Cookies! (Just one)

Just one cookie. That’s all I’ll eat. Just to taste to make sure Rob will like it.

Just one cookie. All I need is for one cookie to look remotely like the NinjaBread Men on the cookie cutter packaging.

Well, they taste good anyway. Made some for the doggies, too, and they seem to like them.

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: One.

Follow my lead

Q. How do I stop my dog from barking and lunging on our walks?

A. Don’t take him on walks.

Ha. That’s only partially a joke. Contrary to what the Dog Whisperer tells you, it does not help a reactive dog to keep parading her past the things that make her react. Remember, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. I tried that for months with Isis and wondered what I was doing wrong. It wasn’t until my trainer told me I had to stop before I could go that we started making any progress.

Technically, since I’m not a dog trainer myself, I’m not qualified to give advice on this topic. I can only tell you what my experience has been. Curing leash reactivity is a longer process than I can fit into a blog post, anyway. You’ll have to read my book when it comes out. In the meantime, get yourself a clicker and reward your dog for calm behavior at a distance far far away from the thing that makes him react. If the barking and lunging is so severe you cannot safely take your dog in public, hire a trainer who uses force-free methods.

Force-free, also known as positive only, is the key here. When I used a pinch collar, Isis’s behavior got worse. The technique I was advised to use exacerbated the very problem I was trying to cure. Ironic, huh?

Really, the best way to stop a dog from barking and lunging is to prevent him from barking and lunging in the first place.

But what do I know? Leo’s been trained with positive reinforcement only, and we socialized him in puppy preschool, so what’s his excuse? Perhaps he suffers post-traumatic stress from living with a reactive dog for seven formative months. Perhaps German shepherds are particularly sensitive to bicycles and other fast-moving stimuli. Perhaps I should have clicked and treated him and squealed “bicycle” every time he saw one from the time he was a little puppy. (I was too busy trying to keep him from jumping up and biting my arm during our walks to think of that, but I’m totally doing that with my next dog.)

Perhaps I’m the problem, and I should adopt older dogs from now on. Because in the two-plus years I’ve known her, Mia’s never barked and lunged at a single bicycle.

This advice column is part of the Weekly Writing Challenge from Daily Post.

Companions for Life

The Weekly Photo Challenge theme is almost too easy: Companionable.

Before I saw it, I had a photo post planned about killing caterpillars and why that makes me racist. I hoped to somehow connect that with the photo challenge. But who am I to reject an opportunity to invite people to look at pictures of my dogs? (I went ahead and wrote the caterpillar post anyway. Read it here.)

Best Friends Forever

My precious Mia has a very annoying habit of barking incessantly in the backyard. We think she’s just saying, “Hey, look at me! I’m over here!” Because she doesn’t want you to throw her the ball, or even come near her. If you try to get the ball, she runs away with it in her mouth, which is a plus, because at least that stops her from barking.

For this reason, it’s very hard to get a picture of her flashing her beautiful smile. I have lots of pictures of her barking, and many of her lifting her upper lip at Leo. In a show of affection, of course.

Lately, she hasn’t been wanting to come in the house when I need to leave for work. I solve this problem by letting her drag a leash around the yard, but today I wasn’t in a hurry, so I just set her free.

When I was ready to go, I sat down on an Adirondack chair in front of our backyard studio. My plan was to grab her ball when she wasn’t looking and lure her back to the house with it. Mia sat down on one side of the young maple tree and Leo sat on the other side. My smiling, happy dogs looked so beautiful (and companionable, although I didn’t yet know that was this week’s theme), I needed to take a picture.

By the time I walked back inside the house and got my camera, the tableau had moved. I sat down again, waiting for the dogs to settle in exactly that same position, but instead, Mia barked and barked and barked. Her high-pitched attention getting squawk. The one that drives Rob insane when he’s trying to mow the lawn. I took a few pictures of cocoons while waiting for her to be photogenic again.

Eventually she closed her mouth for enough consecutive seconds that I was able to get a few pictures that don’t make her look like a monster. And a few that do.

In the background: A freeway falls into the river

Skagit River Bridge

For the Weekly Photo Challenge: In the Background, I give you Interstate 5 collapsed into the Skagit River. Allow me to zoom out so you can see how close my old office used to be to this freeway.

bridge collapse diagram

This bridge has been in the background of my life for the past 10 years. From late 2006 through 2013, I could see it from my office window. Leo and I used to walk right there all the time, on the dike along the south side of the river. I still travel across the bridge on a regular basis, or rather, I did until yesterday. Earlier this year, my office moved across the river, about a five-minute walk off the right-hand edge of the photo.

It takes a lot for Skagit County to make the national news. Like a mentally ill man getting his hands on a gun and killing six people, for example. Or a freeway falling into the river. Three people were injured, no one was killed after an oversized truck knocked Interstate 5 into the Skagit River at about 7 p.m. last night.

Think about that. A catastrophic failure of engineering on a public roadway, and no one was killed. Mentally ill man plus handgun: six dead.

