October 29, 2014

Happy Halloween from the Ginger Sisters!


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October 24, 2014

Five of My Favorite Posts

It's hard to believe that Rubicon Days is a year old already. I had no idea the connections, friendships and opportunities this blog would lead to, or all that I would learn about myself and my dogs. A year ago, I certainly would not have expected that I would have two dogs again! I thought as a way to reflect on these first twelve months of dog-blogging, I would share five of my favorite posts so far: 

  • The Dog You Need - This post about a walk off the beaten path is an important one to me because it marked a time of making peace with the fact that I have a reactive dog, and seeking out a way to navigate the world that she was comfortable with. We've returned to that place several times since, and it's pinned on my GPS as "Hidden Gem." 

  • Here and Now: Falling In Love with Imperfection - Not surprisingly, another post about accepting Ruby for who she is, and one that details many of her wonderful qualities and the sweetness of our daily routines. 

  • My Five Favorite Dog Books - Reading is such an important part of my life, and I love this post highlighting the dog books that have affected me the most over the years.

  • Forever Is Composed of Nows - A wordless post, but one that captures so perfectly the different facets of life with Ruby in just three pictures. 

  • Loving What Isn't Yours: The Art of Fostering - This one is almost funny in hindsight, but I think it touches on the delicacy of balance between loving and falling in love. Boca belonged with us - I think everyone but me knew that from the start. I have fostered "successfully" before and hope to do so again someday. There is such a great need for foster homes in rescue, and I continue to encourage people to open their hearts to the idea.

October 22, 2014

WW 10.22.14: A Year In Pictures

Since my first blogiversary happens to fall on Wordless Wednesday, I thought I would share some of my favorite pictures from the blog. On Friday I'll be sharing five of my favorite posts. If you love seeing pictures of the Ginger Sisters, please follow us on Instagram!



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October 20, 2014

Animals Are an Introvert's Superpower

As long as I'm leading with my dog, you'd never guess that I'm a shy, quiet person.

I had a really wonderful weekend filled with dogs, horses and friends old and new. As an introvert, sometimes I find too many social engagements draining, but where animals are involved I can be downright outgoing. As I babble non-stop about my dogs or my horse, one might never know that I am often nervous around new people or that I take a long time to let my guard down. It's one reason I gravitate toward writing, where I can express myself much more effectively and take the time to say what I mean. I can feel awkward or out of place in many settings, and sometimes have to talk myself into parties or events. I'll be the one in the corner, talking to the dog...

As much as I enjoy a quiet day at the barn with my horse, one of the perks of boarding is forming a circle of barn friends. These are the people that will keep an extra eye on your horse when you're out of town, lend you their fly spray if you've run out and most importantly, join you out on the trail or in the arena. Riding is not exactly the safest sport, and it's good to have company. I've been at my new barn for about two months now, but aside from the barn manager I haven't gotten to know anyone else so I was happy to share the arena with another rider on Saturday. She was working a young horse and I was just soaking up the gorgeous day on Coro's back. We were both doing our own thing, but we finished up at the same time and cooled our horses out together, making leisurely laps as we mutually praised our horses, patted their necks, and got acquainted by way of our equine histories. Despite riding different styles and disciplines, we found more in common than not, and I left the barn feeling so thankful for horses and the people that love them.

I didn't think I would ever be the type of person to start a meetup group, but when I discovered how many island dogs have found their way to Colorado, that's exactly what I did. Yesterday marked the very first Colorado Potcake Meetup at Elk Meadow Dog Park in Evergreen. Boca and I met two of her fellow potcakes from the Humane Society of Grand Bahamas and their nice people. We let the dogs romp in the fenced area before and after our loop hike on the off-leash trail system (I kept Boca on-leash) and shared our adoption stories and other canine-centric conversation. I noticed that there were no uncomfortable silences among a group of strangers, as we laughed and exclaimed over our dogs' antics and discussed their various quirks as well as our different rescue experiences. The weather could not have been more perfect, and the dogs seemed to enjoy each other's company. Boca was calm and polite with every dog she met and came trotting joyfully back to me whenever I'd call for her in the fenced area. I think that it's sometimes difficult for adults (especially introverts) to meet people outside of the workplace, and these wonderful dogs from the Bahamas not only made each of our separate lives better, but offered the opportunity for new friendships.

Growing up as an only child surrounded by pets and farm animals (which were also pets), I have always been most comfortable in the nonverbal space inhabited by the furred, finned and feathered, but I find that animals can also provide us with connection and confidence when serving as conduits between our own kind. No matter our differences, it seems that people from all walks of life can find common ground when sharing the path with animals. They lift us up when we're feeling small and give us a voice when we're feeling mute. This weekend I was reminded how powerful they can be, just by being themselves.

