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Tag: company for christmas

Company for Christmas: Resolved

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It’s 2010 and I’m down to one dog.

The last of my holiday guests has been returned to her owners, leaving Ace and me on our own again. However tested we might have felt at times, I think we both agree it’s way too quiet now.

DSC07586I’d like to think that Ace and my guests gained something from the experience — that Darcy will remember to relieve herself outdoors; that Cheyenne will remember how Ace helped guide her to the park; that Lucas will never forget that I can bark louder — though not for as long — as him.

Maybe I taught them a thing or two, but they — as often happens when humans and dogs connect —  have taught me much more.

Hence, my New Year’s resolutions:

DSC07662Be more like Ace: Share. Allow new beings, after a good sniffing out, into my life. When others get on my nerves, just walk away. Don’t whine. Don’t get cranky. Take things in stride. Adjust.

Be more like Lucas: Speak up when circumstances so dictate, or maybe sometimes even when they don’t. Keep plodding along, despite any aches, pains or inconveniences. And, if there’s a particularly attractive mud puddle, do not hesitate, even if wearing white, to jump on in and splash around. Get dirty once in a while.

Be more like Cheyenne: When I bump my head, keep going — with quiet grace. Persevere. Don’t whine about the obstacles; find a way around them. Step lightly, but keep moving forward.

Be more like Darcy: Seize the day. Live in the moment (even though, at the moment, I’m quite sick of that phrase). Grab the bone. Fart loud and often. Explore. Stay excited — maybe not to the extent she does — but stay excited by life.

DSC07575Be more like Ace and Cheyenne: Be willing to help and be helped, to guide and be guided.

When you can cushion the blows somebody is taking, cushion them.

Don’t hesitate to hold somebody’s hand. Let others lean on me. Allow myself to lean on others. 

Be willing to adjust my gait, my habits and my routines for good purposes.

Trust.

Share the couch.

Share the bowl.

(To read all of the “Company for Christmas” series, click here.)

Company for Christmas: Down to Darcy

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The saint is gone. The sinner remains.

After a four-dog Christmas, I’m down to two — my dog Ace, and the visiting Boston terrier, Darcy.

Cheyenne, the blind Lab, went home today, and with not a single demerit on her record.

Darcy notched up a few, resulting in her serving some time (above) during her stay with me. But she spent most of her days playing with Ace, in my lap, or on the couch with a marrow bone (which would keep her occupied for hours).

She was the pup of my pack — not yet two, and not entirely aware, it seemed, that she’s a dog. She was sort of the opposite of Lucas, the big yellow Lab whose personality seems to shout, “I’m a dog, dammit.”

I tried to convince Darcy that she too was of the canine species, but I don’t think she bought it.

DSC07736As the youngster of the group, she was everywhere — and she never walked to get there. Instead, she’s always in a speedy little trot, which makes it appear she needs to go to the bathroom, which was sometimes the case. Trouble was, it was impossible to distinguish betweeen her hurry-hurry-gotta-pee-now trot, and her usual trot.

So I’d open the door to let her out and she’d stand there with a look on her face that said “what are you kidding? It’s 20 degrees out there.”

When one dog got attention, Darcy would inevitably run over and demand some as well. And whenever I left my TV-watching chair, she’d hop right into it, refusing to leave when I came back.

Darcy slept in the crate at night. The first night she cried for a minute, and Ace, who normally beds down with me, stayed downstairs with her. Other than bedtime, she only did a couple of other short stretches in the crate — either for disciplinary infractions or during visits from my landlord, who chose this week of all weeks to repair my leaky ceilings.

Darcy, I found out, enjoyed drywall almost as much as the marrow bone, gobbling up the crumbs the landlord left behind.

I yelled at her for that, and for a few other things, but all in all she was a joy to have around. Despite her dribbles and dumps, mostly remedied after the first couple of days, her lack of any visible off-switch and her tendency to enthusiastically explore everything, she brought me more smiles than anything else.

