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Category Archives: Training

Hurry on schedule

Walkies?

Dog help us, has this been the longest Ohio winter we’ve seen in years or what, people?  Ask anyone around these parts and they’ll tell you we’ve had just about enough already.

We actually had a day last week of nearly seventy degrees to be welcomed by a snowfall the very next morning.

I opened the back door to let the dogs out to conduct their business and cried out something like Oh c’mon! Really? into the howling winds.

My visions of flip flops are replaced by watching Micron belly flop into making a snow angel. Well sure, at least the dogs are happy about more snow.

I’m lamenting to the Favorite Kid today that there must be someone we can hold responsible for this, right? I mean, lookit, Alaska has majestic scenery and moose and stuff. Otherwise what’s the difference between living in this Midwestern snow blighted nonsense and being in Alaska?

Mosquitos the size of flying housecats, for one thing, says the kid. Alaska has ’em all summer long. Everybody’s anemic up there.

He knows this because he’s been to Canada with the Boy Scouts. And Canada is real close to Alaska.

So despite the dogs loving this harsh winter we human beans have been suffering through, it has been rather hard on them. Mostly because we’ve been putting more emphasis on the Hurry command.

Did you know about this?

That puppy raisers for CCI train their young charges to toilet on command? And encourage them to perform this natural act on any surface – grass, concrete, gravel or whatnot?

After I found out the life changing value of this simple command, I vowed to teach it to every dog in my life then and since. It’s rather handy, especially when important to avoid such situations where you’re telling them they should have gone before we left home.

Like for instance when socializing your pup-in-training at the grocery and as you pass the dairy section the little guy gives you that look. You know, the yikes, I need to drop a package look. And now you’re not just the chick in the grocery with a dog. Reminder: Everyone is totally aware of you being there.  Nope, you’re that woman who’s power walking to the exit repeating the mantra hold on little one we’ll make it outside hold on we’ll make it outside hold on we’ll make it outside . . . 

from Raising a Super Dog
Wha choo mean I don’t eat yet?

Two things the puppy raiser learns early on in this gig. First, don’t take the pup into the public venue when they need to toilet. Oh sure, that’s easy to say, right? You know what? Easy peasy lemon breezy to do as well.  You see, if you keep a strict feeding schedule of portion controlled meals for the pup, it gives a general idea of when to expect the next kibble recycling event.

The other thing we do is mark the biological event with a word command. Canine Companions for Independence asks us to use Hurry for this. And so we do.

And try not to enhance this simple command with adjectives, expletives or otherwise. For instance, we’re not to say something like Hurry up darn it I’m freezing out here so quit sniffing the leaf and just go already hurry puppy and there’s a cookie in it for you stop sniffing that i said. 

See, that’s not good.

And why is this toileting on command thing so important, you ask. Because, people, when these dogs are teamed with a person with a disability, something that might have been a worry is now totally controllable.

The team can focus on more important things at hand without the black cloud of doggie do following them around.

from Raising a Super Dog
The only green thing in sight is the
moss on the rock.
So, so ready for spring.

Yeah, maybe I could have worded that better. Heh, too late now. But you get it, don’t you? Hurry is one of the thirty commands introduced by the puppy raiser that we’ve talked about before. Truth be told, it’s one of the more impressive ones. At least I like it a lot and it’s saved my street cred in many a no-pets-allowed environment.

Well, that’s enough potty talk for the likes of us. Micron and I have a date at the state park.

It’s fifty one degrees this afternoon and we’re desperate to shake off some of this cabin fever on a beautiful, yet short lived, sunny day.

Because the forecast tomorrow is an overcast cloud cover with freezing temps.

True story. Because, you know. Ohio.

O… H…

Don’t leave me hangin’ here, people.

from Raising a Super Dog
We encountered a red bellied woodpecker on our nature walk.
from Raising a Super Dog
And his woman.

Trump ya with a Jack

Today we share the story of a good dog with a heart of gold. An otherwise great fellow who just made some very poor choices in life.

One after another. After another.

And so on.

