Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Holidays

Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snow Day!

It sounds like we got a lot less snow than our more southern friends. I'd say we got about six inches and it looks like it's slowing down. We actually have a pretty good amount of snow on the ground, but some of it is left over from the last snowfall. Since the older snow has a layer of ice on top, Iris can walk on top of it. It looks like we have barely anything on the ground.

A certain red dog has been stuck in the house for a little too long. There's a little field in right outside the condo so we went out to get some exercise.

snow + long line = very happy red dog

All of the tracks in the snow were made by Iris. Think she had a good time?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Four Weeks

The goal was to get Iris to go 2 months without any seizures. That was one of the big reasons for starting her on Phenobarbital. Since her seizures started, Iris has averaged about four weeks between clusters. She's always been in the the 3-5 week range, usually right around 4.

Since starting on Pb, she managed to go four weeks to the day between seizures. Actually, it was four weeks almost to the hour. She passed the four week mark by about 2 hrs. Damn it. The low dose of Pb didn't buy her any more time. The two seizures she had on Sunday morning (last weekend) were a little longer than "normal" for Iris. I gave her Valium during the second seizure and she came right out of it. No more seizures after that although the Valium made her really out of it for the rest of the day. At least Valium actually does something.

I held off on acupuncture while we were gradually increasing her Pb dose (to help with the ataxia she gets from Pb). I wanted to only change one thing at a time in case she suddenly got worse, but now her med dosage is consistent so acupuncture is our "next step". I want to give it a shot before we increase her meds yet again. Since Iris' seizures started, none of the medication changes have increased the time between seizures. She was going roughly four weeks before we started her on meds. It's definitely time to try something else.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Snow Herding

Between getting Iris' seizures under control and getting my car issues sorted out, it's been two months since Iris' last herding lesson! I didn't realize it had been that long. Goes to show just how crazy life has been.

I thought we were going to get snowed out of our lesson, but we ended up getting a lot less snow than they predicted. Hooray!

Hey! I thought moving north meant more snow!

We got there early so we could watch some of Julie and Bug's lesson. It's been a while since I've seen Bug work and he is really fun to watch. Plus, I always learn a lot just from watching. There was another CWC there for a lesson too (the red dog was out numbered by the short dogs!), and he was very vocal while he worked. It's always really interesting to see how different dogs have different "styles."

When it was Iris' turn to work sheep, it was really hard to motivate her. Initially, she seemed interested but after getting corrected for lunging at sheep a couple of times, she pretty much checked out. The first time I brought her in the pen, I had her on a long line and the goal was to keep her moving and encourage her to fetch sheep. With the long line, it's easier to get her working again when she starts to check out. We've done the same thing during the last couple of lessons. The second time I worked Iris, we focused on driving and trying to get Iris motivated. I think she was pretty much fried for the day.

I've been thinking a lot about the lesson and I admit it, I was a little discouraged when we left. It seems like Iris used to have a lot more interest in sheep, did great at the Jan Wesen clinic, and since then she's really quit on me. Sometimes it seems like she does want to play, and then sometimes all she wants to do is glue her nose to the ground. It feels like she is a lot more stressed out than she used to be. Stressing my dog out wasn't the reason I got started in herding.

I think the problem is that Iris doesn't really understand what's expected of her (hence all the stress sniffing). I was thinking about it, and Iris tends to shut down if she's wrong. In agility, I'd lose her if I screwed up a sequence too many times. She'd start to get stressed. If I do any shaping with her, I have to be really careful about raising my criteria too fast or else she'll quit completely. Bad handler, the only feedback she was really getting during herding was "don't lunge at sheep like a crazy dog." From Iris' prespective what was she supposed to do? Ignore the sheep?

I know Diane said this to me during the lesson. MANY times. I need to remember to praise my dog when she's doing it right. If I'm excited and happy, she'll be excited and happy. Iris is extremely sensitive to my mood. I have to remember this! Iris loves verbal praise. The other day, I was working on "go to mat" with her and I was just using a click/treat as the reward. She was able to go all the way across the room to lie down on the mat, but she was very slow. Without thinking about it, one time when I rewarded her I told her what a good girl she was, petted her, and said "are you reeeaaaady? go!" She bounded over to the mat and slamed into a down. I know some people like to use purely a c/t as reward, but it doesn't work for my dog. She likes being told she's brilliant! It's only a reward if your dog thinks it's a reward! I think praise needs to be part of the reward for Iris.

So that was my little epiphany last night. If a "good girly!" can completely change Iris' demenor during a simple training game in my living room, then of course it would matter to her during herding. How many times did Diane try to tell me that? Too many to count! I tend to be quiet in general, and I'm not always good at giving Iris verbal feedback. Especially if I'm trying to think about what I'm doing at the same time, I forget to talk to her. I had the same problem in agility. If I remembered where to put my feet and where to hold to my arm, I probably forgot to actually say "tunnel."

The plan for next lesson is to start with sheep. We'll do the same thing with the long line and fetching and trying to get her motivated. Then Iris will get a break and the second time she works, we're going to try ducks. Starting on sheep will give Iris a chance to get some of her energy out, and switching to ducks should hopefully change the game enough for her that she'll want to keep playing. And I have to remember to tell her she's perfect!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pink Elephants

Iris had a rough couple of days last weekend. Eleven seizures in 36 hours.

She started seizing every couple hours Fri night. I got her in to see her regular vet first thing on Saturday morning (lucky us! Her regular vet happened to be the vet available to squeeze us in), and we decided to start Iris on a low does of Phenobarbital. Iris didn't tolerate a high dose well last time we tried it. Also, she got a Valium injection while we were there. Usually the side effect of Valium is drowsiness. Not so for Iris. She gets really loopy and off balance, but not drowsy. Not quite on this planet mentally but not ready for dreamland either.

We decided to start Iris on a very low dose of Pb to help her adjust to it (about 1/3 of what a dog her size would start on if starting on only Pb). She'll also stay on her full dose of Keppra so that we can keep her on a lower amount of Pb. In 2 weeks, we'll double her Pb (so 2/3 of a "normal" dose).

The Valium on Sat bought Iris roughly a 6 hr break from seizing. Dr K sent me home with a couple doses of Valium, which bought us another break from seizing but still didn't interrupt her cycle. She was back to seizing as soon as it wore off. At that point, I gave her a higher dose of Pb and that seemed to do the trick. No more seizures since Sunday morning, and I've weaned her back to the very low dose.

Interesting enough, Phenobarbital doesn't make Iris drowsy either. She's been very out of it mentally, and at the beginning of the week she would not relax. She was very sniffy, sniffing everything in the house multiple times. Acting very nervous, pacing, panting, not sleeping through the night. Jumping at little sounds. She was so mentally out of it that she was having trouble with basic commands and housebreaking. Iris never has accidents in the house, but unless I was taking her out every 2 hrs, she wasn't remembering to go outside. Pb makes her thirsty so she was drinking more water than usual which wasn't helping. Also, Iris really looked like she was hallucinating? She was very worried, eyes darting around the room looking at nothing in particular. It was taking her longer to recognize people/things. I'm pretty sure she was seeing pink elephants. Or maybe heffalumps and woozles.

Thankfully, Iris seems like she's finally getting back to normal. Last night was the first night where she didn't look like she was hallucinating and she was actually able to relax on the couch while I worked on a project. We both got a good night's sleep.

This was by far her worst round of seizures yet. I'm not sure what triggered it. I've been without a car for the last couple weeks and have been running on my roommate's schedule. Her schedule is a lot less consistent than mine meaning Iris' schedule was really varied. Did that throw Iris off? Or my roommate had been working on an art project on Thurs. Did the glues from that set her off? I wish I knew.

For now, the plan is to keep Iris on both Pb and Keppra in hopes of keeping her on a lower dose of Pb long term. The goal is to go 2 months without any seizures, and at that point we'll think about lowering her meds, probably the Keppra dose. I've also been doing some research on acupuncture. Some dogs have pretty positive results, so I think that's going to be our next step. Does anyone know a vet who does acupuncture in the area that they'd recommend?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Seven Groups

I've seen this on a few different blogs now and figured I'd play too.


Group 1- Sporting
Group 2- Hound
Group 3- Working
Group 4- Terriers
Group 5- Toys
Group 6- Non Sporting
Group 7- Herding

Sporting - I had a tough time with this one. From a purely visual stand point, there is definitely a reason that Wegman's breed of choice is the Weimaraner. I can't think of a breed with a better coat to photograph than the short silver coat of a Weim. However for a breed that I'd want to live with, I have to go with a Vizsla. Makin and Tessa are great ambassadors for their breed!

