Archive of ‘Shiva’s Quirks’ category

Rules, What are They Good For?

IMG_20140315_135815Rules. Dogs need them. Every book I read before we adopted Shiva dictated this. Dogs require clear and consistent boundaries. Dogs need to know what is acceptable behaviour with no deviation. Rigid structure. All four on the floor. No affection without exercise and discipline first. Humans must state the law and never give in. No take-backsies. If we slide a little, dogs will think they own the place and turn into aggressive, drywall-munching monsters. Nom nom. Peaceful co-existence of dogs and humans is not possible unless the human is in control at all times. Rules keep everyone safe. Rules keep dogs from eating our houses. Rules keep dogs out of animal shelters.

These are things we all desire.

Once again, I find myself in a place of deep shame. Back when we lived in a world filled with obedience instructors and training regimens – in other words, the land that time forgot – our lives were bordered with decrees like “no dogs on the furniture” and “no dogs in the bedroom”. There was even everyone’s favourite canine statute: “no begging allowed.”Oh, how black and white Shiva’s realm was then. How absurd she must have thought us, we naive humans who imagined making her enter the house last meant we were in charge. As if the order in which one eats has anything to do with familial bonding. If the semi-parade we formed in each doorway made any significant difference in how she conducted herself, I don’t recall noticing anything.

On the other hand, my dog’s sit-stay continues to soothe my lazy trainer’s soul.

That's right, we win all the medals.

That’s right, we win all the medals.

I should be embarrassed by how many rules we no longer enforce. It connotes a sort of undress, an almost déshabillé quality to the way we run our household. Perhaps if we add a little more uniformity to the way we organize our lives our dreams would be less deluded. Alas, I kind of like our mess.

Certain dog trainers would be stunned by how lax we have become, and yet our dog has not run like a savage through the streets. The former me would be just as surprised by how accepting I am of Shiva’s libertine habits. For example, here are some of the rules we used to demand:

1. No dogs on the furniture.

Simple. Shouldn’t have been hard to uphold. Yet, this slid into, “dogs only on the furniture with express permission”. And then became “dogs on the furniture if they dog a cute trick first.” Which is now, “dogs on all the furniture whenever they please.”

This doesn't look very comfortable...

This doesn’t look very comfortable…

2. Dogs sleep in their crates.

This one took a bit longer to lose it’s significance but it eventually became “dogs sleep on the couch or the bed in the spare room.” And then “dogs can sleep in the bedroom but on their own bed.” And now, “dogs sleep on our bed every single night”

Ugh. I still don’t know how this one happened.

3. Dogs aren’t allowed in the kitchen.

This rule probably hit the garbage can the fastest. Don’t get me wrong, it is still technically in the law books. There is just no precedent for upholding it. The judge lets Shiva off with a warning every single time. In practice, the rule has now become more of a “dogs can be in the kitchen as long as they don’t steal things off the counters or get in the human’s way, but if they do get in the way, it’s okay as long as they look cute.” Or something. We are still working this out.

DSC_0188There are all sorts of other rules that I have forgotten about at this point. Decrees about no cat chasing (now acceptable, as long as one is quiet about it) and posted ordinances about no people food, ever, or how dogs must lay on their mats when people are eating. It is a vague memory, but I also recall something about dogs not being allowed to look out windows or run zoomies around the living room.

Huh.

No doubt my PH could remember many more than I. There is no disputing the fact that I am the softie of the lot. Though I maintain we are better off this way, Shiva’s wild nature, and our lack of interior decoration, might speak something a little different.

If rules are so important for a dog’s sanity, our laissez-faire attitude could be part of the problem. Maybe I should re-instill some of the order I’d intended five years ago. Remind Shiva who is Alpha. Teach her not to jump on me when I get home from. Let her cry it out and guide her back into her crate every night. In her own room, downstairs. Only pet her when she is lying calmly on the floor. Refuse to share my veggies and turn away from her adorable pleading face. Finally teach this mutt some household manners.

Life would be much more structured. I might even be able to own nice things. Shiva will know what is expected and I will be able to read my book without a tongue lapping at the pages. We will be nice and calm and predictable.

Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? On second thought, I am happy with my speckled canine tyrant. Maybe other people couldn’t live like we do, with everything left on the floor fair game for Shiva’s jaws, but I think of it as our own adventure. We may never achieve greatness, we may always remain le maison de rêveurs égarés, but we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves. We revel in our mess.

Are there any rules you have tossed out after a several years of dog ownership? Or are you better at maintaining these than we are? Should we feel ashamed for letting Shiva get away with everything but murder? Is it possible to let Shiva be a dog while still creating a magazine-worthy home?

