Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dog Show

Our local Kennel Club hosted an AKC sanctioned dog show and it was open to the public. It was a three day event and we were able to drop in on the last day. It was held outdoors and of course we brought Niko show him what obedience really means. 
We were hit with an air of silence and seriousness when we approached a prep area where the handlers and dogs line up to "show." We soon learned it was no joke and that people traveled far distances to compete in this show. There were dogs of different sizes, colors, and shapes. 
We were dog show newbies and did not know what the judges look for. The competitions we watched were by breed size. The dogs pranced around in a circle with their handler one pair at a time, the judge gets a close look at the dog, lifts a leg or two, and they go back in a line. After all the pairs have taken their turns, the entire group jogs in the circle together one more time and lines up for the judge to look at the dogs side by side. Ribbons are awarded and the winners pose for pictures on a stoop. Like this beautiful Akita named Trader:
"where are the treats?"
                                                                                                                                   Do you see any resemblances between Niko and Trader? Akitas and Shiba Inus are related breeds. When people see Niko, aside from the common "he looks like a fox" comment, people also guess if he's an Akita. Look at who was backstage checking things out:

All in all, it was an interesting first dog show. We do wish we caught some agility competitions. Maybe next year. We were reminded of how much work goes into training a dog in general, but to train for dog shows is a whole other level. 
One last note, we caught Niko checking this broad out:
Sorry Niko, she is way out of your league and may be too high maintenance. You need to look for someone that likes to roll around in mud like yourself.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fundraising Fun

Niko went to his first fundraising event as part of last weekend's activities. We changed vets over a year ago to SPEAK Animal Hospital, which is a non-profit animal hospital. The staff is super friendly, prices are more affordable, and they had just renovated the entire facility. We attended the grand re-opening event to help their cause, let Niko meet new people and dogs. It was a well organized event with a live band, food, vendors, exhibits, facility tours, and raffle prizes. 
On display were two beautiful alpacas. Niko didn't care much for them. In the last several years, alpacas have grown in popularity. I was educated by a coworker that breeding alpacas is a serious business. Not only are they cute and loving animals, they are making a name for themselves in the textile industry.
The best part of the event was watching the New York State Police demonstration. A police dog named Wheeler (a German Shepard) and his handler educated the audience about NY's K-9 Unit. We learned some interesting facts:

  • All NY State police dogs are named after fallen officers to honor them
  • The Canine Unit training facility is located in Cooperstown, NY
  • Wheeler and his handler were part of a team that searched for survivors and bodies at Ground Zero after September 11
  • Dogs can smell their handler's emotions change regardless of visual and verbal cues
We watched Wheeler search for hidden narcotics and "attack" a culprit. The obedience and intelligence of Wheeler impressed us very much.
"hmm...that dog's got some neat tricks up his paws"

We were glad we attended the event. I bought Niko his latest fashion accessory - a bandana that threads through his collar. 

It is not very often I dress Niko up. He is more of a ruff and tuff dog, but this was for charity =)
A few days later, I received a phone call that I won a raffle basket. Even sweeter.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Dog Park & Raised Fur

In the area we live in, dog parks didn't exist....until now! A few months ago, we were at our local Petco and we saw a display table with volunteers raising money for a community dog park. We gave a monetary donation and forgot about it. The other day, I decided to do a search online on the dog park progress. What a nice coincidence, they had just finished putting up the fence this week and have the gates yet to put up tomorrow. We couldn't wait so we decided to take a drive and check the place out.
The fenced in park is very open with lots of space for dogs to run around and do their thing. They have 2 divided areas for big breeds and smaller breeds. We let Niko off the leash and he barely moved, giving us a confused look. We threw his tennis ball and he got the hint. He darted around playing fetch, enjoying the free space.
Not long after that, a few other dogs who were offleash came into the small breed section. Although they were larger dogs, they noticed Niko and came in our area anyway. Niko was outnumbered and smaller in size. One dog chased him and Niko chased back. We noticed Niko's fur patterns change very quickly and fur was raised like nothing we've seen before. My limited knowledge of reading a dog's body language is: tail up and wagging means happy and confident; tail down means scared.
I was able to snap a few pictures and review the transition from happy/confident/playful to scared/nervous.

Niko was alone at this time. Tail up and fur on his shoulders raised. He is alert and chasing the ball.

Then came the larger dog who chased Niko. Notice Niko's tail is curved way down and his back looks like we shaved him and gave him a mohawk. This was only minutes after the other picture:
The owners of that dog tried to call her name but to no avail. She just wanted to play with Niko and was not a threat. But Niko was very timid when 4 dogs came in all at once. He growled and the other dog did back away. We were on hand to stop a fight if needed, but it didn't come to that. 
Happy as a clam again.
We give the dog park 2 paws and 2 thumbs up all the way. We are happy the community approved the project and it is something a lot of people and pets have been waiting for. There is even a creek by the park for dogs to swim in and cool off. We took Niko there as well and he was about 2 inches deep in the water. Not bad, Niko.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Lonely Sunflower

