redroanchronicles: Trudeau's Mighty Brow (trudeau-brow)
It could fairly be said that I am a control enthusiast. This is merely one of my excuses for why I don't normally let my dog Trudeau run and frolic off-leash, even though many people in my life seem to think that this is some form of hideous cruelty. (Trudeau is on the "hideous cruelty" side of the argument, too.) But I have a very vivid imagination and what I like to think is a keen understanding of Trudeau's psyche -- inside his mind is a bleak world of perceived starvation and inadequate snuggles -- which is why I can see very clearly how things would go if I were to become one of Humboldt County's ubiquitous leash-less dog owners. And I am telling you, it would all end in tears. And possibly blood. And on my part, there could be a heart attack. Even at the pound, they let him run around off-leash, and apparently they didn't have any problems with him running off, and it's not as if he's normally able to be more than five feet away from me in the daily course of our lives, so I probably shouldn't be quite so paranoid, but I am. Sure, he likes me now, but the moment another dog appears, all bets are off.

A few friends suggested that I take him to a beach. A remote beach. Where could he run? they said. The ocean will get in the way, they said. But beaches usually only have ocean in one direction, and plenty of havoc-wreaking possibilities in all the other directions, so I was determined to be a little more choosy. I would be needing a lot more ocean.

Luckily, with Humboldt Bay right here, we have some convenient jetties that have ocean on three sides, and some pretty deserted beaches. So I took Trudeau out there on a long training line, and worked on endless recalls, and then I got really brave and let him off the leash entirely.

It could be accurately said that Trudeau approves of this development.

He also approves of the ocean, birds, sand, foam, crabs, seaweed, and things that smell mysterious.

I enjoy these outings almost as much as Trudeau does, mostly because by the time we get home he's completely knackered. It has been a great confidence-builder for me, though, knowing that I can let him off-leash, and when I call him he'll come back. Mostly. Except when he's found something interesting. Or when there's a bird.

Elsewhere in my travels around town, I came across another face that I thought you'd want to see:

I met this adorable little face in Halvorsen Park, and her owner was clearly accustomed to fielding the admiration of this dog's adoring public. She's an "American Indian Dog," which I had never heard of (is that sort of like yet another American Horses With Spots And Things registry, or is it legit?); gorgeous little puppy, kind of shy, but she's certainly going to make one hell of a beautiful dog. And meeting her was a nice change from the way I usually encounter dogs; typically I meet them when they're running loose in the streets, in the dark, and they launch themselves at Trudeau like they're all members of a canine fight club.

Oh, shit. I wasn't supposed to mention that. It's the first rule. Forget you heard anything.
redroanchronicles: Trudeau's Mighty Brow (trudeau-brow)
My dog Trudeau is a mystery. He is a mystery wrapped in an enigma that sort of walks in a circle around a riddle. He bays like a bloodhound, and his color is a little shepherd-y, and his white paws are rather dapper-looking but not particularly helpful in identifying his breed. Taking a walk with him is like taking a game show on the road: random passersby engage in self-styled trivia quizzes to try to discover his heritage. Simply being in Trudeau's presence turns everyone in the world into a dog expert, and they will not only guess what breeds compose his background, but they will tell you, quite emphatically.

[personal profile] malnpudl, drunk with the power of modern science, dropped by my vet's office awhile back and pre-paid for me to have the mutt genetically tested. Yes, that's right. You can DNA test your dog to find out WTF sort of genetic material spawned the mutant beast, and if you're anything like me, you can even have a roommate crazy enough to pony up the cash for it.

Unfortunately, if your dog's heritage is too heavy on mixed breeds -- mutts for generations back -- there isn't much a DNA test will tell you. And even then it's not 100% reliable. My vet had warned me, before we did the test, that the results she'd seen from it to date weren't terribly enlightening. But it wasn't my dime, and apparently Mal had a burning need to know, so I went ahead with the test regardless, and after waiting and waiting very patiently for results that, as it turned out, were mailed directly to my vet and not to me, today I managed to access the company's online system to review Trudeau's test results.

