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Category Archives: Young Frankenstein

It’s all fun and games until somebody gets tired

On your mark . . . get set . . . Release!

Oh, Micron, I sing song. Here, big guy. Let’s play some games.

I’m interrupting Micron as he’s having another Zen experience with the sofa. He is at One with the thing in a deep meditative state.  This period of restoration is needed after napping on the cool floor in the foyer.

Whu? says Micron, blinking.  Games?  I’m in!  Wait a sec, lemme find my special tennis ball.

Not necessary, I say. We don’t need the ball for this. Let’s do something a little different. This will be so much better than fetch.

Oh, ok. Different, huh? he says. He thinks about this. The tail of wondrous beauty starts to wag.  Oh! Is it the cat? Can I play with Bodine on my terms for once? oh please oh please oh please?

You know what?, I say. I don’t even want to know what that means. On your terms? But no, it’s not tormenting the cat. What’s your very favorite thing? I mean, besides napping?

Ah, gotcha! I know, I know! says Micron, with a quick tongue flip to lick his nose.  Play time with dog cookies. You know, I kinda wish they’d make tennis balls out of food. Now, that would be my favorite game, I think.

And that would be the shortest game ever, I say. Ok, now look. I want you to sit on this rug until I release you.  I’ll be over here with the treats. You just come on over and get a treat when I say Release.

Is this some kind of trick, Food Lady? He squints at me.  I’m not allowed to eat off the floor, you said. And getting yelled at doesn’t sound like a fun game. Can I go get the cat now?

The treats aren’t on the floor, I tell him.  Lookit, we have these red plates.

I can’t see red, says Micron.

You can see the two plates though, can’t you? I ask.

Well, yeah, he says.

Then there ya go, I say. This ain’t rocket surgery, Copernicus. I think you’ll get the hang of this just fine.

So we begin with the warm up exercises for the Communication section of our Dognition exercises.  We completed the Empathy sessions last week with games involving contagious yawning and timing how long we can maintain eye contact.  I wasn’t surprised to see Micron off the charts on Bonding; we do spend a lot of time together me and him.



Micron’s Dognition results

I’m feeling pretty darn confident about this next section then. I know my dog real well, I do. And honestly, Micron’s not too hard to read.  It’s almost like he has a cartoon balloon floating over his head with his thoughts. I’d predicted his results on the Communication session to put him well over on the Collaborative side of the scale.  In the image above, imagine the scale as 1 to 10 with Self-reliant being a 1 on the right, Collaborative a 10.  My guess? Micron would fall about 7.

The warm up exercises were interesting to see that Micron, when faced with a choice of selecting a treat on the right or left, always went to his left.  Huh. Well, that’s my right of course. The treat pocket is consistently on the right and cookies distributed from my right hand. Is that what’s happening here or is my creative dog actually left-pawed?

And when we move through the exercises where I point to the treat, alternating left and right, Micron always moves to his left to collect the cookie from the red plate. Except when he doesn’t.  A couple of times, he actually does move to his right. But usually not at same time I’m pointing at it.

What the heck, Micron? We have a bonding here. The dog can soak up emotions like a sponge, but my hand pointing to the cookie provides nary a clue?  So yeah, here’s where he came out on this one.

Micron’s Dognition results

Right smackeroo in the middle.  What is that anyway?  A personality split between unstable and indecisive?

Well, the ill fated Communication session didn’t take very long and since Micron’s still awake we move onto the next session of Cunning.  And, important to pause here to note, that last sentence is the first time I’ve ever used the words cunning and Micron so close together.

The Cunning results have a scale of Trustworthy (that’s our 1 on the scale) to Wily (and that’s the 10, people). Oh heck yeah, Micron.  Here’s a chance to redeem yourself.  This dog o’mine is highly trained, don’t you know.  Micron and trustworthy can be said in the same sentence with straight face.  See, there I said it.  Micron is trustworthy.

The results here will show us how Micron “uses information from others to avoid detection” according to Dognition.  Ok then, Dognition researchers, cinch up your suspenders and prepare yourselves to be wondersmacked by the mighty Micron. Here we go . . .

Three parts to the Cunning exercises.  In the first, I direct Micron to his rug, then set a treat on the red plate a few feet away with a Leave It command. I step back while maintaining eye contact.  We time how long until Micron breaks down from the pressure and takes the treat.  The timer stops at ninety seconds; a good thing because we don’t have all day here. Micron is a rock.  I allow him the treat as a reward for his stellar self-control.

