Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Extra Sunshine

I just want to add the person we just encountered on a walk tonight as a bit of extra sunshine (sorely needed this time of year) today! Suddenly someone turned up behind us from an adjoining road in the dark, and as I tried to hurry along Monster needed to stop and contemplate nature for a while. The man and dog were closing in on us while I was frantically struggling to open a bag (why are they so impossible to find a way into - it's easier to break them than open them from the top!) and keep an eye on where Monster was crouching in the dark, not daring to call out to them to ask if they could please just wait a moment - since I know that's exactly what sends Monster (literally) barking mad at a nasty surprise in the dark. He hadn't yet spotted them approaching (well, he was busy after all) and I had a slight hope (vanishing quickly in my struggles with the resisting plastic bag) that we could still get away quickly enough. But whoever it was stopped at a distance and waited for us to finish! That's a kindness I've learned to not expect from most people, and certainly not unprompted! I was so happy and relieved (as was Monster, hehehe I'm soooo funny!), and called out a thank you as we managed to finish and started walking again. So nice! Whoever you were, thank you!

Wait... You mean someone was watching me!?

And Monster spotted them while I was searching through the dark (Must. Bring. Flashlight!) but stayed (relatively) calm! He didn't hesitate to turn his back on them and walk away, and while he did want to keep glancing behind us to check they weren't creeping up for a sneak attack he could also focus quite well on some impromptu obedience training instead. Great little five minutes in our day!

Today's Sunshine

Monster had a great time with The Kid yesterday! I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but The Kid and I have come up with Baking Tuesdays where I pick him up right after school and we spend the rest of the day and the evening baking something fun - anything from tiny cake pops to three tiered, heavily decorated cakes (obviously with some preparation ahead of time from me, since there's only so much you can do in one afternoon-evening). We've been doing it most of the fall semester and I thought back through the months today, and you wouldn't believe the difference there is in Monster from the start til yesterday! In the beginning it took lots of preparation, setting things up so not only he'd be fairly tired and content, but also so there were ways to manage him if (no, honestly, when) he became too rowdy, treats, games, training, etc. He loooooooves The Kid, but has problems handling it (same as all other emotions really), he'll jump and climb, demand attention, fetch 3000 toys, whine, paw, beg, and so on and so on. As we were busy doing things that interested us but bored him (he's not even allowed to taste what we bake after all) he'd build frustration all the way through and we really had to find ways to work around his behavior (The Kid - who is a wonderful person all around of course - is absolutely great with Monster, so patient (which is not a strong suit in general) and actually finds it fun and interesting to take some breaks and spend time with the crazy dog instead of finishing the cake!). But yesterday: nothing. Monster didn't jump once, didn't push or climb, didn't b- no that's not true, The Kid had a shrimp & egg sandwich so there was definitely some begging... And when we set up to start baking Monster watched for a while and then wandered off to another room to sleep! So relaxed! Sure we took some time outs to be with Monster anyway, but the difference is we could choose when and do it just because we wanted to, not because we had to if we wanted to be able to do anything else. The Kid even spent half an hour crawling around on the floor, wrestling and playing tug and being very physical with Monster, and Monster stayed controllable all the way through! While he certainly doesn't want to hurt The Kid he can get far too excited - very, very quickly - and become... less than gentle, let's say. Normally this kind of play is limited to a minute or two, and not too often either - I can play quite violently with him to push his boundaries and try to get him to learn to "land himself" (rather than having to be talked down by the control tower like in a bad 80s movie), but The Kid naturally needs to be a bit more protected. But like I said, yesterday there was no problem! And looking back, this is not an isolated incident where maybe Monster was having an extremely good day or perhaps was even sick or tired: this has been building up over the weeks and months in a very clear trend! Monster has been getting calmer and gaining better self control.

What!? What!? I can't hear you - wanna play!?

In no way is he a calm and self controlled dog. But he is calmer and he has better control. I really like little realizations like this when you can see such a clear pattern. Way to go Monster!

Today's Cloud

Monster's face seems to be healing up nicely, the scratches on and in his nose, along his cheeks and in his ears are all dry and don't seem to be troubling him much. The ones inside his mouth are barely visible anymore apart from one, but I think that's because it was deeper and takes longer to heal rather than because there's any problem with it. He does have some irritation in one eye still, it's not swollen but it's a bit runny and itchy. Since it's improving I'm not very worried about that either though, even if it's a bit slow. But. Yesterday Monster started limping... I can't find anything wrong with his leg - admittedly I'm absolutely awful at identifying the source of a limp, I think it's his right front leg but I've checked everywhere just in case - no warm areas, no swelling, no tender spots, no stiff joints, nothing. He's worse when he's been resting and softens up after he's been moving a while, so I suspect something muscular (or related soft tissue) rather than something skeletal, but that's as far as I get... I have no idea if this is related to the cat attack. Probably not, but the timing is weird. I haven't seen him do anything that could cause injury. Oh well, something new to worry about...

Who needs four legs anyway?! I hardly ever have more than one or two on the ground at any given moment anyway!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Today's Sunshine

First of all, Monster seems to be healing fine so far. I know it's way too early to rule out infection, but so far I'm cautiously optimistic at least. The scratches and punctures are all dry, and while they clearly itch he's not manic about it. We'll see where it's headed in the next few days...

In further good news we have the neighbor's dog over for a visit again today. Last time she was here was a bit stressful, because while she was out of the worst of her heat she still smelled veeeeeeery interesting according to Monster. I'm sorry, I can't remember if I've blogged about this...? Short recap: Tilly was visiting us regularly, sleeping over 3-4 nights/week, until about a month ago when she came for a three day/two night -stay and I discovered she'd gone into heat. Monster isn't hopeless around the ladies, but I don't really like covering his entire home with heat-scent since that gives him no place to relax. I told my neighbor he needed to make other arrangements for a while (she stayed the weekend of course, I mean after that) and we didn't meet Tilly for three weeks after that. Then she came again a week ago, and as I said already she still smelled of heat plus Monster hadn't met her for so long he was quite nervous of her again. That caused some stress for both dogs, and I had to control their space and freedom a bit to keep her visit as calm and pleasant as I could make it. Aaaaaaand, here I've managed to steer back to my original point again: much better now. It was probably still a bit early last time, but today Monster is used to her again plus she doesn't smell so much of heat (she's still interesting it seems, but he's much more relaxed about it).

Remember when the lawn looked like this instead of that miserable mud pit it is today?
We could run around and play then without sliding around like bumper cars...

So, back to normal! Well, sort of. Tilly's owner says she doesn't get noticeable false pregnancies after she's been in heat, but I don't know... She's tired and annoyed, doesn't want to play or even go for walks, and generally just wants to be left alone in some corner. To me she reads as if she's going into a strong false pregnancy (oh good lord! please, please let it be a false one! I didn't leave them alone together for a second once I realized she was in heat, and that was of course very early in the cycle, but when something can go wrong...), and I would like to know if I should consider that as normal or as a sign something is wrong. But I guess I should defer to her owner who knows her after all! I need to scale back on the control issues... If he says she's fine, and isn't experiencing a false pregnancy either, then so it is.

Anyway, going great! Monster's happy and relaxed, Tilly's... certainly relaxed at least, although I don't know about happy. Veeeeery relaxed maybe makes up for the lack of happy though?