Hound Group - After living with a scent hound, I would have to pick a sighthound (sorry Henry!) instead. I've meet a couple of Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and they have great personalities. I think it would be fun to try lure coursing someday. Also, I really like the look of Salukis but I've never had the chance to actually meet one.

Working Group - My first choice would have to be a Portuguese Water Dog. I came very close to getting a PWD after I lost my Wheaten. I love their personality, and I really like dogs that have some coat. Right now I don't think I have time to manage a PWD's coat, but I do enjoy grooming so maybe someday. I really like Siberian Huskies as well. I love dogs who are smart with an independent streak! Maybe that's from growing up with a terrier. I've met a few Bernese Mountain Dogs who are awesome dogs, and I saw a few of them at a herding clinic. They were really fun to watch!

Terrier Group - I do really like the terrier group. Such big personalities in little dog bodies! I think my top choice would actually be one of the taller terriers. I really like Irish Terriers, especially since they don't need as much grooming as a Wheaten or a Kerry Blue (although maybe someday...) I like JRTs a lot as well.

Toy Group - I'm not really a small dog person. My ideal size for a dog is around 45 lbs. Not too big, not too small. That said, if I was going to get a small dog, it would probably be a Papillon. I actually did look at a Papillon (who was large for the breed) at a shelter before I looked at Iris. I admit, a small dog would have made more sense in an apartment but I just really like the herding breed personality the best.

Non-Sporting Group - I had the hardest time with this group. I think I would go with a Keeshond. I do like their personality, although I would worry about all of that coat in the summer.

Herding Group - There are too many herding breeds I like! I'm not certain which breed other than Aussie would actually be my top choice. I like Kelpies a lot, and they might be my second choice right now. If I was going to get a bigger dog, I think I would go with a Belgian Shepherd. I like Border Collies, but I've never actually spent much time with a BC. I'd like to actually get to know the breed a little better. What is funny, almost everyone who asks me what breed of dog Iris is asks if she's a BC. Strange! I think it might be that the general public thinks every medium size herding dog is a BC? Another breed I'd like to learn more about is the Pyrenean Shepherd.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Herding Lesson

Last Sunday, Iris has a herding lesson with Diane. It was Iris' first lesson with Diane (same location as the Jan Wessen clinic). It was GREAT! I think we've finally settled on a herding instructor. :-)

Julie and Bug also had a lesson, so I got to watch them work as well. Sometimes I think you can learn just as much from watching someone's lesson as you do from having your own! It was one of things that I really liked about the "group class" feel of the last herding instructor we worked with and definitely something I don't want to miss.

Diane had me work Iris on a shorter line initally, walking her around and asking for stops and downs, having her change direction, and having her "walk up." When I dropped the line, Iris was full of piss and vinegar and quite happy to chase sheep. We sort of worked on getting Iris to bring sheep to me. Something Diane said that stood out for me was to let Iris bring me the sheep. I feel like I should be doing something, but that's not really the point of herding. The dog is supposed to be doing the work!

Because Iris wanted to rush the sheep, Diane had me loop the line around Iris' chest making a sort of no-pull harness. Also, when Iris would lunge, I'd change direction. I think she figured it out pretty quickly. Diane had us walk up to sheep and then try to keep the sheep in a corner. Trying to keep the sheep in a specific place really helped me see where I (and my dog) needed to be in relation to the sheep. It's easy to get sheep to move; it's much harder to get them somewhere specific!

Diane pointed out that Iris definitely wants to work on Iris' terms. She is quite happy to bust in like the kool-aid man and run sheep around, but as soon as I stop her from acting like a nut, she doesn't want to play any more. Then she'd rather sniff around, check out the sheep in the other pen, chase butterflies, whatever. She'll herd sheep all day long if she can herd her way. As soon as I ask her to herd my way, she doesn't really want to play anymore. This is very typical of Iris.

Diane had some good ideas about keeping Iris in the game. She had me put Iris on a very long line, so I could keep Iris moving around the pen when she'd try to quit. Even though it was a challenge to juggle the long line, rake, dog and sheep, it helped a lot. No more quitting Aussie! After that, we worked on driving the sheep around the pen. Diane had me keep Iris and the sheep moving and just tried to get her excited about the sheep. Since Iris seems to border between being really excited about sheep and then not wanting to play at all because she thinks my rules are no fun, I thought it was a good way to end the lesson.

After our lessons, Julie and I were chatting with Diane. Julie wants to try for Bug's PT in the spring. When Diane asked what my plans are for Iris, it caught me completely off-guard. I'd pretty much written off trialing Iris because she can be so reactive and gets so stressed by crowds, dogs, etc. I hadn't actually thought about doing anything with herding other than lessons. I didn't even expect Iris to work at the Jan Wessen clinic. I was very aware that the number of people and dogs could shut her down, and that was ok. However, Iris had no problem working! I was very pleasantly surprised. So I guess the other pleasant surprise is that Diane thinks Iris won't have any problems with a herding trial. Based on how Iris did at the herding clinic, I think Diane is right. She seemed to think Iris would be ready for something (HT? PT? She wasn't specific) in the spring.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


The blanket wasn't even in her crate to begin with.

My retribution is that if she breaks it, she wears it. Think she'll behave herself tomorrow?

Someone is under-stimulated... I might have to start running her instead of walking her before I leave for work. And maybe leaving her crate further away from my blankets.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Normally, I hate websites with background music. However, I stumbled across this website and I have to admit the background music is pretty cute.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

New House, More Seizures

I haven't been particularly good about keeping this blog updated lately, although there hasn't really been much to tell either. We're pretty much settled into the new place now. Iris handled the transition very well. I think Iris is an old pro at moving. This is the third place I've lived in since I adopted her, and before that she had four other homes. She's lived in at least 7 places in her 6 years of life, not including the breeder or the shelter. That's enough to make MY head spin.

I did have to deal with a "boundary testing" stage. Yes, all of the same rules still apply in the new house. Iris just needed to check. Multiple times. However, she's been VERY good while I've been at work. There have been various people in and out of the condo (electrician, plumber, etc), and I've been told that Iris is quiet as a mouse. Quiet? My dog? I think the change has been good for her. The condo complex is A LOT quieter than the apartment. No screaming kids outside of my bedroom window.

We've done a little exploring in some of the local parks, but we haven't found a close one that I'm excited about yet. Iris isn't picky though. Any old park will do. A parking lot is good enough as long as she gets to go for a walk. The other day we ran into another red merle Aussie at the park. Cool! It's the first time I've ever seen another red dog outside of a doggie event (agility and herding have a disproportionate number of Aussies compared to the general population so they don't count)! He was quite a bit bigger than Iris, heavier boned, and had a lot more coat. He made poor Iris look like a scrappy little pipsqueak. Although I admit it, I prefer the "scrappy Aussie" look to the "show Aussie" look.

Our exploring got sidelined last Saturday because Iris started having seizures again. We ended up at the ER vet on Sat night. She was seizing every 3 hrs almost on the dot. It seems like once she starts seizing like that, she gets "stuck." The ER vet was nice enough, although she didn't really have any insight for what set off this round of seizures. She seemed to think that Iris is too old for epilepsy (she's over 5 years old) but a little too young for a brain tumor and asked if I though maybe it was a toxicity? Could Iris have eaten a penny? It sort of went downhill from there. No, I think it is very unlikely that my 6 year old Aussie ate a penny. She picks and chooses which crumbs she'll eat off the floor. The vet also pretty much said that she didn't agree with the decision to start Iris on Keppra instead of phenobrab (a decision I made after a lot of discussion with my regular vet. Mostly I was just annoyed that she was openly second guessing the decision without knowing any of the reasons for it).

Iris did have a seizure at the ER vet, so she got a Valium injection and the ER vet started her on phenobarbital (they gave her a "loading dose" - a higher than normal dose to get her jump-started because it takes time for phenobarb to really start working). They shaved her front leg to give her the first dose of phenobarb via IV catheter and did a shoddy job of shaving her. Her poor leg is all scraped up now. I brought her home, and she was one drugged up pup. She could not keep her feet under her, and I had to carry her up the stairs into the condo. Mentally she was on another planet too. She'd urinated on herself at the ER vet and desperately needed a bath. In hindsight, I wish I had a video camera during the bath. She lay down in the tub completely spacing out the whole time. Getting her to flip over so I could get the other side wasn't easy! If you could have seen us, it was pretty comical. At least Iris didn't seemed stressed out by it. I don't think she knew she was in the bath.

