided to use a veterinarian who has the reputation of being the best doctor for Weimaraners in Western Pennsylvania.  Because there are special vaccination protocols for Weim puppies that are very important and even though the trip to the vet's office was an almost 80-mile round trip, I felt it was worth the effort to get optimal care for my young pup.  Some of you may have heard of this vet as he is known by Dr. Mike and has a Saturday morning radio show where he answers callers' questions.  His veterinary clinic is known as Animal General and Rigby became a patient of his office, although she was never actually seen by Dr. Mike Hutchinson himself.

The following is a chronology of what happened that day and the week following:

Shortly after 8:00 a.m., Tuesday, January 22, 2013, I called Animal General (AG) to see if I could get Rigby seen for an injury to her right front leg.  Arrangements were made for me to drop her off to be seen by a veterinarian and then to pick her up later in the day, after I attended a business appointment.  

Around 9:30 a.m. I arrived at the AG office with Rigby and, shortly thereafter, we were taken into an exam room by Dr. Marc (that's how he introduced himself to me).  Rigby’s temperature was taken and found to be normal. 

I explained to Dr. Marc that she had been fine until about midnight the night before when I was taking her out for the last time of the night.  I said that she had run down the basement steps ahead of me and when I got to the bottom of the steps she was limping.  I also voiced the opinion that I was worried that she might have caught a toenail in the carpeting on the steps.

Her leg was examined and she was found to have pain in her foot area.  She voiced her discomfort with a “scream” of pain.  Dr. Marc said he would need to do x-rays and I signed the paperwork necessary to have this done.  I left Rigby at the AG office and headed for home to get ready to go to my business appointment.

Shortly after I arrived home, around 11:00 a.m., I received a phone call from Dr. Marc.  He told me that no fracture was shown on the x-ray.  

He then told me that they had done the x-ray of both of her legs so that they could compare her right and left legs to get a better idea of what might be going on.  Dr. Marc told me that by the evidence he saw on the x-ray that there were two possible diagnoses and that they are both associated with growing pains, hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD) or panosteitis (pano).  He explained that pano is more often seen in males and, well, Rigby is a female.  He also said that Rigby fell into the correct age range to have either of these problems.  I asked him a couple questions about the causes of both of these conditions and we discussed treatment options.  He suggested putting Rigby on an NSAID and limited activity.  I gave him permission to give her the first dose of the NSAID and said I would be back later in the day to pick up Rigby.

Realizing that HOD is a recognized health problem in Weimaraners that can have serious consequences if not treated in a timely manner, I contacted Rigby’s breeder and co-owner, Linda Hartheimer, to ask for advice on what my next steps should be.  First and foremost, we wanted to get a definitive diagnosis and get Rigby started on the treatment protocol if she did have HOD.  Secondly, we knew that we wanted to have her included in the research being done on HOD in Weimaraners by Noa Safra, DVM PhD at the University of California at Davis. Because Dr. Safra is a friend of Linda’s, Linda called her to give her a heads up that we would be in touch with her and sending x-rays and blood work.

Around 1:30 p.m., since my business appointment had been cancelled, I was able to get back to the AG office.  By this time I was pretty emotional, very worried about the future of my young pup.  When Dr. Marc had time to see me he took me into an exam room and showed me the x-ray and pointed out the area that he said showed the evidence of the two possible diagnoses he had voiced earlier.

I told Dr. Marc about the research being done on HOD in Weims and told him that Dr. Safra had been contacted and was willing to speak with him.  I told him that there was a treatment protocol that needed to be followed to properly treat a Weim with HOD to get the best results and that I would want to send blood samples and the x-ray to Dr. Safra in California. 

At this point Dr. Marc began to waiver on his diagnosis, saying that the x-ray wasn’t that clear because the pup had not been sedated for the x-ray and that now he couldn’t give a definitive diagnosis from the x-ray.  He also suggested that I wait a month and bring Rigby back to have x-rays done then, since what he was seeing on the x-ray was very mild.

Knowing that time is of the essence in treating HOD in Weims, I was quite surprised that a suggestion to wait a month would be made.  It was at this time that I really began to have serious questions about Dr. Marc and what he was saying, and I knew that I had to take whatever steps were necessary to get a true, definitive diagnosis for Rigby.

The AG office staff obtained Dr. Safra’s phone number from the Weimaraner Club of America website for me and I went to my car to call her to get more information on what x-rays she needed and how the blood needed to be labeled and shipped.  Dr. Safra was not available and I left a message and waited for her to call back. 

I also spoke with Linda, the breeder, and told her how the doctor was changing his opinion about the x-ray once I informed him about the HOD study and wanting to have someone else look at the x-rays.

