On Saturday we went to a party at a friend’s house. Mr. K had the annual Christmas tree burning party and we (including our three dogs) were of course, in attendance. My favorite part about the evening was the fact that there were oodles of dogs! We had our three, in addition to: Isis & Cali- two female mutts we know, Tucker- possibly my favorite dog that isn’t mine a BIG lab/pit bull mix, Duke (“Ducky”)- Goose’s brother!, Coleman- an older mix, Luna- a female (white) shepherd, with a visit from another intact yellow lab male- don’t know who he came with and was glad to see him leave , we’ll call him the mystery lab.
Ten dogs! Together, and with the exception of one incident (due to this mystery lab) we had no issues. The dogs co-existed very well, Luna was an excellent source of correction for the more excited dogs. She is a high drive shepherd but she uses it well (other than an obsession with chasing sticks). She often breaks up play that has gone a little too far and even at one point took it upon herself to use her herding lineage to keep the running, playing dogs close to the people around the fire.
Judah is pretty good at indicating soon after we go outside whether he is going to have a good night and stick around or whether he will play pied piper and lead the pack on a merry adventure. That night he decided it was a stick around and it was a hangout kind of night! Sweet! Goose stayed on a leash for the first maybe two hours because his recall is mediocre at best. It was dark and he is pretty much impossible to find in those conditions (I forgot to bring a collar light). After all the dogs initial excitement had dissipated we let him join the fun. He did pretty well, wandered off a few times but actually came to us when we headed to the woods and called him.
We met some new people that night and eventually Judah’s story was brought up. The first time was from a friend’s (The Librarian- good name for you?) relative. I heard, “That’s the dog, the service dog” and The Librarian indicated to Judah. The man then turned and told me she had shared Judah’s story with him and that his daughter, now 28 and just had a baby, was diagnosed at age 10. Ih catch in my throat. He knew, really knew what the relationship between Judah and I means. I was truly a moment I will remember.t was cool to finally have someone in the flesh within reach who knew what I was dealing with. He had been on this emotional roller coaster. He told me about spending the first year after diagnosis being in her school testing her sugars all day, the long nights and the non-stop work. We discussed what Judah does and how he came to this job. He bent over and took Judah’s face in his hands, “You are a smart guy. Good work, buddy”. I know that doesn’t seem like much of a gesture, but it was how he looked at Judah that made my breath catch. He totally understood the power of Judah’s skills and what an impact he was making on my life.
The second time Judah’s status as a service dog came to light was when Duke had stolen (for the 4th time) someone’s clothing, this time a pair of mittens. I was trying to help the woman retrieve them back and was using Judah to help. I told him to “Go get that puppy” and he wrangled Duke, bringing him back within reach, he even went so far as to block Duke’s escape. When Marshall saw what we were doing he intercepted Duke on a get away and returned the mittens. The woman and I began chatting (for the second time that evening) and she stated many times how impressed by Judah’s behavior she was. I then explained that he listened to me like that because we had a pretty special relationship. Upon telling her that he has always been mine and now served as my service dog, she asked what he did for me. Of course then the conversation continued with how he does his job, how it all started and so on.
As I already stated, there was one scuffle that night- and of course yours truly was the one to dive in and break it up. The mystery lab was causing a little trouble, even evoking a dominant response from Tucker. Tucker is not a dog to try and lay down the law, he is more of a happy go lucky guy. I had corrected and removed Tucker from the mystery lab’s group of people a couple times and eventually that little tension ended. A little while later while we were all chatting a fight broke out. I spun to see mystery lab on top of one of the hound puppies, at that point I didn’t know which one, it turned out to be Duke. Duke was screaming and the lab was pinning him to the ground with his huge fat body and biting him in the face and neck area. I yelled my biggest, deepest dog fight breaking up yell and he didn’t even slow down. So, as I have been known to do (and don’t recommend), I jumped in.** I pulled the lab off Duke and put myself between the two of them. When Duke tried to retreat, mystery lab pursued. I clearly wasn’t making enough of an impression, so I also pursued. I managed to grab mystery lab as he once again pounced on poor Duke, pulled him off Duke and while holding him by the collar (and I am sure neck skin, he was a fat lab, there was a lot of neck skin) picked him up. I finally was able to break his focus when I got his front feet off the ground. I held him up so his back feet were on the ground and he was being held on either side of the neck facing me. When he stopped trying to be a homicidal maniac I set him on his tush in the snow and without letting go, waited for eye contact. When he looked up at me I said, “Get out of here” in a soft but firm voice and released him. He got up and trotted back to his crew, he was clearly back into a submissive lab mode and I hadn’t traumatized him (don’t worry, I know what I’m doing!). When I turned back to my group of friends I was greeted by applause and cheers.
