Tanks for a good time!

No more Tank. Last Thursday I drove him up to Levin, and left him at a greyhound kennel for pickup Friday and transport up to his new home in Auckland. I expect he will have a very cushy life with Tiffinie, his new owner.

Of the three dogs we had, Tank was my clear favorite. He didn’t have the behavior issues of Casey, and was pretty safe with the cats, unlike Prince. He knew his name, was a happy member of the pack, and was learning how to play. I think much of the excitement he had when cats were around was a desire to play with them, I am pretty sure I caught him play-bowing to the cats on occasion! Of course the cats can’t read body language, and would run away from the giant exuberant dog!

It’s too bad our lifestyle really doesn’t suit having a dog, ’cause if I were going to have a dog, it would have been one like Tank.

We are now going to take a lengthy break from fostering greyhounds. We have been taken off the active roster, though we are still available for “emergency” placements.

The Tank comes rolling in

And no, I am not talking about world events. I am talking about the new Greyhound. Tank was supposed to be with Kylie for 2 weeks, then with us for 2 weeks, but after the first weekend Kylie asked if we could take him. No problmes with her cat (Rupert the Devil Cat, who is a wonderful animals to teach dogs that cats are Not To Be Messed With), it was a problem with one of her dogs. Seems Tank is a very dominant dog. Not aggressive, just dominant. Her little alpha dog was not having a good time with Tank around, so we took him Monday night.

We wonder if Tank got his name due to his size (biggest Greyhound we have seen), or due to his occasionally relentless nature.

He is great with the cats, and is learning obedience quickly. He is already much better about not pulling on the leash, and may even learn to stay off the couch (at least when a Human is watching).

In other news it looks like the rain is back, and the rest of the week will be rather damp. Guess I will get time to write some of those reports I promised earlier.

Why yes, a glass of wine and a spa bath *would* be lovely right now.

It’s been a week !

Tuesday — LAST Tuesday, that is — Prince went to his new home in Auckland. Just when we were really starting to make progress ! Ah well, his new owner should be able to take him on from here. I’d really love to hear how he gets on; we were quite fond of him. The same afternoon, Jacqui dropped off a new dog, “Casey”, who has an owner waiting for her in Christchurch.

Casey is quite different. For a start, she’s got all her fur ! She’s at a better weight, and she doesn’t have Prince’s myriad little knicks and scars. She’s not as leggy as Prince, but her tail is really long — I had to take a look at everyone else’s tails at the dog walk on Sunday, to see if I was imagining it, but I think she had the longest tail there — and her ears don’t stand all the way up. She’s much more coordinated on the stairs, and when she flobs on the sheepskin, she doesn’t fling herself down with quite the THUD that Prince did, and she manages to get all of herself neatly on it, with her head on the floor-pillow (Prince was always sort of half-on, half-off, and as often as not it was his back half on the pillow). Prince would fling himself down anywhere; Casey goes for the sheepskin. Or else the beanbag. You could look at it as if she’s spoiled or delicate, or you could look at it as an easy way to get her to lie down where you want her to. :^)

She’s afraid of the alpacas. She’s fine with horses and traffic, was initally nervous of the ceiling fan, but is fine with it now.

As far as the cats go, if they’re not moving, she’s not interested, which is a good sight better than Prince was even when he left us. She’ll go after them if they run, though, but in the last week she’s gotten better even about that. And the cats are likewise getting much more relaxed around her. Well maybe not *relaxed* exactly, but they’ll mostly go about their business. Slow Top has even come in to lie in front of the fire not three feet from her (he likes the fire, does Slow).

