Friday, January 27, 2012

Sophie - Diary of a Southern Belle - Week 3

Sophie has learned 'gentle', 'me first', 'go around','later', 'wait', "paw", sit until released to eat. She now asks permission to come up on the sofa. She is reticent to 'down', get groomed, have her nails done or to stay home.

She talks, plays & is extremely communicative using her paws to grab an arm for a scratch, barking to be let in.

I am now 100% convinced that this is a good match with the ever retiring Stella Bella.

Where once upon a time, Sophie thought she could eat from Stella's bowl if she was there or not, Sophie now voluntarily walks away from the eating area until Stella is finished and has walked away from her dish before re-approaching the bowls for her water or a final lick.

While Sophie is content to be inside, she frequently likes to sit by the window to see what's going on. Her bone is constant enjoyment & I am now going to try to interest her in the food Kong as I think she might learn to play if she knew she could.

I can get her to play with my hand, she starts wriggling, barking & jumping around. It's clear she is playing with me. A welcome distraction both of us. However, the other day, while playing rough house with her, I must have crossed the line for because she flopped on her back in surrender in the middle of the lawn.

Stella, on the other hand, has become a little more active (remember she is 13). It's funny to watch the two of them run in tandem, Sophie on those loooong slender legs & Stella on her stubby little tree trunks. But it's all good & Sophie keeps track of Stella's whereabouts when they are out together.

While Sophie seems to yawn a lot, she is no couch potato.She gets exicited when she sees the leash & sits for it to be attached or if let out on her own. She's still not totally comfortable in the car but learning that she can lie down on the seat but is not confident enough to do that when we're moving.

While on the property, Her recall is getting better & better. I want to take her to a fenced area -- like our local dog park -- let her go & while she's playing & try it there.

The Soph is doing better in town. The cars don't activate her prey drive. She is watchful of people, allows strangers to pet her but doesn't get involved in the process, i.e. she'd walk away in a nano second if I asked her to. In offices or stores, if it's a prolonged visit, she will lie down despite foot traffic.

Walking down the sidewalk is another story. She seems over stimulated, sometimes to a point of not listening well. She's not totally overcome but it's close. But if I sit down on a bench, she sits quietly or lies down & watches people, cars, fire engines, children, dogs walk by without much reaction, i.e. she seems calm. I haven't figured this out yet but I'm working on it.

In the house, she now checks out all the rooms on her own if she hears a strange noise or if called. This may not seem like much but in her prioor life, she was allowed access only to one or two rooms & (from her actions) I surmise she was struck/beaten if she entered any other room.

She is beginning to guard under door frames & is actively tryingt to make friends with Stella. She kisses/licks her when she allowed but I'm not sure if she is cleaning stella's eyes or ears of some yummy stuff or it's affection. In either case, it's better than the alternative.

The following has happened twice now so I know it's a routine. Around 3:30pm if I'm in the office with the girls, Sophie comes close to where Stella is sleeping, sits down & stares at her from the foot of the sherpa bed. That NEVER works so Soph walks around to the front of the bed & puts her paw on the bed itself. Stella thoroughly ignores this.

The first time Sophie tried this, she started to prance around & made a mistake of nudging Stella with her nose who gave her what-for with some teeth. Nothing serious, no sound. Sophie tried again. This time Stella escalated & just missed a bite.

So Yesterday, Sophie -- who learns VERY fast, went through the first two steps & then just lay down right next to Stella's bed -- on the floor -- patiently waiting for Stella to rise from her nap.

My guess is that she's trying to get Stella up so we can all go get something to eat as I try to feed them around 4-4:30pm.

Sophie is providing us both with much pleasure & laughter. Watching a 120# Bouv try to make herself invisible as she slinks towards a squirrel is funny to watch. She moves in slooooow motion, first one leg.....then another.....then another as she inches forward before the final dash. When the squirrel finally sees the black Humvee closing in, it scrambles up the tree at which point Sophie sits under the tree & patiently waits.