I went back into the AG offices and waited for the phone call from Dr. Safra, which came about 40 minutes later.  She told me she could email the information about the x-rays and the blood she needed to the AG office, along with some documents that needed to be filled out by myself and the vet.  I obtained Dr. Marc’s email address from the office staff and passed it on to Dr. Safra.  I assumed the email was received by Dr. Marc, as he told me the prices of having the additional x-ray done and the blood drawn and I was given the paperwork to fill out.

Later Rigby was brought out to me, along with the x-rays, the blood that was drawn and the items I had left to keep Rigby comfortable while she was kenneled at the AG office.  I paid for the x-rays, NSAIDs and all the services that had been rendered for Rigby and left.

Because it was of utmost importance to me to find out as quickly as possible if my puppy was suffering from HOD and to start treatment as soon as possible if she was, on the way home I stopped at a Fed-Ex office on Route 19 to ship the x-rays, blood and paperwork to Dr. Safra in California.  I chose to have them delivered overnight, at a cost of $143.44.

The next day I received an email from Dr. Safra saying that she saw no evidence of HOD on the 
x-rays, but that she would have the radiologist involved in the HOD study look at them when he returned from a meeting.  I was relieved to get this news, but still did not know why Rigby was limping.

On Thursday, January 24, I started Rigby on the NSAIDs that had been sent home with us by AG, assuming that she must have pano, since that was the only other diagnosis offered to me.  I also continued to keep her on limited activity, doing what I could to help her heal.

On Tuesday, January 29 I received another email from Dr. Safra informing me that the radiologist had viewed the films of Rigby’s leg and that he agreed there was no HOD.  He also said that Rigby’s first toe on her right foot was broken, explaining her lameness and pain.

I was so relieved that there was a simple explanation for the pain my puppy was experiencing and so happy that she did not have one of the serious conditions that Dr. Marc claimed to have seen evidence of on the x-rays.

I was not, however, pleased about the misdiagnosis and the money that was wasted because of the failings of an apparently uneducated veterinarian.  A visit to the vet that should have cost about $150 grew to a cost of over $300 and then there were the fees for overnighting the radiographs and blood work to California.

I've always treated the vets of my horses and dogs with respect, been timely for appointments with my animals ready for whatever procedure was scheduled, followed their directions and paid their invoices on receipt of services.  My step-daughter is a veterinarian, so I've heard stories of how some owners can irritate and frustrate vets, and I've always made an effort not to be one of those people.

In turn, I do expect professional services and proper diagnosis and treatment of my animals.  This was not given in Rigby's case due to arrogance, neglect and/or a lack of knowledge.  

Over the years, as my knowledge has increased, I have learned not to blindly trust the explanations or opinions of all vets, and that day in January proved to take my lack of trust to new heights.

With the most serious of maladies my animals have suffered, including Dalton's EPM and Rocky's wobblers, I've consistently heard from my vets, oh, you caught this early, or, most people wouldn't have even noticed this yet, proof once again that an alert, informed owner is a pet's best friend.

I have since switched vets for Rigby and had a very good experience with the new vet clinic when she needed emergency surgery for pyometra.  I hope that I will have a lengthy and strong relationship with these new vets, but I will be asking many questions and doing my best to be a well-informed pet owner to ensure that my dogs get the care they deserve.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tracking Memories

Tracking is one of my favorite activities to do with my dogs, as I love being outside, walking the hills, fields and in the woods.  It's a great feeling to be holding the line and following behind your dog as he leads you along that invisible trail, making turns, climbing hills, working to find that glove at the end of the track.

This week I stumbled upon a CD of four video clips of a track I did with Rocky in April of 2010.  I had forgotten that this CD existed and I thought I'd share it here for those who might enjoy watching it.

Thanks to Marge Gemerchak for taping this and capturing a wonderful memory of those days of tracking with Rocky, my first tracking dog!

This past weekend was the GTOTC tracking test at Mingo Creek County Park in Washington County, Pennsylvania.  We had beautiful tracking weather on Sunday and had 2 of 3 TD passes and 2 of 4 TDX passes, the best results we've had at our tests for years.

I'll share a few photos from the day here:

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Today Rigby is a year old!  The time has flown and she has grown up so very quickly!!

It's been a very eventful year in many ways for Rigby and for Dan and I, not always what we planned, but we made the best of it.

Rigby has turned into a lovely, sweet dog with a wonderful temperament and a love of play and work. She is a joy to live with and makes us smile every day.

I'm excited to see what the next year of Rigby's life will bring for her and for me.  It's all about the journey and ours has just begun.

