076. City Dog Meets Farm Life

My horse and the lifestyle that comes with equine ownership takes up an ungodly amount of time. I feel guilty when I’m at the barn for hours or off on a ride knowing Mulder is waiting at home. We hike multiple times a week and he gets plenty of exercise, but eventually I would like to bring Mulder to the barn while I school in the ring. I think he’d love to snoop and follow on the trail while I get some miles in, too. While there’s many more months (and years, probably) before that happens, I decided to bring Mulder to the barn Sunday to test the waters.

He has progressed to a reliable recall on leash although I don’t trust him yet off leash. He does not have the “pleaser” personality that I am used to (having grown up with GSDs), and he’s not bonded to me yet. He’s not motivated yet to come back just for physical touch and praise, so until this is established he is strictly an on leash dog.

Though only in the seventies, the humidity made the air so thick you could practically swim through it. It felt like a steamy July morning instead of an October afternoon. Ben came with me to help and sat quietly with Mulder while I retrieved Nakai. The chickens puffed up and wandered around, not sure if Ben would feed them and inquiring about Mulder. I think the was Mulder’s first time seeing chickens; he was interested but regarded them with some hesitation and backed off immediately when asked to “leave it”.

He whined and paced a bit while watching the horses and Beamer came over to investigate. Beamer looked over almost quizzically, seeming to realize this wasn’t Maria’s dog, Brody. Mulder listened well as we kept our distance – he can watch and absorb without having to be in everyone’s personal space. He walked quietly with me past Nakai a handful of times and kept his focus.


I had just put Nakai away when out bounced Zsasz and Spoot! Zsasz (I hope I’m spelling this right) is M’s newest pup and he too is learning the basics of farm life. Poor Spoot seemed annoyed at having yet another dog at her house and promptly rebuked Mulder when he pushed into her personal space. Mulder handled Zasz bouncing around and initiating play quietly, and I put him on the lunge line so they could play. What resulted was the perfect example of Mulder not quite knowing how to ‘dog’. He’s still learning to play correctly, and you can see Zsasz look at him funny a few times:


Overall, the experience went perfect and was just enough mental stimulation. Mulder ran to his crate when we got home and spent the next 10 minutes or so self-soothing. I think he may have been taken from his mother too soon; he’ll grab a mouthful of blanket and kneed with his paws similarly to how a cat does. It’s how he seems to comfort himself after a stressful day.

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071. The Revolution Resolution

Mulder is terrified of his flea, tick, & heartworm preventative.

But he is infatuated with the vacuum. Go figure 🤷🏼‍♀️

When attempting to put it between his shoulder blades he shrinks back in fear, eyes clouding over as his whips his head around and attempts to bite.

He trembles. He shakes, eyes wide with worry.

A thousand expletives cross my mind as I wonder how in the holy fuck can someone traumatize a dog when administering Revolution. He doesn’t have any skin irritation, lost hair, or any other indication that the medication burns or is otherwise uncomfortable.

I brainstormed.

For reasons that can all be filed under #horseowner, I have syringes of various sizes all over the house. I chose the largest for desensitizing.

Exhibit A: BFS (big fucking syringe)

A few days a week, I suck up some water into the syringe and rub it between Mulder’s shoulder blades. If he is accepting, he receives treats and praise. I do this a couple times before squirting a bit of water onto his back. I praise, shovel treats into him, and end the experience on a good note.

For July’s dosage, I dumped it into the syringe and carried on like I would if it was just water. Not a single objection – he didn’t even know when I administered it.

This morning, I separated August’s dosage from the pack and took count of how many I have left. Upon seeing the small application, he hunched and skittered away, tail between his legs.

What happened in your past life, Bubba?

069. The City Dog Swims

This weekend was moist. The temperature combined with the obnoxious humidity made riding a no-go. Together, the numbers were 160+ for Saturday and 170+ for Sunday. When in the 130-170 zone, horses are unable to adequately cool themselves and their riders need to pay great attention to their horse. Nakai becomes quite sluggish in this weather (as do I) and with absolutely no reason to torture ourselves, I bagged riding.

I did, however, take Mulder to the lake for some proper swimming.


It started the way things normally seem to go for me: a whirlwind to the truck, a blissful drive to the lake, and managing to dislodge an ex attempting to fish from my favorite swimming spot. My delightful presence worked like a charm and Ben and I had the little shoreline to ourselves.

Game to walk out into the water but not sure what to do from there, Mulder shuffled around and watched Honey glide effortlessly past him. She didn’t understand why Mulder wasn’t excited (because water!!)


I coaxed him deeper and suddenly he was swimming! Mildly concerned, he made a quick circle and started back to shore. He reminded me of a puppy swimming for the first time – too upright and smacking at the water with his paws.  He tried a few times to march determinedly back to the shore, but we were able to persuade him back in. He dunked his head a few times and seemed confused that he couldn’t climb onto the lily pads, but otherwise it went great!


