Temple of the Dog

I recently had Lasik surgery.* Contact lenses had become really uncomfortable, so I preferred wearing glasses, but they interfered with my ability to take pictures using a DSLR. (Not to mention they got rained on and fogged up all the time.**)

That’s one of the reasons I’ve been slacking on taking pics of my pups.

No excuses now. Here’s the first batch of post-Lasik pics!

*Lasik is amazing, by the way. I highly recommend it. Find a good surgeon who’s done lots of surgeries. (I wouldn’t go to a discount place, but that’s just me). If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, go to Restore Vision Centers. The procedure couldn’t have been smoother, they were very calming, and they had chocolate and valium. Nothing but good things to say about the whole deal.

**I went on my first post-Lasik dog walk in the pouring rain on Sunday. It was magical to be able to see in the rain. It was also very cold and wet.

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6 ways to beat the winter blues

Last week I started experiencing some pretty textbook symptoms of the winter blues. After cheering myself up by buying not one but two new winter coats, I shared

Mental Health Tip #1: Retail Therapy.

The next day, I decided that watching Making a Murderer is doing nothing to help anyone’s Seasonal Affective Disorder, so that became

Mental Health Tip #2: Stop watching Making a Murderer.

Turns out, I was just getting started.

Mental Health Tip #3: Float.

Full disclosure: We tried this the first time Saturday. I didn’t care for it. The water felt cold and I got bored, but Rob liked it.

Mental Health Tip #4: Color.

Put a bird on it

My advice to a FB friend (Hi, Cinthia!) interested in getting started: Adult coloring books are awesome because it completely does not matter how it turns out. I had an art teacher when I was little who said “There’s no such thing as a mistake,” which is bullshit in real life and real art. But grownup coloring books? No one’s going to judge. Or even see it unless you Instagram it. You can go outside the lines, use the wrong color… it does not matter. And if you get a book you like, it’ll look cool no matter what you do.

Mental Health Tip #5: Sing Along.

I like showtunes, but that doesn’t mean you have to. I’ve been listening to Hamilton, Broadway’s hottest show. Find your jam.

 

Mental Health Tip #6: Walk in the Rain, or the Snow, and if possible, on a Beach with Dogs.

How do you stay sane during the dark months, friends?

BlogPaws Wordless Wednesday Blog HopOnce again, a few extra words this Wordless Wednesday.

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E is for Every Day

tiptoeing_3

Today’s post is doing double duty as part of the A to Z Challenge and the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop.

E is for Every Day, which is how often we work with Leo on his leash reactivity. It’s quite easy, actually. We just take him for a walk.

Even with the best of intentions, walking a reactive dog every day can feel like a chore. Every walk can expose him to triggers, so it’s important to plan ahead and pack all the necessary tools (like lots of cheese!).

I’ve heard that if you do something every day for thirty days it becomes a habit, and that’s true of our daily walks.

This time a year ago, I walked the dogs separately some days, and together on other days. Sometimes we went to the dog park instead of on a proper walk. Rob teaches a martial arts class three nights a week, so on those nights I dog-walked while he was busy with that.

Sometime over the winter, we discovered how nice it is to walk the dogs together after his class when it’s dark and there are fewer people around. This became a habit as we started doing it every day.

This also allowed me to return to martial arts class after a nearly five-year hiatus. (5!) Even I was surprised to realize it had been that long.

Leo still has outbursts, but he has improved so much since we started walking him every single day. A few weeks ago, I was sick and went straight to bed as soon as Rob came home from work. Mia had been with him all day, but Leo had been cooped up with me. I thought that might be the day Leo skipped his walk until I heard Rob leash him up and take him out.

The picture above was taken on a rare day when both dogs rode along with me to my job. As I posed them in front of this cedar pavilion on the Swinomish Reservation, I thought of the theme for this month’s Positive Pet Training Blog Hop: Teach your dog something in ten minutes.

Let’s just say that Leo and Mia have a pretty loose interpretation of the Stay and Wait commands. I positioned them where I wanted them in front of this pavilion, and said “Waaait. Waaaait,” while I stepped back to get the picture. I did this a few times, and got a few shots that make me laugh.

Everyone look to the right. Now the left. Now at each other.

Maybe I taught them a little something about the Wait command in the process.

E

For more about my journey to discovering the benefits of positive reinforcement, read my book, Bark and Lunge!

Positive Training

This post is part of the Positive Pet Training blog hop, hosted by Cascadian NomadsTenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days.

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Could Isis have been a flying disc contender?

In the prologue for my book, Bark and Lunge, I describe Isis spinning and flipping while catching a soccer ball. She was partial to soccer balls, but reading Wallace: The Underdog Who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage, and Championed Pit Bulls — One Flying Disc at a Time made me wonder if I could have transferred that drive to a Frisbee.

