Our Sweet and Crazy Coonhound ...

Our Sweet and Crazy Coonhound ...
Run Free: birthdate unknown - Oct. 17 2008

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

how much walking?

I feel highly accountable about having made a choice to have a dog in a condo. Especially a dog that was a hunting dog in his previous incarnation. I imagine woods, endless exercise, excitement and lots of space. Although the reality may have been too many hours in a wire-fronted cage, chewing his teeth to the gumline and howling insanely for attention. Still, I have moments of trying too hard not to let "condo" become a bad place for a dog.

A friend told me that without 30 minutes of walking a day, a dog will go "psycho." This, I believe is from the Dog Whisperer. (Actually, Millan suggests a 45-minute powerwalk every morning, with the human enforcing good walk behavior.)

Booker gets alot more than 30 minutes, which is generally somewhere in the form of:

20 minutes at 6am
90 minutes at the dog park (running off leash) or 60-90 minute power walk -- for example, three miles from the beach to home
30 minutes at 3-ish
30 minutes at 6-ish
30 minutes at 10pm or later

When I take Booker out for the 30 minute walks, we do just that - we WALK. A different route every time and I try to get up to a good pace for at least part of the time, although there is always a lot of sniffing that needs to be done.

I make a really diligent effort, and David and Samantha contribute significant leash-time as well.

I will tell you one thing, "psycho" often has nothing to do with walk time.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The indignity

Booker was getting more than a little gamey - let's say "houndy" - by yesterday. After our morning at the dog park, he was treated to a trip to the groomer, on special request from David. No frou-frou hairstyling for him, just a really good suds and water bath. I won't even say "shampoo." Air dry, no blowdry. Manly treatment.

The lovely ladies at Continental Pet have afforded Booker
a privilege. When he is done with his bath, he is allowed to sit with his leash wrapped around a post on the wrought iron gate separating the grooming area, to wait for me. "It's amazing," she said yesterday, "when he is in a drying crate he just howls and howls, but he's more than happy to sit politely at the gate and wait for you."

Booker is settling in. I think he is getting more secure. I think he knew that I would come and
pick him up.

He looked a little put off though. I think it was the orange and yellow bandana tied jauntily around his neck. Booker pouted all afternoon. I left it on just to share the visual with David.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A good chase

One of our dog park friends, a beautiful golden retriever, is obsessed with lizards. He chases them with the full intent and focus of a game dog. He stops at every trashcan and waits for Rick to shake the liner to send the lizards - who are sitting inside waiting for flies - running for the palm trees. Mercer goes crazy, darting for one 3-inch blur and then another. He'll take on an iguana, too.

David dodged this 5-footer on the golf course last weekend. Perhaps they should hire dogs to chase the iguanas (which dig and make a general mess) like they have dogs to rid golf courses of geese in Illinois.

Booker doesn't care about lizards at all. This a good thing, because when we go on our long walks through Rio Vista, there is a lizard every few feet on the sidewalk, sunning itself until interrupted by our approach. They dart for the shrubs and we don't even break stride.

Squirrels don't merit Booker's attention. The squirrel population in Florida is less numerous and markedly scrawnier than that of Chicago. The other morning, two of them stopped in front of us and chattered aggressively at Booker. He didn't even give them the satisfaction of a coonhound bark. He doesn't care about cats either, and there are quite a few, lounging in the sun on brick walkways.

The other night Booker did get agitated over something in a tree along the Riverwalk. His nose went into the air and he froze. Then he started to zigzag under the tree, testing the air. He looked happy, like he was remembering something.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Now he wants a car ...

A Coonhound and a Lamborghini.


Wearing the Wrong Coat

A lovely couple came into my gallery, Las Olas Fine Arts, a couple nights ago with the greatest looking dog. I thought at first it was a young Wolfhound, but that wasn't quite right, I knew. The woman sat on the leather sofa at the front of the gallery and the dog flopped sweetly at her feet. The concrete floor in here is not easy to get a footing on, and the dog slipped into a nice lay-down, chin between its giant puppy paws. She had a wiry yellow coat and a short-haired face with soulful brown labrador eyes. Her pink rhinestone-studded collar, usually a small dog accessory, was a nice touch on her thick neck.

The woman told me that the dog - 8 months old - was a labradoodle, and had been abandoned by the puppymill breeder because she had the wrong texture coat, giving her an odd and markedly non-designer dog appearance. They had rescued her three months ago.

They also had issues with food aggression, because the puppy had been fed communally at first and then neglected and underfed. The woman told me that it took about two months to get past the growling over food.

Her husband laughed. Now, he said, the only problem was the pool. The dog was asserting ownership and everyone had to request permission to take a swim.

