Saturday, September 19, 2009


SUMMARY: Random things from the treat jar of dog thoughts and lifestyle issues that have been piling up, gathering dust.
  • The Secrets Inside Your Dog's Mind -- Time magazine article about dogs following pointing fingers, recognizing words, sharing, and altogether acting more human than wolf, and why. Thanks Wishy The Writer for the link.

  • This lady (OK, me) walks into a Postal Annex (no, really!) with the merle girls, tells them to "down" and they do (and stay, I might add), and commences her transaction with the clerk, who, after a couple of minutes of business, says, "Pretty dogs. Are they trained?" Um...

  • Trying to cut back on agility events, and in particular avoid weekends of agility back-to-back... But wait (she says, remembering squillions of Gamblers briefings where everyone has to clarify the terminology--again--)--or is that weekends *in sequence*? Not sure how you'd do weekends back to back-- sat-sun then sun-sat of the same weekend? Nice trick if you can do it, and you should CERTAINLY get double points for it.

  • Johann the dog asked "What is your favorite toy?" Found it hard to answer. Varies from dog to dog. Sheba loved the floppy plastic left over from a beach ball. Amber liked hard plastic things or sticks. Remington liked his plush "flippy" and cardboard boxes. Jake was into nubby plastic squeakies. Boost likes her bone-shaped plush with a squeakie in the middle. Tika prefers nonplush things that we can play tug with, especially her Jolly Ball. Me? Hmm, maybe my Macintosh.

  • New Mac Mini arrived this week! Bought this old one in January 2001 (was a 2000-year model). Looking forward to getting the new one running. Have heard that the tools now for transferring everything are amazingly good. Or so "They" say. And you know how They are.

  • Even though USDAA has made the Performance program more like the regular Championship program--everything now the same for titling, but sometimes they shortchange awards and title names--and despite well-respected competitors' efforts to promote moving *over* to performance instead of *down* to performance, it still felt like I was giving something up to move Tika from 26" Ch to 22" Pf. But, I'll tell you, she is running so much more smoothly and comfortably at 22"--and winning and Qing a lot more, too--grins--that I'm beginning to like the change. Although I still find myself qualifying her successes by saying "in performance, of course."

  • Still haven't decided for sure on a camera. Do I go with the Rebel series (the XS or the new t1i)--or the midrange not-quite-pro series (40D, available only refurbished, or 50D)? Price *is* an object.  So many things going into the decision, though. Almost decided on XS this morning, then almost on 40D. Probably one of those two. Would love the 50D but not sure I can justify the extra, which I'd rather spend on a lens or two.

  •  Hand touches: Taught Boost a hand touch to my palm very thoroughly and then realized to my dismay that this prevented teaching “shake”/”high 5"/”wave” etc. This year I decided to  change the Touch to only the back of my hand when held straight down, and Shake to the palm held level.  Maybe will post on how I converted, if anyone's interested. Taught Tika the new touch, too; she already had the Shake. Now both dogs know the distinction. Although sometimes in the heat of the food moment, Boost touches and shakes simultaneously. Overachiever.

  • OK, I admit it: I go places without my dogs. Lots of places. Hiking. Traveling. I see them all day every day and work or play or walk with them several times a day and I'm often ready to just not do dogs.  If more hiking around here were off-leash legal, I'd probably take them more often. But, unlike so many of my agility friends, I need lots of vacation from my dogs! Perfectly happy leaving them behind. Sorry, merle girls, life's hard.

  • But now, I retire for the night to my king-sized bed. WITH the merle girls. Life's not so hard after all, is it, me pretties!

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Of Christmas Trees and Grocery Clerks

SUMMARY: The dogs helped me get a tree.

Well, not really; the dogs just happened to be in the car when I picked out a noble fir at an amazing price--less than $40 for a 7-foot tree when it's usually close to $100. Either it was a good year for nobles or the economy's really bad.

With Boost's blue merle coloring and droopy ears, even people in the agility world sometimes mistake her for an Australian Shepherd. People in The Real World almost never figure out that she's a Border Collie. And most don't know what to think about Tika.

So it was interesting to me that, when two grocery clerks were tying my tree to my van's roof rack, and one saw Boost in the passenger seat so was hesitant about opening the door for better access, the other said, "She'll be fine, she's a collie; those are good dogs." Of course he was right on all counts, although I'm not sure that I could guarantee that all BCs would sit calmly and watch.

It surprised me even more, when Tika popped her head up from the back seat, that he also said, "Oh, you have a Border Collie AND an Australian Shepherd--or is she an Aussie?" In my experience, the guy putting the Christmas tree on your car doesn't know nuthin' about no herding dogs. Turns out he has a BC and an Aussie mix. I didn't ask whether he does agility with them--I'd probably know if he did.

But it was fun to have the experience. And now my house smells WONderful with the scent of evergreen wafting in from the living room. Maybe I'll even get around to putting lights and decorations on it this year.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Does Your Dog Bite?

SUMMARY: Responding to strangers in the Real World.

Reading posts on three other blogs (Days of Speed, Agility Nerd, dog-li-ness) about encounters with less clueful people and their dogs, I am reminded of a recent incident involving mere humans and not even dogs at all, except mine.

I've always been irritated by the first question that many people say upon seeing my dogs: "Do your dogs bite?" Are they planning on attacking me and want to know whether they're safe to do so? Are they planning on attacking my dogs? Do they think I'm walking my killer dogs around on leash and am planning on releasing them suddenly as soon as I espy a likely looking human victim?