While I think Wallace might have the best subtitle of all time, the title doesn’t address the aspect of Wallace’s story that I most relate to. Wallace started out dog aggressive. Maybe he was just experiencing barrier frustration when he lashed out at other dogs while in the shelter, but he was in danger of being euthanized. Lucky for Wallace, Roo and Clara Yori stood up for him. Lucky for us, author Jim Gorant (who wrote about the Vick fighting dogs in The Lost Dogs) wrote their story.

By channeling Wallace’s drive into flying disc, Roo Yori effectively gave his dog a “job,” something trainers will tell you dogs need to keep them from developing bad habits and behavior problems. From that point on, Wallace seems never to have another aggressive episode.

At one point, Yori worries about throwing the disc in the direction of the grandstands. What if Wallace runs too far and wins up confused in the middle of the bleachers? As an ambassador for pit bulls, if Wallace got into any scuffles at all, it would be bad news for the breed.

From the description of the disc arenas, it sounds like other dogs were shielded from Wallace’s view while he was competing. Even so, I wouldn’t have been able to take Isis to such a public place. She would have barked and lunged at everything. Even if she never could have competed, I wish I’d figured out a way to make catching soccer balls her “job.”

Another aspect of Wallace’s story that resonated with me is that even when it seemed like the sport was rough on Wallace’s body, Yori kept playing disc with him. Yori recognized that Wallace’s love of/drive for the disc was so strong, that Wallace would play long after the lights at the park went out.

Isis was like that. Here she is with Rob, practicing weaving, hurdles, and what I call the “high jump.” You can see after she finishes, she runs right back to her ball.

And here’s a highlight reel of Isis catching the ball. Doing what came naturally to her. Just think what she could have accomplished if we’d actually trained her for this sport.

fitDogFriday

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Packing for BarkWorld. What to wear?

I am queen of the convention circuit this year. Whether for fun (Emerald City ComiCon, Power-Con), work (Tribal Habitat Conference), enhancing my craft (Wild Mountain Memoir Retreat), or a blend of market-strategizing and craft-enhancing (PNWA).

Next up is the social petworking conference BarkWorld! Sadly, Mia and Leo will not be joining us, but based on the realization in my last post, perhaps that’s for the best. They need to guard the house anyway. Still, I know I’ll miss them all weekend as I watch other attendees accompanied by their furry friends.

Meanwhile, I’ll be passing out business cards and Bark and Lunge stickers, and I even have a couple of Advance Readers Copies of my book to seduce potential endorsers.

We planned to wear our various Dog is Good T-shirts. Rob’s got “I like big mutts and I cannot lie” and the “Hundhaus Hefeweizen” version of “Never Drink Alone.” I’ve got the aforementioned “Promise to my Dog” shirt, along with “Never Walk Alone” and “Dog is patient, dog is kind…”

bigmutts

In today’s inbox, I had a message from BarkWorld telling me, among other things, that the attire is “business casual.”

Now, I may have a somewhat skewed idea of appropriate attire, having lived in the Pacific Northwest for 10 years, but I really thought our doggie T-shirts would fit right in. Then I watched a video of last year’s BarkWorld, and indeed, there are a lot of men in button-down white shirts. Plus, I’ve been warned that the conference rooms will be heavily air-conditioned. So now I’m tasked with accessorizing my Dog is Good shirts with a little cardigan or something that will dress me up to at least business casual.

My “normal” dog

The magic of Mia is that I can take her anywhere. Truly. She doesn’t even need a leash; she sticks right by me. Even on a leash, she doesn’t bark and lunge at any of the usual suspects.

My original plan for the Festival of the River was to take Mia with me both days, but then I decided to leave her at home the first day while I set up the booth and got a feel for things. As last year, I watched dogs walk by all day long and looked forward to having my buddy with me the next day.

When Rob and the doggies joined me that evening, we left Leo in the car while we picked up a few items I’d left at my booth. After we set up our tent in the woods, I took Mia on a second trip into the crowd to get a slice of pizza. Both times, she was an exemplary ambassador for the German shepherd breed, accepting oohs and aahs of admirers with a quiet grace and politely greeting other leashed canines large and small.

mia tent

The next morning, as we walked Leo and Rob back to their car, I said, “I’m so proud of Leo. I consider this weekend to be a complete success. Of course, now that I said that, probably Mia will have a complete meltdown. Ha ha ha.”

At the booth, I tethered Mia’s leash to a table as I rearranged my display boards and put out brochures, stickers and temporary tattoos. I set out a bowl of food and water. Early arrivals strolled between the booths, and before I even noticed the white pit bull and its owner, Mia barked at it.

Oh, no. No no no.

A few minutes later, another pair of dogs sparked the same reaction. A biologist working a booth across from me called out, “Kari, I don’t think your dog likes pit bulls.”