Boooooo-riiiiiing! Let's go for a walk!

Oh god, I can hear the sleet as it beats against the windows....

Today's Cloud

This weather is driving me insane! Mud, ice, hail, and horizontal rain. Dark, wet, cold, slippery and blinding. I hate the so called winters down here. Going for walks is miserable and painful, and I have to admit I drag my feet a bit. Monster gets restless and demands to go out, but once out in the open where the wind starts to bite us and the hail and rain starts hitting us hard enough to bruise he freaks out and starts racing around tangling us both in the leash. So we cut the walk short, go home and fill up the clothes lines with more muddy and dripping wet clothes, shoes and towels... And five minutes later Monster looks up at me and says:

Boooooooored. Bored, bored, bored-bored-bored! Way past time to go for a walk!

What to do? There's only so much we can do at home, Monster needs to go out and move about a bit too - and I get a bit crazy from staring at the walls too. But the weather... There's only one thing for it. Move.

On occasion we do get one or two nice winter days here too though...

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Week In Review

You know what sucks? Let me give you a list:

  • Migraines. Migraines suck. You know what sucks worse than migraines? When a migraine goes away, gives you half a day's relief, and then starts over again. That sucks.
  • Miserable weather sucks. Yet another winter storm blows in, making it pretty much impossible to leave the yard for days - and for the worst of it impossible to even leave the house. Hurricane force winds with all kinds of debris make for a very nervous walk in open terrain! Not that it would be any more fun in a forest, admittedly...
  • Cats. Cats suck most of all. Especially that cat I just peeled off Monster's face. Monster found a cat on our lawn when we came home from a walk, and it apparently decided that it should claim our yard as its own since instead of running away it fluffed up and started growling. I didn't see it in time, so Monster ran over and stuck his nose in its face - not trying to bite it, he seemed to be more confused and curios than anything else - and the cat just latched on and clawed him bloody. There are deep claw marks all over his face, including inside his nose, one of his eyes, and inside his lips. A neighbor heard me screaming and came over to help. The cat wouldn't leave! He had to chase it out with a stick (he didn't dare try to touch it) while I held on to Monster. As far as he and I could tell the cat was perfectly fine (and I didn't see Monster hurt it in any way), but it's a neighbor's cat so I'm sure I'll hear if it's been harmed after all. I just find it hard to muster up much sympathy for it. Monster's lived here for three years, the cats know perfectly well that this is his place, why can't they just leave him alone!? And this was a different cat from the one we've been having problems with who hides nearby and jumps out and attacks us when we're walking past... Cats clearly suck. Right now Monster is pacing around the house licking everything in some sort of stress reaction. He's licking himself, me, the carpet, the walls, everything. And when he calms down he'll no doubt start to feel his wounds... I'm hoping it looks worse than it is, I've cleaned them as much as I can right now and will go through them more thoroughly once he's calmed down a bit - hopefully we can manage with home care, but cats' claws (thank god the little orange devil didn't bite him at least - that I saw) tend to leave nasty and easily infected wounds... And I'm worried about his eye. We'll see if we'll need to brave a visit to a vet...

A what!? No-no, I feel fine, promise!

(Another thing which sucks could be that I apparently write like a drunk child when I have a migraine, but let's just pretend that didn't happen OK?)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Toadys Sunding

For some reasin our neighbors love Monster! With Monster throwing himself at the fence, rigidly staring and growloing, genrally acting not so good toward the neighbords (he needs me to help him better, right now is not so good  - normally more relaxed aboiyut the neighbors) , the neighbors still just laugh and say "he's sp pretty! I love hime!". What's up with that?! I agree with them, he's very pretty. But doesn't it bother them at all days lie this when he's a bit out of control? They just tell me Corsi are "mafia dogs", ask me how much pups of his breed cost, and laugh and smile some mroe. You have a tiny Yorkie! How could Monster possibly be a dog you'd apreciate? Still, for whatever reason, I'm very greatful though! Day's like today are horrible, not scarung the neighbors make them a bit more acceptable. Thnak you so mych!

Sorry. Head huirts. Monstermom out.

Today's cloud

I'm two days in to a migraine We're talkng vision troubles, arms and legs numb beneath the el ows/knees, disrupted spech, and of course hellish pain. I try to keep my head above water and keep Monster as entertained as I possibly can (this is one of the few drawabcks woth being single - still worth it thougs!) , but I need ot to let up soone now...  I rarely have migraines last more than two-three days htogh, so we should be in the final strech . Poor Monster. Bored. Can't explain.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Today's Sunshine

Today on a walk, I had Monster off leash and was throwing a stick for him (I know high energy activities like that can be very stressful and have a bad effect on reactivity, but I make sure to demand focus and self control in between throws, he has to be able to perform without signs of stress, and I limit it to a minute or two before he has to hand over the stick and we walk on). I threw it off to the side of the path we were on, into some long grass. Monster raced off to find it, and unfortunately it turned out I must have nearly brained a hare with that throw, because as he was sniffing around to find the stick in the grass, a hare jumped up right next to him and zig-zagged away! And I'm not talking "it couldn't have been more than 15-20 meters" next to him, no, I'm talking "it bumped into his hip as it jumped up" next to him. Literally. Today, Monster was tackled by a hare... I thought disaster had struck - sure, Monster's not a crazed hunter, and I know I can recall him from a hot trail, but everyone has their limit you know. In my minds eye I saw him galloping off toward the horizon. Instead, reality showed me this:

Dude! Would you knock it off!? I'm busy here!

(Obviously it's an old photo, but you get the idea.)
Monster has a marvelous way of absolutely not multitasking when his nose is switched to "on"; he was looking for a stick with my smell on it, the hare was clearly not a stick and smelled all wrong, so there was no reason for him to pay it any attention. While I gaped after the hare Monster found the stick and came bouncing back to me (to whack me in the thigh with it until I agreed to play tug, as per our usual routine), still completely unconcerned with the fleeing hare. That. Was. Awesome!

I know! See, I found the stick!

In other news, reason #4018 for why this place just doesn't feel like home no matter how many years I live here: wild animals aren't wild. Plus, they're really stupid. We have hares. deer, etc back home, but you can go years between seeing one even if you go out in the forest every day. Here they're everywhere, and they don't bother running away until long after it'd really be too late - if they bother running away at all. Plus they often stop to pose - to make sure we've really seen them and prepared ourselves to hunt them - before they set off... What is wrong with them?! This is not normal prey behavior! And it's not like they're not hunted here, every moron with 15 minutes to spare one Sunday a month calls himself a hunter... It drives me nuts, and not even just because of the unnecessary temptations for Monster, but mainly because it's so wrong. It's like the animals around here are broken... Someone broke the wildlife!

Today's Cloud

A couple of incidents not going as well as expected today, like how he focused on a dog even though it was far away (that speed walking Golden Retriever) and how he was quite concerned about a woman following behind us in the dark on our evening walk (she eventually passed us - with us off to the side - without Monster losing his cool, but he wasn't relaxed about it), but let's focus on the real problem we came across today: the lovely dung heap a farmer has plonked down in the middle of our usual stretch of off leash walking path... Monster is absolutely great about not eating gross things - great about not eating anything, actually! He doesn't touch feces, dead animals, or even "real" food (he'll walk right past a dropped sausage) - I haven't had to deworm him since he was a puppy (naturally I test him for parasites, I'm not just guessing), plus it's just so nice that he doesn't go around chewing on something revolting. But... Instead he has a different, quite disgusting, weakness: if something is gross enough, he'll desperately want to roll in it! A dung heap? Yeah, that's on his top ten...

