Friday, June 30, 2006

Golly the Instigator

I've mentioned that Golly is a princess. She's a diva, above the riff-raff, and nothing is too good for Golly. But, she's a troublemaker. We'll be outside and the other dogs will be minding their own business - smelling the flowers, watching the birds, enjoying the sunshine. Then, all of a sudden, Golly will bark once and set everyone else off. She'll look around as her sibs go crazy at nothing, shrug like they're nuts, and figure if you can't beat them, join them! We originally thought it was Roc who starts the barking frenzy, but it's his sister!

The other day I thought that I would give myself a treat and actually sit down on a real chair and read my book for an hour. So, I pulled up the front blinds and settled in for a nice quiet session. The dogs jumped onto the window seat and curled up for a nap. All except Golly. She watched the neighborhood for anything bark-worthy. A squirrel, a leaf, a bird, and a neighbor! All got Golly going. But, her siblings weren't buying it. They were too comfy! So much for the Instigator!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Cultural diversity in dogdom

Because I'm the registrar for our dog trraining club, I don't usually bring my dog to training on the first night of a new session. I'm busy before class starts, about 10 minutes into the class and again towards the end, when the next class is getting ready to go.

We run two rings with classes, the Beginner and Open dogs train first, then the Novice and Utility dogs an hour later. I've got to say that watching is almost as much fun as being in the ring.

Dogs are a great equalizer. When we're all in the ring, you have absolutely no idea what anyone does in "real life" - what they do for a living, what kind of house they live in, who they live with. We're all just getting together to have a good time with our dogs. And we're all pretty much dressed alike - jeans, t-shirts and sneakers, or their equivalents. We also may not know each other's names - but we know the dogs! I'm Roc's mom for training purposes. And I know when the instructor calls for Roc to do something, she's not expecting him to act independently. My dog and I are a team and the instruction is really meant for the team member who actually speaks English.

I was particularly enjoying the different kinds of dogs in class this week. We had:
  • Weimeraner
  • Giant Schnauzer
  • Border Terrier
  • German Shepherd
  • Rottweiler
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Golden Retriever
  • Sheltie
  • Saluki
  • Spanish Water Dog
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Parson Russell Terrier

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

It's you!

Don't you think the world would be a better place if everyone came home to someone who's overjoyed they've arrived?

When I get home from work my little boy Roc lets me know that I'm the best thing that ever happened to him. He's got the world's fastest tail-wag and he pants "ha ha ha." It can't be a coincidence that it sounds like laughter.

It's nice being the best thing since sliced bread.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


The dogs are now done helping me vacuum. In the back of my mind I always knew we'd come to grief one way or the other. I expected the vacuum to be the casualty - plastic can only hold up so long against the jaws of a French Bulldog.

I was wrong. The casualty was my left forefinger. Since I'm (mostly) left-handed, I'm feeling the pain. Dax, of course, didn't mean to bite me. She was attacking the vacuum attachment I was using on her dog bed (what else?) and my finger was in exactly the wrong place at the wrong time.

I'm not very good at blood. I can usually get through the immediate crisis fine, but then I sort of pass out. Once, when I was getting a medical test that involved injecting some dye through a vein in my hand, I announced that I was going to pass out. The nurse, who was trying to find a vein that wouldn't roll away from her, cheerily announced "No, you're not." I don't know what she said next. I woke up about five minutes later.

Anyway, I patched myself up, sat with my head between my knees for a couple of minutes, and went on with my chores. But now there's a gate in the doorway of the room I'm vacuuming. The furkids can "help" in other ways.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Ceilidh's Dilemma

Ceilidh has a new predicament! I may have mentioned that Ceilidh's favorite toy is her Latex Soccer Ball. And, unless we set the timer for her scheduled play time, she will want us to throw the ball, throw the ball, throw the ball... you get the idea. And without her Latex Soccer Ball, Ceilidh is bereft. She does not know what to do with herself. No other toy will do!

Owning a store specializing in great stuff for small dogs (GollyGear) gives us access to wonderful merchandise, distributors and manufacturers. It also gives us knowledge that we might not otherwise have. Like, rising fuel costs makes it more difficult to acquire that great, high-quality Spanish latex. Panic time! We only have one Latex Soccer Ball in reserve for Ceilidh and the 2 inch balls have been on back order forever! So, we took a chance and ordered the next larger size. A customer gave us the idea, actually. Hopefully we now have enough 2 1/2 inch Latex Soccer Balls to last us a while!