Dog Love: Why Does It Even Matter?

What the heck is love, anyway? Sure, we all think we know. We like to spout things about self-sacrifice, everlasting affection, and deep romantic attachment. Everyone has his or her own concept of what it feels like to love someone and of what this love should consist. We are eager to sneer at celebrities who marry one day and divorce the next, superior in our knowledge that it could not have been “real” love. Even I talk about it like it’s some defined thing, a concrete noun with assigned meaning.

Naturally, my opinion on this meaning is the only correct one.

Wanna hear it? Probably not. But I am going to tell you anyway.

The One True Definition of Love, as told by Kristine, shaming all other definitions of love because this is the one true definition and everyone else is wrong:

  • There is no such thing as love at first sight, love must grow over time to be real, otherwise it is just silly infatuation
  • Love means wanting to say you are sorry, over and over and over again
  • Love means putting those you love first. In fact, it means being grateful you can put them first, without a smidge of resentment.
  • That being said, love is not unconditional. I don’t care what crap your mom told you. Love can end.
  • There are no varying degrees of love. You either love someone or you don’t. You can’t “kind of” love somebody or only love them when they behave a certain way.
  • Love and need are two very different things.

I am going to stop now because I think I have made my point. I have no doubt ticked some of you off. If not, I have ticked myself off so I guess that’s good enough.

The thing is, I don’t believe anyone gets to tell us what love is. It’s too personal. It is such a profound word for some of us and an inscrutable one for others. Half the time, I don’t think I understand it at all. All I can tell you is how it feels for me based on my own experiences. Given that your experiences are – we hope – very different from mine I don’t get to tell you how you feel. As someone who was told throughout her childhood that her emotions were wrong, I believe in a person’s right to choose how she labels her feelings.

Or even whether she names them at all.

The author of Something Wagging This Way Comes wrote an insightful and wise blog post today about a – in my perspective – less than insightful study. Ever since I read the science article this morning I have been ruminating over the concept of defining how dogs feel love. Pamela has already done an excellent job of breaking down the methodology and pointing out the scientific flaws. I feel the need to push it further.

In my opinion it is an act of hubris to assume we can ever understand the way a dog feels about his human or anything else in his life. Science can help us predict his behaviour and even – maybe – help us understand the way a dog might view the world. But I do not believe it is possible to know if my dog loves anything, be it me, the Am Staff at the dog park, or a stuffed Kong. I just don’t feel comfortable labelling any of her emotions with certainty. I believe she feels them, I just don’t know if it is my place to determine what they are.

Love is too complex of an emotion, too intense. That doesn’t mean dogs don’t feel it – I believe they are capable of so much more than we will ever be able to prove in a lab. However, I don’t know if it is possible to interpret their actions as something so complicated without hearing from them first. It seems to be doing them a disservice.

No doubt you are narked again. If you are the kind of person who reads late night blog posts written by people who spend too much time pondering canine philosophy, you are the kind of person who puts her dog first. I know your dog appreciates it. I know your dog is happy when you are around. It is possible your dog loves you. It is just not my decision to make.

Nor is it a decision for scientists in a lab to make.

Do I think Shiva loves me? No idea. As I said in my comment this morning, it doesn’t matter to me if she does. In fact, based on my own definition above, I hope she doesn’t. I don’t want her to put my health and happiness before her own. If there is a threat, I want her to run away as fast as she can so I can handle it. It isn’t her job to protect me. What is more important to me, and what is easier to gauge by her behaviour, is that I do think she trusts me.

Trust is much less complicated than love, and – in many ways – is much easier to define. Shiva shows me she trusts me by letting me handle her, even when she is in pain. She never flinches from my touch, even when she doesn’t want to be pet. When she used to be terrified of water bottles, she now will drink from one as I pour it into her bowl. She lets me reach into her mouth, even when she scooped up something super yummy from the ground. Shiva looks to me when uncertain and dives forward when I say something is okay.

For Shiva, I am a means to getting what she wants. But I am also someone safe, someone she relies on to care for her when she is feeling unwell I don’t need to call it love in order to feel proud that I can provide her with what she needs. My love for her is more than enough for the two of us.

Reactive Dog is Reactive, and Kind of an Ass

Shiva in snowWhen reading through the posts of last week’s #WOOF Support Blog Hop - an event hosted by and supporting owners of reactive dogs throughout the Petosphere – I was not surprised by how many of the stories sounded familiar. Roxy turns into a whirling dervish at the sight of other dogs, Ruby‘s anxieties are triggered by quick motion, and Felix was never taught solid social skills. These are all things Shiva and I have encountered together. And are still encountering.