Regarding toys — Casey knows how to play ! Prince didn’t, really (and how sad is that ?!). If you threw a ball or a stick, he’d just stand there, waiting for you to do something that might have something to do with him, like call him over or pet him or something. He *loved* the bounce-and-squeak Irene sent (hi Irene !!), but he didn’t “play” with it, really, so much as kill it repeatedly and then try to eat it (which was a hoot to watch, if a little bit alarming; and no, we didn’t let him eat it). Casey, by contrast, will pick up the toy (we got her a caterpillar — why is it so many dog toys come in feline-patterned fake fur, I wonder ?) gallop around the house with it, throw it down onto the beanbag, mouth it a half-dozen times, pick it up, spin around, throw it on the floor and pounce on it, repeat from the top.

The only hitch with Casey: she’s got what they call “separation anxiety”, which in her case takes the form of barking (intermittently, but thank goodness we don’t have close neighbors !) and occasionally piddling on the carpet when we leave the house for any length of time. There are two different schools of thought on this. The first is that most of these dogs have always been kept in the company of other dogs, with lots of people around as well — they’re not used to being alone.

The sort of “natural dogsmanship” theory, on the other hand, is that when introduced to a new pack (me and Stephen), the dog is going to try and figure out who is alpha. If we are not convincing alphas, then she’ll feel it’s her responsibility to take the lead. She therefore feels responsible for us, and when we go away, it’s as if children you’re in charge of wander off on their own into the city, and you can’t follow them to look after them. She’s worried about “her charges” (us). Interesting way of looking at things, no ?

So anyway, Tuesday, we get the new foster dog, Casey. We pretty much immediately have to toss her in the car again and take her over to Sean’s place for gaming. Sean, mind you, has two young daughters, something like three and five, I think. We’d gotten premission to bring Prince over to “kid test” him, but we ended up bringing Casey instead. She performed with flying colors, I must say, and won herself a young fan club. She tolerated quite alot, and when things got a little too much for her, she just got up and walked away. Perfect.

The rest of the work week was “normal” — we bailed on A&S to get some time with the new dog, Thursday was dance class, Friday was the Ars Magica game (Casey flobbed on the floor).

Then The Weekend struck.

Saturday, we tossed Casey in the back of the car (she and Prince both travel well) and drove up to Otaki for the small-farmer’s field days. Chatted with various alpaca people, and achieved all our shopping Victory Conditions (alpaca nuts and fencing staples) and then some (also scored new mats for the catboxes, 50 root-trainer sized natives to plant in the shelter belt and bush block, and the massive “Flora” two-books-plus-CD set for less than a third retail).

Then we zoomed back home to host a Day O Fun. The weather was largely crap, so mostly there was a lot of hanging out indoors. I spent the first several hours hovering defensively around Casey, to make sure she wasn’t overwhelmed by her fan club (four girls, including Sean’s pair). You hear stories all the time along the lines of: Kid pesters dog. Dog tries to warn/avoid kid. Kid continues to pester dog. Repeat a few times. Dog gives up and snaps at kid in self-defense. Dog gets put down for being “vicious”. She’d done really well on Tuesday, and the kids were generally pretty good, but neither I nor their parents had much experience managing child-canine interaction, so I didn’t want to take chances. It was awfully sweet, though — the girls brought Casey a present — a rubber doggy ball on a foot long cord, in a pink gift bag with “Casey” written on it (and mind you Hazel, who’s I think five, “only writes for special occasions”). Awww !

I *think* everyone else enjoyed the party.

The highlight was setting the old horse trailer on fire. With the new shed now keeping the rain off the hay, we wanted to get the scrap metal guys to come and take away the nasty old trailer in the glen paddock. It still had a lot of wooden bits attached to it, however, so they suggested we burn it out and then get them to take away what remained. Luckily, it wasn’t actively pouring rain on us (like it has been the last couple times we’ve tried having a bonfire), but only kind of drizzling. It burned real good. Plus, there was cool stuff like holes in the sides sort of melting and flaking and the fire coming out in great big plumes (did I mention Stephen has spent the last several months stuffing the thing with cut brush ?).