She’s full of personality, a master of the “who-me?” look, and far too cute, with those big bulging eyes, to stay mad at for more than 15 seconds …

OK, maybe 30.

(To read all of the Company for Christmas series, click here.)

Company for Christmas: The pack breaks up

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I’m thankful for my Christmas packages, but I’m more grateful yet for my Christmas pack.

For reasons I don’t fully understand, I volunteered to take in three canine guests over the holidays — all dogs of friends who were leaving town.

There was Darcy, the high-energy Boston terrier; Cheyenne, the blind Labrador who, ironically, was bred to be a seeing eye dog; and, just for Christmas day, Lucas, a big plodding, vocal, yellow Lab who, I guess because of the combination of his gruff exterior and his underlying sweetness, always reminds me of Lou Grant in the old TV show.

They all joined my dog Ace and I over the holidays. After the first chaotic day, I questioned my sanity. On the second day, things calmed down. By day three we’d become a well-oiled machine, having learned each others’ ways. We became synchronized, as pet and person do over time.

Perhaps the best example was on our walks to the park. The first trip resulted in a tangle of leashes, with one dog — the smallest one, of course — tugging me all the way, resulting in me not paying enough attention to the blind one so she could avoid bumping into trash cans, all while my own dog Ace added to the tangle by veering off to pee on every tree.

Once at the park, Darcy, the Boston terrier, not liking the cold and the snow so much, would hop up on every park bench and sit down, as if to say, “You guys go ahead, I’ll just wait here.”

Sensing she wasn’t the rugged outdoors type, I started taking Darcy along only on about every third park trip, leaving Ace and Cheyenne to work things out between them. It was an amazing thing to watch.  After a few trips Cheyenne took to walking directly alongside Ace, using him as a guide and buffer. By listening to the click clack of his claws on the cement, she was able to trot alongside, correcting herself when she would gently veer into him.

Ace seemed to realize he had a new job — instead of peeing on every tree, it was to serve as Cheyenne’s assistant, as a guide dog to the dog who was supposed to be a guide dog. And Cheyenne seemed to trust him fully, or at least more than she did me after I —  not paying attention — allowed her to walk into a stair rail. When that happened, though, she’d just back up, adjust and carry on.

Feeding time, complicated at first, became a breeze as well. Darcy would eat in the crate, and Ace and Cheyenne seemed content to stick with their own bowls. Since Cheyenne only eats once a day, she generally got a carrot — her favorite treat — in the evening.

DSC07751Cheyenne, noting I spend entirely too much time at the computer, took to curling up between my feet at the base of my desk, allowing her to keep track of me and get some rest and me to keep my feet warm.

Darcy, who kept things lively, underwent a vast improvement in her toileting habits after the first two days  — partly due, I think, to my sphincter-sealing yell, partly because I insisted she go outside frequently — and we mostly avoided further accidents. Darcy and Ace continued to play the paw in mouth game — until Ace would get bored and go upstairs to be alone.

I’d try to give them each 30 minutes of individual attention a day, be it snuggling or wrestling. When I’d go upstairs to give Ace his time, and find him in the bed, I’d join him, and we’d generally fall asleep.

It was inspiring to me how well Ace handled the visitors — not a snarl or whine the whole week. To me, that’s the most impressive thing about dogs — how well they adjust, Cheyenne being a prime example of that. We adjust, too; we’re just not as good at it as dogs.

Now I need to adjust to my pack leaving. Today it shrinks to two dogs, with Cheyenne’s return home. And tomorrow Darcy will depart.

I expect, once we’re alone, Ace and I will both heave a big sigh — and it will only partly be one of relief.

(To read all of the Company for Christmas series, click here.)

