Saturday, March 26, 2011

A work in progress.

I'm a first time dog owner. I'd walked other people's dogs, but never had a dog of my own until I bought Chandler. I think things have worked out well, in general. We've weathered Chandler's fear issues, and he has turned into a decent canine citizen. Still, he's not perfect. I figure most of our little training glitches stem from my inexperience. Chan can be alternately goofy and hard-headed, and I don't always know how to motivate him to make a rapid response. In translation, this means he listens, but sometimes he takes his time about it or puts his own mischievous spin on what I am asking of him.

Interestingly, because he does listen I have found that when I think Chandler is at his worst, other people think he is being a well behaved dog. This probably says more about the training of your average suburban pet than it does about me. Fortunately or unfortunately for me, my role model can open the back of her van in an elementary school parking lot, and none of her five dogs will jump out without permission.

Despite all the cars and families passing through the parking lot for lacrosse practice.
Even when she's standing 100 feet away from the van next to the school having an hour long conversation.
Even if she is standing next to and interacting with unfamiliar dogs.

No, Chandler isn't *quite* ready for that yet. We both need to learn more.

Chandler occasionally has problems with his recall. These trouble me because of the importance of a reliable recall. I classify them into two types, the "answering machine" problem, and the "joyride" problem.

Generally I have the "answering machine" problem with Chan's recall if he is intently sniffing something interesting. His brain won't reengage to run back to me until it has disengaged from whatever he is smelling.

Hello. You have reached Chandler,
but all his brain cells are occupied with his nose.
Please leave a message after the beep,

and he will get back to you at the first opportunity.

In contrast, when we are having the "joyride" problem, Chan starts out with an enthusiastic run back toward me. It's just a little bit TOO enthusiastic; my boy loves to run.

I feel the need. The need for speed.

What starts out as an enthusiastic recall suddenly collides with the zoomies and Chan shoots straight past me instead of coming to a stop in front of me. If he was a small boy, I swear I would probably hear a "Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" as he goes by. He then does a couple of full speed figure eights around me before sliding to a grinning stop at my feet.

The problems rarely show up if we are out hiking with a friend. I think Chandler is a bit more motivated to be prompt if he has competition.

I'm first in line for the cheddar, right?

Unfortunately, getting a second dog isn't in the cards right now, and frankly I feel it is important to solve these sorts of problems and learn more about Chan and myself before getting another dog.

It occurs to me that we missed a few concepts. Come should mean "Return directly to me right now!" Most of the time we don't have a problem, and I wonder what I missed in his training that causes us to have occasional difficulties. Maybe I should have done more longline work before letting him totally offleash. In the meantime, I'm trying to discourage these little recall snafus without discouraging him from coming, because he eventually does arrive where he is supposed to be.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Rowan!

Rowan is 16 today. That is the equivalent of 80 years old in human terms. I can only hope that I am so athletic at 80; Rowan is my permanent kitten. She gets the crazies and zooms from room to room. If she goes past you, the run is often accompanied by an enthusiastic "prrrrrrrrt!!!!!!!!" that results in something similar to a kitty Doppler effect. If Chandler is flopped down blocking the hall she'll do a six foot wide broad jump straight over him.

She's an evil genius and utter brat. She's my demonkitten. If she could talk, I suspect she'd be complaining all the time. She once led my mother into the den so she could complain that Ashke was sleeping in her favorite spot. If you don't get her food fast enough she'll start pushing heavy items off the bureau or shredding whatever paper she can get her teeth into. She'll check doors to see if they are slightly ajar so she can open them and slip through. I'm sure she knows what doorknobs are for, but has trouble reaching them. My parents insist that she has jimmied theirs several times, but I am a bit skeptical because of her height. Given half a chance, she'll get into anything and has ended up temporarily trapped in the linen closet or on the lazy susan under the kitchen counter.

She's a dedicated little huntress given the opportunity. When I take the cats outside for a half hour outing during good weather, she wears a harness and drags a 26 foot flexi lead, because she is difficult to catch when we have to return indoors. Despite this, she shot straight across the front yard last year and pounced on a chipmunk at the edge of the woods. She was most displeased that I would not let her keep it.

She's temperamental, and will bat you if you annoy her. However, she keeps her claws pulled in. I've seen Chandler grinning as Rowan thumps his muzzle and meows her annoyed mew.

She's a loving companion kitty, and likes to march across laps purring, and eventually snuggle down. She's unhappy if people don't settle in front of the television so she gets her laptime. She loves to take naps with people, and has been known to bully my father into taking one.