Next is the same concept, except that now I turn my back.  Humming the Jeopardy theme in my head, do do doo do do do do, the yellow feller and I allow the obligatory ninety seconds to elapse. And well done, my amazing dog. With all this mad bonding and training going on, of course he waited.

Do it again, says the Dognition program.  You got it, I say with a flip of my hand.  No worries here.

Sit, Leave it, turn around – we repeat the drill. And do do doo do . . . click click. What’s that now? Did I hear doggie toenails on the kitchen floor?  Naw, wonder dog is just shifting his weight, that’s all.  I glance at the timer and see that only thirty seconds have passed. And very slightly, very slowly I turn my head to make sure the treat’s still in place on the red plate.

can’t . . . move

There’s my dog right behind me. Staring at my back, licking his chops.

The treat is gone.

Really, Micron? You’d do me wrong like this? I thought we had something special happening, me and you.

Fine. You know what? Just fine. One more set. Same thing, but instead of turning my back, I face Micron with my hands covering my eyes.  Let’s see how wily you are now, smart guy.

About a minute in, the moaning starts. No, not me, of course. But I appreciate you wondered that. The dog is doing that passive aggressive thing he does to get attention.  It’s a deep, low sound, this groan.  mmhhhnnnnnuh. Like a very tired lawn mower with sleep apnea*. He is not going to make me look at him.  He is not.  We’ll make it through the ninety seconds.

mmhhhnnnnnuh. Oh for . . .  I part the index and middle digits to peek out.  Micron is still on the rug, but prone on the thing looking like it’s all he can do to stay conscious.  I do believe he’s hit the wall here. After this we’ll be done for the day. 

If there’s one thing this dog has, well it sure ain’t stamina.

So how’d we come out with the Cunning results with the opportunistic cookie thief? Yep, right in the middle again.  I suppose it could have been worse, if he hadn’t been too exhausted to get up on that last set.  It’s a rather rare occurrence, but it seems Naptime trumped the Cookie.

Next on deck is the Memory section.  This is the longest set of games in the program, so it’s obvious what needs to happen here, right?

A good night’s sleep for the big guy and some better treats to keep him going.

Ok, so my prediction for the Memory games, you ask?  Judging from the results of my last two guesses on Communication and Cunning, I don’t have any confidence about playing the lottery anytime soon. But here goes anyway.

The scale for Memory goes from 1-Present Minded to 10-Retrospective.  I can play it safe by predicting Micron will fall right in the middle of the scale. Again. But I’m not that kind of girl. 

Considering that my food motivated friend will likely be encouraged to recall where a treat has been placed, I’m gonna say the mighty Micron will be a 6 on the scale.

Which is not the middle, by the way. The middle would be 5.5, of course.

___________________________________________

*The only thing harder than describing the passive-aggressive moaning phenomena as a snoring two -stroke engine with a hangover is typing the sound out in letters like mmhhhnnnnnuh.  Then I recalled the Yummy Sound from Young Frankenstein (1974).

Watch the volume on your speakers for this clip.  It takes you through to the It’s Alive! scene with Gene Wilder going all climactic over Peter Boyle. I wouldn’t suggest that he’s overacting in this scene, because I’m saying it outright. The man is way over the top and it’s wonderful.  What a classic, this movie.

That dessert, by the way, is Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte.  Black Forest Cake to the likes of us. Now ya know.

Well, Hello Deer

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?

______________________________________________
*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.

Test anxiety bites

Ah, Test Anxiety, my old college friend, I say.  There you are, big guy. I kinda was expecting you to show up. But really thought I’d run into you on drive over here.  (Or perhaps drive over you, says the inside voice.)

Yeah, I was running late, he says, slipping into the passenger seat. Sorry about that. I know how much that freaks you out.

Yep, you know me well, I say. Hey TA, it’s nothing personal, of course, but I’ve trying to avoid you.  How did you know where to find me this morning?

I’m a savvy fella, he says with a wink. But you told just about everybody and their second cousin at work. And posting it on Facebook kinda cinched it.

Gotcha. That makes sense, I sigh, making a mental note to unfriend this guy. Oh man! You didn’t tell the Jinx about this, did you?

