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Friday, February 28, 2014

Doctors: Good People Who Need To Stop Hedging Their Bets

Got a text yesterday that Grandson Aidan (the older one in picture) is coming home today. He'll still need recovery at home, of course. Thank you for continuing to think of him and praying for him and his family! 

BTW, I'm not buying any the doctor b.s. that says he'll have asthma or prone to bronchitis the rest of his life. I know he's going to have a complete healing, living a happy, normal, healthy life with sports, travel, pets etc. 

If my parents had bought the Doctor Bullsh-t when I was little, I wouldn't be sitting here, typing to you all. The doctors wanted to put me as a little one in a home for retarded children. In Nebraska. That I had to go to a school for the blind; I couldn't go to Lakewood public schools. That I'd never walk. My Christian Science grandmother told my mother she had to "accept" what I was. (Totally against the teachings of that religion, BTW.) 

Blah-blah-blah....nobody cares. Ancient history.

Needless to say, my father told them all (including my grandmother) to f----- off. He also filed a lawsuit against the Lakewood Public Schools the result of which allowed me, the first "vision impaired" or "disabled" child to attend Lincoln Elementary School. 

And if I were in Joisey in those doctor meetings about my grandson, I'd tell them the same thing. You don't know Jack, you're hedging your bets. The nurses are the real angels.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"Leadership" Gets A Bad Rap

It's become a greatly misused term: Leader Of The Pack. So many people who are using positive training techniques get a big old hard-on when they hear that term. "Oh, you must be the Anti-Christ, you're the Leader Of The Pack!"  For folks who are advocating All Positives in training your critters, you sure get All Punchy when that phrase comes up.  Which part is that gets you? "Leader" or "pack?"  Trust me: the phrase was not coined or invented by Cesar Millan.

On the opposite side, "You MUST be the dominant leader of your dog pack or the entire universe will split on its axis and destroy itself because the dogs will go wild and kill us all!"  That's pretty stupid too, seeing as how the human-dog relationship has been around for millennia.

OK, so dogs aren't wolves. Science has debunked that whole wolf thing.  Thank God they aren't. Can we please give it a rest?

But suppose you have more than one dog?  Say you have five dogs? What the heck are you supposed to call them?  A Bark of Dogs? No? Then will someone please come up with a word for a group of dogs?  Like a gaggle of geese or a trumpet of swans.  For now, if you have more than two dogs, let's just face it. It's a pack of dogs.  It's a loosely formed group who get their resources from the same source.  If you go to the refrigerator, five dog faces will probably be close by. Anyone who says there isn't a loosely formed, often fluctuating hierarchy among your dogs isn't very observant.  You are NOT going to get rid of the word "pack."

You are not going to get rid of the word "leader" either. You are not going to change etymology overnight. Would it calm the AP community down if the term Leader of my Group (of animals) or Group Guide were used? The term "guardian" is almost too P.C. for my taste.  A Flock Guardian will kill to protect her flock.  Do you think a Ovcharka* invites the wolf threatening her livestock in for a cup of tea? When I think of being my dog's "guardian" I somehow envision myself as a slightly overweight Lara Croft with hip holsters over my Spanx and everyone is The Enemy. When I think of being my dogs' leader or guide, I picture my much skinnier self atop some glorious peak, my trusty canine side-kicks with me.  We've hit one of the summits of training.  We've taken the beachhead, together.  I taught them and they, in turn, taught me. But it had to start somewhere.  My dogs just didn't wake up one day, look at me and say, "Today I shall do complicated maneuvers while I stay by your left knee.  Ah, look at the elevated plank.  I know I must always touch the yellow part."  It began with me deciding to guide or lead my dog to "get" that's what I want.  I can to do that in positive way.

All Positive advocates wonder why they feel like they're swimming upstream against the Leader of the Pack theory.  You wonder why more people, especially men, aren't harkening to your clarion call of click-treat. "We have M&Ms, come hither!"  It's because the first thing so many of you is get all funky with the phrase "leader" because some poor sod has watched Cesar Millan or was told to do stuff the "old" dominant way. Too many of you trot out the latest article on how dogs aren't wolves and therefore the pack mentality is debunked.  Fine. Or you spend a while justifying positive training, like it's some incomprehensible weird cult of the absurd. Or, and worst of all, there is a sense of superiority.  "Ah, you poor misguided, inhumane dog owner.  You haven't been inducted into the Clicker Clique. I have the magic touch and you don't."  People don't want a damn lecture.  They don't need the science behind it.  They don't need Pavlovian theories. They have some crazy-ass dog that is running or ruining their lives and they need help, guidance, foreseeable, hands-on solutions NOW.  They need Leadership. Grab the clicker and show them!