Company for Christmas: The Dog Shouter

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I am not a professional dog trainer; nor do I play one on TV. But this week — with my cast of visiting holiday dogs — I’ve been forced to call upon the techniques of Cesar Millan, Victoria Stilwell and all the other dog trainers whose books I have read and whose television programs I have viewed.

I have employed their methods, and experimented with a few of my own. (Don’t worry, friends who have left their dogs with me — none of those involve electrical shocks.)

While I am a strong proponent of quietly and patiently addressing bad canine habits, of redirecting a misbehaving dog’s energies elsewhere, I’m also trying to get some work done during the holidays. So I can’t devote full time to the task. Also, I’m just providing room and board, and — even if some of my wards may be exhibiting behavior in need of correcting — it would be presumptuous of me to take on the role of dog trainer.

satire sigNevertheless, to avoid total chaos, I have had to enforce some discipline, and being as I’m often in the next room, there are times a simple “tsssst” just won’t cut it.

Instead, after four days working with my visiting dogs, I have become … (insert theme song here) …

“The Dog Shouter.”

It will probably be a few months before my Dog Shouter* (trademark pending) books, videos and magazine hit the market, but for now I will share with you what I have found to be the singlemost effective tool in my dog training arsenal: yelling at the top of my lungs.

My most miraculous results — and I regret that I didn’t videotape this — came with Lucas, the barker.

DSC07717Lucas goes into barking sprees for no apparent reason. Sometimes, he will stare at me and bark for three minutes or more, not stopping when I pet him, or talk to him, or try and soothe him, or even when I shout No!” But when I screamed no, as loud as I could, I mean really, really loud, he immediately went silent, and stayed that way. I don’t know if my scream established my dominance, or just scared him. But it worked.

My techniques also met with astonishing success in dealing with Darcy, the visiting Boston terrier who has taken to leaving reminders of herself about the house. She knows better, and I’m pretty sure she’s doing it to assert herself amid all the larger dogs. Twice, she has pooped within minutes of coming back in the house from outside.

DSC07664Yesterday, though, I was watching her — again just a minute after coming back in — as she squatted down, looked at me defiantly, and, pardon my vividness, began to open the gate to drop her load. Immediately, I screamed a really deafening “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!.” Amazingly, the package that visibly was on its way out reversed direction, returning home for delivery at a later date.

Apparently my sphincter-sealing roar had lasting effects. Normally, she won’t go outside on her own, only on a leash. But this morning when I saw her trot into the next room, I inquired — not in a shout — what she was doing. She trotted back in, ran to the door, actually stepped outside when I opened it, and pooped in the yard.

Yet more proof that my Dog Shouter* techniques really, really work.

There is a downside to using the Dog Shouter* techniques with multiple dogs. While it manages to correct, or at least forestall, bad behavior in the dog being shouted at, the other dogs all end up feeling wrongly accused. When you shout at one — say the one chewing into tiny bits the hard rubber things the sofa wheels sit on — the others all  assume “hey what’d I do?” looks and start sulking. My own highly sensitive dog Ace heads upstairs and climbs in the futon. It has to be even more confusing to Cheyenne, my blind guest, who has no way of knowing who my mouth is pointed at when I shout a blood curdling “NOOOOOO!!!!!”

Thus, employing Dog Shouter* techniques when there are multiple dogs in the household requires one to spend a lot of time comforting and reassuring the dogs to whom the screams were not directed.

I tried to specify the dog I was shouting at, saying their name before roaring, but I’d get their names confused in the heat of the moment — much like my mother used to when scolding me and my two siblings.

To be a proper Dog Shouter* — especially if one’s full attention is being devoted to their writing or, say,  watching a Scrubs marathon —  one must learn to identify suspicious sounds from the next room, perhaps a blanket being shredded, correctly assume who the perpetrator is, and tailor the shout to that dog: “DARCY! NOOOOOOO!

