Who is in Charge?!

Did you say something?

Did you say something?

I am a bit impulsive and certainly not structured, so it comes as no real surprise that my decision to train Lu had mixed results.  I was taken aback when a friend had told me that Lulu was the dominant one in our relationship, so I decided obedience training was in order.  We had dabbled in it when I first rescued Lu, and had gone to a few classes – working with a few trainers.  Ultimately, Lulu had ended up doing what Lulu wanted to do most of the time.

In my typical disciplined approach, I googled obedience training, read a few articles, and began the lessons.  First, I needed to teach her that I was to go through doors first, as she waited.  I also needed her to look at me when I spoke to her.  I remember reading the last article, and stepping to the back door to call her,  yelling to her as she ignored me – intentionally ignored me.  Let the games begin!

The first door attempt at establishing who was who in the pecking order, resulted in both of us wedging ourselves into the door at the same time, with her insisting she push through first.  She is pretty good at sitting, so I told her to sit, and as I turned to go through the door, she bolted forward, slamming me to the side as she triumphantly led the way.  After our 83rd attempt, I stood staring down at her –  her tongue lolling out as she grinned up at me.  Let’s see, what did she value over anything else – easy – her walks.

I took Lulu into the mud room to head out front for a walk, and as I opened the door she attempted to shove 40 pounds of solid muscle between my legs and out the door.  I closed the door gently on her head (maybe not as gently as I should have) until she backed into the mud room and sat to stare at the door.  Again, I opened the door, and again she leapt forward.  I closed the door again.  This went on for about a half hour, until she finally figured out that as long as she sat quietly, the door stayed open.  The next step was to have her look at me for instruction.

We stood with the door open and the storm door closed.  She sat hunched, staring at the door, trembling as adrenaline coursed through her bunched up muscle.  I reached to open the storm door and she crouched, so I let the door go and waited as the trembling stopped and she slowly calmed down.  I continued the exercise, reaching for the door, as she crouched in anticipation, letting the door go, and waiting repeatedly for her to calm down.

Finally, we reached a point where I could step back and forth through the door as she sat bunched, staring straight ahead – eagerly waiting for me to call her.  Now it was time for the second step.  I stood and waited, softly asking her to “look at me.”  She knew what “look at me meant.”  We had practiced this with one of her trainers.  Stubbornly, she stared straight forward as I repeated the command, refusing to even glance in my direction.  She looked so angry and frustrated – so I waited, and waited, and waited.

I stood there for about 10 minutes, until with slitted eyes and taught facial muscles, she looked up at me – or rather she glared up at me.  I called her and she came through the door, slinging her body to the side as she flew past me.  I was tempted to try one more time, but we were both exhausted from our battle of wills.  We headed out on our walk, her pulling at the end of her leash – leading our small pack down the street.   She looked proud and defiant – head lifted high, turning like a radar as she searched for prey.  Small steps I thought as I pulled her back.  She seemed to pull slightly less as we continued, but that may have just been wishful thinking on my part at the time.

Over the last few months we have continued our lessons.  She now waits patiently until I go through the door.  She watches me the whole time – maintaining eye contact for as long as I ask her to sit in front of the door.  She also now walks at my side, and instead of bolting after anything that moves, she does a little dance of anticipation.  She has come a long way in a year.

She is an incredibly athletic dog – having Staffordshire terrier, American Bull terrier, and Viesla in her lineage.  She has an incredible prey drive and is high energy.  I would like to teach her agility after we have our obedience conquered, but first I have to get her past her dog aggression.  I don’t know what happened to her before I found her, but she was in bad shape when we met.  I’ve used three trainers.  I have not had good experiences with any of them, so for now, I will keep reading articles, and we will keep battling until I find the right trainer for my fiercly stubborn little bully dog.

DNA

Lulu

Lulu

Yesterday I read through Lu’s DNA. There is a lot of controversy about the accuracy of canine DNA results, but her’s seem to be accurate.

Yesterday Lu found a rabbit nest. She killed all four baby rabbits in less than a minute. Then my dog that eats only the best food that money can buy, just as quickly ate them. I did not have time to save the babies. She was just too fast.

I had a hard time looking at my savage dog without feeling sadness for the babies, and the mama that returned later that evening. I could not love her for a few hours, and turned my back.

Last night Lu climbed up on the sofa and pushed her flat, block head up under my arm. She laid her head on my lap and tilted it to the side, her soft brown, pink ringed eye gazing up at me. I laid my hand on her head gently, and she sighed deeply as her warm eyes slowly closed.

