Sunday, February 28, 2010

Scrapbook - Retriever (Golden)

I was watching the Golden Retriever video from the Westminster Kennel Club 2010 Dog Show today. Such gorgeous dogs!

The video was labeled as the AKC always does: "Retriever (Golden)"

In case the glorious, gleaming golds don't give it away - this is Beau.

(As always, click for something larger)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tale of Zen - Duck

I love hearing other people's Zen stories (Zen treats, Zen doors, Zen friends...) so here is my own (latest) Tale of Zen.

""Zen", as we use the word in dog training, is so important as to be virtually the foundation of civilization. It means "self-control"."
Sue Ailsby - Training Levels

With the yard still a mixture of mostly mud with only the occasional tuft of green, we've moved lunchtime play indoors. Specifically, we are playing "Find the Duck!"

The rules are simple. The dogs eat their lunch, lounge around while hubby and I enjoy our lunch, wait until the Yard Duty (hubby) cleans up the yard (a hold-over from sunny days when Fetch was the order of the day), wait until I clean up the Kitchen, and then (and only then) the moment arrives.

I walk over to the sacred bookcase and withdraw the sacrificial Duck from his box, which was specially designed to keep the very loved and very wet duck from ruining said sacred bookcase between sessions.

Beau goes first (of course) and Zachary waits (semi-patiently) behind a loosely laid baby-gate until his turn. After 2-3 finds, we repeat with Zachary (Beau waiting much less patiently) and then everybody gets a cookie while the Duck retires for a much needed rest until the 'morrow.

Lately, however, this (semi) peaceful, always joyous, mid-day break has taken an ugly turn.

Enter: The Barker.

It should be understood that neither of my boys are ordinarily vocal. Zachary will bark at thumps - although he's improving - and that's about it. Beau is the epitome of silence.

Was the epitome silence.

It started with just an excited bark or two as I extracted the Duck from his sacred cubby. Over the next few days and weeks it grew into a running commentary as I walk toward the bookcase and until Sir Beau got his turn. As Beau was otherwise as quiet as mouse, and it was nice to know he really enjoyed the activity, I let it slide.

Until today.

Today, as I stood up from the table, he looked right at me, and began to bark. And bark. And bark some more.

Now Beau is a big dog. He is all dog. And when he wants to be heard, he can definitely sound off like... well, you get the idea.

And he did. Repeatedly.

"Hmmm...," I thought, "I guess I should do something about that." (ok - let's see you think deep thoughts with a field howitzer going off nearby.)

I stood there a moment or two longer (bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark, bark...) - and then it hit me.


I needed Duck Zen.

So I just stood there and I waited.

I didn't really need to wait that long. Beau gave it few more and then quit, looking a tad perplexed.


I took a step.

Bark, bark, bark...

And I was already back to my chair.

Bark, bark?


I took a step, and another.

Bark, bark, bark...

And back to the chair I went.



Three steps. Bark. Return. Silence. Four steps. Bark. Return. Silence.

Somewhere on the 7-8th try, there was Silence. Pure silence. Silence as I walked to the bookcase. Silence as I picked up the duck. Silence as I put up the baby-gate.

I love Duck Zen.

(now if only I could figure out how to shut him up when it's Zachary's turn to "Find The Duck!")

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Scrapbook - Light 2

Here's another pair taken in "dramatic lighting". I was trying for shots of Beau, but unfortunately they didn't turn out. It seems the contrast between a dark background and a light subject only happens when the subject is actually, well, light.

Zachary's light fur causes the camera to underexpose the background in a way that seems hard to reproduce with Beau's richer coloring.

Still, I think the shots of Zachary I took at the same time came out pretty nice, especially the first one (below) that should meet the "Formal Portrait" requirement of the Photography Elective.

(As always, click to see it bigger.)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Elective - Excursions

Excursions falls under the “Citizen” part of Extracurricular Activities, along with Companionship and Basic Manners. The three are very much intertwined, and teasing one out from the others is proving to be rather difficult. I possibly should have arranged them differently, and after thinking about it for a while, I might eventually do so.

(Sound familiar?)

The first part deals with getting out of the house and going to places around town. For the moment, these are the things that came to mind in my home town.

The second part involves going further afield - or even into fields. I dislike dirt, bugs, sweat (and sweating) so how far "far" really is becomes somewhat relative.

In the end, the list is for me, my family (if I can drag them along) and my furry boys. Your millage may vary.

A lot.

... oh, and a last minute addition is the second page (below) included to keep track of where we've been.

(As always click to make larger - and remember, this is still somewhat of a draft)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Scrapbook - Flowers

My little helpers followed me out back on President's Day, taking great interest in my pruning of the long-dead Hydrangea blossoms.

