Monday, December 5, 2011

Maybe her heart grew three sizes?

If you've been following this blog (and at least 29 of you are), you're aware by now that Tinky-Winky used to have a problem with aggression, but she's getting better all the time. On Sunday we were walking off-leash in the afternoon, seeing as the Bylaw guy got fed up with the stupidity of our town council and is no longer doing anything about the dogs, or anything else, that I can tell. The town council doesn't want to enforce anything because it's either "too much work" or "contrary to our northern culture". Anyway, the fact that the mayor and four out of seven councillors are morons is not the point, but thanks to their stupidity, we can now walk off-leash whenever we want. In fact, there are more off-leash dogs downtown in the middle of the day than there used to be before we hired the bylaw guy.

Have I mentioned yet that the mayor and four out of seven councillors are morons?

So back to my story, we were walking off-leash in broad daylight, and coming opposite on the trail was the town hall clerk (probably the last person in town who believes in the dog bylaw) and her two on-leash dogs, Dexter (a pug) and Freddie (a Boston terrier, or French bulldog - I can never remember). Tinky-Winky has previously done some social peeing with Dexter. Freddie is new. Both have a habit of freaking out at oncoming traffic when on leash.

So. Freddie, Dexter and their person face off with Tinky-Winky on the trail. I tried to call her back. She thought about it, while Freddie and Dexter barked at her, and their person pondered her next moved. Luckily, she's not the kind to freak out when dogs start barking, and also she's aware that her dogs have behavioural problems, so she doesn't let them go after someone else's dog and then blame the other person. So, nobody panicked.

Tinky-Winky went off the trail and around the dogs peacefully, sniffed their tracks, and waited for me.

Attagirl!!!


Today, as we were exiting the building for our evening walk, someone else was walking in carrying laundry and followed by two off-leash dogs. Or more specifically, if I'm not mistaken, two off-leash bitches. We've met them before, though I don't know their names. Sounds Hawaiian, or something. One is an adult, somewhat reminiscent of an Irish setter but a bit taller and bulkier, and a different coat. She's had her nose bit by Tinky-Winky before. The other one is a puppy, and not a very old one. I think maybe four months. She's about the same height as Tinky-Winky already, but lanky, like the big one. Unlike the big one, though, she's normally smarter than to tangle with my Wolverine.

Anyway. We're exiting the building as they're entering, so we're all in the air space between the two doors together. The big one followed the person into the building. The puppy, for some reason, decided to get all over Tinky-Winky. Seriously all over her. She stuck her nose in Tinky-Winky's ears, smelled her lips repeatedly, smelled her butt, with lots of body contact. Tinky-Winky was sitting and I had my hand on her collar, but I actually wasn't restraining her. She didn't even look mad. I have seriously never seen her half that close to another dog. Even when she doesn't fight, she'll still bite the nose off any dog who tries to sniff her butt, let alone her ears.

After a while she did give one half-arsed little snap, not even close to hitting the puppy. The puppy's person pulled her away, but then the big dog must have thought something like "oh, you're sniffable now?" So she ran back out the door to sniff Tinky-Winky, too. And Tinky-winky didn't freak out.

There is no way Tinky-Winky doesn't freak out at a hyper, large, probably female dog jumping all over her. But she didn't.


I think my dog is a lot less messed-up than everyone thinks.

Predacon: terrorize

Recently, Tinky-Winky has taken to sleeping on my bed of her own free will. In the past she would usually sleep under the bed, or only sleep on the bed when I put her there. The last few weeks, she waits for me to make the hide-a-bed, then she jumps up and sprawls out right in the middle. And of course, laterally across the bed rather than length-wise so we could both lie down comfortably.

Two nights ago, apparently, she was in a hurry, so she jumped up when I still had two blankets to add. Hmmmm... Oh well. I put the next blanket over her and waited for her to crawl out.

And waited.

Her Majesty sat up, still under the blanket, and turned her head this way and that, but didn't move her butt.

I waited a while longer.

She still didn't move her butt.

Fine.

I pulled the blanket off her head. Immediately she lay down again and went to sleep. Laterally across the bed, of course. She looked adorable.

Later, as I tried to fit my fat arse onto the tiny sliver of bed she left me, she put her little paws over her little nose and squeezed.

It looked even more adorable.

That's funny. She could crush all the bones in my hand with her teeth. She could rip out my trachea before I could even blink. And she looks completely adorable while preventing me from getting into my own bed.

We think we're so smart, but really dogs are playing us all for the fools we are.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Things I love about my shiba

Shiba Shedding Time.

As far as I know, I'm the only shiba owner who loves Shiba Shedding Time. If you're not a shiba's personal assistant, you may not be aware that shibas blow their coat twice a year, spring and fall; and as they have a double coat, this entails a considerable amount of hair. Shiba Shedding Time typically lasts for several weeks, during which you will be vacuuming at least twice a day. And when you think you're done vacuuming, you turn around and you can't even tell where you've vacuumed and where you haven't.

Most shiba people whose blogs I've read (I don't read any currently because they displeased me) have some kind of super-aggressive grooming tool to try to rip off most of the old coat in three brushings. That sounds like exactly not what a shiba would like. I, on the other hand, have just a simple brush. I brush Tinky-Winky very slowly, for a few minutes a day. Usually I only get to do one side per session, because she lies down on her side for brushing, and when she's had enough she stands up and walks away. I find the best way is to brush gently against the coat at first. This will lift up clumps of the undercoat that are ready to come out. Then I focus on those areas, brushing against the hair to lift it and then with the hair to remove it.

You see, Tinky-Winky is not a cuddly dog. She only likes to be petted in her own time, which is generally while she's waking up in the morning. It suits Her Majesty that I should get up quickly and then attend her for twenty minutes while she eases out of sleep. That being said, she didn't start this tradition until we had been together more than three years; in fact we were together 2 1/2 years before she ever willingly showed me her belly. But when she's shedding, she's actually quite willing to be brushed. It's the only time when I can go to her and start handling her and she won't walk away in seconds.

So, I love Shiba Shedding Time because I get to spend much more time petting my shiba than any other time of year. (And also, I keep the dead hair, then some day I can have it spun and knit myself a... toque, probably. If I wanted a sweater, I should have got a bigger dog.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Oh no! My dog is autistic!

A couple months ago I scored Tinky-Winky's dream job, which is anything with short hours and home every night. From my point of view, I'm making f-all for money, but she doesn't know that. Other than that though, the job is awesome, particularly the part with the eight-year-old autistic boys. They're very awesome.

But then, I noticed something about autism.

  • Lack of connection with others

  • Violent outbursts

  • Obsessive behaviours

  • Lack of typical play behaviour

  • Unusual thinking and communication patterns

  • Normal intelligence

Ok, not all autistic people have all these traits, but you know who does? Tinky-Winky. Even as a puppy, Tinky-Winky didn't play normal dog games. She still doesn't. She doesn't interact with other dogs and she's rarely affectionate with me, and only on her own terms. She freaks out and beats up little dogs. She spends hours shaping her doggy bed, unless you redirect her. She looks for me in the woods by sight and not by smell. She's not at all stupid, she's just really odd.

Oh no! My dog is autistic!

Hahaha, I crack me up. Is there such a thing as autism in dogs? Is she just one strange little dog?

Well, who knows. I like her. I like my autistic kids. My ex-husband has Asperger's, and my stalker probably does too. I guess that's just the kind of people I attract.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Be still, my heart!

I met a really handsome dog. His name is Bruce and he's a nine-month-old akita puppy.

At the other end of the leash is a really handsome young... carpenter.

O.

M.

G.

I must find out if they have an alpha bitch in their pack, or if they could be asked to join our pack. Tinky-Winky hasn't even tried snapping at Bruce yet, even though he's incredibly hyper, so it's promising. I think she's too smart to snap at dogs that can squish her like a bug.

Maybe we should pee on the guy's apartment door to make sure no other bitches can go in there?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Shiba as service dog

I don't think anyone has tried to use a shiba as a service dog. They're just not very helpful. Tinky-Winky's world view is that people serve dogs, not the other way around. You know that saying, that dogs think "this creature pets me, feeds me, takes care of me, he must be God", while cats think "this creature pets me, feeds me, takes care of me, I must be God." Shibas have cat-like thinking.

So the only way to get a shiba to help you is if what you need also happens to serve his or her purposes.

Consider this. Tinky-Winky knows what time it is, and especially what time I'm to take her for her off-leash walk. For a few years we walked off-leash in the evenings, but now that we have the new bylaw guy, who stays up late but doesn't get up early, we off-leash in the morning. In summer, when it's daylight all night and the sun rises at four, it's easy enough to get up at 4:15 to walk the dog. Now that sunrise is after six, I set my alarm for 5:15... and I snooze it. I'm the queen of snoozing. I can snooze my alarm for two hours or more.

That's where Tinky-Winky comes to my aid.

Snoozing interferes with Her Majesty's morning off-leash walk; therefore she has taken to making sure I get up. I hear the alarm and snooze it once, and then I listen, hoping that she's still asleep. If I'm lucky, I hear nothing. But if she's awake, she'll be sitting up in bed panting, and then I know I better be up and at them. And if she really gets impatient, she'll give her one bark that means "human, do something for me!" I can sleep through two hours of my alarm clock, but not through that one shiba bark.

