Sunday, December 27, 2009

Napping with the dog

I gave it a lot of thought before allowing Miró onto the human bed. By allowing, I mean opening the gate at the bottom of the stairs so that he could run upstairs where he naturally leapt onto the bed. I’d enjoyed nearly a year with a bed-cover that I didn’t have to wash every couple of weeks and it wasn’t easy to envision another dog taking Darwin’s place as nap buddy. Also I had to consider that a dog allowed on the bed even once is there for life. But they look so cute up there….

Alanis, BTW, doesn’t jump up on any furniture. She’s just not that kind of girl.

The strategy for claiming room on the bed is to pretend you have no interest in being there, then dashing across the room and making a flying leap, sprawling across as much area as you can. The alert dog does the same and, if you’ve been quick, you’ll have enough room to lie comfortably, as everyone knows even the smallest dog can take up half a king-size bed. Yesterday I not only made it onto the bed but got under the bedspread for a nap.

There’s a blanket on top of the spread. Miró immediately grabbed the blanket, shook it, rolled up in it, lay still for a second, then unrolled and waved his feet in the air. I pulled the covers over my face to protect myself from flying feet. He grabbed my arm through the covers and started chewing enthusiastically. “Leave it!” He flopped out full-length. He scrambled up and attacked the blanket again. He collapsed at my side for a head-rub.

Up again. Jump off the bed, snuffle around, grab the dust cloth from the floor on my side of the bed (doesn’t everyone keep a dust cloth there?). Shake the cloth. Leap onto the bed. Grab my foot. “Leave it!” Flop down across my legs. Too bumpy. Up again to circle on the other side of the bed and finally rest. For ten whole minutes. It was a power nap.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The canine good citizen test

Miró is not a canine good citizen. Maybe he will be when he's too old to jump forward and chew on the examiner. Several of the other dogs failed the same two parts of the test: staying calm while being greeted and touched by the examiner and staying calm when the human greets a human and dog combo they've never encountered before. After the initial leaping around--while the other dog completely ignored him--he did sit, for which I gave much praise. I did a fabulous acting job.

Even Tubby (aka The Tubster) the bulldog was not at his best. For the summer and fall classes we've been in together I've watched him do perfect recalls. Yesterday he galloped straight past his person and toward the "stranger dog" who, at one command from his master, completely ignored Tubby and didn't move.

Miró was the only one who got so enthusiastic at greeting the examiner that he rolled onto his back and chewed on his leash. I think he used up all his good-boy tickets while waiting his turn at the test. In fact, I'm still waiting for him to issue some new good-boy tickets. Maybe next week.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Test day

In Canine Good Citizen class, I am always amused by the part where you abandon your dog to another person and hide for three minutes. Even at the first practice when Miro was seven months old, the trainer would congratulate me on this part of the course as if I had something to do with his success. Most Airedales are complete extroverts, happy when they're receiving attention; it doesn't matter from whom.

The flip side of Miro's enthusiastic adoration of all people is that he'll probably flunk the CGC test again this afternoon. He can do everything except the part where a dog has to sit or stand calmly (ha!) when a stranger comes to greet him. No excited lunging, jumping, dancing, mouthing, twirling, hopping or pulling allowed. He needs more greeting practice than he gets because of the difficulty of finding anyone to practice with.

You need someone not only willing to greet the dog but willing to obey instructions and do it your way--approach calmly, turn away if the dog breaks his sit, wait for him to calm down before approaching again. And please don't expect me to carry on a rational conversation while I'm trying to control a whirling dervish; I can't do it.

Treats are not allowed during the CGC test and it's not like tests you take in school. If the dog fails one part of the test, he fails the whole thing.  I am busily envisioning Miro sailing through the test, treatless. Except for the nice, stinky salmon-treat smell I'll rub on my fingers. Surely this isn't cheating.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The chicken and dog altercation

Punkster the Polish chicken molted this fall, as chickens do. With her headdress not completely grown back (giving the evil eye in photo), she can see who’s around her and has taken a dislike to Brangelina. As they’re readying for bed in the chicken barn, she pecks at Brangelina, who cowers and falls off the perch. Bran then takes refuge, often with Edna, in the smaller coop, known as the summer house for its wire floor raised above the ground for air circulation. You don’t want added air circulation when the temperature is down to the teens at night.

