Discussing dog breeds, dog-adoption, and the human-canine connection.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Dogs and Autism

Gracie ignoring camera and person.
Learning the alphabet was hard work for me; once I learned it I found it had a lot of practical applications and my attachment to it causes me to prefer the title of this particular post to be Autism and Dogs. But I also have an attachment to trying to use language to attempt to communicate as clearly as possible.

If I called this post Autism and Dogs, I figured at least someone, somewhere would see that and click in, hoping to find a post about autistic dogs. That isn't today's topic and I'm loathe to mislead readers. (I am thinking about if my dog might be autistic though, so that post might happen later).

This post needs to be called Dogs and Autism. Sorry alphabetical order. As handy as you can be, sometimes you get in the way of clear communication.

I may be quirky.
Part of me likes order, guidelines, clear expectations. Part of me likes living with an English Bull Terrier. There's room for some psychoanalysis there, I'm pretty sure. For those of you who do not live with Bull Terriers, let me digress for a moment.

Usually when I pull out the camera Gracie ignores it. She can ignore anything when she is of a mind to do so. Occasionally she even poses for the camera. Today, wanting to post updated pictures of the crew, I got the camera out expecting that as usually happens, the biggest problem would be getting Lil to not stick her nose into the lens as I tried to capture her image.

Gracie lounging on the couch prior to noticing the camera.

Gracie leaping up and running for her kennel after noticing the camera and deciding she wasn't in a photogenic mood.

As soon as the camera was put away, Gracie came out and climbed up on the couch next to me, as if to say, "I've decided to forgive you, despite the fact you were acting like paparazzi - and in my very own home."

Meanwhile, Lil sat politely and allowed her picture to be taken without sticking her nose in the lens. Also uncommon, but less dramatic.

Dogs have been constant companions and very literally, saving graces in my life. Like so many people, there were moments in the past where the best reason I could find for staying attached to this world was a concern for what would happen to my dogs if I suddenly were gone. I've long been drawn to the quirky, misunderstood dogs that have trouble finding homes. It seems likely that my own life, as a quirky, misunderstood person, allowed me to empathize with these animals. In fact, I have always found the behavior of dogs specifically, and animals in general, easier to interpret and understand than the behavior of other humans.

Gateway to fitting in
(with non-judgemental, working-class drunks)

As a child, I found other children...juvenile. As I aged and my family moved, I studied other people as an alien trying to learn the natives' habits well enough to not immediately be noticed as alien. Their dress habits were were often uncomfortable; their talk skimmed the surface as did their interests, broad and shallow.  One night I gathered with a group of 'peers' so we could celebrate our graduation from the mandated school system by drinking. I drank a bottle of lemon gin and fit in, the most I ever had. I had an epiphany, 'maybe this is really all there is to passing as 'normal' - copy whatever behavior the group is doing - go along and don't say anything.' Also learned - drunk people are easier to get along with, as long as everyone is drinking and right up until the drunk fights start.

While I was less comfortable with drinkers than with dogs, I hung out with the drinkers for some years. Then I had another epiphany. I'd rather be abnormal and slightly alone versus spending my life with drunks. A choice I've only regretted on a handful of occasions when being drunk and oblivious suddenly sounds like a preferable state of affairs to being all too keenly aware of the pain in my immediate world that I can do nothing about: both my own and other people's.

Vinnie waiting in his nest until I quit writing
After decades of living among the neuro-typical people of the world (don't worry, we've developed that label for y'all out of fondness, not judgement) I've learned to cope by making sure I have down time everyday, some of it spent surrounded by dogs.

Vinnie the chihuahua-mix is the perfect size for holding when I don't need to feel like I'm buried under a weighted blanket; the big dogs work admirably at times when I do.

And that is the upside for me, I realize, in living with an unpredictable Bull Terrier, a breed that also has zero sense of personal body space and a bizarre need to be touching a person when a person is in the room.

Gracie leaning against me while I blog - her usual post while I write

Some of you may have reached this point wondering, okay, but what does that have to do with Dogs and Autism. This post isn't for you and that's okay - the majority of the internet is filled with content that is designed for you. I'm pretty sure I saw a post on Facebook about a celebrity that you can go read right now. And I'm sure you know someone who is about to post a picture of a meal they're eating - go ahead - go check that out.