She has a few autoimmune issues. She's lost most of her teeth because she kept getting cavities at the gumline. She developed irritable bowel disease in 2000, which I have controlled first with a specific diet, and later by the addition of prednisolone. Otherwise, the only other indication of her age is that she's not as good at grooming herself as she used to me, so I've had to comb mats out of her underside when she sheds her winter fuzz. Otherwise, she's very "well preserved".

She's my pesty cat, my loving cat, my demanding cat.
Happy Birthday Rowan.
I love you.
Even if you do drive me crazy sometimes. :)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spring Thaw

On Saturday I decided that Chandler and I needed to get out for a short hike. We hadn't been in the woods since early December due to the sheer amount of snow that had fallen this winter. The front lawn had reappeared this week, after some sustained warmer temperatures and several days of rain, so it seemed likely that some of the trails must have defrosted also. I didn't want to deal with steep hills that might still be icy or a creek likely to be raging from snowmelt and rain, so we headed out to J.B. Williams Park.

The entrance was a bit icy, but it looked like significant portions of the trails were clear as Chandler and I headed off on the trail. The park looked to be mostly deserted and Chan has a good recall, so I let him off leash to sniff and run. I soon found out that a significant portion of the trails were still icy.

That dark area is where the rainwater
has melted out the ice and left a channel.

However, it turned out that the ice and snow were largely limited to the trail areas behind the wooded hill that is located in the center of the park. For today, I limited our walk to the broad track that circles the hill. I must say I was disappointed in the amount of dog waste visible on the snowy parts of the trail. This particular park has a lot of trash cans available, so there isn't a lack of places to put it. When the trail totally thaws in a few weeks, there will be toddlers and parents with strollers all over it; not picking up after your dog under those conditions is largely inexcusable in my opinion.

See, the snow has mostly melted at the top of the hill here.

Chan and I traveled along the path to the upper pond area, one of my favorite parts of the park. Unfortunately the pond has silted up and now it mostly resembles a stream. For the first time, we ran across some damage from the excessive snows of winter.

This bird house is looking a bit droopy.

There was more damage as I followed Chandler to the stream that leads into the upper pond.
The concrete bridge that crosses the stream was missing its metal railing. It looked like part of a nearby pine had fallen upon it and snapped it off. Only one pole was standing.

It looks like they cut down the tree that fell on it.
See it off to the right?

Chandler ignored the minor changes and made a beeline for his favorite shallow pool in the stream. It's backed by a tiny waterfall and he likes to lie down in the water and wallow. I swear he must think he is a Labrador.

Cold water?
Oh come on, it is only snowmelt and it is over 40 degrees today!

After soaking, Chan entertained himself by checking out the trails and burrows of some small rodents near the edge of the pond.

Critters! Lemme at them!
Chandler also amused himself by leaping on one of the picnic tables that were scattered around the upper pond picnic and camping area.

Picnic table? I thought it was a jungle gym!

I leashed Chandler soon after leaving the upper pond because we were heading toward the lower pond which is much larger and deeper. Given Chan's danger-prone tendencies, my paranoia wasn't about to give him a chance to zoom out onto thin ice, no matter how unconcerned he was with cold water. It turned out to be a good precaution.

How unfair!
She would not let me check out the bottles spilling out of that trash can!
Hey, how did it get out there anyway?

After checking out the pond, we backtracked to head for the trail that goes past the children's play area. I'd heard that the pavilion had not survived the snows, and wanted to see what was left. It turned out that the wreckage of the pavilion had been totally demolished and removed, but the kitchen and bathrooms that stood next to it were still intact.

Wow, it looks like they plowed a path to get everything out.
That's the kitchens on the right.
The big empty spot to the left of it was where the pavilion stood.

The sheer destructive power of the collapse was evident when I examined the metal picnic tables that had been under the pavilion's roof. They were all bent and twisted.

I didn't climb on these. Mom said there might be sharp edges.

The good news is that the town is planning to replace the pavilion ASAP. J.B. Williams is one of the town's most popular parks, and there is a long list of reservations every summer to use the facilities. Hopefully they will be able to get something constructed in time for the spring picnic season.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Feline Friday: Simon's Cat in "Sticky Tape"

I've loved the Simon's Cat animated shorts ever since I discovered them. The newest one is "Sticky Tape".

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chodsky Pes!

The laboratory manager at work has a new puppy. Una is a Chodsky Pes, sometimes known as a Bohemian Shepherd. Isn't she a cutie?

Here is some footage of Una at the beach: