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Obedience

Obedience class is brilliant. That’s what I’ve realized. My dog is smart; obedience class is brilliant. I wish they had something similar for children, because we could sure use some obedience out of them.

Asher has decided the class is boring and he hates it and threw a tantrum. Maya has decided the same, but being older and more mature, she merely whined heavily. We forced them to go anyway. I’m not sure that counts as obedience.

There were only three other dogs this time, and Jasper and the Great Dane, Tumnus, really wanted to play. When the instructor tried to demonstrate appropriate doggie interaction, she chose to have Jasper go with a very short-legged lab mix (looked kind of like a corgi) and Jasper ignored its existence entirely, choosing to watch me for possible treats instead, which got a laugh out of the class.

The instructor taught us two of the most important commands so far: ‘leave it’ and ‘drop it.’ Jasper likes to counter surf, snagging any food not watched closely. He’s also fond of chewing rocks and trying to eat garbage left on the ground, and spring has brought us lots of both.

The instructor chose the youngest dog, dropped several treats on the floor in front of him, then stood on them. We got to watch the cute, rolly-polly little puppy do everything in his power to try to dig those treats out from under her shoe. It was adorable, but what did it have to do with teaching him to leave it? The moment he lost interest, however briefly, she said, “Yes!” And gave him a treat. After that, it took him remarkably little time to figure out that when he wasn’t going for the obvious treats, the nice lady just handed him one!

‘Drop it’ involves playing tug-of-war with a toy for a moment, then just holding still until the dog lets go. The moment he does, he gets rewarded. I could not figure out how to get a dog to leave something interesting, but this is so easy, and it works like a charm. I love obedience class.

It has been two days since the class, and these commands have already significantly improved our lives. Even though he’s actually quite gentle with the toys he snags, the kids freak out when he gets his mouth on one of their gazillion precious stuffed animals. Then we have to listen to screaming, “He won’t give it back! He thinks it’s a game! Help me!”

Now I just command, “Leave it!” and he runs over to me for a treat instead. I have to carry carrots everywhere, but that’s a small price to pay.

I taught him by leaving piles of carrots or banana on chairs and covering them with my hand. It took him about 3 treats to start ignoring the stuff I left on surfaces, to the point where it actually became difficult to try to use the phrase ‘leave it,’ since he wouldn’t go for them in the first place, but just sit and look expectantly at me as soon as he sees something lying there. It has put a complete halt to the annoying counter-surfing.

Here’s the one thing I don’t get. I taught him ‘leave it’ with one of Maya’s less beloved (less beloved by Maya, much beloved by Jasper) tiny bears. After two or three tries, he stopped going for the bear. I left it enticingly at the end of the bed while reading the kids stories, and he sat and stared at it. A couple of times, he reached his nose forward to it, then just backed off, clearly thinking the better of it. I don’t know why he did that. I would think that in his mind, the connection should be – try to grab something forbidden, don’t actually get it, get a treat. Not even trying doesn’t earn him anything. And yet he obviously realized the bear was off-limits and gave up on it.

I don’t know if that makes him smart or dumb. Maybe too smart for his own good, in a way. Another way he’s too smart for his own good is that he actually figured out how to get around that ridiculous cone I shelled out ten bucks for. He manages to hook the cone under his thigh and use the leg to shove the cone back on his neck just far enough to give him access to his incision. For his smarts, he earned himself underpants. He is now walking around in a cone and a pair of snazzy boxer-briefs. One or the other alone doesn’t do the trick, but both make the effort too much, and he gives up.

And, because I know Yogamum will demand it of me, here’s a picture:

jasper-undies.jpg

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In non-doggy news, because I apparently also have children, Boo had her model seder at school today. It is a little performance the kids put on. While we watch, they sing some cute songs about how mean pharoh was and about plagues (the frog plague is a popular one; don’t hear much about rivers of blood), yell out some rehearsed answers about why we eat matzah, and refuse to try the bitter herbs. Boo liked the ‘wine’ best. My family should be proud.

model-seder.jpg

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Jasper is off to the vet for the day, where they are going to – as the nurse put it bluntly – castrate him. They will also x-ray his hips, microchip him and give him flea and heartworm medication. I’ll have to take out a second mortgage just to get him back.

It’s already weird around here without him, but it is cold and freezing rain outside, so I’m not going to miss taking him for his walks today.

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Passover (pesach is the Hebrew) is coming up in an awful rush. With it comes our trip to Vancouver. My niece is having her bat mitzvah and since the kids are off school over pesach, we decided to go down right after the seders and have a little vacation there. While obviously preparing for a family of five to spend their vacation on the other side of the country takes a lot of extra work, it is mitigated by the fact that I now don’t have to prepare my house for passover here.

If you keep at all kosher, preparing for pesach requires removing all bread products from the house, replacing them with matzah products. Depending on your level of dedication, this can be an enormous (and expensive) task, even removing items that are kosher and apparently have nothing to do with bread and replacing them with kosher for passover versions. It also requires a thorough cleaning of the entire house in order to ensure that there not be a single crumb of bread anywhere.

I’m not that dedicated. I remember when Maya arrived home from kindergarten one day and told me in a tone of voice only a know-it-all five-year-old can use that I needed to get started on the spring cleaning, because we had to wash everything before pesach. I looked up from the computer and said, “Go to it!” Then we had a discussion about how different people practice their Judaism in different ways, like some people walk to shul and some people drive, and some people spend weeks cleaning their houses top to bottom in preparation for passover and some … don’t.

We do get rid of all our bread products, though, and stick to matzah.

For 8 days, say good-bye to this:

challah.jpg

And this:

bagel-house.jpg

And this:

veggie_pizza_rgb_final.jpg

And say hello to this:

shmura_matzo.jpg

Mm-mm, cardboard! Several years ago, I went to my doctor during pesach about something non-stomach related and we were chatting about passover, and she said, in a tone of utter horror, “You aren’t eating matzah, are you?!!!” I confessed that maybe a little. She forbid me from touching it ever again. I eat it at the seder’s though. Since J is celiac, he can’t touch the stuff even at a seder. But the kids eat it.

Passover is a complicated holiday, with different traditions dictating different practices. Ashkenazi Jews, who are primarily of European descent, don’t eat rice or beans during the 8 days of the holiday either. Sephardic Jews, who are mostly from Spanish-speaking countries, but also Arab ones like Iraq, do eat rice and beans. Orthodox and Conservative Jews in the diaspora (outside Israel) have two seders (the ritual dinners), but Reform and Reconstructionists only have one. In Israel, there is only one. (Jewish holidays are all based on the lunar calendar and determined in Israel. Originally, since Jews outside Isreal didn’t know exactly when to have their seder, they had two, just to make sure. But with instantaneous communication in the modern world, we do know exactly the right time, so the Reform and Reconstructionist movements have abandoned two, while the others stick with tradition.)

J and I stick with one seder, unless his parents bully us into attending a second one. We also declare ourselves Sephardic for those 8 days, or we (particularly J) would stave to death.

I have to confess, I don’t love Passover. One seder is nice, and having the kids off school in spring can be lovely for a couple of days. But after three or four days, the whining over matzah starts, and the boredom kicks in and it is a downhill spiral from there. Which is why I am so delighted to be spending most of it Vancouver, which has always been kind and sunny for me. And preparing for a vacation is so much more interesting than cleaning.

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