For those of you who do see the connection, hang in there. Fitting in is like drinking a bottle of lemon gin; it starts out okay. Eventually though you have to wonder if the type of community it earns you is really what you want, or if you aren't better off finding a smaller group with interests that don't need to be faked. Sometimes, there won't even really be enough of you who share the interest to count as a 'group' - that's okay too. Don't let the advertising fool you. It really is better to have one or two people who share a genuine interest to sometimes hang out with, than a room full that will show up anywhere there's a party and you're supplying the drinks.

Six people who have been paid to look at a camera
while pretending to have fun together and drink

Note - the picture on the left is not real life. It's just an advertisement.
And notice the dog - the only honest one in the picture - doesn't want to be there.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

News and new

First, there's this: Collie Dog Press 

(That's really just a bit of housekeeping to take care of; when my brain deteriorates a bit more and I can't remember which way the slashes in the web address go, I can at least find a link.) But I must say, I am pleased with the new logo for publishing.

Next, the inevitable day arrived.

Through Facebook connections, my world briefly touched with the world of another pair of people who are having medical problems; in their case, the animals have to be rehomed and the house steam-cleaned. Their adult children can take most of the animals, however, there was a little dog they had adopted a year ago, who needed someone who needed him.

Clearly, that was me.
The women who gave him to me said that when she heard about my situation, she felt that it was a sign, that it was meant to be - she had put off finding a home for the little fella and then, serendipity.

He arrived with the name Vinnie, and my original idea was to change this to Finnie, then Finn.
He started out seeming like a Finn. Rather quiet. Not much to say at first. In fact, when she first handed him to me and he did not growl, it seemed odd and rather un-Chihuahua like - based on my life with Chi Chi. I'm still adjusting, in fact, to a Chihuahua who isn't nearly so fussy about how he is handled.

After living with him for a day though (and having an odd urge to sometimes call him Frank....) he seemed to be more and more of a Vinnie. Finn would chill on a couch. Vinnie would get up from the couch he was on, charge across the room and chase the cat from sitting beside me. The more at home he felt, the bigger his name seemed to need to be.

Which is why, although he is still usually Vinnie, his official name has become Vincenzo Francisco Finn, aka, Vinnie-Frank, Mr. Finn, the Vinster.

The first morning with us when I had to go to work, Vin tried staying in bed. I brought him down and put him out, when he came in he ran back upstairs and got back in bed. This is apparently his modus operandi, as some pictures his previous family sent me show.

Now that he knows the routine though, he gets up in the morning, has breakfast and then goes back to bed.He then gets back up to bark at me when I leave for work. On our second morning he tried to convince me I should quit work and just stay home with him.

I'm not sure - as he was adopted after being a stray who was unclaimed - if he is a pure, not well bred Chihuahua or perhaps a dachshund mix. He weighs the same as Chi Chi did, but is shorter and longer.

And although he's been with us less than two weeks, it already seems like he's a long time companion. He's probably six years old. I'm at least his third home in the past year +. I can't imagine the circumstances though, that would require him to move on from here. Or I can imagine, and they aren't that likely...I figure I'm probably good for at least six to ten more years.

He was used to living with another dog and is now friends with Lil the Lab.
He and Gracie are somewhat indifferent to each other.
The cats want to know where I keep finding mutant rodents.

Vinnie and friend in previous home

One thing he and Gracie do agree on - the neighbors have nefarious plans and must be barked at when they are so bold as to be outside their own home. Like so many little dogs, he's convinced he is indomitable.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Recovery, denial, and a total change of pace

I'm not going to lie.
Adjusting to not having Jenny and Chi Chi around has been tough.

Really, I don't think I'm uncommon in having trouble processing my grief or coming to grips with the loss. Many of us, I suspect, get through loss by trying to keep ourselves busy with other thoughts. I spend a lot of time hanging out with the remaining stalwart companions.

Despite being nine now, Gracie is still having trouble acting like a grown up for any extended period of time. She's very good for a while, then decides to switch things up by de-constructing a plastic bucket, or ripping paper tags off the wild-bird food bags.

