Friday, January 28, 2005

Bufford's Report (not yet)

I have gotten Bufford's report, finally, but I'm going to hold on to it a bit. It's pretty controversial, and I know it's going to raise hackles. As I'm still recovering from the nettles-around-the-groin problem, I don't feel like a big political fight.

I will, however, reply to some email I got. This is really in the "Ask Hubert" vein.

"Dear Hubert:

I do love my buddies, but they can do some odd stuff. How do you keep them from bringing lots of strangers over? I hate it. They won't let me sniff the crotches of these people AND I DON'T KNOW IF IT'S SAFE TO LET THEM IN OR NOT. I get kind of crazy when all these people come over and then I get sent to the garage.


This really is a problem, and I completely understand. Part of our job as dogs is to guard entry into the house, and I realize that buddies get in the way our doing it right. But, buddies being buddies, you're never going to convince them that you need to sniff the crotch of every person who comes into the house. Just let that go. Do not, repeat, do not bark or make a scene about it. If you do, you're in the garage, and then there's nothing you can do.

I recommend stealth snarfs. Greet the stranger politely, and then, when they turn to put their coat up and your buddy is distracted, shove and snarf. Often, the stranger will try to pretend it didn't happen. If you aren't tall enough for that, wait till they sit down. If you just can't do a proper check, then check their shoes thoroughly. Lick them if necessary. George maintains that sniffing their ears and licking their faces can tell you a lot.

Here's the thing about all those strangers over: there is food. Often on low tables. If you're really lucky, like we've been, your buddy will make brisket and have too much left over. Don't eat it while people are there, or you're back in the garage. Wait till it's clean up time. Then, do that pass and swoop method. Never stand by a table, and certainly don't drool at it. Pretend you haven't even noticed it, and then just walk by. A quick grab, and off to a corner. Works great.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

More on Buddy Training: Getting Breakfast

I've been getting a lot of mail about buddy training problems. While I don't want this to turn into the "buddy training blog," as I really don't think my buddies are all that well-trained, I don't mind passing along a few hints from time to time.

Today's hints will be about how to get your buddies out of bed in the morning. Some mornings it's easy, and I don't know why, as those are the days they leave the house. They don't seem especially excited about leaving, so it's unclear to me why they would get out of bed so fast. On the fun days, the days that we go to Comealong Park, or hang around the house, the days that we look forward to, those are the days they just lounge around in bed.

I know that a lot of dogs have the impulse to destroy something to get them out of bed. Granted, it works. But, they get grumpy, and I've known a couple of dogs who found themselves crated (or, worse yet, locked in the garage), so I don't recommend that approach. Instead, I recommend the "stages" approach.

Stage 1: gentle greeting. George is in charge of this one. He licks a buddy's face (usually beta buddy). If necessary, use your nose to lift the covers off their face. If their back is turned, go for an armpit or small of their back. It works best if your nose is really cold--try licking it a few times first just to make sure. Make sure you have your cutest face and happy ears on, and do a very loving snuggle. You want them to feel guilty about pushing you away.

(Chester was a master at staring. He could stare anyone awake. Although I often watched him do it, I never figured out the trick--I think there's some kind of mental telepathy involved.)

Stage 2: repetitive noises. It's important that these be noises that you can't really get in trouble for. So, do things like give yourself a thorough bath with lots of loud slurping. If your buddy is Catholic, then sighing loudly works really well. Personally, I'm a big fan of getting the hiccups, but I think that only works if you're big enough to make the bed shake with every hiccup. Itching, while effective if you are on or leaned up against the bed, can backfire, as you might be given a bath once they do get up.

Stage 3: mysterious noises. George gets a chew toy, and works on it in some way that is both really loud and--here's the important point--doesn't sound as though it's a dog chew toy. He does it just out of view, so the buddy will, after a while of lying there wondering if he's chewing on furniture, have to get up to see what he's doing. You can also wander around downstairs sometimes banging into things. If your cats are on your side, then you can get them to knock things off tables. Low moans and whines are also effective.

Stage 4: wrestle with each other. For this to work, you either need to do the kind of crash through the house wrestling, or that open mouthed "arrrrgggghhhhh....grrrr..." kind of lying-down wrestling. Play with a squeaky chew toy, play chase with the cats, roll a ball around. This doesn't get you breakfast quickly, but it will get you outside time pretty fast.

Stage 5: scare them. This is risky, but sometimes necessary. You look out a window, and suddenly go completely ballistic. Bark wildly as though the house is being attacked by an army of possums. If you go from completely quiet to four alarm barking, you have the entertainment of seeing your buddy do an amazing kind of lying high jump. You can't do this one too often, or you'll end up in the crate or garage, but it's okay for emergencies.

