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Typhoid Lil, the return

Last week, we made a mad dash to the veterinarian. Lilly suffered from both tapeworms (as a result of catching and eating things in the pasture) and a fly larva under the skin. Eeew … on both accounts.

Ginko taught Lilly to hunt the first week she came to live with us. He showed her how to dig, how to stuff her nose down the narrow vole holes to check for occupants, and how to pull them out with her lips. Ginko almost never eats what he catches. He does it more for entertainment. Lilly, on the other hand, sometimes does eat the mice and voles, if I don’t catch her in time and ask her to “Drop it.”

Since fleas are virtually non-existent where we live, we can only assume the tapeworms come from vermin. Yuck!

The fly larva, however, has us a bit stumped. Unless Ginko (and every other dog in our valley) has rhino hide, Lilly must get the fly bites (and ensuing larva) from the training fields in Boulder. She had one last year. I had no idea what it was until my veterinarian asked, “How squeamish are you?” before showing me the huge larva he pulled out of the bump near Lilly’s armpit. This second one was on the opposite side, near her bottom ribs.

So far, she’s had just this one this summer as well. My guess is that she got it at our speed and motivation class, when she was hiding under the shade drapes on the sidelines.

It’s really gross, but once they are out, the sore and the bump heal quickly. She’s taking a week’s worth of antibiotics, just to be sure, but within a day or two the owie looked much better.

I know what you’re thinking … this is the kind of stuff that happens ONLY to dogs with poor at-home care. I would assume that too, but honestly, I take really good care of Lilly, and this stuff still happens.

At least, now, I know what it is and what to do about it.

As a side note, I’ll share that you shouldn’t try to get these larva out yourself. Some animals suffer anaphylactic reactions, if the larva ruptures under the skin. In other words, they can have a terrible allergic reaction (and die).

But, I sincerely hope your dog never gets one.

P.S. We ended up having to treat Ginko for tapeworms yesterday as well. Poor buddy.

Puppy in chief

Lilly now has her own business cards to help promote the blog. The plan is to hand them out to people we meet on the street to help build readership. My husband says people will (and do) think I’m nuts, but I think it’s kind of cute. And, I think it will help people remember our blog. Here’s what they look like:


Yesterday afternoon, I sat out on the back deck to re-read the final Harry Potter book. (I read it cover to cover on Saturday, but I always immediately re-read them.) Anyway, Ginko hung out with me in the shade since temps crept toward 100. Lilly, however, stayed in her usual spot out front, where she can see the entire valley. At one point, she made a noise, and Ginko sprinted to see what was up. But, he did not get far.

He stopped short of the deck’s three stairs. He bristled in a way I’ve never seen, and he began barking furiously. It was both an unfamiliar body posture and timber. My first thought was that there might be something big — a deer, an elk, a mt. lion — in the creek bed he overlooked. I worried maybe Lilly was fighting a coyote as she did the first spring we got her.

As I scanned the area, however, I heard it …

Rattling. Really loud, really close rattling.

I looked down to find a coiled rattlesnake, with its head up, ready to strike. Honestly, it took a couple of heartbeats to register before I screamed, “Snake!”

I grabbed Ginko by the collar and raced for the back door. Once he was safely inside, I ran out the front door and called for Lilly. Her recall at home has gone to pot since a recent bath incident, so she refused to come. I felt I had no choice, so I chased her, grabbed her and ran back inside.

Home alone since Tom was out on a fire dept call, I quickly dialed two of our neighbors for help. Neither answered. I did not know what to do. Getting the pups and myself inside uninjured was first, but now what?

So, in a decision I can only blame on years of training as a reporter, I went out and took a picture of it, using the zoom function so that I didn’t have to get too close.

Dog books are HUGE

An article in yesterday’s New York Times notes the hot dog-book market. It’s something those of us in the dog world have known for years. In fact, it’s partly the reason for this blog.

Click here to read the article “Best Sellers That Woof and Meow.”

I was happy to see that Temple Grandin’s book is doing so well. I’m also a big fan of Jon Katz’s work. If you haven’t read his books and have border collies, you really should. They are very funny, very interesting.

I’m sharing this news because it’s always interesting when trends gain momentum enough to be noticed by the New York Times (who … full disclosure here … I also write for on occasion).

But, I’m also telling you this because I began blogging about Lilly, in part, because I want to write a book about her someday (soon, I hope). And, an element of getting a book deal is proving to agents and publishers that there’s already a strong readership.

