February 18, 2014 won’t be one for the memory books. I am okay with this. I have no insightful words for myself like last year. No life lessons to share, no vows to make for the coming year. I am all out of profundity. Beyond it, in a way. There is just me, my dog across the living room on the couch, and the glass of wine I am contemplating. This is life. This is 32.
There are worse things.
Because that wine is going to go bad if I don’t drink it, I will leave you with my favourite Taylor Swift parody video. I expect I will be singing this song all night.
When I got home from work today there was a happy surprise waiting for me. My birthday had come early and our awesome prize package from Planet Dog, won during Kol’s Notes’ wicked Advent Calendar for Dog Lovers event, had finally arrived! I had forgotten all about it until I saw the familiar brand label on the box.
Shiva was pretty excited herself.
Despite the fact that I have seen these toys in stores all over the country, I have never purchased one for Shiva. I love the concept behind them; treat-releasing toys are something I am always looking at for my starving puppy. They are perfect for working her mind and her body and often give me a chance to read a book for several minutes while she occupies herself with snarfing every last crumb. Nevertheless, when I felt the texture of the Orbee Tuff line offered by Planet Dog, they never seemed all that… Tough. I doubted their ability to stand up to Shiva’s gaping maw.
See those jaws? They are even bigger than they look on camera.
I am glad to say that I was wrong to doubt. Though the material is quite flexible, the rubber holds up well. After a few bouts of rough play, the ball is still without any noticeable teeth marks. Granted, they are not chew toys and are not meant for a full frontal assault. We are still going to be careful. But, so far, Planet Dog gets a Shiva lick of approval.
I am looking forward to testing out the Snoop this weekend when I have some time to put the Shivster’s brain to the test. For now, I am content to watch her run all over the house, knocking over wine glasses, in pursuit of a dog’s real best friend.
The rubber ball.
Thanks again to Kol’s Notes for offering such a cool prize!
I attribute my success to this – I never gave nor took any excuse ~ Florence Nightingale
When the month began I was full of plans. I said an official farewell to 2013 and all of its days of aggravation. Nothing was going to get in my way of deepening my neglected relationship with Shiva. Not the office, not the new season of Community, not even my winter ennui. This time we were going to get things done. I vowed.
Only, in all my swearing and promising I forgot one fairly vital aspect to my scheme. In order to meet my goal, I would need the committed participation of a partner, a canine partner with ambitions and desires of her own. I could be as motivated as I wanted but it wouldn’t make one bit of difference if I couldn’t convince Shiva to join in on the fun.
I’ve written the well-known agility phrase on this blog many a time before – “great dog, shame about the handler” – but in some, limited cases it can go the other way. Even if I am over-the-top enthused about something, if Shiva is more interested in napping on the chair, there isn’t much I can do. This is a lesson my former trainer used to try to drill in my head every time I complained that all the other dogs appeared smarter, saner, sharper. It only took me four years to learn it.
I have to work with the dog I have.
And she has to work with me. Don’t worry, I know all too well who has the shadier end of this deal.
This realization doesn’t mean this month was a failure. I didn’t give or take any excuses. The primary goal of Train Your Dog Month is to spend more quality time with your dog. I do think I have accomplished that.
Before I get to the exciting results of The Great Challenge of Getting Shiva to Hold an Item in Her Mouth, I first want to share a small, but important, victory.
Due to a lot of patience I have been able to re-teach Shiva that the camera is not a scary Gorgon who will turn her into stone if she looks it in the eye.
I don’t know where she got this notion. She used to pose so well. All I’d have to do was pull out the black box and she would leap into action, presenting her best side for all the world to admire. Somehow, though, something altered. Was it the time I posted the picture of her with her tongue sticking out? Was she upset that I would share such an unflattering image? Or perhaps The Cat has been telling her about the time I captured his fur-less behind for all the world to see.
For the record, I never posted any of those pictures online.
Whatever the reason, it was getting a bit annoying. She has such a pretty face. This is – mostly – a dog blog. It should feature photos of said dog, and not just the back of her head. I don’t think the world needs to be inundated with Shiva butt pictures, as cute as they may be.
