Rack Says: Pizelle Me!

I’m creating a monster.

Actually, it’s not so bad, and yes, I am overreacting.  It’s a sign that my fearful McNab Dog, Rack is growing.

When I got the little guy, he was only 7 months old, totally fearful, and completely overwhelmed.

I mean, Completely.  Capital C Completely.

Shelter dogs don’t understand why they were abandoned, and when you take one of the Number One Smartest Dog Breeds out there, rip them away from their family, and dump them in a concrete pen with other dogs, they shut down and develop emotional problems.

The dogs that curl up in the corners are the ones that end up getting put down more than many others because most people are lazy and won’t take the chance on a dog that just can’t manage greeting them other than curling up in a ball in the corner and shivering.

We’re good with that.  Actually, my Lettie was fearful too, in her own Alpha Dog way.  We know how to manage that, and realize that with time, you can turn a Fearful Dog into a Dog of a Lifetime.  Lettie was, Rack will be. 

Rack is getting close already.

His personality is opening up a little more each day, just like that prized flower in the garden that you wait for all year to open up.

He’s showing his needs in his own way.  His way is staring a hole through me.  With twin brown eyes that are laser beams.

Now, Rack has his problems.   He is missing what the vet called a “Pre-Molar”.  A tooth.  So with all the fear he went through, and the trauma of being moved from the area around Rome, GA to Deltona, FL to the excellent Dog Liberator’s shelter, he has to go through pain.  I was feeding him a specific Dry Food Diet because he can’t digest grains.  The dry food gets mixed 1 cup to 2 ounces of boiling water and soaked.

Grains will turn his butt in to a chocolate soft serve custard dispenser, as someone near and dear to me calls it.

Chicken and other poultry is off the menu for the same reason, which is a shame, because when I am not making “Asian Inspired” Pepper Steaks and other things, I cook a lot of chicken.

I have to watch other more basic foods.  He can’t have those common bone shaped cookies everyone likes, they’re simply too hard.  His treats are all soft.

Too bad, because he’s starting to beg.

Most people would hate that, but I’m seeing it as Rack asserting his own wants and needs and doing it in a social way.  I’ll tone it down, and if I say “Not For Dogs”, he understands he’s not getting any and goes away to do dog things in a dog way without any fuss.

I’m the Alpha, after all.  The Pack Leader.  The one who walks him 3 miles a day and taught him if the leash gets dropped, circle back immediately and wait for instructions.


I’m athletic and live an active lifestyle as a result.  I snack a lot.  I’m tall, so it takes a lot of calories to “Maintain Weight”.

I also tend to sit in a low chair, an Ikea Poang, for too many hours a day and do my thing with the computer.  It’s low.  When he walks over his back is higher than the arm of the chair.

Sitting down after doing some computer work, I needed a snack.  I grabbed three Pizelles.  Those Italian snowflake cookies that are hard and round.   They’re made in a press, and end up being rather firm.  Not really Rack Friendly Food since they’re also made with a lot of All Purpose Flour.  Wheat.

I tried explaining this to the Faithful Sidekick.  I really did.  It didn’t work.   Pizelle number one went down leaving an after taste of Anise on my lips.  Great cookies, and we make them at home.  There are always a few in the freezer here.  There are only a few left.   We should make more.

I told that to Rack as I was having brown eyes bore holes through me as I finished Pizelle number two with that last dog sized morsel going into my mouth.

Yum.  They’re great.  The chocolate ones are much lighter and my favorite, but the Anise ones are good too now that we worked out to double the amount of seeds dropped in the recipe.

I said that as I was squaring off the Pizelle and eating it into shapes.

Rack didn’t care, he just wanted to taste that damn cookie.  “After all it looks like those weird things you cram in the Kong, Give It To Me.”

Or so I thought he said.  I bit off more of the last Pizelle turning it into a palm sized triangle.

It’s Wheat, You can’t have Wheat and you know it!

*sigh*  Nibbled it back into a rectangle.

He didn’t care.  He must like the smell of Anise Seeds.  I’m hearing from the Kitchen “Don’t give him that, he’ll just get sick”

I handed Rack his prize.  A Thumbnail sized bit of Pizelle.   I’m such a soft touch.  “They really are that good”, Rack thought as he trotted away, crunching the cookie against his missing Pre-Molar.

The things Dogs will do for Forbidden Foods!

Rack, It Has Been One Year Since We Got You

I have come to expect that when I go into a room, you will be there sitting just outside, in the hallway, waiting for my return.

