Archive of ‘Shiva’s Quirks’ category
I like to think of Shiva as a dog’s dog. As she walks with ears bouncing and tail bumping, I imagine a one-line song running through her head. Her own version of the Black Eyed Peas’ “Imma Be” with only one slight substitution.
Imma dog, imma dog – imma imma imma dog
Imma dog, imma dog – imma imma imma dog
Imma dog, imma dog – imma imma imma dog
Imma dog dog dog dog imma imma dog
Imma dog dog dog dog imma imma dog
Imma dog dog dog dog imma imma dog
Just as rhythmic because she’s cool like that. Though perhaps without the drug dealing and the semen.
Everything she does is done with enthusiasm. At least, that is the word I have grown to use. It sounds so much better than “bat-shit insanity” when talking to others at the dog park. If she is given thirty seconds to complete something, she will do it in one. If she is asked to jump up one stair, she’ll throw herself up all ten. It’s just who she is. It used to give me daily heart attacks but eventually one gains perspective. Sometimes I forget that the things she does aren’t normal until I see the look on another dog owner’s face when she randomly vaults off a tree and then performs several cartwheels across the field for no reason whatsoever.
“Oh, you mean dogs aren’t supposed to bounce off the furniture every time they enter the house after a walk? Huh.”
The problem is, this gusto is applied to everything in her life and as entertaining as it is, it also becomes problematic when the vet starts to notice things. And by things I mean, the fact that Shiva’s back teeth are showing a little more wear than they should be. At our last appointment before the move, our wonderful vet raised her eyebrows when she took a look at the tornado’s choppers. I had a feeling I knew what she was going to say. The verdict was predictable, if majorly depressing.
“No more antlers,” she declared. “No more Nylabones, no more bones, period.”
Let me clarify. What she said was no more of these:
And absolutely no more of these:
What she meant was death, destruction, and an end to all semblance of peace for as long as we all shall live.
Our vet was obviously not aware that a Shiva’s gotta chew. It’s just a certain fact. Engraved in stone. I am almost positive that when the Rosetta Stone was re-discovered by that French soldier there was a small Shiva Stone next to it in the Nile Delta stating “all Shivas must chew.”
Oh sure, she said it would be fine if Shiva continued to chew these:
Yet, that’s not really fitting Shiva’s definition of the verb, now is it? Kongs are awesome, they are meant for sucking out yummy peanut butter treats. They do not satisfy Shiva’s anxiety gods, or whomever the spirits are who compel her to destroy. It isn’t her fault. I believe that. Chomping hard on a good antler just makes her feel better. Who am I to begrudge her that?
Besides, after several months of stern no-bone restrictions, a former friend has joined our family, one we had thought was gone for good. But today’s, er, “episode” confirms it.
This happened no more than thirty minutes after the toy was purchased. This includes travel and taking the dog out to pee time.
In case you can’t tell, the above photo features a decapitated duck. One of many in our future. That’s right, the world better be ready, as Shiva the Destroyer is back and in prime form. No duck, no elephant, no bear, no fish, no stuffed animal will ever feel safe again.
Sleep with one eye open, Mr. Snake. Your days are numbered.
So what is a responsible pet owner to do? Put her dog before all of the innocent little stuffies, just waiting to have their guts ripped out?
I am not said responsible pet owner. As the title suggests, I am instead the worst dog owner in the world. Rather than adhere to the kind, well-meaning vet’s advice, I’ve decided to give the world a bit of a break. Even though I know it’s wrong, even though I know we may have to pay for canine dentures one day, every once in a while, for a maximum of five minutes at a time, I will give Shiva a bone to chew.
I know. I am going to Canine Hell. But it makes her so happy! How can I deny my puppy one of the few tools that keeps her sanity in check? For all I know, she decapitates stuffed animals for the sheer joy of it. Allowing her to wear down her teeth on a solid bone every once in a while ensures we’ll all live to see another day. It may make me a terrible dog owner but it’s a sacrifice I am willing to make.
A dog who was known for her eagerness, though some may have called it plain meddlesomeness, spent a great deal of time in search of fresh smells and adventure. Intrusive she may have been but she was also a friendly sort. While sniffing and traveling she came across many fellow wanderers and meeting others was one of her greatest pleasures. No matter how startling the appearance of a fellow wanderer she always approached like an old friend. In other words, the dog had little use for manners and never understood when others were not so keen to converse.
On one of such journeys, the dog found herself trotting down a narrow path. She closed her eyes, touched her nose to the ground, and picked up an unfamiliar smell. Delighted by the prospect of a new encounter, the dog kept her nose in the dirt and allowed the scent trail to guide her. It wasn’t long before she found herself eye to an eye and nose to nose with a strange looking creature indeed.
