Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Coming Home

I got the call today. It’s time to bring Beau home.

I’ve been doing well, I think. I get up, I go to work, I discussed what happened with my friends and co-workers. I still have Beau’s picture on my Desktop. I still have his picture on my door. 

Doesn’t seem right to take them down.

Not yet.

But now it’s time to bring him home, and the finality of that is… unbearable.

I watch the video of the puppies – such happy little faces, although it’s hard to see them through my tears.

Somewhere, Beau is watching, laughing at my sentimentality over some ashes in a box.

Zachary knows better. He sniffed Beau’s nose, and knew he wasn’t "in there" anymore.

Would that I could slip into Zachary’s world for a few moments, where the big dog isn't really gone, he's just not here.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Puppies - Four Weeks

I met the puppies today, and have falling completely under their spell.

How can something so small and helpless do that?

I can hold them in one hand.

They fit under my chin - soft and warm and gentle.

In one short week they will change. Clumsy bodies with grow stronger, little teeth will grow longer, and little personalities will begin to show.

In one short week we must begin to form an opinion - which one is right for us?

But not today.

Today they are still finding themselves, and they look up at you with dark eyes filled with wonder that seem to ask, "Who are you?"

My reply?

"One who loves you."

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Four weeks old
I received a puppy video from our breeder, Robin, (Aubridge Goldens) yesterday. Ten squirming bundles of adorableness toddling around their "nest".


I'm already suffering from a serious case of "puppy love" and I haven't even met them!

(tick tock tick tock)

Today was library day, and I came home with a book of Baby Names. Silly me, I haven't even seen the little guys yet, and yet, a name is such an important thing - not to be taken lightly or spontaneously.

Beau was easy to name. Matt and I had rescued a Golden Retriever from a four lane freeway one time, years ago, and took him to the local shelter for the community we were driving through. The shelter staff recognized him (Beau) since the dog was prone to wandering and the owner was less than watchful. Ever since that day, we knew that when we got a dog, Beau would be his name.

Zachary... oh my... that was a hard one. We tried out many, many names and there were great family debates. I knew I didn't want a dog whose name sounded like a common cue, as you wouldn't believe the amount of flak I got for having a dog whose named rhymed with "No".

This eliminated pretty much any name that started with "S" (Sit, Stay, Stand) or "D" (Down), or ended in a "o" sound (like the dreaded "No" - not that I ever used the word, simply because it was too close to "Beau".)

We also wanted a "people" name. Our dogs are family members, and while I had many well-loved pets with standard pet names (Tiger, Patches, Callie (for Calico), Miss Pocket (a hamster), to name just a few) I had gotten used to a dog with a people name, and rather like the feel of it.

I think we stumbled across the name "Zachary" when my son was listed off names of his friends. It just seemed to fit. I liked the fact it wasn't your typical dog name, and I really liked how it ended in an "ee" sound, as there was no way to say "Zachary" in a mean way.

On other puppy related fronts...

We dropped Zachary off at "the day spa" today, and in line in front of us was a 14 week old terrier puppy.


Zachary was calm, cool, and very patient as the puppy jumped all over his face, tried to climb on his back, and got tangled in his feet.

A good sign, yes?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Almost Done

I'm almost done settling Beau's affairs. I still have to tell one of my best friends, a fellow dog lover, as she had a rough week of her own and it seemed like "piling on" to bring it up.

Besides, I couldn't figure out how to do it without crying and I only see her at work these days. Yeah, I know, she's still going to be pissed at me for not saying anything (and probably rightly so.)

I haven't mentioned it to anyone else at work, either. Most prrobably think I'm a crazy dog-lady as it is, no point in making matters worse. They wouldn't understand, anyway, and would just stand there and look uncomfortable, trying to think of what to sort of cliche you're supposed to say for "a dog".

I need to tell my mom, too, but she's not much into email and I still get choked up over the phone, so that will have to wait as well.

I did finally called the groomer. That was hard. They've known him since he was an obnoxious pup and saw him every two weeks after that. They were quite attached.

Tomorrow, Zachary returns to "the day spa" (as we call it) for his bi-weekly bath, sans his Uncle Beau. There won't be a dry eye in the place and I'm dreading it like you can't possibly believe.

After that, there remains just one more detail. We had Beau cremated, and in a week or two we will need to pick him up.

Can anyone explain to me why this can't be done by via mail?

Those finding humor at such times to be in poor taste should stop reading here, but for some reason my brain, perhaps in an effort to ease extreme sorrow, tends to latch on to the oddest things.

For example, at the 24 hr. Vet Hospital where we took Beau to be cremated, I had to fill out a "Patient" form. Name, age, breed, neutered or not,...

Yes. Really. For my deceased dog. There I was, trying to hold a pen with tears were streaming down my face and I could barely make out the words on the paper. Thankfully the man (in hushed tones) said, "You can stop there," when I reached the line that said "Reason for visit."