October 14, 2014

Be the Change for Animals: Save the Potcakes!

potcake bahama dog

"What's a potcake?" I've been asked many times since adopting Boca (okay, foster failing). According to Wikipedia:
The potcake dog is a mixed-breed dog type from the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas. Its name comes from the congealed rice and pea mixture that local residents traditionally fed dogs. Although appearance varies, potcake dogs generally have smooth coats, cocked ears, and long faces.
According to me, a potcake is a sweet, loyal and gentle companion that is eternally grateful for being rescued from starvation, disease and danger on the streets, and welcomed into a home. Boca's temperament is wonderfully mellow and affectionate, and according to most of the people that I've connected with on a Facebook group I founded, Potcake Passion, this is not unusual. Potcakes are reportedly easy to get along with, sociable and happy. This article from Victoria Stilwell's blog explains how village dogs in Central America can set an example for the modern domesticated dog, and I think there is definitely something to it.

Some people criticize the importation of dogs from other countries into the U.S., and ask why we aren't rescuing local dogs instead. For me, compassion has no geography. The rescue group that sponsored Boca's trip to Colorado is the same group I adopted Ruby from. Colorado Animal Welfare League runs a mobile spay-neuter operation that travels to rural areas of the state as well as bringing in dogs in need from other states and The Bahamas. They work directly with The Humane Society of Grand Bahamas, where Boca lived for about a year after being a stray in Freeport. Below is my interview with shelter director, Tip Burrows:

On a recent visit to Colorado, reconnecting with former shelter dog Polly
(photo credit Tip Burrows)
How did you first get involved in animal rescue in The Bahamas?
By rescuing my first potcake as a tiny bush puppy in 1993!  I started volunteering on a regular basis in 1999 with the HSGB which led to a full time job in 2003.  
Can you describe the particular plight of the potcakes in The Bahamas?
Potcakes are still viewed as nuisances and pests by too many Bahamians.  While education initiatives are under way, and slowly beginning to have an impact, there is still a high level of neglect and disdain for potcakes. 
Why is it important for the dogs to be transported off of the islands for adoption?  
There are not enough suitable homes for potcakes on most Bahamian islands.  Suitable being a secure fenced yard and shade and shelter in the yard​ ​and a minimum of care and attention. HSGB's local adoption rate is between 7 and 10% of our annual intake of over 1400 dogs and puppies.   
What do you remember about Boca's (aka Lydia's) rescue and her time at HSGB?  
Boca was seemingly living on the streets and had been brought to our ​attention by a concerned resident as she was very skinny.  We were able to catch her and quickly realized she had recently had puppies.  We searched and searched for her babies and finally Boca herself led us to them.  She had found an extremely secure place for them in a wooded area, in a hollowed out indentation  beneath a tree where she could get to them but the pups couldn't get out.  
Boca was a most attentive mama dog and was also very accepting of us handling her and her puppies.  She obviously had been someone's pet at one time. Sadly, her six puppies did not survive despite Boca's and our best efforts.  Boca was an easy dog to keep - she got along well with all other dogs and was very friendly to staff and visitors.  
How does the recent regulation of international importation of dogs affect potcake rescue and adoption? 
​It will make it much harder in that we will now be required to obtain import permits which could take several weeks, and the vaccination requirements are much more rigorous including vaccinating for some things we never see such as corona virus and leptospirosis.  It also will mean we cannot send litters of puppies to rescue until they are six months old.  It will be a real hardship to keep puppies that long (space and fund-wise), not to mention that fewer rescues will take older puppies.  Private adoptions will be exempt, but our Operation Puppylift wherein we send sometimes dozens of dogs and puppies to various rescues, will be greatly affected, as it will be much harder and more costly and complicated to comply with these regulations.  ​
What can one person do to help the potcakes? 
​Adopt.  Foster.  Donate.  Volunteer.  Share stories and pleas on social media.  There are so many ways even one person can make a tangible difference!  ​

I will close with this video portraying one of the HSGB's large "puppylift" operations getting potcakes off of the island to rescues and adoptive homes in the States. Having picked Boca up from the airport this May and been kept in the loop about all of the stages of her journey, I know what a well-coordinated labor of love this is, and I thank Tip from HSGB and Lisa from CAWL for bringing her into my life. I will never forget Boca's scared little shape huddled in her airline crate, and the immediate trust she put in me. I don't pretend there were not countless dogs right here in my backyard that needed homes, but Boca needed us, and we needed her. 

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October 13, 2014

I Love My Border Jack...And I Would Never Recommend One

Border Jack

Ruby is not a purebred Border Jack, if you can even call a hybrid creation 'purebred.' Her DNA test results indicate that her parents were most likely a Jack Russell terrier mix and a Border Collie mix. Or, perhaps one parent was a 50/50 Border Jack and the other was a mutt...whatever the case, and however much skepticism and humor there are surrounding dog DNA tests, I don't have one shred of doubt that Ruby's results are accurate. "That explains it," I thought when I opened the eagerly-anticipated email from Wisdom Panel. She embodies so many of the physical and character traits of both main breeds as well as looking similar to Border Jacks I've seen. I belong to a Border Jack group on Facebook and follow every Border Jack I come across on Instagram. I delight in looking up pictures of them (mainly on flyball team pages) as well as reading everything I can about the terrier and herding group members. Ruby is scarily smart, relentlessly energetic, endlessly determined and more than a little bit crazy. I love her with a ferocity I didn't know was possible and yet I would never recommend a Border Jack to anyone. 