Similarly, when things get too quiet in the next room, a good Dog Shouter* — much like a good parent — will assume something is up and issue a precautionary shout: “Hey! What’s going on in there!” Or perhaps, even something more specific, even if it’s just a guess: “Darcy, you better not be humping my pillow!”  The Dog Shouter* knows that, while it’s best to shout during the actual misbehavior, an out-of-the-blue shout — even if all three are  peacefully resting — will serve to bring a quick halt to the hijinks and indiscretions they are  most assuredly quietly planning.

I’m sure you want to know more about by Dog Shouter* techniques, but you’ll just have to wait until the books, magazine, infomercials and DVDs come out. I figure the best way of establishing my Dog Shouter* empire is to send out an audition tape of me, The Dog Shouter*, in action:

“WHAT IN GOD’S NAME ARE YOU DOING? DROP THAT, DROP IT AT ONCE!! BAD DOG. SHAME ON YOU! WHO SAID YOU COULD PLAY WITH THAT? NO NO NO! STOP CHEWING ON THAT, WHATEVER IT IS!!! DON”T EVER TOUCH THAT AGAIN!!! DON”T MAKE ME COME IN THAT ROOM!!! I MEAN IT!!! OK, HERE I COME!!! YOU’RE IN TROUBLE NOW!!! Oh … It’s just your bone … never mind.”

Who wouldn’t want to watch 30 minutes of that? Granted, it could get a little repetitious, but then so do all those other doggie discipline shows.

Animal Planet, my lines are open.

(To read all of the “Company for Christmas” series, click here.)

Company for Christmas: Then there were four

DSC07691My very doggie Christmas continues, with the arrival of my final holiday guest — Lucas, an old yellow Lab and my most vocal visitor yet.

Perhaps its just his Christmas spirit, but he has broken into song several times since his owner dropped him off this morning. They generally last three to four minutes, then he plops down on the floor, exhausted from all the caroling.

His barking sprees get Darcy started (Lucas is an alto, Darcy a soprano). Ace, after trying to figure out what Lucas is barking about,  goes upstairs. Cheyenne, the blind dog, sits calm and trance-like in a corner, seemingly realizing that the other dogs aren’t barking at anything in particular — but just for the sake of barking.

Lucas brought a stuffed toy with him, but Darcy immediately sexually assaulted the unsuspecting Gingerbread Man, then began pulling out his cotton stuffing. He has been removed from circulation, and is listed in critical condition, pending treatment from a seamstress.

DSC07703We opened stockings — Cheyenne seemed to enjoy sporting the antlers that were in hers — and chowed down on a smorgasbord of treats, maybe too many treats, as someone (and I’m not pointing any fingers) pooped on the floor.

Lucas is just a day guest, and will be picked up tonight. Darcy and Cheyenne will both be staying a few more days — so expect a few more updates on my canine Christmas.

Until then, allow me to thank my guests for making my Christmas a lot more lively; my dog for so graciously sharing his couch and home with visitors; and Febreeze for helping me mist away the lingering odors left by whoever it is that’s farting.

Thanks also to all the readers of ohmidog! Happy holidays, and best wishes to you and your dogs  for a happy new year, from me and my Christmastime crew — from left to right, Darcy, Cheyenne, Ace and Lucas.

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(To read all of the “Company for Christmas” series, click here.)

Company for Christmas: Three dog night

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Perhaps you’ve heard people say this: Two dogs are just as easy as one. Or, three dogs are just as easy as two.

It’s not so.

Bearing in mind that it depends in large extent on the individual dogs, and having a routine carved out for them, the amount of time and energy spent on caring for multiple dogs doesn’t just double with two dogs, or triple with three dogs. When it comes to multiple dogs, basic math goes out the window.

Among my observations so far — based on my hosting three guest canines for Christmas, two of which have arrived so far to join me and my own dog Ace:

— Three dogs, who you would think would drink three times the amount of water as one, actually drink eight times the amount.

— Three dogs who normally wouldn’t follow you from room to room, all follow you from room to room when they are together.

