Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Was it Fair to Cinder?

I’ve spent most of the last 18 months with Cinder wondering if I was insane to have kept her after my health took a sudden dive within weeks of getting her as a small puppy.  After all, how fair is it to keep a puppy when your physical limitations will interfere with raising and training a puppy of any kind, but especially a high energy Border Collie that requires a LOT of regular exercise and activities?  But, I didn’t really know my health issues were going to be so lingering and long-lasting; I’d thought them fairly temporary until Cinder was nearly a year old.  By then, she’d become such a fixture in our lives that I couldn’t possibly let her go. 

Despite my limitations and Cinder’s youth, we managed to do a lot more than many people ever do with their dogs when they have the time and good health on their side. Cinder learned all the manners of a good house dog; how to travel in the car; she quickly figured out multiple games with balls and soft Frisbees; she learned to dive and swim like a fish; we managed to get through two training classes; she learned how to treat my elderly mother-in-law with care; and when I had my first surgery, she learned how to be my very best, closest companion and personal service dog.

For the brief couple of months during which I was recovering from my back surgery and became regularly mobile again, we enjoyed regular outings and began another training class.  I thought I was going to be able to reclaim my life and we were on the way to being able to start agility this fall.  I was wrong.  My hip, shoulder, and ankle joints filled with arthritis and deterioration causing serious pain that even narcotic pain meds barely make tolerable; and steroid injections I’d had alleviated about 80% of the pain, but they wore off in under 45 days when they’re supposed to last at least 90 – 180 days.  In July, only four months after back surgery, I had a total hip replacement which placed new limits on me - again. Cinder and I were truly mid-way through an advanced obedience class when my doctor told me I’d need the hip replaced and it was done the following week – on the day of our obedience class.  I’d informed the trainer and Brian was allowed to complete the class with Cinder in order to keep her on the learning path.

Cinder has risen to the challenge of being stuck at home most days, content to be my best friend, guardian, and daily companion.  She’s never far from me and never gets into trouble.  In fact, she’s very helpful to both my mind and spirit; and even in getting me up and moving as much as I can.  She’s equally content to lounge with me in the recliner, or going outside to run around the yard for a few minutes as long as I’m out there with her.  I know she’d love to go on daily outings to romp at the “horse house,” friends’ farms and play at the private dog park, or go swimming every day; but she never seems to care what we do so long as we’re together.

I’ve finally concluded that getting and keeping Cinder was pretty bad and sad with respect to the way my health issues have been.  However, Cinder has added new life into our quiet, routine, and busy lives.  She’s kept her uncles more active trying to keep up with her and that makes them healthier by being more active and alert.  She’s kept Brian and I company while adding immeasurable entertainment, skills, and fun into our lives; and she’s kept me company and actually been quite a helper in ways her uncles aren’t.  She has contributed greatly to the happiness and well-being of us all; and she has thrived despite the odds. I can now say, it wasn’t the best idea and timing to get Cinder, a puppy, when we did, but there was no way to see the future; and now, looking back over the last 18 months, I’m not sure how I would’ve stood up to MY challenges without her and she’s certainly risen to meet hers.

Sometimes things don’t work out the way we want or plan them and it’s very frustrating. But, in the end, things usually work out the way they’re supposed to.  Whether you believe in God, another “Higher Power,” or you’re agnostic, atheistic, or you’re a believer in some sort of “manifest destiny,” things work the way they’re supposed to even if it’s not the way we think they should.  But, I’ve come to realize that Cinder’s a gift and she’s also gifted to be able to somehow comprehend things and adapt to whatever circumstances we seem to find ourselves in.  As a Border Collie, a puppy with the ability to adapt, learn, and thrive in the circumstances she’s endured so far is nothing short of amazing. Most Border Collie puppies are so high energy they truly don’t do well in the kind of lifestyle Cinder’s known for her first 18 months of life.  Most Border Collie puppies would be too energetic and become destructive or neurotic – or both – without a much more rigorously active lifestyle to expend their energy regularly.  Cinder has her moments when her energy gets the better of her and she races through the house, jumping on the furniture and wrestling her uncles until they get aggravated.  But overall, she has adapted and shown great sense, maturity, and ability to accept her situation and behave well.  She’s also shown an amazing level of nurturing and care.  I’m sure she’d be much happier if we could do more fun things and get to romp freely more often, but she seems content with whatever the day brings, including curling up beside me to nap quietly while I rest and pray for the day when we can both do more. 

It’s taken me 18 months to see that Cinder is a gifted girl.  Her gifts eluded me because I’ve been so blinded by what I WANTED to do with her that I haven’t been (and may never be) able to do with her.  I’d had such high hopes to do so many fun things, especially agility, that we haven’t been able to do. NOT doing those things blinded me from seeing what we have done and may yet do. Now, I see that indeed, those things would’ve been great fun and displayed her athletic talents, but she’s perfect if we never do anything differently than we are right now. She’s awesome enough if she doesn’t do anything else.  Now, I’m so glad we kept her and she’s part of our family that I certainly don’t want to imagine life without her.  Is it fair…has it been fair to Cinder to be stuck with me during my failing health situation and not have the kind of life I wanted for her or the kind of life other Border Collies have on farms?  No, but in reality, it doesn’t seem to have hurt her and it’s a far better life than many dogs will ever know.  It’s also not fair to ME that my last puppy and I didn’t get to do the things I wanted to do during her puppyhood. But life isn’t fair and I’m trying to roll with the punches and make lemonade of lemons – after all, if Cinder can make the best of things, then I should too.

That’s all I have to share for now.  Recovering from my back and hip replacement surgery; and preparing for my shoulder replacement surgery makes for a very dull life.  I can tell you this; it would be much duller and even depressing if not for Cinder and her uncles.  I think it’s safe to say that most of the time, it’s not the story of raising Cinder as much as it is about Cinder teaching us something along the way.  This is just another lesson learned and shared as we continue our daily efforts Raising Cinder.

Be well and be good to yourselves and others!


Chris (aka Cinder’s Hu-mom)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What Do You Feed Those Dogs to Make Them so Shiny?!

I’ve been asked about the kinds of food and treats I provide for our dogs because they “always seem to have such great coats.”  The answer is very normal and boring:  we buy a no-grain dry dog food produced and distributed by an American company.  Our older two Border Collies have allergies to grains and prompted a switch to no-grain foods about four years ago.  It’s been such a successful change that we have been amazed too.

