Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Miro's Coming Home Day

Although Miro's birthday is at the end of January, his coming home day is March 29. A year ago he flew home with me from Ohio. A day later and he would have been too big to fit in the under-seat carrier.  He spent a good part of the flight sleeping in my lap and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to stuff him back in the carrier. He needed that baby pudge for growing tall and long-legged.
I didn't succeed in getting his ears up but I'm the only one who cares about that anyway. Notice he still has big "knuckles" and his feet turn out a bit like a puppy's. He also sports a soul patch--that very stylish lighter patch of fur at his chin.


The biggest change is that he's growing out of the puppy "Oh, wow" stage and into the "getting a brain" stage. For an Airedale's first year everything is New! Wow! Lemme-at-it! and he doesn't filter any of the sensory messages coming in. Now I see the adult brain starting to work. During the puppy stage, you put the tools of communication in place and the dog learns "sit," "come," and so on; but it takes a different stage for the dog to understand that he's not just learning words in exchange for treats. He understands there's two-way communication going on. It's not strict obedience; it's a way of working together. You can grow into it so gradually that you don't notice it happening.
Or it's all a pose to lull me into thinking he's maturing while he's actually planning more havoc. Or both, since an Airedale never outgrows havoc.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Alanis' Amazing Ability

GLAP GLAP GULP. When Miró drinks water, he not only sloshes over the sides of the bowl and gets his beard drippy wet, he also walks away with water dribbling out of his mouth and across the floor. His stomach tells his brain when it has enough water and the brain says to the feet, ”Step away from the bowl,” but there’s no neural pathway to remind the mouth and throat to swallow the remaining water. This is typical Airedale behavior.

The other day my son remarked on Alanis’ ability to keep her beard out of the water when she drinks. The sound she makes is even dainty, a glip glip glip.

I said, “That’s not all. When the dogs play outside, I have to wash the mud off Miró’s feet. Alanis has been running in the same areas but her feet are clean.” A few weeks earlier when I bathed her at the do-it-yourself doggie wash salon, I expected torrents of dirt to wash down the drain because she hadn’t had a bath in months. She likes to scuff through the leaves and let the cedar branches scratch her back—plenty of dirt there. But no dirt on Alanis. The soapy water ran clean.

Teflon ® dog?


No bath, please.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Coincidence or sneakiness?

Triumph #1: I hooked Miró and Alanis into headcollars and coupler and we made it all around one block. Previously we’d only gone up and down the driveway with Alanis dragging and Miró pulling ahead.


I used to walk Darwin and Keeper on a coupler all the time but wasn’t sure if I’d ever get two such different dogs as Miró and Alanis together. In addition to Miró’s being eight years younger, he’s the typical extrovert Airedale, while Alanis is often diffident and likes things to be peaceful, except when she feels like barking. She can also be passively stubborn, as in sitting down like a mule and trying to slip her head out of the collar when she doesn’t want to walk on the coupler. But not today, with much encouragement and many treats, of course.

#2: Later I took Miró to a park full of children, strollers, walkers, dogs, bicycles, and joggers where he could practice walking like a good citizen. He did! He pulled occasionally but sat on command and didn’t play bucking bronco when we walked past other dogs.

Then he showed up a Golden Retriever. In obedience competitions, Goldens are usually the top scorers, the ones to beat. In an open, grassy area, I put Miró on a long line and we practiced sit, stay and come with all the distractions around us. One distraction was the Golden playing Frisbee with his family.

I heard, “Sit. Si-it, Charlie, si-i-i-t. Charlie, sit! Good boy, sit,” this last one when the dog was still not sitting, which would be a good way to get him thoroughly confused. Obviously it wasn’t the dog’s fault that he didn’t sit. Why should he when his owner was willing to give the command twenty times without enforcing it? Charlie stood holding the Frisbee, feathery tail wagging gently. Miró watched. I pretended not to notice.

It is tempting to believe that Miró behaved perfectly, sitting and coming promptly at one command, because the other dog did not, like the one smug child at a party being praised for sitting nicely when all the other kids are throwing cupcakes. Really, though, he’s not that devious. I think.