Sunday, I bailed on dance class. Stephen bailed on fighting and went to gaming instead. I puttered around for a few hours until it was time to take Casey up to a gathering of Wellington area greyhound people, who all brought their dogs to walk in a big mob in Queen Elizabeth park. I’d like to say it was fun, but with a new dog I didn’t know very well, it was a bit fraught. She growled at a lot of the other dogs, for a start — assertive, we reckon. Then when we got to the beach, several of the other owners let their dogs off lead to run around on the sand. Casey was *really* excited and *really* wanted to go running with them, but I had no idea after the growling if she’d get into a fight with another loose dog, and she still barely knew her name at that point, FORGET coming when called. My triceps got a good workout clutching the leash. Considering there were a good twenty greyhounds there, about half of which were loose and running singly or in small packs at various times, it went remarkably well. One of the other dogs bit his tongue while racing, and one somersaulted over another’s leash and landed on her butt. No fights or anything, and nobody ran off and disappeared. It was pretty spectacular to watch them racing around in the open though, I must say. Casey calmed down quite a bit by the end, and stopped growling and pulling. I think she may even have made friends with a couple of the other dogs. Kylie was once again my dog-handling inspiration, though I think even she was a little rattled by the chaos (and potential carnage).

So the dog walk, while certainly exciting, was ultimately a bit more stressful than otherwise. Though I would have stayed at done some socializing at the end, I had to race home to go to Emily’s housewarming (she’s got the cutest little place in Strathmore/Miramar). Emily as usual put on a lovely spread of cheeses, dates and crackers, with port, sherry and watermelon (some supplied by guests). There were some familiar faces from the Cinco de Mayo shindig, and some new ones as well, and the conversational topics ranged far and wide. A haunted painting was given away.

So after a weekend like that, Stephen and I were pretty well wrecked. It’s no wonder, really, that Casey decided we needed looking after. Of course, multiple puddles in the conservatory did exactly nothing to help our stress levels. :^P

Monday night, Sybille came over so we could put together a CD of her dance music — she’s doing some restaurant work and the pieces needed a bit of editing.

Tuesday was another game night back at Sean’s. We brought Casey again, and discovered that the girls had been “playing Casey” all week (I can only imagine what that entails…). Iris refused to go to bed except in “the dog bed” (actually a large-ish cat bed). There was a bit of drama, and I’m not sure that Sean and Susan weren’t having second thoughts about the dog thing by the time they finally got the girls to bed. Bless them, though, for their parental perspective. We’d cautioned them that Casey had been a little less than reliable when it came to toiletting recently, and Susan promptly brought out a thick bath towel. Old hands at toilet training, what’s a little more urine ?

We left the game a bit early because our alpaca friend Andy, from Otago, was coming in on the ferry, with plans to use our place as a base for running an assortment of errands around the north island. And I think I’ll leave it there for now. Hoepfully, we can put some pictures in, and Stephen can pick up from here…

What's been up ?

I took a half day off for my Birthday, and Stephen and I went to the Lord of the Rings Exhibition at Te Papa. Very cool. Why oh why don’t they publish a book with good photos of all the costumes and props and stuff ? Did you know they not only built costumes and props in different scales (for the shots with hobbits), they actually used fabrics with the *weaves* in different scales. So the herringbone pattern in Frodo’s vest is the proper size, no matter whether it’s Elijah Wood or Kiran Shah in any given scene. Oi.

Naturally, we had to get our photos taken on the forced perspective wagon bench:

Had a *ridiculous* amount of trouble finding a place for lunch. Flying Burrito Brothers isn’t open for lunch, Kopi *closed* (when the heck did that happen ? They had the best roti in town, dammit), Masi (which I had a coupon for) turned out to be a little lunch cafe with a limited menu of boring paninis. Roti Chenai (Tamil/Northern Indian) saved us, and it’s one of my favorite places to eat lunch anyway, so.

In critter news, Jake is afraid of the ceiling fan. We’re wondering if he had a run-in with one of the local hawks while he was out rabbiting.

