In my last blog about Leela’s health, I wrote, “That brings me to the next blog about Leela: canine enrichment, or how to be with your dog in a way that plays into your dog’s natural instincts. I’ve spent a lot of time going in the opposite direction. Now, I see how doing what she loves can benefit me, as well.”
Since I last wrote about the many breeds Leela may carry in her DNA, I believe I’ve discovered her dominant breed: Australian Kelpie. Take a look at the photos I've included up top. The first, an Australian Kelpie. The second photo is Leela.
I can see the differences, too, and I see more of the similarities, so much so that I joined a Kelpie group on Facebook, who guessed her DNA as Kelpie, Cattle dog, and Staffordshire Terrier. The brindle color is probably the terrier but her behavior is all Kelpie.
Reading up confirmed all my opinions about this:
“One of the smartest of all breeds, the Australian Kelpie can also be one of the most challenging to live with. His superior intellect, combined with his independence, intensity, and passion for keeping busy, are his best features – and the ones that make him unsuitable for most homes.
This sharp-eyed, quick-thinking, fanatical workaholic must be allowed to do his job with livestock, to learn advanced obedience or agility, to accompany you jogging or biking, or to chase balls or Frisbees.
Without physical and mental stimulation, Australian Kelpies become bored and hyperactive and will drive you crazy with obsessive, destructive behaviors as they seek creative outlets for their energy.
High intelligence means they learn quickly – including how to do anything they set their mind to. They are master escape artists (going over and under fences) and zealous gatherers of cars, bikes, joggers, cats, other dogs, livestock, and running children – circling, poking, pushing, and nipping if the person or animal or object doesn't cooperate.
You must stay one step ahead of this brilliant breed, and most people are simply not up to the task.”
So, when a friend said, “Linda, you’ve finally met your match” she wasn’t kidding. I posted on Facebook, “Anyone have any sheep you need herded?” I wasn’t kidding, either.
Now, there’s also a meaning to the word Kelpie: a water spirit of Scottish folklore, typically taking the form of a horse and reputed to delight in the drowning of travelers.
Oh, great. Since she hasn’t taken the form of a horse, I’m going to let this one go. For now.
Here’s where canine enrichment comes in, though, and I’m just learning about it so please forgive the simplicity of what I write.
Leela loves to forage. She won’t eat all the food in her bowl, yet she’ll go out and forage and scavenge the backyard for tasty morsels (albeit not to this human’s observations).
My first trick: I turn over a muffin tin and put her dry food in the bottom of the tin. Just testing the waters here. She immediately went over and started eating and ate most of it; sometimes, she eats all of it. This morning, I brought the tin outside so I could have my coffee in the backyard. Leela didn’t seem as interested in the muffin tin food outdoors, so I grabbed a handful and tossed it on the grass. She had a blast foraging for part of her breakfast. Now, I understand that this isn’t always possible, and she doesn’t find all the food, so there’s that. And yet, what a natural instinct for her; one that also seems to be fun! Quite accidentally, I learned that she seems to respond to ‘come’ more when there’s something to see or do or my interest in her involves something she likes to do. Maybe that will eventually lead to her responding to ‘come’ when I want her to. Could it please do that?
I’m struck how important breed is when it comes to training. Whether Leela’s the Kelpie, Cattle dog, Terrier or Occasional Hyena, her own instincts make training possible, not my will or wanting and certainly not my controlling her. We’ve come a long way since, “A good leader always …” We humans are also who we are and our leadership must come from that, too.
It’s time for more reflection, for without reflection, these thoughts simply turn into that muddle of memories in our brains; maybe to be forgotten sooner than not.
This blog is about Leela’s health, which is sound, thank goodness, and yet we’ve made more trips to the vet lately than I’d have imagined or cared to make. Sometimes, I forget that delicate balance between the little girl puppy and the occasional hyena. Sometimes, that first year in a pup’s life is full of surprises and challenges.