Yesterday morning we spent tracking at Mingo and I'm going to post two videos of Rigby tracking to show how far she has come.  The week before this she just started open turns and these two tracks each have two turns, one to the right and one to the left. Notice Rigby's enthusiasm for tracking and how she practically jumps to the start flag.  On the second track the first leg is really nice, she has settled down and really did a nice job.

This photo is from Rigby's first ever day of tracking.
A cute Rigby story from this week:
Rigby was in her crate while I was preparing for bed one night.  When I came out to get her to take her into the bedroom she trotted out of her crate and went over to Dan, who was sitting on the couch, and seemed to greet him and say goodnight.  Then she went over to Rocky, who was also on the couch, and gave him a greeting.  I said to her, "Come on, Rigby, it's time to go to bed."  She ran over to her toy box, dug her nose in and chose a toy, trotted with it back to the bedroom and jumped into bed. As I said, easy to live with!


Saturday, September 7, 2013


What a beautiful morning for tracking, cool weather and a bit of fog leaving a mist over the fields.

Today it was decided that Rigby would be given a bit of a challenge and she was to get two long tracks laid in a field that had recently been mowed, still smelled of freshly cut hay and had mounds of the cut grass laying all over it.

Because the first track was very long it took a while for our track layer, Lee, to lay it, make her way to the road and walk back to the start flag.  Rigby voiced her impatience by barking and barking.  She would settle for a few moments and then lunge toward the start flag and bark again.  She was quite happy when Lee finally returned and she could start to work.

Although this track was meant to be a challenge, Rigby showed that it was not difficult for her.  She only hesitated briefly a couple times in the first few yards and then she tracked true to the end and found the glove.  The second track, laid in the same field, was pretty much the same, only she tracked over the glove and would have kept on going had I not brought her attention to the fact that she was at the end of the track.

Happy with her results for the day I was playing with Rigby and the glove and giving her the treats that I save for the end of the track.

Then I was told not to give her all the treats, that they decided to give her another track.  We headed across the street, down the hill and crossed a wooden bridge into another field of short cut grass. It was then I was told that Rigby was going to have her first turn.  

The track was laid, a bit shorter than the others, and near the end an open turn was put in.  Rigby was still game after those first two tracks and she showed no trouble with this new track, laid by a different track layer in a field much different than she had tracked in earlier.  When we got to the turn I was surprised to find that the turn was of a sharper angle than I've usually seen first turns laid. Rigby came to the end of the straight track and overran it a bit, showed an indication of loss of scent and then worked for a minute to two minutes before figuring out where the track was and heading in the new direction.  She found the glove and we celebrated her first turn.

Once again, while playing with Rigby after her track, I was told that one last track was going to be laid, another turn, but this one a bit of a more gradual turn to give her the best chance for a great tracking experience.

Rigby had plenty left in the tank and she had no trouble heading out on her fourth track.  When she reached the turn this time it was almost as if there was no change in direction, she hardly slowed and just kept moving toward her end goal, the glove.

What a great day for Rigby!  The first time she did four tracks in one day, the greatest length of tracking she has ever done, and her first turns!

The best part is, if allowed, she would have done a couple more tracks and enjoyed it all entirely!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Surviving the Dreaded "Season" or How Even Super Heroes Couldn't Help Rigby This Time!

It started last week, I think it was Thursday.  I thought we were prepared, but apparently we were not.  How bad can it be, right?  It's temporary, no big deal.

Thank goodness I don't plan to keep Rigby intact! Going through one season with her is going to be more than enough for me.

I planned ahead, I bought her doggy diapers and the disposable pads to use in them back in July, one pair of pink, one pair of purple, we were all set, or so I thought!

But diapers don't seem to stay on Rigby very well at all. I've tried them tight, loose, further up her belly, nothing seems right.  So I went to Joann Fabric and bought Velcro to add to the Velcro that the panties came with originally, hoping that would keep them fitted to Rigby better, but even with the extra inches of Velcro they just don't seem to stay on.

Maybe it's her tail, maybe it's too short to support those diapers and keep them in place.  It's not like she has a full tail like a Lab or a Golden.  But other Weims go through this every day and they seem to manage to keep their panties on.

Then someone suggested to try little boys underpants, it works for their dog. I've purchased 4 different sizes, Superhero design and Avengers design, and they don't work either!  I tried cutting a hole for her tail, that didn't do the trick.

When she does have her diaper on Rigby is not happy!  She usually lays on the couch and stares at me with that "why are you doing this to me" look. Then she tries to take the panties off or runs through the house and her tail comes out of the little hole that keeps everything in place.  It's a constant game of Fix the Diaper or Put the Tail in the Diaper Hole.