If you really want to attract more people away from the "old" ways, especially men, you have to show results.  That if you do this process consistently, this good result will happen, and often very quickly.  I'm no expert dog trainer.  I don't have a bunch of letter behind my name.  But I'm not afraid to hand off my personal dog with a clicker and treats and let the person give it a whirl after I give them a few basics. My dogs will help them understand it a whole lot faster than me handing them a copy of Don't Shoot The Dog.

I personally don't mind being a director or guide or principle player -- which are also parts of the dictionary definition of Leadership.

I think you do have to create, help, guide or direct your dog to have appropriate behavior so s/he can be a nice companion, household member, team-mate etc. That doesn't mean alpha rolls, leash jerks or other "negative" stuff either.  I've got news: if you are click/treating your dog or cat or chicken to create a certain behavior; guess what, Skippy?  You are guiding them, you are the director in this little mini-play of training.

"Here is a box.  Now I shall click-treat when you do something to or near the box that I like or want to capture.  I will build on your interaction with the box until the final result is something I like." It's like improv theater in some respects.  "Here is your prop. Make something up and I will laugh or applaud when I like it or get what you're trying to convey."  You are, in a word, a leader.  Dogs (and cats) are watching you, reading your body language all the time.  Is she happy, sad, tired, mad?  What is the Human Food Provider up to?

Yes, even cats are observing us as they plot to take over the world.

I seriously don't want my dogs to be wild heathens, going wherever they want; not house-trained, biting everyone left and right, not coming when they're called etc. I have rules: no toys on the furniture, teeth do not touch human flesh, chasing the cat is not in the Fun Program curriculum.  That's not unreasonable, at least for me.  I want my dogs to look to me somewhat for "Is this ok?" (thinking and a form of trust) or "Hey, mom, I'm nose-butting you because there's something up," (alert) instead of going off half whacked. It's like kids: you don't give them some kind of rules and structure, they are going to turn into total obnoxious brats. Any adult with two brain cells to rub together has witnessed that.

I like to think of myself as a kindly, benevolent, loving, providing Lady of the Manor. "I adore you but there are some things that shall not be tolerated.  I will give you alternatives to undesired behavior, encouragement and guidance as to what is good and acceptable in my little corner of the universe.  I will seek wise and kindly counsel to help you achieve.  I will not starve you, beat you, mistreat you although I might holler at you now and again because I'm human and imperfect."

Why does the All Positive dog training community go off like 1960s anti-war protesters at an Abby Hoffman rally when people bring up "rules, structure, leadership?"

"Hell, no, we won't go!"

Come on, seriously, what would happen if you used any of those words? You'd be immediately sucked into a Cesar Millan-induced vortex and never be heard from again? Please.  Get a grip. Being a "leader" does not automatically make you a bullying, string-'em-up-high Hitlerian dog person. Calling your bunch of dogs a "pack" does not make you stupid, behind-the-times, unkind or unaware.

Work with the words people know and kind of understand. Don't theorize. Show them, hands on. You'll attract a lot more folks to the kinder, more humane way of training and interacting with their dogs if they see the light at the end of the tunnel.

*(I bet some of you looked that up....)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Good-Bye, Old Paint

Goodbye our darling, trusted steed Miss Meon.  You took us to Montana and back, countless trips to Illinois and destinations elsewhere, carted dogs and bikes here and there.  You ran pretty darn well almost all of the time.  You were never an annoying, piece-of-crap car.

Meon in Montana
I apologize with all my heart for putting you in harm's way; for allowing you to be driven by people who didn't care nearly as much about you as we did.

I failed you, baby girl.

Your body will be pieced out and the rest of you will be junked.  You didn't make it to trade-in or had your body just give out, with too many repairs to sensibly keep you going.  Your end was ignoble and stupid.
Feb. 1, 2014

Your spirit and dependability will always be with us.  Maybe there is a heaven for a good car gone before its time.....Go in peace, little one.  We loved you.  You were a good girl.

Meon, Dodge Neon: 2005 - 2/1/2014

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Hart and True

Throwback Thursday: my first cattledog,
2004.  Hiking with Hart, age 11.
Hart-Marie (Allegra Thief of Hearts, CD, CGC, TDI, 1993-2009. Parents: Ch. Indian Creek True of Allegra, CGC, TDI x Ch. Longacres Blue Gem).