The dog had never seen such an odd little face in her life. It had two eyes and what looked like a nose but the stubby legs and the wide body were covered in a mysterious sort of fur. The astonishing mammal blinked once and the dog blinked back. Ever curious, the dog continued to sniff, putting her face right into the neck of the other animal.
“What are you doing?” squeaked the smaller being. “Don’t you know I could hurt you?”
This made the dog giggle. “How could you hurt me? I am a dog with big teeth and you are a rodent-smelling thing. Do you want to play?”
The odd creature, being a quill-covered porcupine, had no desire to interact further with such a silly beast. He had twigs to eat and clover to find and had no time for leisure. Besides, he was a slow-moving animal and knew the dog’s kind of games were not games he liked to play.
“Certainly not,” said the porcupine and with that last he circled around to furrow back in the bush. As he turned his tail swished and hit the dog in her interfering black nose.
“Ouch!” cried the dog and she sprung back. She would have jumped forward again to give chase to the spiny animal but she was stopped by the leash attached to her collar. The dog did not understand why the porcupine had been so rude as to cause her pain. Rubbing her nose with a paw, she wandered away.
It wasn’t too long before the dog met the porcupine again. This time there was no leash to restrain her. When she spotted a pointy tail wagging out of a thicket, she bounced over to say hello, wagging her tail in response.
“Hello, you odd creature!” The dog shoved her nose under the belly of the smaller animal. “Would you like to play today?”
The porcupine was quite startled. He had been enjoying an early breakfast of bark and willow leaves and did not appreciate the nosey dog interrupting his meal.
“Eep!” the porcupine shouted. Abandoning his food, he shuffled as quick as he could over to a nearby tree. Much to his dismay, the dog followed right behind.
“But why?” asked the dog, leaning forward to sniff his neck. As she leaned with her tonque flicking out a quill caught her just below her eye. “Eieeeeeee!” The dog cried out, shaking her head in pain.
“I warned you!” squeaked the porcupine. He seized the moment of the dog’s surprise to shimmy up the tree. “Leave me alone!”
“But why?” The dog persisted. Even though her eye watered from the spiney jab, she placed her front paws on the trunk of the tree. Her tail wagged vigorously behind her. “I just want to taste you!”
“Don’t you learn?” asked the porcupine from his spot on a branch above the dog’s head. “I have already hurt you twice. I will hurt you again.”
The dog started up at the strange-looking animal, tilting her head. She couldn’t understand why she had been hurt but didn’t think it had anything to do with the creature in the tree. He was so small and so slow. She was so big and so fast. It must have been a mistake.
Eventually the dog was called away from the tree with the promise of dinner and the porcupine was left to his own devices. He hoped it was the last he would see of the ignorant beast. But it was not to be so.
A few days later, just as the porcupine was meandering off to bed, the dog appeared at the rise of a hill in the meadow. The sun had yet to rise and the porcupine hoped he would not be seen. Alas, the dog took a big sniff of the air and then started to wag her tail in his direction. With nowhere to hide, the porcupine crouched his stubby legs and curled up into as much of a ball as he could.
“Hello again!” The dog bounded over. “Would you like to play?”
The porcupine did not answer. Instead, he curled up tighter. The dog jumped in a circle around him, barking and laughing. When he didn’t respond, she shoved her face underneath him to get a good whiff.
“Ow!” cried the dog. “Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!”
The porcupine lifted his head, expecting to see the dog running away. He was surprised when she continued to stand in front of him, tail still high in the hair. The porcupine immediately lost his patience.
“I don’t understand you,” he declared. “Three times we have met and three times I have hurt you. How many times will it take you to learn? What kind of animal are you?”
The dog puzzled over this question, thinking the spikey fellow even stranger than ever. What kind of animal did she look like? After much deep thought the dog answered as honestly as she could.
“I am a Shiva.”
The porcupine’s shoulders hunched and he let out a sigh. All of a sudden he understand. If a Shiva had infiltrated the forest, there was no hope for solitary creatures like him. It was time to find a new home.
Fool you once, shame on me. Fool you twice, shame on you. Fool you three times… You must be a Shiva.
Before anyone worries, no Shivas were seriously injured in the telling of this story. Shiva has encountered several porcupines and has once chased one into a tree, but any wounds were strictly to her pride.
