Weekly Wrap-up: Skunked

The quilt auction is over. My quilt went for …

… *drum roll, please* …

… $470! That’s more than the auction coordinator thought I’d get! She was actually quite shocked.

That said, I don’t know if I’ll do another auction quilt next year. I’m glad it went for so much, but I got caught up in the auction fervor and part of me was hoping for more. I’ll think about it. Thanks to all of you who left such encouraging comments! It means a lot to hear such nice things about my designs.

After that weekend of auction dinner dances and running carnival games at the church fall festival, I took the day off to relax and catch up on other projects. Then at 4:30 a.m. on Monday morning, Penny made a new best friend.

Skunk image by birdphotos.com (taken from Wikipedia)

Skunk image by birdphotos.com (taken from Wikipedia)

It’s amazing how your dog getting skunked changes your schedule! I think I’ve tried every home skunk remedy on the Internet, and she STILL STINKS. *Sigh.* I haven’t had much time for anything because she’s had almost a dozen baths in 6 days.

So, in no particular order, here are some random observations from this stinky week:

  • The following skunk remedies do not work: tomato juice, vinegar, and de-skunking enzymatic shampoos. The following skunk remedies sort of work: feminine hygiene products and this brand of dog ear cleaner solution. The following works, but you can’t get it near their eyes, making it a little useless in my case: the hydrogen peroxide/baking soda/dish soap solution found all over Google. Of course, one website said the best deskunking method is to not let your dog near skunks. … Wow. I never would have thought to keep Penny away from the skunks.
  • The following things were favorite things that had to be thrown out because they were too skunked to save: purple ballet flats, Disneyland 50th anniversary t-shirt, and Penny’s polka dot collar. RIP, favorite stuff.
  • I’m starting to think Penny was sprayed by some sort of mutant Super Skunk. I have been watching too many superhero TV shows.
  • The last time I had a day off, Penny got Cherry Eye and had to be rushed to the vet. I’m starting to think I shouldn’t take days off from work.
  • Carnivals are fun and all … if you’re not in charge. Then they’re exhausting. Also, kids don’t want to play water balloon toss. They want to have water balloon fights. I should have seen this coming.
  • I can’t decide if I want to enter the Halloween costume contest at work. If I do, I’ll probably go as Mary Poppins because it’s the only idea I’ve got that’s doable.
  • My first craft show of the season is in 13 days. When did THAT happen?
  • I scheduled a freelance editing project for the week before said craft fair. When did THAT happen?
  • My Square credit card reader came in the mail Friday. I can now take credit card payments at craft fairs. Pure. Awesome.
  • Cost Plus World Market has their Christmas bakeware shop up and running, and I want Halloween to just go away so I can go all Martha Stewart and start decorating Christmas cookies RIGHT NOW.
  • Mmm … cookies.

Hopefully regular crafty blogs will resume later this week. Unless Penny makes any more friends.



My Fear Aggressive Dog and Me

Dog wearing muzzle and Gentle Leader

Penny wearing her muzzle and Gentle Leader (she was having a bad day)

Usually on Wednesdays I focus on my work-in-progress crafts, but today I wanted to do something different. Aggression in dogs not an easy subject to discuss in general, and it’s certainly not one that most dog owners like to acknowledge. But, I think it’s important.

Penny has fear aggression.

This surprises people. They hear “aggressive” and think pit bull, not cocker spaniel. They don’t understand how a “good dog” (which Penny most assuredly is) can be aggressive in any way.

Before I go on, I want to make it clear that I am not a vet, animal behaviorist, animal trainer, or any other sort of professional who deals with animals, aggressive or otherwise. If you have a dog you think is aggressive , seek the advice of a professional immediately.

I adopted Penny from South Los Angeles animal shelter in 2008. She was a 3-year-old stray. At intake, she was underweight, had scabs that looked like they were from cage wires, and had recently nursed puppies. I later learned she wasn’t sure what windows were, was scared of things like brooms and frying pans (!), and was so terrified of having accidents that the one time I came home to a mess she was hiding in the closet. Then Penny started getting sick from chronic, untreated stomach issues and ear infections. The first five months, she was in and out of vets several times a month.

The fear aggression was a surprise. On our first walk, we were at a crosswalk and she turned into a growling, snapping monster when she saw the person across the street. Later, it was the clerk at the pet store. Pretty much any time she was unsure of her surroundings, she would lash out. With the vet bills rising, I couldn’t afford a consultation with a behaviorist; so, I started reading books on fear aggression. Lots of them. And I began training her myself. I made a lot of mistakes, too.

