The Dog I've Always Wanted

Canine Behavior, Training and Photography

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Entries Tagged as 'Back to the Blog'

Back to the Blog 5 Benny the Hunter

November 2nd, 2009 · 1 Comment · Back to the Blog, Photo Gallery

I had the opportunity this summer to see a side of Benny that only exists when he’s a country dog, Benny the hunter. Chipmunks were his prime targets with frogs and snakes a close second. Fortunately for them they most often escaped unscathed. Benny turned three this summer and he is in peak shape. His strength and his agility are as good as they’ll ever be. This summer he was more successful as a hunter than he’d ever been previously.

Watching Benny in this role was quite thought-provoking. It gave rise, in particular, to an interesting question. If I am the pack leader, why am I not leading the hunt? Why isn’t it my head in that chipmunk’s burrow? He was in hot pursuit of prey and I was the observer and occasional documenter of his prowess. Didn’t this in some way undermine my role as leader? We had our daily power walks out to Highway 7, just Benny and I. I thought of these walks as surrogate hunts with me in charge. We did, in his case sniff and in mine visually inspect the tracks and spoor of a variety of potential prey. However, and I say this perhaps a little wistfully, we did not go bounding through the bush, hot on the trail of deer or rabbit or anything at all.  We never shared a kill. Doesn’t this make the hunts I led a little lame?  How could our walks compare to the hunts he initiated himself? The question I kept asking myself  in regard to this point is, how did Benny interpret events? Dare I say, what did he make of it all? [Read more]

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Back to the Blog 4 “My Dog Tulip” the film

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.
Tulip Still
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.

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Back to the Blog 2 Rocky Needs a Forever Home

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 additional info. 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 169_166stressed (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.  169_075cropI 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. 169_047cropIf 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!

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Back to Ottawa, Back to the Blog

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.

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