As her season has progressed Rocky has become more and more amorous towards Rigby and this also causes difficulty in having them out together.  He tries to listen when told to leave her alone, but it's very tough for him.  If they engage in play the panties, of course, fall off and, once again, the diaper needs to be reapplied.

Poor Rigby, again less freedom for her and more crate time.  We're doing our best to keep her busy, but thank goodness we're already one week through this three-week cycle.

This morning Rigby was in her crate while Dan was out and I was back working in my office.  Somehow Rigby managed to get into the dogs' toy box that is kept behind her crate.  She dumped the box and the toys were scattered over the floor and she was somehow able to pull a fleece tug toy partially into her crate.  I'm sure working out how to do all she managed to do through the crate wires kept her occupied for a while and was like a good puzzle.

To keep Rigby happy we've been freezing a Kong with peanut butter in it and she enjoys that treat. We're taking more and more walks, because the best thing about this is that once she is outside she's allowed to do whatever she likes -- at least she isn't on limited activity like she was with her leg injury.

Our favorite activity to beat Rigby's boredom has been our trips to the fairgrounds parking field.  We pack the car with a long line, a chair, water, toys and treats.  Rigby and I take a long walk and then we intersperse play and relaxation in the shade of some trees.  She's on a 40-foot line and I try to give her as much freedom as I can.  We enjoy the time together outside, it gives her great exercise and we throw in a bit of training, too.

Tomorrow morning we'll be going tracking, another favorite endeavor for both of us.  I'm so glad that the tracking group has allowed us to continue our participation through her season, as Rigby and I both need to be out and about and having some fun.

I'm already looking forward to and planning for Rigby's spay surgery, probably in January, after the rush of the holidays are over and the Christmas tree is down and there aren't any decorations to get caught up in the cone that I know she'll be wearing. I'm hoping that once we get past the spay surgery and her healing that we won't have any down time for medical reasons for a long, long time! 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Update on Rigby's Leg Injury

Monday Rigby went back to the vet to get the drain removed from her leg.  Her wound is looking good and the healing has started.  I also got the good news that it didn't look like any tendon or ligament damage had been done by the puncture wound.

The biggest problem we're having with Rigby is keeping her happy while she is wearing a cone and enduring two weeks of crate rest.  I've been trying different ideas to try to make her days easier on her.  I've been doing some light training with her, which has worked out well.  I've tried having her rest beside me on the couch without her cone on, but that hasn't worked as well, as she doesn't want to stay still and she wants to lick at her leg.

I asked the vet how much Rigby could be walked, since I had been walking her around the yard a bit, but I really didn't know what her limitations were.  I was told she could walk 15 to 20 minutes, but do no more than a walk, which, with any 10-month old puppy would be a challenge, let alone with a high-energy Weimaraner puppy.  

Today I experimented with walking Rigby around a bit more and, although it's not easy to keep her at a walk, I think several short walks a day will help Rigby through this time of healing.  We find that when she is outside there are many more things to keep her interest away from her leg and so she can have the cone off while enjoying some time away from the crate.  Right now I'm just keeping her on our property and the street in front of the house, but as time goes on we'll venture out a bit further.

Walking Rigby around the yard and driveway reminds me of those days of walking young horses who are on stall rest, you have to be alert and ready for anything, because you never know when they're going to leap into the air.  The nice thing for me is that walking a young pup is much safer than those horses we used to walk.

I'm continuing to find more activities to keep Rigby's mind busy for the next ten or so days and things seem to be getting a bit better each day.  My goal is to turn this lemon of an injury into sweet lemonade by teaching her some new behaviors that will be useful in her future obedience career.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


When I left for my 9:30 a.m. physical therapy appointment yesterday morning (Friday) everything was normal at home, Rigby and I had worked on our homework from our new online class, I had fed her, taken her out and she was in her crate taking a morning nap.

After my appointment I went to the bank and then stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few items, including hot dogs for tracking on Saturday, as I felt my knee was ready to head out to the park and do a few short, flat tracks with Rigby.

When I got home things were not quite normal any longer. 

As I entered the kitchen with my groceries in my hands Dan told me that Rigby had had a little accident.  She and Rocky had greeted me at the door and I had not noticed anything wrong, so I asked, "You mean she peed or pooped in the house?"  I couldn't imagine that had happened, as she has not had an accident in the house since she was 10 or 12 weeks old.

"Well, no", he said, "she has a little boo-boo."

