Remington, In Tidbits

Remington, the Squirrelhund. This big yella dog lived with me for 2 months short of 9 years, when an aggressive cancer took him suddenly in March of 2003.
During this time, we lived three places:
  • The old house AKA Hacienda House: Odd rambling house with a half-acre yard. Through Sept. 2000.
  • The horrid rental house: Need I say more? Sept 2000-Oct 2001.
  • New house: Since then.

More related information available than you can shake a bully stick at:

Rem, May '94
June 1994, about a year old.
(Notice the flea collar from the gory flea-jihad days before Advantage.)
RemSing Feb 2003
Feb. 2003, shortly before he died.
Very happy dog.
Singing We tried to teach him to sing on command, but results were mixed. He tried! He'd put his head in the correct position, pouf his lips to get them limbered up and into the correct shape, but then couldn't sing, only bark, head still tilted, lips still pursed. Funny but noisy. He sang beautifully on his own when he was truly happy—did so more and more over time, likely because we encouraged and praised it in our attempt to associate it with a command. Often he graced me with a song when I first walked in the door. Before he died, his songs had been silent for a while, except for one brief moment that I was lucky enough to capture with my camera. Also, my dad dropped by when I wasn't there early in Rem's last week and said that Rem had sung for him. I was so glad and relieved to hear about it that day.

Sirens engaged the howling mechanism—with his eyes half closed, head back, the thin, clear tone emerged as though pulled from him by an ancient yearning beyond his control, to which he gave in completely. Did it more at the old house while hanging out in the driveway; sometimes inside, but seldom with me in the same room. At the new house, didn't do the sirens thing much any more. This side of town just never evolved the proper kind of sireny sound, apparently.

Nursing The Furry Thing He loved to nurse on soft furry toys. Both front feet got involved, massaging it, while he rhythmically mouthed the thing, eyes closed, ears back, relaxed. Kind of like Zen meditation for dogs. Discovered this simple pleasure by accident with a furry frisbee toy after we'd had him for a while. rem nursing sept 96
Mr. Snake Used to do "Wherrrrrre's Mr. Snake?" into the living room at the old house—we'd leave Mr. snake (a gray furry snake toy) on the floor where the dogs weren't usually allowed, and when we said that and removed the gate, he'd charge in and pounce on it and shake it and play tug of war. Stopped doing that after we left Hacienda, because there wasn't that much area off-limits at the horrid rental, and I haven't tried it at all here. The snakes, which now lie around and Tika sometimes plays with, are no longer of interest to Rem (except once in a while when he feels playful and I'm not responding, he'll pick one up, and a few times I've found him quietly nursing on one by himself). He likes whatever special furry toy (like the giant squirrel) I pull out of the special toy box.
Rem crossfeet jan 95 Crossed legs Rem was famous for this. Everyone thought he was so cute when he crossed his front legs while lying down, which he often did. Cute wasn't really the word; it went more with his dignified persona, relaxed and casual among the frantic goings-on around him.
rem legs oct 96
RemTuckedLeg He also had a natural tuck-leg-under relaxed position. Our obedience instructor loved it; she said that some people go out of their way to teach their dog to tuck one leg under their chest while in a down-stay because it looked more relaxed, but Rem often did it naturally. Crossing the feet was his first choice, though. Rem Tuckleg june 94
Rem glider may 94 Mountain Dog Loved to be UP on things—chairs, gliders, benches, fences, walls. People ere amazed at how well-balanced he was on flimsy yard and beach chairs and our wiggly wood-slat glider. It's because he stood on them all the time.

rem stump oct 96He wasn't allowed on chairs in the house, but outside, lawn chairs and anything else were fair game. He practiced a lot on the glider on our Hacienda patio—feet on the seat, paws on the back, scouting for squirrels (or barking at them if they were in the tree overhead). He remained oblivious to the rocking and shaking of the glider—scared the heck out of me, though, every time he'd see a squirrel in the distance and explode off of the glider, sending it reeling and crashing from side to side. (Not so much now—the glider is in an uninteresting place here, but at Hacienda it was near the patio door and it had good views of squirrels in trees and of the world passing by outside the iron gate. But he still does chairs at agility training and events whenever possible.)

rem chair may 97Chairs were always a good bet and he was famous for combining chairs with his own crossed legs.

Agility class provides those ubiquitous white molded plastic chairs, ostensibly for students to sit in. But we're usually too busy walking the courses, running, watching other folks run, or setting jumps. So people with itty-bitty wee dogs often use the chairs as a convenient dog-storage spot. Remington wouldn't always stay in a down or a sit on the ground, but I could put him on a chair and he'd stay there, sometimes sitting, sometimes standing, sometimes with his feet on the seat and his paws on the back. A boundary's a boundary, I guess.