Since switching to no-grain food, we noticed that not only did the more obvious signs of allergies clear up, but so did several other things we never considered may be tied to their dog food.  Gilley was most allergic and his allergic reactions were: a nasty body odor, constantly licking his front legs and feet, BAD dog breath; and a dull, oily coat.  Buzz had discolored whites of his eyes-often yellowy, bad belching; and emitting noxious fumes from his rear end that could peel paint.  Within less than two weeks of switching to the no-grain dry dog food, all their symptoms were gone!  Cinder has been raised on the same food just because it made the most sense to keep all the dogs on one type of food as long as we can.  Ever since the switch, their coats are wonderful too. 

As for treats, our dogs get a LOT of them.  I like to make homemade dog cookies and the basic recipe for them is here: Easy, Cheap, "Hypoallergenic" Homemade Dog Treats.  I’ve since altered some of the ingredients and methods to find what works.  You can basically add flavors by substituting different meat broths or replacing peanut butter with yogurt, apples, carrots, or bananas. I also use cheeses like cheddar or parmesan in addition to or replacement for peanut butter. 

I realize most people don’t really want to bake their own dog cookies so I also get lazier in the summer because I don’t want to spend my time in the kitchen. For those who still need a no-grain treat for your dogs, usually rice and oat based items can be used.  I have used plain Cheerios (the others have sugar the dogs don’t need), Rice Chex, and Oat Bran cereals.  Our dogs love these cereals just straight out of the package, but if you want to make them more interesting, dust some powdered cheese (like you get for popcorn) on it and watch them scarf those cereal bites fast!

For somewhat higher value treats, I like using dried beef liver.  You can find the recipe for that here: Easy, Cheap & Safe Homemade Liver Treats But, for those who don’t want to make the liver treats (which are actually really cheap and highly nutritious), I’ve begun using human turkey sausage snacks or turkey pepperoni.  The dogs love the turkey sausages or pepperoni, it’s relatively inexpensive; and it keeps really well in the fridge. You can also cut them into small bits to extend the value because all a dog needs for a treat is a piece big enough to taste, so the pieces can be pretty small.  Treats aren’t supposed to be or supplement food – they are rewards and only need be big enough to provide a tasty little bite.

For cool summer treats or as great PUPPY TEETHING treats, I make frozen yogurt cubes. We don’t give them a cube without inserting the cube into a Kong toy though!  Putting the cubes in a Kong toy takes them a little longer to eat and keeps them occupied for about 10-15 minutes.  You can find this idea explained here: Kong Toys are Wonderful Things  I use the cheapest vanilla-honey Greek yogurt to make the yogurt cubes, but other flavors like banana and blueberry are okay too.  I have also used some light fruit juices to make frozen cubes too. While they enjoy any of the cubes, I think our dogs prefer the yogurt cubes.  I have even made frozen peanut butter yogurt cubes by mixing very soft peanut butter with plain yogurt – our guys love those!  Once again, if you buy the cheaper Greek yogurt in a large container, it’s a fairly fast and easy frozen treat that’s also inexpensive.  One trick I’ve learned is that it’s ultra-easy to fill ice cube trays with the yogurt if you put the yogurt into a piping bag or a plastic baggy with a small snip off a bottom corner so you can use it like a piping bag to fill each ice cube space in the ice cube trays.  You can spoon it into the trays, but piping it in is faster and easier in my opinion.

There you have it – all the food and treats we provide for our dogs.  Our treats are very easy and the amount of homemade treats is so much higher than the amount you get when buying the store bought treats.  Aside from that, we know exactly what we’re feeding our dogs, unlike a lot of the store treats with questionable ingredient lists.  It’s also very hard to find cheap no-grain dog treats in our area so we don’t have to make special trips to pet stores to hunt for them, only to pay outrageous prices for small quantities of treats.

Truly, if you are willing to make your own, dog treats can be very cheap, easy, and your dogs will love them!



Pet Peeves About Pet Travel

Over the July 4th weekend I was running errands and preparing for my hip replacement surgery.  I can’t tell you how many things I saw that were scary for dogs because their owners were ignorant.  I’ve addressed these issues in the past, but I guess it can never be stressed enough given the number of people who seem oblivious.  Most of them surround traveling with your dog. My biggest pet peeve about pet travel is how few people think of travel with their pets as important enough to do a few simple things to help try to make it safer for them.

I’ve addressed safe traveling with your dog before so most of you who follow regularly know my feelings about the topic.  I’ll summarize the key points:

