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May the Fourth

Micron Solo, Jabba and Princess Euka.


I can’t find my tomato stakes, my lamentation for this sunny May afternoon.

Then what’s that you’re using? asks My Favorite Kid.

Bamboo kebab skewer thingies I found in the kitchen junk drawer, I say. That’ll do for now. Maybe.

I’ve got some rebar rods in the garage if you want them, says The Husband.

Which I will be sure to keep in mind when I plant Godzilla tomatoes, I say. I only bought cherry tomato plants for the patio garden this time. Tokyo is safe for now. So thanks anyway, but I think I’ll hang tight and see if I can’t find something more appropriate than cooking utensils and bridge making equipment.

I turn my attention to the herb container.

Lessee, gotcha some dill, sage, 
thyme and copious amounts of
 dog hair. Don’t dare ask me 
what my secret ingredient is.
I’ll never tell.

By the way, I planted some jalapenos for you, too. I say to the kid. I was gonna add cilantro to the patio garden, but it insists on acting like a weed. Last time it took over everything.

What herbs are you planting then? he asks.

The basics. Some rosemary, parsley, sweet basil, I say. And sage.

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme? he asks. Sounds familiar.

And it does, right? Makes one think of Simon and Garfunkel.

Which then reminds me of Paul Simon and Carrie Fisher.

Carrie Fisher? Best known, perhaps, of her Princess Leia role in Star Wars and how she totally rocked that breakfast bun hairdo.

And holy cow, did you know? Today is May 4th.

The fourth of May, y’all.

As in … May the Fourth be with You.

And the universe just became smaller. Everything is connected, don’t you see?

My patio herb garden has a one degree separation from Harrison Ford.

I’m doing the math here, Food Lady, says
Euka. By my calculations, you’re
completely delusional.

The ears have it

Mini Micron.
Pre-photo session. 

Hey Micron! says Euka. You big goldengoober! Lookit!

Look at what, Puppy Piddler? asks Micron, annoyed. He doesn’t look up from chewing a stick. It’s a good stick. Fresh from the mulch pile.

‘Member the time you smashburgered me into the ground? says Euka.

Which time? snickers Micron.

You know. That one time, says Euka. When Food Lady was gonna take me to the grocery so I could work on my fan base? And then she said I couldn’t go because you made me all muddy?

Just on one side, says Micron. If you could manage to keep a good Heel, nobody would even see. Why?

Why? asks Euka.  Why? Because this is YOU! And I’m gonna smear YOU into the ground for once!

What’s that now? Finding myself amind yet another round of sibling smack talk, I admit to blocking most of this out. It’s all grr-grr this and rowl-rowl that most of the time, anyway. But the mention of somebody getting pounded gets my notice.

Euka, I say. What are you … No! Drop! That’s for the photos!

See it? She has the mini Micron in her maw. And we’ve seen that look in her eye before. Nothing good is going to happen next, we know that, right?

Oh just another day trying to take photos of the dogs with bunny ears. In the spirit of the season, it’s as natural as dying eggs and eating Peeps.

What’s that you say?  You don’t put bunny ears on your dog?  Well, I don’t eat Peeps, so there’s that.

I walked into this exercise fully expectant of the usual strong words and minor mayhem. That’s part of the annual tradition, after all.

I retrieve the stuffed dog from Euka with a more that was really necessary amount of fuss and position it carefully for the photo setup. Then I call Euka back and retrieve it from her a second time. A quick attempt at brushing off the leaves and twigs before lowering my standards and we get some nice images of Micron with his wee doppleganger.

Only about twelve frames this time to get a couple with his eyes open. Not bad.

Let’s pause here a moment, shall we?  Take a moment to enjoy the warmth of Micron’s easy going and open smile. This is a dog that knows how to make the most of any moment in life.

Every day is a golden day for this big guy.  It’s all good, says Micron.

Next up – the polar bear princess.

You can almost smell the wood burning, hear the cogs clicking. This chick’s noggin is thinking about something.

Oh sure, she’ll keep that Stay because that’s her training.

It’s a matter of being smarter than the puppy. Because I’m sure as heck not faster.

I’ll need to grab that treasured little mini-Micron before the Release command is given. But not just for me and because I’d like to have the thing around for another Easter.

I’m thinking of Micron.

It seems the big fellow is feeling a little protective of his body double.