Vies-la + Bull Terrier + Stafford-shire Terrier – this is my dog that loves hard, kills hard, and explodes both with life and onto life. It is hard to believe an animal so gentle and loving can also be so feral and brutal.

Demon

Lulu’s tongue was lolling out of her big grinning mouth as we cut through the morning humidity, about half way through our five mile walk. I tilted back my head and pulled the thick morning air through my nose, smelling the slight crispness around the edges, that signified the approaching fall. I loved the smell of summer and fall mixing as New England summers came to an end.

Loud panting brought me back to the moment, and feeling a pull to my left, I looked down to see Lu heading off road, head down, pulling me through the still green, fire bushes. A few more weeks and the leaves would be blazing with color. I stumbled forward, and made a half ass attempt to pull Lu back out of the bushes, but she smelled the creek, and lowered her flat block head, pulling hard against her small prong collar. She had set her mind and eyes on the cold water at the bottom of the hill, and I threw up my arms to block the branches as we plunged towards the creek.

Lu reached the water and plunged her muzzle into the cold, swiftly running little creek, pulling her head out quickly and shaking it hard. I stood watching as she lapped greedily at the water – and then she froze, staring straight ahead across the small, dark creek. I looked up and froze as well. An enormous, muscular dog was standing staring at us about 20 feet away. He was larger than any pit bull I had ever seen, and I could see every muscle in his body bunching as he looked from me to Lu, until his eyes locked on Lu’s.

I looked down to see Lu crouched just in front of me in the edge of the water. As I watched, she slowly lowered her small head, and let out a guttural snarl that sounded like nothing I had ever heard come from her. Her whole body trembled, and as she crouched even lower, I tightened the leash, not sure if she was going to attack or flee.

I looked towards the other dog. He stood motionless, staring intensely at her, and then slowly leaned forward taking one tentative step towards the edge of the water. Lu suddenly plunged forward snarling fiercely, snapping her jaws and clearly warning off this threat. She had always been aggressive towards other dogs, but had never behaved this way. I began to back up, gently saying her name in a low voice. She glanced back quickly, and began turning towards me very slowly to follow. The collarless black behemoth took another step, and Lulu let out a shrill scream, plunging towards him again. I just kept slowly backing away.

Suddenly, I heard a man’s deep bellow, and looked across the water to see a man step out onto his porch, behind the house across the creek. The dog turned towards him, glancing back repeatedly as he slowly made his way back to his own yard. The man waved briefly, opening a screen door for his scarey looking black horse to enter.

I felt the tension drain from my body as Lu quickly moved past me and up the hill back towards the road. She had no desire to hang around for a repeat appearance, and I broke into a quick jog as she trotted quickly up the hill. Reaching the top of the hill, I ducked under the last fire bush branches, glancing up to see Lu staring down the hill, still trembling from the adrenaline that was draining from her muscles.

We still had another 2.5 miles to complete, and Lu lived and breathed in anticipation of her walks, but with a quick accusatory glance my way, she turned and headed back the way we had come. That one look told me not to dilly dally, but to get my ass in gear, because we were going home where it was safe, and there were no black demons hiding in the shadows.

Battle Under the Bush

What?!

What?!

Lu usually waited for me in the mud room, but today I caught the swish of a tail through the office doorway as I opened the outside door.  I came up up the two stairs and into my brightly lit office, to spot Lulu sitting with her back to me, staring out the french door.

Lu barely glanced over her shoulder towards me, and as I got closer I saw her whole body trembling.  This usually indicated she had spent at least an hour watching some sort of furry, forest critter on our porch.  She had already ripped loose at least 3, two by fours from the fence surrounding the propane tank where the chipmunks lived beside the brick patio.  It must be pure torture for her to tensely watch small creatures darting across her yard, tramping through her territory.

I looked out and saw nothing, so held her back as I opened the door.  If I let her out too quickly, she would plunge through the screen door, and I was getting tired of constantly having to repair the fragile aluminum bound screen.

After much shoving and grunting, Lu bolted through the doorway, veering right and heading towards the fenceline at a dead sprint.  Something had her locked and loaded, and I headed out to sit in the grass and watch as she sprinted the perimeter of the yard, plunging into the air as she flushed birds, and leaping high in spastic reactions as she disturbed some small groud dwelling creature.  She radiated energy and joy as she reacted to the life around her.

She spotted me sitting in the grass, and with eyes squinted, ears back flat, and a huge grin on her flat head, she sprinted straight at me, twirling at the last minute to body slam me sideways.  I wrapped my arms around her as she slid into me, and we rolled over in the grass wrestling like fiends.  She leaped away, butt waggling in the air, daring me to catch her, but I just sat there laughing gently, talking to her softly, encouraging her to calm down.  She is a powerful animal, so I try to not to encourage too much rough housing.

