Friday, January 29, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
- The key is to be kind to yourself. Wear comfortable clothing, drink water before you go, don't worry about how far you are going to walk. This is not training for a 20K charity walk. It is training for being mindful and aware. Listen to your body. If in the spring and summer you are too hot or feel winded, dizzy, or otherwise woozy while walking, sit down for a minute or stand and lean against a tree or building in the shade. If on a cold day you find your hands and feet are losing feeling, maybe it is time to go inside and warm up.
- You aren't going to be able to connect with your breathing if your dog is over-excited and pulling you everywhere. You're going to be fighting him the whole way. Let your dog run around outside before you go, throw a ball, tire him out a little. Let him have a good drink of water. Dogs really don't need sweaters and coats until it is well below 30 degrees. Unless the dog is small and has fur with no undercoat (Italian Greyhound, Min-Pins, etc) or is almost naked (Chinese Crested, Chihuahuas, groomed Poodles, etc.) they probably don't need any people clothes on a walk. If your pooch does need outerwear, check periodically to make sure there is no rubbing or chafing.
- When just out walking your dog, practice good leash habits. It doesn't really matter if the dog is in front of you a little or behind you. What matters is there is no leash-pulling.
- When you and your pooch start off, begin walking a little faster than normal. The increased heart rate forces your body to start breathing correctly and really accepting your breath. You may naturally begin breathing in your nose and out your mouth. Plus, a little feel-good endorphins never hurt anyone, right?
- After about four or five minutes, slow down a bit and let your breath fall into a natural rhythm. Don't expend the energy trying to force yourself to breathe in or out on a certain step, just notice when you do breathe. Lengthen your stride to fit the rhythm of your breath.
- This is about the time where one of two things will happen with your walking partner. Either he will sense your changing mental state and join you in it, falling into step beside you, or he will feel you starting to relax and take it as an opportunity for free-for-all leash time. If you experience the second response, you and pooch need more leash time and more training walks. (Tomorrow's post)
- Soft-focus your eyes, relaxing the muscles in your face, forehead, and around your eyes. Be aware of your step, hear your breath. As thoughts or feelings surface, don't try to ignore them, rather acknowledge them and let them go as if they were the trees or houses you are passing. To help you remember to praise your dog for good leash behavior, choose an object ahead of you. Do not focus on that object, just use it as a guide. When you pass it, give soft and calm verbal praise.
- Smile at people you pass. Smiling is important. "Sometimes the source of your smile is joy. Your smile can also be the source of your joy." --Thich Nhat Hahn
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
Friday, January 15, 2010
Thursday, January 14, 2010
- Be prepared. Starting in spring, I make an Emergency Skunk Kit: One large box of baking soda, a gallon of distilled white vinegar, a small bottle of apple cider vinegar, two large bottles of hydrogen peroxide, baby wipes, rubber gloves, Dollar Store leashes, and a couple rags.
- This is most likely going to happen at night. If you have more than one dog, check and see if each was skunked. They will be scared and shaky and possibly foaming at the mouth with significant nasal mucus in response to the spray.
- Take off the dog's collar. Trust me, it's too much work to get the odor out, especially if it is leather. Pitch it, but make sure to get the license and ID tag off first!
- Use the cheap-o Dollar Store leash as a lead by creating a slipknot. (Put the connecting end through the loop and it should cinch around the dog's neck.) This will keep the dog from slipping the collar if he tries to pull away. Check periodically to make sure you aren't pulling the lead too tight.
- Bathe the dog first with regular dog shampoo. Skunk spray is oily and this will help break up the oils. Rinse throughly.
- Lather De-Skunking mixture (recipe below) into your dog's fur, starting just behind the ears and cover the whole body. Use a washcloth on muzzle taking care to avoid the eyes. Let the lather sit for three-five minutes. Or, in my case, while you lather up the other dog.
- Rinse throughly. Towel dry with a towel you've been meaning to throw out because you've had it since college. Use toweling dry to pet, talk in happy tones, good dog pep talk and give the pooch a biscuit.
- Use the baby wipes two times a day to gently wipe muzzle, forehead, and area in between eyes.