Come on people.

Next came the instructions: we were to drive around back, past the service entry, until we reached the Dead End.

Yes, he actually said that.

Dead End.

Did I mention that tears were streaming down my face?

Which reminds me of when my dad died, years ago, and we were at the funeral home. Did you know that people actually dress all in black and talk in hushed tones in a funeral home? That there are tissue boxes (usually in pairs) on every flat surface? That no one actually looks you in the eyes, but stares down at some invisible spot on the carpet with their hands clasped in front of them? And no matter what you say, they agree with you.

I always thought that happened only in movies.

Actually, I just lied.

There were tissues boxes everywhere except in the casket "showroom" - Well, what would you call it? Dozens of polished caskets, some open, some not, with little note cards described each ones "features" (hint: the really "good" ones are in front and at eye level, the less expensive ones were only partials and up higher.)

You could even poke at the cushy lining, and pick the color.


But not a single tissue box to be found.

Not one.

Well, isn't this a grim post.

OK: How about, I just got a short video of the puppies, now four weeks old. Needless to say, they are adorable and wiggly, with bright eyes and wagging tails.

First visit: 9 days away - not that I'm counting.

(tick tock tick tock)

Is it time yet?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

An Open Door

Dog Blog Post #111: Yes, I mean a real open door. No, not a metaphysical open door of the sort that would go with a window closing (and isn't that a door closing and a window opening, anyway?) Just thought I'd clarify that, given recent events.

Late yesterday afternoon, hubby decided to fiddle with the front door handle/latch assembly. It was getting sticky and needed a bit of TLC, and so he set to work removing all the shiny bits and smearing them with black powdery stuff (that I then had to go and scrub off everything else later on.)

Why is this dog related?

Because during this entire operation, the front door stood wide open. Ignoring the fact the sun was shining full-on and it was 105F outside, I was ecstatic.

Do tell.

I was ecstatic because Zachary was just lying there on the entry tiles, chewing on his brand new tennis ball (yes, I know it's really bad for his teeth, but we have been spoiling him a bit these past few days.)

That's it?

Well... yes. Don't you see? OK... picture this: Hubby sitting on chair on entry tiles. Front door wide open. Wide open. Dog laying a few feet away, oblivious to hubby, front door, and the fact it is wide open, with the great big outside world, well, just outside.

And so we played fetch (Zachary and I - hubby was busy playing fetch with son, as in "Bring me the Allen Wrenches!")...

... and we played tug...

... and we played "Find the Squirrel!"...

... and the whole time, the front door stood wide open.

Now it's true, it was like a blast furnace out there and it's totally possible Zachary was thinking the gates of hell awaited so he'd best stay inside...

... but I kind of doubt it.

I think, just maybe, a wee bit of maturity is creeping into the snug bug. Could it be?

I sure hope so, because in four short weeks, if all goes well, we will be welcoming a bouncing baby Aubridge Golden boy into our household (as our breeder just so happens to have litter at this very moment) and Zachary will need to don the hat of "Uncle". It's a big responsibility, and he has big paws to fill...

You know, maybe this post was about opening windows after all.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I Taught What???

Dog Blog Post #110: From the files of "I Taught What???"

A few weeks ago, I decided to test Training Levels Five - Come: "The dog does a full Novice Recall - Sit-Stay, 40’, one cue, Front, Finish, appropriate cues."

I didn't actually think Zachary could do it, but I wanted to see where we stood in the process before I began working on it.

It turns out we stood about six feet part, as that was the distance between me and him after I called "Zachary, Here!" and he came roaring up nice and straight then came to a screeching halt...

... six feet away.

Yes, that's feet.

No, not inches, which is the unit we were looking for here, but feet - which made him about 66 inches (167.64 cm) further away than he should have been.

Yeah - really, really, far.

Hardly the "reach out and touch" distance that we were looking for.

Now the correct thing to do would have been to sigh, break out my clicker, and start working on it.

And I did that.

But I also sat down later and tried to figure out how I managed to screw up something as simple as "Here!" And I finally think I did.

Are you ready for this one?

I taught him to back up.

Yup, trick-training bites me in the butt again.

Somewhere between teaching a lovely recall, and testing Level Five Come, I taught the boys to back up. The signal? Hands on my hips (picture me glaring at them, but without the glare.)

What's the signal for recall? Hands at my sides. Now you would think those two signals would be different enough...

... and you would be wrong.

Which meant that as Zachary came roaring up for his recall, he looked up and me, saw me standing with hands kind of at my sides, and came to screeching halt...

... and then backed up.

I am pleased to say we seem to be on the road to Recall Recovery. After a few fits and starts, I finally hit on standing facing a solid object (kitchen cabinet) some 3' away, and calling him to front. This requires him to get nice and close - for which he is heavily rewarded.

This did result in a temporarily crooked sit, but that seems to be straightening itself out now that we are once again practicing "out in the open".

The lesson here?

Never underestimate the ability of a trainer to screw themselves up.

For the curious: Beau trotted up, sat in front, and on my signal did a lovely finish behind my back.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Love Growl

There are lots of things I will miss about Beau, but high on the list will be the Love Growl.

It scared the heck of me the first time I heard it, coming from a young teenage pup who thought mighty highly of himself. For a few days I was thinking he was actually growling-growling at me at that I had some Devil Dog on my hands.

Then I talked to a friend, who said her dog gave a "greeting growl", which they called the Love Growl.

The Love Growl?

Now I have looked at a whole lot of dog books since that day, some six years ago, and I have yet to see any references to a "love growl". There are real growls, trained growls (ala Police Dogs), and play growls. There are growls out of fear and growls of aggression.

But a Love Growl?

Not a single reference.

That said, my friend was totally right. I don't actually remember what Beau Dog's greeting ceremony was like in those early days, but over time, as he matured and mellowed, it turned into a something... magical.

I would open the door, and he would scramble to find a woobie... and it had to be the right woobie. Two woobies crammed in his gigantic mouth were even better. Sometimes the entire greeting process would be put on hold while he tried desperately to envelop two objects that physics decreed could never be contained in the space allotted.

Often, he proved physics wrong.

Sometimes, I would get impatient and help him by holding the woobies so he could get a better grip. He seemed to appreciate my efforts, and would redouble his.

Eventually, either because he was satisfied or he finally gave up, the wooby/woobies were in place and rest of the greeting could begin.

And it always began with the Love Growl.

The Love Growl was throaty, crooning sound that came to remind me of a purr. A really big purr. Think lion-sized.

I'm sure it would have sent anyone else scrambling up the bookcases, but to me it was pure music.

The Love Growl was always accompanied by a full body wag, although as he got older the velocity went from frantic to measured. He would approach with head somewhat low, and then he would jam that head into my chest (as I would kneeling at this point) while I sank my fingers into his thick ruff and pulled him even closer to kiss the top of his head.

It was a meeting of almost equals - like the mighty prince giving a nod to his king, his superior only because he allowed him to be so.

There are countless times I considered videoing the ceremony, and I've even had people suggest I put the Love Growl on cue. But it just didn't seem right. It would be like training my hubby to say "I Love You," when I snapped my fingers. Even if I could do it, it just wouldn't mean the same thing.

And so I have no record of the Love Growl, save the one in my head and my heart. But at least there, safely contained, it can never be lost or forgotten.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Aubridge Skyrocket In Flight RN CGC

The World's Best Family Dog passed away yesterday.

We were in the middle of a “greeting” and he collapsed, and was gone.

At a time like this I know I’m supposed to reminisce at length about all the wonderful things he did (many) about how proud I was of him (unbelievably) and how much I loved him (deeply, fully, and unconditionally)…

But I can’t.

Not yet.

Perhaps by the anniversary of his birth – he would have been 7 the end of November – I’ll be up to creating a proper tribute to The World's Best Family Dog.

But not today.

I have a stack of videos on my computer – things I always meant to upload and never did. Would it be strange to upload them now?

Would it be strange not to?

I’m not the sort to grieve forever. In fact, the thought of a new puppy is already creeping into my mind. Zachary isn't cut out to be an only dog, and I miss being “surrounded” by my Golden Army.

I know Beau wouldn’t mind. He just wasn’t that sort of dog. I always said he had Obsessive Compulsive Friendliness Disorder – I sure hope St. Peter understands.

Rest in Peace Big Dog.

Aubridge Skyrocket In Flight RN CGC
11/30/03 – 08/21/10

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Dead Thing

Dog Blog Post #107: Years ago, when Beau was about six months old, we went to some sort of practice field trial thingie for Golden Retrievers.

It was in late spring/early summer, with my then 9 year old son’s allergies in full bloom, when we hauled ourselves out to some desolate, weed filled part of nowhere to learn how to turn our hyper, barely controllable, young golden into a hunting dog.

What were we thinking? We don’t even hunt. I rescue earthworms from the sidewalk after it rains. I have two bird feeders attached to my office window. I haven’t fished since the day I realized that it ends badly for the fish.

But there we were, three suburbanites and one adolescent dog with red eyes and a blue tongue from pulling so hard on his flat buckle collar.

We learned a lot that day.

We learned that Beau doesn’t mind loud noises, like the Starter’s pistol that was fired near our ears.

We learned I do mind loud noises, like the Starter’s pistol that was fired near our ears, and that I can jump really high when I’m startled.

We learned that Beau doesn’t have a recall.

Ok… we already sort of knew that, but we were hoping that he would want to stay near us because the landscape was totally foreign.

We learned that we were complete idiots to think that Beau would want to stay near us because the landscape was totally foreign.