Amongst my friends everyone knows I’m the “dog lady”. I am always the one that mediates the dog’s interactions with people and other dogs when we are all together. I assumed the role without really asking and I hope that my friends (and trust me, most of them would) have no issue telling me off if they don’t like it. I spend my time watching body language and blocking behavior before it escalates as well as allowing certain things to take place so the dogs can help each other achieve balance. I know that I have to work on turning off the ‘dog behaviorist’ part of my brain off but I will take this opportunity to thank my friends for putting up with me. 😛 It has even gone so far as when people showed up later to the fire they checked in with me and introduced their dogs! Oops… Is it bad that this doesn’t bother me in the least?!
Well the next morning while I was out playing with Goose in the snow I began to see blood staining the white playground. After tracking it to his foot Marshall and I assumed it was a cracked pad and Marshall brought him inside to put Musher’s Wax on it (best stuff EVER! works great for snow-balling and such, but is also a great paw conditioner and protects against hot pavement and sand as well. Made of beeswax). He quickly came back out and told me that he had actually cut the paw open and it looked pretty gruesome. Well boy was he right! It is a V shaped laceration on the big pad on the hing foot, starting at the front and opening toward the heel. Poor guy.
When it comes to pad injuries it is one of the rare cases where pretty consistent bandaging. It can’t be stitched, could possibly be glued closed but injuries like this usually do better healing from the inside out. Considering the shape and location of Goose’s injury I have chosen to keep it clean, wrapped, and monitored. (I have dealt with injuries like this many times before and if this happens to your dog PLEASE SEEK VETERINARY CARE) Goose is not a great fan of keeping it wrapped and doesn’t really appreciate that at least Marshall tried to make it cool with ‘snow camouflage’ patterned vet wrap.
We have succeeded in reducing the swelling and keeping it all clean. I use mostly hot water or saline to flush the area, NOT peroxide. The thing with peroxide is that it kills all bacteria, even the good stuff. I don’t use it in everyday care, in the initial cleaning of a dirty wound or in dealing with infection that is already set in are the times when I use it. Neosporin or other antibiotic ointment is used in bandage changing. I also find that Tea Tree oil helps to soothe pain and reduce swelling.
Oh and yes, Judah did alert while we were at the fire, even though he was romping with his friends. I went to the driveway to where our car was and he appeared and demanded I check. 🙂
**I am feeling the need to clarify a little. When I say ‘dog fight’, no one was injured, no skin was broken. It was not rough play however, it was a dominance display gone too far (I suspect after watching this lab interact earlier) with one party trying to retreat and one pursuing. There was biting contact, not just open mouths banging together or a lot of noise. I did intervene, which I truly can’t recommend people do unless you know what you are reaching into, TRULY know. I take pride in the fact that I have spent countless hours doing research, watching videos, watching dogs, reading, asking, observing dog behavior and body language. I did not hurt the lab in the process of intervening on his “attack” (I use quotes because people sometimes paint the wrong picture, he wasn’t trying to kill Duke. He did cross the line of acceptable behavior and did hurt Duke, though not causing injury, just pain in those moments.). I did display more power and strength than he could which succeeded in impressing him enough to allow him to move into a different state of mind. Later in the evening he approached me as any other happy lab would and presented his head for scratching, which I granted happily. I did not lose my temper or physical harm to anyone, I did block the body and brain from moving forward and continuing pursuit. That’s all.