  • ·        Letting your dog sit in your lap while you drive may seem cute, but it’s not. It’s dangerous, especially if your dog is one that likes to stand up with his front feet on the steering wheel, your arms, or generally bounces around. One wrong move and your dog in your lap can cause you to have an accident.  I saw a woman nearly wreck over the holiday weekend because her dog jumped on her singular arm on the steering wheel, and caused her to veer sideways, almost careening into a car beside her on the highway-mine! Your dog has no business in the front seats, but especially not in the drivers’ seat! It’s not cute, it’s scary!
  • ·        If you don’t have a vehicle in which to carry your dogs in crates that can be tied down within your vehicle, then your dog should be tethered in your vehicle and not just confined by a divider that keeps your dog within a defined space.  If you’re involved in an accident, tethering the dog will at least keep your dog from making a daring and potentially deadly exit out an opened/broken door or window and escaping or being hit by surrounding traffic. Tethering your dog also ensures that the dog is limited within the vehicle following an accident in which emergency responders may need to extract you/your passengers. The dog being secured is the first step in enabling first responders to provide assistance without concerns regarding the dog attacking or escaping.  Tethering your dog isn’t necessarily about being the safest thing for your dog in event of an accident, but it is about being the safest thing for everyone if the worst should happen.  Smart people always PLAN/EXPECT the worst and hope for the best.
  • ·        Don’t  leave windows down or leave your pet in an open truck bed. Many dogs sustain eye, ear, nose, and mouth injuries because they travel with the wind blowing in their faces. While that may seem to make dogs happy, it’s totally unsafe because objects can be easily blown into their faces; and without helmets and face shields, the dog can be pelted by bugs and debris that cause injuries.  Another issue with open windows is that if the open window enables a dog to stick his head out, then he can actually get his body through it too-this is NOT a wives’ tale. You may think your dog is completely safe and will never be motivated to exit your vehicle-especially via a window-but that’s not always true and it’s also not the only problem.  If your dog can stick his nose/face out of the window, that means nasty people can also stick their hands IN your vehicle; and that means nasty individuals may do harm to or even steal your dog in your absence, while you just “run into the store for a minute.”  Likewise, leaving dogs in the back of pick-up trucks is dangerous for the same reasons as leaving windows down, with the added danger that in your absence, your dog may become territorial and aggressive toward anyone coming near the truck. If someone innocently walks too close to your vehicle and your dog becomes aggressive enough to bite, your dog may be picked up by police/the dog warden and taken to the local pound as a “dangerous dog” and may be legally mandated to be euthanized. You would be responsible for any injuries your dog caused to someone. 
  • ·        When traveling with your dog in warmer weather, I strongly urge that you always carry bottled water and a small bowl or cup for your dog.  You may be planning a quick trip to the store and back, but even on a 75 degree day, if you break down or are away longer than you anticipated, your dog could get quite warm in the car.  If you always carry a couple bottles of water in the car and replenish them as needed, your dog should never lack the ability to have a drink when he gets too hot or you’re gone too long.  I’ve had break-downs on the road and been quite grateful to have some bottled water in the car for myself and my dogs while I waited in the heat for roadside assistance-which can often be for several hours.
  • ·        Once it’s 75 degrees or more outside, decide whether your dog really needs to go to the store with you or not.  75 degrees in the sun can mean over 95 degrees inside a car in under 20 minutes. Your dog doesn’t need to go for a car ride to the store to sit in a hot car.  If you’re taking him to a dog park, pet store, or somewhere truly fun for the dog, that’s different, but just taking the dog to go to the store in a hot vehicle is not fun or safe for your dog. You may enjoy taking the dog and think it's nice that you do it, but your dog doesn't want a car ride to the store to sit alone in the car and be hot while you shop.
  • ·        During a holiday such as July 4th (in the U.S.) or other holidays, avoid taking your dog to parades and public events, especially if fireworks and loud noises will be prevalent.  Many people take their dogs to a picnic or parade and lose their dog because he suddenly got scared or was otherwise motivated to run away.  Holiday events are for humans and not dogs.  If you leave your dog home during a holiday when they will be able to hear/see fireworks around them, please be sure they’re secured IN your home or garage with no open doors or windows through which they can escape. More dogs are lost during such holidays than any other time of year because people take their dogs to events and lose them; or they left the dog outside at home and the dog got scared and escaped their yard or home via an open window.
  • ·        Check your dog collars and leashes regularly-at least weekly. If you’re required to have dog tags on your dog at all times (in most cities of the U.S.), you need to be sure the proper tags are intact and the information is still readable. You need to also be sure the collar itself is in good condition; and not too tight or loose for your dog.  Leashes need to be durable when your dog is excited so checking leash condition is a good idea.  Many people use the extendable dog leashes (which I do not advocate using-ever), so be sure that the leash retracting mechanism works appropriately; and the leash is kept clean so it doesn’t gum up the retractor and keep it from working properly.
  • ·        The biggest danger of all: people who think and say, “My dog would NEVER do ____” and, “My dog ALWAYS behaves.”  Any dog can be motivated to do things you never dreamed of when you're not around. It’s all about timing and opportunity coming together to create a situation you never thought your perfect pooch would engage in.  Your best option is to always plan for the very worst and hope for the very best-the key being, “plan.”

I don’t pretend to be an expert or have all the answers for things, but some things really are just common sense. Dogs rely on us to keep them safe.  If you really love your dog, be proactive by planning ahead and thinking about things that COULD happen so you can try to avoid them. It's no different than thinking about what goes in the diaper bag for a baby; being sure to secure a child in a car seat or appropriate seat belt; and being aware that what the dog may like isn't any better than some things children may also like.  You wouldn't let your child travel with his/her head hanging out the window; and you wouldn't leave your child in the car alone-especially in the heat. If you wouldn't do it with a child, then odds are good you shouldn't do it with a dog. 

I surely hope you will be mindful of your special dog friends as you travel and share life with them.  



Saturday, May 9, 2015

Cinder goes Barn Hunting

Last night, we took Cinder to a practice for the dog sport known as, "barn hunt."
Barn Hunt is gaining popularity in our area and with good reason. It offers an opportunity for any dog of any breed, including "Heinz 57," to participate in a less strenuous but still physically active, mentally stimulating competition. There are rules, levels of skill, and everything needed to be a competition, but it remains relatively straightforward and simple. It's a social time for humans and it's not very expensive because there isn't any special gear/equipment needed. The whole thing hinges on a dog's ability to scent out a rat in a tube.  Yep-rat sniffing.  If a dog can sniff out a rat from among a series of intentionally constructed straw bale mazes and tunnels, then you may have a winning competitor!

The overall general construct of Barn Hunt is as follows:  In a straw bale maze including varied layers of bales and several closed tunnels through the bales, dogs are to seek and find a rat in an aerated tube. To add to the challenge, there are also empty tubes with rat bedding in them also hidden within the maze. Remember, the goal is to find the tube(s) with rats in them, not the empty bedding tubes.  The dog is timed on how fast it finds the designated number of rats in the maze.  However, apparently points are accumulated for performing certain things like going through the tunnel(s) and jumping on the different bale layers. They apparently subtract points if the dog "hits" on the empty bedding tubes.  I confess to having started to read the rules, but got interrupted so many times I didn't get far and couldn't get back to them before we went to the practice.

Before people wonder and/or complain about rat abuse... The rats are actually all pets and are treated very well and great care is taken to be sure they aren't hurt or mishandled.  The rat tubes are a sturdy PVC with many small holes for them to breathe, see, and the dogs to be able to scent them.  The tubes have screw-on caps that the dogs can't possibly open; they're about 18" long; and there is nice bedding inside for them to rest or hide in.  The rats are socialized and sweet. They are hidden in the straw in ways that the tubes don't move and the dogs aren't allowed to even try moving the tubes except as they move the straw away to reveal the tubes.

