Sunday, August 20, 2017

Belly Up

My newest rescued setter Sherlock has been dominance subjugated (I hate to say trained) by his previous owners…and he's a classic case of appeasement belly up and freeze with a nervous tip of the tail wag. He's totally ticklish and hates being touched or stroked below the waist, front or back. I can empathize, I'm totally ticklish too, all depends on the timing and the calm strength of the touch. I'm working on desensitizing Sherlock to enjoy gentle but firm butt rub massages. So far this is only possible when he's totally relaxed on the sofa or waiting for treats from a trusted friend, and more receptive to or else totally distracted from complaining about massage style new experience around his lower back (clearly he only expects pain there). I can only touch his rear hindquarters or belly and genital area when he's in the shower being lathered up.
A recent post at Reisner Veterinary Behavior Services talks about people who are not aware of this and think belly up is asking for a belly rub, ending up being shocked when they get bitten. 
Like kissing, the belly-up position is one of the most misunderstood interactions in the human-dog social lexicon.... It’s not uncommon for dogs to lie still while their belly is being rubbed, then quickly snap or bite at the hand as it’s withdrawn. (While the hand is doing its rubbing, they are likely in “freeze” mode, quickly “thawing” to a defensive bite when it’s done.)...Is rolling on the back ever an invitation to pet and rub, then? ...Unless you know your dog very well, it is safest to assume they’re uncomfortable. A good test is to sit nearby or walk away, clapping your hands and talking in a silly, happy voice. Most dogs will flip upright and join you happily, unstressed.
Dogs don't bite out of the blue. We just need to have the right phrasebook.
You can see by Nobunaga's wide smile that he's ready for dog-human interaction of any kind from belly rubs and pats to playful tug-of-war sessions...he's ever the first to relax, lie down and eventually roll over to invite play if there's no interaction coming. If there's still nothing happening after a greeting interlude, he'll play dead as we try to walk on, and I have to drop the leash, walk up the street and do a mini recall session to make him feel noticed and loved.
Photos by Yakob Miyajima

Saturday, August 19, 2017

English Setter Thunderstorm

 With an almighty thunvderstorm coming through it's been a wild ride on the's an incredible photo from my photographer friend Vincent van den Storme to give you an idea of the unleashed fury!
Fortunately my setters are not the least bit thunder sensitive, although Claire came by to let me know she wanted a chewy. Nothing like a good chew to keep calm and forget the weather is wild out there.
 In spite of knitting for charity, my babies still have their own fantastic doggie scarves knitted up over the years...I washed and aired them today, and rather than starting on a new knitting project (although I have a couple in my mind, some new short row techniques to be attempted and plain purl combination patterns to be explored) I took these pics. 
 Sherlock is sporting Chiaro di Luna's wee scarf, and Nobu even has two scarves to choose from, a red Puppy yarn tweedy one and an orange Italian fluffy one.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Setter Scarf Basketweave with Forget-me-nots

Basketweave with Forget-me-knots took a while to make as I was busy finding the yarn for the embroidery, and clearing the backlog of laundry after the incessant days of rain. It's totally inspired by Chiaro di Luna, so made to go well with creamy fur: when I made the embroidered roses scarf, it jumped into my mind and would not let go, so it was a kind of high to go with the flow and make it happen.
While I was knitting I was glancing over Facebook, and a Japanese doggie acquaintance was talking about Ted Andrews book, Animal Speak. I didn't want to go clogging my bookshelf with another tome, so I got on the net and found a digest explaining various animal meanings, in particular, dogs: 
It takes a lot to break a dog’s spirit. Its ability to love, even when abused, is tremendous. Its spirit and willingness to love and to be a companion is great. Study your dog. ...If dog has come into your life as a totem, ask yourself some questions. What is this saying about your need for or lack of companionship? ...Do you need to be more protective of your territory? Do you need to play a little more? Are you being faithful to yourself? Does you spirit need bolstering? How about those around you? Examine your territories. Dog knows its home ground, and if it has shown up, its energies and lessons will touch you personally.
All very deep and interesting, and as I read and pondered and knitted, I felt something in my hair, and reached up to brush off what turned out to be a white flower spider. I'd never seen a white spider before, so after realizing what it was, I eased it onto a handy piece of paper and blew it away outside. At which point I realized this was a very encouraging and lucky omen, Chiaro di Luna was a cream setter too, and so the knitting of Forget-me-not is doubly blessed. May it bring great happiness to its future owner, and lots of funds for Gundog Rescue CACI.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Setter Scarf Basketweave with Roses

