Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jam's Tail

By Fred

Our friends periodically point out that Jam's tail is unusual. To be honest, it is a prodigious tail, ending in a dark butterscotch tuft that would seem more appropriately attached to a lion. It curls around double at times--big, thick, and bushy--until it cannot help inviting speculation about his lineage.

Because that's the most common question we get: "What kind of dog is that?" people will say while staring at his tail, as if his father or mother might be a squirrel or beaver. And yet look into his eyes and there can be no doubt; he's pure Lab.

Can't we just love a dog for what's in his heart and just forget about this or that gene on the DNA string that might be from a lion or maybe even mongoose? I, for one, won't engage in speculation such a thing. He's a dog. What would you have us do, send him into the woods to fend for himself?

But still, there it is. The tail curls and twists in all directions, twitching with the biological memory of some long dead ancestor that was not exactly a dog.

A fox, probably.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Thunder Shirt

By Fred

Cheryl and I were relieved to learn that Jam's limp was not due to some joint problem or injury--instead, he apparently just experienced a bout of growing pains, though "pain" probably isn't the right word since he never seemed to have any--at least he never winced or gave the slightest yelp. I guest you could call it a case of growing limps (or not). In any case, he's back on all fours.

We also are seeing much improvement with his separation anxiety. Here's a brief summary: sometimes when we leave Jam alone, whether it is in his crate or on a lead or in a room, sometimes even for a few minutes, he becomes anxious and begin to breathe heavily. His eyes glaze over a bit, and he will struggle to end his isolation.

This trait is at odds with his temperament otherwise, because he is the most fearless dog I've even seen. He loves the vacuum cleaner and any other device that makes noise. When I cranked up my air compressor the other day he even walked over and licked it. He walks alongside traffic, on boardwalks, etc., always cool and collected. He is the Fonz of dogs.

But no dog is perfect. We've been trying some new things to address his fear of being alone. (Thanks to Dr. Woodman and others for the suggestions.) First is the thunder shirt, which is an elastic vest that hugs the dog. I was more than skeptical at first, but it does seem to have a calming influence on Jam. Coincidentally, I get a warm fuzzy feeling when I put on my Home Depot back brace (or maybe I just think it makes me look cool).
Jam and his thunder shirt

Next we've placed a new crate downstairs and we're giving it all the positive vibes that a little place could get, with treats and toys and praises to Jam for going in on his own, which he will readily do because he doesn't fear the crate at all--he just doesn't want to be left alone there or anywhere for very long. We're also playing games where I go out one door and return though another, always with the leaving and returning a very positive thing. Cheryl's doing something similar at school. And Cheryl put a peanut butter Kong in the freezer to see if that will make a nice crate companion for him. Step by step, and we're seeing improvement at home and school.

Jam looking good. Damn!

Last night was a big dog meeting and a presentation by Jennifer Garrity of Southeastern Guide Dogs--I continue to be impressed by all the professional and nice people from there. Jam breathed heavily during much of the meeting and he let out little whiney noises. He very much wanted to check out an un-neutered black lab male just a few feet away. At 8 months old Jam is dealing with an ever increasing dose of testosterone in his system, but that, in dog life or human, is no defense for bad behavior.

At the meeting

Next month Jam goes in for breeder evaluation. More later...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Puppy Camp at the Clearwater Courthouse

Jam was at Justice's house for a week before he started limping and had to come home.  He went to puppy camp with Bob and Karen to have them help with some separation anxiety problems he was having. They were making progress.

Karen works at the Clearwater Courthouse and sent some of the photos she took of Jam's time with her.

Jam sitting in front of dock.

Jam sitting in front of the Korean War Memorial.

Jam lying down in front of the memorial looking very handsome.

Jam on the shore of a lake with kayakers in the background.  He doesn't seem anxious to jump in and join them.

Jam up on the witness stand by the American flag.

Jam resting by someone's feet. (I'm assuming Karen's)

Jam with flags in the background looking like he is ready to pronounce the verdict.

Jam in the courtroom.

Jam getting ready to go to court.

Jam and one of the bailiffs.

Karen, Jam and the bailiff.

Jam and two other Southeastern Guide Dog puppies play with a toy nicely. Jam is on the far right.

Three puppies all pulling on the toy.  Each one thinks he is the boss. Jam is on the far right.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Three Cup Jam

By Fred
Jam is limping again, and tomorrow I'll take him to the vet to see if he can determine the cause. In the meantime Jam is stuck at home again with me, sighing from the sheer boredom of it all, of not being able to play or run or go out for a ride. Poor guy.

So I decided we would play a game using the little Dansk coffee cups that Cheryl and I got for a wedding present. Who uses little coffee cups anymore, right?

The game was find the kibble: 3 cups and a small, crunchy bite of kibble (good for teeth). While I was interested in explaining the fine points of the game, Jam was already aware of the kibble on the floor behind my back, and he was not interested in the cups that I'd arranged in front of him on the floor.

I put the kibble under one of the cups and mixed them up. He didn't hesitate for a minute (a typical novice gambler), but it was the wrong cup...

Then he got a little desperate and accused me of cheating.

And then, after two wrong choices, he got sad. Gambling is for losers...

But then he sniffed and realized that he should have been trusting his nose all along.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Full Day of Justice

Justice is lying down on the floor next to Eileen.  They are ready for class. 
 Justice had a very full day on Friday.  She went to 5 classes and one pep rally!  Plus, she had lunch duty in the cafeteria (which was very exciting and full of tasty tidbits on the ground which were very hard to avoid), but she gave it her best effort.
By the end of the day she is sacked out.  Here she is asleep in front of the LCD cart.
At the very last class, I took off her coat and walked her slowly to every student and let them pet her if they wanted.  Justice was calm and composed.  The students were calm too.

As for the pep rally, she hardly blinked an eye at the pipe and drum corps, the 500+ students screaming and clapping and the loud rock music of the cheerleaders.

Good job!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Justice Goes to School

Justice, sitting by library table and looking to her right.
Today, Justice went to school.  Makes you wonder about what was needed at the school.  Well, we evidently needed a lot of loving as she was a little lovebug today.  She did a great job with the kids, walking with me as I taught four classes in the library.  She didn't like being left at the table, so I took her with me as I walked around answering questions.  She was a little nosy, peeking into backpacks, but on the whole, was very good.

We also worked on greetings and sitting, which is a challenge for the wiggler.  But overall, it was a very good school day for Justice!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Justice Arrives for Puppy Camp!

Justice, who is doing a two week puppy camp with us, arrived on the 1st (Jam is at Justice's house).  Justice is sponsored by the Clearwater Courthouse.  She is super happy and quite a wiggler and tail wagger.  She reminds me somewhat of Doug from the movie Up.

Screensaver image of Dug from the Pixar movie Up.

She and Willow have already become fast friends.  It should be a happy two weeks at the McLean household.  I hope things are going as well at Jam's puppy camp!