Last night was our first time to see barn hunting in person at a practice.  A friend (and one of our obedience class trainers), thought it would be fun to see if Cinder would do Barn Hunt because it's fun and relatively easy.  Her dog loves it! We met her there and she introduced us to several people and generally explained how it all works.

Cinder was surprisingly calm and quiet despite other strange dogs within close view the whole time. She got an "intro" lesson in barn hunting but surprisingly, was far more interested in getting attention from the instructor/judge than finding a rat in a tube.  I thought surely she'd want to get at the critter in a tube but apparently not so much. We even opened a tube so she could meet the rat, which I feared may have cost the rat's life. She barely even sniffed at the rat - she seemed to feel it somewhat uninteresting.  I was shocked at how little interest she had given that she's a regular huntress at home and on the farm. I suppose if the rats were in "Habitrail" tubes where they were clearly visible and ran around, THAT might've made her more interested - rat herding so to speak. I guess that's why terrier types do well at that but not so sure it's Cinder's game. In fact, I told the people there that I feel like she shouldn't give up her day job to be a barn hunter.  I guess that means we continue the journey of finding out what Cinder's "day job" really should be.

The big deal is that Cinder went somewhere new, with strange dogs and some activity and had virtually NO reactive moments in the nearly two hours we were there. In fact, she and my friend's dog, also reactive, decided  they could be friendly enough to be within three feet of each other as we walked out and to our cars together.  For both of them, that's HUGE.

We may try barn hunt again a few times just to see if when she learns what we want, Cinder would be more interested, but my thought right now is that she thinks it's more fun to jump over the straw bales and glean all the attention she can from the other human(s) in the area.  I guess that's not all bad, but not what you want your Barn Hunt dog to do.

That's the latest adventure with Cinder for now.  As always, it was fun and different, showcasing her improving ability to be in a more "public" setting and surprising me once again.  Just another day of life as we continue raising Cinder.

Be good to yourself, your dog(s) and others!


Chris (aka Cinder's Hu-mom)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

16 Months And Loving Her!


Catching her "flyer" - April 2015
The journey of raising Cinder began in February 2014, when we took advantage of a break between some of the biggest snows and worst cold in 40 years to go pick Cinder up before things worsened again.  As we drove to my friend’s to pick her up, Brian and I were relatively quiet, both wondering what our little puppy was going to be like; and how different our lives were going to become.  Now, Cinder’s 16 months old and our lives are drastically different than we’d anticipated.

Shortly after bringing our little bundle of puppy love home, I was waylaid by another journey into an ugly abyss of pain and immobility caused by back and hip problems which finally resulted in a major back surgery and a steroid injection for my hip to stave off a hip replacement as long as possible so my back can heal.  But, the real story isn’t mine – it’s Cinder’s.

8 weeks - "sit"
8 weeks - sitting to go outside
 Cinder came to us at seven weeks old, in the middle of the worst winter of 40 years. Combined with my caring for a lame horse and followed by my increasing back pain and immobility, Cinder still managed to thrive. She's never known a time after her first two weeks with us that I haven't been disabled by my back issues. She was a very typical Border Collie puppy-ALWAYS on the go and ALWAYS busy. Luckily, our older dogs were good play pals and teachers during those long, cold, boring
Queen of the Hill on Uncle Gilley
months when we could do nothing outside.  I was able to do some early training with Cinder, so we worked on what we could, hoping and waiting for Spring so we could really ramp up her training.  When Spring arrived and we could get out again, it became my great frustration and sadness to find out that Cinder is a reactive dog.  Cinder is our last puppy and I’d wanted to be able to take her anywhere and everywhere with me as I’ve always been able to do with all my other dogs. Her reactivity creates challenges in taking her anywhere and doing anything. We truly have to calculate our activities almost like math problems, being sure we’ve considered how Cinder’s participation could be successful and the things that might derail us. Reactivity in Border Collies and other herding breeds is common, but I’d never had a dog that was reactive so it was, and still is, a whole new journey for both of us.                                                                                       

She's met and risen above the challenges of my limitations and her reactivity to succeed in an obedience class and a tricks class.  She was even made up for Halloween as, "the Red Queen," and again at Christmas as the "Peppermint Princess," wearing silly things without a fuss.

The Red Queen at Halloween - 2014

The Peppermint Princess - Christmas 2014

Cinder - Christmas 2014

Throughout the whole of Cinder’s life, she’s never known a time when I wasn't in pain and suffering limited mobility. Despite all things, she’s thrived!  We've become as close as possible actually - so close, it may be problematic at some point. She seemed to know I needed help and easily learned to assist me with small things like picking up dropped items, opening and closing doors and drawers; and lying beside me
Cinder & Gilley snuggled next to me in bed
quietly snuggling as I rest.  After I returned home from back surgery, she had to learn to give me hugs by gently standing on her back legs and putting her front paws on shoulders while I was sitting; and hop gently onto my lap unassisted because I couldn’t bend, lift, or twist.  She often snuggled with me in the recliner, sprawled atop me, covering me from neck to knees with her body, quietly sleeping and keeping watch over me – which she continues to do! And believe me, nothing gets by her unnoticed! She’s learned to hop on me in the recliner with an amazing ease, agility, and lightness of a cat.

Cinder & me in the recliner after back surgery
As my recovery has progressed, I still can’t bend, lift, or twist so walking is my sole exercise until my doctor deems my back healed enough to begin physical therapy for it. I've had physical therapy to help with learning to use my leg again, but now, it’s all about walking until I start PT for my back.  Sadly, I’m not allowed to be around my horse at all; and I’m not allowed to be the one to control the leash while walking the dogs – the risks of them pulling, jerking, and otherwise causing me to move quickly and inappropriately could easily damage all the work to restore my mobility.  I’m finally back to work at my desk job part-time until the doctors release me for more over the next couple months.  As it turns out, I’m finding that part-time really does tax me enough right now when combined with trying to walk as much as possible each day and the small house chores I can do. I FEEL like I could walk 10 miles, but reality sucks – I’m lucky to walk a couple of city blocks so far (or a couple laps around the ponds where we take the dogs swimming). I've been able to enjoy our Spring weather and go with Brian to take the dogs to the barn and/or the private dog park to play.  I've been able to walk around the pond and create games for the dogs to keep them running between Brian and I for added exercise and fun for them.  Cinder spends a lot of that time running laps around the pond to keep tabs on everyone and to show her aging uncles that SHE is faster than them.  I actually LOVE seeing her running full out around the pond-it’s pure power and speed combined with such a beauty that truly is specific to only a few breeds, Border Collies especially. It’s a sight to see!