What? Are you saying there's something wrong with that?! Eau de Monster, people!

When he caught the scent on the wind, he set off like an arrow straight for the dung heap... I saw what was going on (I could smell it too) and could call him back before he reached it, but I had to leash him because he was practically bouncing from desperately wanting to run off and take a dip! So now we have that to contend with every day, presumably for quite a while (I expect it's meant to be used as fertilizer on some field or other, but the farmers round here are rarely in any rush so who knows when that'll happen), which feels quite depressing now that we've found this bit of freedom for Monster nearly every day...

Aw, come on! If you just let me go for a swim in it, there's no problem!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Today's Sunshine

Let me tell you something: I love being single. Love! It! And I know, a lot of people reading this are going to shake their heads and call me bitter, or maybe just in denial - because we're meant for that ideal fairytale pairing; it is the only way to truly find happiness! Yeah, right... Look, if you're in a relationship and you're happy, good for you. I'm happy for you! Still don't want it for myself though. And there are a lot of reasons why, but since this is a dog blog I have something specific in mind right now: because I live alone I don't have to explain and justify to anyone why there's a big inflatable double mattress taking up most of the floor space in the living room! (Yeah, one of those uncomfortable things you give to guests you don't want staying very long...) There's no argument over how sensible it is to have this big, ugly thing in the way for something as "silly" as dog exercise. Nope, all my decision. And it feels great!

[I meant to put a picture of Monster on the mattress here, but since the computer crash has led to me not having the software installed to process the photos right now an old, non-apropos photo will have to do.]

Just cause I'm pretty!

I bought one on sale, and I've inflated it just to the point where it keeps its shape but is still quite soft, and I have Monster move and perform on it. He is quite poorly muscled, especially in the rear, and that becomes a negative spiral where he puts more weight in the front because he's weak in the back, further underdeveloping his hind quarters. That's bad for him, and since we live where we live (no forests here, limited off leash opportunities, mostly roads to walk on, etc) I have to try to find an artificial way to force him to use his hind legs more and hopefully build some muscle. I can't tell you yet if it's working, but I can tell you that I truly appreciate the freedom to just do as I please and occupy a large part of the living room "just" to build a gym for my dog. Plus, when the exercise is over I can just plug it in and inflate it some more, ant it becomes a comfy (according to Monster) dog bed! Not sure how long it's going to put up with his claws, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it...

And not to send you to couples' therapy or anything, but... Think about it - don't you want a dog gym too?

If I run in the tall grass more, can we keep the mattress comfy all the time?!

Today's Cloud

Bit of a rough day today. It started off fine, except Monster seemed a bit unfocused and a little all over the place. As we went for a walk I noticed he wasn't winding down between stress exposures, and while he handled the first few things (like a bike passing, small things like that) fine he kept building from one to the next. I don't know why he couldn't relax between incidents today... I decided to be careful and avoid as much as we possibly could, but still continue on with our walk - I think it's important to avoid isolating him as much as possible, but I also know that bad experiences are far worse than no experiences. It's a tricky balance sometimes... 

Maybe I have a headache? I've got a big head, you know...

While we did manage to avoid most triggers and sources of stress along the way it's not possible to avoid everything, and today even the smallest thing became another straw on Monster's back. After about an hour and a half we were on our way home when we met two women out walking with baby carriages, and I knew I couldn't rely on Monster behaving himself around them so I got right off the path and gave them (I believed) plenty of distance. Unfortunately it wasn't enough, and as they drew level with us (only about five meters away, but with a two meter height difference I expected to make all the difference) Monster started lunging and barking toward them - fortunately they just smiled at bit at us and said hello, but I was still deeply ashamed. Threatening behavior around babies (although in Monster's head it's directed at the strange, bulky things people are pushing ahead of themselves like battering rams) is just a step too far, and since I knew Monster had been acting kind of weird all day I should have hared off far enough we could barely be seen... Live and learn I guess, but the question is: am I really learning? I seem to still be making a lot of mistakes.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Today's Sunshine

We've had an absolutely wonderful walk today, and in glorious weather! Not only was it a nice walk, but it provided us with some excellent training opportunities:

  • We met a woman with a dog coming toward us on a path I meant to turn onto. Instead we walked a little ways away, and then I turned and led Monster back in a half circle around the meeting. This is a pair we see out and about fairly frequently, she's a power walker (good grief she moves fast) and has a large male Golden Retriever (I think) on a Flexi lead. He doesn't much like Monster (understandable) and they're a fairly difficult trigger for Monster. Today he had no problem turning away from them, engaging in other things as we circled around them (sniffing instead of staring), but was a bit interested in them (turned back to look several times) once we were back on the same path and moving away from each other. Not the smoothest passing in the history of dog walking, but with Monster's issues and his particular history with extreme reactions toward this particular dog it was downright marvelous. I'd estimate we were about... seven meters apart at the closest.
  • We met a biker coming toward us on a narrow bike path (approximately 1.5 meters wide or so), Monster noticed it while it was still far away and became quite interested. When the bike was ~20-30 meters away I steered Monster to the side and stepped into the grass beside the path. Monster kept his attention on the bike, but kept moving forward. The bike passed without problems, I even looked up and said hi, and it was less than one meter away (with me in between Monster and the bike).
  • As we turned a bend in the path we spotted a person walking toward his parked bike, who then led the bike around, got on, and started biking toward us. Since this was a bit more unusual (Monster likes things to be one thing or the other, not several things at once: a moving car is OK, a parked car is OK, a car that first moves and then stops is suspicious, for example) I not only stepped off the path, but also over the ditch to create more of a distance. It seems to me a lot - not all, but in at least some ways something like ~75% - of Monster's issues are linked not so much to distance as to borders. If he's on a road and you're on that same road, there's two of you but only one road: clearly you're going to kill him for stealing your road. Similarly, if both of you are in a fairly large field there's still just one field - conflict. But if we step off the road onto the shoulder: you have the road to yourself, and we have the shoulder. Fine, no conflict, and we can pass each other a lot closer than he'd be able to if we shared that large field. So in this case, with the "weird" biker (remember him?) we not only left the road, we stepped across a very clear separation (the ditch) between the road and the edge of a field. No conflict, the biker had the road to himself and therefore wasn't a threat... We passed each other calmly.
  • As we got to the station some construction workers had blocked our usual path, and the only one open to us (other than turning back) led us quite close to a couple of guys working on a wall. I took Monster in a steady grip, kept my pace even, and led him straight past (Monster unfortunately on the side closest to the guys). One of the guys turned toward us, but I caught his eye and shook my head as I gently praised Monster - and we walked straight past!
  • Final one: We walked through a neighboring village when a car came driving up behind us veeeeery slowly, with something-or-other screaming bloody murder inside the engine (or wherever: what I know about cars you could fit onto a stamp!). I thought there was no way Monster would be able to handle it, but he looked up at me with a slightly anxious look and I calmly (faked! so, so faked!) praised him and told him to keep walking. Which he did! Only the car just passed us and then it stopped... It turned out to be a service van for... err... one of the electricity-thing-boxes-whatever you see on some streets? And a couple of men got out and started to unload a bunch of tools. It was a very narrow street, and big men loudly handling strange tools are close to the worst thing Monster can think of (the two top things on the list are: 1) Anyone Mom's angry with; and 2) A man walking toward us with angry voice). I'd stopped as soon as the car stopped ahead of us, to evaluate the situation and decide how to handle it, but it was clear that they wouldn't be moving any time soon... So, for whatever reason I decided the situation was manageable and we set off walking forward again. As we drew level to the car Monster was less than half a meter away from the nearest man (with me in between) - who turned toward us and said "That's not a small dog!"... I mumbled something (I have no idea what I said) without taking my eyes off Monster, every hair on my body was literally on end - very weird feeling! - I was so tense, and just kept walking past. No problem! Super cool Monster! Well, maybe not cool exactly. But instead something far more important: concerned, but looking to me for guidance! Wow. What a feeling! I think I bounced on happy clouds all the way home...

