Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Happy 5th Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Luna!

Today Luna turns 5 years old.  This is our first time celebrating her birthday so we are doing everything we can to spoil her rotten.  This morning I took her to the local dog park and since there was no one else there I let her explore off leash.  She enjoyed the freedom to wander and sniff as much as she liked.  She was not interested in running (I'm not sure if this is physical or mental), but I was able to have her jog behind me back and forth across the park.  She seemed pleased just being outside for a little trot.

We followed up the park with a trip to the local pet supply store.  I couldn't help myself and picked out a cupcake shaped cookie (with pink frosting of course), a little cake shaped like a bone that says "Happy Birthday" in pink complete with a candle, and a large bully stick.  Luna loved the bully stick and insisted that she carry it around the store and out to the car.

Later tonight when we are all home from work we will celebrate her birthday with songs and treats.  We are so happy to have her and that we are able to celebrate her 5th birthday.

Monday, March 26, 2012

New Toys and Tricks

At our last training session we were taught how to play with our dogs in between obedience exercises to keep them happy and engaged.  The problem is, Luna doesn't really know how to play.  Our trainer suggested we encourage her to chase a toy.  Last week I found the perfect toy; a small fuzzy squeaker on the end of a whip.  Mike has been very excited to try it out so we gave it a shot tonight.

A problem we ran into is that Luna is very good with "take it" meaning take whatever object I am holding or pointing at.  She is very comfortable holding pencils, cups, beer cans, and other strange objects.  So right off the bat she thought I wanted her to take the whip I was holding.  She paid very little attention to the squeak toy at the end of the whip.  Go figure I trained her too well on that one.
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We didn't have much room for her to run so she was stuck running in circles, which you can tell got very boring very fast.  We'll have to try again in a field where she can run a little bit.
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Luna has also become very vocal since her accident.  I believe that she figured out the value of barking when she was injured because anytime she made a noise we (or the vet techs) would come running.  Now she barks anytime she wants us to pay attention to something she needs.  Usually she will start barking when she wants to go out or be fed.  She is so funny when she barks that I decided to make it a new trick tonight.  In this first video I have not introduced the command "speak".  I was just trying to get her excited enough to bark.  The video had to end because our washer got too loud.
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In this second video I have introduced "speak" and a hand signal to help her understand that this is a trick and not something to be done all the time.  She caught on to "speak" very quickly and I'm sure it will become a fast favorite of hers.  You can tell Mike really liked the toy on a whip game as he reintroduces the game at the end.
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Visiting Family

I know I've fallen behind in my posts (sorry), but I have plenty of great news to share.  I was hoping to have a few pictures available, but that is going to take awhile since the pictures are on my dad's camera and who knows when I'll get them.

Mike, Luna and I spent some time last week at my aunt and uncle's house for a family event.  This was the first time Luna has been to their house since Thanksgiving so they were now meeting Luna post accident.  She looked so well to them that I had to remind everyone constantly why she was not allowed to run.  She had a great time visiting so many people and interacting with her dog cousin, Ginny.  She and Ginny were quite a pair when it came to greeting new arrivals at the door, barking at other dogs from the porch, and begging for snacks from anyone sitting at the kitchen table.

On Thursday, we took the dogs for a nice walk along a local canal.  The weather was perfect and spring was in full bloom.  The woods we were walking in had little yellow flowers carpeting the ground.  It was truly a awesome sight to see.  The dogs just loved being outdoors and exploring the sights and smells.

On Friday, we took the dogs to the local dog park which is probably the best dog park I have ever been to.  I had hoped to let Luna off leash if there weren't too many dogs in the park, but it was always busy with high energy dogs so she stayed on leash.  Ginny was not happy to see so many large dogs (she prefers smaller breeds) so she did not interact much with the other visitors.  At the park we saw many different breeds including an Australian shepherd, a boxer, a sheltie, a westie, a scottie, an Irish wolfhound, and three great danes (one was a four month old puppy as large as the boxer).

The best part of our visit was seeing Luna play for the first time.  I have mentioned in a previous post that she suddenly clicked on how to play fetch.  This weekend she took it a step further and began to play with a squeaky toy.  At first we were playing fetch on the living room carpet, but suddenly Luna realized how much fun she could have by pouncing on the toy and shaking it (although not very hard).  A couple of times she bit the squeaker and that added to her fun.  She still prefers that we toss the toy and let her chase it, but it is nice to see her warming up to such a fun experience.