One time, the chair's back was to a large hedge that separated the agility field from a field in which sheep were grazing. He discovered that there were sheep there, and kept trying to maneuver himself to get a better look at them through the shrub. The chair rocked and tipped and tilted under him, until almost everyone was watching him off and on, and he seemed completely under control until he pushed his luck too much, the chair went over backwards, and he was thrown head-first into the shrub. Folks found that quite entertaining.

Being the stoic, rebounding dog he was, he extricated himself and then, without a backwards glance, started looking for a better way to get at the sheep.

Best at being cute, of course, was when he lay on a chair or bench with his feet crossed also.

Being *UP* on something is always better than not. Especially if it's soft.
Rem on Ellen may 94 Rem on Ellen june 94
No Kisses He wasn't a licking dog. Didn't lick hands or faces. But he'd smell my breath. That was part of the morning ritual; first time I'd say hi and lean close to him, he'd lift his nose to a couple of inches from my mouth and sniff carefully. That was it. As if he were checking up on some status invisible to me.
RemWithDumbbell
May 1994
Toys When we first got him, he'd play with almost anything, at least briefly. But some things clearly earned spots as favorites.

For the first year or so, Rope was the big thing, both for tugging and for slowly and methodically dismantling. Went through a couple, but then we discovered how much he loved furry toys. I hadn't had any for Sheba because she wasn't interested, and I think Amber ripped them up, so it was a while before I brought one home. He loved it, and every one after it. If it was animal-like, he'd often carefully, surgically, pull off the nose and eyes or any other protruding part. He never damaged them beyond that, except that they'd wear out from playing tug of war and getting caught in sharp teeth. The first furry one was a furry disk, but eventually, when we discovered furry snakey things, he much preferred those because they were great for shaking.

And he would shake his toys as part of his play; I'd ask repeatedly "Are you a tough dog?" and eventually it seemed that it reversed so that I'd say that and he'd shake the toy. Shook them more than any of my other dogs that I remember. He'd dance and leap around the room, shaking the toy; then we'd play tugowar, then he'd shake it, repeat, until it was time to settle down and nurse on it for a while. Then abruptly he'd be done--stand up and walk away passively and you couldn't get him to play again no matter how hard you tried.

Rem milk bow May 94
Hum-de-dum, just chewing on this bottle, not paying attention to you at all, no ma'am...
His other favorite toy for the last couple of years before we moved from Hacienda house was the Big Blue Thing. A large rubber-like ball with a handle, about 8" diameter. We could play tugowar and it also bounced nicely on the driveway and he'd chase it. Like anything else he chased, he'd sometimes bring it back but, more often, stop partway back and sink slowly into the play position, tenderly mouthing the toy, ears back and looking at you from under his eyelids with that "come and get me" look. (I think the first one might have been the Big Purple Thing—that's the one that really really got worn out and the handle came off gradually, finally after I had been in the horrid rental house for months. He did play with its newer replacement some, but he still preferred the old one.)

After we moved to the new house, he almost never played with the big blue thing again. Maybe it just wasn't right without the driveway.

Noisy Toys He loved toys that made interesting noises. Squeakies weren't too interesting, except one ball that made more of a squack. He'd chew down on it, pause, release slowly, pause, chew down on it, hold... While doing this, he'd look at me, look at Jake--chew down, pause, release slowly--wondering why I was holding out on him by giving Jake some fancy kind of squeakie that went continuously and rapidly squeak squeak squeak squeak squeak.

Another interesting noise was scraping things on our long driveway. We could usually get him going with a plastic gallon milk jug. He'd chase it, grab it, and then trot back, shoving it along the driveway as he went so that it made scraping sounds.

milk jug, June '94
Rem cans jan 95 And his big blue thing he'd do the same with. Cardboard boxes were particuarly wonderful because they were easy to grab, floppy, and made good noises while you were shaking them around. He'd take a box and go nuts in the yard with it, running full tilt from end to end, shaking it, playing a little tug of war, running and running, until finally placing his front paws on it, standing up, ripping pieces off and spitting them aside. I have one video of him running wild with a Box.

Then there was that huge garbage bag full of crushed aluminum cans that he discovered one day while we weren't at home—Bet it made a *lot* of excellent noise when dragged and shaken.

The Joy of the Chase When we first got him, he didn't know anything about bringing toys back after you'd thrown them. He only wanted to be chased. He'd look over his shoulder with his ears back and his eyes looking sideways at you in the most gentle, flirtatious manner, and then when you got near, he'd dash away and repeat. Jim and I made a pact that we wouldn't chase him, ever, until he had thoroughly learned how to bring stuff back. That was a long process, involving lots of cajoling and immense praise and enthusiasm when he did come back. I don't recall the details, now, 9 years later, but the original instincts still held sway—he'd pause, halfway back to you, in a play bow, mouthing the toy, and when you came near, he'd spring up and trot away. And usually never *really* fast—always just fast enough to keep ahead of *you*. Kind of patronizing, really. But we did get to the point where we'd compromise—sometimes he'd bring it back, and sometimes we'd play chase, running around chairs or other obstacles rather than him going far astray into the back 40.

