Sunday, September 21, 2008

Second Trip to the Dog Park

Sunday, 9/20. Lots of projects around the house and we weren’t able to get Denali to the dog park again on Saturday, so we got up early, threw some clothes on and got our day started.

As usual, Denali was busy for the car ride. She’s taken to chewing on her leash. So, now I need to keep a real close eye on the condition of her 2-month old, specifically purchased for her, pink retractable leash. Sheesh!

Doug was envious of Denali’s first trip to the park, so he wanted to go with us this morning. We got there around 8:30 am. It was cool out and the park was pretty quiet. A few Golden Retrievers with their dad. He was tossing a ball; they were fetching. I showed Doug the way into the park and told him all about how we did it the last time along with Denali’s reactions to all the activities. As we came into the park, I had Denali sit and I took off her leash. I grabbed a park-provided baggie for just-in-case. And we watched Denali run off to say hello to the Goldens.
The grass was still wet from the morning dew. As the Golden’s dad was tossing the ball, a Golden would chase the ball and Denali would chase the Golden. What a hoot! More dogs arrived. One short, but stout, bull-dog type caught Denali’s eye (because they could see eye-to-eye) and Denali engaged him in a run. Since Doug was there to help me watch Denali, I felt free to snap a few pictures, (though getting a picture of an Aussie in action makes for a bunch of very blurry photos.) One of the dogs, Samson, came over and sat in front of me. I had forgotten that I had placed a few “yummies” (bits of treat that I use for training rewards) in my sweatshirt pocket… but Samson knew they were there. He sat and waited very patiently. I thought he was just posing for the camera, so I snapped a picture. He continued to pose. It wasn’t until his dad called him off and he came back to sit in front of me, again, that I remembered the yummies. Once again, Denali fit right in. A young boxer befriended Denali and they ran pretty well together. For the most part, the boxer, the bull dog and Denali grouped up together; though Denali was quick to welcome any newcomers. There were collies, a west highland terrier, a shy german shepherd, and a big black dog that was only interested in hunting squirrels. HE was funny. He didn’t really socialize with any of the dogs at the park; but, he’d sit there, beautifully, and scan the wooded area for any movement. He sat that way for 20 minutes or so. If he wasn’t sitting and scanning, he was in the woods, trying to climb any tree that had a critter in it.
At one point, the bull dog was tired out and just standing amongst the humans. Denali and the boxer were running a lap when all of a sudden, I guess the boxer more focused on Denali than where he was running and ran into the bull dog. You could hear the impact! The bull dog was just standing there like nothing happened; the boxer, was flipping over, doing somersaults and skidding across the grass. It was like the boxer hit a brick wall when it hit the bull dog. But, the boxer recovered nicely; had a few coughs to get his windpipe working correctly again and was at it with Denali for a few more laps.

Denali wandered over to the separately fenced area to visit with some of the smaller dogs. A beautiful cocoa colored miniature poodle with light brown eyes was there; its owner wondered if Denali would like to play with her. I was a little worried, though, now that Denali’s had the opportunity to play with the big dogs, that she might be a little too rough with the little ones. So we just chatted through the fence and the poodle chased Denali along the fence line.

By the time Denali looked like she was thoroughly tuckered out we’d been at the park for an hour. Calling her to follow us to the exit, she followed us cheerfully. She’d been “slimed” and she was fully wet from the grass. And tumbling in the bare spots just made her a grimy, muddy mess. I did bring puppy wipes this time, but they were worthless as filthy as she was. When we got home, she went directly into the bathtub!
She behaved pretty well for the rest of the day… the cats are appreciative.

Friday, September 19, 2008

First Time to the Dog Park

I’ve had my Aussie puppy for almost 2 full months. She’s growing so big. The last time I had her over to the vet, we had to get weighed to get the proper dosing on her heartworm pill. She weighed 24# (on 9/11.) At home, we’re still keeping her confined to the kitchen. It’s a large kitchen, with an eat-in area and a partial hallway toward the front of the house. We play fetch in the kitchen. And we’re learning to catch.

When we go outside, we don’t really go out to play. She’s always leashed and usually we just go out to do business and then we come back in. Hopefully, in a year or two, when we’re comfortable that she knows her boundaries, we’ll be able to open up the door, let her out and she’ll come right back when she’s done. But until then, going outside is just mostly for doing business and the occasional walk.

