Friday, January 30, 2009

Squeaky Clean

There she is, looking not so happy while being toweled off after a bath.

Marge went to Hollywood today for some upkeep. She hates all the wetness, but she dealt with it. It took a dinner's worth of kibble to get her through it. But now she smells absolutely divine.

She almost seems to like the dryer. It's almost like she's hesitant to acknowledge that it actually does feel good, shaking like a leaf. But by the end of the session, she's sitting there perfectly relaxed.

She made a couple of friends there, two of the employees that fed her treats. She got to come home with this spiffy bandana, too, which I must say looks adorable on her. I was squealing over it for a good ten minutes.

It's a great little shop; I'm not really into the whole doggy fashion and boutiquey kind of stuff, but I can appreciate the occasional cute sweater, funky bandana, or witty tshirt. The people who work there are super nice and go out of their way to help you out. Besides, anyone willing to give my scaredy-dog a treat is A-OK in my book.

We stopped at Grandma's after grooming, sort of as a reward to Marge for putting up with the bath. She LOVES it there. Practically pulled me up the steps to get to Grandma that much sooner.

It was a fun night.

..oh, other than the little possession issue we have going on. Let's just say Marge is very fond of her Premier Waggle treat dispenser. She won't bite, but she'll mouth in your direction as if to say, "Buzz the hell off, this is MINE."

It doesn't make for a good combination when this is coupled with rotting baked ziti on the side of the road. (What a day that was. I have since enfored the leave-it command much more strongly.) UGH. Thankfully she isn't that bad and she's even more mild about it with food, which is weird, but still.. she'll gulp down just about anything if it's edible and she thinks you're going to take it. It's not food aggression.. it's more like food anxiety. Seems like it's worst with chewies and treat dispensers. She's okay with toys, inhales food but doesn't get nasty, but she doesn't want ya anywhere near the bully sticks and such.

Not that bad, could be worse, but still worth working on. Guess that means I need to start playing the trade game with her again.

Just one more day 'til Beginner 1 graduation. Ohhhh I'm so excited!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sleepy Days

And that's how it looks like Marge will be spending the majority of her Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

College is back in session and those are the three most brutal days for me. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are free, and I have one early class on Thursday.

I managed to squeeze in some desentisization work today. The strange scary men working on the roof next door usually scare the crappers out of Marge -- or actually, quite the opposite, as she refuses to use the backyard as her toilet when they are there -- but a click and a treat seems to just make things seem a little bit better. We practiced this a couple of times, and they're still hammering away now so maybe I'll sneak back out there later on.

So it was definitely a big deal when Marge went this morning in their presence. She also had her meal outside -- I handfed her. She's slowly going to learn that the scary roofmen are not monsters and, quite frankly, want nothing to do with her teeny timid little self.

For those who don't know much about dogs, two pees and a poop infront of a bunch of laborers on a roof 30 feet away doesn't mean much. To me, it is a huge accomplishment. Loud noises, strange people way over her head, and Marge is able to relax enough to squat down and do her things. Good job, girlie.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Obedience Extraordinaire

We really had a great day today.

Aside from one growling incident with my dad (which I think he either didn't hear or didn't care enough to comment on), Marge seemed to be pretty relaxed around him. I actually convinced him to pick up the leash and heel her around the room. Since she's so driven by food and WILL heel with almost anyone for almost anything, I figured it was more productive than some of the other stuff. He was able to call her to him as well!

My mom was particularly impressed. Or so I think. Unless she was being sarcastic. But I don't think so this time.

She had some nice things to say about Marge and stood up for her last night (which made me really happy) against some less-than-understanding friends who complained about how they haven't been in my house in awhile and how my dog would be fine with them there. Some claimed that they would "ignore" Marge. I won't believe that for a minute. All it takes is for Marge so show the slightest interest in them with eye contact or a sniff and they'll be aut0 best friends. Mhmmmm.

But the real icing on the cake was obedience. Ugh, I'm sorry, I just have to gloat for a minute..

  • Perfect poise in crowd situation - man with a walker, jogger, person sitting down, other dogs going by. She performed both by remaining in a sit-stay AND then navigating through the traffic without being nervous or overly distracted. awesome!

  • Excellent sit and down stays even when treats were being dropped in front of her and the trainers were calling her to them.

  • Good recall and sitting in the front position

  • Letting trainer Louann pet her! Yes! And she wasn't overly nervous about it, either. She was willing to work with Louann for a treat. She was able to scratch Marge's chin with ease and stroke her back with not too much of a problem. It really was awesome.
Louann said I could get her onto some sort of stunt/trick dog list once I have a bunch of basic parlor tricks mastered. We're at a pretty good level right now. Imagine my Marge in a photo shoot or on a commercial? That'd be so cool. I mean, I don't think it'll happen, but to be paid that compliment meant something to me.