Ever since that one episode last year when Shiva had an odd reaction in the woods, I have been hyper-sensitive to her behaviour when walking in the dark. Previous to that morning, Shiva’s fearful reactions were directed either toward other people, other dogs, plastic bags blowing in the wind, rocks, and garden gnomes. All things I could see myself and help her figure out. The aforementioned time was the first time I witnessed her responding to a scent or a sound that I couldn’t detect. And her reaction itself was unusual. She didn’t bark or otherwise lose control. Rather, she folded into herself and ignored treats. That last alone was enough to make me worry.
Coyotes were a prevalent species in Nova Scotia; according to my sources, they are just as prevalent here in Edmonton. Especially in the river valley where we walk on a regular basis. In the dark. The only thing preventing me from hyperventilating about the dangers of a coyote encounter is the knowledge that coyotes in Alberta are much smaller than their Eastern counterparts. Even Shiva has a few pounds on them. Of course, this consolation is slim when I remember Shiva is a goof and instead of running away like a smart dog, she’d probably do something stupid like stand her ground.
Over a month ago now, Shiva and I had our first Edmonton coyote experience. We were walking in the ravine in the early morning – as we do. All is silent during that time of day. Before the snow fell, it was just us and a few dedicated joggers and cyclists. About halfway through our journey, I heard a high-pitched screaming. At first, I thought it was an injured dog, or perhaps a dog left outside all night who wanted back inside. Within a few minutes, I realized the sound was swiftly moving around the ravine and was closer to our location than I had thought.
It kind of sounded like this, actually, only louder:
“Is it a bird?” I wondered. “Or maybe another dog walking with his owner?” But what dog walks while yipping like that? None I have ever seen.
Shiva appeared unfazed. She continued sniffing and trotting as she always did. Trusting her, I continued on our way but picked up the pace a little. The high howling sound carried on and echoed around us until I reached a residential street. I told myself I was being silly for thinking it was something serious or wild. I clung to the fact that Shiva didn’t react.
Until, that is, the next day when we were leaving the ravine again after a quiet walk. A cyclist pulled up beside us on the path to say hello, she had obviously rode by us many times before. We chatted briefly and then as she rode away she left me with this parting shot, “at least there were no coyotes today!”
Coyotes. So my fears hadn’t been crazy after all. If this local woman who spent a lot of time outside thought it was the wild canine who had made that sound, I should probably trust her.
No more than a week later, Shiva and I were walking through a different part of the valley at night. As we wandered from one path to another, I heard the sound reverberating around the river paths on our left. Now there were multiple voices. Eerie voices. This time Shiva’s fur was on end and her ears were on high alert. I decided to turn around and headed back home via a major thoroughfare instead. But I could still hear them through the trees.
It is likely nothing would happen. With Shiva on a leash, I don’t think they are going to take on an adult human as well. Coyotes are reclusive. They avoid people and almost never attack. I gotta say, knowing this and living it are two different things completely. I’ve never heard noises like these before. They freaked me out enough to stay away. In the dim light I am at a disadvantage. As a human I rely primarily on my sight and when that is taken away I fell vulnerable. This is why I have learned to gauge Shiva’s behaviour. If she is upset about something, I take her at her word and exit the scene.
That’s why this morning, when Shiva came to an abrupt stop at a turn in the path, I stopped to listen. When I didn’t see or hear anything, I urged her on. When she refused to move forward and then let out a few barks while staring hard straight ahead, I paid attention. I’ll never know what set her off. It could have been a leaf or a tree branch dipping low under the weight of snow. But I wasn’t sticking around to find out.
Has your dog ever behaved nervously while on a walk? Have you changed your actions as a result? I am typically pretty observant when walking the dog no matter what time of day. Shiva has taught me to watch my surroundings for hidden dangers. Thus, even if she isn’t reacting to something, I am pretty aware. This only makes the rare occasions where she does seem disturbed much more frightening. Maybe it is unnecessary, maybe Shiva is just being the anxious dog she is, but if she tells me she is uncomfortable, I listen. It’s just not worth the chance.
Shiva has had a myriad of firsts this year. Her first overnight stay with a dog-sitter, her first time in a hotel, her first time welcoming another dog into her home. Much to our horror, she has now also had her first visit to the emergency vet.
It was a Sunday evening. A completely typical Sunday evening. Thoughts of Monday had begun to seep into the forefront of my mind and I struggled to dash them away. Shiva and I were just wrapping up a very positive walk in the ravine. Shiva had met a little grey Am Staff friend on the trail and since the other dog was already off-leash, I decided to take the risk and let her go free to play.
Fatal mistake? Am I the worst dog owner in the world?
