Friday, 30 December 2011

Christmas with Mila

Mila sleeping off the effects of a big Christmas Day
Mila Grey's first Christmas with us has been a very successful and very busy one - full of new experiences, new toys, new friends, and a brand new crate to call her own.

In the past week, we have met and made friends with a very enthusiastic Cavalier King Charles Spaniel/Maltese dog named Rupert, spent time splashing about in a paddling pool, been back to the farm to play with our Waimaraner buddies, gone to the beach, hung out with some young kids, learnt some new tricks, and discovered a whole new world of squeaky toys, treats, and things that jingle. I have attached some photos of the various things we have been up to over the last little while. As I type, Mila is certainly showing the effects of her big Christmas adventures, sleeping on her couch in the dining room (a new favourite position being to sleep upside down with her legs resting against the back of the couch) - getting up occasionally to find a squeaky toy and have a play. Despite the tiredness, Mila has coped really well with all of the different things that have been thrown at her (and with the break in routine) and now feel a lot more confident about taking her out and about with us whenever we can.

Over the Christmas break, we have definitely learnt a couple of lessons about the way that Mila operates, the biggest one being that a box of treats wrapped up under the Christmas tree, will be found and demolished (along with the wrapping paper on every other present under the tree) if the opportunity presents itself. Of course, this is probably a very obvious lesson for a dog owner to learn (Greyhounds might be sight hounds but that doesn't mean that they can't smell!!) - and I really have no justification for thinking it was a good idea to put a doggie present under the tree, but hindsight is 20/20 and we had been having such success with the "human gifts" staying untouched under the tree that a week or so out from Christmas, I got a little bit cocky and thought that Mila's present might also survive. Quite the opposite. 

Cooling off in the pool on Christmas Eve
We arrived home after work one night to the usual excited waggy tail at the doorway and went about taking off bags and jackets and starting to think about what we might have for dinner. Then, walking into the lounge, we saw the damage. Thankfully, the Christmas tree remained in tact (and upright) - but there was wrapping paper everywhere, and presents strewn randomly across the floor. The presents were largely unharmed (although I did have to explain the bite marks in a few things on Christmas morning) and it seems that it was the wrapping paper and the boxes that were the main attraction there. However, in the corner sat an open and destroyed box of choc drops (empty of its contents) and a squeaker toy which had obviously provided some entertainment already. Unfortunately, it didn't end there. Our flatmate had just been donated a whole lot of herbal tea from a friend of hers which was sitting nicely in colourful boxes on the bench waiting to be put away. The boxes came off the bench, the tea bags came out and Mila proceeded to take seemed like every single one around the lounge to her mat, ripping holes in the bags and leaving a trail of tea leaves behind her. As you can imagine, it took a while to clean up - but I knew straight away that I had really been asking for it the whole time.

My theory is that Mila sniffed out something interesting under the tree and decided to investigate further. The present would have also squeaked when she chewed at it - and it was all over from there! Being so successful with one present, I can only think that we opened the remaining presents in an attempt to recreate the magic. Luckily, there wasn't anything else edible under the tree (so we didn't have a rehash of vet visit on our hands). Of course, now no Christmas tree and/or Christmas present goes uninvestigated. We don't go so far as ripping any wrapping paper - but a good wander around the tree and a sniff of all the presents under it is a must before Mila will settle down.

So, no more dog treats under the tree before Christmas day - got it. Something best left as a gift for Santa to bring down the chimney with him next year I suppose :)

Mila helps out with the Christmas baking

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Beach

Bounding about in the waves

On Sunday morning, we decided to head down to Paraparaumu Beach to frolic in the sand and the waves. For those keeping track, that is a visit to two different beaches in one day for our Greyhound friend – which made for a very tired girl that night – but the weather was so good that we couldn’t resist the opportunity.

We were out visiting the Kapiti Coast for various mum-related birthday celebrations. Both M and I grew up taking dogs to the beach (me with German Shepherds at Himatangi, and later Waikanae Beach, and M with his Waimaraner at Pararaparaumu Beach) – so it felt like a good time to renew the tradition and introduce Mila to the sights and sounds of the ocean.

