He’s been here for a week, a little, mostly black mutt with white brindling on his face and limbs and white paw tips. This is a confident, sometimes bold and very friendly, puppy. Fortunately for him he speaks fluent dog. His native tongue as it were. In order to be successful in his new home he must integrate into an existing pack of two dogs. She, a bossy and often cranky six year old basenji named Cleo and he, a husky mix from up north who is somewhat aloof, mainly suspicious and who can be reactive and fearful. His name is Benny and he is usually good with most other dogs especially other huskies and husky mixes who, like him, favour the wrestling and neck biting style of play. Benny is well-trained and calm in a quiet, predictable setting. Quite a sweet dog and he’s just three years old. [Read more]
Entries from October 2009
→ 1 Comment Tags:
October 25th, 2009 · No Comments · Back to the Blog, Film Review
A trip to the Ottawa International Animation Festival to see a film version of J.R.Ackerley’s book, “My Dog Tulip” was more than worthwhile. This was an amazing hand drawn animated film,some 83 minutes long, made by Sandra and Paul Fierlinger.
I read the book last year and was extremely impressed by the devotion of J.R.Ackerly to his Alsatian bitch Tulip and the rich description he offers of their life together. The film is narrated with selections read from the book by the rightfully esteemed Christopher Plummer. It was, for me, pure delight. Visually beautiful the fluid pen and ink and water-colour work not only illustrates the text but illuminates it.
J.R.Ackerley himself claims Tulip (whose real name was Queenie) as ” the love of his life”. He further states that the 15 years he spent with her were the happiest of his life. He describes himself as ” unable to manage a human relationship” due to “some psychological failing”. I have been perusing his diaries and other writings and it does seem to be the case. Except for his father and his sister he does not seem to have had any relationships that were of any significant duration or depth. The single exception being his connection with his Alsatian, Tulip.
According to accounts by friends and acquaintances, the dog was spoiled and unruly. (In contemporary terms she could be described as desperately in need of a visit from the Dog Whisperer!) Yet he loved her so much that he was always eager to return home to her from his office and he devoted himself to the pursuit of her happiness, her fulfillment. One can only speculate that he saw in her some primitive life force that he felt he lacked, some instinctual capacity for self-realization that he yearned for, and a freedom from the social censure which he himself could never escape.
It is a poignant tale. Movingly told. This film should be seen and savoured. It is a masterpiece.
→ Add Comments Tags:
October 22nd, 2009 · 3 Comments · Back to the Blog, Journal, Musings
Rocky is a wonderful dog. My friend Dale is fostering him for BARK, Bytown Association for Rescued Kanines.Dale is a dog person who specializes in huskies. I met Rocky when I went with Dale to pick him up at the vet after his neuter. He had just been surrendered to BARK by his owners who apparently did not have time for him. He’s a year old. I sat in the backseat of Dale’s car with Rocky’s head in my lap and his eyes held my gaze all the way home. Although he was very stressed (Who wouldn’t be given the day he’d had!?!) he seemed to be calmed by quiet talk and gentle stroking.
I see Rocky most days when I take my dogs to play at Dale’s. He’s settled in very nicely. I wince to think that he will have to make another major adjustment when he gets adopted. He really is a people oriented dog and loves interaction, a good candidate for lots of training and the bonding that flows from it. Rocky knows some commands in French but it will not be hard to make him a bilingual dog. I must admit that he loves coffee and tries to lick the lid of my travel mug any chance he gets. When he makes eye contact with me, which happens a lot, (That’s a trait I always love in a dog because a dog who’s watching you is paying attention and is ready to learn and follow.) I imagine that he’s asking, “Am I your dog? Are you my person?” He’s so ready to bond and become someone’s best friend.
I have three wonderful dogs. If I had unlimited resources I suppose I would have more dogs, lots more dogs. I do love dogs and find their company rewarding; training dogs is something that I find very gratifying. If it were possible I would take Rocky home in a blink. We connect. It’s great. But I can’t. The point is that I’m sure there is someone out there for Rocky to bond with who can take him home. Meanwhile he’s in an excellent foster home where he is learning lots of important lessons. He feels secure there.But it’s not his forever home. So I’m planning to tell everyone I can think of who might be interested all about this fantastic dog who’s waiting for “his person” and his forever home. There is a happy postscript to this tale! This week Rocky went home with his new owner, a young man who wants a jogging partner. I wish them years of good companionship. But I’m missing communing with Rocky over a coffee in the morning at Dale’s!
