Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hello Mudder

Hi Mom:
I juz wan let you no that I think im gonna like it here at camp Wagner.  There are lotz of cool things to smell an taste.  The other kidz here r pretty cool too.  There is this 1 gurl named Rosie that sort of looks like me but she has red hair.  There is another gurl that I think is chineez cuz they said she was a chow.
Your boy,

Aww, Micron's first letter from camp. We just sent him off to Camp Wagner for a week of adventure. It's not like the old days when moms were at the mailbox awaiting a hastily scrawled message to arrive, but instead now our young ones send warm thoughts back home across the WIFI airwaves.  Faster, cleaner and, frankly, easier to on the eyes to read.

And that the dog can text me without the advantage of opposable thumbs is pretty kinky cool too. I'll just pause here while you work on the mental image.

Ok, so the camp director knows me well enough to recognize I'm just a rotor short of being a helicopter parent. It could be that I'm a bit overprotective of my charges. Or perhaps I'm a little worried that Micron will be an over excited seventy-five pound package of impending disaster. A big yellow tsunami roiling across all things valuable.

At that Camp Wagner has an inground swimming pool has my mom hormones in full alert. Not a bounty of shorelines here in landlocked Ohio, so Micron doesn't have any experience with bodies of water larger than the bathtub. I ask the camp director to keep an eye out, because if fuzzhead goes into the pool, he may not have the presence of mind to know how to get back out.

But Micron's letter to his mama brought some peace of mind.

[sigh] All is well.

Ruh roh, not so fast there. This showed up next.
Hi Mom:
Ooops my paw hit the rong button cuz I waznt done yet.  I waned 2 also let you no that I went swimmin within the first fu minuts of bein here.  I didn meen 2 cuz I thot I wuz steppin on a blue rug or sumpin, but ya no wat? There wuz a swimming hole under neeth.  The camp director, mr wagner got me out reel quik tho.  I don think I gonna do that agin.

Well, you guys have a good trip and also happee birf day Mom.

Your boy


Well, that little trip to the world of Warm & Fuzzy Land didn't last long. Yeah, the goober dog tried to walk across the swimming pool cover. Within the first five minutes. Right. Sounds like my dog.

Now things feel normal and that, my friends, is the true peace of mind.

You know, it's not often that I don't have a four legged companion at my side. Most days two dogs, or even three, are riding off to another adventure in the backseat of my car. But earlier this month the Husband and I decided to take a week off to do some traveling.

And this time, we couldn't take the dogs with us.

Before we catch our flight out to the fine state of California, I've got to find caregivers for everything in this house with an alimentary tract.

So the mighty Micron is off to West Chester to stay with a good friend. Yaxley will be enjoying his week with another CCI puppy raiser.  Jager requires a little extra care with his tendency towards freakiness, so is being taken in by a friend and professional pet sitter. Whew, that takes care of the dogs. Lucky for me the pet sitter will also stop by to feed the cats and Bob the Fish.

All are in good hands and comfy in home environments. I know we don't need to give the pets' welfare a second thought. But[sniffle] how am I going to go an entire week without their wet nosed company? It's gonna be a weird few days.

There's a lot of stuff in the middle that keeps Ohio pretty far away from California, so Saturday was simply lost to the inglorious nature of air travel.

Dog sightings on Saturday: 0

Saturday was just a day to endure so we could make it to Sunday when we would find ourselves in lovely Santa Rosa.  What do you want to do today?, asks the Husband on Sunday morning.  Ah, I say, I want to see stuff we don't see in Ohio. We're all supplied up with a map, a decent rental car, satellite radio, a full tank of $5 petrol, my fancy camera and dang I left my sunglasses back home. 'Salright, we hit the road to see what treasures the goldmine state has to offer.

And . . . we are not off to a good start.

What the heck, coastal living people?  A NO DOGS sign?  On our way to the Sonoma State Beach, I made a whimsical decision to stop at a roadside flea market.  On the Good Idea scale, this knee jerk choice rates a three. We muck through a quarter mile of mud and return to the car with the scent of cheap sun-warmed plastic still stuck in our nostrils. And of course, no dog sightings.