At chicken bedtime, I have to go out to rustle Brangelina and Edna out of the summer house and transfer them to the barn (mini-barn photos are in earlier entries). Edna is easy; with some mildly annoyed clucking, she’ll perch on my hand as I walk her over and urge her inside where I’ve started leaving on a light for a few extra hours. Brangelina is a big girl who doesn’t like to be hoisted up, so I need both hands.

Last night when I was carrying Brangelina to the barn, Punkster walked out to the enclosure and Miró pushed his way in where I hadn’t latched the gate. Quickly, I tossed Brangelina through the door to the barn (chicken-tossing is a fine sport, BTW) but Miró had already darted forward and had Punkster’s head in his mouth. Torn between anger and laughter, I had a hard time sounding authoritative when telling him, “Drop it!” I pried a slightly damp Punkster out of his jaws by pressing his gums hard against his teeth. He then turned to item #2 on his agenda, which was the consumption of frozen chicken nuggets.

Punkster being unharmed, I tossed her into the barn whereupon she immediately leapt onto Brangelina and grabbed a beakful of neck feathers amid much crying and flapping from Brangelina. I dragged a very interested Miró out of the pen, locked the door and went around to the side of the barn where I could lift part of the hinged roof. I grabbed Punkster by the neck, pulled her off Brangelina, upended the nest box (right photo) and plunked it down on top of Punkster.

Instant quiet. Brangelina and Edna found places on the perches while Punkster sat, confused, inside the nest box. I turned it so that the opening faced the wall. She would be warm enough in there and peace would reign. I hoped Miró would not throw up from eating chicken poop.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Miro takes up interior decoration

An almighty crashing, banging and clunking sent me running to the source where Miro had caught a foot in the lamp cord in the living room, yanked the plug from the wall, and dragged the lamp banging along behind him into the dining room and around the table, roping up Alanis' Coolaroo bed and several chairs. I threw myself on the dog and wrestled him down in order to unwrap the cord from his paw, whereupon he pranced away ready for more redecorating work. The lamp is a total goner. But I'm looking at the bright side: the chairs are OK, less a few scratches, and the china cabinet my grandfather made is intact. I guess Miro didn't like that particular lamp.

The noise woke Chilibelina the leopard gecko.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Meet Alphonse

I kept an eye on Craigslist for the right cockatiel. Requirements were simple: not more than half an hour's drive away and not ridiculously costly. Craigslist, I discovered, is downright scary with ads like this: 5 month old blue healer lab mix hes a amazing puppy!! :) he knoes sit stay and hes potty trained he goes to the door hes great with kids and other animals he loves to play and also loves to watch tv and listen to music hes a incredable boyyy. There is a Re-homing fee of 175.00 to ensure hes safefy. How did these people graduate from high school? As for the number of people who've grown tired of their mixed breed dogs and expect to be paid, reading their ads is like watching a car wreck.


In the old days I would quarantine any new bird for at least 30 days before letting it near the flock but the whole point here was to find a companion bird quickly. Alphonse came from a one-bird household, so I wasn't worried about his carrying disease. I put the birds' cages side by side for a few hours, then gently grabbed Alphonse and popped him into Little Bee's cage. First they just sat around in the cage on the kitchen table, as in photo #1.

Then they had a little discussion about who's boss, as is typical.

 I gave them some millet, a treat cockatiels can't resist. They approached cautiously--

and finally began to eat.

I moved the cage back to the laundry room because I need the kitchen table for incidentals like eating. A & B are not perfect buddies yet. They spend most of the day in separate parts of the cage; but last night after I turned out the light and checked on them later, they were sitting on opposite sides of the same perch. Instead of spending the day calling piteously, Little Bee just sounds off every now and then. We're getting back to normal.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Barf war

I was running an eye (or two) down the subject list of my email and saw one that said "Thanksgiving turkey in half the time." My first thought was that somebody was writing in about their Airedale stealing and eating half a turkey, quickly.

My impression was probably due to the fact that that morning, just as I started reviving with a first sip of coffee, Alanis barfed on the dining room carpet and Miro roared in with the force of a rhinoceros to knock her out of the way and devour the mostly intact, if slimy, kibble. Some blasphemy ensued as I wrestled Miro away from the prize and poured half a bottle of Nature's Miracle on it. Woke me right up, that did.