On Saturday, it was time to head home.  Luna did great in the car (as always) and we were home in no time.  I'm looking forward to future travels with her and hopefully we will get a video of her playing soon.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Social Butterfly

It was another busy weekend full of adventures.  The beautiful warm weather gave us plenty of opportunities to visit with friends and explore the outdoors.   On Saturday, Luna traveled with me on my errands.  We hosted a St. Patrick's Day party so there was a lot to do to get ready.  Luna was the perfect host, although we did have to crate her when the food came out.  It was very tempting.  Still, she behaved beautifully and everyone loved her festive bandanna.
Guard dog on duty.

On Sunday, Luna and I were invited by our former 4-H dog club to join them at a local nursing home for a visit.  We brought along Ashely and Chewie.  All the dogs were well behaved and enjoyed the attention from the residents.  Luna was very good about letting people pet her and she took treats very gently.  Mike and I nicknamed her gator because she can be snappy when she takes treats.  At the nursing home, she seemed to understand that she needed to be careful.  Luna was the perfect height for the residents sitting in chairs.  They did not need to bend over to pet her and she was very sweet about putting her head in their laps.  One resident was so comfortable with Luna that she ended up giving her a hug which looked more like a head lock.  It's a good think Mike plays rough with Luna so she was comfortable with this strange affection.
Visiting the residents.

Luna and Blizzard enjoying the fresh air after visiting the residents.

Chewie rocking her distinctive smile. :-)
 Following the nursing home visit, Ashley and I took the dogs to a local dog park.  Because of the beautiful weather, the park was filled with many different breeds.  There was a beautiful blue great dane that was playing fetch with a basketball.  Among the variety of breeds were three other greyhounds!  Luna wanted to run with them so badly, but I had to explain to the other owners why she needed to stay on leash.  I know Luna appreciated visiting the park and seeing so many dogs.

To top off our weekend, we met some new neighbors who just moved in and happen to own a greyhound!  Vinny is nine years old and is a lovely fawn.  He and Luna enjoyed a few minutes of greeting as we talked with the neighbors.  Hopefully, we can set up a play date for Luna and Vinny in the future.
A busy weekend = a happy puppy.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

All Work and No Play

It was another big day for Luna.  She went with me to work where she had a hard day of lounging, greeting co-workers, and eating treats.  Such a tough life.  After work we went to our attention and handling class followed by physical therapy.  Both went well and I can tell that Luna is tired.

Luna and I continue to stick out from the group in our attention and handling class.  Remember, this class is populated by retrievers, collies, and other clever breeds.  Part of our exercises tonight was to get our dogs to play with us.  Our trainer explained how to use the soft toys to get our dogs to play in a game of tug-of-war.  She did mention that there are some dogs that don't know how to play, but they are very rare.  Umm...not in the greyhound world.

I tried to get Luna to play with the toys, but she was more interested in her classmates acting so silly.  We were a little successful when I asked her to "take" the toy.  This is her command for dumbbell so she knew that I wanted her to grab the toy.  Our trainer suggested tying a string to the toy to encourage her to chase it.  This will probably work well for her and will give her a chance to chase something in a safe way as she builds up her strength.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bouncing, Spinning, and Fetching

Luna is changing her restless condition from cabin fever to spring fever.  She is really showing some fun personality since the weather has gotten warmer and she wants to get out and run.  Yesterday was especially exciting.

We brought Luna over to Mike's family's house for dinner, but before we sat down to eat Luna and I took advantage of the fenced in yard and beautiful day to play.  She did a little bit of running (don't tell our therapist), but mostly she just bounced and spun in circles.  The whole time you could hear her softly growling.  "Grr.  Grr."  Silly puppy.

The best part of our playtime was when I tossed a tennis ball a few feet and she went after it.  She pounced on the ball and happily ran it back to me.  I took the ball and gave it another short toss.  Within just a few moments we were playing fetch!  Whoever heard of a greyhound playing fetch?  She loved the new game, especially when I bounced it making it harder to chase.

It was pretty obvious that Luna has a lot more work to do before she can really be let out to run.  At this point she is a little wobbly when she is not thinking about how she should place her feet.  For now, she seems really happy to be able to run very short distances and bounce in circles.  I'll have to take her to the park soon and see if I can get some video of us playing.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Busy Life

Luna has every right to be tired tonight.  She has had a very long and very full day.

I decided to take Luna with me for my morning run around our local neighborhood lake.  She enjoyed being outside and seeing other dogs and people including my dad who was out for his morning walk.  Once again she tired early and was forcing me to drag her a bit.  Funny thing though, if she sees a squirrel or my dad in the distance she suddenly finds some extra energy and is eager to go.  So is falling behind just an act or is she really tired?  Hmmm...  I mentioned this to my dad and he reminded me why he had so much trouble doing his power walks with greyhounds.  "They have two speeds; on and off.  It is really hard for them to just do a steady pace."

