Thursday, 25 July 2013

... with MY DOG

This blog was never intended to be a journal but a collection of random bits and pieces - whatever I was thinking about at the time.  Cleaning up my computer last night I found these notes on 'A day at home', written for an email friend and dated 12th February 2002.  On that date Rufous the wonder dog was 11 months old, which is still a puppy. Now he is 12 years and 4 months and we live in a different house but not much has changed. Today we shared an almost identical day together.

2002 Rufous just a puppy


It seemed ideal, a wet day, home alone, just what I needed - time to work on the story I was writing. And, it was raining (yippee, we needed rain) so we decided Rufous would stay at home with me.  Normally he is out on the farm all day but with the rain Big R changed his plans and would be away for the day.  

It would be good to have Rufous for company. I imagined him lying by my feet as I typed, radiating good dog loyalty, love and support. But, first we went out for the mail and a wee break for the puppy.

The rain was heavier than I expected and I hadn't thought of an umbrella. The letterbox wasn’t far but it was along a muddy bush track. Rufous wasn’t fond of rain. He refused to wee anywhere and was annoyed when water dripped on his head from the trees. He had a good hard shake every few steps. While I was peeling wet envelopes from inside the box he was pulling hard on the lead in an attempt to investigate the puddle of muddy water in the ruts made by postman's motorbike.

Back inside I told him to sit on the mat while I found a towel to dry him off. He did, for a second, and then wandered around leaving wet paw prints on the timber floor.  Pulling him back I tried to give him a rub down but he made it a game and pulled at the towel. This took 20 frustrating minutes. Changing the plan he grabbed an empty coke bottle and ran into the house. I let him play then I remembered the mess he makes with plastic bottles so I chased him and only managed to pull the paper label off. I worried about that plastic ring on the bottle neck ... it could get stuck in his throat, oh....and an hour had gone by.

Ruf ran all over the house throwing his bottle and catching it, and then settled down on his soft 'mat' in the kitchen for a good chew. I settled at the table but jumped up again to sweep up the little bits of chewed plastic as he spat them out. Finally I took the chewed bottle and outside to the recycle bin.

But I'd left the door open!  Rufous wandered out behind me, in and out of puddles and then decided to lift his leg on a tree. I herd him back inside and do the rub down thing again. Back in the kitchen Ruffie hurled up on his padded mat. Just watery stuff, no smell, no colour, no lumps. He does this sometimes after running hard and then drinking water too fast. I took the mat outside and rinse it off with the hose. I pulled the cover off and then put both the cover and the padding into the washing machine, with the towel and a splash of Eucalyptus.

The spare dog mattress was on the veranda, airing. It felt a bit damp but OK. I pulled the cover off the line and stuffed it into the clothes dryer, five mins did the job and Rufous had a mat to sit on. He chewed his back feet. Then he got up and to chase his tail.

I remembered a TV show I'd seen on how to stop bad dog habits. The trainer had used  a bunch of metal discs on a ring, which he dropped when his dog, a bull terrier, chased his tail. The dog was trained to stop whatever he was doing when those discs hit the floor and was rewarded with bits of cheese. I wondered if the cheese would make the dog constipated.  I had been planning to try this with Ruffie's habit of sucking his feet when they had been wet but I didn’t have a bunch of metal discs - but if I had they would sound a lot like the car keys.  Rufous loves the sound of car keys.

I had thought of using a length of poly pipe. It makes a deep hollow sound when hit against something and would be sure to get his attention.  I couldn’t find any pipe. I did a little training session with a rolled up newspaper. It seemed to work, but not on the foot sucking. We started on waiting and after an hour Rufous had learnt not to eat a treat off the floor unless I tell him it’s okay.  I settled him down in front of the big glass door where I could see him and he could see outside.  Back to the computer.

2001 - a dogs gotta chew what a dogs gotta chew!

The rattle of dog tags on metal and water splashing told me Rufous was in the bathroom drinking from his water dish, which we kept in the shower. A moment later I caught a movement down the hall. Yes, something bright yellow flew through the air. A solid brown shape pounced on it and shook it vigorously. It was a face washer from the bathroom cupboard. "Hey!" His sheepish face appeared in the doorway, yellow washer in his mouth. I wanted to ignore it BUT a second later he was back with a large purple towel. The ripping of towelling got me to my feet and off to sort out the bathroom accessories! Yes, he wanted my attention.  I gave him some.

We played soccer kong – our own invention.  I sit on my office chair, which has wheels, Rufous sits on the floor facing me and nudges his red Kong toy across the floor so that it is between us. We both make a dash to get it first, Rufous with is mouth and me using my feet - I’m not crazy enough to get my hands in front of snapping jaws. He always gets it first, but then has to take the next step because the real aim of the game is winning the Kong, not keeping it. If I won’t play he’ll keep rolling the kong towards me, or dump it, chewed and sloppy, on my foot or even into my lap.