Prepare to have your minds blown, my friends.

Trudeau's lineage is muttly enough that there are no breeds listed as "significant," which means that neither of his parents were purebreds. There are also none listed as "minor" genetic contributors, which would be breeds that had contributed at least 12.5% of the beast's genetic material.

However. There are two breeds listed as "intermediate" breeds, meaning that at least 25% of Trudeau's genetic makeup comes from these breeds, "so you may see some physical and behavioral traits represented in your dog." So what, you may wonder, are his "intermediate" breeds? My bet was on bloodhound and some kind of shepherd dog. My vet was sure it was bloodhound and Anatolian shepherd. The shelter had him listed as a Great Dane cross. But actually, the only two breeds that appear at all in his genetic profile are:

Alaskan Malamute


Basset hound.

Thank you, science. You've just completely blown my mind. I might need to go curl up in a fetal position while all of my ideas about the universe rearrange themselves in my brain.
redroanchronicles: Juno - Kiss Me (Default)
Last night was, at long last, the first night of basic dog obedience for me and the floppy-eared monstrosity that I call my dog. (Oh, Trudeau. Your ears are so floppy. It's awesome.) I have to admit to being more than a little apprehensive, especially when I saw the size of the room that we'd be working in -- a conference room at the local rec center -- which didn't exactly leave a lot of room for... well, let's just put it out there. It didn't allow a lot of room for me to keep my dog from getting all up in the other dog's faces. As he does. I probably should've called the instructor first and told her that he had a dog aggression issue -- she looked a bit concerned when I said he occasionally likes to make other dogs cry -- but I'd talked to so many dog obedience teachers by then and had all of them hand-wave my concern away, so I guess by the time I got around to the class I actually signed up for, it didn't occur to me that it might be a problem.

And it actually wasn't, much. He started off the evening a little... well, over-enthusiastic might be the word, and I've always suspected with him that a large part of his dog aggression is just that he's the very big kid who never learned how to play nice. He desperately needs to socialize and play with other dogs, but he can't because he's a bastard, and therein lies the problem. (It's doubly unfortunate because there are plenty of off-leash beaches and other doggy paradises in my neighborhood, and I do trust him to come when called, except that if there's another dog and he gets into a fight, all bets are off. I like to think one day he'll be able to do these normal dog things. It's why we've gone to the professional, to get professional help with our issues.)

In any event, we didn't have any sort of unfortunate mishaps, and thanks to the teacher's magic weapon -- an apparently-delicious cocktail of cheese, kibble and hot dog bits -- Trudeau pretty much spent the hour in the throes of ecstacy. Though initially his focus was all over the place, he soon learned that lavishing me with his attention would earn him delicious delights, and he wasn't as hard as I expected to keep under control... though for much of the class we did stay behind a small chair-barrier that the teacher built for us, to give us a little extra separation from the other dogs.

The class has turned out to be perfect; I really like the instructor (Mette Bryan, for any readers who are actually in Humboldt County, and she's teaching the classes through the Adorni Center and Eureka Muni), and the other three dogs in the class are more or less in the same place as Tru -- pretty good on obedience basics like sit, down and stay, but not so much with the focus in new environments. So we should all be able to advance at the same pace and think up new and interesting things to do that aren't necessarily as basic as your standard beginning obedience class.

The highlight of the evening for me was working on our dogs' recall/"come" in the room. Mette worked with the other three dogs first, and I thought for sure she was going to just skip us for the moment, since even I could imagine the carnage that would ensue if I called Trudeau and instead he decided to surge like a bowling ball into the group of other dogs. And anyway, Trudeau and I work on his "come" endlessly; in fact, I've turned it into a wacky after-hours game in the office. My office is laid out as sort of a square of hallways with rooms opening off of it, and I'll often put Trudeau in a stay, go sprint off somewhere else in the building, and then tell him "come" (if I'm in an obvious location where he'll be able to see me) or "search" if he needs to go looking for me. He'll go tearing around the place trying to work out where I am, and he gets lavishly rewarded with food and love when he manages.

