Happy Fourth ‘Gotcha Day’ Jack

Four years ago today my life changed.

A lot.

Daniel and I drove to Kingston Springs after work to pick up Jack the Border Collie.

export397141962

He hesitated a few moments before trying the stairs up the porch to the front door. But quickly decided a few steps couldn’t stop him from exploring his new home.

He met Angel the geriatric cat.

export-426944345

They’ve since become buddies. Although he still herds her mercilessly.

cropped-2011-02-23_19-49-05_768-1.jpg

Jack initiated me into the wonders of sharing my life with a border collie, and now I can’t imagine my life without one. Within days he not only taught me that while it’s true border collies are not dogs for everyone, but for those willing put forth the effort to gain knowledge about breed, accommodate their quirks, keep their minds active, and become partners with them in learning, there is no better companion.

Every once in a while a dog comes into your life and changes everything.

Clicker Work With Damon

Damon’s my little clicker training rock star. He just gets it and enjoys it. He picks out the behavior I’m clicking within 2-3 repetitions. Amazing. I have to say I thought Jack would take to it better than Jade or Damon. Was I ever wrong. Jack gets it, but for some reason doesn’t seem to enjoy figuring it out as much as Damon. But I’m still working on it with him.

Here’s a short video of Damon’s work today. Most of the time we were working on the mat. What I want is for him to lay on the mat. Didn’t take long. Eventually I’ll add a cue to the mat and send all three to the mat when the doorbell rings.

Toward the end of the video I’m reinforcing some targeting we worked on a few days ago. In that sequence my hand is the target where he is to place his paw. Eventually I want to be able to hold his paw and clip his nails.

Looking forward to eventually getting a chest harness and head harness for my GoPro camera. I think that will make watching the dogs work much easier. More dogs. Less me. :)

You can watch the video here.

Sigh…Confession Time

Theoretically confession is good for the soul. But in practical application it can suck.

Since my doctor told me to stop running last February I’ve allowed myself to gain 15 pounds. Doesn’t sound that terrible, I guess. Except that when you’re barely 5’4″ that’s almost two sizes. So not only do I feel like a loser for gaining a little weight back, I juuuuust can’t fit into any clothes other than my scrubs.

I’m angry at myself, at the universe, at my stupid arthritic back. Waaa,..waaa…waaa…  During the past few weeks I’ve indulged in several pity parties.

But I’ve got to find a way to get back on track. So I’m trying something. I’m going against my doctor’s advice.

You see, I love to run. I love the mental release. I love the spiritual connection to breath and life. I love the meditative quality of it. Some of my most deep conversations with God have happened on a run.

So, I’m going to run again. But I’m going to be smarter. I’m going to stretch. A lot. I’m going to start out only running 2 or 3 days a week. I’m going to really bump up the core workouts.

We’ll see how it goes.

Make Lemonade, But Don’t Squirt It On My Dog

Have you ever been part of an online conversation with strangers with a common interest and someone posts something so offensive you think that maybe you really don’t have a common interest after all?

Yeah, that happened today.

There are several dog sports I really enjoy watching, learning about, and training for, even though I’m not trialing any of the dogs in them. I’m part of online communities for most of them. It’s a way to get to know people across the country involved in the sport and to learn.

In one of the groups, over the past couple of days there’s been healthy, spirited discussion about how to deal small groups of dog/handler teams who have to wait in a small, blocked off space for each of their turns to run. Lots of ideas tossed about, some better than others.

Until one really bad, really offensive comment.

Someone suggested keeping a bottle of lemon juice in a squirt bottle in this small space, and to spray a dog in the face if the dog barked constantly and would not calm down.

Lemon juice.

In the face.

Really?

And this is someone who trains dogs?

I’ve been to several dog events in several venues. Dogs bark. Cram strange dogs in a small, enclosed space and they may get a little uptight. Especially high drive dogs.

I hope I’m never at an event with this person, or anyone like her. It really made me reconsider my desire to get into this particular sport.

Oh, and I don’t even want to think of how I would react to someone squirting lemon juice, or anything else, in my dog’s face.