Retirement to Florida will spoil you.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Smart not Scared

Dog bites can be brutal. Human hands are delicate. It's smart to be wary. David objects to the implication of "afraid" ... he's smart. He doesn't want his hand punctured. Last night, Booker got his dinner in 5-kibble increments, out of David's palm. It got a bit gooey by the end, but Booker's tail was wagging the entire time.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Toothless Terror

I felt nothing but gums on the bottom. Eight weeks we've had this dog, and I am just getting in to inspect his mouth. We had discovered that it is prone to drool, and liberally let loose long, low coonhound bays, but I hadn't actually had my fingers in there. Out of respect, and he's not much of a licking, kissing kind of dog, anyway.

So the other morning I opened his mouth to count his teeth. "Alright," I laughed, "he's got hillbilly teeth. Or rather, lack-of-teeth." On the bottom, all six incisors are gone. Nothing but gums. On the top, the six incisors are gone and the two canines - his "fangs" - are broken in half. What could have happened to him?

With a rescue dog, a large part of their history is irretrievable. Speculation has to suffice, and often doesn't answer the puzzles of their behavior, habits or maladies. I sent a quick e-mail to the rescue coordinator. Often, she responded, hunting dogs are neglected, left in cages or chained for endless hours, and they chew on the metal, or even on rocks, out of boredom and frustration. Compound that with inadequate nutrition, and teeth suffer. I had visions of Booker in his past life, viciously tearing up trees in his fervor after a raccoon, and that his missing teeth are a badge of courage. Sadly, they are probably more a reminder of abuse and neglect.

Many of his behaviors are reminders of sketchy history. We have gotten past his food aggression, for the most part. It's a work in progress. Booker now gets two meals a day, and his bowl is offered after he takes a few kibble directly from our hands. We leave a hand non-threateningly in the bowl for his first bites. We are practicing being "Good Waiters" to ease him past the behavior that makes more sense when we remember that he was found weighing 29 pounds. He starved, and food is precious.

Toy agression with Booker is also an issue. So toys are doled out and controlled. David is working with him on "release" and he is getting much better. One item is really a psycho-dog trigger, though. He almost attacked David over a real marrow bone from the butcher. Booker became rabid and intimidating. David was afraid that he would really bite. David said, if anyone ever threatens you, I hope Booker acts like that - although we doubt that he would. He is dog-friendly, stranger-oblivious, generally a quick "hello" and he looses interest. This aggression is specifically reserved for things he eats. No more marrow bones for Booker.

Last night, though, he snapped and growled menacingly at David over a pillow on the bed. Booker was crunching on the decorative fake-bone balls. He probably thought they were edible. The line is drawn. We will not tolerate a biting dog. Booker must accept his place in our pack, without challenge.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dog Obsession

I was back in Chicago for one night and I was just fine. My new-found "dog obsession" wasn't overwhelming, although I had a few qualms along the lines of "how would they manage without me ..."

David, my fiance, has proclaimed me "obsessed." The symptoms?

I bookmarked the rescue site, American Black and Tan Coonhound Rescue on my pc.

I visit it regularly. Very regularly. Okay, about four times a day. I am completely fascinated by the new dogs that appear in the "Available" tab, and those that have found salv
ation in the "Rescued" tab. I pore over the new stories in "Happy Endings." I have read every rescue testimonial there, starting at the bottom and reading new ones almost as they are posted. Some of them I've read more than once. Booker's "Happy Ending" is on there, too, although I think it's more aptly called a "Happy Do-over."

I inadvertantly direct conversation with David and Samantha to little "dog updates." I tell stories about the dog park. I speculate on his past and hypothesize on the deep dog-psyche reasons for his behaviors. I'm trying to pay attention to not overdoing it. It's like having a new baby and letting your whole world become baby-driven. Not a good thing.

I troll the Web for bits of information on Treeing Walkers. Google: "treeing walker" "treeing walker coonhound" "walker hound" ... you get the picture. I've found some very interesting sites. Lots of people who own Walkers live in a different reality than we do. Of course, that's exactly why we got our own treeing walker coonhound. The whole retirement thing.

And, I have changed my AIM avatar to a hounddog.

Actually, I did that to tease David a bit.

When my plane was landing yesterday, the early evening sun on little Fort Lauderdale was beautiful. The New River sparkled and the white caps on the ocean rolled. Our 4-block deep downtown, with it's handful of office buildings and glimmering condominiums, and a couple miles east, the line of ocean front properties, looked like home. I missed David, and wanted to hear about the Starting Line concert my daughter went to the night before.

And, I smiled at the thought of my coonhound waiting for me to walk in the door. But not obsessively.