What stuffed dog?

________________________________

This year’s bunny ear shoot did indeed go smoother than last year’s, we’re all happy here to report. Last spring, our Euka Bunny was not the mature girl she is today. Photos, and a tidy explanation of why Easter Sunday is so hard to schedule, is at It’s the Euka Bunny.

And Micron goes passive aggressive, as only he can, in his rejection of wearing bunny ears in That ain’t chocolate.

Good times, y’all.

This calls for the Class A uniform

Come a little closer. I can’t lick you yet.

I reach for the light blue bandanna on the kitchen counter and turn to Micron.

Dress, I say to him.

My big yellow dog lowers his noggin and slips into the open loop. He looks up at me, expectant. The Tail of Wondrous Beauty is slowly wagging.

You know what, big guy? I say. I think tonight’s event calls for full Class A uniform. Let’s put your working cape on and get you all official looking.

Getting ready

Micron turns the dial on his tail from Slow to Oh Heck Yeah as I put the logo cape on him. He knows we have an adventure coming up. What is it? Micron has no idea, but from experience he’s pretty darn sure this is gonna be a good time.

Because he’s going to work.

Once attired in full gear, Micron runs to the Toyota and prances at the car door, looking back at me.

C’mon two-legger! Let’s go! he says. We’re burnin’ daylight here.

And so I secure the therapy dog in the back seat, turn the key, and we hit the road to meet us some Cub Scouts to talk about the jobs of working dogs.

I didn’t expect any real challenges for the evening. After all, Micron is a true professional, highly trained in the skills of pet therapy and the like. So with confidence and a loose leash, we strut our stuff into the entrance of our venue, an elementary school.

Ok, let’s pause here for just a moment. So who has now, or ever, born witness to the entrance of an elementary school at the end of a long, cold winter? Yeah? So you know what I mean when I mention the ubiquitous sight that heralds Spring along with the song of the red breasted robin, right?

You got it.

The post-winter elementary school Lost & Found table.

A pirate’s booty overflowing with mismatched mittens and gloves, sock monkey knit caps and, kinda surprising to me, a couple of winter coats.

And in an instant I go from the evening’s educator of young scouts to the chick who’s yelling at her dog to Drop It! as he surfs the lost and found table for something soft to carry in his mouth.

Yep, we’re here, y’all.  We can start the Pack Meeting now.

Micron models his Class B uniform

Two other pet therapy teams from Miami Valley Pet Therapy Association meet us there. It’s a yellow dog affair with another golden retriever team and a yellow Labrador. The three of us hooman volunteers tag team the Pet Therapy presentation, each sharing our own personal stories and experiences of visiting folk at hospitals, retirement homes, and Hospice. How it is that we merely hold the end of a leash as our dogs do the stuff of magic.

Our audience for the evening is first to fourth graders. Young boys, yet so very eager to learn about what these dogs can do. We field some great questions from the boys.

Where do the dogs visit?
Where do they live?
Can cats be therapy pets? What about fish? Goats? Snakes?
What would happen if you let go of the leash?

At our turn to talk about Micron’s work, we found a nice segue to cover his Change of Career from when he was training to be an assistance dog to his current work in pet therapy.

The mighty Micron, after presented with his favorite dog cookie, demonstrated a few of the thirty commands he learned while in training to be a service dog.

Hahaha, just kidding. I got him to Speak. We tried the Leave It command, always a crowd pleaser, by setting a dog cookie on each front paw.

As a puppy, I say. We taught Micron not to eat …

Peals of laughter as my dog calmly leans forward and flicks a cookie into his mouth with a lizard tongue effect.

Try putting them on his back paws, some youngster heckles from the back. Yeah, so anyway the dog knows Speak.

Full Class A uniform. Micron is brushed and cleaned to a spit shine.
Ok, no spit. But I did trim his toenails.

Embarrased, but not defeated, I plow on to explain the differences between assistance dogs and pet therapy. Mindful of our young audience, I pop out some basics.

  • A Service Dog is trained to help a person with a disability. 
  • A Pet Therapy dog is trained to help everyone feel happier.

  • A Service Dog goes wherever their person wants or needs to go – restaurants, shopping, museums.
  • A Pet Therapy dog only goes where they are invited – hospitals, retirement homes, libraries.

