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Archive for the ‘dogs’ Category

Ah spring. The snow is melting and it no longer over my head everywhere on the lawn. Plus, as I walked around the block with Jasper, we discovered many interesting things have been uncovered by the receding snow. His favourite: an old piece of bread, yum. My favourite: a dirty diaper. It’s my favourite because when I said, “Leave it!” he actually did.

I missed my dog. The children could come to the hospital and visit me, but not the dog. And when I came home for visits, the kids got that I’d come back again soon, but not the dog. He sat at the back door and cried when I left.

He’s definitely worse for wear after two months without me. Since J could not leave him at home alone all day, friends of ours took him and kept him for the entire time, except some weekends. They love him dearly and I felt guilty taking him back. The guilt is lessened by the fact that in a month they will be getting their own puppy, a red male mini-doodle which, as far as I can tell, will look like Jasper Jr. But even though they love him, they did not know how to brush him. His grooming brush has a special technique that I never bothered to show anyone else. As a result, he is filled with mats in his long, long hair. J wants to take him to a groomer and have him shaved, but I refuse. I’m fixing him, damn it.

Here Asher and my brother demonstrate what happens to people who sit on the couch Jasper considers to be his:

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Jasper recently graduated from Intermediate dog training and they like to make a big fuss of it, kind of like kids graduating from kindergarten. They hand out graduation hats and line us up for photographs. Fortunately, Maya came with me and could help with photos, because who can resist this silliness? (Well, Jasper, for one, definately resisted.)

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Success!

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In this episode: kid health, dog obedience and fat loss –

Maya is pretty much healed now, and stuffing everything not nailed down into her face to make up for those few days she could not eat properly. We now have an appointment at an orthodontist for the next step: braces. Ugh.

Asher doesn’t have an appointment with the tummy guy until March, but I’m rattling cages and trying to get it earlier. Meanwhile, he continues to eat normally and I continue to wince inwardly and resist the urge to web surf for answers I can only actually get from the doctor.

My mission to stop Jasper from becoming an annoying and humpy dog at the park is actually coming along very well. He still tries it when he first encounters one of his favourite dogs, but pretty much all I have to do is yell: “I’m watching you, so don’t even try it!” and he stops. If he starts in again, I leash him and that really calms him down.

Yesterday, I walked with another woman who has a doodle the same age, and the two of them acted like very badly behaved teenage boys. Every time they encountered a dog smaller or younger than them, they’d charge the poor thing. The other dog would sit on it and Jasper would yank ears and tails. Usually calling them off would do it, but once they ran ahead to a young Golden and were really knocking the poor thing around in their exuberance, and would not listen to orders to leave him. So I managed to get in front of Jasper and yelled, “Jasper, STOP!” at which he came to a screaming halt and lowered his head in that ashamed doggy way.

I find that lately he’s taken another cognitive leap with me and understands a great deal of what I want from him. For example, when we walk around the neighbourhood, I don’t leash him and there is one spot where we walk on the sidewalk on a busy road to cross at a certain spot for the park. He normally walks right behind me then, but a couple of times he’s jumped the gun and start to cross early. The first time, I was so surprised I said, “Hey! Get back here!” and to my amazement, he did. He does not understand the words “hey get back here” but he understood my intent. And while he will roam into the road on the side streets, when he sees a car coming, he now goes straight to the side and stays still until it passes (because I make him wait whenever a car goes past.)

See – the smartest dog ever.

As for Weight Watchers, so far so good. I lost 4.5 lbs the first week and I know I’m down a bit more so far this week. Thanks to all the dog walking, I get enough points that I don’t feel particularly deprived (so far). But I am aware that I am still in the weight loss honeymoon period and the difficult stuff is yet to come.

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I have a cold. This is Asher’s fault. He is fine now. Boo has it too, which she was clearly hoping for. From the moment Asher got sick and therefore started getting preferential sick-person treatment, she would cough weakly now and then and say, “I think I’m sick. Do I have a fever?”

Boo is obsessed with fevers and wants to take her temperature at the slightest sniffle or stomach ache. I told her that normally colds don’t come with fevers and she was shocked. “You mean, you can be sick without having a fever?” This opens up a whole new world.

The funny thing about her thermometer fetish (which Asher shares) is that J and I are firm non-believers in thermometers. We have two – a digital one and an old-fashioned mercury one which we’ve had for many years. When Maya was born, we took her in to our doctor for her 2-week checkup and asked if being good parents required buying one of those fancy ear-thermometers that had just hit the market.

Her response was an unqualified no. She told us that her opinion, as a mom of three, was that thermometers are largely useless. “Taking the baby’s temperature is just something to do to give you a few moments to try to figure out what to do when you already know something is wrong,” she told us.

We quickly figured out she was right. If a kid was hot, but cheerfully running around dripping snot on everything, we didn’t worry. If the same fever came with lethargy and no appetite, we were off to the doctor.

The only time I ever really need a thermometer is when I am sick, so I can prove it to J, who never believes me.

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Despite feeling like my head is wrapped in thick cotton, I am off to Jasper’s last class of intermediate doggy training. I’ll remember to bring a camera this time, to get a photo of him with his little hat on. They go nuts with the whole ‘graduation’ notion.

He now knows how to heel, but doesn’t much like it, and to stand, wait, go lie on his blanket on command (that one still needs a lot of work) and touch a ball and a rope on command. He can discern between the two, which is a good parlor trick. Even better is that no matter what I pick up, if I hold it in my hand and tell Jasper to touch it -“Jasper, touch hairbrush” – he will reach out and touch whatever I am holding, which makes him look brilliant like he knows all these words.

