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Archive for June, 2007

doggie backpack!

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Hi everybody!

We finally fenced in our yard at the Cape. This is where,about a month ago, my dogs got into YET ANOTHER incident. A fight with the neighbor’s little Beagle (see posting “dog fight!” below).

Between that, and my being dragged down on the ground by these guys at least a half-dozen times down here by the beach, it was no longer feasible to be walking on-leash as my ONLY option.

Last week, my best girlfriend fell while walking her dog and broke her arm and got 9 stitches in her forehead. Her dog is the most well-behaved, mellow, relaxed dog I have EVER known. He is 9 years old or so. What happened was, a cat crept out from under a bush and walked right under his nose sort of “taunting” him, and he lunged. My friend was looking in the other direction, and didn’t let go of the leash until it was too late. I can’t tell you how many times this kind of thing has happened to me, and I am damn lucky that I have only had minor injuries, considering that I’m walking two 80-lb dogs, and I never let go ofthe leashes for fear of traffic or ticking off some human!! Thus, I have been dragged, on my face/stomach, several times.

Back to the fence. So, I put the dogs in the yard when we arrived here the other day, after taking a very brief 5 minute walk. They were SO relaxed, I’ve never seen them so calm here. They usually are tied up on long ropes in the yard, or have to stay indoors, or walked on leash, so all that pent-up energy had nowhere to go. Now that they can walk around in the yard, they are like different dogs.

On Friday, the satellite installation took place and we finally have high-speed internet. It took NINE hours, and we have this hideous dish in our yard, which detracts from the 1950s “beachy” feel of the place, but not so bad now that I’ve had a few days to get used to it! lol. Well, having the yard fenced in, the dogs hung out all day with the guy who was doing the install. They did not bark at him, not even once, upon his arrival. They slept all day, and that was without a walk. It wasn’t hot, so that wasn’t the reason they were so relaxed, they just were relaxed. They were able to go in and out of the house on their own, just like they do at home.

Bored out of my mind, I took them for a walk at 6 pm (the guy didn’t finish until 8 pm!). On the walk, the dogs were insane. On the next morning’s walk they were insane again. Later, I was working in the yard, and a woman walked by with a giant Schnauzer. My dogs barked ONCE. This is amazing. When they were tied up on ropes in the yard, they would go BERSERK when a dog walked by. They just let out one little “woof” apiece, walked calmly up to the fence, sniffed at the dog, followed it as far as they could from inside the fence, and then trotted back to me and laid down on the ground.

Cesar said on a recent episode (before the season ended) that it’s ok to just walk a few minutes if that’s all you can feel comfortable doing, and try to increase each day. He said if you can just walk to the next door neighbor’s driveway and back, then that’s all you can do and don’t beat yourself up for it. I really feel that I am back to basics as far as walks go. I used to be such an expert, and fearless, until I started getting into all these scrapes (mainly with other HUMANS!!!). Now, I am a nervous wreck. Then, to top it all off my friend’s incident happened, and another friend about 6 months ago fell walking her dog and broke her ankle in three places. It really makes me think how lucky I am that I haven’t been seriously hurt with these two. It’s important to also note that I suffer from a chronic fatigue and pain condition (as yet undiagnosed but I’mworking on it with the drs) and this creates challenges I never had in my life as a younger woman. I am no longer strong like I used to be, I’m very unsteady on my feet, I’m dizzy a lot of the time, andI’m always extremely exhausted, so it’s unsafe to walk two big dogs on leash most of the time. Then, I fence in the yard, and the dogs are more calm than they’ve ever been their whole lives.

On my web site, I have a whole page entitled “The Importance ofWalking Your Dog”. I totally agree with Cesar that dogs are meant to walk, and that we have to walk with them as a pack. I was doing that way before I ever heard of Cesar. My Timba and I were such a great team, we could walk without a leash. We’d walk several hours a day.When I adopted Hobie, it was for one and only one reason: Timba could no longer walk, and I needed a dog to walk with me (ok, I also fell in love with him when I saw him lol). I tell EVERYONE who has a new dog that they MUST walk the dog at least 20-60 minutes a day, if not more.But now, I’ve witnessed in my own life that all of my dog problems occur ON the walk, and that when I walk around the fenced yard with them (by the way, that’s important to mention — I walk with them inside the yard, I don’t just toss them out there alone), they seemto be SO unbelievably calm. Friday, during the satellite installation, they were so calm and relaxed, I just couldn’t believe it.

Am I crazy, ifI say that I think we are better off not walking as much right now?

I don’t know, but today, I decided I’d put the backpack on Hector before our morning walk. We had encountered three dogs during Sunday morning’s walk, and I’m just so stressed out over this. There are so many dogs here! Maybe the backpack will help to calm him down by giving him a job to do other than “protecting” us.