He then proceeded to tell me that, as is normal at our house, after he had gotten up that morning he had fed Rocky his breakfast, but this was one of those days when Rocky's stomach was out of sorts and so he did not eat his meal (not uncommon for Rocky, as he's had stomach problems since we got him).  A bit later, and forgetting that Rocky's food was still in his dish sitting on the floor, Dan let Rigby out of her crate and she made a beeline for Rocky's food, which, not surprisingly, Rocky took exception to and he proceeded to let her know in a way that was none too nice.  Dan told me she had gotten bit on her leg, but it was "not too bad."

I immediately checked out the damage to her right leg and was not happy with what I saw, figured she needed stitches and so I immediately called the vet. Luckily they said they would fit us in and they told me to bring her right over.

After arriving at the vet's office and while trying to show the receptionist where the laceration was, I discovered blood behind Rigby's leg and realized there was another wound besides the one I had originally seen.

Once back in the exam room, and after a normal temperature reading, the vet soon came in.  She examined both wounds and as she spent some time checking out the back of Rigby's leg I didn't like the look on her face and I got that sinking feeling that this was more than stitches.

The vet explained that the wound on the front of Rigby's leg was a bite tear wound that would need stapled or stitched, but that the wound in the back showed considerable swelling and was of more concern to her and that possibly the tendon sheath had been injured.  I was given two options for dealing with the wound and, after discussing them with the vet, decided that surgery for Rigby was the best way to go.

Thankfully the vet's office was able to work their schedule so that Rigby could be operated on later in the afternoon and she would then come home to us in the evening.  The one concern that remained with doing the emergency surgery was that Rigby had eaten around 8:30 and her fast before undergoing anesthesia would only be about 6 hours, not the 12 that is preferred.  The vet and the staff assured me that they would watch Rigby closely and do their best to prevent any vomiting when she woke up, in hopes of preventing her aspirating anything into her lungs.

So I left Rigby in the capable hands of my vet's office and just hoped that the outcome would the best we could have.

Later in the afternoon I got the call from the vet's office that the surgery was finished, Rigby was awake, okay and had not vomited anything, all great news.  Then they told me that the wound in the back of the leg was deeper than they had thought and so it was necessary to put in a drain to aid in the healing process -- not the greatest news.
But she was ready to come home and I made an appointment to have the drain removed Monday afternoon.

Since I had to be at work by 4:00 on Friday I was not able to pick Rigby up myself and Dan had the task of going to the vet's office, getting all the instructions, getting her home and starting her care. I hope that at her appointment Monday, to remove the drain, I'll get more details on the surgery and exactly what they saw with the wounds on her leg.

As of this morning Rigby is doing well.  Yes, she wears the "Cone of Shame" and will wear it this weekend, as I don't want her to pull that drain out. The short times I've had the cone off she has made it clear that if given the opportunity she will chew her bandages and I'm going to prevent that from happening if at all possible.

She seems to be moving on her foot very well and I think, if given the chance, she would run around the house and play like normal, but she is on vet ordered limited activity and so she will have to wait a bit for full-out playtime.

Rigby's bandaged leg.

We brought up the largest crate we have and set it up where her crate normally sits.  It gives her a bit more space for negotiating turns with the large E-collar on and it seems more to her liking.

Last night she slept in bed with me and, except for falling out of bed at about 6:00 a.m., she had a decent night's rest.  This morning she ate well, took her pills and had a good drink of water, went outside, did her "business" and is now resting quietly in the crate. 

Hopefully in a couple weeks all will be healed and Rigby will be back to her full activities, showing no residuals from her wounds at all.

Rigby and Rocky have done so well together since we brought her home and they have become very good buddies, they play together, bounce around the floor together and even have begun sleeping on the couch together, Rigby using Rocky as a big pillow.  I guess now we know the limits of Rocky's patience with Rigby, and that limit is his food dish and his food.

Rigby and Rocky sitting for their treats.

We have worked with Rigby and Rocky and can feed them treats together, having both of them sit and waiting for the other to receive a treat, but this was our first encounter with Rigby trying to eat out of Rocky's dish and it will hopefully be the last.

As I mentioned earlier, when I arrived home and before I knew what had happened, both Rigby and Rocky greeted me at the door, so I don't think any great damage has been done to their relationship, but precautions will need to be taken to ensure that Rocky's food, if not eaten, is put safely out of reach before Rigby is allowed the run of the house.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Confessions of a Bad Dog Owner: Or, You Probably Shouldn't Follow My Lead

I've waited a while before writing this post:  Didn't want Rigby's breeder to make the 14-hour round trip to steal back her precious girl to save her from the perils of living in our home.  But Rigby is 10 and a half months old and has not only survived her puppyhood so far, she seems to be a happy, well-adjusted young dog.