Each evening, Brian goes to work and we’re home alone which means we have a lot of quiet time since I can’t do too much yet. I spend the first few hours icing my back (doctor’s orders) from being up and active. Amazingly, all three dogs are awesome about settling down.
They gather around me while I’m at the computer and lay quietly; we rally in the living room while I recline to ice my back while watching TV; or we snuggle in bed together.  Sometimes the three are so awesome and so quiet I forget they’re actually Border Collies – you know, HIGH ENERGY dogs with extremely demanding needs for exercise.  They seem amazingly resilient and totally content.  Most Border Collie people would probably find it absolutely amazing that they are so content to be my quiet companions. I find it hard to believe most about Cinder since she’s so young.  Yet, Border Collies are said to be the most intelligent breed and if one is inclined to believe that, then one may also be inclined to believe that they know I still have limits and they are trying to patiently adapt while secretly hoping the next trip to the barn or park will be soon.

Today was the first time I've taken a road trip in two years. It wasn’t far, but it maxed out my doctor-recommended time and distance in a car at one time.  We went to the barn and got “the Ebbie horse” in before going back to the house.  While Brian mowed the yard, I holed up with Cinder in the office and put her though her paces doing all the tricks she’s learned in the last year.  She didn’t miss a beat after more than three months off from all work.  In fact, we also started working on a couple new tricks too.  While we’re a long way from where I’d wanted us to be, we can still have fun and build more skills.

Raising Cinder hasn’t been the journey I’d hoped for with my last puppy, but, it’s been better than I’d anticipated given the circumstances.  Hopefully life will continue to improve for us and as it does, we’ll be doing more.  Even if Cinder never goes on to learn more obedience, agility or anything else, she’s already become one of the most wonderful, loyal and loving dogs ever. There is a certain amount of pride and contentment with knowing that Cinder’s become a great companion if she never does anything else.  It’s not what I’d hoped for her, but things could’ve gone far worse than they have and we could’ve had a dog we don’t like.  Instead, she’s become a true family member in every way; completely endeared herself with us both.  She’s been awesome and she’s not done yet!  Besides, she keeps Buzz and Gilley moving more too.  Despite the fact that she often dominates them, they enjoy playing with her daily. She's smart, a bit quirky and odd; somewhat pushy and willful at times; and she's always one of the most affectionate dogs I've ever had.  She's 16 months old and I'm loving her more every day.

"Love you dad" - April 2015
Brian & Cinder - April 2015

Cinder & Me - April 2015

Cinder’s made a difference in all our lives and we can’t imagine life without her.  The journey continues daily and there’s never a dull moment as we continue our endeavor of raising Cinder.

"I've got it! I've got it! I've got it!" - 4/ 2015
 Be well and be good to yourself, others, and your dog(s)!



Saturday, April 4, 2015

Cinder's Easter Message


  It's me, Cinder.  

I want to share this message from me to you:


 Kissy, kissy, kissy, SLURPY KISS!

~ Cinder

To Be Continued...

Wow!  Thank you to all our Raising Cinder blog and/or Facebook followers for such a great and overwhelming response.  It took me into the wee hours of the morning to wade through them all since there were so many via email in addition to online responses.  I especially appreciate those of you who took the time and opportunity to let me know what you like about the blog and/or Facebook posts. It’s always nice to get feedback like that so you can better understand what people enjoy and try to meet those expectations. 

The overwhelming response was that the majority (by a landslide) of our followers want to keep the existing blog and FB pages; adding posts as we have opportunities, but understanding that things may be sparse along the way.  Since it seems to be the majority vote, that’s what we’ll do.  Most said they enjoy our ordinary life posts as much or more than some of the other things.  A few provided feedback leading to topics I’d like to address in the future as I can.

I want to thank all of you for choosing to spend your time reading and commenting on our posts.  It’s no small thing to share a portion of your time and your life with us, so we thank you.  There are many other things you could on which you could opt to spend your time and energy; so following and sharing with us is a choice you’ve made and we greatly appreciate it.  We enjoy you and your comments, posts, and shares too!

I guess you'll have to wait, sometimes for long periods, for the next installment of our life as we continue raising Cinder!

Thank you for sharing your time and comments.  Be well and be good to yourself and others!


Chris (aka Cinder’s mom, Hu-mom) 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Continue, Stop & Delete; or Delete Now, Start Anew Later?

I'm asking you, our followers, to offer your opinions/votes regarding the following:  I'm considering deleting the Raising Cinder Blog and FB page.  Here's my thinking:   I am  recovering and rehabbing from back surgery with a need for shoulder surgery soon to follow; adding another period of limited inactivity to my existing one. I probably won't be doing anything fun or interesting with the dogs or horses for at least a six months to a year due to all my restrictions.  Since my posts are not that fun or interesting anyway, it seems silly  maintaining a page for Cinder at this point.  She's now a grown yearling and no longer a cute puppy, so that phase of her rearing and training is over. She's not an exceptional dog except to me because she's mine, but otherwise, she's really pretty average.

I think most followers of our page are probably interested in things that are fun, cute, adventures, and stuff like training and competition. We can't deliver on those expectations - at least not for a long while. Reality is that I may miss the windows of opportunity to train Cinder for the things I'd hoped we'd do. After all, at a yearling, she should've already been well started on her agility, disk dog, and other training like barn hunting; and she's only gone through basic obedience and ready to tackle advanced obedience.  If it's really another year before I can get back to working with her as needed for progess in those activities, she'll be at least two years old trying to learn what puppies already know.