After much scrubbing and blotting, I left it to dry and gave the carpet no further thought. A day or so later, when vacuuming up the latest pile of broken bits, I noticed the barf-patch was scored with claw marks as if somebody had been digging for the last bits of regurgitated kibble. An Airedale never gives up.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

Not a good week for birds

On Wednesday my rescue cockatiel died, leaving Bee as the last one. I bred and handraised whitefaced cockatiels Bee and his brother Cookie, my favorite who died last year. The rescue, mostly known as Herself, was a normal gray cockatiel who never liked me.  Around twelve years ago she flew into my yard and I lured her down by putting out a cage with Cookie in it. They called back and forth until she flew down to his cage and I grabbed her. Fortunately cockatiels aren't strong biters.

No one responded to my "found bird" notices and signs. I suspected she had escaped "accidentally on purpose" from her former home. She wasn't hand tamed like mine and, for all the years I had her, she screeched at me every time I opened the cage door to put in food or take out dirty dishes. She even tried to bite the hand that fed her. She did, however, enjoy her spray baths even though I was the person holding the spray bottle of water.  When I started spraying, she'd  hop to the highest perch, raise her crest and spread her wings like somebody going, "Aaahhh."

I'd known for a week that she was sick. Although cockatiels like to forage on the ground and spend lots of time on the floors of their cages, Herself was spending more time sitting there than usual or up on a perch sleeping too much. I did not take her to the vet. Here's why:

Birds are masters at concealing infirmity; by the time they look ill, they're  very ill. For years I took sick birds on stressful trips to the avian vet. I'd stuff medicine down their throats, return to the vet, spend more and more money, only to see the birds die of the complaint anyway.

I wasn't particularly fond of Herself but Bee (at left), mostly known as "Hello Bee" for his way of trying to say "Hello, Baby," courted her unsuccessfully during their time together. When the mood struck, he twirtled and chortled just for her while she ignored him completely. Since she died, he has been calling for her, day and evening until I turn out the light. I put a mirrored toy in his cage but he isn't fooled. So I'm looking around for an older female. Sometimes there are unwanted cockatiels all over the place--except when you want to find one.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Nora missing, presumed dead

For a week I've been carefully checking the yard before letting the dogs out, looking for a small, black shape no bigger than a pigeon but with long legs. She's not there.

The lower edge of the chicken pen is double-reinforced on all sides. The netting over the top was secured after Nora found her way out the first time. I hooked down the netting over the gate whenever I opened and closed it. Still, she twice found a way out that the other chickens, even Edna the other Modern Game bantam, never discovered.

I'd find her in the yard near the pen or even running back and forth, wanting to get back in. Once out, a chicken never remembers where the exit was. I would open the gate, throw down scratch feed for the other hens and there would be Nora on the opposite side running back and forth along the fence until she finally found her way around to my side where the gate was open.

One morning I didn't know she was out. Everything had been rechecked and secured the day before; she couldn't possibly have escaped. But there she was. I saw her a second before Miro shot across the yard after her, one second too late to stop him. She flew up, paused on top of the fence, then took off.

It was pouring down rain and I knew from experience that I wouldn't find her in the bushes of the possible three yards she landed in. As before, she would have to find her way home that evening. But she didn't. Just before dusk I walked the perimeter of the yard, peering through the slits in the wood fence, listening carefully for any peep or rustle. Every moving shadow drew my attention. Nothing. When there was no sign of her the next morning, I guessed she was gone permanently.

What you know and what you feel can be two different things. I still check the yard before letting the dogs out. I stand beside the fence, listening for her distinctive sing-song peeping or any rustle of leaves. I run after the movement of something dark and discover it was only a leaf shifting in the wind. I feel guilty, though I know Nora's fate is typical for chickens. Few live out a full lifespan.

Now the symmetry is gone from the flock. There are two Polish hens, two Americauna, one bantam. From my upstairs study, I can see down to the pen and the fence behind it. Branches swaying in the wind or a squirrel running across the fence catches my attention and I lean toward the window to look, even though I know Nora has made her final escape.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Deep throat

I was carrying a piece of French toast to the parrots when Miro jumped up and grabbed it out of my hand. Yelling the usual at him, I reached down his gullet, pulled it out intact (that's the advantage to the way dogs gulp things down without chewing), and handed it to Alanis, since dog-to-bird saliva didn't seem like a good idea.

In addition to thwarting Miro, this was good practice. It has been a while since I've reached down his throat & I've always trained my dogs to know it's my right to plunge my arm down the esophagus and drag out whatever they're trying to swallow. Very useful, especially with the holidays coming up and all those tempting edibles and inedibles lying around.

Much has been written about Airedale snool, the difficulty of getting it off windows, its uses as a glue alternative, etc. Now I'm thinking it might be used as the slime you see on aliens in the movies.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


The project continues.