2002 dumping his Kong in my lap

When he has the kong he will tease me, holding it loosely in his mouth so I can try to knock it out, sideways, with my foot. Yes, he gets a few soft belts in the mouth but he doesn’t seem to mind that. When the kong is kicked away he rushes to get it, skidding and sliding on the wooden floor, then takes it to his mat to chew for a bit and then start the game again.

If the kong lands close to me I put my foot on it and hold it down. Rufous loves this best because he has to 'dig' it out. He growls softly, scratches the floor with his claws and pulls and pushes the kong with his mouth.   Even though he is very gentle I never put my hand on the Kong while he is holding it.

After we played soccer for a while I put kibble into his kong and pasted it over with peanut butter and pushed an evening primrose oil capsule in there too - good for dry skin. I didn’t give him a huge amount of peanut butter, which he loves, because sucking it out of the Kong makes a lot of dribble that puddles on the floor I already had one wet dog mat in the wash.

While Rufous enjoyed his snack I washed the dishes and thought about lunch. Kitchens are designed to be cleaned endlessly and I got carried away until scratching on the floor and whimpering told me that the kong was under the cupboard, out of reach. I got down on my knees with the big feather duster to sweep it out. Rufous watched closely over my shoulder, bumping and pushing me to get a better view and also to grab the duster. He treated it the same way he treated the broom and vacuum cleaner – like a big mouse that must be chased and bitten.

Oh! did I say mouse? Opppps. He took off into my sewing corner where he once scented a little bush mouse and lived in hope of finding another. He often rummaged in my boxes of fabric and I'd find odd scraps on his mat, slightly chewed and wet. He'd find a bit he wanted, grab it in his front teeth, and gently pull it out of the box. Then he'd runs with his trophy, back arched, head held high, to his mat in the kitchen, for a chew.

Rufous went back to the glass door. I could see a couple of lizards playing on the step now that the rain had stopped. Just as I sat down at the computer I heard him bark. I knew he was bristled and jumping at the door, tail alert and legs stiff.  His nails rattled on the wooden floor as he scampered along the hall, made the turn to the steps, five down to the living room, which he took in one leap, skidded across the floor and crashed into the wall. Bouncing off he scratched his way (you could see the scratches on the floor) into the kitchen, where he bumped into chairs all across the room and threw his top half onto my lap. Neck stretched long, tail straight and head alert, his big brown eyes looked right into mine.

Staffies have such a wide 'smile' and very open faces. His expression and body position said, "I saw the lizards, I know where they hide, I want to go and chase them, let me out, let's go now! Now! Now!"

Sigh.  I got the lead, positioned the towel for the coming-back-in-foot-wipe and found him with his nose pressed hard against the glass, willing it to open. I couldn’t let him out without the lead. Wet weather in summer means toads and they are poisonous.

As the door slid open Rufous leapt onto the porch nearly dislocating my arm. He made a beeline for the far corner knocking green plastic chairs over in all directions and stirring up the brown gum leaves that had piled up around the timber decking.  He jammed his nose under one of the boards and lifted it up, freeing the wet soft wood from the old nails. I saw a toad underneath so I pulled him away, kicked a pebble across the path and pointed, "Ruf, what's that?" He darted after the pebble. Calling him to heel and we walk along the track to a grassy area by the ginger paddock where we could play sticks.

The game couldn't be too strenuous because the year before he's strained a muscle in his little doggy leg with his extreme leaping and jumping.  Just like a volleyball injury the vet said. I found a stick. We have an unlimited supply of sticks. They fall out of trees constantly and lie on the paths and in the bush just waiting to stick into your foot.   Long sticks are best and I hold one end high and let the other end dip down. Rufous chases the low end.

I made him run in circles, change direction and back again. I made him run fast in straight lines after the stick, then zigzag across the paddock, his red lead flying behind. When he jumped high I lifted the stick. He leapt and ran until his tongue flopped out, saliva flew in the air and I heard him puffing. Usually I let him get the stick to end the game, I let it go – no need to turn this into a game of tug-o-war.

But he grabbed the stick before I was ready, ran off a little way and flopped down to chew on it. Staffies are not really into fetch and I would need a very delicious incentive to entice him towards me – and then he would probably leave the stick behind in the grass. I just crept up behind him to step on the end of the trailing lead so he can't run further.

We had enough running. He walked quietly beside me. He'd needed a good run and now was ready for a big snooze.  He slept and I sorted the washing.  I swept and mopped the bathroom floors, quietly.  Finally I sat down to write the weeks shopping list and then, as I reached for my notepad to record the seeds of a newidea for a story I felt a bump on the leg and the pressure of a diamond shape head in my lap. I saw the brown eyes rolled up towards me. It’s just like having a baby at home again. Where is the kong?

2013 Rufous with Kong number 20

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