Friday, August 15, 2014

Tired Dog, Good Dog

You have heard the cliche before, "a tired dog is a good dog", or, "... a happy dog". Although it takes a lot more than that, I like it enough to say, it is one of my favorite motto's.

Tilde clearly never got the memo though, and she challenged us in this department in a way we could never have imagined. From almost day one she was like an energy bomb bouncing around.

We went on long hikes, we trained, exercised, learned new tricks, played mind- and nose games, all on a daily basis, but still, Tilde had plenty of surplus energy.

Even Kenzo sometimes had enough of it, and started to "play dead", to avoid her endless appetite for play and action.

The shelter warned us she was under stimulated. They were definitely not kidding.

First I tried to spend more time with her on all our activities, even to a level where it started to worry me. If this really was her energy level, was I be able to give it to her, on the long run? That scared the hell out of me. The whole family crashed in the evening after another day with our new energy bomb, and we were all clearly more tired than Tilde was.

Spending more time with her still, almost to the level of exhaustion for us as well as for Tilde, she continued to be hyper-active. Even when we could see how exhausted she sometimes actually was. She must have been. For a while we worried if she could have some kind of Obsessive Compulsive Behavior. Either way, hiking longer, training more and longer, wasn't helping.

And no matter how active we were, she would still be barking excessively, jumping up, mouth, bite, counter-surf, bite furniture, steal clothes and shoes, dig holes, scratch doors and some other things that don't come to mind right now.

Then it started to change. We could see, some months after her adoption, Tilde did know how to relax. She didn't feel it was necessary anymore to wrap up a two-hour hike with some rough play with Kenzo, and thereafter find some shoes to chew on. She did seem to be able to take her rest now as well.

And while we stuck to our daily schedule providing her with exercise and stimulation we could see her improve more and more. She was relaxing and resting more. Some bad habits started to disappear by itself, like the shoe stealing, biting in furniture and scratching doors. We train her on others, like mouthing and jumping up on people, and that has improved a lot too.

Though she is still the bouncing energy bomb, it is good to see she re-discovered her own quieter side as well. Overall she makes a lot more balanced impression now.

What I learned from all of this is that when a dog is as under stimulated like Tilde, you don't need to hike further, or train longer, almost to a level of exhaustion. A regular and varied schedule of exercise and stimulation is a lot more effective. It just takes a while, it will not happen over night, but it will do the job on the long run.

In Tilde's case, it was probably a long period of inactivity, as her former family suffered from a severe illness, as well as the re-homing process itself, which would have added a lot of stress, preparing a cocktail that could only do one thing, to explode.

I do hope we haven't diffused our little bomb, but instead migrated to a phase in which we can enjoy it more like "controlled explosions". Looking into Tilde's eyes, I can see all the mischief is still there, so I wouldn't have to worry about that.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Beauty and The Beast

I can see most dogs think twice before they approach.

On one leash I have the Beauty, wriggling like a worm, bouncing as much as the leash allows, while the smiles on her face work like a magnet, "I want to lick you up!".

And on the other leash I have the Beast, sizing you up, to determine if you are worthy of approaching his awesomeness. And not in the last place, approaching his Beauty too.

Kenzo doesn't surprise me. It was to be expected, he would do that, like he did for Viva. Although the dynamics between Kenzo and Tilde, are totally different from the dynamics between Kenzo and Viva.

Viva was only a few years older than Kenzo, they were both adults, and Viva was not in need of social contact with other dogs. She quickly enlisted the younger Kenzo as her private body-guard army. Also, Kenzo's job description was easy. Herd any dog away from Viva, no exceptions.

This time Kenzo is the senior. And he clearly again feels a responsibility for Tilde, but he doesn't just herd every dog away like he did for Viva. Neither is that necessary for outgoing Tilde. She is younger - barely an adolescent - and no doubt a lot of what I am seeing Kenzo do is more like coaching or mentoring, maybe even parenting, and not so much protecting.

What happens in short is, if a dog wants to greet Tilde, he will receive a short and clear message to behave by Kenzo, her private approval committee, but after that, the dog is basically good to go - if approved of course.

It didn't take long, before I recognized Tilde started to copy this way to greet (among others). Her first attempt to copy was so clumsy it made us all laugh, "now we got the formalities over with, let's play!", she seemed to think.

For the record, the first approval committee, is of course, still yours truly.