What's your HONEST opinion/vote - keep going or delete and start anew when we can resume more consistent fun and training?  Leave a comment here or on our FB page.  You can also email me directly at: caredmon@woh.rr.com

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

After Surgery: From Wild and Wound Up to Wonderful Companion

There are many times and ways in which we are tested throughout our lives.  Those tests are often more interesting when it comes to the ways in which our dogs, our BFFs and life companions, are involved.  During the course of the last year, my life has been dramatically altered and we’ve been tested in many ways-including our daily endeavors raising Cinder.
Shortly after Cinder came to live with us in February 2014, as a wee little pup, I suffered traumatic and evolving, increasingly debilitating back issues.  At first, I thought it to be the result of straining to take care of my horse’s abscessed hoof-she jerked away from me while I was holding her hoof to dress it. I thought that I merely wrenched my back and I’d easily recover fairly quickly.  That was not the case at all.  Three months later, I was in horrendous pain regardless of what or how I did anything; and the act of breathing alone even caused horrible pain.  That was the beginning of life with Cinder-I was devastatingly hurt and increasingly limited by a growing loss of mobility and escalating pain.  Despite my limiting mobility issues, I continued to work with Cinder and taught her a number of tricks, basic obedience, swimming, and various outdoor retrieval games.  She progressed well despite my limits-and hers.

I discovered that Cinder was “reactive” during the spring (2014), when our 40 year record winter yielded to Spring and we were finally able to get out and do things away from home.  Her reactivity was somewhat a surprise and caused us both serious angst; and I sought the assistance of a behavioral specialist to guide us and teach me how to work with Cinder as a reactive dog.  It was one of the toughest challenges I’ve faced in a lifetime of training and competing dogs and horses.  I knew what reactive dogs were, but I’d never had one to need to know how to work with the special challenges reactivity creates for the dog and the dog’s handlers.  There are some key things to know and do-or not do- when your dog is reactive.  We had to isolate the things that make Cinder reactive so we could address them.  We spent all summer working on improving her reactivity and responses; and my handling her through her reactive periods.  We made great strides despite all the issues we had.  We made enough progress that I put her into an obedience class in the Fall and she ultimately did quite well; and went on to doing a tricks class too.  Our goals became broader as I saw her successes in class; and I’d hoped to put her through more obedience and ultimately, tackle agility.  But, alas, my back issues flared up in extreme, inexplicable ways and put everything, including Cinder’s training, on hold.  By Christmas (2014) I'd become almost completely immobilized-my pain was constant and my left leg was barely functional on my best days. I'd had numerous falls and near falls because my leg would suddenly lose all feeling and mobility as I was walking and I'd fall. I couldn't go anywhere or do anything without help.  Our Christmas was my greatest misery, unable go places and do things I'd normally love to be doing. Brian was taking care of everything including me.  It had to end so I got a new doctor and we began a new journey toward regaining my health and life.

In January I finally got in to see a neurologist and it was determined that I needed surgery. Now, March 25th, we’ve arrived at the point where I had major back surgery on March 9, 2015 .  One of what could be several depending on a lot of variables over the next year.  Many people undergo back surgery, but few tell the “gory details” of life immediately following.  I am only 2.5 weeks out of surgery, waiting to get the stitches out of my back this Friday. My restrictions are simple and in place for six weeks: NO bending, lifting, twisting, or laying on my back more than two hours; always “log roll” from side to side in bed; only sit upright with shoulders aligned over hips for 40 minutes, 3-4 times a day; walk as much as possible but only if someone can be with me.  Essentially the restrictions seem easy until you realize that they totally preclude a normal life.  Life is filled with bending, twisting, lifting, and sitting upright so life NOT doing those things is actually pretty limiting and very challenging.  If you drop something, you don’t think twice about bending to pick it up; but what if you’re not able to bend and pick it up?  The simplest things become total challenges.  Frankly, even going to the bathroom is a matter of some bending and twisting so imagine that process!  This is my life for now-I have no life.  I do have hope for a better life at the end of my recovery and rehab, but I have a far more thorough understanding of physical disabilities and their daily living challenges in doing things most people take for granted. Since I'm a specialist in both communication and disabilities, I hope my new-found comprehension will help me help others.
This is a time when, if you have dogs, they either rise or shrink and fail to meet the challenges of your inability to function normally and all the changes that accompany your life following a surgery or change in your physical ability to function.  Most dogs do fairly well adapting to things like that, but some don’t; and others are exceptional.  I’m going to brag that my Border Collies have been exceptional!  Gilley and Buzz lived through my knee replacement and rehab period, so they’ve already had some experience with the same sorts things as we're experiencing now. Cinder was the questionable one since she’s still young, high energy, and she’s reactive. She's never had to experience a my total inability to do anything; the myriad of home healthcare professionals trekking in/out; the long periods of me sleeping or resting, doing nothing; and the total change in life and lifestyle my surgery has caused us all.
Cinder’s been wonderful overall.  We had a few hiccups when my friend Andrea came to stay and help for the first two weeks.  Cinder liked Andrea, but Andrea’s constant presence seemed to truly rock Cinder’s world. Cinder essentially came out to greet everyone in the morning-she’s ALWAYS so totally energetic about greeting me BEFORE she goes potty.  After her breakfast, she essentially exiled herself to her hallway area, coming out only to go outside, eat, visit me briefly, and return to her hall.  Even when Brian came home after work, she remained hesitant to come join us in the living room and quickly went back to her hall. We didn’t lock her there, she went there on her own.  However, in the wee hours of the morning, when it was just us, she would come to me in my recliner and hop up onto my lap.  As I reclined, she would nestle in on top of me ever so calmly and gently; laying with me, snuggling for up to two hours.  

When Andrea left last week, Cinder’s self-imposed exile ended.  As I am currently all but living in our recliner, including sleeping there instead of the bed with Brian, Cinder’s set up a zone of her own around the recliner from which she doesn’t move away.  Rather than playing and wrestling with the boys or running through the house jumping on everything like a maniac, she’s become a very calm, quiet little therapy and assistance dog.  If I sleep, she sleeps on or beside me.  If I get up, she walks calmly beside me. Her only deviations are to ask to go outside or eat.  She’s become the best little companion dog an invalid or disabled person could hope for.  Even my Gilley, also the epitome of awesomeness, has relented and allowed Cinder the position of closest guardian over me, while he remains close but a bit more removed to stay out of the way, but always in reach and eyeshot.  Buzz remains normal-always looking for the light and shadows dancing, but when he’s not, he too is a very gentle soul and companion. However, when Buzz jumps on me in the recliner, he's not nearly so graceful and artful about his positioning as Cinder!

