Friday, June 22, 2012

English Shepherd Hike: June Edition

Everyone had such a great time during our English Shepherd hike May that they immediately suggested that we get our dogs together again for another hike.  Because everybody has a busy schedule, we settled on monthly hikes.  Unfortunately Laurie with Helo and Elvira, and Stephanie with Oliver could not come this time.  However, we did get an unexpected and welcome addition to the June hike. Mary convinced our mutual friend Jenn to come that morning.  Jenn owns four English Shepherds and a Border Collie cross, but only brought Chandler's cousin Nixie and Pace's sister Jure along for this hike.  It was great to see Jenn, because she was one of my earliest mentors in dog ownership and English Shepherds.

Nixie had to stay on leash.
She has a tendency to think I need some teeth paws on management,
Although for this hike I suspect she thought I wasn't doing a good enough job managing the others.
Imagine that!

Once again, the dogs had a great time mingling and sniffing as we wandered up the trail.

Kateri is smiling in this photo.

The chase games started soon after all the dogs became comfortable with each other.  At one point the dogs ran back and forth between the trail and the river.  This involved zooming through the woods down a mild slope until they hit the water about 400 feet away.  I think they did this four or five times before we moved on.

Pace seemed to be having an especially great time because his sister Jure was there.  Although they live in the same house, Mary and Jenn have separate packs and households; Pace had not played with his sister for a while, so the reunion between the two 15 month old dogs was rather rowdy at times.  Unfortunately for Pace and Jure, honorary uncle Chandler was on the job as playground police and broke up anything that looked like it was getting a bit too crazy.  Chandler manages this with his presence and some judicious shoulder checks, as far as I can tell.

Hey...Pace just cut his sister off.
All I'm doing is telling him to cross the trail and ditch in the ferns.
What do you mean Jure looks like she is laughing?

When we got to the dam, a red tailed hawk glided over, catching the thermals in a spiraling pattern.  I was able to get some great shots because we were on the hill that forms part of the dam, while the hawk was circling over the nearby meadow.

Hawk? What hawk?  You were supposed to be throwing my bumper into the water!

Of course the reservoir was the main attraction for the dogs once we got to the waterside.  Michelle was pleased to see that Kateri did try a bit of wading again, although she was not quite ready to go swimming with the other dogs yet.

I don't think Kateri was too thrilled by the steepness of this bank.

...and it doesn't help that Bug makes it look easy.

While the dogs were playing in the water, Patches (somewhat) achieved what seems to be one of his great ambitions.  For weeks he has been trying to steal the sticks and retriever bumpers that Chan fetches from the water.  Chan has fended him off every time, or at least managed to hold on to the opposite end of a very large stick in one case.  On this hike, Patches finally managed to steal the bumper from Jure.  As far as I could tell, Patches was elated.  Jure wasn't so thrilled, but her morale quickly rebounded as our outing continued.

Patches had better not think that this will work with me!

Once again, everyone had a great time (despite playground police and bumper snatchers).  At the end of the hike we set all the dogs up for a group photo.  Our next hike is scheduled for early July.

Left to right: Nixie, Jure, Kateri, Bug, Pace, me, Bridgett, Patches.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Norway's Big Adventure

Norway belongs to my friend Susan, who also owns Bridgett.  He's a failed foster dog from National English Shepherd Rescue.  Norway was one of the over 200 English Shepherds rescued from horrible conditions in Montana during NESR's Operation New Beginnings in 2009. More information about this rescue can be found in this post at Raised by Wolves blog**.  

Norway was estimated to be 5 or 6 years old at the time of rescue. His growth was stunted by poor nutrition, and he was pretty much a feral dog in need of taming.  He was essentially pulled out of a hellhole, as detailed by the charges Yellowstone County leveled against his original owner.  For those of strong heart and stomach, Smartdog's weblog archive has a post that includes excerpts.  Norway was one of the dogs that hadn't made as much progress in the mass foster care situation the dogs experienced in Billings.  Instead of being adopted, he needed more time in foster care.  When Susan first got Norway in September 2009, all he did was sit in a single corner of her kitchen.  Just being guided outside to take care of bodily functions was a challenge for the dog.