Lil on the other hand, is working at being a better model-canine-citizen. She's trying to step up her constant companion role; if I step back from the sink in the bathroom, I trip over her. If I sit down I have a second oversized lap dog trying to squish me with love.

When we're hanging out, I need something to actually occupy my mind - petting dogs is great but it doesn't actually require all my active brain cells - yet. I'm a writer, so I write. Recently I was given a challenge by a family member, to try and write a Western.

I don't consider the traditional Western my genre, although I have read them I've never intended to write one. My relative (okay, dad) wouldn't quit bugging me about trying though and after warning him I wouldn't write 'his kind' of Western, I gave it a try.

What came out is the beginning of a Historical Western Mystery series.
And since I like to share all my compulsions with the folks who stop by this blog, I would now like to share a link that allows the first two people (sorry, only in the U.S.) to obtain the book for free through Amazon: paperback giveaway

For those of you who have Kindles or the kindle reading app for other devices, the book is available starting at just 99 cents (U.S.) and should be available wherever kindle books are sold (i.e., any nation).

Hope everyone else is hanging in there and has a good start to their summer. I'll keep plugging away and the rest of y'all please do the same!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Post I never wanted to write

This is a hard one to write, one that I have not been able to face for a few weeks.

Several weeks ago I got a call that my dad was in the hospital for emergency surgery. I loaded up the fur-kids and headed to my parents home, which is several hours from mine and the reason I moved back to the Northern Mid-West from my much loved West Coast.

Saturday morning I came downstairs in my parent's home to find my mom cleaning up after Jenny the Collie. Jenny had been having bowel problems that week but at my home I'd convinced myself that we'd get through this, I fed her some canned pumpkin and we got by. I told my mom I didn't know what was wrong and mom gently said, "I think her body is shutting down."

I called my vet (nearby town to parents because we're there so often) and took Jenny in. The vet agreed, it was Jenny's time. So with much pain despite the inevitability of this time, I said goodbye to my old friend.

Visiting my father in the  hospital that afternoon I reminded myself that I was fortunate, my father was going to recover and Jenny had a good life, having been comfortable for the final 3+ years with a chronic condition that was hard on her body.

On some level I had been expecting this. Personally, I don't think knowing something is coming necessarily makes it easier but at least one isn't taken by total surprise. What happened next though, did surprise me.

 Chi Chi had stopped eating and drinking the morning I took Jenny in. Jenny was his best buddy and when I was at work, he and Jenny snoozed side by side, two seniors comfortable in each other's company. I worried that he was having trouble adjusting. It was worse than that.

His body quickly failed him. He lost control of his body functions. Monday I was back at the vet. Three months previously Chi had a wellness check and at that time he'd been a healthy 7.01 pounds. That Monday he was already down to 6 pounds. He was dehydrated and a different vet than the one I'd dealt with on Saturday - a young person who was trying to be neutral and non-influencing - advised me that I could try taking him home and getting him to drink - his veins were bad enough they couldn't do it intravenously - but that we were still dealing with his underlying neurological condition and ....

I said, "My concern is I would be keeping him going just for me."

Her response, "People do that all the time, we all do."

Personally, I've tried to always avoid that, asking an animal who had lost their overall quality of life to keep living just for me. I looked at my weary little old dog and realized that without his bff he was not wanting to go on. So I had to say goodbye.

It's been a tough couple of weeks and this sorrow will not go away any time soon, I know. We're all adjusting. Lil has become more grey of late and though she is the youngest, seems to feel it is her responsibility to step up and be the Good Girl and Responsible Dog.

She continues to follow me everywhere, which she's always done - she is a Lab. Now however, she sleeps with me every night - she used to just as often sleep in 'her own room' next door to mine. But she's decided I need closer looking after now. And then there's Gracie.

Gracie is a senior now. Nine years old. Which means she acts at her age the way more ordinary dogs behave at a much younger age. She only needs to jump on my head on rare occasions now and is satisfied to try and sit on my shoulder from the back of the couch, like an over-sized parrot, or drape over my lap, as she's always done, but now without exploding off my lap into my face or onto Lil.

Gracie still keeps an eye on all the neighbors. As I reflect though, I think the outraged barking has decreased a little.