  • A Service Dog is trained to help a person do things that may be difficult for them to do – retrieve dropped items, turn on light switches.
  • A Pet Therapy Dog is a dog that loves being around people and has good manners. They make everyone happier.

I share a story with the Cubs. This is a true tale that was told to me when we started puppy raising for Canine Companions for Independence.

Ok, Cub Scouts, listen up. I have an awesome story for you about how important a service dog can be to someone. There’s this fellow who has a disability that limits his movements. He isn’t able to walk and so he uses a wheelchair. But he can still go places on his own, because he has a van with hand controls he uses to drive, instead of brake and gas pedals. On his keyring he can press a button that opens the side door of the van and lowers a ramp. Easy ’nuff, right?  He rolls his power wheelchair up the ramp and to the front of the van to drive. He’s good to go anywhere he wants to drive.
Except this one time when he’s leaving a shopping mall. It’s raining really hard and he hurries to get to his van in the parking lot. But when he pulls his keyring out of his pocket, everything is wet and he drops it.
Because the man can’t reach the keys from his wheelchair, he has to wait for someone to come by and see him. He has to wait in the rain for another person to pick up his keys for him. Young people, this is a guy who can go wherever he wants. He has a disability, but feels good about taking care of himself. And when this happened, it made him feel pretty bad.
He decided on that day he would get a service dog. And now his dog is with him all the time. The service dog can pick up anything and give it to his person. And be a friend that is always there. 

Can Micron pick something up and give it back to you, asks a young Cub. Yeah, says another. We want to see Micron do that!

Micron? Seriously? The same dog that just ate a verboten dog cookie from his paw in front of everyone? I’m afraid I’ve set the bar a little high here.  No, I say. No, Micron is a pet therapy dog now.  He isn’t trained to retrieve things.  Hey, but who wants to hear him Speak again?

And with that, the Cubmaster splits the boys into three groups, one to visit each therapy dog. This is where Micron shines. The reason he slips so eagerly into his neckerchief and cape.

The dog is on his back with soft belly exposed. I tell the boys that he like a gentle scritching on his underside. Rubbing the ridge between his eyes is a favorite, too. For those up to the task, a hearty scratch of his rump is always appreciated by the big guy.

And they comply. Oh so willingly.

Enuf with all the talking and lectures, y’all. There are no stories for this kind of therapy. Imagine being surrounded by a score of young boys that are happy and cooperative? No follow-the-leader into group misbehavior that I saw too often in my own Den Leader days. Not one bit of  negativity in our aura bubble.

Absolute positive energy. If only we were able to bottle such stuff to save when needed later.

All because of the presence of therapy pets in the room.

Now I just need to get Micron back to the car without scoring a mitten in the foyer.
____________
Spoiler alert: Mitten removal from a dog maw was at risk, but disaster averted. But really, winter coats, Moms? I get the lost mitten thing, but wouldn’t you notice your kid lost his coat?

Wordless Wednesday: I druther a head butt

If I had my druthers, Bodine, says Micron. I druther you doing a head butt than you being a … well, you know.

I just happened to have the camera in hand to capture this tender moment between Micron and the Benevolent Overlord of Sword House.

For a good reason.

Hahaha, not really. No good about it. Just that I had put Micron’s backpack on the cat while straightening up a pile of dog gear.  And Bodine rocked the look so well, I thought I’d snap a shot of him.

When I came back in the kitchen with the Canon, the two of them were all about this bromance thing.

The cat didn’t see me coming. How could he with his eyes rolled back in his head like that? But once the sound of the shutter echoed in the kitchen, we got this.

And there ya go. All is as it should be.

BP_Wordless_wed_Hop_Logo_2014

Silence is yellow

Mums the word, says Euka.

Speak!, I say to Micron.

Boof! says Micron. Bawoof!

Good dog, Mikey, I say. Well done, big guy. I turn to Jager, Speak!

Yap, says Jager. Yap yap yap yap yap yap …

Alrighty, that’ll do, I say. Now Quiet. Please.

Yap, says Jager.

Euka, I say. Speak!

Euka gathers her color coded index cards, clears her throat and makes eye contact with her audience.

Good morning, says Euka. I want to thank you all for being here …

Yeah, just pulling your leggings there, sister. Truth be told, Euka’s response to the Speak command is the same as the Quiet command. She just looks at me with those root beer brown eyes and waits for me to start using English again.