An interesting little note: If you want to be comforting to an alpaca (or horse, or presumably other herbavore), you’re meant to speak in a low voice, right ? High pitched noises mean agitation or alarm. Dogs, on the other hand, are the other way around — low sounds equate to growls, and you use high pitched noises to express approval. Takes a bit of thinking to get it the right way round. Likewise, I’ve caught myself using “LEAVE IT!!” on the cats, although usually we hiss at them to get them to stop whatever they’re doing.

Jacqui dropped Prince off Friday evening, back from his sojourn at Kylie’s place, and there’s definitely a difference. I think some of it is Prince, and some of it is just that we’ve got a better idea what we’re doing now. Slow Top, interestingly enough, is the bravest of the cats. As long as Prince doesn’t get too close, he’ll just sit there, or will walk around past him. Prince will very carefully ignore him. Quick, surreptitious little glances, and then pointedly looking in another direction. Works outside, too. The others will take a little more work, but it’s a start. Azami seems to be second bravest — I had forgotten until recently that she originally came from a house with a dog.

Got to watch a little switch flip in Prince’s brain. I’d gotten him a rawhide bone (one of the solid ones, not the kind with the knots on the end). We had guessed that at the kennel he was originally from, he might have had to fight for his food to some extent. He’s gotten better about not inhaling his kibble, and he’s never shown any aggression when I mucked with his bowl while he was eating (some of them do), but this is the first time we’d given him a “bone”. He tucked into it immediately, but I didn’t want him chewing at it on the sheepskin, in case he chewed up some of the wool. When I cautiously poked at the bone, he immediately tried to protect it — no aggression, mind you, not even a growl — he just tried to cover it with his head. I nattered at him soothingly, left him to start chewing again for a few seconds, then poked at it again. He tried to cover it again, then suddenly lifted his head and let me take it. I moved it off the sheepskin and gave it to him again. He took it readily enough, but when I got up to leave him alone with it, he dropped it and came over to me for pats instead. I don’t know if he decided he doesn’t actually want it after all, or if he just realized he doesn’t need to protect it from anyone. Either way, it was interesting to see.

In other news, the collars from Irene’s Pet Ware arrived (thanks again, Irene!!). Here Prince models his “royal” purple one, which, being custom made, fits him absolutely perfectly, I must say:

And for those holiday parties:

Oh, the audience for this little fashion shoot was a bit dubious about the whole affair:

The alpacas are appropriately wary of Prince. And Prince is appropriately wary of Oak, who has ac ouple of times rushed up, stopped, sniffed, and sprung away.

How's Prince ?

So how’s Prince doing ? — He’s faboo. He *really* wants to be a good dog; he just needs us to explain clearly what good dogs do and don’t do. He knows good dogs stay out of the kitchen, and don’t try to dig under the cardboard box covering the cat food (good dogs understand “LEAVE IT!” in that and-I’m-not-kidding tone of voice). He knows good dogs don’t jump up, but when he’s really excited, he can’t hold it all in, so he sort of pogo-bounces on his front legs — SO cute. The best way to spend time is with is head in your lap and you rubbing his ears. The *absolute* best would be if he could lie on the sofa next to you, but since he’s not allowed on the sofa, he stands next to you with his head on your thigh. When you get the ear-scratch going just right, he lets out this contented little sigh.

The cats still reckon he’s evil, however, so to help with the cat training we took him over to Kylie’s place in Newtown, to introduce him to Rupert, AKA “His Satanic Majesty”, a cat that takes no shit. We walked him back and forth in front of the cat. The first couple times he diverted toward the cat (not *quite* a lunge) and was corrected with a “LEAVE IT!” and a sharp tug on the collar (inter-canine corrections often center on the neck, so this reinforces the command). By the third or fourth time past, you could see his little doggy brain studiously ignoring the cat. “What cat? I see no cat. Nope. Noooo cat.” He did so well, that Kylie agreed to keep him for a week to reinforce the training and bed it in. When we get him back, he’ll hopefully be much calmer about cats, so that we’ll be able to work him with *our* skittish felines. (Getting our cats dog-trained has turned out to be much the trickier task than getting Prince cat-trained…)

Good news: He has someone waiting to adopt him ! She has a cat, but she’s also had afghans before, so she understands how sighthounds work. Yay for Prince !