(And to everyone claiming dogs can "psychically" feel how you feel, and if you have a reactive dog that's just because you are projecting nervousness and in order to have a calm dog you need to be calm: that's not true. Not only is it not how you feel but instead how you act, it's actually perfectly possible to have a reactive dog if you're half asleep and about as revved up as Eeyore. And you can totally fake calm. Don't tell people to relax, stop shortening the leash around triggers, stop scanning  for potential surprises, and so on. I hate that advise! It's dangerous to give a reactive dog a slack leash, it's dangerous to not pay attention and get a surprise. A dog's behavior is not in the head of the owner! A dog is its own living, thinking being, and while our behavior (note behavior; not beta waves) can certainly affect theirs, they're not an extension of our own consciousness. There is a lot of ridiculous advice out there (usually from people who once had a teenaged dog act up once or twice which they then "fixed" due to their exceptional dogsmanship... yeah, right, pull the other one...) and a lot of it is certainly quite harmful, but this type of advice is the most tiresome. Acting calm is important, but feeling calm isn't. If you have a dog like Monster you have good reason to not feel the least bit calm, and you don't need to work on meditation, calm breathing, or any of that - not unless you can't separate your feelings and you actions. On the contrary, not feeling calm keeps you alert. I say, fight the calm nazis!)

Dude. Chill! Want a taste of my stick?

 And really. What is it with people and the weird size comments!? I know I'm not alone (I found an old blog post from another CC-owner listing strange comments and questions he'd heard on walks), so apparently a lot of people feel the need to comment on a CC's size (and probably other large breeds too?). "That's not a small dog!", "What a big dog!", "That's just a puppy, right? hehehe", "Where's that dog going to walk you?", "What's that Great Dane mixed with - a horse?", "Are you sure you're feeding that thing enough?", "Couldn't you find one in a bigger size?", "Do you have an elephant farm?", "Look at the tiny puppy!", "Oh, aren't you just a precious little doll?", and so on, and so on... Why? Is it an expression of discomfort, they're afraid of him and try to find safety in humor? Because he's smaller than a Great Dane, for instance... I honestly find it a bit weird.

As long as they note my beauty, it's all good with me.

Today's Cloud

I keep thinking there's something... "off" about how Monster moves. I can't pinpoint what it is (I'm truly hopeless at spotting gait asymmetries) but I can't shake the general impression that there's something a little wrong. But at just under two years of age I had him X-rayed for his official joint certification: clear elbows, clear hips. A year later I had him X-rayed from head to tail to look for abnormalities: completely clear. He's been examined by two separate orthopedic specialist veterinarians, at two different clinics: nothing wrong with him. I have to accept that I've really done what I can to find out if there's anything wrong, and that people with years and years of professional experience tell me that he's fine. But. I just... I can't shake it, he moves weird! I'm so incredibly worried that he's in pain somewhere. It's exhausting! But what if I am missing something after all...?

Would you relax?! Oh, and quit walking behind me to stare at my butt as I walk, it's weird!

Perhaps this is what you get when you lose much loved dogs to hip and elbow dysplasia? Perhaps it's because of Monster's mental issues, and I'm just searching for something physical to "fix" for him? I don't know... But I think I have to stop. I have done the best I can with what is at most very vague symptoms (and perhaps most likely nothing at all). I've taken him to the vet's - I've taken him to several vets. If there's truly something wrong I'll have to let it become worse (and therefore diagnosable) rather than hold my breath at every stumble. It's just... It's not so easy to just stop worrying, you know?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Today's Sunshine

Since we haven't been doing much there isn't much to talk about, but I can at least say I'm so happy Monster enjoys nose work so much! I have managed to spend some time with him outside to search for hidden items in the garden, and it's always nice to see how much fun it is for him. He may not have the most efficient search pattern (he does a very cursory sweep of the area at first before settling down to search more carefully - not necessarily a bad idea in case that would ever get him anywhere, but I don't think he ever manages to cut any corners), and he is perhaps more enthusiastic than thorough, but it's absolutely great to see him work through piles of rubble and try to climb up trees to find a little plastic coaster! And he does it even with fairly big distractions around. If my headache wasn't so bad I'd have laughed out loud just from happiness at seeing him work (and he's so enthusiastic! it doesn't matter to him that he's been asked to search through a dozen or more dead ends - he sure it's going to be in the next place we look). He's the most amazing dog I could ever imagine having.

*sniff*   *sniff*   *sniiiiiiiiff*   ... Yeah, we're definitely getting closer!

Today's Cloud

Woke up with a pounding headache this morning, and it's stubbornly stuck with me all day. It laughs at painkillers. Going for walks has been agony, and playing with Monster has been nearly impossible. I also worry that it affects my attention and I'll miss an approaching trigger... Today has been a brightly sunny day, which is a rare thing in dreary November, and add that to it being Sunday it means there has been an unusual number of people out and about. I've cut the walks down to a minimum, most of them less than half an hour long and only one more than an hour. We've had some close calls and I've had to adjust our intended route quite a few times, but fortunately we've managed to keep the distances Monster needs. I do my best on days like these, but they really gnaw on my conscience. I can't explain to Monster why I'm so lazy and boring, and no doubt the pain also affects how I treat him (it's hard to be patient with barking when your head seems to be about to explode, for example).

Come on, let's play!

It also makes today quite a missed opportunity, since the nice weather and the few hours of daylight this time of year means a lot of simultaneous activity all around our house. Excellent chance to train focus and calm around distractions, while in a controlled environment. Sigh...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Today's Sunshine

Today has turned out better than I dared to hope yesterday. Monster is certainly a bit more tense, he's very alert and reacts to any unexpected noise (we're talking bird song levels here, not car alarms), but it's not the disaster I expected. In fact, on a walk today we met a large man on the road, dressed in a huge jacket and carrying some sort of tool - that's a lot of danger for Monster. I probably should have turned right around and gotten out of there, but I kept an eye on Monster and kept walking instead... He was quite interested in the man, and I could tell he was getting closer to the edge where curiosity would turn into something else, but he was holding it together. When we got close to passing the man I gently steered Monster a little to the side, out on the grass shoulder, and encouraged him to keep walking. No doubt I was very rude to the man as I wouldn't take my focus off Monster for even a second to look up and say hi, but I really needed all my attention on Monster right then. And we did it! Monster walked right past without a single warning sign; no stiff legs, no staring (but certainly a lot of looking, which is a different thing), no tension in his face, nothing!

