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Saturday, 23 July 2011

Mystique & Tracking

Mystique is my 18 month old female I had intended to keep for my breeding program.  She is very sweet, just like her mother, Indy.  Unfortunately, she contracted Parvo-virus when she was 6 months old.  She was in the care of the vet for 5 days.  Luckily she was old enough to fight off the Parvo and survived.  However, for some unexplained reason, her ears went from standing up, to drooping.  She does have the capability of holding them erect but for the most part she allows them to droop.  For this reason, I've had to remove her from my breeding program.  Although this would not be a problem that is hereditary, no one would buy a GSD pup from a mother with droopy ears.  I know I wouldn't! 

So, on Wednesday, she was spayed.  Here she is shortly after she came home from the vet.  The x-pen is to keep her quiet and to prevent the other dogs from trying to play with her.  She's healing up nicely now.  I was very surprised to see how small the incision was.  I haven't spayed a dog in many, many years so I was expecting a 6-8 inch incision.  Her incision was 2-2.5 inches long!  Awesome! 

The other good news about Mystique is she has been sold to a very nice family in Vancouver.  I will be delivering her personally at the end of August.  It is always very difficult for me to find new homes for dogs that have been here longer than 8 weeks.  For that matter I usually cry when each puppy leaves!  However, I screen my owners very well and I know that the dog will have as good, or even a better life than they would here.  Where she is going, she will be an only dog and she will get the families undivided attention.  I know she will thrive in that situation.

I've been tracking a few more times these past couple of weeks.  Both Merlin and Cruise have been bumped back to less difficult tracks.  They would track just fine but not with enthusiasm.  I needed to go back and make it easier and more fun.  (I'm learning too!)  I've put a ball or tug at the end of the track for extra motivation to get to the end.  Hopefully I don't create a monster who pulls so hard that they miss some of the fine details they need for passing a tracking title.  It's one of those things that if it works as intended, it will be great.  But it also has the possibility of creating problems as well.  Keep your fingers crossed for the former!

 Off to exercise dogs!  Later!

Mystique 15 months old

Mystique 1 year old

Friday, 15 July 2011


I went to my first tracking seminar the weekend of May 15th.  There was gale force winds both days which made it hard for the dogs to track.  I have never tracked my dogs before so everything was absolutely brand new to me. 

There are two different ways a dog can track.  One is footstep tracking, the other is tracking through drive.  Tracking through drive is the way they teach Search & Rescue and police dogs to track.  Those dogs are taught to look for the end of the track (the person) and go the shortest distance getting there.  Footstep tracking was developed so that we can compare how well one dog does compared to another.  The dog is expected to follow the exact path of the person they are tracking.  If the dog goes "X" number of feet off the track, the dog is disqualified.  Along the path, the dog will come across articles.  These could be keys, a glove, a pop can.  These are articles left behind by the person who laid down the track.  The dog is to "down" at an article to indicate he has found something.  However, he is not allowed to touch that article.  If this was a real life situation, a police dog may find a gun dropped by the suspect.  Obviously if the dog was to touch it, he could ruin evidence.  So, the dog is to indicate it, but not touch it.  I will be learning footstep tracking.

There are 4 Tracking titles awarded by the CKC: TD or Tracking Dog, and the more difficult, advanced tests: TDX or Tracking Dog Excellent, UTD or Urban Tracking Dog and UTDX or Urban Tracking Dog Excellent. A TD title is a prerequisite for entering TDX and UTD tests; a UTD is a prerequisite for entering a UTDX test. A dog which has earned all 4 CKC tracking titles (TD, TDX, UTD, UTDX) will be awarded the title of Tracking Champion (TCh).  I will be concentrating on the first (obviously) and that is a TD, or Tracking Dog title.

At the TD level, the dog is required to follow a stranger's track, which must be at least a half-hour old (but no more than 2 hours old). This track is about 450 meters long, has 2 to 4 turns, and has a leather article at the end - usually a glove. The start of the track is indicated by a pole, and there is a second pole that indicates the direction of the first "leg" of the track. The dog must follow the track and indicate that he has found the article in order to pass the test.