So we got to work. A few handfuls of well-placed treats, multiple withheld sighs, and my best squeaky cartoon voice, and she forgot all about the mythical creature in the camera. The most vital part of this formula was the withheld sighs. I had to remind myself that Shiva is not inclined to respond to frustration. Instead of growling at her to pay attention to me and not the birds flying overhead, I had to force myself to relax and wait. And wait. And wait. And sometimes, I had to call it a day and try again another time.
I had to work with the dog I have.
It paid off. Just look at these puppy eyes.
I even managed to get a picture of her in which she doesn’t look freaked out.
My Shiva model is back. I am going to try not to lose her again.
Now, I guess, I need to own up to this whole retrieving business. I wish I had a wicked video to show you. I mean, I have avideo but it isn’t the one I wanted to make.
My clever PH realized that the trick to getting Shiva to return with the toy is to have another one in the wings. Since her favourite ball is this orange and blue wonder, he purchased a second. The results were solid. He had some pretty decent success getting Shiva to run back with the ball in her mouth, drop it on the floor in front of him, and then chase it across the room once again.
He had success. I did not.
Is it because I approach her at the wrong time of day? Do I just not throw as well? I try to match my energy to his and I spend a few minutes beforehand revving her up. But after the ball is thrown, she’ll pick it up, run around with it, and then come back to me with an empty mouth. I am beginning to think that ball games are just not going to be part of our relationship. It is not easy to admit defeat.
This doesn’t mean I am giving up on the challenge entirely. Even if Shiva won’t properly fetch for me, I am still determined to teach her to hold items in her mouth for photographic purposes. It. Will. Happen. Just not yet.
I’ll let this video speak for itself:
Not quite the trick I was hoping to show off at the end of this month.
Sure, I could say that Shiva has done much better with this behaviour than it appears. I am also much better with my timing when the camera is not running. I wish I could show you all of the other training sessions in which Shiva held that stuffed snake for five whole seconds. But I can’t. All I have in any given moment is the dog in front of me. Not the Shiva of yesterday who was a bit more interested in the game, or even the Shiva of tomorrow who might have benefited from a bit of latent learning. Shiva is a dog with emotions as important to her as mine are to me. It doesn’t matter how well she performs in a video. What matters is that we tried to do something together and we are going to keep trying. Because it isn’t about the results.
This is what I tell myself, anyway.
Now it is your turn.
I want to hear all about the fun things you have done with your pets this month. Have you learned any lessons that will help you in the future? Did your pet surprise you? Add a link with your story to the tool below and brag about all of your hard work. Every entry has a chance to win a $25 donation to your favourite pet charity and a prize pack for you and your dog!
Finally! Dog blogs are legitimized! They aren’t just for odd women who get up far too early every morning and need someone to whom they can vent all of life’s frustrations.* Pet bloggers are cool people too!
At least, that’s what I thought after my first, second, and even third viewing of the below commercial. Now that I have come down from the high of temporary credibility, I am realizing this adorable television ad is not what I’d hoped. It turns out, the lyrics aren’t what I thought they were. I hate when that happens. Sometimes actually paying attention to the real words being said is such a bummer.
Before I say any more, I’ll give you a chance to understand what I am talking about.
Cute, right? I mean, she has a dog blog and everything! This is my life! I can relate!
Except for the fact that I can’t. Not really. Those bothersome things called “sexism” and “diet industrial complex” and “grammar” make it very hard to enjoy what could have been an endearing little commercial. If this is the world’s idea of a “morning win” I am worried for the future of the world. Frankly, a morning where all I eat for breakfast is a thin cookie is not one for the record books.
To ease some of my pain, I thought it would be fun to come up with my own sunrise song. I haven’t filmed a video – I am too much of a perfectionist for that – but maybe a company will hear my cry and give me the cash to do it right.
It’s worth a shot.
Here is my idea of a morning win:
I had a shower, ran the dog, took some photos for my blog, didn’t get hit on during my commute.
Bought a muffin, scored free coffee, pet a kitten, lamented hockey, impressed the boss with an argument she could not refute.