A couple of times, when we had parties, he did the same thing with small kids, with the same complete awareness of their speed and capacity for travel. Instead of running all around the yard, he trotted quietly around the small patch of grass, staying just 2 or 3 strides in front of the child. It was clear he was playing—he had an entire half acre yard and 2-story house in which to go if he didn't want to be around the children! I think he would have loved being in a family with children and would have been excellent with them.

Rem point may 94 Pointing Many dogs effect a pointing stance when game is afoot. Jake sometimes points when he hears gophers beneath his feet. Rem pointed more often than most of my dogs have, whenever there was a possibility that he might probably have possibly heard something that could perhaps be a squirrel maybe.
Leaning and Affection He was a sigher and a leaner. He'd lean against the cabinets and sigh—you'd know he was bored. He'd occasionally restlessly shift his position, kind of a slight tik-tak of toenails as he shifted his weight while hanging out. He leaned on people. Didn't like snuggling, but liked to lean. When he was worried or nervous, he'd back up, facing the problem, until his back end touched my legs, and then he'd stand there. You could tell when he was *really* nervous or really wanted something; that's when he'd crawl onto my lap.

He never liked being hugged, although I kept doing it. He wouldn't pull away, but I could always feel him leaning away, as if he could barely manage my pathetic overwrought display of affection.

He'd sometimes do a quick grunt as he lay down, and/or exude a long sigh after he had done so. And he'd lean his chin on things, especially when bored. Windowsill, my knee, chair arm, anything that was handy.

He'd stand and lean on the bathroom door while I was inside. You could tell because there's be a quiet "rattle-thunk" of the door settling into place against its latch as he leaned in and adjusted his weight.

rem snug may 97
Remington, being unaffectionate
Take a Bow He also did the "bow" position just for the heck of it, as though he needed a rest from standing up but it was too much bother to lie down completely and then get up again later. He'd just pose there, sometimes chin resting on one paw, tail completely relaxed. Often meant he was expecting something or just really bored. That's why it was so easy to teach him to "bow" on command—I just put a name to something he already did frequently and rewarded him for it.
Speaking Same for teaching him barking. When he *really* wanted something, like if I'd been at my desk too long and hadn't paid any attention, and maybe it was past mealtime or play time or walk time, he'd look at me, ears up, eyes bright, tail up, and bark. One bark at a time, sometimes with kind of a moany whiny sound leading into it. So I put a name to that, too, and he learned to do it on command very quickly.

Still, it seemed like he often had to work up the proper response before actually barking. He'd hold still, head forward a little bit, his lips puffing out and back in slightly a few times, mouth slightly open, like he was practicing breathing for the bark, and then finally it would come out.

Rem sun rawhide may 94
In the sun, debating whether it's worth the energy to consume the teensy rawhide.
Heat Seeker He liked warmth. Loved to lie in the sun in the driveway at Hacienda house. Inside, he'd stake out the spot on the floor immediately in front of the south-facing sliding glass door. When I had the wall heater on, he'd lie in front of it. Often I was in front of it, too, so we'd lie there together. At the horrid rental, there was a heater vent by the sliding glass door. He'd lie by the heater vent and monitor the yard. Also the sun would shine on the bed in the afternoon, and he'd lie on the bed in the sunshine. At the new house, at certain times of the year, the sun comes in through the office sliding door onto the carpet, and he'd lie there. I put his bed next to a wall heating vent, and he seemed to like it there, too.
Watch Those Feet He sometimes liked lying near my feet, but not too near, so under the desk wasn't his favorite (at least not so I remember). But he *would* lie right at my feet under the desk, impatiently, when he wanted something and I wasn't offering it immediately.
Food, Glorious Food He loved getting meals. He'd prance, then when I was approaching to set the bowl down, he'd spin once or twice. When sitting and waiting for the bowl to come down, he'd skootch forward just a bit, just a couple of times, without ever getting out of the sit. His eyes were bright and his ears up at feeding time. He ate steadily and at a moderate pace, always standing up, unlike JAKE who nearly inhales his food, or TIKA who looks like she's desperately scarfing down her first meal in weeks with great gulping and shoving of the bowl, often lying down.

Rem was not big on food details. For example, I seem to recall that Amber and Sheba would lick your fingers if you had gravy or a speck of dogfood or whatever on them. For Rem, it wasn't worth the effort. It had to be a recognizable chunk for him to be interested.

The Pace He had a great Lippizaner kind of prance when he ran with a certain running stride; his front legs came up just a bit higher than with most dogs, so he looked like he was strutting for a parade. (This was his running speed when I was jogging fairly quickly next to him—a smooth gait with no bouncing, but not outright running.)
Figuring things out Rem figured out so many things that Jake never has—and I'm not sure about Tika so far. For example, here in the new house for sure, I almost always shower right before I'm going out public. Rem learned that. When I'd turn on the shower, his tail drooped, his ears folded back, his head went down a bit. He'd lie on the bed, chin down; when he got up, he'd be slow and hang-doggy.

