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Dog's Life: Humane
Bark Rescue Wonder Dog: Vinny
How Andrea Horikawa coaxed the wonder from a one tough mutt

Almost immediately after Andrea Horikawa adopted Vinny Love from a shelter in southern California, she had doubts. The Chihuahua mix with a dizzying tail challenged every dog to cross his path. She contemplated returning him to the pound, but realizing his days would be numbered if she did, she redoubled her commitment. As a result of three years of diligent, consistent and positive training, Vinny is now a well-mannered pup with an impressive arsenal of more than 20 tricks, including a handstand that would make a yogi jealous. (See the video at the end of this article)

We often hear stories about shelter and rescue dogs who shed serious baggage—neglect, abandonment, abuse—to rise above expectations. We decided to feature some of these special pups—and by extension their faithful people—as Bark Rescue Wonder Dogs because they make us rethink what’s possible. We begin with Vinny and Andrea. We asked the 22-year-old Laguna Hills resident how Vinny landed on his paws with such poise.

Bark: Are you a trainer?
Andrea Horikawa: No.

How did you have this kind of success with Vinny?
I went to private consultations with six or seven dog trainers around the area. I was hoping I would find a trainer I really liked and then I would start taking classes from them. But I didn’t really find any trainers I liked. So I just took in some dog training tips from one trainer and some tips from another trainer and they kind of all meshed and I used what worked for Vinny and me.

What kinds of things were a good fit for you?
Mainly, redirection. If he aggressed, I would redirect him, make him do something I wanted him to do and praise him for that.

Do you use treats? A clicker?
Treats and praise. I didn’t use a clicker. He’s very food motivated. But when I first got him, even if I had treats, he still lashed out at other dogs.

So you’d be walking him on leash and he’d lunge and bark at other dogs?
Yes.

Now when you see another dog, what happens?
He’s fine. In the beginning, I would see another dog and I would have Vinny look at me, not at the other dog because what he used to do was look at the other dog, fixate on him, and then challenge him by barking and lunging. By avoiding eye contact, he stays quiet. Now looking is OK; if he fixates, that’s not good. He’ll usually look at the other dog, and I’ll say “Vinny” and he’s quiet and he’ll walk fine.

How much time do you spend working with Vinny?
About 45 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes at night.

Does that include exercise time?
Yes.

What have been the most challenging tricks to teach him?
The handstand. I first saw it on YouTube.

How long did it take?
He has to build up muscle strength. It took us probably five months for him to fully do it.

Have you considered a future in movies for Vinny?
We’ve actually talked to an animal training agent. But they ask a lot of money upfront. If I had that money, I would use it for rescues and other things.

Why did you post Vinny’s tricks on YouTube?
I wanted to show people that, one, even if you have a dog with behavior issues, if you take the time to train them they can make wonderful companions and even do a lot of tricks and, two, there are a lot of dogs who have no issues in shelters and I want to become an advocate for animal rescue and adoption.

What do you think is ahead for him?
I don’t know. We perform at a lot of local dog shows that are fundraisers for animal shelters and rescues. We’ve been able to persuade a lot of people to look for their next pet at animal shelters and rescues. And because of the videos, we’ve had people contact us from around the world tell us we’ve inspired them to adopt or get involved in their rescue community.

What would you say to any Bark readers who might be struggling with a dog’s behavior?
I would tell them to be patient and stay committed and never give up on them. But be realistic about what you want to achieve. I think, for a while, I wanted Vinny to be a dog park/dog beach, very social dog. And that’s just not who he is. I can’t change him. He’ll never be a really dog-social dog. I have to accept him for who he is.

Dog's Life: Humane
Rescue Wonder Dog
Vinny!
Vinny

Soon after Andrea Horikawa adopted Vinny from a high-kill shelter in southern Calif., she had doubts. The Corgi mix challenged every dog he met. She considered returning him, but realizing what that would mean, she redoubled her commitment. As a result of three years of diligent, consistent and positive training, Vinny is a well-mannered pup with an arsenal of tricks, including a handstand that would make a yogi jealous.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The World Championship Boatyard Dog Trials

The World Championship Boatyard Dog Trials careens into Rockland, Maine, on August 12—get your dog’s sea paws on so he’s ready to hurtle across lobster crates, clamber in and out of a small boat, or accomplish any other bizarre mission the judges dream up. The winner will be featured in the Boatyard Dog column of Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine, and gets to keep the “Pup Cup” trophy until next year’s trials.

Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Working Dogs
Bear Dogs in Eco-Resort

Not many people commute to work on a boat. Even fewer can boast they travel to their job in a helicopter. But for Karma, boat trips and helicopter rides are all just a part of her job as a bear dog in the remote Canadian wilderness.

Karma is the first black Labrador to work at the Nimmo Bay Resort, a luxury helicopter adventure and fishing eco-resort on the coast of British Columbia. She and Oatie, an 11-year-old yellow Labrador, protect the guests and staff at this high-end resort when they’re out hiking in the woods or exploring the surrounding areas. The Nimmo Bay lodge is nestled in the Great Bear Rainforest, accessible only by helicopter or boat, so bear sightings are a frequent occurrence, especially during the fishing season, when they come down to the ocean and nearby river to feed.

Before life at Nimmo Bay, Karma had a rocky start; for the first two years of her life, she bounced from owner to owner. Then the resort’s owners adopted her and put her to work.

Though not your standard “bear dogs,” Karma and Oatie fulfill their roles with enthusiasm. On the trail, they race ahead, noses to the ground, then turn back when the coast is clear in order to check in with their hiking buddy. If they catch the scent of a bear, their body language changes dramatically; they stop, raise their hackles, and go ballistic with barking and growling. Oatie has even charged at some of the more stubborn bears and sent them on their way.

While the dogs are on the defensive when hiking, around the lodge they relax and become happy-go-lucky Labs again. They can often be seen perched in the front seat of a double kayak or balanced on the boards of a surf bike as they travel back and forth across Nimmo Bay, to and from trails and the tiny islands that dot the Broughton Archipelago area.

Last summer, Karma mastered the art of tightrope-walking the log booms that hold the floating lodge together, scaling them with a stick clenched between her teeth. She and Oatie enjoy daily baths in the glacier-plunge pool beneath the waterfall, and guests delight in throwing sticks off the floating wharf into the ocean for the dogs. 

Karma and Oatie are best pals when on the job at the Nimmo Bay Resort—they even cuddle at night in their shared bed—but the off-season is another story. The two big dogs don’t do well when confined together in close living quarters with no wilderness to escape to during the day. And so, through a series of connections, Karma came to live with me in the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island.

City life took some adjusting to: Karma had rarely worn a collar, let alone been on a leash, which makes going out for a walk an adventure every time. She charges ahead of me, straining against the leash until she’s wheezing. When we reach an intersection, she barrels ahead, desperate to stay in the lead to look for bears.

When the beginning of the summer fishing season rolls around, Karma heads back to the Nimmo Bay Resort. Although it’s hard for me to say goodbye, I know that she’s living the ultimate in doggie life, out in the wilderness, collar-free, protecting others in one of the most beautiful and pristine places in the world. 

Dog's Life: Humane
Gateway Guardians Premieres Sunday
Q&A with documentary’s director Rebecca Ormond

On July 18, Gateway Guardians, a documentary about a handful of scrappy volunteers feeding and rescuing stray dogs in a blighted East St. Louis neighborhood, premieres. Filmed almost entirely by flipcam-wielding rescue and foster volunteers and Webster University film students, the documentary provides a moving, dog’s-eye-view of street packs and loners and their unorthodox saviors. We spoke with the film’s director, professor and independent filmmaker, Rebecca Ormond during the final days of editing to learn how this story reached the screen.

