Friday, March 29, 2013

Qick Update

I'm really tired (and cranky), so this is just a quick post to keep you up to date. First of all: my leg's still broken. I know, what a shocker, right? It's starting to annoy me that it just keeps being broken! A lot of things are annoying me... Like how you sweat underneath a cast, and you can't wash. And oh my god, the itching! But most of all, I'm annoyed at how limited I am.

Also boring - did you mention boring yet?

Today has been a rough day - my sister took me grocery shopping yesterday, and that seems to have been a mistake. My leg has been protesting the exertion all night and all day... And it's been freezing cold, so I haven't managed more than about two hours sitting outside with Monster. He seems to be doing better today, though. He's no longer as insistent we're missing a deadline when I fail to get up for our walks in time. He's not happy, but the look of panic has receded from his eyes.

I'm just recharging for a more... effective freak out.

I would like to say I'm using the time well, doing lots of precision training with Monster, honing details and coming up with fun ways to expend some Monster energy. But at least for today, that would be a lie... I'm in pain and miserable, and today I'd say I've only accomplished the bare minimum.

Now I'm taking a painkiller and going to bed. Maybe my leg will have healed when I wake up!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Disaster Strikes

I've had a fear for quite a while now - one of those "OMG, what if!?" thoughts you scare yourself with when you're having a bad day - and yesterday it happened... Out on a walk with Monster, I jumped over a ditch. Or rather, tried to jump over a ditch. I misjudged the landing, and broke my ankle. Let me tell you something: I screamed... And once I'd calmed down a bit and tried to relax, I tried to get up - it could have been just a bad sprain after all, nevermind the unpleasant crunching sound - and screamed some more as I fell down again. That leg was not going to participate.

That was a very strange game, Mom... And you were very loud.

Fortunately I'd brought my phone - something I usually forget - and called my sister once I'd stopped crying. I needed her to take Monster, that was my first priority. With Monster along with me, no way can I call an ambulance, I can't get help from strangers out walking, I have to get him secure. So my sister said she was coming (after some disbelieving "You did what!?"), and I proceeded to crawl away. I wanted to get up to the road so she could pick us up. Let me tell you, that hurt. And Monster was very confused by this strange new game we were apparently playing, wanting to get in my face, check out what I was doing, fetching sticks to play with - and getting the leash tangled around my leg. So there was some screaming directed at Monster as well. I knew I was being very unfair - he had no idea what was going on - and that the screaming and shouting would do nothing to calm him down, but I wasn't entirely able to act rationally by then.

Yeah, you were super weird...

I crawled for about 20 minutes before I realized I wouldn't be able to reach the road. It hurt far too much, not to mention I was crawling through thorns and had cut up my hands and knees pretty badly by then... Fortunately I was fairly close to a tractor lane, so I crawled out into a small field and directed my sister to try to drive down there, and sat down to wait. Monster thought that was a great idea, he had a good view of a couple of bike paths and could watch people pass by at a distance. Some people let their freerunning dog a little too close to us, but overall it went pretty well. I had a bag of turkey meat with me that I sprinkled around from time to time to keep Monster busy.

That was a nice break, we should do that more often!

When my sister turned up I had to crawl over and load Monster into her car - when she tried he first backed away, and when she insisted he laid down and pretended to be dead... Then I had to load myself into the car, and I'll spare you a description of the sounds I made for that little adventure. We decided the best thing was to leave Monster in my sister's car while I was at the hospital (I think my sister - who's broken both her ankles in the past - suspected I wouldn't be released right away) and headed off into town. I wound up spending seven and a half hours in the orthopedic ER, but I didn't need surgery! The doctor said I had a "very funny fracture". I'm not laughing, let me tell you...

I don't get the joke...?

So, part one of my nightmare scenario turned out OK: I had my phone with me, so I could call for help, and I was released from the hospital. Unfortunately, there's not much variation possible for part two: I'm in a cast. I can't walk. I can't drive. I live alone. How am I going to take care of Monster for the next two months!? My sister says she'll drive over and walk him for me, at least a short walk once a day. That's very generous of her. Unfortunately she's a firm believer in dominance theory and corrections, and we got into a fight on the way home from the hospital (talk about fighting from a disadvantage considering how much she'd done for me that day) about how Monster is clearly very dominant, since he lifted his leg veeeeeery high when she took him out of the car to pee...

Say what now?

