Sunday, October 4, 2009

Autumn Color

The color is really picking up in Michigan though many of the trees are still green. On this morning's walk with Sylke we saw some dazzling colors. (pics below)

Sylke was a stinker on her walk today. When we saw deer her instinct was "Let's go after them!" and she was all set to barge through the thick underbrush. We had a wrestle about that.

The we had an argument about why we really do not need to check out mashed raccoon at the side of the road. She thought it was a delightful idea - I strongly disagreed.

On the way back we saw a really large doe and her fawn and when they saw us they took off running - she was hot to go after them as well. We walked along the edge of the woods they ran in to on our way home and her head was up, nose working furiously - and then I realized - they were upwind from us and she was scenting them.

I also learned - not a good idea to head out on a 3 mile walk - after 2 cups of coffee - the last few blocks home were a swift sprint!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

In this picture, Sylke had picked up an obviously titillating scent down in a deep, brushy ditch. She really wanted to go down there and check it out - and I really did not want to. She stood there savoring whatever scent it was for quite some time.

A Sunday Morning Adventure

We had another enjoyable hike Sunday morning. We walked for over 2 miles. I was wise this time and took Sylke on a 12 foot leash so she could wander down into the ditches along the roadway and savor all the scents. She is definitely a dog that needs the extra stimulus of walking and scenting to stimulate her brain. While Trinka and Ava are happy playing fetch for hours on end and enjoy walks - Sylke is not one to enjoy hanging out in the yard. In our yard she just settles herself on the hill in the backyard and lies ever vigilant, guarding her domain.

When we see deer along our walks she never strains at the leash or barks - she stands and silently studies them, never startling them. And for a dog that just a few short years ago was given the grime diagnosis of never walking again - she manages walking for miles with no residual difficulty.

Sylke is a light in my life, a soul mate if you will, a true friend I hope to have with me for years to come.

In today's picture she had alerted to a flock of ducks that had just flown out of a pond on our morning walk. Just see how fit and beautiful my girl is!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Morning Walk/Adventure

This morning Sylke and I walked for about 2 hours. It was a glorious morning - bright sunshine and cool. As we walked down Waldo Road, we saw about 15 deer cross the road about 1/2 mile ahead of us. When we got to the spot where they crossed Sylke got busy tracking their scent. She sniffed along the ditch and when we came to the spot where they crossed she was ecstatic. She really wanted to go into the woods where they went but it is posted property so we could not.

On the way home we came upon a doe and her twin fawns grazing. We came within 20 feet of them. Sylke was quiet as a mouse, standing and watching them with me. I managed to take several pictures before the doe alarmed, blowing through her nose which sounded like a steam vent releasing a gust of steam - so loud it made both Sylke and I jump. Her fawns bounded into the woods and she followed. However she stopped at the edge of the woods and watched us, repeatedly stomping her foot in alarm.

It was a lovely walk - two hours of sniffing, walking and enjoying the last Sunday of summer.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Beautiful Walk

On Sundays, Sylke and I have our special time when we got for a really big walk - during the week her morning and p.m. walks consist of about 30 minutes each. But on early Sunday morning we go for our big walk - about 1 1/2 hours.

This morning we strolled down Waldo Road, a street lined with wooded areas and meadows. Sylke LOVES these walks. She is allowed to walk in the wide, waterless ditches and sniff. She tracks every ground mole trail, carefully inspecting every mole hill till she finds one possibly worth investigating. She has learned to poke her paw into the mound, if the scent is fresh I will let her dig a bit. There is a cacophony of odors in the ditches, along the thickets and in the tall grasses for her to savor. It is so beautiful at that time of day with the sun still rising. Today, due to higher humidity, there was a light mist hanging over the woods. I could hear blue jays screeching, saw many birds - gold finches, cardinals, geese flying south, a lone hawk enjoying an updraft. The woods emitted a wonderful woodsy, piney smell with a hint of that fragrance that comes with autumn.