When we got there, the change in Mila was obvious – everything was so different to our home in Karori. First it was the smell of the sea air, then it was the shells and the dune grass, the feeling of soft sand underfoot, the seagulls, the drift wood and…ALL THAT WATER!! What was going on?!

Not surprisingly, all of the nice, calm walking that we had been faithfully practicing went out the window at this point. There were too many things to be sniffed, pawed at and watched for a greyhound to be paying any attention to what I had to say. After the novelty of the sand had worn off a bit, it was down into the water where there was running and jumping and splashing and also a bit of intentionally trying to get me as wet as possible. It didn’t really help that M was standing (nice and dry) back up on the beach, doing his best to rark Mila up and make sure that my pants had absolutely no chance of staying dry.

Unfortunately, we are not quite at the stage where we are able to let Mila off the lead with the confidence that she will come back to us when we call her (any tips????). I’m pretty certain that she wouldn’t take the opportunity to run away from us completely – but when there are other dogs, seagulls, fish and possum traps in the sand dunes – the risk of her getting herself into trouble is just too high to take at the moment (even with a muzzle on). The Kapiti Beaches are supposed to be on-lead anyway, so you can imagine the trouble I would get into if I let Mila off and she managed to destroy something important…they get penguins around there, you know!

Here are some pics of our adventures at the beach. As you can see, there was a lot of running and getting wet (and quite a few ‘c’mon! why are you being SO slow??’ looks from Mila as I did my best to keep up). 
This is SO much fun!!

Reluctantly back to dry land

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Dogaccinos in the Sunshine

Reading back over my posts, it has dawned on me that so far all of my stories have been about Mila getting herself into trouble. Admittedly, they are the most entertaining tales – but they probably don’t paint a fair picture of our little buddy.

Mila’s bio on the GAP website described her as a “people dog” – and it really couldn’t have been more accurate. She loves every person who shows the slightest interest in her (sometimes to the point of being annoying) and, although she is a big black hound, we have discovered that she would make the worst guard dog in the world!

She’s not all that into other dogs unless we are on a walk, or there is a chance of a race. At Obedience Classes, she was more interested in what the owners were doing than in interacting with the other dogs and she is also happy to make her own fun - running around by herself chasing leaves, squeaking toys or splashing in puddles. Sometimes Mila’s disinterest in other dogs borders on impatience (we are learning to tolerate the small excitable dogs at the moment) and she will let another dog know if they are being a pain. However, in a household with no cats or other dogs (although we do have a rabbit who is kept well out of sight and smell), Mila fits in perfectly.

On Sunday, I decided to test her a little with a walk down Oriental Parade. It was a glorious summer day in the Capital (one of the few so far) and I knew there would be dogs of all shapes and sizes enjoying some time out in the sunshine. We started around by Te Papa and resolved that, if we were good, we would stop at Beach Babylon (about a 5 minute walk away) and try something from their new K9 menu.

I was super proud when we made it the whole way along without a single problem. We passed Beagles, Pomeranians, Seagulls and plenty of kids on scooters and there was no lunging at all! We even had a lady with her big black Labrador come up to us and ask if her dog could meet Mila. No worries, we said.

So with that, I wandered confidently along to the café to find a seat in the sun. As we went in, I saw a little Scottish terrier and a couple of Jack Russells which I thought might cause us some issues. But of course, the most exciting thing for Mila was the number of smiling people who wanted to stop for a pat. She was in heaven!

We ordered our drinks – an OJ for me and a Dogaccino for Mila. A Dogaccino is a mix of cold milk and beef stock served in a large dog bowl – an extra special treat because we don’t like to give her dairy too often – and she loved it! She was a bit apprehensive to begin with, taking a couple of slow licks at the bowl, but when she realised that it was okay for her to keep drinking, she was right into it.

After we finished, it was off home for a much-needed sleep on the couch. A big day for Mila, but a successful one exploring the sights and sounds of Wellington City. And Dogaccinos get the Mila Grey Seal of Approval! 

Chowing down on our Dogaccino under the shade of our table on Oriental Parade

Monday, 19 December 2011

Our first visit to the Vet

Another food related post...

On Saturday morning, we decided to do a spot of last minute Christmas shopping. We were only going to be away for about an hour to pick up the last of the presents for the big day – and maybe grab a coffee in town. It was a good opportunity to practice a short break for Mila to hopefully help her with getting over some of her separation issues.