In appearance the 2 1/2 inch ball looks much bigger, but of course it's just 1/2 inch! We tried it out last night during our regularly scheduled play session, and after an initial poke and lick, Ceilidh dove after it! The 2 1/2 inch Latex Soccer Ball is just as soft as the 2 inch one, and bounces just as high! It was a hit! Now Ceilidh's only problem is deciding which size ball she wants to play with!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Pat your head and rub your tummy

I am a klutz. I have always been a klutz. Back in the olden days, when I was a kid, we walked to school. When I was in third grade, my mother wouldn't leave for work until she'd heard from the school nurse what damage I'd done that day on the four blocks between home and school.

Fortunately, it's never particularly bothered me that I can't walk and chew gum. I know that, with sufficient practice, I can master most complicated maneuvers, like the aforementioned walking and chewing gum.

So, with this little brain/body disconnection, I decide on dog obedience for a hobby. Instead of something nice and sedentary like coin collecting. I worked on the "figure 8" exercise pacing by using a metronome. I practiced about-turns, left turns and right turns, without my dog, forever. If you've ever done any "heeling," you know it bears very little resemblance to walking, so I practice heeling. And since I have a tiny, little dog, I practice using a short stride with a brisk pace.

What is all this leading to? Our club has decided to incorporate some moves from Rally Obedience into our classes. Which means learning a whole new set of moves. Huge fun! Some of the people in my Open level class have already competed in Rally. They know me by now. First they show me the exercise, as they explain it. Then they do it with me, side-by-side, until I get it right.

Of course, Roc is smart enough to heel very, very wide until I've got the footwork mastered. Not that I've every stomped on the boy, but he knows it's entirely possible.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Okay, we've got plenty of experience

You know the adage: Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want?

Well, I'm just about up to my eyebrows in experience now. Needless to admit, Roc and I did not qualify in Open A at our obedience trial yesterday. At the judge's discretion. I thought he did great. All of my fellow club members thought we did great. The judge judged that Roc hit the board on the broad jump and NQ'd us. Sigh. The only person whose opinion actually counts is the judge.

Oh well. There's always another trial. We had a good time and the byplay that goes on at trials is a lot of fun. A while ago I talked about how Ben, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is afraid of Roc, my Brussels Griffon. He avoids Roc whenever possible. Just by coincidence Marlene and Ben showed yesterday right before Roc and me. Which meant that on the group exercises (three-minute sit and five-minute down) Ben and Roc would be next to each other. Marlene was absolutely convinced that Ben would "break" the exercise. So she relaxed. Once you've given up hope, there's no reason to be nervous.

As it turned out, Ben's terror worked in his favor. He didn't move a muscle. Marlene and Ben qualified.

Have I mentioned how I'm thoroughly tired of experience?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The show will go on

You know the adage about a terrible dress rehearsal leading to a great show? Pray it works for me.

Roc and I are entered in Open A in an obedience trial on Sunday. It's not just any trial, either. It's our own club's show. Which means we'll know just about everybody there. And he was a complete goofus in training last night.

Roc looked at me with those gorgeous, melting brown eyes and as much as said "Sit? What is this sit? Have I ever heard this word before?" "Stay" was equally incomprehensible.

Sometimes you just have to wonder what goes on in that tiny little head.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Unexpected Princess

I think I've mentioned before that Golly's not really into playing. She's the diva of the pack - aloof and above the crowd. But last night she forgot herself - she chose one toy after another and chased, and tugged, and chewed, and teased!

Golly grabbed one toy and presented it to me for chasing purposes - I would scooch it along the floor, she would try to grab it, then when she succeeded in that, ran a little bit away and teased.

Then, when that got old (after about a minute), she decided she didn't want to play any more. But she saw how much fun her siblings were having during the play session and went shopping for another toy. She chose a stuffed frog toy that her French Bulldog sister, Dax, had disembowelled. (Picture a frog-skin rug in plush!) She took that frog skin and jumped up on the chair with it. (Our house is very dog-friendly with towels and throws over all the furniture.) She teased her brother, Roc, with it - showing it to him then taking it away. Naturally, he grabbed for it and a tug-of-war ensued. Roc won. So, Golly was miffed and decided to sulk.

