Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ranger is retiring from agility

Lately it seems that Ranger hasn't been enjoying his agility classes. He is slow, unresponsive to my commands, and just looks like there are other places he'd rather be. It's embarrassing to get up in front of the class and do as poorly as we do. I'm starting to think that maybe Ranger feels like he has proven he can do agility, and he doesn't need to prove anything anymore. He's wrong, of course, as he's not that good at agility and has plenty of room for improvement, but that's an argument I'm not winning right now. So I decided that Ranger is going to retire, and Teddy is going to start. At some point, Ranger may come out of retirement, but for now, he's done.

Because Teddy needs lots of time to learn something new, I decided to start working with him now at home, before classes start in January. I have a small tunnel, and I made some jumps out of PVC, and surprise, surprise, Teddy loves it. He learned to jump very quickly, and the joy on his face as he jumps is amazing to see. I didn't think he would like it, as he is built like a brick, and I thought he would jump as well as a tank, but he sails over the bar like he's been doing it all his life. Of course, once we leave the safety of my family room and get to class, he may pretend he's never seen a jump before in his life, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

We survived Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving has always been a large affair for my family - it is not uncommon to have anywhere from 18 to 33 people show up. Ranger, being the social butterfly he is, loves all the people and the food they give him, and all the new laps to sit on. Teddy, on the other hand, is scared of new people and large crowds. I debated for weeks before Thanksgiving on whether I should bring the dogs, leave them both at home, leave Teddy at home and just bring Ranger...But I hated to deprive Ranger of one of his favorite days because his less-secure brother couldn't handle it, and I thought Teddy would not like being left home alone for 8 hours, and would take his frustration out on my shoes, as he sometimes does.

In the end, I decided to bring both dogs and would just take Teddy home if it got to be too much for him. But once again, he surprised me. I arrived early to help my Mom get things going, and brought his favorite toys and treats to help him feel comfortable. Then people started to show up, and he was fine. He let people he knew pet him, and he stayed away from people he didn't know, but he didn't cower, or put his tail between his legs. He watched us all from a distance, sat under the dining tables to catch all the food that dropped (as all smart dogs know to do!) and after dinner, he even let some new people pet him. I had visions of him barking at everyone, and pacing around the house, as he has done in the past. But he did much better than I expected, and made me realize how far he has come in the past 11 months.

So I decided it is time to stop underestimating Teddy. For the past year, I've had no expectations of Teddy, and I just let him do whatever he felt comfortable with. But now I know he is capable of more than I thought, and I think it is time to start asking more things of him. Watch out Teddy - agility starts in January!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Guess who sat on my lap for 8 minutes!!!

Teddy the Brave, that's who. I was out of town last weekend, so my sister watched Ranger and Teddy for me. She said Teddy slept (yes, slept!) on her lap for 15 minutes. I was insanely jealous, as Teddy has never spent more than 2 minutes on my lap, and during those 2 minutes, you can see him plotting his escape. I asked my sister how she did it, and she said she put a big, furry blanket on her lap and put Teddy on top of it. So last night, I put a pillow on my lap and put Teddy on it, and he laid down on it and relaxed. He let me rub his back for 8 very happy minutes. Who knows - maybe someday we'll work our way up to 15 minutes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Teddy!

This month is an important milestone for Teddy. He was rescued one year ago from his former puppy mill life. I've only had Teddy for 9 months, as he lived with his foster mom for 3 months before finding his way to his forever home with me, but I felt like this was an important milestone. To celebrate, he and Ranger split a plain hamburger from McDonald's (maybe not the healthiest treat ever, but thoroughly enjoyed by all, and after all, isn't that what a celebratory treat is all about?!)