Another thing was guard-the-house goodies. Before leaving the house, I always tell the dogs they're getting a "guard-the-house goodie" and then I tell them "guard the house" before I leave. Well, somewhere fairly early on, Rem figured out that, after the guard the house goodie, I'd be leaving. For a while he'd refuse the goodie, apparently in the hope that perhaps if he *didn't* eat it I *wouldn't* leave. He'd just turn his head aside and not look at it.

He got over that eventually—it was food, after all. But his whole life he'd take it slowly and sadly, tail drooping, knowing I was leaving. JAKE seems never to have figured that out. TIKA doesn't seem to have figured that out. Or else they don't care the way Remington cared.

In the car Rem was always a good boy in the car, although he liked to stand up and look out the window all the time, despite attempts to get him to lie down and relax. I could leave food or anything else in the car and he'd never touch it. (Same with JAKE.) Very shortly after he came home with us, I took him in the car with me to a writers-group meeting and left him alone in the car for the first time ever. I didn't know how he'd react, especially since he'd shriek whenever I took sheba out for a walk but not him. But he was quiet, didn't chew up anything, waited for me to come back.

He *always* liked to get in the car and go places, until the very end when he was occasionally reluctant—see my notes in the dog-diary on this topic.

When I left him in the car, his preferred place to wait was in the driver's seat. Unless I was gone a very long time, in which case he'd sometimes lie down, he usually sat up and just watched the world go by and waited for me to return. When I'd open the door, he'd just sit there. I'd say something like "Are you going to drive this time, or are you going to move so I can drive?" Then he'd get up slowly and move into the other seat or into the back. He also completely understood "Get in back" and obeyed when I told him to.

Switch Dogs Rem and JAKE apparently knew which seat of my new van was theirs. It mattered because I finally got them seat belts early in 2002, and they were different sizes. Somehow, almost always when they got in the car, Rem was on Jake's seat and vice-versa. This is probably because Jake's was on the far side and Rem, as the alpha dog, got in first. I started telling them it was time to switch seats and make them move. Discovered not too many months along that if I said "Switch seats," they'd both get up, simultaneously exchange seats, and wait for the seatbelts to go on. And they both knew the seatbelt routine. Remington especially—when I'd grab the seatbelt harness, he'd always offer me the leg on which I first put the seatbelt, then he'd lift the other one when it was time.
People He never barked at a person in aggression, never snapped at anyone. He's another dog, like Sheba, that I could imagine biting a person under only the most extenuating of circumstances. He knew that his teeth were a sacred trust and to be used only for the good of all mankind.
The Scratch, May '94 The Nervous Scratch Rem post-scracth may 94Sometimes, when he was uncertain about what was happening, or expecting something to happen momentarily that just wasn't forthcoming, he'd do the silly-sit-and-scratch thing. This is where, instead of sitting properly with his feet under him, he'd roll back onto his butt, a little bit sideways, too, so his stomach was exposed, and scratch his chest or neck with his back foot in a desultory sort of way, slowing to a stop, often with his foot still in the air. Then finally he'd sit up like a proper dog again.
rem prong oct 96 Leash Walking We struggled with walking on a leash when he was younger. Learned the turn-and-pop method of training, where you just turn and go the opposite way when the dog goes past you instead of walking near you. I spent months, it seems, going back and forth, sometimes not more than a few steps, trying to convince him not to barge forward or pull at the leash. And our first trainer put us onto the prong (pinch) collar (the only one in our class, I think) because he was so oblivious to any other kind of correction. In fact, he was pretty much oblivious to that, too; found it to be just annoying enough to sometimes pay attention, but I believe it really helped us in our training.

It really was only after I got Tika that I realized how well Remington had learned to walk on a leash. He could walk out in front of me at the end of the leash so there was no slack but without ever pulling. Or, if I brought him in to my side, he would walk there as I had requested.

That's not to say that he *never* pulled. He never got over lunging at things that were suddenly interesting—a tree, a shrub, a pile of dog poo, of course cats in the underbrush, and small dogs, which he liked immensely, especially puppies, and always wanted to check out. Thing is that that often frightened the little dog and sometimes the owner, too, and he got nipped more than once. But he never growled or tried to snap back.

Bigger dogs was a different thing. Once the dog got to be within a few inches of his size or bigger, Rem had a chip on his shoulder. His hackles would come up just a bit, he'd approach stiff-legged and straight on. If the other dog responded in kind, we'd have a dog spat. I hate to say fight—he never bit or injured another dog, and was never bitten by another one (well, Jake, in both cases, but that's different), so it was "all sound and fury, signifying nothing." But scary anyway.

Stoic He was quite the stoic. Put up with all kinds of stuff in a patient, humor-them sort of way. Jim would drape a t-shirt over his head. He'd just sigh and leave it, for a little while—"If they *want* me to have a t-shirt on my head, I guess I'll let them have their little fun," although if it stayed too long, he'd push it right off.