Ok, movin' on. Let's hit the coast to see what's happening there. We're in sunny California so surely we'll come across something to wondersmack our day.  Blue skies and puffy clouds abound above us. A trip to the Pacific is now topping the list.  Let's catch some sunshine at Sonoma's Goat Rock.

Hold your horses there, pardner. Not so fast. 

This is not a black & white photo, folks.

Is that fog? I ask, or did we just drive into a cloud?  Huh. Well, will you look at that? Honey, I say in my best Captain Obvious voice, this sure ain't like Myrtle Beach.
But this one is.  Black & white, that is.
But still.  This is some fabulous scenery and I'm loving it. The weather is on the cool side, so I've opted for my best jeans to keep warm. A good idea, that.  Until I started with the kneeling down to take photos.  Speaking of Myrtle Beach, it's been my experience that once salt water touches anything cotton, it doesn't dry. Ever. Instead it just wicks into a larger area of uncomfortableness until you feel like your clothes have joined DNA with your skin. And just because I'm me, a wave comes from behind and socks me good.  Wet, cold and sandy up to the knees, I am.

Not black & white, but I geeked around with the contrast.
But I plod on.  Because there's wonders here to discover.

Ok, this one is black & white, with a blue filter.
Not black & white, but taken at an angle to be all artsy and everything

Ugh. Nature why you so weird?

Ah, but things get even better. We got us a dog sighting!  Three dogs romping along another area of the beach.  Just one bit of a problem.  I pretty much goobered up my shoes in that last surfside attack of nature and there's no getting them back on anytime soon.  My poor feet are still winterized and are delicate little size sevens. I won't be sporting leathery hobbit feet until mid-summer or so.

I would have to cross this rocky nightmare to get to the beach. 


You're pretty savvy, right?  You noticed the photo is taken from the beach side?  Yeah, it wasn't pretty, but I scaled over those babies. Just let loose a couple of eeps of momentarily painful missteps.

And just so I could ruffle the fur on someone else's fishy smelling dogs.  Hi! Are your dogs friendly? Would you mind if I petted them? After my klutzy performance on the rocks, the hapless dog owner is giving me just one degree short of the hairy eyeball.  Yeah, ok sure, he says. He gives me a quick once over, probably figuring he could easily take me down if I get any weirder about his dogs.

I try to contain my happiness and act like a normal person as a happy pair bounce up to me for a greeting.  Hi, Hi, Hi! they say in dog talk. Hi right back atcha! says me, aren't you a couple of pretty fellas?

Then they shake. Oh no, not shake paws. The other shake. Massive seawater removal by doing the doggie twist. Gah!, I cry, protecting the camera with my body. Ah, lovely. Now we all smell like dead seafood, boys.

But really, you ask, once you stopped whining about every little thing, was it worth it?

Oh yeah.  It was worth it.

Dog sightings on Sunday:  2 friendly, but stinky dogs. 1 non-friendly dog, but likely stinky.

Next blog post:  We're back in Santa Rosa for dog sightings of the puppy kind.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Licker license

Hi there, I'm Donna from pet therapy. Do you like dogs? (patting the bed to allow Micron to put his front paws up) Yeah? Well, this handsome fella is Micron, who . . . AUGH! Micron! Drop it!  

It's Wednesday evening and Micron and I are at the Dayton VA Medical Center. We're on a test run with our pet therapy classmates to observe how our dogs react to folk in a medical environment.
And I watch with horror as my goober dog goes snout deep into a size 11 shoe sitting on the bed (snuffle snuffle) only to then grab it with his pearly whites. Lookit y'all. I gotcher sneaker!  His tail wagging heartily the whole time.
Micron's just hard-wired to be weird with sneakers

Oh, Micron.

Over the past few weeks of our pet therapy classes, we've been absorbing a lot of info. Stuff we need to know to be a certified Pet Therapy Team. Recognizing calming signals and stress in our dogs, as a for instance.  

On this week's visit to the VA, this may be the first time our dogs will experience this particular package of sensory load that is the medical environment. Will any of the unfamiliar sights, smells, sounds and that slick vinyl flooring bring pause to our dogs in training?