All that seems like a long way into the future at this point.  I am taking two dogs tracking.  Cruise, my 9 month old sable female and Merlin, my 3 year old Czech import stud dog.  Cruise was the youngest dog at the seminar and I was very proud of her.  Being a pup still, she sometimes lost focus but overall she did very well.  She is such a wonderful, easy going dog and I don't think there was a single person attending the clinic that didn't say "How about I take Cruise home with me!"  She is so well behaved under any circumstance;  and for a pup that's really saying something!

Cruise (8 months old) hot on the trail!
So begins my saga.  I'm looking forward to learning lots more about scents and tracking.  For instance, did you know that your scent can linger in something as small as a rock depression!  Or that scent rolls down hill!  Who knew!  Lots to learn, and lots of fun to be had!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Welcome to my BLOG!  Who would have ever thought I'd need a blog!  Certainly not me.  Seems that there is a lot of you out there who stay current with the goings on at Guardian Angel Shepherds by reading my NEWS page.  I haven't been very good about keeping it current these last few months and I being reminded that there's people out there, waiting and waiting for more news.  Well, I think I've solved the problem by creating this blog.  If you subscribe, you will be notified every time I add something new.  You will no longer have to check the site, time after time, just to find out I haven't updated it yet.  Good idea eh?  I'm going to start with the complete story of Diesel.  Diesel is my 110 pound self-bred German Shepherd stud dog.

As some of you know, I've had a few extensive surgeries over the past year. My illness, on several occasions was life threatening. It has been a long and arduous road to get back to where I am now and there is still many months of physio etc. to come yet. It was a very difficult time both for myself and my family. One of the things I kept promising to myself while I was undergoing, and recuperating from, very painful procedures was: If I get through this, we're all going to Hawaii. If I get through this, we're all going to Hawaii etc etc. So, in February, we packed up our bags and we went to Hawaii.;I couldn't swim, walk for long distances or do many of the things I would normally do on a tropical vacation but that was alright. I lay in the sun and healed. The best medicine there is!While we were away, I had my apprentice here looking after all the dogs. Three days before we came home, I received a text that Diesel had scaled a 7 foot chain link fence to try and visit a female who had come into heat while we were away. She was going to take him to the vet because he had a huge swelling underneath his tail. The vet gave her some antibiotics and told her to keep him quiet. When I came home 3 days later, there had been no improvement so I took him back to the vet. We had done one of those overnight flights and I hadn't slept in 32 hours but I felt he needed to go back right away. My boy was in a lot of pain so sleep was a distant second. (By the time I finally got to bed, it was almost 50 hours since I'd last seen a pillow!) To make a long story shorter, Diesel was at the vet a total of 6 times before they ran out of guesses and tests. Some of which were very painful for him. I always had tears running down my face when he would look up at me and ask with his eyes "Why are you letting them hurt me?"  Man, it even brings tears to my eyes just remembering. If you could only just explain! Something I kept hearing over and over again from the various vets and attendants. "He sure has a great temperament."  And I even heard: "I don't know any other German Shepherd that would allow what we just did without having a muzzle on."  I'm lucky that I was able to be with him through all the testing because of my background.I didn't have to sit in the waiting room and wonder what was going on. Well... except once which I'll explain in a minute. The vets finally sent us to the C.A.R.E. Centre in Calgary which is a referral only vet hospital. They only take on the BIG issues.This was not a good sign.
So, off we go to the CARE Centre where they have human quality ultrasounds, x-ray machines and MRIs. I'm used to going into the testing areas with my dogs and knew it was unlikely I would get to go in with him in this ultra-modern facility where they don't know me. When they came to take Diesel I offered my assistance and told them that I teach Animal Health Techs at Olds College. I was desperately hoping that they would allow me to come with him. The Tech politely declined my offer and Diesel disappeared through the doors. Ten minutes later, she came back into the waiting room and asked me to come back with her. Seems my 110 pound dog didn't want to lay on his back for them. It's not that he was growling or biting, but he was fighting them so hard, they were afraid he would hurt himself. When I got into the Ultrasound room, there was Diesel, front paws on the lap of the tech, asking with all his might, (and those big brown eyes) not to try and put him on his back again. He was very happy to see me!On the table was a huge piece of foam that was about four feet long with a "V" cut in the centre of it. They wanted Diesel to lay in that V so they could do an ultrasound. Little did they know that my dog's don't "DO" upside down for strangers!! We hoisted him up on the foam and I stayed by his head and held his front legs. He lay there for a full half hour!! The whole time they worked, they praised my breeding program for producing a dog as wonderful as Diesel. The outcome of the ultrasound was serious. Diesel had two hernias. Both were located below his anus on either side. The hernias were caused by him straining to go to the bathroom. The reason he was straining was because his prostrate had grown so large, that it squished his ureter into an "S" shape. When we emptied his bladder, the vets could not believe it! This poor dog was holding 2000 mls of urine! And just so you understand how much that is, the average human feels the need to urinate when the bladder is holding between 200-400 mls! TEN TIMES AS MUCH!! The pain must have been horrible! I can't even imagine! And through it all, he toughed it out and nobody ever knew the difference. My poor dog...

