It’s been a while since I’ve written Tansy updates, so here’s a bunch.
As I was combing the blog to make sure I hadn’t already written some of these things, I laughed at the following passage: “So Tansy’s first winter has arrived, and we’ve had a few challenges, but nothing like what Trix and I went through. Granted, that winter was a biiiitch, but I think between the lessons I learned from Trix, and a few natural gifts that Tansy seems to possess, it’s going to be a far less painful experience.”
That first Trixie winter was a biiiitch, you say? Well, I would say this one decided it was up for the challenge, and I do believe it out-biiiitched winter 2007-2008 by a mile! It decided it needed to do everything in a big way. Here, have piles of snow! Here, have a Toronto-crippling ice storm! Here, have a polar vortex, which translated into weeks and weeks and weeks of super cold barely livable weather! Here, have it all at once!
Holy crap. I am always ready for spring to come when March comes, but this year, it can’t come fast enough. I hear about another snow storm and I almost get angry. I saw a report last week that said we should expect a colder than normal March, and if I wasn’t at work, surrounded by colleagues, I think I would have thrown an honest to god tantrum. The reaction wasn’t just “really? Damn it!” It was something resembling rage mingled with despair.
I don’t remember a winter when I had as much trouble picking up after the pooch. I remember Trix climbing into snowbanks to crap, and me having to climb after it, and I remember not being able to find the spot every now and then, but this year just plain sucked. Tansy had to relieve on a short leash so I didn’t have to reach far into the ice-laced snowbanks to get it. Because of crappy conditions in our usual relieving spot, we had to keep switching spots. I learned that when there was a solid layer of ice under the snow in her relieving spot, she was not comfortable getting down to business. Sometimes, it was just too hard to find it, or too cold to really search much for it, and if you searched too long, it felt as rock hard as the rest of the snow clumps. So, I apologize that I didn’t pick up all of Tansy’s presents. It wasn’t for lack of trying. But at least as the winter wore on, I developed a set of tricks that meant more often than not, I could catch the nasties.
But what I was right about in that post was that this winter wasn’t nearly as difficult, confidence-smashing and generally impossible as Trix’s first winter on the guide work front. Man am I ever happy about that. It was a horrible winter, and we weren’t able to get out and walk our fool faces off, but the walks we had to do were successes. Yea to experience and effective foot protection.
But I did have to chuckle, because I think Tans is growing a thicker coat. Some days when it wasn’t inhumanly cold, I tried walking somewhere close without putting on Tansy’s coat, and she didn’t seem to mind! Probably she’s like us, and it felt so good to be only a few degrees below freezing for a change. But it’ll be interesting when winter starts to hit next year if she needs the coat less than she did.
Apparently, Trix has had a total attitude turnaround on winter. Now, she doesn’t care how bone-chilling it is, more often than not, she wants to get out there and walk for a good 40 or 50 minutes. Brad doesn’t get cold easily, and every now and then, he has to tell her that this walk is over and we’re headed back home. I remember when she was new and needed a coat because she would shiver if we stood for long at all. Now, Brad has her coat, but it doesn’t seem to be necessary at all. Maybe some day, Tans will grow a proper Canadian canine fur coat.
I do feel bad that I never succeeded in finding a place to let Tansy blow off steam in the snow. I heard there was a sign up in the park near where we lived that said something like “not maintained during winter”. I knew that meant it would be a disaster zone, and a place to get horribly lost, so I never went. With a full-time work schedule, it doesn’t leave tons of time to rustle up people and go on expeditions and experiment to find the perfect place. So I feel bad that Tansy got cheated…but I think we probably wouldn’t have spent a lot of time romping in the snow when the winter has been this hellish. Better luck next year, I say.
Tansy still hasn’t started rolling in the snow like Trix used to do. I partially blame the lack of opportunities to really play in it, but I wonder if Tansy just isn’t like that. It’s kind of sad, because I loved watching Trix roll and shukh in the snow. Hopefully some day.