Overall, Cinder’s training hasn’t really stopped, but rather, evolved from focus on obedience, tricks, and agility to a focus on life manners, therapeutic behaviors, and service.  She’s learned to retrieve things I drop; open and close doors, cabinets, and drawers; her ability to read and interpret my movements when walking has greatly improved and enables her to position herself better so she’s with me but not in my way. Innately, she seems to know when I’m worn out or don’t feel well, and she responds with gentleness and affection I can’t actually explain.  She’s learned that quiet is golden and the time for rowdy is during playtime or outside, but not any time she wants.  She’s learned to sit or lay down out of the way as I clean up and dress; or do things in the kitchen.  When she hops on me in the recliner, she’s learned exactly how, when, and where to land so she doesn’t hurt me; and then lays quietly with me instead of squirming.  She’s blossomed into an excellent companion, guardian, and generally therapeutic friend.  Considering she’s a young Border Collie, these are very difficult things to learn when she’d much prefer running full tilt through the house and outside, jumping on and over everything; and definitely playing and wrestling the boys in the middle of the floor (which they now only do when Brian’s home).  She’s a very different and helpful dog now, despite all our set-backs in the training and things I wanted to be doing with her.  She’s more than passed the tests life has thrown our way from the time she arrived as a two month old pup.  If anyone had told me my feisty little ball of energy would be the epitome of calm, quiet, and helpful, I may truly have questioned that, but the proof is in our current situation and the ways she’s adapted.  The boys are excellent, but they’ve had a lot of time and experiences on their side.  For a yearling pup, Cinder’s proven a smart, sensitive, loyal companion with many great qualities.  She’s still got all the energy of a young Border Collie, but she’s learned to harness and control her energy to fit the current situation.  The big deal about all of Cinder's recent advances is that none of the behaviors were actually taught. She instinctively learned them all on her own and I've merely capitalized on them.  To me, her adapting so well and willingly is a testament to the amazing abilities of animals to know and understand far more about us than we will ever understand about them.  How has she known what she's needed to do or not do without anyone teaching her?  It is some truly God-given gift of understanding.  To me, it's nothing short of amazing.  
It’s taken me three days to write this post since my restrictions are so limiting and I don’t juggle the laptop in the recliner very well.  But that’s the update on things as we endeavor to continue life Raising Cinder.

Hopefully I will start updating the blog and Facebook page soon, but right now, my focus is on healing from my back surgery and regaining my mobility.  Meanwhile, be well and be good to yourself, your dog(s) and others! 

Cheers and God Bless You!

Chris (aka Hu-mom, Cinder’s mom)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dog Travel Safety & Dog Harnesses

