And a special guest post from Joel, to finish up the post:

The door swung open, and the dog trotted up and into the house. The owner, an energetic, small-framed woman in her 40's, thanked me profusely.  She said they looked for an hour the night before and had put the other dog outside hoping the barking would bring Fancy, the dog, home. We discussed Fancy's night out and how she had led me back to her home. We were having a nice conversation when another woman in her 40's, let's just say not looking very feminine, comes out and makes sure I know they are together.  The first woman thanks me again and hurries inside. About 2 hours later animal control calls me (we had reported a lost dog the night before) saying that Kathy, the first woman, wanted me to call her. I do, and she thanks me again, offering to buy me something and expressing her gratefulness. I let her know it is unnecessary and that I am just glad Fancy is back home.


 
 

LG looked up briefly but then returned to his Legos.  Joel was curiously watching the dog.  In the light, I could look at her much better.  She was tall, about 6 inches taller than Cosette, about 80 pounds, and looked like a strange mix between a Irish Wolfhound and an Airedale Terrier. 

Joel looked up the number for Animal Control and left a message, letting them know the rabies tag number.  He hung up and looked up at me.  I smiled at the dog who had now planted herself at Joel's feet, and said, "Well, I guess she'll spend the night tonight."

We got LG into his pajamas and prepared him for bed.  Bedtime usually consists of a round of hugs -- dogs included.  Raymond hugged Cosette and pointed to the lost dog.  "Cosette, this is going to be your guardian for a few weeks."  I smiled softly at his tenderness and sweetness.

Joel and I talked on the couch for a while that evening, especially about recent challenges in the graduate program.  The lost dog just laid at our feet, content for a warm spot and a quiet house.  The dog was offered, and took, an extra dog bed beside the bed.  What a polite houseguest.

The next morning, Joel decided to take the dog for a longer walk because she had eaten a full breakfast but hadn't used the bathroom.  He set off down the road with her, and then the dog became insistent in the direction they were walking.  The dog gently pulled him in different directions down the road.  Right at the end of the road, left at the bend, up the road, and so on.  The dog, surrounded by snowdrifts, paused for a second.  When she heard a dog barking, she tilted her head and then set off in the direction of the noise.  She brought Joel to the front of house.  They went ahead and walked up to the door and the dog sat down.  Joel looked down at her and said, "Is this it?"  He wasn't sure if that was the correct house or why the dog brought him there.  Then, he saw a face poking through the curtains, and the door swung open.

 
 

Last night, I left LG and Joel to the task of getting ready for bed, and I strapped on my various sources of warmth to take Cosette for a walk.  I needed to get out in the cold night air for a little bit, take a few laps around the neighborhood to clear my head.  I took my cell phone along to call one of my best friends, and set off down the road.  I had to pull the thumb of my glove back enough so that my fingernail could push the menu buttons on the cell, but I finally found my friend's number.  I dialed, and listened to the ringing and then the subsequent voicemail as I continued to walk down the road.  It beeped, and I think I said something like, "Hi, it's me, just wanting to check in, but uh...uh...I uh...I guess I'll...uh...talk to you later.  Okay bye."  The reason for my staccato "uhs" was for a very good reason:  there was a big dog standing in the road around the corner from us.  I hung up my phone and slipped it into my pocket, and kept walking Cosette down to the corner.  The dog hadn't moved.  I thought briefly about turning the other way and ignoring the dog, but it didn't seem to be bothered by our presence.  I decided to walk towards it, and the dog began to wag its tail. 

Upon closer inspection, I realized the dog had a collar and a hankerchief around its neck.  After letting the two dogs get aquainted, I slowly let the dog sniff me and greet me.  She was an older dog, fairly large.  I gently reached for her tag on her collar, but to my disappointment, it was only a rabies tag.  I straightened back up, looking around in the dark night, and saw no houses lit up or any movement from any direction.  I looked back down at the dog, concerned.  I didn't want to just leave her here, knowing that it was cold outside and her owners didn't appear to be in sight.  I didn't, however, want to take her away if she had just been released outside for a minute to use the bathroom.  I didn't recognize the dog so I wasn't entirely sure it belonged to anyone in the immediate area.

