Sunday, January 27, 2013

Happy 13th Birthday Frankie

Since Rigby is taking some time off, resting and having a quiet week, she decided that this week Frankie could take the spotlight as the subject of her blog.  Thanks for sharing with your big brother, Rigby!

Today is Frankie's 13th birthday, he's become the wise, old dog at our house.  When he came to us at almost 4 years old we never imagined we'd still have him 9 years later!

At the WCA parade for rescue dogs.
Although Frankie's conformation and traits are far from the Weimaraner breed standard he is a proud and beautiful dog who always attracted attention everywhere I took him and his enthusiasm and silly antics often had people laughing at his crazy behavior.

Trying to find the biggest stick he could carry.
Attacking a stuffed toy during a photo shoot.

Frankie loved agility and it's sad that he had to retire at only 7 years old and very shortly after he started competing.  You can see the fun he had in these photos.

Just a bit of clearance over that jump!
He learned to tuck and glide over the jumps!
Check out those ears!

Loving the tunnel!
Frankie loves to curl up in a blanket and take a nap and always wants to be near Dan or me on the couch.  Every night at 3:00 a.m. he crawls into bed next to me under the covers.

Resting on the couch.
Waking up in the morning.
Our handsome guy!
Look closely, he's in there!

Dan and I have said that we hope the rescues that come into our life get to spend at least half their life with us and Frankie has far exceeded that goal.  We cherish every moment with this wonderful, loving dog and are so happy to wish him a HAPPY 13TH BIRTHDAY!

Dan with Frankie and Sister.
Frankie and me.
Frankie and Rocky.
Frankie after showing in the Veteran's Obedience Class at WCOTC.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ups and Downs

Sometimes it's amazing how life can be chugging merrily along, everything going well, and then, boom, something happens that disrupts your happy journey and reminds you how little control you have of what tomorrow will bring.

Since Rigby came into my life I've experienced a couple of these moments and they've kept me a bit on edge and seem to be a constant reminder that no matter how hard you try and how long you plan you can never know what the future holds and if you keep putting off your dreams waiting for the perfect time, there is no perfect time, you just have to live your life within the imperfect parameters in which we all seem to exist.

The first of these moments happened the week I was in New Jersey to pick up Rigby.  I had called my husband to check in with him and he informed me that because of some problems with a pre-surgery EKG he'd had before I had left town, some minor surgery he was scheduled to undergo was going to be delayed until more tests could be run.  This was a bit of a shock to me, but being away from home it was difficult to get more information at that time.  

That one EKG lead to an echocardiogram, a stress test, several meetings with his primary care physicians, an appointment with a pharmacologist and then a couple appointments with a cardiologist.  The surgery that was initially planned was performed and there were weekly follow-up appointments with that doctor.  It seemed that we were constantly seeing doctors through the months of November and December.

Happily, Dan is doing well and adjusting to his new medications and we are both relieved that there are fewer visits to doctors scheduled in the near future.

When we first learned that the performance of Dan's heart was deteriorating and before we knew what this was going to mean for both of us, more than once I wondered to myself if I had made a mistake getting a puppy at this time.  Rigby ended up being home in the crate while we were at appointments, but other than that, there wasn't much of a change in how she was handled, so I'm very happy that I didn't over-react that week I picked her up and back out of getting a puppy.  She has also brought a lot of comedic relief to both of us at times that we needed a good laugh.

This week has again been a time that reminded me how quickly life can change.

Monday evening Rigby attended her second puppy kindergarten class.  A couple other puppy owners in the class commented that they had thought that their pups were full of energy until they saw Rigby.  Yes, she was full of energy, but she was also tuned in to me and listened very well and performed all that was asked of her with lots of enthusiasm and a great attitude.  I thoroughly enjoyed the class and was so proud of my clever puppy.

Later that night when I was going to take Rigby out for the final time before heading to bed, she ran down the basement steps ahead of me and, by the time I reached the base of the steps, I could see that she was limping.  I had no idea what had happened and I did my best to check out her foot/leg, but could find nothing to give me a clue as to what was wrong.  I decided to wait till the morning to see if Rigby was still limping or if this was a very temporary condition.

To my dismay, Tuesday morning Rigby was still limping on her front right foot and I knew that I had to get her to a vet to find out the cause of her lameness. By 10:00 a.m. I had her at the vet and, after a cursory exam, they decided to keep her for the day, while I went to my scheduled job, and take x-rays to see what they would show.