I didn’t put any weight in the backpack, just empty water bottles and empty grocery bags for poop-pickup. Just putting the backpack on Hector calmed him down. It was amazing. We only walked for 10 minutes because the dogs started to get excited about something I couldn’t see. Probably a wild animal in the woods, or a cat, I didn’t wait around to find out. I turned around and went home. Just as we approached our house, the lady across the street was outside with her tiny dog walking up and down the barricaded end of the road. Had Hector not been wearing the backpack, he would’ve lunged and dragged me. But instead, his leash was slack, and I just gathered it up like a purse string, did the same with Hobie, who has always been more manageable, and jogged up and into our driveway, depositing the dogs into the car with a bribe of “we’re goin’ for a RIDE!” Off we went to get coffee, pastries, dog food and stamps.

When we returned, the lady was outside walking her dog still. I made Hobie and Hector get out of the car separately and put them into the fenced-in yard. Yay!! They’re completely relaxed again today. I’m gonna keep using that backpack. Remember: it’s almost always something the human is doing (or not doing)!! It’s not the dog, it’s the human!

morning at k2’s

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Here is a funny video I took one morning.

i love my dog

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I love both of my dogs, but this essay is about Hobie.

I have discovered that poor Hobie is “unstable” as Cesar would define the dog. An unstable dog is not calm and balanced. An unbalanced dog is nervous, frightened, hyper and at times aggressive.

Hobie has a horrendous fear of fireworks and thunderstorms. Last Saturday night, the neighbors around the lake were at it again, lighting off dramatic homemade fireworks displays, complete with whirring, whistling colorful things that flew over our house and exploded into the night air. These are punctuated by “cherry-bomb” or M-80 firecrackers, the likes of which shake the entire house even though the person who exploded it was clear across the other side of the lake. The poor Canada geese squawk and fly away in terror, in the middle of the night, the poor things, and Hobie would like to join them if he could.

When the first “boom!” hit Saturday night, Hector stood up, looked out the screen door “on alert”, decided everything was fine, and laid down and went to sleep for the rest of the night. Different story with Hobie. He proceeded to claw at us, and pant so hard that I thought he would have a heart attack. He could not find a proper place to hide, trying to crawl under the desk, then deciding that wasn’t good enough, and trying to get me to go into the basement. Now, this last part is my fault. When he was a puppy, long before we had Hector, the two of us would go into the “bomb shelter” (the laundry room) and I’d sit and read a book in a lawn chair while he chilled out. I’d play music on a radio or something, and run the washing machine so he couldn’t hear the fireworks. So, I have obviously “trained” poor Hobester to seek shelter in the laundry room. Only now, 7 years later, the laundry room is gross and dirty and wet and moldy. Someone accidentally threw away the lawn chairs, so there’s nowhere to sit except if I’m lucky enough to be backlogged on laundry, in which case I can make a pile and sit on it. I decided to do just that on Saturday night. Hector laid down beside me and snoozed. Hobie paced and panted and hid behind the drying rack. It was hours later that he was finally calm enough to go to sleep, long after the neighbors had put away their toys for the evening.

During all of this, a surprising thing happened. I’ve been following the advice of Cesar Millan, who says never give your dog affection when it is upset. So, when Hobie is doing all of his neurotic behavior, I try to make him calm down by being a leader to him and not giving him affection. This means no patting or saying, “Awwww, honeeeeey, it’s OK.” stuff like that. Whereas I used to do nothing BUT affection, I have flip-flopped and rarely give my dog affection anymore, under any circumstances, until he’s had his exercise and discipline. Most of the time is spent on discipline!

That night, Gil took Hobie, practically in his arms, and patted him and loved him and told him everything would be OK. Gil’s not a fanatic follower of Cesar like I am, but he does like the guy and enjoys watching the show and read the book bla bla bla. What Gil did actually calmed Hobie down.

I was both amazed and sad all at the same time. For the first 6 years of his life, I kept Hobie from things, I didn’t socialize him, I never allowed him any freedom from having a leash attached to his body. He became a frustrated dog. But the last year and a half, since I discovered “Dog Whisperer” I have once again kept Hobie from enjoying life, but in a different way. I have been his leader, and haven’t shown him as much love as I probably should. This is by no means a reflection on Cesar Millan. I am still his biggest fan and supporter. It is my fault. As Cesar always says, the problem with dogs is always something the human is doing. The dog is just being a dog. How right he is. Once again, I have made mistakes.

So, I’m trying to get a good balance with Hobie now. I’m trying to be conscious of the fact that this dog, this wonderful dog with whom I fell in love at first sight, will not be with me forever. He is a great dog, and he deserves a balance of leadership and love, not a lifetime of saying “NO!” to him constantly. I feel like that’s all I do these days, “No, Hobie. No. NO. NO!”

I’m going to try to be a better pet parent to my dog. To both of my dogs.

A dog named mini-Cooper is brought to you by Tripawds.