He’s not much of a water child, but hopefully with some more exposure he’ll become more comfortable.

063. Sorry, Mulder.

Give him something fluffy and he nests. He pulled this old comforter back into his crate.

Mulder loves his crate. It’s located in our living room, and when we are home the door is left open. He comes and goes as he pleases. Upon returning from some serious mental stimulation (such as socializing or a difficult hike) he’ll take part of his bedding in his mouth and knead with his front paws. Mulder’s also allowed on the couches and bed (provided someone gives him permission first). He is a big fan of creature comforts and will tunnel under our comforter or throw himself into the pillows.

So, when he started resisting going back to his crate last Friday morning, I assumed he was getting too used to snoozing on the furniture. I figured it was another one of his budding behaviors as he continued to adjust to our home.

When I would place him in there, the whining and barking would start. If I put him in and “left” (walked out of the house and stood there), there was silence. He didn’t display any other signs of separation anxiety, and I believe it was perhaps attention barking. We began ignoring him when he started, immediately praising and releasing him when he was quiet.

I should mention that afternoon before this resistance and barking started, Mulder dumped his water bowl. I found it upside down upon arriving home from work. It was dry and the crate pan surrounding it was too, so I refilled the bowl and didn’t think anything more. I assumed he drank it and then knocked it over during one his redecorating sessions (he enjoys burrowing into his bedding).

I let him out Sunday morning and bent down to toss a few toys in his crate. I put a hand on his bedding and noticed it was damp. I pulled it out, and damn if the entire bottom was wet. It didn’t smell like pee (so far no house accidents!), but it was damp enough to be uncomfortable. “Aw buddy, I’m sorry!” I told him, pulling his bedding out and making a beeline for the washing machine.

A cycle later and armed with fluffy bedding, I threw it back in his crate. Immediately he runs back in, circling a few times before flopping down with a sigh.  In fact, I haven’t been able to keep him out of it. The door is open right now, and instead of begging hanging with me while I eat lunch he’s curled up inside. The resistance and barking have vanished. I feel like a shit for not realizing it sooner. It was only 2 days, but ugh, would you want to sleep on a wet bed? Yeah, me neither.

“His” blanket

+1 to the smart pup for voicing his displeasure, and shame on me for not investigating further.

 

 

062.


Over the past two weeks I’ve had some incredible schooling sessions with Nakai. He feels light, responsive, and ready to work without the impatience that normally plagues us. Is it possible that at 26 years old he is finally settling down? I’m sure we’ll have a moment or two the next time we do a fast ride out with friends, but for now I’m enjoying his agreeableness.


In fact, with the exception of Maria I haven’t ridden with any ladies lately. It seems I’m on a completely different schedule than everyone else! While I miss catching up with them (I have a bad habit of sitting in the middle with everyone else, chatting away when we should be working), I find myself more motivated when riding alone.

On the flip side, I’ve logged over 56 miles for April so far and the majority has been hiking with Mulder. He has a much higher energy level than Honey, so the plan is to start doing longer hikes (6+ miles) in anticipation of completing Green Lane (12 miles) and Rickett’s Glen (7-12). I’d love to make both of them a regular jaunt, especially since he needs all the exposure he can get. Getting him fitted for a hiking pack, harness, and boots are on the list too.

 

 

057. Mulder’s Fear Aggression

When I adopted Mulder from the SPCA they mentioned he was adopted out once before and returned a month later for “nipping”. As the story goes, the person who adopted him kept trying to keep him off the couch. After the fourth time of him jumping up onto the furniture, she grabbed the scruff of his neck and he bit her. The shelter said he immediately went into quarantine and they hired a trainer to work with him. They hadn’t seen any aggressive behavior and felt confident that it was more of a play nip than anything else.

Mulder gets the zoomies on the bed. He loves to spin and spin, bouncing into the pillows and jumping to the edge of the bed where he play bows, barks, and tries to get you to play with him. He is mouthy (and a staffy), so I have experienced the hard grabs with his mouth to my arm when I want him down and he doesn’t want to stop playing. This is easily stopped with a firm “No!”. Part of his training is learning on/off. I cue him to jump on the bed and he zooms for a minute. Then, I cue him down while saying “Off!” and he gets a treat when he immediately pops down. This has transferred over to our couches. I say, “Mulder, off” while pointing from him to the floor and down he goes. He is learning he doesn’t get to play when he is mouthy and he responding well when we tell him “easy” and to “be gentle”.


With other dogs, he is mildly fearful and pushy. I don’t believe he was socialized much, and he doesn’t seem to understand social cues or behavior. He tries so hard and wants to be part of the play, but the majority of his actions have a defensiveness to them. He will come running over to play with Honey but will incessantly bark at her. Those barks are matched with fearful body language – he comes forward but twists his body away from her as he barks, arcing his chest, neck, and head away from her.