Almost never heard him yelp or whine about anything. That's one way I knew how sick he was the night before they discovered the tumor—he was whining with every breath. Hmm, OK, he did whine sometimes if there was a cat or some other interesting thing in the distance outside.

Running games At Hacienda house, there were a couple of good running games we played. The first was most useful when Jim and I were both there. One of us would be upstairs, one down. Rem would be with one of us. The other would stomp their feet and call Rem and sometimes hide. Rem would charge down the stairs full tilt , kind of woof/growling, and race up to the other person, or start methodically going room to room looking for the hidden person. Then, when I'd hear "good Rem!" downstairs, I'd stomp my feet and he'd come charging full tilt up the stairs. Eventually he'd get tired and break for a drink, but he loved it. Later, I could get him to do it by himself by starting to run down the stairs—he'd zoom past me all the way down, then I'd go back up. He was a smart dog—he knew exactly the game we were playing.

The year at the horrid rental we didn't do it because there were no stairs. There are stairs at the new house, but I just never thought to try it. Until Tika was here. One week, I decided to try it with her. It worked really well—she charged up and down and up and down again. I suddenly realized that every time I started the game again, Rem's ears would come up and he'd step forward as if ready to play, but then back off when Tika blasted through. So I shut Tika and Jake out of the way, and sure enough, Rem played the game with grand delight and energy. That was the last time I got him to do it, though.

The other running game started while my foot was broken and I was desperate for ways to get him to exercise. The dining room door and the living room door both opened into the fenced part of the yard, but it was probably 100 feet around the house and trees from one to the other. When he went out one door, I'd slam the door shut and race to the other one inside. He'd race around the house outside to catch me there, and leap towards me with that growl/bark. He got so used to it that, after the pounce and the growl/bark, he'd spin and start going in the opposite direction again.

Again, after we left Hacienda house, there was never an opportunity to try it again.

What a Pathetic Dog He does the miserable-dog thing better than any of them. His neck goes forward instead of up, so his head is lower than usual. Ears go back. Tail droops straight down, not a speck of life in it. As when I'd tell him I was going to give him a guard-the-house goodie.
Rem chinfeet jan 95 Getting dressed in the morning When he was younger, he liked to grab at wiggly things like ropes, but even then he wasn't always really playful. When I got dressed in the morning, I discovered that he'd be willing to grab at my pants while I was getting them ready/putting them on, so that became part of the ritual. Once in a while he grabbed at them enough to play a little bit of tug-o-war, but not often. Still, we did that for years; I'd shake the pants and bring them down towards/on his head, and he'd grab at them. In later years, it was mostly an open mouth and a gesture towards them, rather than actually grabbing. In fact, in later years, he'd often lie on the bed, patiently, front feet crossed, chin resting across one leg, watching until just the right moment to get up and get excited. Or he'd lean against the wall by the door, watching.
Tricks He loved to do tricks for doggie junk food. The earlier ones I taught him were shake, twist and turn, and speak, and he'd often fall back on those right away when it looked like we were going to do tricks, or I wasn't fast enough to give him the next request. He liked learning new ones, too. He always seemed more enthusiastic about life if we really *worked* in our tricks session, trying something different or difficult. You could tell how much he loved it, because he'd leap through his twists and turns; he'd slap that paw right into your hand; his whole body would prepare itself, tail wag, while he worked into that Woof! Unfortunately I never got him taped until after he wasn't feeling really well with his cancer, so you don't see the excited, enthusiastic tricks dog that he was for so many years.

I was still working on teaching him a few new things, to keep it interesting for him and for me. He was learning how to go from a down directly into a bow position, which isn't a natural thing for dogs, and he was doing good. I tried different combinations, like High 5 from a begging sit, or have him back away and then do a trick at a distance. The last couple of weeks, he still wanted to do tricks, but it was clear that he was having trouble with his body—couldn't or wouldn't raise paw all the way for a shake or a high-5, or it was very limp; wouldn't sit up to beg, although he'd raise one leg and look at me to say, I'm doing my best, believe me, I've earned my goodie.

Sometimes if we hadn't worked at something stimulating like practicing agility or doing tricks, he wouldn't play later or he wouldn't get as excited about dinnertime. It was as if a working session made everything all right with the world, justified his place in it, solidified the working relationship and partnership that he and I had developed.

He won the tricks competition at the Mixed Breed Dog Club I believe 2 different years, and once we entered a casual tricks competition at Bark in the Park, and he won that, too. It was billed as Stupid Pet Tricks, but mostly it was dogs rolling over or balancing biscuits on their noses, so we just went up and strung together a whole bunch of things, like balancing the biscuit while begging or walking, and other tricks people hadn't done, and then, because I was in a cast at the time, we limped together across the stage. That might have been what got us the prize—a basket full of dog paraphernalia and a $50 gift certificate to the Big Dogs clothing store.