Still, I thought for sure he was going to embarrass us both by harassing the swell golden retriever puppy instead of actually coming to me. Mette put a long training lead on him, so she'd at least have some control over him and could try to catch him in time if he veered off, but no; I showed him the delicious treats that awaited, ran across the room and called him, and he came. Boy, did he ever come. You wouldn't have thought there was another dog, person, or possible source of treats in the world. I've never been prouder. And it was nice getting home and discovering that the excitement and mental strain had knocked him out so thoroughly that he went straight to sleep like an exhausted toddler.

I complain sometimes about Trudeau and his dog-hating, cat-chasing, collar-leaning bad behavior, but the fact is that I lucked out to a ridiculous degree. Adopting from a shelter, as much as I support doing so, can be such a game of roulette. I could've ended up with an animal that was completely unsuitable for my life in every way, and even though I trust my instincts when it comes to choosing a companion animal, listening to the gut and the heart don't always help us make rational decisions. Still, I wound up with a dog who is the perfect amount of lazy, the perfect amount of energetic, (definitely the perfect degree of housetrained!) and the one thing I've always been missing in the dogs I've had before: he is absolutely and utterly devoted. He is my dog right down to his bones, and I'm his human right down to my bones, and if we're maybe a little co-dependent, I think I can live with that for the wonder that is this animal bounding toward me, ignoring all other distractions and attractions for the chance to place himself in my hands.

And if my hands happen to be where the hot dogs are, well, that's just a happy coincidence.
redroanchronicles: Trudeau's Mighty Brow (trudeau-brow)
This is my dog Trudeau.

He is very regal. Very dignified. Sometimes he says that with great power comes great responsibility, and I can only assume that he knows this from experience.

Or else maybe he's talking about my power to give him dog cookies, and my responsibility to do so without delay.

There are more photos of Trudeau under this cut. )
redroanchronicles: Trudeau - Om Nom Nom (trudeau-noms)
My dog Trudeau is easily one of the best dogs in the history of time. Sure, he's over a hundred pounds and approximately the size of a shetland pony, but he wouldn't hurt a fly.

Unless the fly is dog-shaped. Then he will cut a bitch.

It's possible that Trudeau has a little bit of a dog aggression problem. Okay, he definitely has kind of a big dog aggression problem. He doesn't seem to want to, say, draw blood or destroy his enemies. He just wants to, you know... push the other dogs into the ground and make them cry uncle and maybe pee themselves. He's like a schoolyard bully on a sugar-high. We're getting professional help, and by that I mean obedience training, not a dog psychiatrist. (I already know that he has abandonment issues and probably unresolved feelings about his parents.) I have confidence that it is very fixable, and in the meantime, we're managing the issue.

I keep Trudeau leashed and under control (though in order to do this I have to make frequent use of my Look of Disapproval and my incredible biceps), and generally this wouldn't be a big problem, except that I'm apparently the only person in the county who believes in leashes. And though everybody's off-leash dogs are perfectly friendly, they don't quite seem to understand that my dog is not. Not too long ago while walking in Sequoia Park, Trudeau and I came upon a man who was crossing our path and who, I did not notice until we were almost upon him, had a tiny and adorable little shepherd puppy stumbling along at his heels. Off-leash.

The puppy happily trotted up to us, blissfully unaware of the nature of his impending demise. I held back my instantly over-excited bloodhound/silverback-gorilla-cross monster, who was either determined to lick the puppy to death or determined to devour it in a single gulp, and who either way was very likely to kill it by accident with one of his huge clumsy platter-sized paws.