One good thing about the rain is I have oodles of time to knit as the washing piles up and the dogs snooze. Today finally cloudy but no rain, so after a decent long walkies and three loads of washing, I shampooed Claire in the knowledge that today at least the towels will dry. She's happily snoozing all pristine clean for the photo of my latest doggie scarf creation, Basketweave with Roses.
 It goes without saying the knitting stitch is basket weave, alternating four plain and four purl stitches over five rows on my Clover size 7 bamboo needles to get the weave pattern. It's the real deal UK Rowan lightweight dk yarn, both for the scarf and the bullion rose stitch embroidery. Since the scarf will be auctioned for funds to support a volunteer organization, Gundog Rescue CACI, which save and rehabilitate  abandoned English pointers and setters from death in the pound, the English yarn has special significance. Basketweave with Roses fits 36-42cm necks, roughly the neck size of my three setters.
 My sweet Chiaro di Luna popped up on my Facebook feed, reminding me it's the Japanese Bon season where the souls of the dead come home. She's inspiring me to make another and probably final scarf, Basketweave with Forgetmenot. I'll keep you posted. To work!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Setter Scarf English Woodland

When you fall in love with new yarn and bring it home, you knit or crochet individual little swatches to see which type of knitted fabric or crochet pattern will bring out the colors and texture of the yarn. Fortunately a couple of these abandoned crochet squares turned up, enabling me to whip up the complementary scarf to yesterday's pink English Rose. 

The colors reminds me of an English Woodland, with ethereal harebells and fuzzy light: with soft blue alpaca/mohair leftovers from a sweater, some fluffy blue-green Puppy Chieti wool/mohair, a little Rowan rowanspun and lightweight dk, and some Japanese boutique Sheep Meadow natural dye yarn, it's a glorious mix of Japan and the UK. There are so many words for woodland habitats associated with hunting and gundogs: a copse is a small woodland, then there's grouse coverts and even spinneys, the small woods associated with hunting for partridges, pheasants, woodcock or other game. But for the sake of simplicity, the scarf is simply named English Woodland.
Nobunaga is in a good mood because we had fresh fried chicken gizzard topping on the kibble for supper, a special treat. After supper I'd been trying to coax Sherlock to relax and model the scarf with some more training treats and it wasn't going very well: when he doesn't understand what he's supposed to do Sherlock gets all tense and worried which defeats the purpose. At any rate Nobu came to the rescue, muscling in on the action for some extra goodies: watch me Mum, I can do handsome when I am in the mood. Depending on whether you tie the square knot with deep blue over the top or pale green, the scarf has a slightly different effect: it looks so cute on Sherlock!

Setter Scarf English Rose

Hunting in my yarn stash I found some abandoned crochet motifs and decided to make them into the body of a third handmade one-of-a-kind doggie scarf donated for the Gundog Rescue CACI charity auction. While the base of the scarf is Rowan Lightweight DK in double moss stitch, the soft feel in the bow comes from an incredible treasure, hand-spun yarn gifted me by a friend, Rowena. 
Rowena and I met many years ago in a craft chatgroup before the age of Facebook, and in spite of fewer photos to share and no other visual modes of expression other than font, we became friends and exchanged small parcels of handicraft goodies. This although we have never met face-to-face: bridging the Pacific Ocean, we remain friends over time and space...and so her gift of yarn is finally bearing fruit in a charity project, so fitting of her sweet and giving not to mention dog-loving personality, to grace my third English setter scarf, English Rose. Don't worry, I have still saved a small amount to treasure- thank you so much, Rowena!  
 This has got to be a scarf for a lady, I can't see a boy doggie wearing it...Lady Claire is modelling it to perfection. It will fit a neck size 36~43cm, and I could even imagine a doggie Mummy wearing it as a small human scarf pinned with an ornate brooch rather than tied round a doggie neck with a reef knot which is your basic Japanese knot. Whatever, says Claire, we're waiting for breakfast here...

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Setter Scarf Autumn Colors

 Hand knitted double moss stitch scarf number two in autumn hunting hues, some other yarns mixed into the main Rowan Lightweight DK wool, odds and ends of soft cashmere mixes in broccoli sprout green and dark moss, with some tomato dyed soft green in lighter hues.
 The sweeties are waiting for breakfast after a long morning walkies, but I managed to coax some setter poses out of Sherlock with a bit of banana.
 Since it's a knit, there's a bit of stretch in there even though it is blocked and it is good for Nobunaga's neck size too (36~43cm), although Nobu's not too keen on photos after the long walkies, he's a bit overheated and trying to cool down. Who wears it better, Sherlock or Nobu? It's going to the Gundog Rescue CACI weekly charity auction or raffle, sending it over tomorrow if I can pop to the post office. Join the group and make a bid by posting a sum higher than the previous bidder in the comments, deadlines Sunday evenings 10pm. Not sure when it will be on the block, but hope the two scarves will raise a pretty penny or two...