Fuzzy memories of our time with Jack the Wonder Dog came back to me after a conversation with a friend about her own pup’s insistence of his right to nosh upon non-edibles. Now, I don’t want to think of myself as the kind of girl who has to top someone’s story with one of my own that-ain’t-nuthin’ adventures. I don’t want to be that person.

But in the case of Jack, I believe I just might have her trumped. With some to spare.

I admit we made some mistakes with Jack. It’s not all on him, the sweet boy. It’s the mid-1980’s, a time of shoulder pads and big hair perms. Bad enough, but that’s not the poor decisions I’m talking about. Married just about five years, the two of us decided it was time to get the party started by bringing in a new family member.  By the two of us, I do mean it was pretty much just me. I wanted a family dog. It would be practice, I said, while we’re waiting for the right time for a baby.

Made sense to me. Totally.  And still, that’s not the mistake of reference.

Here it is.

So we went to check on a  litter of lab crosses we heard about from a friend of a friend. As I look about the hillbilly haven yardscape, I see the weary mom is a permanent outside dog, her thirteen pups are gamboling about in a filthy pen, and flies seem to be enjoying the communal food bowl the most of anyone. I decide there’s no more checking this place out. We’re gonna save one of these puppies.

They are six weeks old.

Right. Bad idea, that. The hard-earned truth is that taking a puppy before eight weeks means the tiny critter misses out on some prime-time learning from their nuclear family. Rather important life skills like bite inhibition and boundaries during play. And even, perhaps, appropriate table manners.


A little Buddha belly puppy waddles over and plops to his side to chew on the Husband’s sneaker shoelaces. What we think is the calmest of the litter is instead just suffering a low level version of a food coma. I lift the goober pup to look into his soft brown eyes and declare our new family member as good enuf.

And so we begin the next thirteen years of finger swiping unmentionable items from his ever inquisitive maw. And running like crazy people into a room every time we heard the sounds of retching as we needed to immediately retrieve the offending item before it was re-consumed for another round of tummy rumblies. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the daily task of lining the kitchen floor with newspapers for the green apple two-step attacks while we’re away at work.

The dog held no prejudices to what went down the gullet. He was greeted so many times with an Oh-Sh**-Jack, that he would wag his tail at the nickname. Not exactly a problem-solver kinda guy, he could impress us with his remarkable feats of gymnastics in his counter surfing.

Your dog just licked the turkey, said my sister-in-law.
No, he didn’t, I replied, wiping it off.

We didn’t always walk in on a disaster of overturned trash cans and empty Esther Price chocolate boxes; it may have been simply a twelve-pack of hamburger buns and a full bowl of water to have him digesting a lump like a boa constrictor with a goat.  But then he’d make up for the lack of drama by downing a pork chop bone as sharp as a pointed stick.

A pair of eyeglasses. Cat litter, with or without the kitty snickers. Dishtowels. Carpet. Which is not covered by home insurance. I checked.  And mud went down like he was enjoying a good bowl of kibble.

There’s the evening walk when he grabbed a decomposing bird from the sidewalk, crunched once and swallowed the thing.  I’m forcing back a gag reflex when the dog himself start to do the telltale stomach heaves. And I’m all, no way dude. You ate it, you keep it. And so he did, saving us both from the sights of Rotting Robin, the Sequel.

Some things, however, went clean through. So to speak. Backyard clean-up duty was like coming across a pirate’s booty. Oh, we would say, that’s where that [fill in the blank] went.

Or hey, how about the time when he was recovering from his neuter when he pulled my birth control pills from the counter. And ate the whole shebang – prescription bag, plastic case and all. C’mon, who does this?

A riddle for you … what do you get when a freshly de-testosteroned puppy consumes a month’s worth of estrogen? Anyone? I’ll tell you what you get.  A chance to amuse the staff at the vet’s office.

That hair. Oh my, the makeup job. The fashion trends of the
1980’s were a cruel joke. I remember thinking back then
that I was rocking the pregnant look.
By the way, y’all, that’s actually a selfie (see the remote
cable in my left hand). I was a nerd before her time.