The only drawback of the shiba as alarm clock is that she's not consistent. On statutory holidays, she will bark at 5:15:00 right on the dot, but on work days, meh...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Monday, August 1, 2011

A three-walk day

Tinky-Winky and I have been on two walks a day for about a month now, which is not good for me as I'm gaining weight. For her, however, it seems to be working. She still occasionally drags her feet in the evening, but mostly she has enough energy for her two walks.

Today, however, she was feeling peppy. She woke me up at 3:55 am, not for any particular reason, but because she was awake and I wasn't and she desired my company. So, we went for our walk. When we got home, I went back to bed, and she actually jumped on the bed on her own, which she hasn't done in a very long time. So we went back to sleep and got up around 10:00. By lunch, she was fidgetty again. She kept wanting attention, and then walking around the apartment, and then back to me for attention.

After lunch, I spent more time with her, playing with rawhides, going through her tricks, cuddling with her... Usually after a while she'll go to sleep, but she continued wide awake. So, I took her for an afternoon walk. We drove around to the beach, which is no longer suitable for walking, having been ruined by squatters over the last three years, then we walked along the dirt road looking for interesting things to look at. We didn't walk very far or very fast, but even so, when we got home, she looked tired. She slept like a log the rest of the day.

For our evening walk, therefore, I thought she wouldn't want to go very far, so I took the route that allows her to turn back any time she wants. But she actually led me all the way around with good energy and no foot-dragging. Then she had to have seconds of dinner, because she had worked up quite an appetite.

Maybe she's feeling better because the weather has been cooler, or maybe the rest has done her good. Or maybe this was just a good day for her. Sometimes when I look at her now, she's starting to look her age.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mmmm... Comfy...

Garden dog


I think Tinky-Winky dog is jealous of the garden. As soon as I spend any amount of time gardening, she tries to get in the middle of things. She is also fascinated by the smell of bone meal, so here she's trying to get into the bag. Once it was open, though, she wanted none of it. I think the smell of the whole mass is too strong for her. Bone meal is a natural product made from, obviously, crushed bones of animals such as chickens. This one in particular has no cow bones in it - I suppose they tell me that so I won't be worried about Mad Cow? So anyway, I doubt it would do the dog any harm. It smells and looks like fish food, mostly.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Doggy storm shelter: success!


Finally, the dog understands the purpose of the crate. She hadn't stepped inside yet, even though I put all her shredding blankets in there. Then Monday afternoon there was a thunderstorm, and she started freaking out as usual, so I put her in the cage. She shredded for a while and then came back out. But Tuesday, when the thunder started, she went into the cage of her own free will and lay down at the back.

Booya!

Well, that doesn't look very comfortable. I've been meaning to get her some bedding in there, but I really don't feel like spending money on a dog bed and a comforter just now. So, instead I'm lending her some of my crochet blankets, thusly:


The one inside the cage is a queen-size and makes a nice thick mattress. I hope she won't tear it. Crochet blankets are much more resistant than fabric, but you never know. The one draped over the cage is mostly to shut out more light and sound and make it more cave-like, but it also makes it more esthetically pleasing to me. Better feng-shui, hopefully. Also, both these blankets are hand-made by me and have been in the house for years, and were on my bed all winter, so they should be thoroughly permeated with my smell, and hopefully that's a comfort to her when I'm not home.

This morning, the dog went to look at the cage again, and at first did not approve of my modifications. So I grabbed her and put her inside forcibly, and she lay down at the back and made herself at home. I'm not sure she likes having a blanket over the cage, actually. It shuts out some light and noise, but on the other hand, she can't see me anymore, and that always annoys her. She likes to keep an eye on me.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tinky-Winky's favourite food

Tinky-Winky's favourite food, bar none, is cheese. Cheese is like cocaine to her. She will do just about anything for it, such as obeying commands. This is convenient for two reasons. First, there is no naturally-occurring equivalent to cheese in the natural world, so she can only get it from me. Thus cheese is a huge motivator in getting her to recall. She's actually desisted and come back to me as she was approaching another dog to lay a beating on it, just because I had cheese. Calling "Tinky-Winky, come!" is successful fairly often. Calling "Tinky-Winky, cheese!" is 100% success.

The other reason is that the dog catcher does not carry cheese. He tries to bait dogs with store-bought extruded dog treats, which works on under-privileged dogs, but not on Her Majesty. She has way better food at home, and no way is she selling her freedom for extruded treats when she knows she can get cheese for it.

But other than cheese, Tinky-Winky's favourite food is whatever I'm eating. And that's funny, because she eats way better than I do. She has fresh meat and vegetables on her plate, and I'm eating mac and cheese, or wieners, or toast, and she wants my food. Some of the stuff she begs for rather boggles my mind. Lemon tarts, for example. What kind of dog eats lemon? She does. She loves lemon tarts.

Also, zucchini. When we were in Calgary in the fall, I made a zucchini casserole. I also bought supermarket sushi fairly often, because I can't get it at home. So one time I had this cheap sushi and the zucchini casserole. I offered the dog sushi, she turned her nose up at it and tried to get into the casserole. So I gave her the casserole instead. Not only she ate it, but she chased the roommate's cat away from it. There was no animal protein in it at all, just zucchini, olive oil and bread crumbs. She loved it.

Of course because she has expensive tastes, the more expensive my food is, the more she wants it. Cheesecake, for example, costs its weight in... scrap iron, at least, and she MUST have it. Are you serious? Do you know how often I can afford cheesecake? You're a dog. Go eat garbage. I'm not giving you my cheesecake.

Tinky-Winky even wants my food if she doesn't even want to eat it. For example, fruit. She doesn't like fruit, and generally speaking, neither do I, but sometimes I do buy some. Expensive stuff, usually, like raspberries. Naturally, Tinky-Winky wants some. The first time she asked, I gave her some. I was sitting on the couch eating grapes, and she wanted some. I gave her a grape. She lowered her head to where I couldn't see her, and then came up and asked for more. I gave her another one. I must have given her about ten grapes, and I was thinking "wow, I never heard of a dog eating grapes before." Then I got up to go to the kitchen and saw that all the grapes were on the floor. She was lowering her head to spit them out, and then she kept asking for more, secure in the knowledge that next time, surely, I was gonna give her something tasty to eat.

Likewise with strawberries. She doesn't eat them, but she'll lick every one of them if you let her.

The one thing I eat (reluctantly, I'll admit) and she won't is... peanut butter. Seriously. Most dogs love peanut butter; she won't even look at it.

What a strange little dog she is.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My poor little dog

When I'm not home, the dog sleeps on her lawn. She's dug herself a comfortable little depression, which I've given up on filling, and since the lawn is watered frequently, it's nice and cool in the dirt. She likes it there, which is good since that's the whole point of the lawn.

When I'm home, the dog would like to sleep on her lawn, but she can't, because from the lawn she can't see if I'm getting ready to leave. So she sleeps in the hallway, where it's somewhat cooler than in the living room, and I have to walk past her to leave. I try to tell her that I'm not going anywhere for a while, or that I'll let her know if I'm leaving, but she doesn't understand, so she can't sleep on her lawn.

If I thought she'd understand, I'd get her a baby monitor so she could sleep on the lawn and keep an ear on me, but she wouldn't understand.

Poor little dog. What a dilemma.

We interrupt this program


PEOPLE ARE STARVING IN AFRICA!

Ok, so that's not news. People were starving in Africa ever since I was a kid, and before. But right now, the World Food Programme is short just $191 million from their budgeted need for Somalia and the Horn of Africa.

"Just" $191 million?

That's right. Because that works out to just $11 per Canadian worker. That's half the price of a twelve-pack of beers. It could be a burger and fries. Three or four ridiculously overpriced coffees from a big franchise. There is a lot of stuff you spend $11 on that you don't even need. Just skip one of those things and save Somalia! (For now, anyway.)

Donate here. Or donate to some other charity you like. If you don't have $11, give $5. Give something. And pass it on to your friends. You'd do it if that was your kid in the photo, wouldn't you? (The photo is actually from a feeding centre in Ayod, Sudan, on March 31, 1993, because I had it handy. Starvation looks the same anywhere. Photo by Corinne Dufka/Reuters.)

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelp! People starving! Help! Help! Help!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The tale of the dog license

This morning, I went to get a dog license for Tinky-Winky. I've had her six years, maybe it was about time I licensed her. Though it makes no difference, really, she has a tag with my phone number, and from a distance the bylaw guy can't tell it's not a town license tag, so he doesn't know she's not registered.

Still, licenses are free for fixed animals, so why not?

So I went down to Town Hall with my bill of sale. First of all, I wrote down the breed on the application as "shiba inu". The town employee had never heard of it, and indeed on her log of tag applications, there are no shiba inus listed. Apparently, none of the several shiba owners in town figure their dog is likely to get caught, either. Probably because none of them ever walk their dogs, so it's not likely to go missing. They're also too fat to run very far.

Next problem: the bill of sale shows the dog's name as "Sunojo's Playmate of the Year" aka "Bunny". But I put on the application "Sissi" which is what I call her at home. ("Tinky-Winky" is her username. I started calling that on my old blog where everyone has blog names, to prevent googling.) The town employee was confused. "This says Bunny, not Sissi," she says to me. Right. Because the seller called her Bunny, and I call her Sissi. Get it?