Always busy, Rigby found a stick to play with!

I'm Sure We Need a Behaviorist!

Oh, yes, I spoke those words several times during the first few months after Rigby came home with us.  Even after being warned by many experienced dog people that a puppy would be very active and very mouthy.

Sure, I knew puppies like to chew everything in sight and we did our best to puppy proof our house and remove some cherished possessions that we didn't want destroyed, but I wasn't expecting that my hands, and my husband's, would be used as teething toys for about 6 weeks.  Covered in scratch marks, scabbed and red, in the middle of winter our hands had the appearance that we were spending our days working in a garden of thorns.  As a professional who uses her hands to make a living, I was constantly explaining to lawyers and witnesses that we have a puppy at our home, and my explanation was met by nods of understanding.

I raised the topic of Rigby's mouthiness and incessant biting and chewing to several friends who have raised and trained many puppies over the years and each time I got similar responses, "She's a puppy, that's what they do" or "Puppies use their teeth to explore, it's very normal."  If I tried to protest and tell them that this was beyond normal they would just smile knowingly and walk away.

When the doctor decided that Dan's heart problems required him to be put on a blood thinner, I showed him my hands and told him that we have a young puppy at home going through the early teething stages and that this might not be the best time for Dan to be put on medications that would make any small wound seem even greater, as the bleeding would not stop as easily.  The doctor said they had been through this with several patients and not to worry.  Thankfully, it took about a month and a half for all the necessary testing and paperwork and Dan didn't start on the meds quite as quickly as I thought he would.

Keeping those teeth busy, she chewed anything she could find.

Then there was the constant activity.  The only time Rigby would take a break from running, playing, jumping on the couch, attacking Rocky, et cetera would be when we put her in her crate.  For months she never slowed down or took a nap outside the confines of her crate.  Even cuddling with her was not possible, as the stimulation of reaching for her or touching her made her think you were trying to play and she was off again at top speed or she was biting at the hand that wanted to pet her.

The response I heard to my worries about Rigby's nonstop play were, "Well, you wanted a dog with drive, what did you expect."

Playing with Rocky has been great for Rigby in so many ways.
We're lucky she has such a great playmate!

Maybe we had made a mistake, maybe we weren't up for this, maybe we had waited too long to get a puppy and this just wasn't right for us??  Oh, I had some doubts.

I never did seek out the help of a behaviorist, I used the knowledge I had from the books I read, followed the advice of my experienced friends and set off to keeping my busy pup busy and training, training and training.  We lived through the teething and mouthy stage and by the time Rigby was six months old we saw great changes in her behavior and we knew we were on the right track.

Rocky only got a rest from playing if we put Rigby in her crate.
Several times Rocky has had to put Rigby in her place,
as she sometimes doesn't know when to stop,
whether it be play or getting too rough.

Rigby started to cuddle at about six months of age and started sleeping in bed with me at night.  At seven months of age I commented to my husband that this was a common age for Weim pups to come into rescue and I couldn't imagine how anyone could give up a pup at this wonderful stage.  She was nine months old before she allowed herself to relax and slow down from her play time enough to take naps on the couch.  Now it's a common sight to see her and Rocky both sleeping while she's out of her crate.

Toys are Toys and Clothing is Clothing -- or Are They?

Ever since Dan and I got our first dog together, Sister, I've used my old socks with holes in them as toys for the dogs.  After washing the sock, I tie a knot in the center of the sock and throw it in the dogs' toy box and these old socks have been used as tug toys for years.  My dogs have never had a problem determining which socks were mine and which were the "retired" socks, and I've never had a problem with dogs getting into dirty clothes.

Now I hear about so many dogs, and especially pups, eating socks, soft toys or other things and needing to be forced to vomit or, even worse, needing surgery to remove the item causing a blockage in their digestive tract.

We still use our old socks as toys and -- wait, Linda, get out of the car, go back to the computer and keep reading.  Really, Rigby is just fine.  Where was I... oh, yes and we use them as training tools for our dogs.  Not only do we have socks as toys, we leave our shoes sitting out and teach our dogs not to chew them and to leave them alone.  My hope is that by making these things all seem normal that they won't look at them as a "treat" or wonderful toy that they need to chew.  Yes, we have lost a shoe here and there, but for the most part this method has worked for us.

In this photo from last Christmas you can see socks in the toy box.

This takes a lot of management on our part and is why our young pups and fosters are not allowed out of the crate unless we have eyes on them at all times.  If they get a shoe and learn the joys of chewing up a shoe it makes it much harder to train them not to chew the next one, so we do our best to keep them from learning habits we don't want to perpetuate.

