Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Gulpy

The Gulpy or a similar water bottle for dogs is a great thing to have when we're out and about with Niko. 
We spotted a fellow camper last summer with one and was quite impressed. Then we saw it at TJ Maxx and picked one up. It is a water bottle with a trough that flips open for water to be dispensed in. When Niko is done drinking, I flip the tray back and there's even a clip to attach the bottle to your pants. 

The Gulpy is very helpful on longer walks, hikes, and also car rides. Before getting it, we had to pour water into our palms for Niko to drink from, which got messy and was a hassle. And he doesn't always drink when we offer him water. If he is thirsty, Niko slurps the water right up and whatever he doesn't drink, we discard. In hot weather, Niko gets hot and thirsty way faster so we have to make water available more often.

I've seen them sold at most pet stores and amazon:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Serenity Area

In the backyard, I have a small part that I've converted into my "serenity area." It started off with a pine tree, 2 big smooth rocks, and a barrel flower pot. I found myself enjoying using the big rock as a seat to chill out. I plant colorful flowers in the pot. 
Last year, I dug out a small area in front of where I sit and placed stepping stones, mulch,  and various plants. I put in plants that are supposed to spread and crawl around the stones, and also plants that are nice to touch (silver mound). There is also a bird feeder by the pine tree. It's a nice spot to sit in and throw the ball for Niko to catch. It quickly became my resting spot after doing garden work. When Niko sees me working on my vegetable garden, he usually knows it's not playtime. But as soon as I get a drink and sit down in the serenity area, he runs up with his tennis ball. I can also look over at my vegetable garden to reflect at the hard work I put into it.

Lately, when Niko is outside by himself, I would spy him in my serenity area. Thankfully, he does not dig in that area or eat the plants. I've found him quietly resting on the mulch and it makes me feel good that my little project is benefiting Niko as well.  I still think he is the reason my plants don't get eaten by rabbits and other animals (Niko the scarecrow).
There are some very nice gardens designed just for pets out there. Niko and I are both envious.  If you are thinking of doing an area for your canine friends to hang out in, be sure that all the plants you choose are not toxic to dogs.
Here's a photo I found of pet gardens:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Murder Mystery

Out in the backyard, we have a tether system for Niko to spend time outside without running away. It is a zip-line that runs from the deck to the bottom of the hill. A cord that Niko is hooked up to is attached to it and it runs up and down the hill. I spend a lot of time out there doing gardening stuff and Niko is sure to be out there with me. He enjoys being outside and is well behaved. When we're inside, he oftens stands by the door indicating he wants outside time. We leave him out there 15 mins at a time for him to do his potty business, especially right before bed time.
The usual process goes this way:
1) We walk out the back door onto the deck
2) Attach the cord to Niko's collar
3) Niko stands in front of the baby gate and stares out earnestly
4) We open the gate
5) Niko runs down the steps (once after it rained, Niko ran so fast he slipped down the stairs like a wild cartoon animal)
6) Niko darts to all four possible corners to sniff out his friends (I can only speculate they are bunnies, squirrels, chipmunks, and birds)
7) We check on him from the window from time to time and he's usually resting on the grass like a lazy cow (see picture)

Well, one morning, we found a dead and mauled up chipmunk on the grass near the deck. It was a fresh kill. We can't conclusively say it was Niko who did it, but the evidence is stacked against him, As seen in the Killer Instinct post, Niko has plenty of practice with this crime. I've seen him chase chipmunks around the yard, but they outrun him before Niko runs out of tether line. One final argument is that Niko's breeder told us that Niko's father would kill and bring him back woodchucks. This Shiba Inu might look cute and harmless, but you do the math.

Between this occurrence and the raccoon encounter (I didn't think to sanitize the food bowl the raccoon ate out of), I was worried that Niko might have been exposed to rabies. He is up to date on his vaccinations, but I was still concerned. I looked up symptoms online and observed him for a few days. The online references I found said the infected animal starts to act erratically. We laughed at that because Niko has his crazy spouts of energy at random times so it'd be hard to tell. It's been over a week now and we think the coast is clear. Niko is healthy. However, the question about the chipmunk remains, "who dunnit?"

