Doranna

Sep 232015
 

So, the astute among you may have noticed that although this is the Wordplay Blog, ostensibly with a major in Wordplay stuff (that would be me, my books, the dogs, blah blah blah) and a minor in Write Horse stuff (that would be Patty Wilber, who blogs fun horsie stuff on Fridays), the recent content has been all Write Horse and no Wordplay.

I do normally lag in the summer time–that’s about how the Lyme disease gives me grief in the heat.  Just never to this extent.  And I don’t honestly know if I’m ready to re-emerge and start blogging again.  July was a month that never should have existed, and from which it might take quite a while to recover.  Illness, loss, office disaster, conflict, and depression, all on the most profound levels.  It is to suck.

But it’s also past time to poke my head up just long enough to say:

THANK YOU, PATTY!

I’ve so enjoyed reading your Write Horse adventures here, and it’s meant everything to me to know that the blog has been chugging away without me.

Three cheers and huzzah!

 

Jun 082015
 

by Doranna

0711.connery.teeter.LJTell you what. I am so sick of other people being all up in my business. Trying to control my personal decisions about my dogs when it comes to spay/neuter, collars, car crating…

For one thing, no matter how much outside micromanagement occurs, the irresponsible people who inspire the micromanagement are still irresponsible, while the rest of us pay the price.

For another, to manage our dogs to their best benefit it takes thoughtful understanding of the individual circumstances–and the ability to make choices accordingly.

Something we’re allowed in increasingly short supply these days.

My Beagles are pro-choice boys when it comes to neutering. That doesn’t mean being fervently on one side or the other…it means understanding the pros and cons of the choices and factoring in our household, our resources, and the individual dogs. And then doing what’s best for them.

Most of my online friends know that I never had any intention of neutering 5yo Dart. I mean, why would I even consider it, when there are so many studies pointing to the health consequences?*

*(That’s the usual discussion for another time. Or go Google for studies rather than opinions. It’s not hard to find the information. Here’s a brief but far from complete start.)

Anyway, this choice thing goes both ways, so I respect that circumstances sometimes make neutering seem the most responsible decision in spite of the health consequences. But for us it very much isn’t.

Wasn’t.

Things do change.

In Dart’s life, too much changed, too persistently. He lost his older sister Belle Cardigan. He gained a new older sister in Rena Beagle who turned out to have escalating, chronic health issues. Then after a series of struggles, he lost that sister, too. He gained a younger brother in Mickey Cat, who was as much a part of his life as any of us. Then Mickey Cat was badly injured; the stress and recovery affected them all. Then–and all this as Dart was heading for his prime while older brother Connery aged into graceful Unclehood–he gained his younger brother Tristan Beagle. And then, finally, almost a year after losing Rena…

He lost his beloved Mickey Cat. Sad and sudden.

Dart was born a hyper-vigilant and over-stimulated dog. He was struggling even before we lost Mickey–too many changes, too much assumed responsibility on the shoulders of the pack’s only intact adult male.

Mickey’s loss pushed things over the edge. By early spring, Dart was constantly hackled, walking around on his toes with a growl in his throat. Suddenly we were actively managing to prevent an always-imminent explosion. And the worst part?

Dart knew it. Knew he was acting out, knew he was causing trouble, and was miserable with it.   Herbal calming options didn’t work. GABA-based options didn’t work. Valerian put him to sleep, which I suppose worked in its way, but not in a quality-of-life way.

So we had a family discussion and then I talked to his breeder, who is wonderful for all the right reasons and knows exactly the oddity that is Dart, and within moments the decision was made.

dart.vulture.220Within a week, the deed was done.

Because while neutering most certainly won’t change ill-manners or learned behaviors, it can help an over-reactive dog. And while I did consider medication–in fact, the $$amitriptyline$$ still sits unused on my counter–I wasn’t quite ready to try it without exploring all other options.

It’ll take six months from surgery for Dart to settle into his new steady state, but the changes are already obvious. The pack runs together again, needing no special management at meal times, bed times, or transition times. Dart and Tristan play together with abandon, and Dart doesn’t flail into reactivity when they do.

For this dog, this time of his life, it was the right thing to do.

dart.heel.313It’s up to all of us to make the best possible decisions as we go along, factoring in not the shame culture that now imbues the spay/neuter discussion and not the fact that Family Smith down the road isn’t able or interested in responsibly handling an intact dog, but based on what we know and actively continue learning about dog health/behavior, and on our own individual dogs.