Almost five years in, I wish I could say we have jumped down the other side of the reactivity mountain, like all her lunging is a distant memory and we walk down the street without a care. My former self liked to believe this was possible. If I was to go back and read posts from several years ago, I know I would find a cocky attitude and jokes about Shiva’s “reactive remission”. I saw every success as foreshadowing a cure.

I am now far too wise, too Shiva-savvy, to make these comments any more. Remission was never the right word to use. Reactivity (or assholerly, depending on the circumstance) isn’t behaviour that appears like a symptom of a disease and then remains until treatment pushes it into dormancy. Shiva’s barking and lunging and jarring is much more fitful and much more predictable. It is more like acne than cancer. It requires vigilance and practice. Sometimes old methods stop working and I need to try something new, a different topical cream to smooth out the skin. Shiva can be calm one second, jerky the next, and then calm for several months in a row. It’s just how it goes.

Sniffles

It would be a lie to say her eruptions are unexpected or that I never know how she is going to respond to a stimulus. Based on experience, I have an educated guess and I am almost always right. If I calculate twice per day for the past four and a half years, we have almost 3,500 walks in our tumultuous history. And counting. If I haven’t learned her common reactions by now, I haven’t been a very good partner.

However, just because I can predict her actions, doesn’t mean I always do something to prevent them. Sometimes I am too slow. Sometimes I am too lazy. Sometimes I am irritated with the situation and I don’t care if she freaks out. Sometimes I choose to be polite rather than put her first. Sometimes I like to take risks, see if I am wrong

I am usually not wrong.

The areas that differed between participating blogs in the hop were the posited reasons behind the reactive behaviour. Buster was injured by a larger dog, Forrest battles vet-diagnosed anxiety that affects multiple areas of his life, and Lucas has overcome a great deal of fear but needs help keeping his emotions in check. I have yet to come to any conclusion about the cause of Shiva’s dislike of other dogs, plastic grocery bags, and strange people – among other things.

I used to think it was fear based. Perhaps sometimes it is. But she is a very confident dog in many ways, if not a little over-confident. Is she just over-compensating?

The bulk of her problems lie in surprise. She doesn’t like it when something is there that wasn’t before. For instance, a few weeks ago someone had dumped an old leather chair at the entrance to the ravine. When we came out of the trees, Shiva saw the stocky black item and stiffened. The closer we got to the chair, the more she tensed. She started breathing in thick pants through her nose, always a warning sign. In her mind that chair didn’t belong there; it was an instant threat. The same thing happened on the weekend with a minivan parked on the trail. According to Shiva, minivans do not belong on trails, they belong on roads. When we turned the corner and she saw the large vehicle planted to the side of the path, she lost her mind.

If you have never seen a forty-five pound mutt take on a Dodge Caravan, I highly recommend it. Hi-lar-i-ous.

Strange men are also a common trigger. Not all men, though, just most. She instantly liked my PH’s older brothers but is still wary of my father. I can never be sure who she will accept and who she won’t so we avoid them all equally on our walks. This morning we took advantage of my day off and took a longer sniff through a part of the river valley we don’t get to visit often. It was early for a holiday and there weren’t many people. I made the mistake of assuming we were completely alone and forgot to pay attention.

Scary Men

Do you see the men in the above picture, to the right? Way off there in the distance? I didn’t either. Shiva did and she let them know it. I should probably have felt bad about her wild barking but, in truth, I appreciated the warning. I didn’t want to hang around in a quiet park with four strange men any more than she did.

This is why I am still conflicted about the reasons for Shiva’s reactions. They could be caused partly by fear and partly by a naturally territorial nature. They could also be a way of communicating with me when I forget to observe our surroundings. A “hey, there are people over there, just so you know, can we trust them?” Or, when it comes to her behaviour toward other dogs, she could just be kind of an ass.

PosingAt this point Shiva trusts me to handle most situations and the worst of her asshole, er, reactive, days are in the past. Most of the time I am able to prevent any episodes and we continue on our merry way with none the wiser. We’ve got the techniques down to an art and when in doubt, I don’t hesitate to cross the street or make use of someone’s driveway. But we both still make mistakes. Like an annoying pimple, there are some things that will always give us trouble. Shiva is reactive because she is reactive. That is just her personality. It is my job to help her deal with it.

Monday Mischief: Dusting Off the Ol’ Recall

Before I get into the problematic aspects of last night’s exploits I want to celebrate something. For the first time since Shiva’s injury on November 8th, 2013, I went for a walk with letting her off-leash as a goal. It was going to be my first step in dealing with this fear. Did I envision disaster? Yes, of course I did. Before I’d even set foot outside I saw all of the money depleting from my bank account, heard the cries of my poor baby as she came down from the high of pain medication. Knowing Shiva isn’t Shiva unless she is allowed freedom, I decided it was time to face my paranoia and ignore all of my instincts. It was time to risk the worst and let her run.

