Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Nala's Bad Month

I told you my foot hurt! First I got two -- not one, but two -- abscesses on my paw. Probably from from a thorn or a splinter. I didn't like the treatment and I certainly felt silly wearing Margot's sock. (We have the same size feet.)

Then the Mistral started to blow. I hate the Mistral! Doggles are stupid!

And now Harry! Why won't he leave me in peace? Do I look like I like cats?

And now look! Another eye operation: a lid lift. Carina says I look like I've been Photoshopped. Very funny, Carina!

This is the end!

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Everybody's Talkin'

I, like most dog and cat owners (in my case, with a complete lack of surprise), have been reading the news about the recalls of many of the top -- and supermarket -- brands of pet food, in the wake of dying cats and dogs. The deaths have been going on for some time now, but only when the word started to leak out, did Big Animal Food put out announcements. They didn't even have the decency to warn the vets, but that didn't surprise me, either.

What I can't understand is this: Why does it takes episode after episode of this sort of thing for vets to even notice, let alone question their beliefs about the feeding of animals? I feed raw, although my vet does not know this and probably wouldn't approve, if she did. However, it was a passing comment of hers, when Io Jima was dying of cancer, that sent me looking for something outside the commercial dog food world. To her credit, my vet does believe in cooked diets, so she know there is something better out there than the products that the majority of people are feeding their pets.

I expect resistance from my friends and acquaintances.

"Why are you feeding Fluffy that awful Hills?"
"Well, he likes it." (Hey, I like Big Macs, but I don't live on them.)

"It's too complicated to feed a dog on my own." (But your children are easy; they don't have any particular nutritional requirements, right?)

(There might be something in this last one, judging from the way I see people feeding their children. But, I digress. . .)

"But the pet food companies have all that experience and do all that research." (Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He's got good advertising elves, too, and we always believe what we see on television.)

There must be thousands upon thousands of us feeding cooked and raw diets to our animals, slowly convincing our vets, by our animals improved health and appearance, that we know something. ("Well, yes, I can see that Muffy's hair has grown back, her allergies have cleared up and her weight stabilised, but I really think you should be feeding Science Diet. . ..") The biggest names leading the raw food movement are vets, but the veterinary profession don't want to listen to anything except the publicity and "research" from Big Dog & Cat Food.

Why is this?

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Reno's Story

You know how proud I am of my Heeling Chow. One of the reasons I have a Heeling Chow, when all my Chow-owning life I've been told they can't be trained, is because of some wonderful people on a Yahoo group I belong to. These people are professional trainers, but they let me join their group and have helped and encouraged me in my isolation in rural France.

One of these people is taking a break from earning her livelihood as a trainer while she cares for her mother who has cancer. Eleanor moved back in and took her dogs with her.

Now the town says she is violating a dog ordinance and they want her to get rid of her dogs. People spoke at a town meeting against granting a variance for Eleanor, praising her control of her incredibly well-behaved dogs. You read that right. Eleanor is a first-class, responsible dog owner with Canine Good Citizens and Therapy Dogs, but they still voted against. . .what?

I'm not sure anyone reads my blog, but if anyone is here, please read Reno's Story and try to help. Especially if you have a dog because it's getting worse out there.

P.S. Fact check: I have been told that, like me, Eleanor is not a professional trainer, but has been accepted on the trainer's list. Everything else stands.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

And along came Van-Ly. . .

. . .who has passed the Town Test. We went to market last week and she heeled. I cannot believe my good fortune. First, I had the world's only swimming Chow; now I have one of the few -- if not only -- heeling Chows. So where did she come from?

When Io Jima died, it was like what they say about a good marriage. I loved her and she was irreplaceable, but I couldn't live without the relationship. Within days, I was searching for another Chow. But not black, I decided. I wanted to be comparing the two as little as possible.

We found Mme. Idé, who had a new litter. Mme. Idé had just started her own kennel, but her parents have been breeding Chows for over 30 years. When she mentioned the father of her bitch, I recognised the Champion from her parents's kennel. We had seen another litter first, but the woman wanted a deposit, sight unseen. Unrefundable. "Is that how it works?" I asked Mme. Idé over the telephone. "Certainly not," she said, "We want to see you first. If you don't like the puppy, we give your deposit back. If you don't like us, we give your deposit back. If we don't like you, we give your deposit back. Ooooh, a test. We went to look.

She sent pictures. I didn't know that Chows are born mink coloured. "Will they stay that way," I asked. "No," said Mme. Idé. Oh, well. Picking a Chow is not like picking another puppy. It goes without saying that they all look alike, but the old chestnut about picking the one that's interested in you does not come into play here. Chows are not interested in you. It's not that they actively object to you; it's more that you're a fall-back when there isn't anything else of interest. Of course, most other things aren't of interest, either. (Hence, the problem with training them.) This is our kind of dog. We all have our own lives.

Well, we wanted a girl. We'd had a girl and Mme. Idé suggested we'd be happier with another one. That eliminated two of the four pups. Of the remaining two, one did seem a bit more adventurous than the other -- she didn't sleep during the entire viewing -- but we wanted one with as open a face as we could get. The judge who'd passed Io Jima for her confirmation had remarked with pleasure on her unwrinkled face, so we figured we'd go along with him. The adventurous puppy had what Mme. Idé referred to as a more "classical" face, so we chose the fourth one.

In France, all pedigreed animals have names starting with the letter decreed for the year. And Chows are generally given Chinese names. Io Jima, supposedly named after a small village or river in northern China that her breeder found on the map, was born in "I." (We've since concluded, since the breeder's memory was pretty sketchy, that she was probably named for the Chinese version of Iwo Jima.) Van-Ly didn't have a name, yet, and the breeder said we could name her, ourselves. Oh, joy! I came home and started poring over books and the internet, only to find that there is no V in Chinese. Sneaky, Mme. Idé, sneaky.

I tried Manchurian. Then I tried Thai. I can't remember what all I tried until -- my memory isn't what it was, you know -- it occurred to me that there must be a V in Vietnamese. So, Van-Ly is Vietnamese for a little morsel of cloud. Which is what she was.

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Cold Spell

Hell has frozen over.

Van-Ly is so bored with attention training, that she cries all the time we're out, so I've decided to move on to Lesson 2: Heeling. I watched the tape. I practiced with my husband as dog stand-in. Husband-as-dog corrected what I was doing (sometimes I wonder if someone is slipping stupid pills into my wine) and out we went.

Nick went off with Nala while I started behind them with Van-Ly. We took a couple of steps; she surged. I did the about face thing. She surged. I did the about face thing. We did this half a dozen times. Twice she got on the wrong side of me and I had to put her back where she belonged. Unfortunately, the normal correction for this fault won't work with her; Nala is the only Chow we've owned that can figure out what to do when she gets tangled around a tree, pole or person. Partly, as well, it's my fault. I've always insisted that they walk on the inside, away from the road, which in this instance means on the right. Today it occurred to me that as long as she's right next to me, she should be safe on the road side. Or neither of us will be.

We did the surge-about face routine for about 5 minutes, not getting further than the front of the house when, as we were once again heading in the right direction -- she got it! Hot damn! My dog heeled. We only had to make 2 surge turns in the half kilometer to the river and only 1 coming back. My dog can heel. I have a heeling Chow. Can I say this another way? We are a little success story.

I realise we have a way to go, but I'd never have believed we'd have got this far. Thank you, William Koehler. Wherever you are, I'm sure it's not where you'll have to worry about the climate blip.