And not long after, our family grew by one more. Despite the rumors by friends and family, there was no connection to the lost contraceptives and welcoming home our Favorite Kid. I did have the presence of mind to get the prescription refilled, you know.

It was really weird timing, though.

Anyway, along with the baby came new and wonderful things to fill that empty space inside Jack the Wonder Dog. Used diapers were a rare delicacy when left unattended for a split second, as well as food splattered bibs. Socks and toddler underwear went down whole and came back up the same way. Then went back down again.

What was going on in that dog noggin to bring about this need to go all Pica: Level Extreme? This same dog that we were told by no less than three obedience schools to “just take him home and enjoy him.” True story. Jack defied any and all training efforts. So was this just part of what made him charming? Did he simply suffer from a couple of misfiring neurons? And do we take on some of the blame by adopting him too young?

Even more intriguing is how the fella never had an intestinal blockage and made it to a full thirteen years old, just about in line with the average lifespan of a dog of his ilk. We would joke about donating his body to science because there must be something preternatural in his gut flora, but well … when the time came we didn’t think it was funny anymore.

We found Mr. ScrubBubble later in the backyard.
Well, pieces of him. I think you know what I mean.

But you know what? For every Oh-Sh**-Jack moment, we had tenfold more in yellow dog inspired smiles. Jack never met a stranger; he greeted everyone the same. Hi!, he would say. I’m Sh**Jack and everybody loves me. You will too.  He was a warm companion for us for years and My Favorite Kid enjoyed his early childhood with a sweet dog, a loyal fellow who showed a never ending tolerance for a toddler’s horseplay.

I guess we could have wished for a smarter dog, one who wasn’t so motivated to help pay the veterinarian’s mortgage. But I don’t remember feeling like we were missing out on anything.

A dog with a heart of gold doesn’t leave much left to be desired.

Wordless Wednesday: He had one line

Can someone look at my tag, please? I forgot my name again.

We practiced his line that morning. His one line. 

Micron: Ger-woof!

Micron was tasked with ruffing an affirmation to the host of our Indie film at the Eukanuba headquarters. A fun and informative short film clip presented as a lead in to our corporate meeting this week.

Just a Woof on command. That’s all he had to do.

Now this dog is not only proficient in the Speak command, but he actually knows two Speaks. Hold on, I’m gonna grab a doughnut while you pick your jaw off the floor.

Ok, y’all. I’m back.

So Micron can do Soft Speak for his indoor voice.  And Loud Speak for pants wetting volume.  He’s awesome about being bilingual like that.

Still we practiced his line that morning. His one line. And when his moment in the limelight was nigh, I’m off stage right holding aloft a dog cookie and Micron!, I whisper. Speak Loud!

[crickets chirping]

Is this how the Toddlers with Tiaras moms feel?* This burning disappointment in their guts? C’mon, it’s one bloody line.

After a few takes and some flapping gums air barks, we get it. The camera crew has dropped to my personal standard of that’s good enuf and the thing is a wrap.

But … where did we go wrong, I mulled later in my mental debriefing. Oh! Then it clicked.

We didn’t practice the command while Micron was sitting in a blue chair.  And that’s exactly it, you know. So yeah, Micron’s noggin is bi-lingual, but his butt only speaks carpet. See, that makes sense, right?

__________________________
*Disclaimer:  I’ve never actually watched that show, but I saw the previews and those moms looked like horrible people, so don’t judge me too harshly on that one.

Princess of Confidence Town: Population 1

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Kentucky Horse Park – Part 1

I’ll be in my office if you’re looking for me.

Why do you call her Princess? asks my niece, Morgan. 

I look down at Miss Euka.  Did I just call her that? I ask.

Ah, I realize that, yes this is indeed true. And giving myself a moment to ponder, it comes to me that our petite puppy even responds to her girly-girl nickname. Heh, guess I should be checking that little habit.

I call her Princess, I say. because she walks around with an air of inflated self-entitlement.  

Another Euka truism.  We have us here a remarkably confident pup and a girl comfortable in her own skin and coat. She steps into every situation with an attitude of one who grants audience to her people. 