I understand that my dog is my first priority.  We've been told this by the trainers and of course I have total buy in.  At the first sign of overload, I am prepared to make a graceful exit and remove my beloved Micron from the situation.

In hindsight, it's too bad Micron wasn't told the same thing. Hey Micron, what about signs of stress in me, dude?

Oh, he's doing fine. Wheelchairs, moving beds, beeping noises go past his notice without a glancing thought.  All he wants is to greet people and be petted.  Right after he smells you real good, that is.

His new friend, Harley the chocolate lab, is in front of us greeting a fellow. Micron is nearly quivering with anticipation (my turn-my turn-my turn-my turn).  Ok, Micron, I say, Let's go, giving him permission to approach for a greeting.  Good grief.  He's all hey hey my name's Micron I'm a dog are you a dog no well let me smell you first yep you're a person i like your shoes can i lick your hand do you have something in your other hand no ok can i lick it anyway ooh you had meatloaf for dinner didn't you I like chickens but the food lady doesn't can I hold your sock in my mouth for a minute.  And so it goes.

Yeah, I say, my dog can't hold his licker. Ha Ha. heh. Sorry, we'll just move along now. And so I shorten the leash and take the chowder head to look for the next dog appreciator.

Speaking of calming signals
I gotta say, I was really hoping he would have done just a little better on this trip. Micron's visited family at a couple of different assisted living centers and has always done us proud.  On those visits, he's able to bring up some past service dog training to walk in a perfect heel along a wheelchair.  Calm and gentle, he's been a welcome sight.

So what had him so wound up last Wednesday at the VA? You know what? It was all on me. Three days into the workweek, I hit a level of stress that would lead a lesser woman to drink straight from the bottle. Then just starting into my sixty mile drive to get to the VA, I was delayed in a traffic jam. It's a mandatory class tonight, I lamented to Micron, we really gotta show up.  All the things I had planned to prepare for the evening's class (brush the dog, read today's comic page, eat something) was lost to time. Finally pulling into the parking lot, I was on edge. Jittery.

Sensing all this, but not with full understanding, Micron went on Yellow Alert.  Something's going down at this new place, thinks he,  Oh hey look! My friends are here!  Hey, Harley! Sup, dawg?

And I can mark this point in time as when his brains cells went on a coffee break.  Back in fifteen!, say the neurons.  Nothing to do now, but break out a couple of dog cookies to get his focus back. I wave the biscuit goodness past his nostrils aaaaand He's Back!  There you are,big guy, I say, getting some eye contact, I missed you.

We'll get better at this pet therapy thing, you know. When I say We, I really mean Me. Micron is, well, Micron.  I know that and there's nobody more familiar with his eccentricities than I.  It's my job to anticipate his misbehavior to keep the dog slobber off people's tennies.  So, I'll get better at this thing.
Micron and Harley take a well earned break

We're nearly finished with the classes now.  One more week, then [gulp] the Certification Test.  I'm actually looking forward to the test, because I'm sick that way. But I think we'll do just fine.

And by We, I mean Micron. Micron will do fine. I'm off now to practice deep breathing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tale of two chickens

I don't really like chickens.  We had different genres of walking poultry meat about the farm when I was a tender youth.  The farm goose was a particular jerk as these fellas are wont to be. But the worst was the chicken coop. The guano room of doom.

All the hens were white and were perfect doppelgangers of each other. Some rather nastier in spirit than their sisters, however. It was a crap shoot, so to speak, to collect eggs.  Reach under a plump hen for an egg and you may come back with skin and delicate hand bones intact. But the next hen could be the one that goes all medieval about your arm. You just never knew.

So I really don't like chickens. They're icky and smelly and mean. I can't even abide the taste of these things. I do apologize to anyone who has a meaningful relationship with chickens. I mean no offense. I don't want to be all up in your business, but you might be rethinking your friend base. 

So when I redecorated the kitchen, I adopted a rooster theme. What deep recesses of my brain brought me to surround myself with chicken based artsy fartsy stock?  I can't explain it.

But I chicken theme it, I did.


So when the grocery had rooster dish towels on clearance last week, I bought a couple to go with my Hannibel Lector inspired decor.