While the flowers had no special smell to me, the dogs sure took great interest in them!

It was a beautiful pre-Spring day, the sun was out, the air was warm, and it was a pleasure to spend time with my favorite furry friends.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


It's been rather quiet here, I know. With the boys innards in a bit of an uproar for the past three weeks, I laid off Training Treats entirely in hopes of clearing things up. No treats = little "formal" instruction = not a whole lot to talk about.

That's not to say that no learning was accomplished. Dogs, like children, are always learning something.

Zachary is learning to be my son's Study Buddy. It's a tough job, requiring you lay across your partner's lap and snooze while getting a full body massage.

Like I said, tough job.

This week had the added attraction of getting your body parts named in Spanish. Zachary learned where his uñas, muñecas, and mejillas are.

Zachary likes having his mejillas scratched.

The boys continue to work on Patience.

- Patience when I take the Duck from his shelf - I don't move if they are jumping about.

- Patience from the one I put in a stay while I go hide the Duck (who, sadly, was terminally eviscerated today.)

- Patience when I get out the leash for a walk, although in that case it's more me waiting patiently until Zachary stops hopping around like a Kangaroo Rat.

- Patience while I wipe muddy paws and remind each dog that they have have four paws and all must be wiped before they are allowed into the rest of the house.

The nice thing about Patience exercises is they require no food rewards. Patience brings its own rewards - whether ducks, or leashes, or the freedom to sleep on my bed.

I worked on Patience, too - the Patience to put schooling on hold while I wait for the dogs to feel better.

Good thing no one is grading me on my patience!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Elective - Basic Manners

Basic Manners falls under the “Citizen” part of Extracurricular Activities, along with Companionship and Excursions. The three are very much intertwined, and teasing one out from the others is proving to be rather difficult. I possibly should have arranged them differently, and after I try writing up one or both of the other two, I might eventually do so.

(Sound familiar?)

The first part (Around the House) describes how I would like my dogs to behave without having to remind them. This is the current norm for all but the last one (Greet people politely at the door.) I suppose creating an Elective for which my dogs already have the skills might sound pointless, but until I made the list, I didn't realize how good they really where!

Party Time is going to be extremely hard as (a) my boys get way too excited when guests show up and (b) I don't really enjoy having guests over (kinda explains (a) doesn't it).

We'll have to see how it goes.

Out on the Town will not be easy, particularly for Beau (who might skip this Elective) but I think it's an important part of Zachary's education.

(As always click to make larger - and remember, this is still somewhat of a draft)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Scrapbook - Fetch

For as much as Beau has Obsessive Compulsive Friendliness Disorder (OCFD) Zachary is afflicted with Obsessive Compulsive Ball-Retrieval Disorder (OCBRD). He would follow me to the ends of the earth so long as I had a tennis ball in my hand, and he would climb any mountain or swim any sea where I might throw it.

I honestly do not understand why he enjoys it so much.

If I just give him the ball he drops it at my feet. If I throw it and Beau gets it, Zachary will wait more or less patiently until Beau drops it (Beau doesn't do retrieval now that Zachary is around.) I therefore presume that possession isn't the point of the game.

Should I throw it into the bushes and he can't find it, his world comes crashing down around him. He's frantic, totally frantic, as he scours the yard trying locate the precious ball. Another ball just won't do. It has to be that ball - even though the other ball might have been the object of desire just the day before.

Beau joins in the hunt when the ball gets lost, but his searching is  one of friendly competition, "Can I find it first?"

With Zachary it is an act of desperation.

The ball must be found.

(Click to see a larger version)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Elective - Companionship

Companionship falls under the “Citizen” part of Extracurricular Activities, along with Basic Manners and Excursions. The three are very much intertwined, and teasing one out from the others is proving to be rather difficult. I possibly should have arranged them differently, and after I try writing up one or both of the other two, I might eventually do so.

But for now, here it is.

To create this Elective, I started with my “Fairy Tale” from the other day, putting in activities that I personally want to do with my dogs. As this is a personal list, I don’t know if it’s that useful for anyone else, but here it is anyway.

Once again, this is not supposed to be Obedience.

While I do expect the leash to remain reasonably loose and the dog to show some level of self-control, that’s about it. Likewise, it is not Basic Manners (meeting people, sitting for petting, etc.) which is a different Elective.

Finally, it is not Excursions (which is pretty much what it sounds like) although there will probably be some overlap between the two electives.

What most likely will happen is that, once Spring approaches with it’s longer days and nicer weather, I will work on all three at the same time.

Note: This is a draft version, subject to change without notice.

(As always, click to see larger)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Companionship - A Fairy Tale

If I were to list the top five reasons I have dogs, companionship would sit right up there at the top. Cats make wonderful companions, too, and I have been a servant to many over the years. One, in particular, stole my heart, and the memories of the love and devotion he gave me during his long life will remain with me forever.