I earned this carrot, people!

Unfortunately, maybe ten seconds after we'd passed each other the man turned around (forgotten something?) and started following us. This is not good, and I so didn't want to end that success with a miserable failure! After a moments hesitation I decided to turn back with Monster too and pass the man again - better to deal with it quickly than let tension build and make it even worse. (As I'm sure you know people walking dogs (on leash) walk slower than people walking alone, because dogs do a lot of quick pauses along the way, so the man would have caught up with us.) So I turned Monster around in a small circle - winding up with him closer to the man on the road than I was - and started walking back, this time praising him nonstop (I usually keep quiet in most tense situations, since even encouragement can tip Monster over) - his body language was flickering between tense and playful, and I tried to encourage the playful side by using voice and words usually used in high energy training. It was a gamble, but it payed off. Monster walked right past the man again! A day of miracles... Of course, then the man turned back around again!

. . .

No, just kidding! He walked off, and we kept walking the same direction for half a minute or so before we turned back around again and continued our walk. You know, my family is into extreme sports, like scary movies and so on, which I just don't get. They think my life is boring. Hah! My adrenal glands get all the exercise they need, believe me...

Well, you named me Monster...

Today's Cloud

Honestly, today's been pretty good! Although, when we came home from grocery shopping some people out walking their dogs had stopped to chat with the neighbors over the fence, and when I loaded Monster out of the car he did tense up at them and wanted to get a closer look (which would have been too much for him). After yesterday that feels so normal it's barely worth noticing, but the key truly lies in being successful in the small things - that's when the big issues can be dealt with. I was tired and carrying a heavy bag, and I should have planned things out better. I saw them as we drove past, I even thought something along the lines of "Aw, man, now I have to deal with that too!"... So I should have taken Monster out separately and gone back for the shopping. Perhaps I could even have used the situation as an opportunity for half a minute's training, if I'd only been active in the situation and thought ahead. Instead of moaning and complaining, reacting instead of planning, and setting Monster up for failure.

Well. This wasn't such a small thing after all...

See? I told you.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Today's Sunshine

Alright, let's give this a go anyway... I've spent a lot of time since the last post just playing with Monster, both to use up some of his nervous energy and to try to make sure he associates me being physical with him with fun and games, rather than with stress and conflict. I don't know how well the second part's working, but I think I got the first one down. He's now conked out on the couch next to me, he's eaten (always a good sign with regards to his stress levels), and he's ignoring sounds from the outside.

Don't type so loud, I'm trying to sleep here!

We haven't been playing any "useful" games at all (i.e. training games), just high energy goofing around, lots of wrestling, jumping around on the furniture, playing tug, and "ambush the thief"*. He's shown some clear signs of being uncomfortable around me, like when he sees me coming and he's doing something he shouldn't (like stealing the new sheets from the bags in the hall, in order to shred them...) he's displayed evasion and pacification. Since I know where his "bad behavior" is coming from, and he can't really help himself (the tension needs to be released somehow!), I've told myself that no matter what he takes it into his head to do I'll let him - or even loot the bags with him - as long as he doesn't get into something that would be harmful to him. Today is not a day for teaching or enforcing rules and good behavior. So what if I have to buy new stuff (or do without): Monster comes first! Priority one is getting back to normal, until then special rules apply. (And yes, I'm aware that there will be some setbacks in basic good behavior around the house once things are back to normal. Worth it.) We've also been for another (fairly short) walk, and I did my best to be fun and engaging for most of it - and he seemed (it's quite dark out, so reading more than basic posture - if that - is difficult) to enjoy himself. We didn't see anyone else - and if we had I would have turned and ran for the hills, no more triggers today! (And the closest hills are an hour's drive away, so that would have been some solid exercise...)

Woohoo, let's wrestle some more!

All in all, I think I've done the best I could to quickly right the ship. Let's see how it plays out over the next few days... In other - but possibly related - news, I got a desperate craving for salt, and wound up eating about a spoonful or two of table salt! Weird... Straight away I started feeling a lot less weak and off kilter. Anyone got a clue what that's about?

(* A game where Monster "steals" something - it can be absolutely anything, including his own toys, the difference is in how he behaves with the thing he has: when he's a "thief" he splays out his legs, looks at me over his shoulder, runs off with sort of straight legs (think Monty Python and silly walks), and blows loudly through his nose. Then I "angrily" stomp-runs after him for a few steps, until he's far enough away to not see as I turn and hide behind some corner. That's the ambush... Monster will come sneaking back - "stolen" item and all - and caaaaaaarefully walk around the corner where (he knows) I'm waiting to jump out at him. And I chase him for a few seconds, and usually set up a new ambush again. He loves this game (if I wasn't so mature and sensible I'd love it too), and it usually ends with him circling around me and hitting me with the thing he "stole", until I'll get down on the floor and wrestle with him for a bit.

You'll never catch me!

It's a lot of fun, and I believe(?) that the over the top threatening behavior from me is good for his confidence around people. I know he's (usually) not scared of me, but he finds it very difficult to be around people who are arguing for example... Who knows. I'm doing the best I can.)

Today's Cloud

Absolutely miserable day today. And it's barely even afternoon. We've had a huge setback today, and I feel awful.

Me too...

I've been feeling "off" from when I first woke up this morning, and I have no clue why. Some days are just like that I guess. And Monster is perhaps reacting to it, and/or me being off kilter has made me handle situations all wrong. We've just come in from a walk where Monster reacted to another dog walking past about 40 meters away! And we're not talking the odd lunge or growl here, we're talking full blown meltdown. I had to (or rather, I chose to) physically wrestle him down to keep him on the ground. That may have been a mistake (it certainly didn't help calm him down!), but he was lunging, air snapping, and jumping so bad I was worried the leash would snap. And as soon as that dog had passed and we'd taken three steps toward home another dog turned the corner... Monster was already wound up, and of course it all went south again.

Can we stay in today?

This is the first time in a long time that I can remember Monster being vibratingly hyped even after the trigger has passed. When we got home he proceeded to pretty much trash the house and run barking from window to window. I think at least 90% of that is from how I handled the situation, not from "just" going over threshold. (Judging from what's different this time.) I handled it badly. As I said I'm not sure what I should have done differently, Monster was really acting up and I felt it was too risky to not try to intervene - but of course, in that state any intervention needs to be amped up to 11. And it will come back with interest. Which it has/is. And I worry about this setback will affect him next walk, tomorrow, next week... And it worries me that even after I've realized I made a mistake I can't come up with a better solution! Is that because this is still a bad day and I'll figure something out when I'm back on top, or am I really no better than this?

And I knew today was a bad day (I had already chosen to not let him off leash today, since that only happens on days when I'm feeling focused and in control, and Monster acts his best), so I was aware I needed to be extra careful. Failed that too.

This is a shitty day!

I doubt there'll be a Sunshine post today... Now I have to go stop Monster from eating the curtains. And not lose my temper with him.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wow... Long Time No See, Right?