We learned that practice field trial thingies use some sort of dismembered bird wing for retrieving. A once living, but now very much dead, once frozen, but now rapidly thawing, dismembered bird wing. We christened it The Dead Thing, which sounded almost cute until I realized I was going to have to pick it up and throw it.

By hand.

No gloves.

That’s right - not my manly husband who once spent 30 days backpacking deep into the wilderness, and not my “gee dead things are cool” son, as neither one of them were going to get anywhere near it.

No, the honor of throwing The Dead Thing fell to me… the one who carefully steps around snails to avoid squishing them and thinks roughing it is eating your lunch from a cooler on a picnic table.

Much to our surprise, we learned that Beau actually liked retrieving The Dead Thing. In fact, he was the only young dog there that would even pick up The Dead Thing. He picked up The Dead Thing over and over and over again, and even brought it back, just so I could throw it again.

Isn’t that delightful?

But back to what we learned…

We learned that Beau didn’t want to go into the mud-edged stagnant horse pond. Scratch that. We learned that Beau would not go into the mud-edged stagnant horse pond.

Not for me, standing on the water’s edge.

Not for me, standing knee deep in the stagnant water with my bare toes squishing in the stinking mud.

Not for the other dogs, having a great time paddling around in the stagnant water.

Not even for The Dead Thing that I was instructed to loft into the stagnant water.

Great… another chance to touch the now thoroughly masticated, very much dead, well-warmed and practically disintegrating dismembered bird wing.

How lovely.

And yet Beau remained firmly on dry land.

It could have been worse, I suppose. I could have been the owner of the young Golden who did jump into the mud-edged stagnant horse pond after The Dead Thing, only to discover he didn’t swim quite as well as he thought he did.

The dog, that is. The owner swam just fine. I know that because I got to watch him jump into the mud-edged stagnant horse pond and swim out to rescue his dog.

Then I got a really nasty glare and this visceral desire to crawl off into the weeds and disappear.

My son had already disappeared by this point, back to the car with my hubby. Son’s allergies were in full swing (from all those Vegetative Dead Things) and he was a sniffling, sneezing, runny-eyed mess.

Yes, we learned a lot that day, some six years ago.

Why the happy reminiscing?

Because tonight I’m sitting in my Living room, having spent a ½ day of precious vacation time waiting for the pest control man to show up, only to be told that awful stench in my sun-drenched house (going on three days now) was probably from A Dead Thing…

… somewhere in the walls…

“No ma’am, there is no way to find it, and even if I could it would cost thousands to get it out. Not to worry,” he continued, “after just a few more days of rotting, the smell should subside.”

Gee… I feel so much better.

Until then, I have three scented candles burning and my son has retreated to one of the few rooms unaffected, shutting the door behind him. The dogs are apparently either oblivious or immune to the smell, as neither has shown the slightest interest or given the smallest of sniffs.

Yes, I did try a half-hearted “Beau, Find it!” but he looked at me like I was nuts. Or perhaps he was just remembering how I looked the last time he brought me a Dead Thing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Dog Post #106: This post annotates a video I made of Beau attempting to learn to hold an object. Yes, captioning would be easier for the viewer, but my software is old and my computer is slow.

Video: If you wish to play along at home, the video is Beau - Quick Flick: TL4 Retrieve (part 2)

Setup: Beau is having a hard time learning to hold an object at the same time as I am holding it.

Equipment: canvas bumper, clicker, treats, Beau

(all times approximate and based on the master video on my hard drive)

  • 00:00:20 – Beau had never seen the bumper so he’s treated for showing interest – so he knew today’s game involved the bumper
  • 00:00:35 – Per Sue’s suggestion, tried holding the bumper between my knees. Clicked any sort of interaction
  • 00:01:00 – Started looking for a double grab or at least a longer or stronger grab
  • 00:01:21 – Ooops – didn’t think he would try pawing at it!
  • 00:01:24 – Asked him to give it to me (cue = Bring) but he looked confused, as it was already at my feet - how much closer did I need it???
  • 00:01:35 – Finally, he picked it up. Since I didn’t want him thinking giving it to me was the point, I clicked before he actually got it into my hand
  • 00:02:03 – New idea – since he seemed to grab it from the floor, what if I was holding it at floor level?
  • 00:02:13 – Jackpot! He finally gave a noticeably harder tug. It’s the first real tension I’d felt
  • 00:02:20 – Added Bring cue while holding it – would that get a harder grab?
  • 00:02:27 – Jackpot! He pulled it out of my (very light) foot “grasp”
  • 00:02:42 – Switched to between my ankles, but it didn’t work so well.
  • 00:02:50 – Back to between my feet, still using Bring cue
  • 00:03:00 – Would he grasp more firmly now if I actually held it?
  • 00:03:10 – Nope
  • (pause to refill cookies)
  • 00:03:35 – A break with the real Bring
  • 00:03:50 – Back to between my knees with the Bring cue
  • 00:04:00 – Jackpot! Again, there was enough tension to dislodge it.
  • 00:04:25 – Another real Bring…
  • 00:04:35 - … and another good grab
  • 00:05:13 – Tried again “in hand”, but still not happening
  • 00:05:26 – Ended on a good one

Monday, August 16, 2010


"Dog Days of Summer"
Dog Blog Post #105: One of the items on Zachary’s Canine Curriculum for the Photography Extracurricular Activity is to “Take pictures for a 12 month themed calendar”.

