Monday, May 19, 2014

Cinder the Huntress

Last week started out to be a grand week, but due to some seriously bad storms and tornadoes, it quickly turned out to be far less grand than it began. 

Early in the week, we were able to take Gilley and Cinder to the pond and as anticipated, we got Cinder to swim a little bit by capitalizing on her need to follow Gilley everywhere - including into the deep waters of the pond.  I let Gilley and Cinder start out by wading in the shallow spot for a few minutes. Once that was no longer exciting, I threw Gilley's Frisbee for him to retrieve. Cinder quickly followed and swam quite well for about 10 -15 feet, until she looked at the bank and realized how far she'd gotten from it.  She managed to turn herself around and keep swimming; and by then Gilley had come alongside her so it was a race to shore!  She did that a couple more times.  On the last round, she started to have trouble and I feared I may have to dive in after her, but as I was about to, Gilley saw her and let go of his Frisbee to swim over to and help Cinder; nudging her and then grabbing her and putting her right to swim back to shore.  They swam back to shore together and after that, she was content to wade while watching Gilley swim a few more times.  I'm sure she'd become too tired and started to lose it until Gilley rescued her. Until that point, she was a serious little power stroke swimmer - major power in her push through the water. It was impressive.  It's been too cold to try again since, but as soon as it warms up again, we'll give it another try.  Next time, we won't swim after a long run on the farm and I won't let her swim so much that she gets too tired to be safe.  That was my fault for not realizing she would tire so quickly-she is just a puppy of five months after all.

Day before yesterday, I was finally able to go on a longer walk with the dogs than I've been able to do yet this year. Not that it was a long walk, but it's better than I've been able to do because of my back problems this spring.  I went roughly 2.3 miles and of course, the dogs went about 7-10 miles because of all their circling back to check in with me; and playing our games along the way.  I opted to leave Buzz at home and take only Gilley and Cinder because the two of them are more manageable than all three dogs.  As we went on our walk, I started out feeling pretty great and ready to tackle at least five miles. That was not meant to be and was clearly punctuated by a minor incident at the outset of our walk.  

As we cleared the little creek behind the barn, we turned and headed for "The Billy Goats Gruff Bridge." After navigating my way through the mud at the creek without incident, I felt confident my walk was going to be awesome.  Imagine my surprise when I topped a small knoll, still feeling pretty good until suddenly, I had my leg knocked from under me and fell to the ground in one big thud!  When you've had a knee (or hip) replacement, the idea of a fall is scary and you always try to miss landing on or wrenching the replacement joint.  I had no chance to think about it, but luckily, it was my good leg that was knocked from beneath me and on that side I landed.  What caused my sudden fall? Cinder on the run, chasing Gilley, careened into me on her way by! I swear it felt as though I'd been struck by a wrecking ball that took my leg out from under me!  I could've been 50 shades of angry, but I was too busy deciding whether I was hurt or just stunned as I lay on the ground assessing my body functionality.  Brian had seen the whole thing unfold and made his way to me, worried about my back and my knee.  I managed to get  up and decided that I was a little less enthusiastic about the walk, but still determined to continue. What a powerhouse she is at a full run - no wonder she's a power stroke swimmer! Brian warned me then that I should scale back my goals for the walk, but I pushed forward, a little more cautiously. Brian went along and we played with Gilley and Cinder the whole way.

Did you know that if you're a bird and you attempt to dive bomb a Border Collie, you should probably fly higher than the Border Collie can jump?  There's one less bird flying the friendly skies because that bird missed the memo! As we were nearing the edge of the woods and a field, a bird flew about five feet off the ground and attracted Cinder's eye.  She began watching the bird intently as it continued flying low and getting closer to us.  As the bird got closer, I could see Cinder's little brain calculating the height of jump and trajectory required to nab it.  Sure enough, she plucked that bird from full flight as it came over her!  She jumped at least four feet straight up and nabbed that bird like it was nothing!  The bad news was that I made her drop and leave it - which took some doing because she kept circling back to it as I walked ahead. But, ultimately, Cinder left it behind, clearly feeling deprived of the bird carcass reward she'd earned as Cinder the Huntress.

Gilley watched everything and you could see his experienced mind,"Dumb pup. Mom NEVER lets us catch or pick up any critters. You'll learn eventually. Some things you have to do when mom's not around or just not do them at all."  I have no fear that if she had to, Cinder would survive in the wild quite well.  This is not the first display of her hunting prowess as she has run across a couple rabbits, mutliple squirrels, and she's run up a few deer. Her little nose is ALWAYS going, sniffing out all kinds of things around the house and yard so she hones her ability to scent all the time. 