I talked to Iris' regular vet on Monday morning. He still thinks epilepsy is the right diagnosis, and the reason she's still having siezures is that we haven't gotten her medication right. I've heard a few times (and the ER vet definitely seemed a little hung up on this) that seizures in a dog 5 years old and younger indicate epilepsy, but Iris is 6 years old. Iris' vet doesn't think that's such a rigid cutoff.

This is the second round of seizures since she started on medication. The dosage of keppra that Iris started on is on the low end of the dosage range. We talked again about what medication to put Iris on. The reason for putting Iris on keppra in the first place was to avoid the side effects of phenobarb. With that in mind, we decided to take her off phenobarb and increase the dose of keppra instead. Keeping fingers and paws crossed that will do the trick.

So far, she's gone a week without seizures. I actually think the 4 week mark will be more of a milestone for Iris. At least the side effects from the drugs have subsided. Her balance was really affected by the meds. On Sun she could barely keep her feet under her. Thurs night was the first time since Sat that Iris was actually walking normally. For much of the week, even standing up to relieve herself was a struggle. Her butt-puff is not-so-neatly trimmed as result, but at least it helped keep her clean. Mentally, she wasn't "all there" for the beginning of the week. Very spacey. Any sort of sudden noise would make her really jump. Wed she was finally acting more like herself and Thurs was the first night she was able to do stairs on her own. I'm not entirely certain which med she was reacting to (some of the side effects are the same), although I think the worst of it was phenobarb. It was another reason for taking her off of it. Her vet said it could take up to 30 days for her to fully regain her balance if we left her on phenobarb (some dogs adjust faster). Just because she was having trouble walking doesn't mean she didn't have energy.

At least she's back to herself now.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Jan Wesen Clinic

A week ago, I brought Iris to an Intro to Herding clinic with Jan Wesen. It was worth every penny! I will definitely go to another clinic with Jan if I have the opportunity.

At the beginning of the day, Jan gave a lecture about herding basics. She has a good summary of this already on her website. She talked about the different commands used in herding (down, stop, out, back, go bye, away to me, walk). Jan teaches all of her dogs "out" (turn away from the stock and move away in a straight line until told to do something else) and "back" (back up in a straight line away from the stock). Jan mentioned that she uses "out" more with her Aussies and "back" with her Kelpies, although all her dogs know both. I think the difference is that Aussies are generally "loose eyed" and Kelpies are "strong eyed?" I hadn't realized there would be different command preferences for different herding styles, but it does make sense.

The two directional commands, "go by" and "away to me" mean to move around the stock in a circle, ideally without causing the stock to move. The length of the command helps the dog know how for to move. So "go" is a shorter distance than "goooo by." I thought it was very cool that dogs can learn these differences in the commands. You can do the same thing with "walk." "Walk" would be go slowly and "walkwalkwalk" is faster.

Jan talked a little bit about working with puppies. One on the things she suggested is pretty much the same as the space game that Katrin teaches in her beginning agility classes. I love this game because it's such a good way to get Iris to refocus. And it's applicable to so many different situations!

One other thing that Jan explained was how to teach herding commands with a toy instead of sheep. Iris isn't very toy motivated, but I think I could do it with a stuffed kong instead. I was able to find a kid's rake, so we should be able to get in some practice. I haven't been able to find a fenced in place to train yet, but there is a grassy area across from the condo where I could take Iris out on a long line.

After the lecture, all of the humans got to practice herding ducks. Two people had to move the ducks in a set pattern. Ducks are VERY sensitive to pressure. It was a great way to learn about pressure and balance points without worrying about a dog too. It only took a small amount of movement to put pressure on the ducks.

Next the dogs all got to do some herding. Each dog worked for only a short period of time, but I think they got to work about 7 times each over the course of the day! I felt like it was really good for Iris to get that many short sessions in one day. There was quite a variety of dogs, all different ages and breeds although I think almost all the dogs were very inexperienced in herding. If I remember correctly, the group had a bunch of Aussies, a few Collies (rough and smooth), a couple of BCs and Shelties, and a very cutie young CWC.

I could hear dogs barking in the cars during the lecture, and I have no doubt that Iris was one of those dogs. By the time I brought her out, she was pretty revved up. On top of that, Iris was the last dog to work. Even though she was VERY good about waiting, I had to work hard to keep her attention on me (and not on supervising everything else!)

The first exercise we did was walking the dogs through the pen. I think Jan used that as an opportunity to gauge each dog's interest in sheep. The second time I brought Iris in with the sheep, Jan came in with us. Iris was still VERY revved up. There's a reason I call her the Kool-Aid dog, and she was happy to demonstrate. I think we were supposed to be working on balance, although for Iris it turned into a "respect the rake" session.

We also did an exercise Jan calls "around the clock." You ask the dogs to preform every skill she needs (get around, stop/down, there, walk, out, get around, there, walk, back). We did it with the dogs on leash. Eventually, the handler should be able to stand in the middle of the pen and the dog should do everything off-leash. The goal is to have the dog reliably preforming all of the commands in a small pen before moving to a bigger pen.

Another exercise we did was driving. We kept the dogs on leash and had them drive the sheep around the pen. It's good for the dogs to learn that they can bring stock both to the handler and away from the handler. I think fetching and driving seem like they're very different concepts for the dogs to learn. Most of the dogs seemed like they would be happy to keep running circles around the sheep, so I can see how driving would be more difficult to learn. Jan said it's not only good for the dogs to learn both, but also it's good for the sheep. If you only work on fetching, the sheep learn that they're "safe" from the dog if they're on top of the handler.

The next thing we did was something Jan called "packed pen." It was a very small pen with three "light sheep." Iris did a lot better than I expected. I think by that point in the day she was starting to get tired. She was a lot less "wired" about being so close to the sheep. Interesting. The ultimate goal in "packed pen" is for the handler to stand outside while the dog works inside the pen.

After that, each dog got to work individually a few more times. I think we working on balance and flanking again? The dogs were off-leash for this exercise. Iris was much better than the first time I brought her out. She was less pushy and paying much better attention to the rake.

Also kind of cool, at the end of the day Jan asked me what Iris' breeding is. I told her, and she'd actually heard of Iris' breeder. Cool! I thought Iris is from a working line x conformation line cross. Pincie Creek definitely breeds working dogs, and Jan said that Dogone has a working line and a conformation line. I thought Iris was from Dogone's conformation line, but now Jan has me wondering. Either way, Jan told me I have a very nice dog.

Overall, I was VERY happy with how Iris did. The very first time I brought her herding was at a Tenley Dexter clinic. Iris was completely overwhelmed and had a lot of trouble working. During that clinic, she repeatedly went over to the fence while she was working to see what the people and dogs were doing outside the pen. Not so this time around! Iris was VERY focused while she was working. She actually ignored barking dogs (for the most part) while she was in with the sheep. By the end of the day, Iris had even gotten better about hanging out with me while we were waiting our turn. It was probably a combination of her being tired and her getting used to the environment over the course of the day. Either way, I was very happy that Iris was so willing to work with me in such a stimulating environment. This dog really loves herding.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


All is quiet on the canine front. We haven't been doing much of anything lately. Ok, actually Iris hasn't gotten to do much of anything lately. I've painted every room in a 2 bedroom condo, moved countless boxes (many thanks to the local liquor store for free boxes) and all of my too-many plants, and have vowed never again take a "vacation" at the same time as my room mate. I think my vacation has been more work than my job! All that has left my poor dog severely neglected. Thank the dog gods for bully sticks. Not only does it keep her busy while she's chewing it, but also she always zonks out after she finishes. At least Iris is starting to relax more in the condo. The last of the furniture is getting moved in the weekend, so it will finally feel more like "home."

I am really starting to miss doing classes with her. Plus Iris is starting to get antsy too. I might be exhausted, but Iris hasn't gotten nearly enough exercise the last couple of weeks. I am taking her to one day of a Jan Wesen clinic on the 4th, so the red dog will get to do some sheep herding. After that, I think we'll probably hold off on group classes until after the Control Unleashed class in Oct. Maybe we'll try to get in some herding on the weekend or a drop in agility class. We'll see just how crazy my bored dog makes me. At the very least, I think there's a NADAC trial in Sept we should be able to watch for "being around other dogs" practice.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Who does that?

