Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Hillbilly cat bed

Hey Bodine, that's a really nice box. Too bad they didn't have one in your size.

We put this box in the kitchen so we wouldn't forget to take it out to the recycling bin. That was two months ago.  Bodine commandeered the thing and now we have our very own hillbilly cat bed to explain to friends and family visitors.

That posture puts me in mind of an aging Marlon Brando. Bodine says if we would just put a few kibble on his belly and scootch his box over the to TV, he'll be set for the evening. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Goal is a noun

Taste the rainbow.
I do love those dreamy vacation stops in Donna World. It's such a happy place to hang. Everyone's so nice and they all have that sweet Scottish lilt to their speech that I find so fascinating to listen to. Nerd is the word here; it's a title of deep respect. Dogs and cats get along and play under under the rainbow adorned skies. Delicate laced butterflies flit about flowers that I don't have to remember to water.

And there's unicorns, y'all.


Ok, shaking that off. I'm back now. In the real world and sitting here looking at Yaxley with less than peaceable kingdom thoughts. I'm working through my noggin that this amazing pup and I have only eight weeks left together. 

Yaxley returns to Canine Companions for Independence on August 18 to matriculate into the Advanced Training program.

First day at the Sword House, Feb 2011
We've done a lot, been through a lot, since he bounced into my kitchen in February 2011 as a two month old cotton ball.  Our work is just about done. Really, he's pretty solid in most of the thirty commands that CCI asks that we stuff into that gorgeous retriever head of his. So what now?

Well, with just two months left, now is a good time to review. Let's see how close to proficiency we can get with these commands. Some we don't need to worry about. Yaxley does an automatic Under/Down when we reach our table in a restaurant. Our little pro will actually do it before I can get the command word out.  His eye contact is spot on, giving the impression he's working on a Vulcan mind meld with you. The basics, Sit, Down, Bed, Kennel, Car, Shake, Stand, Drop, Let's Go - all good. 

We need to get stronger on Back, which is to walk in reverse. A handy behavior for someone who uses a wheelchair and has the dog facing them. A Back command requires that the dog walk backwards while facing their partner. Nice for maneuvering tight spaces where a chair and the dog can't be side by side.  Similar is Turn, asking the dog to reverse direction.

Then there's our nemesis command of Speak. Darn it, for such a vocal puppy at two months old he just refuses to get this one now. Micron has shown him how to Speak on command.  And we use freaky little Jager to demonstrate the Quiet command, which comes out sometimes as please-shut-up-jager.  Our little spotted guard dog, alerting us to all imminent danger whether real or imagined.  But Yaxley has put up a mental block on this one command.

Thanks for letting us know the neighbors came
home again, Jager.  Duly noted.

And then there's that one oh so special thing that only volunteer puppy raisers can provide.


So critical during those young puppy months, this socialization stuff.  The professional trainers at CCI will be focused on the advanced behaviors that an assistance dog needs to know.  By the time the pup reaches them, the fuzzy feller needs to have a comfort level with nouns. You know . . . people, places and things. Nouns. Grammar, not so much. I think they can use double negatives and be ok.

A search through this humble dog blog on the word Yaxley (there's a word cloud in the column on the right) will net you our Great Noun Adventures. Beaches and camping vacations and little kids and wearing bunny ears and shopping malls and movie theatres and obnoxious cats that you can't eat and the library and groceries and . . . Stop!, you cry. You're making me tired.  Yeah, I know, right? We've been a couple of  busy critters.

Not my little boy anymore [sniff]. Almost ready for dog college at CCI.

Goodness, what could possibly be left then? I'm thinking proficiency is a good goal. For everything, commands and socialization adventures. 

But let's set some goals. Y'all will keep me on task, right?  Ok, let's keep things simple with eight goals to achieve over eight weeks.

1. More socialization. Yaxley needs to be comfortable with entering any place that a person would want to go. We'll cover our first museum trip in an upcoming post.

2. No more flinching at grocery carts. Enough of this one already, kiddo. Yaxley has never been hit by a grocery cart, but the loud noise when carts bang together makes him jump. He recovers quickly, which is a good sign. We'll get a few more grocery trips in to reinforce this environment as a safe and pleasant one.

3. Hold an Up.  Front paws on a surface (desk, wall) is Up. He needs to hold this position until told Off. We can do better here.

4. Perform Back without guidance. We introduce this command using a tight space or against a wall on one side. I'd like the see the yeller feller comfortable with this in an open space.

