Friday, November 22, 2013

Advice on Choosing a Dog (for my "non-dog-crazy" friends)

Often I feel like I'm in the strange position of living in/between 2 worlds.  Let's call those worlds they "crazy dog" world and the "normal" world.  This post is not for my "crazy dog" friends - you'll know all this stuff.  This post is for my "normal" friends who decide they want a dog.  In case I don't talk to you before you take the plunge, please keep these things in mind before you get a dog:

These dogs invariably come from a puppy mill somewhere (no reputable breeder would sell their dogs to a pet store) - meaning that dogs from a pet store are sending money to people who treat dogs like a cash crop, not like thinking, feeling beings.

FIGURE OUT WHAT TRAITS you want a dog to have.
Things like size, energy level, amount of training needed, how much grooming required, friendliness (to dogs and humans), protectiveness, and energy level (did I mention that already?) all really matter.  Think about what you want in a dog before you choose a dog.

BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR ANSWERS to the traits above.  
If you're not honest with yourself, you're asking for trouble.  E.g., a high energy dog means you'll have to exercise them a lot if both of you are to remain sane.  A dog may be really cute, but if it's not a good fit, both you and the dog will be miserable.

Find breeds that fit with the traits you're looking for.

There are a number of "dog breed selector" tools online that can help you narrow things down.  I also found a dog breed comparison chart online that I think is good.  Both of these can help you narrow down and/or compare breeds.

When you've narrowed it down to a handful of breeds do even more research to find out what the breeds are like to live with.  I'd start at the American Kennel Club breed index  and the breed club websites (just search for the breed name and "club" to get started).  What do they say about what it's like to live with this breed?  Go to some breeder websites.  What do they say?  Make sure your life fits with what the dog requires.

And YES, this matters even if you're getting a dog from a shelter.  Learning about breed traits means  you'll have an idea of what breeds/mixes you can live with - and those that you can't - when you're looking at a dog in the shelter.

If you're not getting a dog from a shelter or breed rescue, you want to find a great breeder.  This breeder will ask you as many (or more) questions than you ask them.  They will make you sign a contract, and provide references.  They'll check your references.  They will health test their breeding animals to try and minimize health problems prevalent in the breed. Their puppies will be part of their family.

The right puppy from the right breeder may not be available right away.  This goes for shelter or rescue dogs, too.  Wait for the right dog to come along, one that really fits your lifestyle.

Breeders get to know the puppies they have, and put a lot of thought into which homes they place which puppies.  You may think one dog is the cutest, but that one may not be the best fit for you.  Trust that they want to match the right dogs with the right homes.  After all, they want both you and their canine babies to be happy together for as long as possible.

It may take a long time to find the right dog, but be patient and enjoy the journey.  Your new dog will be part of your family (if you're lucky) for a long time, but a time that's always too short.  So enjoy it all!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Wagmore Farm: "Forever" Homes for the Baby Trees

You might remember from a previous post that The Husband and I, with lots of help from my Dad, bought 40+ baby trees from a local forester's sale to make up for some of the trees we had to get rid of when we bought the house.

We bought them and put them in the "tree nursery" in spring of 2012.

The baby trees - summer of '12

When we went out this spring, we noticed that the babies were really starting to grow.  Starting to grow so much, in fact, that we really needed to move them.

A couple trees didn't make it, but we were left with a great selection of western red cedar, incense cedar, deodar cedar, hemlock, and 3 giant sequoia.

The baby trees - fall '13
Oh what a difference a year makes!

To minimize the amount of watering we'd have to do, we chose to wait until the fall to move them.  Since the land is in the Pacific Northwest, we figured Mother Nature would take over the watering soon enough.

First on our list was to plan where the babies would go.  While I knew the general areas for all the trees, I wanted our trees to look like a forest -- not like lines of screen trees -- so I took care to place each tree individually.  This involved figuring out how far apart each type of tree needed to be, deciding how to make things look as natural as possible, then measuring (algebra used!), and flagging where each tree went.

Here's the rest of the story - in pictures:

First, we mowed the areas where the trees were to be planted.
This is the largest area - along our side fence line.

The Husband dug up each of the trees.
You can really see how big they've become when a person is next to them!

We were smart enough to buy a post hole digger for the tractor,
so at least that part was easy...

Our first couple trees in their "forever" homes.
30 more trees went along this line.

This is the last tree in the line.
We put newspaper around each base, and finished it off with mulch.
Hopefully that will keep the weeds down a bit.

We also soaked all of them in using 
a root builder fertilizer recommended by our local nursery.
Grow babies, grow!

We put a few of the trees out near the road, 
so we'll have a nice view of them from the house.

The last few trees went in the area SE of the house -- adding some evergreens to the deciduous trees already in the "forest" area.

I can't wait to watch them fill in!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Maybe I'm back?

I realize that I haven't posted anything since Maggie has been gone.  Losing her was very hard on me, and has really made me think about what I want to do with my dogs.

Part of the great connection I had with Maggie was, I believe, because of all the things we did together.  We lived in six different homes and went many places together.  We started out hiking, then moved on to dog parks, then basic obedience classes, then more advanced obedience classes, then agility class, then seminars, dog shows, etc.  Through it all we became very close.

This realization has made me want to pick up the pace with Rip.  Ok, maybe we won't live in six different homes together, but we can go places and do things more than we had been.  In the past few months we've been to our first Rally trial, taken a heeling class, and have started to take private agility lessons.  And we're both enjoying it.

Then I think about my blog.  I don't know if I'll go back to the stories & tips on training.  Maybe other blogs have that covered.

But I think I would like to share some things I've learned about the dog world.  And most of all I'd like to share the work we're doing on our property, Wagmore.  Ok, and maybe I'll throw in a dog training thing or two -- if I come upon something fun or when Rip does something that makes me laugh.

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