Walking out of the room, I had to apologize.  You saw that I was looking at you and you just rolled over onto your back.  Stepping closer, I rocked back onto my heel for balance.  You wagged your tail as you always have and managed to put it right under my foot.

Just a slight bit of pressure, you were too absorbed in the act of getting attention, having your belly rubbed, in the hallway and under the air conditioning intake.

Another normal day here.

I’ve had dogs with me since 2001.  You are a very different soul.  A bright and cheery puppy.  A truly gentle and sweet personality.  You came into my life a year ago.  I had just lost my Lettie.  You helped to fill that void.  She and I battled for control all her life and eventually established a balance until she was too old to hold her end up in that bargain.  Then she rolled onto her back once and only once and told me in that one time, that one time only, that her days were growing short.

You were shuttled from an uncaring owner in Rome, GA to a veterinarian’s office where you were surrendered.  From there, you made the trip to Ocala where you sat for 36 days being more confused.  A McNab Dog is way too intelligent for that sort of abuse – sitting in a concrete bunker of a room, your personality spiraled away in fear.  Then the Dog Liberator found you on the same day Lettie left me.   I didn’t know you yet, but within a week I would find you.

You see, I was told to find another dog.  It was a very rough time for us, and you helped us as much as we helped you.

You are no longer shut down.  In fact you have the reputation of being that puppy that jumps six feet in the air.

I’m sure we’re getting talked about.  There’s one cranky woman with a Jack Russell here in town who crosses the street.   You know that dog, the one who starts growling three houses away?  I’m also thinking she needs to work with her dog a bit more.

In that year you shook off the depression you had from being abandoned.  I’m sorry, “Owner Surrendered” is what they called it.  Some people shouldn’t own a picture of a stuffed animal, let alone a dog as intelligent as you are.

The Pit Bull attack two weeks ago is healing.  You have on a T Shirt of mine since the scar is healing and itchy.   That will fade, and we’ve allowed you use of the house again.  I’m no longer on duty watching you every second.

We constantly are told how beautiful you are.   That’s the breed, but it is also you.  Pure black and pure white, glistening in the sun.  We are always told that you look healthy and well.  That came with some effort.   The Orijen food you turn your nose up at helped you heal and get rid of the mange around your eye.  We purged your system of the worms, got your shots, changed to another kind of food that you could actually digest.

You thank Kirby for that every time you see him.  He’s one of your favorite people, a true Friendbeast for giving us the suggestion that brought you to robust health.  When you see Kirby across the street you charge over to say hello as he pets you and you whine in happiness.  When you hear him and his dog walk past the house, you sit up and wag your tail even if you can’t see him through the window.  Every motorcycle that goes by is Kirby.  That little white lie helped you not be afraid of the roar of the motors that are everywhere.

His dog, D.O.G. accepts this and lets you get a little attention.  Remember, D.O.G. is a 165 pound Rottweiler and not a sheep to be herded.  He is getting tired of being climbed over and clambered on.

It has been one first year of many.  There have been a lot of changes in your short life.  The bad memories are fading, and replaced by many more good ones. 

Keep watching over us.  Grumble at the mailman. When the neighbor Bill comes over and I announce “Incoming”, go to the front door to say hello.

Oh by the way, “Incoming” isn’t his name any more than “Murph” is yours.

It’s a busy, noisy, and complex neighborhood with a lot for a smart dog to wrap his head around.  As you adjust we’ll go further.   For now, we’ll stick close to the house.  There is a lot to see within the mile that we wander three times a day.  Sit by the door, wait for us to go out, then you can go.  It’s not just A Rule, it can save your life. 

We’re going into the hot season now.  I’ll let you in on a secret.  Your black fur?  That gets hot.  We won’t mind if you jump in the pool while we’re out there.   Really we won’t.

So enjoy the world.  It’s a big one.  There are a lot more things that we can do, when you’re ready.  You learned that Car can be fun.  Walks can be fun.  Other dogs aren’t always fun but you are figuring out how to read that. 

But.. we’re fun, together.

Rack Will Wear Me Out First

At this moment, it’s a cool morning.  I have the windows open and I’m lying to the dog.

You see, anything scary I tell him it’s Kirby or Kirby’s.

Rack loves Kirby, our neighbor across the street and over one.  We’re not sure, it’s probably because Kirby acts the most excited of all of our neighbors when he sees the little guy. 