Monday, June 20, 2011

Raccoon Follow Up

This is a short follow up to my recent post about our run in with a raccoon. A week after the incident, Ed's dad came upon two raccoons in the woods. He found them nesting in a rotten tree. Since I didn't have first hand photos in the last post, I thought I'd show them here:
I can't help but think they are cute after seeing these pictures, changing my mind about them being criminal Niko food Thieves. Interestingly, they do have bandit eyes like the typical robber haha.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pet Armor Plus

If you're like us, you probably don't like the high premium price of Frontline flea protection medication. Great news, I learned there is now a generic version with the same active ingredients: Pet Armor Plus.
Frontline's patent expired, making this possible.
We bought a box at Walmart for less than $15 for 4 doses. Pretty sweet huh?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"A Raccoon Ate My Food!" 
We packed up and went camping again for two nights at a county park about an hour away.  Our neighbors from the next campsite who were there the previous night warned us about raccoons not being shy or afraid of coming near them. With that, we put the garbage in the park provided receptacle, wrapped up our food and placed everything in sealed coolers and bins. We had a skunk scare last summer and didn't want to take any chances. Silly us, Niko's food bowl had a small amount of kibble in it and we left it out. It did cross my mind to put it away but we didn't think raccoons would be interested. 
Once we got into the tent for the night, Niko was restless, which was out of the ordinary. He usually finds his spot(a blanket), curls up, and calls it a night. I couldn't tell if it was the noisy neighbors or wildlife that kept him awake this time. He just wouldn't go to sleep. He stayed by the tent door trying to wait for a chance to get out. Finally, when I was trying to fall asleep, I heard a noise. It sounded like Niko munching at his food, except Niko was in the tent and not by his food bowl. We quickly put our glasses on, found the flashlight, and opened the tent window screen. Ed's eyesight is a lot better than mine, so he got a good look at the raccoon. I only saw a dark mass by the food bowl, but I heard it enjoying the snack. Ed said it was a chunky one. There wasn't much to eat, so the raccoon wasn't around long; plus we made some noises to let it know we were awake. I suggested we bring Niko out to walk around the campsite so the raccoon knows who he's dealing with and perhaps be too afraid to come back again. So, Ed took Niko to check out the crime scene. The bowl was empty and Niko sniffed it. Niko definitely knew he had 4 legged company because he pulled towards the trees and sniffed around a lot.
They returned to the tent and we thought we were set for the night. My thought was that the raccoon now knows there's a shiba inu guard dog on site. They better stay away.
After just a few minutes, I heard another noise. What could it be? All the food in the bowl was eaten. My hearing must be as good as Ed's eyesight because from just listening, I quickly determined the raccoon got a hold of the tote bag that I put Niko's things in: toys, poop bags, and container of food! Ed directed the flashlight to the picnic table from the inside of our tent. I didn't have enough time because I was scrambling for my glasses. Ed confirmed that the stinking raccoon was dragging the tote from the table and down the hill into the forest. Such excitement! With Niko on leash, Ed jumped out and chased after the animal. It let go of the bag 20 feet out. What an incredibly brave and smart raccoon; the food was in a sealed container inside the tote. We walked into the woods out of curiosity. Ed found the raccoon with his flashlight, it made up to a very tall tree and stayed there. All I saw were its eyes reflecting from our flashlight. Throughout this ordeal, Niko didn't bark which I was surprised about. The following day, Niko ate every ounce of food we put in his bowl within minutes. This is very odd because he isn't usually quick to eat kibble and waits until late afternoon to polish all his food. We think he had a sense his food source was threatened. Or now that he knew someone else coveted his food, it was more appealing to eat. We refer to our visitor as Niko's friend, "Cooney" or "Coonster."
According to National Geographic, raccoons are nocturnal, very dexterous with their front paws, and eat just about anything. For the record, they eat Innova dog food.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Same Place, Different Season

We returned to the park we went cross country skiing many times this year. It's hard to believe that it was the same place because the park looked completely different without the snow. White was replaced with lush green. This state forest area is great in the winter and summer. There are multiple trails for skiing and hiking.  We let Niko off the leash here. It is also very secluded. With our kayaks and Niko in tow, we arrived at the park on a hot, sunny, and humid afternoon.

There is a pond in the park we wanted to kayak in. Niko was actually in it last time. Well, he was on it because it was frozen and he had no idea it was a pond.
We wanted to get Niko more acclimated in the kayak and this was another round of practice. We first took a walk on one of the trails. With him off leash, he ran ahead and back over and over again. The intent was to let him run out his energy so he has less energy to be kayak/water-anxious.

We had the pond to ourselves the entire time. This turned out to be a great condition for Niko. He was a lot calmer and I was able to get out into the water as well. I usually play lifeguard on shore, anticipating a wet shiba frantically escaping Ed's kayak. Halfway through, we moved him into my kayak and I enjoyed having him be my passenger. The pond was calm and quiet except for ducks and birds. Niko watched the wildlife and basically observed while being paddled around. It was very hot and sunny and we got out after an hour. I scooped water in my palm for Niko to drink from several times.
When we were packing up, Niko crawled under the car for shade and the cool stones probably felt nice.