Giant sunflower stalking Shiba Inu:
At last year's state fair, I picked up a free packet of sunflower seeds (for growing, not snacking purposes). I planted the seeds by the stairs to the deck in the spring. Patiently, we waited for the stalks to come up and the plant is taller than us, towering over the deck. So far one flower is open and it is bigger than my face. Niko doesn't seem to notice this behemoth of a flower because it is not within his eyesight.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Swimsuit Season

Although life jackets aren't exactly the same as bathing suits, Niko seems to have shed some pounds for the summer. When we first put the suit on him in May, we felt how snug it was. There were rolls around his neck. Last week, when we put it on him, not so snug. He has shed a ton of fur earlier this summer. I didn't think Niko was a image conscious pup, but maybe he knows about pictures of him ending up on the internet and shiba tabloids.
When he was at the vet in July, Niko weighed in at 29lbs, which, according to the vet, is a healthy weight for him. She even said he was muscular which we found funny. She called him a "G.I. Joe" dog after we described some of the activities we do with him. We feed him Innova dog food and today, switched to Blue Buffalo to try out. Niko doesn't clean his food bowl out when we fill it in the mornings. He tends to eat and finish his food at night. We give him scraps sparingly and conscientiously. He definitely longs for scraps by quietly staring cutely at us, but we only give him pieces of meat and cheese. For treats, we give him beef jerky made for dogs and sometimes doggie biscuits.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Long Anticipated Canoe Trip

After months of contemplating, planning, and worrying about the canoe/backpacking trip to the Adirondacks, we did it.  This was different from the other camping trips we have done in that we were miles from the car and had to use a canoe and our legs as the mode of transportation. Our biggest worries: bears.......and..........Niko jumping out of the canoe and flipping us and all our stuff into the lake or river. The second worry was more plausible and risky (in our minds). We started getting Niko acclimated with his life jacket months ago.
Snapshot of what we brought
We had to be very selective in what we packed to limit space and weight. Kibble, leash, life jacket, and a tennis ball was Niko's allowance. For ourselves, we packed dried food, tablets to treat water for drink-ability, warm clothes, sleeping bags, fishing poles, and a canoe carrier.

We launched at Long Lake and had an 8 mile paddle to our first night's humble abode: a lean-to. Lean-to's are wooden shelters provided by the park and is on a first come first serve basis. It was an alternative to bringing a tent. 

Niko was in the middle of the canoe on his own. I was anxious during the first 30 minutes, fearing he would jump out. With some coaxing and readjustment of his front paws, we avoided mayhem. He quickly got the routine down. He was alert and looking from side to side a lot. There were lots for Niko to see: biplanes that took off and landed in the lake, ducks, loons, turtles, and even fighter jets that were doing some test flights.
Niko did make noises at times when we were near land. We took breaks and got out to stretch and check out different areas. To our amazement, there were times when he knew we were getting ready to go back into the canoe. He would come to us and willingly let us place him back inside it. The second morning, I picked up his life jacket and he automatically sat down to let me put it on him. It was as if he was ready to check out the next place on the route.
We had a waterfront site to ourselves the first night. Niko was off leash and discovered every corner. Ed caught fish and cooked it up with a fuel burner and mess kit. It complemented our instant noodles very well. Of course we shared the fish with Niko. He likes fish very much. Before I can stop him, he gobbled up a raw minnow that was laying on the ground (gross, Niko!)

After the first night, we packed up and went back into the lake to head toward Racquette River. Here, the scenery changed from the vast openness of a lake to a woodsy, enclosed, and curvy river. The current helped us move along easier which was nice because we were tired from the first day. We approached a waterfall area where we had to get out and go on foot to our next lean-to.
We took the sign and broken canoe hanging on the sign very seriously!
The portage (canoe carry between take out from river and relaunch) proved to be challenging. Although we had a carrier to wheel the canoe with gear inside it, there were steep inclines and rocky areas. We met others in the path and commiserated on how tiring it was. At this point, Niko uncharacteristically barked at people. It was probably due to being in a new surrounding and the need to protect us. During the portage, Ed and I were slowed down by the weight of the canoe. Niko ran ahead to "scout" the path and would circle back. At this point, I think he knew the canoe was part of the "pack." He stopped whenever he heard the canoe on wheels stop. We ran into trouble about 3/4 into the portage. We had a flat! We had to stop for Ed to patch the tire. Niko was very good, considering we had other things to worry about. He never ventured out of eyesight and sat near us most of the time. After the mishap, we continued on and found a lean-to for our final night's stay. 

The rest of the trip went smoothly. Some random final remarks:
1) We saw some amazing scenery.
2) Niko may not be a water dog, but he is a canoe friendly dog.
3) No bear encounters. Boy scout Ed craft-fully sealed our food in a bag and tied it high up to a tree far from our campsite.
4) Niko enjoyed being off leash in the wilderness, but the poor toads that he chased did not
5) Niko learned how to find drinking water by going to the shore. 
6) Niko is very dexterous when hopping across big rocks in the river.
7) We all did some soul searching on this trip and bonded.
8) Niko went into a coma for 2 days after he arrived home.