Sunday, December 27, 2009

Napping with the dog

I gave it a lot of thought before allowing Miró onto the human bed. By allowing, I mean opening the gate at the bottom of the stairs so that he could run upstairs where he naturally leapt onto the bed. I’d enjoyed nearly a year with a bed-cover that I didn’t have to wash every couple of weeks and it wasn’t easy to envision another dog taking Darwin’s place as nap buddy. Also I had to consider that a dog allowed on the bed even once is there for life. But they look so cute up there….

Alanis, BTW, doesn’t jump up on any furniture. She’s just not that kind of girl.

The strategy for claiming room on the bed is to pretend you have no interest in being there, then dashing across the room and making a flying leap, sprawling across as much area as you can. The alert dog does the same and, if you’ve been quick, you’ll have enough room to lie comfortably, as everyone knows even the smallest dog can take up half a king-size bed. Yesterday I not only made it onto the bed but got under the bedspread for a nap.

There’s a blanket on top of the spread. Miró immediately grabbed the blanket, shook it, rolled up in it, lay still for a second, then unrolled and waved his feet in the air. I pulled the covers over my face to protect myself from flying feet. He grabbed my arm through the covers and started chewing enthusiastically. “Leave it!” He flopped out full-length. He scrambled up and attacked the blanket again. He collapsed at my side for a head-rub.

Up again. Jump off the bed, snuffle around, grab the dust cloth from the floor on my side of the bed (doesn’t everyone keep a dust cloth there?). Shake the cloth. Leap onto the bed. Grab my foot. “Leave it!” Flop down across my legs. Too bumpy. Up again to circle on the other side of the bed and finally rest. For ten whole minutes. It was a power nap.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The canine good citizen test

Miró is not a canine good citizen. Maybe he will be when he's too old to jump forward and chew on the examiner. Several of the other dogs failed the same two parts of the test: staying calm while being greeted and touched by the examiner and staying calm when the human greets a human and dog combo they've never encountered before. After the initial leaping around--while the other dog completely ignored him--he did sit, for which I gave much praise. I did a fabulous acting job.

Even Tubby (aka The Tubster) the bulldog was not at his best. For the summer and fall classes we've been in together I've watched him do perfect recalls. Yesterday he galloped straight past his person and toward the "stranger dog" who, at one command from his master, completely ignored Tubby and didn't move.

Miró was the only one who got so enthusiastic at greeting the examiner that he rolled onto his back and chewed on his leash. I think he used up all his good-boy tickets while waiting his turn at the test. In fact, I'm still waiting for him to issue some new good-boy tickets. Maybe next week.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Test day

In Canine Good Citizen class, I am always amused by the part where you abandon your dog to another person and hide for three minutes. Even at the first practice when Miro was seven months old, the trainer would congratulate me on this part of the course as if I had something to do with his success. Most Airedales are complete extroverts, happy when they're receiving attention; it doesn't matter from whom.

The flip side of Miro's enthusiastic adoration of all people is that he'll probably flunk the CGC test again this afternoon. He can do everything except the part where a dog has to sit or stand calmly (ha!) when a stranger comes to greet him. No excited lunging, jumping, dancing, mouthing, twirling, hopping or pulling allowed. He needs more greeting practice than he gets because of the difficulty of finding anyone to practice with.

You need someone not only willing to greet the dog but willing to obey instructions and do it your way--approach calmly, turn away if the dog breaks his sit, wait for him to calm down before approaching again. And please don't expect me to carry on a rational conversation while I'm trying to control a whirling dervish; I can't do it.

Treats are not allowed during the CGC test and it's not like tests you take in school. If the dog fails one part of the test, he fails the whole thing.  I am busily envisioning Miro sailing through the test, treatless. Except for the nice, stinky salmon-treat smell I'll rub on my fingers. Surely this isn't cheating.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The chicken and dog altercation

Punkster the Polish chicken molted this fall, as chickens do. With her headdress not completely grown back (giving the evil eye in photo), she can see who’s around her and has taken a dislike to Brangelina. As they’re readying for bed in the chicken barn, she pecks at Brangelina, who cowers and falls off the perch. Bran then takes refuge, often with Edna, in the smaller coop, known as the summer house for its wire floor raised above the ground for air circulation. You don’t want added air circulation when the temperature is down to the teens at night.

At chicken bedtime, I have to go out to rustle Brangelina and Edna out of the summer house and transfer them to the barn (mini-barn photos are in earlier entries). Edna is easy; with some mildly annoyed clucking, she’ll perch on my hand as I walk her over and urge her inside where I’ve started leaving on a light for a few extra hours. Brangelina is a big girl who doesn’t like to be hoisted up, so I need both hands.

Last night when I was carrying Brangelina to the barn, Punkster walked out to the enclosure and Miró pushed his way in where I hadn’t latched the gate. Quickly, I tossed Brangelina through the door to the barn (chicken-tossing is a fine sport, BTW) but Miró had already darted forward and had Punkster’s head in his mouth. Torn between anger and laughter, I had a hard time sounding authoritative when telling him, “Drop it!” I pried a slightly damp Punkster out of his jaws by pressing his gums hard against his teeth. He then turned to item #2 on his agenda, which was the consumption of frozen chicken nuggets.

Punkster being unharmed, I tossed her into the barn whereupon she immediately leapt onto Brangelina and grabbed a beakful of neck feathers amid much crying and flapping from Brangelina. I dragged a very interested Miró out of the pen, locked the door and went around to the side of the barn where I could lift part of the hinged roof. I grabbed Punkster by the neck, pulled her off Brangelina, upended the nest box (right photo) and plunked it down on top of Punkster.

Instant quiet. Brangelina and Edna found places on the perches while Punkster sat, confused, inside the nest box. I turned it so that the opening faced the wall. She would be warm enough in there and peace would reign. I hoped Miró would not throw up from eating chicken poop.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Miro takes up interior decoration

An almighty crashing, banging and clunking sent me running to the source where Miro had caught a foot in the lamp cord in the living room, yanked the plug from the wall, and dragged the lamp banging along behind him into the dining room and around the table, roping up Alanis' Coolaroo bed and several chairs. I threw myself on the dog and wrestled him down in order to unwrap the cord from his paw, whereupon he pranced away ready for more redecorating work. The lamp is a total goner. But I'm looking at the bright side: the chairs are OK, less a few scratches, and the china cabinet my grandfather made is intact. I guess Miro didn't like that particular lamp.

The noise woke Chilibelina the leopard gecko.