For the first 8 months he was with me, Teddy never approached me for anything - he never sought out my attention, never tried to sit in my lap, never asked to go outside, never begged for treats or food (although Ranger is teaching him that little trick.) Although he still obsessively follows me around the house, he doesn't act like he needs me for anything. Quite the opposite of Ranger, who kicks his back feet behind him like a bull if he wants something and is very vocal about letting me know if I'm not doing enough for him. But this month, for the first time, Teddy approached me for affection! I was laying on the couch, and Teddy came up to me and put his paws on the couch, asking me to pet him! The significance of that didn't hit me until later, when it occurred to me what happened. The next time he did it, I made a big deal of how smart and good he was, and I could see he was very pleased with himself. Now it is becoming a regular event. Who knows - maybe I'll get him to sit on my lap for longer than 15 seconds.

Friday, August 28, 2009

It's been awhile...

Have you ever had a friend who lost weight and you didn't notice until they lost 20 pounds, and then you feel really guilty for not noticing sooner? That's how things are with Teddy. I've had him 8 months now, and I stopped noticing any progress. Then I thought back to how he was when I first got him, or even to 4 months ago, and I realize how far he has come. It hit home last week when I had some friends over, and Teddy let my male friend hold him. And not just for 10 seconds either - for a few minutes (for those of you who don't know Teddy, a few minutes is like an eon in Teddy's world!) Teddy doesn't trust people in general, and men in particular, and especially not tall men. And he let a very tall man hold him! Of course, I had to pick him up and give him to Dave to hold, and after a few minutes, he squirmed out of Dave's arms, but still....He also approaches me for affection. In the beginning, if I went to pet him, he would roll over on his back, and just wait for it to be over. If I held him in my lap, he fought to get off. Every so often now, he lies next to me on the couch and scoots over until a small part of his body is touching mine.

I took the dogs on vacation in July - a week at the beach. It was like Disneyland for the dogs - an entire beach to themselves, to run and play and sniff to their heart's content. I think being around lots of people for a week really helped Teddy. I'm sure all the treats he got didn't hurt, either. Since we came back, he has been better about letting strangers pet him. He may never be like Ranger, who lives to sit on my lap and believes that everyone we see on our walks is his best friend and wants to pet him. He may never win ribbons in agility the way Ranger has, or learn new tricks to impress my friends, but he is special in his own way, and has his own place in my heart.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Teddy graduates!

Teddy is set to graduate from beginner obedience class tomorrow. I wish I could say that he was graduating with honors, but I think he is one of the students that is being moved up only because the teacher doesn't want him to repeat another year with her! There is only 1 other dog in his class, and neither Teddy or the other dog has made much progress. At the end of each class, the instructor visibly sighs in relief. The only thing Teddy has learned is to lie down, which took about 5 weeks. He will only stay if he can see me. If I walk behind him or out of sight, he tries to find me. In class, when I call him to me, he walks as slowly as he can. For the first few classes, the teacher thought that he had a physical disability, because he never ran. He doesn't like the other dog in class, so he won't go anywhere near him. The instructor tried to walk both dogs together, and she had to drag Teddy around the room with her. It's hard for dog lovers to be around a dog that doesn't like them, and I feel for the instructor. I don't think she takes it personally, but it must be hard to try to work with a dog that won't have anything to do with you. So I haven't decided if we will repeat the beginner class, or move to the next level. At class last week, the instructor pulled me aside and said that she didn't think Teddy would do well in a class with more dogs. Maybe that was her subtle hint for us to just call it a day!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Teddy's new fear

Teddy now seems to be afraid of rain and thunder. I don't remember him having this fear before, but for the last 2 weeks, whenever we have rain or thunder, his tail goes down, he paces, pants, and follows me even more closely than he normally does. It doesn't help that I have sky lights in 3 rooms, which amplifies the sound of rain. His obedience trainer suggested getting sound effects of thunder and rain, and using them to desensitize him to the sounds. I checked out some CDs from my local library, and played them one day. It had an immediate effect on Teddy - he didn't like it one bit. I tried to play with him, and give him treats, but he kept focusing on the sounds coming from the speaker. Over time, as he reacts less, I will turn up the volume, and hopefully I will be able to have a violent thunderstorm in my living room and Teddy will not react. It is very disconcerting to hear a thunderstorm in my house, while outside it is bright and sunny! We've had so much rain this season that it is very hard for me to put the sound effects on when it is nice out. I'm so tired of the sound of rain!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Happy Easter