We are getting pretty good at hiding forbidden foods in places where they cannot be reached by long noses. The Christmas chocolate stash is in a cupboard high up off the ground – which would take some serious acrobatics for Mila to reach (although I wouldn’t put it past her trying).

However, one thing we didn’t consider was the stash that our teacher housemate had been given on the last day of school for her wonderful work during the year. Sitting, very temptingly, in her room was a giant Toblerone, a box of wrapped chocolates, and beautifully decorated baking given to her by her kids.

So – you can see where this is going. We all left the house for our morning in town – and somewhere along the line, Mila smelt something delicious and (undeterred by the closed over door) burst into the bedroom and ate the goodies. All of them. Wrappers, foil, cardboard and everything.

Our flatmate arrived home to find the aftermath lying in a pile on her floor and texted us straight away. Chocolate is not good for a dog at the best of times, but in that amount – let’s just say that we are lucky that we were dealing with a 30kg dog and not a 5kg one.

When we got home, Mila seemed fine – but we called the Vet anyway to see what we should do. They recommended that we bring her in to “clear out her stomach”, so off we went. When we got down to the Vet, the nurses explained the procedure to me and led Mila away out the back to a place where she could safely be sick. Apparently, to induce vomiting in chocolate eaters they place a tablet under the eye of the dog which dissolves and makes them feel sick. I have no idea how the mechanics of that work, but it sounds weird. I should mention here that Mila is a Drama Queen. Anything that causes her mild discomfort is the WORST thing that has ever happened in her life. So, we are sitting in the waiting room – and all we can hear are yelps and cries coming from out the back. After 10 minutes, Mila and the Vet come trotting back in, Mila a little unstably, and we are reliably informed that a lot of chocolate had come up (along with the wrappers, the glad wrap, the tin foil and ribbons) and that she will be a little bit drowsy for the rest of the day so a “plain” dinner that night would be best, but we should otherwise be good as new. $90 later, we were out the door and ready for home.

I know it sounds cruel (and I did feel sorry for her) but after the drama of the Vets, getting home and watching the drugs wear off was the funniest part of the day – I couldn’t help but take some photos. Mila obviously had no idea what was going on – so she curled up on her bed, tucked her head between the cushions and fell into a drunken sleep. When she woke up about an hour later, she had forgotten all about taking it easy and proceeded to jump down off the bed and face plant into the floor. After some pats and a few circles of the lounge, we seemed to be right as rain again, but still a little bit slow.

Poor girl recovers from the side effects of the drugs. If you look closely, she is trying desperately to keep her eyes open - but is failing miserably. It's okay, she's back to her normal self now!
So, it was an interesting introduction to the Vet (and they tell me that they see A LOT of it at this time of the year). While I would like to hope that we have learnt our lesson when it comes to chocolate and sweets, something tells me that Mila isn’t quite so quick on the uptake. While I was brushing my teeth this morning, she stole a nicely wrapped lamington from inside its plastic bag in my handbag...hmmmm.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Mila the Foodie

Mila loves food.

Knowing that, it shouldn’t really have surprised me to come home after work yesterday to discover that she had devised a way of getting into the food cupboard in the kitchen and managed to eat a half bag of dog jerky, the remaining chocolate drops, at least one Tux biscuit and some of her regular food. She even managed to get her nose to the back of the cupboard where some very old (and long forgotten) catnip treats were sitting from back when we experimented with having a cat!

Needless to say, there was packaging everywhere. Bags were torn apart and left on the kitchen floor and the food containers now have large bite marks in them from her (eventually successful) attempts to get to what is inside. Thankfully, our housemate was around to clean up most of the mess, but there was evidence of Mila’s binge still about when we got home. Unfortunately, I was so busy trying to focus on not flying off the handle that I completely forgot to take photos of the scene!

Mila of course, was feeling a little sorry for herself and (I would like to think) a bit guilty. She lay on the couch with her head on her paws, looking drowsy eyed and a little wired as we cleaned up around her, avoiding eye contact with us for fear of getting growled. We kept an eye on her to make sure that a trip to the Vet wasn’t necessary but otherwise, the order of the day was to ignore her and let her think about what she’d done. A bit optimistic maybe, but it gave us all a chance to calm down.