Cinder's first harness at 3 mos. old
     I want to address dog travel safety and using dog harnesses.  Many people have asked:  “Why do your dogs always have harnesses on? Why do you still use their collars for attaching their leashes if they have harnesses on?  Why do your dogs look like they’re tied into your car?” My dogs only wear harnesses when we go somewhere.  I use their harnesses for travel safety and since I’m lazy, they wear their harnesses most of the time while we’re away from home so I don’t have to fuss with putting them on, taking them off; and keeping track of them when I take them off.  They do serve a few other purposes, like pulling Cinder and Gilley up the steep banks of the creek or ponds when they can’t just hop up and out!
     I’ve always been a supporter of securing dogs in your vehicle if you don’t happen to have a vehicle in which your dogs travel in crates.   I’ve personally experienced and witnessed numerous accidents and incidents in which unsecured dogs have escaped their vehicles to meet very ugly ends.  Some have been accidents in which a door/window broke or fell open, yielding an escape route for dogs to get out of the vehicle and run into traffic.  Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed several dogs surviving bad crashes only to escape their vehicles and be hit on the road by other traffic.  The first time I saw such a thing, it was a large, standard Poodle. I was shy of 10 years old and a passenger in the vehicle behind the one that hit the dog. I saw the dog escape his car, dart across two lanes and the median of an interstate, to be hit by the car in front of us; throwing the body into the air and landing on the edge of the interstate.  Talk about a vivid memory that haunts you forever-as you can tell, I remember it now 40+ years later! 
     Windows rolled down for dogs may be nice, but really they should only be rolled down a couple inches to allow air in/out of the vehicle-not enough for the dog’s nose to stick out.  Dogs riding down the road with their heads sticking out often end up with eye and ear problems relating to the wind blowing into them, and objects blown into them. Additionally, it’s true that if a dog can get his head through something, his body will also fit through it if he’s determined to escape. I learned about the hazards of open windows first-hand as a kid. I had one of our dachshunds riding on my lap, enjoying a sunny ride with her head out of the window. Suddenly, she jumped out, but because she was on her leash (which I had wrapped around my wrist), she essentially hung herself on the side of the car until we stopped. I was utterly horrified and panicked. LUCKILY, she was okay because we stopped fast and I quickly stuck my arm out the window enough to enable her to touch the ground until my mother got out and got to her.  That was an ugly lesson in not allowing a dog to stick its head out the window while riding in the car! The only good thing about the situation was that the leash, while nearly strangling her, also saved her from running away or into traffic.  From that day on, I have NOT rolled windows down far enough for dogs to stick their noses out of them.  I crack the windows as much as a few inches and that’s it.  Additionally, I’ve witnessed other dogs jumping from car windows.  People always think their dogs are so good they’d never do that, but you never know what will motivate a dog to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do.  Why risk that so foolishly?  It’s not worth it to me. I feel even more strongly about those who put their dogs in pick-up trucks and leave them unrestrained thinking that their dog will ALWAYS behave and never jump out or be hurt during their trip to town.  Ever see one of those “good dogs” unattended in the back of a pick-up that bit someone who walked by their truck?  I’ve seen that happen. Freedom to escape isn’t the only reason to think smarter about how you travel your dog(s).  If your dog can reach outside your vehicle, people can reach inside your vehicle; and that’s just inviting trouble.
     Harnessing your dog and securing them in your vehicle helps ensure your safety and theirs.  There’s nothing worse than a distracted driver, except maybe one that’s distracted by a misbehaving child or dog, hopping over seats and doing things they shouldn’t.  If your dog is secured in a seat or cargo area, then he can’t bounce around over seats or get into things.  I once experienced a real need to be able to secure a dog in my truck, but I didn’t have the wherewithal to do it. I had to take him to a veterinarian and the drive from where I picked him up to the vet’s office was chaotic.  The dog had never ridden in a vehicle before and he was totally excited, unable to sit still, bouncing back and forth on the truck seat, bumping into my arm on the steering wheel. I was finally able to grab his collar and hold him still by his collar while I drove to the clinic. That was an unsafe situation for us both, but we survived. I have since learned to carry spare harnesses, collars, and leashes in my vehicles for emergencies. If they don’t fit an animal I may need to transport, at least I may be able to make something work to secure the animal for an emergency transport.  Now I drive a different vehicle most of the time so I can generally secure an animal in my cargo area.
     I've got a lot of police officer friends (it's a small city) and once I was told a story by two officers about a woman who had passed out and driven off the road.  When they initially approached the car to assess the situation they'd come upon, she had two dogs loose in the car that were behaving viciously as they approached.  They couldn't get near the car to help the woman without upsetting the loose dogs.  They had to call the animal warden to assist in containing the dogs so the rescue squad could get to the woman and provide rescue care. Calling the animal warden took an added 20 minutes to get him there; and another 15 minutes to entice the dogs into positions to safely extract them from the car and contain them.  That was an added 35 minutes of valuable time spent just to contain the loose dogs to get to their owner. The officers would've had to call the animal warden to pick up the dogs regardless since they had to be contained and cared for either way; but if they'd been secured in the vehicle, that would've enabled the officers to assess the woman's situation and begin rescue procedures 35 minutes sooner. The lesson is securing your dog(s) in your vehicle really can serve as a safety precaution on multiple levels-for the dog(s), you, and anyone approaching your vehicle.
     The point I’m trying to illustrate is that harnesses aren’t supposed to be fashion trends, though if they happen to be cute, it doesn’t hurt.  Harnesses aren’t meant to be worn all the time. Harnesses should first be truly functional, serving a purpose safely. If it doesn't meet a need and do it safely, there's really not much point to having one.  
Cinder & Gilley fastened in the Jeep,
 waiting to get out.
 If you’re not a believer in harnesses as leading devices replacing a regular collar for walking your dog, I totally understand and absolutely agree. I never use harnesses as a means of leading my dogs. I feel you have little/no control over the dog by using a harness instead of a collar. I am a huge fan of nose-collars like the Gentle Leader and Halti. I feel the nose-collar provides optimal control with minimal force; and if used correctly, without hurting the dog the way neck collars can.  As always, the caveat for anything is training your dog.
     You should always shop for harnesses like you would shop for shoes. Good fit is paramount because too loose is ineffective and the dog will be able get out of it. Too tight a harness will restrict the dog, perhaps in very dangerous ways aside from general discomfort.  Other considerations are the ways you want the harness to function. Do you plan to use it as a way to walk your dog instead of leashing to a collar? Do you plan to use it to tether him outside?  Will you use it for securing him in a vehicle?  Will your dog wear it in areas with a lot of brush and undergrowth?  Will your dog wear it while boating or if your dog swims?  Will your dog be wearing it as a means of securing doggy hiking packs to it? All of these things should be considered when you go harness shopping for your dog.  There are very different kinds of harnesses these days and many are really more about being fashion trendy than functional.  If all you want is fashion trendy, that’s fine, but don’t count on that kind of harness for anything more than its trendy appeal. If you’re looking for function, then get a harness that suits your dog and what your dog will be doing while wearing the harness.  Consider the quality of construction like whether buckles and adjustment devices are plastic or metal; and how any straps are attached and adjust. If you’re looking for one that enables you to secure the dog in your vehicle, be sure you know exactly HOW it can be used for that because some work very differently than others.  If your dog swims or goes on boats, the harness needs to be safe for water in that it is water resistant/repellant and washable; and certainly not bulky or ill-fitting.  The list of considerations is large, but your dog deserves taking time to find the right harness that meets your needs. 
Cinder modeling her new Christmas harness.
   Good harnesses don’t have to be super expensive! There are some very nice quality harnesses available at very reasonable prices of $30 - $80.  You’ll spend an easy $20+ on the fashion trendy but non-functional models so for an added $20, you can find a good harness and not just a good-looking one.  Don’t be afraid to shop online either!  I’ve had really great luck shopping online. I’ve found far better harnesses online than in the average pet stores in my area.  Don’t be afraid to ask friends who use harnesses about the kind they have and why they use their harnesses.  If they can’t explain what the harness does and how/why it does it, then you should probably research it before you consider it.  Often your friends will have some great insights about things that you never thought about-sometimes as much about what to avoid as what to seek.
     How do I actually use MY harnesses? I use them for securing my dogs in my vehicle cargo area and back seats.  In the cargo area, there are built-in metal cargo tie-down rings. I have shortened leashes that are barely long enough for the dogs to reach the cargo door; and those are fastened to the harnesses and the tie-down rings. I have one dog that rides in the back seat and his harness has a special seat belt tether that fastens to his harness and enables the seat belt to pass through it and buckle normally, securing him in the back seat with a little room for some movement but not enough to be a problem.  This is not saying that securing my dogs in the car will save their lives in event of an accident!  This is only securing them from being able to randomly escape the vehicle.  In an accident, their lives are definitely at risk, but not from surviving the crash only to be killed escaping the crashed car. The dogs wear their harnesses while romping on the farm; hiking through thick woods; and while swimming in ponds.  It’s important to me that the harnesses allow the dogs complete freedom of movement for all things, but not be in any way loose. I need them to be “low profile” so they don’t get caught in brush or things.  My dogs are all Border Collies so they need to be light and comfortable for long days and lots of activity.  I chose Kurgo Go-Tech Adventure harnesses because they are an awesome quality for the price range and fit all our needs of a harness.  They have awesome steel nesting buckles that are the lowest profile buckles available and easy to use.  Once the dogs are home, the harnesses come off.  I appreciate the durability, versatility, and wash-ability of the harnesses since my dogs will immerse themselves in any mud puddle they can find-aside from getting into horse stalls and rolling in the shavings.
     That’s my spiel on safer dog travel and using dog harnesses as one means of ensuring better safety for your dog and you. 
     Now, Cinder and I have chores at the barn so she’s going to get her harness on for the ride to the farm as we conclude another day in our lives and the on-going endeavor Raising Cinder.

Safe travels and good times to all! 


Chris (aka Cinder’s “Hu-mom”)