5. No more Chewbacca channeling.  I need the help of co-workers, friends and family on this one. You know who you are. All of you that Yaxley loves so much that he will sing his wookiee love songs for you. While holding no less than three toys in his mouth while he circles your ankles. You know how we measure the depth of his affection by the volume of his greeting? Ok, now I invite you to close your eyes and envision an assistance dog on the job. Is the dog singing, dancing and juggling toys? Right, we're gonna get serious on this one. I'm counting on you.

6. Make sure commands are solid without the mighty Micron's assistance.  Sure, Micron knows all this stuff. After all, he went through the same routines plus has three months of advanced training under his collar. I want to spend more one on one time with the Yax Man without the competitive nature of these two influencing things.

7. He will learn to Speak on command. Oh yes, he will. Just once. That's all I ask, sweetums.

8. More socialization.Yeah, it's that important.

Well, there ya go. It's in writing. And posted out here in the blogosphere so it must be true, right? We got us some work left to do. Please do wish us luck, won't you?


I actually took that butterfly photo yesterday. It seemed to fit right nicely into the topic at hand, so I was glad to have it this morning.  I just looked it up and see that this is a Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly. Common in Ohio, but rare in the wasted landscape that is my flower garden. By the way, did you know that purple coneflowers don't need much water? I did.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A calming influence. And not so much.

Hey Food Lady, where did you file the dog treats?
Seems to be a lot of buzz around the blogosphere today on National Take Your Dog to Work Day.  Dog lovers around our great nation are posting clever shots of their dogs working on laptops, making copies and sorting paperwork. Like it's really Job Shadow Day for dogs or something.

Tell you what, I'm one of the rare fortunates that can take my furry friends into the office with me most days.

And obviously I'm doing it all wrong.

[A short pause here while I count on my fingers.]

Ok, so I've had no less than nine different dogs at my side during a workday over my long career with Iams and P&G.  And not once has one of these critters done as much as make a cup of coffee for me, let alone put a budget spreadsheet together.

Let me share with you exactly what happens when I bring a dog into the office.

It's said that having a dog in the office lowers blood pressure and decreases stress. I'm saying that it's the dogs themselves enjoying that health benefit. Wake up fellas, I say. Time to go home now. What? No, I'm not carrying you to the car, mister.

Oh, but just kidding. It's absolutely the best thing ever to have a furry companion with me during the day. We do indeed, all of us, enjoy the calming nature of these critters. My dogs are a social bridge, allowing me to meet and interact with folk from other areas of our big company that I wouldn't have crossed paths with otherwise.

The occasional doggie bio break forces me away from the computer screen for a refreshing walk outside. On nice days, the dogs and I go out to the company dog park to enjoy the beautiful weather for a few minutes. On rainy days we go out and get wet. Dog bladders are like hard core personal trainers. There is no discrimination against weather patterns and I get my exercise with no whiny excuses allowed. On the plus side, I never have a bad hair day anymore. Because I stopped caring about it. When I come back inside after a gnarly summer rainstorm, I no longer make a pit stop in the ladies room just to see that my hairsprayed coif has shellaced itself into a plastic wig. Hey, lowered standards are my coping mechanism. I look like a train wreck, but I'm at peace with it all. Sure, y'all enjoy your nice hair now. But are you happyHmm?

And you know what else? The right dog can lighten a mood. Micron, with that one-degree-from-normal thing he has going on, entertains as our comic relief . Regardless of whatever foul mood I've dragged into the workplace by its hairless tail, I find that I do laugh out loud at least once a day. The real stuff too, not this little tee-hee and giggle nonsense. Consider this for a moment. I've had some days that are a struggle to see through to the end; we all do. But right near my neatly pedicured toes, there is a big furry ball of happy stuff.

Do you have a chance to laugh everyday? No, not always? Well, I recommend a heaping dose of silly dog to change your life.

Ah, but it's not always calming, this dog in the office thing. I bring to you a cautionary tale of the oil & water simile that is puppies & meetings. From the Black-Sword Puppy Raising History Book, circa March 2011.

So.  A big meeting in the afternoon with our new department head. She's kind of a big deal and all and I do consider it a good career move to show up for the presentation. I'll take Yaxley with me, of course. He's not yet three months old, but already so well-behaved it's a sure thing that the two of us will make a powerful good impression.

This is the Before shot.
And just to show off, I dress the yellow pup in his training cape and gentle leader.

Looking good there, handsome.

Beautiful, now just a quickie trip outside to do some puppy business before we go into the conference room.  So we walk. And circle and walk.  And sniff and walk.  C'mon Yaxley! I say to this young pup. Hurry!  I obviously didn't allow enough time for all this not-piddling around and I'm starting to feel the stress of being late. 