Later in the night, the urgent need to clear her bowels of all that she had eaten got too much and despite the fact that we made sure the back door was open and gave her ample opportunity to toilet outside, we found a larger-than-normal pile of dog poo sitting proudly on the carpet in the middle of the lounge at about 9.30pm. The husband was furious and left the room grumbling about stupid Greyhounds. Trying not to gag from the smell, I was left to clean up the little mountain Mila had left for us.

When we are around, Mila is usually very good with food. She will eat pretty much anything we give her, the odd snack of raw carrot never goes uneaten and her bowl is always licked clean. She is starting to understand that food on the bench is not for her (although that doesn’t stop her from trying her luck) and she is very good at sitting patiently for her food to be prepared and waiting to be called before she bounds off her bed to eat. This morning, she even waited until after I had put her food down, gone back to the kitchen to fill her water bowl, put that down and then called her over before she jumped up to scoff her meal.  We don’t really have problems with her annoying us during our own dinner either (although she does love the smell of oven chips for some reason). A quick “go to bed” sees her trot nicely over to her mat until it is time to get up and play again.

Feeding time at the Zoo
During the day, I suspect that it’s the boredom and loneliness that makes it so tempting for her to “explore” and see what she can find. Sometimes (like yesterday) her missions are successful, other times she gives up and sleeps the time away contentedly. We are learning, although admittedly a bit slowly than we should be, that the path of least resistance is to remove the temptations (food now sits on top of the fridge in the blocked off laundry) and to provide her with stimulating and challenging tasks. Peanut butter Kong is a current favourite and Squeakers are a classic source of hours of entertainment. Let’s hope that we don’t go through too many more boxes of Choc Drops before the message sinks in completely!! 

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

2 months in...

Mila Grey has been with us for two months now and has completely changed our lives in that time. While I had done a whole heap of research into greyhounds before deciding to adopt one from GAP in October, and I knew that dog ownership requires commitment (and patience!!), nothing really prepared me for what was ahead. 

Greyhounds have a reputation as calm, relaxed and almost lazy dogs. I like to think of them as the Cheetahs of the canine world - up for a sprint one minute, but perfectly content with spending the rest of the day asleep on a couch, or in a corner, oblivious to what is going on around them. They are also very self-motivated. If you want them to do something for you, there needs to be something in it for them - be it a treat, a pat or a run around the park. Mila, our 3-yr old, 30 kg, black girl can be just like that when she wants to be but tends not to stick to the traditional greyhound mould too closely. 

First off, she is big for a female greyhound. She stands taller than many of her female companions (and some males) - and she knows it. In unfamiliar situations, she will draw up to her full height, extend her neck and straighten her legs in an attempt to overshadow anything in her path. Not particularly difficult when that thing is a sparrow or a leaf!

She is also a bit slow. And by that, I mean "not fast" rather than "a bit dim". While there is absolutely no question that she could outrun me, her racing career was a bit less of a success. During her career on the track, she raced 26 times in Cambridge, Auckland and Wanganui (ending in July 2011) - with a string of fourths to her name and her best showing a third placing in November 2010. How did she manage third, you ask? Not by outright speed but by barging the dog in front of her out of the way with her broad shoulders and cutting him off on the home straight. I have seen the DVD evidence and that is exactly how it went down. But anyway, a Place is a Place in my book! Unfortunately, she paid no dividends as there were only 5 other dogs in the field, a factor which probably also contributed to her third placing.

Mila makes short work of one of her favourite soft toys!

Finally, Mila doesn't appear to be a huge fan of sleep. She is up and about at all hours of the day, trotting behind us, exploring the house/washing basket/bench top/Christmas tree/bathroom. We both work full-time during the week, so we don't know exactly what she gets up to while we are away during the day (we would love to install a web cam to record a day of her journey around the house!!), but there are constant signs of rummaging, lick marks, torn boxes, open doors and squeaky toys hidden all over the show which suggest that the Cheetah is actually more inquisitive than we originally thought she might be. It is a learning curve for all of us, and while she does not usually chew things that aren't hers and is not a destructive dog, coming home to find a box of tea bags strewn about the lounge, complete with the bags shredded to pieces and tea leaves all over the place always makes for an interesting afternoon...