► See details about the premiere and future screenings below. ► Look for our story about Gateway Pet Guardians in the September issue of Bark. ► Watch video trailer on page 2.   TheBark.com: How did you sign on for the documentary? Rebecca Ormond: I am a film professor at Webster University and also an independent filmmaker. [The film’s producers Amie Simmons, Gateway Pet Guardians’ president, and Jamie Case, executive director] approached me not to make the film but to recommend cameras. In talking with them it was pretty clear that they really didn’t know what was involved so I thought it would be a really neat combination, since I’d volunteered [for about five years] with them anyway, to volunteer my services.   My role was basically to handle all the technical stuff and just figure out how to use cinematic language to say what they wanted to say. [Another Webster University professor, Steve Schenkel, composed the score.]   How did you make the documentary? We had a very loose plan. We bought these little high-definition flipcams. PJ Hightower [GPG’s founder and lead rescuer, who has been feeding the strays since 1995 and hasn’t missed a day since 2001] wore one and whoever rode with her carried one, and I gave them some basic instruction in how to film and not get in the way.   The whole idea was to get a lot of footage with the animals the way they really act with PJ. The way we wouldn’t be able to get with a film crew. The basic idea was to see these animals the way she sees them, which is very personal. She has names for all of them. It’s like she has 200 pets. So the goal was to be as unobtrusive as possible. As fosters came forward, we would then hand a camera to the foster, and follow that dog through the foster system into their forever home.   For almost a year, they would run these cameras. They’d turn in over six hours of footage to me a week. We just kept trimming it down, trimming it down, trimming it down. Very early on we followed Ghandi’s quote that you can tell a society by how it treats its animals as a really rough working guide.   Beyond the foster folks and the volunteers is there anyone else in the film? In the longer film, there are people from East St. Louis—both who live there and who work there. My favorite person of all is a wonderful woman, Ethel May Taylor. She tells the story of her dog Tyler, who she was feeding as a stray, and PJ rescued and had neutered and then returned to Ethel. She talks about the joy that Tyler brings to her life.   How were your students involved? We never sent them out on the streets of East St. Louis. We brought people from East St. Louis and the organization to my house to film. They filmed the interviews. They also logged footage. It was an enormous amount of logging, 10 solid months of six hours a pop with six different cameras running constantly. I would tell them… we want, at most, to log 10 percent of what comes in, so it’s your job to search through all six hours and decide what hour or even maybe what 10 minutes gets put in the log that I’ll eventually start editing.   What did your students think of the group and making the documentary? Everybody is moved by the footage. Liz Pekunka (a graduating senior, film logger and second assistant editor) kept saying if I weren’t a student, I’d absolutely foster a dog now.   From a technical perspective, this kind of shooting is quite novel right now because these little cameras are using a codec called H.264. It’s really amazing. We bought the pink cameras that went on sale on Mother’s Day for $99. They are just pinhole cameras; you can’t focus them or anything, which was important for the rescue workers because they’d just point and shoot. But these tiny cameras, the size of cell phones could hold six hours of high-definition 720p, 60 frames per second video. The quality is phenomenal. For my students this was one of the big things because filmmaking is so expensive … and here are these little cell phones generating a pretty amazing image.   Sounds like a great thing for such a lean organization. Would they have been able to make the film otherwise? No. It was great because it was cheap and it was also great because it was so easy for them to do. The whole philosophy was if we go in there with a crew we’re not going to be able to get what happens. Only when PJ stands there by herself can she get this.   After all your experience volunteering and fostering with Gateway Pet Guardians, did you learn anything new in putting the film together? Probably the thing that surprised me most is how much we were able to see in these packs of dogs the individual personalities of the dogs and how well PJ knew them. Even though I knew she had a really strong rapport with all the dogs it was shocking to see because she had the camera right on her hip. In the footage, the dog comes right up and bumps noses into the camera, and these are the stray, feral dogs that everyone’s afraid of.   I can’t imagine that people aren’t going to be all over this film. As the director and someone who has been on it 16 hours a day for the past 6 weeks, I’m a little bleary. I don’t know. It might be great and it might be terrible. I can’t say.   I heard a dog in the background. Is that a Gateway rescue? No. She is a rescue but I had her before I met PJ. I met PJ through her oddly enough. I had just bought my house and I was walking my dog. My dog was about a year old and she’s skittish with people she doesn’t know. So as PJ approached I started my whole spiel that I do with everybody, ‘She’s not aggressive, she won’t bite, but she’s probably going to hide behind me, she’s slow to warm up.’ PJ pulled one of her biscuits out of her pockets, and my dog took it out of her hand.   When you started as a Gateway volunteer, did you ever think to yourself, this would make a great film? No, really I didn’t. The funny thing is, I’m not a documentary filmmaker. I’ve made a few and I’ve worked on a lot. But I’m principally a narrative filmmaker. It was one of those things where I’m the only filmmaker they knew.  