First, an Aussie health update. So far, no seizures since last Wednesday night. I still think it had something to do with refilling the prescription. Iris has always been on the generic for Keppra; the only difference is where I got the prescription filled. The tablets look exactly the same from both prescriptions, so I think it's likely they were from the same manufacturer.

I know that using a generic drug for seizures is sometimes considered a little bit like playing with fire. For a generic to be bioequivalent to the name-brand, the FDA requires the generic's rate and extent of absorption to be between 20% below and 25% above (USPharmacist.com) the name brand. Seems like a large range to me. Ok, so I know there is variation between the generic and the name-brand, but I haven't been able to find out if the FDA allows variation within the generic. For example, if company X makes a generic drug that is 90% equivalent to the name-brand, do they always have to be 90% or are they allowed to vary between 80% and 125%?

Regardless of why Iris had a few seizures last week, she seems stable now. When I refill her prescription again, I'm going to ask the vet for a few doses of Valium just in case. Her prescription lasts 60 days, so hopefully she'll be ok until then.

Now a weave poles update. Or lack of weave poles update since that's what I seam to have. We finally got a break from the humidity tonight, so I decided to take Iris out for some weave pole practice. Because we're in the process of moving, I've been storing a few things under the stairs just outside of the apartment (we live in a basement apartment). It's only a few things, and only things that I doubt anyone else would care to steal. There's a x-pen, a folded up wire crate, a few empty plant pots, and the pvc weave poles. I actually had the weave pole bases inside the apartment, but the 6 poles were under the stairs.

I'm loading the dog stuff into the car so I can drive over to the tennis court, and just to be sure I'd grabbed everything, I counted the weave poles. One, two, three, four, five.... I counted them again. Still five. I can't find the sixth pole anywhere. I know I left all 6 below the stairs. Nothing else was touched. Someone stole ONE pvc weave pole. Who does that???? The only thing out there that was worth anything was maybe the crate that I got off of craig's list (yes, my one dog needs 3 crates) so I didn't actually pay much for it. But the pvc pole? At least I have a few more poles already cut at my dad's house. Even if I didn't, I'm only out a couple bucks.

My guess is that it was one of the kids. There is a rather large pack of small children that run loose around the apartment complex. It's one of the things I won't miss about this place. I know I ran loose around the neighborhood when I was that age, but I like to think I had better manners than these kids. I don't ask much, but I do want my personal space respected. Do not ever touch my car, run up to my dog, or take things that don't belong to you. I don't think that's asking too much. I can deal with them screaming outside my bedroom window all day if they'd learn to stay out of my personal space.

And the end to the story? I have a pvc jump bar that I was going to substitute in for the missing weave pole (my weaves are 3/4" pvc and my jumps are 1" pvc, but with the cages on, it's close enough). When we finally made it over to the tennis court, there were other people already using it. They were actually using the tennis court to play tennis! Who does that? Clearly, tennis courts are fenced in for dog training. I'm starting to think the dog gods are against us.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Yet Another Round of Seizures

I just really wish life would give my little dog a break.

Last night, I took Iris over to the park for some exercise. My original plan was to bring her over to the tennis court to get some training time in, but it was a beautiful night so we opted for the park instead. We did get some practice walking politely past other dogs.

At 10 pm, Iris had another seizure. Then she had another one at 1 am. The first seizure was about 4 hrs after she got her evening med, and the second seizure was only one hr after she'd had her before-bed dose (she gets her meds 3x a day). Now I'm starting to worry if she's on the right drug. It's been 6 weeks since her previous round of seizures. Before going on medication, she was going 3-4 weeks between seizures. This time she only had two seizures instead of the seven she had last time. That's a definite improvement in the number of seizures, but I was really hoping she'd go longer than 6 weeks. I wish I knew what was triggering it.

Iris is on levetiracetam (generic for Keppra). I refilled her prescription last weekend, and she started the new prescription on Sun night (exact same drug and dosage, but I had it filled at Costco instead of Wallgreens because of a significant price difference). It seems odd that she had a seizure 48 hrs after the switch.

Maybe Iris came in contact with something on our walk last night? One of the paths runs alongside a cornfield. Were they using any pesticides or fertilizers on the corn? Also, Iris has been having allergy issues for the last week or so too. She's itchy, and her eyes are runny. On Tues morning, I increased the amount of fish oil she's getting because the extra omega 3s seem to help her allergies. I have seen a couple studies which indicate that omega 3s decrease the frequency of seizures in humans, so that's my least likely suspect unless it's something else in with the fish oil?

Iris just had another seizure while I was typing this. Crap. I'm not sure what to do next. Try switching her meds? Refill her prescription at Wallgreens? Have her seen by a neurologist for a second opinion? It took her longer to snap out of this last seizure. Every other time she's had a seizure, she's been up (or at least trying to get up) as soon as it's over. After this last one, she just lay still on her side panting for 3-4 min. Now she's up and searching for food (typical for her post-seizure. She was eating dirt earlier tonight. Dork) and pacing around the apartment.

Hopefully we'll both sleep through the rest of the night.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Reactive Dogs - Part II

After Tuesday's events, I figured Iris would be a complete bitch in class on Wed. Not so! I'd say she was pretty average on her scale of reactivity.

For the last couple months, we've been going to a reactive agility dogs class. The emphasis is on getting your dog to work around other dogs without exploding. Not an easy thing for a certain red dog! The class we're in now is usually 3-4 dogs - a very little Poodle, a Border Terrier, and a Bernese Mountain Dog.

The class starts with everyone walking the dogs in a circle around the room. Heel position isn't important, just loose-leash walking. It gives the dogs a chance to settle in and see the other dogs moving around a little bit. Even this is hard for Iris. When we started taking the class, I was tossing treats on the floor pretty much every time Iris took a step. "Hey, you just took one step without exploding! Cookies rain from the sky!" She's gotten better and will usually take treats from my hand. We switched classes a few weeks ago, so the dogs in class are relatively new to Iris, which means Iris got worse again. Not horrible, but if either of the other dogs moves too quickly (in Iris' opinion) or make any noise, she'll get in a couple woofs.

Next, the dogs spread out around the room and they all do one obstacle each simultaneously (everyone is on leash). Carolyn has been having all of the dogs do a jump first and then everyone switching to something else, usually a contact obstacle. Moving dogs, especially if they're doing something that makes noise (like running across the dogwalk), are the biggest trigger for Iris. This part is HARD for her. Getting her to go over one jump while there's a dog on the other side of the room going over one jump is not easy for her. She has a tendency to walk through the jump if she's trying too hard to watch the other dogs. This is BY FAR the most difficult thing we work on in class.

For the last couple weeks, we've worked on having one dog off-leash doing one obstacle (last week it was the dogwalk) while the other dogs lay down on matts nearby. Iris actually does better with this. She has no problem with working while the other dogs are laying down quietly (which is close to what she's used to for agility class anyway), and she does pretty good about laying down while the other dogs work. She's not really relaxed, but she's not exploding either. I end up doing sort of a combination of asking her for attention and playing the "look at that" game while we wait.

The biggest accomplishment of the week is that the events of Tues did NOT seem like a major setback for Iris. She wasn't any more reactive in class that she usually is, and she's certainly still less reactive than when we started the class. Big sigh of relief!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Reactive Dogs - Part I

Since we don't have class on Tuesdays anymore, I decided to take Iris over to the state park to get some exercise. Also, Tues was VERY humid and the park has a pond. We usually see a few dogs while we're there, but we've never had any problems before.

Not so on Tues. This woman shows up with her very reactive cocker spaniel and a rambunctious young (I'm guessing around a year old) pit bull. The cocker is on a leash and is completely melting down, barking and lunging at the other dogs in the area. The pittie is off-leash and bounds up to Iris and jumps up on her. She snarks at him (Iris is on leash) and he backs off. No big deal, neither dog seemed phased by it. It looked like a pretty typical "adult dog telling a rowdy teenager to knock it off" interaction. Meanwhile, the cocker is still melting down, and this woman has no clue how to handle the situation.

Iris, however, was being awesome. Because the cocker was on leash and this woman was walking away from us, I stayed by the pond and decided to work with a Iris a little bit. She was being so good, it seemed like a good chance to reward her for it. I'm still kicking myself for sticking around.