No.

After some further explanation, she accepted that I don't call my dog the same name the previous owner did. But then she found the registered name, and that confused the issue further. Am I the only one in this town with a CKC-registered dog, or what? The dog has a registered name, and a pet name her breeder called her, and a pet name I call her.

This did not seem to make any sense to the town employee.

Finally I told her, it really doesn't matter what you call this dog, she's not gonna come anyway.

This seemed to settle the matter to her satisfaction, and she gave me my dog tag.

Phew. The next dog is getting Tinky-Winky's old town tag, I can tell you. It's not like anyone here can tell one shiba from another anyway.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

That can't be comfortable


Her Majesty is lying on the bare concrete balcony with her head in a pot of pansies. There is NO WAY that's comfortable. Also, just before she picked the pansies as a pillow, she had her head in the baobabs. And if anything happens to my baobabs, this little dog is going to get rebuked like she's never been rebuked before.

You know why she's lying like that though? Because I was fussing with those plants. She doesn't like to sleep on the concrete with her head in the pansies; she's just an attention hog.

It's lucky she's her, because I wouldn't take this guff from any other dog.

Cats are evil


That's from October 7, 2006. My ex's cat, Emily, always figured shiba tails make the best cat toys. I named her Emily after The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She was the most psychopathic cat I've ever met.

But even though Emily was evil, she's not the reason Tinky-Winky is scared of cats. She was already scared of cats when she came to live with me.

Today she had another humorous cat adventure. We left the apartment to go for our evening walk, and while I was locking the door, Tinky-Winky was wrapping the leash around me in a state of great agitation. So I was like "what in the world are you doing?" Then I noticed that our neighbour's cat, Mackenzie, was reaching her evil little paw under the door, trying to grab Tinky-Winky. So I poked her paw and she retracted it, like some evil little clawy snail. But then she did it again! Tinky-Winky insisted that we make for the elevator post-haste. Then she zoomed through the lobby, and didn't slow down until we were well away from the building and into the oppressive heat.

A few minutes later, on the trail, we met a rottweiler. Tinky-Winky gave it the Stare of Death and it recoiled.

It always makes me laugh that she can terrorize large dogs but runs from little cats.

Your offering is not acceptable

I've been meaning to buy a dog crate for a while, in case we have to fly, but a lot more so that the dog can have a little den to hide in when she's scared. But in this town, you can't just go out and buy stuff. You buy what's at the store, or you don't; you don't get to choose. So I was waiting to go down south. On the other hand, we have a Facebook group for buying and selling second-hand stuff. Yesterday a post comes up for a dog crate that was quite a bit bigger than Tinky-Winky, but the price was right. So I bought it.


I guess not. Clearly, the concept of having a little den is in her mind as well, but she doesn't want the cage.

Oh well... She'll get used to it, I'm sure. Once it gets our smell on it instead of the other pack's smell. Speaking of which, the dog whose human was selling the cage is quite nice, and I've never seen either the dog or his human walking around with a female human. Of course that doesn't mean anything because they don't live anywhere near me, but being me, I just had to ask myself again whether we could combine our pack and their pack. And this kind of thinking is exactly why I'm single, I'm sure.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Attitude adjustment, day 2

Yesterday was ok. On the morning walk she went back onto the road... That's annoying. Then she came back onto the trail to look for me. I didn't go out in the afternoon because it wasn't good insect weather. Evening walk, she was slower, but still not too uncooperative.

Her new thing now is she doesn't remind me of her evening walk, she reminds me of her morning walk. That makes sense since that's her offleash walk. On the other hand, her morning walk is at 4:30 AM, so I suspect I'm gonna regret getting her into that habit sooner or later.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Monday, July 4, 2011

Attitude adjustment, day 1

Our morning walk went great, as I already told you. In the afternoon, I got ready to walk, and the dog watched me. Then I just walked out of the house. Without her. I wonder what she made of that. I had a perfectly lovely walk all by myself. Then I came home. I'm pretty sure the dog knows I went for a walk without her.

Since she was short a walk, I figured she'd be asking to go for her evening walk fairly early. So I'm sitting on the couch doing whatever, and I look at the time and it's 8:40 pm. Um... What? Her walk is supposed to be at 7:00. So I says to her "you dog, why aren't you telling me it's time to walk?" She gave me a blasé look without even lifting her head off the pillow.

Hmmmmm...

Well, too bad. I started getting ready to walk. The dog watched me. When she saw me pick up the camera, she gave a funny little squeak and ran for the door. Nonetheless, when I was ready and grabbed her leash, her expression gave a distinct sense of "oh, bother." So I told her, skipping the evening walk isn't an option, because she has to relieve herself. (Technically, that's not true, she can go literally days without relieving herself, but I don't approve of that.)

So we stared at each other for a few seconds and then she came to leash up. Great, I thought, that's gonna be another fight.

Not at all! Once we were outside, she moved forward in a nice active trot. She had to smell a few things, which I allowed her, within reason, but she didn't get tangled in the leash, didn't get itchy, didn't have to pee every twenty seconds, and didn't yank on the leash to go in different directions all the time. Aaaaaaaaah... That's nice. I even had to step out a fair bit, which hasn't happened in quite a while.

I was prepared to let her pick the itinerary, and expected her to turn back fairly quickly. Our protocol is that on evening walks, we can't turn around until she relieves herself. In the afternoon I don't care because she won't have long to wait for the next one, and in the morning she's either off leash or if I'm working, we walk a set route and go home whether she's gone or not, because otherwise she'll hold off so I can't go to work. She's wily. Anyway, she relieved herself and kept right on going. I was following her, in defiance of Cesar, and she chose to go by the so-called "ravine" trail. It's not a ravine, it's a paved trail along the old spillway. There are no ravines around here. Anyway, the town has been cutting brush in the ravine, so the mosquitos are very, very angry. So at first we were doing fine, but after a while there were so many mosquitos on the dog, I decided to run.

So, we ran. I used to jog and I've run with Tinky-Winky a few times, and she really likes it, actually. Walking is too slow for her. So we ran most of the length of the ravine, even though at this time I'm totally out of shape and I don't have running shoes. Tinky-Winky is as feisty as ever, though, and because she's such a good dog, she actually runs right beside me on a slack leash, like a polite little dog.

Then we got home, and the elevators are acting up. When they're not in use, one comes back to Main and the other to 2nd, and sometimes the one that's on Main doesn't open when you hit the button, but it "thinks" it's open, and the other one "thinks" things are under control, so nothing happens. Then you have to take the stairs up to 2nd and get the other elevator. And Tinky-Winky gets tired pretty quickly on stairs. I let her go her own pace, but she petered out after about eight steps. Then I carried her the rest of the way.

Because she's such a good dog, I gave her some cheese in addition to her dinner. Now she's all passed out on the floor.

She may have her fits of attitude sometimes, but she's a great dog.

I think I've walked my dog enough

What?? How is that even possible?

Well, I didn't think it was, but yesterday, for the first time that I can remember, Tinky-Winky didn't want to walk.

Our afternoon walk was short because she was being uncooperative and I didn't feel like putting up with it. I figured we'd have a good evening walk instead.

Evening comes and I'm getting ready for our walk. Tinky-Winky is lying in the hallway, watching me douse myself in DEET and put my shoes on. Then I grabbed her leash, and she stayed right where she was.

?

I jingled the leash. She stayed right where she was.

??

At this point I realized I didn't have the camera, which she associates with walks. So I grabbed it and showed her I had both her leash and the camera. She got up and took two steps towards me, and then turned around.

???

She looked back and forth between me and the living room for a while, and then ran back into the living room. I followed her to see what she was doing. She was getting a drink of water. Then she came to me and after some more pussy-footing, she got her leash put on.

Wow, that took long enough.

Finally we get outside and she just will not walk. She is constantly finding excuses to stop and pull in any direction but forward. And I kept looking at her and wondering if she's tired, or sore, or old, but she looked fine. She didn't have her head down or her tongue out, she didn't move like she was tired, and she had plenty of energy for fighting me.

We didn't get very far before I got tired of dragging her along and turned back. And she trotted all the way home at a good clip without stopping for anything. So it really wasn't about being tired; she just didn't want to walk.

Ok, so this morning I bring her back to the same spot, which isn't our usual off-leash walk. Normally in the mornings we go along the paved trail and then the road. I'd rather be on the nature trail, but I tried it all winter and she takes off and runs on the road instead, so I gave up. But now when we're on the nature trail, she's constantly finding things she allegedly wants to explore. So fine, let's go off-leashing on the nature trail.

It went perfectly. She stayed on the trail and ran along ahead of me, staying mostly where I could see her. When I reached the point where we normally turn onto Gaetz, I did a U-turn instead and walked back along the road, and she still stayed with me. Full of energy and happiness, big smile, bright eyes, everything. And when we got home she didn't hem and haw about leashing up and going inside, either.