Hovawart TV: The Herd-Wart

Bard wants to be a Herd-Wart. And he is not doing bad at all for a Hovawart!

Keep up the good work Bard!

Watch more Hovawart TV.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Run, Kenzo, Run!

It is such a beautiful sight. To see Kenzo run. After last month's failed attempt, we made some great progress. There is still a small limp sometimes, but he can correct it himself now, by choosing another pace, or with my help through some stretching. And we don't leave the door before we have done our warning-up.

I also saw him do his special prancing pony imitation again. A wonderful sight.

He needs to pick up a whole lot more power and endurance to become his old self completely. But that's the easy part, it just means exercise, exercise and exercise. It will not be long now, before he can give Tilde a run for her money.

The last couple of months we went through hell and back again. I totally underestimated what it meant, to recover from a tendon injury like this, both physically as well as mentally. But I can write about that later, first we are going to run some more !

Saturday, August 2, 2014

About Blue Flag Emergencies and Feeling Naked Around Nudists

Right after hitting the beach, we went down to the water's edge. The weather was so hot, Kenzo and Tilde needed to be cooled down, as soon as possible. I noticed a lot of people still took their dogs down to the beach, even though a week earlier the news came out, all dogs should be banned from Blue Flag beaches.

The Blue Flag indicates the beach and water is clean enough for tourists to enjoy, but some bureaucrat somewhere dug up a WHO report, that dogs foul the beaches, and they weren't allowed on Blue Flag beaches anymore. Just like that.

I could see at least, I wasn't the only one, with no intention what-so-ever to follow this new rule. Get rid of the flag, in my humble opinion, is a much better solution.

A woman with her dog walking along the water's edge approached us and she quickly leashed her dog, when she noticed Kenzo and Tilde were leashed as well. I don't let them off leash, when the beach is that busy, after all, a lot of people don't like dogs. I would first let them off leash, as soon as we arrived at a much queiter part of the beach, which is where the nudists are.

If the beach is quieter because of the nudists, or if it is the other way around, I don't know. Most likely the nudists do seem to try, like me with my dogs, to seek some seclusion not to offend other people. But we were still in the busy part of the beach and we had to walk further. And then, the inevitable happened.

The approaching dog took a huge dump in the water's edge and the lady immediately became very uncomfortable. People's stares were not to be mistaken of, and I noticed an elbow or two, that raised multiple sunbathers into an upright position.

We passed by, but I was too curious not to look over my shoulder, to see if the lady would pick up her dog's delivery, after all we don't want any Blue Flag emergencies that would spoil the fun for all of us. I wondered, why she was not picking it up though.

The lady started waving. To someone, obviously, that was in the possession of a doggy bag. Picking it up later, would have been an option, but with so many eyes on her, I am sure she didn't dare to move, fearing a Blue Flag lynch mob.

When nobody was coming to the rescue, and the deposit started to take the first hits from the surf, in danger of becoming afloat, I decided to come to the rescue. I think I never met somebody before, that was so thrilled to see a doggy bag, at the end of my outstretched arm.

While we continued our walk down to the quieter part, and laughed a little about what happened, I could see the first nudists appear. We had to be close now, to some off leash fun. I said to my wife, "I feel naked". She didn't understand, as I never before seem to have been bothered to be surrounded by nudists, even I keep my clothes on my body myself.

When I was growing up, a long time ago in Holland, dogs were only allowed off leash in the summer on the nudist beach. I had gotten used to the arrangement. Although a young Kenzo embarrassed me once, during one of our visits, he mistakenly took a running man for an invitation to play chase, who quickly started protecting his private parts, just in case. He swore, it was all intentional from our side.

But this time I did feel naked and it didn't had anything to do with my clothing. Kenzo and Tilde did their business earlier on the parking lot in front of the beach. I always leave the house with three bags, and I realized my earlier heroism left me with no more bags. What if...? But not to worry, why would Kenzo or Tilde go twice on the same trip? That never happened before.

Of course, this time, it did. And although Tilde made a beautiful poo, my happiness was short-lived, as now it was my turn to be studied, by the nudists this time. I looked around, like the lady did earlier, with some hope of karma coming to the rescue, but none of the sunbathers moved. "Don't stare", my wife said, misunderstanding my looks for help. I couldn't spot any nude people with a dog. Typical.

