Sunday, December 20, 2015

Winter Moodies

Ye gods, the lack of updates. I guess I have a few excuses - this was my last semester of graduate school, and so my comprehensive exams took up a lot of my writing time. I could have done some small posts. Oh well, let's have a new one for the holidays.

Things were quiet this fall. As the girls approach maturity, they're settling in to their adult personalities, which causes hiccups as the pack adjusts to everyone's quirks. Zelda the skittish wild one is showing herself to be a cuddly lovebug, but still more cautious and shy than her bold sister. Midna, on the other hand, is made of swank and swag - she's clearly a top dog who faces any challenge with a hard stare, a disgruntled yip, and bullying body slam. They're both still a handful, but in different enough spheres that I get a little of everything.

My favorite part of the day is where they bite each other instead of me.

Bastas is slipping into winter mode, where his personality starts to shift because of hormones. As I've mentioned before, winter is the breeding season for wolves, and so some wolfdogs will experience seasonal behavior changes throughout the winter months. Some will be static cling beasts, while others get moody, temperamental, and more hard headed even than usual. Bast tends towards the latter type, and we've had little incidents over the last few weeks as the breeding season approaches.

Before anyone asks, yes, Bast is neutered - however scooping out his nards only removed the greatest source of testosterone, not the only one. Despite his lower wolf content and lack of cojones, I still get some of the fun of seasonal behaviors, though we've been fortunate enough thus far to avoid anything serious.

Crazy brains on fleek.

One of Bast's more charming winter behaviors is throwing out previously established rules as trash, particularly rules that revolve around the theme, "Don't pee in the house." His territorial instincts are heightened, and his need to establish his harem overrides his usual house manners.

After chasing him away from the Christmas tree a few times - and washing the skirt a few more when I wasn't quick enough - I had thought  we had re-established that peeing on the floor is a jerk move, however at lunch while  I sat munching a PB&J, Bast hiked on the doorframe to the kitchen.

I squawked and lurched up, chasing him out the back door and slamming it shut behind him. I stomped into the kitchen to get the enzyme cleaner - which I should probably invest in stock in - and came back to find him standing at the glass door, staring at me.

We locked eyes, and he stood still for a moment before turning to the side... and hiking his leg and pissing all down the glass door in front of me.

Loud and clear, buddy. I read you loud and clear.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Black and White Onyx

We got the opportunity to visit a wonderful wolfdog rescue this weekend, and they house Bast's half-sister, a high content named Onyx. She takes a great picture, doesn't she?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Mole People

Most any canine owner can commiserate with the problems of the relentless digging instinct in man's best friend. Thousands of ruined flower beds and backyards terraformed to resemble the surface of the moon are ample evidence for the pervasive jokes about and common knowledge of the fact that dogs just like digging.

Head bent over. Raise that posterior.

Wolfdogs sometimes get the added fun of a desire to dig amplified by the biological, genetic drive to design an actual, structurally sound, subterranean living space where they can retreat and possibly raise young. Their digging can range from funsies time tossing dirt clods everywhere....

We're just helping you plant more awesome citrus trees, Mum... (Source: Jennifer Reitman)

To the wolfdog version of a 5-star hotel, complete with authentic, naturally sourced construction materials that wouldn't be out of place in a Pottery Barn magazine:

Somewhere, an interior designer is weeping over not being able to turn that stump into a $15,000 chandelier.

More floor space than my first apartment, and probably fewer bugs,

A while back, I talked about Bast's ill-conceived, failed den projects.  He wasn't a great architect and so his den designs routinely collapsed into weird little trenches that I had to spend hours filling in. It looked like I had moles the size of schnauzers or something.

Bast won't be giving Frank Lloyd Wright a run for his money anytime soon.

Bast's Achilles' Heel was always his roofs. The loose, dry soil of our region just isn't great for subterranean lairs and his efforts always caved in. However, this summer, Bast must have hit the books. He and Zelda got to work and used a pile of discarded concrete in the back yard as a roof and together, scratched out a pretty nice Hobbit hole:

Since I worry about the concrete caving in, at least a couple times a week, I go out and jump up and down on top on the concrete to test its stability, figuring I would rather crush my ankle than one of my dogs. They've done a good job, however; the sides are neatly shored up and support the concrete pads, and all the chunks are balanced and secure.