But the kids' alloted 13 minutes of play time after dinner wasn't over yet (we set the timer so that Ceilidh has uninterrupted play time and then leaves us alone for the rest of the evening). And Golly decided to grab another toy. This was another plush toy that we, naturally, had considered throwing out because no one had paid any attention to it for months! Always the unexpected from Golly!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Dues? All paid up!

Yesterday a friend asked me to write a reference for him. He's up for a position as a dog trainer. I'm happy to do it - but I gasped. For a moment it seemed the height of absurdity to me. This is the man who introduced me to the joys of dog training - who is single-handedly responsible for turning me into a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week dog nut. It seems the moment has come - I'm officially a colleague of my mentor! I have arrived!

When I met Frank I was so clueless I was pitiful. My little dog was not socialized, unfriendly, shy and fear-aggressive. And this was the same dog who, with Frank's help, was my partner in my very first obedience competition ever. Of course, he completely hated it and we disqualified immediately (Whimsy would only heel as far away from the judge as possible. He hugged the wall on the side away from the judge - keeping up with me perfectly. Unfortunately, the wall was on my right.). I never entered him in another trial - but he was a happier and more social dog because of Frank's instruction.

And I'm a better and happier person because of Frank's classes, too. I've met so many wonderful friends through our involvement with dogs. And I love it when I can say "come" and my dog actually does - even when the Boxer across the alley is much more interesting!

Friday, June 09, 2006

If it's Friday...

If today's Friday, that means that yesterday was ... yup, Agility Class! As you may know, I take Ceilidh, my 5-year-old Boston Terrier nut to play at Agility. For you dog-lovers who've never seen Agility, it's a blast! It's like a set obstacle course for dogs, with jumps, tunnels, teeter-totters, elevated ramps to walk on, A-Frames to climb, and poles to weave through (the dog, not the handler). The person must tell the dog which obstacle to take, in a specific order, and in competition, below a specified time in order to qualify for various titles.

Class is always fun. Everyone celebrates each others' victories, commiserates over defeats. Last night we were celebrating a new championship title in the breed ring! Annie the Giant Schnauzer is now a breed champion! And Annie was celebrating, too! She was romping all around the room, not paying attention to her mom, just having a great time! And if you've never seen a Giant Schnauzer romping, let your imagination go wild!

A couple of weeks ago our instructor told me it was high time to enter a trial or two. Yikes! Ceilidh's ready, it's me I'm worried about! But, just to show she was a star, that evening Ceilidh ran through the weave poles (the right way!) without my running alongside! Of course, last night she didn't know what weave poles were!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Just when you think they've got a clue

A couple of weeks ago when I blogged about the big, bad, 10-pound Roc, I mentioned that Staffy Bull Ben is scared of him. Last night in training, I learned why that may be so.

After class a few of us were standing around schmoozing, talking about our upcoming Obedience Trial, while the Novice Class was going on in the next ring. I was rudely interrupted by Roc snarking and sounding generally vicious. After a quick correction I looked to see who he's fussing at. It's an inquisitive, but very nice Standard Poodle. She was looking at him like she couldn't believe all that noise came out of that tiny plush toy. The poodle probably shouldn't have been sticking its head out of its own ring and into Roc's face, but that's no excuse for his reaction.

Fortunately, no harm was done, except to whatever reputation I may have had as a trainer. I really thought the little dude was getting better. It may be another case of "two steps forward and one step back" but we're going keep a careful eye on that boy.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Her own twist on training

This morning I tried a new training experiment with Golly. She'll run outside, do her business, then sit against the fence while everybody else is sniffing, roaming, etc.

It would be fine, but she barks. Not big or hysterical barking, just a single "bupp" at regular intervals - about every 15 seconds or so. Not incredibly irritating, but annoying over a period of time.

So I stood next to her and tapped the top of her head, gently, every time she "bupp"ed. And after about three repetitions, did she stop "bupping?" No. She learned to bupp and duck.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

On an ever-spinning reel

A very poignant juxtaposition today among the blogs I follow.

I found out that Touille, a little dog, writer of a little blog, has died.

And HalloweenLover, blogging in lots and lots of nonsense, has announced her pregnancy.

I know, I know. Dogs are not children. But they are beloved. And their lives should be celebrated, too.