We continue to give her things to learn & she does. Meanwhile, she is familiar with the family routine & is becoming more possessive of the property & us.

Upon returning to the house -- having left Sophie behind -- she greets me so very excitedly that I feel guilty/sorry because she seems grateful that I haven't abandoned her. I have to find a way to assure her that I am hers & she is mine.... forever.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Is there a dream doctor in the house?

This dream takes place in a restaurant.

Carol & I & another (nameless) couple are having dinner. Everyone orders appetizer servings of various dishes including fruit balls. There must have been 20-30 dishes covering the table (Russian style) but there were no plates to eat off of.

I was annoyed that everyone was eating out of the food dishes and passing them around. The waitress appeared & Carol asked her for 5 checks (odd since there were only 4 people present).

I left the table to fix the check issue, i.e. I was going to pay for the whole thing since I felt dividing it by 5 was (A) a lot of trouble for the waitress & (B) it was tacky. I also wanted to get plates to eat off of. 

I followed in the direction that the waitress had taken. 

I found myself in another room. While waiting for the waitress, the establishment's manager -- who had been sitting at the bar with a male friend -- stood up & got snarky with me. He put his finger in my face & I did 3 very fast karate-type moves, knocking the finger out of my face, followed immediately by a 'pulled' punch directed at his nose & a circle kick which hit him in the ass -- but not hard. These were meant as 'warnings'

While the manager stood there speechless, his companion 'started up' with me. He was smirking & had a toothpick in the corner of his mouth. I woke up (not really) feeling firm about my reaction to these "threats". Then Sophie actually woke me up. I was calm.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sophie - Diary of a Southern Belle

Sophie is one of those Bouvs, given the freedom & opportunity, will take over -- the sofa, the pillow, the house. In short order -- in less than two weeks -- she has mastered the household schedule & is beginning to herd on a time table, i.e. it's time to eat dinner at the table, you've sat too long so it's time to leave the table, etc. All very charming until you start wondering who just rescued who.

This occurred to me today as she casually decided she was coming up on the sofa for a snooze even though there are various places for her to sack out. I made a quiet disapproving sound and shook my head "no". Shocked, Sophie turned her head to look behind her to see who I was talking to. Seeing no one, she approached the sofa once again. Same reaction. This time she looked hurt, bowed her head & slowly slunk off to her favorite rug. I think she will survive the trauma tonight.

Meantime we had fun today chasing squirrels, guarding against squirrels, sitting and waiting for some stupid squirrel to make a move, imagining squirrel stew. This is all fine & dandy except I'm also using this time to practice recall. She has been reacting appropriately but today she was pretty casual about the whole exercise which annoyed me. However, I couldn't say anything 'cause I let her get away with it, i.e. I had no absolute control over her.

Going forward, I must get through to her especially at moments when she is distracted just as a safety measure.

Watching her track quite naturally led to our playing a game of "where is your biscuit?". She is picking up on that faster than I anticipated but needs to learn more discipline in the search which I am confident she will.

Two days ago, Sophie -- unhappy with her temporary bedding in the cottage where I work -- approached a sleeping Stella who was luxuriating in her extra large Frongate pomegranate Sherpa bed. There was some room on the edge & Sophie, very gently, pawed at the open area to see if -- like me when she does that -- Stella would move over a little. No dice. Stella is NOT a trained human so Sophie sighed & walked over to mat on the other side of the room. She will be getting her own Frontgate extra large pomegranate Sherpa bed with monogrammed pillow soon but I haven't told her.

I can now confirm that I have, not one but TWO very active Bouvier dreamers. Between them, we hear snores, yips, growls, barks, sighs and witness all kinds of body movements.