I’ve been feeling a little guilty about that. She’s an Aussie. She needs to run. But running on the end of a 16 foot leash is very confining. So I looked into the local dog parks. Years ago, they were restricted to owners that pay for a pass after proving their dogs were adequately vaccinated. Now, they’re open to anyone that wants to take their dog for a romp… I’d gladly pay.

On Saturday, 9/13, I took a ride over to the park to check it out before I took Denali. (Actually, I was going to take her and we were all leashed up and ready to go; but, a mishap with a forgotten car key, a barely trained puppy and a retractable leash made me change my mind about taking her with me. Can you say “leash-burn?” OUCH!)

The park is essentially a big open field, about the size of a football field, that’s completely fenced in. At one end and partially around one other side of the perimeter, the park is wooded. There are two separate, double-gated entrances (and separate, double-gated exits, as well.) I didn’t realize there were two areas until I finally gathered up the nerve to enter without a dog and check the place out myself. The side I went in was marked for “Large Dog Area – Dogs 20 lbs. or more.” Once inside the park, two dogs came running over… they weren’t coming to greet me; one, some sort of short-haired pointer, was being chased. I watched the two dogs work out their differences and continued into the park. A couple (human-type) asked me how old my puppy was. I was wondering how they knew I had a puppy since Denali wasn’t with me. I told them, “Oh, she’s not here, but she’s about 4 ½ months old.” “You didn’t bring her? That’s not your dog?” I replied, “No, I wanted to check the park out before I brought her.” And they offered their advice for bringing Denali for her first trip. I stayed at the park for about 15 or 20 minutes and watched the dogs; watched the owners; picked up on the “Dog Park Etiquette” and left thinking that I wished I had Denali with me. She would have loved it.

On Monday, 9/15, Denali had Puppy Kindergarten Graduation. On Tuesday, we took a break from training… I looked over a packet of information for our upcoming first day of Obedience Training 101. Wednesday was our first OT101 class. She was one of three dogs there. She and a Maltese were puppies; one other dog was about 15 months old and had not been socialized properly. So, again, Denali had a knack for intimidating the other dogs in the class. We often had to take short, circular walks to regain her focus on me and the class objectives. However, the trainer used Denali as the demonstrator dog for all the commands. Sit, Down, Stand and Circle… she did great and I’m sure her aptitude causes frustration for the other dog owners… “Why can’t I get MY dog to do that???”

The class is being held at a local veterinary office that has a small paddock and stables for large animals. I asked if we worked on any off-leash training during this class and basically, the trainer said, “No.” But she told me that if I wanted to come early, before the other dogs arrived, I could try letting Denali off leash to let her run… as long as I could round her back up before the other dogs came. I wasn’t sure if Denali would obey my “Come” command, since we hadn’t tried it yet, so I left Denali on leash for the class.

On Thursday, I felt like it was time for the Dog Park. I got home from work, let her out of her crate and leashed her up. We went out to do business and got right into the car. She doesn’t mind a car ride… she hasn’t learned which way is to the vet and which way is to the pet store, yet. But she isn’t a tranquil car rider. She can’t make up her mind where she wants to be… and is always trying to find something to chew on. Hop to the front seat, hop to the back. Front, Back… front, back. Nose prints on the glass. “Hey, do you think I’m small enough to get up in the back windshield?”

When we arrived at the park, I was about exhausted from all her antics in the car! But we proceeded into the park and I had her sit. I took off her leash, whispered in her ear, “have a good time.” I said, “OK.” And, she was off. When we had pulled up to the park, there were quite a few dogs in there; big dogs like Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds. But as we were getting ready to actually get into the park, a lot of them had left… maybe it was dinner time. So now, there were only a couple of dogs in there. One of them was the little short-haired pointer from Saturday. Her name is Jenner and she’s about one month older than Denali. This was Jenner’s last visit to the park for a couple of weeks; she was having her spay surgery on Friday. Denali and Jenner, being similar in size and age, decided that they could chase each other. I stood with Jenner’s parents and watched the two run. More dogs came into the park. It’s funny; as the dogs come into the park, everyone (the dogs) has to run up and say “Hello.” I watch Denali… she’s right in there with all the others. “Hello.” “Do you like to run? I’ll run with you.” She tests the newcomers to see if they’ll run with her. If they don’t want to run, she returns to play with Jenner. She has no fear. Big dogs, older dogs, she’s right in there with all of them! She doesn’t know she’s little. When smaller dogs came in, she’d try to convince them to run with her. Some would, some would just ignore her. She was okay with all of it. When she got tired, she found a hole that some other dog had dug and she laid down in it; just her head popping up above the ground… how cute! A couple of times, I called for her, just to see what her reaction would be. To my surprise, she heard me, turned her head toward me and came running. Now, she didn’t stop at my feet, she ran right by me, but I’m happy to know that she WILL come in my general direction when called. We stayed at the park for about an hour before we headed for the gate to leave. She was tired and she followed me willingly. When we got to the gate, I had her sit and was able to get her leash on with no objection. In her participation she had been slobbered on pretty good… I’ve learned the dog-park term for this is “being slimed.” Oook! I should have brought some puppy wipes.

