Monday, July 11, 2016

Dog Breeds: American Water Spaniel

Also known as the Amerikanisher Wasserspaniel, or simply the AWS, the American Water Spaniel has been a popular farm and hunting dog since the 18th century. We're not really sure where this dog came from or how it came to be, but sources indicate it may have originated in Wisconsin or Minnesota. It definitely came from the Great Lakes area, so it is also possible this breed has a more Canadian ancestry. Wherever this dog came from, it is descended from both the Curly-Coated Retriever and the Irish Water Spaniel.

Though the American Water Spaniel was popular on farms throughout the Midwest for more than a century, it was not actually recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) until 1940. It would have certainly been accepted earlier, except breed enthusiasts worried that acceptance would lead to the breed being tailored to the show ring, ruining its reputation as a hunter. To some extent this did happen, and now the American Water Spaniel is considered a rare breed. Registration numbers continue to be low, but it is thought that there are dozens of lines that were never registered, so perhaps this spunky dog is more popular than we realize.

Because it was bred to hunt, the American Water Spaniel is an active and hardy dog. He is a medium sized dog, standing about 18 inches high and weighing up to 45 pounds. The head is generally broad, but is in proportion to the body. The nose, which should be brown or black, is wide with large nostrils. Eyes shouldn't set wife apart and range in color from a brown so dark it's almost black to a pretty hazel brown to a bright yellow brown. The exact eye color typically coordinates with the coat color. Coat color can be liver, brown, or a deep chocolate. All colors may have some white on the chest or toes.

The coat itself might be wavy or downright curly. Either way, there is significant feathered on the tail, the legs, and even on the ears, giving the American Water Spaniel a puffy appearance. But don't worry, he sheds less than you'd think. A light brushing once a week is enough to keep the shedding under control, but don't bathe your canine friend unless you have to. Bathing strips the natural oils from the cost and can lead to severe skin problems.

The American Water Spaniel is quite intelligent and eager to please, making him highly trainable. He loves to learn and play, and if the game resembles chasing game birds, so much the better. Energetic and confident, this dog will do almost anything, but he's also a sensitive canine. Training should be firm and fun, not harsh or demanding if you want your pooch to be at his best.

Easygoing and wonderful with children, the American Water Spaniel is a great family pet who will even love the non-canine pets in your family. Though this dog loves attention, he can also stay at home by himself for a few hours without losing his mind. He'll probably sleep the day away if no one is home, and he'll probably snore while he sleeps, day or night. He may also drool, but it's the cute kind if drool.

If your dog is bored, he may bark or whine, or even become hyper. Combat this by making sure he receives lots of exercise. If you live in an apartment, this means at least three walks a day. You can also put this dog out in a medium sized yard, but beware, the American Water Spaniel likes to roam. He'll swim across lakes and river, bound over uneven terrain, and generally explore anywhere he can reach. He may also get lost, so it's best he not be left outside alone for extended periods. He doesn't mean to run off, but it is in his nature to wander.

An excellent swimmer, this active dog has a gentle mouth and a powerful nose. These traits makes him a wonderful bird dog, not just because he can find and retire the prey, but because his soft mouth will not damage the flesh of the bird. He can even retrieve game from a boat, making him a useful companion for just about any hunter. And yet his sweet disposition never fails no matter what he's up to.

If you're looking for a sweet little dog who will do anything to make you happy, the American Water Spaniel may be for you.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Whiskey: The Unexpected Puppy

Last summer, my son's dog died. It was devastating for everyone, but no one was more broken up then my oldest son, Tristan. She had been his baby, his best friend, and his life, and anyone who has ever lost a dog can relate to that. Finding another puppy who could even come close to Brownie would prove impossible in the months following her death. But we had to try.

Eventually, however, Tristan decided he had to have another Poodle, this one red, not black, and with white markings. So we found a breeder, were told it would be several months before there was a puppy available, and sat back to wait. That should have been it. It really should have.

But fate doesn't always play along, and we were about to learn that first hand. My sister had a dog, a Labradoodle named Willow. Cute dog, sweet, too bouncy for my tastes, but nice enough. She decided to breed Willow to a Golden Retriever a few months after Brownie had passed away. And in January, Willow had nine puppies.

My sister, of course, offered to let him buy a puppy, and Tristan dutifully took a look, but decided they weren't for him. They weren't Poodles, and they weren't dark red, so they weren't for him. Okay. My sister listed her pups for sale and they sold in just a few days. All except for the runt who was walking funny. He'd been born first with no one to witness, so we were never quite sure why. Maybe his mother stepped in him. Whatever the reason, my sister didn't feel comfortable selling a potentially injured pup. She'd wait until the vet cleared him before selling him.

So the weeks passed and we visited once a week so the kids could play with the puppies. Tristan never once mentioned having one of the Goldendoodle puppies for his own. He played with them, talked about the Poodle he'd get in just another three or four months. He was content and things were going as expected.

Then something happened we did not expect. The Saturday before the puppies were to go to their new homes, and just a few hours before my sister would sell the remaining puppy (who had been given a clean bill of health just the day before), we went to see the puppies for the last time.

By this time, we'd all visited once a week for two months. So we'd hold a puppy for a minute, put it down, then visit with my sister (actually my sweetheart of a niece). Tristan was the only one who was still title fascinated, so he hung out with the puppies while we all visited.

I honestly can't tell you what happened next. I do know that Tristan spent two hours laughing in the puppy room while I was mostly playing hide and seek with my niece. I do know that when I called him so we could go home, he came out of the room with a puppy in his arms.

"Mommy, I want Whiskey," he said, clutching at the puppy my nephew had called Whiskey. The runt with the weird hips.

I nodded. "I know, he's cute. Let's go."

My sister reached for the puppy, but Tristan wouldn't give him up. "No, Mommy. I want to buy him."

It was then that my sister, mother, and I probably looked a little ridiculous. We were shocked, to say the least. This kid had exhibited no interest in this puppy just the week before. Now, however, he wanted to buy him.

I recovered first. "Are you sure?" I felt compelled to ask.

He was. That was his puppy. Still, he'd been so set on a red Poodle I was hesitant to agree. We compromised. He'd sleep on it, and the next day, if he hadn't changed his mind, I'd take him to the bank and he could get money out of his account.

Morning didn't change anything. He was in love with that puppy, and it was obvious Whiskey worshipped him in return. So he paid his deposit, got a receipt, and a week later we had a new friend. Whiskey was here to stay.

Not what we expected, but we wouldn't trade him for anything.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Dog Breeds: American Treeing Feist

Also known as the Mountain Feist or the American Feist, the Treeing Feist has been in North America for quite long time. They were here decades, probably even longer, before the Rat Terriers made an appearance on American shores. Though we're not sure how they got here, we do know both Abraham Lincoln and George Washington wrote about 'fice' or 'fyce' dogs, proving they're not exactly new arrivals.

American Feists should have a short and smooth coat. Coat colors vary and may include black, red, white, black and tan, red and white, red bridle, and even blue and white.  Because the coat is short and flat, it's easy enough to groom. A good brushing once a week followed by a buff with a chamois cloth will keep your pup looking his best.

Eyes should be small and dark while the ears are erect or semi-erect.  Standing no more than 22 inches high and weighing no more than 30 pounds, the American Feist is a small dog with a muscular build. They are Swift and agile, the perfect combination for a dog used for hunting.

This breed is full of spirit and highly active. They can live in an apartment, but they'll need to be walked two or three times a day in this scenario. The Treeing Feist would do better with at least a small yard.

Lovable to a fault, the American Feist makes a wonderful family pet. Though frequently used for hunting rabbits, rodents, birds, and other small game, they adapt well to ripping with children. They may not enjoy living with small animals such as guinea pigs, gerbils, and even cats, but they're generally sweet with humans, young and old.

If you're looking for a dog with a powerful personality and boundless energy, the American Treeing Feist might be for you.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Dog Breeds: American Toy Terrier

Developed in the United States in the 1930s, the American Toy Terrier is descended from the Smooth Fox Terrier. Other breeds used in the development of the Toy Terrier include the Chihuahua, the Italian Greyhound, the Manchester Terrier, and the Miniature Pinscher. This breed wasn't officially recognized until 2003, so it actually goes by many names. It can be called the Toy Fox Terrier or the Amertoy, depending on the association involved.

The Toy Terrier has a distinct appearance. The nose should be black for all dogs except those of chocolate coloring (these dogs should have chocolate noses). Eyes are dark, round, and set forward on the head. Ears are v-shaped and erect. The muzzle should be fairly small and narrow. The tail has traditionally been docked at birth, but since this procedure is illegal in much of Europe, and frowned upon in many other countries, it is becoming less common as time goes on.

The coat is typically short and quite thick, which makes it easy to groom. Most Toy Terriers are tri-colored, usually white with tan or black and tan markings. Other colors can and do appear, but not all colors are accepted by all associations. Regardless of association, this tiny breed should weight no more than 7 pounds and stand about 10 inches high.

They may be small, but they're very much like their Fox Terrier ancestors. They're smart, tough, and are prone to fits of stubbornness. Though generally curious, active, and pleasant, this small breed can be a bit of a fighter. They're natural hunters, so expect them to go after mice, rats, and generally anything that's small and mobile. And once they're hunting, they won't stop until they catch their prey.

But the American Toy Terrier is more than just a hunter. They're also intelligent enough to learn just about any trick, sensitive enough to respond to your moods, and loving enough to be a friend through thick and thin. And you'd be hard pressed to find a more loyal canine. In general, this is a wonderful breed with a few little quirks.

Like many small breeds, the American Toy Terrier has its own set of health problems. Some dogs are prone to Legg-Calvé-Perthes, which involves spontaneous degeneration of the head of the femur bone. Others suffer from allergies, commonly to wheat, corn or beet pulp. Because of very short hair, this breed can't tolerate the cold, so get a dog sweater for your canine companion.

If you're looking for an energetic dog who will never leave your side, the American Toy Terrier might be for you.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Search for a New Puppy

My oldest son, who is now 9, recently suffered a great loss. His baby, a small black Poodle he's had since he was 3, was killed a little over a month ago. He was quite naturally devastated, and he cried for days. But, like most little boys who need dogs for companionship, Tristan soon started asking about a new puppy. It's not that he was over Brownie. Far from it. It's just that he NEEDS a dog. It's a part of who he is. Like his glasses or his medic ID bracelet. A small dog running at his heels makes him complete, and going through the summer without a puppy was going to be hard.

And thus began our search for a dog. Since it was going to be Tristan's dog, and he was going to be the one looking after this dog, it only made sense that he get to choose. The first thing he wanted me to look for was a small black Poodle, boy or girl, as long as it looked like Brownie.

I'm not that stupid, so relax. I didn't go out and get a small black Poodle he could call Brownie. But I also didn't want to refuse out of hand. Here's where his desire for a purebred Poodle comes in handy. You don't go out and pick up a purebred, show quality, Toy Poodle from your local shelter. It just doesn't work that way. It can take months, sometimes a year, before that perfect Poodle shows up.

What did this mean for me? Well, it meant that I could help him search for a puppy in a convincing manner without committing to a black Poodle. So we searched for a while, looked at pictures of dogs that might have black puppies, and cried quite a bit for Brownie. Tristan cried every night for 2 weeks, actually, which I had expected. He was grieving.

So a little time passed, only a couple weeks really (though it seemed longer), and we were still looking at puppy pictures. I know my son, and I knew he'd do a flip flop on me. And he did. One afternoon, as he was browsing yet another breeder's website, he turned to me and said, "I don't want another Brownie. I want something small and sweet and not black. Or brown. That would remind me of Brownie too much."

That was the sentence I'd been waiting for. I'd known he'd want a Poodle, but not one exactly like his baby. So we discussed it in detail. He was fine with any color that wasn't black or brown, but he wanted a little girl, and he wanted it smaller than Brownie had been. She'd been 8 pounds all soaking wet, not exactly large, so smaller came as a surprise. 6 pounds is what he'd decided he wanted.

To be frank, that size made me a little nervous, but it wasn't my dog. I wasn't the one who would have to feed her. I wasn't the one who would have to carry her outside, or put her in my bike basket when her little legs couldn't keep up. Tristan had been doing all these things since he was 3. He could do them at 9. Not my dog. Not my call.

So now we had a real description of the dog he might want. At this point, I called the breeder who had bred Brownie all those years ago. As soon as I told her what had happened, and as soon as I gave her Tristan's wish list, she told me she had two girls who might be pregnant with puppies who might fit his needs. We'd have to wait and see.

But just knowing a puppy might be born soon was enough to lift Tristan's spirits. Not completely, and he continues to grieve for Brownie, but he's getting better. And having to wait for a puppy is good for him. It allows him to finish grieving while knowing there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

And that light is enough for now.

Monday, August 3, 2015

When Your Son's Dog Dies

We recently suffered a canine loss on our family. My son's dog Brownie was killed on the highway at the end of June. It was the greatest tragedy my 9-year-old had ever experienced because of the close relationship he had with her. They were each other's everything. They played together, ate together, sang together, watched TV together, went camping together, and slept together for 6 years. They were only apart when he went to school or went to visit his father for an afternoon. He even took her shopping with him, and not just at pet stores. They really were two of a kind. She was his best friend, baby, and confidant all rolled into one.

And then that Sunday in June hit. It was the last Sunday of the month, and it dawned bright and sunny. But, because it was Sunday, most of us weren't awake. Unbeknownst to us, a series of unrelated events were about to occur that would lead directly to Brownie's death. My youngest son was the only one awake, and the dog had to go out. Instead of waking my oldest son, as he had always done, he decided to let his brother's dog out into the dog run. What he didn't know was that the fence was down and Tristan had been taking the dog out the front. Tristan would sit on the deck and wait for her, never taking his eyes off her wiggling form.