After 5 years of counter-conditioning, Penny is a much happier dog. She’s still learning how to trust, but she tries. She can even spend the day at work with me without growling. But fear aggression is something you can’t just “fix” once. I learned that when I took her to the ARF  fundraiser walk two Sundays ago. I put her in a situation where there were several hundred strange people and dogs and she responded by being stressed and reactive. I should have known better than to put her through that. It was a good reminder that even now I need to be mindful of her nerves and her reactions. It’s a process.

10 Tips for Working with Fear Aggression

For those with fear aggressive dogs, here are 10 things that worked for Penny. I don’t know that they’ll work for your dog, but they may be worth trying.

  1. Know your dog’s triggers. I had a white board on my fridge where I wrote every specific thing Penny reacted to. Eventually I narrowed it down to people approaching Penny straight on, Hispanic men, wheelchairs, hyper dogs, and children. The list gives you an idea of what to work on—and what to avoid. Don’t try “flooding” your dog with trigger exposure … it doesn’t work.
  2. Learn your dog’s body language. The ASPCA has a helpful list of dog body language with pictures. One of the things that helped the most with Penny was realizing how she freezes up right before a freak out. If I can catch it before the fear really sinks in, I can distract her (read: I can bribe her with treats).
  3. Read up on fear aggression. The Cautious Canine by Patricia McConnell is my favorite resource for fear aggressive dogs. It’s a small pamphlet (about 60 pages) that focuses, step by step, on how to recondition your dog in a positive way. Get it, read it, love it. I also really like this website.
  4. Use a muzzle. Yeah, I know they’re controversial. But you can’t control every situation, and you can’t train your dog if you’re scared of what she might do during the training. Her muzzle has saved us from some close calls. (Also, parents, don’t tell your kids to “go run and pet the muzzled dog.” Seriously, people.)
  5. Train with a Gentle Leader head harness. A lot of dogs—including Penny— don’t like a head collar, but it makes her so much easier to control. If she tries to lunge, it turns her in a little circle. I usually only use it for training now, but it helped a lot in the beginning.
  6. Let her growl. A growling dog may be embarrassing for you, but let her growl! Growling warns people that she’s not comfortable. Fear aggressive dogs trained to not growl often jump straight to lunging, snapping, or biting without warning. Trust me, you want warning.
  7. Provide a different behavior that’s accepted. For Penny, this was down/stay. Sit wasn’t enough. It needed to be something she could really focus on instead of the scary thing. And then, when she’d calmly lie there, I’d praise her like crazy. Eventually, whenever she got nervous she’d automatically lie down … much better than lunging!
  8. Train in a controlled environment. You want to build up to the scary stuff. Friends are a great help with this—I had Penny approach them on her own terms as they sat with treats. Early morning at the pet store was also decent  practice because it wasn’t crowded at that hour. Tell people about the fear aggression, by name, before they approach. I sometimes lie a little and tell people Penny was abused. I don’t know if the abuse part is true or not, but people respect Penny’s space more if they hear that (go figure).
  9. Go to the vet and rule out health problems. Penny’s ear issues made it so that she couldn’t hear people approaching. Some of her more erratic fear behaviors calmed once her ears were healthy.
  10. Be calm. Be patient. Know your (and your dog’s) limits. This is going to be a long process, and it doesn’t let up. You have to always “be on” whenever your dog is in public. You have to be the calm, patient leader. There’s probably years of bad behavior that you’re trying to overcome as quickly as possible. You’re going to get lots of dirty looks. People will say things, like how your dog should be put down, that will make you cry. Penny still has bad days, and there are things that Penny will probably never be comfortable with. That’s okay. And, hard as it is, if you can’t handle a dog with fear aggression or don’t have the time, the most loving thing you can do is place them with someone who can. It’s not admitting defeat.

So those are my 1o tips. Now, I appeal to my readers. Anyone have experience with fear aggressive dogs? What are your tips and stories? Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could build up a list of resources in the comments for fear aggressive dogs and their people?

WIP Wednesday: Dog Collars!

two sewn dog collars

At ARF’s Animals on Broadway fundraising walk and pet fair last Sunday, I saw lots of awesome dog items for sale. It gave me a hankering to make some collars. Thus, today’s works-in-progress (work-in-progresses?) are dog collars–3 of them to be exact. The first is fabric, the second is nylon web, and the third is knit. With bells. Collars need bells.

