Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Trapping Season

I debated back and forth with myself whether I should even post this story in my blog, but something happened this morning that finally made me do it. It began last week, when Savi and I were driving to Grand Marais and I decided to stop and take him hiking along the way. We did a short, steep hike to a view overlooking a lake, and he got to charge up and down the trail, sniff around, and get some exercise. When I made my way back to the truck parked at the trailhead, he detoured into the brush. As I called him to get into the truck, I heard a chain rattle on the ground, and immediately dashed over to save him. Sure enough, he started crying loudly, and when I got to him he had a trap stuck on his muzzle. He was surprised and shocked more than hurt, and I quickly released it's grip on him, and got him into the vehicle, but not before grabbing the trap and tossing it into the truck bed. Luckily, the trap was a small one, a #1 longspring with a jaw spread of about 4", so it didn't do much damage. It actually sprung on the front of his upper lip, and after a little bleeding, his upper lip (right under his nose) has a bare, pink spot.
At this point, let me explain that I am not opposed to fur-trapping. My family (living remotely in the bush) has done it to support themselves for many generations, and I was raised running traplines with my parents. I know there are ways to trap animals as sustainably and humanely as possible. Also, where my family traps there are absolutely no domestic pets, so a dog getting caught in a trap is unheard of. However, my puppy did get trapped, and this set was literally 3 feet off of a state hiking trail! Savage was off-leash that day, only because there were no other cars parked at the trailhead, and I knew there were no hikers he might disturb. But even on leash, he could have found the trap, and so could a child wandering along the edge of the trail. Because I grew up trapping, I automatically knew how to release the trap, but that's not something every hiker knows. Until now, I had the silly idea that trappers in our area might have enough ambition to actually walk even a few yards into the woods to set their traps, but apparently that is not the case. When I called one of our local conservation officers about the incident, he explained that the location of the set was completely legal, and all he could do was try to explain my concern to the trapper (whose trap I had to return, incidentally). The CO was sympathetic to my complaint, but could do little about it, and also told me that my dog was not the first caught in a trap this season. I remain pissed off that the trapper was so lazy and irresponsible to set his trap so close to a trail used by hundreds of tourists, their kids, and their pets each summer. Though it's late in the fall, obviously people (like me) still use that hiking trail. From now until the end of trapping season, I resolved to keep walking Sava on our normal route (Co. Rd 92 and Poplar Lake Access Rd.) because we haven't noticed any vehicle activity there except a couple of people that live along the road, and I assume it's safe.
This morning a friend that lives about 4 miles or so from me came over to show me the trap his dog got caught in. Apparently, one of his basset hounds got loose and was gone all night long. He had stopped by my house last night looking for her. This morning another friend heard a dog whining in the woods, and they found her with her nose stuck in a conibear-style body trap, baited with a chunk of deer meat (presumably Savvy ate the bait from "his" trap). The trap (size 220, designed for catching pine marten or mink) has a jaw spread of 7", making it the perfect size for basset noses. The dog is probably seriously injured, I'm thinking that it probably broke her nose, but I don't yet know the extent. My friend's wife was on her way to the vet with her dog, and I hope everything works out fine. I do know that this trap was set legally, and the dog was indeed running loose, so nothing else can be done about it. It just makes me disappointed that I will have to keep Savvy on a tight leash (no pun intended) when we walk anywhere there might be trapping activity. It also bears mentioning that while beaver, mink, marten, otter, etc. trapping seasons come and go, our coyote trapping season runs year-round.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Tribute To Teddy

This post is to commemorate my friend's wonderful blue dane, Ted, who died on October 26th, 2006 at 14 months old, as the result of complications from blastomycosis.
Ted was Sarah's first dane, and he arrived at the time when I was desperately searching for my Savvy. Our hope was that they would grow up together as best friends, and best friends they were. I first met Teddy Bear when he was 9 weeks old and immediately fell in love, as most people did when this little gray puppy turned on the charm. We introduced him to Savage about a week after I got him, and since then they had been quite a pair. Their personalities were amazingly similar, even if their coat colors, sizes, and overall "looks" were somewhat different. When a group of us would get together and take all the dogs swimming or walking, everyone else would be playing with eachother and having fun, but the two danes were off together in their own little world, just genuinely enjoying eachother's company.
Ted grew up quickly from the clumsy little baby he was into a tall, sleek, handsome boy. Yet he still retained the goofy puppy characteristics and joie-de-vivre that young dogs have. Before his illness started wearing on him, he weighed in excess of 140lbs and was on his way to being a huge dane, already the biggest pup from his litter. In typical dane fashion, he was truly a gentle giant. At a young age, he was already a therapy dog of sorts, visiting with the elderly residents in the care center weekly. He drew stares and comments wherever he went, being the first blue great dane most people up here have seen, and I can't even begin to count how many times people have called my puppy "Ted". I end up explaining that yes, there are two of them, and one's ears stand up and the other's don't. Watching Savi and Ted play together was fascinating, and it became somewhat of a spectator sport among the customers at Sarah's store down the Trail from our place. We both realized as they grew that no enclosed area is big enough to contain the antics of the two danes, but that didn't stop them, and they left a trail of tipped-over displays and empty shelves in their wake.
When Teddy died, Sarah lost her baby dog, and Savage also lost his best friend. Ted was there from the very beginning of Sava's life with me, and was a constant companion to Sarah, sharing her affection with her beloved rottweiler, Roger, and various foster dogs. He will be missed terribly.
The Story Of Savage contains numerous posts with stories and pictures of Ted, beginning in November of 2005. Any blue dane pictured with natural ears in this blog is Teddy Bear.