Our pups learn what are toys and what are not toys.

Rigby has advanced to the stage that she is allowed the run of the main part of the house while I am showering, and usually when I come out to check on her she is resting quietly on the couch.

Our Dogs Eat People Food

Oh, yes, I admit it, I'm not one of those perfect dog owners who don't allow their dogs to enjoy a bit of the taste of the foods Dan and I eat.  It probably does cause more counter surfing and begging, but to me it's worth it.

Our dogs are taught manners and, if it is enforced, will lay at our feet while we eat and wait till they are offered food.  Dan is not as stringent as I am about where the dogs stay while we're eating and so they get away with a lot more when he's in charge.

Rocky and Rigby will both sit and wait to be given a tidbit of food and I think it is good that they learn to wait while another dog gets a treat and then they get theirs.

Rocky waiting as Rigby gets a treat.

Rigby waits while Rocky gets his treat.

While visiting my parents last weekend we would put Rocky on a down stay at one end of the living room while we sat at a table at the other end of the room eating our dinner.  Our family members were pretty impressed that Rocky was so well trained.  My sister's pup is allowed no people food, a fact her family is very proud of, but I doubt that her dog will ever be as well behaved as my dogs are.

So ends my confessions for this session.  Believe me, there are others that I might decided to divulge later in life, but for now I think I've given away enough of my secrets. 

I believe that dog ownership and training is a journey of sorts and I've learned that it is a never-ending adventure of learning and discovering new ideas and methods.  I try to keep my mind open to novel approaches for problems and constantly strive to improve my relationship with my dogs.

To that end, I am going to try another new training method and I have signed up for an on-line class that will begin August 1st.  With my crazy work schedule it is very difficult to get to weekly classes, but I'd like to have an agenda to follow and weekly goals to work towards.  Stay tuned and I'll let you know how Rigby and I do in our new adventure of cyber training!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Little This and a Little That

Wishing our Best to the Newest Grayhart Litter!

Yesterday following a puppy party the newest litter of Grayhart pups left the Hartheimer nest and headed out to begin life in their new homes.  The Fast Times litter, by Savi and Parker, look to be as adventurous, confident and lovely as the last litter and they will be fun to watch as they grow, develop and learn.  Rigby and I want to wish all the pups and their families the best of luck and tons of fun over the coming months and years!

The loot for the gift bags that were given out to the
 new owners of the puppies at the puppy party.

Miss Pink heads for home after the puppy party.

Mr. Blue stacks up nicely at the puppy evaluation.
 Now known as Grayhart's Show Me The Money or Cruise.

KellyAnn and Chris with their new puppy CeCe,
Grayhart's Almost Famous, formerly known as Miss Pink.

The puppies get some exercise the day of their temperament testing.

Mr. Black is especially excited to be out on a new adventure.
Now known as Ice.

This video shows a portion of the temperament testing of Miss Teal, now known as Mica.  The temperament testing puts the pups in a new environment with a strange person and allows a chance to see how they adapt to different situations presented to them.  The retrieving this pup did was pretty great and it's nice to see how happy the pup was in what can be a stressful situation.

Sometimes You Just Have to Go it Alone!

I had arthroscopic surgery on my knee Friday, the 5th of July, to repair a torn meniscus and to, hopefully, soon get my leg back to its normal strength and mobility.

Since I had missed several weeks of tracking training with Rigby due to a variety of reasons, I wanted to get her out tracking the Saturday before my surgery, in hopes that she might better retain what she had learned since it would be a few more weeks before I'd be up to working with her after the surgery.  I knew that one of my tracking partners would not be able to attend that day, but, as I had worked late the night before, I missed the email that would have alerted me that at least one other person would not be attending, and the snowball effect that I was the only one planning to show up that morning.

Rigby and I were up and about early and at the park by 7:00 a.m., waiting for the other trackers to arrive.  We waited an hour, until 8:00, thinking maybe they decided to start later, since there would be fewer dogs to track.  Then we drove through the park to make sure they didn't meet at another location where the grass was not so high and the tracking would be easier.

Finally I decided it was just Rigby and I that day and it was up to me to give Rigby a bit of a tracking experience to keep her training going.  This was the first time that I laid track for her and it was a bit odd, as she waited in the car while I prepared her tracks, rather than stand and watch the tracks go in.  It also aged her tracks a bit longer, as it took more time for me to walk back from the track, get her out of the car and prepare to start the tracks.  She did both her tracks like a star, showing all the same motivation, enjoyment and skill.  She found the glove both times and we played some fun retrieve games once she did locate the glove.