True, one of the pair was a pit bull, but I knew this wasn’t a breed-specific reaction.

“If she’s going to bark at every dog that passes by, this is going to be a long day. Ha ha ha,” I said. But I was thinking, If Mia barks at every dog that passes by, no one with a dog is going to stop at my booth, and people who are afraid of German shepherds aren’t going to stop here either. This was a really bad idea.

What am I going to do now? I can’t leave her in the car. I can’t just leave the festival. I have no cell phone reception, so it’s not like I can easily call Rob to come get her.

I had these thoughts because I have a history of owning reactive dogs. Leo’s barrier frustration makes him bark at passing dogs. If he were off leash and allowed to run up to every dog he saw, he would be perfectly friendly. I think. But because he is a redirected biter, I will not test this hypothesis.

Mia is not reactive. I knew she didn’t mean any harm by her barks, but her intent was irrelevant. I could not have a barking German shepherd at my booth.

Mia was unconcerned about other dogs on leash the night before, so what was the difference? Being tethered to a table?

Maybe I’ll just undo her leash and let her roam around my booth. Mia walked to the edge of the booth, nearly touching a vendor of geode wind chimes, and peered behind my vinyl curtain. The geode vendor gave me the stink-eye, so I leashed her back up.

I kicked myself for leaving Mia’s rubber Chuck-It ball in the car that Rob drove home. I tossed her an apple-shaped stress ball in hopes that she’d occupy herself with tearing it up for the next twenty minutes. She sniffed and ignored it.

Think, Kari, think. You know how to solve this problem.

Positive reinforcement. I filled a poop bag with treats and stuck it in my pocket. The next time I saw a dog approach, I gave Mia treats. My initial strategy was to get her to associate treats with the passing dogs, but Mia is so food-motivated that she was distracted enough to seem not even to notice the other dog.

An airedale, the same one we saw tethered to an RV earlier that day, lingered with its owner at a neighboring booth. Mia noticed her and barked a few times. I redirected her gaze in the other direction and wondered, Am I going to have to do this all day?

As it turned out, no, I didn’t have to do it all day. Either the positive reinforcement worked, or Mia just got used to the idea that other dogs were going to walk by. (Or both.) I gave her treats every time I saw another dog coming, but I also worked my booth, meaning I put temporary tattoo application and fish consumption rate explaining above Mia management. One guy entered my booth as I was treating Mia and I thought she might bark at the approaching dog as soon as I took my attention away from her, but she didn’t make a sound, and when I finished with the other guy, the dog was long gone.

While Mia may have driven off a dog-fearing festival-goer or two, she was a major attraction for many, many more people. Far more people asked, “Can I pet your dog?” than asked me to explain the importance of raising the state’s fish consumption rate, although you can bet I used Mia as an opening.

Here, Mia proved to be the bomb-proof dog I know her to be. At one point, I was concerned briefly she might frighten a toddler mid-pet by barking at a passing dog, but she did not. Perhaps strokes from a toddler are as positively reinforcing (and/or distracting) as a handful of treats. Other children cuddled her, rolled on top of her, and even put their sunglasses on her. (I wish I’d gotten a photo of that one.)

Mia and I both relaxed and I was so happy to have her with me. Her presence brightened my day. Gave me someone to talk to during the slow stretches in the afternoon.

As much joy as she brought me, and as much as I know she loves being by my side, it occurred to me that Mia might not actually be having the best time ever.

I had a similar feeling the night before, blissfully snuggled with Rob and the doggies in our tent. Rob had gotten stuck in horrible traffic on the way into the festival, and nettles scraped his legs as we set up camp.

“Are you having fun?” I asked.

“I’m just trying to get through it,” he said, perfectly amiably. I love that about Rob. The outing didn’t meet his expectations, but he didn’t punish me for it. Like Mia, he was there for me, making sure that I had a better time than I would have alone, but not getting all that much out of it himself.

That’s what our dogs do for us. If you asked Mia, she’d tell you she’d rather go with me anywhere than get left at home. But as the responsible adult, I recognize that bringing Mia to the festival was more fun for me than it was for her.

She was bored, lying on the grass beside me for hours on end, with the occasional break to walk to the port-a-potties. Worse, the constant assaults from strangers took a toll. Late in the day, a man asked if he could pet her and Mia barely raised her head to him before letting out an exhausted sigh. Sure, whatever, I’m here for your amusement.

My last post illuminated what I learned last weekend about managing my barrier-frustrated dog, Leo. I also learned a lesson about my perfect, normal, senior dog, Mia. Next year, I won’t force her to work the festival with me. (And Rob doesn’t have to drive down to camp out with me. Unless he changes his mind.)

Sleep tight, Mia Bear, you worked hard.

This post is part of a Senior Pet Awareness blog hop, brought to you by BlogPaws.

senior pet

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