It didn’t appear so at the time. Yes, this part of the ravine is “technically” on leash only. As a homegrown rule-follower only seldom do I take the chance. But it was late evening on a weekend with enough snow on the ground to deter cyclists. The trail was empty except for the other dog and owner who clearly didn’t mind. The two dogs played very well together as I knew they would. They are similar in size and enjoy the same types of play. The other dog was about a year old so wouldn’t mind Shiva’s wild energy. Young dogs and puppies are usually Shiva’s favourite companions.
All was well. All was better than well. The other owner and I chatted as we kept an eye on our dogs. After fifteen minutes or so the sky had darkened and I figured it was time to head back home. My practically husband had started making dinner before we’d left and I was getting hungry. I waved goodbye to the other dog and owner, promising to meet up with them again soon, and headed back down the path with Shiva jogging in front of me.
This is when I screwed up. This is the part I for which I will never forgive myself. If only – if only - I had put her back on the leash right then the rest would have been averted. But I didn’t.
I try to remember that Shiva has zipped through nigh zillions of forests before. Forests much deeper and much more dangerous than this one. Just a month ago we had let her off leash while we walked on a trail in the Rocky Mountains. This urban ravine should be nothing in comparison. I probably shouldn’t blame myself for something that was a one-off.
But I do.
Shiva is a dog with no self-preservation. I know this. Heck, it’s practically the entire theme behind this blog! Every time we let her outside without a helmet and bubble wrap we are taking a risk! You better believe it won’t happen again.
Those of you who read yesterday’s post will know the whole sordid tale. Since I didn’t witness the event, we actually can’t be sure of how the injury happened. We only know that the skin of her chest had been sliced and she suffered a major laceration requiring thirty minutes of surgery to stitch her back up. It’s likely she sustained the wound while leaping over a tree – something she has done almost every day of her life – and was caught on a protruding branch. The length and location of the lesion suggests she had been in full extension at the time. We’ve all seen her take two agility jumps at once before. It wouldn’t stun me if she had been attempting to overreach her stride once more.
It is something that could have happened a hundred times before and didn’t. It only takes once.
The vet also said we were lucky. The laceration was longer than most he sees at the clinic but it wasn’t very deep. It was all skin. If whatever it was had stabbed her further, possibly penetrating her ribs or organs, it would have been an entirely different conversation.
As it was, it was still pretty much the worst night of my life. Thank goodness for friends and family for being there otherwise it might have still not have ended as well as it did. It isn’t easy to come up with $1,300 on the spot, especially when one is only just beginning to re-grow her financial legs. More than that even, it was very comforting and humbling to know we have so much support. That there are many people out there who understand. That when something so awful happens, we aren’t alone.
The waiting was brutal. It felt like she was in surgery for days. In retrospect, it was not much more than four hours between the initial injury, getting her to the vet, the surgery, and then bringing her back home again. Again, we are so lucky the clinic is less than a ten minute drive. They sent us home to hang out and we attempted to eat the dinner my PH had prepared but neither of us could taste a thing. I think we watched a hockey game on television to distract us but I can’t be sure.
We just kept waiting for the phone to ring.
Once we did bring her home, the next twenty-four hours didn’t pass much better. I was so grateful to have Shiva with us, that she was alive and breathing and safe, but she was having trouble coming off sedation and was obviously in a lot of pain. There was nothing we could do for her but offer comfort. I hope we never have to go through something like that again.
It’s been a week now and I am thrilled to report Shiva is doing well. She has at least another rest of solid crate rest in front of her – no running, no jumping, no stairs, no chasing the cat, no counter-surfing – which is going to be a challenge for a tornado. It’s a challenge I am happy to meet. Her spirits are high, even with the cone of shame. She is amazingly resilient. It’s like she has just accepted the presence of this thing on her head and wants to get on with life. After just a day of severe pain, she is over it. According to Sheevs, it is time we moved on.
Thank you for all of your concern and for keeping Shiva in your thoughts. She is going to be just fine. In fact, I am sure she can’t wait to get out there again. No doubt she already has a great story to tell the other dogs about how she earned her kickass scar.
If only we all could be as tough as our dogs.
A ten-minute short
By Shiva the Dog
Cast of Characters (in order of appearance):
Shiva’s Person #1
Shiva’s Person #2
(An urban forest in Western Canada at dusk. The season is early winter. The sun has set below the treeline and the lighting is dim. The ground is covered in a mix of brambles and crunchy snow. The jingling of metal tags is heard but otherwise all is quiet. A female, medium-sized, merle-coated dog, Shiva, darts into the scene, ears flying, tongue dangling)
Shiva: (excitedly) Woo hoo! I’m a dog! I’m a dog! Oh yeah! I’m a dog! Gotta sniff! Gotta run! Woo hoo!
