A blog about dog training and dog breeding…and other sundry matters

Posts tagged ‘German Shepherd’

When your best buddy gets sick….

Athena in happier timesIt’s no fun.  My blog has remained silent for perhaps two months.  Lots have happened during that time that killed all desire to train or write.  My beautiful girl, El Zima’s Celestial Harmony, aka Athena got very ill, and I nearly lost her.

It all began back towards the end of May.   Her tummy got distended.  She tested negative for tick fever and other illnesses; however, her vet found her liver enzymes high, and concluded that she had some kind of infection, a gall bladder infection, perhaps.

At the vet’s suggestion, I fed her a special diet for dogs with liver issues.  Science Diet used to have a ready-made prescription diet, but they no longer do business in Jamaica, so I had to cook.  Ye Gods!  That doG for grandmothers.  After over $8,000 in nutri-supplements in addition to her special diet and antibiotics, the liver healed.  Athena continued losing weight, however.

We replaced the liver diet with her regular dog food, but she would only pick at the food.

One night her sister and her were in the yard, and I called both for supper.  Her sister responded; Athena was nowhere to be seen.  I heard snorting in the backyard and saw that she was stuck in something.

I ran into the back yard and found her lying in a bush, choking.  I quickly pulled her collar, but as I was pulling it, I thought it odd that she couldn’t free herself.  She was gasping for breath, and when I pulled her free she ran some distance then collapsed on the lawn.

Her tongue was blue and I thought she might have an object lodged in her throat, but her throat was clear.

I lifted my precious dog’s unconscious body and placed in on my living room floor.  There was nothing I could do.  Her breathing was erratic, but she was unresponsive to any kind of stimuli.  She was unconscious.  It was 11:00pm and I called a vet whom I thought had emergency hours.  I left a message, but she never did call me back.  I was on my own with this critically sick animal, and I had no idea how she got into this condition.

There was nothing I could do but pray, literally.  I stayed up for the better part of the night with the dog with the Book of Common Prayer used in the Anglican church.  My mother sang hymns softly to the dog.

Four hours passed.  Athena’s breathing improved, but she remained unconscious.  I decided to go to bed because there really wasn’t anything more that I could do, and I would have a long drive ahead of me in the morning to get her to the vet.  I have a tendency to fall asleep at the wheel on long trips, so staying up all night not an option for me.

As I lay in the darkness of my bedroom, images of Athena as a playful puppy flooded my memory, and how she and her sister would run through the house into the backyard and back into the house.  I remembered how they both loved chasing each other around my round dinning table.  My thoughts went to the obedience trials we entered together, and how she learned the stand and 1 minute stay in less than a week.  I remembered how proud I was the day she made history in Jamaica by being the first White German Shepherd and the first clicker trained dog to win an obedience competition in Jamaica.  I remembered how it was almost impossible to house train her.

My heart broke that night, releasing a flood of tears.  I knew that I would have to have my baby girl euthanized in the morning.  I got up once more and stood weeping over the prostrate form of what was my friend on the ground.  I tried to tell her goodbye, but all I could do was repeat her name over and over, Athena, Athena, Athena….

I made my way back to bed once more, and shortly after I heard a commotion in the living room.  I rushed outside and saw Athena up and running around the living room, quite disoriented, trying to hide her face behind furniture.  Within a few minutes she gained some orientation, could recognize me, and wagged her tail at me.   A few hours later she drank a bit of water.

Next morning CBC tests at the vets showed an infection, although her temperature was normal.  She had swollen lymph nodes, but her spleen was okay.  Although the vet was unable to check for tick fever,  because the test wasn’t available at this clinic, she went ahead and treated her for it, but I had to keep and eye on her.  We increased her vitamin intake, and put her back on the liver diet.

Today Athena has made remarkable progress.  The antibiotics are done, and at her last check-up on Saturday gone, she got a clean bill of health.  Not only that, but she gained 5 lbs.  That’s a lot when two weeks before that this German Shepherd weighed less that 40lbs.

The bond we form with our dogs is a deep one, and one that isn’t easily explained by science.  The bond is especially strong when you’ve raised a dog since 9 weeks, trained it, competed with it, trust it, and it trusts you in return.  I know that one day I will have to say goodbye to her, but for now I’m just grateful to have more time with her.

A Jump and A Tumble: Adventures in Training a German Shepherd

Athena had a set back today.  Her obedience work has been going quite well.  The jumps, though,  have been a bit of a challenge, and that’s one of the new exercises for the beginner’s class.

