Cura and I have been together since 2009. We want to thank all of you who followed the early days as well as those who popped back on occasion during the long hiatus. Training was done, the days passed, and we were settling into our life together.
Fast forward: Cura is slowing down and a new member of the family is in training. On top of that, we are all busy with our new calling . . . Running the Training Department for Paws and Stripes. Join us on our journey!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

DNA Test Has Arrived!

The wait has ended!  Tuesday the long awaited DNA test results came in the mail.  But, before I spill the beans, I would like to share some of the breeds that some people thought might be in Cura's make-up.  All of the guesses come from people who have frequent contact with Cura so they have quite a bit more to go on than just pictures. Unfortunately, there were no guesses from anyone who was only going by the pictures -- or maybe I should say fortunately, because you would have been at a SERIOUS disadvantage given the results of the tests.

Watermelon Mountain Ranch listed Cura as a Black Labrador Retriever Mix.  I suspect that this was not their determination, but the classification that came with her from the City Animal Shelter that she was (fortunately for us both) whisked away from in February of 2008 -- thank you AGAIN Lady Liberator!  And, she certainly IS Black -- well sort of (more on that later).  She has the folded/V-shaped ears that are associated with Black Labrador Retriever, webbing between her toes, short, straight and wiry fur, and a tail that could beat the living daylights out of you if it didn't curl.  If her tail was straight, I might have welts on my thighs -- as it is, it tends to move in the canine equivalent of the traditional 'Float Wave' (elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist) when she gets particularly happy.  Even so, she did manage to knock over a wine glass at a recent dinner party we had -- fortunately, the glass was mostly empty AND she knocked it over onto a tray, making clean up VERY easy!  My Sychic Syster was one of those lovely souls who voted for the Black Lab -- well, to get to the point -- according to the DNA test NO Black Labrador Retriever (or Yellow Labrador either)!  Am I surprised -- nope!  Why?  She is too tall and slim and the characteristics that were being identified with Black Labs were not UNIQUE to that breed -- though I will admit that I also would not have been surprised if Cura DID have Black Lab in her make-up, I just had a hunch that that was not what was giving her the characteristics that were associated with Black Labs.  Now, take a look at some of Cura's pics (sorry, blogspot is being persnickety - you will have to check out various photos that have been posted on the site and in past blogs) -- while I do not yet have a picture of her in a similar pose without her equipment -- she is simply not as 'compact' and 'bulky' as a Black Labrador Retriever tends to be.  

So, what were some of the other attempts at identification?  Greyhound (that was me because of the way she runs), Plott Hound -- this actually was a pretty good guess -- take a look (photo to the left)!  Cura's tail is more curled and her ears are not quite as long, but she has the long legs, deep chest, and general facial features of a Plott -- but, there was no Plott Hound listed in the Cura Recipe (BTW: Plotts also have the long toes and webbed feet that Cura has -- though you can't see it in this photo).

Doberman Pincher was also put forward as a possibility -- you can't tell from the pictures, but Cura has a brown undertone to her Black fur -- especially on her legs (hey, and notice that the above shown Plott has a kind of Black and Tan coat -- how deliciously CELTIC is THAT!?).  Another suggestion was a Boxer -- again with the whole Black and Tan motif combined with Cura's tendancy to use her front paws when playing/wrestling (no, she doesn't wrestle with me).  Surprise, surprise -- neither of these were identified by the DNA test either!  

SO WHAT IS CURA, you ask!?  Well, as annoying as it may be, I have it on good authority of someone who has managed to have a successful blog that brevity is the key -- so, tune in later for Cura's ACTUAL  results!

Luv to you -- official, unofficial and frequent, AND occasional visitors ALL!

Check back soon! You will be amazed at the way genetics can blend!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fur Ball 2009

What a great night! And what made it so great? Funnily enough it was the normalcy of the entire evening and the fact that I was actually out and about 'on my own' socially (and by that I mean just Cura and myself) for the first time in YEARS! Cura and I have been building towards this activity since she came home and it has actually happened!

In the spirit of honesty, this was not a completely unsupported venture and not everyone was a complete stranger -- but it was a good compromise . . . considering. Rick and Heather (our trainers for those who are new to the blog) were there -- they were providing pet sitting services for those who chose to bring their animal companions to the animal blessing before the event and stay for the fundraiser. Also, since it was a fundraiser for Watermelon Mountain Ranch No-Kill Shelter, there were a few people from the Ranch that I 'knew' to some extent because they have either been involved in Cura's care (when she was Whoopee!!) in some way or have taken an interest in Cura's post-adoption life. But I was seated with none of these people so, to some extent for at least part of the evening, we were on our own (though we had the option of fleeing to familiar shores, if needed).