As we walked past the woods, in a little opening I saw a deer. Sylke didn't see it, but she sensed it as her ears were pricked and alert and her nose worked frantically. The doe stood and looked at us - all three of us stood there, contemplating each other. Finally the doe decided it best to depart, stomped her front hoof and with a rather lazy bound, flashed her fluffy white flag of a tail and leaped into the woods.

On the way back we saw 5 more deer, casually strolling single file through tall grasses, nibbling as they walked. When they saw us they were not alarmed, but glided silently like brown ghosts into the thicket and out of sight. Little did they know, the morning sun's rays back lit their hiding spot and I could clearly see their silhouettes in the woods.

While we were walking we both heard what sounded like someone or something coming through the woods as we could hear leaves rustling and snapping. We stopped and Sylke, always the guard dog, searched the area around us , head high, ears pricked and nose working, searching for the interloper. Then we heard it again and amusingly, it was big fat acorns falling through the leaves of a huge oak, whacking twigs and leaves on their way down. Thankfully we were not under the tree because as we stood there, a fat acorn fell, hitting the pavement and bouncing a good 4 feet into the air. That would have stung had that bonked us on our noggins!

Sylke so loves these walks. Since she has recovered from her back injury and paralysis - I think she would walk forever. This morning we calked about 3 miles. She always senses when we are turning towards home, her pace slows and she fairly drags her feet - she does not want to go home yet.

As we were coming up a side street towards home we approached a house where some folks were setting up a yard sale. Lying on their lawn was an enormous dog, appearing to be part Great Dane and perhaps part devil because when he saw us he charged into the street with every intention of confronting Sylke. Now Sylke, being the good protector, was ready for confrontation, but I pulled her up close to my side and we stopped. The enormous menace stopped directly in front of me, staring Sylke down. His body language was definitely an aggressive stance and he emitted a deep rumble deep within his chest. His mistress, a young woman who obviously had little clue of the potential danger or how to handle it came out and said to her dog in a light sweet baby voice, "Now Bandit, why are you acting angry towards that doggie?" She never reached to restrain her behemoth devil dog. Sylke never wavered nor did I and I said in my deepest, growly voice, quite loudly, "HEY GIT!!!" and stepped into the huge dog's space and he back stepped enough for us to continue on our way. I was so proud of my girl because instead of turning to face the dog as we went on way, I simply told her 'Leave it" and she continued on beside me. I said nothing to the woman, I will leave that to Animal Control when I contact them tomorrow about a potentially aggressive dog being loose and approaching me as I walked with my girl.

I really enjoy these walks with my girl. The time spent together refreshes our spirits and our deep bond.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Almost Three Years Later

It will be three years later this month since Sylke hurt her back. She continues to do very well. She has developed what I and the vet believe is a paresthesia in her tail - the tingling and 'itchy' feeling that is sometimes experienced with an iffy disk. She has a raw spot on her tail from trying to relieve the problem. Presently she is on steroids - but this is only a temporary stop gap measure. The other alternative the vet suggested is amputation of the tail - this may or may not resolve the problem - as there is always the issue of phantom pain/pareshesia associated with amputation. So we shall see. We are doing our walks several times a day. She must walk to maintain strength in her hind quarters and just taking her out in the yard doesn't work - she prefers to lie down and keep watch over her property when in the yard. She doesn't play like the other dogs - she never had interest in retrieving or similar games. But she loves her walks. Being the intelligent dog that she is, the walks also stimulate her other senses and makes her a happier dog. She continues to be probably my best friend ever- while the other dogs are my friends and superb companions - there is an exceptional bond between me and this gracefully aging pound hound.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

For the Love of Sylke

Since I have already blogged about Sylke's back problem and subsequent recovery, I thought I should now put down how this marvelous dog first came in to my life. So here it begins......