Dog's Life: Humane
Feed Your Dog, Save a Farm
Farm

The pet food recalls over the past
few years have taught us a few things. When you buy commercial dog food, your money goes to a corporation that’s likely far away from your community. You simply have to trust that the package label doesn’t lie and what’s in there is safe for your dog to eat.

But if you buy meat, milk or eggs from your local farmer, you can stop by the farm to see for yourself if the animals are treated humanely and whether you’re purchasing a quality whole food product. Liz Cunninghame of Clark Summit Farm in Tomales, Calif. offers a monthly farm tour so visitors can see the difference. She offers natural grass-fed beef, pastured organically fed pork, organic pastured eggs, sheep, goats, Jersey cows, geese, turkeys, meat chickens and guinea hens.

“If you care how the animals are raised, find a local farmer,” says Stacy Martin, owner of Yellow Wolf Farm in Lansing, N.C. “If they’re doing what they say they’re doing, they won’t cringe when you take out your camera. Talk to them about where your food and your pet’s food comes from.” Through a small farmers’ co-op, Martin sells natural grass-fed beef, chicken, eggs and organs to raw feeders. She is now moving to a larger property to meet the increased demand for sustainable whole foods for both people and pets.

Both Cunninghame and Martin have had pet owners specifically request grass-fed beef to help a pet with illness, such as cancer, or allergies to commercial foods or meat purchased in a traditional grocery store. “Seek the best quality you can find or afford,” advises Cunninghame. “Once you switch yourself, and understand how the animal you are eating is raised, you will never go back to conventional meats for you or your pet.

To find sustainable and organic local farmers, go to localharvest.org.

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Baseball Dog Days [2010]
Dog Days

Warm sun, cold drinks, the crack of the ball against the bat. What says summer like the game of baseball? The only way to make a day at the ballpark any better is by having your pup in the seat next to you. Across the country, baseball clubs are giving fans the opportunity to do just that by offering a special “dog day” game and inviting folks to bring their pups along for the fun.

MLB Dog Days are listed below. To find out if your area’s minor league team is hosting a dog day this season, check out the schedule posted on the team’s webpage.

Oakland Athletics
Dog Day at the Park
July 23
The A's will donate a portion of the proceeds to Dogs4Diabetics, a non-profit organization that trains medical-alert service dogs to detect hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) in diabetic youths and adults and alert their partner or other family member of the situation.

Texas Rangers
Dog Day at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
July 25

San Diego Padres
Dog Days of Summer presented by Petco
August 27
Special tickets required. Ticket order forms available at San Diego area PETCO stores
For more information call 619.795.5198 or e-mail dogdays@padres.com

San Francisco Giants
Dog Days of Summer
August 29
A portion of sales benefits the SF SPCA

Atlanta Braves
Bark In the Park
August 29

Cincinnati Reds
Iams Bark In The Park
September 14

Florida Marlins
Bark in the Park
October 2
For questions or more information, call the Humane Society of Greater Miami (305-749-1815)

Kansas City Royals
Bark at the K
October 3
This is an opportunity for Royals fans and dog lovers to attend a Royals game with their pet while supporting three local charities.

 

Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Courthouse Dogs Go South
Chile adopts groundbreaking victim-support program

“We need dogs like these in Chile,” said Seattle Police Department videographer Cesar Hidalgo-Landeros. It was 2007, and Cesar and I were in the middle of editing a training video about courthouse dogs, professionally trained canines who provide crime victims with emotional support during the investigation and prosecution stages. We had just watched a film clip of a five-year-old girl telling courthouse dog Stilson how she had been sexually abused.

At the time, I had concerns about the U.S. legal system embracing the idea of dogs participating in forensic interviews and appearing in the courtroom; I couldn’t imagine Chile being receptive to the idea. The deadline for our video production loomed, so we dropped the discussion and got back to work.

Two years later, my consulting partner, Celeste Walsen, DVM, and I gave a presentation on our “Courthouse Dogs” program at an Assistance Dogs International conference. One of the first questions came from a young woman in the back of the auditorium, who wanted to know if we could come to her country to tell people about this concept. Celeste and I love to travel, so I said, “Sure,” and then thought to ask where she lived. She said she was from Santiago, Chile.