I dug a deep hole for Tilde's deposit, and left in shame.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Coffee Please

"Tilde? Tilde!", I shouted, to no avail. Tilde disappeared around the corner at the end of the driveway, barking at whatever it was she had laid her eyes on. Beyond that corner, only miles and miles of heath-fields and dunes followed. My stomach knotted up when I started running down the driveway.

I woke up early that morning for Tilde to do her morning potty - no sleeping late allowed, even on holiday. She was very persistent in trying to wake me up as well, and that could only mean one thing. Sleepwalking into the living-room I decided to open the curtains first, to see what weather was awaiting us. The sound of flowing liquids behind me, reminded me harshly of my original priority, and I quickly grabbed Tilde by her collar, dragged her to the front-door, and let her out.

For just a second I thought she would just finish her potty and get back inside so I could make some coffee to wake up, but the mischievous look she gave me while standing absolutely still made me realize she had other plans.

I only made one step out of the door, to find Tilde already in full-fledged morning-zoomie mode. This day was now definitely not starting the way I intended it. And it got worse, when she heard or saw something, and bolted. Tilde was gone.

When I reached the end of the drive-way I could see what had caught her eye. A man and his daughter were standing at the start of the hiking trail, looking at a spot in the heath-fields, where their dog was playing chase with Tilde.

"Uh. Oh. Good morning", I said when I caught up with them. They first noticed me now, and the shy look they gave me reminded me of the fact I was still in my underwear, topped off with a matching bewildered morning-hair look. To no avail I made a couple of futile attempts to grab Tilde by her collar. The man and his daughter quickly continued their walk. Tilde followed them, playing with her friend and leaving me behind while calling her name.

Finally. I could see Tilde stopped and looked back at me. She started running back, when something else caught her eye and she disappeared in the bushes.

"Great", I said, and raised my arms to the sky in resignation. Waiting would probably be the best thing to do I thought, and after a minute that felt like a century, Tilde finally re-appeared. Now I had my chance. She was dashing towards me, and I went down on my knees in an attempt to remind her she was coming for me. When she came closer, I noticed the angle in which she approached me was not perfectly straight towards me. I looked over my shoulder.

"You got to be kidding me", I thought, when I saw another man with his dog approaching on my rear, while Tilde passed me by in full-speed, to make yet another friend for the day.

The man looked at me, studying my appearance and with no doubt noticing my unusual clothing items again. How many more people do we need to meet, I thought, now Tilde showed no mercy. A smear appeared on the man's face, I smiled back sheepishly. "It seems you forgot to dress with a leash", he observed sharply.

I had no witty reply. Coffee. Please.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sit Still And Say Cheese

In the category totally useless information, the photo shoot report, of how Tilde became a model, supporting "Oranje".

 "ok this is new, how exciting..."

 "although ... I am sitting awfully still"

 "say cheese? where is the cheese?"

 "where did that cheese come from?"

"there is cheese on top of the camera !!!"

"now I get it!"


For the record. Kenzo particpated too, with his finest head-wear.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

That Guy With The German Shepherd Again

It might be hard to imagine there is a soul on this earth that doesn't like sweet, beautiful and popular Tilde.

"Our" - it is a long story - German Shepherd girl, is one of the few non-believers. Her name is Dina btw, and yes, I really have to get a photo of her.

Dina has been the only one that could tolerate Kenzo during his recovery days. He was rude. He was obnoxious. "Knock it off", she said, and Kenzo listened. And during that period, Dina could give Kenzo some very much needed social dog contact.

Now Dina actually never liked a lot of other dogs than Kenzo in the first place, and when Tilde joined, I expected her not to be pleased at all. In a way with Viva, she was always sort of tolerable to Dina, as they both were pretty happy neither of them had any wish to approach each other, and they reached their own type of truce.

When we saw them approach, Dina was cowering and looking whale-eyed directly at Tilde, who didn't was, as she usually is with other dogs, the sprawling worm at the end of the leash, but instead read Dina's messages very well, and responded appropriately.

Me and the German Shepherd guy knew what was happening, we anticipated it, even if we probably both were just a tiny little bit disappointed in our heart, and of course we didn't make any efforts to have Dina and Tilde meet. Like average polite humans, we did exchanged some hello's while we passed, and in just a second or two we stood still.

"Woof", Kenzo said. Not to anybody - any dog - in particular, he just understood the tension between Dina and Tilde, and just wanted to continue straight forward. Meeting his old love, with his new younger mistress on his side, was not a good idea as well maybe.