This picture gives you an idea of his interaction with other dogs. Honey’s the lab, and Grissom is one of my family’s GSDs. Grissom is a very confident, silly male, and I did the majority of his training when I still lived at home. He had no time for Mulder’s obnoxiousness and otherwise ignored him. Here, Mulder was very interested in what the pack was doing. He came running over, waited until he was a couple strides out, and started barking up (his head is thrown back and he literally barks up toward the sky). As soon as any of the dogs made movement he perceived as coming toward him, he would veer away to retreat, still barking.

I’ve always had that little tidbit from the shelter in the back of my mind but hadn’t seen any human aggression – until last night.

Everyone was in the kitchen, and I gave the boot to dogs, kitty, and humans. Honey left the kitchen immediately, but Mulder didn’t understand what was going on, Ben was yelling at him “GO! GO!” over and over, and Mulder skittered around both of us and toward the back, where the dog’s station is. I snaked my hand out quick to grab his collar, missed, and followed him into the corner (not thinking anything of it). When I went to grab his collar, he twisted and repeatedly tried to bite me. I got a hold of him, gave him a whack on his muzzle was sternly said “NO”, and tried walking him out of the kitchen. He reared up, continually growling and trying to bite my hand. I twisted my hand in his collar so it was underneath his muzzle, straightened up, and walked him to his crate and put him inside. His eyes were glazed over and his whole body screamed fear during this. He had 20 minutes to chill out in his crate and to think. I immediately regretted whacking his muzzle, as punishment doesn’t do anything but encourage fear aggression. Later that evening, he had a session working on our “Go” cue. Mulder thought it was great fun to trot into the living room after being cued to receive a treat.

Having no background on him, I have no idea if he was truly a stray from Conshohocken before arriving to the shelter. I believe he was someone’s dog once. He flinches badly and tries to run off a few yards if anyone picks up a stick and throws it. We’re working on this with the help of a chuck-it stick. My gut says he was beaten at least a few times in his life. I’m also not sure if he’s ever had a trusting relationship with his owner(s).

I feel he’s made good progress for only having been here for a month. I got my fist Mulder kisses a few days ago, and I think he’s a good egg despite whatever has happened in his past. It’s my job to make sure he feels safe, and through training I can give him to tools to manage his fear. We are practicing a lot of “come” and “go” to teach him that it is OK to leave a room or situation when I give the cue. Eventually, I should be able to cue him to go and use it to help diffuse any future potential scary situations.  Giving him an immediate release as soon as he tries is probably the most important thing I’m doing right now with him.

056.

Is blogger’s block a thing?

I’ve sat down to write this post a dozen times. The cursor blinks and the page remains empty. There is much (and nothing) happening.

I’ve continued to give Nakai a semi-vacation, enjoying light riding 2-3 times a week. I’ve jokingly called it “Endurance Detox” but in reality I am hoping this helps temper his competitive streak.  Nakai and Rose are fairly mismatched riding together; their preferred way of going and their stride lengths makes it tricky to pace. It was a great activity to help his adjustability and his trot has improved incredibly, but I won’t pretend that it they didn’t feed off each other. His desire to “win”  became my biggest issue with Nakai.


The weather’s been on-and-off crummy. The footing stinks with this last snowfall and subsequent melting. On our loop yesterday everything was snow, slop, and mud (in that order). It looked pretty until you squished through it.

A few other ladies are getting their feet wet with endurance riding this year, and with the start of the season fast approaching I’ve kept to ring schooling and trail riding alone or with Maria. Some nights I pointedly avoid the barn, choosing instead another night I know we’ll be alone. It sounds antisocial (the introvert in me approves), but I remember the whirlwind of preparing for a ride and want to stay out of the way.

It also makes me sad. I’m facing the reality of it being many years before I’ll be able to endurance ride again. Nakai’s officially retired, and he’ll stay with me until he’s ready to cross the bridge. Apps wear like iron, and he could be with me for another 5 years. Or 10, if I’m lucky. It’s bittersweet to have found something we both love only to have a stop a year later.  Having to fully acknowledge Nakai’s age (and everything that comes with it) has left me with a fluctuating mood and an irritability that I know stems from fear and the selfish wish for him to remain ageless.


On the home front, Mulder is settling in well despite Khoshekh being a complete and utter terrorist.

I’m having a bit of a difficult time connecting with him. I like him, I enjoy him, training is going well, but we haven’t clicked yet. It’s an odd feeling since I immediately connected with all of my animals, Khoshekh included. It’s only been a month, though, and the bright side is that I don’t have any expectations. Mulder’s job is to learn to be a dog and a well behaved member of society.