I went ahead and fastened my gloved hand around her collar and encouraged her to come with me.  She easily fell into place right along side me as we walked back around the bend and up to my house.  Cosette acted like she could care less; she was taking the opportunity to walk on a loose lead and sniff everything with abandon. 

I approached the house with both dogs in tow, and got close enough to open the storm door, but couldn't manage to open the main door without losing a grip on the storm door.  I finally called out, pathetically, "Joel..." as I knew he could probably hear me.  Sure enough, he came to the door and Cosette bounded in, and I, bent, looked up and said, "I found a dog." 

 

Puppies!

01/28/2009

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My breeder (or, Cosette's breeder) e-mailed me yesterday to inform me that she has a new batch of puppies!  Lacy (Cosette's older sister) had 5 black (1 female) and 3 chocolate (1 female).
In October when we last visited, she didn't have a male lined up for Lacy to breed with.  But, obviously that was taken care of, as here are the puppies!  No pictures yet, but hopefully coming soon.

Lacy is a yellow Lab, so I'm a little surprised she had no yellow pups.  But, they must have bred her with a black or chocolate to get that color combination right.  If I remember my lab genes correctly, it was probably a black male with recessive chocolate (as Lacy's mother is chocolate and father is black).  But, I could be wrong and that's why I'm not a breeder...only a Lab lover.  :)

 
 

Cosette after playing in the snow.  From what I can tell, Cosette likes the snow - at least she has no problem running around in it.  She'll bury her nose in deep and snort, and then run around wildly as she makes clouds of snow rise behind her.  It's pretty cute to see her play.


 
 

















http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNG-uPTUq1M

You are the bravest man I’ve ever met
You unreluctant at treacherous ledge

You are the sexiest man I’ve ever been with
You, never hotter than with armor spent

When you do what you do to provide
How you land in the soft as you fortify

This is in praise of the vulnerable man
Why won’t you lead the rest of your cavalry home

You, with your eyes mix strength with abandon
You with your new kind of heroism

And I bow and I bow down to you
To the grace that it takes to melt on through

This is in praise of the vulnerable man
Why won’t you lead the rest of your cavalry home
This is a thank you for letting me in
Indeed in praise of the vulnerable man

You are the greatest man I’ve ever met
You the stealth setter of new precedents

And I vow and I vow to be true
And I vow and I vow not to take advantage

This is in praise of the vulnerable man
Why won’t you lead the rest of your cavalry home
This is a thank you for letting me in
Indeed in praise of the vulnerable man


 
 

The physical loss, coupled with the teary inquisitions of LG's, "Where's Landy?  I want him to come back," is almost too much to handle. 

Cosette walks around dutifully around the house looking for our lost family member.  Landy was only here 2 months, but left such an smattering of complimentary behaviors with Cosette that I catch myself expecting to see Cosette's amigo whenever she is lying down at my feet, sitting next to me at my desk, or retrieving.

I comfort myself with the knowledge that he is at a no-kill shelter that genuinely cares about him and cares about placing him in a home that is better suited to his behavioral needs, but it is still hard, and I am heartbroken.

 

Loss

01/09/2009

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On Wednesday, we lost our dog Landy.  Well, we didn't lose him.  We know where he is.  He is just no longer with us as a constant presence by our sides.  He's still very much a part of this family, and I know that we'll both continue to think about him daily.  Despite his tenderness and loving nature, he was developing fear aggression problems, which go beyond my knowledge of training and dog behavior.  There is a local training facility in the area that deals with behavioral issues, but their services command prices into the thousands after it is all said and done.  Balanced with the knowledge of tight finances and the possibility of training not working or Landy unexpectedly years later attacking someone without provocation led us to make a very, very difficult and heartbreaking decision.  We were obligated by law to turn him back over to the shelter, so along with his paperwork, this is the letter we gave them in explaining our difficult decision.

January 7, 2009

To:  ___________ County Humane Society and/or
                Future Adopters:

Landy is approximately a 3 year old male neutered chocolate Lab that we adopted from the ______ County Humane Society in late October, 2008. At adoption his name was Hersey;  however ,we changed his name to Landy, to which he now responds.  We own a 1.5 yr old female spayed black Lab and wanted a companion animal for her as well as for us.  We are knowledgeable about dogs, Labradors, and basic training techniques.  We believe in positive reinforcement and correction when necessary during training.