I'll be anxious to get back to tracking with Rigby, but I don't think either of us will mind missing some of the hot weather tracking that the next few weeks are sure to bring.

Growing Up More and More

At almost 10 months old Rigby has been showing more and more signs of maturity as the months go on.  The fact that she has learned not to jump on people has pleased us very much and has been especially nice since I had my surgery.  She has also had to sleep in a crate at night again and not in bed with me, to ensure that she not hurt my leg during the night, and she has quickly adapted to that change in her sleeping arrangements.

One of the biggest changes we have seen in Rigby in the past few weeks is that she will finally rest and sleep while out of her crate and loose in the house.  Yes, it has taken her this long to be able to relax and learn that she can quit playing with toys or bugging Rocky and just take a break.  We would always end up putting her in her crate to give us or Rocky a break from her constant playing, exploring and general nosiness.  As I write, she is in the kitchen looking to get into something as Dan, Rocky and I rest quietly on the couch.  Saturday afternoon the four of us took a nap on the couch and it was so nice to have Rigby join us in our family relaxation.

This morning I took time to spend a bit of time training Rigby, as it has been several days since we had done anything.  We played some glove fetch, dumbbell retrieve and just some basic training commands.  I'll be anxious to get her back into full training once my leg permits.  In the meantime, Rigby is fully enjoying being a silly, happy puppy!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Rigby at Nine Months Old

It's been almost a month since I last updated Rigby's blog.  From April through September, while I'm working for the Pittsburgh Pirates, my work schedule is rather erratic and so most of our training takes place at home in the mornings and we aren't out and about as much to have adventures that are worthy of posting.

I don't want to totally pass by Rigby's 9-month birthday, though, and with the aid of some photos taken the week she turned 9-months old this post will memorialize this next phase of her young life.

Rigby's official 9-month birthday photo.
Taken by Barb Blanchfield
At nine months Rigby is a wonderful pup.  I look back on the Weim foster pups that I've had at 4 months, 7 months and 9 months old and it just astounds me even more that anyone can part with their dog at those young ages.  She is not perfect, far from it, but she is a well behaved young lady and a joy to have around the house. 

Rocky and Rigby continue to play together very well.  Their latest game has become a game of take away involving Nylabones.  Whatever bone Rigby is chewing becomes the one Rocky wants and, vice versa, the bone that Rocky has becomes the envy of Rigby.  It amazes us to watch their antics as each one works to find ways to outwit the other and steal their bone.  Rocky will resort to just very gently taking a bone right out of Rigby's mouth, but, of course, Rigby will sit on the couch and tease him with her bone, dangling it out of her mouth, holding it at the very end of it.

Last night Rigby discovered fireflies and was mesmerized by the sight of them and jumping in the air trying to catch one.  She is always watching for rabbits on our walks and would love to catch one.

Tonight there were four children, ages 7 to 12, waiting outside when I took Rigby out for a potty break and she was pretty well behaved meeting the kids, not jumping up and very little mouthing.  They thought she was just great and enjoyed petting her.  Of course, Rocky had already charmed the kids with his kisses and tail wags and warmed them up for Rigby.

Rigby accompanied me to the Westmoreland County Obedience Training Club's Friday obedience and rally trials where I was serving as the trial secretary earlier this month.  While there we were lucky enough to have a short photo session with Barbara Blanchfield and the resulting photos are precious, sweet and funny.  Rigby was quite well behaved and cooperated fully, although she did seem to get just a bit bored with the whole process.

Rigby did not try hard to hide her
feelings of boredom with the photo shoot.
Photo by Barb Blanchfield
This is a typical Rigby pose, giving that
  "what do you mean by that look."
 Compare it to the photo below from
 when she was about 3 months old,
rather similar!
Photo by Barb Blanchfield
One of Rigby's Christmas photos.
Photo by Barb Blanchfield
Another reason for the photo session with Barb was to obtain photos for an emergency I.D. tag for Rigby.  This tag will be attached to Rigby's crate in our car and if there would be an accident or something would happen to me it contains important information to ensure that Rigby will find her way to safety.

These emergency I.D. tags were sold by WCOTC
at their obedience and rally trials this month.

Photos and important information in case
 of an accident or medical emergency.
The photos and information are printed on card stock and it is inserted into a protective, plastic envelope that can be attached to a crate.  Very good precaution to take for those unexpected and unwanted situations.

And, yes, for these photos I asked Barb to make sure that all of Rigby's white markings were visible, as they are unique to my girl and could be a great way to identify her if she were missing.