Deadlines chased, projects aced, dressed with taste, mistakes erased, and I even wrote this song!
What do you think? Sure, my version doesn’t have a fluffy poodle but it is a morning that would make me proud.
I know, I think far too much about commercials. These things are not meant to be analyzed with half as much effort as I put in. But humour me, will you? What is your idea of a morning win?
*Please note, I describe only myself with this sentence. Most dog bloggers I know have active social lives and are not even slightly strange. In fact, they are so normal, it’s creepy.
It is a continuous struggle for me to savour the moment. Especially during the holidays I find I get so caught up in crossing experiences off my list that I don’t stop to appreciate my surroundings. Skipping from one festive tradition to another, grabbing at as many tasty morsels as I can, the season whips by and before I pause a moment to bask, it is done. This seems to be a general problem, doesn’t it? The glorification of busy and of doing all the things all the time is at once compelling and empty.
I was better at this last year. With dwindling funds, the holiday should have been depressing. We had no money for gifts, no budget for entertainment, and I was so exhausted I didn’t bake a single cookie. In spite of all that, we still managed to enjoy the moment for what it was meant to be. We had our tree, our out-dated strings of lights, music on the radio, and our little furry family. It was more than enough and we had as good a holiday as ever.
This year, however, I have forgotten to take the time to sit in the quiet and enjoy. Our – albeit slowly – recovering financial situation has enabled us to spend a little more and this somehow lead to an urgent need to dust off the old Christmas checklist. I had to drink all the eggnog, watch all the movies, sing all the songs, attend all the symphonies, put up all the lights, eat all the chocolate, take all the photos…
Of course, no matter how hard I work to get it all done, I still end up missing an item or two which inevitably leads to self-recrimination. For example, on the weekend I realized I had yet to send out a single holiday card. It made me feel like an enormous jerk. I meant to do it, only I forgot in all the gift-wrapping and Nutcrackering. Now it is December 23rd, Christmas Eve Eve, it feels like my time is up. Two days left to dance, to devour, to delve. Two days and the joy is done. What will I have to show for it?
Memories, I suppose. That must be the goal of all the anxiety. Gotta create memories otherwise in 2018 I might look back on December 2013 and… What? Hate myself for not attending a performance of A Christmas Carol for the sixth time?
The holidays are special because they are so brief. As much as I adore the music, I don’t want to sing “Sleigh Ride” in February. It should be saved for December, when it is happy and relevant, when it makes my co-workers smile. If Christmas lights were not tacky in March they wouldn’t bring so much hope in the dark days of November.
I realize now, perhaps too late, that it isn’t shoving in all the festivity I can that helps me enjoy the season. Quite the opposite seems to be true. When I focus on the activities that have the most personal meaning, that is when I glean the most from this joyful time. If there is room for a bit of extra frivolity, one more lunch with friends or one more picture of my dog in an elf hat, that’s a bonus. But I should never feel let down by not jamming in as many customs as I can, as if it is some sort of holiday contest. It is far more important for me to take the time to soak it in, to indulge in the calm, and, when I have the energy, to share the little sweetnesses with others.
I don’t know how much computer time I will have between now and the New Year, unfortunately. It worries me a little, taking more than a day away from blogging. I feel my motivation is still so fragile that any slip or sabbatical, even two days, will snap it for good. With a little magic, this will not be the case.
Our travel plans are going to be fun, but hectic. It will be Shiva’s first Christmas away from home and, of course, I am very worried about how she will behave. All I want this holiday season is a less anxious dog and an un-harassed family. If we make it through this holiday without anyone’s head getting bitten off, I will consider it the celebration of a lifetime! Please wish us luck!
I will try to share a little something tomorrow, the best day of the year, but if I don’t I want to wish you all a very lovely, very happy, very relaxing holiday season. Thank you for all of your warmth this last year, even when I was being a selfish bratface and didn’t deserve it. You are the reason I am still doing this thing.
As a late gift to you, here is one of my favourite videos of all time.
Before anyone is offended by the title of this post I want to make it clear that I do not believe Border Collies any any smellier than any other breed. If anything, their OCD nature probably makes them less odorous. No, the reference has less to do with stinkiness and more to do with the fact that the more time I spent in dog sports the more former mutt-lovers I saw switching over to the dark side.
Before anyone is offended by that I want to make it clear that I do not abide breed discrimination and I think Border Collies are brilliant dogs. Some of Shiva’s best friends are Border Collies! Er…That may not quite be accurate. Shiva’s antics tend to bring out the worst in other dogs and Border Collies especially seem to prefer eating her face off to joining her in a game of running around like a maniac. Nonetheless! I love Border Collies and before the wackadoodle I used to think I wanted one. Now I know I prefer certifiable to genius in a dog.
The reason I call it “the dark side” is because there was a period where it seemed everybody I knew was getting a Border Collie. Let’s face it, they are over-represented in dog sports enough. Just look at this Canadian World Agility Team photo:
There seems to be this belief that if one wishes to move to the upper echelons of canine athletics, one requires either a Border Collie or a Sheltie. People I knew would get their start with a mutty rescue and then once they kind of knew what they were doing, they would purchase a Border Collie puppy. It was just a shame, is all. It gives newcomers and audience members the wrong impression. Other dogs are just as capable and love the thrill of competition just as much. One of the things I love the most is watching dogs of non-traditional breeds get out on the course and do just as well. Proving that, well, one doesn’t need a Border Collie to succeed.
Anyway, apparently it isn’t just dog sports in which Border Collies are unnecessarily the dominant breed. Or should I say species?
Champis is a hero to rabbits everywhere. Maybe a more appropriate title of this post should have been “Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Dog to Do a Bunny’s Job.”
I love this video. I found it originally when it was shared by Cindy Lu’s Muse on Facebook. It proves that cats are creative and smart, maybe even just as intelligent as dogs. It also shows that there are times when cats and dogs can work together and be friends. To be fair, the cat in this video, Dexter, I think his name is, may have been acting out of purely selfish motivations. He wanted to open that door and escape the laundry room as much as the dog did. Despite that, they still both achieved the same goal. The cat didn’t mind the fact that the dog was there, waiting for him to achieve glory.
This little scene would never happen in my household. No, no. It’s not that my cat – The Cat, or “TC” as the author of Kol’s Notes nicknamed him a long time ago – isn’t clever enough to figure this out, especially if he was given such easy access. I wouldn’t doubt he’d have that door open in seconds. However, if he thought the dog stood to gain from his efforts, he’d never go through with it. He would find some other way, maybe open a window instead or tease Shiva to make her think the coast was clear and then WHAM! Slam the door in her face.
Yes, TC is this diabolical. I mean, look at him. Does this look like an innocent face to you?
No, no it doesn’t. Don’t let his fuzziness fool you. Inside that fluffy chest is a heart of black steel.
For instance. Less than an hour or two ago, we were all hanging out in the living room after a long day at work. Shiva is still regulated to the couch, a prison that is harder and harder for her to endure every single day. In particular, tonight she has been more persistent than ever in her protests that she is well enough to walk around in perfect freedom. The veterinarian’s orders would say otherwise, so on the couch she remains.
In walks The Cat. In all his autonomous magnificence. The first thing he does, the first thing, is walk up to the dog, sniff her feet, and then lay down on the floor directly in front of her.
When I say lay down, I mean he sprawls in a fashion he would never dare if he suspected the dog had the ability to pounce on him. He knows Shiva is stuck on the couch. He doesn’t know why, but he knows when he prances in front of her, that he is safe, lest she get in serious trouble. So he revels in taunting her. It’s the same way he used to pester her when she was stuck behind the baby gate at the top of the stairs, or the way I am positive he ridicules her when she is locked in her crate during the day. It’s the haughty, prideful, cruel mocking of a true bully.
Yes, my cat is a bully and Shiva is his favourite victim. Unfortunately, he is also smarter than she is and thus, she ends up falling for his mean set-ups every single time.
After only five minutes of tail-flicking and sidelong glances, TC had Shiva completely freaking out tonight. I stopped paying attention to her for less than a second and she immediately took advantage by leaping off the couch and on top of The Cat.
A pretty big violation of her recovery strategy.
For those who might be worried about Hi Excellency’s safety, he is just fine. Better than fine. Dog antagonizing mission accomplished he walked away with his tail swinging high while we yelled at the dog while simultaneously fussing over her stitches. TC always gets the last laugh. Always.
It’s always been this way. The Cat lives to torment the dog. I sincerely believe it is one of his greatest joys. I just can’t wait for the day when Shiva is given free reign of the house again. By then she will have two weeks’ worth of energy to burn. There is a lot of damage a tornado can enact with so much force behind it. Kitty better watch out.
The sad thing is, even at her worst, Shiva ends up backing down to the merciless feline. She can fight with all of her weapons bared but in the end only one of them will end up behind the toilet. And it won’t be the orange one.
I’ve been meaning to share this gobsmacking video for a few weeks. I knew I would need time to come up with the right adjectives. Apparently there isn’t a word superlative enough in the dictionary as all I keep thinking is wow.
This is the stuff for which I have been searching: definitive proof that cats are just as awesome, just as trainable as dogs.
There are so many things I love about this. The fact that the handler is a young boy, the fact that the equipment is accessible and can be put together by anyone, the fact that the cats were trained using a clicker. Not to mention, it looks like he happens to be Canadian and I am not above a bit of patriotism.
All of the cats seem to be enjoying themselves. I doubt they would do it otherwise. It’s fascinating to note the way they jump as compared to the way I am used to seeing dogs move over the obstacles. Clearly when motivated, cats can get much, much higher.
The above video isn’t even my favourite of all 85 posted on his Youtube channel. It’s just the most flashy. The one I like the most shows footage of Daniel King teaching his cat named Puffy basic tricks. The relationship between human and feline in this video is so evident that I beam all the way through.The best part is how excited he gets when Puffy learns something new. Their connection is beautiful to watch.
I gotta admit, I am envious. This is the way I wish I could approach training with both of my pets all the time. Daniel King is patient, gentle, and incredibly dedicated. With his attitude, I suspect he’ll well known in the animal world one day.
Ever since I read this post on No Dog About It regarding a deeper understanding of dog behaviour, I have been carefully observing the way Shiva and I interact in a physical way. It’s been an interesting process. I’ve always tried to pay attention to her signals and I feel she is pretty good at telling me when she doesn’t want to be pet. Space is something of which I am very mindful as it is something I like to preserve for myself. Being private and somewhat of a loner, I don’t appreciate a lot of unexpected touching. I like to think I respect my dog’s wishes in this area as much as possible.
Then again, with such a cute face in front of me, and such soft ears, it can be hard to put all my tactile urges aside. I am human, after all, with a need to connect with whom I love. I can’t talk to Shiva and get her to relate to me that way; touching seems to be the best alternative.
But does she always welcome this? That’s what I want to understand.
When I consider our previous interactions, I do think Shiva lets me know when she wants petting and when it is the last thing on her mind. For instance, I know she is not a fan of public displays. Anytime we are out of the house and I reach out to scratch her ears, she pulls away. In agility class, when I try to stroke her side as we wait our turn on the sidelines, she immediately leaps up and away from my reaching hand. However, at home, behind closed doors, she often seems to seek out physical affection. At least as far as I can tell.
It’s hard to be objective about this sort of thing. I can’t really separate my emotions. I get a lot out of petting my animal companions so it’s natural that I assume (hope??) they do too. When I give affection, I want it to be interpreted with all my intended love. It would be awful to think my animals would rather duck and cover.
I shot some video footage and I’d love to hear what you think Shiva is trying to tell me. The scenes in the video below were taped about half an hour after I returned home from work. Just enough time for Shiva to have calmed down but before her nightly walk.
In contrast, I will also share a video of my attempts to show my affection for The Cat. I won’t say what I think he is trying to tell me but in my opinion he is even better at setting his boundaries than Shiva. Cats are awesome that way, aren’t they?
Are your pets good at communicating when they like to be touched?