He's giving the serious sniff to a grassy spot. Finally!  I glance over at the building and calculate how long it will take to walk upstairs to the meeting. When I look back down, one second later, I see the little yellow furball rolling on his back and twisting like he found a sure cure for some pesky itch.

Gah!  What is that? Deer scat? Worse? Oh man, it's all over Yaxley's head, his cape, the gentle leader, the leash. Holy cow, it's actually inside his right ear. I'm processing this information when he brushes against my pants leg.

I'm gagging.

Well, crapola.  Ok, ok, think . . .  right, there's a shower stall in one of the ladies rooms.  Let's go, skunk boy. But darn it all, it's no go; the shower head is six feet high and there's no door on the stall. If the puppy gets a shower, we both do.

After the ladies room sink bath
Nothing left to do, but the bathroom sink, I guess.  He fits in quite nicely, kind of.  The warm water mixes the scent of liquid Dial and unidentified poo into an wicked aroma that sears my nostrils. I am willing myself not to toss the undigested remains of my Lean Cuisine onto this pup fermenting in the sink.

After blotting him with paper towels, I lean in to give things a cursory sniff. Hum, not too bad. I think we tackled this. Back to my office to grab a spare leash and we head up to the conference room.

Gads, but we're late now. I sneak in through the rear door and quietly take a chair in the back of the darkened conference room. The presentation is several minutes in. But hey, no more stress about making that good first impression with the super pup. Yaxley made sure that pressure's off now. You're welcome, he says. Instead, I'm hoping to just stay off the radar and I send off imaginary we're-invisible-y'all mind waves to keep a low profile.

I notice heads start to turn our way. What? I think. Don't y'all dare give me sass because I'm late. Believe me, I had a really good . . .then it hits me. The smell, that is. Apparently a significant number of nasal cells were damaged by the mustard gas generated during our sink bath adventure. This dog and I are one wet package of reek.

I've brought a stink bomb into this quiet room in the shape of an adorable lab puppy. It's time to exit gracefully, I think, before we become a bigger blip on the stink radar.

I hear it was a pretty good presentation.

So here's the moral to this sad, smelly tale. Never take your eyes off a sniffing puppy, people. Not even for a second.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Vintage Dog #4

Before we got into this volunteer puppy raising gig for Canine Companions for Independence and had a household of face lickers, we had The Kaiser.

Noble and handsome, The Kaiser and I had a bond that I never experienced before. Or since.We lost this beautiful soulful dog at the young age of nine to an aggressive cancer.

I still miss him.

But hey, on a brighter note, you eagle-eyed dog handlers out there have certainly noticed the retractable leash by now. What were you thinking!, you cry. A big, robust dog like that on a retractable leash? You should know better.

Ah, yes, you are correct. I do know better. Now, I do.  My education involved a simple formula of a 90 lb dog plus a scared rabbit that added up to a face plant. Wasn't pretty, folks. And frankly, hurt like hell.

If I offer nothing else in this world than to serve as an example, then that is my destiny to embrace.  Just say no to retractable leashes, people.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Vintage (car) dog #3

Actually not a Vintage Dog this time. That's Jager's reflection we see there. The terrier's still alive and well and frankly driving me nuts this morning mercilessly tormenting the cat. 

Rather, we have a vintage car sporting Jager's funky little self in the shined up wheel cover.  We'd set up camp at a local car show with a family member's 1954 Packard Constellation.  We could have used Jager as a guard dog of sorts, I suppose, if he wasn't all love me, love me, LOVE ME with everyone that came by. 

A former stray, he's got some savvy street smarts. Working those soft brown eyes to share that they don't feed me on Saturdays. Won't you give me that hot dog, please sir? 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mother Nature does me wrong

It hit me in the head like a frying pan this morning that I totally didn't finish showing you all my vacation photos from California.

Wait! Don't go! We're not talking about some random snapshots of the sunny beach with people in the background we don't even know* (yawner stuff). Oh no, instead we got some Drama. Complete with shrieking and curses directed at nature. A cliff hanger, so to speak. And a reference to the Addams Family. Oh yes.

So this vacation day begins in the usual benign manner. Hunched over our hotel breakfast, the Husband and I review the Sonoma County map to see where to drive to on this gorgeous sunny day. Keeping with the trend of the week, I win the debate and we head off on a scenic drive to Point Reyes to see more things that we don't have in Ohio.