More good news: My mom’s friend Irene not only owns greyhounds, but has a business making stuff for them. She’s not only sent a box of goodies for Prince (lucky dog !), but she’s donating collars to GAP ! Go check out her pretties !

Monday Prince

Walks are getting better. He doesn’t like his turn-out muzzle, and usually tries to rub it off, but he knows that he needs it on before we go walkies, so now he comes up and shoves his head in whenever I present it. Then it takes a few seconds for him to calm down enough to let be actually *buckle* the thing. If I don’t go through a door/gate first, we just don’t go. So he’s learning to not push through, and that the walk goes where I say it goes. The Alpha leading the “hunt” is apparently a crucial point to get across when you don’t want your dog to chase animals outside. I think that’s going to be of limited utility with a dog hardwired to go ka-BAM after small running things, but it might help a bit.

As far as inside goes, we’ve established that, while he is in his crate at least, an oven-dried pig’s ear is more interesting than a cat. Well, until the cat panics and makes a break for it, anyway. I need to not try and rush this — the cats need time to get used to the idea, too.

As Stephen has observed, he’s figured out the sofa. I think the plan today is to put cardboard boxes or something uncomfortable on the couch when we’re not using it.

Finally, our info was out of date — he was neutered last week. He’d been kept intact as long as he had (7 is way past racing age) because he was being used as a stud. Some of the other hounds up for adoption are his kids.

Naughty Dog

So, now that we are on to weekdays, I am trying to work out my daily routine with the dog.

We have determined that he must have only been fed once a day before, for while he eats all his dinner, he only nibbles at breakfast (and what he does not eat goes away, as we are trying to follow the wolf-pack-feeding-hierarchy system).

Most of the day yesterday he was free to wander around the dining room, with the back-half of the house sealed off and full of cats. I left the living room slider open so the cats could come in and out. About lunchtime I came inside and found that Prince had discovered the joy of the couch.

Naughty Dog! We are supposed to train them to stay off the furniture, as we don’t know what the adopting home will want. So I would gently lift him off the couch while saying “Off!” And 20 minutes later, he would be back on the couch. But by the end of the day he had gotten the “off” command, which does bode well for his learning curve.

I had one close moment with the cats. Slow managed to slip into the dining room, and I had to tackle Prince as he made a lunge for him. Later that night we tried some crate training- where he was in a crate and we present cats. But that didn’t go so well, as the cats were so freaked it was kicking in his prey-drive.

We have had more success just leaving him in his crate, and letting the cats approach (or watch from a wary distance) on their own. Hopefully we can improve his cat safety level. We have another 27 days to go, so not rushing the process might help.

In other amusing animal news, last night Jake came to the living room slider and was standing up, pawing at the glass with a clear “hey! you seem to have left me outside!” So we let him in. After a bit of lap time, he curled up against the alpaca pillow. So we left him in for the night, which passed without incident. I am guessing by the time winter fully sets in, Jake will be an indoors cat every night. Sure, he loves the rough farm life. But cuddling up to a fluffy pillow afterwards, well, that is just his due, right?

Saturday, another new face

Whew. Getting a new dog — even one as easy as a greyhound — is *exhausting* ! Jennifer, who’s sort of participating vicariously, bought and loaned me a couple of books, including “Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies”, and I also got Jan Fennell’s “Practical Dog Listener” out of the library. Stephen and I have spent the weekend learning how to be alpha dogs. It’s easy to see why so many people get it wrong and end up with neurotic dogs or ones with behavioral problems. And it’s been fun comparing it to llama alpha behavior.

