May 29, 2015

Wisdom Panel 3.0 Tour On Its Way to Vail, Colorado

This post is sponsored by Mars Veterinary Wisdom Panel 3.0. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about the new version of the Wisdom Panel DNA testing kit and the Wisdom Panel 3.0 Tour, but Rubicon Days only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. Mars Veterinary Wisdom Panel 3.0 is not responsible for the content of this article.

Ruby's Wisdom Panel DNA test results have helped me immensely in understanding the breeds that contributed to her personality and understanding her exercise and training needs. The more I learn about Jack Russell terriers and border collies, the more confident I am that Ruby's test results were accurate. She has so many of the physical, behavioral and temperamental characteristics of both breeds. Since it's a product I am both familiar with and believe in, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Wisdom Panel to promote their new test kit and their summer "Swabathon" Tour, in which dogs can be DNA tested on-site at several events around the country for a discounted price, including the GoPRO Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado. 

DNA testing is helpful for a variety of reasons, including size prediction, breed-specific health concerns and characteristics or just purely for fun. The Wisdom Panel 3.0 test adds one more extremely important element to their results, that of MDR1 mutation screening. The MDR1 mutation is found in some herding breeds, sighthounds and mixed breeds and can cause extreme sensitivity to some common drugs, including ivermectin. I learned about this mutation recently in a heartbreaking situation where a friend lost her collie due to accidental ingestion of horse deworming paste containing ivermectin. Since Ruby is part border collie, the MDR1 mutation screening is something I should strongly consider for her. 

Not only does Wisdom Panel 3.0 provide potentially lifesaving genetic information, but the expanded breed database can identify over 250 breeds, including all those recognized by the American Kennel Club. The testing is as easy as swabbing your dog's inner cheek and sending the swab back to the lab via regular mail. Results are available in 2-3 weeks and include a detailed profile with three generations of probably ancestry, predicted weight range and the MDR1 genetic mutation screening results.

This summer, Wisdom Panel 3.0 is on the road at several events around the country:

  • June 4th-7th: GoPRO Mountain Games in Vail, CO
  • August 1st: Amazing Pet Expo in Austin, TX
  • TBD October: Mars Pet Adoption Fair in Franklin, TN
  • Date TBD: Amazing Pet Expo Holiday in Los Angeles CA

At any of the above dog-friendly events, Wisdom Panel will be providing on-site DNA swab testing for $39.99 and take-home testing kits for $49.99. Kits can also be ordered directly from Wisdom Panel (MSRP $84.99). Boca is hoping to hitch a ride to the beautiful mountain town of Vail, Colorado, and find out what breeds might be present in her Bahamian ancestry! 

Please visit Wisdom Panel on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest or at one of the stops on their "Swabathon" Tour this summer. If you decide to DNA test your dog, I'd love to hear about the results! 

May 20, 2015

Spring Green

 It's been raining and raining here in Colorado, resulting in lots of tall, green grass.

We've been getting out between rainstorms to explore the fields near my house.

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May 15, 2015

Five Ways to Save Money on Dog Food

I love to feed The Ginger Sisters the best quality food I can afford and spoil them with yummy, healthy treats. I also love saving money when I can! The following are five ways I've found to keep the pet pantry stocked without breaking the bank:

May 13, 2015

How My Dogs Led the Way Through Grief

dogs cheryl strayed wild quote

There has been a great deal of loss in my life in the past five years, seeming to culminate after the big one - my mother's death in 2010 - with the deaths of a childhood friend, both of my old dogs and the letting go of my illustrious dream of a young dressage horse to bring up in 2013. I tend to have a delayed emotional reaction to things, which helps to explain why the end of 2013 into early 2014 were an especially dark time for me, and at which point my long-term relationship also disintegrated. Chance, fate, the universe - what have you - gave me two gifts around that same time. The first was Cheryl Strayed's book Wild, which I'd had on my shelf for years but was drawn to read as my fourth Mother's Day as a motherless daughter approached. While I was in no position to abandon my life in Denver and seek out identity and solitude in an existential wilderness expedition like the author, what the book gave me was permission to still not be okay, as Strayed hiked the Pacific Crest Trail four years after losing her mother to lung cancer. Our lives were different, but our mothers were radiant forces whose absence could not be quantified and which defined our unwillingly transformed selves. I clung to her words with such desperate gratitude, and the book and subsequent film remain deeply important to me.

The second gift was a red and white gremlin-eared dog with an endearing smile from a tropical island who had suffered hardship and loss of her own. I truly did intend to love her and let her go in order to continue fostering more dogs, but Boca's nurturing presence was an incredible comfort to me and from the beginning she seemed to know she was already home. In the way she intuited when I was having an especially difficult or lonely night and fit herself against me and pressed her chin to my heart, she offered a kind of mothering I had been missing. She was a perfect counterpoint to Ruby's intensity and whether hiking with both dogs or taking Boca on a solo walk, her cheerful untroubled personality was a balm to my anxieties. Boca was the sugar to Ruby's spice and the honey to my tea - she completed us in a way that made me feel sorry for who we were without her. The timing of her arrival into Colorado - into my life - was almost uncanny in its significance. I had no idea how much I would need her, how much I had been needing her.