Point Reyes National Seashore is kind of a big deal around here. From National Park Service website we learn: 

From its thunderous ocean breakers crashing against rocky headlands and expansive sand beaches to its open grasslands, brushy hillsides, and forested ridges, Point Reyes offers visitors over 1500 species of plants and animals to discover. Home to several cultures over thousands of years, the Seashore preserves a tapestry of stories and interactions of people. Point Reyes awaits your exploration.
Did you see that? Point Reyes is awaiting us! And I gotta be honest here. We've hit a few of the California beaches this week and of the 1500 species of plants and animals, I can pretty much check off seaweed and a vulture.  I'm jazzed with the thought of exotic west coast critters.

Point Reyes is mind boggling huge. Miles of trails and shorelines to hike along. Too bad for us we couldn't bring any backpacking gear on this trip. This lack of essential equipment keeps us from exploring the more strenuous trails of discovery.  Which is the excuse I'm running with. Like I've ever backpacked.  No, instead we opt for a short jump down McClures Beach Trail, a trek just under a mile. According to the hiking guide:

Descend steeply down a rugged ravine trail to the ocean. McClures Beach is a beautiful cove backed by rocky cliffs. Watch out for tidal fluctuations and dangerous surf. (20 min./easy). 
The hiking guide rates the trails as Easy, Moderate or Strenuous. Being new around here, Easy seems a reasonable start.  And so we ride. The forty minute drive from the visitor center to the trail head takes us from warm and sunny California to some chilly and foggy alternate universe. We watch the temperature on the dashboard display rapidly drop to 54 degrees.

Did you bring a jacket? asks the Husband with heartwarming concern for my well-being.

Naw, I scoff. I don't even own a jacket and he knows that. I run on the warm-blooded side.  Jackets are for wussies.

A quick, but rather annoyed, glance my way.  Present company excluded, of course, I say.

At the trailhead, the country before us is a thing of beauty. The Husband grabs that oh-so-manly jacket of his, I sling the camera over my shoulder and we're off on our 20 min./easy hiking adventure.

 About this point on the trail, we see the ocean just ahead.  Off the left side of the trail is a steep drop off.

I marvel once again at how California put total trust in their hiking public by assuming we all have the gift of grace to not go pummeling down into the depths of nature.  As we're smoothly tooling along, I note that You know, it's not so far down that a fall like this would kill you. It'd just be a compound fracture or something. Right? Like the kind of break where the bone is sticking AAAAH!  HOLY COW!

So, we all know I didn't actually shriek cow, don't we? What's the next two words that come after Hey y'all, watch this!?  Yep, my foot slips from the sandy trail, it does. And I begin to lose my footing altogether on the crumbling path. I already know I'm not going to die, because we just covered this. But I'm not in favor of a femur popping out of my thigh like a misplaced alien either. I begin to panic. And curse like a drunken sailor.

Mr. Sure Footed is behind me watching the drama unfold.

Here, take the camera and save yourself! I yell.  I'm goin' down!

Do you want some help? he asks.

Naw, I'm good, I say.

I'm a product of the '70's.  No, don't pity me, it wasn't that bad of an era if you take the fashion designed by the criminally insane out of the equation. For us coming-of-age young women, it was drilled into our brains that real women do not need help. We are women, hear us roar, dammit.

I got myself into this mess, and I'll manage to get out. Or down. Or something.  I wonder if Careflight can make it through this fog. Dang, do we even have a cell phone signal out here?

So anyway, I take a moment to stop cursing Mother Nature and all her unwashed children to take a deep breath. Perhaps if I just take slothlike movements, I can scootch along here. 

Which works out quite well actually. And moments later, we are walking along McClures Beach.

The arrow marks where nature had done me wrong
 Oh my. I'm not disappointed.

Smooth round stones across the shore

I call this Yellow Bucket. Or I would if I were an artist.

Kinda like a dinosaur egg in a stone nest.

My shoes are here for perspective.
And because the Husband wouldn't let me pitch the damnable things into the surf.

Recalling that Point Reyes was bragging about all that wildlife, we check the tidal pools and watch the skies for any natural fauna. But nada. Instead we find stuff like this.

Was there a foot in it? ask the Husband.
Which irritates me terribly. Because he though of that and I didn't.

A mermaid's purse. An egg casing from a skate or shark, I suppose.

Then I see the tiny footprints of a child.  Ah, a family was here not long ago.

Wait, a family? Who takes their little kid to a beach like this?  Cold, foggy and windy, the proverbial place where the sun don't shine. The single disembodied hiking boot just helps to set the scene here. And instead of an adorable lopsided sandcastle, the dark-minded tot instead created some sort of Moat of Doom in the sand.  Like something out of the Blair Witch Project.  Honestly folks, what an utterly depressing place to take your kid to. What kind a parents are these people anyway?