Can I get some applause?

Thank you.

Now that you have acknowledged my bravery, I will tell you the whole story.

It took me some time to screw my courage in deep enough to take the plunge. First, we walked over to the park with all the rabbits. I figured Shiva and I could dart around chasing bunnies together and it would tire her out enough to prevent disaster once she was released. No dice. Instead of fuzzy white rabbits we encountered a tall fence and some sort of funky ice sculpture.

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Edmonton? Only you would hold a festival in the middle of winter.

No park time for us.

Genius lagomorphic plan foiled, I had no choice but to suck it up. We turned away from the odd construction in the bunny park and headed toward the community centre. I remembered there was a fenced off area by the playground that is used for street hockey in the summer. The gate is always unlocked and I have previously seen other handlers using the space to play with their dogs. It seemed like the perfect spot to dust off the ol’ recall for the first time in over two months.  Being a quiet and cold Sunday evening I hoped it would be abandoned.

028I was right. When we arrived, there wasn’t a single living creature to be seen and the small gate was wide open. It was the perfect spot, I remember thinking. The wooden fence was topped by even higher chain link. There was no way she could jump the ten feet and I could block or close the only exit. The area was the ideal baby step for my off-leash phobia.

One slight problem. I was so engrossed in checking out the barricades, making sure Shiva couldn’t make a break for it, it didn’t even occur to me that I might want to double-check the surface. Who would? The last time I had been in the area, it had been the typical concrete of any school yard. Was it silly of me to assume that it would be no different in January? Yes, it was white, but every surface of this city is covered in snow. It would have been stranger if it wasn’t glistening.

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Now, you all being very observant folk, I am sure you can tell on first sight what it took me thirty seconds to discern. This was not snow. It was ice. As in, a full-on skating rink.This would have been a mistake easily remedied if I hadn’t already revved Shiva up and unhooked her leash by the time I noticed.

Oops.

As soon as I realized my error, I called her back to my side. Shiva, being Shiva, was already on the other side of the ice, not letting no slippery surface get in her way of a good time. To her credit, and the credit of our years and years of hard work, she came dashing back as quickly as her Bambi legs could carry her. Only she got a little side-tracked before she reached my side.

034Error number two. You see, when I had scoped out the area, I took in the double-fence and the narrow gate. I did not examine the bench area. If I had, I would have noticed a. there was a benching area that is clearly meant for a hockey team, which means this was likely a hockey rink and b. the snow piled high on the other side of the fence with no chain link to prevent a wily dog from escaping.

Thus, escape she did. One second her head was poking out of the seating section, the next I saw a dog-like figure bounding over the snow in the park beyond.

Sigh.

Don’t worry. It wasn’t a disaster. I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this if it was. Somehow, thank Susan Garrett, my handling savvy kicked in and I was able to recall Shiva back into the rink and back onto a leash. The handful of turkey treats in my pocket may also have something to do with this but I prefer to think it was pure skill and instinct. And the fortune I spent on recall training.

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While it may not have been the best re-introduction to off-leash play for the Sheevs and I, I guess I shouldn’t discount it either. Even if she had run amok in the sports field where, technically, no dogs are allowed, nothing happened. She slipped, she ran, she ate frozen garbage lingering under bench, and then we went home. All in all, it was a step forward for us. Maybe next month I’ll be ready to take her to a park with trees.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Major Shiva Handler Fail

I apologize for the re-post. Something happened while I was out of town and the below post was swallowed up by WordPress, never to be seen again. I hope it was tasty. Hopefully it sticks around this time.

001“Let’s go check out Candy Cane Lane!”

“Yeah! We can take the dog!”

“Yeah! It will be fun!”

I don’t remember who first suggested it but we both thought taking Shiva down eight residential blocks of Christmas lights was pure genius. Could we be any more naive? After almost five years of living with the mutt you’d think we’d know better by now. Surely even a first time reader of this wee page would see the folly of the scheme.

I will give us the benefit of the doubt and say we were caught up in the holiday vibe. It was Christmas Alpha – the night my PH and I chose to celebrate together, quietly, before trekking out to the mountains to spend the real day with family – and we may have been a little high on Lindt.

I know, it’s not much of an excuse.

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The instant Shiva sprung out of the car, we knew we had made a ginormous mistake. We could have cut our losses then, avoided disaster. Naturally, we chose to proceed toward the mass of over-excited toddlers and harried parents. As one does with a tornado who is semi-reactive to the unpredictable movements of small children. 003

That’s just the way smart people do it. Obviously.

