Monday, June 25, 2012

The Monster Is Out

We're going away. 14 hours in the car will soon be behind us (hopefully), and then follows the ? weeks we'll be staying gone. I won't be able to update the blog, as we're traveling back in time to where the internet is a newfangled idea them scientists are fiddling with.

Have a great summer everyone, and think about Monster and I toiling away at the sawmill while you're lazing at the beach. See you as soon as possible.

Your lives will be empty without us...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Happy Midsummer!

Today has been the traditional Midsummer's Eve, with rain, rain, rain...

Monster does not appreciate the heavens pouring water on him, and objects quite strongly. Not much to be done about the weather though, so he'll just have to learn to suck it up.

This is what summer is supposed to be!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Blog Neglect

I know, I know, I've been neglecting the blog again... I was about to post all the excuses I had lined up in my head, but for once I caught myself. No excuses.

Yeah, right...

Monster is fine, we're still working on his issues. No great successes, no great setbacks. He thinks the weather is very warm, and he does not appreciate strange men changing the tires of the car when he's in it...

They were stealing pieces of our car!

Now, the thing is... There's a reason Tin Can was having his tires looked at. It turns out Monster and I have to go for a trip next week. And it's sort of a trip back in time, as there's no reliable internet connection where we're going (no, not kidding). So the blog is about to be really neglected. Sorry about that, it came as a bit of a surprise to us too. Most likely the blog will be in a coma for a couple of weeks (or more, not sure how long we'll have to stay), but I'll try to take some photos and write down Monster's adventures so we'll have something to say when we get back to civilization again.

There, that took the focus away from me not having posted anything while I still could, right?

Just how dumb are you?!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Today's Cloud

Oh, you can just forget it. I'm not complaining about anything today!

Damn straight! No one can complain with a dog like me in their life!

Today's Sunshine

Today Monster and I met two children. Oh no! They each had a dog with them. Oh no! Monster spotted them, and I started winding the leash around my hand for a secure grip while steering him out in an angle (there was no real option to turn back, and there was more space if we went forward rather than stayed put). Monster kept glancing up at them, and I kept waiting for the point when he'd fixate and no longer respond to me. We kept walking. Kept walking. And... We'd passed them!

That was fun! Wanna go again?

We met them head on, albeit with Monster and I ten-fifteen feet off to the side of the road. We even said hello to each other! Monster was fully aware they were there, but it just worked!

I can't describe to you how great that felt! I do know that I'm going to depend too much on this one situation in the future, and expect things I'm fully aware I shouldn't, but it's worth it!

Great day!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Today's Cloud

I'm getting frustrated I can't bring Monster's stress levels down and his interest in me up, when we're out for a walk. At home I'm more or less Monster's entire world.

Conceited much?

Away from home I shrink into someone tiny and insignificant. He's so tightly wound he'd twang if I slapped him (no, I'm not going to, relax!), and he won't even play with a tug toy most of the time. It hurts to see him this way, and it really hurts any progress we can make in training.

Me? Stressed? What are you talking about? *yaaawn*

I know things can be different. I know I need to change this. I just don't know how to go about it...

Today's Sunshine

Monster and I have been training with Teach again today. I won't claim any amazing progress, but I will say things are getting better nonetheless.

What're you talking about, I'm always awesome!?

Once again we were training against a staged person (as opposed to a dog), this time a repeat from last time. Monster was interested, perhaps even excited to see (and smell) her, but still managed to be quite difficult around her. He was both cautious and suspicious, sneaking around and eyeballing her, trying to distract me from the training by doing other things, and frustrated he didn't get to greet her properly and play with her, which took the expression of him going for the provoking bark ("Come on, interact with me!") as well as pulling my arm out of its socket (well, alright, nearly) to get to her, and refusing to step away from her once he got close enough to touch. All in all I'd say no one watching who didn't know Monster's history would believe today was anything other than a long display of bad and discouraging behavior.

Oh really? I want to have a word with those people...

But, Teach pointed out something important. While Monster is still scanning the surroundings for various (non-)threats, eyeballing everything from a plastic bag blowing past to a man talking on his cell phone as he walks by, as well as lunging for the annoying seagulls (my fault, I drop half of Monster's treats on the ground - coordination and fine motor skills not being one of my gifts) and attacking me and the leash regularly (playfully... well, sort of), this is nothing compared to how it used to be. I don't know how many dogs passed by today, but it was quite a few - Monster was basically fine with them (as long as the situation was managed with increased distance and treats). A group of children walking by began hissing and grimacing at Monster (I assume it was some kind of dare), and all Monster did was bounce a little and look at them, while continuing to walk with me. Cars, bikes, baby carriages, motor bikes, men, women, children, dogs, all of it was processed and for the most part ignored by Monster. While training went well enough today, that little detail really tipped it over into much needed awesomeness today.

Woohoo, no more sulking!

Then there was that damned cat of course...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Today's Cloud

I'm still feeling down and hopeless. I'm not bringing this up to try to get some sympathy for myself, but because it's affecting Monster. There's this great resistance to doing anything with him. Get ready to train something - I remember how hard it was last time, how we got nowhere, how neither one of us knew what was going on... Get ready to go for a walk - I remember how he wouldn't pay attention to me last time, how he kept pulling, how triggers were lurking behind every corner... Get ready to - well, you get the picture.

I need to break this vicious circle. Every time I fail I wind myself further down, I need to snap out of it.

I need you to snap out of it!

Today's Sunshine

We did some BATting against a couple of cats today - that's the level of challenge I feel I can handle currently. It went fairly well, at least as long as they kept still. He was still far too interested in them, but later when he spotted a cat moving at a greater distance I think he chose to ignore it much easier than he normally would have.

That's progress, right?

Why can't I play with the cats? They look cuddly! (... and tasty...)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Today's Cloud

I feel frustrated and low. I can't get anything going in training, we're not getting anywhere with Monster's issues and we're not getting anywhere with anything else either. I feel like I can't reach him, like we're not understanding each other. Obviously I'm just having a bad day, but it doesn't really matter that I understand this is just emotions, and they'll blow over same as anything else - that makes it no less real.

I probably need some sleep or something, right?

You want a hug?

Today's Sunshine

I unexpectedly had to leave Monster home alone for about an hour today. Leaving him alone takes some planning, trying to make sure he's as comfortable as possible and removing everything he could possibly eat. Unfortunately there was no time for that today, and everything from socks to remote controls were lying around for him to have as snacks, and he was pretty bored. So, disaster.

Nope, came home and he hadn't eaten or destroyed anything.

I was already full.

At least nothing I've noticed yet...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Happy Monster Day!

Today is a wonderful day! It's Monster's birthday!

Yeah! It's a national holiday! No, scratch that - international holiday!

Today is not a day about training or problems, today is a day just for Monster. I've blown up half a dozen balloons and let him have at them in the living room (while I covered my ears), I've bought a grilled chicken which I deboned and then trailed behind me through the village for Monster to track down, he gets every belly rub he asks for, he gets to go out the second he asks for it no matter what I'm doing, and is getting generally spoiled.

Are you telling me this won't continue tomorrow?

Happy Monster Day, everybody!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Today's Cloud

Monster is driving me up the wall, round the bend, and probably soon off a cliff. Everything is Threat Level Midnight. Anything from a gust of wind to a dog barking in the distance sends him into high alert. Any attempts to learn something new results in him lying down and playing dead.

I'm going nuts.

Too late for that, you were nuts when I met you...

Today's Sunshine

Solid gray skies...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Today's Cloud

There is a lot to do with the house before Monster and I can go north to my family home this summer. Much of it Monster can't be a part of, like when I'm trying to kill myself with a chainsaw. Or when I'm trying to kill myself on a ladder. Or trying to kill myself maneuvering a loaded trailer downhill. Or, let's be honest here, trying to kill myself wielding a screwdriver. Handy I am not...

Aha! I knew I couldn't have given you all those bruises!

But this means Monster spends quite a bit of time alone in the house, while he listens to me make a racket outside. This is stressing him out, because he's alone, because he's left out of activities, because he's getting much less attention, and because the noise and the changes are scary. Also, he'd really like to eat the chainsaw.

It keeps growling at me!

I'm not sure how to make this better for him. All the work needs to be done, and it's really far too dangerous for him to be underfoot. But it's not good for him to be alone and freaking out either...