So, let's get the excuses out of the way first, OK? (I've tried not writing any excuses at all, but clearly I'm a weak, broken person...) I don't get it, I really don't! Is there something sort of like a "localized depression"? Where everything else is working normally, but when you go near a specific part of your life everything falls apart? Because whenever I sit down by the computer I feel awful! I get anxious and uncomfortable, none of the things I usually like to do online have any appeal whatsoever, the blog is a burden and logging on to a forum is physically impossible. Before starting this post I paid a bill that was three weeks late, because I haven't managed to log onto my bank for ages! I mean, what is this!? But clearly it's not something I can "rest myself out of", since absence has not made the heart any fonder. So, let's try the "power through" approach instead. Or at least, let's try to try...
(To be clear, I'm not equating whatever lazybones block I've stumbled into with a real depression! I know depression is a real and very serious illness, and I'm not trying to cheapen that - I'm just trying to explain a weird thing with a likeness, OK?)

She really is being super weird - she won't even chase me around with a camera any more!

It also doesn't help that my computer appears to be singing its last few verses... After replacing the hard drives (managing to save at least some data from the broken ones, thank the computer gods!) I believe there is also a problem with the mother board. I hate changing mb's! I'm not doing it, you hear me!? Stop messing about, and just shape up! Not only that, but I suspect there is a problem with the wiring in the house, which most likely isn't making the computer feel too great (and likely why a bunch of hardware started failing at once?) - not that I feel good about it either. These suspicions were strengthened by six days with no power in two thirds of the house... But I can not afford to completely rewire the house. And I do not do electrics! (My father worked in high voltage lines before I was born and for a while in my childhood. Presumably because of this(?) he has zero respect for electricity, and thanks to naked wires and wall sockets without coverings all over the house I was electrocuted three(!) times growing up. It's very painful, scary, and potentially fatal, and I don't even go near the fuse box these days without first throwing the switch to the entire house. Not going near a frayed wire, and if something goes "pop" I run for the hills. Thanks dad.) Fortunately, my sister (who largely inherited our father's personality - and who was older in our dangerous household and therefore only got electrocuted once) happily dabbles (she has some education in the area, so she is qualified) a bit, and managed to help patch up the worst. I now have power back (and according to her the house won't burn down, nor will I get electrocuted trying to make a cup of coffee... we'll see), but the basic condition of the wiring in the house is still just short of disastrous. Anyone know a good electrician who'll work for a cinnamon roll?
(Yes, I know "electrocuted" usually means dying from electric shock. But you try being five years old and closing a circuit in a wall socket between your left and right hands, and then tell me I'm exaggerating...)

I'm not coming out of here until you get me rubber booties!

In other words, even if I manage to overcome my weird (and admittedly ridiculous) mental block about being on the computer, I may still disappear from the blog suddenly. Because while the state of the wiring isn't dangerous to us living in the house, it doesn't appear to sit well with the computer (and a couple of other things - anyone want a stand mixer for a paper weight?) - and unless Santa thinks I've been a very good girl (hah!) there won't be a new computer appearing any time soon. Besides, it'd probably start failing too, right?

There, that was a quick bit of explaining, right? No? Nah, you're just whiny. But OK, let's move on to Monster then.

About time! I am the star, you know!

Things are improving, I feel. I wouldn't say we're without issues (heh, what a thought - what would I spend my time worrying about then!?), but I do feel they're a lot smaller. Let's see... On a good day, Monster doesn't react to bikes passing us (but bikes meeting us, where he has time to watch them approach and build up tension, will still get a halfhearted lunge or so), will pass meeting people and dogs without reacting even on the narrow bike path provided we can walk parallel to the road (about a leash length away seems to do the trick) so we're very clearly not meeting (although of course we still are, sort of). He has close to no issues with cars, trucks, motorcycles etc any more. He's so relaxed on the road now I don't always bother to call him to heel when a vehicle drives past, instead just letting him wander on a lose leash. The only thing which still bothers him about cars (and admittedly it bothers him quite a lot!) is when someone stops their car to talk to me. Something about this scenario drives him completely around the bend, and it makes no difference if he knows the person in the car. In fact I was talking to a neighbor for a while a couple of days back, and Monster was content to sit and watch the world go by as we chatted, but two minutes after we'd parted the same neighbor drove past and stopped to add something he'd forgotten, and Monster just went nuts... Clearly something we need to work more on, although it's not a very frequent occurrence. But anyway, while cars and other vehicles were never a very big part of the problem, I feel that Monster now being (mostly) just fine around them is indicative of his general improvement, not just around cars.

"Improvement"!? Are you saying there's something wrong with me?!

I also think that we've gotten over a sort of hump in the training, causing a positive spiral for once! Since Monster is easier to handle, (usually) isn't horrifyingly threatening to innocent passers by (as long as I'm paying attention and manage the situation so he doesn't go over threshold), is fairly happy to pay attention to me when we're out walking and likes to do some sudden, random training games (rather than spending all his time and attention on scanning the surroundings for "threats"), and (quite important!) doesn't seem to build much stress even when something does go wrong - where before a walk would be a lost cause as soon as he'd gone over threshold once, since his threshold would then be lowered to an unmanageable level - (this sentence has run completely wild, let's try to reel it in!) we can now be more active. We can go for longer walks, in more challenging environments, meaning he both gets more exercise and exposure to the world happening around him. And every time something happens around him and he doesn't react, he becomes a tiny bit more stable. I think. As a rule now we go for a ~2 hr walk every weekday which leads us past/through a train station. It's not a very busy one, and I make sure to keep to the outskirts (I don't want to get "trapped" with triggers approaching from several directions at once), but being able to it at all builds confidence for me and positive associations for Monster.

It's quite loud when the trains go past, though...

I've also started to let Monster off leash for parts of our walks! Only on weekdays (when people are more predictable in their activities, and there are quite simply fewer joggers, bikers, families out walking, etc), and only in areas with good, unobstructed views. Which means two sets of about 20-25 minutes each (at most: if someone else turns up Monster is recalled and leashed, naturally), which maybe isn't super duper awesome great compared to the freedom of some other dogs, but it's a heck of a lot more than Monster's been getting before (except when we've been to my family home of course, where he gets hours and hours off leash every day). I'm tense like you wouldn't believe while he's off leash, scanning the surroundings constantly, checking behind us for fast approachers, making sure Monster doesn't fixate on something (like a sound or smell I can't pick up), and if we'd ever had a failed recall or if he'd acted on true aggression (as opposed to a lot of blustering to cover up his secret scaredycat self) I'd never let him off leash in the quite densely populated (by my standards) area we live in. In fact, if he didn't himself take the initiative to check in, invite to play or training, keep himself close to me, and come racing back with a big grin every time I recall him, he would be leashed at all times. I think I'm doing the right thing... I can decisively say I have better control over Monster than many others do over their off leash dogs - but theirs' aren't Monster size. Or have Monster's (amazingly gorgeous) looks. Nor do they have Monster's reactivity. Well, some of them do, but I don't really care to compare myself with people who let their dogs run completely wild, shouting "he just wants to play!" when their little... adorable thing comes running up bouncing and snarling, circling around us and lunging. That's not "playing", people! Oh well. Right now my decision is that I have sufficient control over Monster off leash, as long as I make sure to monitor the surroundings and revoke the privilege in situations that become too difficult for him, to let him run free in carefully selected areas. It's giving me an ulcer and a constant tension back pain - because I do take his issues seriously and very much don't want to see an escalation; nor do I want to cause fright to anyone else - but he's so happy, and I have a huge grin on my face for almost all our walks now. I think it's good for him, and unless I have a reason to I'm not stopping! But I expect the length of text explaining and justifying this choice does reveal to you that it's not a very easy decision for me, and I'm aware that it's not completely without risks. The things is, nothing is without risk. Any dog can do something unexpected, at any time. No matter how impressive your dog's obedience is, you can never predict the kids throwing firecrackers at him, or the day his unknown brain tumor presented suddenly... All you can really say is "In this situation, with these conditions, I have reason [backed up by experience, preferably] to expect to have control over my off leash dog". "This situation" and "these condition" may vary from dog/owner to dog/owner, but I guess my position is that as long as you've evaluated what these mean for you and you make sure to stick to them, you're responsible enough.