An Accidental Border Collie-ist and the Dog Who Changed Everything

every once in a while a dog comes into your life and changes everything

If you have a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram friend who has a dog, you’ve likely seen that quote before. I have no idea who said it first. Definitely not original with me.

But on February 15, 2011 I experienced it. That day I became an accidental border collie-ist. That’s the day we brought home Jack, the border collie.

Jack's Gotcha Day Feb 15, 2011

Jack’s first day at home. 2/15/2011.

The first couple of nights wore us all out. Howling, barking, crying…not all of that was Jack.

But over the next several days something happened. I can’t explain it. Don’t know the exact moment. But within two weeks Jack forever changed my life. I fell in love not only with Jack, but with the breed.

We’re coming up on Jack’s four year “gotcha day” anniversary. He’s not an easy dog, though probably relatively easy by border collie standards. But he’s opinionated, stubborn, and too smart for me. But I love that dog. Because of him I cannot imagine my life without a border collie.

Clicker Training

Less than a week ago I enrolled in Karen Pryor Academy’s Dog Trainer Foundation course. Wow! It’s awesome. I’m learning so much, and I’m still in the first unit. I’m trying very hard to take my time, go through the material slowly. But it’s hard. I want to gulp it all in.

I’m not working with live dogs yet. Right now I’m practicing clicking then “treating” by tossing a dry bean in a cup. It takes more coordination than you might think to hold a clicker in one hand, click at the correct moment to mark the desired behavior, then pop a treat in the dog’s mouth one second after the click.

I will be practicing with beans for a few more days, for sure. LOL!

I’m so excited to see how this helps me train Jack, Jade, and Damon.

Putting Elbow Grease to a Dream

For a couple of years I’ve harbored a secret dream to delve deeper into dog behavior and learning. I’m fascinated by how dogs learn, and how they communicate with humans, especially when humans take the time to try to understand. I’m fascinated by watching how very quickly dogs respond when that communication goes both ways between the dog and the trainer.

I’ve read several books, followed several blogs, taken a few obedience classes with our dogs. But I still want more. I want to dig deeper into how dogs learn, and how positive training methods can be applied across situations.

So I’m finally putting time and money into this dream.

Next Saturday I’ll be taking a dog behavior seminar with Heather Moore of Wag It Better.

I’ve also enrolled in Karen Pryor Academy’s Dog Trainer Foundations course.

Excited doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel about this.

Current Read

My reading goal for 2015 is pretty simple: read one non-fiction book per quarter. Why? Simple, really. I don’t typically read a lot of non-fiction. Decided it’s time to stretch and grow a little. Or a lot.

This first quarter I chose Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection. It’s kicking my butt. I may have to read it more than once.

I’m sure there will be a book report sometime later this year. Maybe.

Anyway, I’m only halfway through the book, and I can recommend it to pretty much any adult.

Observations While Scooping Poop

Sometimes in order to make unpleasant tasks tolerable, I let my mind wander, and wonder, while working. Scooping the dog poop out of the yard is one of those unpleasant tasks. Over the weekend I found myself making some interesting observations about how sometimes poop parallels life.

  • Clean up your own messes
  • Often, the fresher the mess, the easier it is to clean
  • Sometimes the mess is hard to see until you step in it
  • Some messes smell worse than others, but most of them stink
  • Just because a mess has been there for a while doesn’t mean you shouldn’t clean it up
  • The more frequently you clean up the messes, the fewer messes there are to clean
  • There’s often at least slight evidence of where the mess was, but it fades with time

Hello 2015

A new year. Evolving thoughts and goals. Things that once filled my mind no longer matter.

I have come to truly believe that saying that the most important things aren’t things at all.

Friendships become more important to me the older I get. Several friends and I started the new year by meeting for breakfast this morning. I hope it becomes a thing we do every first weekend of January.

But beyond that I hope we stop waiting for “occasions” to get together. I hope we get together just because. Just because we value each other. Just because it’s fun.

We met at Cracker Barrel this morning. We sat at a large round table, drank coffee and ate eggs, bacon, biscuits, gravy while we talked dogs.

I felt nourished. Not from the eggs, bacon, and grits. But from the feeling of belonging. The feeling of being with friends who mostly get me.

So I claim this the theme of this new year. Nourishing. Friends. Spending time as opposed to passing time.