Kylie, a woman from Newtown who is also fostering, drove up to the kennels in Sanson Saturday morning to pick up her foster, Gigi, and ours, Prince — (“Aquatic Prince”, apparently) a 7 year old that came in with a lot of dogs from a kennel that had been shut down by New Zealand Greyhound Racing for not looking after the dogs properly.

So Saturday started with me leaping into the car and scooting down to the annual comic/sci-fi/gaming/etc. convention to pick up this year’s batch of anime. Then back in time to meet Kylie and Prince at around 11am.

First surprise — he’s intact. Part of what we’re doing is teaching him how to live in a house, and that means NO MARKING. Ack. He cocked his leg twice in the house & both times I took him immediately outside & praised him to the sky for doing his thing out there instead. Luckily, I’d swung into Animates on the way home and picked up some enzyme cleaner. So far, no reapeats of that behavior.

One of the hitches that racers often need to get over is being left alone — many of them have been surrounded by other dogs their entire lives. The books suggest working on this in stages for the first couple days — leave for just a few minutes, then come back before the dog has a chance to get anxious. Gradually lengthen the time you’re away, until the dog is comfortable that you’ll always come back. By 2 or 3pm, I could leave him alone for short periods without him making a big deal out of it.

Another bad habit greyhounds have — because they’re so tall, you see — is “counter surfing”. We planned to head that off by just keeping him out of the kitchen in the first place. We have a folding clothes dryer thingy (white rubber-coated steel wire) that we put in front of the opening to the kitchen (in lieu of a baby gate), but I soon discovered that not only did he have no trouble jumping over it (if it was at floor level) or wriggling under it (if I propped it up on boxes), he’s skinny enough that he can go right *through* it. BUT, all I had to do was make a sharp “AHH-AHH!!” noise and haul him out by the collar a couple times, and by 4PM, he’d grasped that he’s not allowed in, and no longer tries to follow me/us in there.

At 7PM, Stephen and I felt okay to leave him (crated) for a couple hours to go to a party, and he spent the night in his crate in the dining room with no complaints at all (in fact he walked in by himself just as we were thinking it was time for bed).

Day two, he no longer needs to follow me around as if his head were glued to my thigh, and he’ll even (mostly) stay flobbed while we get up and move from room to room.

On the flip side, we’re not solid on walks yet — he doesn’t pull the leash (unless he thinks there’s a cat around), but he does try to push ahead through doors and gates. And he’s no good with cats yet. For the most part, if he’s indoors, he’s at least distractable, but still too interested, and he totally lunges at them if he sees them through a window. He’s *much* calmer about them if he’s in his crate — doesn’t even get up, just watches. So for now, we’ve moved the cats’ food and water into the living room and given them the back half of the house, while the dog, when he’s out of his crate, gets the dining room and conservatory. We’ll see how this goes.

I think he must have been kept crated *too* much at the kennel he was at before — he’s missing hair in a lot of places (as you can probably see in the one photo). He’s also shedding dander at a prodigious rate. I need to find out if that’s something I need to do something about, or if it’ll
come right once he’s eating better and settles down. He needs his ears cleaned, too, though his teeth look okay.

I’m a little worried about a couple of organization glitches — he came with a regular collar, not a martingale, and no coat or mat (I bought a second-hand crate myself). I’m surprised to hear he’s not neutered. Plus we haven’t been given a lot of literature, so it’s good that I’ve done so much reading on my own. I think a lot of this is just because the adoption group is very very new (and maybe a little understaffed), and it hasn’t worked out all the kinks yet.

I’m SO relieved that he doesn’t have separation problems, or crate issues. It’ll make it much easier during the week. It’s also really good that Stephen can check in on him and give him a walk on his lunch break.

And here are a couple pictures: