Monday, September 27, 2010

Happy dog

Vanya is a wonderful dog. I usually post about his rough days, so people get the impression that he's always a handful. But 99.9% of the time, he's the world's most perfect dog. On the farm, he bounds around, greeting people with endless joy, and working hard at his various jobs:
1. sniffing the apple orchard for voles
2. patrolling the prairie restoration for bunnies
3. sleeping under the oak tree
4. checking every person on the farm to see if they've had their daily allotment of kisses
5. greeting all strangers at the gate with wags and kisses, and then escorting them down the gravel drive.

When I come home from an endless day of boring faculty meetings and he hears me at the gate, my heart leaps when he wiggles into the car to kiss me and thunk me with his wagging tail. Then he hops out of the car and races  me down the driveway, running along the fence line as fast as lightening. When Frank lets him into my office and he comes zooming around the corner, he sees me and his face lights up--he wags his tail so hard, he sometimes falls over. How can a girl help but be moved? If a guy loved me with such devotion, I'd be creeped out. But with Vanya, he makes me happy.

So: for those of you readers who think I'm some sort of a saint for putting up with this dog: he's worth every moment! He brings joy to our lives. He may scream at the sight of new dogs, but here are all the things that he's good at:
1. he's great at leaping
2. and bounding
3. he never shows any separation anxiety.
4. every person on earth seems to be his friend
5. if you need him to go away so you can get some work done, he's not offended. He just goes off and snoozes.
6. he's brilliant at being engaged with the world

Perhaps it's the most challenging dogs who are best at worming  their way into our hearts. Or maybe it's just Vanya. He's a nut, but he's the best nut around

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

BAT practice

Vanya was practicing BAT today with Cynthia and her dog Dottie (their blog is . Vanya was remarkably calm, not even whining (!), and able to get fairly close, glance at Dottie and back at me, then run merrily back to his bed for his peanut-butter smeared bone. 

He didn't even get too excited when Dottie started playing tug with her owner Cynthia. When he noticed them playing, he did get excited, whining and wagging his tail and bouncing around in his version of play bows--so we doubled the distance and he calmed back down. 

All was going remarkably well until behind us suddenly appeared a lady with 3 HUGE dogs, who began leaping and lunging and roaring on their leashes at Vanya. Oy! So much for staying under threshold. At first he started yelping, rather than lunging or barking, and I bundled him into the car where he threw a bit of a fit, trying to scramble over his crate for a better view. Luckily the woman got her dogs into her car, although it seemed to take her ages and ages.

He calmed down fairly well, but not completely of course, and we ended the session after a few more games that I hoped would help him settle down some more (sniffing the grass, greeting our plushy fake dog, trotting along the trails). 

Unfortunately, he strained his front foot when he was trying to climb over his crate for a better view. Now he's limping, so he'll have a few days on leashed walks only--no chasing gophers in the grass, poor pup.

I think having weekly practice sessions with Cynthia and her dogs will help him a lot--especially if we find a place where I don't have to worry about so many dog walkers. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Vanya update

Even though Vanya hasn't had any updates recently, he's doing just fine. I was off in NW Ontario for a month doing my field research, and Ontario has a pit bull ban, so Vanya didn't get to come along. Instead, he spent August hanging out on the Little Sugar River Farm with Frank and a bunch of WWOOFers (Worldwide Willing Organic Volunteers--people who come and work on the farm half time for a few weeks,  in exchange for room and board). Vanya adored having all the attention. Plus the guests at the guesthouse give him tons of love. So he was a happy boy--no commands, no expectations, just a lot of college kids to jump on and kiss, and a lot of gophers to hunt in the gardens. Now, of course, he acts like he never heard of impulse control games, or anything else for that matter.  He got into certain bad habits I thought he had long ago lost: the zoomies, mainly, where he runs around in circles, trying to get a person to play in the same over-excited way he tries to get other dogs to play.

He's so happy, I can't  help but wonder: why exactly do I keep trying to do all this dog-socialization with him? We live so far from other dogs, when we're down on the farm, that it's always quite the drive to go find decoy dogs. In his normal life, he could go for a decade and never lay eyes on another dogs (this is how Tiva deals with her dog-reactivity. She just ignores it. We all ignore it. Back before she came to the farm, she lived a life of lunging and barking at dogs when she was being walked, leashed, on the city streets, and her former owners used a  prongs to get her to be quiet. It worked, but she looked miserable. She perked right up when she came to the farm and stopped seeing other dogs on the street. Problem solved, more or less.)

Two main reasons to calm Vanya down:
1. So we can go camping and hiking in public together, without me worrying about him.
2. Potentially, so we can get another dog when Tiva dies. Or alternatively, so we can find dog playmates for Vanya, so he doesn't get completely starved of new dog interactions.

But some dogs are happier having human companionship, right? Vanya may be one of those: a dog who wants to be the only dog in a household. Or we may just decide we don't want to worry about the continual household management that goes with Vanya + another dog.