When we returned from water walker training the other day, we could see Dina and the German Shepherd guy walking in the neighborhood, heading for their usual trails. I stopped the car. "What do you think Kenzo? Should we make up?".

Although tired from his water therapy training, Kenzo's fluffy tail revealed his excitement for the idea, and we got out of the car to let Kenzo and Dina say hello.

Dina played her "hard to get", like she always did, and Kenzo stayed remarkably polite. Again only his tail revealed, how excited he really was. Dina came over to me to collect her hug, only her second hug since then, as if she was especially happy for this particular reunion.

"I think we did good, Kenzo" I said when we got back in the car. Kenzo's smear on his face revealed he was equally pleased. "We don't tell Tilde", I assured him.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Run, Stumble and Fall

Two comments Kenzo's surgeon made after his tendon surgery, regularly wake me up in the middle of the night, as in a nightmare. "Some never recover." was his most famous quote. When I asked questions, he downplayed it.

"Some need the same surgery over and over." was the next. Apparently, when you don't find the cause of why his tendon was injured in the first place - and keep on doing what you are doing - it is likely to come back. Which made sense, but what was the culprit?

In Kenzo's case, it was probably a lack on hind leg-awareness, as diagnosed by his physical therapy vet, and which we solved now with specific exercises. But still.

Next to a loss of sleep, these comments from the vet were helpful still, as they forced me to be extra careful and vigilant around Kenzo's recovery. It took us 5 months, instead of the standard 3 months. And we threw everything at it we could find with specialized help, instead of walking the DIY-path.

When Kenzo was finally ready for his first real runs and off leash time, the outlook was excellent and it seemed the happy days were knocking on our door. As you can see on the photo above, Kenzo was running again, and seemed even more happy than me over his regained freedom.

Where it went wrong, is difficult to say, but I think when him and Tilde were dashing down-hill the sand dune on the next picture to the right, the speed in which they went was that high, Kenzo tried to slow down, Tilde smashed on top of him, he tripped over his "bad" leg, and they were both tumbling down the hill.

When he got up, he stood still and didn't want to play. He sneered at Tilde, who of course was thinking this was an unbelievable blast, and was calling for a rerun. I gave him some time, and did some tests with his leg to see if he was hurt, but he seemed fine. Still, he preferred to take it slow the rest of the walk.

Over the course of the next days, his limping had returned and I don't think I slept a lot in the days up to our upcoming vet visit. I tried painkillers, but they didn't help, but at least we knew, he was not in pain and the injury seemed not to have returned. Finally the day came, where Kenzo got his physical examination. Nothing seemed wrong, although some muscles were again tensed. The vet told us, what she had been telling us for the last couple of months.

"Kenzo still doesn't trust his leg." The limping is an attempt to avoid his left leg, which causes the tension in other muscles. It is not a new tendon injury. What probably happened on that sand dune, was Kenzo loosing his confidence in his leg again. After his surgery, basically with no tendon, the slightest step was wobbly, which must have fed him with that deep distrust we fight today.

We're back at the water walker, do mostly leashed walks in which I have more control, and all our daily exercises, whatever it takes for Kenzo to regain the needed trust in his leg. But lets not forget the good news. Physically he is in excellent shape, and nothing is wrong with him. He just doesn't know it yet.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Little Tree On The West Coast

We laid Viva's ashes to rest under a little tree we planted on the corner of our property on the West-coast, overlooking her beloved heath fields. The West-coast, with its rough and harsh nature, was contradictory the only place where a vulnerable soul like Viva could feel genuinely safe and be happy, all day long. I couldn't think of a better place, as the West-coast was where she thrived most.

Seven months have passed. It took me a long time to decide, what to do with her ashes. We so far always rushed into it. With every pet we had, it never felt right, and we changed the way how to do it the next time, with the same, rushed, end result. It never felt right. I am glad I waited so long to decide what to do with Viva's remains. It paid off to think it over and over again, to wait, and wait again, and to make the final choice to do it this way. At least for me, it did.

Back at home, 250 miles away, I tell myself, that she is happy and safe over there, and she is where she wants to be, her favorite place. She knows we will return soon too, and will be waiting for us, when we reunite again. We hopefully watch the tree grow, and visit it every sunset, to thank Viva for another day.

I know her spirit is elsewhere, but I can't deny the need for a symbol, a tale, to connect. That little tree on the West-coast, is our gateway.

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