Friday, March 16, 2012

A SPECIAL TIME

[For perspective, read my previous post before reading this entry.
These two events took place less than two hours apart.]


Last night about 7:15 a powerful thunderstorm came through our town.
It produced some of the most significant lightening I have seen in a while.
I like watching thunderstorms, and, since I did not have anything pressing to occupy my time, I turned off all the lights in the house and watched the light show outside through the windows, and from my covered back porch.

I was also curious how Sally the Great Pyrenees Mountain Fluff Pile would respond to the storm.
From previous observations, it seemed that she was not particularly bothered by thunderstorms.
In times past, I have watched her lay around in the yard as the wind picked up and the rain started, seemingly unconcerned by the environment.
When the rain became heavier, she retreated to her dog house to wait out the excitement.
So, amid my personal observation of the approaching storm last night, I took occasional peeks at Sally in the back yard.

The lightening was spectacular and the thunder was impressive, with deep, overlapping rumbles, booms, bangs going off all around us.
Finally, the rain changed from a light drizzle to a heavy downpour.
Sally went from her snuggle spot against the back of my house into her house to watch.
But apparently the lightening was too much for her.

As I watched, she bolted from her house out into the heavy rain to her napping spot in the southwest corner of the yard.
There is no protection from rain there so in a second or two, she raced across the yard to the northeast corner, another one of her favorite spots to nap sometimes.
No escape there, either.
At this point, I could stand this no longer.
I opened the back door just enough to stick my head out and began calling and whistling to her to come in.

Amid the racket of rain and thunder, it took a few long seconds for her to hear me, but when she did, she came to me.
I got a towel and wiped her off.
It was clear that she was excited and distressed and it took a minute or two for her to settle down.
But finally, she laid down on the floor next to my work table, about three feet from the back door (now closed).
I opened the curtains so we could watch the excitement outside, and I sat down on the floor next to her.
I gave her a few scratches around her ears (contrary to what Cesar Milan and his disciples say to do in this kind of situation, this seemed to help calm her....) and sat still and mostly silent.

I say mostly silently because I could not help muttering occasional comments about the jagged streaks of light that were lighting up the dark sky.
(in fairness to Cesar, I purposefully remained mostly still, quiet and calm, as he suggests, to allow her to sense my calm “energy” in spite of the distressing environment outside, which seemed to work as he describes.)

I laid my hand on the floor between us (we were about six inches apart) and she skooched herself so that one of her front paws was under my hand and the other was halfway covering a couple of my fingers.
We sat quietly in the dark and watched the light show together.

She calmed down and laid her head next to my hand – within tongues reach, and occasionally licked my hand.

This reminded me of my former dog, Woof.
He was a big country mutt (I suspect he was part Great Pyrenees because of the shape of his ears and his heavy fur – especially in winter) that for his heroic antics in good weather, was afraid of thunderstorms.
Woof never liked to be inside a building.
He never came into our house.
But when a thunderstorm came, I let him into our small back porch room, and he would lie on the floor next to the freezer to wait out the storm.
Many times I would sit there in the dark with him for a few minutes.

So last night, with such memories in my head, Sally and I shared a special time together.
We sat/laid in the darkness, watching the storm outside for about an hour.

I had the feeling that it was a life-changing event for my dog.
While I may be over-estimating its effect, I suspect that she will feel differently about me from now on.
When things settled down outside, I invited her to go out, reluctantly, she went.

While I would have liked for her to remain in the house (even all night), she is still a puppy and wants to constantly play with me.
And playing for her means biting my hands, legs and feet.
I am sick of that, and did not want to change our quiet time together into a nose-slapping “NO!” session. (Which is exactly what happened between us when I went out into the back yard with her after dinner tonight – see previous posts.)

Another Whiny Post

I am so discouraged.

My poor dog does not know how play without biting.
I feel so sorry for her.

After dinner (during which she was very good (went outside to drain,
etc) I went outside with her to play for a few minutes (since I am the
only person she has to play with [about which I feel guilty]).
I decided to play pull rag with her as she seems to enjoy the physical
challenge of the game.
She is still teething and got some blood on our pull rag.
I moved on to tossing her teddy bear (which magically appeared in our
yard a couple of weeks ago) to see if she wanted to play fetch - after
a few tosses she seemed bored.
We tried pull again but she got excited and began biting my hands and
legs and shoes instead of the flannel sheet I had given her for this
game.