And then there are the farts. Stella is not bad on that front but at least she warns us by emitting a sound but NOT Sophie. No. She falls into a blissful sleep & while dreaming about eating a squirrel or some other yummy morsel, an oder begins to float throughout the room. It's not the clearing-the-room kind but it's enough to make me and Carol suspicious of each other before realizing where it is actually coming from.

Sophie's eating, drinking and bathroom habits are all stellar. And she has her bone(s). After meals, Stella gets her beard cleaned and combed and so does Sophie who for the moment is sans beard but I want her used to the exercise when her beard grows in. Then they get their teeth brushed. And so it goes. Just another day in the Rifkinson household.

Take care y'all.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sophie -Diary of a Southern Belle > 7 days after adoption

While Truman was the ultimate lover, Sophie shows signs of becoming the ultimate seductress. She's daddy's little girl: the sit, looking up into my eyes, the plaintiff paw, the tiny whimper. I mean who could resist? Not me!

In the meantime, Sophie has discovered bones. It took her as many days to discover the knuckle bones I have laying around for her & Stella to gnaw on as it took for her to adjust to our menus.

However, it also took her the same amount of time to realize she could bully Stella Bella. But it started veeeery slowly.

You see, Stella has small area in the living room that has become her woman cave. On the long side there is a sofa -- her place to sleep. Across from the sofa there is a fireplace. On the other two sides are chairs so it's a rectangular space, i.e. a crate, of sorts.

For the first few days, Sophie stayed clear of this space. Then she started to lie down with her head (& maybe a shoulder) in the space. Then she lay down on the hearth across from Stella's sofa. OK, Sophie said to herself "no reaction".

The next set of challenges occurred over the aforementioned bone. Sophie had her bone, Stella had hers. One day when Stella was out of the office, Sophie commandeered Stella's bone. And that was that.

A short digression: since Sophie was picking up bones, I decided to use that as a 'teaching' moment :-) and we have been working on 'pick up', 'carry', 'drop'. She learns fast.

So I had Sophie carry her bone up to the house where she dropped it (on command) onto the kitchen floor. There it lay. But while I was in the powder room, I heard a bark & saw poor Stella scurrying back to her living room 'crate'. I surmised Sophie stopped Stella from approaching her bone (and maybe me) but not having witnessed anything, I couldn't do / say anything.

Finally, it was time for dinner. And for the first time I saw Sophie move from her dish to eating from Stella's (and Stella retreated) at which point I made it VERY clear that this was UNACCEPTABLE behavior with a drastic change in my tone of voice, very serious eye contact, and a few choice words, BUT NO yelling, and nothing physical except for pushing her away from Stella's dish with my leg. 

Then I invited Stella back to her dish while I watched over her eating. Meantime, Sophie, totally grasping the situation, sidled over to me, sat down like an angel & looked up at me. Other than putting my hand on her head, I didn't react much to her overtures.

I think we've sorted out the bullying issue for the moment but we'll see.

One thing for sure, Sophie is extremely intelligent & sensitive. Remember when she 'escaped' & was feral for three months? I don't know what precipitated her flight but I saw that fear in her eyes just yesterday. 

Tomorrow I will try to explain my encounter with her 'flight' issue & what Sophie & I did to get past it for the moment. You know these Bouvs -- they have VERY long memories.

Ya'll come back, now. 

Monday, January 09, 2012

Sophie > Sun & Mon (Days 3-4)

Sophie literally has no tail so she wiggles her butt but she does talk and, believe it or not, we had a conversation yesterday. I talked to her, she answered. She also slept with me last night, not so cute because (1) she's a very active dreamer and (2) she takes up A LOT of room.

She now opens the door to my office on her own. She barks when she wants to come in the house if I'm not with her. She has not had a bathroom accident. She wanders the property at will, barks @ the next door neighbor's dog and air sniffs.

She & Stella are on the same schedule & this morning they went out together -- in the dark -- did their thing in privacy, wandered on a smelling expedition & came running home when called. It's funny watching them run together. Sophie lopes, Stella scrambles on her cute, stubby legs.