It began with a small growth just under one of her front legs; nothing she cared about; something I cared about. After visiting the vet, days later she was in surgery to have it removed and biopsied. A large plastic cone was her parting gift from the vet. That lasted about 10 minutes before she’d chewed the edge on the inside of the cone where the two ends overlapped. She looked at me from under that cone with some hyena energy. It clearly said, “How can you do this to me?” and “I am prepared to kill this thing around my neck. Just watch me.”
Always one to be overprepared, at least when it comes to Leela, I had purchased a soft cone when she was spayed that I never had to use. Out came the soft cone as a replacement for the big, awkward plastic let-me-bump-into-everything-especially-the-back -of-your-legs cone. That worked briefly. At least she could lie down and rest a bit. But it didn’t last long. I decided to take it off and ‘just see’ how things went. As it turned out, things went really well. Only once did she start to go after the surgery site and a quick reminder with the soft cone was all Leela needed to leave it be.
And a few days after the surgery, her biopsy came back benign much to my relief.
End of story? No. About a week into healing, I noticed something just above and to the left of the incision site. Another growth? Not another one, please. I gave it a few days and called the vet. We went back and she was due for a post-surgery check-in so it was a good time to ask about this other thing of concern.
The vet quickly said no, not the same thing; maybe she scratched herself and got an irritation or infection. No charge for the visit (bundling the post-surgery with this new thing was a good idea) and some antibiotics for a week. I’d promised Leela that I wouldn’t be pushing pills down her throat anymore so there was some apologizing to do when it began again.
To celebrate, because that’s what you do when you get good news, we went to the dog park near our home; my favorite park for dogs because there is a grove of mature trees (probably left there to keep the neighbors happy), nice dogs and nice people who clean up religiously after their dogs.
Leela loves to rough n tumble. Leela loves to run and she corners like a ball player turning third base to head for home plate. An odd analogy for me, and yet that’s what it reminds me of.
So, Leela was playing with all the other dogs and one in particular who was larger than her and enjoyed the rough n tumble, too. At some point, when it was time to go home, they managed to get off the dirt and grass onto the concrete walkway. Suddenly there was a yelp from Leela and that was that; she seemed fine. I checked her over. All good.
We headed home and suddenly, she was licking her back paws. She was also licking a spot on her leg. I took a look and saw that the licking was causing some redness; perhaps the beginning of a hot spot. I had some very old over the counter medication for that. Leela didn’t like it one bit; shaking her leg until the stinging (I imagine) stopped. It wasn’t until the next day when I looked again to see if it was any better that I noticed that she’d worn away a bit of one of her pads on both back feet. No bleeding. Just part of her pad missing! Yikes, I thought, how did you do that??
You guessed it. Back to the vet. He was less concerned about the pads, saying young dogs still have tender pads and she’d simply run them off. The redness was diagnosed as allergies that show up as dermatitis with Fall pollen already present around us. I wonder about Leela being from the South and how the Northern pollen might affect her. So, more meds and a shot that was cold and caused Leela to jump. Two cookies from the vet followed immediately and the cold shot was forgotten. Good vet. Great vet.
The hardest part of the Rx was no trip to New Hampshire, which we had planned for the following week; only soft ground for a week or two to heal her pads; then an easy routine of toughening up her pads. Now, we’ve always walked a lot and on concrete, although I’ll admit because it’s summer and very hot in NY, I’ve been walking her on grass much, much more. I also think because she loves to run, she’s wearing down her pads over time, and not the yelping in the playground. That might have just been from hitting the hard surface when she was playing with the other dog. And who really knows, right? How things happen are often a mystery. We notice the results of the mysterious happenings when it comes to puppies more often than how they happened.
It’s been a lot time spent indoors these past few weeks; time spent in the yard: no playground, no beach, no getting wet. It seems we’ll have another week or two of that. She is unphased by her injuring and wonders why we’re not doing more. Her energy hasn’t changed. Not one bit.
That brings me to the next blog about Leela: canine enrichment, or how to be with your dog in a way that plays into your dog’s natural instincts. I’ve spent a lot of time going in the opposite direction. Now, I see how doing what she loves can benefit me, as well.