May 23, 2018

Softer and Sweeter: A Reactive Dog Grows Up


This blog began with the challenges of a reactive dog. Some day I'll tell you the story of when Ruby's reactivity first appeared and how I spent a lot of time blaming myself and the choices I made for it.

Today I'm here to tell you that Ruby is still - will always be - a reactive dog, but how mostly it isn't an issue anymore. It isn't an issue not because I am not constantly managing it and making decisions around Ruby's reactivity, but because it doesn't define us, and because if there is one thing you can count on, it's change. Ruby has softened and sweetened before my very eyes, daring me to be less afraid and to trust her with things that were previously out of our comfort zone.

Let me be clear: Ruby is still a maniac on the leash when she sees other dogs or bicycles, but if I time it right, I can significantly reduce the severity of her reaction by simply picking her up. Since I wrote this post, Ruby now looks to me whenever she is uncomfortable or in need of some reassurance to scoop her into my arms. I'm lucky she's small enough to do so, and I don't think it's a cheat or a sign that she's spoiled - it's simply what works for us.

Recently I took Ruby and Boca to visit our dear friend at her farm on the prairie, complete with three dogs, three cats, a herd of horses, donkeys, goats and llamas and a flock of ducks - a veritable menagerie of triggers, right? Not to mention that first we had to get there, in the car. I solved Ruby's car-barking by getting her a crate for road trips, but the unfortunate trade-off is that riding in the crate exacerbates her car sickness. I decided to compromise by leaving the mesh door unzipped so that she could come out of the crate on her own once we set off.

Ruby exited her crate by the time we reached the freeway, and soon there was a motorcycle in front of us - one of her triggers. I glanced back to confirm that yes, Ruby definitely saw the motorcycle. And didn't bark. We saw two more on our round trip - still no barking. Best of all - no puking! Boca was not thrilled to give up part of the seat and eventually curled up in the snug travel crate - an amusing sight. Four ginger dogs and one black dog romped around my friend's yard for hours and tried their luck with several disciplinarian cats. Ruby got her fill of barking at real-life horses and made a new terrier friend (a fellow Jack Russell mix with whom she exchanged hilariously spastic play-bows) all without incident. It was a glorious day for everyone. 

Another small win this month was that I was able to comb out the mats in Ruby's increasingly long Border Collie-esque pantaloon feathers (technical term). She used to be afraid of the comb, and suspicious of most grooming activities. Now she accepts nail clipping, paw massages and feather-untangling. She wags her pretty paintbrush tail more, in wide sideways sweeps. She lays upside down and makes adorable blissful grunts and implores me to scratch her armpits. These changes are evidence of the growing security she feels, and it makes my heart soar to see her breathe a little deeper, settling into her own skin and the life and routines she can feel safe within.

One of my goals for Ruby and I this summer is to take her on a solo backpacking trip. This will come with its own challenges - like swiftly scooping her up if I need to with a 30 pound pack on my back- but I believe the memories and experience it will entail outweigh the hurdles. Last night my boyfriend and I did a test-pitch of my new tent - a bright yellow, crinkly, novel object - and much to my delight and surprise, as soon as the door was unzipped, my (not so) timid little red-and-white dog climbed right in! Ruby is ready for new adventures, and a constant reminder that we are always evolving, that curiosity can overcome fear, and that who we are is never limited by who we were.

March 14, 2018

Imperfectly Perfect


One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. 
Perfection simply doesn't exist...without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.
~
Stephen Hawking

March 12, 2018

Potcake Mystery Mix: Genetic Testing with Royal Canin


Boca is, officially, a Royal Bahamian Potcake - a mixed-breed dog native to the islands of the Caribbean - but what breed mixture actually makes up a Potcake is anyone's guess. Potcakes can vary widely in appearance, from longer-haired shepherd-types to short-haired, houndish dogs. One fascinating aspect of street dogs is that certain characteristics are apparent all over the world. Boca looks very much like some pictures of street dogs in India that I've seen, and she is smaller than the typical Bahamian Potcake. A recent study attempted to make sense of the Potcake puzzle, and determined that the gene pool of island dogs included a multitude of breeds both ancient and modern. (Some of the dogs used in this study came from the same shelter as Boca!)


When we were approached by Royal Canin to see if we wanted to review their new Genetic Health Analysis DNA testing kit, we excitedly seized the opportunity. The GHA testing kit provides breed results from 250 possible breeds as well as a detailed health snapshot which identifies over 130 genetic mutations.  I have used DNA tests in the past for Ruby and a previous dog, Lasya, and find them to be not only fun, but advantageous in understanding behavior, energy and management needs.


I'm usually fairly adept at correctly guessing the components of mixed breed dogs and love to play along any time I see a "Guess the Breed" game, but Boca has always had me stumped. She looks like...an adorable medium-sized dog! We've been asked by multiple people if she is a Basenji, and based on size, coloration, and the wrinkles she sometimes has on her forehead, as well as the graceful arch of her neck, if I had to pick one breed she most resembles, it would have to be a Basenji.


Boca came to Colorado as a 4-5 year old dog who had lived in a shelter in The Bahamas for approximately one year. I therefore have very limited information about her previous health history. Longtime readers may recall Boca's 'Ocular Ordeal,' which perplexed several top specialists in our area, so any insight into other potential risks that we can manage ahead of time will be incredibly valuable, not to mention the fun of learning Boca's breed make-up!


The process of having Boca tested was very easy - especially since she seems to enjoy trips to the vet! We had a pleasant drive to the our awesome vet's office, she waited patiently for her appointment, happily posed with our fabulous vet tech Heather, placed herself on the scale to be weighed (exactly 33 pounds if anyone is asking), and willingly followed the staff to an exam room where they swiftly drew a blood sample. This blood sample was packaged and shipped to the Royal Canin lab, and soon after we were notified that it is being processed!



I can hardly stand the suspense and bet there will be some surprises in Boca's unique island ancestry. We'd love to invite our readers to play along - what breeds do you think Boca could be comprised of? Comment with your guesses and we will be back to share the results in a few weeks!


If you are interested in testing your own dog, ask your veterinarian about the Royal Canin Genetic Health Analysis.


This post is sponsored by Royal Canin. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Royal Canin's Genetic Health Analysis test, but Rubicon Days only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. Royal Canin is not responsible for the content of this article.