On the other hand, it really is Kirby’s truck that’s roaring past.  A big black diesel Ford F250 extended cab that will shake your fillings loose when he kicks in the turbo and rolls past the house.

I’ve got to borrow that thing next trip to Ikea, even if that is a stereotype.  Hey dude, can I borrow your truck?


The day started on a similar bend.  Me handling the dog.

I get up, get him ready, we walk.  He refuses to eat before we go, so I guess he really does have to go.

Peering through the half moon above my door is normal for me.  I want to make sure that I don’t have a black and white dart charging out to greet anyone.  On the other hand, if he didn’t think anyone is out there, Rack simply doesn’t act up.

I open the door and leave it open to walk to the mailbox regularly without a care.

This morning, I must have been half asleep.

Open the door and step out into the cool predawn.  I spot them a half second after Rack does.  That’s because my right arm is now being yanked by 45 pounds of dog jumping into the air five feet alternating with him going back into a sitting position and dusting the asphalt of my driveway.

Spring-sit-spring-sit.  What a weird critter.

There is a neighbor from a block or three over who has his little white dogs with him.  A pair of havanese or maltese or bedroom slipper dogs acting excited to see my goofball.

Belatedly, I pull it together and manage the situation.  Not too well, but I manage.  Besides, they like it too.

We’re playing Leash Macrame at 5:55 in the morning in front of the house.  

It’s a brief explosion of canine energy followed by my grabbing the purple harness and unthreading him from the other two leashes.  Silly mutt.

We wander off and before we get home, he manages to find another pair of dogs and we go through the same ritual. 

Getting home, I now have a black and white door stop in the middle of my kitchen.   He’s had his food, now he wants mine.   “Not For Dogs” isn’t having its effect so we go into the stare down posture.  Six inches from a wet black nose, I repeat myself.  Instant avoidance, he wanders off a few feet until the kettle boils.

I have to reach over him to get the water for coffee and later tea.

When I get the ice out of the freezer, he’s back under foot.   What is it with dogs and ice cubes?

I give him the ice cube and am able to put a dent into my breakfast.  “Rack, Out back?” gives me another 90 seconds before he realizes that he may be able to get something out of me before I finish the white plain yogurt with banana slices.

“Not For Dogs” isn’t really working for that either.

We settle in after I “stiff” him a snack.  My arm is now a new dog toy.  I’m covered in slobber and nibbles.   Handed The Rope, he’s chewing it on the wrong end.  I guess he really wants me to give it to him.  Upside down on his back he’s chewing on a multicolored cotton rope and reminding me that when I vacuumed yesterday I didn’t get under the big chair when his tail begins to dust the supports for the thing.  Oh well, he put wet footprints all over the living room so we are even.

Floors don’t stay clean here for long.  He’s got really bad aim.  Colossally bad aim when he’s watering a tree.  He’s a rare breed of yellow footed collie called a Mc Nab Dog.  The foot wash station on the front porch and lap around the yard to wipe the water off is routine now.  Some day he’ll learn.

It’s all a part of having a rescue.  A dog that comes to you partially trained may have deep secrets that will bubble to the surface in quirks.  It’s always entertaining.  What was new yesterday is old hat today.  Sounds like a certain kid I watched grow up. 

While they can’t speak they certainly can be heard.  Would you want it any other way?  I know I wouldn’t.

The Surprise Dog Agility Course

There is a theory that is accepted fact in Psychology called the “Tabula Rasa” or the blank slate.

You have heard it before.  An individual is born with a mind that is a blank slate upon which all knowledge and experience is to become written.

I believe that is the same with dogs.

You see, the nice thing about a blank slate is that you can erase it.  What you erased won’t be completely gone, but what was there will leave an echo while the new knowledge will be sharp and clear.

That is especially true to remember with rescue dogs, and of course to rescue cats and adoptive animals and people everywhere.

We got our Rack without knowing what had been done to him.  He was a terrified little ball of fur who was seven months old and simply didn’t know what was going on.  I met him in the back room of the Dog Liberators and he seemed to know he could trust me.  He was well known for running away and cowering in a corner.  One of the first pictures of this gentle soul was him cowering in a corner of a concrete block cubicle in a rescue somewhere.

We fixed that.

He’s now much more curious about is surroundings and is beginning to show his likes and dislikes about things around him.

One night we were shocked as to how he puts things together and showed us an echo of a moment of before he met us.   He also gave us something to work with.

It is our habit to sit in front of Wilton Manors, FL City Hall at least twice a week for about fifteen minutes.  We sit on a concrete wall, next to a busy road with fire engines, motorcycles, busses, and people.  This is a lot for the little guy to take in.  He started doing this in abject horror and fear.  He’d sit there shivering in terror until we would leave, then jump up and scrabble away to get off the hated Drive.

The edge has gotten blunted off of that particular reaction.  He’s still uneasy with sitting around out there exposed but now he understands that we will be there for a while. He is learning to try to enjoy the experience.


When we left, we walked South on the Drive, then would cut behind a bar so that he wouldn’t have to be greeted by any patrons who may be a bit too insistent to say hello.  Rack is a beautiful dog, and we’re continuing the tradition of having the Canine Ambassador to Snowbirds here in Wilton Manors, whether he likes it or not.

He visibly relaxes once we get off the Drive, and behind the bar.  We did see one thing that was completely unexpected.

There is valet parking there.  Mind you, that is normal here, or as normal as it could be to have a stranger drive your car that is. 

That particular night, they had out little traffic cones.  The ones that look like a day-glow orange dunce cap were set four in a line to mark a do-not-park area, and we were paying little attention.

That is, the three humans and one of the two dogs did.   Rack was tugging me toward the cones like a magnet to steel.

Those four cones were an old friend and he knew what to do with them!

First he walked to the far side of the nearest of the cones.
He then weaved back toward us and toward the line of cones to the right.

We thought he was just being curious, or weird, or both, and he was done with it.   Nope, wrong!

The second cone he passed to the right, then looped to the left.
Having seen this same action on TV many times,  I expected and got the next pass to the left of cone three.
My dog was doing an improvised agility course in back of a bar!
Looping to the right of the cone, he weaved past cone four.

Yes, my dog who I have never taken to an agility course just “involuntarily” weaved through a course of four cones, on his own, with no coaching on my part.  Perfectly I might add!

I asked the rest, did you just see that?
They had and we were all quite surprised.

The next time through there, we tried it again.  It was a couple days later, and yes, Rack decided to do the old bob and weave like a champ.  Pass to the left of cone one and weave back and forth until done.

I’ll be trying this with him in the future.  He’s indifferent towards many toys.  He will pick up tennis balls from all over the house and drop them in his bed at night as if to herd his puppies back to the pack for sleep.  He could care less about my large swimming pool.  I don’t blame him, I’m not exactly a fan of the thing either.

But this agility stuff?   I have a stand of bamboo that can be cut to form weave poles if I need them.  I will try that out back where there aren’t any distractions.  I’m sure he will find that intriguing as well.

It’s all towards keeping him mentally stimulated.  You CAN have a herding dog in an urban setting, but if you don’t keep their minds active, they will drive you insane.  Guaranteed.  If you do keep your dog’s mind active, you will have an amazing companion for life – a Dog Of A Lifetime.  Mine is in the making, and you can have one too with just a little practice.

Rack’s Six Month Anniversary – Picture

Six months ago today, we made the long trek up the spine of Florida.  Past the nearby cities, through the Citrus Groves, into the splat that is the Theme Park ridden area of Orlando, and finally to Deltona.

In Deltona we met Gisele and entered her home to adopt Rack.   Rack was named Les Paul when he was with The Dog Liberator, he needed a name, and they chose that musical one.   It didn’t quite fit us, and we were trying to come up with one that did.  Since we were recovering from the loss of our Dog Of A Lifetime, Lettie, we settled in on a name that she suggested. 


When we stood in our large kitchen in Philadelphia shortly after we adopted Lettie back in 2002, I asked Kevin for a little help. I needed a baking rack.  When I said that word, Lettie snapped to as if being ordered around.   We never found out why, but when it came time to name our boy, it stuck.

Like many other, or even most other highly intelligent dogs, those surrendered to a shelter may shut down.  Rack was one of the most severely shut down dogs I had ever seen.   But like Gisele said “He’s in Deltona, He needs you”.  Our heart strings were pulled, Kevin said “She’s good, lets get him!”.  

So we did. 

Lettie was shut down when we got her, but in a much better frame of mind then.  She did give us the experience we needed to work with dogs like Rack.  

In the six months that we’ve had him, we’ve watched him grow.   He’s gone through three different de-worming treatments, and missteps with dog foods that held him back.  He’s put on another 10 pounds, grew about 4 inches in height, and has a coat so shiny that when you pet him your hand comes back with lanolin.  Robust is what we’d call him.  Thanks to a suggestion by a neighbor, we got him on Orijen dog food.  No Chinese sourced ingredients for this one.  I don’t want to go through the syringe feeding that I did with Lettie near her end.

He’s still showing signs of his trauma.  Loud sounds are triggers to him and make him turn and try to hide.  Twice a day we walk out to Wilton Drive and have a sit down on the benches.  At 6AM it’s quite quiet, but at 9AM it’s an experience.  He is getting immersed in the buzz of the city.  The 50 bus is bad enough, but in the morning when the trash trucks pick up the bottles from the bars, he notices it even a block away.

On the other hand, he’s one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever met.  He’s a McNab, a not very well known breed outside of the ranches of California and nearby states.  Incredibly intelligent, eager to please, he’ll simply do what you ask as long as you don’t drop something that makes a noise.  A similar breed to the Border Collie, but definitely not one.  The BC’s are a bit more high strung, my McNab has a mellowness to his personality that you have to experience, but once you do you will understand.  There’s a sweetness and a subtlety to him that is hard to put to phrase.  The ranchers will say the difference between a BC and a McNab is the way they work.  Perhaps that is the best way to say it.  They’re both great breeds, but the McNab is it’s own.

It’s not all sweetness, having a Herding dog means that you absolutely must exercise them.  Fortunately he’s good with the 4 miles a day that we walk, and everyone in our society could use that.  Anything less and you are in for a strange experience.  The ranchers and breeders in California can’t understand how Their Dogs can live in an Urban Environment, but we are proof that they can adapt and adapt well.

Intelligent Dogs aren’t for everyone, nor are active dogs.  Some people should only have a dog from a toy store filled with polyester fluff – a stuffed animal.  I’m doing my best by him and as a result my dog is growing every day. 

He’s still the “Yellow Footed Collie” as he learns how to properly water a rock or a hedge, but that gives me the excuse to work with him more so that he doesn’t get fearful.  That hose in front of the house gets a workout frequently and will until he grows into a better aim.  Once he learns that particular “trick” I may just let him on the furniture.  That picture was taken when he invited himself on the chair.  First a wet nose on the elbow, then he pulled himself up bit by bit until he was on Kevin’s lap.  He didn’t want to leave the chair when Kevin did so he stayed behind.

Smart dog, huh?

So six months on my rescue and I are continuing our journey.  He rescued me when Lettie left us.  Now we can grow together.

Happy First Birthday, Rack!

According to our admittedly sketchy math, this is Rack’s Birthday.

Not an Earth-shattering event, but something for me and mine to keep in mind.

Lettie, my old McNab dog passed in April, and I found Rack at the Dog Liberator‘s about a week later.

Losing Lettie, I was basically “ordered” to “go get another dog” by Kevin.  It helped me get through my own feelings of loss.   She was the Canine Ambassador to Snowbirds in Wilton Manors, even if she really didn’t care for the attention toward the end.

We finally see Rack at The Dog Liberator, April 21, 2013

We picked up Rack a week after we contacted Giselle.  The timing was for the best since she was able to help him come out of his shell enough for us to continue the work on the recuperation of this dog’s shattered psyche. 

Smart dogs don’t take well to shelters.  They cower and hide in the back of the cage and end up being put to sleep in much higher proportion than a less smart dog.  McNabs are the smartest around, and other similar breeds like Border Collies, Poodles, German Shepard Dogs, and the like will suffer the same fate.

Since we got him, he’s grown much more assertive.  He doesn’t hide in the crate when the train passes by a half mile away, but he still hides from the trash trucks all the same.  He still doesn’t like Wilton Drive and all that noisy traffic, but he’s no longer shivering in abject terror when we get there.   It’s fear but it’s more manageable and with time he’ll do well.

Whatever he went through before he ended up in the right hands with Gisele and finally us, did leave him with a fear of strangers.   We can manage that, it isn’t necessary that some snowbird gets to meet my dog.  Most back off when I tell them “He Won’t Let You” and leave the vague comment hang in the air.

He has discovered the joy of other dogs by leaping in mid air when he sees them a block away.   We’ve got to work on calming him down, silly puppy.

Giselle said that he was “About 7 Months Old” when we first spoke in April.   So I’m “doing the math”.  That means that today would be close enough to a year old today.  We’ll never know for sure, and this is a good a day as any.

There were a few stumbles when we got him.   It took a solid three months for us to get him fully dewormed and on food that he could tolerate.   Puppies don’t always digest their food well so we were giving him probiotics and switching the foods around until we found one he could tolerate.   Wellness Puppy food made him have loose stools, and apparently that is common even if it is a high quality food.  We switched to Merrick and Orijen and both are excellent foods that he tolerates exceedingly well.

We won’t be giving him “extra treats” today for his birthday, I don’t want to clean up extra mess outside on our walks.  His regular food is fine in a Kong or a tennis ball with a slit in it.   Those two toys keep him busy for a half hour at a time!

So, if you’re looking for a dog at the shelter, look extra long at that dog hiding at the back of the cage.  They may need a little extra care because of the shock they’ve been put through, but they’re definitely worth it.

Happy Birthday and many more to come, Rack!

Rack Meets The Pool

Having a swimming pool in the back yard, there’s one thing you have to consider.  Your Dog.

In my case, there’s an in-ground pool that has a deep end that I’ve been told is much more than usual these days.  More than my own 6’4″, it demands respect.

Since I have a dog, it is time to consider just how well he can swim.  The only way to find out is to get him in there.

Here’s the rub – some dogs love water and some hate it.  Mine seems indifferent to it.

But you do need to get him in there.

Now you can get your dog in the pool in many ways, the stereotype of a Labrador Retriever Puppy jumping in on their own is a stereotype for a reason.  On the other hand, a Bulldog might just sink like a stone.

The main thing is that you have to supervise them.  Letting your dog out in a back yard with a pool or a creek or some sort of water with you standing inside the house, well that’s simply stupid.

Our first time with Rack in the back yard had him walk out the door, sniff the pool, then walk away to the palm tree and lay down.  He claimed that as His Spot.

Great.  I’m safer knowing that he’s not going to dive in and I’ll have to perform CPR on a puppy.

Yes, I’m trained.
No, I prefer not to use my training.

We let that ride for a while.  Rack gained his curiosity and his confidence but never stepped in the pool.

Finally the wet season hit us as well as the normal Florida Warmth in early summer.   The pool water is a toasty 86 and I took the opportunity to do a little cool down after pulling some weeds.

My one neighbor thinks Virginia Creepers are pretty.  I disagree since they end up covering my hedges like a blanket.

After filling one trash can and making a dent in the second I got out of my shoes and T Shirt and “Accidentally Fell Into The Pool”.

Rack seemed intrigued but didn’t really want to take the step.  Fortunately I had some jerky treats that we put into a bowl and took out for this little plan.

Between my being in the pool and his own curiosity I was able to get in to stand over the water and get a snack.

Still I didn’t pull him in.   I didn’t want to make this a traumatic experience for him.   It took me about another 20 minutes until I realized that he had wandered to the fence and found a T Bone from the dog next door.

Not knowing how nasty that might be, I walked over and took the bone from him while lifting him up.  It was time, and I had the excuse.

Dropping the bone in the trash, I stepped into the shallow end.  Rack had no idea what was up, but didn’t like the idea of being in the pool.  I didn’t think he would.

He stood on my legs and acted fearful, which wasn’t a shock.  After all, he was known as The Shy Dog when I got him from The Dog Liberator almost three months ago.


He didn’t completely freak out.

Knowing that this was going to be stressful, I didn’t keep him in the pool for long.  I moved, he slipped, and ended fully in the water.  That lasted all of about 15 seconds until he got his purchase and walked out of the pool using the steps.

I learned a couple things.

First, he can swim so the pressure is off.
Second, while this can be stressful to the dog, it needs to happen, eventually, and gently.
Third, slow and steady wins the race.  It happened so it doesn’t have to happen Every Single Day.  That could be a way to make a dog into a cowering mess if they’re not ready.

The most important thing is to do it gently and let the dog guide you with how much they are able to take.  Use treats to get them curious enough to get close.  Don’t let your own pride get in the way causing you to make a mistake and force the critter into the water.  After all, this is an initiation rite – they may actually enjoy it.

Finally, if they just hate the water, you have to learn to accept that and regroup.  It could be that you approached the process with the idea that you are going to force the dog into the pool – that’s absolutely the wrong idea.  They can read your energy better than you can in many cases. 

The process for me took 20 minutes of my dawdling and bobbing around in the full sun of the South Florida Afternoon.  Another 10 minutes and it was over and done with for the day.  But we’re safe.  He can swim so I won’t have a bad accident on my hands if I’m in the kitchen and my attention strays to what I’m making on the stove.

Besides, he’d much rather sit under that palm tree looking content like this.

The Frog is in the Shoe, The Dog Roamed Last Night – Picture

When we got Rack, we decided he’d have a crate to sleep in.  Off the Couch, Off the Bed, Off the Furniture.

Unless invited.

Rack is a rescue dog.  We got him April 21, 2013 from the Dog Liberator.  While his story before he got to Giselle was frightening, she had him long enough that we all knew he’d start to open up and grow into a fascinating character.   He was only there for 11 days, so there was only so much that Giselle could have known about his personality.  

Since he was shut down, it was easier to set some hard and fast boundaries.   The first night or three he slept in the crate in the living room with the crate door closed.

That stopped when he started getting lonely and whined overnight.  My having a rough sleep even through the earplugs meant I had to figure something out.

The crate went into the master bedroom, sitting on top of a blanket to muffle some of the sounds from tossing and turning.

His, not mine.

The crate door would be kept closed and he’d be able to see me sleep on the bed.

When he started to come out of the crate willingly, I decided that I’d try to have him sleep with the door closed on the bedroom and the crate door would be left open.  The room would be blocked off so he had about 1/3 of the room to roam in.

Rack liked that, and that was how we slept for the next two months.

He’s still exploring the house during the day, but he tends to retreat to the crate when something scary happens like the trash trucks stopping by twice a week.  Noises are a trigger for him to go hide, which is common for many puppies and dogs who have been through the trauma of being turned in to a shelter at an early age.

Last night that changed.   I forgot to close the bedroom door.

Blissfully ignorant, I slept the night.   So did Rack.  Sure, he had wandered through the house but didn’t find anything of ours that he needed to chew on.  With cables to the electronics somewhat badly hidden under furniture, and boxes for recycling in the kitchen, he had plenty of opportunity for mischief.

But nothing happened.   I woke up to an open door and realized he had the chance to be out and about, but the only thing I found torn up was his toy that he has been disemboweling when he needed to play.

Other than being greeted by bits of polyester fluff, nothing happened.

He does take the opportunity to “find things” from time to time, and we do have to keep an ear open to make sure that he doesn’t go up onto the bed, but for the most part, he’s very close to being ready.  There are plenty of things around the house that probably should be picked up, thrown away, or put to better use, but for the most part, he ignores them.

Another behavior to watch for in this case is “Where The Dog Sleeps”.

In Rack’s case, it is basically anywhere and everywhere.   Dogs will not relieve themselves where they sleep.  If they sleep everywhere, you will have less of a chance of an errant marking of territory.  Territory markings and little piles are the other main problem you can have with an inexperienced dog on their first night out on the house.  I have found Rack sleeping next to the back door where he nodded off while watching the back yard.   He’s curled up against the front door in the living room, under the dining room table, in the kitchen…

You get the picture.

A dog that has one place and one only to nap in will be more likely to wander to the most distant part of the house and “Use The Tree”, even if housebroken.

In our case, we got off lucky.  I’m not planning on leaving that bedroom door open tonight.   I’m not
completely confident that I won’t wake up to something of mine shredded, even though he has plenty of toys.  On the other hand his pet frog toy ended up placed very nicely inside of my shoe this morning as an offering.

We’re not there yet, but I think I can see the exit ramp down the road a piece.  Now, if I could just get him to stop waking me up at 5:15AM every morning…

How Rack Found His Lost Voice

For an 8 month old dog to be silent, there has to be a reason.

In the case of Rack, the Ridiculously Photogenic McNab Dog, it was his history.

Rack was an owner surrender at around 6 months.  He was bounced around between some shelters that seemed more like concentration camps by description.

He then wound up at The Dog Liberator, an excellent rescue specializing in Herding Breeds in Deltona, Florida where Giselle began to repair the damage to his psyche.

That was where I came in.

For two weeks there was not a single sound out of this dog.  Not even that weird grunting that some dogs do when sleeping was heard.

After being told by some breeders of McNabs out in California, that no this isn’t normal, but not to worry he’ll start to relax, he did exactly that.

Walking Rack, we noticed that he liked other dogs.  By that, I mean REALLY likes other dogs.  He sees them and started to wag his tail, and then start to dance, then finally made a sound.   A plaintive little whine with his mouth open in a full yawn.

Silent no more.

This got more and more intense as the third week went on.   He met The Girls, two Samoyeds around the block who have the reputation of being two of the most playful and bouncy dogs you could meet. 