So, clearly it wasn't about fatigue, it was about attitude. Which is worse, actually. Fatigue is cured by rest; attitude is a much more baffling problem, especially in a little dog. So since I don't have a strategy for bad attitude, I'm going to treat it like fatigue: by reducing her walking. Since she doesn't want to walk on leash with me and it's not really possible to walk her off-leash twice a day right now, she can stay home when I go for my afternoon walk, and in the evenings we'll have a short walk on the leash. It works out well for me anyway because the afternoon is prime insect-watching time and I can't chase insects and fight with the dog at the same time. And hopefully she'll appreciate her walks more when she's getting less of them.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Her Majesty's bedtime ritual

Left to her own devices, Tinky-Winky will usually sleep on her own bed, unless she's upset and wants me to protect her. But because she's my dog and I expect her to keep me company, I like her to sleep on my bed. She even knows a command for jumping up on the bed (or couch, or into the car), but she chooses not to. So, we have evolved a routine which dates back to our days in Yellowknife. At that time, I would be in the computer room until 21:30, and Tinky-Winky would come with me and fall asleep on the futon. Then I would have a shower, and then I would pick her up off the futon, bring her into my room, put her on the bed, and go to sleep. In those days, whenever I would go to pick her up, she would tense up, and I thought she was trying to resist me, until I realised that actually, she was lifting up her ribcage so I could get my hand under her more easily. She expected to be carried to bed, the lazy creature.

Now that we're home, which is a bachelor suite, she's usually on her bed, and then I go to open up the hide-a-bed. At that point she will inevitably go into the hallway and lie down right in the corner. Then I go to pick her up, and she does the same thing, lifts herself up so I can get my hands under her. Then I put her on the bed.

The next issue, though, is that once she's on the bed, she digs at the blankets. This is why the top blanket on my bed is always a dog blanket, to prevent my own blankets getting shredded. But even so, it's quite annoying that she spends forever digging furiously and walking around in circles. The reason she does this is to shape a little doggy bed out of my blankets. And after watching her for years, I've discovered that she has a very specific shape in mind when she does this. She's trying to make a little crater the size of her body, with one side high as a pillow for her head. But because she has no hands, it can take a while to manipulate the blankets into that shape.

So now, when I put her on the bed, I take the dog blanket and shape it into a little crater around her, with a high side for a pillow. And instead of digging, she lies right down and goes to sleep. This also has the advantage of making her sleep where I put her, and not where she chooses, which is inevitably in MY spot.

Cesar would be appalled, I'm sure, but he doesn't sleep in my bed (not that I'd mind, though), so we do it our way. My dog must be smarter than his dogs anyway, because she doesn't assume she's the boss whenever I do something for her. Sometimes I do what she needs me to do for her, and the rest of the time she obeys me. Or at least she obeys the cheese in my hand.

I really want to get one of those signs that say "the dog and her housekeeper live here."

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

Passive-aggressive dog

No, I didn't get a new boyfriend. I'm talking about my actual canine dog. (Haha, a joke!)

Consider the following:


This is Tinky-Winky. Sitting. On the trail.

Why is Tinky-Winky sitting on the trail?

She just is.

See, Tinky-Winky doesn't like walking on the leash, so she's always finding all kinds of reasons not to cooperate. "I'm itchy. I gotta pee. My foot is caught in the leash. I gotta pee again. Grass is tasty. Something smells funny over there. I gotta pee! Wait, now I gotta poop. Ow, itchy. Oooh, something smells interesting. Mmm, tasty grass. My foot is caught in the leash. Let's go this way now. I gotta pee. ITCHY! Wait, I need to get those sticky tree things off my paw pads. I gotta pee."

Aaaaaaaaaaaargh!

She doesn't even actually pee. I figured that out in the first year. I used to let her stop to pee, but not to sniff at things. Then I noticed, she'd squat to pee and nothing was coming out... she was just pretending so she could smell at things. What a snaky creature!

In the winter, the cold keeps her moving along at a certain pace, but now that it's warm, grannies with walkers get impatient when they're stuck behind us. It's really painfully slow. For a while I thought she was getting elderly and tired, but no, she's just resisting. If you take the leash off, she's off like a shot. She just doesn't want to cooperate with the leash.

This is a new one, though. Just sitting down and choosing not to walk. Just like that. The Gandhi of dogs.


And for good measure, she gave me the "poor poor little puppy" look. Oh, yeah, you snaky thing, you're so hard done by! As if!

Pff. Sometimes you're lucky I love you.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I'm sorry, little dog

Tinky-Winky was outside when it started to thunder again. So she came in and sat with me for a while, and then went back out and came back again looking much calmer.

A little while later, I go out to the balcony and see this:


Dang! That lawn was starting to look good, too. Oh well... That's why it's HER lawn. So I gather up the dirt, put it back in, throw down some more seeds on the shredded area. Then while I'm out there, I figure I might as well water the plants. And while I'm doing that, Tinky-Winky comes back out, goes to her lawn, and start digging again. And by reflex I said "no no no!" and she stopped.

Oops...

I didn't mean it! It's your lawn! Go dig it!

I tried to explain in words that it's ok to dig the lawn. I tried pointing at it. I tried putting her on the lawn and making her paw at it. She's not digging it.

I'm sorry, little dog. That was YOUR lawn to dig at for stress relief and I've reprimanded you, and now you think it's not ok to dig it. I'm sorry I can't explain to you that it was my mistake and you're allowed to dig the lawn all you want.

Darn. How do you un-train a dog after you've reprimanded it?

Tinky-Winky and the thunderstorm

1:18 am. I can't sleep. Then, the wind picks up. "Oh no," I think, "Tinky-Winky is gonna start freaking out."

Sure enough...

I tried to ignore it, but I could hear her panting in the non-dark. (It doesn't get dark here this time of year.) So I get up and look for her everywhere, which is weird because we live in the smallest bachelor suite I've ever lived in, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of room for a little dog to go AWOL.

Finally I locate her, grab her and go back to bed. Then I ignore the wind and hope she'll go to sleep.

Ha.

The wind turns into a thunderstorm and Tinky-Winky is completely freaked out. I try holding her, petting her, talking to her, putting the sheet over her head, nothing works. By the time the storm is overhead, she's shaking so hard the whole bed vibrates. Knowing that her favourite stress release is to shred things, I let her get up from time to time and give her a blanket. The top blanket on my bed is always a dedicated dog blanket, so that if she feels shreddy in the night, she'll tear something of hers and not one of mine. But even that didn't work. She kept throwing her blankie on the floor and going after my blankets, sheets and pillows. After the fourth time, I gave up on that and simply restrained her.

It took 40 minutes for the storm to blow over completely, and I spent the whole time trying to comfort my dog. Why? Nothing bad has ever come to her from wind or thunder. I don't think it's the noise, because she can ignore much louder noises of different natures. Is she sensitive to ions in the air, or static, or something of the kind? Who knows.

See, people say your dog picks up how you're feeling and acts on that, but I think that's absurd. I like thunderstorms. I can sleep through any amount of thunder. Tinky-Winky completely freaks out. Obviously she's not getting it from me.

And of course now that it's morning, she's sleeping like a log. Crazy little dog.

Sitting on the lawn of the library


Apparently, Her Majesty doesn't want to be seen with me.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mission accomplished

I always say that my goal with Tinky-Winky is to have the world's spoiledest shiba, not in terms of behaviour or bling or things like that, but in all the things that actually make dogs happy, such as good food, a comfy bed, and lots of walking.

Right now, because it's hot, we've had to cut our mid-day walk short. She just gets tired quickly in the heat. So instead, this afternoon, I took her to sit on the lawn outside the library. I'm on a lawn chair, with the dog on a long tether so she can sit anywhere she likes, choose sun or shade, explore, whatever. She has a bowl of water. She has me. And I'm connected to the library's wifi, which is nice since I don't have internet at home. So I'm thinking, what more can a little dog want?

Then... she started whining.

Ok: you really are the world's spoiledest shiba, if you can be sitting on the grass on a beautiful summer day and still find something to whine about.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I'm totally judging you

I'm totally judgmental. I'm better than I used to be, but I'm totally judgmental. And I'm judging you by your dog. Is your dog clean, groomed, shiny, happy and well-behaved? Then I like you. Unless it's a breed that I don't think should even be bred, in which case I don't trust you. If you have a large dog, I think you're full of yourself. If your dog is dirty, I think you're lazy and negligent. Unless he's soaked and covered in fresh mud, in which case maybe you just took him for an energetic walk. If you have a tiny dog, I think you're absurd. If you have a very stupid dog, I think you're insecure. And if your dog has behavioural problems, I definitely don't like you.

There is a saying that there are no bad horses, only bad riders. And so with dogs. There are no bad dogs. If your dog has problems, its main problem is probably you. So I'm totally judging you by your dog, and I'm merciless. It's a sin, but I do it anyway.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The black dog, or why retrievers should be banned

I think it was two summers ago, on a street that Tinky-Winky and I traverse on our daily walks, two households got puppies. One was a large black lab. The other was an even larger yellow... lab, or something. The yellow dog had a fenced yard. The black dog didn't. Therefore, the black dog was allowed to spend the days at the yellow dog's house, playing together in the fenced yard. Everything was copacetic.

Unfortunately, puppies don't stay small forever. The two puppies became huge, and for lack of training, they became unmanageable. The yellow dog was gotten rid of. The black dog wasn't. But since it wasn't invited to play in the fenced yard anymore, it got tied outside its house. All by itself. So it started to bark and jump up and down whenever people or dogs walk by. This was a nuisance, so the people fixed it with... a shock collar. Which doesn't really work.