All of the sudden, the cocker is off-leash and running toward us at full speed, barking and growling. Great. The cocker gets right in Iris' face, but luckily both dogs just make a lot of noise and don't actually make contact. While poor Iris is fending off the cocker, the pittie shows back up and tries to hump Iris from behind. @*!&#(*#@!!! I pull the pittie off while the woman is yelling at her dogs. They both suddenly back off and go over to her. She puts their leashes on and leaves. She's yelling at her dogs the whole time, saying things like "Get over here! That's it! We're leaving! THAT'S IT!" Never says a word to me. Not a single thing.

Once I knew that Iris was completely uninjured, I really wanted to find a friendly dog to walk past before leaving. I did not want the fight to be the last thing in Iris' mind. It took some wandering, but we came upon a very nice woman with her two dogs - an Irish Wolfhound named Falkor and a Heinz-57 named Belle. Both were very polite, laid back, friendly dogs. The dogs all got sniff and the humans had a nice chat. I was so relieved I was able to end the night on positive experience for Iris.

At first I was really pissed off at the cocker's owner. What was she thinking letting her dog off-leash? And then not even asking if my dog was ok? Seriously? But after living with Iris, I have a lot more empathy for people with crazy dogs. The woman was clueless. Her dogs should not have been off-leash. But she didn't mean for them to go after Iris. What I think happened is she got far enough away from Iris for her dog to stop exploding. She thought it was safe to let her dog off-leash, but then he noticed Iris again and the shit hit the fan. When the woman got her dogs back, I think she was so shocked and embarrassed by what happened, all she wanted to do was get out of there.

Shocked and embarrassed? We've has those days too.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Last week was our last Tues night agility class. Now the big question is, what next? The end of Tues night classes feels like the end of an era of sorts, especially since we're moving again in August. Here's a lot of thinking out loud because I've been thinking quietly for the last couple weeks and still don't have a decision I'm happy with.

For the last few months, I've had Iris in two weekly classes. The plan right now is to cut back to one weekly class (especially in light of recent veterinary expenses). For now, I'm going to keep Iris in the reactive agility dogs class at Dogs! Learning Center. It's right down the street, and I do like the class. Iris gets to practice working around other dogs, but the downside is that we won't be doing as much agility. The class is more focused on getting dogs to work around other dogs, which isn't a bad thing for Iris.

After we move, I'm not sure what we're doing. I can keep Iris in the class in Hudson, even though it is less agility focused. The other option is to check out Gemini Dogs. I don't know a lot about their classes other than that they're only about 10 min away from the condo we're moving into. Much easier commute than what I've been doing! Whether or not I can make it to class in Hudson on time is going to depend a lot on how long my commute ends up being. On the other hand, Iris isn't always a model student so the reactive class might just be better for her.

I just found out that Emma Parson is running a Control Unleashed class at the Methuen MSPCA in October. I have been dying to get Iris into a CU class. It seems like every time I try to get her into that class, something else comes up. I was going to take it in July at Masterpeace, but then it looked like we were going to move halfway through class, so I wouldn't have made it all 6 weeks.

The other thing I'd really like to do more of is herding. Iris LOVES herding. She was SO focused the last time I took her out herding, even with a group of dogs and people watching. We took one class with a new instructor right before Iris started having seizures and then had to cancel our next lesson. While Beth's style of training was a lot like what we're used to, the way she runs lessons is a little different. She runs it more like a group class. The plus side of this is that I got to watch a bunch of different dogs of various experience levels work sheep. You can learn a lot by watching! The downside is that each dog got less individual time on sheep. I'm having a really hard time deciding which way I want to go with that. The more I think about it, the more I think it would benefit Iris to have more individual time with the sheep. I could supplement that by trying to audit a couple of clinics. On the other hand, I know Iris can handle the environment at Beth's farm, and that is always a bit of an issue with Iris. And I did like the way Beth handled the dogs, which matter a lot too.

Decisions, decisions...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sport of Choice?

This question was posed on an Aussie forum I frequent, and some of the responses were pretty interesting.

What got you into your sport of choice...why that one, why not another type of dog sport? What else have you tried, but don't care for? What haven't you tried but would like to?

It's no secret that agility is my "sport of choice." I love the challenge of running a different course every time we go out. Iris loves getting to run around like a nut. She loves doing the different equipment and getting to play. It's just a big game for the dogs. I love watching the dogs - my dog and my classmates' dogs - figuring things out.

I love training agility because of the variety of challenges it presents. We haven't competed because Iris can be pretty reactive to other dogs. Instead, we've just been really enjoying classes. I've been lucky to take classes with a great group of people and their dogs. It give me an excuse to get outside and play with my dog.

We've also done some herding, which I think Iris likes even more than agility. I love the dynamic between the handler, the dog, and the stock. It's so cool to see the dog's natural instincts unfold. Herding is a completely different way of training. With Iris, I could go out there with all the treats and toys in the world and my dog wouldn't give a damn. She wants SHEEP.

As far as other sports go, I know Iris wouldn't be able to handle to environment of flyball. I don't think I'd enjoy it as much as agility anyway. It's too repetitive! Plus, Iris has very little desire to retrieve (which is too bad because I think it's be a great way to exercise her), so that rules out disc dog as well. I suppose I could train her to retrieve as a trick, but it's just not her favorite. Musical freestyle looks fun, but I'm way too self-conscious to ever take that outside of my living room!

At some point I'd like to try Rally, but that will probably wait until Iris is a little older. For now, I need something that tires her out! I'd also like to get her CGC someday, but I think she still has issues she needs to work out before we can do that (some things are as simple as loose leash walking, which has gotten worse and worse lately. Oops!)

Ok, so now what's your sport of choice?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Final Tues Night Class

Tuesday night was our last Tues agility class. It was long course, with a tunnel/dog-walk discrimination, a couple sets of 6 weave poles, and a rear cross at the end. Iris was great. Class was a lot of fun. Well, class is always a lot of fun. I get to go play with my dog for a little while.

Iris flew off the teeter the first time around but after that she was good about waiting (that seems to be a regular occurance for Iris!) I did get her to do the tunnel/dog-walk discrimination correctly, although I really want to work on her directionals more. I have to "baby-sit" her a lot or else she'd rather do contacts than tunnels. Sometimes I think she understands "out" and sometimes I feel like she doesn't. Actually, I don't think she was too bad about it on Tues? This week has been a blur. I probably should have blogged about class earlier this week! Sandy (with Baxter Black) took a bunch of video during class, and I'd really like to see it! I'm not sure if she got any of me and Iris.

We did finish class with a nice rear cross (for us. Maybe not that fluid but better than we often do). Not a bad note to end on. I feel like I should say something emotional, but I'm not good at that sort of thing. It's been a blast, but we're not dropping off the face of the planet yet. We'll still be around.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cook Out

Just a quick brag before I head to bed.

I brought Iris to a cookout at a friend's house on Saturday. Iris can get pretty overwhelmed in large groups especially if there's a lot of guys. Because she was going to need her meds before I was going to make it home and since I hate crating her on weekends, I decided to bring her (and her crate in case she needed a time out). I have to say, Iris was AWESOME. Really, I couldn't have asked for better behavior from her. She greeted everyone politely. Well, mostly politely. There are a few people she gets excited to see and forgets to keep 4 paws on the ground. I admit, I often let her act a little too bouncy when she's happy to greet someone because that's better than barking at someone approaching. I probably should teach her better manners but if she's sitting politely to greet people, you don't get to see her wiggle butt!

Iris didn't react to any people (a few woofs at cars pulling up but she relaxed once the car stopped moving) and 2/3 of the group were people she'd never met before. I even got her to relax during the bonfire. Iris is absolutely terrified of matches and lighters. She was concerned about the bonfire, but not terrified. Lots of treats and massage helped.

Iris actually acted like a "normal" dog all day - begging for attention from everyone, showing off her tricks for handouts, relaxing in the grass. She was leaps and bounds better than I expected her to be. We've still got a long way to go, but it definitely felt like we passed a milestone.

Agility Update

I'm well past due for an agility class update. We've still been going to class even though I haven't been blogging about it. I really do get out to do things with my dog besides just worrying about her!

The last two agility classes we've had have been the same set up but different courses (which I didn't notice until after Julie posted the course maps). The course from two weeks ago focused a lot on distance, something that I'm not very good about. There were a couple of dogs in the class that have better distance than us, and it was VERY cool to watch them work though the course. Watching them makes me want to get better at it with Iris!