The last time we trained, which was several days ago, I raised the bar on the high jump by about a quarter inch.  Athena refused to take the jump.  I gave her a break and took her to the long jump.  She jumped, but knocked the bar.  I thought perhaps I didn’t line her up properly with the jump.  I took her back to the high jump and again she refused.  I quit for the day.

Today Athena took the high jump with no problem at the new height.  I took her over to the long jump.  I lined her up with the jump, and I could feel her eyes boring into my face as I removed her leash.  Good, I thought, she’s focused and will jump.  I gave her the cue to jump, and the little rascal took off like a bullet, completely bypassed the jump, and ran like hell into the house.

I counted to 10 then walked into the house to retrieve my dog while continuing to count.  I must have gotten to a hundred by the time I grabbed her collar as calmly as I could and resisted the temptation to do give her the “come-to-Jesus” talk.

We were outside once more, and again, I set her up in front of the jump, took off her leash, and sent her over the jump.  This time she jumped, but her back legs got caught on the cross bar at the top of the jump, and she fell to the ground.  It was pitiful and scary to see such a big animal, who is usually so nimble, fall.

Athena picked herself up and trotted over to me.  I was concerned and checked her over.  She seemed okay, and I debated whether I should shortened the jump’s length and asked her to take the jump once more.  I decided to err on the side of caution and pack it up for the day.

Tomorrow we’ll attempt this once more.  This time I’ll ensure Athena’s success with the jump by shortening its length.  Once she gets the shorter length, then we’ll move ahead once more.  This is an exercise in patience, and the show is fast approaching.

German Shepherd Puppy Plays with Her Squeaky Toy

Here’s a short video clip of Gretchen playing with her favorite toy:  a green frog squeaky toy.  The toy’s a favorite among my dogs, but unfortunately it has a lifespan of five minutes (in the jaws of my rottweiler, even less).

German Shepherd Puppy learns “Go to Mat”

Five-month-old Gretchen learned to go place in a matter of minutes.  Here she relaxes on her mat in a down/stay.

Gretchen learned to go mat, or “place” today.  It was very easy for her.  All I did was put the mat on the ground and she got on it to inspect it.  I clicked and treated.  Then I called her off, and used a forward sweep of my right hand to get her on once more.  We did that for a few times, then she started offering me sits on the mat.  Before long she was offering downs.

At the end of the session I unclipped her leash, and she ran to her mat and settled into a down.  Could I get her up?  Not a chance!  As soon as I freed her, she ran right back and lay down.  I didn’t complain, but kept giving her treats while she lay on her mat. 

Gretchen has an incredible amount of energy.  I wish I knew where she got it from, because I’d love to have some for myself.  She’s the type of dog that will squat to pee, then see something across the yard and need to go check it out before she’s done.  So she’ll end up walking in a squat across the lawn, leaving a trail of pee in her wake.

When she’s in the house she’d settle down for all of two seconds before going to check out something in the house (or trying to pull the table cloth off the dining table).  Teaching her to go place has proven to be a great exercise:  she’s willing to settle down in the house on her mat.

Agility for a Five Month Old Puppy

Gretchen rests after agility class.  Was she tired?  Nooooooo! In a matter of minutes she was up again getting into everything.

I have started agility lessons with one of my puppies, Gretchen.  She just turned five months, so we’ve been getting her accustomed to the equipment by walking over the jumps (with cross-bars placed about three inches off the floor), and walking through widely-spaced weave poles. 

The first week was a bit scary for Gretchen, but today’s lessons went better.  She had fun going through the tunnel, which is one of those fold-out varieties.  We introduced it to her by keeping the tunnel folded to form a hoop and just letting her walk through that hoop.  Next we opened it out only slightly.  The trainer held the hoop/tunnel that was only slightly opened, while I coaxed Gretchen through.  She did beautifully.  We gradually opened out the tunnel until she would go through when it was fully extended.

She has a few issues with being introduced to new things.  For instance today the new exercise was for her to sit in front of the first jump and wait for me to say jump (remember that the bars are placed close to the ground, so she really wasn’t jumping).  Well, someone new came to the entrance of the facility and spooked her.  She decided that she didn’t want to sit, so she crumbled into a down, put her head between her two front paws, and looked at me with those big pathetic German Shepherd eyes.  We clearly have a few issues to work through.

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