Tuesday, February 21, 2012

RIP: Bucky the Beaver

Last night we lost a veteran. Bucky the Beaver joined us before Bellatrix made that fateful trip home and has been one of her favorites from the beginning. He was one of the no-stuffing toys that have taken over the dog toy market. He had two squeakers, one in his head and another in his tail though the squeakers never seemed to be annoying. He was a quality toy, much beloved by all of us. He was one of the few toys to be given a name and outlived many of the other toys with names. He was always good for a few minutes of peace and quiet, whether she chased him around in circles or gnawed on him playfully. Three months was too short a time, Bucky. We wish you were still with us. You will be hard to replace. Rest in Peace, good buddy.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Graduation Day

This evening marks another milestone in the life and times of Bellatrix. She has officially graduated Puppy Class. The six week program has come to an end and I believe she finished at the top of her class. Of course there were only two graduating students. We found out that the other students had switched classes for various reasons and that they would all graduate as well, which makes me feel better, but I am slightly disappointed that Bella didn't get to socialize with other puppies. Unfortunately, as Chassie put it earlier, the only thing holding back the Corgi is an unsure owner. That owner was timid in allowing the dogs to play. He constantly said that his dog was scared around Bella. I would have just let them go at it. They'll figure it out. When blood is shed, that's when we can put a stop to it. Just kidding, that's probably a little extreme, but you can see my point. How will you ever know if you don't let them play it out for at least a few minutes?

I digress though. Back to the class itself. I thought it was informative and practical. It was nice to have an outlet that we could go and practice training. I will be the first to admit that Chassie does a much better job of the "homework." For example, last week we touched upon the "shake" command at the very end of class. I believe Chassie asked one question and the answer was something to the effect of "her paw will basically come up by itself." The trainer may well have said, "She's just going to give you her paw when she sits down from now on." Three days after the end of class, sure enough when Bella sits, she's lifting her paw without me asking. Chassie's doing. Not mine. So if I have learned anything from this graduation day, it's that I need to take an extra minute or two and work on her training.

The good news is we have a slight "spring break" before heading back to the Intermediate class. It's a short two week break, which really only equates to one Saturday that we will not have to journey out to PetSmart. So in that time I have some time to work a little harder on the training with Bella. It seems that the intermediate class will consist of a longer "Sit-Stay" command where you have to get you dog to sit and not move as you walk away from her. I have a feeling this may be a little bit complicated. All in all though, I am looking forward to this next step in her evolution.

As we closed our class, we found out that one of our classmates for the next class was an energetic Shepard mix. This excites me a little bit. You may or may not know this, but Chassie specifically asked for a class at the same time on Saturday afternoons. We were granted our request. We get to not only continue our education at the time we requested, but we also get to experience another energetic dog. Maybe a few more dogs will join us, too.  If none of this happens and we're left with the same situation we experienced with the puppy class, I've got anther option... an ace in the hole, if you will. It's called Jeff and Krista's house. Four dogs that are more than willing to play with Bella and put her in her place.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Frustration: Short Lived

This afternoon, Bella and I enjoyed our walk together which has become customary during the week. It was raining most of the morning, but had tapered off by the time I returned home. I was unsure whether the weather would stay away or if we would get caught in a downpour, so we walked quickly and returned home a little sooner than expected. She wanted to take a longer walk, as I practically had to drag her the last half. To make it up to her, I stayed home an extra fifteen minutes and let her run around the basement to burn off some excess energy.

I haven't quite figured out how to truly play fetch with her. I'll toss the ball across the room and she'll run after it, pick it up and run back to my general area. Most of the time she will not return immediately to me or drop the ball. It's something I have to work on. She is able to burn her own energy by herself, which she seemed to be doing this afternoon. I decided to turn on the t.v. and check out SportsCenter and let her run around. She seemed to be doing fine, but as soon as my focus lingered on the television for too long the puppy in her took over. She was gnawing at the tag to the futon mattress we have on the floor. That's the tag that reads, "Do not remove under penalty of law." I've noticed that for whatever reason, Bella loves this tag. I tell her to stop with the tag already and give her a toy to occupy her time. Back to the television my eyes go and before I know it, she's gone under the table of which I am perched on top. For whatever reason, I look under the table and see that tag hanging out of her mouth. At least it was her that removed it and not me. Not gonna lie, I'm a little bit frustrated as I remove the illegal tag from her mouth.