I’m even going to order Lilly her own business cards to hand out when people stop us on the street, which they do … a lot!

So, first of all, thank you, thank you for your interest, support and regular visits to Champion of My Heart. I would be forever grateful if you could tell your pals about Lilly’s blog so that I can build our subscriber list.

Please … (imagine the relentless face of a begging border collie here).

Time magazine dog essay causes stir

An essay by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen from the July 2, 2007, issue of Time caused a stir and a growing pile of hate mail, it seems. In “Demoting the Dog,” Lisa describes how her dog went from pal to pet to pest after her daughter was born. That’s where the uproar began.

Click here to read the entire essay, including a link on that page to see Lisa’s rebuttal to the hate mail and a whole bunch of online comments hence.

A couple things struck me when I first read the essay. First, as a former animal shelter volunteer and former board member on the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, Lisa’s story is actually quite common. A lot can change between people and pets once kids are born.

While she will keep her dog for the rest of his life, other people in similar situations often give up their pets. What I learned all those years at the shelter is that noting the birth of children as the reason for relinquishment is only part of the story. Such pets almost always have behavior issues that people put up with until … they don’t. The baby then becomes a convenient excuse.

It’s the same with the “we’re moving” reason people sometimes use. At the shelter we used to joke, “Oh, yeah, and pets aren’t allowed in (insert name of state/city).”

That’s rarely the real reason, and it used to make me mad that people would dump pets like that.

But, after reading Lisa’s essay, I mostly felt sad for her dog and wondered whether a new home might not be the more compassionate solution. Surely, he has no idea why he’s suddenly the bad guy. He hasn’t changed. She has. Or, at the very least, the rules of engagement have. And, in life (and training), that’s not fair.

No camp this year

After much consideration and feedback from “Take my poll, please,” I’ve decided to skip this summer’s agility camp in Colorado. I really want to go. Yet, I’m torn. So, I took the advice I often give my single friends about relationships … “You either know, or you don’t.” Waffling, any on-again-off-again tendancies, signal a problem when it comes to love (and marriage). Maybe it’s the same with agility training, or any kind of dog training for that matter.

When I left my first-ever agility class in tears, I knew I wasn’t a good match for that trainer. Yet, trying to be optimistic, I stuck it out for a while. Doing so may have set a bad foundation for me and for Lilly.

The animal communicator later told me that Lilly did not trust this trainer, but I knew that from day one. Lesson? Trust my gut.

So, since I’ve been dragging my feet about registering, that tells me I’d best stay home.

Instead, I’ll use that money to arrange private or semi-private lessons, where the focus can be on Lilly’s specific needs. In fact, I just registered for a one-night speed and motivation class. Lilly may not even get out of the car, but at least I can go learn strategies aimed at her issues.

And, maybe next year camp will feel more like a love connection.

Mind your knees

Lilly molested a man in public last Saturday. While shopping at our local farmer’s market, she gave a grandpa-dude quite a shock by kissing the backs of his bare knees as we walked by.

He spun around, like “What the heck?”

Thankfully, he started laughing when he saw her smiling face. I apologized for her boldness, explaining it was somewhat uncharacteristic. Then, he asked if she’s like to visit his grandson, who rode in the stroller he was pushing. So, Lilly “poked” the baby. (That’s her word for targeting with her nose pretty much anything I point at.)

He giggled as her cold nose bumped his bare leg too. Then, she did a bunch of tricks for him, and we went merrily on our way.

Lilly has kissing fits all the time with me and with Tom. Out of the blue, she’ll just start kissing whatever she can reach. Lots of wiggling comes with it. This is the first time she’s done it to a complete stranger.

It’s like she has bursts of joy and the only way to relieve the pressure of being so happy is to lick something.

I rarely see it coming, but I sure wish I could figure out the formula. Maybe it would help in agility.

Then again, maybe she’d just run around and kiss the jump setters or the judge.

Happy Birthday, Lilly and Ginko

So, happy birthday, Lilly and Ginko.

This year Ginko will be 7. Lilly will be 3.

After our very old Dalmatian dieWe don’t really know Lilly’s birthday, but the humane society guessed (based on her teeth) that she was about 5 months old when we adopted her in October 2004. Counting back, that means she probably was born sometime in May. Since we do know that our big boy Ginko was born May 13, we decided to make life easy. d in June 2004 from kidney failure, all of us needed some time to grieve. Plus, Ginko was still recovering from bi-lateral knee surgery (TPLO, for those who know the lingo), so we didn’t want him running around too much until we were sure the bone had fused and the muscle strength was rebuilt.