... Right?


Lately Monster's also been having a friend over to stay with us a lot! A dog owning neighbor's met a girl, said girl also has a dog. And my neighbor's dog, upon meeting her new would-be step brother, said "Let me just fix that pest problem for you!"... Since there's about a 5:1 size difference the situation is quite serious, and Tilly has a history of not really... appreciating many other dogs. She attacked Monster a couple of times when he was younger, and we're not talking about a telling off, we're talking about intent to injure. These days though, she's quite OK around Monster - provided I'm careful with food and treats, and some toys, since she has some resource guarding issues as well - so we've been her relief home when the couple are getting together. Monster enjoys the company, and after the first few times (when he was quite anxious and relieving nervous energy in less than constructive ways - it's not a good idea to make yourself more annoying if you want to ingratiate yourself, Monster! - and she was quite annoyed at his relentless activity and attention) they've settled in to the situation quite well. They play a lot, and Monster has learned to take it down a few notches since she's older and a bit stiff, and doesn't appreciate overly physical play (Monster is a tackler and wrestler if he gets things his way). There have been a couple of "arguments", for instance when I was being a bit scatterbrained and put down a bag of food next to them in a narrow hallway, but they're just "words" and no one holds any grudges. The only negative aspect I see is that it appears to be teaching Monster to develop a bit of resource guarding as well, he is now quite tense at feeding time as well (they're fed in separate rooms of course, but he is clearly aware of her), which is a bit unfortunate but not something I see as a huge issue - certainly not while it's not directed at me, which it isn't. I think Monster having regular company of another dog is good for him in the long run, even if the dog has a few issues of her own (but show me a 100% perfect dog - or any living thing). There is one thing which I consider to be a major issue though, and that's Monster's susceptibility to follow the lead of other dogs, coupled with his inherently different nature. Misunderstandings ensue... I've noticed (and been troubled by) this issue before, in relation to dogs back home. Monster is a guard type dog. There is a huge difference between that and the far more common watch dog type breeds, but explaining this to others (mainly the watch dog owners, naturally) has proved to be quite difficult. Tilly is a German Shepherd, which I think most people consider to be a guard dog type but I don't quite agree. I'd say it's rather a breed walking the thin edge, with big differences between individuals, and most dogs these day landing in the "watch dog" camp (but I'd say with a smaller radius than most watch dog types) as the needs and desires of dog owners change. Tilly is certainly of the watch dog type. The difference lies mainly in two things: when and how they react to approaching "threats". This summer when I was back home I had lots of opportunities to observe this. We were staying in a village of about 12-15 households, all of them with dogs. Most of these dogs are hunting dogs (many spitzes, basically the epitome of watch dog types), and many are kept outdoors for most of the day. All are either watch dog types or neither watchers or guarders, none are guarders like Monster. What happens in a village like this is that the dogs develop a sort of grapevine, where they will bark and howl at people moving through the village not only to warn the intruder away/warn their family of the intruder (which is the purpose of watch dogs) but also tell each other that something's happening over here, so keep alert and you'll soon spot it too. Growing up in a setting like this I've learned to understand a bit of this communication as well - I'm not claiming that dogs can speak, but I do maintain that you can understand rudimentary information from different barks and sounds. Like whether the "intruder" is a surprise or a regular occurrence (like the mailman's car), or someone known or a stranger (they will bark at everyone, it's not an expression of aggression), or if it's a horrible, horrible enemy (basically: the ice cream truck). (Although actually, Monster's arrival in the village prompted just such an "Enemy! Enemy! Enemy!" response from some of the dogs, to the point of waking up my brother at 4.30 in the morning - and promptly realizing that we must have arrived. So it's not just me claiming to understand what they're "saying".) (And by the way, check out the studies performed by The Family Dog project, many of them are fascinating, and at least one of them backs me up on people understanding some verbal communication from dogs. So there.) Sitting outside on the lawn one day this summer, I took the opportunity to really observe Monster's place in this system. He doesn't have one. Which isn't a surprise if you understand the basic types of dog and their respective behavior, but I find it interesting all the same. Monster doesn't "bond" with dogs that aren't part of "us". The neighbor dogs barking is barely interesting to him, unless they're really angry about something and he misunderstands and believes it's directed at him. The other dogs bark "I see something", "This is what I see", "Alright, it's passing me now", "I hear you've seen something", "Apparently something's happening over on the other side of the village", etc. They react and communicate about things they can see (or hear), and whether or not those things are actually approaching them or their territory isn't overly relevant. They see something within their radius of "I can see this far", and that's enough to react. Which is as it should be, sounding the alarm early means more time to prepare properly after all. Because watch dog types aren't supposed to do anything about what they're seeing. Their job is to warn, and then someone else can deal with it. That day on the lawn, the neighboring dogs would react as soon as they saw something far away (and tell each other about it). Monster would just watch. Someone walking a couple of hundred meters away would earn an occasional glance ("just checking you haven't started to do something bad"). Someone far away but moving toward us would earn a little more attention, maybe Monster would sit up (making himself a bit more prepared in case action needed to be taken) but provided they didn't get too close they still weren't a problem. People walking past on the road just outside the house could be an issue, depending on which side of the road they were walking on - one side was "too close" and Monster would stand up, clearly making himself visible to the "intruder", and anyone stopping to talk or pay attention to us or our territory would get confronted (Monster was on a line, so all he could do was bark and growl). Unfortunately I brought him with me to take out the trash once, and that made the bins across the road also "our territory" from then on, making him react whenever anyone got too close to them as well. But that's the point I'm getting at: Monster's radius of action is much, much smaller than your typical watch dog's. And the action taken is quite different: a watch dog will talk about it, a guard dog will act on it. Monster is a guard dog, but a problem I come across often is people expecting him to act like a watch dog - because that's what people are most used to they consider that the norm. That's not fair, there's nothing wrong with Monster because he doesn't react like a completely different type of dog! His behavior is perfectly natural, and while I certainly have no intention of denying that we do have some quite severe issues I get a bit annoyed when people expect things of him just because they're to lazy or self centered to grasp that different things can be perfectly normal for different dogs.

T: Is she going anywhere with this?    M: She's lost again, but she usually figures it out about here...