Monday, October 19, 2009

BruteArt Part Deux

The title of this piece is Evisceration.

The artist at work.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The tragedy of the ants

When I was cleaning up the yard after the recent storms, Miro helped by eating all the yellow grape tomatoes left on the vines. He cleverly left the green ones, taking only those that were ripe.

All summer I had watched hundreds of black ants moving little twigs at the foot of some steps made of railroad ties. It took weeks to figure out that they were building up a berm, for reasons unknown. From the number of them, I guessed that their tunnels extended a long way into the slope; but I resisted the temptation to dig in and find out. It didn't seem fair to disturb the tremendous amount of work they had done.

When I checked on them today, I saw holes instead of their little mound.
The entire mound was flattened.

The neighborhood flickers had discovered the ants and bored down like the anteaters they are. A few ants wandered above ground--too tiny for my camera to capture--like the dazed survivors you see in the movies after an apocalyptic event. Months, whole ant lifetimes of work, gone in a few days of rain and birds. Really, it reminded me of the time my computer crashed and I foolishly hadn't backed up weeks of files.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

An artistic controversy

The critics cannot agree: is it an artistic piece, symbolic of the brutality of life, or is it just brutality? The artist refuses to comment but he stands--or sits--by his work.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A conversation with dogs

Miro, leave it. Leave-it! Leave. It. Good girl, Alanis.(pause) Miro! Leaveit! (pause) Leave it. Leave. It. LEAVE! IT! (pause) Leave-it. ^%&!*%~ Miro, leave it! (pause)Leave that, too. Now! LEAVE IT! Not you, Alanis, you're a good girl. Goooood girrrl. Miro, leave it! (Repeat)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Nora goes walkabout again

I let the dogs out as usual and staggered toward the coffee maker like something out of The Mummy’s Curse. The morning’s fog was pierced by a too-familiar squawking and flapping. Imagining a tail-wagging dog holding a mouthful of writhing chicken, I dashed outside to find Miró on the deck, jumping happily, and Alanis below. Both came running at my call because they hadn’t had breakfast yet. Where was the source of the altercation?

I stuffed the dogs indoors and ran to the chicken pen in the lower yard. Edna was dancing around on top of the netting that covered the pen and Zora was nowhere to be seen.
A string holding the netting in place had broken, allowing tiny Zora and Edna to pop straight up in the air when Miró had run down and shocked them out of their morning stupor. I guessed that Zora had flown up to the deck, Miró in hot pursuit, and taken off from there.

It was easy to lure Edna back down with scratch feed scattered on the ground but neither rattling food in the cup nor the hens’ “I found food” chuckles lured Zora from her perch in the evergreens or the neighbor’s yard. Each time I let dogs out that day, I first checked for the return of the prodigal chicken. Finally at dusk, which is chicken bedtime, I heard the whining sound the banties make and a rattling in the evergreens. Out hopped Nora, running back and forth on the wrong side of the pen before figuring out how to find the door. Amazingly resilient, that bird.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Miro goes to market

It wasn't his first time at the Sunday Farmers' Market but the first time I took him without someone else to hang onto him while I did the shopping. Lots of dogs there today--a Husky, a lab-collie mix with a high-pitched bark, a Wire-haired Dachshund, miscellaneous fluffy white dogs and--taa-daaah--a charming Welsh terrier named Dreamer. Only 18 months old, she was very mellow. Her person said they used to have an Airedale but "downsized" after the dog died at 13 and they moved to a smaller place. Naturally enough, several people asked if the two dogs were the same breed or puppy and adult.

Miro was very well-behaved. For him. Although he pulled a lot, he collected his little, tiny brain and stopped pulling for ten seconds each time I told him to. Sometimes when I stopped, he sat without my having to tell him. Victory! I even managed to buy vegetables and a bouquet of flowers. Peppers, Japanese eggplant, beets and green beans are roasting (coat lightly with olive oil, bake at 400 F for about 45 min., stirring occasionally) as I type.

To get Miro's attention away from other dogs, not to mention any nose-level fruit and vegetables, I lured him with green beans. They're an Airedale favorite.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Airedale Quilt


A friend let me put up some photos of this year's Airedale quilt. You don't even have to be an Airedale-person to buy raffle tickets for--and to win--this amazing artwork. This year's theme is Fairey Tails. This group effort has been a yearly event for ten years and raises funds for Airedale Rescue. It's not just a fund raiser, though. This project has inspired people to become artists. Miro approves!

