Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Getting Gilda: Background Part 1

For as long as I can remember, a Border Collie has been my dream dog. Unfortunately my life never seemed compatible with all that a BC needs in order to thrive. When our daughter was young and Mike & I were both working full-time, we were offered a free puppy. My husband had dogs growing up but Bruno was the first dog April & I ever had.  We really lucked into a great dog and we were so lucky to have him with us for nearly 15 years. Bruno appeared to be a Golden Retreiver Mix and he fit in wonderfully with our lifestyle.

{Bruno at 7 weeks! So cute}
Once Bruno made it safely through puppyhood (and there were days I wasn't sure he would), all he really wanted  in his dog life was to be told that he was a 'Good Boy'. He was so easy to train! If we just uttered the word "No" in his general direction, he'd never do that bad thing again...

{Bruno the Great Dog}

We look back now and think of what a great Agility dog Bruno would have been as he was very athletic and wanted to follow us and be with us more than anything.
{Fig & Bruno the Gentle Giant}

When we knew the end was near for Ole Bruno (02/14/1995-10/08/2009), I began thinking about and looking for our next dog. I wanted something completely different from Bruno because I worried that I'd compare the new dog to Bruno and he was going to be hard to live up to! Boy did we get different! This is the photo from PetFinder.com that really caught my attention (not everyone in my immediate family agreed that she was the cutest thing ever but that's what I thought!):
{PetFinder.com photo 3/09}
The history on 'Lindy Sue' said that this 8 week old puppy was found next to a dead adult dog that had been hit by a car and that she was taken in by a rescue group. Nothing else was really known about her. Her coat made it pretty clear that she had some Australian Cattle Dog (often referred to as a Blue Heeler) genes. The rest of the story was anyone's guess!
Susan at the rescue organization S.P.O.T. (Saving Pets One at a Time) wrote me a very honest email saying that this puppy was 'very shy and would probably never be the kind of dog to come up and lick your face'. She reported that the only thing she was able to get her to eat was plain yogurt.
Undaunted, we made arrangements to drive 3 hours to Southern OH. By this time, little Lindy Sue was about 12 weeks old and was scheduled for a spay. I requested that we be able to have her spayed at a more appropriate time...and I am sooooo glad the rescue group agreed!
On April 9, 2009 (14 years to the day that we adopted Bruno), we met in a McDonald's parking lot. When she arrived, Susan produced a 9 pound pup that was literally shaking from head to tail. She sat 'Heeler Pup' (as she called her) on the pavement and the puppy immediately backed as far away from us as she could, grappling to get under the car. I had never seen a young pup act like this and all I could think about was Bruno at 7 weeks bounding straight towards us as if he were the happiest puppy in the world. What were we getting ourselves into????

{People were starting to agree with me about her cuteness!}

The other thought I had was Cesar Millan's advice on how to choose a well-adjusted puppy and this little girl had not one of Cesar's recommended traits!
Something told me that she was our dog and yet I decided that if Mike thought we should leave without her, I would agree. (After all, he has always been the rational one when it comes to animals). Thankfully, Mike said, "Let's take her" and so we handed over $75, signed some papers agreeing to have her spayed, and put on her new collar and leash...and I now had my second dog!
{Gilda & Big Brother Bruno}

 It was a gray and chilly day and we had the car windows up. Within minutes of leaving the parking lot, we realized just how horribly the beautiful little puppy on my lap smelled! It was an odor so foul that each time she moved just a little bit, we would both gag! She lay in my lap on a waterproof pad with her little chin resting on my forearm. Without moving her head, her eyes followed everything. I told Mike that she reminded me of a Border Collie intently taking in the world around her without moving a muscle. She smelled so putrid that we actually stopped halfway home to bathe her so that we could survive the trip home!
Once home, I figured that after holding her for 3 hours, we had sufficiently bonded and that she would not leave her new guardian. I sat her in the grass so that she could pee and she promptly ran under the car just out of reach! Mike had to push the car over her so that I could retreive her. Our new adventures had just begun!
Inside the house, I first showed her the laundry room where her crate, food and water were set up. She ignored all of those, ran quickly to a small tear in the old vinyl floor, promptly ripped it off, then turned and looked at me as if to say, "Okay. that's taken care of! Now what?"
Next, we took her to the living room where we had a large dog mat and some toys for her. We sat her in the middle of the mat and tossed a toy. She ran to the toy, picked it up, and brought it right back to the mat. If we scattered all the toys, she would get them one by one and bring them back to her 'safety mat'. Her antics made us laugh right from the start and so it seemed fitting to name her after a comedian...She became Gilda!

{Gilda Radner as SNLs 'Roseanne Roseannadanna}
Gilda's first vet check revealed that she had every type of worm known to veterinary science, fleas, and malnutrition. I was very worried about her brain development and I was so thankful that the rescue agency had agreed not to spay her as I'm not sure she would have survived it!

Food was our first huge challenge. She ate mulch, stones, dirt, poop...anything but puppy food. I researched puppy foods, trying to find the best one so that she could get some good nutrition fast! I tried brand after brand (the local pound was happy to get the opened bags) until many months later she finally seemed to eat Wellness Puppy about every other day.
She ate very little, pooped 6-8 times a day, and buried every treat we gave her (which was very cute to watch). We bought an Everlasting treat ball and filled it with her food. The little green ball required Gilda to push it around the floor with her nose to make kibble come out a little at a time. (I was advised against this method of feeding by trainers but I didn't care as I was happy to have her eating some real food!) She caught on very quickly and seemed to really enjoy working for her food. I was just beginning to understand the concept of dogs who "need a job to do" (See Novice Notes Page: Dog Jobs). After she turned 1, we switched her to Wellness CORE Dog Food (See Wellness CORE) and she has eagerly devoured each meal ever since but still loves the magic ball for treats.

{Gilda and the magic ball}

Another big issue from the start was that Gilda absolutely refused to walk on a leash. I think the term is 'muleing' and let me tell you, she took it to a whole new level! It was a really sad sight to see a small puppy that was just too petrified to move forward. This is where our rather extensive collection of leashes and collars began. Bruno had maybe 2 leashes his whole life...

{A few of Gilda's Accessories!}
We tried every kind of halter, collar, head lead, etc. that was made. We took her to the park every single day for a month only to have her rolling around as if she were in the death-grip of an alligator!
On Mother's Day however, we had a major breakthrough! Gilda actually decided to walk on on a Flexilead (which we never used again after that day)! We were so excited! She was walking out in front of us and we were smiling and laughing, feeling good about our success...when suddenly, she took a giant leap right into the Lake! Before I could panic or jump in after her, our little pup was doggy paddling like it was something she did all the time!
Gilda will swim in anything, anywhere at any time ever since that day.

{Gilda plays pond fetch}

By this time we were noticing many traits that were so unlike our happy-go-lucky Bruno. Gilda herded everything she could and nipped at every heel within a 3 block radius. We figured that could be the Blue Heeler in her...
Her intense stare and her ability to drop to her belly from a full-speed run however made us seriously wonder, had we ended up with a Border Collie (mix) after all?
Whatever her genetic makeup, now that she was walking on leash, she was ready to get on with some real dog training....

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