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.