Sunday, September 07, 2008

A Few Notes on Our First Attempt at a DW Ritual

I'm just back from Buddy's walk and need to leave soon with Petunia but here are a few quick notes.

* Buddy peed on my foot but I think it was an accident. I'm still getting used to holding the slip-collar high and close to my left leg and maneuvering near a telephone pole got confusing for me. I tried not to let him stop and pee or sniff whenever he wanted to but did about half the time. I'm thinking this might be an example of where the clicker could be helpful. I don't want to over-complicate this whole thing, but realize I need to keep my eyes open for moments when I could communicate better with the dogs during a walk. I dunno. Plus I feel obligated to do some sort of clicker training to give the local trainer's advice a chance.

* This morning I watched Season One, Episode 19 in the tub. The "Sunny" story seemed promising: divorced woman who poured all her happiness into a dog that's now anxious and fear-aggressive. But Cesar just taught them to take walks. I get it about the walking and clearly need lots of reminding but I was hoping for more out of that story.

* I decided to make Buddy's walk the shorter one today (30 minutes) and give Petunia the longer one because the more I think about it the more I think getting P calm is the most important part of the equation between the two of them. She barks a lot and has a short fuse and may need the exercise even more than B. So while we all transition into The Walking Life I'm inclined to monitor her walking most of all.

* I found myself feeling bored during the B walk. People rode by on bicycles toward the lake and I thought about how I'd rather be riding. I've got to stop thinking about this stuff in terms of either/or. I could, arguably, read less Dickens and do more bicycling. So I need to shuttup and try the more-intense walking thing and learn to enjoy it more. I no longer love walking with my dogs because I'm still so worried about what will happen if none of this works. I'm still haunted by the trainers who told me, in unison, that even they have dogs that they keep separate all day every day in their homes because of fighting. I don't want to live that way. My great joy of sitting beside my dogs and relaxing is gone gone gone right now. Even the walking thing isn't fun 70% of the time because I'm wanting it to be a lesson in leadership. Shit. I realize I need to not think this way and not over-pressurize the walks. But I'm pushing those feelings back constantly. My hope is that this will be like anything--even yoga classes--in which the hardest part is getting into a habit and then appreciating the less-than-fabulous moments because the good ones always come. Like when you're stuck in triangle pose waiting for shivasana.

* * *

* OK, we returned home from Petunia's walk at 10:10, which means it was only about a 40-minute walk. We went so far (all the way to the lake, meandering here and there and pausing at a little beach to sniff the water and watch the ducks and geese) that it seemed like we must have been gone longer. But we walked at a faster clip and had a real destination (with Buddy this morning I first took him by the pug's house to see if he was home to play, but wasn't, so we sort of rambled). Seems to me that an important dimension of the structured walk is my having a destination. When we hit the sidewalk outside our neighborhood you can see a little patch of lake shimmering ahead. Watching that kept my head up and probably made me seem more confident to Petunia.

* P and I encountered a dozen or so dogs. At least one was off-lead. I circumvented a possibly-off-lead Rottweiler in the distance (on the off-chance it might be just too much for us both) but kept us on the path for all the rest of the dogs, including a pack of five being walked by two women (who seemed about 70% in control of them--not awful but not spectacular) and all five were large breeds--rotties and such. So I'm pretty proud of us. Petunia didn't flip; I didn't tense up much. When we passed the off-lead dog (a big fluffy white creature) I didn't look at it and I didn't look at P. I just kept moving forward as if it didn't exist. P seemed okay.

* Shortly after P and I returned home I noticed the dogs had planted themselves directly opposite the gate from one another. Buddy on the floor with his kong, Petunia on the stairs overlooking him; then when I called P down for a kong she moved around the corner from his line of sight and he rotated his back to her. I don't know if any of this means anything. They never seemed to be growling and I didn't sense any tension. As I've said before, I just don't know what to make of their dynamic most of the time. What they remind me of is cats. Aware of one another, slightly aloof--especially P.

* Now both dogs are lying sideways on the tile floor (best investment I ever made in this house): B beneath the table where I'm writing, P out of sight on the other side, growling occasionally at the sound of the lawn mower next door. For all the hoopla, today's ritual took about 3 hours, including the time for the time for the bath and the episode of DW. Both walks took less than 90 minutes. I think longer would be better for both dogs, and I didn't do the backpack thing today after all because I was hoping for a Pug-spree. But I feel like this morning was well spent. Even though I missed church. God knows what all this is for.

* Speaking of spirituality, as soon as P and I reached a clear view of the lake, as soon as the water filled my peripheral vision, my mind opened the way it does when I'm bicycling around the lake. It gave me much of what I needed. For me, anyway, there's much more God in that moment--the lake, my dog--than in any church.

* * *
7:18 p.m.

I was feeling pretty good until about 10 minutes ago.

I took Buddy outside, gave him some of the extra special turkey then put on his muzzle and had him keep it on while I weed-whacked the back yard (about 15 minutes). P was jealous, stuck in the living room behind her gate, crying. I closed the sliding door while B and I were outside but left the blinds open so P may have seen B in his muzzle. It's bright white against his black fur. I'd like P to get accustomed to seeing him in it just as he gets accustomed to wearing it.

For the first few minutes B tried to rub the muzzle off, then he lay on his side, as if he was just waiting for it all to end. Then he approached me and sat and I petted him. Toward the end he stood facing me, head down. Almost looking angry but it was hard to say because the muzzle hides his mouth. He wasn't growling. Just looked displeased. I'd just put the weed whacker away and so I had him sit and then removed the muzzle and gave him more turkey and played with him for 5 or 10 minutes with his favorite toys. I gave him a nice back scratch and told him how great he was. Then took him inside and switched places with Petunia, bringing her outside for a game of fetch in the yard and then in the pool. Toward the end Petunia gave up on the toy, seeming pooped. I dumped some mulch in the garden and she hung out there with me for a little while then wanted to go inside. I took her in, went to wash my hands in the kitchen, and then looked around for the dogs. Buddy was upstairs; Petunia was under the bed.

So now I'm thinking:

* Did something happen between B & P across the gate that cause P to flee to the bed?

* Or was there just a noise outside that made P ask to go inside and straight under the bed?

I'm hoping the latter.

But stressed, of course, about the former.

But here's one good thing: The under-the-bed scenario reminds me that I do have some ways of discerning whether there's been a change in our canine dynamic:

One of the signals that things had gotten bad between the dogs was when P increased her hiding around the house. Whereas it used to be only during storms or fireworks, she began hiding behind the sofa and under beds to stay clear of Buddy.

So as I'm looking for clues that things might be better, one thing to monitor is P's hiding behavior. Even though they are separated by gates, all three of us know that both dogs can scale the gates. P did agility; B once shocked the entire kennel staff by leaping outside his run a few years ago when P was being taken out of hers. P knows she can knock down the gate; she's nearly done it.

Their gate-separation is more about obedience than confinement, probably.

To me this means that the fact P hasn't been hiding from B is a really good sign. She's been on the stairs and in various positions in plain view most of the time. Seeing her under the bed tonight made me really sad, but at least it reminded me that she mostly hasn't been beneath the bed lately.

I's a beautiful evening. I'd love to have both dogs out here with me, playing on the soft, freshly mowed grass. That is my dream now. If I'm blessed with that kind of life again with these dogs, I'll appreciate it more next time around. Buddy wore his muzzle for 15 minutes. It's a start.

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