Whatever y’all were doing before, says Euka.  You can stop.  I’m here now.

But before you fully form the thought that I’ve created a monster, I want to say that this is not my fault. Wait, no, what I mean is that as a volunteer puppy raiser I would much rather deal with an confident and dominant pup than one with fear issues to overcome.  Our Miss Euka has shown us from the very beginning that she is ready to embrace all that life has to offer, hasn’t she? 

Bring it on, says Euka.  And keep it coming.

Well, so far we’ve taken on shops, restaurants, grocery stores and countless budget meetings in the office. What’s next on the socialization list for this pup in training?

How ’bout horses and lots of ’em?  The nieces and I had packed our gear into the Toyota for our annual road trip to the Kentucky Horse Park. And because things are always more interesting when you include a dog, we toss Euka into the back seat to transport her to her first equinotic encounter.

Now I’ve been making this horse park trip for twelve or  thirteen years or so and the nieces have been my cohorts for the past few. Aunt Donna’s only rule for the horse park adventure is you must be at least eight years old. Oh, and it helps if you like horses. That one’s not a hard and fast rule, but it seems like you’d have a much better time since Horse is all you’re gonna see, hear and smell for two entire days.

CCI pups are exempt from these rules, of course.* Despite what Euka thinks, she really doesn’t have a say in the decision.  Her participation is mandatory, however I will leave it up to her on whether she enjoys the company of horses. Actually, I was pretty darn curious to see how she takes in these noble beasts. Could it be possible that our princess may get an equine assisted attitude adjustment?

I’m thinking we should start small and build up with this horse exposure experience. Let’s just walk around and soak up some sights and smells and Ack, Euka don’t!, I cry.  Road apples, those sweet manure treasures, are sending out their siren’s call in wafting waves of sensory temptations.  As I redirect Euka’s attention from a steaming hay brownie, a quarter horse with rider passes by on clomping hooves. 

Well, so much for starting small. The horse is close enough to touch in his casual pass by. I see Euka give the fella a once over, from hooves to both heads, and pretty much give the scene a dog shrug as she looks back to the delicacy baking on the pavement. I could take him, she says. With one paw tied behind my back.  No fur off her back, our brave girl.

I see you, dog. says the Titan.
I’m your huckleberry.**

In the covered arena, we take a few minutes to watch a drill team of some very skilled young ladies and their gorgeous horses performing in the ring.  Euka gets a second row seat to watch the action with perked ears. By second row seat, I mean she’s in a Down at the end of an aisle to enjoy a dog’s eye view of the drill team. I watch her reaction and wonder just what the heck she’s thinking.  Four legs on these things, but two heads? They’re running and playing and yet don’t smell like a dog at all. Too big to chew on, but I bet if I grabbed a leg  . . .

Even as the riders approach the front row spectators to allow their horses to be patted on their velvet noses, Euka doesn’t move to break her Down. She loses interest after a bit and closes her eyes for a quick not-a-cat nap.

This is good, I think. Let’s bump it up and check out the stables for the event’s guest horses.

As we cruise about we encounter Tennessee Titan, the miniature donkey in all his tyger-spotted glory.  Tennessee Titan is a super star of mini donkeys, so I was hoping to get a photo op, but was told he’s not a big fan of dogs. We respect that, of course. Especially since at this point I couldn’t tell you if Euka was a big fan of mini donkeys.  I get a quick click of the OK Corral standoff and we move on.

We come across a second photo op with another delightful, and more dog loving, miniature critter.  Johnny Rocket and his handler are gracious to allow us a moment of their time. Euka is still brooding over the stuck up donkey and refuses to look at the mini horse, no matter how kind he is.  Nobody out-attitudes the princess, it seems.

Oh, and I have to tell you about our run in with the law. See, I shot the sheriff and . . . sorry, that’s going to be a pun so bad even I can’t finish that sentence.

Ok, I took a photo of Lena, the equine half of a mounted patrol team for the Sheriff’s Department. Lena is sixteen and a half hands of Friesian with an attitude of one who does not gladly tolerate fools. My impression of this lady is she is one of the most rock solid horses you’re ever likely to encounter. A chick it would be unwise to piss off, I would think.