Since I've been home for a few months, I started working on that dog. I approach her to pet her. If she barks or jumps, I leave. If she's quiet, I pet her. So it took months, but now when she sees me coming, she lies down quietly and waits for me to come to her. Then she rolls over on her back. Did I mention it took MONTHS? Most people are amazed how fast I can get their dog to roll over. This one took months. (On the other hand, I had Tinky-Winky full-time for 2 1/2 YEARS before she would roll over, which tells you something about how headstrong she is.)

The other day, I was petting the black dog, and she was lying down quietly. A human came out of the house, and immediately the black dog was jumping and barking. The human yelled at her. (Why? The dog barks, you yell; the dog thinks you're doing what she's doing, then she does it some more.) Amid all the noise, I said to the human "she's getting better though, isn't she?" and the human said "oh, I don't know, some days she's ok and others she's just impossible."

Hmmmmmm...

No, I don't think she's impossible at all. I spend two minutes with your dog once or twice a day and she's quiet with me. You live here and she barks and jumps at you. That seem funny to you? Well it doesn't seem "funny" to me at all. Your dog isn't "impossible", she's bored and lonely. She wants to play. With another dog, preferrably, but she'd be happy to spend time with a human. When is the last time you walked her? When is she ever allowed to sit quietly beside you? She's tied up outside all day, every day, all by herself, watching everybody walk by and pay no attention to her. Poor dog.

It goes without saying, the black dog is not getting walked. I've seen her walking with her human ONCE and I was all happy that they were walking, but it turned out she had escaped and the human was only bringing her home. I feel I ought to walk her, but honestly, I don't want to. For one thing, she's at the farthest point of our walk from home, so it's really inconvenient. I also hate picking up after large dogs. It grosses me out. Also, Tinky-Winky hates her. And also, inevitably, she's gonna be a huge pain to walk on leash for quite some time. I'm a construction worker, so I can handle a fairly strong dog, but I don't really like to spend my walks doing that.

Also, because she's such a large dog, she needs to walk fast, not dawdle along at Tinky-Winky's whim. Tinky-Winky on the leash is painfully slow, because she's uncooperative. Every two seconds she has to pee, or scratch, or tangle herself in her leash, or pick sticky tree things off her paw pads, or smell something, or otherwise find anything to do that isn't walking along with me. It's takes us forever to get anywhere. Take the leash off though, we're like the wind. But that's a story for another post. The point is, a two-year-old lab needs to move a lot faster than an ornery 12-year-old shiba. In fact, in order to get up enough speed to get that dog exercised, I'd need a bike. And that's not in the budget for this year. So, I'm not offering to walk the black dog, and I feel bad for her, but I just don't really want to take on her problems. I also get the feeling that her female human is getting annoyed by my interference with her dog.

So that's one reason people shouldn't have retrievers. I don't know a single retriever who gets walked. People say "they're good with children." Yeah, well, they're very patient dogs, but that's absurd. Teach your children to be good with dogs, instead of expecting the dog to put up with them. You know what "good with dogs" means? It means you WALK THEM. Teach your kids to walk the dog. Three hours a day, fast enough that the dog is trotting, not walking. Don't worry about the dog being "good with kids"; the dog is gonna treat your kids a thousand times better than you're gonna treat the dog.

Nobody should have a dog they're not gonna walk, and no one I know who has a retriever ever walks further than the couch to the fridge. Some say they need the dog to hunt with, but first of all they don't train it for hunting, and second, what are you gonna do with the dog the other 363 days a year? Tie it out in the yard and ignore it? That's nice. Some poor dog is gonna spend his or her whole life crying in your yard because you want to feel like a big man with a gun a couple weekends a year.

Here is how you know if you need a retriever: do you spend two to three hours a day, every day, even when it's raining or very cold, jogging, biking or rollerblading? If so, get a big dog. If not, do you spend two to three hours a day, every day, even when it's raining or very cold, walking? If so, get a dog that trots at the speed you walk. If not, get a ferret. Some people, seriously, even a bearskin rug is too much of a pet for them.

The other reason people shouldn't have retrievers is that they're so prone to cancer. I've read somewhere that 40% of retrievers get cancer. Is that true? I don't know. But they sure don't last very long. Cancer in a dog costs thousands of dollars. A friend of mine has a pug who just got diagnosed with cancer. It cost over $4,000 just to diagnose her. She's 5 1/2 and she will be dead in a month or two. Chemo could buy her another month or two, but there's no money left for chemo. I think spending thousands of dollars on a dog with high medical needs is a waste anyway, but you can always get more money, and you'd probably waste it anyway. But the bigger thing is, YOUR DOG IS GONNA DIE OF CANCER. Why would you buy a dog so you can watch it die of cancer at a young age? Even supposing you're completely selfish (which you probably are if you're getting a dog that you're not planning to walk), and you don't care that the dog is gonna suffer, do you think YOU are gonna enjoy watching your dog die of cancer?

So that's why retrievers should be banned. Some breeds get banned because somebody decided to stick the label "vicious" on them, instead of putting the blame on the owners, where it belongs. Well, "vicious" dogs are only dogs that have been mistreated. Retrievers have miserable lives with people who don't take care of them, and then they die a slow and painful death. Isn't that being mistreated? Just because they don't turn on people doesn't make it ok. So they should be banned, not because they're dangerous to people, but because people are dangerous to them. You want to feel like a big man, buy a Harley. It won't mind one bit sitting in front of the house day in, day out while you don't take care of it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Guard dog: fail


I came home and the dog didn't come running to greet me.

Hmmm...

Ok, she must be on the balcony.

I went to have a look and indeed, she was asleep on her lawn, with her back to me. I went back and got the camera. Now the camera beeps when it acquires the autofocus, and again when it takes a picture. So you can see she has an ear toward me. She must have thought she heard something, but she was too lazy to turn her heard. On the second photo she did turn and look.

Do you suppose when she saw me, she came running to me?

No.

She ran inside, past me, and toward the door. Then the little cogs in her head clicked into place, she hesitated, turned around, and came to me, and then she started doing her "I'm happy you're home" thing.

What a strange little dog...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Emergency procedure: fail

I woke up in a panic in the middle of the night. I leapt out of bed, threw some sweatpants on over my pjs and ran for the door. I stepped into my shoes on the way out. We sprinted for the elevator, which came quickly, for once. We raced across the lobby and were out of the building in record time.

As I watched the dog disappear into the tall grass, it occurred to me that it would have been a good idea to put a leash on her. A neighbour informed me it was close to 2:00 AM.

The nature of the emergency? The dog had whined.

Shibas whine. As far as I know, they all do. They have very expressive whines which I think are meant to imitate us. Tinky-Winky whines for all kinds of reasons, but only one of them would have her out of bed and walking around at 2:00 AM: she needs out. I've said before that she never asks to go out, but that's not quite true. About three times in the last six years, she's asked. The first time, I ignored it, and spent a couple of hours cleaning explosive diarrhea off the carpet, and everything else. So now, if she asks to go, we run like the wind. It takes me about one tenth as long to evacuate the building when the dog whines as when the fire alarm goes off. And other than the fire alarm, the dog is about the only thing that wakes me. (Ok, violent crime, too.) I can sleep through almost anything, most of all my alarm clock, but also music, thunder, phone ringing, neighbours partying... but not my dog crying, barking or throwing up. Same when I had cats, the fastest way to wake me was for a cat to start heaving. And I'm active and fully operational instantly, very much unlike the alarm clock. They should make an alarm clock that sounds like a puking cat.

Anyway. A more considerate creature, having relieved herself, would have thought something like "the human got out of bed in the middle of the night to help me, I will go back in promptly so she can go back to sleep." But that would be utterly unlike Her Majesty. She was outside, she was off-leash, and the weather was beautiful. PARTY! (And yes, this means I didn't pick it up, but have you ever tried to pick up liquid off the grass in a bag? I actually have. Turns out you can't pick up diarrhea even if you try.)

2:00 AM on a Saturday night is a really rotten time for a dog to be off-leash in downtown Hay River. The bars close at 2:00 AM, and that night there was a dance, too. All the cops are out, all the drunk drivers, all the drunk walkers, everyone. It's a very busy time. And there is my dog, not only off-leash but without even her collar, which reflects some light.

Man, that was dumb.

So I went back upstairs and got some cheese to bait her. And a Ziploc bag. She can hear "cheese" from miles away, but cheese doesn't have a sound. It has to be in a plastic wrap, so she can hear the wrap. So I'm outside crinkling a Ziploc bag at 2:00 AM, with cheese in one hand, my hair all over the place, wearing my gross sweatpants that would fit a fat man on Thanksgiving, just when every eligible man in town is out and about. And did I mention every cop in town? Then a cop car drives by, then another, and I figure, knowing my dog, that's exactly when she's gonna show up. And she did, too. Luckily for both of us, she had been just around the corner of the building, not across the street, so she didn't run afoul of the cops. That was lucky.

The dumbest thing is, her leash hangs on the key rack by the door, right next to my keys, so it wouldn't have slowed us down one second to grab it and put it on in the elevator. I guess I'm not as smart at 2:00 AM as I'd like to think.