Back to the boob tube I go. Not five seconds later, I look over and Bella is trying to eat the leaves of the lavender plant that Chassie has on the table in the basement. For some reason, I think that at one point Chassie mentioned that lavender is poisonous to dogs. In one motion, I dive across the room, landing on the futon and scaring Bella away from the plant. I imagine it was ungraceful, to say the least, but it accomplished what it was meant to. Frustration level has increased.

I pick myself up and return to the table I had been sitting on. There's nothing to entertain me on SportsCenter and daytime television hasn't been fun since I was a kid and stayed home sick from school. I should probably get back to work anyway and then Bella does her "tuck tail and run" and hides behind the exercise bike and her old crate. I slowly meander over and notice that she's got something in her mouth again.That was the last straw for whatever reason. Luckily, she responds very well to food and as soon as I took the treats out, she was waiting patiently by my feet. I put her back in her crate and headed back to work.

I'm not one to dwell on the past and quite honestly I wasn't even thinking about our episode earlier in the day as I drove home. As I opened the door, I saw her sitting in the hallway, not jumping on the baby gate like she does almost every day I return from work. She sat patiently and waited until I walked up to her and pet her before she stood up and her tail told me she held no ill will from earlier today. So this is why they say dog is man's best friend.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Retiring the Accident Free Days

Dave and I decided to retire the Accident Free Days gadget. (Which appears near the top on the left of this blog) It is not because we think Bella will be accident free from now on. It is because going accident free is not a novel concept anymore. She has finally figured out that we want her to only relieve herself outside. And Dave and I have almost mastered the art of Bella’s “I have to go out” signals.

We didn’t think we would get here, but we have. Thanks go out to my Mom for assisting us when we needed you, The Monks of New Skeet for the book which gave us the knowledge to make this journey, to the “Patience God” for giving us the patience to teach Bella and finally to Bella—thank you for finally “getting it”.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Indefinite Continued Progress of Existence and Events

Oh, how time flies. It seems like it was just the other day when I wrote to you last. As it turns out, it was two weeks ago since I last gave you an update. I apologize. The truth is, it has kind of settled down, this puppy life.

After the last class in which we were the only attendees, the focus has remained on walking Bella. We purchased an easy walk harness two(?) weeks ago to help with walking on a loose leash. The main reason was because she was choking herself on just the collar, trying to get to the other dogs during class. The harness is pink. Chassie fought for that, I agreed because people would ask, "How old is he?" I guess the purple collar seemed to be a little too masculine for these Northern Virginia folks. Chassie has been using the harness on walks and she reports that it works great. That means both Draco and Bella respond well to the easy walk harness. That's two for two. I'll expect my commission check shortly, easy walk people.

I, on the other hand, have not been using the harness. Mainly because.... well, I don't like the color pink. Not that I'm embarrassed by it or anything. Chassie says that it's good that I don't use it since Bella will get used to walking loose leash both ways, with and without the aid of the harness. She's a smart woman, that's why I keep her around and it gives me a good excuse to avoid pink. Inside this mind of mine there is a good reason to like or use pink and that is breast cancer awareness and I'm all for helping out in any small way that comes up, my mom is a breast cancer survivor. Way to go Claire! Before we got Bella, we gathered some supplies we would need. Chassie asked if we could get a pink collar and I said only if it would support breast cancer research. I think we found one and it was 1) ugly and 2) only in a small size. Maybe I'll take my commission check and make a donation to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Back to the walking, though. I come home in the afternoon... it's getting later and later each day, and walk her for about ten minutes. One day earlier this week we were making laps around the island in the middle of our parking lot and I stepped on her paw. Pretty good too from the sound of it. She whelped and picked her paw up, looking up at me like I was the cruelest person on the planet. That's at least how I felt at the instant it happened. I knelt down and asked if she was okay and like the puppy she is, responded that all systems were go and we were back in business. It was at this moment that I mentally decided that the four foot leash we were using was not sufficient.