Hmm.  Oh Euka, I sing. Let’s go meet the Sheriff’s horse. Maybe I’m taking things too fast here, going from mini whinnies to a hardened Friesian.  But never being the kind of girl to shy away from a bad decision, we give this a try.

Horse people may notice Lena’s ear posture in this shot. Right? Now look at Euka. Well, as best you can.  Our little girl with the Irish tan has gone super-nova into the background. But I think you can get the general goings on here.  Another Friesian has just passed by. Lena is reacting to that horse.

And Euka is not. Her posture is relaxed and she is going about her day like this is nothing much more than being in the office, only without air conditioning.

Alrighty, now check out the next shot. Here’s what happens when cocky meets confidence. Lena leans in to  meet her new pale canine admirer. Meanwhile Euka is sure the horse is a new entry into her fan base. Give her one of my CCI bookmarks, says Euka to her people. She can read about me on the internet later.

Again, we have a confident posture exhibited by the pup. Ear flaps relaxed, tail down and paws in a casual stance. In fact, you may notice that she has not even moved from her spot from the first photo. Neither in retreat nor in the interest of an excited greeting. Nice.

Hail there, my tiny pasty friend, says Lena.  Well met.

Of course, it helps quite a bit that the girls are so at ease with both horses and dogs. Morgan has the leash, which is transmitting her positive vibes to Euka. All is well in the world, say the leash vibes. Carry on, y’all.

Hang loose for Part II of our Kentucky Horse Park adventures coming soon. I’ll even throw in a drama-filled story from the hotel.  It’s a cautionary tale about why you don’t always want to allow folk to pet your service pup in training.  Euka’s not the only one needing life lessons here.  Sometimes I need a smack in the back of the head.
  

________________________________________
 
* Yaxley, our CCI pup #3, joined us on the great horse park trip a couple of times.  His adventures are at Freshly baked road apples and Poptarts: Not just for breakfast anymore.  Due to timing, this will be Euka’s only trip with us to the Kentucky Horse Park.

**Quote from Tombstone (1993) as said by Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer). Best read with a drawling southern accent of sorts in your head.


 

Happy Ten Month Birthday to the E’s

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At ten weeks and ten months. The Ohio E’s consider their progress as they look their former and future selves.


Hold onto your britches, folks, as we direct your attention to the nearly inconceivable factoid that Euka II and her E littermates are celebrating their ten month birthday today.

Yep, indeed the little furry cotton balls we met seemingly just a few weeks ago are growing into the amazing dogs they are destined to be.  The precious Euka is not our little girl anymore [sniffle].

I could lament over this puppy growth in the same manner as I deal with the knowledge that I’m the parent of a college grad. Sometimes it hits me all at once and I sit wondering how I could possibly be old enough to have a kid out of college.  What the heck just happened here? I think. Wasn’t he just working on his science fair project in middle school?

So putting things into perspective, watching a ten month old puppy grow is not as impactful to my fragile self-esteem. Our lovely Euka has gone from a bouncy carpet stainer to her canine teenage phase and you know what?  I’m still pretty much the same age as when we got this thing started.

And there you have it.  Yet another wonderful thing about volunteer puppy raising.  The benefits are just never ending with this gig.

We had the Ohio E’s together for a training session a couple of weeks ago. When Ella, Emma, Everett and Euka were a young two months old, we introduced their puppy noggins to some new experiences during a group training.  You can see what we covered back then in the post Time to Ramp It Up.

In this next session, our maturing pups were proofed on commands for a greater proficiency and asked to do a few new things as well.

In this photo on the left our E’s are in a Sit with an implied Stay.  For CCI commands, a Sit or Down comes with the Stay command unspoken yet still attached. That is, the pups learn that they are being asked to maintain their spot until the next command is given.  A very helpful mindset to have wired into their mindsets are they learn to be service dogs.  And so as the pups mature, we extend the Sit/Downs with the implied Stays for longer periods.