So, new emergency evacuation procedure to learn:

1. Put clothes on.
2. Leash up dog.
3. Evacuate.

That being said, she should be good for another two years or so.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Poor sad little dog

We woke up this morning and it was raining. Pouring rain. Real ugly. So I ate breakfast and then instead of going for a walk, I just turned the dog loose. I do that when the weather is ugly, partly because I'm lazy, but also because that gives her control over how much time she wants to spend in the ugly weather. Right now, on nice days, I might have to wait for her an hour after I get home from our off-leash walk, because she's happy outside. This morning, I read three pages of my book before she wanted back in.

She came in and looked mournfully out the door. I held it open to see if she wanted to change her mind and go back out, but no, she wanted in. She cried as we walked to the elevator. We got into the apartment and she was still crying. She tried to lick her soup bone from yesterday, but it didn't comfort her. I tried to towel her dry, but we both know she hates being towelled, so she stayed wet. She was so sad I even gave her cheese, which is like cocaine to her, but she ate it sadly and kept crying. She went to the window and looked out on the world and cried. Then she went to her bed and lay down sadly. Poor little dog. She was absolutely inconsolable. Her whole world was ruined by having her morning walk rained out.

I tell you, dogs live for walking.

Friday, June 10, 2011

You're lucky I love you

Ok, picking up after the dog is one thing. One quick move, tie up the baggy, and you're done. Though that's certainly one good reason to get a small dog, so you're not walking around with a two-pound bag of excrement.

You know what I don't like though? Digging out the marrow that she can't get out of the marrow bone herself. It's all soft and gelatinous and it spreads like peanut butter, and yet it sustained the life of the cow. Somehow, even though I eat meat, I just do NOT like to scoop the marrow out of the bones.

Sometimes, I think that dog is lucky to have me.

My dog, the Grinch

Yesterday, in the lobby of our building, we met a girl who was holding a three-week-old puppy. It could barely lift its head or open its eyes. She oohed and aahed about how cute my dog is. I oohed and aahed about how cute her dog is. Then I was like "Tinky-Winky, come look at the puppy!" I was gonna pick her up and hold her so she could see, but the girl was faster than me. She crouched and stuck the puppy in Tinky-Winky's face, which as you and I know, is never a good idea.

Fortunately, Tinky-Winky is cranky, but not evil. She did not snap at the three-week-old puppy. Instead she sniffed at it for about two seconds and then lost interest.

WOW. How heartless was that? I know it's not her puppy, but it's a tiny orphan and she's had three litters, you'd think she could show the slightless glimmer of maternal instinct?

Well, at least I don't need to worry anymore about her abducting a fox cub or other wild creature while she's off-leash. Clearly, the last thing she wants is more puppies. Little great-grand-mother Grinch.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Making good choices

You know how people try to teach their kids to "make good choices"? My dog makes good choices naturally.

I've said many times, and I'm sure it will come up again, that you cannot approach dog training as "conditioning", because dogs aren't zombies. Whether you're using treats or clickers or ranting and screaming, the dog doesn't obey by reflex, but because of two things: understanding and choice. Just like anybody else.

Consider the following. I'm a construction worker. If someone tells me to go "rip some plywood", do I reflexively go rip some plywood because I'm conditioned? No. First of all I understand what "rip some plywood" means, which many people don't because they don't have the vocabulary. Second, I choose to do it because I've decided that cooperation is in my best interest. I could choose, and I have chosen in the past, to walk off the job screaming insults at the boss. That was also a conscious decision based on what was in my best interest.

Same with the dog. You can see it more in Canada because of the bilingual situation, actually. One time when we were in Yellowknife, some of the roommate's francophone friends came to visit, with their kids and their dog. The kids kept calling my dog "viens, Tinky-Winky, viens!" She had no idea what they wanted. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, their dog was asking me for food and I kept telling it "sit, Pepsi!" He had no idea what I wanted. Finally I thought long and hard and said "assis" and voila, he sat. Dogs need vocabulary, just like anybody else. If they don't know your words, they can't do what you're asking. What you're doing when you "train" your dog is teach vocabulary, not condition reflexes.

Once the dog knows your words, he can choose to comply or not. That's what most people fail to realize, really. Dogs have free will. And the reason I'm on about this today is because of what happened on our morning walk.

There is a big dog in our building named Otis. He's friendly, by which I actually mean that he's a dog that other dogs can be friends with, not some spastic weirdass jumping lunatic. And he's interested in making friends with Tinky-Winky. She, being the cranky old boot that she is, snaps at him. Otis has two people, a male and a female. The male will ride in the elevator with Otis, myself and Tinky-Winky. The female would rather not, because of the snapping, but I tell her it's good for them to learn to share the elevator. A lot of the dogs here are allowed to get territorial about the elevator and that causes fights, so I always make Tinky-Winky ride with others and behave herself.

Anyway. This morning, Tinky-Winky and I were on the road, off leash, and Otis was on the trail in the woods, off leash, with his female human. He saw me from a distance and came running through the woods, not to see me, but because he knows I'm Tinky-Winky's person. His human tried to call him back, but he wouldn't listen. When he emerged from the woods, he looked around and saw Tinky-Winky. Of course I was calling her, too, and she did in fact listen to me. She looked at Otis, looked at me, and then did not come. Otis approached her politely, presenting his side instead of head-on. She let him come up to her and sniff her butt like a polite dog. While he was sniffing her, she looked at me, and she was smiling and relaxed. After a while she did give a half-assed snap, mostly to maintain her image, I think. Otis hopped about three inches, then she mellowed out and he went back to sniffing her. She was still smiling and relaxed. Then his person caught up to him and led him away. Tinky-Winky laughed and ran "to" me and right past me, and kept on in the direction of our walk. After a few yards she looked over her shoulder to see if I was following, still smiling.

And that was that. A nice peaceful interaction between two off-leash dogs.

The important thing here is the difference between this morning and the Evil Giant Chihuahua incident. Otis is about six times the size of Evil Giant Chihuahua, yet Tinky-Winky chose to come to me to avoid Evil Giant Chihuahua, but let Otis come to her. Both times, she clearly understood the situation: there is another dog and I'm calling her to come to me. But she made up her mind what to do, according to which dog it was. She doesn't like Evil Giant Chihuahua, so she came to me so I could deal with it. But she's comfortable with Otis, so she interacted with him on her own terms. And she seems quite satisfied with the outcome of the interaction. In fact, in both cases, she was clearly happy to come to me. When she needed help with the chihuahua, she came TO me, and when she was done with Otis, she came BY me, but either way, she was happy to acknowledge that I had called her. So you can see that she clearly knows "come", she just makes decisions whether to come or not.

So that, essentially, is the difficulty in training dogs. Or employees. Or horses. Or anything else. First of all they have to understand what you're asking. This is the easy part. (Except with employees. Employees are f'ing dense.) The challenge is in getting them to choose to do as you say, and this depends on more or less three things: the trainee's personality, the trainer's leadership, and the trust between the two. When I had my horse, I could make her back up into a narrow, dark space, just by pointing. Most horses don't like to go into a dark narrow space even forward, let alone backward, but she always assumed that if I said so, it was safe to do it. Tinky-Winky trusts me to manage interactions with other dogs for her, so if she sees a dog she's not comfortable with, she comes to me. On the other hand she knows that when I call her, she's likely to get the leash, so she doesn't come TO me unless she needs my help. She comes by and stays out of reach, so I can't leash her up. And that also is a form of trust, in my opinion. Generally we think "trust" means we expect a positive outcome, but I think it just means we can predict with confidence what someone is going to do.

In summary, dogs are not zombies, you cannot "condition" them to obey orders. You teach them vocabulary, then they choose whether to do as you ask or not, depending on what they perceive as their best interest. Just like people.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I'm glad we're together

On our afternoon walk today, we saw a woman with a Welsh springer spaniel. The spaniel pulled toward Tinky-Winky. Tinky-Winky pulled toward the spaniel. The woman yanked on the leash and said to her dog "move" and kept him motoring forward. When they were past, I let Tinky-Winky make a wide curve to go sniff the other dog's trail, as is our custom. And as we were doing that, I heard this ugly hollow "thunk". The woman had kicked the spaniel in the ribs.

WTF?????

I was completely speechless. I didn't know if I should even say something, because the dog never made a sound or looked upset. Was the dog ok with getting kicked in the ribs? Dogs have incredible pain tolerance; maybe it didn't hurt him. Then I remembered, I've seen her do that before, too. And I couldn't believe it the first time either. And I still can't think of what to do about it. It seems like anything I say would just make her angrier and then she'd take it out on the dog again.

It's so bizarre. I can understand hitting your kids, first of all because it was perfectly acceptable from the dawn of human evolution until about 15 years ago, and second because kids are often deliberately rude and difficult and you're stuck with them anyway. But dogs? Dogs are not being deliberately difficult. If your dog is difficult, it's either a health problem or your own fault. Either way, if you don't like it, you can just get rid of the dog. Especially a beautiful little dog like that. Lots of people would be happy to take that dog off that woman's hands. And yet she keeps it around so she can kick it. What a witch.

Also, a dog can kill you. Even a spaniel. He could rip out her throat and eat her face and there's nothing she could do about it. He could bite her hand and break every bone. If that little dog chose to defend himself, that woman wouldn't stand a chance. And yet she kicks him and he doesn't even make a sound.

What an evil witch.