Suddenly her head shot around, and I looked up to see a small dark shape heading across the lower end of the yard.  I reached out to grab Lu, but she was off like a streak, and as I watched the dark furry shape disappear in the large mass of bushes at the back of the property, I also watched as a larger white shape hurled itself into the same bushes with a howl of pure rage.  This must has been what she has watched all day, a very large ground hog – and now all that pent up frustration and energy was focused on destroying the intruder.

We had not had ground hogs in our yard for several years – basically since we had introduced dogs to the yard, but somehow this very large ground hog had found a way to burrow into our well secured, double fenced property.  I suspected there were old tunnels around the bushes because this is where we had seen them, and Lulu was always digging her trenches back there.

I jumped up and took off for the bushes.  Were ground hogs vicious?  Could they hurt a dog or cause rabies?  Did they carry other diseases?  All of these questions raced through my head as Lulu thrashed screaming through the bushes, and I peered in looking for a way to grab her and pull her out.

Suddenly, Lu leaped from the bushes holding the struggling ground hog in her jaws, whipping her powerful neck form side to side, guttural snarls rolling from her small muscular body.  This was not my dog.  This was an animal completely driven by a desire to kill, muscles rippling across her body as she used all of her power to kill the animal that had dared to intrude into her territory.  I backed up and watched as she pinned it to the ground, deep grumbles receding as the struggles of the ground hog slowed.  There was nothing I could do at that point.  The ground hog’s life was quickly coming to an end.

Lu raised her head to look at me.  Her face was still contorted into an expression of rage, blood streaking her jaws.  She glowered towards me, lowering her head, and I watched as her facial muscles loosened, jaws parting so her longue pink tongue could loll out while she sucked in cooling airs to squelch her fire.  I squatted down and gently called her.  I could see blood on her neck, but did not know if it was from her or the animal she had killed.  She growled deeply and nudged the ground hog with her nose, but it did not move – just rolled limply in the grass before settling back, dead.

Lulu walked slowly towards me until she reached me, butting her head into my chest and breathing hard.  I could see where her neck was cut, so I stood and headed for the house.  Lu turned and looked back towards her kill, then turned and quickly followed me towards the house.

I cleaned and treated the small superficial cut, and left her inside as I went back to retrieve yet another carcass for the animal graveyard across the street.  I’ve had dogs all my life, mostly retrievers.  I’ve always watched these domestic animals and wondered how they would survive without people.  With Lu I’ve never had any doubts about her ability to survive, and sometimes I even wonder how she survives with me, having to always contain the instincts and desires that are just below the surface – that completely overwhelm any domestic impulses at the first opportunity.  It must be hard to constantly want to hurl yourself savagely at life, and have everything constantly snapped back by barriers and limits.

Precious Princess Killed a Snake

Snake Wait 072714

The title on this blog is the text I got at work today – “Your precious princess killed a snake.”  All warm blooded mammals have been systematically removed from the yard, so I guess she is moving on to the cold blooded ones.

Lulu had of course been separated from the snake carcass, so I arrived home to find her eagerly waiting next to the plastic bag at the back door.  I was charged with removing the snake.

I opened the door, and Lulu flew across the yard, literally diving into the carcass as if she was sliding into home base.  I screamed no as she dropped and rolled on her kill, legs pinwheeling rapidly in pure bliss.  I raced forward, arriving just as she jumped up, grabbed the snake, and sprinted off through the grass.  I moaned and cursed, noting her newly washed fur dark with snake blood.  Shouldn’t the snake have been dead long enough for it’s blood to congeal?!

We played chase for about 15 minutes.  I could tell she was having great fun – leaping ahead, dropping and rolling, and then snatching up her snake to race away and repeat again.  I shamefully say I resorted to throwing rocks at her.  I had become desperate to get that nasty snake carcass away from my precious princess.

I finally flung myself down on a rock wall and just cursed at her.  I no longer cared what the neighbors thought.  I had seen them peeking through bushes as I ran screaming around the yard, hurling obscenities at my little dog.  They were fairly used to it at this point, although I’m sure they still considered it great entertainment.

Finally, I was rescued by a poor unsuspecting carpenter bee.  It flew just over Lulu’s head, and she flung the snake carcass aside as she launched 35 pounds of muscle four feet into the air.  The chase was on, and I now found myself laughing out loud as the bee zigzagged across the yard while my small white pit bull slung herself from side to side in pursuit.  Thank god she was so reactive.