Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

"The only creatures that are evolved enough to convey pure love are dogs and infants.” Johnny Depp


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Border Collies & The Baby

The BIG Announcement, In A Small Package...
What do you do when you have two amazing Border Collies, full of fun, feisty flare? You design a "puppy" room all around them.  In the next few weeks Dustyn, Chico, Rue, and I will be welcoming a baby puppy, aka little girl into our world of dog training, traveling and lots of adventure. I'll post more about what we've done to prepare the dogs for their new sibling, but today's post is all about the puppy's room.  We are all anxiously awaiting October!
 
Sheep and Border Collie Mobile we made
One in every flock, black sheep

Border Collie Mobile, Chico front and Rue in the back


                          
Sheep mirror and custom Border Collie art we designed from the mobile featuring our Chico and Rue
 

Every child should read, Don't Lick the Dog

 
Onesies a great friend got for Chico and Rue's new puppy sibling!
 
Sheep and Border Collie custom pillows and sheepskin rug
 
 
Sheep and Border Collie folk art prints by Todd Young
 
 
All wags for the new room and baby on the way!
 
 
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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Life With Border Collie Collapse Syndrome

What Is Border Collie Collapse (BCC) Syndrome?
I'd never imagine how popular my first post Border Collie Collapse (BCC) Syndrome would be, it is indeed the most popular post I've written to date. Since the warmer months have crept up on us, I've been receiving emails full of questions about how is Chico doing and what on earth do I do to exhaust my high drive Border Collie that has the presumed diagnoses of Border Collie Collapse. If you missed the original post, and like me, found yourself searching the web far and wide for answers, check out that post and come right back to this one. 

The Latest Updates on BCC Sydrome
Several months ago I had an opportunity to spend some one on one time with Dr. Jim Mickelson, from the University of Minnesota, a key researcher in the ongoing Border Collie Collapse study. Those few minutes were priceless to me, and undoubtedly would be for any dog owner that is suspect of having a dog with BCC. So what did Mckelson say? He confirmed they believe that BCC is a seizure. However, BCC is unlike a typical seizure that generally occurs when a dog is at rest. BCC is unique because the seizure occurs when the dogs are exercising (chasing balls, herding, running, etc.) Additionally, it's believed that body temperature plays a role in collapse as well. Currently researchers believe that BCC is genetic. Parents, litter mates, and half-siblings of dogs with BCC are often affected. Researchers are in the process of confirming which gene(s) are causing BCC in Border Collies. To confirm this, they look at genetic (blood) samples of dogs believed to have BCC and compare it to dogs that aren't believed to have BCC. As of Spring 2013 the University of Minnesota was still looking for blood samples of dogs that were believed to be unaffected by BCC.

When the study is complete, researchers will have video footage of dogs displaying a BCC episode along with the genetic backing. Unfortunately, this study won't find a cure for those dogs already impacted by BCC. The study will provide a genetic test for breeders to find out if their dogs carry the gene for BCC. Obviously it would be undesirable to breed dogs with the gene, furthering the spread and establishment of the potentially deadly syndrome.

Chico doing some agility training
 

Does It Hurt The Dog To Have a BCC Episode?
I don't know. Not surprising people have many opinions about Border Collie Collapse. Some dog owners have communicated to me that they believe that there is nothing wrong with allowing a dog to exercise to the point of exertion and collapse. (Researchers have noted BCC can be deadly to a dog.) Dog owners communicated to me that it is very unlikely that a dog would die upon collapse. The point was made by one owner that Border Collies are known for the desire work, play hard, and this is what makes their dog happy. People have told me that they would be okay if their dog died happy doing what it loves best. I appreciate the feedback, however, my opinion solely focuses on what I feel is best for my dog. If you have a dog that is believed to have BCC you can make the very difficult and personal decision to do what is best for YOUR dog.

For Dustyn and I, we've decided to take somewhat of a moderate approach with Chico's presumptive diagnoses of BCC. Because BCC is believed to be a seizure we didn't want Chico have further collapses. The brain is a tricky organ, once those seizures occur, the brains pathways remember, therefore the likelihood of a seizure occurring again increase over repetitions of seizure activity. Additionally, we love Chico and from what I can tell, he pretty much loves us too. Does he love herding and running more than us? I'm not sure. I know that his exercise life managed, is better than no life at all.

Life with BCC, Chico doesn't suffer

Is our high drive guy sequestered to indoors in the hot summer months? No. Do we let him go running off leash and playing for hours at a time in the heat. No. Many mornings I wake up with the birds to take Chico on a 2 mile run. The mornings are coolest and this is something special that we have always loved to do together. It's not the 4 or 5 mile run that we use to do, but I find we are both content a good portion of the day having that opportunity. We manage the length of time he is allowed to play off leash in our yard and many days incorporate water into the play. On 95 degree days, he may go out 5-10 times a day for 5 minutes of play. We watch for signs of him getting hot. Every dog is different, and I suggest watching what your dog does when they start to heat up. We noticed Chico gets little spit bubbles by is mouth when he is aroused from intense play. His tongue size and color are another indicator. A nice, small, pink tongue is good compared to large, flopping, reddish-purple tongue. 

