Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Progress of the Dog

Sally the Great Pyrenees Mountain Guard Dog is now, officially, four months old.
About 17 weeks, to be precise.
She is changing and maturing almost daily in small ways.

We are still working on her play biting.
She is doing better (better = less), and it is clear that she is trying to do better.
But my still-bloody/scared hands and wrists testify that she is failing to overcome her puppy habit.
Some days she does better than others, but it is clear that she understands that I do not like it and she tries to restrain her natural tendency.
Yet, she still bites me when she feels playful or excited.
Sally seems to do better at this in the mornings than in the evenings, I am not sure why.

Sally's progress on house training is spotty at best (sorry).
She can go days without an indoor transgression, then do (sorry) as she did the other evening and, as I was doing the dishes, produce a fresh, warm puddle on the kitchen floor, looking me right in the eye the whole time.
Of course she was banished to the back yard, which she seems to understand better than that she is not to eliminate in my house.
But if I am watchful, as I said, she can go several days in a row without a ill-placed deposit.

By far, Sally's favorite time is our walks together.
She has learned that they usually happen in the morning after we eat and I finish washing the dishes and brush my teeth (lest I forget).
I have a certain jacked that I wear in the cold weather, that she now recognizes as my walking uniform, and when I reach to put it on, she becomes excited.
My reach for the leash – which hangs on a screw in the back room wall – she becomes slightly more excited.
I always hook the leash to her collar when we are outside, and she can barely hold still enough to allow me to find the D-ring on her collar to attach the leash.
Then it is off down the driveway to sniff the surrounding territory.

While she tends to travel the same basic paths, she has in the last week or so, begun to travel new streets.
Some of them, I have never been on the whole time I have lived here.
Thanks to Sally, I have now.
And we have settled into a cooperative negotiation process in our walks.
She seems to like to pull me along a bit, especially at the beginning of a walking session.
Cesar would be disdainful of how she “drags” me around.
I don't care, really.
His theory of Pack Leader vs submissive/passive walking is not valid for all dogs, methinks.

Sally is almost always compliant with my modifications to her chosen path or items of interest.
As I have stated, these walking sessions are for the DOG, not the people.
So I let her have a good bit of leeway in where she goes.
I mainly control her so that she does not dart into the path of a car (which she occasionally will try), or wander too deeply into a neighbor's yard.

In addition to her neighborhood walks, we go almost once a week for a car trip.
These are short rides to either a small park about two miles from my house, or the local dog park, about three miles from my house.
Sally enjoys both places, but I think she likes the dog park the most because there are so many of her cousins there.

Sally is very sociable and submissive with the other dogs and very friendly with the people.
We are often complemented on how pretty/cute/fuzzy she is.
Some ask her breed, other seem to know, and as she grows/matures, her breed is becoming more evident to those who know breeds.
She can only stand about 30 minutes in the doggy park because she runs herself to exhaustion with the other dogs.
I can see, as she gallops about, when she begins to drag a bit.
I will probably see some day soon just how long she will go before she stops on her own volition.

This past Tuesday was a day off work for me, the weather was pleasant, so I decided to be brave and take Sally the Pyrenees Mountain Guard Dog to mountains for a short hike.
We drove to Bankhead Land Trust and hiked a short distance on one of the trails there.
I had a time constraint so we only traveled about a mile or so, which took almost an hour.
This was the second walk for Sally that day (we had already walked the neighborhood that morning), and it was the third walk for me (I had also done my 3 mile pre-dawn walk that morning).
We were both ready for a nap that afternoon.
I was a bit stiff and sore that evening.

But the net result of all of that was, when I took Sally out this morning for our usual neighborhood walk, she tried to get in the car.

To that issue, I have been pondering what I need to do to my car to better accommodate my increasingly big doggy.
While I like her to ride in my front passenger seat (covered with large towels), she is becoming so big that she just barely fits on it.
I may have to permanently assign her to the back seat, modified appropriately for her.
I may create some sort of wood platform to give her a more solid place to stand/sit/lay.
And, in spite of my efforts to cover my car interior, everything there is beginning to look like old flannel.
All of this is rocking along made possible by my current work schedule.
If I find another job (as I NEED to....) our walking, visiting schedule will have to be modified.