I met Sylke almost 5 years ago. And I'm so glad I did meet this wonderful girl.

Five years ago, I saw a dog listed in the local paper that was at our local shelter. It was a beautiful black Lab mix - a big boy. After much debate, I decided to go see him and hopefully rescue him and bring him home. But when I got to the pound, he was being walked out of the shelter by his new owner. Disappointed, I decided to just look at the other dogs since I was already there.

There were lots of dogs, pretty dogs, many picked up as strays. And in the very back in a run with a little German Shepherd puppy was this very homely black Lab mix who looked like she had recently had pups. The fellow at the shelter said she had been picked up as a stray and they had put the puppy with her as she still had milk and they thought the pup would make her feel more comfortable. They estimated her age to be about 4 years old. This poor gal was nothing but skin and bones and looked like a giraffe because she was so thin, her neck looked too long for her body. She had white tips on her toes and a little cute white 'bow tie' on her chest as if she were dressed up! I petted her and she was a happy girl but I left the shelter alone.

But all that night, the image of that skinny, pathetic looking dog kept popping into my head. I thought, out of all the nice looking dogs in that shelter, that poor black dog was going to be the last dog adopted and was most likely destined to be put down.

So the next day on my lunch hour I headed back to the shelter to give the black dog another look. The shelter folks let me put her on a leash and take her outside for a walk. She literally pranced with happiness to be outside in the cold sunny winter air. She has a delightful girl and that was all it took. I knew this pathetic piece of canine was going home with me. I had to wait for three days to get her as the shelter veterinarian had to come give her a rabies vaccination and I had to arrange for her spay surgery and provide proof of a prepaid surgery. But the shelter man told me I could come visit her anytime I wanted. So for the next couple days I made the trip across town with treats to visit my new girl, walk her and get to know her. And on the third day, when everything was settled I left work early to go pick up my new girl. She fairly pranced to the car, hopped into the front passenger seat and plopped down as if to say "Let's get going!"

Bringing her home could be dicey as I had other dogs at home, a 14 year old ailing black Lab/Beagle mix named Peggy and a young bouncy black Lab named Ava. I knew it was crucial to introduce them gently to avoid conflicts and disagreements. So I brought the new girl home and tied her to a tree outside while I intended to go get the other dogs one at a time to do introductions. But when I went back out for Ava to meet her new sister - the black dog was gone - so thin she had slipped her collar - and she was GONE!!!

I panicked!! This was a dog that knew no name with me as her owner. She did not know the area or my house as her home. I called and called and there was no sign of her. I got in my car and drove round and round the neighborhood looking for her, for over 30 minutes. I was so afraid she would get on to the major road near my house and get struck by a car or, worse yet, be picked up by the pound again. I came home in tears, feeling a total failure and horribly sad. As I neared my house I saw the most amazing thing. There standing in the front yard was the black dog - waiting patiently. And when I got out of the car she ran right to me as if to say "Hey!! Why did you take off without me? I was just checking out my new neighborhood" We then proceeded with introductions with the other dogs, which went amazingly well and went into the house all. Her return to the her new home was just a glimmer of the intelligence that this scrawny canine possessed and a mere incling of the bond that would develop between she and I.

Once inside the black dog proceeded to run in my bedroom and jump up on my bed with the other dogs and flop down as if she had lived here for years. She wagged her tail and rolled around and was totally at ease.

The next day I went to work, leaving the new dog in a crate for her protection, and the safety of my other dogs and cats. I wanted to be sure everyone would get along well before I left her out with the other animals in my absence. And I wasn't sure of her 'manners' in the house though the night before she had asked to go outside when she needed to potty.

Imagine my dismay when I came home on my lunch hour and found she had literally worried her muzzle raw in attempts to get out of the wire crate and had actually bent the door back in her efforts. For fear she would severely injure herself trying to get out of the crate, I decided to discard the crate and shut her in my bedroom. From then on everything went well and soon she was out in the 'general population' every day while I was away with no problem.