As the walk progressed, I started feeling pretty sore in my back again. Spasms began, but they were pretty minor initially.  We checked some of the woods trails; cleared a few small down limbs; and realigned the boards of a makeshift corduroy road through a boggy area that had floated the boards out of position in our recent weeks of storms. After that, I told Brian I needed to begin the trek back to the barn while I could still make it relatively pain free.  I was actually already in some pain, but I didn't want to mention that. However, Gilley being my constant companion and smart boy seemed to already be very aware of my pain.  He stopped going so far ahead and waiting or circling in order to stay closer to me.  When I needed to stop for brief breaks because of spasms, Gilley waited with me, watching me. When the spasms eased, hed walk beside me for a bit - until Cinder urged him to run with her.  Gilley seemed to know he was supposed to keep Cinder going to wear her out and he'd oblige for a few minutes; returning to walk with me again.  A few times, I slowed down and my steps were small because I hurt, but I wanted to keep moving. During those times, Gilley seemed to sense I needed his help and he'd nudge me and give me a look as if to say, "Come on Mom, you can do it. Keep trying Mom, I'm right here to help you if you need me."  Then, Cinder would bound back and urge him to romp a little more. Gilley performed that same dual duty performance all the way back to the barn.  By the time we'd gotten to the known barn route, Cinder too seemed to become aware that I was not feeling good and needed a little extra help.  She and Gilley both slowed their pace to stay close all the way back up the lane, through the creek; and up the hill to the barn.  By that point, it took everything I had to make the last half mile of that walk. I think I'd even told Brian to get the Jeep and come pick me up, but he knew I didn't really want to quit.  We made it all the way and both Gilley and Cinder jumped in the back of the car without hesitating long enough to blink.  

Quite the eventful little jaunt we had for my first real walk of the year that was more than an eighth of a mile. I came home and decided to ice pack my back & rest it for a couple hours with the dogs on the bed with me while I watched a movie.  Then, I got up and although I still hurt, kept piddling at house chores and things to keep moving.  Then it was time to go back to the barn to get Ebbie in for the night and I wanted to take Buzz since Gilley and Cinder went earlier.  Buzz was happy to tag along and although his walk was very short, he got one-on-one time he truly enjoyed. 

Cinder proves to be an entertaining addition to our world and as we expand her world, there are almost always some new tricks she pulls out and shows us. Knocking me off my feet to start our walk; plucking a bird from mid-air flight; being able to go the distance of a walk in new areas; and trying to be a helper when she realized I wasn't doing so well. For a blue merle - a dog whose color is black, white and gray - she sure is a colorful pup!  But it's all just another day in our lives as we continue raising Cinder.  



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Cinder's First Swim

Today was another high point in puppy life because today was Cinder's first day to try swimming.  It was an impromptu event - the kind upon which you capitalize once you realize the direction things are headed.  It was a grand finale to our day at the barn, which was less than thrilling.

Our norm is to take at least one dog to the barn if not all of them. Today we took the gleesome threesome so they could all run off some steam - literally and figuratively since it was a steamy 83 degrees after a rainy couple days. Luckily, our little creek was running wildly again, so the dogs had the creek close to go grab a drink and cool off.  After our relatively routine walk, it was Gilley's time to have some singular fun playing in the pond-chasing his soft Frisbee and swimming to bring it back to me.  I had Brian put Buzz in the Jeep with the windows down because Buzz doesn't swim and he was tired so that suited him fine. Cinder was with Gilley and me, off to the pond to play.  

I'd hoped that taking Cinder with me, she'd see Gilley swimming and try to follow him without even thinking.  When we got to the pond, Gilley knew why we were there, but I convinced him to wade a little bit, enticing Cinder into the water too.  That plan worked great. Cinder followed Gilley right into the shallow wading ledge and the edge of the pond.  I let them wade a few minutes and then I decided to see what happened if Gilley's gaming began.  As I expected, Gilley went after his Frisbee and Cinder dove in and began swimming without a single thought-until she had gone about 10 feet from the wading ledge and realized she couldn't touch ground.  She got herself turned around and Gilley got beside her as he returned with his Frisbee, so she was chasing him back to shore.  This happened two more times and of course I couldn't get video or pictures at the time because I had too many things in my hands and I was at the edge of the pond (not wanting to risk dropping my phone into it). I did get some of her in the pond but not swimming-they're at the end of this post. Each time Cinder followed Gilley and part way out, realized she was getting pretty far from shore and turned to come back, but the third time, she started to struggle.  Just as I was about to dive in after her, Gilley came back on his return and he knew she was in trouble. He let go of his Frisbee (we call it "flier") and got close enough to nudge her and grab her to put her right. She kept swimming with Gilley alongside all the way to shore - until Gilley realized he had to go get the Frisbee.  After that, Cinder remained content to follow Gilley only to the edge of the drop-off and stop.  She would bounce around in the water, anxiously watching and awaiting Gilley's returns to meet him and climb back onto the bank to bring me the Frisbee.  Overall, Cinder did great and she proved that she's pretty smart by realizing she'd gone too far and trying to get herself back to safety each time-until that last time when she must've been just a little too tired and got into trouble.  Luckily, Gilley saw and helped her so I didn't need to race into the pond and save her.  Some lessons are better when the other dogs teach them and the humans stay out of it. After that, she proved her smarts by knowing about where the drop-off was and staying where she could safely wade and play without pushing her limits and really getting herself into serious trouble.  