(sorry, no pictures this time... I was too busy keeping an eye on Denali to see how she'd react and learn the ropes, myself.)

As tired as she acted at the park, she was still very busy on the ride home. And once home, she still didn’t give the cats much of a break. Dang!


Before purchasing the beautiful and intelligent, Denali, I had a very long talk with the breeder. Speaking to “my” breeder, she mentioned the possibility any dog of the Australian Shepherd breed having sensitivities to heartworm prevention and anesthesia. But, there is a test that can be run, before subjecting the dog to surgery and worming medicines. The testing kit is available through the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. See this link:

MDR-1 stands for Multi-Drug Resistance and if a dog has a mutant MDR-1 gene, the dog may have a severe reaction (even death) to certain drugs. The thing is, it’s not just Australian shepherds; it’s all herding dogs and “mutts” that may have some herding dogs in their heritage. Collies are the most susceptible; over 1/2 of Collies are affected! See this link:

I was planning on having my sweet Denali in for her spay surgery within the next few weeks. I knew I needed to get her tested so we’d know if we needed to take extra precautions. A very sad email from my breeder early last week stated that another puppy from her program (I later learned that this puppy is not from Denali’s litter) had gotten very sick and it was unlikely that it would recover. And while her email did not state the exact cause, she was very adamant that everyone have their puppies and dogs tested for the MDR-1 gene mutation. The email alarmed me so much that I felt that I just couldn’t wait to get her samples until Doug got home.

When playing with Denali, she’ll let me rub on her back, belly, and legs. She’ll let me tug on her ears, nubby little tail, and let me spread her toes apart on her paws. The only thing she doesn’t care for is when I mess with her nose and mouth. The testing kit is composed of two tiny “bottle brushes.” The process of the test is to get that brush, up into the dog’s upper cheek and gently scrub for a full 30 seconds; one brush for each side of the mouth. If your dog’s gums are dark, the brush may look used after getting the sample. If your dog’s gums are pink, like Denali’s, the brush may not look like it has anything on it.

So one morning, about a week and a half ago, before breakfast, I put a short leash on Denali and sat down on the kitchen floor for some “teethy” time. As expected, she wasn’t too keen on this. And as I made her leash shorter and shorter, she began to balk at the idea that she didn’t have the freedom to get away if she felt she needed to. We struggled. I struggled to get those brushes in there just right and scrub for a full 30 seconds on each side. She struggled to get free and get away. 30 seconds can be a VERY long time when it’s not fun. For us, the whole process took about 15 minutes. It probably would have been better to have someone help me hold her in place, but I was too concerned with getting the test done so I could submit the samples and get the results. I was able to send the samples off on 9/11.

This morning, the email waited for me… Results of the MDR-1 gene testing. Denali’s results: Mutant/Normal

What does this mean? Well, copied straight from the results email, Mutant/Normal means: “These dogs carry the mutation and may pass on the mutant gene to their offspring. These dogs may experience toxicity after normal doses of loperamide (Imodium®), some anticancer drugs, and high doses of ivermectin (greater than 50 micrograms per kilogram).”

What else does this mean? Well, it means that I have to be diligent about Denali’s care. When she goes in for her spay surgery, I have to make sure that the surgeon understands these results and takes extra precautions when administering her anesthesia and any other required drugs. I need to make sure that if Denali gets sick for any reason, I question the drugs that may be used on her to make sure that they will be safe for her. And if they are on the “maybe” list, that her dosing is such that any reaction is mild.

I wonder how many other dog owners, especially of herding breeds, know about this gene?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Visit from the Fire Department!

Last night, we had the Fire Department over for a tour of our home.

Doug was home; rare for a Monday night but he had some business to do earlier in the day. We’d had a good evening; he’d walked the dog and we both took her to Puppy Kindergarten. He took bunches of pix of Denali while she practiced her tricks.