The fabric collar is the Olive’s Collar pattern from the book Liberty Love. I actually blogged about making it before on the Stash Books blog, but I feel like making another. The best part is that the pattern is available for free! You can download it using the link at the bottom of the Stash post. I know many local dog rescues appreciate when volunteers make collars for them; perhaps you might consider making one. I’m thinking of making two (one for Penny, one for the rescues) using a polka dot or geometric print. Maybe something in lime green? I’m feeling the lime green today.

This nylon web collar has been a UFO since 2008. It was supposed to be a gift for my mom’s {then)new dog, using a free pattern recommended by Camp Cocker dog rescue, but my old sewing machine didn’t like the nylon (it didn’t like much of any fabric really). I was so disgusted with the nasty-looking seams that I shoved the whole thing in my sewing basket and forgot about it.  Now that I have a nice, reliable Janome sewing machine, it’s time to revisit that mess of a collar. First step is ripping out all those old seams! You can even see them sticking out in my main image above–ick!

pom-pom yarn knit dog collar

Finally, knit dog collars are one of my staples for the craft fair junket come December. I keep them simple–just a little knit bit of color to slip on over the dog’s existing collar. I sew on a button for the closure. Easy peasy. This particular one is made of a pom-pom yarn that I think is discontinued now. I like how it looks like little snowballs (maybe I can cash in on the crazy popularity of the Frozen movie?). I have tons of these to make before November, so now’s a good time to get started. Too bad most of the dogs hate the bells (or maybe not too bad … bugging pets is fun!).

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced Modern Quilts.


dog sniffing collar

Penny approves of these new collars.


Dogs and Quilting …

… don’t mix.

dogs in unfinished quilt blocks

I think the lesson here is that if you’re cooking dinner for your mom, and you’re puppy sitting, and it sounds like all the critters are getting along … then you should immediately run to put away the quilt blocks you left out on the living room floor.

dogs in unfinished quilt blocks

Because they’ll be all up in your business.

dog playing in quilt blocks

Lucky me, I already took a photo of the layout for the WIP Wednesday post before the puppy tornado blew through. Now I just get to painstakingly reassemble the blocks. The dogs look like they had fun at least.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

Walkin’ at Animals on Broadway animal rescue fundraiser

I just registered for their annual Animals on Broadway fundraiser. Penny and I will be walking at Heather Farm Park in Concord, CA on May 18. For those of you who don’t know about Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF), they do great work saving dogs and cats from local high-kill shelters, and also feature a lot of human programs, such as donating pet food to low-income families with pets, pet therapy dogs, Camp ARF for kids to teach them how to interact with animals, low cost vet care, and a sweet program in conjunction with the local library where kids develop reading skills by reading aloud to trained dogs. If you’d like to donate, you can find my page here.

I hope to meet lots of awesome dog owners there, but I’m also hoping to bring in some donations. I put $50 as my goal, but I’m secretly hoping to bring in $100 and get a donor T-shirt. What can I say, I’m competitive. I appreciate any amount, no matter how small, as well as kind thoughts and comments too (those are freely given and gladly received!).

UPDATE: On 5/9/14, Purple Heart (renamed Violet) was adopted! Hooray! Thanks to everyone who helped spread the word about this sweet little dog.

A week and a half ago, I met the sweetest cocker spaniel at Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF). Her name is Purple Heart (horrible name, I know, but they use theme naming for each intake group  and she apparently drew the short straw).

Don't let the cone fool you ... she's good at finding a way into your lap!

Don’t let the cone fool you … she’s good at finding a way into your lap!

Poor Purple Heart came in with a lot of medical issues (cherry eye, spay complications,  torn ear, chronic ear infection — basically, “cocker stuff”). Thankfully she’s at ARF, which is blessed to have its own onsite vet. The volunteer I spoke to even said that their vet would cover a second cherry eye surgery if it “popped out again.” Again, standard cocker stuff. It’s not that gross really.

She needs a good home. She’s been there almost a month and a half now, and each week she’s getting passed up. People are probably nervous about her  health issues (which, granted, is a valid concern for anyone adopting a pet). It’s just sad because she’s such a doll–wiggly and cuddly, happy to see the other dogs on leash in the training yard … if I could take another dog, I’d snatch her up in a heartbeat.