There was two options. Spend $6000 for the surgery to save his life... or not. Diesel has been a fantastic dog, having lived up to all my expectations and then some. The down side of the surgery was that he would have to be neutered when they went in to repair the herniasThere would be no more "Little Diesels" running around. I agreed to the surgery. How can you refuse a dog who has given you everything? Some could refuse I guess, but I'm not one of them. What's a little more on the line of credit! Then I had a wonderful idea! I could take him to a canine reproduction specialist and collect and freeze his semen. I could have one last litter from him, keep a son and the pups could pay for the surgery! Brilliant! I delayed the surgery for one more day and I left the house at 4:00AM to go see the specialist. I not only have Diesel with me but I also bring Indy who is supposed to encourage Diesel into a romantic interlude. All goes well until the vet comes back from looking at the sample with his microscope. The poor dog had been stressed for well over a week and he'd been prescribed antibiotics. If you know anything about reproduction, that's the two biggest factors you want to avoid! Stress, meds and babies do not go well together! So there went my great idea. Regardless, we carried on with the plan of surgery the next day. The following day I was up at 3:00AM. (I thought 4:00AM the previous day was early!) As with any surgery, the patient needs to have fasted for 12 hours. I fed Diesel his last meal around 4:00PM the previous day so by the time we arrived at the vets, he would have fasted 15 hours. Mark (bless his heart) got up with me at that ungodly hour. His first question was "What's all these little pieces of red paper all over the floor? As I approached the area, I KNEW what it was! It was the little scraps of paper that used to cover 4 kgs of Roll Over!!! For years, I've always put my full rolls beside the fridge, behind the food saver and blender. Of ALL THE DAYS! Diesel discovered the roll over and consumed the whole thing!! And it's not just your average 4 kgs of meat, but it is CONDENSED meat!! I just about fell over. Of all the days he could of discovered it, why today? I was extremely upset but what was I to do. I called the CARE Centre at 4:00AM (good thing they're open 24/7) and told them of the problem. They said to bring him in anyways but that they would do the surgery at the end of the day, instead of first thing. We knew no matter what time he had found the rollover, that if the surgery was 4:00PM or later, he would have an empty stomach. So, off we go, wondering what other bad things could possibly befall us!Silly question! We were on a roll. Diesel has a life threatening problem; he has to be neutered; his sperm viability is too low to freeze; and his stomach is filled with condensed meat product. At the very least he'll have diarrhea for days, at the worst, he will be unable to have surgery for 24 hours, making the risk of his death even more likely! OMG!!As I'm driving to Calgary, my mind is spinning. What if the surgery doesn't work? What if the surgery causes him to be incontinent for the rest of his life? What if he dies on the operating table? As all these things, and more, are going through my brain, I realise I'm about to pass my turn off and I'm in the very far left lane. Oh good grief! I'm already late because of the rollover fiasco AND I've had to pee for the past hour but there was no place to stop on Deerfoot so my bladder was causing me great concern! Do I dash across three lanes of traffic?! NO!! There's way to many cars! So off I go, roaring past my exit ramp. The next exit is miles down the road, not to mention heading off on a totally different compass setting. I wasn't sure where I was heading but I did know I needed to go North, and I needed a BATHROOM! I ended up in a residential area, and typically, it was one of those with all kinds of cul de sacs and dead ends. I eventually found my way out and started heading toward what I was guessing to be North. Driving, driving, driving even longer, and there's nothing familiar. Not even any gas stations to ask directions. By this time I was in serious pain. I eventually