In one of last week's posts I mentioned an unexpected trip to the vet hospital, and being thankful for pet insurance. That trip and Ruby's illness that prompted it was scary, but I'm happy to report that she recovered without incident and I've taken some extra precautions since then. The night before we rushed off to our local emergency clinic at 7:30 p.m., Ruby had swallowed a small piece of a plush toy - the "skin" if you will, she spits out the innards - probably not bigger than a quarter, and not for the first time. I have fished many a similar piece out of her mouth and thought I was fairly vigilant in supervising her plushie disemboweling, but clearly not vigilant enough. I didn't think a lot of it that evening - as I said, it was not the first time and things had "come out okay" before; however, when she began throwing up repeatedly the next night, my first frightening thought was "obstruction" and I was not going to mess around. Although she'd been groaning at home, Ruby perked up substantially at the clinic and charmed all of the staff. It's a place I became far too familiar with during my elkhound Freya's illness, and it was tough to be back there, this time worrying that my new little girl could possibly require surgery. After a precursory exam, the vet took Ruby back for x-rays, and it was a huge relief when the radiology report came back with no major findings. They administered some anti-vomiting medication and some subcutaneous fluids, then sent us home. I was advised to keep her on a bland diet and watch for any other signs of illness, but they expected she would be just fine, which she was.
This incident prompted a revision of our toy policy and the discarding or re-homing of most of her plush toys. I kept only two that had not been damaged, and those along with tug toys are kept in her now seldom-used crate, re-purposed into "toy jail" and brought out only for closely supervised play sessions. I've phased out the rope tugs as they tend to unravel and shed so quickly, and switched to the Walk-e-Woo TugGRRR which is made locally here in Colorado and which is holding up superbly so far. While it does have fur in the middle, the main tugging part is nylon webbing, and Ruby goes absolutely nuts for it, which I'll talk about next. She has a selection of balls and durable rubber toys (our favorite by far still being the Hide-A-Squirrel Extreme) out at all times when I'm home, and nothing but an occasional stuffed Kong in the kitchen when I'm gone. I got her a new toy at Kriser's this weekend - a seemingly tough silicone newt - which lost a limb within minutes. The limb was recovered, the cute newt tossed. It astounds me that there are so many toys on the market that appear they would only be appropriate for a toothless dog. What toys and tugs have you found that stand up to jaws and claws?
As for tugging...it's become not only our go-to energy-burning game played several times a day, but an extremely useful training platform, and a motivation equal if not greater than high-value treats! I used "training within the game" to teach Ruby's "spin" to the right, and we're pretty close to nailing "twirl" to the left. I ask her to jump up on the sofa and back down with a sort of "schew"-sounding cue, and can't help but think this would translate perfectly to the flyball box if we ever pursued that sport. My training goal for this month, also in light of the toy-gulping incident, was to work on a reliable "drop it," and I'm delighted to say that is coming along really well with the tug. I've successfully recovered a few stolen socks and last night, a pilfered blackberry (safe for dogs but I wanted to test out the command on a food item). I ask for various commands in between tugging rounds, such as "relax," "roll over" and sequences of the aforementioned "spin" and "twirl," and I was thrilled when I was able to take the tug, ask for a "down," drop the tug on my feet in front of Ruby with a "leave it" command, and never lose her eye contact. I'm noticing her self-control improve immensely, and while she does still get carried away once in a while (which results in "Game Over" and the tug going back to toy jail) this is happening less and less. I'm anxious to try taking the tug out with us, on walks or to the park, and see if it can be a viable distraction/reward for her trigger managing. It's wonderful to have a play and training tool that she obviously enjoys so much.
I'd like to take a moment to welcome our new followers - I am ridiculously giddy whenever I see a new faces and comments as I think one of the most exciting aspects of blogging is meeting fellow pet lovers and sharing experiences and ideas. Since Ruby and I spend part of most weekends curled up on the sofa with a book, I've decided to combine my passion for reading and dogs and start including book reviews here - watch for the first one coming soon!