Potty About Pets: Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum

February 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Potty About Pets member Inca enjoys a UK sunset.

It has been my habit for ten years now to participate in on-line forums. It is part of  a recurring process: gain a new interest, read all I can at the public library, buy a book or two at Village Books or a used bookstore, peruse all the established websites, then sift through forums on the topic, looking for a safe but challenging venue to share ideas. The earlier steps are relatively simple, but finding a good forum is a challenge, and I was very lucky to discover Potty About Pets. Like most internet forums, it welcomes a world-wide audience, but its moderators are British, and this leads to a mostly British membership.

Though my own interests lie in the Dog and Cat sections, PAP’s also has areas dedicated to birds, rodents, horses, and even reptiles. All pet lovers are welcome, and offered a place to share ideas or seek advice. Too many forums are set up by their Administrator then left to succeed or fail – PAP’s is moderated carefully by members Laplady and Brandykins, and its Originators/Administrators Micki and Zoe are still daily participants and moderators. People do disagree, and vehemently (go ahead and restart the Great Raw Food Debate, I dare you!). If there was not an atmosphere that allowed, even encouraged, discussion and debate, I would grow bored and stop participating. Courtesy and civility are required, however, and there are many very expert people contributing, so while rudeness is not accepted (no matter how expert one thinks they are, or even might be), people who spout off uninformed opinions will be castigated (albeit politely).   

Puppies are a regular topic at PAP's

I particularly enjoy seeing the photographs of dogs whose American versions are so often cropped or docked, a practice illegal in the UK. Great Danes, Boxers, Doberman Pinschers and others are presented whole – it is quite illuminating to not only see these differences, but read the opinions of people for whom this sort of thing is just no longer accepted in their culture.  

One of PAP’s greatest attributes is the presence of a dedicated professional trainer, Laplady (Tricia). Laplady recognizes there is more than one way to accomplish a goal with a dog, but she also has a breadth of experience and a proven history of success. That combination of open-mindedness and expertise is too rare, and it has been a great blessing to discover her. Tricia is a moderator of PAP, and visits daily, gladly answering questions and offering encouragement for folks dealing with canine behavior issues. There is no cost for this incredible service, only the requirement that one registers for the forum and maintains a polite demeanor.

Loki, a Utonagan, is Potty About Pet's most famous face.

Micki and Zoe, the Administrators, and Brandykins and Laplady, the Moderators, answered some questions for Positive Canine Guidance:

Administrators Micki and Zoe

When and why did Potty About Pets come about?
P.A.P’s was launched on the 29th Oct, 2007. After noting other forums often suffered from members with ego issues which lead to nastiness. I wondered whether there were any forums around which had everything I found positive, whilst lacking the negative behaviour.

I also found it difficult to find a forum which catered to a wide range of needs… This gave me the idea to create a forum where members could discuss a wide range of topics, and not be tied to just one subject such as pets. Although P.A.P’s is a pet forum by name, we have several different sections to discuss other issues. Some trivial, others more serious. I guess the one thing that unites everyone on the forum is a love of animals. You don’t even need to be a pet owner to be part of this community. When P.A.P’s was launched, I was hoping to give people a place that had a bit of everything. It is an ongoing piece of work, but I hope we are achieving what we set out to do. We are always open to suggestions from members on how we can improve on what we offer.

Luckily we haven’t had much serious conflict on the forum. We have suffered the occasional obnoxious member, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Members like that don’t tend to stay. I’m guessing because they can see that the forum isn’t a place that attracts people who want conflict.

We’ve had quite a ride so far. We’ve collectively celebrated marriages and births, recovery stories of pets, and countless firm friendships have been formed. We hope this will continue and that the forum has many more years ahead, attracting people from all corners of the globe.

How did Laplady (Tricia) become involved?
Tricia became a member of the forum the day after it was launched. She soon became valued by all members, due to her many years of canine training experience. She proved a huge asset to the forum, and with her advice she helped several members have great success in rectifying problems they were experiencing with their dogs. We offered her the position of “Forum Canine Behaviourist” — An unofficial moderator if you like. We later found ourselves in the position of requiring a second Moderator to support our existing moderator Rose in her duties of monitoring the forum. Tricia seemed to be the natural choice for the position, having established herself as a member who could offer specific support to others.

Do you know the moderators personally, in real life?
We didn’t know Rose or Tricia before the forum was launched, but we have met Rose since, and we do have telephone contact with them both.