For years, I've just said, "No," because none of my dogs ever bit anyone for any reason, except Jake, whose first reaction when someone stepped on his tail (which was often) or crowded in closely to him in a very confined area was to whip around and grab the nearest ankle. He broke the skin a couple of times when we first got him. We really worked hard on adjusting that tendency, but he never completely got over it.

And "No" seemed like a better answer for publicity purposes in a world where dogs seem to be more vilified and more excluded every year. Especially after the well-publicized Preso Canario murders (according to the trial verdicts) up in San Francisco a few years back. I didn't want complete strangers and non-dog people to continue thinking first thing that what dogs do is bite.

Except that somewhere in the last recent years I decided that honesty is a better policy. Because I've decided that I'd rather have people be cautious around dogs they don't know (and I'd rather be cautious around people I don't know) and the hell with good publicity. Last week I went for a walk around a shopping center. Because I was there. And it's good practice for Boost to be exposed to unfamiliar noises, sights, and smells. And it's a lovely thing for people who like dogs, because my dogs love meeting people. But one of a couple of guys hanging out by a lightpost as I approached said, first thing, "Do those dogs bite?"

Scared of these cutey wootey widdle baby puppy toofers?
Remember, this question has always annoyed me and I don't feel obligated to explain myself. So these days I usually respond the way I did this time: "Of course they do; all dogs bite." Both guys jumped back away from me and my dogs so fast it'd make your head spin. So much for good publicity. I figure that anyone ignorant and/or frightened enough so the first thing they ask is whether dogs bite is not necessarily someone I want approaching my dogs, and even more so if they can't read between the lines of my response: "All dogs bite sometimes."

And it's true--all dogs bite given the proper provocation. It's what they do. They don't have fists to hit with; they can't speak English to tell someone to back off; they don't understand the world in the same way that we do to be able to analyze whether there's really a threat that they need to respond to quickly and violently.

I'm much more agreeable with people who ask, "May I pet your dogs?" With Jake, if a small child was involved, I'd have to say, "No, sorry, he doesn't like children." But now, with these dogs, "Sure!" I say. "They'd love it!"


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Friday, March 21, 2008

Nondog People

SUMMARY: In which I am reminded that I hang out with a rare crowd of doggily aware humans.

On the Wednesday night hike, dogs came up more than once (and it wasn't even me!).

One man told how his sister-in-law had adopted a dog after Katrina who was rescued floating on a mattress in the Mississippi. "It turns out," he says, "that the dog is half German Shepherd and half Blue Heeler!" I say something about, or best guess, if it was found abandoned, and he said, no, really, that's what it is. And he said, do you know what a Blue Heeler is? And I said yes, it's a (and he couldn't wait for me to say it so had to rush in to say it slightly ahead of me) "a kind of Australian Cattle Dog" (except I didn't say "a kind of").

He later said that the dog has lots of energy and can run really fast and jump over really high things and climbs on all kinds of things, so he told his family (I'm thinking "to teach the dog agility", but no--) that they needed to teach that dog to play fetch so he could burn off some energy. That's OK, I think that's a worthy goal.

A dog-owning lady ("I've always had a dog my whole life") said, Well, some dogs retrieve and some dogs don't, and you can't teach them. It's like playing with you, some dogs will and some dogs won't. I said, oh, but they can be taught. And she said, I dunno-- and the other guy said, it's really pretty simple, you just make it clear to the dog that he's supposed to bring the stick back to you when you throw it.

Later another guy said, I've heard about the newest thing in dog training, where you're supposed to train them by talking to them and telling them what you want and using food to reward them, instead of, like, punishing them if they misbehave. And I'm afraid that I did then go off on the "oh, yes, operant conditioning has become much more popular since my first dog back in the late '70s, its popularity probably started with dolphin trainers because you can't hit them with a rolled up newspaper if they don't do want you want, and dogs learn so much more quickly with positive reward and negative punishment blah blah blah--" and their eyes started glazing over, except the dog-owning lady said, what if they bite somebody? And I stopped, sort of stunned, and stuttered something about contacting the humane society for a good behaviorist and that's definitely something that I'd give a very harsh correction (positive punishment, but I didn't say that) for.

So then I realize one reason why I like hanging out with my agility friends. Everyone seems to have so much deeper understanding about dogs, dog genetics, dog behavior, dog training, and just--dogs!

Except my sister who is more into horses, although she's always had dogs, too, but there's a lot of similarity in communicating with any other animal who doesn't speak English or other languages commonly taught in the local high schools. So she understands. But doing horse jumping competitions is a whole lot more expensive and challenging than dog competitions. For one thing, when you go to an out-of-town event, your horses can't sleep in the hotel room with you on the other double bed. They at least need their own giant crate. (Ha ha. That's a dog person's joke about horse people. Whereupon the horse people say, now I realize one reason why I like hanging out with my horsey people friends.)

OK, I have to go finish packing for the trial tomorrow. We got everything set up this afternoon in record time for 3 rings with only about 4 people (or really it was at least half a dozen)--no contact equipment in any of the first classes! But a REALLY low turnout for our shows. We are going to lose so much money. We were discussing whether it's because it's Easter weekend (over 100 fewer runs on Sunday than Saturday) or because of the cost of gas for people farther away, or because it's harder to get titles now with the bigger requirements in CPE, or because there are so bloody many agility events available in our area.

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