This past Sunday was Easter, and ever since I got Ranger, I have taken him to family get-togethers. My family loves Ranger, and they always include him in any invitation. But 2 dogs? That's a lot to ask of a host. But Teddy really needs to be socialized, and my mom said it was ok to bring him along for Easter dinner. I was a bit worried, because on Saturday I went over there to do some baking, and brought Teddy along. Ranger was at the groomer, so Teddy was by himself, and he turned into his scared self again. It was a huge shock - he paced around the house for an hour. His tail was always down. I gave him a treat to help him feel more comfortable, and he carried it in his mouth until it was soggy. He just couldn't relax enough to eat it. He ran away from anyone who approached him - even me! So I wasn't sure what to do for Easter. Would it stress Teddy out unnecessarily? Since I live fairly close to my parents, I decided to bring both dogs, and would just bring them home if it was too much for Teddy. But he surprised me. He ran into the house with Ranger, tail up, excited to see people, as long as they didn't try to pet him. He took treats from people, and actually ate them. He even sat with my brother-in-law and let him pet him for a long time! Turns out Teddy just needs his big brother with him, to show him that everything's ok.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Why does Teddy like my shoes?

Nothing makes Teddy happier when I come home than to grab a toy or a rawhide and run around the sofa with it. He runs to me and then runs away, with whatever is in his mouth. But the thing he loves most to run around with is one of my gym shoes. He's not a chewer of shoes, but he loves to just hold the shoe in his mouth and run around with it. He especially seems to love holding the shoe by the laces. He knows he's not supposed to do it, because as soon as I tell him to leave it, he drops the shoe, but it's an addiction he just can't seem to control. Whatever floats your boat!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Ranger!

Ranger turned 7 last week. It feels like he's been with me forever, not just 6 1/2 years. I don't remember the days when I didn't walk in the mornings. Now, walking the dogs in the morning is almost always my favorite time of the day. It's quiet, the sun has risen, and it's a nice time to think about things. I also like exploring the neighborhood, seeing who is doing what to their house.

Ranger's birthday makes me think of how my life has changed over the years. I was in a relationship with someone I thought was The One, but it didn't work out. I sold my house and bought a new one that needed tons of updating. I changed jobs. I gave up my religion. I lost friends that I thought I would have forever, and I became closer to friends I previously wasn't as close to. I went through a period of deep depression (and came out of it partly thanks to Ranger!) I finally have accepted the fact that I'm not going to get married and have kids, which was a hard dream to give up, but I stay busy friends, family, work, and of course, my dogs. While it's not the life I thought I'd have, it's not a bad life.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I'm glad Teddy's not a puppy

I took Teddy to his obedience class last night. We had gone the previous 2 weeks, but those were special sessions with just the trainer. Last night was the first week that other dogs were supposed to be there. Only one other dog showed up, a 6 month old Bichon/Shih Tzu puppy. A very sweet dog, but it reminded me of all the reasons why I don't ever want to get a puppy again. The energy, the puppy ADD, the barking, and did I mention the energy? Yes, puppies are cute and cuddly, but they are also a lot of work. I got Ranger when he was 7 months old, and I remember being exhausted by his constant demands for play and attention. I remember thinking, 'how can I do this for the next 15 years?!' Don't get me wrong, I enjoy throwing the frisbee, or playing tug-of-war, but after 20-30 minutes, I'm done. But by the time he was around 2, he calmed down and was better able to entertain himself. For all of Teddy's issues, at least he is able to relax. He is good about getting Ranger to play with him, but if Ranger doesn't want to, Teddy will happily play with his squeaky toy by himself, or he'll find a bone to chew on. When he's bored with that, he jumps up on the couch and takes a nap.

Speaking of naps, he is now comfortable enough with me to rest against me while he sleeps! I remember early on he would sit as far away as he could from me, and while he may never be a lap dog the way Ranger is, at least he likes to be near me.

Monday, April 6, 2009

My life this week

This past week I lived with 4 dogs, an experience I'm not in a hurry to repeat anytime soon! My sister adopted a dog just a week before her family was going on vacation. I had already agreed to watch their other dog, and while my sister "tried" to find someone else to watch one of her dogs, the night before they were to leave, I got the phone call I knew I'd get - "We can't find anyone to watch the dogs. Can you take them both?" So being the good sister I am, I laid on the guilt and then said ok. Luckily, the new dog was introduced to my dogs before they left, so I knew they would all get along. In fact, Teddy and the new dog became bosom buddies, and were rarely apart the entire week. I lived for 6 years with just one dog before I decided to get another. I thought having 2 dogs was a lot of work, but 4 dogs is insane. My life became all about doggie bodily functions - eating, pooping, vomiting, etc. I think I went through 3 rolls of paper towels in a week. My floors need to be disinfected, my carpets cleaned, bedding washed - you name it, it needs to be cleaned. Luckily, none of the dogs are shedding breeds, so at least I didn't have shedding issues to deal with.

If you ever want to get your neighbors to notice you, try walking 4 dogs at the same time. I noticed more than a few people laughing at me as they drove to work in the morning. After a few days, I finally figured out which dogs needed to walk next to each other, which dogs would stop at every tree and which dog (the new one) just ran in circles in the grass.

This whole experience has made me appreciate Teddy even more. No, he wasn't housebroken when I first got him, but he is 95% better than he was 3 months ago. He still has issues with new people, but he's relatively calm, he doesn't bark, and he knows when to chill out and watch tv.

Really, this is all Ranger's fault. If it weren't for him being such a good dog, my sister wouldn't have gotten her first dog, I wouldn't have adopted Teddy and my sister wouldn't have adopted her second dog. Thanks Ranger!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Video of Ranger

A friend let me borrow her video camera, so I had Ranger do a few tricks. (Yes, I know he needs a hair cut, but it's been too cold.) Teddy makes an appearance at towards the end of the video. He doesn't know any tricks except sit, but he is awfully cute!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Agility pics!

Ranger has been taking agility classes for 2 years now. We don't compete very often, maybe 2-3 times a year, but he has won several first place ribbons so far! (Of course, in a few of those competitions, he was the only dog competing in his class, but I didn't tell him that.) I finally got some pictures from a few of his trials. Click on the picture, and you'll be taken to Flickr, where you can see a few more pictures.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

First steps to obedience

I took Teddy to his first obedience class last night. Turns out he was the only dog that signed up for the class! Normally they would just cancel the class, but the trainer agreed to stay since I showed up, and when she saw how much work needs to be done with him, she volunteered to still have class for a few weeks with just Teddy.

Teddy did as well as I thought he would - after 1 hour, he still wouldn't lie down, or stay, or come when called. He was very shy around Susan, the trainer, and we spent most of the time just trying to get Teddy used to being around her. Luckily Teddy is very food motivated, so he would gradually get closer to her whenever she offered food. Without food, however, all bets are off. I know this makes me sound petty, but it made me feel a little better that Susan didn't any more success than I have had with Teddy.

It's been a lesson in patience. I was spoiled with Ranger, who is a smart dog, and learned commands very quickly. With Teddy, I have to take my time, and build each command slowly. I have to force myself to be patient and not push him, or else we will take 2 steps back. Somehow I think with Teddy, it may always be 1 step forward, 2 steps back! But I keep telling myself that in the end, it will all be worthwhile.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Small victories

I've had Teddy for 9 weeks now, and we are making progress. When he first arrived, he would lay on the couch with Ranger and me, but he stayed at the far end of the couch. He wants to be near me, and will let me pet him and hold him, but he never approaches me for affection. Today, we had a small victory - he jumped up on the couch and sat right next to me, actually touching my leg! And then we took a nap, and he rested his head on my foot and slept! Small victories come when you least expect it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

First trip to the groomer!