Months went by, and I was caught up in my job as a deputy prosecuting attorney. Then came the invitation. The young woman whose request we had so casually accepted, Cecilia Marré, turned out to be the director of Chile’s Corporación Bocalán Confiar, and in June 2009, she wrote with a formal appeal for assistance. I rushed into Cesar’s studio and told him about Cecilia’s invitation. I also said that this remarkable coincidence meant that he had to travel with us. To persuade him, I added that his work with the Seattle Police Department might make the idea of using dogs with victims more acceptable to the law-enforcement officers who investigate these crimes. Cesar readily agreed to accompany us, and also offered to help with translating our presentations to Chilean government officials.

To prepare, I studied up on Chile’s criminal justice system, learning that the country had only recently adopted the adversarial model long utilized in the U.S., and that Chileans are passionate about implementing trial procedures that assure justice for everyone. In the meantime, Cesar entered a three-minute YouTube video, “Dogs in the Courthouse,” in a contest sponsored by the Washington State Bar Association to find the short film that best demonstrated a Northwest perspective on “Justice for All.” Cesar said that if he won, he would donate any prize money he received to Bocalán Confiar to help them promote a courthouse dogs program. In September, just two days before our departure for Chile, Cesar learned that he had won both the judges’ and the People’s Choice awards!

After a long flight, we arrived in Santiago and were greeted by customs dogs sniffing luggage for fruits and vegetables. To our surprise, these Labradors were working off-lead, with their handlers standing by, monitoring their behavior. As the dogs went about their business, they also accepted a few pats from the passengers. What a lovely introduction to the country this was.

Cecilia picked us up, and asked if we would be interested in seeing therapy dogs from Bocalán Confiar work with a physical therapist treating a disabled child. On our way to the facility, she told us that in Chile, veterinary students sometimes become certified dog handlers and assist physical therapists. We also learned that in some countries, the term “therapy dog” has a different meaning than it does in the U.S. In South America and Europe, for example, therapy dogs are what we call professionally trained assistance dogs.

When we arrived at the clinic, we saw Alejandra Santelices and her Labrador Retriever, Peseta, in a cheerful room, working with a physical therapist and a little girl. Peseta sat patiently across a table from the child, who had a bowl of dog kibble in front of her. She painstakingly dipped a spoon into the bowl, filled it with kibble and lifted it to Peseta’s mouth. She was delighted when Peseta ate delicately from the spoon.

Our next meetings were with the family-crime investigation unit of the Policía de Investigaciones de Chile (PDI) and Servicio Nacional de Menores (SENAME) of the Ministry of Justice, a child–sexual abuse treatment organization, to discuss their interest in implementing a courthouse dogs program. Two detectives picked us up, and we had an exciting ride through an assortment of neighborhoods to their headquarters. As we were escorted into the building, we saw a formal line of police officials waiting to greet us. Cesar had told us that in Chile, people air-kiss one another on the right cheek, but it was still a surprise to be greeted by these distinguished gentlemen this way.

Once the salutations were over, we made our first presentation to a group of about 10 high-ranking police officials. With Cesar and Cecilia acting as translators, we explained how professionally trained assistance dogs could help children and their families during the investigation and prosecution of sexual-assault crimes. It was very hard to read their expressions—we couldn’t tell if they thought we were brilliant, or crazy. But when Cesar broke out Seattle Police Department sweatshirts and hats, their demeanor changed, and we knew we had at least connected on that level.

Our meeting with the SENAME staff was entirely different. Here, forensic interviewers, a family court judge and therapeutic counselors made up the audience, and within minutes, it was clear they were ready to try anything to assist children and their families through this difficult process. We were told that there is a great deal of pressure to keep intrafamily sexual abuse secret, especially if reporting it meant that the father would be removed from the home. The mothers’ intentions are good, but they can easily become frustrated with the prolonged process. Not only are they usually unable to support their families by themselves, they see that their abused children begin to feel revictimized by having to repeatedly describe what happened to them. Cases were often dismissed for these reasons and, even worse, the children were not receiving the therapeutic counseling they needed to recover from their experiences. Maybe the dogs could make a difference.