I’m just saying.

The Japanese art of folding patterned paper

A few years ago, a work associate I knew only slightly was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was given a few months to live, but survived almost a year. During that time, I followed a Caring Bridge blog documenting his illness, treatment and family life.

One of the ways his loved ones coped was to fold origami cranes. Thousands of them. Their goal was to fold a symbolic 1,000 cranes, but they exceeded that number. At his memorial service, they handed out the extras.

I thought this was a beautiful idea and decided to learn how to fold cranes. For Christmas, I received a book on origami and a couple of packs of patterned paper. Last week, I opened them for the first time.

Cranes are not difficult to fold, but unless you have someone to show you in person, I recommend following along with a book, starting with the more basic shapes until you master the preliminary fold and the petal fold.

Here is my offering for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Pattern:

Last year’s tulips

I try not to be like everyone else, but it’s April and this week’s Photo Challenge is Color. What’s a girl to do?

 

I intended to hit the tulip fields today and take close-ups of individual tulips in different colors, then run them in a circle gallery like the above. But it’s so cold and windy, and I already was chilled to the bone from my earlier assignment. I didn’t feel like getting out of the car.

I decided to use last year’s pics instead. This year’s crop isn’t in full glory yet anyway. If this challenge were next week, I’d probably tell you a different story.

Happy Spring!

Iconic Northwest Rain

Al Roker’s voice rings in my head. Wet weather in the Pacific Northwest. What else is new?

This week’s writing challenge felt like a photo challenge as well: Write about something iconic. I mulled over this assignment, asking myself, What is iconic to me? How to capture it visually? What to write about it?

Inspiration struck on Thursday as I drove from Bellingham to Olympia in the pouring rain. What could be more iconic than Seattle Rain? But again, how best to capture it visually? From the freeway, I recklessly snapped a few photos through my windshield with my phone. This after sitting out the month of Phoneography challenges, because as much as I enjoy my LG slider, it is no smart phone, and certainly nothing special as a camera phone.

I admit to taking my Canon DSLR out of my bag and trying to take a few photos with it when the car was nearly stopped in traffic. Then thought better of it.

What I really wanted to get a picture of, and write about, was my passenger on this drive. I’d been traveling more than an hour when a ladybug came out of nowhere and landed on the inside of my windshield. More sinister bugs are ushered quickly out of rolled-down windows, but what about the rain? Can ladybugs fly in the rain?

She flitted from the windshield to the steering wheel, landing with one of her wings partially out-tucked from her red and black carapace, a dark lacy prom dress sticking from a limousine door. I aimed my poor woman’s camera phone at the ladybug as she circumnavigated the steering wheel, but I was too close, she moved too fast, and I couldn’t get her in focus.

lady2

lady

For a short time, she disappeared into the center of the wheel, then reappeared for another few laps before disappearing again and that was the last I saw of her.

My attention back to the assignment at hand. Wet weather in the Pacific Northwest. When I google-imaged “Seattle rain,” I found several lovely shots of the Space Needle through raindrop-spattered windows. Yes, that’s the picture in my head as well. But I wasn’t close enough to the Space Needle. On my drive back north on Friday, I think it was too gray to even see the landmark.

Sunshine is easy to capture. Snow is glorious. But rain? I had a harder time. The images on my memory card didn’t reflect what I thought I saw with my eyes.

I gave it a go. Here’s my collage.

My Awesome Saturday

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Day in My Life

First time using the Gallery feature. Didn’t even know it existed. Daily Post, you may have created a monster.

 

Leo’s metaphoric ladder of success

Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward

leo forward

Leo would love to climb this ladder, but I doubt he ever will. He doesn’t seem to understand the nuances of his hind legs. Not that he’s disabled in any way. He can run and jump just fine. He is capable of jumping or climbing on the furniture, but half the time, he just rests his front paws on the bed or couch, leaving his hind feet on the floor. I help him out by lifting his back legs up the rest of the way. It’s weird.

I took this photo yesterday to represent a commitment to move forward. To help our Leo be the best Leo he can be.

He’s sort of a problem child. I found myself saying the other day, “Leo is not reactive like Isis was. When he barks at a bicycle, he’s doesn’t have a full-blown, out-of-his-mind reaction. We just have to watch out for his redirected biting … oh, who am I kidding? He’s reactive.”

Leo experiences barrier frustration. When he’s on a leash and sees a bicycle, he barks at it. Confined by the leash, he can’t get to the bike. He gets frustrated and lashes out at the nearest thing. Sometimes Mia’s head, sometimes our legs. Mia’s head can take it. Our legs are more sensitive.

Joggers and other dogs present a similar problem, but usually I can get him far enough away that he doesn’t bark. Lately, bicycles have become more of a challenge. Rob and I like to walk the dogs after dark, when there are fewer people around. Last Saturday night after 10 pm, we encountered two bicycles. I couldn’t get Leo far enough away. He barked and lunged.