Ah, nice.

The mighty Micron is an intuitive dog.  He reads people and their moods to a level that is sometimes heart-warming and other times spooky.

He knows about the chickens.

To show his unconditional love, he brought me one of the rooster dish towels.

That's one down!, he says, wagging his plume tail.

 Yep, that dog's got my back.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Micron celebrates Earth Day

I am One with the Earth

Earth Day 2012

Micron shares his tips on how the make the most of Earth Day.

1. Find wet earth
2. Roll

For a extra special Zen experience, it helps to knock the Food Lady off her feet on your way to the mud puddle. The road to Nirvana is only achieved through proper attitude and focus.

Micron reminds us all to celebrate Earth Day every day. He invites his fellow furry friends to do their part and join him by noshing on fresh grass and fertilizing those marigolds real good.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Sleeper hold

You know, I didn't pose these two. Somehow in the course of the busy workday, they shifted themselves into this sleeper hold. 

I'm not a big fan of the rastlin' world. I don't know - this may not be an official sleeper hold. It might be the double dog down or something.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Caption This #5

Maybe this photo session left a bad taste in Micron's mouth.  Or instead, am I about to get clobbered with a snotful of canine hay fever?  Honestly, I don't recall anything particular going on when I took this shot. Truth be told, I was thinking more about the settings to get soft bokeh in the background and capturing a corner of the gate within the shot for atmosphere.  I was a bit surprised to see this enigmatic canine expression when I downloaded the memory card. And of course, laughed out loud.

Because this is so Micron.

Any photo caption ideas?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Yeller peeps

Micron (on right) is totally owning the bunny ear look.
Yaxley? Eh, not so much maybe. That focused look is lasered
in on the dog biscuit in my non-camera hand.

He knows you're showing these to his girlfriend when he grows up, says my niece. Called my house crying. Couldn't understand a word he was saying, but I'm pretty sure he's sick of it. "Bunny ears Ash. I did the Santa hat, but freaking bunny ears?!"

Oh sure, I took photos of the dogs wearing bunny ears. And then posted this gorgeous shot of my two yeller fellers on Facebook. Which prompted Ashley to come to their defense. I'm guessing she's feeling protective of Yaxley's tender psyche, as Micron is pretty much rocking the look, wouldn't you say?

And, as I told Ash, just wait until you're an empty nester.  It's either dressing up dogs or a concrete goose on the front porch.

I'm ok with the occasional reference as the Dog Lady. But being the neighborhood's Concrete Goose Lady implies a whole different category of crazy. So I've made my choice and stand by it.  Dogs it is.

As entertaining as this was to put together a photo shoot of dogs in bunny ears (aargh! quit knocking them off, darn it!), I had a solid reason for wanting to do this. No, really I did. And it involves training for the two yellows. 

Both Yaxley and Micron are training for different careers. Yaxley as an assistance dog for Canine Companions for Independence and Micron is going to school with Miami Valley Pet Therapy Association to be a member of a pet therapy team. I'm finding a few of the skills needed for both occupations are similar.

Consider this for a moment. You're enjoying a meal at your favorite restaurant. A lovely chicken picatta and maybe a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio. Deep in conversation with friends about the latest controversy in news, weather or gossip. Ah, nice, isn't it?  Now what's the last thing on your mind at the moment? Perhaps, oh I don't know . . . the floor?

Can't get the ears to stay on Jager's
pointy noggin.
They're resting on his withers.
You ever notice the carpets at restaurants?  Walk in with a CCI pup in training and you will, gare-un-teed.  As puppy raisers, we are training these fuzzies to ignore any delicious morsels they come across as they stroll to the table. Tough enough to be sure, but the real challenge is when the pup has settled at your feet. Do you know what's been safely stored in that cave under the table? 

Well, El Dorado's city of gold for dogs, that's what. Blackbeard's lost treasure chest. The family jewels. Oh wait, that doesn't sound right, does it?  But do you see what I mean?  There's some good stuff under there and it's likely been fermenting for some time to ripen into an odoriferous temptation.

So instead of tucking into that hamburger with reckless abandon, we instead pay a lot of attention to the pup.  Ah! Don't!, we say, until the message gets through. 

