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The Kota

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Hoagy, Harvest and Holly

Didja hear wab Foob Lady seb? asks Holly.

What? asks Harvest. Hey! Ow!

Holly lets go of her sister’s hind leg and clears a dog hair from her throat. [ahem] I said, she says, did you hear what Food Lady said? Hoagy’s gonna come at lunchtime to play.

With her leg now free, Harvest tosses Holly on her back. She jumps on top and starts to gnaw on Holly’s front leg.  That’s cool. says Harvest. We could use some fresh meat. You know, so to speak.

And something else, says Holly. Food Lady says we get to see the Kota too. Yikes! You’re biting too hard, Harvest! 

Ain’t no thing but a chicken wing, says Harvest. Nom-nom-nom ha ha ha ha! Seriously though, what’s a Kota?

I dunno, shrugs Holly. But Food Lady told me we have to treat the Kota with ‘spect. I have no idea what that even means. My turn! Give me your leg.

Respect means [ow] we can’t chew on it, says Harvest. Maybe the Kota is a strappy sandal. Criminy, Holly! Stop using your back teeth!

No, the Kota isn’t a shoe, you toe-eater, says Holly. Food Lady says the Kota is a special kinda dog. She said it’s very powerful and uses mind powers to control other animals. Ow, that’s my ear! I think you hit bone that time.

Oh sure, like it has ESPN or something, says Harvest. That makes no sense, Holly. Roll over and I’ll get your other ear bone to match the red marks.

No really, says Holly. The Kota is supposed to be fast and strong. Like with super speed and it can catch flying things in mid-air!

That’s nothin’, says Harvest. Watch me do that!

Ow, my tail! cried Holly. Oh hey, and and get this … the Kota [dang it! ow!] is black and white. Not yellow like me, you and Hoagy.

Now I know [ow!], says Harvest. You’re pulling my leg.

The dog, the myth, the legend

Well met.
Some better met than others.

Holy cow, what a good dog, Lakota.

While Holly and Hoagy ask for the doggy version of an autograph of the legendary Lakota, Harvest invests some time in researching the family history of the border collie.

Lakota in the meantime, permits this attention from his new fandom. No prob, says Lakota. So long as they leave my flying squirrel thingies alone.

Um.

Oh sure, you can catch this thing in mid-air.
But can you catch me? bwahahaha

Yeah, so anyway after the initial howdy-dos, the three Hero pups went back to merely assaulting each other puppy-style.

No, no I’d say you got two more kibbles for lunch than I did, says Hoagy.
Did somebody say Lunch? says Holly. 

The Kota was left in peace to do his legendary feats of catching flying objects from mid-air. Which is all he really wanted out of the deal anyway.

A good thing he brought two flying squirrel thingies.

Wordless Wednesday: Dreaming of the playoffs

 I got it! calls Micron.

His team mates step back, bowing to the mad skills of their ace catcher. They’ll give the glory of this catch to the Golden Boy.

All eyes are on the yellow ball, which first appears to be suspended in mid-air, then begins to descend as if in slow motion.

And the fans are on their feet! Fists pumping high over their heads as they chant Mighty Mike! Mighty Mike! MI…T…MIKE!

Micron coils his body as he prepares to vault into the open sky, as beautiful and graceful as a great white shark.

This is it, folks!, shouts the announcer over the roaring crowds. This is the winning catch that’s gonna take this amazing team off to the …

Ruh-roh.

Well, there goes the playoffs. Way to go, “Golden Boy.” Off to the showers with yourself, now.

Aw, don’t take it too hard,there Mighty Mike.  There’s always next year, big guy.

"Baw"

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I was wondering why that tennis ball kept getting bigger and bigger*, said Micron.  Then it hit me.

In A Big Little Life** author Dean Koontz tells a story about his neighborhood walks with Trixie, a golden retriever CCI retiree that he and his wife adopted.

Spoiler alert: this book is awesome. Something that which inspires one to awe. The entire, splendid thing.

In this particular walking-the-dog tale***, we get an understanding of the deep appreciation Trixie had for tennis balls.  After the usual passage of tennis courts along their stroll, one evening Trixie is disappointed to not have found an abandoned tennis ball or two this time. It is her daily joy to discover a fuzzy yellow ball to roll around in her mouth on her way back home.  But on this evening, something else is different too.

Trixie balks on the leash. She stops and turns to look back at the tennis courts. Dean Koontz’s wife, Gerda, is on the other end of the leash, wondering what is on her otherwise obedient dog’s mind.  In Dean Koontz’s words:

Looking up at her mom, she opened her mouth and thrust her muzzle forward as though straining to produce a sound — then spoke.”
 
“Baw.”
 
“This sound — pronounced like the word awe with a b in front, slightly attenuated — was so unlike anything that came from Trixie before, was delivered with such an earnest expression, and was accompanied by such tension in our girl’s entire body . . .

Turns out, she realized there was a ball hidden under a bush and she needed permission to go back and get it. She merely hesitated, because Trixie was a good girl and not the kind of dog that *cough micron cough* will forcibly drag their hapless person across three tennis courts to retrieve a high value treat. And so it seemed to Gerda that Trixie’s vocalization was an attempt to say exactly and simply what was on her mind.

Wow.

Ok folks, that story, and the golden butterfly one that opens A Big Little Life kinda gives me chills just a little.  Whether fact or the fanciful stuff written by a prolific writer of fiction, we Lovers of All Things Dog are well experienced in the magic of the human-canine bond, aren’t we?

Those of us so fortunate to spend our days with our dogs at our sides find ourselves somewhat bilingual with at least a basic level of Dog Speak.  We know to watch body language to determine if that yawn indicates a sleepy dog or a stressed one.  Or listen to specific vocalization as a clue to what our furry friend is thinking.

While lying around like a shedding carpet, a softly uttered moan indicates the mighty Micron is exhausted, but low groan is passive-aggressive communication that the big guy needs to use the lawn facilities. The latter requires him to actually get up and move, which I suspect is where the groaning comes in.  There ain’t nobody as skilled in the art of Relaxation as the mighty Micron, you know.

Oh, but outside play time is a whole ‘nuther animal, so to speak. Being a retriever, our Micron is hard-wired in the noggin to carry things about in his maw.  Of course, one should never expect this fellow to articulate a “Baw” to express his infatuation of tennis balls. But it is indeed clear when a game of Ball is on his mind. Micron keeps it easy for us.  He simply finds one of the dozens of tennis balls strewn about the house like little fuzzy landmines to roll an ankle on — and brings it to you.

With a wide doggy smile and plumed tail waving like a flag, he drops the slightly damp ball upon a lap and takes a step back.  His thoughts are radio waves with one simple repeating message: throw the ball throw the ball throw the ball . . . .

And we do.  We throw the ball — over and over. 

Noting the photo on the right, a ball in the mouth and second one to chase just might cause a short-circuit the canine neurons.  This situation, says Micron, blows my mind a little. I love them both so much.

Speaking of love, a friend with a new puppy was asking for advice the other day.  She has so much energy, says my good friend. And she chews on everything, even the furniture. What should I do?

Um, I say. Lookit, we all know I’m merely a Lover of Dog, not some kind of obedience expert. I have no more business giving this kind of advice than I do talking about tax laws. But in the Hippocratic spirit of “First, Do No Harm”, I give it a shot.

Well, I say. Sounds to me like she’s acting just like a normal puppy.  Good luck to ya. 

Ok, I realize that’s helpful not at all. So I follow-up with the benefits of crate training, Bitter Apple, and professional obedience classes.

But in the meantime, I add, here’s what will really help to bond you two. Simple things, really. Always be in the same room when your pup is eating and interact with her. Make sure she knows this wonderful experience comes from you. Give her a lot of positive attention when she’s good, especially so during those rare quiet times.

And this is really important, I continue. Play with her. Exercise her. It will help her burn some of that destructive puppy energy and she’ll eventually link these good times to your presence. It’ll take time, but some day this dog will know you as the Best Thing Ever. And it will be her mission in life to please you. 

She’ll want to play ball with you because she sees it makes you happy, too.

I’m confident with this bit of advice. I am.  Because it goes both ways, this playtime with my own dog. 

See, every time that Micron drops a ball into my lap and I look up from my book to meet his smiling, root-beer brown eyes, well . . .

That’s the Best Thing Ever, says me.

  

 
 ________________________________________
*You see it, right?  The tennis ball?  Just follow Micron’s line of sight to see it hovering there in the top part of the photo.

**A Big Little Life, a memoir of a joyful dog named Trixie by Dean Koontz.  This tome is a wonderful introduction to Trixie and her life with Dean and Gerda Koontz.  And the glorious Trixie has told her own story in such treasures as Bliss to You: Trixie’s Guide to a Happy Life and I, Trixie, who is Dog.  There’s a whole feel-good series of these things. I recommend the lot of them.

***This story is found in Chapter XIV Freedom of Speech

Made of tuff stuff

Micron would give this Kong Flyer a Two Thumbs Up,
if only he had the obligatory digits.
This is a one durable dog toy and big enough to share with a friend or two.

It happened again this week.

Yaxley are at the grocery to grab just a couple of things. It’s been getting kinda chilly out, which has put me in the mood for some homemade potato soup.  What would otherwise be a quick trip (taters, chicken broth, green onions) takes a bit longer with my puppy companion.