→ 3 Comments Tags:
October 16th, 2009 · 1 Comment · Back to the Blog, Journal, Musings, Photo Gallery
Life has a way of just eating up one’s time! I’ve always liked John Lennon’s often quoted remark, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” Exactly.
Dogs really are most interested in each other. They love to play and just hang out together. My three are having a great time in the backyard in September. Benny is the big blond; Arlo is the puppy and Cleo is the basenji. Observe all the “dog” being spoken in these shots!
A great deal of life certainly unfolds with amazing rapidity for a mother of ten who also shares her life with three cats, three dogs and a long-suffering husband. All this activity drastically cuts into the time available for creative pursuits such as playing Bach on the piano, photography, not to mention writing. Still there is an urge to write and blogging seems to be a more approachable form than say writing a novel or even a dog training manual. The thought of a large scale writing project is intimidating enough to produce a massive case of writers’ block.
So I’m intending to set forth here something in the form of a journal, a record of my life with dogs, mine and other peoples’. I’d like to talk about dog walking as that is what I’m doing these days. It an activity that affords many opportunities for observation of the environment. The weather is hard to ignore when you’re out in it all the time. The sky, the trees and plant life in parks and gardens provides a constantly changing scene. There is definitely a meditative quality possible for a dog walker and a special link that occurs between human and dog on a good walk. The walk has replaced the hunt in the contemporary dog’s repertoire. It is a bonding time for the pack. I think that it is good if the dog is given some food upon returning home, to the den. You should feed this snack to the dog with your hand thereby reminding him that you are a good leader and provider. If he associates your scent with the things that are desirable and even necessary to him he will bond with you and accept your leadership.
I’m thinking about leadership and pack dynamics quite a bit right now. Having a growing puppy in the pack makes for lots of interaction and drawing of lines in the sand. It is the best policy to avoid interfering most of the time in dog to dog interactions. Manners always need to be corrected either by you or another of the dogs. Pack members join forces to raise a pup. Among the most satisfying interactions I’ve had to date raising Arlo are those instances in which I’ve seen Benny using good judgement in disciplining the puppy. Arlo has been misbehaving, indulging in what I refer to as “senseless” barking. Benny will growl and show teeth and sometimes even lunge but not connect. Senseless barking ends immediately and puppy does a down. Benny will then make eye contact with me and I say, “Good work.” It only makes sense; Benny knows that barking like that is not allowed. Benny, who uses his barks sparingly and was taught to speak to request a door be opened, is not about to tolerate much in the way of “senseless” barking. In fact he enforces the rules as he has been taught them. That’s a real plus for me; if Arlo doesn’t know what I’m saying because I am less than perfectly fluent in ‘dog’ he never fails to get Benny’s meaning. Dog speak is nothing if not succinct. Pack leaders do not whine or plead or cajole. It’s crucial to remember that when dealing with your dog. A whining leader has zero credibility. Keep it short and to the point. Use your body at least as much as your voice. Dogs understand dog talk. They can learn words in any language as triggers for various behaviours or objects but when it comes to asserting leadership body language is the most effective.
As I see things now I need to make some strong leadership statements as Arlo grows up. He may challenge Benny and Cleo but not me. There are moments when it is tempting to give into his puppy cuteness and silliness and laugh at his naughtiness but that would be a big mistake. Of course he’s trying it all on. I only have to imagine what he’s thinking. Maybe humans really do like to be jumped up upon. Maybe they really do want to chase me all over the house to recover their socks! Maybe they think my counter cruising is cute and that my tearing between their legs in the doorway is only puppy stuff. But no, his antics need to be interrupted firmly and consistently in a manner that gives puppy no reward for his undesirable behaviour. The “leave it” command is invaluable and off is a big help too. I like to put him into a down when he gets silly. That doesn’t mean that I can’t play and be a little crazy with him but it happens outside, it happens when I want it to, it doesn’t involve objects that aren’t toys, and I decide when it’s over.
→ 1 Comment Tags: