Sunday, 10 March 2013

old dog - NEW TRICK

Our dog is twelve.  It's a good age for a dog. For a Staffordshire Bull Terrier it is the expected life span.  Our boy, Rufous, was born 10th March 2001.  Over the last few years we've noticed his face whiten and his daytime naps grow longer but his enthusiasm for life and for people has not diminished. One vet called him 'the perpetual puppy'.  

I am truly amazed and blessed by the relationship we have with this dog. He certainly was sent to us by God, not only to fill our empty nest but to bring us closer to each other and aware of God in our lives. He has given purpose to our days and something special in common with a host of other people. It's something I never expected.

Big R and his brothers had dogs and in my family we grew up with dogs and cats and goats.  In my younger years my nomadic lifestyle was not suitable for pets but after settling down and having children the first of several cats came in our family.  We did without dogs and horses and the begged for donkey, and managed with cats, guinea pigs, many, many mice, fish and a pretty yellow bird. 

Rufous at 12 weeks
But, children left home, the cat died and bird moved on.  In 2001 my daughter, married with a six year old, was breeding a pair of Staffies. I liked the dogs who were both very vocal and started thinking about a new pet for Big R and me.  After a visit with my sister, who had a sweet little white female poodle, I decided we should definitely have a dog - in my mind was a little lap dog like my sister's Annabelle, and so ...... we ended up with a boisterous, rough and tumble, noisy, grinning, hyperactive male Staffordshire Bull Terrier in our house.  

Rufous was the runt of the third litter, the last to find a home but later rejected because of a small spot of skin infection.  My daughter asked if we would like to have him.  Being the pup left behind he was sharing a bed with our grand-daughter and still in training with his parents - a good start for the pup about to move into our lives.

Rufous the pup and mother Coco
He was three months old when he came to live with us, though we did have a few visits from Rufous and his mother Coco to ease him in. He still associates  himself with the various arms of the family, recognising names, cars and who is on the phone. We are all part of his pack.  

Rufous is brindle in colour, like his father Suede, and apparently a throwback to some English Stafford ancestors as his legs and nose are a little too long.  I looked up the official dog descriptions and was able to tick all the boxes for him as, apparently, there are about five different Staffie body types.

We soon found he was pretty smart - unless distracted - movement always takes his attention. He quickly learnt to obey the commands of sit, down, off, wait, don't touch and walk. His favourite activity was running, though often it was more like flying because his legs didn't seem to touch the ground.  He could jump too, bouncing from sit to waist high in a flash.   A description of Staffie qualities includes - adapts well to living inside the house, is friendly to a fault and adored by the owners and we found that to be true.  He is amazing and we love him. 

Happy, happy, happy
As he got older Rufous was happy to be at work on our small organic ginger farm - his work was watching out for kookaburras and guarding whatever patch of land was being ploughed, planted or weeded.  He is always the first to volunteer for a ride in the car and even loves outings to the vet. 

Rufous knows how to be happy. Every morning he is delighted to see us and greets us with a dog bow and a smile and we get a big welcome home if we've been out.  He gives a nod of appreciation when I put his dinner down and he shows his pleasure if cooked sweet potato is served with the meat and kibble.  He now responds to so many words it's hard to keep count.  He also communicates with anyone who understands his body language of ear, eye and tail movements.  We have a 'treat' cupboard and if Rufous thinks he deserves a reward he'll bark and run to the cupboard - where he waits. When he gets the dog biscuit or liver treat or dental bone, he takes it away to eat.

Rufous lives with us, in the house.  He has a dog crate with a bed but prefers the couch.  He eats in the kitchen, sleeps in our bedroom, in the bed if it's very cold, and lets us know if he needs to go out.  He is a gentleman who never disturbs a sleeping person and is able to respect a human's personal space - unless he is hungry and his dinner is late.   He does not make a mess, has only been destructive when left alone and bored - separation anxiety - our fault every time as all he needs is a good  run in the morning and he'll sleep all day while we are at work.  Heaven for Rufous is to be with his favourite people in the car or on the couch or in the paddock.

There are lots of stories I could, and will tell about Rufous and how he helps us to solve problems and makes up games. So, the new trick?  Well, two annoying habits he has are jumping up on people and also mouthing ... grabbing someone's hand in his teeth. Both scary for visitors but he means no harm - it's his way of showing affection and getting attention but it can make the arrival of visitors a nightmare of people squealing and shouting orders and dog barks.  So, what to do with an old dog and a bad habit?  Rufous had an idea himself. One day a visitor arrived, I told him very firmly to be a good dog and so did the visitor. He pricked up his ears at 'good dog' and looked at the treat cupboard. Good idea.  Now when a visitor arrives he gets to run out and sniff their legs and ankles while they are given a treat for him. He takes it back to his crate to eat and often dozes off there. 

Waiting for them to come home
I started to write that Rufous has always had good health and then remembered a few brushes with poison cane toads, blocked anal glands requiring annual vet attention, a run in with feral dogs resulting in a nasty gash and antibiotics, a tooth cracked and split to the gum line, from his love of chewing sticks and logs - he needed an anaesthetic to fix that.  He gets a fungal thing between the toes, various stomach and digestive ailments and can't eat bones. Attacks of pancreatitis took us to the emergency vet in the middle of a dark night, in the rain, twice, and he is now on a low fat diet.  He needed sedation to fix two split claws, is often bitten by the ants he likes to eat and once he tried to swallow a bee and was stung inside his cheek. There were expensive bouts of fleas, three or four warty lumps removed, dozens of ticks that we removed at home and an assortment of sores he fixed himself, by licking. I'm sure I've forgotten a few other ailments and accidents, but he never complains and he usually co-operates with treatments.

Over several years a lump grew up on the left side of his nose.  It was diagnosed as a Mast cell tumour. This is an unpredictable cancer. Surgery, chemo and 'two years left if he's lucky' were mentioned.  We put him on a homeopathic remedy and decided not to interfere with it but, while under anaesthetic to have a grass seed removed from his bottom lip - they cut off the whole lip - the tumour was also removed, taking half his nose.  He seems to manage alright with an open nostril - but don't stand too close if he sneezes.  

Half his nose is gone
but he still reads his doggy news on the wind
Early in 2012 we noticed Rufous limping badly.  We knew he had arthritis in both hips but this turned out to be a damaged knee. Too much running and bouncing.  In March he had surgery to re-align the knee. The operation required a veterinary specialist and three months convalescence with no jumping or running or chasing kookaburras and wallabies.  That was hard.  Nine months later, in December that year, the other knee went and during that operation, by the same veterinary specialist, they noticed what is possibly three more Mast cell tumours on his legs and body.  We have not made any decision about those yet, but .....

Living with Rufous these past 12 years has been an absolute joy.  He has taught us things about unconditional love, about forgiveness and about how we should treat other people. He loves life with passion, enjoys communicating with us, is rarely demanding but stands up for himself when necessary. Sometimes he is our baby and at other times he's like a wise old man.

If only we could all live like dogs we'd be a much happier species. 

Happy Birthday Rufous

have a great day



There is a comments facility below for your comments and your dog stories - 
but it's not like facebook, there is a process to keep the spammers and hackers out.  

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  1. Replies
    1. Some people have had trouble commenting here, so sorry about that. I'm not sure what is wrong.

  2. happy birthday rufous

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Yay, I have it working! Happy belated birthday Rufous, I haven't been able to post, but I've worked it out now! You have such a wonderful life there on the farm, & you have given your wonderful owners such joy - much love to you all! Xxx

  5. Sounds like a fun dog. M

  6. Hope he has many years left.

  7. Lovely story about Rufous.

  8. I like the posts about the dog and also about dog training. Its good to see people who care about understanding animals and that is what you seem to be doing. Good job.


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