Even after, my ex and I split and Hart was done getting her CD, she was her dad's beloved buddy for almost 14 years.  I babysat her and saw her often.

True aka "Tooey"
The other pictures is of True, Hart's dad, who lived with us for about 18 months and then went back to his breeder's at their request. He had PRA, went blind and was PTS, as I understand it.

Loved both these dogs.

I still think about "Tooey" and miss him. He really started the whole cattledog thing for me because I just thought he was such a magnificent dog.  Silly, steadfast, sensible, mellow, great herder, great hiker, loved water, wonderfully patient with little kids, excellent judge of people and potentially dangerous situations, he was the only working Therapy dog I've had to date. His basic temperament, with a little more "dog friendly" thrown in is my benchmark temperament.  

Hart had successful double cataract surgery at age 11.
Even at the end of her life, when her body was very old and frail and her back end didn't work anymore, Hart was always happy to be with you and lay on your lap.  She's even try a few tricks for you if she could. Her spirit and love were still going strong; her body just gave out.  I think my ex (bless his heart) kept her alive a bit too long but finally even he couldn't stave off the inevitable.

She was the best hiking dog I've ever owned; with my new rescue boy now coming in a close second. She spent most of her life hiking in the CV National Park, logging hundreds of miles a year. Even after age 10, she still could easily do a 10 mile hike, at age 15 could do an easy mile.

She always traveled like a dream and logged literally thousand of miles traveling with her dad all throughout Canada where she was a welcome guest at many a pub.

She completed her CD with a 196 score and was highest scoring Herding breed in all Obedience trials the day she finished.

I've loved all my dogs for different reasons and oddly I see a little bit of all of them in Artie the rescue. He's got some pretty big paws to fill.

Here's to happy memories of all your dogs who have left pawprints on your heart.  Especially those who corralled into the Cattledog Circle.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Mom's 89th Birthday Message

Strange things happening...."wooo-woo" stuff.  We often get messages, we just don't always listen or "get" that there are messages.  Often they are messages of alarm, danger, watch out.  (Breaking my sunglasses was NOT a message I wanted today but I digress.) Sometimes they are "softer" messages.  Messages of comfort, peace, love, joy and guidance. 

Dad, Mom and my sister
Today (Feb. 5, 2014) is my mother's birthday.  She would be 89.  She was pretty psychic, eerily so. But that's another story. 

As a historical preface to this tale you need to know that when I was a little girl, we had a wonderful Hungarian lady who would come in to clean house a couple of times a month.  Mrs. (Margaret) Pilsy was her name (and I know I'm spelling that wrong!).  She would pretty much tell my mother what she felt like doing on any given day.  
Mom would politely ask her if she could do such-and-such.  Often Mrs. Pilsy would announce, in her somewhat broken English, "All right, today I do this."  Think TsaTsa Gabor without the coquetry. 

But other times, she would look at my mother with a  stern glance and say firmly, "No! Today I I-rrron! (Iron)"  She would then attack the linens with vigor as she watched soap operas on TV.  In my mind's ear, I can still hear her banging the iron against the ironing board. "Thump-iron-iron, thump, iron-iron..."

She brooked no nonsense from us kids. She would also tell me what I could have for lunch. Sometimes it was what I asked for.  Sometimes not. She was kind of scary but we adored her!

On our birthdays she would make us a Hungarian torte. (The old softie!) A reall, multi-layered Hungarian torte with the hard-shell icing is very hard to make! My sister's favorite was the Dobos torte.  As I recall, I love the chocolate torte and the mocha torte. My brother's was most definitely the Orange torte.  He loved Orange torte and has often wistfully mentioned it over the years.  

Just now, I called my sister who was just about to call ME. She related this story.

It being a gloomy, crappy, snowy day, my sister decided to make the only brownie recipe my mom ever made.  It was from the old Joy Of Cooking cookbook. My sister has many delicious brownie recipes but she decided to haul out "Mom's" (i.e. Mother Joy Of Cooking), just to see if it's still any good. She gingerly opened up the old book, bound with a rubber band, casually thumbing through it. Tucked here and there, she finds several recipes in my mother's handwriting.  

One catches her eye. Orange torte.

Orange Torte? It had to be Mrs. Pilsy's recipe.  My mother was not a big baker. It is probably written as Mr. Pilsy would have instructed her.

Orange torte. Coincidence?  No way. 

It was Mom's way of saying, "I'm thinking about you....."