Prior to adopting Ruby, I distinctly recall discouraging more than one person that casually mentioned they might like a Jack Russell terrier. Jack Russells are not casually anything.  According to her book Perfect Puppy in 7 Days, after seeing the work Dr. Sophia Yin put in to her impeccably trained dog, Jonesy, many of her colleagues determined they would never get a Jack Russell terrier. The feisty fox-hunting dogs are well-known for being nippers of ankles, chasers of cats and instigators of dog fights. The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America has a lengthy list of caveats called The Bad Dog Talk on their website. They are definitely not for the faint of heart, and I never would have considered one for my moderately-active suburban town-home life. 

Nor would I have considered a Border Collie. Known as the workaholics of the dog world and widely accepted as the most intelligent breed, there is a reason they are a favorite of professional dog trainers. You know...the people who love to train dogs in every waking moment. It's hard to ignore the disproportionate number of Border Collies guardians who commiserate in many of the reactive dog groups I belong to. They were bred to herd sheep, anticipating the flock's movement with an unparalleled intensity - nothing gets past them and they aren't the sort of dog content to lay about the house. They very often end up in rescue, and one Border Collie rescue group implores potential adopters to carefully consider the breed.

Combine the two and you have, as one critic of the cross calls them, "world's most effective ankle biter." Ruby's personality leans heavily toward the terrier side of her family tree, which is not surprising if Wisdom Panel's suggestions for her mixed heritage are true: three of five are other types of terrier. She would have been a nightmare for a family with children - before her bite inhibition improved I came away from games of tug with a bloodied finger on more than one occasion. She likes to goad me along at my heel like a collie with the extra encouragement of her terrier teeth if I'm not moving fast enough toward the morning walk. My blessedly bold senior cat is not a big fan. Ruby passionately loves to dig, she is hypersensitive to motion, and she is perpetually distracted by sounds, sights and smells outside. For all the challenges she presents, though, I still wouldn't trade her for an easier model. She constantly dares me to be a better dog person, and her intelligence is beyond measure. Trick-training is one of our favorite activities and she has learned an impressive number of cues already. Those amber-grey-green Border Collie eyes of hers have depths that can be disarming and there is nothing better than her sweet, finally-tired body snuggled up close after she's burrowed under the covers at bedtime.

Border Jacks, thankfully, are not among the popular crosses in the designer dog rage like the doodles, the puggles and the inexplicable cavachons. Their reputation as the ultimate flyball dog seems to so far reserve them for the dog sport enthusiast niche, and these are usually the sorts of people with full-time dedication to training that can handle a rocket-fueled canine. I hope for the sake of their safety and everyone's sanity, that Border Jacks remain a lesser-known hybrid and don't end up in pet stores and thereby shelters. Ruby's high-pitched barking has been heard far and wide, her thirst for rabbit blood has been witnessed by anyone residing near my townhouse common lawn and her maniacal spinning and lunging has caused alarm for quite a few cyclists and joggers. Vet techs and store owners nod with informed sympathy when they find out what she is. My Border Jack, bless her crazy little heart, is the very best anti-ambassador for the cross. 

Is there anything about your breed that isn't for everyone? 

October 8, 2014

WW 10.08.14 Sun Worship

cute dogs in the sun
Soaking up the sunshine...

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October 7, 2014

October Walks

We've been having the most beautiful weather here in Colorado - I wish it would stay like this forever! The mornings are chilly and we had our first frost recently, but by the afternoon the sky is brilliantly blue and the leaves crunch deliciously under our feet on the warm ground. The ginger sisters and I have been enjoying the most wonderful walks on these perfect autumn days. 

I am lucky to live next to a large vacant field and while yes, technically we are trespassing, the footpaths along the marsh and over the hill are a testament to the many rebel dog walkers and until the land is developed, I am going to continue taking advantage of this little semblance of wilderness nestled between my town house complex and a public transit station. 

Ruby especially seems to love bounding through the tall grass and getting her terrier on by scrabbling at the ground where it is soft. One day I spotted a little mousy creature scurrying through the field, so I know that's what she smells. Sometimes she gets so overcome by digging that she will bark and whine as she's showering Boca and I with flying dirt before sticking her whole snout in the hole and snuffling the earth. It's a joy to watch her being such a dog.

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October 1, 2014

WW 10.01.14: The Wisdom of Dr. Sophia Yin

sophia yin leadership borderjack

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