(Runs around the base of the trees, nose to the ground. Dog sees a stick and picks it up in her mouth, chomping and growling)
Shiva: Grrrr! I’ll get you stick! Huh? I smell something!
(Drops the stick and runs in a seemingly random direction, nose high in the air. Leaps into some brambles, crashes into a tree, and then keeps running.)
Shiva: (euphoric) Haha! I knew it! Mud! Best thing ever!
(Immediately starts eating the mud on the ground as fast as she can, tail wagging. A human voice is heard calling from the other side of the trees.)
Shiva’s Person #1: Shiiiiivaaa! C’mon puppers!
(The dog’s ear flicks. Continues to eat the mud making slurping sounds.)
Shiva: Mud, mud, I love mud. I am a dog and I love mud.
(The voice is heard again, sounding more impatient)
Shiva’s Person #1: Sheevs! Let’s go! C’mere!
(Eats faster, body tensing. Voice shouts again, sounds farther away.)
Shiva’s Person #1: Bye Shiva! I’m leaving you here!
(Looks up, mud falling out of her mouth. She cocks her head to listen. There is no sound. She licks the ground briefly then looks up again. Silence.)
Shiva: Huh? (looks around) Where am I?
(Takes a few steps forward out of the mud, tail held out straight, sniffing the air. Looks around quickly, panicking.)
Shiva: Ack! I’m alone! I’m alone! She left me! Ack! Ack!
(Runs forward as fast as she can, leaping over brambles and fallen branches. Keeps running and jumping, approaches two dead trees on the ground set wide over five feet apart with sharp branches jutting upward.)
Shiva: Gotta find her! I’m alone! Gotta find her! Don’t leeeeeaaaaaavvvvvve meeeeeeeeee!
(Leaps wildly in the air, neck, chest, and legs fully extended. Chest scrapes one of the sharp branches of the fallen trees. Dog falters a little but lands on the other side, continues to run.)
Shiva: Huh? Gotta run! Gotta find her!
(Runs to the edge of the woods and reaches a wide snow-covered path. Looks to her left and stops running. Pants. A female human, Shiva’s Person #1, is standing on the path about thirty feet away from the dog and up a steep incline. Human is holding a dog leash in her right hand.)
Shiva’s Person #1: Shiva! There you are! C’mere!
Shiva: Ummm… (sits and looks down at her chest, twists around to lick at her side)
Shiva’s Person #1: (reaches into her left pocket and pulls out some dog kibble, drops the kibble on the ground.) Let’s go, puppy!
Shiva: Food! I love food! (starts to run then stops) Huh. (twists her neck around to lick her stomach)
Shiva’s Person #1: Sheevs, I’m serious. It’s time to go home.
Shiva: (looks up, trots toward the human, tail between her legs.) Ow! Food! Ow! Food! (Lays down in front of Shiva’s Person #1 and eats the kibble.)
Shiva’s Person #1: (clips the leash on to Shiva‘s collar, looks concerned) Shiva, are you okay? (Motions for Shiva to stand, kneels and examines Shiva‘s side. There is a large amount of fur missing. Touches the area and then pulls hand away.) There’s no blood… (Touches Shiva‘s chest again and her brow furrows.) Let’s go home.
(Shiva and Shiva’s Person #1 run up the path. They run over a bridge and up a set of stairs. They run down another path and up another set of stairs, reach an open field and keep running. Shiva‘s tail remains between her legs but she runs directly beside Shiva’s Person #1. Shiva’s Person #1 reaches in to pocket for kibble and gives to Shiva several times as they run. Shiva‘s tail wags each time she sees the kibble and then goes back between her legs.)
(They run to another path and then out on to a residential street. The sky is now black. Only lighting is from the houses that line the street. Shiva and Shiva’s Person #1 run up another hill and then on to a sidewalk.)
Shiva’s Person #1: (worried) It’ll be okay, Sheevs. As long as we get home. It’ll be okay.
(Shiva and Shiva’s Person #1 reach a large white house on the corner. They run through a gate and up the steps to the front door. Shiva sits on the top step as Shiva’s Person #1 removes her mitten to open the door. Shiva‘s tail wags.)
Shiva’s Person #1: (looking down at Shiva) It’ll be okay.
(Shiva’s Person #1 opens the door and Shiva runs through. Shiva’s Person #1 follows and closes the door behind her.)
(Lights in the house flicker to mark the quick passing of time.)
(Shiva’s Person #1 and Shiva’s Person #2, a tall male human, slam open the door. Shiva is behind them and still on a leash held by Shiva’s Person #1. All three characters run down the stairs and toward the back of the house. Nothing is said other than soft encouraging words directed at Shiva.