But the bottom line is I don't know what to do. I can't walk him, not even a very short distance. I took him out last night for his evening pee and walked about five meters out, five back - then I threw up and fell over, in a cold sweat and blackening vision. It hurts. This morning I put him on a long line and sat down in the door and just let him walk himself over to a nice corner. I can't do that for two months, he'll go stir crazy. I wish I had spent some of those "OMG, what if!?"-moments actually coming up with a brilliant plan for this situation. But I didn't. And I can't find one now. If anyone has an idea, I'd be happy to hear it...

Friday, March 22, 2013

Today's Cloud

We met a dog running off leash today. As they spotted each other (coming around a corner) they both froze and stared at each other. I made the decision to get Monster away from the situation, and tried to get him to disengage. Unfortunately we were far too close, and he wouldn't move. When I insisted he sat down, refusing to come. I ended up half carrying, half dragging him away and into the woods...

But whyyyyyyy?

This ended up being a bad and frustrating experience for Monster, where I took all power from him and forced him to do something he absolutely didn't want to do - physically overpowering him in a situation where he was already tense and vulnerable. I don't like what I did, and I keep wondering if I should have made a different decision... But Monster was on his 50-foot line and if that were to get tangled up in his or the other dog's legs if they met it could cause some serious injuries, so I didn't dare to take the chance. Ideally we wouldn't have been in a situation where we suddenly found ourselves too close to another dog, and I really do try to pay attention and monitor our surroundings. I simply didn't realize we were turning a blind corner, the vegetation was very sparse and I thought I could see well through it - unfortunately there was also a drop hidden by a snow drift, and the dog was small enough that it didn't show above it.

About that; shouldn't it be warmer by now? Like, a lot warmer...?

I know this probably doesn't sound like a disaster, but the worst thing I can do in a situation like this is forcing Monster to do something he doesn't want. It ruins his self confidence and he'll be a lot more reactive with the next dog...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Today's Sunshine

Monster and I met a man on a walk today, he was wearing a big hat and large coveralls and carrying two buckets. This is far too "abnormal" for Monster - quite frankly it's enough just that it's a strange man usually... And he did, as expected react.

If it was that expected, why are you yammering about it?

But the thing is, he didn't react badly until the we'd passed each other and were moving away from each other. When he first spotted the man he did fixate on him, he wouldn't pay any attention to me, and he started pulling on the leash. But his body language read more as curios than aggressive. Until he realized he wouldn't be allowed to greet once the man was moving away from us, when he did snap... But for us this is better than expected, so I'm going to be happy about it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Today's Cloud

Whenever something goes well with Monster, especially if it's beyond my expectations, I lose my head. I look at all the fun and interesting classes we could attend, looking up times and prices, planning our schedule, and so on. It's counterproductive, and once I come back down to the ground again I get depressed. We can't take regular classes until Monster can handle it, that's all there is to it. Wishing things were different won't change anything for the better. Maybe one day we'll be able to do "normal" things, and maybe we won't. I need to make the best of the situation we're in - and make sure I enjoy the good things, instead of letting them provoke me into dreaming of more. More, more, more; that's greedy.

Wait, are you saying I'm not good enough?

No, I'm not saying that - and that's my point. Or at least it became the point as I was writing. Some things with Monster are tough but I never wish I had another dog. I may wish I was better at dog training, but I'm not disappointed in Monster. I never regret buying him, no matter how much easier another dog could have been.

Today's Sunshine

Well, nothing much became of the snow storm - as yet there's barely a hint of white in the air. On the other hand, that means we're still plagued by flying dust (it gets in everywhere, even the glasses in the cupboards are gray). But at least the winds have dropped somewhat so it's possible to go outside without getting your skin peeled off! For a while at least...

Staying inside isn't so bad either, you know.

Aaaaaanyway. We've been having one of those confusing days today, where Monster will handle one strange dog with unexpected ease - even if the dog is very close, barking at us, turns up suddenly, or anything like that - but then freaks out in a situation he usually handles just fine. Why? Don't know. What does it mean? Don't know. What's the common denominator? Don't know. Don't know, don't know, don't know...

You don't? Well I'm not telling, so there.

 Frustrating. But hopeful in another way. Argh, don't mind me, the wind has driven me crazy...