But (stating the obvious here) cats and dogs are very different. One such difference is that a cat usually resides at home while a dog is often more willing and able to accompany its people to a variety of public places.

Assuming he or she is socially acceptable... whatever that means.

What immediately pops into my mind is a little old lady (let's call her Granny) and her little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Sarah.

Once upon a time, Granny and Sarah go to town to buy some quilting fabric. Granny probably doesn't need any more fabric, but all her friends are there, with plenty of good chit-chat, so I suppose this is really more a social call than anything else.

Sarah rides nicely in the car, happy to be going out but not so happy as to be hazard to Granny's already iffy driving. Once parked, Sarah waits patiently until Granny gets herself, her purse, and her reusable shopping bag (Granny being environmentally friendly) out of the car. Then Sarah hops over to the now empty drivers seat, waits until Granny snaps her pretty pink leash on, and then hops daintily to the ground.

While Granny fumbles with her keys, Sarah passes the time quietly sniffing the ground, being carefully not to tug on the leash lest she unbalance Granny. Then the two head off toward the store. Parking being hard to come by in town, they have a bit of a walk, but Sarah doesn't mind and she trots merrily along, pausing here and there for a quick sniff but never causing the leash to tighten nor get in Granny's way.

Other people pass them on the sidewalk, some with dogs and some without, but Sarah has good social skills and greets all with a friendly sniff and a wag of her plumey tail.

... well, you can see where I'm going with this. Sarah is obviously going to be welcome in the store as she doesn't make a mess, bark, or bother other patrons. She's welcome at the Hair Salon as she isn't afraid of the loud hair driers. She's welcome at the outdoor Cafe as she doesn't beg or steal food. She's a favorite with the waitresses there because she gently takes tasty treats from their fingers, leaving the fingers just the way she found them.

Sarah is fine walking back to the car. The fact she doesn't tug on the leash making it easy for Granny to manage her and the overstuffed reusable shopping bag. She's fine walking past the elementary school when the kids get out and go running past. Some stop to pet her, some don't, and she accepts them either way. Sarah is fine a the post office, where she waits in the car for a minute while Granny drops the letters into the curbside mailbox.

In fact, Sarah is good everywhere that Granny takes her, and Granny takes her everywhere since Sarah is so good.

Sadly, this is just a Fairy Tale for many of the people and dogs I know. The irony is that so many loving companions can't actually accompany the people they love due to questionable social skills, and yet their social skills will never improve because they are never taken anywhere.

I don't want Zachary to be one of those dogs.

I got him off to a good start when he was puppy, taking him many places and having him meet many people and things. But as I'm not a social person myself (huge understatement) I admit to letting serious socialization slide of late... like... the last six months of late... or so...

But I will let it slide no longer. This week I'm going to finish writing up the Extracurricular Activity (Elective) for Companionship, keeping my little Fairy Tale in mind. Note that this is not the same as Obedience. Granny never specifically asked Sarah to do anything.

All that was desired was for her to be a good companion.

( Stay tuned for the next episode, where I try to figure out what I really want from my own canine companions. )

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Scrapbook - Light and Shadow

These two Scrapbook pages should speak for themselves. The pictures were taken using late afternoon light that was streaming through the living room window. A good solid stay (and a cookie or two) was all I needed, as nature supplied the rest.

While I haven't a clue what this has to do with Homeschooling my dogs, I can't help but think that anything that helps you see the beauty in your students can't be a total waste of time.

... plus it meets Photography's "dramatic lighting" requirement, which was a February Syllabus item.

(As always, click for something larger)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Scrapbook - The Muddy Paw

Recently, while strolling through the local Library (one of my favoritest places in the whole wide world) looking for nothing in particular, I stumbled across a book on Scrapbooking. Knowing the last thing in the world that I need is another hobby, I checked out the book.

Later that day, ensconced on the sofa with a nice cup of coffee, a Snuggie (don't knock it until you tried it) and a couple of furry lap warmers, I flipped through the pages admiring the work of people who obviously have less to do during the week than I.

Or manage their time better.

Or possibly both.

Anyway, as I sighed longingly and flipped some more pages, I realized that there isn't any reason I couldn't do something like that.

No, really.

But not with paper (the dogs might eat the paper)...

No cropped photographs (the dogs might eat the scissors)...

No fancy albums (have you seen how crowded my study is???)...

But I could give it a go on my loyal computer.

(Besides, I'm still looking for something useful to do with all these pictures I like to take!)

So here it is, my very first Scrapbook page:

(As always, click to see larger)

Recess is over, students are restless, time to get back to teaching...