Pet Tips 'n' Tales

Dogs 'R' The Spice of Life

Photo by Mary Ellen "Angel Scribe"
Dogs play an integral part in Chris's and her husband, Mel's, lives! Chris's first dog, Cookie, was born the same day Chris was born and died on their 13th birthday. Chris and Mel are Australian Shepherd (Aussie) connoisseurs with their three "spices of life": Five-year-olds Ginger and Cinnamon, and 11-year-old Rusty, each so-named in honor of their beautiful coats. 

TALES

You don't see many 11-pound toy Australian Shepherds like Cinnamon. When Mel and Chris first saw her, Chris admits, "We fell in love with her, took her home and when Rusty saw her, he, too, fell in love with her. He was so sweet and gentle; he cleaned her face and cuddled with her.
 
Rusty became Cinnamon's mentor and taught her Herding 101", like how to keep cows away from our fence and how to herd our cat, Rosie. Rosie was not at all pleased because she now had two crazy dogs trying to herd her, versus just one. Rosie's "revenge" is to intimidate the dogs by blocking access to their water bowl until she decides they've thirsted long enough."

Aussies are an exceptionally smart breed. "Rusty learned the names of 50 of his toys," said Mel. "Rusty has an odd 'thing'' about long garden implements and tree limbs.  If we are trying to rake, shovel, or remove a fallen tree limb, he hysterically barks and tries to grab it from us.  It is impossible to do yard work when he's outside.  If we let go of the limb/rake he grabs  it and carries it as far away as he can - thinking he is protecting us from the 'offending implements'."

"Now that Rusty is older, his joints have become a tad rusty.  He used to play Frisbee, but now he has arthritis," said Chris. "Cinnamon, though, is the best Frisbee-catching dog we've ever seen."

So, in order to give ol' Rusty a rest from Cinnamon's boundless energy, Mel and Chris acquired their third Aussie, Ginger, AKA Mo.
     
"We have never had three of the same breed of dog at the same time before," said Chris. "They communicate with, and feed off of, each other, both the good and the bad, more so than I have seen with a 'family' of mixed breeds. We walk our dogs every day on our acreage and our walks are never normal! The dogs run free and 'herd' us which makes for an interesting walk with one dog out ahead, and two behind us, keeping us in a little group. Also, Ginger's hearing is exceptional - she hears mice, moles and gophers.  On walks, Ginger leaps into the air, like a rabbit, then 'freezes' while pointing out a hidden mole hill."

The first year that Cinnamon participated in the Humane Society's "Bow Wow Around Town" walk she stopped and refused to move until the slower dogs and their pet parents caught up with us.  She had her own "herding agenda" for the group!

"This year during the "Bow Wow" walk, Mel walked Ginger and I walked Cinnamon", said Chris. "Cinnamon kept jumping on Mel from behind, trying to herd him into line every time he lagged behind us."

Cinnamon is crazy about water. Rusty and Ginger don't like getting wet, but Cinnamon on the other hand, runs through any body of water or mud puddle that she can find.

"At the lake, Cinnamon dives under water to fetch a toy/stick that has sunk to the bottom. The first time I saw her do this it scared me," said Chris. "We never saw our Lab, who loved water and has since passed on, do that! As a matter of fact, when the Lab and Cinnamon played 'fetch the stick in the lake', Cinnamon would swim out to the Lab and latch onto the stick until the Lab let go. It was funny watching a timid 70-pound Lab with a self-assured 11-pound Cinnamon.

Aussies are fun, bright and loving dogs with engaging smiles! They are also a very active breed that needs lots of exercise. Their high energy level works for us because I am a retired 911 dispatch operator who has the time to spend with them and I enjoy keeping active. 

We knew what we were getting into when we adopted Aussies, but anyone who considers bringing any dog into their life should learn about the breed and its challenges beforehand," advises Chris.


TIPS

"Keeping dogs busy with 'jobs' helps keep them out of trouble.  It also makes them feel useful and needed," said Chris. "Kong toys are helpful; Ginger jogs with Mel; Rusty tells me about EVERYTHING through his barking, (the cat is on the counter...Ginger is ripping up a toy...the kitchen timer is going off...bark bark bark.) Cinnamon "helps" when we move garden sprinklers and she appointed herself as a snoop-ervisor to make sure I'm doing everything correctly. Our dogs sound a tad wild but they are actually sweet and obedient and will do anything for us as will we, for them."

- CAUTION: Bake-Steward Park trail Mel and Chris found bear scat (poop) while walking the Bake-Steward Park trail.

- Spread your love by gifting pet shelters, seniors, or unemployed neighbors' and/or their pets with food/financial support.

- Kathy, a Tips 'n' Tales reader in Peoria, Illinois writes, "Peoria Meals on Wheels has a Critter Meals program. They deliver animal food with the human meal so seniors no longer have to go without to feed their beloved fur-children. My husband, Randy, and I, tithe monthly to the program.  Is there one in your area?"

- Stay tuned!
Mary Ellen's cats teach swimming lessons on MUST LOVE CATS on Animal Planet in 2012.
 
- VIDEO: Brandywine a JOY FULL three-leg rescue dog.
 
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