Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Pupdate #9 (See Linus sit!)

Linus practices his tricks and works off his rainy Sunday zoomies. Pepper is not amused:

Sorry about my annoying voice and Virgin Radio in the background.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Pupdate #8 (Progress report)

Here I am, conspicuously not creating a performance calendar and budget for an imaginary theater in San Francisco; nor am I outlining a plan to determine how the Executive Director of my semi-hypothetical nonprofit organization will be hired, trained, and evaluated.

Yeah, you are so jealous of me right now. With exciting projects like these, who wouldn't want a Master's degree in arts management?

Anyway, it's been a while since we've checked in. Linus is still doing swimmingly. This morning in the park we ran into Soccer Coach Guy and his temporary-but-probably-about-to-be-permanent stray dog Micah, a Lab mix. Coach Guy and I turned the dudes loose in our favorite tennis court and they gleefully dashed about and pummelled each other. Linus acquired several tough-looking scrapes in the process of skidding and tumbling on the concrete. He is practically bulletproof, so they didn't faze him a bit. Then Linus's Godmother, Munchkin Girl, took us to the vet's for some preliminary bloodwork in preparation for his upcoming operation (snippity snip snip!). His looks and behavior were universally admired. I was especially proud of him for not flinching, snapping or howling when the needle was stuck into his leg. He came home with a tummy full of turkey and a dashing white bandage that last 0.07 seconds before he gnawed it off. See on his front left leg:

Here is how the training is going:
The Good:
  • Housebreaking. Knock on wood, he finally seems to understand that it's not okay to go potty anywhere in the apartment. We moved through several stages with this. First, there was "going potty outside is good!" (The urinary tract infection was unexpectedly helpful in teaching this concept, as he was going outside several times an hour for almost two weeks). Then there was "going potty in the living room is bad, but the bedroom is okay because it's not really my 'den'." Linus and I lived almost exclusively in the living room during his first six weeks with me (hence the sleeping bag that's STILL on the futon), so it took a while for him to include the bedroom in his no-go zone. After that, we got to "go outside when you can, but if you have to go potty inside, go in the bedroom." This stage lasted the longest and is responsible for about 50% of my gray hairs. Thankfully, we finally seem to have reached the "going inside is NOT okay; tell Mom when you have to go outside!" stage. So he knows that if he lingers around the door, I will take him outside. A fun corollary of this process is that he knows the words "Go potty!" and I can brag about having a dog who pees on command.
  • Roommate skills. Sometime during the summer, the kids and I will move to either New York City or DC. We will probably have to have a roommate, so I've concentrated on teaching him habits that will make him easier to live with. These include the commands "Leave it," "Give," and "Settle" (requiring him to go to his cushion, lay down, and stay). He is making decent progress with the first two, as long as the object in question isn't too enticing. I'm still working on getting him to figure out that "settle" refers to both the place and the action.
  • Catch. Linus is a tennis ball genius. He can catch a ball before it hits the ground about 50% of the time and overall, manages to snatch the ball from the air 2/3 of the time I throw it. That's better than I can do! He also thinks strategically: if the ball is bouncing, he will run up to it, watch how it moves, and wait for it to reach the right position. It's almost eerie how quickly he picked up the skill. Plus, if I throw the ball low and it rolls, he will run in front of the ball and stop it with his feet before picking it up. Four and a half months, folks. Provided his joints hold up and aren't damaged by all this running around on concrete, I plan to train him for agility or flyball competition when he gets older.
  • Vocabulary. Here are the commands he really knows: sit, down, wait (= stay. I'm really proud of that one! It's hard to teach!), touch (hand targeting: he bumps my hand with his nose), go to bed, go potty. He comprehends, but has about 40 - 60% reliability with the following: come here, leave it, give, settle, easy (the no-pull command). I think we're doing pretty well!
The Bad:
  • Fear aggression. There are a couple of extremely dominant puppies in class, notably a spiky German Shepherd and a Bull Mastiff who won't take "no" for an answer. If either of these dogs pins Linus or gets too much in his face, he snarls and snaps. Even if neither of those dogs is approaching him, I've noticed that he shows signs of nervousness -- raised hackles, flattened ears -- during the socialization period of puppy class, even though he likes to meet other dogs and plays nicely with most of the other puppies. He gets along well with older dogs, though he demonstrates more enthusiasm than manners in greeting them. I predict that he will be fine with the vast majority of dogs; however, it's essential that he be as well-socialized and as confident as possible. Not only is it an important life skill, the ability to be calm around other dogs is a component of the Canine Good Citizen test that many clubs require dogs to pass before they can train for competitions or become therapy dogs.
  • Leash walking. Same old, same old. His leash walking is... okay... certainly better than some of the other dogs that I've seen in the neighborhood, but just okay isn't good enough. When he hits his full strength, he will be able to drag me down the street effortlessly. Plus, I love walking and am looking forward to having him as a companion and a guard (true he's a pussycat, but he can at least look dangerous!). I need to work on this in myself, as I am sometimes inconsistent about enforcing the limits of acceptable behavior. My goal is not a perfect competition heel -- his shoulder aligned with my knee at all times -- but a looser heel in which some part of his body is parallel with my leg. Walking ahead of me isn't really okay, but I permit it sometimes and I shouldn't. We've begun some attention exercises in which I reward him for making eye contact with me. I hope that will help.
  • Cats/litterbox. Not as bad as it was, but he has mastered the art of the quick lunge and the innocent look as soon as I've grabbed the spray bottle. He has also discovered kitty crunchies, that doggie delicacy. In the picture above, you'll see two crates. The smaller one holds the litterbox and almost succeeds in preventing him from stealing the odd snack. Blecch. At least he responds to "leave it" most of the time.
The Funny:
  • Snore. I don't call him Mighty Linus for nothing!
  • Zoomies. Like cats do in the middle of the night, Linus sometimes feels the urge to race madly around the apartment as if chased by invisible demons. I have a video of one of his fits, which I will post here as soon as YouTube starts cooperating.
  • Oh, a million things. The way that carrying a toy stretches his mouth into a big ol' doggie grin. His luxurious, lethargic exits from his crate after a satisfying nap. The fact that he runs to his crate and waits expectantly when he sees me put my bike helmet and sunglasses on. As frustrating as the present situation is, he's still a joy to have around.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Meme