Click on the link to see close-ups of all the blocks and stories about each quilter.
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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The meaning of a blue bowl

After dinner I picked up the dishes as usual, Alanis’s from outside the kitchen and Miró’s from beside the sink. Miró eats from a standard, stainless steel dog bowl—he wouldn’t care if it were a paper plate or sterling silver. Washing Alanis’s royal blue melamine bowl, I remembered my search last year for a bowl she would eat from. She wouldn’t eat from a metal bowl because it was too noisy; she wouldn’t eat from a bowl with too-steep sides, yet I couldn’t serve her kibble on a plate or the food would wind up all over the floor. Also, it couldn’t be an expensive bowl because I didn’t know at the time how many bowls I’d have to buy before hitting on the right one. I went to three stores, looking at every bowl on the shelves, checking weight and the sound of a nail tapping the side.

When Alanis first arrived and was too afraid to eat or drink, a friend wise in the ways of dogs wrote to me, “I believe dogs truly think they will die when removed from their packs.” Weeks went by before Alanis ate like a normal Airedale, which is to say, happy to eat anything without hesitation. She still has a ladylike way of taking food, hence the need to feed her some distance from Miró who inhales twice as much kibble in half the time and then dashes over to check her bowl.

I rinsed the blue bowl and thought about the events that led to Alanis’ arrival: the illness and deaths of my previous two Airedales within six weeks of each other one year ago, the bleak and utter silence of my life when they were gone.

This house is Alanis’s territory now. She barks when she hears the other neighborhood dogs, when someone comes to the door, sometimes even when my son comes up from downstairs, as if she has forgotten he has been living here all summer. Miró has started joining in, with an even deeper, louder bark. I can hear them from the far end of the back yard, the street, my office upstairs. If they decide to bark when I’m talking to someone, we can’t hear each other. It’s terribly annoying. I laugh every time their cacophonous noise fills the house.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Miro's art collection

In addition to creating museum-quality installations in the deconstructionist style, Miro has begun putting together his own art collection. Recognizing the worth of this found art, the Curator has put all the pieces up out of Miro's reach.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The latest installation

Named after the Spanish artist, Miro is living up to his name.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Discovery of Toilet Paper

An art installation by Airecraft Carries Me Home, aka Miro, available for viewing by appointment.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What do we miss when the dogs aren't there?

My son returned from a few days with friends on the Oregon coast--aquarium, whale watching, beer and beach. One of the first things he said after walking into the house was, "I missed the dogs." Although he has been living here only a couple of months since college finished, he stepped so immediately into Life with Dogs that being without them for only four days felt strange.

This morning a visiting friend said, "I miss my dog." Her dog died over a year ago and she doesn't plan to get another until after retirement in a couple of years.

This evening I stood on the deck watching Miro begin his bedtime tuckbuttrun dash around the yard while Alanis found herself a quiet, comfortable place in the dirt; and I wondered about the importance of their presence. It has nothing to do with "unconditional love," a phrase so over-used as to be meaningless. Whether dogs even feel love, as we know it, is not a question I concern myself about. What they give is not as important as what they are.

A dog is a warm presence, a touchable, huggable, glowing presence, the heart of what makes a home. The barf stains on the carpet, the chewed-up wainscotting (that was yesterday), the muddy prints or bits of leaf always on the floor, the streaks where they've rubbed on the sofa, my faint scars from being chewed on by generations of puppies, the dreaded toenail clipping sessions, the cloud of gas that sends me running from the room when I'm trying to sit and read.... Life would be flat without these things.

And when we're not experiencing such excitement, when the dog is just hanging out? I know he's a blessing that is granted to me for only a short time; but he knows unconditional happiness--perfect, immediate happiness of the kind we experience only in flashes before our brains start churning distractions and worries in their human way.

"The dog," I think. "The dog is with me." That's the answer.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Teaching "leave it" and other talents

Today in one of my housekeeping fits, I began scrubbing at one of many old spots on the carpet with a damp rag. Miro dashed over to help by grabbing the rag. I said in my stern voice, "Leave it!" and because he did, I then said, "Good boy," being careful to keep my enthusiasm dampened down despite my desire to clap, jump and generally carry on. As I leaned again to scrub, he darted in and glopped me in the eye with his big, wet nose in his own version of "dampened down" response. We both jumped back, he grinning and me going, "yugg."