(There is a blue pickup truck parked behind the house on a gravel driveway. Shiva’s Person #2 gets into the driver’s seat of the truck. Shiva’s Person #1 runs around the other side and opens the back door of the truck on the passenger side)
Shiva’s Person #1: (gently but in a panic) C’mon, Sheevs. Let’s go.
Shiva: (jumps into the back seat of the truck without difficulty) Okay.
(Shiva’s Person #1 gets into the truck and sits beside Shiva.)
Shiva’s Person #2: (strained) What’s the clinic address again?
(Truck backs out of the driveway, into the alley behind the house, and then out to the street. Truck turns quickly on a busy road and picks up speed. The bright lights of a large city loom in front of the truck.)
Thank you all very much for your kind inquiries after Shiva’s health. She is alive and well – mostly. I don’t have the energy to share the full story with you yet but I sincerely appreciate your warm concern. It has meant the universe to me to know that other people get it. Co-workers try to understand but unless you have a pet who is your reason for getting up before the sun every day, you’ll never truly understand the trauma.
Quite frankly, all I can think is that Shiva has brilliant timing. In all the years we’ve had her she chooses now, during NaBloPoMo, when I am trying to regain my writing mojo, to get herself into a pathetic situation. Dang animals, they’ve always got to take centre stage, eh?
I might have had four hours of sleep in the last two days, so, if I babble, this is my excuse.
Having never been to an emergency vet before and having never had a dog on two weeks of kennel rest, I am stumbling blindly on unfamiliar ground. This ground is especially tumultuous in that it is paved by a tornado with no sense of self-preservation.
In times like these, I just have to be grateful for lessons learned that are now – finally – paying off.
- Never, ever, underestimate the value of a wicked “stay” cue.
- Kennel training. If you haven’t started it now, get on it. It may not seem necessary, but the crate can be what ensures your dog heals with minimal stress.
- Find your dog’s currency, STAT. You never know when you’ll need a well-placed bribe.
- You might want to keep the address and phone number of your closest 24-hour veterinary clinic on your refrigerator. Googling in a panic is not a good time. Especially when the clinic doesn’t have an address on the main page of its website. What’s up with that, yo?
- Seriously, I can’t over-emphasize the value of a “stay”.
- Find your people. In a brutal moment, when my PH had to leave my side, I was so grateful for my friends who “got it”, who didn’t need me to explain, who just understood that I needed to feel like everything was going to be okay.
- Be prepared to bawl your eyes out in front of the emergency vet. It’s okay. No one is judging you. And if they are, that says more about them than it does about you.
- In stressful moments like these, it can be so easy to forget simple things, like your own name and phone number, let alone the name and number of your veterinarian in a different province on the other side of the country. You might want to have this kind of information on hand in your wallet, just in case.
- “Stay” works. Just make sure your dog has learned “stay”. You won’t regret it.
- Coffee. Always have lots of coffee on hand. You never know when you’ll have to stay up all night with a dog coming down from anaesthesia. It’s not a good time.
Did I miss anything? Have you ever had to make a trip to emergency with your puppy? I’d love to read about your experiences.
It’s all fun and games until someone ends up in a cone.
We knew it was her destiny. The Sheevs is just too much of a daredevil to escape it forever. The cone was in her future; it was just a matter of time. I am sure it will be a funny story one day. Just not today. Poor little puppy.
For a long time I have been preoccupied by the concept of human and animal perception. It is fascinating in all its forms: both the simple – how others see the colour blue – and the random – what my dog thinks I am doing with my hair dryer every morning.
Who cares about that noisemaker? I’d rather understand why you keep pointing that blinky thing at me.
No doubt I spend more time than is mentally healthy thinking about the inner workings of my dog’s brain. I never said I was sane. Being a bit overly prone to abstract thinking and excessively fond of thought experiments in general, I can’t help but wonder what Shiva’s opinions are of our daily activities. Does she wonder why I spend so much time with a plastic black box on my lap instead of playing with her? What does she think of the clothing we’re always wearing? Does she ever question where we go every day when we leave her alone? If Shiva ponders any of these things, she doesn’t share with me. Given how much time I spend with her and how much time I spend in my head, it is impossible not to let my thoughts drift to the cranial wranglings of the Sheevs.
What are the limits of a dog’s imagination?
None of these questions have accessible answers. Until dogs learn to talk I don’t know if we’ll ever know what goes through their adorable brains. I know they are smarter than I understand and assume their minds work in ways we probably wouldn’t be able to comprehend even if we had all the information.