Once you've gotten them up, do NOT punish them for having stayed in bed too long. No matter how long it took you to get them to move, give them positive reinforcement. I know it's hard sometimes, but always remember that buddies are very, very simple--give them love when they get something right. They can't help the fact that they just aren't very quick on the uptake, and it's a waste of time to punish them for something they can't control. Just reward them for their success.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Broken Nail

Sorry for the long silence, but I broke a nail. Now, before all of you hurt yourselves snorting, I should explain that a broken nail in a Great Dane is no trivial problem--the beta buddy almost passed out when she saw all that blood all over the kitchen floor. It's really their fault. I can't manage the nail clippers, and, when a nail gets long, it splits. So, this was another trip to the vet, and I'm supposed to soak my foot twice a day. This involves putting my paw into warm BLUE water that mildly stings. They can try--that's all I have to say--they can try.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Almost Back to Normal

Well, I guess puppy buddy is finally back to normal, as we did get to walk him to the bus stop today. We did a shortened version of the Come Along Park walk on Saturday, but he looked pretty unhappy, and took a nap afterwards (he hates naps--weird), so I think he wasn't yet well. Meanwhile, on our last week's trip to the park, I had run through some brambles that scratched me...well....I'd rather not give any details (this is not Fuzzy Sullivan's blog--I keep medical details to myself)...but somewhere painful. It isn't getting better, even though I lick it a lot every day. (There are some good sides to it, I suppose.) The COLD water felt pretty good on it, but terrible on my back, so I didn't wade much.

A cold front came in last night. Cold fronts make the kitties loony (yes, it is possible for kitties to be more loony than usual), and make beta buddy toss and turn and puppy buddy sleep badly. So, beta and puppy and one of the cats and Marquis all ended up on my bed last night. Very crowded. And every time I fell asleep, alpha buddy objected to my dreaming (can I help it if I run in my sleep? I'm sorry about kicking her kidneys, but maybe she should sleep curled up like Marquis does), and pushed me awake. So, I intend to nap most of the day.

I know that I promised an update from Bufford, but he's also been having trouble getting adequate computer use. I'm still way behind on my email anyway, so I probably wouldn't have gotten to it. I will, though, I promise.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Missing Work

Puppy buddy is still sick, and so not getting on the bus in the morning. The first morning I didn't care too much, but Marquis and George barked like mad when the bus came. They were upset that they were missing work. I told them our job is to escort puppy buddy, not to meet the bus, but they pointed out that our job must be to meet the bus, because that's the only time we get to go on a walk.

Took me a while to get their point, but I kind of do. They think that our walk is our reward for meeting the bus. The evidence in their favor is that we didn't get any walks the last few mornings. I'm skeptical, still, as this is in the category of believing that our buddies are punishing us, and I'm not sure they're that smart or complicated. Still and all, just in case they're right, I also barked this morning when the bus came and we weren't at the bus stop. Didn't help. We still didn't get the walk.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Under the Weather

We're all generally operating under the weather in one way or another. Saturday was fine, but, on the trip to Come Along Park, I slipped in the mud a few times. So, that night I was pretty sore, and complaining about my back. In the middle of the night, puppy buddy had an allergic reaction, or something, and was complaining about his throat and having trouble breathing. I don't know what to do when that happens--the only health remedy I know is eat grass and throw up, and I doubt that works under those circumstances. Lots of rushing around and very little sleeping. Sunday morning both Marquis and George were trying to throw up, my back still hurt, puppy buddy had a fever and was lying on the couch, and alpha and beta were staggering around like the monsters in "Scooby Doo on Zombie Island." Later that afternoon, everyone tried to take a nap. Puppy, beta, and I succeeded. Marquis, who was now feeling fine, decided that what alpha buddy really needed was to play, so he kept dropping a block of wood on alpha buddy's head. Puppy buddy's fever got worse, they rush off (I guess to take him to the vet), and we hang around the house and worry.

Sunday night was, believe it or not, worse. Beta decided to sleep on the floor with puppy buddy, and that bothered Marquis and George. I didn't much like it either, but I just snorfed in beta's ear till she woke up and made me a bed next to them. George kept stepping on her head, and Marquis was bugging them till he worked his way under puppy's covers and settled down. In the middle of the night, puppy buddy woke up with a bad fever, so another disturbed night. Sleeping on the floor was not good for my back, puppy buddy is too sick to play, and alpha and beta still look like something from a horror movie. So, all in all, not a good time.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

More on Buddy Training

I've gotten a bunch of mail from various beasties noting that I seem to have very smart (by which they mean "train-able") buddies. Well, I'm not sure that's true. In the first place, I'm not sure that "smart" and "train-able" are the same thing at all, and I don't know that I'd want a smart buddy. Granted, their goofiness can be irritating at times, but the obliviousness of our buddies often works to our advantage--they don't notice our using their computers, reading their books, snagging food (except for Marquis and George getting into the corn meal, but the mess was too big to clean up in time).