As I have written before, she seems to know that she is not supposed
to bite, but she seemingly cannot help herself.
She will stop for a few seconds but returns to snapping (gently,
playfully) at my hands, shoes and legs.
I tell her no and try to move my hands away from her head.
I have taken to slapping her nose when she bites.
I hate doing that because I do not want her to become afraid of my hands.
Finally, she had both of my hands/wrists bleeding from her
still-hypodermic teeth.
After the last grab, she got a new hole bleeding in my hand, I swatted
her nose hard with a final "no" and went inside.

I wiped off the blood and bathed my hands in rubbing alcohol.
Looking out the window, I saw her laying on the patio by the back door
waiting for me.  ;(
I actually prayed to God to help my dog understand what was acceptable behavior.
I know she does not speak English and has only a vague idea of what I
am saying/doing/want
.
In many ways she is doing good but this is a real problem.

I feel guilty that she has only me to play with.
I like her to be near me, but I cannot play with her constantly.
I feel guilty when I hit her or scold her because I know she does not
really understand what is expected of her.
She is only a dog.
Living is the city is different from living in the country like her siblings.
I feel sorry for my dog.

I know this sounds whiny but I love my dog.
I do not want her hurt or to do things that will get her in trouble.
This is another of my mood swings where I get so discouraged with her
I want to give her away to some people who have a nice big farm where
she can play and romp and BE a guard dog.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The State of the Union

Not of the United States, just my house.
Sally the Great Pyrenees Mountain Guard Dog Fluff Muffin has been showing more little bits of improvement this past week.
This past Friday I left the back door open after I let her in for breakfast, because the weather was so nice.
At one point, after Sally had eaten, she walked to the back room, went out the doorway and did her business in the grass.
I was impressed.
When she was done she trotted back inside.
I told her how impressed I was with her achievement.
For the last week or so, we have had no Events to tarnish her record of self control.

And due to her learned behaviors and my watchful eye, I have found her standing at the back door, waiting to be let out to do her morning squattings every day.
We have this routine down pretty well.

We have been able to take a walk almost every morning this past week or two, and Sally has been taking new routes almost each session.
She has met some new dogs and seen many more that she could not get close enough to meet.
And she has found many yucky things to taste, lick, eat, and sniff.

Saturday was the big day for us.
After I did my morning run and shopping, I took Sally the Mountain Dog to a mountain.
We went to the Bankhead Land Trust for a hike on one of their many trails.
We did this the week before but there was a time limit on us that day so we could not go as far as I would have liked.

This day was different.
We could go as far as she could stand (I just assumed that I [ahem] could go the distance with no problem. This proved to be only partially true.).
I set a time frame of about two hours – one hour out and one hour back – because that has proved to be about Sally's limit of endurance.
Even if she does not know it.
Being a typical dog, she will bop til she drops (literally) if I do not intervene.

It had recently rained and there was plenty of mud on the trails, but I expected this.
I had an extra towel in the car should I need to de-mud my Fluffy Muff.
The springs and streams along the way were chattering happily with fresh water, which Sally played in and partook of at every opportunity.

We hiked about a mile out.
This included a brief off-the-trail jaunt up some steep rocks to give her (and yers troolee) some REAL climbing experience.
We went up about 30 or 40 feet then walked a short distance of a level shelf and found an easier descent path back down to our trail.
At a point or two I had to allow Sally to work out her fear/perplexity about how to scale the terrain presented to her.
She is a puppy yet, after all.
But she did fine.

At a certain point, I decided that she had had enough, and convinced her to turn around and go back.
When we go back to the car, she did not want to get in, so we sniffed around the parking lot for another ten minutes.
Finally, I convinced her to get into the car and we drove home.

During the ride home, it was clear that Sally the Mountain Dog was tired and hot (the temp was about 65).
I got the impression that she wanted to sit up an see the traffic and scenery but was too tired to do so.
Thus, she laid down in the back seat (properly covered with a towel) and panted most of the way home.

When we go home, she took another big drink of water and laid down in the shade.
She slept for almost three hours.

Then came the phone call.
Jef called and we arranged a drop-off/pick-up deal with some vehicles nearby (he is moving).
In the process, he invited me and Sally to his new homestead to explore and visit with his wife, and children and dogs – Sally's brother and sister.
I had been wanting to do this for a while so quickly agreed.