And while it sounded good at the time I wrote it, I have thus far drawn a complete blank as to what “theme” I could possibly use for a dozen pictures that wouldn’t become boring, redundant, or be impossible to take.

Until now.

I finally hit on the theme of Idioms, and I have scoured my son’s Dictionary of Idioms to come up with ones that I can actually picture myself taking a picture of.

That first cut includes (in alphabetical order):
  1. At the end of your rope - a dog or two and a tug rope
  2. Bark up the wrong tree - stuffed toy in one tree, dog rearing up another
  3. Bite off more than you can chew - large chewie?
  4. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed - many options
  5. Bring home the bacon - retrieving a stuffed pig
  6. Egg on your face - balancing an Easter egg on nose
  7. Let sleeping dogs lie - self explanatory
  8. On the ball - balancing on a “ball”
  9. On the rocks - standing on some rocks
  10. One good turn deserves another - both dogs spinning
  11. Pull a rabbit out of a hat - hat, dog, stuffed rabbit
  12. Put all your eggs in one basket - more fun with Easter eggs

"Carry the Ball"
We are entering week 33 of 51 (I started a week late) leaving me about 19 weeks to take 12 pictures if I want to get it done by the end of 2010. This means that a good chunk of the Photo-of-the-Weeks will need to have something to do with an idiom.

To see if that’s even doable, I’ve made a first cut at difficulty:

Easy (requires no training and minimal staging): 1, 7, 9, 10
Medium (some training –or- some staging): 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8
Hard (requires training –and- staging): 11, 12

And since nothing ever works out as planned, here are a few alternates:
  • Asleep at the switch - light switch?
  • Back to square one - either hopscotch, or a large square ONE
  • By the book - dog sitting by a book
  • Dog-and-pony show - which dog gets to be the pony?
  • Dog-eat-dog world - dog “eating” a Dog World magazine
  • Get to the bottom of it - dog digging in a box labeled “It”?
  • Out in left field - obvious
  • Pull the wool over your eyes - two dogs and a lot of hard work
  • Put your foot in your mouth - obvious
  • Wolf in sheep’s clothing - a sheep costume?
… and there we have it. It’s quite a commitment, but I already try to take one staged picture once a week, and I’m always on the lookout for a good trick idea (like pulling a rabbit from a hat.) At least it seems like a good way to fill these Dog Days of Summer.

"Monkey on Your Back"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Weight Loss

Dog Blog Post #104: The Vet says Zachary, weighing in at a robust 73.5lbs, should actually be a svelte 65lb.

Oh dear.

It all started with a funny smell greeting my nose as I greeted the dogs when I arrived home after just four days in Carmel.

During those four little days, Zachary’s right ear managed to transform itself from pale pink Exhibit A to nearly red Exhibit B. Ouch!

Truth in advertising: Exhibit A is actually a current photo of Zachary’s healthy left ear, standing in for the way his right ear most likely looked before I left.

Exhibit A
Exhibit B
So, off to the vet we went and one hour, $200, and a bottle of little blue pills later, I had (hopefully) a cure for a yeast infection, Zachary had his Kennel Cough shot (I managed to piggy-back his yearly appointment onto this one), an ear full of greasy anti-yeast goo (which is draining out all over the house) plus an admonition to loose 8lbs.

Well, technically, I guess I’m the one that got the admonition. Zachary just got a bunch of cookies from the Vet and the Vet Techs because, “He’s so darn cute!”

(Irony, anyone?)

Upon arriving home and delivering the news, “Blah blah blah ***EIGHT POUNDS*** blah blah blah,” we compared notes:

The dogs eat three meals of Eukanuba kibble each day plus 1 hardboiled egg and some white meat chicken. Hubby usually feeds breakfast and lunch while I get dinner. Son fills in as needed. Using a 1/3c measure, I was giving two level scoops, son was giving three level scoops, while hubby was doling out a whopping three heaping (or so) scoops per dog per meal.

I’d point fingers and look all high n mighty, except my ability to withstand the boys’ sad eyes when I sit near the cookie jar is non-existent (and they know it) plus I’m the purveyor of training treats – and we’ve been “hitting the books” hard of late.

Anyone seen a waist around here?
Therefore, let it be known that the dogs (plural - as I have no doubt that Beau would fare no better on the scales) are officially on a diet. For the moment, we are going with lopping 2/3c off their daily rations. That is, everyone will now feed two level 1/3c scoops per meal.