- Close all the open windows for at least five hours. This prevents more of the "skunk cloud" from drifting into the house.
- Turn on all fans that push the air out of the house, not recirculate.
- You'll need eight small glasses. I use juice glasses. In four, put in 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar. In the other four, put 2-3 tbsp of coffee grounds. Put one of each cup in the main rooms of your house. The vinegar absorbs odors, when it starts to get cloudy in a day or two, dump it.
- Fresh Wave natural odor products work the best. I'm not saying this because they are all natural. When it comes to skunk, I personally don't care much about chemicals and how harmful they are as long as they get rid of that God-awful smell. The odor absorbing crystals and spray are not cheap, but worth every penny.
- Oust. Oust. Oust. Every hour or so, just walk through the house spraying. (Not where candles are lit!)
- Febreez odor neutralizing candles are pretty awesome. I'm not sure they do anything, but made me feel like it was getting better.
- Yup, you smell. If you care about the clothes you were wearing through the dog de-skunking, strip down and put them straight into the wash with two cups of vinegar. If your washer has an option for an extra rinse cycle, add another cup during that cycle. Dry as usual.
- If you were part of the skunking (ninja skunk attacked while you were on a walk) one of the best ways to get the smell out of your own hair that doesn't involve peroxide is feminine douche. I'm not joking. Massengil could re-brand their entire line of non-scented douche as Skunk Be Gone. It works for the dog's fur, too-- and can be used as a second line of defense for breeds with thick undercoats.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
This whole skunk experience didn't just get me thinking about alternative ways to bond with my dogs. I began considering the ways I show my human friends how much I appreciate them when distance (thank goodness not smell) makes hugs and body language obsolete.
About five years ago, I read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman on the recommendation of a friend. She had read the book on the recommendation of her therapist. The therapist had read it on the recommendation of her marriage counselor. The book is highly recommended, but I think you can save yourself some time and money by simply reading the summary on their website.
Basically, Chapman says there are five ways people tend to show that they care:
- Words of Affirmation: hearing and reading that you are loved.
- Quality Time: having the full attention of the one you love, knowing you are heard
- Gifts: physical reminders that you are thought of and loved, especially on meaningful days
- Acts of Service: easing the burden and responsibilities of another
- Physical Touch: physical accessibility are crucial for hugs and little touches.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Play is so important in the dog world. Like toddlers playing house, dog's play creates make believe situations that teaches important messages about their world: body postures and their meanings, social rules, and roles within their day-to-day world. Adult dogs will occasionally let puppies win at tug or wrestling and then skillfully pin the pup when he gets a little too full of himself. Build confidence, but keep it in check, always know who's boss. Dogs have perfected what early childhood development teachers call 'purposeful play'.
Humans can use play with dogs to do teach many of the same social cues. A simple game of fetch can teach a dog to wait during distraction and surrender something over to you that he wants. Commands like "wait" and "drop it" can truly save a dog's life, keeping a dog from chasing a squirrel across a busy road or relinquishing a dangerous item. Keeping the game going teaches the dog that you will continue the game if he complies with the rules. Exercising together creates social bonds.
Marshall learned all these cues and commands during his socialization outings. He was in the middle of Therapy Dog training, going on field trips to farmer's markets and sidewalk sales almost daily to interact with new people and situations. Marshall's Top Five Bonding Activities are going on walks, snuggling, watching the yard, belly rubs, and interacting with people. Ollie's Top Five are play ball, do tricks, play ball, snuggle, and play ball. It had never concerned me before that Marshall didn't play with toys much except for dog-to-dog game of tug with Ollie.
I went outside with a ball and to do a little investigating. I threw the ball and Ollie took off like a rocket, Marshall close behind. Ollie lunged with precision, plucking the ball from the grass and in one graceful move tossed it into the air and caught it again. He sprinted back to bring the ball to me for another throw. Marshall, meanwhile, was still standing with his tail wagging where the ball had landed. It didn't take long for me to figure out why Marshall didn't play fetch with me.
I never let him win.