Teddy went to the groomer for the first time this week. I have to admit I was a little nervous about taking him. He doesn't like being brushed (unfortunate for a Shih Tzu,) and barely tolerates his paws being held for any amount of time. But I called the groomer, explained the situation, and we scheduled a time when she wasn't as busy and could take her time and relax. So I took him in, and a few hours later, he was done. He looks adorable - just look at his picture. I think he feels better too.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The grass (or rawhide) is always greener

Like most dog owners, I have rawhides all over the house, but the only rawhide a dog wants is the one in the other dog's mouth. As I sit here, Teddy is chewing a rawhide, and Ranger is staring longingly at it. Every few minutes, he looks pleadingly at me, as if he is asking me to help him. I remind Ranger that there are 5 other rawhides in this room alone, but they are not as good as the one Teddy has. Ranger is smart, though, and he tries to distract Teddy by chewing on his ear or pulling his tail, but Teddy just ignores him. I refuse to get involved in these doggy disputes, mostly because I hate to touch slimy rawhides.

Another issue we are having is the sharing of toys. Ranger is fine with Teddy playing with his toys as long as Ranger himself isn't playing with them. But while Ranger likes having a brother, he does not want to share his toys with him. If Ranger is playing with his favorite toy, his cloth Frisbee, woe to Teddy if he tries to play with him. Ranger will growl and snap at him until Teddy leaves him alone. This has surprised me, because normally Ranger is an easy-going type of dog, and pretty meek, too. I know it's wrong, but I'm oddly proud that my 'baby' is growing up, and standing up for himself. Don't worry - Teddy gets his revenge. He eats Ranger's food!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

It's finally Ranger's turn.

Ranger tells me he's been feeling a little neglected - why don't I ever sing his praises? And he's right. So it's finally Ranger's turn to be in the spotlight. To give a little background, I've had Ranger since he was 6 months old. He belonged to my sister, who for some strange reason decided to get 2 Shih Tzu puppies at the same time. After a few months, and much chewed-up furniture, she decided that one of the puppies would have to go, and since Ranger was the main trouble maker, he had to pack his bags. I signed Ranger up for obedience classes, and quickly learned that he wasn't a trouble maker, he just needed more mental stimulation. He learns tricks very quickly and loves to impress company with his repertoire, especially if food is involved. He also competes in agility, and has won a few blue ribbons.

But the best thing about Ranger is that he just wants to be with me. I don't know that I've ever had anyone just want to be with me, no strings attached, no expectations, no demands. But Ranger is content to do whatever I'm doing. Sit on my lap and read a book? Great! Take a nap? Great! Go on a bike ride? Great! (He rides in a basket with me) Sniff in the yard while I garden? What could be better! Like all dogs, he lives in the moment, forgets the disappointments of the past (no treats? What?) and finds enjoyment in everything he does. Not a bad way to live your life!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What makes a good dog?

Is it loyalty? Cuteness? Intelligence? I think there are 2 requirements to be a good dog - 1. you are housebroken, and 2. you don't chew anything you're not supposed to. I don't care how many tricks you can do, how many ribbons you win in dog shows, how obedient you are, if you don't pee in my house and don't chew my things, you're a good dog. Anything else is just icing on the cake.

Right now, while Teddy may be cute, I can't say he is a good dog. I have doubts about his intelligence, and he is loyal to me only because I control the food and the door. We are still struggling with housebreaking, and he seems determined to put every object in my house in his mouth at least once. The funny thing is he rarely touches the same thing twice once I have told him to leave it (except for my slippers, which apparently are irresistible to him) So I figure I only have to tell him 235,983 more times to 'leave it'. I'm sure that won't get old after awhile! He is very good about his housebreaking abilities while I'm at work, or at night, but he hasn't figured out how to tell me he needs to go out. So he just sneaks away while I'm not looking, and I find a puddle later. I know that since he lived in a crate for his first years of life, he is used to going whenever he needed to. But how do I get him to tell me? Any advice on housebreaking a rescue dog?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Originally uploaded by ranger teddy mom
Ranger is feeling a bit left out - he's wondering why I'm not talking about him. He'll get his own posts soon, but until then, here's a picture of him.