At first, the den was Bast's domain. Anyone with four legs that approached got a stern growl, and two-legged invaders got disgruntled glares and ears that said, "Go away, I'm in my hidey hole." It took me a while to sneak up on him to catch him in there, and most times I just spotted two little black triangles peeking over the top:

Attempts to photograph him in the den made him uncomfortable, so I eventually just left him alone. Also, I suck at closeups and my camera focuses on weird crap, so I gave up.

Stawp, Mom, I don't want to be in your dumb blog.
Eventually, however, Bast let Zelda come in the den, and it has since become her favorite hideout. Zelda has always loved hiding in small spaces - one time, she hid behind the dryer so well that I panicked, thinking she had magically escaped the yard somehow. I ran around the block yelling her name like a dumbass before collapsing back into my house to find a pointy little face sticking out from around the silvery dryer hose. I've since learned to check all Zelda-sized nook and crannies before entering panic mode when she disappears, as she's usually wedged herself in some impossibly narrow gap.

Zelda is now 4 times as big as when we got her, but she still likes to be safe and surrounded by walls, so the den is her new hangout. She snoozes away her afternoons, often preferring to stay outside in the Hobbit hole rather than come inside to be in the air conditioning.

If I'm very sneaky, sometimes I can catch her in there and get the most adorable pictures ever.

Although I do miss having a neat, orderly yard, looking out to see Where My Wild Things Are is even better than a pretty lawn.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Mama Mia Mysteries

It's been a while; I have no excuse to offer except that I'm a bad blogger.

Since the spring, things have been quiet here. The girls continued to grow and mature, and Bast came down off his hormonal, seasonal jackass syndrome. I think the girls are finally done getting huge - their growth plates closed, at least - and they've settled in at a whopping 80 pounds. This was unexpected, since they were 19 pound bags of bones when I got them, and already close to 7 months old. I expected them to max out at 50 pounds, but they're now bigger than Bast.

Simply too big to be allowed

Although we initially believed the girls to be low to mid content wolfdogs, despite their size we now think that they may be something else - the general consensus is that they look and act more like coyote-dogs than wolfdogs.  When I first got them, I was told repeatedly that they resembled coydogs, but real coydogs are stupid rare; I know of only one legitimate breeder of them and she lives in British Colombia. I thus spent a lot of time talking with various rescues, sanctuaries, and private coyote and coydog owners across the country, convinced I didn't have coydogs, before finally accepting my fate; I probably do have coybeasts.

Coydogs are hard to produce for a number of reasons: firstly, it's hard to get coyotes and dogs to do the humpty hump to begin with, as coyotes tend not to see dogs as conspecifics, or something they can breed with. Dogs are for eats.

Well, okay, sometimes they're for snuggles...

In addition, you have issues of timing; coyotes are only fertile during late winter, males and females both. Since coyotes are monogamous and both parents raise the pups, coyote-dog pups in the wild rarely survive, especially if they are sired by a male dog onto a female coyote. Without a dedicated father to help feed Mama and the Horde, all of the offspring will die and Mama may as well. This means that accidental breedings between wild coyotes and stray dogs are much less frequent than urban legend would have you believe.

In captivity, if you can get a coyote and a dog to get it on at the right time, pups are much more likely to survive, however. There have long been rumors of various wolfdog breeders putting coyote in their lines, but it was all talk with no evidence to back it up. Unfortunately, in the past couple of years, that's changed and it's no longer a rumor. During our research about the girls, we met a lady with an animal that was the result of a roadside zoo throwing together various canine species to try to make something cool. The result was a mating between a coydog and a wolfdog, producing pups that were a mix of coyote, wolf, and German Shepherd. The pups were given out to whoever wanted one, and through various mishaps - mostly containment issues - all but one of the pups were eventually killed. 

After a bit of sleuthing, we tracked down a person that we believe may be responsible for having mixed all 3 canine species again, and who is likely the breeder of the Twins. As it turns out, a breeder who lives a bare 20 minute drive from where the girls were initially dumped on a ranch - by a woman who said they were too difficult to sell - previously bred coydogs and then moved on to breeding wolfdogs. She had been suspected of crossing the 3 previously, as an animal turned up in rescue near her kennels that looked suspiciously like a large coyote-shepherd mix - however there was never any evidence.

I can't imagine why these things are hard to sell...

We also do not have any evidence besides circumstantial, but it seems like a little too much to be coincidence - a breeder with coyotes and wolfdogs, who previously mixed the two, living 30 miles from where the girls were dumped on a ranch, and who would not answer any of my emails or attempts to contact her even just to ask about availability of any litters...