I went home and fixed up the car for more possible dirty doggy.
When Sleepy Sally saw the leash again she was ready to go.
She had a pleasant time riding in the car again; this time, on the longest car trip she has ever been on (about 30 minutes).

When we got to the property, I let her off her leash, with my heart in my throat, and let her go.
Her brother and sister (and the family) had not yet arrived.
She trotted off down the gravel road by herself, sniffing and looking around (this was her first visit here).
Soon the gang arrived, and like the clown car at the circus, dozens of occupants poured fourth from the big truck/car.
Sally soon took up with her siblings and they began frolicking and exploring together.

While the humans talked and played and watched, the dogs played and sniffed around their new territory.
We had to call them back from the neighbors yard once, but the dogs mostly stayed within view and played and watched the area.

Romeo the cat came along as well and played Yard Tiger as the people talked and planted potatoes.
Romeo is an amazing animal – especially for a cat.
He is very tolerant of big playful dogs and little children who love to carry him around.
He, in turn, likes to engage the humans by lying or sitting or standing on them, if they are not moving around too much.
There is a famous picture of Romeo lying on Jef's lap while he is driving.
Romeo is my kind of cat.

The dogs played off and on the whole time we were there (about 2 hours).
Sally had a wonderful time, but I knew she was very tired.
On the ride home, she took spells to sitting up and watching the passing parade and laying down panting.
She was dirty, too.

I was tired as well.
But I debated with myself whether to give her a bath.
She needed it and I knew I could not give her a bath on Sunday because of all the comings and goings I must do.

So, after dinner, I got the bucked and extra towels and took off her collar.
She really did not want to get into the tub and do this, but she took it all reasonably well.
And she was ready to get out of the tub when I was done rinsing her.
She WAS dirty.
The rinse water was light brown.

Sally's fir is so thick it absorbs a LOT of water.
Drying her off will soak two large towels and probably a third.
She is never completely dry when we are “done”.
So, even though she was still damp, and was going to be in the 40's that night, I let her outside to bed down in the cool breeze.

As usual, I worried about her, but I need not have.
She was fine, and happy to see me the next morning.
And dry.
But she was not the same doggy.
Sunday morning, Sally was quiet, and subdued as I fixed her breakfast.
She sat or laid on the floor and watched me do my morning doings for the both of us.
I was tired, too.
Since I did not have time for a walk Sunday morning, I planned to take her for a walk that afternoon.
But I was so tired after morning church meeting, that I took a nap first.
Later that afternoon I took Sally for a walk, but she could barely trot.

As is our custom, I let her pick the route, she plodded along sniffing and looking, but after a turn around the block she headed us back home.
Instead of her usual 45 minute to one-hour session, this one barely lasted thirty minutes.

Monday morning, she was STILL sagging.
She was quiet for breakfast, and our morning walk was more sedate than usual.
The walk lasted about an hour, but Sally did a lot of walking (and much less trotting or running).
I was a bit sore as well.

Tuesday, Sally was a bit more her old self, but still a bit more subdued than usual.
That evening after dinner I played with her in the yard and she became more rowdy (play-biting, etc).
This morning she was mostly quiet, sitting or laying as she watched me prepare our food.
I think her big weekend has changed her forever.

Sally's most annoying habit is play-biting.
We are working on this.
On my part, I am trying to train/teach her to not bite with a combination of keeping my hands/arms away from her mouth so that she cannot bite me, and slapping her nose when she does.
I do not like hitting her.
I do not want her to be afraid of my hands.
But she seems to not be able to keep herself from biting when she is playing.
I have tried everything I have read to correct this problem (substituting a chew toy, turning away from her, yelping like a dog when she bites, etc).
Nothing has worked.

On her part, it is clear that she knows it is forbidden.
It is clear that she tries to not bite hard.
When she is slapped and scolded, she tries to stop but gets frustrated because she does not know how to play otherwise.

In addition, she is teething.
Her new adult teeth have come in across the front of her mouth (and perhaps her new molars).
But her baby incisors are still in place, and they are the four teeth that do the most damage/injury.
I thinks things will improve when her adult teeth are all in.

I am looking forward to taking the big dog on another trail hike soon.
Since I have a commitment this Saturday, I may try to go hiking with her on Friday.
Stay tuned.