Right. So. That's one situation where the difference in type is clearly shown. But, what happens when you have a watch and guard type together, with the guarder accepting the watcher as one of "us"? Well, then the communication becomes quite important! The watcher sounds the alarm, and the guarder does something about it... Monster is subdominant and socially insecure. Pair him with a watch type dog, and he'll likely do something stupid - a watch dog will bark at anyone approaching, including friends! Monster, who doesn't understand levels of warning, will react far too strongly. Monster alone will approach visitors, and his adrenaline level will cause him to act in some very unfortunate/inappropriate ways, with jumping, bumping the legs, snapping at clothes, etc. He doesn't quite know how to react, what to do with himself, and he tries to do everything at once. It's my job to (try to) control him and give him direction, as well as make sure that he doesn't have to deal with people who will escalate the situation. Or simply separate him from the situation. I won't claim this is working flawlessly, but there haven't been any disasters and we're working on it. But. With a watch dog present, Monster gets immediate and simple direction. What he hears is "Intruder alert! Deal with it!"... In other words, I consider Monster to be potentially dangerous when paired with a watch dog. This is a huge problem when I'm for instance visiting my parents, who have a watch dog as well as a steady stream of visitors through the day. No matter how I try to explain that Monster can't handle Dory greeting visitors by running up and barking at them, this is making him dangerous, they don't want to understand it. Separating the dogs and letting them greet separately is considered ridiculous, not letting Dory out when I have Monster off leash in the yard works for about 30 seconds, and so on. This has led to me no longer staying with them when we go up for a visit, instead staying by ourselves in my brother's guest house, and I've made it clear that I won't be visiting at all unless we can make this arrangement. They think I'm being ridiculous and overreacting, and whenever we've gotten oh-so-very-close to a very serious incident with Monster and Dory vs. a visitor they just brush it off with a "huh, that's weird, why'd he do that" and refuse to learn from one time to the next that this isn't weird, it's perfectly expected and explainable! Aarrgh... OK, sorry about that, rant over. Reeling it back in again: Tilly is a watch dog type. She'll bark at people moving around the village, she'll rush barking toward the fence when someone's walking by, and she'll even greet her owner with hysterical barking when he comes to pick her up. Monster accepts her as one of "us" now. Which means that with Tilly in the house I consider Monster potentially dangerous to visitors. I have a strict no visitors policy when she's here (not that I'm a social butterfly otherwise...), and I'm uneasy about her behavior to charge the fence since it resembles far too much an actual attack and let's face it, if Monster ever wanted to he'd charge straight through that fence... I try to look on the bright side and use her behavior as a chance to train alternative behaviors for Monster in these situations, and I suppose that's going OK. Monster will now generally run along with her for just a few steps, before throwing a glance to me and fairly reliably choosing to seek me out instead for a game of tug, even while Tilly's still going nuts by the fence. So that's good I guess. I just remain uneasy about the whole thing, I suppose I think of her as a bad influence!

Yeah! Cause I'm super calm and sweet, and nothing's ever my fault, right Mom?

Something like that, maybe... Maybe not. Anyway, I've put a lock (well, OK, more of a "really hard to reach from the other side"-latch) on the garden gate, a sign on the gate warning of dogs running free and absolutely no admittance, as well as moving the doorbell from the front door to the gate (right next to the dog warning sign). I'm 100% solid on the "no visitors with Tilly here"-rule. The dogs are never outside unsupervised. Beyond kicking her out I'm not sure I can manage the situation any better? Besides, the last weekend she was here she went into heat - that was a fun three days! - and won't be returning for a while. Which is good and bad, it feels calmer for me but it's more boring for Monster, and I'm missing some training setups I can only do with another dog here. But, enjoy what you have and all that!

Well, of course: you have me!

Well, what do you know... Apparently, once I start writing there's no stopping me (as usual). Now it remains to be seen if I can force myself back tomorrow... See you!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Aaaargh, disaster!

Complete, utter computer failure. Lost three hdds (out of four), lost all photos (they were backed up, but unfortunately it wasn't just one that failed), can't access my accounts (had passwords and account info backed up on the other backup drive - which also failed), and it may take a little while before I've got my hands on new drives, reinstalled the OS (etc, etc - you don't know what you've got till it's gone, right...), and figured out all the things which need figuring out. Monster's been a big help in keeping me moderately sane through this, although his interest in also helping when I'm elbow deep in computer guts is slightly less appreciated... Well, silver lining and all that... I guess... Maybe now I can take a stab at my massive backlog in my gmail account (sooooo sorry everyone!), since that's pretty much the only password I've figured out so far? And... Hey, savings are for chumps, spending is fun - plus my new drives will be a lot more... modern! Yeah, it's not so bad.

All those puppy pictures of Monster, though... But, at least some of them are uploaded to the blog (albeit in smaller size)! Yay!

Oh, God, the insurance photos of the house...

Well, never mind that right now: this is written on my nephew's tablet, which he doesn't part from easily - meaning I won't be blogging again until I've got a computer up and running (yes, I still have one functioning drive but I'd rather not format that to a primary since then I'd really have lost all my stored data, so new drive(s) it is). Admittedly that's probably not that big a difference from how well I keep the blog updated anyway these days, but I thought you should know anyway.

I make everything better!

That's very true, Monster.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Let's Try This Again

Ooooof... Stayed away for a long time again, right? I think (part of) the problem is that I write far (faaaaaaaaaar) to much when I manage to drag myself back to the blog again - it's not meant to be a series of novels, it's a blog! Occasionally posting ten-page stream-of-consciousness discussion is pretty much the opposite of keeping a daily record of our failures and successes - so let's stop doing that, OK? (Well, at least let's try...)

Here's what's been going on, as short as I can make it:
*Monster's bitten someone... (I wrote a loooooong paragraph here detailing the whole thing, but this is supposed to be a short summary so I deleted it again.) My mother was watching him and he jumped up at a visitor and bit her on the arm. She wasn't injured (no broken skin or lasting marks) nor particularly upset, and neither she nor my mother can say if he was angry or trying to play when it happened. They had no difficulty stopping him and putting him in another room, however.

*Monster behaved oddly toward my great aunt, whom he knows from before. Suddenly he acted as if she were the most dangerous thing he'd ever seen... The behavior stopped once she was in the car with us.

*I'm trying to look over our routines now that we're back home again and get something of a fresh start, trying to build better habits. It's not going great so far...

*We're having an issue with a dog owner who lets her dog run off leash along a stretch of the path we walk every day. The dog is guarding the path and appears quite actively aggressive (threatening body language, taking up confrontational positions, reacting from quite a distance, and so on), and the owner is clearly aware of this - if/when she spots us (or others trying to walk by) she'll race to catch her dog and/or call out for us to wait at a distance while she gets control over him. The situation feels quite bad and I've chosen to turn back rather than walk past a couple of times now - but it's not so fun to have an intended two hour walk turned into a half an hour slink-away instead... Maybe I'm reading the dog wrong and it's actually all "talk" and no action, but to me it does look like it intends to act and I am not amused. Monster also clearly finds the dog disturbing, as he actually "hides" behind my legs as we're walking past, pressing against me and peering sideways at the other dog. Which is allowed to stare unblinkingly at us with stiff body language while we're walking by - apparently catching it is good enough. Why is it off leash!? Along a quite busy hike/bike path!? Feel free to point and snicker at the glass house I'm sitting in, but I don't feel the owner is being responsible.

That'll have to do, now you're basically up to speed. Let's see if I can get to blogging regularly from now on... See you tomorrow then!

Wait, what's this - no photos of me!?! I object! There, that's better.