Sleeping When we first got a waterbed, we had Sheba and Amber. They had often slept on the bed with us before that, but neither of them liked the waterbed and wouldn't get on it, even after we got the more solid kind that you'd hardly know was a waterbed. Remington wasn't bothered by it at all.
Playing I used the Getcha Fingers to approach Rem slowly to try to get him to play—fingers splayed and held curved like you'd picture someone about to grab you. He was funny about being ready to play—wherever he was, he'd just hold still. Wouldn't look at you. Ears wouldn't move. Eyes might move a little, but he wouldn't look at you. Tail wouldn't move. But it was a different holding still than simply being disinterested—there was something about it that I could tell would momentarily explode into a tuck-butt, happy, skootching, playful boy.
The Tubie Thing Empty toilet-paper rolls. AMBER loved the tube game, which we played as a trumpet game. I'd sing "Da-da-da-DA-da-DAAAAA!" into the tube and she'd leap and grab for it, then I'd chase her and try to take it away, she'd rip at it, I'd trumpet with smaller and smaller bits of tube, repeat until tube was no longer usable.

REMINGTON, having a shorter attention span for repetitive play, did a version of this. If I picked it up and started trumpeting, he usually ignored me. I started leaving empty tubes sitting on the floor just inside the bathroom door. When Rem was in the mood to play, he'd announce it by leaping suddenly into the room I was in, sprawled in the play bow, mouthing the tube, wagging his tail, tempting me to come and get him. He'd play a little bit of chase, let me do the trumpet thing once or twice, proceed to rip several large chunks out of the tube, holding one end down with his foot, and then walk away passively.

JAKE decided this was a good game some long time after he joined the household. Maybe a year or so before I left Hacienda house, he started checking the bathroom for tubes immediately after anyone left the room, so I started hiding them behind the toilet or the wastebasket so they wouldn't necessarily disappear immediately. For a dog with only one brain cell, he figured that out pretty fast. That pretty much ended Rem's playing with the tubes, because there was never one there any more when he wanted to play. I thought I was in trouble when, while at the horrid rental house, Jake would look around for a tube on the floor, not find one, and start nudging at the roll on the wall. I thought it was pretty clever of him to figure that out. Fortunately he never acted on his discovery. Anyway, he wasn't so much into the trumpet game. He mostly wanted to chew it up. Sometimes it was more exciting if I threw it for him first—he'd carry it around for a while, carefully, like a fragile flower, then I'd toss it, he'd pounce on it, then rip it to tiny shreds, mostly chewing and eating the little pieces as he went. I always hoped that the glue they use on these things isn't toxic.

Tug of war When he was younger, Rem would put a bit more energy and time into tug-of-war with his rope. I could sit on one of the wheeled dining room chairs, and encourage him to pull, and he'd pull be all across the room, and often back again. He was willing to do that less and less as he got older.
Golf Balls He loved golf balls for some reason. They're small enough to be a hazard to a big dog, but i think he liked the noise they made when they bounced. He'd often toss it himself and chase it down again as it bounced and rolled.
Rem popcorn jan 95 Popcorn All of my dogs have learned to love the air popper. Best feature: when it gets close to the end, the last popped bits spew randomly into the air and some fly in the direction of dogs. Later in life, Remington decided that those weren't good enough because they didn't have butter or salt; odd, because I usually skipped the butter (sometimes used spray-on butter flavoring) and virtually never the salt. But you could tell. He'd take it when I tossed it from the finished bowl, but he'd spit it out if it wasn't properly accessorized. He's the only dog who's done that, and I wonder how much of that was the cancer starting to get to him long before I realized it.
Free At Last! When we'd get to a new place or a familiar large place, like a big park, the first thing Rem would do was run full out. If he knew there were trees with squirrels, he'd aim for those, but otherwise it was just running for the sake of it. When he got to something interesting (tree, shrubs, unlandscaped area), he'd stop and sniff around, trotting along the verge looking for excitement. I could get him to really exercise by calling him "Let's go!" or "This way!" and he'd run full tilt towards me and past me to the other side. Then we'd repeat until he'd eventually slow to a lope instead of a full-out run.
Lunchtime At Hacienda house, we had a great lunchtime routine when the weather was nice. I'd take my lunch and something to read out to the patio and sit on the glider. He'd join me, lying down, front legs on my lap (OK, technically, it was just his legs or paws over my left leg, not the entire lap). He'd watch the world go by while I relaxed. It got to be such a ritual that anytime anyone else sat on the glider, he'd leap right up, adjust himself, and lie down with his front legs on the available lap. Never really had a place to do that at the horrid rental or at the new house, although I tried a couple of times with benches in various places in the yard. I miss that terribly and wish I could have found a way to make that work here for Rem (and for me).

Jim discovers the habits Ellen has been teaching the dog

Rem glider aug 96
Rembubbles june 94Tiny Bubbles He liked chasing soap bubbles. I didn't want to do it too often and risk having him get bored with it, but as a result I'd forget about it and didn't do it nearly as often as I could have. He didn't seem to mind the soapy taste, just kept chasing and snapping at them with grim determination. If anything, the soapy taste just aggravated him—so he was going to teach them a lesson about tasting weird.

