Tuesday, 28 February 2012

A few of my favourite things

The list of things that Mila loves is about as long as my arm - she is very easy to please. She likes runs, pats, sleep, frozen peanut butter, the beach (and water generally), the big green couch, ice blocks, bush walks, and rides in the car to name just a few of her most favourites. 

But if there is one thing that Mila rates more than anything else in the world, it is her collection of soft squeaky toys. She loves them to pieces. Literally.

This picture is a bit blurry due to the ferocity with which Mila was attacking her pig. Luckily, the pig survived the onslaught and, having lost only a little bit of its interior, is still a favourite today.
Unfortunately, this toy was less fortunate.
This is Trevor the Mallard. Mila is very protective of her friend Trev and will often sleep with him tucked under her chin. Trevor is yet to lose any stuffing and remarkably, after more than a month, still quacks!
Mila's Christmas skunk lasted us about 3 weeks before it was completely destroyed...
...and her latest victim was a blue dog who was just 3 days old when he suffered the same fate. This photo was taken late one night when Mila discovered how to get directly to the source of all that squeaking.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Adventures of Mila and Otis

We have a pet rabbit at our place named Otis. She is a matronly, slightly grumpy, lop-eared lady who has lived with us for nearly 6 years. Yes - a bunny and a greyhound are an interesting combination – but we try to make it work.

I don't expect that Mila and Otis will ever truly be besties. After all, Greyhounds are trained to chase small fluffy objects for a living and it takes time, effort and patience before we can be confident that they can live together in perfect harmony. So far, we just haven’t had the chance to sit down and properly introduce them to each other, allow them to spend time together and keep an eye on them to avoid any disasters. For the moment at least, any idea we may have had of the two of them enjoying cross-country adventures like their namesakes Milo and Otis have been abandoned and they go contentedly about their daily business in their own little areas (Otis in her hutch, Mila far away from the hutch).

Otis poses for the camera
I'm working here on the assumption that it is Mila that is likely to cause the biggest problem. But I'm not sure that is entirely fair. A couple of times we have ended up with the two of them meeting unexpectedly - and it has been Otis who has reacted most strongly. Once, the front door was accidentally (he tells me…) left open and Mila found her way out to where the hutch is kept, wanting to find out more about this thing that moved about inside and ate hay! When we discovered our mistake and made our way outside, we saw both greyhound and rabbit ears at attention. Safe behind bars, Otis was standing right at the front of her hutch looking directly at Mila with an expression that said "Bring it On - I dare ya" and Mila didn't know what to do. She took one look at us standing on the doorstep watching events unfold, decided that we looked like the friendlier option right at that moment and trotted back inside. The second time, we had let Mila out into the back yard to toilet having forgotten that Otis was out there in a makeshift pen having some grass-time in the sun. Mila got a bigger fright than Otis did to see something else bounding about in her space. Otis bounced into her cardboard box hidey-hole and there was a single bark from Mila before she rushed inside as if to say ‘HELP - what is SHE doing out there??!’

I have little doubt that Otis would give as good as she gets.  The first few months of her life (before she came to us) saw her share a living room with two very boisterous Waimaraners – which has seen her develop a defensive side that can border on aggression. Until just recently, it was a mission to pick her up (and sometimes even pat her) without being nipped or scratched if she was in a particularly grumpy mood. However, Otis’ idea of self-defense doesn’t really stack up to the attentions of a 30 kg dog…so while she might be a brave (and angry) wee girl, I wouldn’t put my money on her to win that particular battle.

In an effort to foster Greyhound-Rabbit relations, Mila has very diplomatically been practicing her best "ignoring" – walking past Otis in the mornings on the way out for our stroll around the block without paying her any attention. Pretending that the grumpy bunny isn't even there saves us a telling off (and a death stare from the depths of the hutch) and leads to pats and lots of praise. Its a no-brainer really.

While we might not be at the stage of racing off into the sunset together, a life of tolerance (even if it is only on the part of the Greyhound) is the next best thing. If only we could convince Otis to be so accepting... 

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Lost in Translation

You know that heart in your mouth feeling when you realise you’ve lost something important and have absolutely no idea where it is or how you are going to get it back? You feel sick, start to panic and suddenly it gets really hot. Well, that was us on Waitangi Day when we lost Mila for the best part of an hour at the dog park. 

We had gone out to the park in Newlands for a run and to practice some recall training. It was a beautiful afternoon and a great excuse to get out and enjoy the fresh air. This of course involved pulling Mike away from the couch where he was watching both the cricket AND the Super Bowl – so it wasn’t a particularly popular decision from his perspective, but I digress. 

The park out in Newlands is basically a big, secluded field tucked away (generally) from houses and roads and surrounded by bush. The park is popular place for all types of dogs (and their owners) to hang out. It is an excellent place to let loose, sprint around, meet some other dogs and if you’re lucky, jump into one of the many “water features” about the place which of course, guarantees the need for a bath when you get home. 