I will try to post weekly pictures and trot Zachary down to the Vets every other week for a weigh-in.

I would do it weekly, but he can’t afford the calories.
May 2009 - For comparison purposes

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sit Stay

Dog Blog Post #103: OK, I’ll admit it. I'm totally baffled.

(Yes, that is a picture of a Limpet. No, I have no idea what kind of Limpet. Well, I know it is a Point Lobos Limpet – or at least, the sort of Limpet one finds at Point Lobos – but beyond that, I haven’t a clue.)

You see, after six months of Zachary clearly demonstrating his inability to hold a Sit-Stay for more than 30 seconds, he has suddenly decided to be…


… a Limpet.

It first sank in the other day, when he breezed through his Training Levels Four – Watch (30 seconds) while holding a sit-stay, seemingly without effort. I noticed it again during Find the Squirrel, when he has held his sit-stay during the hiding for the past two days (six successes in a row!)

It defies explanation (hence the bafflement) as I haven’t actually done anything in particular, certainly nothing I haven’t tried before over the past six months, to have caused this sudden change in behavior.

So tonight, feeling emboldened by this auspicious date (Friday the 13th?) I decided to test Training Level Four - Sit-Stay, 2 minutes, 2 distractions….

… and Snug Bug was a Limpet.

Neither tempting cookies nor a friendly Beau dog were enough to pry his little Limpet butt off its brick-path resting place.

Yes, Beau passed too, and I’m proud of him as well. But let’s face it; we all knew Beau would pass. The Big Dog could probably out Limpet a Limpet, if sufficiently motivated.

But Zachary?

Mr. Ten Seconds?

Dancing Zachary?

He just hasn’t been a sitting-there-doing-nothing kind of dog.

At least not until lately.

Perhaps, just perhaps, his Limpet genes have kicked in, and future duration activities will be a breeze!

Or not.

Dream On

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Success Revisited

"They can because they think they can." -- Virgil

Beau at the start
Beau 30 seconds later - really!
Tonight, without fuss or fanfare, the boys sailed through their Training Levels Four - Watch test (30 seconds @ 10 feet). I think Zachary only blinked once, when I looked down to check my watch. With Beau I just counted slooooowly in my head, as I figured (and rightly so) that he would sit there looking at me pretty much forever. (Video shows I actually held him there 40 seconds.)

Next stop was Training Levels Four - Go to Mat (2 minutes @ 10 feet) which they also passed with ease. While I did video Zachary, I punted on Beau. Really, two minutes of a dog lying on a mat? It's unlikely even Zachary's video will be uploaded unless I can figure out how to throw out every 3rd or 4th frame to speed it up.

In yesterday's Fear of Success post, I asked: "What does this all mean?"

At the moment, all I can think of is that the Nike people have it right: "Just Do It".

This is really boring...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fear of Success

There are things on my weekly training to-do list that I fear.

Sometimes, that fear is based on reality, as anything requiring Zachary to "Do Nothing" is iffy at best. I don't call him "Ten Seconds" Zachary for nothing!

Sometimes, that fear is based on past realities, which I know no longer hold true but that I still foolishly cling to. For example, there was a time when Beau was nearly impossible to shape. He's much better now, and I know that, yet that old twinge of uncertainty still remains - will he be better this time?

I don't really see Fear of Failure during training as my goals are oriented around keeping my boys busy and learning, and it's almost impossible to fail at that! I probably have a Fear of Failure when it comes to competing (the few times I've done so) and that no doubt plays into my ring nerves, but that's a post for another day.

But none of those explain the Odd Occurrance of last night.

Nope, to figure that one out required a bit of googling until I hit on this strange beast: Fear of Success.


According to eHow.com symptoms include:
  1. Procrastination
  2. Talk ideas to death instead of doing them
  3. Never quite finish a project
  4. Read every book on the topic but do not implement or execute the required actions
  5. You have already succeeded once, you are an expert, you know what to do, how to do it and you have excelled in the (near or far) past. Still you hesitate to put in the next set of actions.
... or from Suite 101

  1. "Partying" the night before the big presentation
  2. Procastination
  3. All talk, no action
  4. Negative, pessimistic thoughts and behaviors
Keeping that in mind, we go back to last night...

There I was, standing in the middle of the Kitchen, staring at the Weekly Worksheet for this week, when my eyes settled on Training Levels 4 - Watch: 10', 30 seconds.


I believe it has been on the list for at least a month, and I have yet to do anything at all with it. Right above that gem was the 2 minute Training Levels 4 - Sit-Stay, another winner, as Zachary remains at 30 seconds with no signs of budging, unless slumping to a down counts. I believe that one has been on and off the list since March.

Yes, that March, now six months past.


Feeling in a list-clearing mood, I thought I'd give ye ol' Watch a try to see just how bad it was. First up: Beau. I didn't really expect any problems there, and I didn't get any. He passed without issue, and I kicked myself for not having set up the camera.