So Tinky-Winky and I got home and she lay down on her comfy bed and looked at me with a big smile. So I was glad that she's with me. No matter how vile people are, at least this is one little dog that no one will ever kick, because she's with me. Anyone tries to kick her, I will make them rue the day they were born. So no matter what, I can keep this one little dog safe and happy and completely oblivious to the fact that people are evil. And she knows that she can count on me to make everything right for her.

I'm glad we have each other.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

You may be a dog person if...

I don't really bother to look at men on a regular basis, and they return the compliment. (Vice-versa, actually, they started it. But that's beside the point.) Tinky-Winky, however, likes to check out men. Not male dogs, male humans. She just loves to stare at men. She has lousy taste, too.

Conversely, when we meet a dog we like, if it's walking with a male human, I always ask myself if the human might be single and if I should try to bond with him so we can spend time with his dog.

You may be a dog person if you pick men by whether you and your dog like their dog, rather than whether you like the guy.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A man forewarned is fore-armed

It's windy again.

Before I left the house, I put the pillows and blankets in the closet, picked up anything shreddable, and opened the balcony.

I came home two hours later and found... nothing shredded. Booya!

Then I went out on the balcony and discovered she had destroyed her lawn. Oops...

Well, that's alright. The lawn is there for her, and I can always reseed it. I need to make a deeper lawn, though, so she doesn't dig right through to the bottom of the container every time. Other than that, it's all good.

That's one thing I learned from my first two dogs, who were husky puppies: if you don't want something destroyed, it's a lot easier to put it out of reach of the dogs, than to fix it after they eat it.

Shibas don't recall, eh?

That's the biggest myth about shibas: that they don't recall. Maybe your shiba doesn't recall, but shibas as a breed are perfectly capable of it. But like I always say, it's a matter of motivation, and if your dog isn't getting off-leash time, it's certainly not gonna be motivated to come back when it gets loose.

Anyway. All this to say, I have an anecdote. I think it was Friday morning on our off-leash walk, the Evil Giant Chihuahua and its person came out of their house somewhere ahead of us. This freaked me out, because the human uses a walker. If Tinky-Winky gets into a fight with a regular dog, well, that's one thing. But what if she got into a fight with this man's dog, and he tried to intervene and fell? At best, he'd be rightfully upset, at worst he might really hurt himself. And since the Evil Giant Chihuahua likes to antagonize Tinky-Winky, a fight seemed probable.

Uh-oh.

At this point, Tinky-Winky was behind me, so I called her. She could see that I had the leash in my hand (as opposed to around my neck as I do when just carrying it) so she knew I was gonna leash her up. So she sauntered past me well out of my reach, until she saw ahead of her the Evil Giant Chihuahua. She stopped and looked at me. Then at the chihuahua. Then at me. I kept calling her, still with the leash in my hand. She looked back and forth between me and the chihuahua for a while, and then she made her decision. She got her big shiba smile on her face and ran back to me. Not past me as she likes to do to show obedience to the letter of my command while ignoring the spirit of it. No, she ran right to me, stopped, and waited to be leashed up.

When we resumed walking, what happened next is that the Evil Giant Chihuahua wiggled out of its harness and came running at us, snarling and barking. I stopped, held Tinky-Winky by her collar, and tried to grab the chihuahua. This is part of why Tinky-Winky is willing to come to me when there is another dog: because I'm going to handle the other dog. She knows this. She knows it's better to let me do it than to fight the other dog herself. If I recalled her and then tried to force her to "make friends" with the other dog, she'd never come. So here I am holding my dog with one hand and trying to catch this psychotic chihuahua with the other hand, and the dog's person abandonned his walker and came running after his dog, to the best of his ability, which is exactly what I had feared in the first place. Technically, now that it's his dog off-leash and not mine, I'm at least free of liability, but that doesn't change the fact that I don't want this man falling or getting hurt. Luckily, he did neither. He was able to grab his dog, and then walk safely back to his walker, and continue his stroll.

Just to be sure, though, I didn't let Tinky-Winky off the leash again as I normally would after passing another dog. I just didn't want to take a chance while the man was out there. So, she lost about a quarter of her off-leash walk that day for being a good dog. But she didn't even ask me to let her loose again. That's the great thing we have that I think many dogs are missing: trust. She trusts me to take good care of her, and I trust her to be a responsible little dog.

So yes, shibas recall. They just have to want to.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Things that go on in my dog's head

Today, between our afternoon walk and evening walk, Tinky-Winky snapped at four dogs, including a Bernese, a black lab, and two large mutts. All the dogs cowered and shrank away from her. Not one of them was less than three times her weight.

Then this evening, I went to see my neighbour, not noticing that Tinky-Winky had followed me out the door. I was gonna put her back in the apartment, but the neighbour invited her in. He has a tiny cat who runs to our door to sniff at the dog's smell every chance she gets, so we decided to introduce them. The cat is seriously minuscule. I think she weighs about 4 lbs. She walked right up to the dog and started sniffing her.

Tinky-Winky started panting and cowered behind my chair, and then lay motionless until the cat lost interest. She looked miserable until we left.

???

Seriously, my dog, you can put the fear of God into a Bernese with one malevolent glare, you've fought porcupines, you antagonize beavers and bison, and you're afraid of a 4-lb cat? I don't know what goes on in your head sometimes.

And the funny thing is, too, the smaller the cat, the more she's scared of it. We've lived with cats before, and she's seen cats outside, and she's much more terrified of little cats than big ones, whereas with dogs, she's more likely to avoid a fight with a big dog and start one with a little dog.

Ah well. I'd rather she fear cats than harass them.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How to introduce dogs


It drives me nuts when people want to stick their dogs in Tinky-Winky's face so they can "make friends." That's not how dogs make friends. This, on the other hand, with a fence between them, is perfect. Now they have no choice but to be polite. Well, they can walk away, I suppose, but most dogs are curious about other dogs. So they sniff noses through the fence for a while, then she pees on her side of the fence and walks away. It's like people leaving their card. If they meet outside the fence now, they're properly introduced. They might not become "friends", but at least they're starting off on the right foot.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Suddenly, a horrible thought occurs to me

As you know, I'm always preoccupied with the fact that Tinky-Winky is going to die. This is inevitable, and barring some unforeseen circumstances, she's going to die before me. This bothers me, but actually, I'd be even more upset if I died before her, because she has no one but me to take care of her. But that's not the point.

According to the vet, shibas live "9 to 12 years", which would have her dying this year. According to her breeder, dogs of her bloodline have generally lived to approximately 16 years, barring unforeseen circumstances, like the fact that her father ran away and was killed by a car at a young age. And since Tinky-Winky shows no signs of being near death yet, I'm thinking the breeder is right. She would know, anyway, she keeps in touch with her dogs. So, I've been living with the idea that Tinky-Winky will die in 2015. But then, because she eats healthy, gets a lot of exercise, and looks nowhere like a 12-year-old dog right now, and looks better than photos of 12-year-old shibas I've seen, I've been telling myself she might well live longer than that.

But then, as we were walking this morning, a terrible thought occurred to me. I remembered reading an article many years ago about a study they did on rats, where they found that all other things being equal, mellow rats who did nothing all day long lived much longer than active rats who were always busy. The article then pondered the fact that in cultures where people take long siestas and sit around quietly in the evenings, as long as their diet is healthy, they live for a hundred years; whereas people who exercise and are always busy, even though they also seem healthy, die much younger. And it's also true in aquarium fishes that if you keep the water warmer, they're more active, but die younger, whereas in colder water they move less and live longer. So the moral is, apparently creatures only have a certain amount of activity in them, and they can spend it faster or slower, but when they run out of it, they die, whether they're young or old.

That's horrible!!!!!!

I've always prided myself on the fact that Tinky-Winky gets more exercise than any other pet dog I know. We walk three times a day, twice 45 minutes at a slow pace because she drags her feet on the leash, and once 45 minutes at a mad gallop when she's off the leash. Then sometimes we take extra-long walks. In the summer, we usually go for a three-hour walk at least every other weekend.

What if all this activity is making her die faster? Granted she's the healthiest dog alive as far as I can tell, never has a health complaint, not even a cough or an upset stomach. She can still run for hours. She can still run 40 km/h. But what if she's going to have a healthy but short life? Would it be better to walk her less so she can live longer? Her walks are all she lives for. What's the point of making her live longer with less happiness? That's absurd.

Suddenly I'm worried that I don't have four years left with her after all.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Nobody's perfect


Have I mentioned that my dog never does anything wrong?

Apparently she does.

Here is what happened. Tinky-Winky is scared of the wind. Not when we're outside, of course, but we live on the seventh floor of the only highrise structure for 500 km, on a wide open plain reaching from the Arctic Ocean to Mexico, so you can imagine that we get some windy days up here. And with windows open on all sides of the building, air shafts, things that don't close properly, what have you, there is quite a lot of whistling and rattling when the wind is anywhere from NNE to SSE. This freaks her out, and when she's freaked out, she wants to hide, or she wants me to comfort her.

Fine.

So it had been windy for two days, and as I was trying to sleep in the morning, Tinky-Winky kept climbing up on my pillow and digging at it. I reprimanded her several times for scratching the pillow, then I kicked her off the bed altogether. She went to sleep on the floor.