Rowan, unfortunately, didn't know that. He put the dog in the dog run like a good brother would do. After that we have to piece together what happened from the bits and pieces of information we have gathered. As near as we can tell, Brownie was in the yard for 3 hours before she saw a neighbor jogging down the street. There are no sidewalks where we live, so the shoulder is where we jog. Now Brownie, being naturally social, decided to go with said neighbor. The neighbor saw her and welcomed the company. But it only lasted a moment because people speed on our road. By a lot.

They were jogging together when a car slowed behind them. I'd slow down too if there was a jogger and a little dog on the side of the road. The car behind, however, didn't share the sentiment. It sped up, whipped around the first car, pulled over too far, got caught on the soft shoulder, and hit Brownie and nearly hit the neighbor. Everyone but the speeding idiot stopped, which is obviously how we found out.

So now I'm faced with telling a 9-year-old his dog has passed away. He didn't scream or yell, he just curled up and cried silently into his hands. It broke my heart. I'd lost my own dog 5 years earlier, so I knew something of what he was going through, and I knew there was nothing I could do for him. I couldn't fix it, and that's hard for a mother to accept.

But accept it I had to, because there was nothing else I could do. We did rescue Brownie's collar, which Tristan wore as a bracelet for a few days. Then he asked me to buy a stuffed toy that looked like Brownie. Tiny black poodle toy. Maybe a few years ago this would have been a tall order, but these days the Internet solves many a problem. A stuffed black poodle arrived 3 days later (because when your kid is crying, you pay for faster shipping). He put the collar on the toy and has been carrying it around ever since.

A month has passed since his little dog was killed and he still talks about her every day. She was such a big part of his live that he'll probably talk about her for years, even decades. And that's all right, because she was his baby. His first baby, and he grieved for her as much as anyone has ever grieved for a loved one. There will be other dogs, but Brownie will forever hold that special place in his heart. And I wouldn't change that for the world.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Dog Breeds: American Staghound

Called simply the Staghound most of the time, the American Staghound is an interesting breed. It's not recognized by any association, and so has no detailed breed standard, but it's a breed nonetheless. Because they're mostly bred for function, not form, there hasn't really been a push to get them recognized. The Staghound is a hunting dog, and most huntsmen would rather the breed continue to be bred for this function rather than have to adhere to a specific breed standard.

In any case, the Staghound has been bred in its current form since the 1800s. Before that, it was primarily the result of crossing the Greyhound with the Scottish Deerhound, with a few other breeds likely thrown in there to get the best possible hunter. The Greyhound gave it the speed to pursue the coyote while the Deerhound had a rough jacket and better scenting abilities, not to mention a more robust constitution. Their breeding has always laid with the huntsman, and if the Staghound is to maintain its majesty, it should probably stay that way.

Standing no more than 32 inches at the shoulder and weighing up to 90 pounds, the Staghound looks like a hunting dog. It has strong muscles, a deep chest, and long legs. They have extraordinary visual acuity and most of them have some scenting ability. Because of their Greyhound ancestry, the American Staghound is incredibly fast, but it also has some endurance, making it a well-rounded hunting dog.

The American Staghound can be of any color and pattern, though it usually mimics the colors found in both the Greyhound and the Scottish Deerhound. There are three distinct coat types, none of which is more prized than the other. First, there is the 'shag', which resembles the coat of the Deerhound. Then there is the 'slick', which looks a lot like the coat of a Greyhound. Finally, there is the 'broken' coat type, which is somewhere between the two. Many hunters have a preference for the 'shag' coat, but it isn't a strong preference and both 'broken' and 'slick' are common as well.

Though this breed is a born hunter, he also makes an excellent companion. Most Staghounds crave human attention and want to be around their families. They tend to be calm, even lazy in the house, so they really do make great house pets. Staghounds are wonderful with children, but they are a bit large and don't know it, so they often knock young children over without meaning to.

Unlike some breeds bred for a specific physical standard, the Staghound has been bred for hunting and practically nothing else. This means they have a strong hunting instinct and a high prey drive. So while they may be trusted with humans, don't trust your Staghound with other pets unless you're there to supervise. They're excellent dogs, and highly obedient, but they are hunters. Never forget that. Some Staghounds can live comfortably with cats and other small animals, but most shouldn't.

The American Staghound isn't an apartment dog, but they can do well enough in the city if you make sure to exercise them on a daily basis. They're a healthy breed, mostly because they've been bred for it, so there aren't many health problems to be aware of. If you're going to have a Staghound for your canine companion, you should know that they have little body fat, making them more susceptible to anesthesia during surgeries. They also shouldn't run after a heavy meal because of torsion bloat concerns. Other than this, they are one of the healthiest dog breeds out there.

If you're looking for an affectionate dog who will bond well to his family, the American Staghound might be for you. Elegant and strong, this hearty breed can be an excellent addition to the right household.