Because our goal is this . . .a person partnered with this pup will be able to enter their favorite restaurant with the confidence that they can simply enjoy their meal. Their canine companion is there for them, not the glimmering treasure in the dragon's cave under the table.

Ok, now let's think about the environment in a medical facility.  A pet therapy team is likely to come across a plethora of non-noshables as well.  Think beyond floors here.  What about open trash cans in patient rooms or personal items stored on easily reachable surfaces?

With the CCI pups, we use the commands No! or Don't!  With the pet therapy training, I give the Leave it! command to Micron.  And yeah, I sometimes will confuse the commands in the heat of the moment, but the intonation has the same level of business-meaning.  Keep your pie-hole away from that, Buster Brown.

Yaxley doesn't give me much reason to worry about this.  He's a pro, turning instantly invisible once under a restaurant table. The feller just curls up and naps lightly with one ear cocked awaiting his next command. What a good dog this guy is.

But the mighty Micron, well, we've got some work ahead of us. That dreadful word, distractability, is our nemesis. Ooh, fuzzy thing!, says Micron, mmmph. I just want to roll this around in my mouth for a minute, ok? 
No, it's not ok, I have to tell him. Give that kid his teddy bear back, will you?

With that, I'll share with you my mastermind-inspired Grand Plan . . . I'm gonna desensitize this goober dog to fuzzy toys.

Here's a stuffed toy impaled upon my cubicle in the office. Right there at Micron eye level and everything. The thing makes a eerie singing noise when the belly is pressed, which co-workers do. Press the belly, that is, not make eerie singing noises. A rather successful experiment, I think. I only had to remove it from a canine craw a couple of times over the week. Heck, if I tried this a month ago, it would have been eviscerated before lunchtime.

We'll move onto another stuffed animal next week. Because it's a good idea to keep it changing and well, because of the complaints by co-workers of the non-belly pressing type. When are you taking that creepy thing home?, they ask politely.

Ok, about the bunny ear photos.  If you notice the photo at top, there are yellow objects at Micron's feet. Those are Peeps.  You know, those sugary treats that show up in Easter baskets every year even though nobody actually eats them?  Try and describe the taste, I dare you. I popped in one of the yellow harbingers of empty calories just to try to come up with a analogy of the flavor. And, people, this is what they taste like. Nothing. Not cardboard or styrofoam or food, but nothing.  Maybe the appeal is that gritty mouth feel. Peeps must have an excellent Marketing Team, I gotta say.

But anyway, I'm using them as Leave it temptations for the yellow dogs in training.

Ooh, another successful experiment.  But only because even dogs won't eat these things.

Well, let's step it up a little then.  On the dog paws with their sugary goodness.
Aw, come on. Give me something challenging here.
Or at least something edible.
Rocket shooters, peep style

Bumping it up one more notch, Yaxley displays a well-ignored dog biscuit on a paw. 

And there it is, good dogs understanding Leave it.  After this shot, I turned to see Jager sniffing around the open Peeps box and thought I might have a problem here.  But no, even potato chip, chocolate, cat poop eating Jager won't touch 'em.

Maybe I could try the pink Peeps next time.

Addendum April 10:
Not that I'm still fixated on this Peeps thing, but I came across a article with some trivia on the sugary globules that's worth sharing.

For example, I found this amazing:
It takes just six seconds to create the popular Marshmallow Peep. When it first debuted in 1953, it took 27 hours to hand-create each edible yellow chick. But now Peeps get cranked out of machines at 3,500 per minute and four million per day.
Now I don't think the six second thing is so incredible. Rather I'm a little gobsmacked that this whole Peeps concept has survived for 59 years.  There's some really good ideas that haven't made it that far.

And then we have some Good Peep News and some Bad Peep News:
Peeps don’t have any fat, but watch out for the sugar rush. Each Peep packs in 32 calories and eight grams of sugar. While yellow remains the most popular of the best-selling, non-chocolate Easter treats (which now come in a variety of shapes and sizes), pink, lavender, blue and white have people popping Peeps too.
Well, the good news is the sand-textured treasures are fat-free.  The bad news is that now you're going to have the phrase "people popping Peeps" stuck in your head for a little while.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Try to relax

Good grief, Micron .