As it is with most visits to the vet, nothing definite was determined to be wrong with my pup.  A couple possible diagnoses were given to me, but because the only symptom was a limp, it's difficult to know for sure what is going on.  I'm hoping she just has a minor injury that will heal relatively quickly, but only time will tell as to how long this will take.

For now, Rigby is on limited activity and some medication.  We don't allow her to jump on or off the couch and she spends most of her time in her crate or in the playpen we fashioned by attaching the ex-pen to the front of her crate, giving her extra room to play with her toys and move about.  She is full of energy and not happy about losing play time with her brother Rocky.  And, after all the fun we had at class Monday night, it looks like we'll be staying home, at least for a week or so, and not participating with the other pups.

During our morning play time I am still doing some training, just trying to keep her activity level as low as I can.  Today we started a new game working scent discrimination using Altoid tins.  To start I just put a treat in an Altoid tin, showed it to her, closed the lid and put the tin on the floor.  When she picked it up and brought it to me I gave her the treat.  After doing this a few times I placed another empty tin on the floor with the one that had the treat.  When Rigby brought me the correct tin, she was rewarded with the treat.  We worked up to a total of five tins, four empty and one with the treats, and only once did she bring back the wrong tin.

I'll have to continue to find games to play with Rigby to keep her mind busy during this down time for her.  Just because she shouldn't be playing hard doesn't mean that her learning must stop and so, with a bit of an adjustment, life goes on.

To my way of thinking, there are a couple lessons to be learned here.  One being that there never seems to be a perfect time to branch out and try something new or different and if you sit around waiting for the perfect time life is just going to pass you by.  And the other is to remember that if your plans and hopes get disrupted by an unexpected and unwelcome occurrence, just take a bit of a detour and in time you'll be back on the track to your anticipated destination.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Rigby at 18 Weeks Old

Hard to believe my little girl is 18 weeks old -- and she's not so little anymore!  Rigby is growing up in more ways than one, she is maturing and becoming even more of a sweet pup, loving and so friendly to everyone she meets.

Since my last blog post about her first night of puppy kindergarten we have continued to work on her many skills and she advances quickly with every new challenge put to her.  We usually train once a day for 15 minutes and it is amazing to me the progress she shows with only that much work.  I've tried to keep her training fun and varied, always introducing new and different exercises.

Friday evening I took Rigby to the training building of the Westmoreland County Obedience Training Club for the first time and we did some training with my friend Karen Schroeder and her Golden Retriever pup Skye.  This was the first time the two pups had met and they got along well and I think they had fun working together.

One exercise we did with the two pups was to allow them to engage in some light play with both of them on leash and then Karen or I would call our pup away from the fun, teaching them to come to us even when they might prefer to continue to play.  Both pups did well with this exercise.  There was also a tunnel that both pups got to run through and, when given some free time, Rigby chose to carry a toy through the tunnel numerous times as she made a circuit around the training building.

Following the Basic Obedience class I'm teaching on Saturdays I brought Rigby into the training building and she had a play session with Jake the Corgi.  Rigby enjoyed her play time with Jake, but was surprised to find that, unlike her Corgi friend Jackson, Jake had a tail!  Then she met the very un-Sheltie-like Sheltie Hoover and was not sure of what to make of all that hair and energy.  We told her she better get used to Shelties, they're everywhere!!

In our morning training sessions this week we worked on Rigby's retrieve of a glove, since she'll need to locate and indicate a glove at the end of her tracking tests.  For this exercise I used clicker training and, spending about 5 minutes a morning for three mornings, she quickly learned to pick up the glove and deliver it to my hand very consistently.

On Wednesday Rigby surprised me by getting a dumbbell off the kitchen table and carrying it into the living room where we had been playing.  Weeks earlier I had tried to work with her to carry/retrieve the dumbbell, but she just wanted to chew the ends of it, so I put it away.  When I saw her carrying the dumbbell by her own choice and with her mouth on the bar, as it should be carried, I thought, well, why not, let's try this again.  Using the same method we had worked with the glove, by Friday morning she was delivering the dumbbell to my hand consistently, and when I took her to the training building on Friday evening she also performed in the same manner.  

So Saturday morning I asked a friend to take a video of Rigby doing her dumbbell retrieve and, once again, she didn't disappoint...

Here's another short video of Rigby from Saturday morning doing a few of her training exercises, a front and a finish; the spin and the twist; a bit of heeling, with some sits; and a down.  In this video you can see how tall she has become and what a happy worker she is.