As far as we know, Teddy contacted blastomycosis sometime in September or October. In early October, Ted began coughing and his breathing was noticeably more labored. His initial diagnosis was kennel cough, though when his breathing got worse and he started coughing up blood, Sarah immediately rushed him back to the vet for a second opinion.
Understanding the love between danes and their humans, I was worried for both Ted and Sarah, and one of my greatest fears is blastomycosis. A couple of years ago we had a friend on the Gunflint Trail that lost two chocolate labs to the disease, after a lengthy, painful, and expensive treatment. My second cousin's spaniel was successfully treated for blasto, though he still may relapse. I know of two other cases in our immediate area, one being a human infection (successful treatment) and the other being a canine (fatal case). Because of the threat of blasto, Sarah asked her vet if that could be the cause of her dog's illness, but he assured her that it was definately not, and diagnosed Ted with pneumonia.
In that first week, Ted got noticeably weaker and lost quite a bit of weight. His fever was at 105 degrees, and not responding to the antibiotics at all. He refused to eat, and would only drink tiny amounts of water. His breathing was deep and seemed painful, his whole body laboring for each breath. Desperate, Sarah again drove him 150 miles to Duluth. At this point she took him to another vet whom she had dealt with before, and when she got home, sent me an email; "Teddy does have blasto." They began treatment right away, but I think poor Teddy was so weak from the disease and the fever and so dehydrated already that his immune system just couldn't handle the medications. Most blasto treatments involve medicine that is toxic to the liver and/or kidneys, and in the last days of his life, Ted's body was struggling to handle the disease and the medications both. At the end, he was succumbing to complete liver failure.
I went to see Ted maybe a week before he died, after he'd started medication. Weak and shaky, he wagged his tail when I walked in, and struggled off his futon to greet me. I was absolutely shocked at the amount of weight he'd lost, and how this healthy, robust puppy had changed in only a week or so to a dog that looked aged and helpless. He could barely draw breath, and I could hear his lungs rattling even when he was resting. But he wandered outside with Sarah and I and the rottweilers and drank some water, and I started to think that maybe he would make it. He heard Savi whining in my truck and perked up his big floppy ears, and I know he was anticipating playing with his little buddy again. I hugged him and told him he was a good, strong boy, and then I walked back down the driveway to my truck and hugged my own puppy for a very long time. I never saw Teddy again.
Blastomycosis is a horrible, painful disease. It's caused by a fungus in the soil, and dogs contact it by inhaling the mold spores. One of the insidious things about blasto is that it's so often mis-diagnosed (as in Ted's case). If the infection is recognized early on, treatment has a chance of working, but we have to be very alert to behavioral and physical changes in our puppies. We have to be aware of blasto, and know that it exists in our area. We have to force our vets to consider it, even though the diagnosis may be expensive and difficult. There is a great wealth of information on blasto online, and it's possible to find out if there have been reported cases in your geographic region. For example, the Minnesota Department Of Health's blastomycosis page has maps of cases by county of residence AND county of exposure. If you check these out, notice that St. Louis County (including Duluth), has the second highest number of cases on both maps. Savi and I live in Cook County, and Duluth is the closest big city to us. It's scary.
If you are concerned about blasto, simply type in "blastomycosis in dogs" on any search engine. Or visit Canis Major's page on blasto for a easy-to-understand summary. And get to know your dog, body and mind, so you can spot any changes. It may save his/her life.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

One Year Old!!