Yesterday, Sunday, I took Stella on some morning errands to give her some special time with me while leaving Sophie with Carol to bond & get used to my NOT being around ALL the time. Sophie and Carol went for a run.... well, Carol ran while Sophie trotted alongside.

You've got to understand that the Soph has legs that go on forever. In a different life she might have been a Radio City Rockette or a pantyhose model. Instead she's a dog with looooong legs. To give you an idea take a look at these historic photos of the early Bouviers

Then look @ Burton here. Smart.... and what an athlete he was !! And so different from the current crop of American Bouviers.

Anyway, after my errands & Carol's run, we met at a local coffee shop. The shop has tables outside where people walk by, cars drive by, i.e. there's lots of action. Stella is used to this so I had her lie down & told Sophie to down next to her & I watched Sophie's reaction as people walked by & cars moved in & out of parking spots, not 5 yards from her nose. 

She looked on with interest but no real reaction. As it happened some friends came by to chat so I stood up to talk to them while maintaining Sophie in the down position. (Stella I don't worry about as she stays until released.) No problem. At one point there were 5-6 people gathered in a knot, towering over her. Again no problem (Truman might have been growling quietly in similar circumstances). After about an hour of this, we went home where Sophie played outside on her own before choosing to go into the house.

In the afternoon I suggested that Carol & I follow our oft routine of going to the movies. We said bye-bye to both girls & left them with the run of the house. By the time we returned home 3+ hours later, it was pitch black.

As Carol approached the house, we heard barking -- not from one, but from two Bouvs. One in the dining room looking watching through the french doors, the other in the kitchen looking through the little glass panes. Stella exited first, then Sophie.

I was waiting at the end of the driveway & made my presence known with a "Hi girls!". Stella trotted down to my location but Sophie charged, full tilt in my direction. If she had hit me, I would have been flattened by her 110-120#. OMG, what a greeting!! Wiggle butt, talking, jumping around. I had to make room for Stella's greeting as Sphie surrounded me. <whew>

This is a very smart girl, this Sophie. She is very communicative. She will offer a paw if she wants to be scratched. She sits & looks directly in my eyes if she wants attention. She is learning to sit to wait for dinner. With a slight correction She now allows me to exit a door first. She comes when she is called but not yet 100%. She offers kisses in trade for a butt scratch. She was fairly patient when I started to thin out her undercoat although she is a bit sensitive about her upper legs. Well, what girl isn't sensitive about her thighs?

After dinner we comb her non-existent beard (to get her used to it) as we comb Stella's luxurious beard nightly. Then I brush Sophie's teeth w/o a problem, thanks to her foster parents. Finally it's time to rest but she is always attentive to sounds & movement around the house. 

However, when she finally falls fully asleep, she sleeps like the dead. And getting up is a chore. It's like waking a teenager to go to school. Let's just say she's a slooow riser. My hope is that -- should we have an intruder -- s/he will not come in middle of Sophie's REM sleep because there will be no more Sophie/Stella diaries.

Perspective. (originally posted by a friend)

Friday, January 06, 2012

Sophie Rifkinson, a Southern Belle

January 2012

North Carolina Sophie, age 7, has white around her muzzle. She is over-sized, probably at 30" at the withers, she's a little long in body, fully cropped (small ears like old style), has a deep chest, a great black nose, very pretty IMO. Currently her black coat is growing back but I think she will look beautiful & HUGE with a full Bouvier coat by next summer. She reminds me of the early Dutch Bouvs, good head, long limbs, etc

As I understand it, the first couple of years of her life were ok  but then, after a divorce, she was relegated to the back porch where she spent 90% of her day with two other Bouvs. When rescued, she was matted, nails curled under, free fed, the old story.

She was cleaned up, vetted, had her teeth cleaned (she doesn't mind having her teeth brushed), her hair is growing back. It will be a luxurious, probably soft coat but I'll do what I can to thin it out & stiffen it up a bit like Stella.