To our delight, we were invited to a second meeting with the PDI investigators, one at which the entire staff was present. This time there were smiles, and the detectives were on their knees hugging the dog Cecilia had brought with her. Apparently, they thought we were more brilliant than crazy. In a leap of faith, the police had decided to work with Bocalán Confiar assistance dogs and SENAME to make a Chilean courthouse dogs program a reality. The deal was sealed when PDI detectives gave us souvenirs from their department to bring back to the United States. The following day, Santiago television stations and newspapers covered Chile’s decision to begin a courthouse dogs program. Suddenly, the issue of child sexual abuse was big news, and this innovative approach demonstrated that the government was willing to do all it could to address the problem.

Epilogue
Within weeks of our return to the U.S., we learned that, due to Cecilia’s efforts, the Bayer Corporation in Chile had offered to fund their courthouse dogs program. In addition, the Ministry of Justice wanted six Bocalán Confiar assistance dogs to begin training with the police and counselors by January 2010. Cecilia, who had to work fast to get this started, asked Fundación Bocalán, the parent organization in Spain that supports Chile’s program, to lend a hand with additional dogs and training expertise. Teo Mariscal, director of Fundación Bocalán, enthusiastically agreed to help out, traveling to Chile with three dogs and assisting with the training. Courthouse Dogs, a.k.a. Perros de Asistencia Judicial, is now active in Chile and making a difference.

What a lesson in humility! I had thought that Chileans were unlikely to be receptive to this idea, but not only were they interested, they established and funded a national program faster than has been done in our country. Now, we are lagging behind. 

Recently, Teo Mariscal asked if we would be interested in helping him establish a similar program in Colombia. “Sure,” we said. “We love to travel!” Stay tuned…

Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Starting with Stockdogs

It depends on what you want. Suppose you have a pet dog you love to death and want to do more with. Suppose your dog has “shepherd” or “sheepdog” in his name, maybe his breed is among the AKC “Herding Group”. Or maybe your dog is a “shepherd/mix” from the shelter.

If your dog is an AKC “Herding Group” purebred, it’s easy to find training and AKC “herding” trials. ASCA (the Australian Shepherd Club of America) lets more purebreds compete but If you’ve got a crossbred – or don’t know what your dog is, The American Herding Breeds Assn is your best bet.

At any of these events, you’ll meet people as crazy about their dogs as you are. You might earn a ribbon or initials after the dog’s name – if nothing tonier than “HCT” (Herding Capability Tested). These programs aren’t difficult and you and your dog will have a ball.

In fairness, I must warn you against traditional stockdog work and trials. Learning how to handle and train a sheepdog takes years. You’ll put miles on your car and your dog. You’ll be out in the foulest weather. You’ll need to understand not only your dog – no cinch – but sheep, cattle or goats too. Do you really want to be on a first name basis with a three hundred pound Suffolk ram?

All your most shameful mental qualities: your impatience, egotism, vagueness, vanity and inattention will be painfully and publicly obvious. Your dreams, fantasies and love for your dog will count for nothing. You won’t earn titles or championships. Ribbons and prize money will be rare and humiliations commonplace.

Welcome, sucker. If you’ve got this far, you’re probably too hard-headed to accept my most important advice: IF YOU WANT TO WORK A STOCKDOG BUY A TRAINED STOCKDOG. A started sheepdog (can fetch sheep, goes left or right on command and is starting to drive) will run you two grand, a trial winner as much as fifteen, a 9 or ten year old retired trial dog mightn’t cost more than a good home for him. Since you can buy the cutest sheepdog pup for five hundred, why spend the money?

Because in the long run, the high dollar dog is cheaper. Because you need training and THE TRAINED DOG TRAINS YOU.

If you ain’t got the genes, you ain’t got no thing

Any dog can be useful on livestock: I’d lay my Labrador Retriever in a gateway to block sheep. But a few breeds have this powerful genetic urge to work stock. Alas, most dogs from the “Herding Group” are bred for dog shows and aren’t much more useful than my Labrador was Your best genetic bets are Border Collies, Kelpies, English Shepherds and Australian Shepherds – in that order. Shun show dogs and be deaf to breeder guff. If you don’t like the way mama works stock, don’t buy her pup.

You’ll need a plastic stick to extend your reach, a tie chain for your dog while he’s waiting to work, a leash, a collar with your dog’s id, and a 2$ plastic whistle which you won’t be able to blow although your kid will. You won’t need treats, halters, snootloops, clickers, choke, prong or ecollars.

Your Sheepdog Guru

Stockwork often seems counter-intuitive and even with a trained dog nobody learns without a mentor. If you stick with AKC, ASCA and AHBA events, mentors are plentiful. T’were it me, I’d see my mentor’s dogs work before I signed up for his/her instruction.

If you’re determined to learn traditional stockwork, usbcha.com lists every sheep and cattle trial. Thats’ where you’ll find local, traditional trainers. After your pup is six months old, enroll him in your mentor’s sheepdog handler’s clinic.

A BOOMING BUZZING CONFUSION

Your mentor will escort you and Shep into a small ring containing three or four docile sheep. You’ll unclip his lead and all hell will break loose. Shep will go after the sheep, the sheep will split and bolt, the mentor will be saying something as you’re praying that Shep won’t kill some wooly creature. SHEP WON”T LISTEN!!. HE’S ON ANOTHER PLANET!!!

That’s how everybody starts learning. Fun, huh?

 

SO WHY?

Because it’s beautiful and because Shep will think it’s beautiful too. From the start you’ll have glimpses; momentary communication so intense, your and your dog’s mind will be one mind. Because one day you’ll be in difficulties and your dog will rescue you. Because one day last year I sent my Luke for sheep half a mile away, across three ridges; then down a steep backslope and Luke disappeared from sight for one minute, two minutes, three . . . four . . . and reappeared – so far out there he was a dot, but exactly where he needed to be. That tiny black dot was the most beautiful dog I’ve ever seen.
 

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Vue Personal Video Network

Being a bit of a science and tech wonk, when I heard that the Vue personal video network had scored a Popular Science 2009 “Best of What’s New” award, I was instantly impressed and interested in trying it out for keeping track of our two new pups, Holly and Kit. We have four dogs, two older ones come to the office with us all day, but pups Holly and Kit only “work” the after-lunch shift, so we were curious to know what they did with their A.M. time. What better way to remotely check up on them than by setting up Vue’s miniature cameras in choice spots in the house—and how lucky was I to get a system from the generous folks at Vue to test out? Turns out that we have really good pups, or extra sleepy ones—because most of the time they snoozed on the couch (which they are allowed to do), with a few breaks for a round of sister-on-sister sumo wrestling, then it’s back to naptime. But knowing this relieved me of the guilt of leaving them alone for 3 hours—then its me going home for lunch, letting all dogs outside, then packing them up for the short drive back to the office.

The set up of the system was easy. Its wireless base station plugs into the wall and into a wireless router. The out-of-the-box system comes with two Vue cameras—but you also buy additional ones—they all synchronize with the Vue gateway, and are easily mounted. The sync process involves bringing each camera within 12 inches of the gateway and just pressing the sync button, piece of cake! There is no need to go into intricate network settings and mess with them. But if you have trouble with the setup you can email Vue and ask for their support. Next you then set up an account online at my.vuezone.com, and then you are ready to start to see what’s happening on the cameras from just about anywhere. You can use a free iPhone application or a web-based interface called VueZone. The user online interface and the one on iPhone are simple to navigate. Both let you look at multiple (up to 50!) cameras at once—with a range of unobstructed line-of-sight 300 feet from the base station.

Do be aware that the service is routed through the VueZone.com web site, requiring a $20 annual fee for service after the first year—including sharing and recording features—but also exposing your in-home videos to possible snooping—so puppy-cam is a good idea, anything, let’s say, of the more personal nature, you might want to switch off the cameras! The cameras themselves are battery powered and should run for one year before needing new $2 cells. The cameras also default into a sleep mode when their feeds aren’t being viewed to save battery life. The system is mostly intended for short-time, status-check kinds of monitoring. Like pups on couch, pups playing, back to couch etc. The tech savvy reviewers who look into such things as colors and exposure note that these are fine, and the resolution “is around 320x240—saved as 478x358 for recordings, with a stated 15fps rate that actually looks like roughly 4fps.”

What’s really cool is that sharing can be done by sending others an invitation to view the clips or photos, though they are embedded on Vue’s website. Either can also be uploaded to an existing Flickr or YouTube account. Look for a Holly and Kit wrestling match soon!

—Claudia Kawczynska, Editor-in-chief

 

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