There are also a whole heap of different paths and walking tracks around the outside of the park – and the bushes provide an excellent opportunity to explore. There are known to be rabbits hiding in them there gorse bushes! 

When we got to the park, we wandered around for a bit with the lead and muzzle on before deciding that Mila could have a bit of freedom. We played a couple of hide and seek games, some fetch and Mila attempted to race a Beagle and an overweight Chocolate Labrador.  Of course, Greyhounds have 2 settings: super fast and super slow. All of Mila’s meetings with the other dogs involved the former, sprinting up to them and standing with her ears straight up as if to say ‘C’mon! Why aren’t you racing with me!?!’ We always joke that Mila lacks the ability to “read the room” when it comes to interacting with other dogs and has no sense of tact when it comes to introducing herself. It is an endearing trait when you know that it is all in the name of good fun – and is Mila’s way of saying ‘Hi! Let’s be friends!!’ As you can imagine, it took the Beagle a few seconds to realise that the big black cheetah barrelling towards it at a million miles an hour was actually just playing around. The Lab on the other hand, was super keen to play chase but was also super slow (10 points for effort!)

Eventually Mila found the pond – and being a hot Waitangi afternoon decided to sit down and cool off – ensuring that the mud wasn’t restricted to just her legs but made it all the way up to her neck. At around this time she also developed selective hearing. Suddenly there were things more exciting in the world than wondering about with us and even our possum meat treats weren’t up to scratch anymore. 

And it was then, that she trotted off down a track and disappeared completely. 

At first, we weren’t overly concerned. Even if she didn’t immediately respond when she was called, she was pretty good at keeping us within eye sight and sprinting back to us if she got too far away. But as time passed – and 5 minutes turned into 10 and then 20 – we started to worry. We followed her most recent path, calling out all the way, to no response. The houses and roads seemed much closer than they were before and we knew that if she had seen something that she wanted to chase, she could be miles away. After 20 minutes of helplessly looking (and Mike heading back to the car to scan the surrounding area) and just as we were about to reconvene to consider our next move, out from the bushes comes a black waggy tail with a white tip and a big tired grin. Totally oblivious. After lots of pats and being securely back on the lead – we were back in the car (hooray!) and off home for a bath. That was more than enough excitement for one day! 

Aww - C'mon! I didn't get THAT dirty...did I??
As we packed up the car we discovered that along the path Mila had met a man who was out walking his two dogs – and decided to join their party for a bit. How lovely for her!!

So, Lesson #589 learned – Mila loves to hang out with other dogs and other people and is happy to spend time exploring with them – fantastic!!! However, in order to avoid knocking 10 years off my life due to stress, reading the signs (body language etc) is important. If it looks like I’ve lost her attention, I probably have and reverting back to a nice relaxed on-lead walk might just be in everyone’s best interests.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Pet names

Like most human friends of mine, Mila has earned herself a few nicknames in her time with us. Some of them based on her mannerisms and others which are entirely random – based on nothing more than how we are feeling on any given day.    

Most of the pets I have owned have been subjected to a similar fate. Our rabbit was originally named Toffee but became Otis after she showed extreme excitement every time we gave her pellets for a meal (what we called Bunny Oats) to the point where she ate so many of them we had to put her on a diet. Until recently, my family had a female German Shepherd (Ashika) who was dubbed “Warren” for some (still) unknown reason. We had a black cat (Harlem) who became known as “Kurtley” when she jumped up on the chair just in time to watch (her favourite player) Kurtley Beale scored a try in the rugby and Mike’s Waimaraner Oscar was known to everyone simply as “Doggie”.

Mila has been given many names – and most of them have actually stuck. I would love to be a fly on the wall during some of the conversations we have with her. She is variously referred to as “Big Black Shadow” for her love of following people up and down the hallway to see what they are up to and the imposing figure she cuts when she does so; “Flicker” for her long and enthusiastic tail which can tip over drinks and make a fantastic metronome for anyone learning the piano; “Milly” after Mike’s brother forgot her name and introduced her as Milly to his friends; “Millicent” for the times when she sits very majestically (and with an air of superiority) on her couch in the dining room looking out the window  at the world below in a very Upper-class sort of a way (“Millicent” of course has to be said in your most posh-sounding voice. Imagine here Downton Abbey); and “Pig Dog” as a bit of a poke at the fact that her bloodlines can be traced back to the 1700s and that her favourite soft toy is a fluffy pink pig.

Funnily enough, she answers to them all – which supports my theory that it is all about the facial expressions and the tone of voice, rather than what you are actually saying that makes the difference. I definitely get some funny looks when I forget where I am when we are out visiting and I call “Come here Pig Dog” for Mila to go out for a toilet – but it’s all in good humour of course.

Mila takes a break from looking at the world from her throne to wonder why she hasn't been served her evening meal yet.

And then pretends like it's actually no big deal. I didn't want dinner right now anyway!