— Three dogs, as all three have to do whatever one does — be it drinking water, peeing, barking or jumping on the human —  actually engage in 18 times the amount of activity that they would on their own.

DSC07612My newest arrival is a young Boston terrier named Darcy, who possesses an energy level equivalent to a whole  litter of Energizer bunnies. She’s constantly on the go. She likes to get up on the couch or a chair, so she’s at eye level with Ace, and then slap her paws into his face. Ace responds by taking Darcy’s paw, leg, or entire head into his mouth, at which point Darcy freezes until Ace lets go. Then they do it all over again. Cheyenne, the visiting blind dog, stayed out of those frays.

Darcy’s humans brought plenty of toys, which everyone is sharing nicely. Cheyenne went nuts over Darcy’s tug toy, whipping it around and flinging it, trying to find where it went, then doing it all over again.

Darcy meanwhile took a strong liking to Cheyenne’s bed — pulling it out of the crate,  attempting to impregnate it (though she’s a female), nursing on its bulges, and finally trying to pull the stuffing out of it, at which point I had to separate her from her lover/mother/prey.

Somebody pooped in the house (I’m not pointing any fingers), a feat which, fortunately, the others — so far — haven’t felt the need to duplicate.

All three took turns resting on the couch, engaging in play and gnawing on one well-chewed marrow bone.

As evening fell I learned that walking three dogs is 8.7 times harder than walking one, 23.5 times harder when you thrown in the ice, and it left me 10.6 times more tired than I should have been.

Back from the park, after dinner and a few more spurts of play, the gang finally started settling down, and we all sacked out on the couch — except for Ace, who knew he wouldn’t fit. He settled for putting his head only on the couch for a few minutes, then sprawled out at the foot of it.

You know that feeling you get when the day is done, and your work is finished, and you look over at your peacefully sleeping, or even just resting dog — that soul-comforting, all-is-right-with-the-world flush of warm contentment, better even than a crackling fire, hot chocolate, or a steaming bowl of macaroni and cheese?

Turns out multiple dogs make that feeling rise exponentially, too.

On my three dog night, with the blind one curled up between my legs, her head resting on my feet; the big one on floor by the couch, reaching for me now and then with his paw; and the little Boston terrier resting, finally, on my belly, I realized I was feeling 9.9 times more peaceful and harmonious than usual.

(To read all of the “Company for Christmas” series, click here.)

Company for Christmas: Part One

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My first Christmas guest has arrived and, after bumping into everything there is to bump into, has made herself right at home.

Cheyenne, raised to be a guide dog for the blind, never got to fulfill that role. The possibility that she was going to develop hip problems prevented her from going on with her training. The hip problems never came to be, but Cheyenne, now 11, started going blind herself at age 5.

As dogs will do, she has adapted magnificently.

She walks slowly and gingerly, high-stepping when in unfamiliar surroundings. When she bonks her head on something, she backs up and heads in a new direction. Outdoors, when we come to a curb, I, as instructed, say “step,” and she seeks it out with her paw and steps up. aceandchy

I have her for the week, while her owners visit family down south, and it has been amazing to watch her as she adjusts to new surroundings. Equally amazing has been watching how gracious my dog Ace has been — sharing the couch (it’s his favorite spot, too); not raising a stink when she walks over, into and even under him; and helping herd her in from the two feet of snow in the backyard when she loses her bearings.

On their first trip to the yard, Ace ran circles around and did that downward dog stance dogs do. Cheyenne just sat there, not knowing Ace was sending the play signal. Since then Ace has caught on, I think, to the fact that she’s blind. He’s extra careful around her, and acting like a big brother.

Cheyenne, who loves carrots and lettuce, will be with me through Christmas, and two more canine house guests are still to arrive. We’ll keep you posted on how it goes. My prediction: The couch is going to get pretty crowded.

(To read all of the “Company for Christmas” series, click here.)