Gee, gang. I wonder whodunnit?

It doesn't really matter who did it, I guess, although I would love to know the Twins' history so I can know about health issues... But I doubt we'll ever know. From the story I was told, the mom and the rest of the pups dumped on the ranch were eventually killed, as well, so the girls are the only ones left.

Later, I'm sure I'll write ad nauseum about their behavior - the girls are super weird and their personalities have really developed over the past few months. They keep all of us on our toes...

And off them, as well...

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Oh My, Here We Are Again

It's been a while; we've been passing into spring with our ups and downs. The girls continue to grow and Bast continues to be weird.

That's my boy, the rocket surgeon.

This winter was particularly hard, looking back, as Bast was having an issue that in the wolfdog world is known loosely as Winter Wolf Syndrome. WWS, for those who aren't familiar with the term, is an informal term for seasonal behavior changes that wolves and some wolfdogs go through during the winter months.

In the wild, wolves are only fertile at one time of the year - during the winter months. In the rest of the year, male wolves' testosterone ebbs and their wee wolfy nads actually shrink to the size of peanuts - gentlemen, be glad you don't share that anatomical anomaly.

During this time, wolves can become testy and have mood swings, and this is true of some wolfdogs, as well. Although it's usually seen mainly in higher content wolfdogs, we ended up catching a few mild shockwaves of it here, probably because Bast is an F3, only 3 generations removed from having a pure wolf in his family tree, and because he comes from a particular bloodline that has a reputation for having bad 'tudes.

The falling snow knocks their brains out.

For some owners, WWS can be a very scary ordeal. Normally sweet-tempered, docile critters can turn into Jekyll and Hyde, Some owners of high content wolfdogs can even have animals that react so aggressively to their owners' presence, the owners cannot go into the animals' pens during the winter months or interact with them at all.

Bastas thankfully did not have as extreme a reaction as that, however his goofy, sweet, friendly demeanor was replaced by a pouting, sulking, skulking creature that avoided contact most of the time. Sometimes, several days would go by where he would not allow me to touch him at all. If I approached him, he skittered off across the yard, carefully maintaining his distance while avoiding eye contact with me. He would not respond to his name, would not come when I called, and on his worst days, would not even approach me at meal times to get anything to eat. Many evenings I stood in the doorway with my toes curled against the cold, trying to get him to come inside for bed-time, only to have to close the door in sadness having not even caught a glimpse of him in the yard.

If looks could kill, I'd have used up all my 9 lives by now and then some.

I didn't realize how much his behavior was weighing on my heart until, like magic, a couple of weeks ago he just stopped. No more avoidance, no more dodging when I reached out to pet him. As the snow melted, so did Bast's seasonal, hormonal resentment, and my sweet, loving boy came back along with the budding trees. As glad as I am to have him back to normal, it's sad to think that I probably have that behavior to look forward to now every winter for the rest of his hopefully very long life.

As much a delight to me as Bast is, living with the Wolf Crazies isn't always fun stories about catching mice and romping with the girls. These are complex animals that require a lot of work and dedication, and even then they can break your heart for no other reason than their instinctual nature.

Although, I guess given that I had his balls snipped out, he would probably say this is what I deserve. Thanks, you smug little turd.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Black and White Midna

I haven't taken any new pics in a while, so I'm reaching the bottom of my barrel. I'll do better next week.

Friday, January 30, 2015


It took 3 months, but we finally got the girls healthy - no more skinny-baninny bones sticking out, no more parvo or UTIs, just fat, sleek sneak thieves.

Being right in the trenches, it's hard for me to see the results of my literal blood, sweat, and tears, but the changes are incredible...

Mighty Midna

Zelda the Thieving Turd

Although the physical changes are easy to measure, their behavioral changes are a little more difficult to get a handle on. The girls are much more confident with me, but their socialization is... difficult. They hate strangers, especially men, and won't have anything to do with any of my social experiments, so we're changing tactics to work on their personal confidence first before moving up to meeting new people.

Spooky Midna wants no part of strangers... even if they offer her a Cheeto.

The Twins are endlessly curious. I think if you were to sequence their DNA, you'd find they're made of equal parts burning nosiness and skittishness. Their initial reaction to anything is fear - everything new is scary, and we must retreat and chuff at it from a safe distance. This includes: moving any piece of furniture in the house, mysterious piles of laundry that appear while being sorted, setting the groceries down in the kitchen floor, or random objects moving in a breeze.

