Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Rescue... Hershey Kisses

Hershey Kisses! Nuff said!

After Snoopy passed away back in December of 1998, it was decided the house could not be without a dog. So, the local SPCA was having a thing down at a local shopping outlet. Off we went. So many dogs, I could have had them all. Then, we saw them. Two siblings. Hershey and Coors. There was a third, Chocolate, but he had already been adopted. At the time, the SPCA believed they were Vizsla mixes. Their breed mixture is really unknown, but the guesses are... Vizsla, Weimaraner and Labrador Retriever. The SPCA rec'd the mother and three pups from someone who had found them on their property. Someone had dumped them off out in the country. The mother was a yellow color with some white markings. She was not up for adoption. The pups were. Coors was a beautiful honey gold color similar to beer; hence the name. I don't know why someone would name a female dog Coors, but they did. Hershey was a gorgeous milk chocolate with white markings and brown ticking on his chest. We decided to adopt both since they were siblings and we wanted two; so, they could be companions for life. We changed Coors name to Honey, as we thought it suited her better. Hershey kept his name, but we added Kisses to it because he loved to give kisses.

Hershey and Honey were born approx. September of 1998. We adopted them in December of 1998. Everything was great until Honey started to assert herself as the dominant dog. In a very short time, she began to snap at Hershey and became increasingly aggressive toward him. If he had decided to back down and allow her the top dog position in the house, all would have been fine. That didn't happen. This became a learning experience for us. A lesson in setting up a dog pack within a household. Hershey had enough! In the hall and dining area, he decided to let Honey know her place in the house. He was going to be boss not her. The fight lasted until we could break them up. A couple more fights later and we had to call the SPCA. We explained the situation. The lady who runs the SPCA offered to take Honey back and work with her. They decided Honey would be better off with some obedience training and socialization. They worked with her and offered her for adoption again with the stipulation that the person adopting her have no other pets. As I understand it, she was adopted to a newspaper reporter who took her everywhere. Honey found her perfect home. We hated to have to give her up, but it was the best for both Hershey and Honey.

Hershey on the other hand learned something from his sister that he never forgot... the pecking order of a pack and aggression towards other dominant dogs. We contacted the SPCA many times for help with working with him and how to deal with different scenarios. This was before Cesar and his dog whispering. We learned how to be assertive members of the pack before it was popular. There are still some trying moments. Hershey still has his issues, but he's a lot better. We learned a tough lesson when adding another dominant pup to the group in 2000.... Maverick, a member of the infamous "2000 group". When Maverick was a very young pup, Hershey told him straight away who was boss by attacking him. He tore his ear which required vet care. Maverick was going to be a big dog; so, we worked at getting this issue under control.

Dealing with both Maverick and Hershey's dominance at an early stage has led to only a handful of fights that are fairly easy to diffuse. Most times these dominance wars are mere growling as they pass, but every once in a while one figuratively steps on the others toes leading to a little more than just an argument. We, then, have to become the dominant top dogs and get them back in line before someone gets hurt.

This has led to the observance of how different these animals are. Interestingly, each dog lives in a different state of dogdom. Hershey is more the "people" dog. Maverick is more the "wolf pack" dog. Maybe it's more of a "domesticated" and "undomesticated" dog. For Hershey, he seems to understand things in people or domesticated dog terms. He doesn't really seem to understand he is a dog or that there is suppose to be order to things like in a wolf pack. Maverick, on the other hand, seems to understand things on more of a dog level like a wolf pack. He knows to put another in his place not by drawing blood, but by showing his ultimate strength and dominance. For instance, Maverick knows I am top dog. He watches all that I do. He listens to what I say. If I am at the gate to their fenced area and I tell them to "get back and stay", he will guard the gate and keep the others back forcing them to stay inside the fence. If they get out of hand, he will stand over them and press them with his body to the ground holding them there until they give in to his dominance. Hershey does not understand this. When he asserts his dominance over any of the others, he snaps and goes for damage. I think this probably comes from his early encounters with his sister, Honey. Copper has either learned to listen to Maverick or has gotten too old to care. The others, Chico and Tiffany, never bother to question who's in charge. Chico doesn't mind his status. Tiffany, well, she's the only female and knows it. She throws her weight around when necessary. The "men" do whatever it takes to shut her up.