Along the way, people who aren’t us need to stop thinking that they are, and need to stop trying to force and shame us into decisions that aren’t in the best interests of our specific circumstances. They should make the best decisions for them.

As for me, I’ll go on supporting everyone’s ability to make their own choice. That includes spreading the word about the health consequences of neutering, talking up sterilization instead of neuter, and yes, supporting low-cost S/N. And then I’ll stay out of other people’s business while they make their choices, and thank them to stay out of mine.

May 122015
 

by Doranna

decisions-407742_1280The last time I blogged through, I was pondering the effects of a rut of bad luck/stresses/downturns in a number of areas in my life–the slow transition to floundering joy and the sensation of ongoing loss and failure.

The solution, I decided, is to reframe the journey. Targeting not being [anxious/stressed/sad] is still, in the end, focusing on those negative things. Seeking confidence, on the other hand…

Definitely working better. But not without ongoing opportunities to practice. Continue reading »

Apr 132015
 

I got everything ready to write this blog, and then promptly went outside to the fenced area of Arroyo Minor to take the dogs for a walk-romp.

They enjoyed it.  Me, I was just looking for courage.

mck.chair.694

Five months old in 9/14, already Perfectly McPants

About a month ago, I blogged about our Plague Cat.  About how Mr. McKittypants came to us as an unadoptable barn cat, about his wild nature—about training him, managing him, and coming to terms with his brilliant, dichotomous personality.  How much he meant to us–especially to Tristan Beagle.  And also about his early, profound injury, and then about his recent illness.

Undaunted by either, he was not to be contained.  Four days after returning to us from his organ-cooking fever, he was back outside on demand.  (And when I say demand, I mean “Run for your lives!”)

A week after his return from that vet, he demanded unusual evening out time.  I allowed it, following a deliberate strategy to relieve his stress about confinement.  Then I went into the office and published the Plague Cat blog.

Mainly it was a blog about hard choices.  About letting Mickey be Mickey, seeking balance between between needs and safety.  Understanding the risks. Continue reading »

Mar 312015
 

by Doranna

grrr!  grrr!

grrr! grrr!

I’m no stranger to dog fights.

I started my first pack while living remotely in the mountains—extraordinary, experienced varmint hunters who didn’t just squabble when the time came for the changing of the guard.  No, they inflicted significant damage.  As we were three hours from the vet we couldn’t afford, it behooved me not only to know how to break these fights up, but how to prevent them.

With a former feral dog as the pack’s foundation, I’d always managed them on a fairly primal level—as part of the pack, on their terms.  Boss bitch.  But while this allowed me to break the fights up without taking damage, it didn’t prevent them.  And as they escalated, I decided that they needed more than policing—that in fact, the policing sometimes made things worse.  They needed, individually, to know they were secure and loved. Continue reading »

Mar 252015
 

Tristan Beagle continues to grow up faster than I can even type about him.

tb.teeth.469See? Teething!  And between the day I took this pic and am writing this blog, those missing front teeth have largely grown in!

He has a lot of fun stuff in his life, along with the ongoing ball of activity we dryly call the PuppyCat Unit.  He visits my dad at the hospice residence, goes to Connery and Dart’s obedience drill for a few moments of play and socialization, heads to our version of a National Forest to play with scent on our tracking practice grounds, and loves the daily games also known as training.

(Many of those games are simply building body awareness, but he also has an early understanding of sit, down, stay, heel, show stacking, bringing me an object, taking an object from hand, come, go to kennel, stay in kennel until released, wait at door to come in, leave it alone, let it go, and I’m probably forgetting something because these are all just things we DO.)

Most recently, he attended a puppy party. Continue reading »

Mar 232015
 

mk.0917As soon as I saw Mr. McKittypants, I knew he would break my heart.

(No.  Not quite yet.  But he’s working on it.)

He came to us young–a born feral, behavior modification flunk-out—an unadoptable cat.  We needed a barn hunter and we’d already lost one feral who couldn’t adjust to her new location, so we had no intention of considering this one to be family.

HA HA HA. Continue reading »

Mar 142015
 

0711.connery.teeter.LJIt can be hard to work with genius.

Take Connery Beagle.  He’s honest and hardworking and loves to sing his song of self, and did I mention honest?  By which I mean internally as well as externally.  He’s not so tangled in his inner thoughts that he gets in his own way.

But Dart’s an unusual boy.  He vibrates with atomic intensity, he’s brilliant, and he desperately wants to be good and right.  But he’s so emotional—and so completely devoid of impulse control—that he constantly gets in his own way. Continue reading »