One thing that we do to help the girls overcome fear of everyday things is to include them in household chores. They're comfortable enough with me to follow me around the house and investigate what I do, and only occasionally do they get spooked and tear off, leaving nothing but the sound of skittering toenails and the sporadic puddle of urine behind them.

Last night, the Twins helped me load up the dishwasher. This sounds pretty blasé, but realize this means I have multiple, unknown objects in my hand at any given time and stack them up in a big, cavernous box that opened up in a previously solid cabinet. Add in a fear of forks, and you understand why this is a big step for us.

I admit, I'm not a dog trainer. I don't know all of those fancy terms like R+ and R- (I made have made those up, in fact, I'm not sure), I just sort of muck about to find out what works and what doesn't work for my specific dogs. For Bast, who had a lot of confidence, it was a matter of getting him to remember he's a big boy and most of the world isn't out out to get him.

The girls have required me to reassess my strategies, because they've never had any confidence, and up to this point, the whole world HAS been out to get them. Getting them to understand I'm not going to hurt them and nothing in my house will intentionally hurt them, either, is taking some time.

I didn't realize it, but subconsciously, I must have reverted back to my meager experience handling horses growing up, because we've adopted a pattern of showing the girls various items, letting them approach it on their own terms, and then running the item across their bodies to let them see it doesn't hurt them, much like introducing young foals to leads and halters.

It makes sense now that I actually analyze it - the girls are more akin to unbroken horses than puppies, what with their intense curiosity and their tendency to flight before fight. Also, they leave giant prairie pies in the backyard, so they must be at least part pony.

Anyway, we did this song and dance while loading up the dishwasher, and although many of you out there will cringe thinking of me running my silverware across the back of a grody wolfdog, let me tell you, my standards for what is "gross" are nowhere near as high as they were before owning a wolfdog. Like first-time parents initially balking at changing a diaper, you just get over that.

Each item, I held out in front of me as an offering, and the skittering little phantoms came close, low and slinking, to cautiously put their noses against it and investigate. When they seemed sufficiently at ease, I let the object move from their noses to their faces, around the top and under their chins, until I could lift and remove it from their heads and they didn't flinch away. Then I put it away in the dishwasher, safe and innocuous, and we moved on to the next item.

As the girls learned that kitchen objects aren't as scary as they thought, I also learned which ones are much scarier than I thought. From my observations, I compiled Zelda and Midna's List of Scary-Ass Kitchen Utensils:

Forks - Kinda spooky at first, but then we remember they usually have food stuck on them. Pass.
Spoons - Ditto on the food particulates. Pass.
Knives - Dunno. Not allowed to lick these for some reason, but not overtly spooky. Pass.
Spatulas - Vague unease. Why are they so big? It doesn't have food on it. Why do you want this? Pass.
Whisk - Jesus wept, what the fuck IS THAT? WHY DOES IT HAVE SO MANY PARTS? IT'S... Oh, okay... It's got some sort of egg smell on it, that's pretty rad. Okay. We can deal.
Pie Server - No. Just no. There is no amount of delicious pecan pie stuck to that thing that will ever make it okay. Put it away. We won't come back until you do.

Our experiments in relative object spookiness will continue...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Black and White, Learning by Doing

A brief, terrifying story for you all.

In our mousecapades, Bastas accidentally killed a few by fox-pouncing on them. I say accidentally because afterwards, just like a toddler who doesn't understand cause and effect, he mopes around the house for hours when his toy stops moving.

Monday morning, as we prepared to take the girls in for their spay, we startled a mouse that Bast delightedly stomped out in the livingroom, in full view of the Twins and my traumatized mother, who had graciously come over to help me wrangle the girls for their surgery. My mom, unused to the casual sociopathy of my animals, described Bast river dancing on the mouse as, "Like one of those little stress balls. I could see its eyes bulge out every time he pounced."

I took this last year and never saw the signs of incipient, stomping psycho.

He's sort of a psychopath.

Unfortunately for me, the Twins are exceptionally clever at watch-and-learn. Zelda, after watching how I opened the microwave and produced food, learned how to use her abnormally huge schnoz to press the buttons and open the door on her own. The morning she figured that little parlor trick out, I bet I had to get up and shut that god forsaken microwave a dozen times before I ran out of patience and banished her outside to find a new game. Go chew up the hose or something, just do it quietly.