Before I go much further, I feel compelled to call your attention to a couple of the first pictures of both Cura and me taken that night -- some of the first pictures of the two of us out and about together. I believe the pictures should be credited to Heather -- though both she and Rick took photos that evening. It is nice to have some photos of both of us together -- doesn't Cura look great?! Smiling and cheerful in one and seriously working in the other . . . What you don't see is the numerous other dogs that were either in crates or on leash around her at the time -- what a star (yes, I am biased -- so sue me!).

Now, back to the lovely evening . . .

I have had about a week to digest the experience and I am still just as happy about the evening as I was when I got home that night -- which, by the way was rather early by many people's standards. But since our day out began with several errands before a morning committee meeting (another 'new' thing since Cura's arrival), followed immediately by more errands and a dash home to change and make it to the animal blessing at 4pm -- I think that 9:30pm was a very respectable time to get home. Besides, we stuck around until the dancing and loud music got underway. I figured if the music was a bit too loud for me, it must be BLARING for Cura and decided that it was a good time to excuse ourselves.

I mentioned that one of the best things about the night was how normal it was . . . let me explain. We got to the blessing just a bit early but it did not start anywhere NEAR on time! When I tried to check in, no one could find me on the list. Once I was found -- 30-40 minutes later -- I was seated at a table that ended up being over-booked and was asked if I minded being moved to another table. Having been involved in the planning of things like this on a MUCH smaller scale, I know that things like this always happen -- I was the lucky one at this event, so I just took it all in stride.

I ended up being moved to the same table as the Mayor and a 'local' celebrity, both of which were very friendly and were enjoying the evening immensely. That was a treat, of course, but was even more amazing for me was the fact that I finally got to meet another of the wonderful people whose actions enabled Cura to come into my life and I found out a little more of her back-story. So, it is story time . . .

Rick and Heather introduced me to Lady Liberator at the beginning of the evening and I was able to speak with her on several occasions during the evening. Apparently, she had been involved in a Pet Adoption and Cura (a.k.a. Whoopee!!) was one of two dogs that had not been adopted by the end of the event and would be returning to the City Animal Welfare Shelter (YIKES!). Fortunately for both Cura and me, Lady Liberator took a liking to this lovely black dog that reminded her of one of her own and called up Watermelon Mountain Ranch to see if they could take her (as she told me the story, Lady Liberator admitted that she was tempted to take Cura home, but there was no room with all her other four-legged friends). Ultimately, the Ranch agreed to take her (the exact events leading to this decision vary depending on the storyteller -- but the result is the same) and Lady Liberator whisked Whoopee!! off to the Ranch, rescuing her from what was possibly an early death since the City Shelters are not live-exit organizations (though that is their goal according to the advertising). So, without the efforts of Lady Liberator, Whoopee!! would never have been at Watermelon Mountain Ranch to adopt in the first place. Of course, the willingness of WMR to take on another animal should not be overlooked in this series of happy circumstances -- thank you, thank you, thank you!

Lady Liberator was thrilled to see Cura, just as most everyone who had a hand in her care and adoption was. The only difficult thing about the evening for me was that everyone kept referring to her as Whoopee!! So much so that by the end of the night, I was occasionally using her pre-adoption name -- and not always intentionally!

One final thing to note -- since this is getting a bit long winded -- by the end of the evening, Cura was doing great around the crowds of people. I have mentioned before that she does not particularly have patience with meaningless drilling of commands but, instead, does much better when I incorporate what she needs to learn into everyday activities. It is almost as if she needs to understand that there is a reason she is being asked to do things -- once she does, she is much more likely to perform the tasks when asked. One of the things we have been working on is the 'Behind Me' command -- meant for narrow spaces where we can't walk side-by-side. By the end of the night, she was automatically falling back every time we had to wind ourselves through the crowds. It was as if this intense environment helped her to focus more clearly on the job at hand. This concentration appears to have lasted beyond that evening so it looks like we may have taken another step toward eliminating Cura's tendency to forage . . . more improvement . . . YAY!

And how did I do? Hmm . . . my first response to that question is 'pretty well'. But for an honest assessment, I will have to give it some further thought. I have long been thinking that it was time to reveal some of the internal ways that I have benefited by having Cura as my Service Animal -- maybe it is time to go below the surface elements of this experience -- then again, maybe it is a bit too soon for THAT little rollercoaster . . . stay tuned to see if I suck it up and spill some emotional beans!