Friday, August 11, 2017

Ribbon-type English Setter Scarf

Thinking about how I can help raise funds for Gundog Rescue CACI, the volunteer NGO rescuing English setters and pointers here in Japan...and wondering if anyone would be interested in buying a doggie scarf and how much they would be willing to pay. I knitted one up to see how long it would take...about 4~5 hours of knitting and a bit of crochet, then darning in the ends while listening to sci-fi short stories on Mindwebs...Ursula Le Guin rocks, as usual.
 Blocking on the tatamis, the Rowan 100% wool yarn in double moss stitch holds its shape well and is reversible, and I've decreased for the knot, so you can tie the scarf up neatly like a judo obi or kimono tie. Now I need to discuss it with the auction committee to see if there's any interest, and just how much people would be willing to pay/donate. Claire is so great at modelling, lifting up her head to show how it sits round her throat, 36~38cms.
I'm not sure I'd be able to make that many...but it was fun changing the colors and adding a wee bit of Italian yarn in there for variation...would that make it more suited for a raffle item? If it doesn't find favor, at least Claire has another cute accessory to look forward to wearing this winter.
A wee peek at Sherlock, who is about Claire's size in looks good on cream fur too, methinks!

Cool summer rain

Mummy seems to have caught a cold, and spent the whole day in bed yesterday...a bit wobbly on her feet today, but fortunately the other parent is in charge of walkies, shopping and cooking..Today it's rainy, so walkies was once round the block, towel dry and back to snooze with Mummy, who is valiantly tottering round the kitchen doing the dishes, hoovering gently and holding back another bout of vomiting...
Lady Claire has her favorite armchair, Sherlock is ensconced on the Kirkland doggie sofa, and Nobunaga is in his cage with its fluffed up pink blankets...with the fans keeping the damp air moving, it is blissfully cool and relaxing in the house. Back to bed for me too...

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Respectful Gazes

There's this special word in the dog world for the last straw that broke the camel's back, "trigger stacking"...something to be particularly aware of when the grandkids and their parents come by, and the peaceful bliss of our three setter domain is encroached by sudden squawks, insistent bawls, mechanical chirping and tweeting toys, the rattle of marbles on the wooden floor- setters are so sensitive to noise, being ninja bird stalkerss, aware of every tiny rustle of bird in the brushes!
 Then there's the physical infringement: stumbling babies, grappling siblings and flying toys at eye level no less! mention but a few. Big heffalump humans suddenly thumping down on a sofa usually reserved for circumspect quiet dogs and slow elderly humans. Not two but six humans milling around in the same kitchen space at meal times...

Not to mention the tantalizing scents and teasing display of luxury treats: Delicious! but now somehow inexplicably off-limit food like bananas or rice crackers being carried around by tripping toddlers at nose height...English setters are most obliging dogs, but there comes a moment when too much becomes too much, which is the dreaded "dog bite threshold". Yaletown Dog Training point out that prevention is the way to go: 
 Prevention is the way to go. Know your dog’s triggers and do your best to avoid putting him into those situations that just might push him too far.
As a Granma I'm constantly aware of the stress my setters must feel-Mum is in charge of the human stress the kids feel about deferring to dogs or being a little fearful of the big setters. My doggie mama job is to watch my setters' doggie demeanor carefully and protect them from overload. I orchestrate kiddie walks to play in the park (too hot for the setters outside), prepared an air-conditioned family room upstairs with toys. Fortunately the dogs have their own safe spaces in their cages or under the table to retire to and are thus good at managing their own stress. The children were nice and respectful, not petting much at all, not thrusting faces in the dogs' space, averting gazes to show respect. Good job, little ones! 
The sudden descent of silence when they're gone: relief, tinged with regret and longing for their darling presence...when will you come again sweeties?
Thanks to Kristi Benson for bringing the excellent Yaletown blogpost and trigger stacking visual to my notice.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Granma Morning Rush

 Breakfast and bath for the wains sorted while the doggies were out walkies, now to let the dogs cool down and have their brekkies...Granma's eating on the run...

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Tokyo Hoarding Pupdate

The Edogawa hoarding clean-up and rescue of a total of 85 dogs (including 17 still with the owner) continues apace, and welcoming homes are urgently required. If you're interested in helping out with cutie beagle mixes, please get in touch with Gundog Rescue CACI (FB link). There's an absolutely adorable 10month wee beagle boy called Robin with video available at YouTube account 36coconuts if you like watching videos. Of course you could be interested in a pointer, setter or brittany spaniel too. Or else, check it out, and just donate: every penny helps. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

English Setter Threesomes

Just recently a great blog with helpful ideas on training dogs with analytical insights, Eileen and Dogs, celebrated five years of blogging. Congratulations! The site was particularly helpful to me last year while I was trying to find ways to help Sherlock calm down and learn the ropes. I realized that I've been blogging six consecutive years now myself! 
Six years with rescued English setters here in the metropolis in Japan: Happy birthday, Lady Claire! As Japan gears up for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing memorials, I remember the Tohoku Earthquake and tsunami which devastated the north of Japan, and the ensuing man-made nuclear disaster which continues to pollute our soil and oceans. 
Adopting Claire is our response to the horror, trying to contribute in some small way to healing. I guess it's insignificant on some level, but for Claire and us, it has been a joyous and fulfilling journey. Much gratitude also to Gundog Rescue CACI, the English setter and pointer rescue who brought these beautiful English setters in to our lives, and still continue to fight for the welfare of abandoned bird dogs in Japan.