I’m overwhelmed by the prospect of training this behavior away, because of what I went though with Isis. Writing her memoir, I’m still living those two years when I was obsessed with fixing her. With Isis, we got to a point where I could safely walk her around the neighborhood. I need to revisit those techniques to make Leo less reactive.

We started last week by taking Leo to a neutral location with Rob’s bicycle. Leo had no trouble walking beside us while we walked the bicycle. We got overconfident and tried walking around a larger area, inhabited by other people. A person riding a bicycle passed. I clicked and treated Leo, who didn’t react. Hooray. I let my guard down further and missed the approach of a second bicycle. Leo barked and lunged.

I burst into tears, something I don’t remember doing with Isis at this phase of her training. I failed him. Why is this so hard? 

Nothing is worse for reactive dog training than losing your cool.

I realized we need to go back before we can go forward.

We tried again yesterday with the goal of keeping it short and successful. Make sure Leo is calm before we get started, able to make eye contact with me. Have Rob walk by with bicycle. Click and treat Leo for calm. Have Rob ride bicycle slowly past us at a distance. End on success.

Leo became very agitated when Rob mounted the bike. He barked a high-pitched nervous bark (as opposed to the Big Boy ferocious bark) and I could get him to calm down. I moved him farther away, had Rob get off the bike and stand next to it.

Leo could not calm down 50 feet away from Rob standing next to a bicycle. Part of that could be anxiety because he wanted to get to his daddy, but it shows that we tried to move too fast.

So, that’s our starting point. Next time we will start with Rob standing next to the bicycle at a greater distance away. I will try some BAT techniques of rewarding Leo by moving him farther away when he shows calming signals.

We’ll take it from there. Move forward.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Image vs. Text

I drafted this post before I saw this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge: Image vs. Text, and was struggling to pick an image to accompany it. Should I borrow Evernote’s logo, since I’m giving them free advertising anyway? Maybe Rob has a picture of me using my Nook. I was tempted to steal photos of Louis CK, Fred Armisen and Vanessa Bayer, or at least embed the videos I link to below.

Given the challenge at hand, I have taken a post I didn’t know how to illustrate with one picture, and illustrated it with four images.

The Next Generation of Typos

I no longer know how to write things by hand, so I’ve begun making notes to myself on my Nook and my iPod touch. Evernote seems to be designed for such things, because it syncs to become available on multiple devices.

cloud_api_graphic

evernote.com

I turned off the autocorrect feature on my digital devices long ago, because I trust my own ability to spell over the computer’s assumption that when I type pissy,what I really mean is pussy. True story: my stepmother emailed my significant other that her Blackberry tried to autocorrect her message to him thusly.

In a pinch, I’ve used Evernote to jot down what could be described as a journal entry. Let me explain. In a world before blogs, people wrote things down for themselves as private documentation. Today I felt sad, or My best friend really pissed me off. Things you don’t want other people to read, but make you feel better to express.

I expect that these personal musings will be useful for future memoir or fiction projects, but because those pesky little touch screens are so small, my literal notes to self are riddled with typos. I’m terribly afraid that after my death, some historian will come across them and won’t understand that my spelling errors are a result of the technology of the time.

writing

I do all my writing by keyboard, but I still edit with a pen.

I suppose everyone else in the world has an iPad or whatever, and has been word processing remotely for years, but Evernote has been something of a revelation to me. The members of my writing group provide one another with typed critiques. On a few recent occasions, I’ve wanted to work on my critiques in places that weren’t convenient to take my laptop. On an airplane to and from a weekend getaway, as one example. In the car at the Canadian border crossing, for another.

Disney

Celebrating Rob’s birthday. Didn’t feel like taking the laptop with me.

On the way back from Disneyland in January, I wrote three critiques on my Nook, then uploaded and corrected my spelling errors on my laptop before printing. On Sunday, I planned to do the same, but when I got in the car, I realized that my Nook’s battery wasn’t charged. I handwrote (as legibly as I could) two critiques before I remembered that I had Evernote on my iPod. I wrote the third critique on the tiny handheld touchpad keyboard.

Sometimes technology really a-freaking-mazes me. And I don’t even have a smartphone that uploads photos to Instagram.

Louis CK really nailed it with this commentary. (“Give it a second to get back from space!”)

nook

Pretty sure the coolest thing about my Nook is the sticker I put on the M-Edge case.

I will say (lowering voice like Kim Jong Un’s best friends from growing up), the Nook Tablet is not a great tablet. It’s a fine e-reader and the price was right. But it’s seriously deficient in apps (none for Facebook, for example, which would have been a dealbreaker if I’d known ahead of time) and the web browser is pretty shabby. My next electronic device will be a true tablet (unless my iPod dies and needs replacing first). Probably the iPad mini.

UPDATE 3.24.13: I spent $19.99 to turn my Nook SD card into a Nook 2 Android card. This may have resolved all of my tablet complaints, namely the lack of a Facebook app. Now I just have to adjust to the Android interface, which on first use does not seem as pretty as the Nook’s. Fortunately, I can easily switch between the Nook and the Android just by rebooting the device.