I will say, it could have gone much worse. Even if our brains were broken, our hearts and instincts were in the right place. My PH and I have perfected the Shiva walk to an art form at this point. It is almost a thing of beauty, the way we automatically take our places to guide her through a crowd. Neither of us needs to ask for help or speak at all, other than to maybe point out an incoming dog on the left or a large man with a funny hat on the right. The level of team work involved is impressive and after all these years of Shiva handling, we know exactly what our respective jobs are.

005My PH almost always takes the leash. He is stronger than I am and faster. If Shiva needs to bail into a bush, he is the man to do it. He also is less likely to be dragged down the street. My job is usually to block and watch out for surprises. As we “strolled” this way down the over-filled sidewalks, I would make sure there was enough breathing room between us and the crowds in front and behind. If the masses were catching up, I would indicate that it might be time to pull into a driveway or snow bank. We both made sure to check in with Shiva often, observing her ears, to ensure she wasn’t becoming too over-stimulated. It was a guarantee that she was going to be a little nuts and a lot tuggy. This we can handle. But in these instances, on a scale of ten we prefer to keep her stimulation level at a nine as opposed to a twelve. It is a precarious line that only true Shiva Masters understand.

I still have yet to receive my black belt.

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Perhaps after this experience, I am a bit closer. I am happy to say Shiva had a grand total of zero reactions the entire evening. True, we didn’t walk the whole eight blocks, deciding to end on a high note we drove through the second half, but we managed to achieve something never before attempted. Yes, it was stupid to bring her in the first place. No, we will probably not take her again. Yes, we acknowledge we would have enjoyed the lights more if my PH had been able to look at something other than the back of Shiva’s head. However, we took Shiva to an outdoor holiday event crammed with waving little hands and screaming little voices and nothing bad happened. So even though it was a fail, it was also kind of a win for Shiva and for us.

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Our wackadoo puppy is all grown up, standing next to terrifying lawn ornaments and everything.

Dear Santa – Shiva Style

014For the last three years, when the holiday season looms, one of the things I have anticipated the most is Tales and Tails’ annual “Letters to Santa” feature. This round is no exception. Today’s letter, from the incorrigible Küster, reminded me why I enjoy this so much. Sure, it’s a little impractical. We are all adults. We know dogs can’t really write letters to the big guy in the North Pole. Nonetheless, I think these letters showcase just how well the author knows her dogs, knows what they likely would say, if they had the ability. Her sound comprehension of each of her dogs’ unique personalities is something I covet.

We are all only guessing. There is no way to truly understand what our dogs are thinking and there is certainly no way to know what they would make of a bearded man who delivers presents around the world. Still, I wish I had the confidence the of the Taleteller when it comes to knowing what motivates my dog.

I don’t think this cuts it, but here is my attempt at Shiva’s letter to the jolly old elf, with warm thanks to all the puppies at Tales and Tails for the inspiration. 

Hi Mr. Kringle!

How are you? My name is Shiva! That’s with a “v” and not a “b”. A lot of people get confused. Since I hear you bring presents to all the good doggies I wanted to make sure you got the name right. Sheeeevvvvvaaaaa. And not Shebbbbbaaa. Okay? Cool!

Ummm! I guess I am supposed to tell you about all the good things I did this year. But it’s kind of boring and I’d rather tell you about all of the fun adventures I went on! Like, I went on this reaaaaalllllyyy long truck ride and saw lots of cool new things! I ran and ran and sniffed and didn’t get sick once! Also, I am living in a really cool new place that is kind of cold and kind of weird but it smells really good with lots of really nice doggies and my people are here so it has been lots of fun! I just wish I could run more. I missing running. But that’s okayI I can always run in my dreams.

Oh! I just remembered. I have been extra good this year. Just ask His Excellency Mr. Kitty Meister Meister Kitty. He doesn’t bat at my nose with his claws nearly as much these days so I think this must mean I am doing better. Yeah, I still chase him sometimes but only when he runs first! I think he likes it too. Yeah, we’re totally BFFs now. Totally.

010Anyway! Can I ask for what I want now? Honestly, I don’t want that much. Only, can you get my people to stay at home with me more often? That would be nice. It sucks when they have to leave every day. I try to be good when they are here. I don’t jump on the counters as much and I tolerate all of their weird cuddling. But they still leave so maybe that’s not enough. If you could make that happen, it would be great.

Also, if it isn’t too much to ask, I am a bit worried about something. I am not sure why I am worried but my human has seemed upset lately the closer it gets to the big day so I am assuming something scary is going to happen. They tell me it is going to be my first Christmas away from home. That sounds exciting but when my person says it her face gets all tense so maybe it’s bad? I don’t know. I just want everyone to be happy. Can you make that happen? Will you be able to find me if I am not at home on Christmas Eve? Is that why my person is worried? I hope not. Can you please tell her it will be okay? That’s all I want, us to be together and happy no matter where we are. Because if I am with my people and they are with me then I know it will be okay.

So, that’s it! I hope you have a very good week and holiday with your doggies. I promise to be as good as I can and Mr. Kitty Meister Sir promises to also be good so maybe you can give him something he wants too? Like maybe more string? He seems to like string.

Happy holidays, Mr. Kringle! I don’t know if I want to see you because your booming voice is kind of scary but I hope your magic is real.

Your doggy friend,

Shiva,

S-H-I-V-A

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The Source of So Much Fear

Shiva and I make for the most awkward team in history. We must rank up there with any movie starring Michael Cera. I wonder if the combination of over-anxious dog and over-imaginative human is a smart idea. Maybe Shiva and I should never be left to our own devices. It only leads to trouble or utter embarrassment. It looks like I am at a two for two on the mortification scale this weekend.

Do any of you remember this post? If not, I will give a rapid summation: Shiva and I were walking in the ravine, pre-dawn. I couldn’t see very far ahead due to the lack of light. All of a sudden Shiva stopped and refused to move forward, a very weird action on her part. Staring straight ahead she barked several times, seemingly at nothing. Freaking out and thinking it was either a pack of coyotes or a serial killer hiding in the trees, I swung around and booted it out of there as fast as my rubber soled feet could carry me through the snow.

Well, in the light of day we have now uncovered the source of all the commotion, the reason for Shiva’s unaccountable behaviour. I brought her back to the same area and she had the exact same reaction only this time I could see what was causing her so much consternation. The closer we walked to the evil doer, the more tense she became. Until she too realized her mistake. The crazy thing is, she didn’t even look that ashamed.

Can you guess based on the picture below?

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Any thoughts? How about if I make it easier?

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That’s right, Shiva was flipping out over a garbage can. A large garbage can that had been moved closer to the path, but nonetheless, the same metal container containing rubbish Shiva has encountered millions of times before. Garbage cans have apparently been added to her long list of enemies, a list which also includes rocks, garden gnomes, plastic bags, fire hydrants, snowmen, and lake monsters.

So much for the canine instinct. Perhaps I just need to invest in a good headlamp. Sheesh.

And My Humiliation is Complete, or Maybe it’s Time to Cut the Cord?

010Walking with Shiva has been a bit of a trial these past few weeks. It has nothing to do with the weather; I am actually getting over that. Minus twenty-five has become quite livable. Minus fifteen is flip-flop weather.

No, my recent aggravation has much more to do with Shiva’s numerous leash transgressions. I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Instead of automatically jumping to annoyance, I thought the reason she was pretending to forget her manners was because she was cold. Even in her hand-made coat, the temperatures have been low enough to freeze anyone within ten minutes. Without any fur on her belly, she is more vulnerable than I am in my winter clothing. I was sensitive to this for obvious reasons and cut our jaunts short. However, this past week has been much “warmer” and tonight was downright tropical. After all, I was only wearing two sweaters and one pair of socks. It is practically Arizona out there. Shiva’s behaviour remained unchanged. If anything, her tugging was worse.

I am not a patient person at the calmest of times but I have grown a lot during my time with the wingnut. I think I have developed a few coping mechanisms that keep me from having a tantrum in the middle of the sidewalk. That hasn’t occurred for at least two days.

Of course, this time, it all went down in front of an audience.

Before I get too far ahead of myself here is the basic order of events:

1. Shiva leaps like an antelope down the street. I grip the leash and follow along behind her, slipping on the icy road.

2. I gain traction and stop, forcing Shiva to halt and look back. I raise my eyebrows whereupon she usually races back to my side and sits down to await my direction. This is what I expected to happen. This is what I have taught Shiva to do.

3. When I relaxed my shoulder, Shiva swung around and bolted ahead, ripping the leash out of my mittened hand.

4. I watch helplessly as Shiva speeds down the sidewalk, calling to her but knowing it is useless. The children, standing with their parents on the other side of the street, start laughing.

5. Shiva veers to the right, bounding through the snow in the school yard, a giant grin on her face. Her purple coat comes loose and flaps around her shoulders.

6. I stand there feeling like a moron but finally catch Shiva’s attention. After running back and forth in the snow piles for a few more seconds, Shiva turns in my direction and races to my side, eyes sparkling and tongue hanging out. The children make sounds of disappointment.

7. Picking up the ice-covered leash, I move forward with Shiva who instantly starts to pull. I sigh and stop. A rabbit runs across the road in front of us.

8. Shiva’s ears pop up and we walk for the next three blocks with her on her hind legs. The children cheer.

Have you ever walked a dog who is walking only on her two back legs? I have several times. Sometimes it’s just awkward, other times I worry she is freaking out the pedestrian she is staring at on the other side of the boundary, but tonight it was just embarrassing.

Sigh.

009

After all of this, I am starting to wonder if the cause of Shiva’s lack of self-control – okay, more than her usual lack – is because I have not let her run off-leash since November 3rd. A Shiva needs to run as much as a Shiva needs to chew. It is a big part of her personality and how she has fun. I have taken this away. For a good reason, maybe, but she doesn’t know that. All she knows is, she has energy to burn and wants to run.

And run, and run, and run.

Maybe it is time to take a risk? Trust in the fact that her injury could have been a one-off?

I was came close last Sunday. We were walking in the ravine and met up with two dogs whom I have always secretly hoped would one day be Shiva’s friends. They are both friendly, well-socialized animals and under ordinary circumstances I would love for Shiva to run around with them. The owner was amendable, the energy was positive, there was no reason to disallow Shiva a chance for fun. Except the biggest reason of all: fear.

008I don’t know. It feels too soon. I’m not sure I am capable of un-clipping that leash knowing what might happen. I know I will need to. Regardless of the dangers, it does seem wrong to prevent Shiva from indulging in her favourite activity. A Shiva isn’t a Shiva if she is inhibited by my paranoia.

But at the same time, it is my job to keep her safe. Even if she never runs off leash again, isn’t it more important to keep her alive and free of serious injury?

I don’t know how parents of human children do it. Cutting the cord might take more guts than anything I have done before.

My Dog is a Bratface

I was going to quantify the title of this post by putting the word “sometimes” in parenthesis but less than ten seconds ago said trouble-making dog so perfectly illustrated the source of today’s rant that I have decided to leave out said quantifier. Shiva is a bratface. Full stop.

Me? But look how well I pose for holiday photos!

Me? But look how well I pose for holiday photos!

We have a problem here at Shiva’s House of Deluded Dreamers and it’s not going away. In truth, this problem has existed since the day we brought her home. However, previous domiciles enabled us to manage said problem without difficulty, thus preventing me from actually working on it. Now that we live in a new house that lends Shiva much more freedom, the problem has turned into a giant rhinoceros stampeding through the kitchen that we are incapable of stopping.

Let me backtrack.

Shiva will always eat the poison. Always. It is part of her DNA. If there is food available she will do all she can to scarf it as fast as possible. Whether it is waiting for me to look away, waiting for actual permission, or sneaking around in the middle of the night and risking death by falling off the top of the refrigerator. If there are edibles around, she will get to them. It is a law we live by.

One of her favourite edibles in the whole wide world of stomach-filling goodness is cat food.

We have a cat. You may have seen him around these parts before. In case you don’t recall, this is what he looks like:

Not as innocent as he would have you believe

Not as innocent as he would have you believe

Shiva will do anything to get at his full food dish. While we feed him good quality food, just as good as hers, and I am not concerned it will make her ill, we are not exactly pleased by this. For one thing, the cat deserves to eat in peace and he gets cranky if his dish is not full at all times. And I mean all times. He has always self-regulated his intake and so he is free fed. Even if he isn’t particularly hungry at the time he demands the food be there in case he wants to nibble half a crunchy.

For another, we are not billionaires. Good quality cat food is expensive and is not meant to be gobbled up by obsessed dogs bowlfuls at a time.

But how to get Shiva to leave it alone?

In previous houses there was always an easy management system built-in. The furnace room two houses ago featured a nifty door with a pre-cut cat-sized whole. It was magic. As long as we kept the food just out of reach of Shiva’s ridiculously long neck, the food was safe. In the last house, the puppy gate kept Shiva out of the basement when we weren’t around to watch her. There was this convenient little counter down there that was just high enough to give us time to prevent her from jumping up, but not too high to annoy the cat.

In our current house, there is no such pre-made solution. Which means in less than five months Shiva has devoured the cat’s food approximately 45,689 times. Currently, this is where we are precariously balancing his dish to keep it away from her greedy maw:

008Yes, that is indeed a very narrow windowsill in the laundry room. Yes, that is a really awkward place for the cat to balance while he eats his breakfast. Yes, Shiva can still get to it if we give her enough time.

But what to do? We have tried rigging cat-sized wholes in other areas of the house (see below) but somehow the dang bratfaced dog always finds a way in.