Today's Sunshine

I impulse bought a hula hoop today, to use with Monster. As soon as I brought it out and looked at him he just lit up! Monster loves to train, to learn new things and experiment to figure out what will get him the reward. Most of all he loves interacting with props, I think he's more confident in what's expected of him if there's something for him to focus on outside himself.

That's cause I'm too awesome!

This hula hoop was fun to bite, paw at, try to steal, push, lie down on, and eventually go through. I only got home with it after nine so we didn't get much training done, but in that one session he did go from nothing to going through it using only shaping.

I know it's not good for anything, but it is fun. And I'd do almost anything for that excited look on Monster's face when he realizes we're about to learn something together. My Monster is always beautiful, but when he's happy he's glorious...

Hmph! I'm always glorious.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Today's Cloud

The last 5-6 nights I've slept less than four hours each night. I'm off to bed, determined to try to force myself to sleep now.

You're weird. This isn't hard!

Today's Sunshine

The chimney sweep came by today, and very enthusiastically greeted Monster. The strange black man carrying bristles and chains was quite interesting, and surprisingly not that scary! Monster was quite happy to meet him once he'd gotten over the first few seconds of suspicion, and remained calm when this stranger proceeded to bang and stomp his way around our house...

He was really funny! I made sure he petted me all over, and then I went and rolled on the carpet - it looks much better in black!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Today's Cloud

Today I tried to go for a little longer walk than usual. Walking Monster is a big affair, it takes planning and constant vigilance.

Today I simply felt like going a little outside the box, but once we were home again I realized it didn't feel good at all - it just drove home how uncomfortable I am here.

Look at that view...

This wide open farming landscape feels like a prison. Sure, you can see for miles and miles... But you can go nowhere. There are straight roads and straight paths, and everyone and everything has to cram into them, walking, running, biking and driving along the same narrow stretch of world. You want to go for a walk, you walk west or you walk east. Walk far enough, you can also choose between north and south.

A different place...

Looking out the window of my house, I can see my sister's house. She lives about 6 miles away. This isn't open and free to me, it's claustrophobic. Back "home" you can go wherever you want. Step off the lawn into the rest of the world. Pick a direction and walk for days.

Where should we go today...

On a two and a half hour walk today, I walked past one village and through three more (not counting our own village), first going due east, then changing to a parallel road and going due west. After careful consideration, I can say I genuinely hate this.

Monster's issues makes this more apparent, but it would still be true even if he was fine meeting people, dogs, and whatever else on narrow and cramped roads. How can people stand this?

How can I stand this?

Don't worry Mom, I'm here.

Thank Dog for that. Without Monster I would very literally go crazy...

Well... Crazier.

Today's Sunshine

This evening a neighbor approached us while I was out with Monster, wanting to talk about the work being done on the house.

He's a big, scary guy (from Monster's perspective) and he does pretty much everything wrong in terms of dog language, he bends over Monster, touching him from above, staring at him and talking directly to him. Monster did start to react a little badly a couple of times (like when the neighbor pretended to hit Monster in the head with the mail he was holding, for "fun"), but it never went beyond a few attempted piranha attacks and some short barking. I have no explanation for this, since it rightly should have been a disaster, but it was amazing!

How stupid do you think I am? Did you expect me to try lunge at the chairman of the village council? The one who hates dogs?

Well... In all honesty, yes I did. You're a lot smarter than me, Monster.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Today's Cloud

I'm bummed. I'm not even going to pretend this is about Monster, I'm just going to hijack the blog for a personal pity party.

Uh-huh, what else is new?

For some idiotic reason I put my reader in a far too shallow pocket and of course inevitably dropped it... Try reading from this:


Well, alright, you can read the top three lines. But it's not like that can get you through a book.

I've had my Iriver Story for... I don't even know, since they were new or something. Years, anyway. How am I going to get by without it!?

Oh god, how am I supposed to get by going home for a month without anything to read!?! This is a disaster.

(The HDs are on sale right now... I still can't afford one... Let's see how long it takes me to steal from the money set aside for bills to buy a new reader... I'm guessing not long...)

You know... You're kind of pathetic, Mom.

Oh, I know.