Hershey loves cats and has "rescued" one of them as well. Later, you will read of Katy Rose, a black and white rescued from the back yard by Hershey. He gently picked her up and carried her in, but that's another story. His love for cats goes back to Gizzy. He loved Gizzy and mourned him at his passing. He stared forlorn at a neighbors cat that happened by shortly after Gizzy passed. After staring a while, he glanced up at me as if to say... "hey, that's Gizzy, aren't you gonna let him in?"

All in all, Hershey is a great dog. He's been through a lot. He's taught us a lot. He's learned a lot. He's watched 5 of his cats pass away. He, too, lived through the loss of Dad. He's high strung, but not destructive. Instead of tearing up furniture when he gets excited, he'll get a "dog" towel that was covering the chair the cats like to scratch on. He understands a lot of words; so, we have been trying to teach him "get a toy" instead in his old age. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. When he gets his mind set on something there is no changing it. It's hard to get his attention when he set on it. He probably would have made a great hunting dog, as all his contributing breeds are hunting dogs, because he loves to get you things.

Hershey is the kind of dog you can sit and tell your troubles to. He sits, looks you in the eye and listens to every word. He'll curl up next to you and keep you warm in winter. He's always happy to see you and always ready to play. He loves food and like any other Lab mix has a weight problem. With a lot of tips from vets and Chico (Hershey's Chihuahua buddy you'll read about later) becoming diabetic, I managed to get Hershey's weight under control. He weighed over 100 pounds in 2007. He now weighs in the mid 80 pound range. I would like him to lose a little more, but I am happy with the weight he has lost.

He is truly a great friend with boundless energy! Always there to cheer you up.

The Roadwarrior... Copper

Copper... a tenacious terrier mix! He is believed to be a cross between a Jack Russell terrier, a beagle and possibly have a little Red Heeler thrown in there just to mix it all up. Copper came to us as a wanderer. US Hwy 82 is a long road that stretches from Texarkana all the way into west Texas. Where this pup came from is anyone's guess. I say pup, but he was full grown when he joined the gang. It is believed he was born in 1997, as his age was estimated at about 2 years old when he came to live with us in September 1999.

When he arrived, he was a young hyper dog who loved to climb fences and take off running. At the time the fenced in yard consisted of a six foot chain link fence which he easily climbed to the top and down the other side. When the fence had been cleared, he took off like a shot out of a cannon. In these early days, I, of course, took up chase! With a US Hwy at our front door, I could not allow him to run the way he wanted to. It seems as though any of the dogs get loose and they head in the direction of that highway. If the speed limit was 20, even 35 miles an hour, that would be one thing, but, alas, the speed is 70 miles an hour. Too fast for a critter to be roaming as they wished. Back then, it was hard to keep him in the yard. He had lived on the road too long. He was up and over that fence quicker than I could get his name out of my mouth. And there I was... chasing after him. Tunnel vision. He didn't stop to look for traffic and neither did I. One thought in his head... get to the other side. One thought in my head... catch him before he gets hit. By the way, don't stop to think about you getting hit. The four lane highway has a grassy median, as most Texas highways do. No time to stop though and think the act through. As we cleared the east bound side and the grassy median, we started to run across the west bound side. The west bound side is the down side of a hill. Even if you stop to check for traffic, you would never really know if you are safe. You have to take your chances. Thankfully, nothing came before we both reached the other side. But, as luck would have it, as I reached the other side, the foot stumbles on uneven terrain and boom... flat on your tummy! Feet in the air. The whole time screaming... "COPPER!" "COME BACK!" My only thoughts... get back up on my feet and start the chase all over again. Finally, he stopped to check out something interesting... or to laugh at me. I don't know which because I had to be quite the hysterical site! I caught up to him though.

I picked him up and carried him back across that highway. Looking both ways this time.