The weather is insane. Storm winds are picking up dust and grit from the (by now freeze dried) unplanted fields and turning the air into blinding, stinging murk. When we try to go outside we get sandblasted, Monster runs around at the end of the leash nearly in a panic, and when we get back in I have to wash out his eyes (and mine). In other words we haven't been out of the house much today, and what time we have spent outside has been in complete solitude - no one else is stupid enough to try. No, wait, that's not true: we did see a bicyclist in the distance, as he struggled to pedal against the wind and ended up in a ditch... And apparently it's turning into a snow storm tonight.

It's kinda winy, huh?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Today's Cloud

Monster's been having a barking competition with the neighbor's dog today... He's usually very good with not barking - he may sound the alarm a couple of times, but he calms down easily and is generally fine once he's said his piece. But today this poodle's gotten under his skin somehow, and he's been running around barking at the doors and windows whenever the other dog sets him off. He won't stop just from being told, and he won't be content with a few barks. I'm tired. Monster's wired.

Oh, harr-harr... Very funny.

He's still distractable, and given something else to do he'll ignore the other dog. But if he's just relaxing he'll bounce right back into the shouting match again. Wish I knew what's different...

Today's Sunshine

Very tiny thing, but we've really come a long way on Monster's hand off during retrieve. Today we've been doing a lot of searching, where he hands off found items to me, and he's so enthusiastic about it (everything is a lot more fun when your dog is clearly enjoying himself) as well as he's very good with holding the items in a solid grip - and no chewing - right up until they're in my hand. He'll chase my hand if I move it away, and really push items to me. As I said, it's a tiny thing. But I'm happy.

Me too! Let's play again!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Today's Cloud

Nearly a year ago I had to tear down the garden fence (draining the foundation) and a replacement is still not up. So when I'm outside with Monster I tether him to a long line - which is far from optimal.

Yeah, I keep getting tangled up for one thing!

Today I spent a couple of hours outside with Monster tied up with me. Suddenly Monster alerted to something behind a corner, and before I could move to see what was bothering him off he went. Turns out a man had come to warn us they were shutting off the water for the day (some problem a few houses down, I don't know)... I've measured the line so I know Monster can't reach the line marking the future fence, and this seems to work as a mental barrier keeping people on the other side even when there's nothing physically stopping them. This guy was fortunately no exception, as he was sort of confusedly standing on the other side of the (nonexistent) fence looking at a raving Monster. Still, I had no idea he was there before Monster had already tried to confront him and that's just not OK. Not because I think there was necessarily any real danger, but because I should simply be more responsible. Turns out this guy was fairly taken with Monster, and actually wanted to pet him! That was nice, and I did allow a short greeting, but unfortunately Monster had been frustrated too long by trying to reach the man and being held back by the tether and was too wound up - he couldn't keep his front paws on the ground to save his life, and he was far too intense. Pity. If I had paid better attention and managed the encounter better from the start it could have been a lot nicer for everyone involved...

I just wanted to say hi...

And being the special brand of stupid that I am, I learned absolutely nothing from this experience. Case in point: half an hour later I'm in the exact same spot with no line of sight to the front yard when Monster again alerts to intruders. A group of Jehovah's Witnesses had come to save us... The less said about that, the better. Let's just say there may be more than one savior working for them some days. Still, everyone's fine and some days that's all I'm asking for.

Awww, where're you going?! Come back - and give me some more of those delicious pamphlets!

I have got to get the fence back up soon.

Today's Sunshine

Monster and I have been having a lot of fun on our walks today, doing impromptu training on recall, heel, weave between my legs, target, jump up, follow with eye contact, play and break, and I don't know what. The walks have been fairly few and short (it's freezing outside, and so windy even Monster objects), but they were filled with fun!

YEAH!, let's go home and light a fire...

Monstermom Gets Her Act Together (... you know - maybe)

Listen up boys and girls: vitamin D is not to be messed with. I've been feeling increasingly weak and tired for months now (you may remember me complaining...), and about a month ago it got so bad I had to lie down just from walking upstairs, I found myself getting disoriented on walks not remembering where I was or what I was doing, and my entire body ached nonstop. I finally pulled myself together and had myself checked out, and it turns out I had severe vitamin D deficiency. I've been eating prescribed pills for about a week now, and I feel like I'm returning to myself - it's ridiculous how bad I've been feeling, and how poorly I've been functioning. Not just physically, but mentally as well. Perhaps I'm just having a placebo effect right now, but either way it's working so I'm going with it!

Hear, hear! You were not the only one affected...

