Sunday, January 31, 2010

unbridled spirit

Big full moon on Friday and four inches of snow on Saturday, so busy weekend for Zorro. It was bitterly cold in WV but beautiful and Zorro got a lot of exercise.
This morning, Denny was headed up the hill with him when he realized that Zorro's leash was no longer attached to his chest harness. It took a minute for Zorro to realize he was untethered, but when Denny said, "Come here," he raced up the hill.
Luckily, he stopped at the top to eat some snow and Denny was able to leash him. If I thought he would always run ahead and wait for us, I'd be comfortable letting him run off-leash. But I'm not sure the outcome would have been the same this morning if there had been deer or other dogs around.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Stormy weather

Got up yesterday to find gusty winds and a spring-like 60 degrees. By evening, the temperature had dropped and there were isolated thunderstorms, according to Bob Ryan on Channel 4. We didn't hear them but Zorro apparently did because he was antsy and unsettled all evening: he scratched on the door to go out, but when Denny opened the door, he tucked his tail between his legs and retreated.
Around 10, our neighbor let her little dog out in the yard, which is always bad news. Holly is an incessant barker, and when Zorro hears her, he feels compelled to respond. We're making progress on getting him to stop, but it's tough: you can almost hear Zorro thinking, if she can bark, why can't I?
The neighbor's screen door is another trigger. Someone could drive a tank through our front door and Zorro would show only minor interest, but the squeaky door next door drives him nuts. This is bad news because our neighbor is a tax preparer who works from home, which means she'll be having a lot of visitors between now and April 15. Denny is thinking of heading over there with a can of WD-40.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Running forward, looking backward

Zorro's awareness of the moon never ceases to amaze me. Yesterday afternoon, when we were out for a run in WV, he started showing all the signs of a lunar sighting: he jerked on the leash, looked up at the sky, and started running very fast. But for the life of me, I couldn't see anything. Finally, after squinting, I saw a pale outline of a quarter moon, just barely visible through low clouds.
Even if we're running with the moon behind us, he will look over his shoulder so he can keep an eye on it. He looks like his head is screwed on backwards. Denny suggested that this talent--if you want to call it that--helps working BCs run while keeping an eye on their sheep.
Bad morning Friday: while on a walk with Denny, Zorro encountered a dog he didn't like at all, and went into full lunging, barking, growling mode, nipping Denny's hand in the process. We think the other dog may have growled at him first, but it's still troubling. So I'm putting more distance between us and other dogs on our walk, and we're talking about having a few more sessions with a trainer. There are a lot of dogs around here, and we need to teach him how to get along with them.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Running with Zorro

I'm trying to teach Zorro that running with us is his job, and that he can't just stop and sniff the bushes whenever he feels like it. After consulting with some other border collie owners on the message board, I've worked out a system: when he starts to edge toward a tree or bush, I say, "let's go!" and give his leash a yank. The trick is to correct him before he has buried his nose in the grass or a snowbank, and praise him when he stays on the path.
So far, it's working out pretty well--too well, to be honest. Zorro has decided that if running is good, then running fast must be even better! If there are other runners ahead of us, he wants to pass them. This, of course, means that eventually I need to slow down to catch my breath, which gives him a chance to sniff and explore. Smart dog.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Another rescue dog

Here's a picture of Silver, a border collie/spitz mix (we think) adopted by my friend Pam. Silver is deaf. This creates lots of training challenges for Pam. On the other hand, the 4th of July is a non-event in her house.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Friends with rescue dogs

Here are my friends, Martha and Phil Rowley, and the three dogs they adopted from the Briggs Adoption Center in Charles Town, WV. I had my eye on Buster, the corgi/lab mix on the left, but Martha and Phil adopted him first. So Zorro, you owe them one.

Have dog, will travel

Zorro loves going for walks, eating snow, and playing keep-away in the backyard. But his hands-down favorite pastime is riding in the car (or truck). I've never known a dog who loved the back seat so much. Our last dog, Snoop, was apprehensive about the car: he usually needed to be coaxed in, and would often stand for the entire two-hour ride to Berkeley Springs. If we got out of the car, even just to pump gas, he would fuss and whine.
Zorro is the polar opposite. He'll hop right in (with a boost if he's getting in the truck), settle himself in the back, and lie down. If we want to go to the store or get breakfast, no sweat: he'll rest comfortably in the back until we return. Denny has gotten in the habit of taking him along on errands; right now, they're at Woodcrafters. It makes Zorro happy and he's good company.
The only exception is when the moon is visible from the car windows. When that happens, Zorro barks and jumps around, creating a dangerous distraction. So we pay attention to the position of the moon before putting him in the car.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

All-weather dog

It's bitterly cold with gusty winds. The weatherman on Channel 4 has been exhorting viewers to "bring the pets inside!" Zorro is unfazed, though. The wind makes him want to run even faster, and stay outside even longer. He was reluctant to come in off our porch in WV yesterday, even though the temperature was in the teens.
We had about 30 people over last week for a holiday party and Zorro's behavior was exemplary. He didn't bark at our guests or jump on them, or beg for food. He let everyone pet him, including a toddler. Sometime during the evening, he retired to the TV room, as if he needed a break from all the activity. I think some of our guests were disappointed that he didn't bark at the moon--and he did, briefly--but it was a cloudy night so there wasn't much to bark at.
Jan. 1 marked eight months since we went to Staunton, VA and brought him home and we're still discovering new things about him. Yesterday, for example, Denny was playing tug of war with him over a tennis ball and on a whim, threw it in the air and said "catch." And Zorro caught it! Denny tossed the ball in the air several more times and he caught it almost every time. This is somewhat baffling because when we first got him, we threw him a frisbee a few times--because border collies are supposed to be such great frisbee dogs--and he hardly ever caught it.
Maybe we were just using the wrong projectile, or didn't know the magic word.