Regarding any medical issues, we adopted Landy with no known health problems except a chronic itchiness.  Our vet (________) tested for skin infections and found none.  She suspected a food allergy.  We purchased  Science Diet Z/D Allergen Freefor the cost of approximately $90 per 45 lbs.  At the same time, he was prescribed Ketoconazole, Atarax, Cephalexin, Animax ointment, Interceptor, and Frontline.  After finishing his steroid, he continued to take medication that soothed his allergy reaction.  Unbeknownst to us, it also contained an antihistamine that reduced his energy and calmed his mood.  We saw a reduction in his itching and scratching behavior gradually. 

Behaviorally, Landy adjusted to being an exclusively indoor dog within a month.   Once he became used to the schedule, he had no more accidents in the house and could clearly understand what was outside versus inside.  He walked and heeled well on a pinch collar.  We kept him crated when we were not able to be home.  He was well adjusted to being crated if we immediately left, and removed him promptly when we returned. If we crated him when we were home, however, he became distraught.  He foamed and slobbered and scratched and barked if he knew we were in the house.  This behavior, which we suspect is separation anxiety, may be able to be reduced or extinguished by a qualified professional.  Within a few days of our adoption of Landy, and prior to his being placed on medication there was one instance of aggression towards one of our male friends.  Our friend is experienced around dogs and approached Landy to greet him. Landy lunged, and snapped at him. Landy immediately went sheepish afterwards and showed our friend no further aggression.  We watched for such behavior afterwards but saw no further sign and attributed it to Landy getting used to his new life.

He also was showing to be good around children; we have a four-year old around the house that understands how to play and touch dogs and Landy reacted and played well with him.  Landy also played well with our other Lab.  Landy and our other Lab stayed for a week at a veterinarian kennel and had no problems other than, “He did bark loudly and persistently at our male kennel caregiver but no one else.”

After his medication was finished, and thereby the antihistamine that was making him more lethargic, he became increasingly aggressive.  The beginning signs of food aggression developed, he started playing harder and more violently with our other Lab, and he began barking at us if we weren’t paying attention to him.  Though he never bit, he displayed toy aggression towards the 4-year old and growled when his toy was reached for.   Then, I was walking Landy and our other Lab around the neighborhood on January 6th, 2009, and we walked by several men that were doing electrical work for the city.  I stepped into a driveway with the dogs to let the men pass, and one man paused to pet the dogs.  I acknowledge that the man did not ask permission, but he did approach with open hands in a non-aggressive position.  Landy wagged his tail, and lunged at the man, snapping at his fingers.  I immediately gave a correction and walked away.  Only a few minutes later, I arrived home.  I walked through our glass storm door and took leashes off, and walked into the living room to put something away.  I saw our mail carrier pass by the front of the house, and Landy ran towards the door.  The storm door had not closed all the way, and Landy jumped up and pushed it open as the mail carrier approached the house.  According to the (male) mail carrier, Landy lunged at him and “tried to get at me.”  When I came out of the house, Landy was circling the mail carrier and barking.  I clapped my hands and got his attention, his eyes softened, and he immediately looked sheepish.  I grabbed his collar and brought him inside the house.

The purpose of this letter is to inform any potential adopters of Landy’s behavioral issues.  Although we suspect his behavior may be corrected with a professional trainer, it is not to be taken lightly.  We are both active adults, firm, and consistent with our dogs, and feel that this behavior was too much for us to handle without assistance.  As full time Ph.D. students, we cannot commit the time and monetary resources to working one-on-one with a trainer or dog behavioral specialist.  A local, well-rated training facility that specializes in “problem dogs” is ___________.

Landy is a loving, loyal dog with a big heart and our decision to return him was not an easy one.  He loves to curl up at your feet when relaxing, play catch, and is a wonderful water retriever.  With consistent training and a focus on diminishing fear aggression, we believe Landy would be best placed in a home with active adults, no children, with a large fenced backyard with plenty of activities.  With this attention, Landy will make a great lifetime companion to a family that can give him the training and attention he needs.