I feel a heavy weight of responsibility to my animal.
It is not fair to her to relegate her to my tiny back yard with no interaction for her with other dogs or people.
She is a social creature and needs regular communication or she will become a problem/destructive.
I dread that.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Philosophy of Dog

The other day a flash of insight came upon me regarding my dog.
It ran something like this....

Sally is a Great Pyrenees Guard dog.
She does not really know this, she just knows she exists.
But she cannot escape her heredity.
Genetically, she is programmed to behave in certain ways that are, to a degree, unique to her breed.
As a guard dog, she needs something/someone to guard.
It is in her unconscious makeup to find/define the limits of her territory and to supervise activity within that area.
Although I am her companion, and she recognizes me as such, I am also that which she feels compelled to guard/protect.
I am her herd – in the absence of a real heard of animals.

This understanding displays itself mostly in our walks around the neighborhood.
Lately, I have let Sally decide which of two basic routes we are to go.
She has settled into a path and pattern on both routes and she visits the same spots.
She seldom, if ever, tries to deviate from the path she has established.

She seems to alternate each path from day to day; which I find interesting.
She remembers which path she took the previous walk.

And to my surprise, she has rather quickly learned the “wait” command at each street crossing.
Lately, she has occasionally stopped at a street and sat down for a moment waiting for me to give the command “okay” to proceed.
Otherwise, she will stop at a street when I say “wait”.
Sometimes she is less focused on my commands and timing (how long to “wait”) but she is doing very well given the vague circumstances for the command (crossing a street).

She keeps the distance to about a mile out and back, and the time to about 45 minutes to an hour.
Last Friday was an exception.
It was the first walk in the morning we had done in four days and she was ready to get out of the yard.
When we finished her southern loop she turned and started on her northern loop.
She was well behaved and although we did some running, she was not agitated or “frantic” in her explorations.
In fact, she was quite well behaved.

When she sees or hears another dog or people, she usually stops and sniffs and looks.
I stop also and take the tension off the leash and let her satisfy her curiosity.
It only takes a few seconds (10-20?) and then she moves on.
Sometimes she stops again and re-examines the point of interest again.
Occasionally, she will stop three or four times before moving on.
Sometimes she wants to go in for a closer sniff, if it is people I let her get closer if they are on or near the sidewalk.
If not, I hold her back.
The same goes for other animals – sometimes I let her go for a closer sniff, sometimes not.
I do not allow her to invade other people's property without their permission.

Sometimes we run.
It is usually in short spurts of 100 feet or so, then she must stop and sniff something for a few seconds.
Then off we go again.
She is the one who initiates the runs, usually.
But I don't mind letting her run.
After all, this is HER walk, and one of the purposes is to allow HER to get some exercise, especially that which she cannot get within the confines of her yard.
And being a runner, how could I deny the benefits of this activity to someone?
Or some doggy?
So we run.

And when she is done, she is ready to return to her yard.
I do not have to coax her to go home when she has run her loops.

Saturday, in spite of the biting cold and wind, I loaded Sally into my car and we drove to the nearby park where we have walked before.
We owned the park.
No one was there but us.

As is usual, we started out on the nice, paved walking/running path but Sally soon wanted to examine the perimeter of the area.
So we went off the paved path and she sniffed the fence line around the west half of the park.
My only correctional input was that she stay out of the mud in one area.
Which she complied with.
Although I did provide some limits on how far she could go near the main highway and large city river, she pretty much had her way.
And when she was done – 30 minutes later – she was ready to get into the car.

In fact, when we went walking on Sunday afternoon after church, she sought to get into the car.
I do not know what she had in mind as to a destination, but it was clear that she wanted to go for a ride.
I dissuaded her and she went into the back yard without further protest.

My point?
Simply that she enjoys the walks with me and also it allows her to be a guard dog to me.
She needs to have a job to do.
She needs to have THIS job to do.
She needs to fulfill the inbred function of defending or watching for possible threats to me (and herself).

The RUN

Saturday was my first run in two weeks.
My work schedule has cut into my exercise time such that I have neither walked nor worked out in two weeks. (I did walk my dog almost every evening)
Anyway, there was some concern about my strength for the full 4 mile jaunt.

Also, it was 25 degrees with a lovely 20 MPH wind that had the windchill factor in the single digits.
This allowed me to try my new terrorist mask.
It is a long, knit watch cap that completely covered my head and neck, with holes for eyes and mouth.
It proved to be ideal for the situation.

In mile two I took off my wool mittens and held them in my hands.
Just holding them was enough insulation to keep my hands warm in the 8 degree breeze.
I also had to unzip my wind layer and the knit layer underneath as I was generating more heat than my top would allow to escape when closed.
All in all, I was quite comfortable given the nasty environment in the pre-dawn morning.

I took my time and just pounded along trying to be careful so that I did not break anything.
And, as has been the case for the last couple of runs, I found myself daydreaming about this and that as I bopped along.
There was nary a pain or whimper from joint or connector anywhere on me.
When I got back to my car, though, I was ready to stop.
I did not feel tired in the bad sense.
There was no struggle or argument with Running Central about whether to continue or not.
It was a good run.
A great run.

In two months I will turn 67 years old. (assuming I do not drop dead within those 60 days...)
I find that hard to believe sometimes.
Running has been a wonderful privilege for me and I am delighted and amazed that I am able to do it at my age.
I have been running off and on for eleven years, now.
As I have said before, if someone had told me in high school that I would be running 4 miles once a week when I was 66 years old, I would have told them they were nuts.
But here I am.
I feel very blessed.
.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Random News n Thots

Random News

I have been working long hours this week.
Hours so long, that I have had no time for exercising or walking.
I have done my best to make time to walk Sally the Lint Pile as many evenings as possible.
Last night I squeezed a walk in between dinner and church.
Tonight we walked after doing the dinner dishes.

She waited patiently at the back door twice to be let out to do her biological business in the back yard.
A
She earned a D in her play biting.
Honestly she is doing better with her biting, but she still has a problem when she gets excited when she is in the house with me.
She likes to jump up on me and/or hang her incisor teeth in my jeans, or shirt sleeves, or arms/hands.

I get weary patiently telling her no every five seconds for thirty minutes.
Finally I just snap and grab her by the neck and pull her to the floor.
Sometimes I swat her snout but I do not like to do that because I do not want her to become hand shy.
But constant jumping and biting is maddening.

She also has developed a habit of jumping up on the kitchen counters to see/sniff what is going on up there.
Again I try to calmly tell her 800 times in a row to get down, calmly push her away/down from the counter, and tend to the business at hand on the counter (fixing her dinner, my dinner, washing the dishes, etc.)
If she was older and less excited, I might tolerate a bit more of such behavior, but now she is too jumping and undisciplined.

To balance this bothersome behavior is her more calm moments.
She lets me pet/rub her neck, shoulders, chest, tummy, and hips without biting me.
It is clear to me that she is trying to respond to my petting without biting me.
She just does not quite know how yet.
When I eat at the table, she often sits quietly at my feet or next to me waiting for me to toss her a crumb.
Sometimes she lays on the floor at my feet.
Occasionally she will nudge me with her nose to be sure I know that she is here.
I do not mind this subtle action and find it endearing.

Sally was especially well behaved this evening on her walk.
She did very little tugging on the leash, responded to my most subtle tugs on her leash, waited at each curb on command (“wait”) before crossing (“okay”) each street (except when I forgot to give the command...) and generally acted rather mature.

A NEW DEVELOPMENT

I was sweeping the kitchen floor this past week and discovered something new.
There among the bits of dog food and leaves from the back yard were some long, wispy fibers of white hair.
They were not mine.

So, Sally's coat has begun to mature from her puppy fur to her dual layer winter mountain coat.
Soon it will be time to comb/brush her.
I may try this weekend, though the weather persons are talking of cold temperatures and snow flurries.
Sally will love it.