It was really awesome for her first time swimming in deep water. To see her realize she'd gone too far and figure out how to get herself turned around and start swimming back - seeing the power strokes she was using with those legs of hers was impressive!  She was quite something. Her turn-arounds were pretty good too. She figured them out without even seeing Gilley do it so it was all her own brain power for that maneuvering.   Even Gilley's first swim wasn't that good - he really nearly drowned before he figured out how to paddle well enough not to go below the water surface. He was so skinny that he had NO bouyancy to help keep his head out of the water-he HAD to learn to paddle or he was going under!  Now he's an expert to the extent of being able to herd while swimming, but you'd never have believed it watching his first THREE swimming days.  I'm very proud of Cinder's first swimming efforts; and Gilley's leaving his Frisbee to go save Cinder when she got in a little trouble. 

Overall, a great day for the dogs at the barn. I'm so anxious to see Cinder try the swimming again when she isn't quite so tired to start out. I see a LOT of swimming in Cinder's future-at least, I hope so. 

Meanwhile, thanks for checking in on another day of small adventures as we continue raising Cinder.

Check out the pictures I managed to get below.  


Cinder watching Gilley swim for Frisbee

Monday, May 5, 2014

Four Months a Grown Pup

   It's been two weeks since the last post so we have a bit of updating to do. Grab a beverage and a comfy spot and I'll get started.
     Ever since Cinder discovered jumping, back when she was a mere babe of 10 weeks old, she's been a jumping fiend! No matter how I discourage it, she continues to strive for new ways and places to jump as well as showing me how high she can go. Her newest feats of jumping
have finally extended to getting on our bed, which sits 32" from floor to the top of the mattress. It is an old bed and sits pretty high.  I wouldn't let her jump off the bed, but she was easily able to jump right up onto it to surprise me when I was trying to make the bed a few days ago.  Her next feat was jumping OVER my agility tunnel (made from a paintball tunnel) - at 28" tall.  I saw it unfold before my eyes as she was chasing
 around the A-frame to get Gilley, when she almost slammed into the tunnel and suddenly opted to go over it - with PLENTY of air space between she and the top of it!  She made it look easy too. Her next fun surprise came when I was getting ready to load her into the  back of the Jeep Patriot last week to go to the barn; she jumped right in when I was getting things situated and handed me her safety tie-down strap to hook to her harness.  "Jumping Bean Queen" is her new nickname. She's ever so proud she can jump and she's not afraid to use it.  

     The other news we've been working on a couple of new things.  I have a Hula Hoop that I use for several fun dog tricks with Gilley so I thought we'd work on those.  Nope. She again had to show me that the Hula Hoop is for jumping through too.  So, I let her do a few small jumps through the Hula Hoop just because she absolutely loves it and we'll build to other things with it as she gets older.  Meanwhile, we also transferred that ability to agility and she goes through my tire jump on the ground level height.  She looks as me as if I'm supposed to raise it for her to actually jump it because walking or tiny hops through it are clearly not challenging enough for her-just ask her!  
     She has gotten shutting doors down pretty well now, so now I have to work on transferring that ability to more than two doors in the house; and then transfer it to some other tricks.  She totally loves shutting the door for me when I have my hands full and ask her to shut it. She seems to understand my hands are full so shutting the door for me is really good.  In fact, several times we've left the door from our kitchen to the garage open and she's shut it because she thought it should be closed. I think that means she's starting to evolve mentally too because she can think for herself that the door is open and should be closed.  Maybe I should be afraid of her brain power, very afraid. Hmmm.
     We got out her teeter-totter trainer and she's outgrown it so now I have to make an actual teeter totter  just because she's already so big that I may as well make a real one as to make another training version. However, she readily climbed on, walked her three steps across and off without a problem.  Of course she also does the tunnel-every time I turn around, she's going through the tunnel.  I think it's time to put the tunnel away for a while, just so she doesn't want to do it when I really ask for it.
     Last weekend we took all three dogs to a local state park.  I found out that Cinder is quite attached to the older boys because when they went a slightly different way (still very close and very visible), she was constantly pulling and barking for them.  It wasn't until I got her completely out of sight of them that she calmed down and paid attention to what I was asking.  When we go off to do things by ourselves, leaving the boys home, she's absolutely golden so I was a little surprised by her separation anxiety.  Obviously we'll have to do more of that to try and get her over it.  
 Cinder is growing by leaps and bounds - ha ha.  She is now 18" tall at the shoulders and 31 pounds.  That's as big as a lot of smaller adult Border Collies, but I know by her feet that she is not even close to done growing yet.  She's in the leggy stage right now. She's finally big enough that she's becoming a much tougher wrestling opponent for the boys. Gilley sometimes struggles to break free of her when she pounces on him and pins him down. I think the boys are going to be in for some serious wrestling as she grows bigger. 
     That's the highlight reel from the last two weeks. There have been a few minor adventures here and there, but nothing exciting-yet.  I'm sure more fun things will start happening now that she's finished all her vaccinations and we can take her more places.  Thanks for checking in to see how we're doing as we continue raising Cinder!