Balloons were good, too.

Rem balloon jul 95
No More Work Remington figured out very quickly that when the computer turned off, I'd be getting up from the desk and maybe doing something interesting. He'd leap to his feet as soon as the thing powered down, whether I moved or not.
Yardwork Trimmed branches fascinated Remington. When I'd haul a cartload of trimmings from trees or shrubs out towards the back 40, he'd dance alongside, choose a branch, grab it, and tug and shake it until it came free. It made a wonderful plaything. Didn't matter if it was twice as long as he was, covered with a fan of leaves and shoots—he'd shake it as best he could (with some of the bigger branches, this amounted to his neck muscles working hard but his head and the branch remaining still), then do his best to run up and down the driveway with it, much like he would with a Box or a milk jug. RemBranch may 94
Rawhide and Other Western Byproducts The big stoic dog had a digestive tract that failed to do credit to his mental attitude. He loved chewing pigs' feet (Oh! The apalling smell! But dogs love it.) but he'd vomit repeatedly after chewing one up. Out of the 6 dogs I've lived with, he's the only one who couldn't handle any of the Natural Pork/Cow/Whatever Byproducts marketed for dogs. Don't know how he'd have survived in the wild. Probably wouldn't have. Rawhide did it to him, as well. Bully sticks, which were an expensive, lately-discovered natural-product treat, were no better. I got to where I'd give him only a teenier than teeny piece to chew so that I could give the other dogs a bigger chunk without him feeling neglected, and let him have his little throw-up. Smaller bits he usually could keep down, but then we'd face messy problems at the other end the next day.
Looking for a burial spot; hoping you're not watching
rawhide, June '94
He wasn't all that fond of rawhide, anyway. Give him a piece bigger than a couple of fingers, and he'd just as soon bury it until it became good and squungy, grotesque and nearly unidentifiable. Then he'd dig it up, chew a while, and bury it somewhere else. Usually under the freshly-planted begonias. In fact, one Christmas I tried to give him a giant rawhide like our other dogs used to get--you know, the kind as big as your forearm? It intimidated him into cowardice second only to what he expressed for smoke alarms. He wouldn't go near it. With much encouragement from me, he'd dash threateningly at it two or three times, never coming closer than about 3 feet, and otherwise steered clear of it by at least that much when attempting to walk around the room.
Alarums and Excursions Remington hated smoke detector beeps. It was The Evil Noise. Whenever one sounded—because we were testing it, or changing the battery, or the battery was running low—his ears and tail went way down; he'd drop into a cringe; and he'd get as far away as possible. The first few times he encountered such a thing, he went way out into the Hacienda yard and hid in the shrubbery. After that, I tried giving him goodies and having him do tricks and other fun stuff whenever I needed to do something that would produce a beep. None of my other four dogs have had any reaction to it at all.
Joe Cool He liked to lie in front of the fan when we had it running to push hot air out through the open sliding door. He'd lie there, back to the fan, looking out the door, front feet crossed in his most dignified manner. I was always a little concerned that he'd get his little blonde tail tip (well, tip was white, actually, but you could hardly tell) caught in the fan somehow, but he never did. Rem fan apr 95
Rem furnace jan 95
Sometimes you could hear mice in the attic scrambling for cover when you opened the furnace closet. Long after they were gone, still hoping.
The Wall He was fascinated by noises inside walls. Started when we had an occasional invasion of wall mice. On a quiet evening, you could sometimes hear an occasional scrabbling, an occasional quick gnawing, all surrounded by (to my ears) complete silence. He'd rise with intent at the first sound and stand, nose an inch or 2 from the wall, ears forward, eyes bright, waiting for more. He tilted his head to different angles, trying to radar in on the exact location, each time there a slight sound.

I took shameless advantage of this. There was a cabinet on one side of the wall in which the noises most often occurred. I kept a binder in the cabinet. I discovered that, when putting the binder away, it made a small thump on the back, which apparently reverberated through the wall because Rem would rise with intent, walk a hunter's pace to the wall, and stare, nose an inch or 2 from the wall and mere inches from the open cabinet door. I'd stand there, gently and randomly thumping the binder against the back of the cabinet, and he'd stare at the wall, titling his head to different angles with every thump. It never failed to amuse us both, in entirely different ways.

Water When Rem was young, spraying water fascinated him. His first few discoveries of our sprinkler system had him both bemused and challenged. We used to be able to play Hose, turning the sprayer on full blast and shooting it back and forth across the driveway or yard, and he'd chase it, snapping at the stream of water. Trying to hose down the compost pile was a challenge.
Remington Discovers Sprinklers (June 1994)
Sprinkler1, June '94 Sprinkler2, June '94 Sprinkler2, June '94

Unfortunately, as the years passed, he got less and less interested. Despite enjoying *chasing* it, he never liked it when the water actually got *him*. In later years before leaving the old house, he'd stand and watch me hose down the compost or the driveway, gaze steadily on the stream of water, ears up, but wouldn't give in and chase it down.