Regardless, one of my favourite things to think about is how Shiva perceives our walks. I know she knows we embark on a ramble outside once in the morning and once in the evening. After four years it’s just fact for her. She shows me this each morning by following me around the house and nudging me toward the door. In the evenings she will lay on the floor directly in front of me and stare until I give in and grab the leash. She can’t relax until this step in her routine is complete.
But does Shiva ever wonder why we walk?
Does she know the walk is essentially for the sake of giving her exercise and calming her down? Does she think there is a higher purpose? I sometimes imagine she envisions us patrolling the area, making sure everything is safe and in order. Perhaps she sees it as some sort of scavenging practice – hence why she gobbles up every bit of garbage or haphazard edible she finds on the sidewalk. Dogs have been accustomed to travelling on foot with their humans since the beginning of domestication. Hunting and gathering were a large a part of these journeys and it is something dogs would do on their own without us. As Shiva is almost always given her breakfast and dinner once we arrive back home, it is possible she might think we are out for the purpose of food.
Or maybe she thinks we walk to communicate with other people and dogs, to sniff and mark, and secure our territory. She certainly does a lot of that as well. Walking for her could be similar to me checking my phone for messages.
It’s something I think about a lot as we meander down the trails of the river valley before the sun rises. Most likely Shiva just enjoys the experience and doesn’t bother with the reasons behind it. Dogs are good at being grateful for what they have in the moment. They don’t need to worry about silly things like overarching motivations. I am sure Shiva primarily accepts our walks as something we do and nothing more. Sure, she takes advantage of the time outdoors to sniff, and scarf, and stretch her legs, but she probably doesn’t need a reason for it all. She just enjoys the positive of what she has, when she has it.
If this is the truth, I am jealous. Like so many other things about my dog, I hope if spend enough time with her, one day this attitude will rub off on me. It’s worth a shot, right?
Every Thursday Karen over at Doggie Stylish links to some of the more interesting posts she’s read in a week. I look forward to her Thursday posts as I always find one or two articles that make me regard something in a new way. This morning before work, I checked out her blog and discovered a website I’d never visited before called Ruffly Speaking. The post itself discussed the widely debated issue of dog conformation, with a focus on defining “soundness”.
As a lover of dogs and a longtime secret fan of dog shows, conformation is a subject that lights up my dog geek side. After reading the author’s analysis of proper “soundness” – or the architectural quality of an animal, as defined in the post – I couldn’t help but turn my newly informed gaze to my own canine.
Obviously as a formerly stray mutt, Shiva wasn’t bred with any sort of ideal in mind. No doubt she was from an “oops” litter and either abandoned or allowed to roam at will in an infamous part of town. Not the best of beginnings for any dog. Regardless, I have always taken a bit of pride in her athletic prowess. It doesn’t have anything to do with me as a breeder or even as a trainer, but it’s hard not to beam when I see all she is able to accomplish physically. Especially as I have no athletic abilities of my own. I’ve always had this idea that Shiva is structurally sublime.
Does my incredibly biased opinion hold up to scrutiny? That is the question.
One of the first things outlined in the Ruffly Speaking article was topline. Essentially, a dog’s back should be either straight or convex. Level or curved upwards is considered sound. A back that curves downwards… Notsomuch.
It wasn’t easy to get a good picture of Shiva standing still and straight. I ended up having to put a carrot – literally – in front of her nose in order to get her to hold still for a photograph. It turns out, she is not a natural stacker. So much for her big show career. This is the best I could get out of her.
I don’t know if it is possible to tell, but her topline does go slightly down before her shoulders. This is not looking good for the Sheevs.
The first thing the article instructed, was to draw a line from the elbow to the top of the shoulder. And then another straight across the back. If the dog is sound, the entire head and most of the neck will be above and in front of the lines. This means the shoulder is laid back correctly and the heaviest part of the dog is behind the neck instead of under it.
Hmm… Shiva’s head is above this line but only barely. If she wasn’t looking up, it would almost be on the same level as her back. Another strike against her.
In the second picture, I drew a line through the middle of her front paw. This is supposed to be the line of weight that bears on the heaviest part of her body. According to the blog post, with a sound dog that line should go through the front part of her body and not her neck.
This is looking less dismal. The line goes through Shiva’s shoulder more than her neck. One point? Or is this just wishful thinking?
The next line is drawn at the end of Shiva’s ribs. You want to make sure the dog can breathe properly for her active lifestyle. The ribs should end more than half-way down the body. Surprisingly, I couldn’t easily detect Shiva’s ribs from the photograph. To make sure I drew the line right, I had to feel for them with my hands.
Has the scrawny spotted one actually put on weight?