When I did the course with Iris, we did a rear cross after the second jump, and front cross after the 7th jump. Front crosses are much easier that rear crosses! I think I'm going to start bringing some cones when I take Iris over to the tennis courts to play. I don't really want her doing any jumping there because it's pavement, but that doesn't mean we can't work on her direction cues. We still have a lot of trouble with rear crosses, but I think our front crosses have gotten better.

During class, Katrin asked if problems with muscle coordination can be a side effect of Keppra. Iris was jumping ok with her back legs, but she was jumping funny with her front. I wasn't actually sure if it could be a side effect. The biggest side effect I'd talked about with my vet was hyper-activity, which for Iris lasted less than a week. I had a lot of trouble finding any info about Keppra that was specific to dogs. The only thing I found about Keppra and dogs is that the elimination half-life is significantly faster in dogs than people (hence the 3x per day dose). Problems with muscle coordination did come up on the list of possible side effects in people, so I'm guessing it's the same in dogs. My poor girl. Actually, I never would have noticed it at home. There are benefits to being active with your dog!

In class last week, we did the same set up but with a different course. I decided to do a rear cross before the 5th jump which meant I had to do another rear cross before the 9th jump. At least we're getting in some rear cross practice. We probably need a lot more.

Iris seemed like she was feeling pretty good during class. I think she was jumping better than she was the week before too? Of course she started class by running face first into the side of one of the jumps. It looked like she was going to run around the jump and at the last second decided to try and jump over it. But she made the decision too late. I didn't think too much of it, but this weekend she managed to hurt her face twice running into things. She's got a cut above one eye (she hit her face on a table during her joyous post-bath celebration), and the next day she bruised the side of her muzzle after turning quickly into a door frame. Both injuries happened when she was really excited and acting like a dork.

During class we're still doing weaves with cages on. At home, we've been practicing (not as consistently as I'd like) and we've gotten to the point where Iris will do them with the cages off of the first three poles. She's gotten very consistent about doing them correctly when she's on my right side but is still missing the entrance about 50% of the time of when she's on my left. Because we're moving in a month, I'm making it my goal to have her weaves trained before we move. At the new place, I won't have a fenced in place to train her (I'm going to try to find something, but there isn't anything in the condo complex) so if I don't do it now, it might be a little while before we can get back into doing regular off-leash training sessions.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Keeping Busy

This dog certainly keeps me on my toes.

Last Sunday, Iris started having seizures again. Six grand mal seizures in 18 hrs. I got her in to see her regular vet Monday morning and we decided to start her on meds. Her vet was great. I think the appointment ended up being about an hr long. We talked a lot about what could be going on and a lot about what medication to start her on. There's no good explanation right now for why Iris suddenly has so many seizures at once. I can't think of anything in particular that would have triggered it. It was a rainy weekend, so we'd spent the whole weekend home and the seizures didn't start until Sunday night.

One odd side effect of the seizures is the Iris was starving. She was trying to steal food off counters while I watching. She never counter surfs. She tried to chew a hole in my sweatshirt pocket to get at a couple of crumbs. I was still wearing the sweatshirt. In hindsight, it was humorous. At the time, we were both pretty freaked out.

Right now, the decision is to just try and control the seizures with meds. We've tested her for tick borne diseases. We've checked all her bloodwork including thyroid. She is on the old end for the start of epilepsy, but it's still possible.

After a lot of discussion, we decided to try Iris on Keppra instead of Phenobarb. The drawbacks to Keppra are that it has to be given 3 times a day and its more expensive than Phenobarb. Also, Phenobarb has been in use longer than Keppra, so it has a more proven track record. The upside is that Keppra doesn't have the side effects Phenobarb does (Phenobarb can cause liver damage if used long term).

So far, Iris hasn't has any seizures since Monday night. She was got an injection of Valium at the vet, and had one more seizure later that night right as the Valium wore off. Since then, she's been seizure free. It seems like the meds are working. We took the rest of the week off from classes. This may have been a mistake. The meds made Iris very antsy (the vet warned me that Iris might be extra crazy for the first week! Seriously? Something that makes my Aussie more crazy?) She's acting a lot more normal now, thank doG. She was making me more crazy too!

In other news, we're officially moving again sometime in August. This poor dog. I'm her fifth home, and this will the third place we've lived since I adopted her. I'm sure she's dying for something more consistent! She adjusted to the apartment very quickly, so hopefully she'll be good for this next move. We're heading even further north this time.

The upside to the move is that I found a new herding instructor in southern NH. Actually, she's right down the street from the shelter I adopted Iris from. We had one lesson with her a few weeks ago (I canceled Iris' lesson for this weekend). I liked the new instructor. She was recommended by some Aussie folks, and her training style is a lot like Colleen's. Hopefully we'll be able to get out to do some herding more regularly after the move. I love agility, but I'm pretty sure herding is Iris' favorite.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Where Did My Dogs Come From?

We got tagged by Julie from Molasses Ain't Got Nothin' On Us to tell the story of how my dogs came to live with me. I've really enjoyed reading the stories on a lot of different blogs. I think just about everyone who reads this blog has been tagged. If you haven't please play along! I'm going to tag Lauren at Why Everyone Sould Train Dogs and Service Dog Sawyer.

I don't live with Henry Beagle any more (he's still living with my dad) but he likes to make an occasional cameo on the blog. Plus, he's got a pretty good story.

My cousin adopted Henry (formerly named Fred) from animal control in 2001. Animal control seized him when his first owners were arrested on drug charges.

In December 2002, my cousin called and said she was moving to DC, could we pet-sit for her Beagle while she was down there for a week to look at apartments? Henry came to stay for the week. Just for one week. One. My cousin wasn't going to take Henry to DC with her, so she was looking for a home for him. At the time, my cousin was working for the Archdiocese of Boston. One person who'd expressed interest in Henry was Cardinal Law. If you remember back to 2002, it was during the height of the Catholic Church sex scandals. At that point, it was looking very likely that Cardinal Law was going to resign and return to Rome.

This is Saint Peter's Basilica. It's in Rome.

If you can imagine, those tall ceilings probably give that room a pretty good echo. Now close your eyes and see if you can imagine what a Beagle bay would sound like in those halls.

This is Henry. He's a Beagle.

While "Henry Goes to Rome" might make a great children's book, I have doubts that it would have actually turned out well for the poor bugger. He'd have left quite an impression in those halls I'm sure. Needless to say, it's been six years and Henry never made it to Rome. He never even made it out of my dad's house.

After I graduated from college, I decided I wanted a dog. Specifically, I wanted to do agility. Henry was overweight and getting older. Not really a great prospect for agility. My dad relented and decided that 3 dogs couldn't possibly be much worse than 2 (at the time, Henry was living in the house all the time and Zeus was living there only on weekends). If you're considering a third dog, yes three is more than two. If one of those dogs is an Aussie, it will feel more like 5 dogs. And if one of them is a Beagle, it will sound more like 10.

I wanted an adult dog, and since breed wasn't really important I started looking at shelters. I was looking for a medium size herding dog mix. My first choice would have been an Aussie if I was going to get a purebred, so I was hoping to find an Aussie mix.

I had a friend who lived in NH, so I started checking out some shelters up there on weekends. I saw "Lula Mae" listed on the NHSPCA website but I actually wasn't going to go look at her. It was a little further away than I wanted to drive, but I couldn't put her out of my head. She sounded exactly like what I was looking for. I went up to visit her and she was so sweet and quiet. She settled down next to me and leaned up against me. She seemed very mellow for an Aussie (if you've read this blog at all, you know she's not really quiet or mellow). I asked someone at the shelter if they could tell me more about her, and I was told the only thing they knew was that she'd been surrendered for killing ducks. No big deal. I don't have any ducks.

It wasn't until after I got home and went through the paperwork from the shelter that I learned a little more about the dog I adopted. She'd been through a total of 4 other homes. Not only was she killing ducks, but she was chasing and nipping their kids and very "overprotective of the house." I believe that roughly translates to "barks at every car, kid, dog, human, insect, etc that passes the house and explodes at any person coming through the door."