Yet, it was a lonely summer for Ginko.

Come fall, we started searching local dog rescues for a new buddy – for him and us.

Shelters, however, freaked Ginko out, and every time we took him to meet potential pups, he got a little snarky with them. I was very discouraged. It seems all the time here in the boonies, all the time with an old, crotchety Dal did not prepare Ginko for meeting lots of strange dogs. (I realize now that I did a bad job socializing him. Live and learn!)

But, we really wanted another dog. So, thanks to my friend Connie, who is the director of operations at the humane society, I got permission to bring Lilly home to meet Ginko.

(By the way, the shelter was calling her Daisy, but my mother-in-law’s sheltie Daisy had died recently. I wanted to stay in the flower family, but my husband would not go for Poppy Anne, which I thought was *very* cute. You see, he could not get that Seinfeld episode where Poppy pees on the sofa out of his head. I looked through a flower book and settled on Lilly Elizabeth.)

Anyway, the deal was that we’d introduce them here, and if it went well, we’d return the next day to do the paperwork. If not, we’d bring her right back. You can guess what happened. ;o)

He snarked at her just once, then when he realized she happily ran around and played with him, he was sold.

He’s been a very good big brother to Lilly, and she’s an enthusiastic partner in mouse and vole hunting, swimming in the pond, playing fetch and all manner of other crazy things –like eating and rolling in horse poop.

So, on Mother’s Day, we’ll also raise a glass to our best, best friends – Mr. Ginko Cornelius Hawn and Miss Lilly Elizabeth Hawn.

The power of “NO!”

I stopped mid-sentence with my fingers poised above the keyboard when several things registered in my mind at once. Ginko was sprinting toward the upper pasture. The thing he wanted to chase was Lilly. She was outside the fence, sprinting low and hard toward the road. And … there were cars coming.

My emergency mode kicked in, and I screamed, “Lilly! No!” That got her attention and slowed her pace, so I followed with the most authoritative “COME!” I could muster, considering I felt like throwing up.

She stopped short of the road and began wiggling like a small hover craft toward our gate. (That’s her standard submissive posture. She does it any time she’s scared or thinks she’s in trouble.)
As I grabbed my cattle gate opener out of my car and ran up our football-field-long driveway, I saw the lure … our neighbor John and his new pup Charlie were outside. Charlie sometimes comes over to play. Lilly, it seems, decided to return the favor.

Out of breath, my heart racing from terror more than the run, I reached the gate to let her in.

I did not scold her. I just squeezed her tightly and cried. I was already having a stressful, deadline-soaked day. Utter terror did not help.

It’s a blessing that my husband got a new laptop today for his work. I happily took it outside to write. Had I been working inside in my south-facing office, I never would have known Lilly was loose to the east and running hard. She very well might have been hit by a car on the road.

After I finally stopped kissing her, I walked toward the back fence since that’s the last place I saw her before I settled on our front patio to write. She had been digging for voles. I thought maybe she’d accidentally made a hole under the fence.

Lilly followed, smiling, as I walked back to her hunting ground and asked over and over, “How did you get out? Show me.”

Seriously, the kid is an accomplished escape artist, but now that we have three of the four sides of our acreage stalwart with new fences, her wandering ways have stopped. (It helps that snow banks no longer top our fences.)

As I approached the 30-year-old back fence, I saw the problem. One whole section of wire was bent 90-degrees away from the corner post. A good 10-feet of boundary sat completely open, entirely unprotected. (… and what dog doesn’t see an opening like that and think, “Whoo-hoo!”) She likely poked around on the ranch behind us, until she saw Charlie.

It looked like someone used a can opener on the cattle fencing, but evidence pointed elsewhere.

Today our entire property is dotted big piles of elk scat. It seems members of the large elk herd that spends calving season near our home came visiting last night. And, they’ve been known to mangle fences during their spring-time stay.

If the tracks around the pond are any indication, they came to get a drink and to get some sleep.

I secured the section of fence the best I could, asked Lilly to please stay home from now on, and went back to work.

That was hours ago, and I still haven’t recovered from the scare.

Yet, I’m thankful for the laptop that got me outside at the right time. I’m thankful for Ginko, who is ever watchful over his baby sister. And, I’m thankful for the power of the well-placed (and rarely used) “NO!” which saved Lilly’s life.

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Based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado (USA), Roxanne Hawn is a veteran journalist and author.


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