Puppy raisers are just out of the shot to provide a quick correction for any distracted furry thoughts. Should one of these E’s decide to move on from their Sit, they’re met with a verbal correction and get their bum placed right back to spot they were warming up just a moment before.  See the orange thing by Ella? Yeah, we were tossing a football dog toy into their space for the extra challenge.

Pretty much the same things going on here with the photo on the right.  To proof the Down command we walk between, around and step over them. And yeah, the orange football has a bit part here again in this scene.

Note the pups are in a sternal position and we also like to see them roll onto a hip. Alert, but relaxed is what we’re looking for here.

Our training facilitators, Emma’s puppy raisers, have provided some props to bump up the session for additional challenges.  A ladder flat to the ground provides a walking experience over a novel surface.

A teeter totter and a wobble board is set up to help with puppies adjusting their walk and overcoming any concerns about putting their paws on an unstable surface.

 
And the tube, that glorious thing, is out again too.  Everett and Ella at ten weeks old had enjoyed some camaraderie moments in the blue tube. The two pups fit well within its confines and found the environment snug, yet comfy enough to move one’s body about for a robust wrestling match.
 

This time around, they do still kinda make it in there together. But it’s more like trying to fit into your jeans from high school. Sure, you can stuff some leg in there, or for some of us maybe it’s just an arm, but it’s clear that the zipper isn’t going seeing any action.

Any anyway, our confident *cough dominant cough* Miss Euka prefers ownership of the thing for her own purposes.


I have conquered the tube, says Euka.
It is mine.

Well, Hello Deer

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Why, hello deer

You know, I’ve always kinda liked the humble little burgh where we live.  So much so, that apparently I’m willing to drive an hour to my job, which is located in a more upscale locale with a denser population. We’ve grown roots here in this town, we have. Family, friends and many of our interests are comfortably close by.

We chose this community to put the Favorite Kid through the local public school system, having moved from an even smaller town*. The schools here have boasted an Excellent rating for several years and now that I have a college grad for a kid I can lay claim that we made a pretty good choice coming out this way.

A couple things I miss out here, though. It would be lovely to have bookstore with a coffee shop to lounge about in.  And . . . well, actually that’s pretty much it. Oh wait, no.  A bookstore with a coffee shop and an outdoor patio.  Some flowers, a couple of throw pillows** . . . [sigh]

But when I tell The Husband about the upcoming training event for the CCI pups at a Cabela’s in Columbus, I realize that a big, honkin’ sporting good store might spark the interest of some folk as well.

Google Maps tells us to expect this to be an hour and a half drive to the new Cabela’s, the first of its name in Ohio, located within all the bustle of Polaris commerce. As we navigate through this fancy commercial area, we’re reminded of all the other shops and eateries missing from our simple burgh. Polaris shows herself to be a rapidly growing area. Similar to watching your buildings time lapse like in SimCity 4, there are new stores of all genres going up on every street and avenue. And just when you think you’re on a main road, it’s all nope, this is just a sub-street to a parking lot and you have to find another route across to get to where you want to be. Like a labyrinth, but one designed by a city planning engineer.

But no matter, we make it on time for an obligatory after-the-drive potty break for Euka and to join the other CCI puppy raisers outside Cabela’s entrance.  Walking towards the gathering group I realize, if memory serves, this is only the third time Euka has been in the presence of so many other CCI puppies in training.  We give her a moment to process this info across the canine neurons (play or work?) before we move into the training event in the store. 

I catch a shot of her with a ponderous look.  Such deep thoughts, one has to wonder what profundity is working through the noggin.

Don’t labyrinths have minotaurs?

This isn’t our first visit to a Cabela’s with a CCI puppy, so we had an inkling of an idea of what to expect inside with Euka.  Every dog is different, of course, so best to not get distracted from any signs that the puppy is feeling stressed. In dog language, a full on stare and stiff body exhibited by another dog is an aggressive challenge. So it could be that a full size taxidermied critter might bring on a fight or flight response in a puppy. Be aware, but don’t be stressed about it — the puppy will pick up on this too, we know.
Micron’s trip to a Cabela’s a couple of years ago in Virginia, back when he was a mere pup in training, was a non-eventful affair. No problems then with staring prong-horns or beady eyed catfish in the aquarium. Well, just that one worrisome moment when I thought the big guy might claim a stuffed jackrabbit as his very own fluffy bunny, but that passed without security getting involved.



Oh, c’mon, people. Even a dog can make a smore.

Euka doesn’t have the same stuffed animal fixation as the mighty Micron, so we move smoothly among the taxidermy art to practice Ups, Unders, Visits and such in this distracting environment.

On left is Euka demonstrating Up, a command that the CCI trainers will build on as they teach the dogs to turn on light switches.

Do note the boxes on the left display there.  Those are campfire smores kits. In a box. When I was a kid, we had to make our own smores from raw ingredients like stale graham crackers and sticks out of the yard, and not from some prefab stuff in a box. You kids today have it so easy.

Moving on, in the photo below Euka is demonstrating her Derp face as she performs the Under command.



Derp

At the fish tank, Euka shows no interest in the whatever those are finning around in there. No, our little tart is more interested in the cute guy on the left.

look at me look at me look at me

Next to the Dead Thing Mountain display, we have the pups do a Jump onto a cedar bench. I’m not in any hurry to work on this one. With that Tigger spring in her butt, Euka has no problem with Jump.  She can jump efficiently, even without a command. Like the time she jumped, all four paws now, onto my desk at work to get a better look at a favorite co-worker. Yep, this white girl can jump alright.

So we watch the other pups. Euka is in a Down observing one pup after the next.  Jump!  Good Dog! [photo op] Next . . .

Oh, this “Jump.” I thought you
meant the other one.

We go last, nearly everyone else has moved onto the next training challenge. Which, in hindsight, I’m grateful for. Because yep, shore nuff, Euka has completely forgotten this skill that she was, indeed just this very morning, so very proficient in.

Euka! I say. Jump!  Euka puts both front paws on the bench and turns to look at me.  She is smiling and wagging her tail like she just did the most amazing thing.

Well, I say. Good “Up”, Euka.  I swing her back into position and repeat the Jump command with the same sad ending. Alrighty, let’s try this again. Darn it, she knows this one.

You know how they say to determine that you’ve gotten a bit unhinged in the noggin parts?  You keep doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results***.

So yeah, fine. Just fine. Oh, for . . . just pick her up and put her butt up there, I tell The Husband.  I want a picture of her with the deer in the background.  I look at the digital image in the camera, deem it a pretty crappy shot yet somehow good enough because I’m getting stupid frustrated about this whole refusing to do the Jump thing.

Which is, of course, exactly why it’s so important to do these training outings.  No, not just to frustrate me. I can get that at home without the three hour round trip drive. Rather this is a good reminder of why we need to proof these puppies in unfamiliar and distracting environments.  Euka certainly knows her stuff at the places we frequent and it’s so very easy to set this as a pattern of behavior. But as she showed us at the cedar bench, we need to practice her commands in the new and different. Something we’ll now throw ourselves into with a renewed effort.

A thank you goes to Cabela’s and staff for being such gracious hosts and supporting the puppy raisers for Canine Companions for Independence.  We had a blast meeting y’all. And sorry about that Dead Thing Mountain comment. But it kinda is, right?

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*Ok, it wasn’t even a town.  Our prior residence was a village, a farming community.  When we put the kid through kindergarten screening was when we decided it was time to bolt.  Get this . . . after testing my five year old, we were informed that because he couldn’t skip, he would be certainly be a poor reader.  These scholars were ready to slap a remedial label on the kid before he even stepped a sneakered foot into a classroom simply because I never bothered to teach the boy the essential life skill of skipping. They even handed me a paper how “research has shown us” this factoid of theirs. Yep, I actually still have that paper. And apparently from this little rant, the grudge as well.

**Young Frankenstein (1974)

***A quote attributed to Albert Einstein, but a disclaimer that I have not fact checked this. It does sound like something he would say though, right? And wasn’t he just a bit, um, eccentric too? So if you claim to be insane, are you really? How would you know? Oh, never mind.

"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.

  

 
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*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

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