Monday, September 29, 2008

Changing Seasons

As September nears it's end I've had quite a few great photo opportunities involving my favorite subject, my amazing Savage. However, having just gotten a new digital SLR camera, I'm a little overwhelmed and pretty much just experimenting at this point. In any case, I feel that Savvy's beauty comes through even with an amateur behind the lens
This fall has been packed full of activity for our little family. While keeping busy with my new job, Randy's longer commute to his new job site, and working evenings on the construction of our house before winter sets in, I have had to consciously set aside time to spend with my great dane. Thankfully, he revels in our walks, and is becoming in much better shape than a couple months ago. At his last vet visit he weighed in at 162 lbs, and I vow never to let him get overweight again, even though the winter weather is nowhere near as enjoyable to exercise in. I continue to keep his food portions smaller, since I have come to the conclusion that I have been over-feeding him from the very beginning. I remind myself that he is my first dog and that with the raw diet it's somewhat difficult to measure portions and judge how much is needed. In spite of his humans' mistakes, Savage is healthy and active.
He did visit his vet earlier this month because I had concerns about an area of red, irritated skin on the insides of his upper back legs and groin. After a visual inspection and skin-scraping (nowhere near as scary as it sounds), the lab results came back normal except for a small increase in white blood cells, and the vet could only guess that the problem was possibly a mild allergy. I began applying a triple antibiotic ointment to the affected area daily, and the irritation disappeared in a few days. I can't help but suspect that it was a case of heat rash where his fur is very, very short, and the skin is hot and moist. General opinion holds that dogs can only sweat through their footpads, but I've read that dogs also have something called apocrine glands that (while not used for thermoregulation) produce secretions, probably including scents and pheromones for the purposes of communication with other canines. This is something I'll need to research a bit more, and I'd like to hear the opinions of this blog's readers on the subject.
It's amazing how much I still have to learn about dogs. Even now I find myself puzzled over Savage's behavior as he makes the long transition from overgrown puppy to adult male great dane. For example, during his first two summers I've encouraged him to swim every time we have been near a lake, and each time he'd bounce around near the shore, splashing and acting silly, but he would never actually swim unless I was in the water myself, coaxing and shouting encouragement. Suddenly this summer he decided to take the plunge, literally, and for a couple months now he has joined Randy and I in the lake, paddling around us and racing me through the water. Savvy will even retrieve sticks from deep water with only a shout of "Get it, get it!". Actually bringing them back and dropping them at my feet is another thing. He'd rather play keep-away, but at those moments he's having so much fun, I can't help but laugh at my giant "retriever".
A month ago he also got in a fight with another large breed dog which surprised me. Savage has been in a few dog fights in his life, and with only one exception, they have all involved (and been initiated by) an intact male. All have ended, or been broken up, without injury. The above-mentioned fight was a shock only because the opponent was a neutered dog Savvy has known since puppy-hood, and he ended up with 3 or 4 small wounds around his neck. He also came away from the brawl with a whole mouthful of black fur. The circumstances preceding the fight were not really normal for Savage: lots of people laughing and yelling, dogs barking and running wild, everyone confined to a small space and full of energy. Minutes before, he had already been growled at and challenged by a smaller dog when they were both on-leash and more easily controlled. I don't know which dog actually started things since I had my back to both when the fight began, but there is no doubt that it was a more serious altercation than my dog has been involved in before this. Because I have been a big believer in socialization and have tried to acclimate Sav to many varied animals, people, and situations, Before, and even after that episode, Savage has had no problems with other dogs, providing they don't attack him. He has displayed reserve and sometimes even avoidance when another growls or snaps at him. I can only wonder what caused him and this familiar dog to become aggressive toward each other. It's something I don't understand, but I have a tendency to over-analyze and would probably do better to move on.
As my puppy nears his 3rd birthday on November 17th, I hope our relationship always remains strong and trusting, our time spent together light-hearted, and our future with each other long and full of promise.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008