Here, Wednesday, says Morticia.  Use this hiking boot as a shovel and bury your brother in the sand, my dear.

Well, it does take all kinds. We can't all be normal, with everyone thinking the same thoughts and all. Now that really would be depressing, wouldn't it?


*Ever wonder about that? How many times your unsuspecting self got captured in the background of other people's vacation photos? People-packed places like Disney World or Myrtle Beach? I imagine there's families of The Beautiful People out there that are photobombed by my wide load bending over a flowered tote bag. Nice shot of the kids, Steve, a friend would say. Um, pretty crowded there at Epcot, huh? 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Caption this #6

Well, huh.  Another outtake of Micron. What are the odds of that? 

Don't let the wrinkled snoutage bother you. This isn't a grumpy look.  Rather it may or may not have something to do with the detritus near his paw. Or simply a freeze frame of a sneeze.

Any clever caption ideas, people?

Wednesday BlogPaws Blog Hop

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What's black and yellow and furry all over?

A group photo from last year's CCI Summer Camp event.  Who's that pup not in a Down?  Guess.

I'm reminded of Henry Ford's quote about that hot car of the days of yore, the Model T.

"Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black."

And how 'bout yellow, Mr. Ford?  I'm kinda liking the black and yellow choices of things. A glossy black coat is a thing of beauty, to be sure. But ah, the ever happy color that is yellow. So many shades to enjoy, from a light parchment to warm caramel. Sometimes with a hint of auburn in those deeper hues.

Right, I stopped talking about the Model T after that memorable quote and moved right into the topic of dogs.

It's true we get a limited color choice with the Canine Companion for Independence pups. With our labs and goldens, and crosses of both breeds, the genetics don't offer up much diversity in coat color. Instead we see personalities that are unique to each furry one of these canines. Taking a moment with the photo at top, you will see each black and yellow critter up there has their own look about them, as well.  The shape of the head and how it's held. Ears up for attention or a relaxed flat to the head posture. A couple of the furries are completely focused and ready for the next command from their handler. Others are waiting for the most joyful of words, Release, so to continue their play session.

Body language is helpful in understanding personalities too, don't you think?  Like guess who's been told he's the Golden Child around our house about one too many times?  That would be the little lord Yaxley who, at that moment, didn't see the need to conform to the masses. In the little guy's defense, he was a young fella when this photo was taken, just six months old for his first big outing.  Honestly, I was just happy he didn't break his Stay while still in the afterglow of puppy playtime.

Preparing to line up for the Memorial Day parade.
That's boxer Cheech behind Micron.

Now this pet therapy gig is a whole 'nuther animal, so to speak.  Micron met his new therapy peeps during the Memorial Day parade celebrated at the Dayton VA Medical Center. We joined up with the Miami Valley Pet Therapy Association to honor our local veterans and to give out some free doggie lovin' along the parade route.

More than just black and yellow dog fur sticking to folk's shirts here. Our pet therapy friends are as wonderful as they are diverse. 

Once you can move your eyes from Grace, the great dane,
enjoy the collie in a patriotic tutu.

Flash the goldendoodle is a popular pup in the
Northmont Library's children's reading program
Beamer proudly sports the nation's colors.
The adorable Sophie has been blind since birth.
She brings smiles to folk at our local hospitals.

The morning was gorgeous, but to my dismay, turned out to be a steamy hot one. I completely misjudged how the mighty Micron would handle the heat of the day. [sigh] A lesson for me.  This dog o'mine spends most of his day relaxing in a climate controlled environment and I do believe I've turned him into a delicate orchid or something.  We stopped short of finishing the parade and relaxed with a bowl of water under a shade tree to enjoy the event as spectators. And thank you, thank you to a fellow handler for sharing your cold packs to give relief to my panting dog.

'Scuse me, won't you?  My limo is here.
It's air conditioned, right?

Moving into some air conditioning seemed a logical next step, so we accepted an invitation to join a couple of other pet therapy teams to visit some of our country's best in the VA assisted living center.

'Scuse me, sir?. We ask a fella in the visiting area. I have a dog with me today who wants to say hi to you.  Do you like dogs?

The fella looks up from his lap, sees Micron standing there with his tongue hanging out the side. He says, Yeah, I do!, which is all the invitation Micron needs. He's all over this guy, tail wagging and head resting on his lap.  As another therapy team approaches, we hear stories about times in the Navy and life during the months at sea. Memories of youthful adventures told with smiles and laughter.  And Micron is listening.

I think we're off to a good start here, with this pet therapy gig.

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