After seeing Bast sail through the air and snuff the life out of a living creature, the Twins became eager to practice their own mouse-mashing techniques, and in the absence of any mice (so far), demonstrate their pouncing prowess on other household items, such as: piles of clothes, grocery bags, newspaper circulars, my midsection, unsuspecting toys, leaves in the wind.

The other day, Midna sashayed in the living room after punching the back door open and popped onto the couch to favor me with a kiss. Her friendly duties thus attended, she dug furiously into the couch cushions, using her enormous, paddle-like feet to uproot a section of pillow and throw it on the floor. She hopped off the couch, reared up like a pony, and vigorously stomped the cushion into flat submission before flicking her tail and trotting off out the door without a backwards glance.

I sat and eyeballed the flattened, lumpy corpse of the cushion, and couldn't help but wonder if that will be my internal organs some day when they get bored of stomping pillows.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Teaches of Meeses

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled sillies. Get hype.

Over the past few months, a lot of small furry creatures took up residence in my home. The Twins, we wanted.

Well, sometimes.

I was in the bathroom for 2 minutes, you little buttholes.

Other small furries, not so much. With the approaching winter, a small mouse started appearing in the living room in the evenings. It skittered across the floor, picking up random crumbs dropped by my conures (bird owners, you know that crumbs are a part of life with flockers around), and usually disappeared in a flash.

Being sort of a softie, I let it be. What was it hurting, stealing a crumb here and there? No big deal.

I can hear the faint laughter of seasoned rural dwellers even as I type this.

As mice are wont to do, one mouse became two mice. And shortly thereafter, two mice became six mice, and I had a problem.

I thought that living in a household with several agile, prey-driven half-breeds would sort of take care of my mouse problem on its own, but I hadn't accounted for Bast's goofiness. Although Bast dearly enjoys chasing the mice, he prefers to take them alive.

And then bring them to me, still alive.

This is adorable, except that occasionally in the evenings, Bast will come to me with his cheeks bulging and barf a very much alive, slobbery mouse into my lap. One memorable day, he did this 3 times.

Since I'm still a wiener, I didn't want to just kill the mice... They were young, and inexperienced, so I put them in a box and did what I do for all small things that cross my path - feed them.

Come on. They're so cute. How can I just kill them?

Unfortunately, my soft heart won over my good sense, and the mice I spared from a grim death escaped, and the Twins started to notice them.

As you can probably guess, having spent most of their lives in a state of starvation gave the Twins some... issues... when it comes to food. They will snack on anything that even smells like food, so I have to watch my food wrappers lest they disappear in the the gullets of the ravenous sneak thieves. With mice already smelling like food, and adding in the excitement of the chase, the Twins don't have any of Bast's reservations about eating their catches, and their hunts are more... rigorous.

The other night, I spotted a mouse panhandling under the parrot cage, and I called Bast to come help me catch it. Only, Bast didn't answer me. Zelda did, and before I knew it, the mouse disappeared into her mouth. I crouched down and called softly to Zelda, saying to her, "Baby, can I have that? Can I have the mouse? Baby, it's grody, can I have that?"

Zelda met my gaze with a level stare for several seconds. Without breaking eye contact, her mouth clamped, and a single, fat drop of blood beaded out of her mouth and fell to the floor with an audible splat.

Nevermind. You can have that one, Princess.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

B&W Sunday and Apologies

Hi all! I know most of you are here for the pics, so let's get that down :)

I hope that you guys will forgive my lack of posts recently... To say it's been a tough month would be an understatement. As the girls age and come into their own, they've begun testing limits and boundaries, and I end every day exhausted. I promise to write more about their silliness - we have some hilarious stories involving mice - but my muse has been lacking recently (if you couldn't tell by the cringe-inducing amount of passive voice I've used in this short paragraph already. Somewhere, my thesis advisor is feeling an inexplicable wave of disappointment.)

Aside from the woofers, my personal life experienced an upheaval as well, as my mother was recently diagnosed with lupus-related encephalitis, which causes her brain to swell and press against her skull. As if the sound of that weren't enough to give you the willies just from reading it, it unfortunately caused some very... intense... personality changes, causing my normally loving mother to change into someone we didn't recognize. It's scary for her and scary for us, and it's left me emotionally drained when it comes to expressing myself.

I know that most people come here to read about my silly dogs, and see pictures, and I will get back to that as soon as I can. I just wanted to explain why it's been sort of quiet here and hope that you guys will bear with me for a bit.

Much love,

The Wolf Crazies