I also had the trainer hold Marge's leash while I got to briefly work with her champion Standard Poodle. That was really something.

Marge also was perfectly comfortable standing in close quarters with a couple of men and targeted a couple of women. Woohoo!

This was definitely all a step in the right direction. Class really seems to bring out the best in Marge - she is so relaxed despite the people bustling all over the place.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Rollin' with the big boys

Finally, a >40 day to go to the dog park. (It was actually yesterday, according to the time stamp on this blog.) It was not only inhabitable, instead of being filled with mud and muddy ice, but also inhabited. Marge went in with a wagging butt and a smile on her face and got along with everybody there (albeit, it wasn't a huge crowd), including these two big lovatubbaRotties and her usual husky friends.

Just kind of a status-quo day for Marge with nothing special to report. She got real buddy-buddy with a couple of guys there when they decided to introduce some Wellness treats to her. No petting allowed, though. Naturally!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Out and About

Marge had a good day today and I think she got exactly what she needed: some exercise and some interaction with new people and new dogs.

We hit up the park today for the first time in a long time. I felt like walking rather than standing around, freezing my ass off in a 100x100' empty dog run. So we hiked and ran and explored instead.

Marge is unfazed by joggers, people walking, just about anyone, so long as she's in the park. Street walking in the neighborhood is another story and she's usually more fearful. The other day at the beach she was very uncomfortable with someone walking towards her and actually barked a bit. To her credit, they had a big scary furry hood on their heads - and they may have been gesturing to her, I'm not sure. But, regardless, it was good to see men and women whizzing by her today without her being fazed much.

She made friends with a Flatcoat and two other little dogs. That was also good, seeing as the aforementioned dog run has done little lately to socialize her in that area. For once, the dogs were actually POLITE --- no crazy jumping and wiggling and scaring the bejeezers out of Marge. Very refreshing. And beautiful dogs, too. I don't think I've ever personally met a FCR.

The owners of these dogs tipped us off to a nice area that I might check out where Marge can be offleash, but FENCED in a HUGE field! That is exactly what we need. Even though her recall is reliable, all she needs is something to spook her bad enough and that'll be it. So I need to have some sort of backup.

We went hiking up the steep parts of the park, where Marge got to jump over fallen trees (see below!) and stand curiously listening to the sounds of various birds. She also tried her luck with some other birds - ducks - and decided a little bit of water on her paws wasn't so scary. Some Labrador.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Day 207

That's how far we've come since Marge entered our home for the first time.

Two-hundred and seven days. Days filled with both good and bad; filled with "why did you get a dog?" and "you do such great work with her, keep up the training."

Days filled with wallets emptied on treats and toys, four hour trips to the dog park, and the cramming of a 40 pound black lab mix into my lap.

I wouldn't change any of it.

I don't know where to start with this blog. Every minute is something new. When you're dealing with a dog still largely unfamiliar with what it's like to live in the city, I'd guess that's very often the case.


I know only bits of pieces of the life that Marge had before she came to me, just around her first birthday. She grew up in shelters and rescues, I could tell you that much. Her puppyhood in the mountains of rural Georgia certainly didn't do much to assure Marge that people were good.

Then despite the fact that her life was probably turmoilous enough, she was trucked up here with 5 other siblings to find homes in the North.

Then, sometime around June 24th, I went to my current place of employment - which happened to be a no-kill animal shelter - to find nine Georgia dogs peering out from cages.

Mixes of all kinds - lab, pointer, shepherd, shiba inu. Yet, for some reason when I went to grab a leash to help out with the morning walk I was drawn to her cage.

I didn't even really greet her. Just a hey there, let's go outside. Slipped the chain on, no chance for hesitation.

And hesitate she did not. Out of the hundreds of dogs I had walked during my time there, it was safe to say that Marge was one of the easiest. She did not leave my side.

In a sea of black lab adolescents, she stood out to me. Why? I don't know. They were all the same at that point. Timid little Lab mixes from Georgia.

I tested her with cats. I knew she was good with other dogs. She wasn't food aggressive. I sat with her outside of her cage on a slip lead and just scratched her back for a while.

Went home, a couple of days later and I asked my mother if she wanted to see the lab puppies. I need not say anything else except for that the following day I had a dog on a test run in my house. It was Layla's turn to approve. And I guess she felt like pleasing me that day... the basement that had been solely her kitty castle was now open to a dog without much fuss.

The father/dog relationship didn't get off to a quick start, but that'll be brought up more than enough times throughout the course of this blog.

And the next day she climbed back into the old Oldsmobile and left the shelter life behind for good.

So, yep. That's how it goes. That's how this whole thing started, 207 days ago.

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