The puppy's owner, unconcerned, didn't seem to notice me struggling with Trudeau (who was doing his very best Kraken or possibly Cthulhu* impression, complete with "GIVE ME NOMS OR I WILL DESTROY UR TOKYOS"), glanced over and, apparently utterly misinterpreting the nature of my concern, said, "Oh, don't worry. He's friendly!"

As you can imagine, I was very relieved that the puppy -- who seemed barely old enough to be weaned, and certainly not old enough to have joined Fight Club -- wasn't going to attack the slobbing gorgon. I don't think said gorgon realized how much danger he might've been in. From the puppy.

Loose dogs are a problem in my neighborhood in general, and particularly since I walk my dog after dark, I've ended up with a bit of a case of the nerves about the whole thing. There's Maxi-the-fleabitten-mongrel down the street, who actually vaults right over the fence so that she can bark ferociously at us, and the Akita on the other side street who stalks us creepily from the shadows, and the pit bull on the school road who is only held back -- and only occasionally -- by a gate that seems to have been made from an old wooden shipping palette. The latest addition to the giving-me-a-freaking-heart-attack brigade are a pair of massively-muscled pitbulls, who after running amok in the neighborhood for a few days seem to have taken up residence in the cemetery, which they clearly chose for its theatrical properties. A pair of snarling pitbulls charging at you isn't quite enough; with the whole cemetery thing they were going for more of an H.P. Lovecraft-style effect, in which dogs in addition to having sharp teeth and bad attitudes are also demonic and will eat not only your face but also YOUR VERY SOUL.

I probably wouldn't have much of a problem with these animals if it weren't for Trudeau, who attracts trouble like he's a gravity well, and who certainly doesn't help these situations by baying back what I can only assume are lewd remarks about the pitbulls' mothers. Honestly, I cannot take him anywhere, and I hope he realizes he has only himself to blame.

* When I typed "Cthulhu," my blog insisted that it was a misspelling and suggested instead "Cuchulain." Thanks, blog. Now I have The Pogues running through my head, and that's not a bad state of affairs if you ask me.
redroanchronicles: Juno - Kiss Me (Default)
Becoming an better horseman in this day and age has become a very expensive proposition. Gone are the days, it seems, of apprenticeship and hardy endeavor, of sleeping in the hay loft and learning from ancient horsemen in the school of hard knocks. We've entered the era of the home-study DVD set, the custom-fitted saddle, the month-long workshop and the pre-fab barn. These things aren't bad, but they aren't exactly cheap either.

But you're a different sort of horseman. Sure, you enjoy a good DVD as much as the next person, and certainly you'd love to drop it all and run off for some six-month colt-starting workshop three states away, but you've got bills to pay and horses to feed at home. Your idea of an obstacle clinic is building a PVC maze in your pasture, and when your training stick gets a little dented you'll be wrapping it with duct tape, not running out to buy a new one. You're creative. You're natural, but you're resourceful. And above all, you're practical. Your skills are legendary and MacGyver-like... and if they're not, they will be. Just like our role models, these cleverly-disguised buffalo hunters in cleverly-disguising buffalo-suits, you like to do a job well -- and do it cheaply.

You are my kind of horseman. These horse.hacks are for you. Every now and again I'll be offering little tips on using everyday objects in pursuit of better horsekeeping. Elsewhere on the site I'll be offering information on pasture and facilities management, feed, exercise, training, horse psychology, and just about everything else I can think of, but this particular section is all about what you can do and make for yourself, the budget-conscious horseman's solution to the deluge of over-priced doohickeys that can be found at every horse expo in the nation. So dust off your toolbox, break out that duct tape, watch some MacGyver reruns and get ready for some DIY. First up:

Saddle Pad Storage (also good for wraps, boots, and other cloth items you'd like to keep dust-free, insect-free and dry)
As a boarder, tack storage has always been a bit of an issue for me; the only storage space that accompanies my horse's paddock is the little plastic shed where I store my hay, and there's no room left in there for saddles, grooming kits or anything else. I use my horse trailer's tack room instead, but even that's a dodgy proposition: the always-wet weather here in Humboldt has finally triumphed over the trailer roof and rusted the seams: somewhere in the back of my tack room, there's a leak. Since I know my tack room can't be trusted to be weatherproof, and since in our local rainforest climate a little bit of moisture on cloth turns into runaway mold within five minutes*, I like to keep as much of my equipment as possible inside some sort of protective covering.