Today was the first time in a long time I did a spontaneous and fun training session with Monster. For I-don't-know-how-long all daily activities has basically been focused on finding ways to give Monster something to do which required very little from me. Even days when I really tried to do proper training, I'd get so exhausted in under a minute that I had to sit down - I can't believe now that I just went with it and didn't seek help! But today we've been working through a basic obedience program (modified for him being kept on leash, as we still don't have a fenced in area to work in), with a lot of running, wrestling and playing tug. And it was so much fun!

Yeah! Finally!

I complain a lot about Monster. This whole blog is actually all about complaining about Monster, in a way! I think I may be presenting a very skewed picture of him. So I want to say this: Monster is an amazing dog. With a better trainer, and with an early, correct approach to his issues, he'd be a freaking miracle in the ring! He is hyper responsive to minute signals from me, he is a workaholic - I have never managed to push him to the point where he doesn't want to continue training - and he is curious and inventive. He has a huge chase drive, and an innate interest in objects and activities. If a human handles something around him and puts it down, he will immediately investigate it and try to engage with both the object and the person who had it. He will pick up the book you just put down, retrieve your hat and shoes for you when you take them off, and immediately unpack a bag of groceries when it enters the house. There is so much potential in him, I'm just bad at channeling it...

I know, right!?

Then again, it's not all sunshine and roses. He did try to eat a group of Jehovah's Witnesses today...

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Monstermom Makes A Mess Of Things, Monster Saves The Day

Oooof. Adrenaline overload.

Really? Why?

I took Monster out for a quickie-walk just on the small field right outside our house. I meant to do some light training and just a sniff'n'pee and then back home, so I just slipped the martingale collar on Monster, put some treats in my pocket, and off we went. Stupid. I know the martingale won't realistically hold him if he really struggles to break free (his head - although by many claimed to be the size of an ox's - is smaller than his neck, so even tightened it can be wriggled out of), but he's simply never gotten out of it. Never even tried to. I know that's a ridiculous excuse, but I've somehow managed to lull myself into comforting lies about how he
A) Doesn't even know he can back out of it - how would he since he's never tried, or done so accidentally after all
B) Doesn't want to get out - he's all show, bark worse than bite, and so on. He's big and brave with the leash holding him back, but free to do what he wants he's a big softy. Basically. Right?
C) If the world were to go completely topsy-turvy and points A and B were through some incomprehensible feat of supreme bad luck to become nullified, I'd at least get a bit of a warning - him backing, squirming, trying to fight free - and be able to secure him with my hands if it seemed like he'd figure out how to work the miracle of (unwanted!) freedom.
Yes. I am an idiot! However did you know?

It wasn't really a secret before now either, Mom...

I'm not saying I'd actually thought it through quite that thoroughly. But I think it sums up approximately what my half formed reasoning was. After all, when going out for a "real" walk Monster wears a harness and a choke collar attached to the harness (the collar is just a safety precaution in case the harness breaks or Monster manages to get out of it, it does nothing as long as the harness is on - and in fact I've never had to rely on it, since Monster just isn't a Houdini dog), showing that I do in fact consider the martingale unsafe. But we were just going across the road after all, why be unnecessarily cautious? That's just ridiculous. Right?

Exactly! You know you can trust me...

As soon as we crossed the road I saw there was a group approaching from down the hill. A couple, with a baby carriage, walking three small dogs. So I quickly crossed and headed for the far side of the field, not overly concerned - Monster might be triggered to react simply because I was moving quickly away from them, especially as we'd just come outside when he tends to be a bit more excited, but by now I'm fairly confident at the distance the width of the field provides, and I know that even if he does act out at that distance - which doesn't happen unless there is something aggravating the situation - his heart isn't really in it and he's quite easily managed.

Sure, sure. More than ten meters is nothing to get excited about after all...

Monster did show he wasn't quite interested in cooperating fully, finding the approaching group quite interesting. As we were moving away from them he wanted to bounce around and watch them rather than pay attention to me. I persisted, and we moved away - until, suddenly, something snapped. I don't know if the others made a sound, or if it was just Monster's control that ran out, but in just a fraction of a second I was standing there staring stupidly at the empty leash in my hand...


Monster was running full tilt toward the people and dogs on the road, body low and hackles raised, and I screamed his name (more to alert the people than in any hope to successfully recall him, to be honest) and started after him. I was cold from fear. I know Monster has been very good with other dogs when he's off leash. But he was younger then. And last time (actually quite recently) he met a dog he was attacked and bitten. And these dogs were tiny, less than a tenth of Monster's size. And there was a baby carriage involved. (I want to be clear: I don't think Monster would be aggressive toward a baby - but I do think he could easily knock a baby carriage over without even noticing it or meaning any harm.) So, in short, I was terrified.