What pets do you have now,and what pets have you had in the past?
Currently we share our lives with our dogs and cats. I also keep birds, and breed Senegal Parrots. We have 3 tortoises and have owned snakes in the past. Having two small sons we have the obligatory pet hamsters and two rabbits. In the past we have had a wide range of pets:  ducks, ferrets, rats, fish, all manner of rodents and birds ranging from small finches, parakeets, parrots, a crow and an owl. Our dogs are a retired racing Greyhound, a terrier, and two mixed Northern breeds.

Is there a professional angle on this, or is it strictly a hobby?
It is strictly a hobby. The ads members see are part of Pro-Boards and keep it all free; we just do it for fun and interest.

Loki, always a happy face.

The Moderators, Brandykins (Rose) and Laplady (Tricia)


What attracted you to PAP’s, vs. other forums?
I have been a member on many forums, both American (current affairs forum, pet forums and a Japanese/American forum) and other forums here in the UK. PAPs is by far the best for the sound advice given to members and support and I am talking from first hand experience regarding advice and support given to me for Loki when she has problems I need help with. It is the friendliest forum on the ‘net without a doubt. I enjoy every minute of being on PAPs.

Tell us about your amazing dog, Loki?
Loki is a Utonagan dog. The breed was brought out in the ’80’s from crossing several breeds: German Shepherd, Siberian Husky and Malamute, and others. They brought them out as wolf look-alikes. Loki is a very gentle and fun loving dog, and very intelligent. She loves children and everyone. Unfortunately, due to the fits, Loki forgot a lot of her commands, as epilepsy destroys brain cells but there are enough cells to compensate. She is learning again.                                               

Loki is on medication for the rest of her life, 2×60 gm Phenobarbs and 1 Potassium Bromide in the morning and 1 Pheno and 1 PB in the evening. I also give her a Milk Thistle capsule to counteract any liver damage caused by the Pheno. She is brilliant at taking her tablets, opening her mouth for me to let me pop them down her throat.

 Is Loki your first dog? First of that breed?
I never had a dog before I got Loki. My ex bought her but his mother wouldn’t let him keep her as she already had two dogs in the house, so he brought Loki up to me the next day and she has been with me ever since! I was thrown in at the deep end, but wouldn’t have it any other way!

How has PAP helped you as a pet guardian?
The support I receive from all the members has made it a lot easier for me to help and support Loki when she is fitting. I know that I can come on here and I get help and support. That means a lot. It isn’t just a forum exclusive to dogs, PAPs encompasses all pets, from cats, rodents, birds and other exotic pets, and it is educational to read about all the pets on Potty! There are threads which give advice on all pets and information on feeding for all pets.

Mirror Image

Laplady/ Tricia

Tricia, how did you come to be part of PAP’s?
I was a member of another pet forum, but it was so bitchy and the admin members thought that they were Gods, and spoke down to any member who didn’t toe the line, and it was I met Micki and joined Potty. It’s the only forum that I am a member of now,
and have found that it’s a family, and there are NO DIVA’S!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Tell us about your dogs?                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I only have Jaz now, a 20 year old border collie/ cocker  spaniel mix. I have bred GSD’s and Swedish Lapphunds. I have shown my dogs in breed shows, both open and championship, competitive obedience, working trials, and trained my dogs just for fun and interest, especially in agility. I have also judged at both breed and competitive obedience shows.

As a professional, why do you give away your knowledge on PAP’s?                                                                                                                I have been a trainer for 40 years, and the profession has been good to me. Over the years my business has grown by word of mouth and not advertising, My aim has always been to help dogs and owners to solve problems, and if that is to give free info from time to time, so be it. I feel privileged that owners of dogs have passed my name onto other owners.

Will you talk about your methods a little?
My training methods have changed over the years, from using check chains in the very early years when training guard dogs,  to now most of my training is clicker training, which is very adaptable from one person to another. Dogs and people learn at different paces, and don’t always get to grips with the timing aspect of the clicker, but that can be overcome with practice.

Sylvia Bishop (who placed and won at Crufts Obedience championships with her dogs), her gentle, calm method was an inspiration, then later on after other different methods and equipment had come and gone, I met, in around 1996, Kay Laurence. Kay was a pioneer of Clicker Training in the UK, and I was hooked right away. I found that dogs learn quicker and maintain the wanted behaviour without physical intervention.

I still get a buzz when both dogs and owners get that AH-HA! moment, even after all the years of training I am still learning. I believe that all pups should be taken to a 6- or 8-week basic training class, and that there are NO bad dogs born, just made by bad owners.

The Boss's Dogs.


Sidecar Sidekick

January 21, 2011 § 3 Comments

Strummer in a Mexican pool.

Chris Larson has been my friend for over twenty years, and while I do not see him often, it is always interesting to hear what he is doing. Chris has a special excitement about life. In preparing this article, and reflecting on my friendship with Chris, I realized that I have never known him to be in a bad mood. This is one of the many qualities that make him such a special dog person. Chris grew up on Capitol Hill in Seattle, and still lives there today. When Chris is not hanging out with his dog, Strummer, or girlfriend, Stephanie, he coaches high school soccer, and is the owner of Chris Larson Construction.

Tell us about your dog. Strummer is a 4.75 yr. old female chocolate lab. She weighs 43 lbs. (Can you say runt?) Whatever, we never wanted a show dog, just a friend! She came from a farm in Enumclaw, WA. We specifically looked at litters with small parents, with the idea that we’d get a small dog!

What is the source of her name? She is named after Joe Strummer, from The Clash. Love of The Clash has been a theme in my relationship with Stephanie, my girlfriend of almost 10 yrs.

Out for a ride on a hot day.

Tell us about your ride; it is very unusual. It’s a 1970 Chang Jiang 750. They were produced by the Chinese military until the late ’90’s. Originally designed by BMW in 1938, then the factory tooling was stolen by the Russians during WWII. The Russians gave the design and factory parts to the Chinese. It was used extensively by the People’s Liberation Army.

How did you train Strummer to ride with you? I started training her for the sidecar about a month before I picked it up. I started by putting my ski goggles on her and not allowing her to take them off. When I got the bike home I brought her out to the garage while I worked on it. When she was comfortable with the sound of the motor and vibration I turned the bike off and put her in the sidecar. I continued to work on the bike with the engine off making sure to jostle the rig as much as possible. Once I felt she was ready I fired the motor and she jumped out. I lead her back into the sidecar and continued doing other things and left the motor running. I then revved the motor and she jumped out again. I led her back into the sidecar and held her collar while I made her watch me operate the throttle then she figured it was me causing all the racket and chilled out.

Strummer in full regalia.

Do you use any special equipment to keep her safe? We bought a harness, and I made a 3 point restraint system for the sidecar. She can’t be bounced out of the chair! After all that I had a motorcycle jacket elbow pad sewn into a child size aviator hat, and the rest is history. She never fusses with the safety gear. There are inherent dangers with motorcycling, so I never allowed it to become an excitement or game.

Where all have you travelled with Strummer? Our longest motorcycle trip was an overnight camping trip to Orcas Island, We took her to Vashon Island, but mostly it is just around town or day trip/picnics with Mama Stephanie. We have taken her to Mexico twice and Whbistler, but not on the bike. Commuting to the job sites with her on the bike is a blast!

Atop Mt. Consitution on Orcas Island.

Can you tell if she likes riding in the sidecar? She’s pretty used to it, and sometimes just goes to sleep! She’s had her picture taken so many times she just ignores it now. It doesn’t matter what we do, as long as are all together, Strummer is having a blast! She stays in the sidecar when we go in restaurants and stores and such. I unhook her and take off her gear a she just chills. I’ll also toss my coat down for her outside just about anywhere and she’ll use it as a bed.

The family that plays together...

Does Strummer have other training? As far as training is concerned, she does all the command stuff and is rarely on a leash. I have Steph to thank for that; she’s a natural dog trainer. The only actual trick Strummer does is high five.

Chris, Stephanie, and Strummer in Mexico.

What other activities do you enjoy with Strummer? We run (w/ Mama almost every day, and me less so), hike, fetch (she can’t get enough of the tennis ball. She has them stashed all over Capitol Hill), swim (webbed toes you know), swim and fetch together… and she loves traveling to Whistler and Mexico with us. I can’t imagine my life without my girls: Stephanie, Strummer and Chloe (the cat). I am richer because of them!

A happy trio.

A Christmas Coda for Koda

December 25, 2010 § 7 Comments

                                                                                                    Koda was a calm and quiet passenger.

Last month I had the opportunity to spend the day with a Siberian Husky named Koda. My adventure with Koda led me to meet Cyndi Michelena, the Siberian Husky representative for the Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue.  Koda is eleven-years old, and was never house-trained. Older dogs are more difficult to adopt out, as are dogs that are not house-trained, so the Whatcom Humane Society arranged for Cyndi and the SPDR to take Koda, in the hopes that they could find a home for him.