Enter the reuseable bedding packaging. When you buy sheets, comforters, drapes, and any number of other cloth housewares in many stores, it comes in a clear plastic zippered case, like the one you see above. Many of us hang onto these and cram them into a closet somewhere because they seem like something that could be useful someday: we found a good dozen of them in my roommate's collection of random stuff while cleaning out a room in our house. This one, which started its life as packaging for a twin-sized something or other, is doing excellent service as saddle pad storage; I've got a single shaped English pad in it now, but there's room enough to fit several more in, and there's even a convenient carrying handle on top. The smaller and more square-shaped packages that often come with sheets are excellent for storing polo wraps, bandages, boots or whatever else you can come up with. (In fact, they're basically the same packaging that many polo wraps are sold in, just a different shape.) Generally these packages are not watertight, so don't expect them to protect your belongings in a flood, but for everyday inside storage to keep moisture, dust, and insects out of your stuff, they're a great solution.

* This is hyperbole. Things do mold incredibly quickly here, though.

Halter Turned Harness

Life with horses never seems to turn out to be life with just horses. Our equine friends tend to bring with them into the relationship a host of associates: dogs, goats, children, that sort of thing. And sometimes these associates get a little unruly. Maybe the neighbor's dog is chasing your horses or your goats (goats being, of course, notorious troublemakers, especially the ones that are members of motorcycle gangs) got out of their pen and are eating all your nice summer squash.

And if you're anything like me, you will of course be completely unprepared for these critter-related emergencies. Sure, you've got supplies in your nearby tack room: neatsfoot oil, a few buckets, a knotted collection of baling twine, but nothing particularly useful. Nothing labeled "in case of goats." (Few things in this life are labeled "in case of goats," unfortunately.) Nothing useful, except maybe that halter and lead rope.

Halters are, as you may know, quite useful for purposes other than putting them on horses' heads. For smaller animals, like dogs, goats, and newborn foals, you can turn them upside down and slip them over the critter's body as a harness, in the fashion modeled in the photo at right by my friend Deefy's very patient dog, Sai. These halter-harnesses make for excellent temporary restraints when you need to get an animal under control, and they also make terrific handles to help you support a young foal that needs help standing and finding mother's milk.

Just turn the halter upside-down, slip the nosepiece around the animal's neck, and buckle the crownpiece beneath the animal's belly. Do note, of course, that halters aren't really designed for this use and it isn't appropriate to, say, use this contraption to walk your dog. But for rounding up a scared stray, restraining a sheep-worrier, getting that foal on its feet or tethering the neighbor kids to the porch (just kidding, but really), a halter's handy in a pinch.

Hi, Steve.

Dec. 1st, 2009 11:35 am
redroanchronicles: In Harness (in harness)
Everyone, this is Steve.

Steve, everyone.

My friend Kira acquired Steve on the Bay's north jetty. Apparently he'd been dumped there over a week before and was relying upon the kindness of strangers. (By which I mean, of course, that the locals were helpless to resist his big golden eyes and slobbery jowls.) Unfortunately Kira couldn't keep him, so he ended up at the animal shelter, which in this area already has a pretty serious pitbull population.

So if you find yourself in need of a dog, check out the shelter in McKinleyville. I'm told Steve plays fetch in a terribly hilarious way. I can tell you four important things about Steve: that cameras make him a little uneasy, that full-body massages make him not at all uneasy, that he has a truly enormous head, and that he has the best name of any dog ever.

Steve. Seriously.


redroanchronicles: Juno - Kiss Me (Default)

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