It reminds me of when Maya was about 14 months old and learned the colour yellow. We’d hold stuff up and say, “Maya, what colour is this?” and she’d yelled delightedly, “Lellow!” This looked brilliant unless you help up something blue, because she’d still yell “Lellow!”

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My lovely doggy is being a bad boy. It started a couple of months ago, when I started walking with a nice woman and her nice Golden/Newfie mix, Max. We would find ourselves at the dog park at the same time a lot, and the dogs are both only a year old, so all seemed good. Only Jasper developed a obsession with Max. He is madly in love with Max.

Whenever we meet up, Jasper starts pulling on Max’s ears and biting his butt. He even has tried nipping at Max’s heels. Incessantly – in a desperate bid to get Max to play with him. (Jasper loves nothing more than to be chased, and indicates this with bum-biting.) But worst, he humps poor Max as often as he can. Since Max has problems with one back leg, that is bad. And just generally annoying. The humping really kicks in if Max dares to pay attention to any other dogs, as though Jasper is trying to make it clear that Max is his and his alone.

We hadn’t run into Max and his mom for a little over a month, and then when we were at the dog park on Saturday, in this huge field with at least 100 other dogs. Jasper suddenly darted away from me through the crowd and, sure enough, he’d spotted Max.

I was putting up with it – we’d joke about Jasper’s stalker behaviour – but then I walked with a former teacher of Maya’s, who happens to have an aged Golden. The Golden didn’t feel like running after Jasper, who responded by becoming utterly annoying and tormenting the poor old guy, pulling and biting at him, and then he started with the stupid humping. The Golden and his mommy were less than amused.

I realized his annoying behaviour is getting worse and I don’t want one of those dogs that everyone else at the park talks about – “Can you believe she lets him do that?” So today when we ran into Max, the moment Jasper started being annoying, I grabbed him and put him back on his leash, forcing him to walk close to me for a bit. Then I let him off and he went straight for Max again. Back on the leash. Repeat.

Teaching him to distinguish between his ball and his rope, then touch the correct one on command is far more fun, I have to say. And way cuter.

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Guess where I was at that time last night? I was walking through a huge park near here. A year ago, if you’d told me I’d be having a nice stroll through the park in the middle of the night in winter, I’d have thought you were completely bananas. But Jasper and I didn’t get our walk yesterday and he started begging. He makes his wishes very clear.

So off we went. I got the coolest things for the bottom of my boots. They make it very easy to walk on ice, so I can stomp confidently over anything.

The reason I wanted to go to the park was so that Jasper could run around off-leash. Of course, the by-law says he’s not allowed in the park at all, but I figured there wouldn’t be too many by-law officers hanging around at that time in winter. It did occur to me that, being a woman, walking in a deserted park late at night might not be considered to be a particularly smart move, but I figured I had the dog as apparent security (I call it apparent, because if anyone appeared remotely threatening, Jasper would come and hide behind my legs). Also, I have these impressive metal studs on my boots, and since Jasper was off-leash, I had his leash in my hands – a nice flexible rope with a big metal clip on the end of it. I was quite willing to whack anyone who bothered me. As it was, I saw no one.

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I’ve been watching the first season of The Dog Whisperer. I think Cesar Millan is cool, although it isn’t necessarily the way I’d do things. I’ve watched a lot of shows made by another dog guru called Stanley Coren, who was dealing with doggy psychology when Cesar was in diapers. His show did exactly the same thing – help people deal with messed up dogs. Naturally, they face some very similar problems and deal with them in completely opposite manners.

For example, if you take a dog who fears something irrationally, like the noise of a vacuum cleaner, Cesar would turn it on and force the dog to stay in the room, then make the dog get closer and closer, himself staying completely calm, until the dog realizes there is nothing to fear and relaxes. By not reassuring the dog and remaining completely calm, he helps the dog calm down. It works, and fast.

Stanley would take a different tact, putting the dog near the quiet vacuum and rewarding the dog with treats until its calm, then turning it on from a distance and repeating the process, ramping it up until the problem is solved. His method is to take away the negative association and replace it with a positive one. It takes a little longer and also works.

They are both firm on the idea that you have to make the dog realize you are the boss – the pack leader – by requiring the dog work for everything you give him. For example, Jasper doesn’t get dinner until he does something we demand, usually sit and wait until we give him the okay. This keeps them understanding that they have to listen to you and prevents them from developing anxious behaviours that result from thinking they have to be the boss.

Cesar and, to some extent Stanley, also believe that when you walk your dog, it should be slightly behind you with its head at your side, because the pack leader goes first. I don’t enforce that, letting Jasper wander all over. But I’ve noticed lately that when Jasper is uncertain about the situation, like when we are walking along a busy street, he naturally falls back and lets me walk just ahead of him.

Another advantage of a submissive dog is that you can dress him like an idiot and get away with it.

New Year’s eve, 12:30 am:

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Oh yeah

I have a blog!

Okay, I didn’t really forget. It’s just all these children and husband who kept hanging around. And now that they are gone, I’ve got work and laundry and stuff.

It is raining and all the lovely snow is melting. Here are pictures of when there was lots of snow:

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That’s our patio table Jasper is using as a bed. All the snow has melted off now. At least the thaw waited until after our winter vacation.

I have nothing to tell. Rather, I have much to tell, but it will all take to long and then I will explode from the guilt of not doing something more worthy of my limited time. Here are some more pictures to make up for it. This is of Jasper being groomed:

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And this is the final result. His slightly reproachful look is because he doesn’t so much love being brushed.

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