This photo looks pretty good to me. It’s kind of funny how her thigh muscles are just as big as her chest. I don’t know if that has anything to do with her soundness or not.
This last one was the hardest to draw. I am still not sure I got the placement right. To show balance, the angle formed by the shoulder joining the upper arm ideally should be similar to the angle formed by the femur joining the knee. They don’t need to be identical in inclination, more in the size of the angle itself.
Once again, I am not so sure things are looking good for the poor puppy. Her rear angle looks much wider than her front. If I drew it correctly, it is definitely more than ninety degrees, which I learned is problematic.
Despite all her abilities, it looks like Shiva’s structure is off. I have always been a bit worried about her stance, to tell the truth. I fear we may have either hip or ACL issues in our future. She seems to naturally stand with her left rear leg out, as in the picture below. When she sits, she often leans on one hip, extending that leg. While she doesn’t seem to be in pain and it certainly doesn’t affect her activity level, it might be a sign of future problems.
Ah well, I can’t let it bother me too much. She is who she is; structurally sound, or a canine disaster, we’ll keep on having fun. Still, it was an interesting exercise and I am glad I know a little bit more now about how an ideal dog should be built. Perhaps in the future, when selecting my next nutty rescue, I will be armed with a bit more information. Especially if I intend to practice agility again.
Knowing myself, I’ll just end up being suckered in by a cute face and a wild personality. Those seem to be my weaknesses lately.
The idea of creating a “SuperDog” with too much exercise isn’t a new one to me. I’ve always kind of shrugged it off as unimportant. Even if it is possible to give one’s dog too much activity, I wasn’t certain it was a bad thing. Shiva is a high-energy puppy. She enjoys getting out and running around. For the most part, I enjoy it too. If we’re both happy, what’s the problem?
A few weeks ago, I read this post on the Paws Abilities website and I began to wonder if it is more of an issue than I thought. Perhaps I have not done my dog or myself any favours by keeping up our rigorous schedule. It might be possible I am setting us both up for inevitable failure. As I sit here exhausted after trudging through a blizzard, I am starting to question the madness.
I guess it’s like the cliché of the chicken and the egg. What came first? Shiva’s constant need for an outlet or our strict exercise routine? If I had been more casual from the beginning, would she have learned to get by with only thirty minutes of exercise a day? Or do we exercise so much because she just really needs it?
The article talks a lot about how physical stimulation can easily be overdone and how mental exercise is just as important for creating a balanced dog. I have always believed the latter. Life with a Shiva involves just as much training and management as it does physical exertion, if not more. I don’t think it is really possible to have the one without the other. There is no point in running one’s dog ragged every day if neither of you are actually learning anything. Agility training for us has been a lot more about keeping focus than it has been about athletic ability. The jumping around is easy. The brain work is much harder. And thus, much more tiring for the my nutty dog.
This winter has been rough on both of us. It’s the coldest we have experienced together. Too cold for even all-weather Shiva. When I can’t take her out for more than twenty minutes at a time, her need to blow off energy builds up. This lack of a real outlet makes her anxious. It also drives the cat insane. She does get to run around on weekends when we can hit up the dog park during the day. But I know it is not enough.
This quote from the aforementioned blog really stuck with me:
“SuperDogs are hard to live with. They have come to expect, and even to require, massive amounts of physical activity. Missing a day is not an option. Sick with the flu? Too tired from a long week at work? Family visiting from out of town? The dog still needs exercise, or he’s going to be a nightmare.”
Yep, that’s my dog. When my parents were staying with us back in October, I made sure to get up super-early to get her walk in before heading out with family. When we returned home after a busy day of touring the province, I headed back out with the dog to get in her evening exercise. Things were stressful enough with all the new people in the house. I wasn’t about to make it worse my slacking on her activity levels. Furthermore, when I was sick in January while simultaneously gritting my teeth through a tailbone injury, Shiva still got her daily walks. Better to suck it up and get outside than to face a manic puppy.
So maybe I have created a bit of a “SuperDog” after all. The good news is, all the work we have done together has given us a deep bond. The bad news is, I am not sure how we could ever leave her in someone else’s care, should that ever be necessary. I don’t truly mind battling snow storms to make sure her needs our met. But what if we have to hire a pet sitter or board her in a kennel? Will the decrease in physical exercise drive her insane?
It is something I am starting to worry about. Perhaps I need to take a new look at our routine and see where I can implement some changes. It’s all about balance. Though Shiva will always be a super dog to me, maybe her status as a “SuperDog” isn’t making her the happy dog she deserves to be.
Do you think it’s possible to over-exercise your dog? Do you know or live with a “SuperDog”?