found a hotel in the middle of nowhere so I parked and went in. I didn't want to be rude and ask where the bathroom was first thing, so I asked for directions to the CARE center. Nobody seemed to know but they had called for the manager. She would know but where was she?! At this point I can't even stand up straight anymore so I'm just about to ask for the facilities when she appears from the elevators. She proceeds to give me directions with great detail, even excusing herself momentarily so she can go get me a map. She was a very kind and thoughtful person but I'M DYING HERE! She had barely exhaled from her last sentence when I blurted out "Where's the bathroom?! Not very politely, either! I thanked her for her kindness and shuffled across the lobby to the ladies room. One problem, finally solved. I followed the directions to the letter but what was supposed to turn into a specific road, didn't. I'm lost again!! Diesel is in the back of the Jeep, sleeping peacefully, totally unaware I'm having a bad day. All he cared about was that he was with me, and not left at home. Oh to be a dog! I reach what I think is the road I'm looking for but the light ahead of me was red and I was a dozen cars from the intersection. As I'm sitting waiting, I notice there's an RCMP cruiser coming up behind me. Now normally, this wouldn't bother me one way or another, HOWEVER, the night before while washing my Jeep, I realized that my plates had expired about a week previous. I'd been so worried about Diesel and had been taking him from one vet appointment to another, it didn't even occur to me what the date was! "Please don't notice! Please don't notice! Please don't notice!"  At this point I wish I hadn't had vanity plates that said K9 trainer! Sure! ;Look at me!! With my expired tags!! Oh good grief! I turned on my right signal shortly before the street and watched to see if the cruiser followed suit. No, we're doing good... doing good... DAMN! On comes the right signal light.  Okay, I'm screwed.;BUT his lights weren't on. Maybe... maybe... DAMN!! On comes the lights! That's it! I'm done! $250 fine. Just what I needed!I pull into a strip mall and put the Jeep in park. The RCMP officer pulls up behind me and gets out of the cruiser. As he's walking toward me, I'm starting to get nervous and my hands are shaky. I'm fumbling through my purse and glove compartment looking for the expired registration papers and proof of insurance. As he approached my window, I roll down the glass.;He says "Do you know why I pulled you over?  "Yes" I said. "My tags are expired"  And with that, I BURST into tears!! It was all just too much! I'm blubbering something about a sick dog and getting lost and him eating rollover and how he might die and, and, and... and the poor guy!! I think he actually backed up a little!  I started apologizing for crying explaining that I've never cried being pulled over before!!! Oh good grief!! Now he's going to think I get pulled over all the time!!  Somebody just put some tape on my mouth! Please! He was actually very kind, and understanding.;He asked where I was headed which started a whole new set of tears and verbal diarrhea. Thankfully I had a map of where I was supposed to be, which proved I'd missed my turn and ended up miles from where I was supposed to be. He gave me directions on how to get to my required destination. As I'm apologizing for my behaviour and thanking him for the directions, he brings up the fact that we hadn't dealt with why he had pulled me over. DAMN again! "You make sure your dog is okay first, but THEN make sure you get your registration renewed"."Yes, yes! Thank you! Thank you!"and he was off. If I'd noticed his name I'd give him credit for his kindness. Maybe one day he'll be looking for a GSD and we'll cross paths again. Pay it forward.I eventually found the clinic but I was 45 minutes late. Nobody seemed to mind. I handed over the leash, kissed Diesel on the top of his head and left. I barely made it to the Jeep before the tears starting rolling down my cheeks again. Now we wait...

GOOD NEWS!!  After 7 1/2 hours of surgery, Diesel has come through!!  He will be a very sore dog for a very long time, but HE'S GOING TO BE ALRIGHT!