But this dog makes me smile. Sure, I could have done the obligatory setup with putting the TV remote and a can of brew in the shot. Or stuck a teddy bear under an armpit. Instead I love the purity of the shot. This is a fellow content with his life so far. We could all probably do with some Micron attitude.

I gotta get this dog a job.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The earthy bouquet of Fescue

Yaxley looks upon his grassy expanse
A gorgeous summer day. And one of those workdays that we find it rather torturous to be chained to a desk, so a fine time to eat lunch outside at the picnic area. Fresh lunch meat sandwiches, purty butterflies flitting about and a handful of us are enjoying watching our dogs at play. Ah, 'tis a peaceful lunch hour.

So what is your dog? asks my co-worker and fellow puppy raiser.

What? I ask while trying not spit a Subway ham and cheese when I talk, do you mean what breed is she?  She's a full Labrador retriever.

Are you sure? he asks.

Oh, for the love of . . . Yeah, I'm sure, I reply, getting unreasonably annoyed. Why?

Because it appears she may have some cow in her, he says.


I move my eyes over to the lovely Inga in all her ethereal Labrador beauty. And see that indeed she's binging upon the lawn like a cow busting out of an ill fated Weight Watchers program.  Gaa!, says I, actually losing some of my ham sub this time,  Inga! Leave it!

What is it with dogs and grass anyway? I thought that left to their own resources dogs preferred more odoriferous offerings such as an overturned kitchen garbage can.  Or heaven forbid, that elusive delicacy that is goose poop. Why this precision manicured lawn?

Oh, theories abound on this subject from all styles of experts (upset stomachs, instinctual need, dietary imbalance, the call of the wild) which really means that only dogs know the true appeal.  Some eat grass, then toss it back up later on your precious oriental rug.  Others process it through without even a cursory burp.

We do know that a dog's sense of smell is more developed than their sense of taste. And the retrievers that have come through this household have fixated on such things that have an intriguing mouth-feel. Stuff like sticks and rocks and the occasional small toad. Does it all taste good? I've gotta guess that, no, probably not.  But it may have felt pretty darn good on the molars and smelled even better. At least to a dog's value system.

With the early Spring season we've been enjoying here in southwestern Ohio, our lawn is popping up very green and lush. There seems to be something about the tender, new green blades that appeals to my yeller boys. While the terrier is off ground squirrel hunting, Micron and Yaxley are channeling their bovine spirits to become One with the fresh, new fescue sprouts.

In my rather less than expert opinion, this grass noshing thing is really not a problem I spend much time pondering. I will ask my dogs to please not do that in a command that sounds exactly like Don't!  Not because I'm inconsiderate of their instinctive dietary needs, but rather because I can never be sure if this particular salad bar has been chemically treated.  You just don't know where that grass has been.

And actually, I do rather prefer my yellow fellows to be paying attention to what is going on beyond that tender patch of fescue, in spite of the lawn connoisseurs that they claim to be. A pup chewing cud has their noggin in a happy alternate universe where squirrels can't climb trees and the command Here is just a buzzing sound.

And really, I tell Yaxley, it's just not becoming of a future service dog to be seen doing such things. 

The Ohio Fescue has a herbal bouquet with a greenish aftertaste on the palate.
A domestic flavor that can't compete with the complexity of Kentucky Bluegrass
 with its earthy undertones of red clay soil.

Whether a CCI pup or your beloved pet, I will say if it something is bothering you about your fuzzy companion to not hesitate to consult with your veterinarian. Is the grass eating behavior new or does your pup seem to have a bigger hankering than usual for the green stuff? Never (Never!, I say) ignore that gut feeling that you need double check on something. But you already knew that, didn't you?  Who knows your dog better than you do?  Right.

Ok, now I'm off to finger swipe small sticks out of Labrador maws. And to check on what just the heck the terrier is into now. Is that a mole?  Holy cow. . . Jager!

It's like eating an elephant. One bite at a time. [sigh]
 So much lawn  . . .

A guy can dream, can't he?

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