Test Anxiety laughs, Of course I did, you silly, quivering thing. What’s an event like this without a little Jinx? And you’ll love this!  I called Lack O’Grace as well.  We’re like a team of super heroes, the lot of us.  Glory cannot be won without a challenge or two, my girl.  Without us at your side, life is just an easy A, now isn’t it?

Right, I can always count on you guys to tie my shoelaces together. I say. Hey TA buddy, I’ll just be a few minutes here.  How ’bout you sit back and relax in my comfy Toyota. The Car Talk guys should be on NPR now, so I’ll turn the radio on for . . .

Oh ho! Not a chance, chickie. TA declares in his booming voice. You’ll need me at your elbow the whole way.  And oh, I nearly forgot to remind you that you shouldn’t have tanked up on that last cup of coffee. Oops, you didn’t notice how much you needed to go until I said that, right? Ha, ha, you should see your face! You always make me laugh.

Micron is in the back seat observing this exchange and is left wondering why I’m talking to myself. People are weird, he thinks. But I like how their toes taste.  

You know, I’ve always wanted to believe I would do well on the trivia game shows.  My sad little noggin is filled with so much useless knowledge that trying to have a deep thought requires an air hammer to pound through that concrete layer of trivial nonsense.

My brain cells are kicking around chunky detritus like daddy-long-legs are not spiders and the brontosaurus was a case of mistaken identity. You’ve heard of a murder of crows? How about a conspiracy of ravens?  It’s said that Paul McCartney referred to his muse as Martha and named his dog after her. Which led to the song Martha, My Dear.  Oh, this can go on and on. I’m damaged goods, to be sure.

Right, but put me in the hot seat of a trivia contest and then ask my middle name. Cue up Mr. Test Anxiety. I would stammer until the buzzer sounded and then shout out in panic something random like, Abby Normal!  Which would be helpful for Young Frankenstein trivia. By the way, did you know Aeromsith’s song Walk this Way was inspired by a line in this classic movie? No? Well, then tell your brain cells to move over and make room for this factoid. It’ll likely stick with you for awhile.

So anyway here we are, Micron and me. Walking up the ramp into Gem City Dog Obedience like the pirate’s plank over the great murky depths. You’re going to do great, I say a little too shrilly. [ahem] You’ll be just fine, my handsome fella.

And we’re ready for our certification test to be a Pet Therapy Team. Over the past ten weeks, we’ve trained and practiced and desensitized ourselves to the kryponite of stuffed toys.  Nothing left to do but take a deep breath and . . . ack!  can’t breathe . . . can’t breathe.

Holy cow, I gotta relax. What is the matter with me anyway?  This is a cake walk. Micron’s got it down cold.  Oh great, now I want some cold cake. mmm Chocolate cake with fudgy frosting.  Oh hi there, Miss Stress Eating, you’re back already. I thought we took care of our business this morning?

Got me a job!

We follow the directions as given by the evaluators. We demonstrate the walk on lead, sit, stays, downs, handling and then other challenges unique to a successful pet therapy team. A couple of burps along the way mostly involving me holding the leash too tight (relax, chick. . . ) and then that one heart-stopping moment as Micron does what he does best. He does a Micron.

That dog never met a stuffed toy he didn’t like.

But a quick verbal correction by me and . . .  we’re done.

Talk about the hot seat.  I’m directed to a metal folding chair to await the verdict of the evaluators.  A delightful lady takes the seat next to me and strikes up a conversation.  Micron? That’s an unusual name, she says to me. How did he come by that?  Is this part of the test, I wonder? I feel panicky.  Is there a wrong answer?  Relax, chowderhead, and breathe.  She’s just being friendly. So we pass the time of day until the decision is announced.

Donna?  Congratulations, you two passed.

We did? We did!  whoooot!  Micron, my love! mmmwah!

Take that,  Mr. Test Anxiety. Go lumber back to your dark cavern in the back of my noggin. I don’t want to see you again until, well, never.  But just so you can mark your hellish calendar, take note that we’ll need to take the re-certification test in two years.

Micron and I will be graduating at the Miami Valley Pet Therapy Association’s ceremony on Friday, May 18 at Delco Park in Kettering, OH.  Free and open to all.  Come celebrate with us if you can.

I hear there will be cake.

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