Wednesday, April 25, 2012

You Know You Have a Retriever When...

...sitting down watching TV for an hour in the evening, you wind up with a haul like this at your feet!

Alfie lying stretched out on the rug in front of the TV in front of his collection:  4 pair of shoes, and 3 socks
Behold the King of Fetching!

This just seems to be something Alfie does when he's bored (guess he doesn't share our taste in movies)...and trying really hard to get your attention.  Last night I was all wrapped up in the show when I noticed his scruffy little face, depositing a shoe ever-so-delicately on my chair.  So I tell him thanks and give him an ear scratch, still engrossed in the show...then the next thing you know, he's disappeared again.  A few minutes later, he's baaaack...this time giving Tim the other shoe of the pair!  Then, he gives Charissa a sock...and on and on.  I do think that last night's 4 matched pairs of shoes, and a pair and a half of socks, is his current record! He ended up being funnier than our movie, I think!

Of course this is only a thinly-disguised variation on one of his favorite games, "I've-got-your-stuff-catch-me-if-you-can!"  (A game we strongly discourage, by the way.) Since we'd rather have him bring stuff to us than run away with it, we always act really excited about his "gifts"... and if you know Alfie at all you know he's a total attention sponge.

Although...note to self:  Make sure the closets are closed before you start the movie next time!

Friday, April 20, 2012

White Coat Syndrome?

Yesterday was Alfie's annual checkup.  He was due for a couple of booster shots as well as routine tests to make sure he didn't have parasites (he didn't, yay!) 

Alfie's always done fine at the vet.  He's well-behaved -- a little apprehensive (licking his nose more than usual, etc.), but nothing too severe.  But yesterday afternoon was different.  Since we live right on the edge of town, our vet is a country vet who sees all kinds of emergencies as well as handling more routine stuff.  Yesterday as we walked in, I realized they must be slammed with emergencies. They were very full, all the techs were busy, and it was much more chaotic than usual.  In addition to all kinds of crazy animal noise from the various exam rooms, there was even some kind of angry family squabble that you could hear going on (yikes!)  Alfie crouched down to half his normal height and pressed into me, panting and obviously anxious.  I've always heard that you should try not to be extra-reassuring to anxious dogs, as they'll feel their worry is justified.  So I tried to "act normal," but I couldn't help noticing Alfie just wasn't himself.  

Alfie lying on the green grass, a curious look on his face
 Well, I ask you:  do you like going to the doctor?!

Unfortunately, the busy office meant that our appointment was delayed, and Alfie's anxiety had time to "develop."  When we finally got into an exam room and the tech took his temperature, she looked at me with some alarm.  "Well, how long has he been sick?  Has he been eating okay?" she wanted to know, adding, "His temperature is three and a half degrees over normal!"  I assured her that he'd been fine, and his appetite certainly wasn't suffering...but tried to explain that Alfie seemed to be reacting to the stressful environment.  She agreed, but pointed out that in her experience that usually didn't raise their temperature more than a degree or so!  They finally asked me if I'd be willing to wait a while with him, and see if he improved...obviously, they didn't want to give him any shots if he really was sick!

I know Alfie, and I knew he wasn't sick, just stressed out!  I wasn't sure how long it would take him to recover, though.  But I decided to wait and see if he improved.  We went to the very end room, closed the door, and settled in.  Slowly, things quieted down out front.  I sure wished I'd brought my own book to read...with a sigh, I grabbed their stack of reading material.  By the time I'd gotten through Cat Fancy, Alfie was lying on the floor, his chin on my foot.  By the time I finished Dog Fancy, learning more than I ever wanted to know about everything from Otterhounds to Obesity, Alfie was lying on his side (head still on my foot...of course!)  As the clinic got quieter and quieter, I worked through a nasty assortment of graphic material on heartworms and hookworms.  Bleah!  At long last, our tech returned, and the verdict was...his temp had dropped three degrees!!  Even I was surprised.  They were able to finish his checkup and give him his shots.

Happily, everything else was routine.  The vet praised Alfie's manners, as well as his "beautiful ears, teeth, and coat"  (hooray!)  He was also happy with his weight and fitness.  So, all in all, a good checkup!  

Alfie's sitting up on his haunches, looking up into the camera and reaching both front paws in the air
                          Two paws up for a good report card!

It just seemed crazy to me, though, that Alfie could have such a marked physical reaction to his surroundings.  Has anyone else ever had this experience?  I'd be interested in your comments, if so!  I think next year I will try to schedule his appointment first thing in the morning, and see if the clinic is quieter.  I could also try taking him there when he doesn't have a checkup, giving him treats and positive reinforcement, to help desensitize him a bit.  Still, if it's another crazy day like yesterday, he might just have his fears confirmed!

In the meantime, all is back to normal.  Some of you will remember that last year in the spring, I started working with Alfie on trailing/tracking, with the possibility in mind of eventually working with him to find lost pets.  Several things have come up that have made the "lost pet" venture impractical...but, if anything, I've gotten more interested in tracking!  I've been doing some research into local classes that teach "formal," or AKC tracking, and am now exploring that option.  It turns out that, although labradoodles are considered "mixed breed" dogs by the AKC, they can still participate in competitive tracking as part of the Canine Partners program.  I think this would be a great goal for us to work for!  And, Alfie's always game for a new challenge.  Stay tuned!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Day at the Park

Easter weekend was the perfect time for the family to go to a new park...we've been to Doling park before, actually, but it's been closed for renovations since last summer.  We loved the beautiful new landscaping, tranquil pond, and scenic walkways.  We  enjoyed the flocks of ducks and geese.  Alfie didn't even attempt to chase them...though, if he'd been off leash, I'm sure it would've been a different story!  Loved this neat cave (below), and a plaque explaining the history of the site.

Alfie sitting at the mouth of a dark cave, overgrown with moss and ferns

As usual, Alfie attracted lots of attention.  In general -- whoever sees Alfie loves him, and he loves them right back.  A good arrangement.  It's interesting how Alfie interacts with people in public; he is good at scaling his enthusiasm up or down to fit the individual.  (At home, he's much more excitable!)  When we meet people who seem confident and dog-experienced, he's definitely a little bouncier, a little more excited.  With young children, he puts his head down to their level and controls himself, not wagging too hard (maybe he doesn't want to scare them away!)  With senior citizens, he will stand quite still and careful.  What a good boy!

People always are curious to know what kind of dog he is.  I heard a new one at the park this time:  a little boy pointed at Alfie and, looking up to his dad, asked, "Hey, what kind of dog is that?  A Doberman?"  
picture of Doberman on the left, all sleek and short-haired and shiny, with prick ears; picture of Alfie on the right; he does have the same basic build I guess, but his woolly coat and floppy ears hide it pretty well!

Hmm...maybe if he changed his fur?

Have a good week, everyone!