I'm glad to have these videos to show Rigby at 18 weeks, as I've not taken many pictures the last couple weeks and I don't want any of this precious puppy time to fade from my memory too quickly.  I'm having a blast with Rigby and learning so much!

Rigby at 18 weeks old.

If you noticed the tag hanging from her collar, it's her new I.D. tag,
 perfect for the purple puppy!

A Little Sunday Morning Fun!

This morning I thought I'd introduce you to a couple of Rigby's favorite toys.  They all have names and I swear she knows them by name!

This is Lion Kracklehead, his head has plastic bottle material shapped into a ball and it makes a crackling sound.  Sometimes he is call Lion Knucklehead by mistake!

This is Rigby trying to steal Lion Kracklehead during his photo shoot!

This is Flat Stanley!  His head was stuffed and plump, but when the stuffing started to show I took all the material out and he became rather flat.  All the little compartments on his body have a squeaker in them.

This is Purple Monkey, a fun chew toy who travels almost everywhere with Rigby.  He can tug, cuddle or be chewed, great toy!

Happy Sunday to you all.  Rigby wants to go have some fun, so we're off for a walk before it gets too cold!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Education of Rigby Purple Pup

Finally Rigby made it to her first day of puppy kindergarten Monday night.  Because I wanted to set Rigby up for success in her first experience of training with other dogs, I switched classes to put her in a class with fewer dogs than the class for which she was originally registered.  We missed the first week of this class, so I was quite nervous that we were a week behind the rest.

Rigby's puppy classmates are two German Shepherd Dogs, an Airedale, a Bulldog, a Glen of Imaal Terrier and a mixed breed of the doodle type, a nice variety of pups.  (Yes, I knew what the terrier was, as the owner, Jo Lynn, is someone I know from stabling our horses at the same stables in the past.)

As I expected, Rigby was the most active of the pups in the class, very stimulated by the presence of the other pups and ready to have fun.  I don't want to do anything to diminish her enthusiasm, but she makes it difficult, always on the move, never still.

Although highly excited by her surroundings, Rigby was always able to concentrate enough to perform whatever exercise was asked of her and she proved to the instructors that she could sit, down, finish to the left, stand and perform her attention exercises.

I was exhausted at the end of the class from all the work of keeping Rigby engaged and out of trouble, but I was also most proud of my pretty girl for showing that she knows her stuff and for working with me through her hyper-stimulated state.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Rigby is Four Months Old

It's been two months already since Rigby came to live in our home.  Time has flown by and she has grown way too quickly and learned so many new things.  I do wish I had a pill to slow down Rigby's growth, as these puppy stages are quite fun and will soon just be memories.

We've had a good week filled with training and play, happiness and fun.  

We spent some time at a training building earlier in the week and, in addition to her regular lessons, Rigby got to experience the fun of a real agility tunnel.  I kept the tunnel short to begin with and, as she gained confidence, stretched it longer and longer until it was full length.  She would run into the tunnel on my hand signal and verbal command of "tunnel," run all the way through it and meet me at the other end.  After she was doing well at full length I put about a 45 degree bend into the tunnel and even that didn't slow Rigby down, she kept running end to end, even carrying her glove through the tunnel after she fetched it.

Saturday we were happy to be back to tracking, having missed last week due to inclement weather.  It was a cold morning and the ground was covered with snow and we took Rigby to a small field across a wooden bridge to lay her tracks.  It was not at all evident that Rigby had skipped a week of tracking, as she seemed to improve even without any practice.  

On her first track Rigby needed a bit of help to find the first few hot dog slices, but by the end of the track she was working on her own, nose to the ground.  Her second and third tracks, the longest of which was about 30 yards, were brilliant and from the start she pulled strongly into her harness and went from hot dog to hot dog with me following directly behind her, trying to keep up with her.  Even Phil said that this was the week we should have had a camera to film her performance.

We'll be leaving our regular tracking group for 8 weeks while Rigby and I attend a class, but I hope to meet with some of my tracking friends once a week or so to keep Rigby advancing in her tracking skills.

This week promises to bring even more new experiences for Rigby, as she will be starting puppy kindergarten Saturday.  I'm quite anxious to see how she will handle the excitement of a class full of puppies and all the noise and activity that comes with that.  Today we made a visit to the training building where the class will be held and we spent some time training and playing, getting her familiar with the surroundings.

This coming week I'll have to take some photos of my beautiful girl and maybe even get her on video again.