Now, over two years later, Norway has improved a lot, although he will probably never be what most people consider a "normal" dog.  He mostly stays in her backyard, because he is still a flight risk.  When they do go out, she takes her other English Shepherd along as a role model.  Susan thought it was time to expand Norway's horizons a bit more.  Our outing at the reservoir was going to be the first time he had ever been in the woods.

Wow...Norway has TWO leashes!

Although obviously apprehensive at first, Norway did well.  He didn't shut down, and he eventually calmed  enough to start sniffing and investigating.  Having Chandler and Bridget around probably helped a lot.  They were much too busy having fun to take much notice of Norway's nervousness.

When we got to the reservoir, Norway did not want to approach the water.  I suspect he'd never seen that much of it in his entire life.  He also seemed upset that Chandler was launching himself into the reservoir to fetch his retrieving bumper.  I'm not sure if the splashing commotion of Chan rocketing into the water was the problem, or just that Norway thought Chan was a bit crazy to be leaping so enthusiastically into all that wetness.  Regardless, Norway got used to Chan's hydrophilic quirks, and managed to settle down near the water, if not very close to it.

Here we all are at the water's edge.  Really, Norway has no idea how much FUN this stuff is.

The final challenge of the day was Norway's first stream crossing.  Considering his reaction to the reservoir, this was guaranteed to be interesting.  Sure enough, he balked, even though Chandler and Bridget had variously forded, hurtled, and even wallowed in the stream several times before Susan attempted to cross with Norway.  As bribery is not an option with a dog not motivated by food or toys,the first crossing required a few leash tugs.  However after the first experience, Norway quickly gained in confidence, and crossed the stream several times.

Mom says this is a BIG THING.  I can't believe this is the first time he's ever gotten his feet wet.
You miss out on so much without wet feet!

By the time we got back to the cars, Norway looked tired, but more confident.  Both Susan and I decided the hike had been a success.  Next time, we're thinking about experimenting with a long line so Norway can have more freedom.

** For those interested in more information about the mass English Shepherd Rescue and Operation New Beginnings, I suggest reading the series of posts about the incident on Raised by Wolves blog.  To find them scroll down the right column of the blog to below the "Older Posts" section.  They are listed under the heading "Montana English Shepherd Mass Rescue: Old Posts and Links"

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A very fun Saturday

It started innocently enough.  One of my English Shepherd owning Facebook friends realized she was close enough to join Chandler and I on one of our weekend hikes.  Stephanie set a day; I asked whether she'd  like to meet just Chan and I, or whether she would she like me to invite all the local ES people.  As far as she was concerned, more dogs were great.  What we ended up with was:

Seven women.
Eight English Shepherds.
One Cattle Dog cross...

...and we all had a GREAT time!

Look at all the cameras in this group!

After introductions, the dogs all got along fabulously.  They trotted and ran along the trail together, sniffing and marking all the interesting spots.

I'm taking point position!

The two tricolors, Pace and Patches, seemed to do some bonding.

Mom calls them the Tricolor Alliance.

There were multiple games of chase.

I'm going to get Elvira!!!!!!

Whee! Running with the pack!

Water loving dogs cooled off in the reservoir.

I give this splash a nine!  Excellent wake too, Bug!

Some who weren't so sure about water gave it a try.

Kateri is my grand-niece. We really have to work on her swimming skills.

Those that didn't like to wade abstained.

Really Oliver, you don't know what you're missing...

For the swimmers there was water fetch!

Patches is trying to steal MY stick. AGAIN!

...and also regular fetch on land.

I think this was more of a stick wrestling match between Bug and Pace...

After three hours of hiking, we all decided we'd like to do it again someday.

This was so much fun!!!!
Bridgett is smiling at you.  She says she had fun too.