Cyndi is a devoted admirer of Siberian Huskies, and has worked with the breed for many years. She lives in a rural setting and has a special husky-proof enclosure (huskies are among the most athletic of dogs, and like most northern breeds, they are enthusiastic diggers; a normal fence cannot contain a determined husky). An avid runner, Cyndi runs with her huskies every day, allowing them to burn off some of their almost boundless energy. Cyndi hoped to adopt out Koda through the SPDR network, and that would be the best outcome, but she was prepared to foster Koda indefinitely. This was going to be a great situation for Koda, the only problem was that Cyndi is 150 miles from Bellingham, in Kitsap County. My part in this was easy; all Koda needed was a ride.

Emily Wyss, the Foster Coordinator at WHS, had told me that Koda was a gentleman and seemed mellow around other dogs, so I brought Iggy and Frankie along for the adventure. Koda stayed in the very back, on the other side of the dog barrier; I set up a dog bed back there for him, and when we led him to the car from the WHS kennels, he hopped right in. Iggy and Frankie rode in their normal positions on the back seat. The three dogs greeted each other through the grate, and exhibited no hostile signals.  We stopped at NOAH in Stanwood for a little exercise, and Koda was quite fun to walk with – he had little leash training, but was naturally gentle, and though he didn’t come when called, he did come when I kneeled down and opened my arms.

We stopped in Seattle and picked up my father, who rode along for human company. When I was eight-years old, Dad gave me Call of the Wild, by Jack London. That book, read at that time, is one part of what led to my fascination with dogs. Dad doesn’t have any pets, but enjoys spending time with mine, and refers to them as his grandkids. Like me, he was impressed by both Koda’s appearance and demeanor.

Koda was quiet the whole way. He sat up most of the time, but for at least an hour or so he lay down – he might have been sleeping. Even with Iggy and Frankie in the car, and Dad and me talking, Koda was a perfect passenger. When we got to Cyndi’s place, Koda went right up to her and let her hug him.

                                                                                                     Koda meets his foster-caretaker Cyndi Michelena.

Cyndi confided in me that she did not expect Koda would be adopted. She thought she could house-train him pretty easily, but even though huskies can live to be over 15, it was unlikely anyone would take him at age 11. She jokingly referred to this as “foster failure” – sometimes fosters come to live with her and never get adopted, or she grows attached and adopts them herself.

Over the next few days she took him to the vet and got him medication for his ears (he had an ear infection), she took him running with her other dogs, and taught him to sleep in a crate in her bedroom. He got along with her other 5 huskies, and seemed to very much enjoy the company of dogs and people alike. Cyndi found Koda to be a smart, polite dog, and she enjoyed having him in her pack. 

                                                                                                                       Koda fit in with Cyndi’s pack of huskies right away.

Then something happened that was as remarkable as it was unexpected. A family came to meet a different dog, a younger one, and realized they would really struggle to meet the exercise needs of a younger husky. They were very enthusiastic about this breed, however, and were excellent applicants in other regards. Cyndi introduced them to Koda, and he liked them as much as they liked him. The family considered it for a few days and then decided to adopt Koda. Less than three weeks after coming to foster with Cyndi, Koda went to live with his new family. 

                                                                                                             A perfect ending: Koda enjoying some affection from his new family.

Siberian Huskies have many very positive qualities – people like Cyndi Michelena are attracted to them for a reason – and they also have some traits that make them challenging as house pets. This combination has caused a particularly large incidence of purebred huskies in Washington’s animal shelters. SPDR handled 164 husky cases in 2009. Cyndi was kind enough to answer a few questions about Siberian Huskies, and the work she does with the SPDR.  

How long have you been fostering and rescuing Siberian Huskies?  I first fostered for Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue in February of 1999, a 3 year-old male named Thor.  I found out about SPDR when I became a member of the Puget Sound Siberian Husky Club in January 1999, 3 months after my first Siberian Husky died at the age of 16.5.  I kept my first foster.  I fostered a second Siberian in May of 1999 for Eastern Washington Siberian Rescue near Colville, WA.  I drove there to pick her up; after having her a few months and someone was finally interested in her, I decided I was too attached to her so I kept her too.

How did you start doing this?   In November of 2000, the member of the husky club that was the SPDR Siberian Husky Rep decided to step down so I volunteered to do it.  In December of 2000, I went to my ‘training’ — I still recall coming to the room where they had the new breed rep training with a paper briefcase that had several pockets inside so you could file within the briefcase.  One of the other people in the room took a look at it and said, “Oh, you will have way more dogs than that briefcase can hold.”   I had no idea how many Siberian Huskies were in shelters or being given up by their owners every year.  Well, my first full year, 2001, I had over 300 Siberians, Just in Western Washington, that needed new homes that year.  Most were in shelters … most I had to leave there as I did not have enough foster homes to accommodate that many dogs.  I had no Idea how horrible it was for homeless pets. 

How many have you fostered?   I guess you could say, counting Koda, I’ve fostered 8 — but pretty much most of them that came to my home I truly was unable to let them go to another home.

What other animals do you work with or have living with you?    I currently have 5 Siberian Huskies, 4 barn cats (two of which came from a feral cat rescue group), three horses (2 Thoroughbreds and 1 Paint) which are from places that no longer wanted them, and two house rabbits, one from a neglect situation, the other from our local Rabbit Haven sanctuary. 

What information would you like to share with people about Siberian Huskies as pets? You may be sorry you asked this one!   

Cats are often considered lunch; sometimes the same with small dogs.  Other no-nos include gerbils, hamsters, mice, rats, rabbits, ducks, chickens, etc.  Most Siberians have a prey instinct.

Abilities: Sledding, carting, running companion, agility, obedience

Shedding/Grooming: Be prepared for Excessive fur – the downy undercoat sheds in early to late spring.

Best with: Experienced owners, preferably exercise-active owners; minimum 6-foot fence, very secure and inescapable either by climbing or digging.

Not for:  People who don’t have time every day to exercise a dog; those who don’t appreciate a self-thinker; people in apartments (they need running room).

Pros and Cons: The Siberian Husky has a delightful temperament, affectionate but not fawning.  This gentle and friendly disposition may be a heritage from the past, since the Chukchi people held their dogs in great esteem, housed them in the family shelters, and encouraged their children to play with them.  Today, it is charming to observe the special appeal that Siberian Huskies and children have for each other. Siberian Huskies are alert, eager to please, and adaptable.  Their intelligence has been proven, but their independent spirit may at times challenge your ingenuity.  Their versatility make them an agreeable companion to people of all ages and varying interests.

While capable of showing strong affection for his family, the Siberian Husky is not usually a one-person dog.  They exhibit no fear or suspicion of strangers, and will greet guests cordially.  This is not the temperament of a watchdog, although a Siberian Husky may unwittingly act as a deterrent to those ignorant of their true hospitable nature.  If they lack a fierce possessive instinct, they also lack the aggressive quality which can sometimes cause trouble for the owner of an ill-trained or highly sensitive guard dog.  In his relations with strange dogs, the Siberian Husky displays friendly interest and gentlemanly decorum.  If attacked, however, he is ready and able to defend himself, and can handle the aggressor with dispatch.

The Siberian Husky is a comparatively easy dog to care for. He is by nature fastidiously clean and is free from body odor and parasites. He is presented in the show ring well-groomed but requires no clipping or trimming. At least once a year the Siberian Husky sheds his coat, and it is then, when armed with a comb and a bushel basket, that one realizes the amazing density and profusion of the typical Siberian Husky coat.  Some people feel that this periodic problem is easier to cope with than the constant shedding and renewal of many smooth-coated breeds. 

Chewing and digging? Siberian Huskies do their share.  The former is a habit that most puppies of all breeds acquire during the teething period, and it can be curbed or channeled in the right direction.  Digging holes is a pastime that many Siberian Huskies have a special proclivity for, but in this, too, they may be outwitted, circumvented, or if you have the right area, indulged.

 The Siberian Husky is an “easy keeper,” requiring a relatively small amount of food for his size. This trait, too, may be traced to the origins of the breed, as the Chukchis developed their dogs to pull a light load at a fast pace over great distances in low temperatures on the smallest possible intake of food.

There is one final characteristic of the Siberian Husky which I must point out — their desire to RUN.  There are many breeds of dogs which, when let out in the morning, will sit in the front yard all day.  Not the Siberian Husky.  Their  heritage has endowed them with the desire to run,  and their conformation has given them the ability to enjoy it effortlessly.  But, one quick lope across a busy street could be the last run that they enjoy, ever.  Because of this, I strongly urge that no Siberian Husky ever be allowed unrestrained freedom.  Instead, for their own protection, they should be confined or under control at all times.  Sufficient exercise for proper development and well-being may be obtained on a leash, in a large enclosure, or best of all, in harness.  If you feel that it is inconvenient or cruel to keep a dog thus confined, then the Siberian Husky is not the breed for you.

A good website to read all about who the Siberian Husky is, especially for a first-time owner, is www.homelesshusky.com.

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