A working dog in the grocery is like walking alongside a celebrity. People stop us to ask questions about Yaxley. And that’s okay. Not only do I expect this, it’s actually one of the reasons I take him on this trip. We’re all about raising awareness of CCI and assistance dogs, me and him.

How old is he?, they ask. What’s his name?  Is he a Labrador? How long do you have him? So you have to give him up later? Oh, I couldn’t do that.  Ah, this is good stuff. Yax sits in heel position as I share information on CCI and he is ever so patient as he awaits the Let’s Go command to continue our shopping.

And then we get the question that unsettles me a bit.

Our new acquaintance will look at the pup, sitting there all handsome, groomed and well-behaved.  They lean forward closer to me, tilting their head. The question is spoken using a different, softer tone of voice. With something akin to pity on their face, I’m asked does he ever get to play?

What?

This is the one query that bugs me. I wonder what people see as we’re working with Yax’s socialization in public.  Does the pup look nervous or unhappy and I failed to notice?  No, no I don’t think that could be it. I’m keeping a keen eye on his reactions the entire time – tail is relaxed, gait is confident. I’m speaking commands to him firmly, but not unkindly – I’m not giving off an aura of ogre. So I consider that some folk have only seen these pups-in-training while they’re on the job. They just haven’t had the pleasure of seeing these fluffies get down and dirty during a play session.

Do these dogs ever get to play? Well, of course they do, people. They’re dogs and nobody can take that simple little factoid away from them, can they?  As puppy raisers, we do expect a higher level of behavior than a pet, that’s true. We’re going to be less tolerant of purposeful misbehavior. That’s true as well.  We handle these pups as if they have a higher purpose than a pet. Well, because they do.

But you’ve got to open the release valve on these critters and let them run and wrestle with others of their ilk. It’s only humane, as well as good common sense. A tired dog is a good dog, that’s my motto.

But these are merely words on a screen. How about something more visual for our case in point?

I’ll share with y’all a few freeze-frame action shots of Yaxley during a play date with buddies Micron and Karsen. Three dogs against one Kong Flyer. For extra enjoyment of these shots, take a closer look at the ears on these fellas. These dogs were having a full-speed-ahead blast.

Now this is a dog I’d take to the grocery.
Might just do a quick finger swipe on the grass blade on the tongue.

Addendum:

Thanks to CCI puppy raisers, Mark and Deb from Ansel: The Life & Times of a CCI Puppy for reminding me of this excellent video from CCI’s Gold Rush Champions chapter.

This really clears up that pesky question of do they ever get to play?

Here’s CCI GRC Service Dogs do have Fun.  Enjoy . . .

The dark side of snow

This winter has brought some news worthy weather our way. Well, just about everybody’s way, really.  Last month it was said that 49 states had snow on the ground. And the holdout wasn’t Hawaii, like I thought. There was snow on some mountain there, they say. Turns out, it was Florida that was free of the snowflake.

Here in southwestern Ohio, we had snow. And we had a spectacular ice storm that glazed the landscape. Pretty stuff, but what a nightmare to get around in. When the dogs had to go out to do their business, it was Godspeed to y’all.  Try not to get hurt out there, now.

But now, mid-February, the snow is gone. It’s been traded in for mud. Lots and lots of mud. Shoe sucking stuff and a squishy lawn that pools around your feet as you walk. This is crappy enough, but add two dogs to the equation and things get serious.

Ok, so Jager is a Felix Unger reincarnate. He is absolutely the cleanest dog, just will not get dirty. Ever. I don’t even bathe him; he doesn’t need it. Weird.

But Micron is a Lab/Golden cross – a water dog. One that apparently feels deprived of his web-footed heritage. An otherwise quick play session in the backyard brought me this little surprise.

Can you tell what the goober head is doing?  Not sure? How about now?

Oh, that’s not just a mud puddle. It’s run-off from a nearby creek that fills that area of the yard. After this shot, he laid back down in it playing yellow submarine. Then he started rolling. And for a finale, starting a vigorous bout of digging.

He couldn’t have been a happier dog.

I hope he was able to hang onto that happy thought during the obligatory hose down. What I don’t get was all the complaining about the cold hose water. Was it really colder than that mud puddle, Micron? Really?
And look at that face. I believe that to be a look of defiance.
 That’s right, Food Lady. And I’d do it again, too.
ADDENDUM FEB 21 2011:
A reminder to never underestimate the power of a new puppy in the house. Not to be topped by Micron’s mud adventure, Jager found something very dead in the backyard. And rolled in it. He has never done anything like this before.  And so, Jager got a bath.
Not sure who is going to win the “I got the food lady’s attention and you don’t” contest, but it sure ain’t gonna be me.
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