When training some dogs, you need to hype them up, getting all happy and enthusiastic. With Miro and most other Airedales, you need to do the opposite, keeping all praise unnaturally low-key so that the dog doesn't forget what he's doing in the leaping joy of the moment. Airedales have lots of leaping joy, or just leaping.

I've written about Miro's ability to stick his nose in the water bowl and blow bubbles. He can also talk with food in his mouth. When he eats, he flops down on the floor, front legs on either side of the bowl. He barks at intervals without pausing in his eating. A slightly less advantageous talent is his ability to pee on the backs of his front feet. I hope he soon learns to lift his leg and aim like a big boy.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Rude people and badly behaved dogs

With my son's help, I've taken Miro to the nearest Sunday farmer's market a couple of times to get him used to being around crowds and other dogs. He won't pass a Canine Good Citizen test until he can learn to walk calmly (maybe in 10 yrs) past other people and dogs, so we need lots of practice. My son hangs onto Miro while I buy fruit and vegetables, then I walk Miro around and reward him with bits of chicken when he (Miro, not my son) behaves.

Today we'd just arrived and were walking from the car to the market when a couple with a sheltie on a flexi-lead came walking straight toward us. Normally people with another dog move to one side or another but they didn't. Their dog pulled to the end of its lead and barked. We stopped, not knowing which way they were going. The sheltie charged up to Miro and would have gotten right in his face if I hadn't stepped between the two dogs while Marty held a jumping Miro back. The woman holding the sheltie's leash made no effort to pull her dog back while she and her companion came up to us and started walking by.

I said, "Would you please move your dog away from mine?" instead of the "Control your dog!" that I actually wanted to say.

She laughed and said, "You're in public."

I thought she said I was impertinent, though I realized people don't talk that way any more. I said, "I'm trying to train my dog."

Walking away, she said, "Well, you're still in public." As if being in a public place gives her the right to let her dog go where it wants and be aggressive to another dog.

I was both angry and puzzled that she would think it was OK to let her dog charge at mine when I was clearly trying to prevent that from happening. For the sake of politeness alone, wouldn't you haul your dog back if someone asked you to?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ice fishing

Lots of people put ice cubes in their dog's water dish to keep the water cool in summer. I took some ice from the automatic dispenser, conveniently dropping a couple of cubes on the floor as usual. Miro darted after them like a shark while Alanis sat looking at me as if to say, "Where's my treat, please?" I pointed to an ice cube. She looked at it, looked at me with the same hurt, puzzled expression. She's too polite to look disdainful.

Meanwhile, Miro crunched the ice with his brand new grown-up teeth while I put the other pieces in the water. Normally he plays with ice, then leaves most of it for me to mop up. Not today. Today he decided he had to have all the ice, including the partly melted bits in the water dish.

First he tried getting the ice by lapping. Didn't work. Then he plunged his nose straight in, blowing bubbles and grabbing a piece of ice at the same time. He emerged triumphant with water running out his mouth and dripping off his beard across the floor as he carried a piece of ice away to eat it. Then he went back for the second and the third.

By the time I stopped laughing and got the camera, he was about done. Giggling while you're trying to take a photo doesn't work too well, but I thought I'd post the least bad ones (which shows you how bad the rest were--as in black and tan blur). Then I mopped up the lake that had spread across the floor.
The wet-beard look.
Resting after a job well done.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Stripping knives

Hi Karen and Bentley! On the left are my two old knives with the new one on the right. It's not one of the premium brands; I think several companies make the same type of knife. This one says CP Classic and I ordered it from Cherrybrook. Other grooming suppliers probably carry the same one.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Super simple stripping

We pet owners are always searching for grooming tips for our Airedales. Few of us have the time or stamina to keep our dogs hand-stripped. I've always used a combination, stripping out the undercoat before clipping, in an effort to preserve the rough texture and black and tan color. An Airedale without a dark undercoat can end up looking more grey and blond after years of clipping. A friend put me on to this extra-easy stripping knife:

It's the easiest one I've used for undercoat because it works like a comb. You don't need to tire out your wrist and thumb with this one, though you still need to hold the skin taut with one hand while wielding the knife with the other. Hold the knife at an angle so that the teeth are not perpendicular to the dog's skin and comb through with short strokes. As with all stripping knives, dull the tips of the teeth by filing the knife across a rock or concrete before you use it on the dog for the first time.

Fuzzy undercoat. This gets dirt and dander out, too.

If you are a lifelong amateur like me, your method isn't always elegant. The point, however, is not to do this like a pro but to keep your Airedale looking totally cute and/or gorgeous.

And happy.