Next up: "Ten Seconds" Zachary. Being a glutton for punishment, I put him in a sit stay, walked 10' away, then turned and looked at him...

... and he looked at me...
... and he looked at me...
... and he looked at me.

Darned if Snug Bug didn't sit there, practically unblinking, for the entire 30 seconds. It was one of the easiest passes I've had, for a skill we haven't touched since he labored through the previous level. Now I was really p*ssed for not having set up the camera!

But wait, there's more.

While I was working with Beau, I decided to give Training Levels Four - Finish a try. (I know, it's not on this weeks list, but hubby has a Mound O' Stuff in our regular "classroom" so I had to improvise.)

Training Level Four - Finish is supposed to be a swing finish (to the left) on voice cues only. I realize that now, because I just looked it up. However, last night I was thinking it was a finish to the right (behind my back).

Beau knows a right finish using a hand signal, but I've never done it on just a vocal cue. Ever. But last night, for grins and giggles, I put him in front of me and said "Finish".

Darned if the Big Dog didn't trot right around me, sit right beside me, and look up at me adoringly.

Had Level Four Finish been a right finish, I could have passed him on the spot.

So, what does this all mean?

  1. Procrastination: This stuff should have been taught, tested, and crossed off months ago but I just didn't do it
  2. All [lists], no action: How long have these things been sitting on my Weekly Worksheets, awaiting attention???
  3. Never quite finish (pardon the pun): Really, Level Four should have been signed, sealed, and delivered back in June, but instead I've started on Level Five
  4. Negative, pessimistic thoughts and behaviors: I didn't do it because I just knew they would fail.

Quick, someone distract me with a new Training Challenge before I run off to create more lists to help me figure out how to stop making lists and just get down to training!!!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Training Challenge - Sit/Stay

Dog Blog Post #100: Can you put your dogs in a stay and call just one?

That was the gist of the training challenge posted by Jenny in the Trick Dog Yahoo! group. Never one to pass up a chance to not work on Fronts and Finishes (or, looked at another way, the week was already shot, what did I have to loose) so I decided to give it a try.

The image up top was after I called Zachary. The image to the right is after I called Beau.


We obviously needed a bit of work, here!

First, the rule of the game: Only reward the dog you actually called. Beau was not impressed with this rule, but as I held the treats and he has yet to figure out how to open zip-top bags, he was out of luck.

(Zachary didn't seem to notice he didn't get treats. Why am I not surprised?)

After that, it was simply a matter of being generous to the dog called, and ignoring any other dogs who happened to show up. If the "staying" dog showed any sign of even thinking about staying, I quickly tossed treats in their direction.

Surprisingly, it only took a few such efforts to reap huge rewards.

Fifteen minutes from my first effort, I videoed both dogs performing the challenge as I understood it (see BZ - Quick Flick: Stay/Come).

Overall, I enjoyed this challenge, as it was quick, light-hearted, and the dogs seem to quickly figure out what was going on.

The other two challenges mentioned were:

  1. Two dogs sitting, ask one to down
  2. Two dogs sitting, ask one to down and the other to stand

I gave both a quick try and it was dismal, which is why I focused on #3...

... but perhaps I'll feel braver next week.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Good Dogs Go Everywhere

I spent most of this week in and around one of my favorite cities - Carmel, California - and I left still believing that it is, paws down, the most dog-friendly place I have ever been.

Practically everywhere you go, you'll find folks with their well-behaved dogs. The dogs are good as they walk past one another, as they greet one another, as they stand waiting for their owners to eat, drink, and be merry. The dogs on the streets are leashed, of course, but there are plenty of "shop dogs" just hanging out in "their" shops watching the world go by. The doors are always open, people (and other dogs) flow in and out, and everyone seems to get along.

Water bowls dot the sidewalk, there are poo-bag stations on practically every corner, and I didn't see a single person walk away from their civic duty.

Alas, my boys did not get to go.

First off, they are both intact. I don't mean that as an excuse, but simply pointing out a sad fact of life that there are dogs out there - otherwise very good dogs (like the Therapy Dog we met in line at the groomers the other day) - who seem to take offense to intact boys' existence.

Secondly, Beau would not be able to contain his desire to meet everyone boisterously, greet every dog thoroughly, and sign every social signpost with a flourish. Yes, I take full responsibility for his failings. Yes, I have tried to fix them (you have no idea how much I've tried!) But that's just the way it is.

Third (and the nail in the coffin) - our plans included a day the Monterey Bay Aquarium and a day a Point Lobos, neither of which allows dogs.

On my last night there, as I walked down the sidewalks, missing my boys terribly with every friendly dog I met (which seemed to be every dog there) I was thinking that Good Dogs get to go so many interesting places and have so many opportunities...