Although the boots work well to keep the salt off Tansy’s feet, she hates the damn things. I have given her kibble for letting me put each boot on, but she doesn’t even like taking that kibble. She takes it in a way that says, “Fine, I’ll take your kibble, but I consider it dirty kibble.” It has never made the process any easier for her. In fact, when she sees the boots, she would rather run and hide. If I don’t do things in a very particular order, she will run away!
I learned this rather painfully at the office. I grabbed the boots to put them on, and my coworker said she looked me square in the eye, then ran madly through the cubicles of the office with wrecless abandon. My coworkers thought this was hilarious, but I wanted to hide with embarrassment.
So, this is the process I have to go through so she doesn’t run:
- Grab her food and dish,
- Put her on leash,
- Walk her and food over to the water and add water to food,
- walk her food back to where she will eat,
- walk her away from food,
- put her boots on,
- Tell her she can eat.
If I try to put her leash on her before I have the food, only at that time of day, she will run. If I try to feed her and then put the boots on, she will run. If I prepare the food and bring it over to her without having the leash ready, I have a feeling she will run…although I’m not sure if I’ve tried that combination.
But I feel so evil. She walks willingly back and forth, but I can feel some resistance, like she does not want to be a willing participant in this at all. People comment that she doesn’t look pleased at all. But I don’t know what else to do. I hoped that feeding her with the boots on would help associate them with food and reduce the boot hate, but it’s not working. But at least I don’t have a rebel dog hiding from me this way. And it seems she can stand the boots once they’re on, she just hates actually getting them on. But I don’t know what else to do to make it a positive experience besides praising her and treating her for each boot and doing it in a calm fashion.
I’ve also learned that she is very sensitive about her front paws. If anything at all is amiss with them, she can’t seem to think straight. I discovered this about her when I tried the thicker style of boot on them, but it’s even a problem if the Pawz boots have a wrinkle in them at all. She can’t think about anything else but those feet. Very weird quirky pooch I have.
I’m happy to report that we haven’t had too many Pawz casualties yet. 2 of them have definitely bitten the dust, and a couple more are pretty close to done, but at this rate, this box of paws might get us through 2 winters!
I’m curious about something. For those who put Pawz on all 4 feet, do you find that the back ones rip more often than the front, since I’m pretty sure a dog puts more weight on back feet than front? I’m wondering if that’s why I haven’t had as many Pawz deaths as I had thought was the norm since she only wears them on the front feet.
I’m also very happy that she doesn’t often blow a booty, and when she does, it’s probably because I didn’t get it on tight enough. I’ve had a booty come off a couple of times, but thankfully I was able to get help finding it, so haven’t had to buy spares. When I have blown one, it’s never when I expected it, like after having to trudge through deep, unshoveled and snowy portions of the sidewalk. These booties are definitely good stuff.
One more random boot-related observation: Have others who have successfully gotten their guide dogs to walk with boots on noticed that they seem to become extra caughtious, thinking things are actually closer than they are? When she’s wearing the boots, she always stops short of certain stairwells, or acts like a sidewalk is too narrow, when it’s fine. It doesn’t seem to happen nearly as much if at all when she’s not wearing boots, but right now, she’s had to wear boots a lot more than not, so I don’t have lots of data in the other direction. I’m just wondering if others have experienced similar.
Another odd thing I’ve noticed: whenever I take off her coat, she gets this bunch of static electricity that happens. That can’t be comfortable for her…I know I don’t look forward to the zap. I wonder if rubbing the inside of the coat with a dryer sheet before we leave would help with that…although that doesn’t help at the end of the day when we come home. Is there anything else I can do to stop the static electricity craziness? She doesn’t seem bothered by it, I just think it’s weird.
I think that’s all my doggy winter thoughts. Hopefully we can soon have spring and really get out there and start walking!