All being said, her transition into her new home went smoothly, but that did not mean she did not have some issues. For one she had a major dominance issue - and would attempt to bully me and the other dogs when she wanted something. Also she was seriously food aggressive - the first time I petted her when she was eating she tried to bite me. I suppose being starved and having to scavenge for food had led her to guard resources. So, to establish myself as her master and break her of thinking she was mine, we began training. She already knew how to sit, so when it came to mealtime - she had to sit in front of me and wait. She had to look at me upon command and she learned to take each bite directly from my hand, at my command. If she demonstrated any aggressive behavior her dinner 'went away'. In short order she learned that I was head of the pack and would eat happily from her bowl with her sisters with no further disagreement.

The next thing I had to tackle was a name. Being of German extraction myself and since my other Lab had a German name, Ava I decided to select a German name for my new girl. I went online and searched names and after much debate found a name that suited her proud demeanor. That name was Sylke - pronounced Zil-ka. She learned her new name quickly. She went through her spay surgery with ease shortly after I got her and we settled into a routine.

Sylke loved to run around outside but her recall was deplorable. If I let her off leash she was gone, flying away in leaps and bounds like a deer carrying her tail curved high over her back. She always returned but gave me worry none the less. So I fixed a 100 foot lead that she could run around on. Her rope was never far from me and if she got too close to the property line I could easily put my foot on the lead and correct her straying. This allowed her to run with the other dogs who were trained to their yard and play without hindrance. This is how I trained my other dogs to stay within the boundaries of our property. And being the highly intelligent dog, caught on very quickly. She and Ava would have rousing games of tug of war with toys out in the yard and roll in the snow and wear themselves out with good doggie games. But I noticed something about Sylke and that was that she was always on guard. When we were outside Sylke would patrol the perimeter of our yard - tail and head held high, sniffing and watching, keeping an eye on her yard, her sisters and me. I would learn later her value as a guard dog; living alone it gave me quite a bit of comfort to know she was apparently a good watch dog.

Spring came and with it an opportunity for me to foster another Lab mix until he could find a good home. He was a huge black Lab/Boxer cross named Rocky who was pulled from a pound on the day he was to be euthanized. He was about 65 pounds of pure bouncy, nine month old puppy muscle and about as thick headed as they come which explains why he probably was dropped off at the pound. As with many puppies, he had outgrown his puppy cuteness, his owners had not taken the time to train Rocky and he was a strong, unruly mess. When I brought him home, I left him outside and brought the girls out one at time to meet him. When it came Sylke's turn, he made a bouncing leap at her and she chomped him soundly on the nose. From then on, until Rocky left for his new forever home, whenever he became too rambuncious, Sylke would discipline him, grabbing his scruff and putting him down on the ground till he simmered down. She never hurt him, but she helped immensely in teaching him proper canine manners. It was interesting to see as Rocky was bigger and stronger than Sylke, even though she had gained considerable weight since her arrival, but he bowed readily to her will.

Obviously at some point in Sylke's life, someone had worked with her. She walked on a leash like a champ, strolling next to me on our long walks every day. She could sit and 'shake' her paw. She was incredibly intelligent - more so than any of my other dogs. And it came apparent to me that she felt she had picked me as her owner. But as good as she was, there was still an aloofness about her. She didn't like to cuddle and never, ever gave me a loving lick on my hand or face as my other dogs did.

One evening I wasn't feeling well and was relaxing in bed, the dogs piled around me as they always did. Suddenly Sylke got up, slid up beside me and pushed her head under my arm. And we had an amazing cuddle session - it was if she knew I did not feel well and she was comforting me. Another time, shortly after that, I was in the kitchen getting them a treat and she bounced up to me and licked my hand. I never knew how touching a lick on the hand could be and I gave her huge hugs for that simple act of affection. It brought tears to my eyes.