Men, cover yourself, the girls are here… OOF!

Rack met other dogs and unless they were acting grumpy toward him, he would always become very excited.   Not every dog liked a bouncy black and white puppy bounding towards them, so I remembered that I really do have control over this and started watching closely what the other dog’s owner did in response. 

For the most part, walks were exciting places where other dogs were until we hit the chaos and noise of Wilton Drive.   He’d cringe as trucks would pass, try extreme avoidance tactics over noisy grates, and walking past the bars meant my arm was stretched out to the limit as he tried to avoid the front doors and any patrons inside.

We’re avoiding the bars directly, people aren’t his favorite, and frankly I don’t care about your dog you left behind in Ohio or Colorado, bring them next time.

The whole while, my house was in uproar.   We had a massive line of thunderstorms come through and ruin the water heater.  The repairs took two solid days of drilling and workers in the house.

Rack was not amused, he made himself scarce by running into the back bedroom and hiding in his crate, or just curling into a DogBall (TM) between the coffee table and the couch.   I guess the little guy just wanted a den.

Finally the chaos was too much.

Eric the plumber wanted to talk to us after coming and going a couple times.  He needed to run out to the big box stores just a mile away for supply and approached the front door. 

A soft knock and… BARKBARKBARKBARK!

Yes, four strong barks from a voice stilled by abandonment and trauma. 

Our little boy is healing!

Just four.  It wasn’t excessive, someone had stepped inside HIS house and he was warning his dads that this was happening.

The look on our faces as well as Rack’s was shock and a little confusion.   Even he didn’t know he could do that. 

Sheepishly, the shepherd dog looked at us for approval as we both were laughing.  I guess it’s OK to use my voice.

This repeated itself about 4 hours later when Eric stuck his head in the door after a quiet tapping on the door.  BarkBarkBarkBarkWOOWOOWOOWOO!

OK, boy, I get it!  You can talk now!

Sure, it will be a training issue, but our boy is relaxing.  He’s home.  His home, and home is a good thing.

Signs Your Rescue Dog Is Coming Alive – Picture and Video

The other day my dog, Rack, was whining.

We have only had him for 2 1/2 weeks at this point, and that was the first sound we heard come from his mouth.

It wasn’t a pain whine, we all know that blood curdling scream you hear from a dog when they’re hurt.   This was a plaintive high pitched squeak.

My little guy was bored.  Bored is a good thing.

When The Dog Liberator had rescued him, I had a rather scary story about his history.  Basically we had a very smart dog that was an owner surrender who went through some very bad shelters. 

A Shut Down dog resulted.   That’s more likely in intelligent breeds like my Mc Nab, and others like the Border Collie, Aussie Shepards, Poodles and so on.   Less intelligent breeds would go with the flow and bark away.

As time went on in those first few days, we noticed that Rack really enjoyed his walks.  He was still afraid of loud noises, but he handled them better each day.   The walks would be accompanied by a similar sound coming from him when he would see another dog, what we called a Whine of Joy.  He would get so excited that he would lapse into a dancing and bouncing performance complete with little open mouthed sounds.

We realized that he loved his walks and other dogs.  That’s a big plus because recovering a shut down dog without a motivator is decidedly difficult.   Making the walks as long as we could manage was the best thing we could do for the little guy.  These days the walks stretch very close to 2 miles each.

I’ll be getting some new sneakers as a result.

That has outside taken care of, but what about indoors?

The usual tricks of bouncing a ball or offering food just didn’t work yet.   I tried the tennis ball trick where you slice one open and put a cookie inside.  As long as he saw the cookie he would go for it but not work for it if it disappeared inside the hollow ball.

The toys did eventually wear him down.  An old vinyl ball that squeaks when you squeeze it was his first toy that he took to.  This was followed by a beat up teddy bear that he managed to chew the nose off in short order.

Playtime is very important.  When you have a dog that refuses to play, it’s an abnormal situation.  They have to relax to their environment.  In our case, getting to tearing the teddy bear apart only took 15 days.

As for that teddy bear, its done it’s duty before.  There’s a black stitching down its back where my old dog Lettie had shredded it once before.  It will get shredded again.   Soft toys are best for that sort of thing since you’ll notice very fast when you find little clouds of stuffing all over your living room.

After all, a destroyed toy means a happy dog, and a happy dog is what we’re after.

The proof is in the video below – complete with The Minute Waltz!