Would I have done anything differently if I'd known more about her? Who knows. I'm glad I didn't.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Another Seizure

Iris had another seizure Monday morning. It was almost exactly the same scenario as the last one. The sound woke me up at 6:30 am (her previous seizure was at 7:30 am). The seizure itself looked exactly the same as well. Again, no loss of bowel/bladder control and a pretty quick recovery. She was begging for breakfast about 30 min later. At least I was able to stay a lot more calm this time because I knew what was going on. Iris seemed a lot more disoriented this time than she was after the last one. I was really hoping the first one was a weird isolated incident, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

We did run a 4DX snap test to check for tick borne diseases, which was negative. Because she has no other symptoms and did go three weeks between seizures, we're going to stick with a wait and see approach. Iris' vet still thinks we should hold off on medication for now. If she has another seizure within the next couple weeks, then we'd think about putting her on meds. If she goes a few months, then we'll continue to hold off on meds. Other than time of day, I can't think of any other parallels between the seizures. We did have a thunderstorm and drop in temperature the day before her second seizure, but I can't remember the weather before the first one. Katrin sent me a couple of very good links about epilepsy: Canine Epilepsy Resources and Canine Epilepsy Guardian Angels. So I've been doing a lot of reading these last couple weeks.

On a much lighter note, we did have agility class on Tues and Iris was a happy girl. Chris commented that the way Iris runs makes her looks so happy. I agree, you can really tell Iris' mood based on how she's running. She gets so bouncy when she's having fun!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Training Marine Animals

Ok, so it's not dog related but it is training related. I just found this blog: Marine Mammal Trainers Blog. There are some very cool videos on there, and it's definitely not all mammals.

My family took a trip into Boston yesterday and visited the New England Aquarium. I haven't been there in years. We were able to get discount passes from the public library (most public libraries around here have discounted passes to some museums and zoos. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum might be next on my list. It's my favorite museum and if you've never been, you should!) Anyway, while I was at the aquarium I was talking to one of the staff members. She told me that while they're renovating the marine mammals area, the mammal trainers have been keeping busy seeing what else they can train. Cool! It looks like they're working with lobsters, sea turtles, and a very impressive lumpfish names Blondie.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tues Classes

Since I've been blessed with a healthy happy dog these last few weeks (no more seizures to my knowledge), we've been keeping busy with classes instead. Phew! Right now, we're still in our regular agility class on Tues nights and also in a reactive agility class on Wed. Some notes about what we've been doing on Tuesdays:

A few weeks ago, we had our introduction to Gamblers. It was a lot of fun! In gamblers, you basically have a set amount of time to make up your own course, picking up points for each obstacle the dog does correctly. When time is up, a whistle blows and the dog has to do the gamble (a set sequence of obstacles? We didn't do that part in class). I think with a little more practice (I need more confidence!) I would really enjoy it. Iris, however, was pretty much melting down. Why? Because of the whistle. She flat out refused to take treats while she was in her crate. When I had her out, she was very distracted anticipating the whistle and trying to figure out where it was coming from. Looks like I have to buy a whistle to desensitize her. Because she was so stressed, I mostly just made it a point to send her over the dogwalk a few times because it's her favorite. The best way to get some enthusiasm out of Iris? Point her at the dogwalk. Silly girl.

This Tuesday, we worked on distance, mostly focusing on "out." Iris was awesome! She seemed VERY happy to be at class. There was a few instances where the dogs had to discriminate between a tunnel and the a-frame or between two tunnels. Iris was awesome. I admit, I had visions of her running back a forth over the a-frame, completely ignoring the tunnels. Nope! It seems as though she has a better understanding of "out" than I thought. My smart red dog! Now I just need to remember that. I tend to not use much for commands and instead I probably use her name too much if I'm using anything at all. Bad habit.

I was able to have her out and relaxed for most of class on Tues. Now that the weather is nice enough to have the doors open at the indoor, I can have Iris watch the other dogs from outside. Last class, I was even able to bring her inside (out of her crate) at the end of class. She did great. It was partly because the course was small so it was only at the back of the arena. We had more space between us and moving dogs, and the small dogs were last, which is easier for Iris to handle. She was awesome about giving me attention and doing little tricks while we waiting. Maybe the Wed night classes are helping? I'll have to give an update on that class later.

I'd say overall it was one of the best classes we've had in a while.

Monday, May 4, 2009


So far Iris hasn't had any more seizures. It was just the one on Saturday. She's acting completely fine. If I hadn't been home to see it, I wouldn't have known it happened (which is actually something that scares me. I'm still looking into setting up a webcam).

We got her blood work results today and everything came back normal. That is good news even if we don't have an answer. Iris' regular vet called about her blood work (not who we saw on Sat, we got squeezed in as an emergency and saw their part-time vet), so I got to talk to him a bit about what might be going on. He really seemed to feel that we should take a wait and see approach. Everything about Iris seems perfectly fine otherwise. The vet thinks the two most likely scenarios are that it's a response to some sort of toxin or the beginning of epilepsy (something that's becoming more common in Aussies). The other possibility is that it's a tick borne disease, although Dr K didn't think so because she's showing no other symptoms and her blood work looked good other wise. I still might have her tested.

Tomorrow morning, I'm going to go talk to the leasing office to see if anything was sprayed in or around my building or if anything was put on the lawn. My room mate thinks the landscapers were here recently, but she can't remember exactly when. Also, we used to have a lot of bugs hanging out in the building foyer because it's warm and sunny in there. The bugs disappeared recently, but I don't know if that's a change in the weather or if something was sprayed in the foyer or around the building foundation?

While I'm sitting a stressing about toxins, ticks, and epilepsy, the red dog is stretched out on the couch perfectly fine without a care in the world. I think I'm going to go join her.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


I woke up this morning to the sound of Iris having a seizure. *&^@$%@! Luckily, it's Sat so I got her in to see my regular vet as soon as they opened.

As far as I know, she's just had one grand mal seizure. I'm not positive on how long it lasted because it took me a few seconds to realize what was happening. Maybe 20 seconds? Seemed like an eternity. It's the first time she's had a seizure (that I know of) in the not quite 2 years that I've had her.

The vet checked her over and everything seemed fine. We're waiting on blood work results which will hopefully come in on Monday. At the beginning of Jan, we did blood work because of her eyes which all came back normal, so at least we have a baseline.

Iris seems back to normal now. She's tired, but that might be from the stress of being at the vet (according to Iris, getting her temp taken is something akin to medieval torture). I've got no real plans for the rest of the weekend, so I can hang around here to keep an eye on her. I'll decide about work on Monday depending on how the rest of the weekend goes. Alternately, I have been thinking about setting up a webcam to get a better feel of her separation anxiety. Would it make me crazy to watch my dog while I'm at work? Probably. I might do it anyway.

I have considered that there might be something environmental that caused Seamus' death and Iris' seizure, but right now I don't think so. Because of how sensitive birds are and because of Iris' allergies, I've been pretty careful about chemicals/cleaners/etc in the house. I've racked my brain and can't come up with anything. Unless it's coming from a different apartment and getting circulated through the building? Most people here have kids so I think that's pretty unlikely. Right now, I don't believe the two are linked, though I haven't ruled it out completely.

Now we just get to wait and see. I know one isolated seizure isn't something to panic about yet, but it's still scary to have seen her like that.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Seamus Keeper

Long weeks, rough weeks. Glad this week is over.

My sweet budgie Seamus died earlier this week. He would have been 11 years old at the end of May. I was always amazed by how much personality such a small bird could have. He sang constantly. He was very social, very affectionate. He was one of my first pets to learn what a clicker was (he was so enthusiastic about touching a target stick for a bite of millet!)

Seamus was with me for so many major transitions in my life. Starting high school, starting college, euthanizing my Wheaten Terrier, Packy, graduating college and finding a job, struggling through my brief career as a wedding photographer, moving into an apartment. Seamus had gone on family vacations with me, done volumes of homework from his perch on my shoulder. He is the longest lived pet I've ever shared my life with. Seamus was always a constant.

The average life expectancy for a budgie is 8-10 years, although I have heard of them living up to 14. At almost 11, Seamus certainly lived a full life with a larger than life personality, but that doesn't necessarily make it easier.

The apartment is very quiet without his sweet song.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Busy Week

We've been keeping ourselves quite busy lately even if we didn't have agility class last week. It's staying light so much later, we've gotten a lot of training in. We've gotten quite a bit of weave pole training - Iris is now doing the first three poles without cages. Finally we're making some good progress! Iris had a very hard time getting past no cages on the side that I wasn't on. It seems like once we got over that hurdle, we've made much faster progress.