This chase scene happened several times before the fence was changed. The changing of the fence became the recognizing factor of our house! Six foot chain link fence with another foot of non barbed wire going all the way around similar to a prison. When people came up or when we described it when giving directions, everyone would say... "Oh, yeah, I know that place. I always wondered what could be back there with a fence like that!" Well, the answer is... one of the smallest dogs we have, but the one that knows how to escape a six foot fence!

He also loves to go for rides in the truck. There is a truck stop east of town. It is often wondered if he belonged to a truck driver. He was stray for a while before coming to live with us. We ran an ad, but no one claimed him. He still loves to go for rides. He loved my dad and would go for rides with him. He became Dad's dog... sleeping right beside him, following him around. The first dog that seemed to claim Dad and be just Dad's since Dad was a kid.

A lot has changed since then. Dad passed away. Copper still misses him. When Dad's brother, who resembles Dad, comes for a visit, he jumps on the couch, lays down beside him and places his head on his lap. He doesn't get up until it's time to go. It's too bad we can't explain things to them; so, they can understand. Copper doesn't get around as well either. Long gone are the days of jumping that six foot fence. A crippling front knee joint has stopped most of his running days, as well. He's gained a lot of weight with age, his eyes are a little cloudy and his muzzle is turning white, but he still loves to see everyone come home, still loves to go for a walk or a ride.

He still makes the extra effort to follow me around when I vacuum, regardless of how much I tell him to stay out of the way and go lay down somewhere not in the path of the vacuum. I hate to get on to him when he follows me around and gets in the way; so, I am trying to just let him be. I know as time passes, one day he won't be there to follow me. I'm gonna miss that. He's real stubborn, as terriers can be, but he can be real sweet. He greets us with a shrilling trill noise at the door with all the other critters when we come home. For those of you who have seen the old Star Trek series "The Trouble with Tribbles", you know what trilling sound I mean. He sounds like that. It is sooo cute!

Hopefully, he will have many more years with us! He is approx. 12 years old now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Choosing the Right Vet

Everyone wants to give their pet the best medical care. Choosing the right vet is very important. Some suggestions:
  1. If you have family, friends or neighbors who have pets, ask them which vet they use.
  2. Call your local animal rescue or shelter. These groups use vets who sometimes donate their services or provide low cost services. They may recommend vets in the area. You will also feel good knowing your potential new vet is offering their services to help out these organizations.
  3. Get a current local phone book and locate the vets in your area. You can do this on the Internet, but sites are only as accurate as those updating them. Internet sites not updated frequently enough leave you with incomplete or outdated lists.
Make a list of vets near your home. In an emergency, you do not want to make a 30 minute drive to your vet during rush hour, prolonging the drive to an hour or more with a sick or injured pet. Make a list of important questions. Call each prospective vet's office. Explain your situation - new to the area, new pet, etc. Ask them if they have a moment to answer a few questions. You can write their response next to your questions. Questions you may ask include:
  1. What are your hours? Open late? Saturdays?
  2. How much do you charge for: office visit, regular and rabies vaccinations?
  3. If I need to bring a pet in immediately, how are emergencies handled?
  4. If you are closed, what do I do? Where do I go?
  5. If your pet has a specific ailment - diabetes, asthma, etc., ask questions regarding your pet's illness.
    A. Has your office dealt with this illness?
    B. Do you treat other pets with this illness?
    C. If medications are required, how do I reorder prescriptions?
Make a note how they answered the phone.
  1. Did they answer quickly or let it ring? This is important if you have an emergency.
  2. Were they courteous?
  3. Did they answer your questions?
After calling those on your list, compare what you have learned about each vet. You may want to visit each vet's office during a slow and busy time to observe how they handle both situations. When visiting during a slow time, ask to be introduced to the vet. If time allows, discuss your pet. All this will give you a little better feel for the vet's office staff and the vet.

Unfortunately, your vet may not always be available. Having a back up vet is a good idea. This vet can see your pet whenever your first vet choice cannot. You should always be knowledgeable of several vets in your area. Emergency clinics are another way of insuring the best medical care. Knowing where they are and how to get there will save time and hopefully your pet's life. Keep your vets and emergency clinic phone numbers in your cell phone.