Looking back through the time my Savi and I have spent together (about 10 months) so far, what first comes to mind is what a learning experience it has been, both for him and for me. My puppy and I have forged a relationship that is probably the most rewarding one that I've ever had. We've loved each other, fought, played mind games, bonded, shared new experiences. We've hiked, biked, snowmobiled, went driving in the truck, and riding in the motorboat. We've watched Fourth Of July fireworks, swam in Saganaga Lake, bartended together (his job is schmoozing the customers and eating ice cubes), and cuddled on the futon. He was there when my boyfriend R. and I poured the cement for the foundation of our new house, and when I shot my first grouse ever. I was there when he fell off the dock at my parents' boathouse, and when he first met his best dane friend, Ted.
He's helped me through trying to quit smoking, and arguments with my boyfriend, and he has a way of laying his big head in my lap and looking up at me with his big amber eyes that always makes me feel like everything is going to be all right. In some ways I know he has changed me into a better person. My priorities have changed from me, me, me a lot of the time, to taking care of him and his needs. For example, working at a bar, I naturally do my fair(?!) share of drinking. When I started having to get up early in the morning to take Savage walking, I drastically cut back on partying. Not only is it difficult to drink all night and then go out for a brisk two-mile walk at 7am, it's downright vomit-inducing preparing his hearty breakfast of raw chicken necks with a hangover. I actually quit drinking alcohol altogether for about 3 months, though now I drink a few whiskeys maybe once a month. Having my puppy also forces me to get out and exercise, rain or shine. I've lost ten pounds since I've reduced the alcohol in my diet, and I'm getting in much better shape from walking at least an hour every day. Thanks to Savi.
I've started to view R., me, and Savage as a little family, and I think it makes the humans' relationship more solid. For someone who distrusted all dogs (after being viciously attacked by a St. Bernard when he was a child) and viewed pet ownership as completely uneccessary and generally a big pain in the butt, R. has changed his mind after getting to know our baby dane. Now when I get home from work it's very normal to see them both cuddling up on the couch watching TV. He brags to his buddies about how smart our puppy is, and readily jumps into discussions about gastric torsion, training methods, and the price per pound of chicken quarters. After 3 years of R. and I being together, I see more of the tenderness in him since we got Savvy.
It hasn't been all fun and games, though. Ear-taping and nail-clipping and ear-cleaning and exercising and food-preparing and training gets exhausting. R. and I took the stitches out of Sava's ears after his crop and hearing him cry in pain broke my heart. Like most puppies, he got roundworms, which had me forcing medicine down his throat and shivering outside waiting for him to take a dump so I could collect a stool sample for inspection. I did his vaccinations myself. In January he ripped his toenail halfway off, and in March he bled all over my friend's store after impaling his nose on a metal display peg. Though his potty-training was a breeze, I still clean up a pile of dog puke every now and then. He's destoyed the futon, chewed up the trim on the doorways, and made the backseat of my truck a complete mess. He's eaten plastic bread bags, paper plates, shoes, and ripped up a few perfectly fine comforters.
I've spent a ton of money to make him happy, healthy, and entertained. The main reason I chose to buy a four-door truck is so he had a large, comfortable place to ride. I just spent $500 on a treadmill hoping he'll eventually maybe someday walk on it. I've bought him a $300 crate, a $100 dog bed, a $200 chest freezer, and countless stuffed animals and toys. I stay at crappy hotels when I travel because they allow big dogs. I buy chicken backs by the 50lb case and cook things I myself would never eat (liver, sweet potatos, mushy oatmeal) so he can get his vitamins and variety in his diet. Next up I will be spending $300+ on a radio fence to surround our house and keep him in the yard. I take him to the vet next week for bloodwork and x-rays (because I'm concerned about blastomycosis in our area) and expect a $270 bill. And then he'll need to be neutered in the future. I haven't even mentioned the cost of actually buying him and the flight from Indiana. A puppy should not be an impulse purchase, for sure.
In conclusion, I think getting my Great Dane was the best thing I've done for myself. He makes me happy simply by being. If I'm the source of his health and happiness that makes me feel awesome. Because of him I've learned so much about danes and puppies in general. I've met a lot of people who share my interest in big dogs, both on the street and on the internet. And I get this huge, goofy, furry boy to spend my days with, hopefully for a very long time.
Savage turned 1 year old on November 17th, 2006. He is now 131lbs and 34" high at the shoulder. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BABY DOG!!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Backseat Driver

Even in my huge four-door truck, my Savi, in true Great Dane fashion, feels the need to be practically on top of me even when I'm driving. This is accomplished by sitting on the backseat with just his front feet on the floor and his big head resting (heavily) on my shoulder. Obviously, my visibility is compromised quite a bit with Savage lumbering around inside the cab, which probably makes my driving not quite as safe.In any case, driving safety completely flew out the window briefly when I was taking these pictures, cruising down the Gunflint Trail with one hand petting my puppy and one clicking away on the camera. Who says you can't steer a truck with one knee?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Futon Retires