Yes, Linus fans, he will return soon!

In the meantime, here at last is my response to bookwormom's meme poke.

10 Weird Things About Me:
  1. I've had my tonsils out twice.
  2. I pour wine with my left hand and milk with my right hand.
  3. I once re-created a black and gold Elizabethan dress, complete with hooped farthingale, for $50 in materials. Spray paint and glitter glue may have been involved.
  4. When I was 20 I left college and moved to London with $1000, no job, and no place to live. I survived.
  5. I have read Aristotle, Plato and Sophocles in English and Greek. Aristotle makes more sense in Greek.
  6. I took a life-size cardboard cutout of Elvis with me to British Columbia to visit a friend, photographing him with innocent bystanders at every opportunity.
  7. My movie star crush of the moment is Eric Bana. You would be shocked--shocked!--at how many times I've watched "The Hulk."
  8. My ultimate post-breakup girl-power comfort book is Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword.
  9. I eat my dinners according to what gets cold first. [This had to be pointed out to me by a friend, as I do it unconsciously.]
  10. I LOATHE the Build-A-Bear Workshop with a passion that defies all reason.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Kids Are All Right

In class today, one of my instructors remarked in a puzzled tone, "You seem a little bitter and scarred from your theater production experience."

"Yes," I replied, "and that why I'm in management now."

One of the things I love about studying management at an art school, though, is the constant refraction of creativity through the most mundane lenses. It's a joy to walk around campus and see students make art out of bake sale posters and the arrangement of parking stickers on their cars. Witness this video, created by a few freshmen to record their all-weekend draft-a-thon:

I've rarely seen an all-nighter so well documented.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Pupdate #7 (Linus 3.0, or "Holy growth spurt, Batman!")

Howdy, everyone. Linus celebrated his arbitrary fourth monthday last week with a checkup at the vet's. He tested negative for mange, so I can finally start reducing the meds, and got his final round of shots. We discussed the little snippity-snip operation, which I'm hoping to schedule as soon as possible. And we weighed him. He was eighteen pounds in early January, so I expected something in the twenties, but I was kind of shocked at the number called out by the assistant.

TWENTY-SEVEN POUNDS, people. That's almost thirty pounds of pure puppy lurve. Here is the February picture (the grandparents have commissioned monthly pictures so they can track his growth):

contrasted with the January picture:

As you will notice, HIS LEGS ARE STRAIGHT! Yayyyy!!! The wrist joints still look a little weak and knobbly to my untrained eye, and he still has a habit of knuckling over when he sits or relaxes... but now he runs and plays just like a normal puppy.

Our puppy class instructor told me that doubling a puppy's weight at four months is an accurate predictor of the dog's final weight. I'll admit that I was hoping for something in the 50 lbs and under range; however, 60 lbs is still small compared to the behemoth Labradors that I'm used to.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Pupdate #6? (Puppy's First Snow!)

This is how the cats have reacted to Linus:

No! They're fine! In fact, they have accepted him remarkably well. Pepper, the black-furred middle-aged gentleman, hates dogs as a rule; however, he has gone nose-to-nose with Linus peacefully on several occasions. Brenin, who is just moving out of cat adolescence, is more of a troublemaker. Just when I get Linus settled down, Brenin will come along and bop him on the nose before scooting away. Now how am I supposed to teach the puppy to resist that kind of temptation?!

Fortunately, the spray bottle mostly does the trick.

Get this: Winston-Salem shut down today for an inch of snow that was gone by lunchtime. I'm not kidding. Granted, they were predicting sleet and freezing rain that never materialized... but here's the good part. School cancellations began yesterday--while the sun was still shining. When my Fargo-born classmate heard about this, she threw her hands in the air and shouted, "I effing LOVE this town!!"

Here is Linus, camouflaged in the all-too-brief snow cover:
Have I mentioned how grateful I am for that tennis court? Here I'd always thought tennis was kind of a useless sport, but wow. Thank you, God, for tennis courts, salvation of the apartment-dwelling dog owner.