And here we are. Got us an eighteen month old polar bear pup who has thwarted all attempts to teach her the Speak command. Euka hasn’t been a very vocal dog, bark-wise. Oh sure, she hasn’t lost that adorable squeak when she yawns. Been doing that squee-worthy performance since we met her at eight weeks old.

And sometimes when a play session with Jager escalates into a fracas of sorts, we might overhear an excited bark or two. But that’s it. None of the other vocal misbehaviors we found so challenging in various other pups. Euka’s offered up nothing like crate barking, vigilant alerts to weird noises or whatnot.

How do you teach the Speak command, ask a colleague in the office.

This after another masterful Speak demo by the mighty Micron. More on this phenomena at our earlier post, Hokey Pokey, or heck, even right here. Micron will again show you his expert level of Speak.

But how to teach a dog to do this?

Oh, there are different methods one could try depending on the dog. For a serial barker, say like Jager, you would mark the behavior with the word Speak. Make the vocalization a positive thing. And partner it up with the Quiet command. And by keeping consistent with these two markers, all happy stuff and correction-free, eventually you both will have a handle on controlled vocalization.

But what about a quiet little girl like Miss Euka? Well, my go-to has always been the simple task of frustrating the snot out of the pup until he or she makes a noise. I show a high value treat and wave it all around the pup’s snooter with an oh, you almost got it, keep trying. Speak, puppy, speak.  And so on until a moan, squeak or yip escapes from the puppy who is slowly losing their mind.

And then, they get not just a treat as a reward, but an overflowing handful. Is it my birthday?, they wonder. National Puppy Day or something?

And we do it again. And again. Make a sound, then treats. I’m excited, the puppy is wound up and eventually *click*, they get it.

Puppy Brain Sequence

1. Food Lady says Speak
2. I make a sound
3. I get an awesome treat
4. Food Lady is happy
5. I want more awesome treats

If this doesn’t work, we move onto the one thing that seems overtly obvious, yet somehow never really works. But with no success at hand to date, here we go anyway.

I line up the dogs in order of age. Jager, Micron, then Euka.  Not on purpose, you know. That implies I have some degree of control when I reach for the treat jar on the counter. I don’t.

And we begin.

Micron …Speak! [boof!] Good dog! [crunching cookie sound]  Jager…Speak! [yap yap yap]Good dog! [crunching cookie sound] Lookit Euka! This is Speak. The boys are getting cookies and you’re not. Doesn’t that annoy you? Yeah? Well, Euka Speak!

[crickets]

Ha ha, just kidding. Even the crickets are barking at this point. The boys haven’t stopped flapping their gums since we started. And they’re still getting cookie goodness for Speak! while Euka is on standby suffering in the No Goodie zone.

She just won’t even try. Not even a whimper.

Dang it.

Ok, so here’s another way to look at this. I will share with y’all a recent happening at our place.

I come home from an afternoon running errands to find a loaf of bread on the dining room carpet. When I say loaf of bread what I really mean is the shreds of a plastic wrapper and a twist tie. When I left the house, the unopened loaf was on the kitchen counter, all safe and sound and wheaty.

I gather the dogs for a family meeting.

I’m a trained professional, says Euka. Ok, well
kinda sorta. I’m still not speaking about it and
you can’t make me.

Who did this? I ask, holding the empty bread wrapper.

I dunno, yawns Micron . I was upstairs guarding your bedroom.

Wasn’t me, says Bodine the Cat and Benevolent Overlord of Sword House. I was busy taking a single bite out of each apple in the fruit bowl. 

[burp], says Jager.

Huh. Right, I already deduced this. It’s not the first time the spotted dog has used his wiles to manage some ill gotten goods.

What’s important to note here is that throughout this exchange, not a word from Euka. She remains very, very quiet on the subject. But looking into her eyes, I know she knows. And she knows I know she knows.

And there you have it.  See?

The girl knows how to keep a secret.  The merits of keeping her lips sealed.

I think that makes her one classy dame.

_________________________________________

Speaking (heh, speaking) of obedience training, did you know Canine Companions for Independence offers helpful videos on YouTube?

Check it out. Three minute of good advice about basic obedience.

Basic Obedience: Canine Companions Extraordinary Puppy 


Click here for more videos from www.cci.org

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