Would have been so helpful in agility, on hot days, if he'd continued to like chasing and playing in the water. But at trials, when I tried to hose him down even with a gentle spray or loose water, he hated it.

Still, running or moving water fascinated him. I took them over to Memorial Park in Cupertino once, where there are streams and ponds all through. Probably cruddy chemical-filled water. But he loved to wade in the streams, and grabbed at every bubble that floated by.

I occasionally set up a plastic toddler's wading pool in the driveway during abnormally hot weather, thinking the dogs might like to wade in it to cool down. They didn't, really. But on occasion, when I could get Rem into the pool, he worked extremely hard at pawing at and grabbing at the pictures of fishies on the pool bottom and sides.

We went out to the ocean only once that I recall, and it was a cold, stormy day with huge waves. Danger signs warned of undertow. Rem so desperately wanted to go out and play with the huge crashing water things, and I had to scream against the wind and the crashing sea to keep him away, yet still try to allow him to run and play on the sand.

Oh, wait, I did take him to the beach another time. Near Santa Barbara, another agility trial held across the road from the shore. Sunny day, gentler waves. He did keep trying to wade in and grab at the incoming waves and salty bubbles. I was afriaid he'd make himself sick on all the salt water he managed to get into his mouth.

rem pool june 97Took him to my sister's swimming pool once, and the Power Paws swimming pool once. Both times, he watched people and/or other dogs leaping in and swimming, clearly wanting to participate but not understanding how the whole thing worked. He'd circle the pool, leaning down and pawing at the water, trying to establish a foothold and not succeeding. When we'd actually lift him and put him in, he'd swim a bit and then immediately try to figure out how to get out.

So it was with tremendous surprise when he was about 7 that I discovered that he loved swimming. We took the dogs to a reservoir up in the mountains while at an agility trial. After the usual long periods of pawing at the water, walking gradually deeped, then slapping both front legs against the surface rapidly as if trying to get that swimming motion going early, he'd finally end up in water deep enough to swim. And he didn't want to come out! He swam in circles. He swam towards the other people or dogs and away again. He'd start swimming away from shore and, as usual, panic his mom who'd think he'd head out to the middle of the reservoir and not be able to come back. Eventually he'd come out, shake himself off, and then start the whole thing all over again. We did the same thing the following year at the same reservoir, and then the next day he was so sore that I had to pull him from the agility trial! My biggest regret with him was that I didn't find more occasions for him to swim.

The Big Yawn, June '94 Yawns Yawns were Remington's specialty, particularly when bored. His mouth stretched back to the point that it forced his eyes closed and threatened to engulf his ears. His tongue elongated into a J of no uncertain terms. And he followed the end with a high-pitched "aHhh" not-quite whine and quick downturn of the head, demonstrating just how much effort he had to put into communicating to you his lack of entertainment.
Rem yawn june 94
The Yawn, June '94
Squirrels At the old house, there was so much space around and behind the house that Rem could let himself extend completely to chase the marauding invaders. You couldn't always hear him run on the pavement or the ground, but you'd know he was on patrol when, taking a silent flying leap in stride, he'd hit the middle of our 20-foot-wide deck with his landing gear barely touching, making a single, short, muffled "d-d-dunk!" before silently launching off the other side. See a photo spread of squirrel chasing. Rem deck blur may 94
rem obed oct 96
Prenovice fun match (still using leash)
Obedience training Rem and I took incredible quantities of obedience classes together, feeding the fantasy I'd had since a teenager (or earlier--maybe since reading Albert Payson Terhune's collie boks) about having an obedience champion dog. 'Course, that was before we really got into agility, after which obedience started seeming unbearably tame.

We went through a puppy class (even though he was over a year old at the time) that had some obedience but mostly socialization. He did great. Don't know where the later chip-on-the-shoulder came from with large dogs. We went through beginning companion-dog obedience (for pet dogs); intermediate obedience (for slightly more than pet dogs who wanted to teach their owners more advanced behavior); and finally months and months of individual private lessons, taking us step by step through what it would take to be successful in the obedience ring.

Broken foot After doing only a year of agility competition, I fractured my foot. I was out of commission for nearly a year. Many adventures ensued. One challenge was getting me out of the house; another was keeping Remington entertained and exercised. A generous friend brought over a racing cart, used by dog-sledders to train their huskies when the snow was insufficient (as it often is in California). We figured it would give Rem an intellectual and physical challenge and would get us both out from under the house's feet.

It worked well, as long as Jim did all the pulling.

rem cart pull apr 97An example of the blazing speed we achieved. Rem was overcome with ennui.

rem cart ride apr 97
Rem demonstrates his preferred method of usage.
RemWithDumbbell
At 10 months, expressing the doubt we both felt

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Updated Oct 22, 2003