The big progress this week was really when I brought Iris to watch some of the NADAC trial on Saturday. I fully expected her to have regressed a little because we haven't been anywhere with that many dogs and people since last fall. Nope! Iris was awesome. I was able to bring her much closer to the ring (and therefore, closer in general to dogs and people moving around) than I've ever been able to in the past. The only thing that still seemed to get her worked up a little was other dogs barking. She was able to just hang out with me while I chatted with a couple people fron our agility class. She even lay down in the grass for a bit. I was very proud of my girl! She was wearing a gentle leader, which I admit I do feel is a little like cheating because Iris is definitely better behaved with it on. On the other hand, if she's behaving better to begin with than I have more oppertunities to reward her for good behavior. There's another NADAC trial next weekend that I'm really hoping to get her over to since we seem to have some good momentum. It might be a little tough since I have a couple other things going on, but we might be able to squeeze it in on Sunday morning.

Tonight, we were back to our regular agility class. It's a full class of six dogs. The course was short with a dogwalk/tunnel discrimination. Also, there was a line we weren't supposed to cross, but I'm pretty sure I was bad about remembering the line. The problem with the discrimination is that Iris loves the dogwalk. If it was up to her, she'd choose the dog walk everytime. I'm pretty sure if Iris was designing her own agility course, it would be mostly contact obstacles and flying off the end of the teeter would actually be required instead of against the rules. Unfortunately for Iris, tonight she was supposed to be in the tunnel and not on the dogwalk. Once Katrin reminded me just how much I need to push Iris to get her in the tunnel, I think we did pretty good. Last time we saw this dogwalk/tunnel set up, I seem to remember a certain red dog sqeeezing in between the tunnel and the wall in order to climb over the tunnel and onto the dogwalk. Iris did a much better job tonight. She went over the dogwalk a few times, but I did get her through the tunnel a few times too. Because I had to be so close to the end of the dogwalk to get her into the tunnel, I ended up doing a rear cross before the last two jumps. I'm sort of thinking about putting her in the 5 Directions class next session instead of the Tuesday class. I think we're both a little weak on the directional commands. I don't think Iris has a great grasp of some of the commands and even if she did, I never remember to use them anyway. I'm not always the most vocal person and sometimes I feel like I forget to give Iris enough feedback. Something to think on.

Tomorrow night, we're starting a reactive dogs class for agility dogs. It should be interesting. We met with the instructor, Carolyn, last week. I think it's going to be a really good class for Iris and it's right down the street too.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Agility and Stress

Iris was really not herself during class on Tues. I should try to write about class sooner so that I remember it better, especially on nights she's acting odd. A few things I noticed:
  • Iris fidgeted during most of the drive to class. Normally she sleeps for most of the ride.
  • There were a few different cars coming and going to take care of the horses during our class, and Iris was very aware of them. It's not unusual for her to be extremely aware of cars, but there haven't been any cars coming/going during class all winter.
  • Iris pooped before class and in the arena during class. She always poops before class starts and never does a second time. Ok, it's not the first time she's gone in the arena, but it's only when she doesn't go before class starts. Poop looked normal but maybe she wasn't feeling well?
  • Iris' jumping was terrible. A few times she plowed through a jump bar face first. For her to be crashing through the jump bar with her face, she wasn't getting much height at all. I'm not sure if this was because she wasn't feeling well (something was sore? Out of alignment?). Her gait looked normal to me. Or maybe she was just wasn't paying attention a all to what she she was doing? She seemed more weirded out by the other dogs than she usually is. I don't think this was a vision issue. Other than during that one class, her vision seems like it's still ok.
  • Iris was having more trouble focusing on me at the start line than usual. Katrin had me start with Iris instead of leading out which did help.
The only time I really felt like Iris' brain was on agility and not something else was around the dogwalk. She loves the contact obstacles, so she didn't have any trouble with the dogwalk/tunnel discrimination. The tire was out again, and Iris still struggled with it. I really need to build a tire! I want to build one that is displaceable, but I don't have good plans for it. Hmmm. I'll have to think on that one.

No agility class next week, but we might be starting a reactive dogs class. I think Iris would really benefit from another reactive dogs class. I can't manage the drive to Franklin twice a week right now, so I'm going to try a class closer by (even though I really like Emma).

On a completely unrelated note, a couple different people have commented on how good Iris' coat is right now. She is very soft and shiney right now even though she hasn't had a recent bath. I guess her new diet is agreeing with her.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Jay Sisler

The Working Aussie Source posted an old (1950s) home movie of Jay Sisler working his preforming dogs! If you know anything about Aussies then you've heard of Jay. Jay's rodeo show put the Aussie into the national spotlight, and most Aussies now have at least one of his dogs in their pedigree. So even if you haven't heard of Jay, you've probably met an Aussie descended from his dogs (including Iris!) His dogs even appeared in a couple of Disney films including Stub: The Best Cowdog in the West. I didn't realize that one was available on DVD, but now I might have to pick it up.

The best part of the movie might be just how much the dogs seem to enjoy working for him.

Part 1

Part 2

Of course I love the Aussies, but that Greyhound is pretty amazing too!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Beach Portraits

Over the course of our beach trips, I decided that I wanted to get some nice portraits of Iris. Iris was really not interested in portrait time. Beach time is for running, not for sitting.

I was amazed by the number of photos I ended up with that she has her eyes closed in.

Then when I finally did get her to look at me, all she wanted to do was make funny faces. I really think she's actually a gremlin.

Iris, how'd you end up with sand all over your nose?

What? I wasn't doing anything.

I had a very specific shot in mind, and this is as close as I could get -

You can really see just how much she tends to walk on a tightrope. It's not a bad shot, but I had a much nicer shot in my head. The problem I had was as soon as I knelt down to be at Iris' eye level, she would turn and come toward me. Most of the moving shots are her moving straight toward me. I snuck in a couple shots when she wasn't looking at me but try as I might, I just couldn't get the one I had in my head. It reminded me just how nice it is to have a second person acting as handler. One of these days I'll have to bring another human to the beach with us.

Ok, I did actually manage to get a couple of shots that I'm happy with.

This next one is actually my favorite shot. She's busy supervising the dogs at the other end of the beach. Crazy dog.

Her profile looks so much "sharper" than she does from the front. Her profile photos have such a different feeling to them than her straight on shots.

I did eventually let her go back to doing what she really loves.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jump Boxes

Last night class was jump boxes. Oh no..... Actually, I think it's pretty safe to say that it was the best jump box class I've had with Iris. This may have been because the focus was on front crosses and not rear crosses, but I still thought it was a very good class for us. In the past, Iris has stressed out about jump boxes a little (possibly because I get nervous doing them? I've never been confident about that sort of exercise). I had the day off from work yesterday, so I think we were both pretty relaxed going into class.

Here are the course diagrams and a good definition of "layering" from Julie. It's the first time (I think) that I've tried to do layering with Iris.

The first time we did the first course, I didn't give myself enough space after the fourth jump in order to be outside the boxes. The trick was to ask Iris to go a little wide between jumps 4 and 5 so I could get on the outside. Once I figured out where to put my feet, Iris had no problem with the added distance. Good girl! I still have some trouble figuring out where exactly to put my feet for front crosses, but the second time we did the course we made it through the whole course! Making it over 7 jumps doesn't really sound like much, but last time we did jump boxes in class, we really struggled through it. Granted, this class was a very different concept than the February class, but I still feel like it's a little victory.

The second course had two front crosses and the dog had to make a tight turn after the second to last jump. We haven't really worked on tight in a while and I kept forgetting to give poor Iris enough space to come between me and the jump. It's not that I was crowding her space - there physically wasn't enough space for her to walk between me and jump. Bad handler! After a couple tries, I did remember and then Iris had a easy time with it. Katrin also pointed out that I kept dropping my arm and confusing my dog. If I'm thinking a lot about the course, I forget to keep my arm up and I don't give poor Iris enough information. Definitely something I need to remember!

At the end of the night, I tried to run her one time too many. Iris had a great night up until the last run, and I think by then she was completely brain-fried. She'd been pretty stressed about the other dogs all night and by that point, I'd completely lost her focus. Other dogs making noise is a HUGE trigger for Iris, and I think it's something I need to made a big effort to work on with her. You would think after living with a Beagle that she'd be completely desensitized to barking!

I admit it, I cringed a little when I got to class and saw the jump boxes but I actually had a really good time and learned a lot.