010We can’t keep this up. It’s annoying and it’s pricey and it’s not healthy for either animal. But I am out of ideas. No matter where we put the dish, the dog finds a way.

And so I entreat you multiple animal owners of the Petosphere. Have you ever had to out-smart your dog in such a way? How do you keep your dogs from enjoying a midnight snack of cat crunchies? The more creative your ideas, the better. I am at my wit’s end.

Real Life Confessions #129: I am the Worst Dog Owner in the World

I like to think of Shiva as a dog’s dog. As she walks with ears bouncing and tail bumping, I imagine a one-line song running through her head. Her own version of the Black Eyed Peas’ “Imma Be” with only one slight substitution.

Imma dog, imma dog – imma imma imma dog
Imma dog, imma dog – imma imma imma dog
Imma dog, imma dog – imma imma imma dog
Imma dog dog dog dog imma imma dog
Imma dog dog dog dog imma imma dog
Imma dog dog dog dog imma imma dog

Just as rhythmic because she’s cool like that. Though perhaps without the drug dealing and the semen.

Everything she does is done with enthusiasm. At least, that is the word I have grown to use. It sounds so much better than “bat-shit insanity” when talking to others at the dog park. If she is given thirty seconds to complete something, she will do it in one. If she is asked to jump up one stair, she’ll throw herself up all ten. It’s just who she is. It used to give me daily heart attacks but eventually one gains perspective. Sometimes I forget that the things she does aren’t normal until I see the look on another dog owner’s face when she randomly vaults off a tree and then performs several cartwheels across the field for no reason whatsoever.

“Oh, you mean dogs aren’t supposed to bounce off the furniture every time they enter the house after a walk? Huh.”

The problem is, this gusto is applied to everything in her life and as entertaining as it is, it also becomes problematic when the vet starts to notice things. And by things I mean, the fact that Shiva’s back teeth are showing a little more wear than they should be. At our last appointment before the move, our wonderful vet raised her eyebrows when she took a look at the tornado’s choppers. I had a feeling I knew what she was going to say. The verdict was predictable, if majorly depressing.

“No more antlers,” she declared. “No more Nylabones, no more bones, period.”

Let me clarify. What she said was no more of these:

004Or these:

005And absolutely no more of these:

AntlerWhat she meant was death, destruction, and an end to all semblance of peace for as long as we all shall live.

Our vet was obviously not aware that a Shiva’s gotta chew. It’s just a certain fact. Engraved in stone. I am almost positive that when the Rosetta Stone was re-discovered by that French soldier there was a small Shiva Stone next to it in the Nile Delta stating “all Shivas must chew.”

Oh sure, she said it would be fine if Shiva continued to chew these:

006Yet, that’s not really fitting Shiva’s definition of the verb, now is it? Kongs are awesome, they are meant for sucking out yummy peanut butter treats. They do not satisfy Shiva’s anxiety gods, or whomever the spirits are who compel her to destroy. It isn’t her fault. I believe that. Chomping hard on a good antler just makes her feel better. Who am I to begrudge her that?

Besides, after several months of stern no-bone restrictions, a former friend has joined our family, one we had thought was gone for good. But today’s, er, “episode” confirms it.

This happened no more than thirty minutes after the toy was purchased. This includes travel and taking the dog out to pee time.

This happened no more than thirty minutes after the toy was purchased. This includes travel and taking the dog out to pee time.

In case you can’t tell, the above photo features a decapitated duck. One of many in our future. That’s right, the world better be ready, as Shiva the Destroyer is back and in prime form. No duck, no elephant, no bear, no fish, no stuffed animal will ever feel safe again.

Sleep with one eye open, Mr. Snake. Your days are numbered.

Sleep with one eye open, Mr. Snake. Your days are numbered.

So what is a responsible pet owner to do? Put her dog before all of the innocent little stuffies, just waiting to have their guts ripped out?

I am not said responsible pet owner. As the title suggests, I am instead the worst dog owner in the world. Rather than adhere to the kind, well-meaning vet’s advice, I’ve decided to give the world a bit of a break. Even though I know it’s wrong, even though I know we may have to pay for canine dentures one day, every once in a while, for a maximum of five minutes at a time, I will give Shiva a bone to chew.

I know. I am going to Canine Hell. But it makes her so happy! How can I deny my puppy one of the few tools that keeps her sanity in check? For all I know, she decapitates stuffed animals for the sheer joy of it. Allowing her to wear down her teeth on a solid bone every once in a while ensures we’ll all live to see another day. It may make me a terrible dog owner but it’s a sacrifice I am willing to make.

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