Today's Sunshine

Today Monster and I have been spending some time on focus and attention, hanging out in the somewhat sunny Sunday weather and trying to ignore all the neighborhood activities. I've basically only been asking him to focus on me, although sometimes also requesting some fairly simple behaviors. About 50% of the rewards were play rewards, getting him pretty worked up...

I'm gonna get you!

All the same, it seems to me that it went pretty well. In spite of screaming children, hammering neighbors, passing bikes, barking dogs, and whatever else was thrown at us, he did mostly pay attention to me. On occasion he'd react to something and look away, but he'd quickly return attention to me. He also seemed to be enjoying the training itself, not just the rewards.

This... Is... MINE!

Monster is absolutely hilarious to play tug with (as long as you don't mind the odd scrape or bruise...), he'll growl and stare and tackle and really fight for the tug. At the same time he has pretty bad control, and has zero confidence in his grip so he keeps shifting. Inevitably he either loses the tug completely or grabs something else entirely, to his confusion.

Wait... Why is the leash in my mouth!? Are you trying to trick me?!

I usually let him win, he's just too adorable to disappoint.

Let me?! Hah! Just wait until I get my breath back...

Alright, I admit it, he is a little strong. Not to mention inexhaustible. I've managed to tire him out once in his life. When he was a puppy, perhaps five months old, we went into town one morning and hung out in rush hour with traffic, noises and hurrying people all around us. When we got home from that he went straight to bed and took a nap. That's the only time he's had enough, from either mental or physical activities. Don't get me wrong, he's not a stressed out basket case. He'll go lie down if I'm boring, but he'll always check first if we're going to do something else. Tracking, training, playing, hiking, learning, new environments, new people - nothing wears him out.

OK, I won. Let's go again!

I wonder what he could achieve if he had a better owner... Well, we'll never know, because I'm not giving him up!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Today's Cloud

Monster has been kind of off today. The great development of him focusing better on me when we're out, his commitment to keep trying in training rather than shutting down, and his general good mood has been nowhere to be found today. He's been very disengaged in training, putting his head down and looking away from me. Outside, he keeps his head in the bushes sniffing various messages from the neighborhood. He hasn't pestered me once today to do something with him.

I guess it's allowed to just not feel like it once in a while...

Hang on...

And as I was writing this, Monster went and fetched a tug rag and demanded I play with him. All is right in the world again!

Today's Sunshine

This is kind of weird... At first I was going to say that there hasn't been anything today to tell you about, going over in my head the various disappointments and pure snoozes. Like just before I sat down to write this, Monster and I were out on an evening sniff'n'pee (he does most of the work), and on our way back home we were followed by some furry monstrosity or other (some sort spitz dog perhaps? looked like a moving pile of fuzz anyway). Monster checked it out a few times, no reaction. Dull, right?


Wait, are you asking me?

That's amazing! Not only that, but moments before, less than two minutes before, we'd had a bad meeting. We were rounding a corner and met a woman with a baby carriage, a lab, a dachshund and a schnauzer, maybe ten feet away and moving in fast. I had to drag Monster off the side of the road and into a patch of nettles (thank god for the cold weather, that wouldn't have been fun in shorts and sandals), with him pulling against the leash and bouncing to see all the way. And just a minute later we are exposed to another dog, and Monster is just fine with it... Not so long ago, he would have carried a bad meeting with him all day.

I started this blog to keep track of developments, as even for normal people it's easy to loose sight of the big picture, and my brain is more scattered and confused than most people's. Clearly it was a good decision, if I'm just going to shrug off a success like this as a snooze!

It wasn't a snooze, it was bloody awesome!

Hear, hear! I totally rock!

You totally do, Monster.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Today's Cloud

Today was food day, meaning we went to stock up on Monster food and then spent some time dividing large frozen chunks of meat into smallish chunks of meat with a saw.

Mmmm, meat popsicle...

Unfortunately today was a windy day. A very windy day. Which resulted in me getting covered in meat sawdust from head to toe...

So gross!

I like it! Come here and I'll help you get clean...

Today's Sunshine

On a walk today I decided to try to teach Monster to prance, as in run in a bouncy trot with stiff front legs. He does a few steps like that on his own from time to time, so I simply tried to provoke that and capture it. A few hundred feet later Monster could prance beside me on command...

I love this dog, he's just amazing!

All right! That hypnotism class is finally starting to pay off!