Later that day, obviously, I had to go out. I closed the picture window so it wouldn't be as loud inside, and I left. This was a mistake, because if I had left it open, Tinky-Winky would have gone out on the balcony and had a nap on her lawn. (She has a lawn on the balcony. Because I'm nice like that.) Being out in the wind doesn't bother her at all, like I said, it's the noises inside the house. But since I locked her in the house with the noise, she continued freaking out. So she dug everything that could be dug, kicked the pillows on the floor, tore the 300 thread-per-square-inch Egyptian cotton pillowcase, then tore the pillow open, then ripped the fiber out, then must have kicked it around for good measure, as it was torn-side down when I came home.

After that, I guess she must have felt better, because that's the only thing she tore. Or maybe she had just been in the process of tearing it when I came home, and that's what stopped her.

Well, oh well. I guess I brought it on myself. Knowing she was after the pillows, I should have put them in the closet. And I should have left the balcony open so she could get out of the noise. Maybe also, she'd feel safer if she had a nice pet carrier she could crawl into like a little den just for her. I've never needed to put her in a cage, but maybe she'd like it.

In any case, that's ok. A dog is allowed to screw up once in six years. That's like 42 human years. Who doesn't screw up once in 42 years?

Dog fight versus posturing

You know, I've discovered that most people have no idea what a dog fight looks like. One guy who poses as some kind of expert on the web stated once that a normal dog fight is just a bunch of snarling and snapping, and only pitbulls grab and hold on to another dog.

Riiiiiiight...

In that case, my dog is a pitbull, and that doesn't explain how she's a champion, daughter, mother and grandmother of champions, and all of them as shiba inu and not pitbull. Got all them judges fooled for generations!

No, seriously though, all dogs fight the same way: attack, grab something (preferrably the jugular), hold on until death or the other guy says "uncle".

I know this because when Tinky-Winky came to live with me, her breeder told me that this is a breed renowned for being agressive to other dogs, that the bitches are especially agressive, and that this is the most agressive shiba bitch she, the breeder, has ever seen in her life. In fact, the conditions of getting her at all were that I wouldn't let her get fat, and I'd work on her behaviour.

In the beginning, obviously, I never let her off the leash. Other dogs running off leash would come running up to us and I'd tell the other owner "call off your dog" and they'd say "oh don't worry, he's friendly!"

Right. Actually, your dog isn't friendly, he's rude; but that's not even what I'm worried about.

Tinky-Winky would attack so fast you didn't have time to blink. Unlike other dogs who go into a frenzy of barking, she wouldn't make a sound. If I had looked at her rather than the oncoming dog, I suppose her body posture would have been threatening, but she never barked, just attacked. I'd always think "next time I'll pick her up before she can attack"; but the next time she'd still always be too fast for me. She was fast and she was deadly accurate, too. She would hit right at the jugular, no matter how small or large a dog. And she attacked some pretty large dogs. She's always had a special hatred of retrievers, for some reason, but she's also fought Belgian shepherds, boxers, an Am Staff terrier, two Doberman pinschers at once, and some malamute-like crosses we have in town. Always the same: strike for the jugular. The only way she would miss is if the other dog had a very heavy coat. More often, before you could even react, the other dog would be on the ground screaming in terror with this insane little creature clamped to its throat (except the Dobermans - they just screamed and ran). So believe me when I tell you, shibas do clamp their jaws and hang on. I've had to pry her jaws open a few times, and got bit twice doing it. If she had been any bigger, she'd probably have been put down as a vicious dog.

Six years later, you'd never know it. We walk past all kinds of dogs on the trail and she never says boo. Even with crazy little barking dogs. There is a pug who blows his top every time he sees an oncoming dog, and she totally ignores him. And yesterday something like a large chihuahua tried to attack us, and she ignored that too. Off leash, she's even better... 99% of the time. Almost always, if another dog is blocking her path, she'll come back to me, wait to leash up, and then walk calmly past the other dog. Over the winter, I got in the habit of carrying cheese in my pocket in a Ziploc bag; she recalls to the rustling of the Ziploc much better than to her name, let me tell you. Well one time a dog passed by and she started to stalk it with agressive body posture; I rustled the Ziploc and she came running back to me. So I can actually recall her from a fight she was about to start. You wouldn't know that's the same dog I had six years ago.

That being said, she's still not a "friendly" dog. First of all, that 1% of the time, or actually, more like 0.25% of the time, she'll attack a little dog. Just for the sake of attacking a little dog. She'll spot one from a distance and just go after it. She's done it twice in the last two years, but not in the last year. Maybe she's over it; maybe my strategy of not bringing her out when little foofy dogs are afoot has more to do with it. I just know I can't trust her with little dogs. (Actually, one of them is bigger than her, but he's got that little-dog behaviour.)

The other thing is, when she meets another dog, she doesn't tolerate bad manners. Normally she prefers to go around them and smell their wake after they're past her. If she actually interacts with another dog and the other dog approaches politely, she'll sniff noses, then butts, and then ignore it. If the other dog is "friendly", as people call it, that is, jumping all over her, she snaps at it. And that is where you can see that people have no idea what a dog fight looks like. Tinky-Winky will snap at their dog and clearly miss, so that there is literally a loud "snap" as her jaws shut. This isn't a miss. Tinky-Winky does not miss. In fact when she does this, she doesn't even lunge at the other dog. Just a snarl and a snap, and normally the other dog will back off. Occasionally, if the other dog is slow, it gets its nose nipped, but it's not her intention to bite another dog's nose. If it was, she'd have it by the nose every time and not let go. No, this is just a warning snap. And people get all freaked out and think she "attacked" their dog. Which is all the more unfair since their dog is the one being rude, and most of the time they've insisted on bringing it close to her so it can be extra, extra annoying.

So before you freak out thinking that dogs are "fighting", see if anyone's actually biting. When they're circling each other snapping and snarling, that's just trash talk. If they're actually fighting, it's a contact sport. There will be one angry trashing pile of biting dogs, not two or more separate dogs.

It's funny that we've had dogs for tens of thousands of years and people don't even know that.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Things I love about my shiba

She's the worst bedmate.

Usually she likes to sleep on her own bed, but sometimes I put her on mine. She'll make right for the middle, then dig and claw at the blankets and spin in circles until she's built herself a comfy little nest. Then she sprawls out and pins all the blankets, and becomes an immovable object for the next 12 hours. She hates getting up in the morning. And she always sleeps with her butt towards my head. From a pack point of view, it makes sense, this way we're guarding both ends; from a human point of view, not so much.

Yesterday I wanted to sleep on the floor because my back hurt, so I set up some blankets, and then I sat on the couch to read one more chapter before bed. Meanwhile, the dog colonized my blankets. She picked the middle with mathematical precision, rounded everything up, and fell asleep. And I like to let her sleep, so I had about a foot of blanket for the rest of the night.

You might think this isn't exactly a good thing, but I like it because it helps balance out the evils of being single. If I had a man, he'd make trouble about the dog's bed manners. And he'd probably be right, even. But since I'm single, I can enjoy the cuteness of it in peace. And unlike a man, she at least lets me sleep, even if I have to contort myself to fit in the space she gives me.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Save water, shower with a dog

I've had either cats or dogs for close to twenty years and I've come to the conclusion that the best way to wash them is to get naked and get in the tub with them. Otherwise you get water everywhere and in the case of cats, usually a shredded shirt.

The other thing I've discovered is that bathing them releases a huge quantity of allergens all at once, and of course I'm allergic to cats and dogs. (Also apples, pears and poplar.) So I have to shower as soon as possible after bathing them, or I break out in a huge red rash all over my body. Then on top of that I generally need every allergy drug in the house: Benadryl, Visine, calamine, and usually some ibuprofen as well. And now that I'm back on asthma meds, my fast-acting inhaler. But it's all worth it to end up with a nice, soft, fluffy, clean-smelling little dog.

Also, it helps release all the dead hair during shedding season.

I'm really not sure how people live without dogs.

Things I love about my shiba

When she misbehaves.

Tinky-Winky never, ever misbehaves. Her recall isn't 100%, but that's about the only bad thing she ever does. In the house, she's perfect. She doesn't bark. She doesn't chew. She doesn't dig at the carpet. (I planted her a lawn on the balcony and she dug it up, but that was her lawn to do with as she wanted.) She doesn't pee. She doesn't get in the garbage. She even knows to puke on the linoleum.

But sometimes, she does something that's like the beginning of a misbehaviour. Then I say "what are you doing?" and we both laugh.

We're a good match in that way. Neither of us is the least bit playful or has any sense of humour. We're uptight each with our own kind. We're both spinsters at heart. But we "get" each other.

So today, Tinky-Winky decided it was her walking time. Yes, yes, Cesar, blah blah blah. The reality is, things between us are balanced enough that I don't need to be strict with her anymore. Once upon a time she was really bossy with me. Now she's not. So when she asks for something nicely, usually she gets it. But back to my story: she decided it was walking time, so she came into the living room and did a play bow. And this brought her face to face with a library book that was lying on the floor. She looked at it and got the idea to play with it. First she tried to open it with her nose. Then she tried to chew on the inside. Then she tried to chew on the cover. Then I said to her "we don't eat library books." And she looked at me and we laughed. She didn't even get any drool on the book.

I love my dog.