But after we got home, Denali was wiped out, and we were pretty tired, too. So we planned on an early bed-time. Off in the distance, I heard the grumbling of thunder, so I took Denali out to do her business before putting her in her crate for the night. My neighbors across the street, D1 & G, were sitting out on their front porch, watching the lightning storm roll in.

Few, but BIG raindrops were beginning to fall and when I brought Denali in, I told Doug he needed to go ahead out and close the window on his car. He headed out to do so (and have one last smoke for the night) as I put Denali up and corralled the cats into their room. I was turning off some lights, leaving on just a few so Doug could find his way upstairs when all of a sudden I heard a lot of popping, crackling and zapping and everything went quiet and dark. There must have been a flash of light and the loud crash of the thunder, but my brain is not remembering either of those two events. I headed straight for the garage door and called out, “Doug?!? Are you OK?” A pause, too long for my comfort, then, “yeah. I’m alright.” So I went back inside and grabbed the closest flashlight. (We have three, rechargeable LED flashlights that automatically come on when the power goes out; we keep one on each level of our home for times like these.) I headed back out to the garage and we grabbed a second flashlight and headed out of the garage to see what was up.

My next door neighbors, D2 & J still had power. D1 & G still had power. We were dark.

G was headed down my driveway, flashlight in hand, “Are you guys OK?” D2 came across the side yard, “Are you guys OK? Do you need us to call Duke Power?” And a third neighbor materialized from somewhere, “Are you guys OK?” We got to the main electrical panel and flipped the switch with no results. So D2 verified our house address and headed back home to call the power company. Lightning was still flashing all around us and we didn’t feel safe outside; but, we didn’t feel comfortable inside, either as we weren’t sure what happened. G said, “We were just sitting out on the porch when the thing struck! My wife ran back in the house.” I asked him where he saw it strike. He waved his hand around in a circle and pointed toward our chimney, “I think it struck somewhere around that chimney or around there somewhere.” We shined our flashlights around and didn’t see any smoke or flames or any other signs of a lightning strike. We had an invite from a neighbor to come to their place if we needed to; we explained that we had been headed to bed early and we’d just continue with that plan. But as we were headed past our front door, we heard knocking. It was D2; “just wanted to give you a heads-up. J, instead of calling Duke Power, called 9-1-1. So you are probably going to get a visit from the fire department. I told her to call the power company, but that’s not what she did…”

Sure enough, as he headed back down our front porch steps, a lone SUV pulled up in front of our house and someone with a chirping, beeping radio headed down our driveway toward our house. We tried to tell him we were OK, but he was more interested in our roof line. Then a few more SUV’s and cars showed up (we live in an area with a very active Volunteer Fire department as well as being covered by county service.) We talked some to the guys that had shown up… all were pre-occupied with looking at our roof. One radioed the engine and we could hear the sirens off in the distance, as well as in stereo over the radios. All the flashing lights, all the “visitors;” we almost felt like celebrities! Once the county Fire Department arrived, I heard one get on a radio and call for Duke Power to get out here right away to restore power. At the same time, a bunch of these guys in full gear explained that they wanted to enter the house and investigate our crawl space and attic spaces. Of course, I showed them the way upstairs to our attic access… a very tight, 18” x18” (or maybe 24” x24”) access hole in the linen closet in the hall bath. I shined the flashlight up to the access point; these guys were big! And in their fire suits, they were bulky, too. I didn’t have a clue if any of them could get up in that hole. One of the guys called for an attic ladder and while we waited for it to arrive, one of the firemen and I unloaded the linen closed and removed the shelving. The ladder ended up being much too long for the tight space of the hall bath so the smallest of the firemen said, “you want me to go up?” So, one of the big guys hoisted up the little guy and up he went. The handed him the heat-sensing camera and he looked around. I don’t think he’d been adequately trained on that camera, but he didn’t see anything that jumped out at him as being a problem. They did ask me if we had ductwork in the attic, which we do since our air vents for the upper level are in the ceilings. I had been somewhat trapped in the small hall bath while the firemen waited for the small guy to finish his assessment, so I don’t know what all happened through the rest of the house. Though, Doug does think that one of Ian’s former school-mates (who is active in the fire department) was also at our house.