It seems that I will have to run Saturday morning in 20+ degree coldness.
Where is July when you need her.
.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Of Sally and Not Running

OWNER HEART FAILURE

While walking Sally the Dog Friday evening after work, the event happened that I have dreaded since I started walking her – I dropped the leash.
I was in the process of moving the leash from one hand to the other when she made a quick little lunge to some item of nasal interest on the grass of a neighbor's yard.
Her move jerked the leash out of my hands and I feared I had lost her.

In fact, she only trotted about 10 feet away from me, whereupon I picked up the leash loop again and my heart rate slowly receded to its normal rate.
She may not have even realized that she was not restrained, she was busy sniffing.

I have observed that many dogs do not stray far from their human companions, even when off a leash, IF the dog is used to walking with said person.
My sister's dog never went farther than a few dozen yards from us when allowed to run free in a school yard.
As I have stated, my greatest fear is that Sally will charge into the street in front of a car because she has no fear/understanding of them.
Anyway, the rest of the walk went generality well.

THE DOG HOUSE

Today it was rainy off and on all day.
Sally and I did manage to get in a good 45 minute walk in-between drizzles.
But we had to spend most of the day indoors.
I am sure that it is gratifying to architects and contractors when the structures they have created are finished and provide space and service to people, as intended.
So it was today when I looked out my back door and saw Sally the Dog laying in her dog house while it rained.
In fact, she went into and out of her house several times today.
Sometimes she played in it and other times she slept in it.
I felt gratified.
And I am certain that her days under the utility building are numbered.

THE SATURDAY RUN

… was cancelled because I am sick.
I have a mild cold that is just strong enough to sap my strength a bit and stuff up my nose (mostly in the morning).
I have a very slight fever and a very slight sore throat.
All of this has not taken me down to a bed-ridden state, just a bit lazy and grumpy.
So... I may run tomorrow morning (Sunday).
I will see how I feel.
My extended work schedule has forced me to cancel my morning workouts and walks so I am slightly weaker than I normally would be.
That may affect my running, also.
I have run and worked out when sick before and most of the time, other than being weaker, I have suffered no ill effects.
I will see how I feel tomorrow morning at 5 AM.

SALLY AND THE BACK DOOR

Sally is, in people years, nearly in her “terrible twos” - 13 weeks = 91 human weeks = almost two years.
And she is acting like it.
In some ways she is doing better – like house training (sometimes) and play-biting (sometimes).
But she is developing new bad habits – like jumping up on my lap, table and kitchen counters to see/sniff what is going on up there.
And she takes samples of whatever she can reach if I do not dissuade her quickly enough.
I tell her to get down and she generally responds, but the compliance is usually short-lived.
And up she comes again; often in a different spot.

Today she was particularly obnoxious.
Wanting to play with me and nipping at my pants, feet and hands.
I could not get her to stop so I sent her outside.
Upon closing the back door I resumed my dishwashing chores.
About a minute later I hear a faint noise in the back room and then Sally the Dog trots into my kitchen.
I am both astounded and scared.
Astounded because she got into the house by herself.
Scared because I was afraid she had broken the window in my back door.

The good news was she did not break the glass – the door was standing open.
The bad news was she got back in.
At the time, my only conclusion about how she did it was that I had not fully latched the door and she just pushed it open.

This evening, she was mis-behaving again (wanting to play and bite) and I, again, sent her outside after she had eaten her dinner.
This time I was in my bedroom (here) at my desk when I heard a faint sound from the back room and a moment later, Sally appears in my room.
She seemed pleased with herself and hopeful that I was pleased to see her.

That was not the case.
And I was concerned about my back door.
Upon inspection I figured out how she was getting in.

My back door is a “French door”.
As such it does not have a common round door knob, but, rather, a lever.
Inside and outside.
Apparently, Sally has learned the raise up on her hind legs and pull the outside lever down enough with her front paws to unlatch the door and nose her way into the house.
In both cases today, I had failed to engage the dead bolt.
Doing so solves the problem.
Sometimes I do not like having a smart dog.