Bull Terriers are not noted for being particularly long lived. In the UK where this has actually been investigated, the mean age of the breed is 10. I'm not borrowing trouble and Gracie is currently fit and in good health, seeming younger than she is.
When one has lived with, loved, and lost canine companions though, it seems impossible not to look at the writing on the wall. I expect age may suddenly catch up with Gracie. I'm hoping she will against odds and her ill-planned breeding, prove to be an unusually long lived member of her breed.

We are all aging and doing our best to adjust to what life requires of us as our bodies slow down and our losses compile alongside our gains. I'm grateful for the time I have with canine friends; I miss them so much when they are gone.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Smiling Dogs

Admittedly, I am not posting as regularly as my good intentions would dictate, if I listened to my good intentions. There is a new medical procedure on my horizon though (out patient, so not a big deal) and I was thinking - what we need to see about now are smiling dogs. Happy looking dogs to remind us that whatever else is going on, we can usually count on our canine companions to brighten our day.


Not all of us are experiencing full on spring yet, so I'm starting with a dog that can smile even while sitting in slushy snow. I will try and remember his/her face when I slog through mud, slush, snow to get to my front door tonight.


There are entire breeds of dogs who are known for their tendency to smile. One of these is the Samoyed.


Another smiling breed is the Golden Retriever.


Other breeds don't tend to be associated with smiling as often, yet do still generate happy looks - I'm thinking of a breed I actually live with now... the Chihuahua.


Add chttps://www.pinterest.com/pin/102738435223910588/

And some dogs are just so happy looking, that one can't
help but smile looking at them.

I'm also just very fond of happy looking senior dogs.


Currently, I am living with several breeds of dogs that are fairly happy breeds.

Labradors of course smile whenever fun or food are immediate.   

Bull Terriers smile pretty much anytime they see someone.  


And Collies tend to smile at their own private thoughts. They are for example, very fond of jokes about children like "little Timmy" who is still sitting in a cave somewhere waiting for Lassie to come back.  


We hope that whatever causes you and your family and canine friends to smile, you have many opportunities to share smiles in the days and weeks ahead. A belated Happy Spring to all!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Schipperke: small shepherd, big personality


Typically long lived, usually healthy, very spunky, rather independent, and sometimes flat out stubborn - though now classified as a "Companion" breed, the Schipperke requires a certain sort of person to share their home, farm, or boat with.

One of several breeds of Belgium dogs breed out from an earlier breed (the Leauvenaar) Schipperkes share this ancestor with their larger cousin, the Belgium Groenendael. The modern breed may be mistaken for a relative of the Spitz or Pomeranian family due to their small sized, wedged shape head, perk ears,and bushy coat but their origins are as working shepherds who also guarded their masters on the way to and from market. Though now pint sized, the Schipperke retains: a willingness to protect their home and family; a suspicion of strangers; and a very large dog's attitude.


Some bloodlines are more prone to small prey drive than others but there is also a breed tendency to be good with animals they are raised with, very tolerant of children, and devoted to their own family. 


It's now believed the Schipperke is named for their shepherding origin; in the area of Belgium they are from their name translated as "little shepherd". Because they are such adaptable little dogs, willing to hunt rodents as well as guard property, they became popular as barge dogs, many people thus thinking their name was based on a translation of "little boatman." 


Barge owners, however, were not the only trades or crafts people to keep this dog and there is a legend that the first time a Schipperke's tail was cropped it was done by an angry shop owner who was tired of his neighbor's dog stealing things from him - so he chopped the dog's tail off. Of course, in Europe it is no longer allowed to crop dogs' tails and selective breeding does now result in some Schipperke being born tailless or with short tails. 

Wikipedia, Schipperkes circa 1897

Personally, I don't think the nickname or reputation of "little black devil" is deserved. These are feisty dogs but also very devoted to their people. Yes, they can be mischievous and stubborn but obviously I don't consider these devilish traits (I admittedly do live with a Bull Terrier and think the Schipperke would be easier for many people to live with). 


The Schipperke I've met have been spirited but manageable, an active breed that will grace the right family with many years of devoted companionship. Due to their small size, a brisk walk of 20 - 30 minutes and some play time inside meet the average Schipp's exercise needs; their compact size suits them to living in a range of environments.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas, Hanukah just around the corner!

I've been meaning to write a post about Schipperkes and today is once again not the day I will do that :-/  But I still have to post a brief update because Hanukah and Christmas are quickly going to be here. I'm sure the fact that seasons seem to be going more quickly every year has nothing to do with the fact I'm aging, right?

My latest questionable choice has been to sign up to do my first craft show and it will be in a rather large venue (a dome) with hundreds of other crafters. I'm pretty sure this indicates that any slim hold I had on rationality has gone out the window.

I've made some new cards, some so new I don't have pictures of them yet to share.
I was also very pleased to be able to use a few photos taken by my 10 year old nephew, who is also thrilled to have his photos featured on some cards. (If anyone is interested in ordering a Hanukah or Christmas card, I'm having free shipping on greeting cards until after the craft shows....)

This picture is by young photographer C. Korhonen

I think he's going to be a phenomenal adult photographer because he's already great and he has years ahead of him to learn more!

As soon as I can carve out some time, I will post a real post, and not just a 'hi, how is everyone!' post.

Until then, Hi, how is everyone?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

My latest thing: I probably need stronger meds

"Christmas Kitty reminds us 'the greatest gift of all is peace on earth;
the second greatest gift is including the gift receipt with every present,
thus simplifying returns.' "

When I say I probably need stronger meds I'm making a sarcastic, or tongue in check reference to the fact that I am somewhat (okay, diagnosed) as living with among other things OCD and I've fallen back into an old obsession; photography.

But I've found a way to take it to a new level by combining my photos with my writing, my sometimes biting wit, and my desire to have something to focus on when the physical pain leads me to the point of wanting something 'outside myself' to concentrate on.

Thus was born: Chi Chi Salutations.
"We're racing to wish you Happy Holidays and a Joyful New Year"

Originally, the salutations were going to be all snarky and I was going to call them salutations with scorn.

It seems though, that there are still other aspects of my personality that want to come out too, so I caved into my better nature and developed some  "Loving Lil's cards", which say nice things.

And "Gentle Jenny's" which don't say anything at all but have nice clean, white stationary inserts so people can include their own thoughts, snarky or not. We've even created some boxed collections for those inclined to gift giving.

I use some dog and cat photos.
" A wise man once said:
"To avoid a look of surprised disappointment,
don't give a dreidel to someone hoping for a diamond."

I share these words of wisdom with you in the spirit of Hanukah."

"Love is like a rose.
It may look good from a distance
but up close it's full of thorns."

Lots of pictures of flowers from my gardens; sometimes with blank inserts and sometimes not.

Framed photo

I've also spent time in the local Quincy Mine Historical Park, taking photos of the shaft house, hoist house, and ruins.

Blank card

Ore car and rail ruins, shaft house

After the historical park, I had to start framing some of my photos, including making a few framed photo collages.

"To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under heaven."

After framing photos, the next compulsion was to combine some photos with lines of scripture that just seemed to fit.

So now, I have a new thing, an Etsy shop where I feature framed photos and photo cards: Etsy page
I haven't gotten into twitter, but I do have an older fashioned Facebook page: Facebook

I have already achieved the first goal of having something to think about besides my physical pain. I wouldn't mind some help spreading the word though, because I've just realized I'm running out of room to store all this stuff and I can't stop making it! I have new ideas, new photos ordered, new frames....and any money that comes in is already spent on keeping the dogs (and cats) in the style to which they want to remain accustomed. Those silly medical bills can't be allowed to put a dent in the kibble fund now, can they?

"When your birthday falls during the Holiday Season,
sometimes it can feel like people forget about you.

You don't have to wear antlers though, to get our attention;
 you're noteworthy just the way you are.

(Of course, if you do decide to wear antlers, be sure to share a selfie.)"
I've even made my sister's dog and cat pose for me, along with all my pups.
I'm sure they at least wished my arthritis hadn't kept me from going back to my other former hobby of crocheting ...but considering some of the crochet cat and dog costumes out there, they really wouldn't have been any better off. Chi Chi for example could totally rock a crochet fedora.

So if you know anyone who still uses old fashioned cards or who is looking for industrial, historical, or floral photos send them our way. We're generally in an accommodating mood, unless you're talking to Chi Chi, which is why he is not in charge of customer relations.