Teddy with his one blue eye

It's hard to get a picture of Teddy with his one blue eye. This is the best picture so far.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

One of my friends told me to keep track of Teddy's progress, because I'll forget as time goes on. The day Teddy arrived (he was called Happy, which fits his personality, but I just couldn't call him Happy for the next 12 years!) he came with his foster mom and a foster brother. His foster brother was typical of a puppy mill dog - scared of people, new surroundings, noises. You name it, he was scared of it. Teddy was a little less scared. He didn't want anything to do with me, except take a few treats from me and then run away, but he loved Ranger from the start. He followed Ranger around the house, and they played together in the backyard. Teddy was adorably cute, in a pathetic kind of way. His tail was always down and he was scruffy looking. He has one blue eye and one brown eye, and while it's striking to look at, at times it makes him look possessed. I'd like to say I fell in love with him right away, but I had my doubts. Still, I felt like I could give him the life he deserved after spending his in a wire cage.

The first few weeks he lived with us, he was so scared of people that he ran from me whenever I got too close. If I needed to catch him, I'd have to follow him around until he finally just threw himself on the ground and rolled onto his back in surrender, as if to say, "I give in, please just make it quick!" He snored like a large grown man with a head cold. I had to wear earplugs at night because he woke me up. While he walked well on a leash, he wouldn't walk in front of me with Ranger - he was always about a foot behind me, just enough that I couldn't see him without turning completely around. He didn't want me to touch him, yet he was always worried that I would leave him. He was (and still is) my constant shadow, and is always underfoot. He is shorter than Ranger, and just outside my peripheral vision, so I can't see him. I live in fear of tripping over him. He never misses a meal (and eats Ranger's food too!) Poor Ranger has lost a little weight since Teddy came. The only command Teddy knew was 'sit'.

We're working on Teddy's fears. I knew from the start that Ranger would be a good 'big brother' to Teddy. Teddy looks up to Ranger and does whatever he does. It's great to see Teddy overcome a fear, just by watching his big brother. One of the best things we've done is take lots of walks. In the beginning, Teddy would have his tail down, and would be startled by every noise, like the wind, or a car door. But in a short amount of time, he has transformed into a much more confident, happy dog. I don't coddle him or make a big deal about anything that he is afraid of - I try to ignore it and just keep walking. He seems to be learning that if I'm not scared of it, he doesn't need to be scared either! The one fear we're having trouble overcoming is his fear of men. He turns into a different dog if a man comes into the room. His tail goes down, and he just shuts down. I guess I have to invite more men over to help him!

Friday, February 27, 2009

As anyone with dogs knows, it's very hard to get a good picture of a dog, let alone 2 dogs together. Until I can a get a good picture of the dogs together, you will have to make do with 2 separate pictures. But trust me - they do like each other, I just can't get them to sit still long enough for a good picture. Ranger is the one looking out the window.

Stil life with dogs - the beginning

For the past 6 years, I was content to have one dog - an adorable, intelligent Shih Tzu named Ranger. We took long walks together, long naps together, and he even rode along with me on my bike. He was the perfect companion - his only desire was to be where I was and do whatever I was doing. Then last month, I had a sudden urge to get another dog, and Teddy entered our lives. What was I thinking?!

Teddy is a former breeder dog from a puppy mill in Missouri, and while he loves Ranger, he is still not too sure about me. We continue to have a "I hate you, don't leave me" relationship. Things have been getting better in the past few weeks, but I thought a blog would be the perfect place to document our progress and also to get tips from other dog lovers on how to earn a rescue dog's trust, and how to train a suspicious and timid dog.

Any advice?