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss my mother in ways vast and mundane. I wish she could have met Ruby and Boca and that we could have seen Wild together. It's incomprehensible sometimes that I still have to live the rest of my life without her. Surviving her loss prepared me in a way for the ones that inevitably follow and the ones that blindside in the midst of spring, but each one references the last until sometimes it can feel too much to bear. What keeps me asking, reaching, loving is the promise of two delighted faces every time I come home, two sweet warm bodies curled next to me every time I go to sleep. Every day, we walk and play and share and rescue each other. They've been witness to the discovery of strength I didn't know I had, wells of devotion to other living creatures I'd only ever skimmed the surface of before. The weight of loss is something I'll always carry, but with the journey flanked by two remarkable dogs who have taught me so much about love, acceptance, resilience and joy as well as forming my own small family that my mother would have been proud of, the weight is a little bit lighter.

May 8, 2015

Five Bad Things That Boca Does

You might not believe this, but the Potcake isn't entirely perfect. She does a few naughty things, but with a face like that, it's pretty easy to overlook them...

She barks at my dad. Even though my dad has been living with me almost as long as Boca has, she is still fairly wary of him. She solicits petting from him and he usually walks her on the evening dog walk, but he's not able to get her harness and leash on when I'm not home, and she barks at him at times we can identify, and others we can't. She considers herself a sort of sous chef in the kitchen, and barks when he is chopping things or bending to get something out of the oven. She barks when he is wearing a hat. She is offended by one particular tie-dye shirt that he has. She barks at him when Ruby barks at dogs or horses on TV. She's usually wagging her tail while doing this barking, and while I've tried all sorts of things and encouraged my dad to dole out the treats liberally, I honestly believe at this point that Boca just thinks it's fun. 

She chews on my bedding. Boca does this odd flea-biting thing with her front teeth to the edges of my sheets and blankets. It luckily doesn't cause damage for the most part, and I think it's a self-soothing behavior since she usually does it before falling asleep. I haven't had much success in curtailing it, other than gently taking the bedding out of her mouth and then praising her. 

She eats rabbit poop. There is an increasingly large rabbit colony overtaking my town house complex that causes undue strife to the guardian of a terrier with a high prey-drive. It's spring which means they just had another batch of babies. The babies are cute, but soon they will just be a new crop of troublesome rabbits. Boca is more interested in chasing squirrels, but she does think that rabbits are magical creatures that leave her trails of delicious spherical snacks down the sidewalk. We definitely need more work on the 'leave it' command. 

I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I couldn't come up with five things..Boca Face is a dream to walk on the leash, a lovely house-dog and snuggling companion. She is easygoing and a joy to be around. She's pretty close to perfect!

May 6, 2015

Creature Comforts

 It's hard for a former street dog to adjust to life in a home with furniture ...

...but with dogged determination, Boca proves it is possible. 

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May 4, 2015

A Positive Reinforcement Reading List

I am a reader. My mother was first a librarian and later an English teacher, and from an early age I recognized and appreciated the power of books. I turn to them for information and inspiration, for pure escapism or for learning about my latest obsession. After adopting Ruby and realizing that she was going to be a challenging dog, I knew that the training philosophy I connected with had a name. I also knew that I needed to learn a lot more about it - the majority of my formal training experience was with horses. The following are some of the books that I turned to as I got to know my brilliant, intense little terrier:

The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller -  This book is a wonderful resource for force-free training, providing an overview as well as practical advice for basic through advanced behaviors and trouble-shooting. It includes information on clicker training, treat suggestions and a glossary of training terms.

101 Dog Tricks: Step by Step Activities to Engage, Challenge, and Bond with Your Dog by Kyra Sundance - This book sparked my love of trick training with Ruby, something that has proven to be incredibly rewarding for both of us. It has so many cute ideas and step by step instructions, organized by difficulty and providing ways to build on simpler tricks. Note: Some of the instructions do involve physical manipulation, such as holding a dog's foot up or placing a piece of tape on their nose, which could be aversive for some dogs. Please remember to observe your dog for signs of stress whenever you are training.

For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend by Patricia B. McConnell - While not specifically a training book, I think anything that deepens the knowledge of our dogs' inner lives will help us to communicate with them. I recommend any of McConnell's books, but found this one especially beautiful.

Control Unleashed: Creating a Focused and Confident Dog by Leslie McDevitt This book is meant as a companion to a specific training program for agility dogs, and can be difficult to apply if you don't have other dogs/handlers available to work with; however, there are some great exercises and most of all, a way to shift your thinking to help the sensitive/reactive/fearful dog. The story of McDevitt's dog Snap at the end is worth the entire book. 

Plenty In Life is Free by Kathy Sdao - This book is so important to me, and although it is more esoteric than instructional, it is a beautiful exploration of our ethical duties to our dogs and the limitless potential of joy that exists in those relationships. It spoke to my heart and expressed things I've had difficulty articulating in my own rejection of aversive methods. I recommend this to everyone who has ever asked if there is a better way to communicate. 

This post is part of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop - join us on the first Monday of every month to promote positive pet training and share advice and experiences. The hop is open all week long! The next hop begins June 1st with the theme of training multiple pets.