The next adventure was a ride to the auto repair shop to pick up my car.  You could tell that Luna was happy to have her regular seat back since riding in Dad's van was not very comfortable.  We then visited the local 4-H center where I have previously worked.  Everyone was very happy to meet Luna and see how well she has improved.  Luna enjoyed all the attention, but was very concerned about the reflection of a dog she saw in the demo kitchen's ceiling mirror.  How did that dog get up there?

Finally, we headed into work and Luna settled very well in my office.  In fact, I had to run an errand for work and had to leave Luna in my office for 30 minutes.  I tied her leash to my desk (extremely heavy), gave her a rawhide, and asked one of my co-workers to just keep an eye on her if she got restless.  There was no need to worry because she had been a perfect angel.  The model office dog.  The rest of the day was spent in the office I will be moving into so Luna just chilled in the middle of the floor while I rearranged furniture and cleaned.

As if this all wasn't enough, tonight we are going to physical therapy.  I'm not sure if Luna will have the energy to keep her head above water.  I'm glad I got to spend all day with her and that she was so well behaved.  I am so lucky to have a dog that can handle all of these adventures so well.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Leveling Out

At last week's physical therapy session, I asked the therapist what she thought of Luna's walking at this time.  The therapist said everything is looking really good and "normal" except for the back left leg.  That leg has been the longest and slowest to recover so it is no surprise that it is the last one to get back up to speed.  What we can see in the tank is that the neurons are not firing fast enough so she has a little hitch in her giddy up.  Notice in the video how the front legs move pretty evenly, but the back left leg has a pause.
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The therapist says that this could improve over time or she may always have a little trouble with that leg.  It's hard to say at this time.  When we go for our walks you hardly notice there is anything wrong at all.  When she starts to get tired (after 1.5 miles) she starts to limp.  I've also noticed that she has trouble going into a sit and down.  It is probably very uncomfortable for her now.  

At this time we are going to continue with the underwater treadmill, but it looks like we may be reaching the end of physical therapy.  Instead, we'll start introducing her to our new activity, jogging. :-)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Running Together

You may recall that I purchased new running shoes with the idea that Luna and I would get in shape together.  For the past month I have been using the "Couch to 5K" program which has been great.  The program has you alternate running and walking so your body can take a break.  I am taking it very slowly to ensure that I feel comfortable at each level before progressing.  So far, I have left Luna at home when I run because I wasn't sure if she was ready.  Since the therapist said she was looking really good (despite that back left leg) I decided today was a good day to give running together a shot.

I was surprised at how well Luna listened to me and stayed on my left side despite some tempting squirrels on my right.  She did very well with the program and together we completed almost two miles.  However, it was very obvious that this was a hard work out for her because she started lagging on our third run (out of six).  By the sixth run she was barely able to keep up and I was having to drag her along.  Remember, she has not had this much exercise since the accident.

While pulling my dog along while trying to focus on running was difficult, I really enjoyed having her company.  Rather than focusing on myself and on how tired/sore I was while running, my attention was on Luna and encouraging her to keep going.  I kept cheering "Come on Luna!  Let's go! Good girl!  You got it!"  Cheering like this not only made a difference in Luna's performance, but it really made me feel good about our run.  I'll have to keep these chants in mind when I run solo in the future.

So I'd consider our first run a success.  We definitely need more work, but I think this is going to be a great way for us to encourage each other to do better.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Attention and Handling

Luna and I are trying our hand at some formal obedience.  This past week was our first lesson.  In the class are a border collie, golden retriever, standard poodle, foxhound, newfoundland, and a few labs.  Luna and I definitely stood out being the only greyhound and the only dog wearing a harness.  I explained to the trainer why Luna needed to wear a harness and she is fine with it.

The first thing we were supposed to teach our dogs was to lie down at our sides in a "rest" position so they did not feel the need to watch us all the time.  Luna was not having any of this lying down nonsense.  Since her accident she has a hard time getting into sits and downs so she is really resistant to my requests.  On top of that, she did not want to lie down on the strange matted floor.  Instead, I had her stand next to me in a relaxed position.  As long as she wasn't wandering off or sniffing anything I figure she is fine.

We did a few other exercises that we had some trouble with.  It is hard for me to hold the leash and treats when the leash keeps getting caught around her neck.  We wouldn't have this much trouble with a collar or if she was off leash, but neither of those are viable options.  I'm sure we'll figure out some way to work though this.

I'm excited for the next lesson because we are going to get our dogs excited about chasing a dumbbell.  No problem for us. :-)  Stay tuned to see if we can be the stars of the class next time.