When 8-week-old Savage arrived at our house (soon to be HIS house) he spent his nights crated, and on his own bed. But he spent most of his indoor day time on our huge, green futon in the middle of the living room. Eventually he began sleeping all night on it. Needless to say, said futon has taken lots of abuse from our growing puppy. Notice in the picture above, the fabric is un-marred by puppy prints, and the big throw pillow still has a cover. A week or so ago, the futon finally gave in, meaning a few of the metal supports completely broke off, causing the middle to sag nearly to the floor. Not that I would blame anything on my little "angel", but I remember clearly hearing them break after all 130lbs of dane leaped onto them. I know Sava would have been happy to keep the ugly, broken-down thing in the house forever, but none-the-less, today I picked up our new sofa, and the futon went right out the door.
So now my puppy is pouting. He climbed onto the new sofa and tried to rearrange himself to lay down on it, but he just didn't fit as well as he did on his dear futon. Then his daddy laid down on it and (shocker!) there was barely any room for a puppy. So he left and crawled into his crate to sulk. I'm hoping he will get used to the sofa, but nothing will ever replace the legendary futon, which gave him room to stretch out, sprawl on his back, and generally bounce around on whenever things got exciting around the house. It's like the end of an era!!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Treadmill 101

Savvy's first introduction to the new treadmill was quite entertaining. Though he's not frightened of it, he's still wary, and even more so when his Mama is on it walking absolutely nowhere. The way he acts when I'm on it is not unlike his excitement when I'm on the bicycle. I think he just wants to go with me, wherever I'm going, but the treadmill probably confuses him quite a bit. He'll step onto it, sniff around it, and even sit on it when the motor isn't running, but I think it will take a very long time to get him to walk contentedly on it. For now we're taking it verrrry slow, and I'm not going to push him into something he's not happy about doing. In the meantime, the warm spell of weather allows us to do our daily walks in comfort, so we're not in a hurry.
However, the first morning with the treadmill, I turned it on for a few minutes to let him get used to the sound of the motor, and then hopped on to try it myself. Savage seemed to be terribly concerned with where I was going, excited, tail-wagging, but also a bit worried. Then he began howling! I've never heard him howl, and even though I should have been sympathetic toward him, it was so hilarious that I had to start egging him on. I even took a short video of him howling to share with R., since he's never heard him howl either.
I ended up uploading the video to the internet because it's so funny. It requires MacroMedia Flash Player 8 to view, but it's worth it, in my opinion. I'd like to add that the video quality is not so great, considering it was taken with my digital camera, and the house was quite dark. Also, the place we're living in is an absolute mess after moving everything around to accommodate the treadmill (it's huge!). But the sound really comes through, and the cuteness of my baby dane is very apparent. If you'd like to see the video CLICK HERE!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

As we move into November, both Savvy and I are feeling the chill of winter. And neither of us are liking it. Our last trip up to the lake was windy and cold, and my puppy refused to stay under the sleeping bag we brought him. The red hoodie I bought is cute and helps warm him a little, but is going to be absolutely useless this winter. My cousin made her doberman a coat out of her old down parka and she says it works wonderfully, so I'm going to be combing the thrift stores for a down jacket. His thin, cropped ears have been completely bare and unprotected in the cold weather and that issue needs to be resolved. Last winter he was small enough to wrap in my jacket, and this year it's a different story altogether. In any case, soon you may be seeing pictures of him all dressed up. For danes in warm climates, I know this sounds silly, but frostbite and hypothermia are a real concern here, and I can't possibly lock my dog inside all winter.
As it gets cooler, I try to take advantage of our time outdoors, by letting Savage run free on our walks and hikes and bike rides. Therefore, he's not getting any on-leash training. Which means as soon as he gets on a leash, he pulls and pulls and completely forgets what "heel" meant. Needless to say, this makes walks less fun for both of us, with him wildly lunging ahead and me stumbling after him on the other end of the leash. So I finally caved and got a prong collar.
Today was our first experience with the "instrument of torture". And it worked. The pull of the collar when he lunged ahead was just enough to calm him down so he would walk a short ways ahead of me at MY pace. And he didn't seem to resent the prong collar as much as I anticipated. It didn't actually hurt him, but acted as a "reminder" that he needed to stay close to me without dragging me all over the trail. When we got back to the house we had a great game of fetch to let him know that it's not all discipline, that his mama wants to have fun with him, too.
We'll begin training with the prong collar, keeping his comfort in mind, but also my sanity. And in looking for a way to maximize our exercise program this winter, I came across some articles about treadmill training for dogs. As I understand, this exercise option is generally used for canine athletes, but I think it could be a great way to keep him in shape on the -20F days I know are approaching. That is, if he'll even get near the thing. In any case, this evening I will be going to pick up our new electric treadmill. At 55" of walking surface, I hope it will accomodate the stride of a growing great dane. And I hope he will slowly learn to walk on it confidently. (My Savage can be a bit stubborn.) If not, I guess I'll have to actually get on it myself, so as not to make it a total waste of money. This should be interesting, so stay tuned!