By the time they finished in my attic, the rest of the firemen were finished in the remainder of the house and they were headed back to the truck. They lingered out in the street for a good 15 minutes before the “party” began to break up. The chief for c-shift needed to get some info from us for his report; just a name and home phone number. And he needed to warn us that he’s seen it where a lightning strike could smolder for a few hours before any flames show up. “I don’t wanna scare you, but I just need to let you know. If, after the power comes back on, or even later, if you smell something out of the ordinary or something just doesn’t seem right, like the power only comes back on to part of your house, DO NOT HESITATE to call us back. We’ll be right back out. Better for us to be here and you not need us than for us to not be here and you need us.”

We headed in to the house, the fire department left. Just five minutes later, the power company showed up. I noticed I had a missed call from another neighbor on my cell phone, so I called her back to let her know that we were fine. Doug and I then sat on the front porch and watched the power guy do his thing. But once we saw him put ear plugs in his ears, we decided we’d be safer inside the house. There were things he did out at the power pole with the transformer that he was VERY cautious about and that made us a little nervous. So, around 11:00, we decided there was nothing more we could watch and climbed in the bed. I texted my son to let him know what happened and that we were OK. He phoned me right back to find out the details and we talked for about 6 minutes. We heard the power company truck leave, yet we still had no power… I called the power company’s automated service to find out when they thought our power would be back on… “September 9, approximately 1 AM.” And we fell asleep. I heard a large truck arrive back at 1:05 am. I looked out the window and there were two trucks… one backed into the driveway across the street, with its headlights beaming straight into our bedroom windows. So I lay there, and listened. Some minutes later, “Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!” Nothing. More minutes later, some ratcheting, “Brrraaaaaacccccckkkkkk! Brrraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaacccccckkkkkk!” Nothing. At 1:40 am, the ceiling fan lights on my bedroom ceiling were blazing in my face! POWER!!! Doug slept through it all. I got up and investigated to see if we’d had any damage and to make sure we had power to ALL areas of the house. Upstairs: lights, fans, A/C good. First floor: fridge running, lights, fans, TV, satellite box, good. Basement: Light at top of stairs, good. Everything else in basement, dark and quiet. Uh-oh. So I went back upstairs to give Doug the update. I think he just wanted to sleep through it all, but I kind of made him get up to help me get it all figured out. He ended up having to go back out to the main power panel (outside) and flip a switch for the basement. VOILA! Lights, fans, fridge, de-humidifier, good! But the lower level A/C still was not running. Turns out, that, while I had turned it down for a week and a ½ to help dry out the basement from our recent flood, I had just turned it back up the day before. And the first floor was not warm enough to trip the thermostat; so, when I adjusted the thermostat, the A/C fired right up… CHECK! Everything good, we turned off any remaining lights and headed back to bed.

This morning, I had issues with the garage door opener. And we found that one lamp in the bedroom, a brass touch lamp, seems to be fried. Doug tried the garage door and while the motor sounds like it’s running, it’s not moving the chain for the garage door.

We are lucky. We are blessed. The fire department responded in about 5 minutes. Our home is safe. And we have very little damage! I’ll sleep very well tonight!

Now, since we’ve been in the house, we’ve had a tornado, a flood and a lightning strike. That’s three, right? Nothing else can happen, right???

Friday, September 5, 2008

So much to catch up on!

A lot has happened since I last posted. As my mom says, "Well, your life is never boring." Below is the condensed version of all the events since my last posting.

On August 13, our son, Ian, had his Board of Review for Eagle Scout. He was so nervous! But he passed! I am now the mom to an Eagle Scout!!!


On August 16, we moved Ian into University Towers at NC State University. That was an experience! Basically, we changed rooms three times. But now he's settled in a room on a quiet floor. The story really is much longer, but this is the condensed version. He's adjusting; some roommate issues and registration/records bumps along the way. But I think he's doing well managing his time and organizing his studies.
From NCSU move-in Freshman year

Tuesday and Wednesday, 8/27 and 8/28, Tropical Storm Fay blew into town... and left 2" of water in our basement. While it was good that we got all the water (the lake level came up about 2 1/2 feet!) it hasn't eased our drought conditions much. And we've begun renovations on our basement... just about 5 years earlier than we had expected!
The "padding" under the tan carpet ended up being circa 1975, sponge/foam backed red carpet:

That red carpet was completely glued to the concrete slab... once the red carpet is peeled up, it usually leaves the sponge/foam behind:

Ian came home for the Labor Day weekend. He hitched a ride with his big brother. We had an early Birthday celebration for him... I was feeling bad that he'd be away at school for his 18th birthday.

We had a surprise visitor on Labor Day. Those that know us know that this is an amazing deal! She's getting so big! We just miss her and her mom so much and wish they'd include us more.