I also think that, to the degree our buddies are trained, it's because they're not the smartest brains around. For instance, if we jump on the couch, they move over, and I don't think they even notice that they're doing it. It's easy to snag the covers at night, push them into little scrunched-up sleeping positions, get them to take us places, give us snacks and chew toys, and even get them to throw things for us almost anytime we want. It's because they're not too bright that they leave the potato chip bag out (mmmmm....bbq flavored is my favorite!) and open.

And I'm not sure they're really all that well-trained. I'm not complaining, mind you, and I know that lots of my readers put up with much worse (e.g., Aiko and the ribbons), but, I mean, whoof. For example, the other night, beta buddy joins me on the guest bed. I'm not sure why, but I'd guess it was because someone was snoring in her room (whether alpha buddy or Marquis is impossible to know). So, she gets between me and the wall! Seriously! I stood up on the bed and stared at her, but she just fluffed the pillow and rolled over. I whimpered. "Huh?" she mumbles, and then tries to put the blanket over my head. Granted, I do like to sleep with the blanket over my head, but that was not what I wanted right then. This went on for half an hour!!!!!!!! I would whimper, and she would try some other possumfoolthang. It took her that long to figure out that I was NOT going to sleep on the side of the bed where I might fall off. Finally, she traded sides with me, covered my head (again), and we finally were able to get some sleep. You call that smart?

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Come Along Park

I've written before about my favorite park, which, I'll grant, is actually called Emma Long Park, but I like my name better. One day, a couple of months ago, some guy handed the buddies a piece of paper, and explained that the powers that be were thinking of making it not a dog park anymore. The paper had the email address of the administrator who would make the decision. The buddies promised to send email, but I was worried (considering that beta buddy jumped in the water with the paper in her back pocket, I don't think my concern was un-merited).[1]

Alpha buddy did send mail, but George and Marquis and I read it, and we thought it was lame. So, we sent a much better letter from his account. (Alpha buddy didn't think it was the least bit odd that he got *two* responses to one piece of email, one very brief and the other much longer.) Shortly after that, beta buddy took me and George (she only takes two of us when she goes alone--don't know why), and we saw all sorts of buddies working on the trail, putting up signs, and various things. George was barking at them a lot, trying to explain to them that they should keep it a dog park. I told him they don't understand Bark, but he said it was worth trying. Beta buddy was babbling like a lunatic the way she does when George barks at people (which isn't all that often--his barking, not her babbling; she babbles a lot). Then, we ran into someone who explained that the decision was to keep it an off-leash dog park, but to block some of the side trails to prevent erosion and protect endangered species. So, George didn't bark at them anymore after that.

Still and all, it seems weird to me. I understand about not wanting dogs to run off into the woods and chase birds, but I don't understand their concern about erosion. The trail is eroding--that's absolutely true. But it's eroding because it gets a lot of use! Isn't that a good thing? Isn't that a sign that it's popular and needed? The other thing I find puzzling is that they put up signs that say something like, "Access prohibited due to endangered species protection. Violation will result in fines." So, does that mean that they know dogs can read?

[1] In her defense, I will grant that she jumped in the water because Marquis had fallen in a fairly deep part of the creek, and was--in sheer panic--failing to scramble back out.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Home with the pack

The pack stayed home for a week, making it hard to blog, and then beta buddy went off somewhere and shut down the Mac. I couldn't figure out how to turn it on, and I don't do PC, so I just let the blogging slide. The big news is lots of squirrel chases, and a trip to the ranch. Bufford, who usually spends this time of year at the kennel, should have lots of interesting news which I'll pass along when I hear from him.

He explained to me about Christmas, but I'm still vague on the guy with with beard and red suit. For some reason, the beta buddy takes me to him this time of year and makes me have my picture taken. Whoof! She knows I'm twitchy around big guys with white hair, so what in the world is she thinking? In the past, I've been with Chester or puppy buddy or something, so I figured I was okay with them around, but this time she seemed to think I would do it by myself. Sheyeah, right. I balked. The twit had a squeaky toy and whatever and I simply refused. I DO NOT TRUST BIG MEN WITH WHITE HAIR. Okay? Can we be clear on this? Luckily, I got her to give up, so we can hope that nonsense is a thing of the past.

Puppy buddy got a car for Christmas. You wouldn't think it possible for them to find a smaller car than the ones they drive all the time, but they did. This one is so small it fits inside the others! It also goes only about the speed of a good walk. Odd. We took it to the ranch the day after Christmas (we all got rubber squeaky toys--pretty good for rubber ones, but I prefer the soft, fuzzy kind) and puppy buddy drove around with alpha. The puppies hung with them, but I stuck with beta buddy. She walks much slower, but usually covers more ground, and often wanders off into the brush. So, all in all, I prefer her company (and I figure she needs the protection more than puppy and alpha). It's really weird, though--she just picks up rocks. Rocks. I'm not kidding. Rocks.

Didn't see the cows this time, but chased a couple of bunnies and a deer. We coulda' caught it, too, if we'd really wanted.