Water cooling Chico down while playing


"Work Without Love Is Slavery" Mother Teresa
One of the hardest decisions I've made in regards to Chico was retiring him from sheep herding. He was a natural, full of zest, gusto, passion, drive, and talent. I absolutely loved working with the stock and training him to do what a Border Collie was born and bred to do. But the risks of collapse or death were too much for me. We don't own livestock or have working farm. Herding was his work, but only in the sense of a hobby. Late last summer we started to focus on a new type of work. Scent work. We've found that Chico loves this job and he doesn't get terribly hot doing it. Between K-9 Nose Work and Scent Tracking he has honed in on that big red nose to burn both mental and physical energy. He absolutely loves doing it and I love watching him succeed and learn a new job. We also do back yard agility for short increments of time and take classes on top of all the other little things we do to exercise his body daily.

If you would have asked me a year ago, would Chico be happy with a restricted exercise agenda, I would have not known the answer. Today, I know that he is truly happy, healthy, and fulfilled living life a little less intense.
 
Border Collie Chico alerting to the Birch Scent in a pot
 
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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Retired Dogs, But Not Yet Tired

Retire from work, but not from life.  M.K. Soni
Age, illness, or injury can be devastating to humans and dogs alike.  Making the decision to retire a dog from work or sports isn't easy or fun.  At the end of the day many questions swirl in our heads. The feeling of disappointment and sadness heavy in our hearts.  "How will we move forward?  What will our dogs do with the down time?  Will our dogs be okay?" Then there's the social aspect of competition and training. Thoughts go to our friends out there playing with their pups.  Envy aside, the decision feels like you are letting your best friend down.  Last fall I was faced with the decision to retire Chico, my 4 year old working Border Collie from sheep herding.

Chico doing weave poles in the back yard

When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.  Roy E. Disney
Just over three years ago my husband and I adopted Chico.  We picked a high drive dog because our lifestyle is very active and we wanted a dog to join in on the fun.  I was interested in agility and sheep herding, but yet didn't know much about either sport.  Although Chico was adopted to be a companion dog, his energy level is that of a working dog.  In order for Chico to really relax and rest at home he needs 2 hours of physical or mental stimulation.  He loves a job and NEEDS a job. Adding training was an easy decision for us. Herding seemed like a great choice for Chico, it's a fabulous mix of physical training and mental work.  When we tried him on sheep he was a natural, truly gifted with lots of gusto and passion.  Chico and I trained for over two years and learned so much together until August 2012 when Chico collapsed into a seizure like episode.  After spending hours researching, time with many veterinarians, and far more money than I care to admit, Chico was given the presumptive diagnosed of a syndrome called Border Collie Collapse.  The newest research from the University of Minnesota states that Border Collie Collapse (BCC) is likely a unique episodic seizure disorder that can occur in sheep-herding or ball-chasing activity in the Border Collie breed.  Because BCC has proven to be a deadly disorder for some Border Collies, I knew I couldn't lose my beloved Chico to hobby sport.  Adding salt to our wounds, in January Chico had a seizure unrelated to exercise.  He was diagnosed with Idiopathic Epilepsy. Dogs with seizure disorders are typically strong and otherwise healthy.  Chico fits this category, but he's also loving and intelligent.  Doing what's right and best for your dog sometimes doesn't seem easy, but we are finding out that there is a good life on the other side of retirement. 

Admittedly, the retirement decision wasn't all that simple for me.  I had no idea what I would do with my feisty Fido.  If you just happened to stubble upon True Dog Blog through a search engine, you may not know all about Chico's struggles.  One of the reasons I decided to do herding with Chico was because he is fearful and can be reactive to anything that moves.  The list includes runners, bikers, skateboarders and occasionally other dogs.  Herding allowed me to work Chico and not have to worry about those other scary stimulus.  With herding out of the equation I was forced to REALLY focus on Chico's behavior.  
Such a good patient at the vet

The best retirement for workaholics is no retirement at all...
With the help of many friends the past few months Chico has made amazing strides and is now able to function in normal dog training classes with happiness and confidence I've never seen from him before.  He's confidently approaching new people in many settings and all around a much happier dog.  We've also been working hard on lots of new tricks.  I've found that Chico loves to try new tricks and learns them very quickly.  Recently Chico and I have been spending time working on K-9 Nose Work and other fun scent games.  He's registered to do an Odor Recognition Test (ORT) in April. That cute red nose of his seems to work pretty darn efficient! Lastly we are doing some basic body awareness and agility training. Because Chico can't work for too long or get too excited we play plenty of self control games.

Life isn't so bad after retirement!

I've too felt the disappointment and sadness that sits heavy in our hearts when our dogs become ill, injured or old.  I've asked myself, "How will we move forward?  What will my dog do with the down time?  Will my dog be okay?" Then, at the end of the day, I knew I had to  push those thoughts aside and clearly acknowledge what is best for my heart, my soul, my companion, my True Dog, Chico.  




Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Winter Wordless Wednesday

"One Kind Word Can Warm Three Winter Months."
Japanese Proverb



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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What Is Dog Socialization?

"Socialization should be done with young pups to prevent aggression, not with dogs that already a are aggressive.  Exposing an already reactive dog to the triggers that set him off, without proper and gentle desensitization,
will most certainly intensify his fears."
Pamela S. Dennison
Quote from How to RIGHT a dog gone WRONG

Photo De Turner 


Monday, December 3, 2012

Herding Cats

"You can take the dog away from the sheep, 
but you can't take the sheep out of a sheepdog."
                                                              Amy Turner

Border Collie, Chico