I realized that I was rarely ever alone with him in the backyard. The backyard wasn't "our thing". When we were out back, Ollie was always there. Ollie was faster, bigger, and third in command in our house after me and Mike, and the cat. If I didn't give him a rule, Marshall always deferred to his "big brother" to show him what to do. I never held Ollie back and let Marshall get the ball. Consequently, I never taught Marshall how to play with me.
That isn't to say that Marshall doesn't enjoy running around outside together. Playing ball in the backyard was something new we could do to bond. He still doesn't quite understand what this 'fetch' thing is all about, but happily wags his tail now when he sees me holding a ball, knowing it means we're going to run around together. By the end of the summer we were both well into learning how to play together.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Friday, January 8, 2010
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Monday, January 4, 2010
- I loved thinking on a different level about the furry four-pawed friends in my life.
- I enjoyed writing about it, too.
- I thought more critically about my spirituality and was more active in spiritual pursuits during the time of Beliefnet's blogging contest.
- Once I stopped writing, I felt a little more detached. As the hustle and bustle of the holiday months got into full swing, I felt something was missing.
- I need to write about this, it is who I am.
I was woken up by a certain very happy Silky Terrier. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of owning a terrier, you may not be aware of how they share their happiness.
Barking. High pitched, two-toned, ear-piercing barking.
The behavior was a desirable trait in the past 600 years of terrier breeding. Often used to hunt rats and other varmints living in grain silos, barns, factories, and farms, terriers were bred to have a loud bark. Rodents move fast and the barking allowed for owners to locate the dog, even if it had followed it's prey into burrows or warrens underground. This is one reason why Yorkies, Jack Russells, Silkies, Westies, and Schnauzers have earned the reputation of 'yippy dogs'.
Gus is no different.
Gus has made great strides in his development since he came home in December. He socializes well, meets new dog friends regularly, is interested in play and people. The first toy he played with was a tennis ball. He would pick it up by the fuzz and toss it in the air, run, and pounce. His aim was exacting. Two years of being cooped in a puppy mill pen had not re-wired his prey drive.
Over the next few weeks, Gus began to bring home more evidence of his ancestry. The summer body count has risen to five chimpunks, eight field mice, two voles, and a cardinal. (Though I suspect Orange Cat had some role in the bird catching itself...)
I am rather accepting of predatory instincts, 'circle of life', animal nature stuff. I'm not a fan of watching scenes on nature programs where animals get killed and eaten, but I understand how the animal kingdom works. My dogs and cat, however, get fed twice a day. They are not starving. They are not even hungry. They are merely acting on instinct, but that instinct could cause an infestation of parasites, fleas, and viruses. It is not safe.
Each time I scooped up a teensy carcass, I wished peace to the little energy that once resided there. I tried not to be angry at Gus for doing something natural for him. I have learned the difference between 'cheerleading from the sidelines as Ollie and Marshall wrestle' barking from "YAY! CHASE THE RODENT! GET 'EM!" barking. I finally broke down and got Orange Cat a quick-release collar with a bell and affixed a bell to Gus's collar as well.
I didn't realize how angry I was getting until this morning when I was jolted out of a fairly sound sleep by "Get 'em! Get 'em!" barks. I cussed loudly as I came down the stairs. The thoughts that went through my head were,
"He is so selfish! He doesn't even eat the damn things."
"He is a serial killer. He is cruel and unmerciful."
"The damn barking! He's doing this on purpose! Just to piss me off!"
I stomped through the kitchen and opened the sliding glass door with a little too much force as I yelled, "Gus, get your ass over here!"
And there he was, standing in the middle of the yard, looking at me quizzically.
In the moment that followed, I immediately felt ashamed. I had just broken so many of my own rules. I called a dog to come in anger. I had given Gus human motivations and expectations. I had let my grief over senseless death and secret expectations of rehabilitating generations of instinct overwhelm me.
Gus trotted over to me, tipped his head to the side, then sniffed my toe. I bent down to pick him up and he playfully hopped backward and play bowed. Then in a fantastic burst of energy, he began running circles in giant graceful leaps, barking his happiness for the world to hear. The bark I had assumed was foreshadowing another rodent's demise was actually a celebration of life and body and movement.
Gus was dancing in the rain.