In comes the next selection process. We were late to class this evening, which if you recall we are usually early, but today it didn't matter since the class before us ran a little over. We were able to begin looking for a longer leash, Chassie started with pink. I'll let you guess what Dave said to that. We discussed the thickness of the leash and then it was time to join class as our instructor came to get us. We were able to go back to the leashes after class. Honestly, I'm not sure how we got to our conclusion but we wound up with a grey leash. The gray leash is a neutral color, one inch thick and six feet long. Not to mention "gray" can be spelled two different ways and both are acceptable. But that's a topic for another blog, hint hint wink wink. Here's looking at you, dad.

Today's class was about "wait" and "stay" which are very close to the same thing. Again, Chassie and I are slightly ahead of the class (and by the class, I mean the Corgi) because we have been practicing "wait" on our walks. We will make Bella sit at the corner and "wait" before we cross the street. It's like our own version of look both ways and both of us decided to do it on our own individual walks with her. The "stay" may be a little more difficult. She's sure to get it... eventually.

A few things to mention as we come to our conclusion. We regained a member to the class this week as the Corgi rejoined us. The owner of the Corgi seems to be frightened of dogs playing. He puts an end to playtime real quick. Bella played with some type of sheep dog as Chassie signed us up for Intermediate class. The sheep dog finally put Bella in her place as she wound up on her back on numerous occasions. After we picked out her new grey leash, she played with a five month old lab. The two lab pups played very nicely. Now, here's the interesting thing, the owners of the lab thought theirs was some type of mix. Chassie told them the American Lab had a longer snout and longer head, while the English Lab had a shorter snout and boxier head. They were flabbergasted. Then came the random tidbit of the day when she told them that the reason dogs lick each others mouth is because in the wild, younger pups will lick older dogs mouths in the hope they will regurgitate their food. You should have seen the look on the dude's face.... priceless.

It's hard to believe we've had Bella for ten weeks. It's really a short period of time, but it's more than half her short life and it's gone by in the blink of an eye. Yet, the more I age, the faster time goes. I can remember when I was young, how slowly things moved. We all can relate, right? A school year was like a whole year. Now the days just disappear and before you know it it's been two weeks since we last spoke. I can't even begin to imagine what goes on within a dog's little noggin. I'll try to fill the space between our visits a little more in the time still to come.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Class # 4

Dave and I joked on the way to puppy class on Saturday, who would be in class. Since the first day, the attendance has never been the same. The 1st day there were 6 puppies, 2nd class there were 4, 3rd class there were 3. So we thought we would be down to 2 this time. Our guess on who would show up was Heidi, the German Shepherd mix.

As always, we were a little early. We hung out in the car, since it was sleeting and raining. Then we tried to get Bella to pee before class. This is always Dave’s suggestion; he is still traumatized (see the Kindergarten post for more info). Then we headed in. We walked to the back of PetSmart to the glass box classroom and hung out. Sarah, our trainer, came out and we started chatting. We walked inside the room and waited…and waited…and waited for someone else to show up.

No one did. So we got an hour-long one-on-one session. Which normally goes for $79.

We ended up waiting for about 20 min for the other class puppies to arrive and while we were waiting, Bella ran around like a mad puppy. She didn’t seem to miss the other puppies. She ran, jumped, searched for missing toys under a little plastic playground thing, and did her famous “tuck tail and run”.

When we decided we would start training, she was pooped. So training was pretty easy. Especially since Down was one of the commands and we have already taught her Down. We also worked on Come and more Loose Leash Walking. All in all it was a good class.

We got to know Sarah and her Bulldog a little better and I decided I wanted her to be our trainer for the Intermediate Class.

Hopefully she will teach a class, which will fit our schedules.

Friday, February 3, 2012

6 1/2 Hours

Dave had to leave for work early this morning, and was not able to get back to the house until lunch...a total of 6 and half hours. 

And Dave found a clean crate when he came home. Which means she held her bladder for 6 and half hours.

This may not seem like a big deal. But for the last two months we have only been able to leave her for 4 hours and then recently 5 hours at a time. Which means, yes one of us wakes up in the middle of the night to let her out (Dave).

So 6 and half hours means...so many things.