Watching the two of them together is like watching Mutt & Jeff -- Sophie being oversiezed & Stella being undersized. 

As Sophie has not had any real freedom most / all of her life she is VERY interested in everything. Initially she got slightly unnerved by all the new stimuli but she tries to figure them out w ears pricked, etc. She does not appear fearful, just careful & observant. Bottom line: she LOVES being outside to wander & see new things although she also likes going into the house.

The problem is she has a real FLIGHT fright. At one point in her first life, she ran away for unknown reasons & led a feral existence. After 3 months she was 'captured' in a weakened, emaciated and starving condition in someone's backyard. The animal control folks who were aware of her disappearance, picked her up & returned her to her owner from whom she had fled.

Sophie's foster parents, Deb & Bob Dickerson, very committed & wonderful, experienced Bouvier people didn't have the kind of property to let her roam free but they cleaned her up, stipped her of her matted coat, cut her nails, vetted her, got her shots, cleaned her teeth and loved the heck out of her for two month. They took her on daily 2-3 mile walks to help her lose weight. Seeing a leash immediately causes a butt wag.

To meet Sophie, I had Stella dragging a lead in a forest walking path setting. When Deb / Bob approached with Sophie, who was at full attention, pulling her lead to see who that was up ahead (us), Stella took one look & retreated quickly, fortunately not out of sight. With some doing, I was able to coax her back. There were only a few snorfuls, but not much interaction between them at all, as we stood around. talking. I made sure Stella felt appreciated and that she was a good girl. 

Leaving the foster parents behind, Carol, Stella, Sophie & I walked along the forest path @ Aldrich Park until Deb & Bob were out of sight.

I used a veeeeery long training leash for this exercise so Sophie had the illusion of freedom. She alternated between going forwards with us -- out of interest in her surroundings -- and backwards to look for her foster parents -- but was obedient, coming when called (after a slight tug), sitting & lying down for petting sessions when we rested.

After about 45 minutes we returned to our car (fosters had left). She got in readily & we drove home.

At home I let her loose trailing the training leash behind her to investigate the property. She checked the entire 2.5 acre perimeter probably trying to figure out if she could escape. She also checked the front gate a few extra times as she must recognize that as a connection to the outside & freedom.

Carol took her shopping to Pet store w/o incident.

At home she was calm but curious, always looking out the windows & glass doors but eventually settling down. Probably still looking for foster parents.

Dinner was un-eventful. She clearly likes to go outside, gets very excited when she sees a leash but is curious / startled / interested in all the new noises & lights she sees around the property. She spent the night sleeping on a window seat, the same place where Stella goes when I leave her alone. It's a huge window seat so I don't anticipate any issues.

Sophie shows no outward nervousness, perhaps a tiny show of anxiety w licking & paw raised every once in a while but it dissipates quickly & she does react to commands. She is naturally glued to one of us at all times. She will make eye contact with both of us.

The girls together are like two ships passing through the night. I don't think there will ever be a problem there.

This morning they enjoined a barking session with the next door mutt by running down, just short of the fence but turning around to see if I was still there and / or to see if it was ok. Then we toured the property again, totally leashless. Afterwards she wanted to come back into the house.

She has no hesitation entering the house or the cottage as Stella had at the beginning. On exit (off lead) She started to go out the door first & a very low throat clearing from me caused her to look up @ me & back up. Not one word was spoken & I went out first. 

I think she's very intuitive & communicative & I can see her developing a big vocabulary in time. She has prey drive (un-like Stella), is very sweet & when we peel back the onion layers I suspect -- as did her foster parents -- what will emege will be ALL Bouvier.

I will continue to update her blog here. Eventually I will move it over to the Bouvier section of the big blog. For those of you who have twitter, Sophie has her own hash tag which is #sophierifkinson where I will post 'stuff'