Huh... You just don't trust me, do you?

The man, who had the baby carriage and one of the dogs (as I understood it later this was a male dog) quickly lifted his dog off the ground when he saw Monster barreling straight for them - as it turns out this was perhaps slightly unnecessary (but still a good idea), considering Monster was going so fast he couldn't even stop when he reached them but slid to a halt several meters past (and scraped up his carpal pad something awful on the asphalt, I discovered when we got back home). By then he was closer to the woman and the two tiny dogs she was holding, so he went for them instead.

Hellooooo, ladies!

Fortunately, all he wanted to do was play and greet - like the sweet guy he really is. OK, also sniff some ladies' behinds. And even more fortunately, the woman with the dogs - who had basically just watched Death racing toward them - was perfectly calm and reasonable! Unfortunately, I was in the grip of low grade panic and my brain had shut down completely (not that there was much activity to halt in the first place...), meaning all I was able to do was chase Monster around with the (useless) collar in one hand and a treat in the other. The woman was clearly (in retrospect) trying to talk me down, pointing out that her dogs were female (reducing the risk of a fight of course) and talking calmingly to Monster and even praising him. But still, all I could manage to do was pointlessly chase Monster round and round while simultaneously trying to shove a collar over his head and a treat in his mouth - of which he would have neither, naturally. He quickly abandoned the woman and her two dogs (since I was being a nuisance there) and went back to the man and his dog, by then back on the ground, but this dog wasn't overly amused with Monster and told him so in no uncertain terms, and the situation tensed up a little. Finally I found two bewildered braincells and managed to rub them together to form a tiny spark, and stopped in my tracks - never approach your dog if he's squaring off with another! (These braincells appear to have been old and experienced, praise the whatever.) So I started to back up a couple of steps, and called Monster away instead of chasing him. And he happily left the grumpy guy (his opinion, not mine - I happen to think the tiny little dog to be both entitled to protest and very tolerant) to return to the ladies. Encouraged by the success of the first couple of functioning brain cells a few others came back from their impromptu vacation, and made me - finally - try to just tell Monster what to do. A simple "sit" and he sat down. And looked a bit miffed while I slipped the collar on him (and shoved the treat in his mouth, mostly just to have somewhere to put it). But he sat. And he stayed. He really is a good boy. I'm not sure why I'm surprised...

Yeah, about that... Why are you surprised? Hmm?

I'm pretty sure I apologized - incoherently - a number of times, while the woman calmly praised Monster telling him he was such a good boy for sitting when told (by then she'd probably realized there was no point trying to talk to me, there was just Nobody Home). When she and her company moved away, Monster did protest and bark but even then the group didn't seem concerned. Well, if they didn't panic when a Corso ran loose and "attacked" I suppose panic wasn't really on the table for them. I'm glad someone managed to keep their head...

Yeah... You were kind of embarrassing...

I'm not sure why I freaked out so badly. I've had dogs get away from me before after all. And Monster has never shown any true aggression. But it was just... The dogs were so small. And the baby carriage! Oh, good lord. Scary. But Monster really is pretty good with other dogs - incongruously enough! I need to remember and rely on that more. Not in the sense that I shouldn't be more careful (no more martingale), just that if things do go wrong I need to keep calm so my frantic mistakes don't derail a situation which isn't such a disaster after all - at least not without my interference.

Yeah. Relax!

At least this has lead to a couple of pleasant realizations. Firstly, Monster really is just bark and no bite. Even though he's nearly three years old by now, and fully mature (biologically, at least). And secondly, he's become a lot more accepting of being physically handled lately. I've had to cut off pieces of skin from his carpal pad with a pair of scissors, clean out and bind the wound, and he hasn't objected to any of it. He persistently wants to lick it, but he lets me push him down, tip him over, mess with the scrape, etc, without protesting - or wanting to protest. He trusts the handling, which he's never been very good with. Interesting...

Don't tell her this, but I'm feeling sorry for her - she needs a bit of a pick-me-up.

Interesting day overall. I need to go lie down.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Another Update

Don't worry, Monster's not still sick. Unfortunately it's my turn to be a bit under the weather, which is why the blog is so dead right now. Be patient.

I'll be back!