Great progress for Niko on the Kayak!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I'm Afraid of No Snake

On Saturday, we visited the nature center in Wellesley Island State Park where we were camping for a few days. A nice volunteer recommended a very scenic hiking trail but warned us it may be muddy from all the rain from the previous 2 weeks. We took Niko along with us and were tempted to let him off leash. We decided against because of signs forbidding it, the muddy areas, and other hikers on the trail. The picture above is taken at the lookout point which was breathtaking. It got very warm and humid which explains NIko's tongue sticking out for picture perfectness.
In hindsight, it was good NIko was kept on a leash. We found a deer carcass that was mauled up and bloody. Niko would have totally gone to it for some sniffing and snacking. Also, at one point during our walk, NIko lunged off the path at something in the grass. Although it was well camouflaged, we quickly saw that it was a snake. Niko wouldn't let up on it and kept poking his head toward it everytime the snake moved. The snake reeled its head back at Niko too and even opened its mouth to show teeth. It was a scary moment but exciting too. We pulled Niko away and I snapped this picture before moving on: 
I can't imagine what would have happened if Niko was off leash and had free reign to lick, bite, play with, or bark at the snake. I shake my head when I think of how Niko is fearful of the wrong things (like water) but is brave around the real dangers (such as a snake and skeletons). Niko showed the same interest he usually has around tiny living things that move. There was a bumble bee that lingered around us most of the weekend and Niko chased it and snapped his jaw at it like a frog countless times.
Camping was a lot of fun and Niko was great at nights in the tent. He didn't make a sound and was pooped out tired when we turned in every night. I laid down a beach towel by my side and showed him where to lay down the first night. On the 2nd and last nights, he automatically went to the towel, circled around it to pat it down, and settled in. It was great cuddling with him because we don't get to do that at home due to his usual aloofness and preference to not snuggle. I felt him shaking when it was cold one night. I put part of my blanket over him and he nuzzled against me. During the wee hours of the morning, I tried to remember to cover NIko's head lightly with the blanket. This is to keep him from noticing the light filtering in from the rising sun and to allow us all to sleep in. On the last morning, my attempt didn't work because Niko weaseled his head out of the blanket and as soon as he saw daylight, he went towards the zipped up tent door. I reached outside for the tether and attached his collar. When i saw the sunrise, I didn't mind being up at 4:30 at all. I took a few pictures, made sure Niko had access to his food and water bowls and went back in to snooze a few more hours. Niko was quiet and sat peacefully outside listening to the birds chirp and probably snoozed a bit on the soft woodsy ground. It was a perfect weekend.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

He Licks Us for Us

We had our first camping adventure of 2011 over Memorial Day weekend. There is so much to recount about the trip that I will break things out into at least two posts. 
"Is this your idea of fun?"

The car was packed to the max which meant Niko's usual sprawl on the entire backseat was reduced to 1/4 of it.

Remember the life vest we bought Niko a few months ago? It was finally time to test the waters, pardon the pun. The week before, we brought out the vest and did some clicker training with Niko and the vest. Every time he approached the vest, we clicked the clicker (a training device) and gave him a treat. He quickly learned that good things happen when he touched the vest with his nose or paws it. We also put the vest on him for practice runs. He didn't mind wearing it as much after a few times.

At the Thousand Islands, NY, we stayed at a waterfront campsite and brought our kayaks. We put the life vest on him and he was a little hesitant to get off his butt. We walked him around with it on and let him lounge in it.

It was funny seeing Niko in the life vest because it created rolls around his neck, making him appear to be a chubby Shiba.
We eventually put him in the kayak. Ed slowly paddled out while holding on to Niko. He relaxed a little as they floated 
away. However, when they approach shore again, Niko got anxious and made attempts to put his paws up, ready to jump ship. Unlike last year, Niko did not escape and jump into the water. If he were to jump, I was hoping he wouldn't swim away from our campsite, because across the bay in the distance was Canadian land. (Niko didn't apply for his passport yet)

We were able to do 2 trial runs with Niko. Our goal is to teach him that staying in the kayak = not getting wet. And not getting wet is Niko's only wish. We feel that this was a good start and will try to phase him into a kayak rider soon enough!
(paws on paddle ready for action or to jump?)

So, "what's with the title of this post?" you ask. Niko has an obsession with licking things dry. Mostly himself and us. Typically, if my hand or face were wet and I reach towards him, he would lick me dry. I often do it on purpose. After baths, he compulsively dries himself. What's interesting is that every time we came back from kayaking without him, he ran toward us and proceeded to sniff and then lick our wet feet and legs for several minutes.  It feels nice and we think it's funny and weird all at the same time. This habit is probably related to his aversion to water and feeling the need to make it go away. That, or he was just very thirsty.