... and at the same time I was wondering if they are Good Dogs because they get to go so many interesting places and have so many opportunities?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Posing for Pictures

My Clik-Stik
Dog Blog Post #98: I had a Flash of Brilliance a week or so ago. I know, that sounds like bragging - and it is. But as I only have such flashes every decade or two, I'm hoping you'll let it slide.

What was my moment?

I bought a Clik-Stik.

Ok, I know what you are thinking. Consumerism is hardly brilliance, and you would be right...


Look down at the little green ball... down at the ball...
I didn't really buy it for the reason it was being sold.

You see, I love taking pictures of my boys (and no, I don't think any of them are particularly brilliant... the pictures, that is. I think the boys are quite brilliant, but they came that way and there is little for me to take credit for on that front.)

Back to the Clik-Stik.

The topic of clickers and clicking came in the Training Levels Group a few weeks back (yeah, I know, a real shocker) and someone mentioned that it actually worked and held up well. I had seen it in our local pet store, was mighty suspicious of its durability, was really happy with my I-Click (and I still am), so up until then I had passed it by.

But then I had my Flash of Brilliance.

Look over Mom's head at the little green ball...
It was about the time I was trying to take Yet Another Posed Picture of my boys, and I was doing the usual juggling act with treats in one hand, a clicker in another, a squeaker in the third...

Excuse me?

... and therein lay the problem, the solution for which constitutes my Flash of Brilliance.

You see, as I was idling thinking about the Clik-Stik it dawned on me that I might be able to teach the boys to stare at the little green ball on the end.

Look right at the little green ball... right at the ball...
(Aside to makers of the Clik-Stik: I don't think dogs can actually see green very well. Next time, try yellow or blue - or perhaps even a checkerboard of both.)

And so I bought it, and sure enough, with practically no effort, I was able to teach the dogs to not touch the ball on the end (the intended purpose) but rather stay put and just look at it.

It was amazing.

I tried it out for the first time (non-training) on the Artist photo for the Training Challenge post (notice the boys looking off in the distance) then played around with it some more tonight.

Look left at the the little green ball... left at the ball...
See them looking away from me... away from the camera. Yup, just out of sight is the little green ball at the end of my Clik-Stik.


Don't you just love when a Flash of Brilliance actually works?

(Disclaimer: I have nothing to do with the Clik-Stik, other than being a very customer.)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Training Challenge

(Editors Note: Please bear with me at the start - this really is dog training related!)

The Artist at work
Dog Blog Post #97: I was reading through a Scrapbooking Magazine I had just purchased, when I chanced across an advertisement for a new book: 52 More Scrapbooking Challenges.

No, I don't normally buy Scapbooking Magazines as I have no time to scrapbook, and after being shocked to learn this one cost me $14.99, I was unlikely to purchase another (note to self: examine price of magazines before purchasing!)...

... EXCEPT...

I ran across that advertisement, which got me thinking.

You see, this was right after having participated in Simone's Contest on the Training Levels Group, and after that someone asked about a new Contest, and I had been thinking - yeah!

... and then I went to the book store, bought this exorbitantly expensive magazine, was feeling sorry for myself for money wasted, all the while carefully reading every single word (to get my money's worth) when I spotted that one particular ad.

(Almost to the dog training part... just hold on!)

Good job Beau!
Amazon's Editorial comment for the above mentioned book states:
"The book is packed with inspired ideas that will stimulate, challenge and energize you. Examples include such challenges as to use a child's artwork on a page, to use a complementary color scheme, to be inspired by a postage stamp, to journal in the shape of a letter, to use fabric on a page, to record your faves at various ages, to use all circles in a design, and so on."

... and that's when I started thinking about dogs, and dog training, and making dog training (ie: homeschooling class) more stimulating, challenging, and making myself more energized.

A Zachary Stamp?
Now, I will admit I'm hard pressed (dare I say challenged?) to figure out how to relate dog training to a color scheme or a postage stamp...

... HOWEVER...

The basic idea of having a Training Challenge - which could be something like Simone's Contest (how fast can you click/treat 15 treats) - is definitely in the realm of possibility.

Soo... on top of all the other distractions I have on my Weekly Worksheets, I'm going to add a Training Challenge.

The first one is probably going to be just for the human part of the team: Generate a list of Training Challenge ideas. If I am successful, you'll be the first to see them, and if you want play along at home and offer ideas, I'd be most grateful!

The Artist and his subject
(Editors Second Note: You may have noticed the increased listing of tags (on the Right, under "See Our Posts On...") and the subsequent switch to a "Cloud" view so as to take up less space. I'm tired of not being able to find things, so I'm hoping by adding more tags, and slightly renaming some existing ones, that I (and one else who might be looking) will be able to find things.

I'm really, really, really hoping people who are subscribed don't get pinged every time I tweak those things! While doing that, I noticed that I am fast approaching my 100th post - something I rather wish I hadn't noticed until after I hit it, as now I'm thinking it needs to be special, and I haven't a clue what that could be.)